Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tofu Scramble with Chive Blossoms

The chives in my yard have now burst open with their gorgeous lavender blossoms, so I've been using them as garnish on just about everything this week:  salads, sandwiches, soups, and tonight... tofu scramble.  I started with some sauteed onion and mushrooms, then threw in a couple handfuls of chopped collard leaves fresh from my garden.  The chive blossoms really pull it all together, and they look so pretty sitting on top, too.

Himalayan Restaurant

Yep, that's what it's called.  I suppose you can't judge a book by its cover, or a restaurant by its name for that matter.  Although "Himalayan Restaurant" isn't a terribly creative moniker, it's accurate, and easy to remember.  Fortunately, the menu is a little more adventurous, featuring an extensive array of Nepalese, Tibetan, and Indian cuisine.

I dined earlier in the week at this new establishment on Temple Street, located right across from the Criterion Theater.  It is housed in the site of the former Mandala restaurant which I visited on a couple of occasions and always left satisfied (I have since learned to recreate their delicious yellow lentil and jasmine rice soup at home).  The decor and layout have pretty much remained the same, with a bar in front as you enter, a row of booths flanking the windows, and several 4-tops in the central dining area.

For lunch, there are several specials, including a few Tarkari (vegetarian/vegan) items to choose from.  Needless to say, I am always pleased when a restaurant prints the word "vegan" on its menu, and this one also had items designated gluten-free, which made me even happier.  For $7.95 you get a soup, entree, rice, and naan bread.  Although they were micro portions, the combined meal was quite satisfying and well worth the money.

To start, I chose the Kwati, a delicious Nepalese soup made with 8 different types of beans, herbs, and spices.  The luscious and flavorful broth seemed to have been simmered for hours and tasted quite homey and comforting.  One word of caution, however:  too many whole cardamom pods made an appearance in almost every spoonful, and though I like the intense flavor, this was just a bit offputting when I expected to be biting into some beans.

For my entree I chose Aaloo Cauli, sauteed potatoes, cauliflower and peas in a savory tomato based sauce.  This is similar to the Indian Aloo Gobi, though the curried gravy had slightly different, more savory seasonings.  I'd definitely have seconds on this.

My lunch companion chose the Daal to start, which is made with red lentils and garlic and had a lemony kick.  Her entree was Malai Kofta, soft vegetable balls swimming with cashews and raisins in a creamy gravy.

The naan was lovely:  perfectly crisp on the outside edges and fluffy as a pillow in the center.  I didn't indulge, but observed that it operated quite nicely as a vehicle for getting every last drop of gravy off the plate.

I look forward to a return visit to Himalayan Restaurant, perhaps as the opening act to a night at the movies.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

This Week's Menu

This week's menu was inspired by a recent trip to New York where I discovered an amazing array of exotic spices at Kalustyan's Spice Shop located in Curry Hill.  I picked up a spice mix called Vadouvan, a French spice derived from Indian curry.  In addition to the traditional seasonings of cumin, fenugreek, curry leaves, and turmeric, this mix contains fennel seeds, rosemary, cloves, nutmeg, red pepper flakes, onion and garlic, all with a roasted quality that lends a deep, rich savory flavor to anything it is rubbed on.  I, of course, decided to try it on tofu... and it was a smashing success.

Tofu Vadouvan with Brown Basmati Rice and Vegetable Mallum

The second entree this week included an ingredient I don't often use:  black-eyed peas.  I usually think of these as a New Year's "Hoppin' John" tradition and end up making them only once a year, but after ordering the Black-Eyed Pea Cakes at Blossom Cafe, I concluded their deliciousness is worth having around more often.

Black-Eyed Pea Cakes with Smoked Paprika Aioli, 
Sauteed Greens and Brown Basmati Rice

The third entree this week featured comfort food, which is my default for rainy days.  Pan-fried Tempeh topped with a thick Mushroom Ragout was the feature, and alongside it was a saute of green cabbage, potato and carrot.  Simple and satisfying.

Pan-Fried Tempeh with Mushroom Ragout 
and Cabbage Potato and Carrot Sautee

Monday, May 16, 2011

Foodie Trip to New York

For my mom's Mother's Day present this year, I decided to do something a little different.  Yes, my brother and I made dinner, which was great.  But the big surprise came a week later with a trip to New York to experience some culinary treasures along with the West Hartford Adult Education Life/Learn program.

Our tour began on the Upper West Side with a visit to Zabar's, the well-known gourmet market famous for its fresh-baked Jewish rye bread.  Upstairs I submerged myself in the gadget aisles.  Downstairs, I made some discoveries.

vegan find!  Tofu Spinach Spread

another vegan find!

score #3!

On the opposite corner from Zabar's is H&H Bagels where we stopped for some sesame and cinnamon raisin.  No, of course they're not gluten-free, but how could I resist the experience?

"Like no other bagel in the world."

got my bag of warm goodies

We had time to stop for lunch and fortunately for me there were two vegan options just a few blocks away:  Cafe Blossom and Peacefood.  We checked out the menus and made a plan to sit down for a couple appetizers at Blossom, then dessert-to-go from Peacefoods to savor later in the afternoon.

Black-Eyed Pea Cakes with 
Smoked Paprika Creme and Sriracha Sauce

Farinata Puttanesca - chick pea crepe with 
sauteed mushrooms and onions and roasted tomatoes

The vegan-filled display case at Peacefood

Sinfully Delicious Gluten-free 
Chocolate Cookie Sandwich with Mint Creme

After our vegan excursion, our next stop brought us to Kalustyan's, located in Curry Hill, the #1 spice shop in New York City. Kalustyan's is full of not only exotic and aromatic spices, but also about 40 varieties of rice, nuts grains, condiments, and salt.  Yes, an entire display shelf filled with salt from all over the world.  I could've explored this shop for hours and spent hundreds of dollars, but we only had 20 minutes, and I'm no millionaire.

So we regretfully moved on to our final stop, Little Italy, where we sampled foods from DiPalo Fine Foods.  I packed up a plate of prosciutto, cheeses, and breads for my dad, but I couldn't resist the sampling of artisan olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

My favorite was the small batch of balsamic aged in oak barrels for 8 years.  It was so rich and syrupy it almost had a chocolate quality to it.  I bet it would be heavenly drizzled on a salad of strawberries and baby spinach.

So concluded our tour.  Farewell, New York and fellow foodies.  I shall return.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mom's Day Dinner

table set - can't wait to dig in!

It couldn't have been more perfect weather for Mother's Day.  The warm sunshine in the morning, followed by cool, cloudy skies in the afternoon, made for a lively start and a lazy end to this wonderful day.  Mom, thank you for everything you do!  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

first course:  Minted Asparagus and Snow Pea Salad 
with Pistachios and Dijon Vinaigrette 

another look at the salad, plated

appetizer:  Baked Tofu Sriracha 

main course:  Penne with Pesto, Sundried Tomatoes, Snow Peas and Red Pepper Dice

heavenly ending:  Chocolate Cupcakes with Toasted Almond Cream Frosting

here's how my mom likes to eat them, Devil Dog style

speaking of dogs... Zinny waiting patiently under the table for dropsies 
(such a good doggy today)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mother's Day

Mother's Day is right around the corner, and it's the perfect time to honor your mom with something delicious... and vegan.  I would be remiss if I did not thank my own mom every day for the love and support she has given me through the years.  I am grateful to the strong values she instilled in me, inspiring faith and courage to always stay true to myself, no matter what obstacles were strewn along the path.  Thank you, Mom, for helping me be the person I am today!

For those of you who are moms, I wish you a joyful Mother's Day to be shared with those you love.  I admire you for the heart and soul you put into every moment of raising beautiful, happy, compassionate children.  You are truly blessed.

Mother's Day is also a time to think about the rest of the animal kingdom, all of whom have mothers who show the same tireless dedication to their offspring.  This Mother's Day, please take a moment to recognize the unique bond between mothers and children of all species.

And now, for the recipes! Mother's Day Brunch - When you start off with a Spinach and Strawberry Salad and end with a Fresh Peach Bellini, I can't imagine a more  lovely Mother's Day brunch menu.  Yum!

Eat Drink Better - Think it can't get any better than the previous brunch menu, well the bloggers at Eat Drink Better have even more creative ideas.  Take a look and drool!

VegWeb - TONS of recipe ideas here.  And I mean TONS.  They have handy little menus (from which  I'm sure to get my inspiration for mom's special day) as well as gift-giving ideas for the sustainable you, like green bouquets and vegan chocolates.  I think I may have to give those Fluffy Coconut Waffles a try (anything described as "fluffy" is good by me).

MisoVegan - Another blogger with some creative ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Makes me want to have all three!

VegNews - Forget about the brunch... how about a Mother's Day Soiree?  Sounds fancy, but VegNews makes it easy with some helpful How-To tips and mom's "Must Haves."

Allison's Gourmet - If your mom has a sweet tooth, this is the place to go.  Order chocolate truffles, caramels, brownies... or a gift basket you can mix and match to create the perfect vegan treasure for your mom.

Get $10 off your order of $25 or more at! Promo Code: TENTNS (one time use per customer)