Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Red Lentil and Basmati Risotto with Carrots and Peas in a Carrot Butter Sauce

One of my clients requests low-fat vegan meals with no added oil. My challenge today was to make a risotto that was creamy and rich without using olive oil or soy margarine. I decided to do a twist on traditional risotto made with pearly and plump arborio rice by using the less starchy and more aromatic basmati rice.

Basmati is a staple of Indian cuisine and usually finds its home in a dish such as biryani, which is sort of like a pilaf. I wanted the creaminess, but I also wanted some spice, so to achieve that perfect combination I cooked the rice with some lovely little red lentils, onion, garlic, curry powder, sea salt and an extra cup of water.

After about twenty or so minutes of cooking, the lentils had broken down and the rice was soft. I slowly stirred in more water to achieve the consistency of risotto and added some fresh basil leaves for a little more flavor. To accompany the risotto, I made a "carrot and peas" side dish with baby carrots, whole snap pea pods and carrot "butter" sauce made with pureed carrots, miso and water that was thickened with corn starch. The sauce was just the right thickness, clinging to the carrots and peas without sticking, and glistening without being greasey. I must say: Success!


Friday, March 27, 2009

Minted Snap Pea and Asparagus Bisque

At the Vernal Equinox Party this past weekend, I made a seasonal favorite of mine, Minted Snap Pea and Asparagus Bisque. It's one of those harbingers of spring, and the most electrifying green you can imagine seeing in a bowl.

I think I originally got the idea after watching Giada De Laurentiis' Everyday Italian show on the Food Network. She made it with prosciutto and heavy cream (of course... she's Italian), which made me wonder if it would work with miso and soy milk instead. I think it does.

So my lighter and more animal-friendly version sticks to the original main ingredients of plump fresh snap peas, young tender asparagus and leeks, all seasonal veggies that are perfect for transitioning from winter to spring.


Minted Snap Pea and Asparagus Bisque (serves 2-4)
approx. 2 cups snap peas (yes – the plump, sweet snap peas and not the thin snow peas)
approx. 2 cups asparagus, diced
2 cups soy milk and/or rice milk
1 Tbl mellow white miso
1-2 cups water
1 leek, cut thinly and rinsed thoroughly
1-2 cloves garlic
vegetarian bouillon
olive oil
sea salt
fresh mint

I don’t have exact measurements since I made a HUGE amount, but I’d estimate 1 big bunch of asparagus and an equal amount of snap peas. Blanch peas in boiling water for about 2 minutes, then rinse in cold water. Blanch asparagus for about 1 minute, then rinse in cold water. Set both aside. In a large pot, sautĂ© leek and garlic in olive oil until soft. Stir in about 2 cups rice or soy milk, miso and a little low sodium vegetarian bouillon (Vegebase is good). Let cool slightly, then gradually pour milk mixture along with snap peas and asparagus into a blender. Puree in a high-speed blender for several minutes until smooth. You may need to do this in several batches. Pour mixture back into pot and skim foam off the top. Chop a big bunch of fresh mint and stir into the soup, then heat for about 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Equinox Dinner part 2

Vegan Vernal Equinox Dinner Menu
(photos courtesy of Camden)
Equinox Elixir (banana, pineapple, pear, kale, parsley, coconut juice)

Green Olive Tapenade

Cornmeal Crusted Tofu with Colcannon (mashed potatoes, parsnip and kale), Crimini Mushroom Gravy and Caraway Cabbage

Grandma's Lithuanian Apple Cake


Vegan Vernal Equinox

March 20 marked the first day of spring, and also the anniversary of the Great American Meatout. I was happy to hold two events this year to encourage people to consider a plant-based diet. The first was a cooking demonstration at Newington Public Library on Thursday night.

On the menu was Tomatoes with White Beans and Sage, Wilted Kale with Toasted Pine Nuts, Curried Chick Pea and Quinoa Pilaf and Grandma's Apple Cake. Over 50 people attended this event and received literature from Vegan Outreach and Farm Sanctuary, plus food samples from Eat in the Raw and Primal Spirit Foods. Phew! Thank you sponsors and mom and dad for all of your help passing out the plates!

Last night was a special Vegan Vernal Equinox Dinner at my house. Guests received a goodie bag with free samples, recipes and seed packets to get that garden started early.

The special green-themed Spring menu began with an Equinox Elixir made with raw kale and parsley, then followed with Green Olive Tapenade, Cornmeal Crusted Tofu Cutlets with Colcannon (mashed potatoes and kale), Crimini Mushroom Gravy and Caraway Cabbage. Dessert was a vegan interpretation of my grandma's incredibly moist and delicious Apple Cake, and guests left with a little bag of homemade chocolate peanut butter truffles. Thank you everyone who came to this special dinner!!


(and I apologize to everyone for Zinnia's bad manners!)

Thursday, March 12, 2009

March Menu

It's been cold and winterlike again (I suppose that's normal for March), so I've been cooking comfort food for my clients this week. On Monday I made a creamy root vegetable au gratin with potatoes, turnips and sweet potatoes that I needed to reprise at home for myself it was so good (though not terribly photogenic). I ate it alongside some leftover ratatouille which, though not necessarily a recommended accompaniment, the two were a perfect pair of mushy goodness.

Yesterday I made Lentils with Oven Baked Butternut Squash (I'm glad there's still some around) and String Beans Amandine. The color contrasts, flavors and textures worked nicely together. A little bit savory, a little bit sweet. Lentils are very filling.

To continue with the legume theme, I made an Italian Style White Beans and Tomatoes with Fresh Basil, Escarole with Garlic and Pine Nuts and Quinoa. I've made this before with creamy polenta and am thinking that would've been a better combination, though it still looked pretty.

My favorite meal was the Garbanzo Puree and Quinoa Pesto Stuffed Portobello Steak with Wilted Baby Spinach and Red Pepper Dice. The flavor combination was incredible, especially if you love being infused with garlic. I do.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

CT Animal legislation

(Thank you Justin Goodman for alerting me to this.)

ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE
MONDAY, MARCH 9, 2009

The Environment Committee will hold a public hearing on Monday, March 9, 2009 at 10: 00 A. M. in Room 1E of the LOB. Please submit 50 copies of written testimony to Committee staff one hour prior to the start of the hearing in Room 1E of the LOB. Sign-up for the hearing will begin at 9: 00 A. M. in Room 1E of the LOB. Sign-up will be conducted by lottery. The first hour of the hearing is reserved for public officials. Speakers will be limited to 3 minutes of testimony. Unofficial sign-up sheets have no standing with the Committee.

SUBJECT MATTER: Animal Issues
S. B. No. 856 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING THE POSTING OF ORIGIN OF PUPPIES SOLD IN RETAIL ESTABLISHMENTS.
S. B. No. 891 (RAISED) AN ACT MODERNIZING CONNECTICUT FERTILIZER LAW.
S. B. No. 994 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING LEGHOLD TRAPS.
H. B. No. 6396 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING VETERINARIANS AND DRUG PRESCRIPTIONS.
H. B. No. 6428 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING THE OFFENSE OF HUNTING WHILE INTOXICATED.
H. B. No. 6552 (RAISED) AN ACT BANNING THE SALE OR USE OF COMPUTER SOFTWARE OR SERVICES TO REMOTELY OPERATE WEAPONS TO HUNT ANIMALS OR BIRDS.
H. B. No. 6553 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING SUNDAY HUNTING.
H. B. No. 6555 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING THE HUMANE TREATMENT OF ELEPHANTS.
http://www.cga.ct.gov/2009/ENVdata/pha/2009PHA00309-R001000ENV-PHA.htm

EDUCATION COMMITTEE
MONDAY, MARCH 9, 2009

The Education Committee will hold a public hearing on Monday, March 9, 2009 at 1: 30 P. M. in Room 2B of the LOB. Written testimony submitted after 11: 00 A. M. on the date of the hearing will not be distributed in hard copy form. All testimony will be available at: http: //cga. ct. gov/ed. Sign-up for the hearing will begin at 10: 00 A. M. in the Atrium of the LOB and will be conducted by lottery. The first hour of the hearing is reserved for elected officials pursuant to Joint Rule 6(2). Speakers will be limited to 3 minutes of testimony. Unofficial sign-up sheets have no standing with the Committee.

H. B. No. 6565 (RAISED) AN ACT CONCERNING HUMANE EDUCATION.
http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=HB06565&which_year=2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Vegemite

I often get asked questions whenever I give cooking demonstrations and private lessons. And sometimes I even get emails with questions. A recent one from a former student had me stumped.

Q. When you make soup, do you ever use a replacement for beef boullion? I'm looking for something that is low sodium. A friend of mine suggested Vegemite, ya know, that stuff Men at Work sang about in the 80s.


A. I used to use Rapunzel brand vegan bouillon until I learned that one of the ingredients common in bouillon, "yeast extract," can actually be a form of MSG (monosodium glutamate). While it's still vegan, I have a sensitivity to too much sodium and have found that MSG can give me headaches. As an alternative to boullon, I recently bought a 4 oz. container of Vegebase by Vogue Cuisine, which is certified vegan, organic and low sodium - it works fairly well in soups and stews for added flavor, but it tastes more like chicken broth than beef. While I'm hesitant to disparage an Australian treasure, I think Vegemite is also a yeast extract that may contain MSG.

I will pose the same question to all you Readers: Do you have a suggestion for a low-sodium beef bouillon that is vegan? How about any experiences with Vegemite? Post a comment, please!