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Vegan Planet: June 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Birthday Cats

Today is my birthday so I thought I’d take a break from food writing and just do a little “fluff piece” with photos of my amazing felines. That’s Gary and Mitzi on the stairs, with Gary looking a little miffed and suspicious at having his photo taken.

The second photo shows them having their morning tete-a-tete at the back door with Jason, obviously planning some sort of birthday surprise for me. Jason is the outdoor kitty who “came with the house.” The former owner of the house, who called him “Kitty Brother," told us that Jason has been a fixture on the property for about seven years, but he won’t let anyone near him or reveal his age. As much as I’d like him to be an indoor kitty, I don’t think he will ever cross that threshold. He does let me feed him every day, and I can now pet him, if I don’t make sudden movements. Jon built him a great little house on our deck where he enjoys napping.

I hope you enjoy these pics of my kids.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Versatile Quick Red Bean Dal

I thought I’d share a recipe from my Summerfest demo – the Quick Red Bean Dal from Vegan Fire & Spice.

To show the versatility of the Quick Red Bean Dal, I first prepared it as a main dish over rice (see photo). I then spread some onto tortillas with some curried mashed potatoes made from any leftover potatoes (see photo of a potato dosadilla from Quick-Fix Vegetarian in my February 21 post. The combination is heavenly comfort food with an Indian twist.

The tortilla is then folded in half and toasted on both sides in a skillet. You can then serve the “dosadilla” on a plate with a knife and fork for a lunch or light supper, or you can cut it into wedges and enjoy them as fun snacks or appetizer “pick-up” food.

Here is the dal recipe and the dosadilla variation:

Quick Red Bean Dal
2 (15.5-ounce) cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons organic canola oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 (14.5-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves

Place the kidney beans in a bowl and mash with a potato ricer or stick blender. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, cover and cook until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the ginger, tomatoes, curry powder, coriander, cayenne, and salt to taste. Mix well.
Add the reserved beans and water and simmer until the mixture is hot and the flavors are well blended, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve sprinkled with chopped cilantro.
Serves 4

Dal-Potato “Dosadillas”
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced scallions or onion
2 cups cooked mashed potatoes
2 teaspoons curry powder (or to taste)
4 whole wheat tortillas
Quick Red Bean Dal (recipe above)

Heat the oil in a small skillet. Add the scallions and cook until softened. Add the potatoes, and curry powder and cook until well mixed and hot.
Spread the potato mixture evenly over each of the tortillas. Spread a thin layer of dal over the potato mixture. Fold the tortillas over and place them in a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium-heat. Cook until lightly browned on both sides, turning once.
Keep them warm while you cook the remaining dosadillas. Serve them whole to be cut with a knife and fork, or cut them into wedges to eat out of hand.
Serves 4

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Back from Summerfest

I'm back from Vegetarian Summerfest in Johnstown PA, where I did a cooking demonstration on spicy cooking. It was my second time there, and each time I come away marveling at how the team at NAVS pull off such a monumental five-day event.

With scores of speakers on a variety of veg-oriented topics, and throngs of like-minded people in attendance, I find myself wishing the world could be more like this warm though temporary veg gathering. The pristine woodsy campus of the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown almost makes me want to go back to school. If the verdant setting and fabulous roster of events isn’t enough to make you want to set up residence, the food will cinch the deal.

It’s so wonderful to be in a place and know that all the meals being served are 100% vegan. With the talented Chef Ken Bergeron at the helm, the food served at Summerfest is really top-notch. I’m still dreaming about those crusted tofu cutlets with shiitake gravy. So good.

I wish I could report on some of the amazing talks and demos that were given, but I spent my entire time there preparing for my own demo, so I didn’t get to attend any of the other events. Maybe next time I can go as an attendee instead of a presenter, so I can enjoy everything that makes Summerfest so special. If you’ve never attended, I encourage you to place it on your schedule for next June.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008


On to Summerfest

The 34th annual Vegetarian Summerfest, the annual conference of the North American Vegetarian Society begins on Wednesday. It takes place at the beautiful campus of the University of Pittsburgh in Johnstown, PA, on a picturesque mountaintop 650-acre wildlife preserve. The five-day even is jam-packed with talks, food demos, and entertainment, and the roster is a veritable who’s-who of vegan personalities including T. Colin Campbell, Howard Lyman, Jo Stepaniak, and many others.

On Saturday, June 21, I will be in their company, too, doing a cooking demonstration called Little Bites to Big Bites: Bold Global Flavors for Versatile Appetizers or Main Dishes. During my demo, I’ll prepare several dishes from my latest book, Vegan Fire & Spice that can be used as both appetizers and main dishes and show how to use spices and seasonings from different global regions to enhance everyday meals.

One of the recipes I will be demonstrating is the Seitan Satays with Ginger Peanut Sauce, which you can see in my April 28 post, as well as the Jamaican Spiced Tempeh Nuggets. Amy over at the blog wrote about this recipe in her April 17th post, and included a great photo.

Speaking of photos, I hope to take a few while at Summerfest, and I’ll be sure to share them with you when I return next week. Are any of you planning to be at Summerfest? If you do, please find me, as I’d love to meet you.

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Monday, June 9, 2008


I’m a Sucker for Hand-Stamped Ligurian Pasta

I’ve always been fascinated by the amazing variety of pasta shapes, and even moreso by the evocative names the Italians give them. From radiatore (little radiators) to farfalle (butterflies), to stracciapretti (priest stranglers), the various shapes give each pasta variety its own unique flavor and texture. Much in the way a wine connoisseur samples vintages to experience subtle nuances, I can’t resist sampling different pastas whenever they cross my path. So, when I spied a bag of the rare hand-stamped Ligurian Croxetti pasta on the shelf of a chi-chi Italian import shop, I had to buy it, even though the price tag gave me an acute case of sticker shock. Since this unusual coin-shaped pasta is traditionally found on the Italian Riviera, I figured I saved a bundle on airfare alone.

Croxetti are made using traditional wooden stamps to press an image into the pasta. The name “croxetti” comes from the fact that the original discs were stamped with a cross. The pasta I bought was stamped with a variety of images including a sheaf of wheat, a mortar and pestle, a flower, and the sun. These pasta medallions are adorable. Typically, croxetti are served with a pesto sauce, and, although my current basil patch isn’t yet ready for prime-time, I was fortunate to have one remaining container of frozen pesto from last year’s harvest.

I was surprised that the croxetti seemed to take forever to cook. There were two conflicting cooking times printed on the package label. In one place it said 15 to 18 minutes and in another, 8 to 10 minutes. Turns out neither were correct as it was closer to 30 minutes before the discs were cooked to tender yet chewy perfection.

I decided to add some a can of creamy cannellini beans (well rinsed and drained) to the pesto and pasta, and it proved to be a perfect choice. Served with a side of sautéed spinach, fresh picked from my garden, the dinner was transporting. When I closed my eyes, I could imagine myself in Liguria. Almost.

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Friday, June 6, 2008


Ducks…and More Ducks

My husband and I are fortunate to share our property with lots of wildlife (actually, it’s they who share it with us). As you can see in the photos, the ducks have been too cute for words these days.

The first photo shows Eleanor and Sam coming to the front door to ask for their breakfast. They do this whenever I’m running late with their morning corn. The ducks order us around pretty regularly, as do the rabbits, woodchucks, cardinals, and bluejays. The deer already ate our pea and bean plants, so it’s Round Two for the vegetable garden.

The second photo is Delilah and her adorable new babies that she paraded up from the pond to give us a closer look.

Our cat Gary doesn’t quite know what to make of the ducks — he looks at them from the window, then looks at us with his "question mark" look. Apparently, ducks aren’t in his data base.

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Tuesday, June 3, 2008


Sizzling Stir-Fry Satisfaction

I love tofu. In fact, I often find myself craving it. That’s what happened the other day when I also happened to be craving my favorite vegetable, asparagus, which is becoming unaffordable again as its season wanes. I decided to have one last asparagus fling, so I teamed it with some tofu in a quick-and-easy stir-fry from my book, Vegan Fire & Spice and served it over some brown rice. Cravings satisfied!

Spicy Tofu and Asparagus Stir‑Fry
I prefer using thin asparagus for this stir-fry, because it cooks quickly and doesn’t require paring. If all you have are thick spears, be sure to pare them near the bottom. (This recipe is from Vegan Fire & Spice: 200 Sultry and Savory Global Recipes © 2008.) Leave out the red pepper flakes if you’re not a heat-seeking vegan like myself.

2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon organic canola oil
1 bunch asparagus, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
12 ounces extra-firm tofu, well drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 scallions, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste

In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, sesame oil, water, cornstarch, and sugar. Set aside.
In a large skillet or wok, heat the canola oil over medium‑high heat. Add the asparagus and stir‑fry for 2 minutes, then transfer to a bowl using a slotted spoon.
In the same skillet, add the tofu, garlic, ginger, and scallions, and stir-fry until the tofu is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Return the asparagus to the skillet along with the red pepper flakes and stir‑fry until the asparagus is just tender. Add the soy sauce mixture and stir‑fry a minute longer, or until hot.

Serves 4

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