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Vegan Planet: January 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Seitan in Spicy Orange Sauce

To satisfy my perpetual craving for sweet, sour, and spicy flavors at the same time, I made one of my perennial favorites for dinner last night: Seitan in Spicy Orange Sauce from Vegan Fire & Spice. This sauce gives the seitan a gorgeous color, and the flavor is amazing with a nice balance of flavors that can be tweaked to suit your own taste–whether you want it hotter or sweeter. The amount of sauce in the recipe is enough to coat the seitan, but if you want a little extra to spoon over rice, then double up on the sauce part of the recipe. Since I was only cooking for two, I used just 8 ounces of seitan and a full amount of the sauce.

Seitan in Spicy Orange Sauce
This dish can also be made with extra-firm tofu or tempeh. For a complete meal, add some blanched asparagus or broccoli to the stir-fry and serve over rice. This recipe is from my new book, Vegan Fire & Spice: 200 Sultry & Savory Global Recipes.
2 tablespoons cold-pressed canola oil
1 pound seitan, cut into 1/2-inch strips
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon light brown sugar, or a natural sweetener
1 teaspoon hot chile paste
1 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons water
Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the seitan and stir-fry until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the soy sauce, brown sugar, and hot chile paste. Add the orange juice and bring to a boil. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and continue cooking until the sauce thickens.
Serves 4

Monday, January 28, 2008


Cold Day, Hot Soup

There’s nothing more comforting than a steaming bowl of hot soup when the weather’s cold. I especially love a good hearty soup that can be a meal in itself, like this escarole soup with cannellini beans. It’s one of my favorites, probably because it’s an old family recipe that I’ve enjoyed since childhood, but also because it’s easy, delicious, and versatile. You can substitute any dark leafy green for the escarole, such as chard or spinach (or some of each) or use a different bean to replace the cannellinis (chickpeas or kidney beans are great in this.) I usually put in a carrot or two, but I didn’t this time. You can add more garlic if you like, too. The amount of salt you will need depends on if you use water or vegetable broth and how strong the vegetable broth is, so be sure to taste to check the seasonings -- you’ll probably need at least 1 teaspoon of salt, maybe more. For the pasta, I used small elbows this time, but any small-shaped “soup pasta” works great. If you have cooked leftover pasta, you can just add that instead, when ready to serve, or eliminate the pasta altogether in favor of some cooked rice or other grain.

Escarole Soup
My mother learned to make this soup from my grandmother who came from the Abruzzi region of Italy. I carry on the tradition at my house. The mellow cannellini beans provide the perfect balance to the flavorful broth and peppery greens. This recipe is from my newest book, Vegan Fire & Spice: 200 Sultry and Savory Global Recipes.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
6 cups water or vegetable broth
1 head escarole, chopped
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
3 cups cooked or 2 (15.5-ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup small, dry pasta

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes. Add the hot red pepper flakes and the water and bring to a boil. Add the escarole, bay leaves, and marjoram, and simmer 20 minutes. Add the beans, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste. Add the pasta and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
Serves 4

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Thursday, January 24, 2008


Jazzing Up Veggies

One of the questions I’m asked most frequently is how to make vegetables more interesting, especially when there are resistant family members. Here are a few of my favorite tips:

• Try different cooking methods. If you’re used to steaming asparagus, for example, try roasting it instead. Simply arrange trimmed asparagus spears on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast at 425 degrees until tender and just starting to brown, about 8 minutes (depending on the thickness of the asparagus).
• Liven up veggies, salads (and grain and noodle dishes, too!) by topping them with chopped toasted nuts or seeds to add flavor, crunch, and protein. Experiment new dressings, sauces, and condiments to perk up your meals.
• Use fresh herbs to make everyday dishes extraordinary.

I’ll share more tips on another post. In the meantime, do you have any favorite tips or success stories that you’d like to share?

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Saturday, January 19, 2008


Pasta Puttanesca

Another newspaper reporter and photographer were here yesterday – this time to do a piece on my new cookbook Vegan Fire & Spice and take photos of me and some recipes from the book. That was all the excuse I needed to make some favorites from the Italian section. I made Pasta Puttanesca, easily the best-loved pasta dish in my house, with its garlicky tomato sauce loaded with capers and black and green olives. As long as I had the olives out, I also put together a bowl of Spicy Olives, fragrant with lemon zest, and to go with them, Artichoke Hearts with Garlic and Capers. The hardest part of making these three recipes was waiting for the photographer to leave so we could dig in. Is it just my Italian heritage, or does anyone else love cooking with garlic, olives, and capers as much as I do?

Pasta Puttanesca

“Puttanesca” means “streetwalker style” in Italian. Some say because it was a quick dish for “working girls” to prepare after a busy night. Others say it’s because it’s irresistible. To me, this dish is all that and more.

2 tablespoon olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup imported black olives, halved and pitted
1/2 cup imported green olives, halved and pitted
3 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 pound spaghetti or your favorite pasta
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the garlic. When the garlic becomes fragrant, add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes, basil, oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring the sauce to a boil, stirring continuously to help break up the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring continuously, until the tomatoes make a thick sauce. Add the olives, capers, and wine and keep warm. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add the spaghetti to the water and cook until it is al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain the pasta and transfer to a large serving bowl. Taste the sauce and adjust the seasonings. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss to combine. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the minced parsley.
Serves 4

Spicy Olives

You can use a combination of black and green olives, if you like. Just be sure the olives are good quality imported olives as they have the best flavor.

2 cups brine-cured black or green olives
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Place the olives in a bowl. Add the lemon zest and juice, garlic, and red pepper flakes. Add the olive oil, stirring to combine. Cover and set aside to marinate for an hour or two or refrigerate and marinate overnight.
Serves 6 to 8

Artichoke Hearts with Garlic and Capers

When I was growing up, this old family recipe was always reserved for special occasion.

1 (9-ounce) bag frozen artichoke hearts
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup toasted dried breadcrumbs

Cook the artichoke hearts according to package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the reserved artichokes, capers, and hot red pepper flakes. Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, stirring to blend the flavors for 3 minutes. Add the parsley and breadcrumbs and toss to combine.
Serves 4

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Thursday, January 17, 2008


Thai One On

It’s no secret to people who know me that Thai food is my favorite. I cook Thai at home, but I enjoy eating in Thai restaurants even more. When we moved to the country last spring, we left my favorite restaurants behind. The nearest Thai restaurant is nearly an hour away, so at least we’re saving money.

When we need to venture out to a metropolitan center like downtown Harrisonburg, VA for say, office supplies, we always work it around a Thai lunch. On Tuesday, we took the car to a dealership there for service. While my husband fumed over the $350 charge to put in a sensor the size of a cashew (just after the warranty ran out), I took solace in knowing that a great Thai lunch was waiting for us at the Taste of Thai restaurant. And what a lunch it was.

I never met a peanut sauce I didn’t like, but the Praram Curry with Fried Tofu was transporting. Beyond wonderful. Since the rich, multi-dimensional flavor is still tattooed on my brain, my new obsession is to duplicate it. In my lifelong search for the perfect peanut sauce, I’ve developed no fewer than a dozen variations over the years, and examples can be found in Vegan Planet, Vegan Fire and Spice, and many of my other books. However, my quest ended when I tasted this sauce. It was creamy, silky, and peanutty, sure, but it also wafted subtle echos of curry and all the flavor dimensions that word represents. Has anyone else found their perfect peanut sauce? If you have, I’d love to hear from you.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008


Mini-Marathon: Six Recipes in One Hour

This morning was crazy. I’m up to my eyeballs in work, but a newspaper reporter and photographer were due at my house at 10am for an article about my recent winning of a PETA Proggy Award for Quick-Fix Vegetarian as Best New Cookbook– here’s the link for all the winners:

In addition to actually combing my hair and tidying up the kitchen, I needed to prepare some recipes from the book to be photographed for the article. Since I couldn’t decide which one or two recipes to make, I ended up making six of them. Here’s the best part: all six recipes took me only an hour to make. I’d say the “quick-fix” recipes are living up to their name. Here are the recipes I made this morning and their photos.

Artichoke-Hummus Wraps with Spinach Tortillas

Hummus wraps are an ideal fast food lunch idea, made even faster when you have some rich, creamy hummus on hand. Make your own or buy some ready-make at the supermarket. If spinach tortillas are unavailable, regular flour tortillas may be used.

1 cup prepared hummus, store-bought or homemade
4 spinach flour tortillas
1 (12-ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, well drained and chopped
2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
1 carrot, grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Spread about 1/4 cup of the hummus on each of the tortillas. Top with the chopped artichokes, followed by the lettuce and carrot. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Tightly roll up the tortillas. To serve, cut in half and arrange on plates.
Serves 4

Corn Chowder with Limas

This luxurious corn chowder includes lima beans as an homage to succotash. Because baby limas are smaller than the larger ones, they take less time to cook. To cut cooking time further, heat the vegetable broth in the microwave for 5 minutes while the onion and potato are cooking.

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 white potato, cut into 1/4-inch dice
3 cups vegetable broth
2 cups frozen baby lima beans
3 cups frozen corn kernels
1 1/2 cups soy milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon chopped pimientos, for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and potato, cover, and cook until softened, 5 minutes.
Add the broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the limas and corn and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Reduce heat to low, stir in the soy milk and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Use an immersion blender to puree some of the soup right in the pot. If you don’t have an immersion blender, transfer about 2 cups of the soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Stir back into the pot. Reheat soup if necessary. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with pimientos.
Serves 4

Apricot-Pineapple Couscous Cake

This couscous cake is one of those easy and versatile recipes that lends itself to a variety of toppings, from sliced fresh seasonal fruit, to a fruit coulis, to toasted nuts and a drizzle of chocolate.

2 cups pineapple juice
1 cup couscous
2 dried apricots, snipped into tiny pieces
1/3 cup crushed pineapple, drained
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pineapple Apricot Sauce (recipe follows)

Bring the pineapple juice to a boil in a saucepan. Add the couscous, apricots, pineapple, sugar, and cinnamon. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the juice is absorbed, about 5 minutes.
Press the mixture into a lightly oiled 9-inch springform pan. Cover loosely and refrigerate for at least an hour.
To serve, cut into wedges and top each slice with a spoonful of the Pineapple Apricot Sauce.
Serves 6

Pineapple Apricot Sauce

This luscious sauce has a glorious golden color and tastes more complex than it is. It’s a perfect match for the Pineapple Couscous Cake (above), but it is also terrific on pound cake or ice cream, or as a dipping sauce for fruit. Instead of apricots, you can substitute dried mangoes or peaches for yummy results.

1/2 cup dried apricots
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup crushed pineapple

In small saucepan combine the apricots and water. Cover and bring to a boil. Remove cover, lower heat, and simmer until the apricots are soft and the liquid reduces slightly, about 15 minutes. Remove from stove and allow mixture to cool slightly. Transfer the mixture to a blender or processor and puree until smooth. Add the pineapple and blend again until smooth.
Makes about 2 cups

Five-Minute Slow-Cooker Chili

Using chunky salsa eliminates the need for vegetable chopping and helps keep the prep time to a minimum. You can literally put this chili together while walking out the door. Come back a few hours later to a luscious meal. Garnish with cooked corn kernels or diced avocado.

1 (24-ounce) jar chunky tomato salsa
2 tablespoons chili powder, or more to taste
1/2 cup tomato ketchup
2 (16-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (16-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Pour the salsa into a 4-quart slow cooker. Stir in the chili powder and ketchup. Add the black beans, kidney beans, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and slow-cook on Low for 4 to 6 hours.
Serve 4 to 6

Ginger Sesame Noodles with Broccoli

This satisfying dish that is loaded with flavor and nutrients. Instead of making this recipe with sesame paste, try it with creamy peanut butter instead – it’s even more kid-friendly that way! (You can then sprinkle on some crushed peanuts instead of sesame seeds as garnish.)

2 tablespoons sesame paste (tahini)
1 tablespoon light brown sugar
3 tablespoons mirin or sake (or just a little extra soy sauce and water)
1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/4 cup tamari soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
8 ounces broccoli florets, cut into 1-inch pieces
12 ounces linguine
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced ginger
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

Put the pasta water on to boil in a large covered pot. In a small bowl, combine the sesame paste, brown sugar, mirin, and hot red pepper flakes until well blended. Stir in the tamari and water until blended. Set aside.
When the water comes to a boil, salt it and add the linguine. Cook the linguine until it is al dente, about 10 minutes. During the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add the broccoli florets and cook until just tender. When the noodles and broccoli are cooked, drain and rinse with cold water. Toss with the sesame oil and set aside.
Heat the canola oil in a large skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the reserved noodles and broccoli, and the sauce, and toss to combine and heat through. Serve hot sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Serves 4
Variation: Substitute asparagus or green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces, for the broccoli.

Chocolate Cherry Truffles

These rich-tasting truffles look adorable when presented in little foil or paper candy cups. Use a high-quality cocoa for best results. Sweetened dried cranberries may be substituted for the cherries, if desired. Peanut butter can be used instead of almond butter.

1/4 cup sweetened dried cherries or cranberries
1/2 cup almond butter or peanut butter, at room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup pure unsweetened cocoa
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Coating of choice: cocoa, ground toasted almonds, toasted coconut
Place the cherries in a heatproof bowl and cover with 1/4 cup boiling water to soften. Place the cherries and their soaking liquid into a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the almond butter and process until smooth. Add the confectioners’ sugar, cocoa, and vanilla. Blend well, then transfer to a bowl.
Shape a small amount of the mixture into a ball, rolling with your hands into a 1-inch ball. Repeat until the mixture is used up. Drop the truffles, two or three at a time, into a shallow plate containing either cocoa, almonds, or coconut, depending on your preference. Roll the truffles in the coating, covering completely and pressing the coating lightly onto the truffles. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate until firm. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Makes about 3 dozen

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Sunday, January 13, 2008


Changing the World One Recipe at a Time

Today is the first day of the rest of my blog. It’s great to have another way to connect with everyone who enjoys great vegan food. I plan to post my own insights, news, helpful tips on vegan cooking, and food photos as well. I won’t be able to resist posting photos of my cats from time to time.

Having written 17 vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, I’ve always enjoyed answering questions from readers about the recipes in my books and vegan and vegetarian cooking in general. I hope to continue to do that through this blog.

But, first, some news... As the New Year dawns, I’m happy to announce the recent publication of my newest book, Vegan Fire & Spice: 200 Sultry and Savory Global Recipes. This book isn’t just for vegan chile-heads either – there are lots of full-flavored recipes from around the world that anyone can enjoy. Best of all, you can adjust your own heat level, making them hot or not. I hope you’ll check it out.

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