As my penultimate day in Israel transitioned into my ultimate Israeli night, I realized that despite wanting to enjoy the many delicious vegan meals on offer in Tel Aviv (before setting off on my European adventure), I had a lot of food left in my kitchen that needed to be used up. I also had the good fortune to already be spending my time with friends who needed feeding. After a quick stop at the corner store for some supplemental fruits and veggies, I devised a plan to use up the abundance of herbed polenta chilling in my fridge, as well as the garlic and lentils that had been generously given to me by a friend several months ago (I preferred to save personal food items such as these for when I had guests, so that I didn’t incur the wrath of my ever temperamental roommates should I share anything hailing from the communal pantry). Earlier that morning, I had begun my polenta experiments, attempting to both pan-fry and bake the starchy squares. Baking was the clear winner, from the ease of execution , to the crispy exterior. The pan-fry used too much oil, inducing a veritable volcano of grease, while failing to achieve a crisp and golden outer crust. That morning, I served the polenta with a sauce of succulent caramelized onions and creamy techina (because I didn’t have quite enough onions to serve them alone). This style of polenta preparation had the potential to be not just an upscale snack or brunch, but also a deceptively fancy dinner.
For the longest time, my grandfather’s mushroom paté, or as we usually call it, “mushroom stuff” was pretty much the only way I’d swallow a mushroom, and only after it was doused in salt. Mushroom stuff as my grandfather made it was a combination of sautéed mushrooms and onions, mayonnaise, and a hard-boiled egg. While this is certainly an acceptable vegetarian take on chopped liver, converting even liver fans like my dad’s side of the family, it definitely wasn’t vegan.
Additionally, replacing the egg and mayonnaise on Pesach is considerably more challenging, than if I were adapting it for any other time of the year. First, for the egg, I decided to use soaked walnuts, in order to give the paté a the same kind of body that the egg brings. I’m not the biggest fan of walnuts, but they do have a lighter texture and slightly more neutral flavor than hazelnuts, pecans, cashews (all of which I otherwise prefer). To replace the mayonnaise, I went for the flavors of mayo, namely, fat in the form of olive oil, and some tang, in the form of red wine vinegar. For a little extra “eggy” punch, I like to season the paté with Indian black salt (kala namak), which tastes exactly how I remember sunny side up eggs…because I also used to douse my egg yolks in salt.
The result tastes almost exactly how I remember Grandpa’s paté tasting. It’s even good enough, that some years my mom has just asked me to make a larger batch, so that she doesn’t need to take precious time away from cooking other elements of the meal to make a batch of the original. My version is punctuated by the sweet richness of the fried mushrooms and onions, mixed with a little tang from the vinegar, all married together in a smooth and creamy dip. It’s perfect for spreading onto matzah, whether it’s as an appetizer, at your seder, or a part of your mid-Pesach lunch.
Grandpa Maurice was far from vegan, but he always appreciated good food. I like to imagine he would be proud of my interpretation. He died a little bit before I really started cooking for myself (which was also when I went vegetarian), so I never really got to share my culinary creations with him, but I love that I can still enjoy food he made for us, even if it is adapted to fit my lifestyle.
I’m giving quantities for a fairly small amount of paté, but this recipe is very easily increased. It also does not need to be super precise, so feel free to play with the seasonings according to your tastes.
Mushroom and Onion Paté
- 1 pint white button or cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 large white or yellow onions, sliced
- 1/4 c raw walnuts, soaked for a few hours or over night
- 4-5 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 tbsp kosher for Passover red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp black salt (or to taste)
- black pepper to taste
Preheat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, and sweat slowly for about 5-7 minutes until translucent. Add the mushrooms and continue to sauté until the mushrooms have cooked down, and the mixture is golden brown and fragrant. The volume of vegetables in the pan should be considerably reduced from when you started. Let cool at least 10 minutes. Add the mushroom and onion mixture to a food processor. Drain the walnuts, and add them as well. Begin to chop the mixture in the processor, and stream in the oil and vinegar while the machine is running. Add the salt and pepper, and pulse again to combine. Taste for seasoning. The mixture should chopped very, very finely, and should be fairly smooth (but not entirely pureed). Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Sorry I have no pictures of this, but I will say, while it’s completely delicious, it’s not the most photogenic dish out there.
As my newsfeed once again fills with reports of another blizzard hitting NY, I can’t help but think about my favorite snow day activities, namely cooking and baking. Of course one would think I do quite a bit of that already, but back when I was in the city, I more often than not was either eating food from work, or got some sort of take out (also I had a microwave and ate a lot of canned beans…). While even then my budget was fairly tight, I did have some leeway and could better afford to not cook all the time. Here, my budget is next to non-existent (I’m on a special program where it’s not impossible to earn money, but it’s not exactly easy), so I do what I can to pinch pennies, which involves cooking almost every day. In fact, as I’ve mentioned before, produce, dried beans, and grains are some of the only things that can really be considered cheap here, so I do what I can to eat as much of those as possible. While veganism is definitely a growing trend (found this article on Facebook today), and vegan specialty items are available (they’re also one of the things I miss the most about NY), they’re completely out of my budget. However, that leaves me to really experiment and master new ways of cooking veggies and beans. My newest project has been, “how many different things can I do with lentils” and thus, Lentil Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Mash was born.
Despite burning about half of the lentils when I initially cooked them (my beans/grain cooking method is to put it on the stove and forget about it until it’s done…which only works if there’s more than enough water in the pot to begin with…and I can’t forget about them for too long), I managed to salvage most of them, and cooked away the remnants of the charred flavor through a combination of luck and soy sauce. The umami flavors in the soy sauce make this pie really succulent, and the combination of the meaty lentils with all of the hearty veggies make this a perfect dish to eat in the middle of a storm (or on a pleasantly cool February evening in the Middle East as I did). I topped the pie with super creamy and delicious mashed sweet potatoes, which were scented with just a hint of the tropics from the unrefined coconut oil I mixed in. It was a perfectly comforting sweet and savory bite.
Sweet Potato Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
- 1- 1 1/2 c cooked lentils (I used a combination of brown, black and red. Use whatever combination you like, though I would advise against using all red lentils as they turn to much when cooked)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 large leek, sliced
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 2 large carrots. finely chopped
- 1 stalk of celery, finely chopped (optional)
- 1 c mushrooms, finely chopped
- 2 c chopped spinach (or other leafy greens)
- 1/4 c tamari or soy sauce
- 1-2 tbsp fresh rosemary, lightly chopped
- white pepper
- black pepper
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 extra large sweet potato, or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2-3 tbsp oil of your choice (I used a combination of olive and coconut oil)
- 2 tbsp of cooking water or non dairy milk
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the leek and garlic and sauté about 5 to 7 minutes until fragrant and softened. Add the carrots and celery and sauté a few minutes more before adding the lentils and the mushroom. Add the soy sauce, rosemary, white pepper, black pepper, and paprika, and let simmer, stirring frequently until all the veggies are soft and the mushrooms are nice and browned.
While the filling is cooking, preheat the oven to 375F. Fill a medium sized pot with cold water, and add the diced sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil of medium-high heat, and cook until tender, about 15- 20 minutes.
When the filling is almost cooked, stir in the spinach and let wilt over low heat for several minutes, while you drain and mash the sweet potatoes, with the oil, salt, and pepper. I generally find the sweet potatoes don’t need additional moisture when they’ve been boiled, but feel free to add the extra liquid if you feel it is necessary. Remove the filling from the heat and pour in a small casserole pan. Spread the mashed sweet potatoes on top, and baked until the top is slightly browned (it’s also possible to just broil the top since everything is completely cooked, but if you do so, watch it carefully so it doesn’t burn). Let cool about 5 minutes and serve.
B’teavon and stay warm!
I’ve previously called this soup “Clean Out the Fridge Vegetable Soup” which is a little more accurate to the situation at hand when I made this. The process of choosing what to put in this soup mostly consisted of grabbing all the veggies from the fridge that needed to be cooked immediately and layering them into a deliciously tasty (and warming soup). I also bulked it up with some barley (you can use rice if you’re gluten free) and chickpeas. This is a soup with all the comfort of a winter meal that is healthy to boot. The best part is, it really can be made with whatever you have on hand. Feel free to substitute potatoes for the sweet potato, or squash if that’s what you have. Add spinach instead of the cabbage, and maybe some bell pepper instead of the tomato. Really, it’s up to you!
Recently, I haven’t been using premade broth in my soups, rather, I’ve just been adding water and seasoning well with herbs, spices and salt. This way, the flavors of the vegetables you use really come through, and you have even more control over the amount of sodium in your food.
Any Veggie Minestrone
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 c carrot, finely chopped
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
- 1/2 c mushrooms, sliced
- 4 small to medium tomatoes, finely diced
- 1 stalk of celery, quartered (for easy removal. Chop if you actually like celery)
- 1/2 of a cabbage, shredded
- 3/4 c chickpeas, soaked and drained
- 3/4 c barley
- 1 tbsp thyme
- 1 tbsp oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until translucent. Add the carrot and the sweet potato and sauté another 5-7 minutes. Add the mushrooms, sautee until slightly reduced, then add the tomatoes and do the same. Season each layer with a little salt as you go. Add the rest of the ingredients and the cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about an hour, or until the chickpeas are tender and the barley is cooked. Adjust seasonings and serve.
As New York is hit with another blizzard, it seems like a good time to share the soup recipes I’ve been saving since Israel was hit with a five day snow/hail/rain storm. These soups were designed for the days when I knew I wanted a meal chock full of veggies, but it was just to cold to fathom eating a salad. While most of the winter here has been absolutely lovely (~60F on average, high of 66F/19C today), the week of the storm was quite a nightmare. Given my Northeastern upbringing, I’ve definitely experienced much colder weather, but the big difference is that it’s expected that winter will be cold in the Northeast, not so much in Israel (I mean some still think it’s cold…) Here, apartments are built without insulation or even central heat. I spent the first few days of the storm huddled under my thick duvet (thus justifying the investment) or cooking, since the kitchen was a little warmer than the rest of the apartment with both the oven and stove going. Towards the end of the week, my roommate figured out how to get heat through our AC units, which at least made our rooms more bearable. Although having hot, dry air blown at you out of a machine is not exactly ideal, it was a much better option in my eyes than braving the storm to buy a small radiator (which would actually use about the same amount of energy). Additionally, the warmest shoes I had were either ripped up converses, or the rubber ballet flats that had served as my work shoes, and I had to go out and buy a jacket just to attempt to keep warm outside.
Thankfully, that weather has passed now, a friend gave me a pair of boots to borrow for the season, and my new jacket is a perfect medium weight jacket to keep me warm when it cools off at night. I’m also left with a bunch of warming, hearty, but still healthy soups! Since the first bit of chill was felt in the air here, my roommates and I have consistently kept the fridge stocked with at least one soup per week, ranging from what I like to call “Clean Out the Fridge Soup” to chili, French Onion soup, and even a curry lentil soup (or two).
The first soup I made this season was a broccoli potato garlic soup, inspired by the Cinnamon Snail. We don’t have any kind of blender or anything here, so we ate it chunky, but if you do own such technology, I say blend away! It may even be good with a touch of soy or coconut cream added! (I for whatever stupid reason, did not take any pictures of this soup).
Broccoli Potato Garlic Soup
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ~10 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1 head of broccoli, chopped (stalk included)
- 1 large potato, peeled and diced
- 1 tbsp rosemary
- 1 tbsp thyme
- coarse ground black pepper
- water to cover
In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté the garlic in the olive oil for about a minute. Add the onions and sauté about 5 minutes more until translucent. Add the potatoes and broccoli, saute for another 2 to 3 minutes, add the herbs, salt and pepper to taste and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat. Simmer about 30 to 45 minutes, until all the veggies are nice and soft. Adjust seasonings, and puree if desired.
“Soup”-er easy! Check back soon for “Clean Out the Fridge Vegetable Soup”(I know, really appetizing name).
Given that I was leaving the US two days after my birthday to the land of (soy) milk and (date) honey, where it has been fairly consistently sunny and warm (aka Paradise. I’ve gone to the beach more times since I’ve been here than I have in the last few years. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my Ulpan (Hebrew language school) is about a block away from the water) I thought it was necessary to try and make as many autumny recipes as possible before I left, so for my second birthday cupcake (the first being the Apple Orchard cupcake) I of course had to do something with pumpkin.
While I briefly discussed that the cupcakes I have been making are all part of a theme, what I didn’t reveal was that I actually have a whole list of cupcakes to make sitting on my phone, combining seasonal ingredients, with tea and/or booze into awesome cupcakes. Well some of them are seasonal, some are based off of favorite cocktails, while others are inspired by well known tea based drinks. Mental cupcake creation is one of my favorite things to do when I have a long trip to take, and as I dream up cupcake combinations, I have finally taken care to write all of them down. The task now, is to slowly test out these cupcake combinations to see what works, what doesn’t, what’s popular, what I can effectively make gluten free etc.
There were several factors that went into the creation of this cupcake. First, how to best incorporate some booze into the already popular Chai Latte cupcake from VCTOW (that’s Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World…I’m not going to pull a Rachael Ray and always say the abbreviation and what it stands for, I promise). This is one of my dad’s favorite cupcakes, and the best part is, they’re super simple to make on their own. I thought a good spiced rum would fit nicely with the flavor profile, so that was settled quite easily. Then came choosing an appropriate filling. On my list I actually have written both pumpkin pie and cashew cardamom mousse. I wanted something that would meld nicely with the spices already present in the cake, but when it came down to it, the pumpkin craze had already begun, and nothing could beat a chai spiced cake with a deliciously creamy pumpkin pie filling. I generally consider spiking my frostings, just for the extra dose of booze, but because I was making these in tandem with the apple cupcakes (rather than packing….sorry Dad. And Jordan. I bake when I’m stressed, ok?) I needed to make my life a little easier and use only one frosting for both cupcakes. So on went the cinnamon buttercream. The last element to these cupcakes were attempting to make them gluten free. I have tried several different flour mixes for cupcakes with varying successes. This time, I used some leftover from the mix suggested in The Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook by Cybele Pascal. I’ve found that this mix creates a cupcake that is a little more dense than I would like, but the secret to the chai cupcake recipe is the addition of some non dairy yogurt, which creates a moist, light cake. I wanted to see if the combination of the yogurt with the flour blend would create a more satisfactory texture. Good news: it did!
Frequently, when I write down my cupcake ideas, I like to dream them up as the perfect package, complete with elegant if not time consuming garnishes. After all, I would eventually like to sell these (in which case maybe I should stop giving away all my secrets!), but usually, I just don’t have the time to make some of these complicated little additions, nor can I necessarily finance all the resources. For example on the apple cupcakes, I really wanted to throw on a little piece of pie crust, because yum. Crust is totally the best part of the pie. Also, they go crazy for garnishes like that on cupcake wars, but when it came down to it, not only was in nice to have a slice of fresh, crisp apple on top, it also added a nicer color, and, took significantly less work. When it came to garnishing the Rumpkin cupcakes, I found they needed a pop of color to brighten them up. Luckily, I had some sprigs of thyme that had dried up in my fridge, and added the perfect touch of color/actual pumpkin patch vibe I was going for. While I didn’t intend them to add anything flavor-wise, thyme and pumpkin make a pretty nice pair, though you could also probably use a sprig of rosemary or even a sage leaf (talk about an autumn classic, pumpkin and sage).
And now for the recipe:
Chai Cupcake (adapted from VCTOW)
- 1 scant cup non dairy milk
- 4 black tea bags or 2 tbsp loose black tea
- 1/4 c dark or spiced rum
- 1/4 c canola oil
- 1/2 c vanilla or plain non dairy yogurt
- 3/4 c granulated sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 1/3 c gluten free flour blend*
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cardamom
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp ground cloves
- Pinch to 1/8 tsp ground white or black pepper
*I used the the flour mix from the Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook, but you could try whatever you have on hand (or regular flour, and leave out the xanthan gum). I just can’t vouch for the final product using a different gluten free flour combo.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line muffin pan with cupcake liners. Heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until almost boiling. Add tea bags, remove from heat and cover. Let sit for about 10 minutes, then squeeze all the excess milk from the tea bag/leaves and discard. Measure the tea mixture, and rather than top off with milk, top off with rum, so the mixture equals 1 cup of liquid. (This is why you can even start off with a little bit less milk even). In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, yogurt, sugar, vanilla, and the tea mixture until all lumps disappear. Sift in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and all the spices into the wet ingredients. Mix until large lumps disappear; some small lumps are ok. Fill tins full and bake about 20 to 22 minutes until a sharp knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool.
Pumpkin Pie Filling
- 1/2 can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling, you want plain old pumpkin)
- 1/2 c coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1 tbsp tapioca starch (cornstarch would probably work too)
- 1/4 c sugar or maple syrup or to taste
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp allspice
- pinch of cloves
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1-2 tbsp spiced rum
Combine everything but the vanilla and the rum in a small saucepan over medium heat. Stir until well combined and smooth, then cook until it just starts to boil, stirring frequently. The mixture should smooth out even more and then thicken to a thick, custard-like consistency. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and rum.
- 1/2 c nonhydrogenated vegan margarine
- 1/2 c nonhydrogenated shortening
- 3 1/2 c confectioners sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2-4 tbsp non-dairy milk
*You really only need a half batch for 12 cupcakes. I made this whole recipe in conjunction with the apple cupcakes, and was able to frost 2 dozen with this amount of frosting.
Beat the shortening and margarine together until well combined. Add the sugar and cinnamon and beat for another about 3 minutes more. Add the vanilla and 2 tbsp of the non dairy milk. Beat for another 5 to 7 minutes until fluffy. If it is too dry add more milk, 1 tbsp at a time.
Put the pumpkin pie filling in a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Using your pinky finger, poke a hole in each cupcake. Fill with as much pumpkin pie filling as you can, leaving a nice round dollop of filling on top of the cupcake. Fit a separate piping bag with a star tip and fill with the cinnamon buttercream. Pipe little star flowers all around the pumpkin. Garnish with a sprig of something green.
Sorry for the lack of pictures with this post! I was in the middle of moving, and didn’t think to take more. Mostly, I’m happy I took five minutes to write down these recipes. Also, I probably should have gotten this out sooner, but good thing pumpkin is still entirely appropriate to eat throughout November!