This blog has moved!

25 04 2012

Dear Readers,

It is with great happiness that I can announce that my blog, the New Vegetarian, has been moved to my website.

Thanks for reading my posts, and please follow me over to the new spot.

http://robinasbell.com/robinwrites/

I promise to keep on writing about real food, always have a veg perspective, and give you information, recipes and encouragement.

And, as long as you are there, take a moment to check out my website, too. I have classes, events, articles, videos you can watch, and links to my books on amazon.

 





My Asian Dumpling Obsession, and a Recipe

15 04 2012

Vegetable Dumplings at HanGawi in NYC

If you read last week’s post, you got a peek at my fabulous macrobiotic meal at a restaurant named Mana. We shared two kinds of steamed dumplings, one filled with a mash of lightly curried sweet potatoes, the other stuffed with greens and vegetables. This was not my first dumpling experience in the Big City. In fact, pretty much every time there is a veggie dumpling on a menu, I order it. The photo above is of a lovely veggie dumpling I had at the vegan Korean restaurant HanGawi, just a few days before. Although they are somewhat obscured by lightly steamed broccoli florets, you can see that they are folded in a tortellini-style shape. They were filled with tender greens, and perched on a puddle of sweet-sour hot sauce.

I couldn’t stop there, and when I had dinner at The Spice Market, a Jean Georges Vongerichten restaurant, I had another version. This time, they bobbed in a tasty soup.

Fresh Pea Soup with Sweet-Pea Miso Dumplings (sorry, it was dark)

This was definitely an upscale soup, a sweet and subtle puree of absolutely fresh, shelled peas, with a few chopped greens and herbs. The dumplings were tiny and tender, filled with miso-spiked pea puree. It was a celebration of the English Pea, a seasonal and fleeting delight. It was delicious.

Of course, then came the dumplings at Mana, where we shared them, dipped in tasty soy-based sauces.

Macrobiotic Veggie Dumplings

When you come right down to it, a plump, juicy dumpling is irresistible. Little pillows of deliciousness that they are, they are like a present, specially wrapped just for you. The sauce is the bow on top. You get to eat them with your fingers, if you want, or pick them up with chopsticks, which is also pretty playful. So, if you can see where this is all leading, I thought I should make some steamed veggie dumplings when I got home.

Steamed Chinese Style Veggie Dumplings at Home

Steamed Chinese-Style Vegetable Dumplings

I’ve made versions of this recipe for years, and found that they benefit from the complexity and funk that a bit of preserved or pickled cabbage adds. I used easy to find wonton skins in the photo, which are thinner, and kind of flop over in the steamer, but are just as yummy. If you are vegan, look at the ingredients on your wrappers, many brands are actually egg-free.

1 package potsticker or gyoza wrappers
canola oil
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/4 cup szechuan preserved vegetables or kimchee, rinsed and minced (not everyone has access to szechuan veggies, but kimchee is close enough)
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups minced bok choy
1 cup chinese chives, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pinch white pepper
2 tablespoons shao xing rice wine or sherry
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar

vinegar, chili sauce, and soy sauce

1. Use 1 teaspoon of the oil to stir fry the vegetables until almost wilted. Add salt, pepper, wine, soy sauce, and sugar, cook until thick. Remove from heat, scrape into a bowl and cool completely.
2. To assemble, get a pastry brush and a cup of water, and a steamer or plate, and cut some parchment pieces for each dumpling. Lay out several wrappers and place a scant tablespoon of filling in the center of each. Brush the top half of each wrap and pull the two sides up around the filling, and form a flat bottom. Pleat the top edge and set each on a piece of parchment on the steamer. Cover with plastic as you go. These can be covered and refrigerated for a few hours, or frozen raw to be cooked frozen.
3. To cook, set up to steam. When the water is boiling, put the steamer over it, cover, and steam for about 8 minutes. When the dumpling wrappers are tender and the veggies are hot all the way in the center, they are done.  Let diners mix the three condiments to suit their tastes on the plate.

With a little Sriracha





Macro is Alive and Well at Mana

9 04 2012

Our Meal: L-R Okinomiyaki Pancake, Sauteed Greens with Shiitakes, Kidney Beans, Brown Rice, Sweet Potato Dumplings, Veggie Dumplings

When I started learning about vegetarianism, way back in the 70′s and 80′s, the word on everyone’s lips was “macrobiotics.” While American vegetarians were eating mac and cheese and pizza, followers of Macrobiotics were into something else. If you are not familiar, Macro is a way of eating that is all about balancing the energy in the food, and balancing your body and mind in the process. It’s based on Japanese ways of thinking about food and the Universe, and the food reflects a deeper Asian aesthetic, as well.

In a macro way of looking at healthy eating, food is analyzed as to its yin and yang qualities. Yang foods are heavy and dense, and bring heat to the body. Meat and dairy are very yang. Yin foods are light, diffuse, and cold. Sugar is very yin. All foods have some balance of yin and yang within them, but generally, whole grains are the most balanced, and therefore balancing, foods. Macrobiotics eat 60% whole grains, 20-30% vegetables, and 5-10-% beans and soy, and sea vegetables, fruits and moderate amounts of fat. Small amounts of fish might be consumed. Foods like miso soup, seaweed, sesame and kanten are important. Eating local, low on the food chain, and organic, with no processed or refined foods is a core principle. A seasonal emphasis also promotes balance, with heavier roots and beans in winter and more leafy, light foods in summer. Certain foods, like nightshades eggplant, tomato and pepper and tropical fruits are not recommended.

Of course, that is just a quick summary, but you get the gist of it. Macrobiotics is very plant-based.

Somewhere along the line, Macro just kind of took a back seat to vegan, in recent years, even though the two have much in common.

I was excited to get a chance to go to a macrobiotic restaurant in New York City, accompanied by vegan blogger Sharon Nazarian (her blog here) and vegan pastry expert, Fran Costigan (her website, here). The restaurant, called Mana Organic Cafe, is run by owner Sung Lee, who graciously introduced herself to us, probably because we were photographing our food. It was a treat to share a spread of modern macrobiotic, vegan food.

Of course, when I saw dumplings on the menu, I had to have them. We shared two kinds, one filled with curried sweet potato and one with chopped vegetables. With dipping sauces, they were wonderfully comforting and fun to eat. I also ordered the Okinomiyaki pancake, in part because I created a recipe for one in my book, Big Vegan, and wanted to see how they did theirs. It was a lovely, dense cake, made up of sauteed cabbage and vegetables and mashed tofu, topped with a sweet tomato sauce and some salad greens. On the menu it was billed as macrobiotic “pizza.”

Okinomiyaki

Sauteed Bok Choy, Broccoli, Kale and Shiitakes

I love it when I can get beans, greens and rice in a restaurant, and it was great fun to share a meal with some vegan ladies. It would have been fun to try some nori rolls, soups, and other entrees, which all looked delicious, as we watched them being delivered to other tables. A specialty of the house is the Mana bowl, a big steaming bowl of broth, noodles and vegetables that smelled divine.

Vegans and vegetarians would do well to take a walk on the macrobiotic side, and get into the centering, nourishing foods at the core of the macro way. It can be fun to eat a vegan version of the Western diet, but if you are eating alot of refined food and forgetting your grains and beans, it’s time to start balancing the yin and yang on your plate.

You’ll feel better for it!

Mana, 646 Amsterdam Ave. (212)787-1110

Mana Restaurant’s Menu





A Big Bowl of Happiness?

26 03 2012

Sunshine and Rainbows with the Happy Way to Eat

We all know the physical benefits of eating more plants. Lower cholesterol, a healthy heart, lower body mass, decreased risks of all the big, bad diseases. When vegans and vegetarians talk about their lifestyles, though, they often describe a new feeling, a feeling of being lighter, clearer, happier and more energetic. Feeling good is about more than getting good triglyceride numbers at your annual physical, and now some researchers have taken a closer look at why veg diets make people feel happier.

The study, published in Nutrition Journal, put control groups of omnivores on either an omnivorous, fish only, or vegetarian diet. The study went for two weeks, and at the end, the participants were tested for mood and depression. The researchers, Bonnie Beezhold and Carol Johnston, theorized that the balance of essential fatty acids in the different diets would make a difference in mood. At the end of the study, the mood test scores of the veg group improved significantly, while the rest stayed the same.

So, the researchers wanted to know if the fish group, with their Omega 3 (EPA and DHA) rich diets, would have better moods, and they did not. In blood tests, the fish eating group had more Omega 3′s in their blood, but they had far more Omega 6′s. The vegetarian eaters had dropped their blood levels of EPA, DHA and more importantly, AA, the arachidonic acid in meat, down to negligible levels.

So, the researchers drew the conclusion that the arachidonic acid could be a real downer. Its important to remember that conventional meat and dairy is much higher in Omega 6′s, including AA, because it is fed corn and grain, while grass fed is supposed to have a better balance of 6 and 3.

The effect of essential fats on the brain is well-known, we need them for our brains and nervous systems to function. So, a little background is in order. Basically, we need to get Omega 3′s and Omega 6′s from food.

A typical Western diet has plenty of the omega-6s, linoleic acid, gamma-linoleic acid, and arachidonic acids (LA, GLA, and AA). Linoleic acid is in nuts, seeds and their oils, grains, and soybean oil, all of which are eaten by omnivores and vegetarians alike. AA is largely from animal foods and is associated with heart disease and inflammation. Arachidonic acid has also been found to cause negative changes to the chemistry of the brain that lead to negative moods and depression.

The omega-3s EPA and DHA are where most people fall short, omnivores and vegetarians alike. Alpha-linoleic acid (ALA), found in flax, hemp, walnut, and canola oils, as well as in green leafy vegetables and sea vegetables, is pretty pervasive, thanks to the popularity of canola. But the eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids (EPA and DHA) that come from fish or the algae that fish eat, or from sea vegetables .

Vegans will be relieved to know that the body converts some of the LA you consume into GLA and AA, and the ALA into EPA and DHA.

The imbalance, which the researchers point out, is that most of us eat way too many Omega 6′s. Vegetarians, though, are not getting all of the Omega 6′s and especially Arachidonic acid that meat eaters get from meat. In the current state of affairs, industrial meat and dairy is contributing to the imbalance in Omega 6, as well as the high AA in the diet.

So, veg-heads, if you have been convinced for a long time that eating this way just makes you feel better, there is scientific evidence to back you up. Keep striving to get those Omega 3′s from chia, flax, walnuts, and canola oil, since they are good for you, too. And omnivores, you would do well to cut back on meat, if you want to improve your mood.





The New Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook

19 03 2012

Roasted Cauliflower Pizza in a Cast Iron Pan

I’ve been singing the praises of cast-iron cookery for years. It’s always been an affordable, natural option for cooking with whole foods. I’ve also blogged about the way it puts iron in the food, and how great that is for vegetarians. It’s a great way to cook with a non-stick pan that doesn’t include chemicals that enter the food and the air and lodge in your body forever. That is one of my more frequently read articles on this blog, so feel free to check it out with the link below.

Link to Article and Recipe for Black Bean Soup

Well, thanks to my involvement with cast iron and the Lodge cast iron company, I was invited to join the amazing group of cooks, authors and chefs who have recipes in the new Lodge Cast Iron Cookbook: A Treasury of Timeless, Delicious Recipes (Oxmoor House). It’s by no means a vegetarian book, but the recipes that I contributed are. My all-veggie chili is vegan, and the roasted cauliflower pizza has cheeses on it, which vegans can replace with crumbled tofu or vegan cheeses. There are other meatless offerings, as well, and a whole chapter on variations on cornbreads. I love baking pizza, cornbread, and other things I want to be crusty in my cast iron skillet.

The Lodge Cast Iron Collection!

Click Here to Buy The Cookbook

Lodge is a family owned company, that has been manufacturing cast iron in the USA for over a hundred years. The pans are so durable that there are hundred year old pans still in use. A while back I taught a cast iron cooking class, featuring all Lodge cookware. As I expected, there were many questions about how to wash, season, and otherwise care for cast iron pans. Luckily, I have made lots of mistakes with mine, and have been able to recover every time. So, for the people who are afraid that they don’t know how to keep their cast iron in good shape, here is what I have learned.

1. Buy pre-seasoned. It’s a relatively new thing, back in the day you had to buy bare cast iron and slowly build a good coat of seasoning. You will still keep adding, but pre-seasoning make it much easier. Lodge assures me that the process that they use is completely vegan and kosher. Seasoning, for the unitiated, is the process by which the iron, which has a microscopically porous texture, is heated while it is in contact with oil. Each time the pores open and suck in a little oil, which bonds to the surface. The oil changes, too, getting dry and firm, and becomes like a non-stick coating.

Don’t make the mistake I have, of thinking that leaving a thick coat of oil on the pan is going to help. It will dry to a goopy, sticky layer that will smell rancid, because it is. Just rub on oil, and rub it off with paper towels, leaving it shiny. If you get the gunky layer, you will have to remove it (see below)

2. Never scrub. This whole seasoning thing is a big part of the function of the pan. Lodge sells a special bristle brush, that you can use to gently remove any stuck on bits of food. You can rinse, but don’t use soap. Other methods include just dumping salt in the pan and rubbing it out with towels, with no water at all.

3. Never gouge. Once you have this delicate layer of oil forming a seasoning layer on the pan, you don’t want to start scraping around in there with knives, metal tools, and the like. Of course, when you make cornbread or pizza in there, you will want to. You may just want to devote that pan to that purpose, but you will eventually need to fix it.

3. Go ahead and fix it when you do all of the above. If you mess up in any way, whether its by leaving the pan out on the barbecue in the rain, or over oiling, or scrubbing, or using tools that gouge, you can always reclaim the pan. It helps to have access to some tools. A funky, rusty pan can always be reclaimed, with some TLC. My Mother-In-Law used to cook in her cast iron until it was encrusted in stuff, and then every few years her son would take it to the shop and sandblast it back to new.  Lodge recommends that if you see a spot of rust, try just rubbing oil on it. If that doesn’t work, you can go ahead and scour it with a steel scrubbie or fine sandpaper. Other people have used a rotating wire brush that you can attach to a drill. The idea here is to get any excess, chipped looking black buildup or rust off the pan and start with a smooth surface when you re-season. Don’t go any deeper than you have to. Once you have bare metal you need to get oil on it IMMEDIATELY. Bare metal will re-rust just by being exposed to air.

4. Re-season. Once you have scrubbed or sanded, rub the surface with some high heat oil, preferably solid shortening. There is an organic one that I keep around just for this. Turn the oven to 350 F, put a sheet pan lined with foil on the bottom rack, and put the pan upside down on the rack above it. Bake for at least an hour.

Cast Iron Cauliflower Pizza

Don’t ignore cauliflower as a tasty pizza topping. Here, while you prep the crust, you can roast the veggies to sweet tenderness and then use them on the pie.

Serves 6

1 1/2           cups  white whole wheat flour

1           teaspoon  quick rise yeast

1/4      teaspoon  salt

1           teaspoon  honey

3/4           cup  warm water

2        tablespoons  extra virgin olive oi, divided

8             ounces  cauliflower florets,  3 1/2 cup

1/2           cup  onion

1/2         small  red bell pepper, chopped

2             cloves  garlic, sliced

3             ounces  feta cheese, crumbled (Or equivalent firm tofu crumbled, with a dash of rice vinegar and pinch of salt)

2             ounces  Asiago Cheese, shredded (Or equivalent Daiya shreds or cashew cheese)

1/2           cup  chopped parsley or basil

canola oil and sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 425 F. Make the dough, in a large bowl or stand mixer, combine the flour, yeast and salt. Stir the warm water and 1 Tbs olive oil in and knead to make a soft, barely sticky dough. Add a little more flour if needed. Put the dough in an oiled bowl and let rise while you prep the veggies.

In a large roasting pan, toss the cauliflower, onion, bell pepper, garlic and remaining olive oil.Roast, uncovered, for 20 minutes. The cauliflower should be soft and golden browned in spots. Let the veggies cool slightly. Oil a 12 inch cast iron skillet and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Punch down dough, then shape into a large round. Press into the cast iron pan and press it up the sides about an inch. Sprinkle in the roasted veggies, cheeses and herbs. Bake for 20 minutes, until the crust is crisp in the center of the pizza and the cheeses are melted and golden. Tilt the pan and use a spatula to lift the pizza onto a cutting board to cut in 6 pieces.





Robin Robertson’s Quick-Fix Vegan Cookbook Makes Speedy Easy

19 12 2011

Super Nachos

 

 

 

 

When you get down to it, most people find that the biggest barrier to eating well is time. Planning, shopping, cooking, all take time, and it’s way easier to just grab some fast food. Well, if you are using that as your excuse to not eat balanced, whole foods vegan meals, your excuse is now officially crumbling before your eyes. Robin Robertson, one of the most prolific cookbook authors I know of, has now conquered the time-crunch-and done it deliciously.

You can’t stand in the cookbook aisle and not know Robin Robertson’s name. She is the author of 19 cookbooks so far, and seems to have an amazing ability to just keep cranking out useful, creative books.

In her latest, Quick-Fix Vegan Healthy Homestyle Meals in 30 Minutes or Less (Andrews McMeel $16.99), Robertson cuts to the chase and puts together good food simply. If you were thinking of slapping together a sandwich, you may as well make on of hers, full of vibrant veggies and flavors, instead of the same old pb and j. It doesn’t really take much more time.

The book is filled with global flavors, making the most of the exciting tastes of far-flung places, like Morocco, Vietnam,Mexico and more. Vegan food is an adventure when you search the world for the dishes with great tastes that can do plant-based.

The very first chapter is an introduction to the mind-set of a fast cook, called quick-fix vegan basics. Right away, she says to be flexible- if you don’t have an ingredient, substitute. Arrange your space and tools for easy access, and set up your pantry are just a few of the things she urges you to do to get fast meals on the table. She also gives you a run-down on which whole grains cook fastest, and which ingredient short-cuts are worth trying. It’s a great intro to the fast and furious way of getting real food on the table.

With chapters on Starters and Snacks, Stovetop Suppers, Pasta, Soup, Sandwiches, Salads and Make Ahead Bakes, Robertson displays a skill for cutting out unnecessary steps and ingredients. A quick chop, a fast cook, and you are eating dinner, and it’s vegan. She also has chapters on condiments and desserts, essential add-ons for the hurried cook.

It was a real pleasure making dishes from the book. Like everyone else, I don’t have a ton of time, so quick is always good. Reading and cooking from Robertson’s recipes, I admire the way her mind works. As a fellow recipe developer, I can appreciate a well-crafted recipe. These recipes are simplified, but still interesting, and follow the shortest path from point A to point B. Simple looks easy, but it takes skill to make it that way.

I also appreciate the use of whole foods, like beans, nuts and seeds, and the near absence of mock meats. Just because you are in a hurry, doesn’t mean you have to go in for vegan bologna or burgers every night, in Robertson’s kitchen.

Another useful and practical book, from Robin Robertson. I’m sure there will be more to come.

That Nacho Sauce Was Fast

Super Nachos

Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cups cooked pinto beans or one 15 oz can, drained and rinsed)

1 cup tomato salsa (divided)

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder, divided

salt and pepper

1 ripe avocado

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon mellow white miso

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon prepared mustard

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

3/4 cup non-dairy milk

6 cups tortilla chips

GARNISHES: 1/2 cup vegan sour cream, 1/3 cup sliced black olives, 1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapenos, 2 tablespoons scallions

Pereheat the oven to 400F. Grease a -inch baking dish. In a small saucepan, heat the beans with half of the salsa, 1 tsp chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, mashing and stirring, until hot, about 4 minutes. Spread in the dish.

Halve, pit and chop the avocado and reserve.

In a small skillet, mix the nutritional yeast, flour, miso, lemon, mustard, onion powder, cumin, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and the non-dairy milk. Whisk until smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper. Whisk over medium heat until it boils and thickens.

Spread the chips over the beans, then drizzle the sauce over the chips. Bake until hot, about 5 minutes. Serve topped with remaining salsa and all the garnishes.

I used fresh red fresnos instead of pickled jalapenos, and I didn’t have the vegan sour cream.

Vietnamese Tofu Wraps, mmmmm

Vietnamese Tofu Wraps

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 pound extra firm tofu, cut in 1/4 inch wide strips

3 tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon sriracha sauce, plus more for serving

4 10 -inch flour tortillas

vegan mayo

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and sliced

1 carrot, shredded

1 cup cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons bottled jalapenos

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu and cook until golden brown, turning frequently, 7-10 minutes. Add the hoisin, soy sauce, and 1 tsp sriracha, stirring to coat the tofu. Take off the heat to cool. To assemble the wraps, spread the tortillas with vegan mayo and drizzle with srirach to taste. Arrange 1/ of te tofu in the center, then top with cucumber, carrot, cilantro and jalapenos. Wrap and serve.

Goodies, Ready to Roll





Recycling the Leftovers, With a Little Spice

27 11 2011

Spike That Relish with Chipotle!

So the big feast is over. Did you knock yourself out, baking for weeks, up before dawn to start cooking? I’ve done that. Or did you sail effortlessly into a family gathering, where all you had to do was bring your wonderful self?  I hope you had a blast, either way. Whether you shared your meals with omnivores or ate with fellow veg-heads, you probably have the universal end result. Leftovers.

So, like millions of other people, you are facing that declining curve of interest in foods that in many cases, you only eat once a year. Stuffing? Mmmm, can’t wait, love it like crazy, but eating it for four days in a row, well, it gets old. I have the added experience of making Thanksgiving dishes for a couple of weeks beforehand for my blog, and preparing them for private clients who love having all the sides ready to re-heat when the big day comes. By the time I get to Thanksgiving, I’m ready to add some spice and interest to the usual flavors.

So, what am I doing about my left-overs? Well, I was lucky and didn’t have many. The one that I really need to repurpose is my cranberry orange relish. You know the one, a pound of cranberries, an orange, zested and pulp removed, and a cup of sugar. You grind that in a blender or food processor and it is a fresh, tart, traditional side.

It’s also something you only need a spoonful or two of on the side of the plate. So what will I do with the remainder?

I decided to go Mexican.

Putting it together

I took my cranberry relish and stirred in some salt and chipotle powder until it was spicy and smoky. I sautéed a couple of onions and a couple of cloves of garlic in some olive oil, then into the sauté pan I tossed a package of chicken style seitan and seasoned that with ground cumin and salt. I shredded some romaine that I bought for Holiday salad, and got out some leftover cashew cheese. Of course, you could use another dairy or non-dairy cheese, whatever is handy.

Voila, a whole wheat tortilla brings the whole thing together into a hearty burrito.

Thankful for another meal, I will dive in and relish the heck out of my relish.

Chewy, Creamy, Tangy, Hot.








Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38 other followers