February 17, 2014

homemade kimchi



There are two kinds of pickles that I always keep in the refrigerator: kimchi and sauerkraut. Both homemade.

I have always loved kimchi. I remember years ago before I became vegan and had an obsession with this pickle, I made kimchi using an "authentic" recipe with salted shrimp, fish sauce, sugar and all. I started making it again—this time vegan and sugar-free—last summer when I joined a local CSA. I wanted to preserve the abundance of produce that was otherwise taking up the space in the refrigerator.

This recipe is loosely based on one that I saw in a raw foods cookbook. I've changed some things around to my liking. Follow these simple steps and you will have flavorful kimchi in just a few days.



You will need...

two stainless steel bowls
grater (I highly recommend a Microplane grater) 
colander
one half-gallon Mason jar with lid

Ingredients

1 head napa cabbage (2 to 2 1/2 pounds)
1/2 daikon radish (about 8 oz) or 2 hakurei turnips

2 TBS sea salt
1/2 cup water

1 medium carrot, sliced into thin matchsticks
1/2 bunch green onions, cut into 1 inch lengths
3 cloves of garlic, grated
1 small knob of ginger, grated (about 1 TBS)
1 to 1 1/2 TBS Korean chili pepper (coarse type, no salt added)
2 tsp brown rice syrup (optional)

Directions

Prepare the vegetables. Peel away the leaves of the napa cabbage, stack them together, cut them in half lengthwise and slice them into 1-inch widths (see photo below). Slice the daikon or hakurei turnips in half-moons (or quarter-moons depending on the size). 



Place the cut vegetables in a large bowl. Sprinkle the salt and pour water. Massage lightly with your hands. Cover the bowl with a kitchen cloth and let this sit for about 8 hours or overnight.

Drain the salted vegetables in a colander set over a bowl. Gently press the vegetables to squeeze out the water. Reserve the strained liquid. This becomes the brine. Take the drained vegetables and put them back in the big bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well with your hands.



Take a half-gallon Mason jar and pack it tightly with the vegetables mixed with spices. Pour the brine into the jar. Leave about an inch of space on top as gas develops in the course of fermentation. Press down the vegetables and seal the jar with a lid. Let it sit at room temperature for a few days.

Check your kimchi at least once a day. Open the jar to release any gas that forms. Press down on the kimchi to make sure the vegetables are submerged in the brine.


After three days, taste the kimchi. Store the jar in the refrigerator when it's mature enough to your liking.


Kimchi is great added to pan-fried rice, served with mung bean pancakes or eaten straight out of the jar. My favorite way to enjoy kimchi is to pair it with natto, fermented soybeans, served on top of warm bowl of rice. Natto is another wonderful product of fermentation, and I have been making it from scratch as well. If you like this slimy stinky delicacy, it is pretty easy to make at home if you have an incubator, gas oven with a pilot or a dehydrator. I guess that calls for another blog post!


February 3, 2014

chickpea chowder



According to groundhog Phil, we're expecting six more weeks of dreadful winter. For the last few months, I have been making soups almost everyday. There is nothing comforting like a warm bowl of soup on a cold winter day.


Here is a recipe for stick-to-your-ribs vegan "chowder." The secret to this thick and creamy soup is using a base made with sweet corn. Partially blending the finished soup also gives the soup a nice rich consistency without the use of cream.

Ingredients

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
1 yellow onion, diced (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 lb butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
1/2 to 1 cup of water or vegetable broth
2 15-oz cans of chickpeas or 3 cups of cooked chickpeas (rinse beans if using canned)
2 stalks celery, diced (about 1 cup)

8 oz frozen corn, thawed (about 1 cup)
4 cups water or vegetable broth
2 TBS chickpea miso

2 TBS nutritional yeast
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp sea salt

freshly ground black pepper
sprinkle of smokey paprika (optional)
chopped parsley for garnish
Directions
Place olive oil and garlic in a soup pot. Set the flame to low and slowly saute the garlic. When it starts to sizzle a bit, add onion. Turn up the flame to medium high and let it cook until it begins to brown and caramelize. Add some more water if the onion starts to stick to the pot.
Layer butternut squash, chickpeas and celery on top and add 1/2 cup of water (or vegetable broth). Place a lid and let it simmer for 5 to 10 minutes until the squash pieces become soft.
While the veggie/chickpea mixture is cooking, prepare the base for the soup. Place corn, water (or vegetable broth) and sweet white miso in a blender and process until it becomes smooth.

Pour this into the soup pot with vegetables/chickpeas. Stir in nutritional yeast, thyme, celery seed and salt. If you'd like to make the consistency of the soup creamier and richer, take about 1/3 of the soup and blend until smooth. (You can also use an immersion blender if you have one.)

Ladle the chowder into soup bowls and sprinkle some black pepper and smokey paprika and garnish with chopped parsley.



October 24, 2013

pumpkin chocolate chip cookies



In the past few weeks, with fall colors in full swing, I noticed the supermarkets were flooded with pumpkin treats. Pumpkin scones, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin granola, pumpkin croissants... I even spotted pumpkin dog treats!

Fall is my favorite season, probably because I was born in October. It could also be because it is such a short season, it makes me appreciate the transient, fleeting beauty it brings. The falling leaves remind us that nothing lasts forever. Maybe such imperfect, impermanent and incomplete beauty deeply resonates with my appreciation for wabi-sabi in Japanese culture.

Sadly, fall is coming to an end (at least in the area where I live). So I thought I celebrate this beautiful season by making (and eating, of course!) something pumpkin. I looked for ideas online and set my eyes on a vegan cookie recipe that was flour-less and sugar-free. For some reason, the recipe did not work for me and I ended up adding a whole different set of ingredients, which resulted in a totally new recipe. I'm not much of a canned pumpkin person, but these cookies definitely turned me onto pureed pumpkin that is readily available in grocery stores. These cookies are moist, flavorful and hit the spot. They are just right.

So here it is, my version of pumpkin cookies that commemorate the fall harvest.



Ingredients
makes about 20 small cookies
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup almond meal/flour
2 tsp pumpkin spice blend (or 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/4 tsp ground cloves, 1/4 tsp ginger powder)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda

1 cup almond butter (unsalted)
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup grain-sweetened chocolate chips

Directions

In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients with a whisk.


Place the wet ingredients and salt in another bowl and whisk until everything is well incorporated. 

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. When it is about 80% combined, stir in the chocolate chips. (If you are finicky about the appearance of your cookies, set aside a small handful of chocolate chips so you can garnish them before baking.)

Take a small ice cream scooper or a tablespoon to portion out the dough onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated oven of 350°F for 12 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 3 to 5 minutes. Serve right out of the oven or after they have cooled down (if you can wait, that is).



October 6, 2013

deep-fried spring rolls


Of all the savory dishes that I have made in my entire life, I can probably say that deep-fried spring rolls are the most popular. Everybody loves them. When I made them at my restaurant, I could not keep up with the demand as many people would buy half a dozen at a time. I have had feedback from non-vegans saying that they were the best thing they have ever eaten.

Well, what is not to like? First of all, deep-frying always helps. Inside the perfectly crunchy skin is a flavorful vegetable filling that is so simple but very delicious even on its own.

There are a few pointers in making perfect spring rolls. First, get good quality wrappers. If possible, buy the plain spring roll pastry from Spring Home. It has only four ingredients: wheat flour, water, coconut oil and salt. Very clean. It is widely available through Asian grocery stores. These wrappers were used at the summer conference in the Netherlands so I know they are even sold in Europe.



Now onto filling. Sauté the vegetables on medium high flame and make sure you cook off any liquid. It is tempting to put a lid on it to make it cook faster, but that only traps the moisture. Wet filling can make the rolls fall apart and oil will splatter during the frying process.

Consider the ingredients listed for the filling as just a guideline. Switch it around and have fun with it. I highly recommend using toasted sesame oil to sauté the vegetables and a little bit of finely ground white pepper for seasoning. White pepper adds a little heat and also a distinct flavor. Be careful not to put too much as it can become very spicy. (And of course, you can't undo this process! I learned it the hard way....)

When wrapping the filling, make sure you achieve a tight roll. Use a mixture of flour and water as glue to seal the rolls. Any filling spilling out can cause the oil to seep in, making the rolls greasy. Make sure the oil is nice and hot, too. Dip the tip of wooden chopsticks and if you see bubbles, the oil is ready. Place only a few at a time so the oil temperature does not drop.

OK, enough with the pointers. Here's the list of ingredients and the directions on how to make them. Enjoy!

Ingredients
 makes a dozen rolls
 
1 TBS toasted sesame oil
2 tsp minced ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 leek, sliced thin, white and green parts separated
1 yellow onion, sliced in quarter moons (about 1 cup)

8 oz oyster mushrooms, shredded by hand (about 3 cups) (Sliced shiitake mushrooms are also great.)
1 small carrot, sliced into matchsticks (about 1 cup)
1/2 head cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)
 

2 to 3 TBS soy sauce
1/4 tsp white pepper

1/2 package of 10" spring roll pastry, thawed overnight if frozen

1 TBS white flour mixed with 2 TBS water


Oil for frying (Use neutral-tasting oil with high smoke point such as safflower oil.)


Directions

Sauté the ginger and garlic in sesame oil until fragrant. Add white part of the leek and yellow onion and cook until translucent. Add oyster mushrooms, cabbage and carrot. Season with soy sauce and white pepper and cook off the liquid. Remove from heat and stir in the green part of the leek. Set aside to cool.




Now, let the rollin' begin! Here's the how-to's with step-by-step photos. (Please note that 5" wrappers are used in the photos.)

First, take a sheet of pastry and lay it on a work surface. Place about 1/3 cup of the filling on the pastry. 



Lift up the end close to you and roll over the filling. 




Fold over the left and right sides of the wrapper. 





While holding the sides, roll the whole thing over, leaving a small triangular space on top.
  

Use a mixture of white flour and water to seal the end. 



Repeat with the rest of the filling. Put the unused wrappers in a resealable plastic bag and refrigerate (in which case you need to use them in a few days as they can dry out or mold) or freeze.
 
Heat up oil in a deep frying pan or a Dutch oven over medium high heat. Place a few spring rolls with seam side down and fry about a couple of minutes on each side. Drain on paper towel. Serve hot. (Not that they aren't good even when they're cold!)





You can also bake the spring rolls. Simply place the spring rolls on a baking pan lined with parchment paper and brush or spray some oil. Bake in a preheated oven of 400F for 10 minutes, flip each piece over halfway through and brush or spray some oil. Return to oven and bake again for 5 to 10 minutes until crispy.


August 21, 2013

European Summer Conference '13


From August 4 through 16, my husband and I spent time in the Netherlands to participate in the Macrobiotic Summer Conference organized by the Kushi Institute of Europe.

We both taught some classes during the two-week conference and, in our free time, audited other teachers' classes and explored the neighborhood by foot to enjoy the breathtaking view of Holland.






It was such a blessing to be able to enjoy yummy macrobiotic food three times a day. Here is one of the many delicious meals offered at the conference.



Now that I think about it, these two weeks were the longest I'd gone without cooking (besides doing cooking demos in classes). I was pleasantly surprised that I did not miss home-cooked meals (which happens when you are away from home for so long!) or have any weird cravings. Kudos to the kitchen staff for preparing such nourishing food and keeping us so healthy!


*****

My first class at the conference was on Japanese cooking.


Photo credit: Kushi Institute of Europe


I presented chirashi rice salad, tofu patties with kuzu glaze and broccoli with walnut dressing (shira-ae). I was happy to see people taking interest in Japanese food and culture.

In addition to a class on salads and spreads (in which I showed how to make sunflower seed pate with rosemary flatbread, quinoa/chickpea salad with pesto and cucumber/wakame salad), I taught a couple of dessert classes.


*****

The dessert classes were very popular. Of course, who doesn't like desserts?!

Photo credit: Julia Goryun

In the "Summer Desserts" class, I demonstrated how to make blueberry/amasake tart with a date/hazelnut crust and strawberry kanten with almond cream.


The blueberries used for the tart were handpicked by the kids in the children's program. I loved the fact that the whole conference was so family oriented. Run by the Nelissen's, Kushi Institute of Europe itself is a family operation and maybe that had helped to bring a relaxed, homelike atmosphere to the conference. As more time progressed, we were, in fact, becoming one big family.


*****

My second dessert class featured some of the sweet treats from my book "THE PEACEFUL DESSERT BOOK."



In class, I demonstrated carrot cake with lemon tofu cream, lemon bars with almond crust and melon kanten. My book has a recipe for a lemon cream frosting made with tofu and cashews but I decided to make a different kind of cream that uses ingredients widely available in the European market.

Here is the recipe for the lemon tofu cream.

1 carton of vacuum-packed silken tofu (250 g)
2 TBS maple syrup
1 to 2 TBS almond paste (or "pasta" as the Dutch call it)
zest of 1 lemon
sprinkle of vanilla powder (or vanilla extract)

The key is to drain the tofu well. Place the tofu in a colander set in a bowl. Drain overnight in the refrigerator. The tofu should weigh less than 200 g. Blend everything together in a food processor or blender. When chilled, the fat from the almond paste helps to firm up the cream a bit. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

The kitchen had these cutest small melons with green flesh. I decided to utilize the skin by hollowing out the halves and filling them with the kanten mixture.

 
Photo credit: Julia Goryun


The set kanten was sliced it into wedges for a beautiful presentation.

Photo credit: Julia Goryun



Bon appetit!

*****



I got a little sentimental on the last day of the conference. After we came back to the US, I reminisced on our trip while eating stroopwafels. Two weeks went by so quick. Being part of the conference brought me a wealth of drive, enthusiasm and inspiration. I will cherish the fond memories that I shared with my new friends. I look forward to seeing them again.

July 17, 2013

almost raw chocolate mousse tart


The recent hot weather has inspired (or forced) me to come up with a variety of salads, some raw and some requiring minimal cooking. (May I interest you in bulgur/chickpea salad with pistachio pesto?) Salads with grains or pasta makes a relatively quick and filling dinner, but what about dessert? What can I make to satisfy my sweet tooth without breaking a sweat in a 90-degree kitchen?

So here's my solution: Almost raw chocolate mousse tart. "Almost" because the almonds in the crust are roasted, the filling has maple syrup (which is not technically raw although it is used by some raw foodists) and the raspberry sauce is cooked. But no cooking required. The secret ingredient in creating the creamy yet sliceable texture is... avocado! Make sure the avocados are ripe and free of any browning or stringiness.


This dessert is rich, decadent and satisfying and so much more elegant (and less pathetic) than nibbling on frozen blueberries on a warm summer night. Indulge!


Ingredients (for one 5" spring-form pan)

Crust

3/4 cups toasted almonds
1/2 cup pitted dates (4 to 5 dates)
2 tsp water

Chocolate mousse filling
2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup cacao powder (or unsweetened cocoa powder)
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 TBS unrefined coconut oil
1 to 2 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

Super easy raspberry sauce 

1/2 cup raspberry jam (fruit juice sweetened)
1/4 cup apple juice

Optional garnish

Fresh raspberries and mint leaves

Directions  

To make the crust, grind the almonds and dates together in a food processor. Add water so the dough becomes moist and holds together. Press it into a 5 inch spring form pan. (You can use a small tart pan too but make sure it has a removable bottom.)

To make the chocolate mousse, place all the ingredients in a blender and process for a few minutes, until everything is well incorporated. You may need to pause a few times to scrape the sides down with a rubber spatula. 


To make the raspberry sauce, simply mix the jam and apple juice. Remove the seeds by pushing the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer.

Pour the chocolate mousse in the crust and refrigerate overnight. Garnish with fresh raspberries. Remove from the pan, slice and serve with raspberry sauce and mint leaves.
 


You can also divide the filling into parfait glasses and and enjoy it as a mousse. After refrigerating the filling overnight, use a small ice cream scooper or tablespoon to dish it out. Serve with raspberry sauce and garnish with mint and fresh raspberries.



The tart freezes well too! Take it out from the freezer and thaw at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes. Enjoy it like a chocolate ice cream tart! Yum!


June 15, 2013

bulgur/chickpea salad with pistachio pesto


I have been on the Indian food kick lately, shopping at Indian grocery stores and experimenting with Indian spices. This dish is not Indian but has been inspired by my frequent shopping trips to the big Indian market in my neighborhood. They have an extensive selection of fresh produce and dry goods. At first, shopping there made me feel a bit challenged because there were quite a few items that I could not identify and had no idea how to use. I have realized that this is exactly how people feel when they first make the transition into a macro/veg diet (or any kind of diet for that matter): overwhelmed, confused and intimidated. But we must persevere, right?

So, to familiarize myself with the ingredients sold at the Indian market, I got this awesome book titled Vegan Indian Cooking by Anupy Singla, picked out a few recipes to try, made a shopping list and went back to the store. Here are some dishes that I made so far with great success. (I highly recommend the book, by the way.)

 
lentils with fresh curry leaves served with roti

Punjabi cabbage (I added kale, rutabaga and carrots for a twist!)


Baked samosa sticks with mint chutney

Okay, now back to my recipe: the bulgur/chickpea salad with pistachio pesto. All the ingredients were purchased at the Indian market (except for the optional ume vinegar, which is my pantry staple). This dish can be easily prepared gluten free by substituting bulgur for quinoa or rice.

Ingredients
 makes 3-4 servings
1/2 cup bulgur
1 cup water
pinches of salt

pistachio pesto (makes about 1 1/3 cups)
2 cups fresh basil leaves (packed)
1 cup toasted pistachio (unsalted)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

1 3/4 cups of cooked chickpeas OR 1 can of chickpeas

1/2 cup pistachio pesto
1 tsp ume vinegar (optional, you can add some lemon juice and salt instead)
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks and blanched lightly
2 red radishes, cut into thin rounds
parsley for garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Directions

To cook the bulgur, bring the water to a boil in a medium-sized pot. Add bulgur and salt. Cover, lower the flame and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and fluff with a fork. Set aside to cool.

Prepare the pesto while bulgur is cooking. Place the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. This pesto is made thicker than your usual pesto. When storing the extra, put the pesto in a glass jar and pour some olive oil on top to cover. Yummy with pasta (my personal favorite is adding to orzo salad) and on toast, too.

Sprinkle ume vinegar on cooked bulgur. Add pistachio pesto and mix well. Fold in the cooked chickpeas, carrots and red radishes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as necessary.


This salad is also great with quinoa used in place of bulgur. I love it with arugula!