Falafel

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Much of our collective eating is tied to friends and family.  So much so, in fact, in my case, that we say, “See ya next time it’s time to eat!” at the end of family functions.  A couple of years ago, two longtime friends invited me to their daughter’s stirring and beautiful bat mitzvah.  The ceremony was amazing, but I wasn’t ready for the food that followed!  The Middle Eastern fare that graced the tables was fragrant, abundant, and deeply satisfying.

I remembered that experience a few months back when I was out blues dancing in Washington, DC, and a friend asked me to join him for late-night chow down the street at the Amsterdam Falafelshop.  I’ve been making my own ever since.  What’s not to love about a hearty sandwich on homemade bread, featuring the entire spectrum of gastronomic flavors and textures we’ve grown to love as Americans–oh, and it’s unabashedly Vegan (but when I made it for the family, even my very finicky dad went back for seconds!).

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Here are my favorite falafel, pita, and hummus recipes (courtesy of Epicurious.com).  The very simple cucumber relish can be found below.  The dishes are very spicy hot and garlicky.  I found that the sweetness of the cuke and onion complemented them nicely.

Cucumber Relish

1 cucumber, rough chopped

1/2 red onion, diced

1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

4-peppercorn blend, freshly ground

1/2 teaspoon turbinado sugar

Combine all ingredients (vinegar to taste), and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving.

 

Buon apetito!

 

Homestyle “Beefy” Gravy

Six months ago, I adopted a plant-based diet.  I haven’t looked back since then, really, but I have slowly reinvented some of my favorite dishes.  I have wanted a stock-free gravy for some time.  I make vegetable stock almost every week, but I wanted something reminiscent of the decadent wonderfulness I used to generously slather over french fries.  It could easily be made gluten free by substituting rice flour.  I could also see a smooth gravy without the “beef”, or I could have easily have added mushrooms (if I had any on hand!).  You could also switch up the spices, add more pepper/your milk of choice instead of water, and easily make a sausage-inspired gravy.  Lastly, you could totally get away with less salt.  One of the things I love about gravy is its unabashed saltiness, though: so I would see that as sacrilege…but you do you! 😉  Anyway, I think this will appeal to plantasauruses and omnivores alike.

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Ingredients:

1 cup Earth Balance brand Soy free buttery spread
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup water
1 cup Beyond Meat brand Beyond Beef Beefy Crumble (in Frozen Foods at Target)
2 tsp coarse Kosher salt
½ tsp freshly-ground 4-pepper blend
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
dash, dry rosemary
1/8 tsp dry oregano
1/8 tsp savory
1/8 tsp dry thyme

Directions:

1. Melt the buttery spread in a medium fry pan over medium heat.
2. Whisk/stir the flour in slowly. Stir the roux frequently, until thickened and golden brown (10-15 minutes). Add the garlic and onion as it thickens.
3. Stir in the salt, pepper, vinegar, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, rosemary, oregano, savory and thyme. Reduce the heat to medium low.
4. Add the water, about ¼ cup at a time, and stir. Bring heat back to medium.
5. Add the beefy crumble, stirring frequently. After 5-7 minutes, or until the gravy is thick and the crumbles are incorporated, remove from heat, and cover until ready to serve.

Buon apetito!

“Nasty” Smoothie



About a year ago, I discovered this recipe for cayenne pepper tea.  I realize that many of you are saying, “Ewww, no!”  The immunity-boosting power of lemon juice is well-documented, but there are numerous health benefits associated with cayenne pepper, as well.  I’m a chilehead, but I realize that many of you might not be, but you can build up to the full teaspoon listed in the recipe from a much milder dose 🙂  After discovering the cayenne tea, I went in search of more herbs, plants, and other compounds with healing properties.  I discovered, among others,  the benefits of organic apple cider vinegar, ginger, garlic, wheat grass, and turmeric.  So, I started making smoothies (probably not the right word!) by adding whatever fresh fruits and vegetables I had in the house.  I enjoy the “smoothies” as natural energy food before a run, or just as breakfast on non-running days.  This particular version contains the following, crushed in the blender:

  • 1tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1tbs organic apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1-inch round bunch of wheat grass
  • the flesh of one pineapple
  • 1cm piece of turmeric root
  • 1cm piece of ginger root

Yield: Two 12oz “Nasty” Smoothies 😀

The answer is “yes”, I do use these foods in my cooking.  I like the convenience of them in a drink is all.  In spite of what you’re thinking, the fruits make it quite sweet.  Don’t believe me?  You’ll just have to try one for yourself!

Crispy Fish Tacos

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These are quick and “my kids who don’t like fish” really enjoy them!  I use either cod, flounder, tilapia, orange roughy, or catfish-a half-inch thick by 4-5″ filet will make 2 tacos.  Of course, you can use any type of taco shell, and add your favorite taco fixins.   These I eat, however, with just the fish, the sauce, and a little lettuce and fresh cilantro (coriander).

Prep time:  Approximately 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

for the fish:

  • 1-2 whitefish fillets
  • tortilla shells (of your choice)
    Lowry’s seasoned salt
    2 tbs flour
    1 egg, beaten
    4 tbs Japanese style bread crumbs (panko)
    2 tbs coconut oil
    ½ tsp fresh parsley
    lettuce, tomato, onion to taste (on the taco)

for the white cheese sauce:

  • 1 cup heavy cream
    2 tbs salted butter
    1 tsp fresh cilantro (coriander)
    1 tsp minced garlic
    2 tsp sour cream
    ½ tsp salt
    ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
    ½ cup shredded pepper jack (or Monterey Jack) cheese

Procedure:

1. Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat.
2. Gently rinse each fillet, and blot dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle all over with seasoned salt.
3. Dredge each fillet lightly in flour.
3. Place beaten egg in a bowl, and dip each floured fillet.
4. Place the fillet on a plate with panko, and be sure that all sides are fully coated.
5. Cook fillets for approximately 3 minutes per side (more if the fillets are thick, but no more than 5 minutes per side), or until panko is golden brown. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.
6. Add the sauce ingredients except for the cheese in a small saucepan over low heat until all ingredients are incorporated. As the mixture heats, slowly add the cheese and stir constantly so the sauce is smooth. (approximately 10-15 minutes).
7. Rough chop the fish into (almost!) bite-sized pieces, and place in the middle of a tortilla shell. Pour enough sauce to cover the fish, and add other taco fixings to taste. Garnish with more coriander. Serve immediately.

NOTE:  This recipe makes plenty of sauce, so feel free to adjust the amount of fish.

“Naked” Chicken Wings with DIY Sauce

"Naked" Chicken Wings with DIY Sauce

The last time I made wings, I made a rather disappointing homemade BBQ sauce, when the unsauced wings were very tasty.  This time, I left the wings “naked”, and put a variety of sauces, mustards, mayonnaise, etc. on the table, and explained to the girls that they were free to mix and match as they saw fit!  I gave them a little bit of direction, but they seemed to enjoy both the freedom and the variety!

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 lbs. party-type chicken wings
  • 1 qt buttermilk
  • Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbs Kosher (or other coarse) salt
  • 1 tbs freshly-ground 4-pepper blend
  • 1 tbs dry rosemary
  • 1 tbs dry thyme
  • 1 tbs garlic powder
  • 1 tbs onion powder
  • 1 tbs savory
  • peanut oil (for frying)

Preparation:

Place the wings in a non-reactive container, and pour the buttermilk over the wings.  Cover and leave in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  Rinse the wings under cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Sprinkle wings liberally with seasoned salt.  Place the flour on a plate and add the salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, and savory.  Mix the seasoned flour with a fork to combine.  Dredge each wing in the flour mixture, just enough to coat the entire wing, and shake off excess.  Heat the peanut oil in a pan or fryer to 350 degrees F.  Cook the wings 5-8 minutes, or until they “float” on top of the oil and are deep golden brown.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.  Serve with a variety of sauces.