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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How to make your own Amazake

Amazake is a classic way to prepare sweet rice in Japan. Often in winter, especially around new years, when you enter a Buddhist temple, you are offered a hot, sweet, gingery drink made from rice. This is the most common way to serve amazake and a truly warming, delightful drink.  Here in the states, if you want to have real amazake, there is only one choice and that is to make your own. Of course some of you are immediately going to point out a horrendous company based about 1 mile from my loft that makes what they call "amazake". Well, guess what, they are faking it and selling fake amazake but few Americans, unfortunately, know the differene between the real cultured rice and the stuff that is laden with processed crap.
Fortunately, making amazake is EASY. I mean simple, beyond easy.

You only need 3 ingredients:
mochi kome (sweet brown rice)
koji (cultured rice)

for a basic recipe, follow this:

In a rice cooker prepare 1 cup mochi kome with twice the amount of water you would usually use. Use sweet brown rice, not white!
or in a pot, cook 1 cup mochi kome with 4 cups water and cook 1 hour at very low heat.

After the rice is cooked, let it cool down to room temperature.
Then add
2 cups koji (Koji can be purchased from miso and sake makers and Cold Mountain Miso company sells it in tubs and can be found in most Japanese and health food markets but as  usual, avoid Whole Foods like the plague. Besides they do not carry it lol)

Incubate the rice/koji mixture at 140 degrees for 16 hours. I use my dehydrator for this, covering the rice well so it does not dry out.

After 16 hours, remove the rice and you will find it is unusually sweet! You now have amazake in your hands. The koji has completely broken down the starches into sugars and you are left with what was once Japan's "sugar", before the meiji period.
Now if you add yeast to the amazake you can make sake.
If you put the amazke in shochu for 2 months and then filter it out, you have Hon Mirin (not the processed crap you find on the shelf which is alchohol and corn syrup!)

And now for the amazing winter drink that anyone who has visited a temple in winter in Japan has once warmed their hands and bodies and hearts with.

1 cup amazake
1 cup boiling water
small piece of ginger

place all in a blender and blend till smooth and drink up.

shinnen akemashite o-medetō-gozaimasu

Monday, December 28, 2009

yellow indian bean chipotle burgers

The last several months i have been exploring the full catalog of amazing beans from Rancho Gordo bean farm in Sonoma County, California. They specialize in heirloom varieties of beans, many unique and rare ones such as yellow indian beans and  black lentils as well as overwhelmingly high quality of standards like black turtle beans. The price is certainly higher than usual but the quality and the farming methods are obviously worth the extra cost. I am moving in the direction of only using these beans in my menus! Check them out at

Here is a burger i made recently using Yellow Indian beans from Rancho Gordo farms.

Step 1. the beans

1 cup yellow indian beans soaked overnight. Then drain, rinse, place these beans in a pot with 4 cups water and a bay leaf, bring to boil, cover, lower heat and let simmer 35 minutes. Drain the beans and set aside. When cool, mash them coarsely

While beans are simmering you can prepare the following:
1 stalk celery, minced
1 leek, minced
several cloves garlic, minced
i large carrot shredded.
1/2 cup walnuts chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tsp sea salt

in a frying pan, heat up oil and add the leeks and salt and cook till translucent. Add the rest of the above ingredients and cook for 3 minutes. Then add the following:

1 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp thyme
 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
cook for one minute, remove from heat.

then add
the mashed beans
2 tbsp fresh parsley
1/3 cup grated yama-imo (a Japanese tubor that helps bind these together)

mix all well together.

Form these into 4 large burgers.
You can grill them, pan fry them or bake them. When i bake them, i like to broil them for the last 5 minutes to brown on top

Sunday, December 27, 2009

chanterelle leek and pesto pizza

i was born and raised in Brooklyn so if there is one thing i have a clue about it is pizza! Most of what passes for pizza in California and the rest of the country is rather absurd. Dominos is to pizza what Noah's is to bagels and Starbucks is to coffee, simply a far inferior simulation to the real thing; destroying peoples taste buds and sense of anything decent along with plummeting the local economies. Well unfortunately that has become the Amerikan way for the overwhelming majority of people and for whatever reason people accept it and even thrive on the mediocrity force fed them.

However, some of us have retained our tastebuds and our sense of wanting each neighborhood to have its own identity rather than everything turning into a homogenized mess of corporate mediocrity.  Perhaps we are the last generation not to succumb to the factory farmed approach to developing factory food. Anyways, i digress, yet good pizza is part of the solution as well as the problem. :)

Making pizza at home takes work but then again most good things in life require some effort on our part, eh?

Now after i became vegan 5 or 6 years ago (after being vegetarian since my first year of college), one of the things i knew would give me trouble was pizza. But then i started seeing cheese as simply what it is: curdled extract of a lactating cow and well, with that in mind, cheese has as much appeal to me as eating meat or should i put it more honestly, the remains of a tortured enslaved and murdered animal. It is all context, eh? I used to crave pizza dripping with curdled lactating cow extract but now i simply want some really nicely prepared vegetables and perhaps some herbs and nuts.
So cheeseless pizza became the norm in my house with the exception when i use small amounts of my own homemade almond ricotta.
Store bought fake melting vegan cheeses imitate plastic more than actual food and have no place in my kitchen. Anyone who knows my food firsthand or through my writings knows i have zero interest in processed crap, vegan or not and i think food should be healthy for the consumer and the planet and thus fake processed vegan cheese stays on the shelf where it belongs.  Besides most of those companies are owned by evil corporations which i wont support since that is the only way to vote these days; economically.

Anyhow, there are a zillion ways to make great pizza. Dominos method is not one of those ways nor is pizza hut or any of the other chains and most of the small places use the same processed materials as well.  There are more than one exceptional pizza dough recipe and certainly an unlimited amount of toppings. This is my way to make thin crust, neapolitan style pizza. Mushrooms are one of the ideal toppings for pizza and i had freshly foraged chanterelles from the day before and some leeks and basil in the fridge.
Learn some dough recipes and then let your imagination run wild, using any seasonal ingredients to top your delightful dough with.

step 1
the dough
Some will argue that the dough is the most important part, others the sauce and others the topping. This is a rather silly arguement as all parts are equally important. And like in a sandwhich, the sum will go to the lowest denominator so if you have great dough and lame toppings you get a lame pizza as a result. Every part has to be equally awesome in order to get an awesome pizza.
This is an insanely good pizza dough recipe!

1.5 cups white flour
1 cups semolina flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp yeast
1.5 cups water
you may notice there is no sweetener in this dough. Not a mistake! Just making sure you noticed.
combine your dry ingredients and then slowly add the water. Knead for 5 minutes. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes and then knead another 5 minutes. Cover well, and let it rise in a warm dry place for 5 hours.

The pesto
2 cups basil leaves
1/4 cup pine nuts
4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil of a very high quality
place all in a food processor and blend till it becomes a pesto.
put aside

the leeks
2 leeks julienned (clean them well, first, of course!)
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp olive oil
over low heat caramelize the leeks, stirring frequently. This takes about 12 minutes.
put aside

for the chanterelles
clean your wild mushrooms very well.
slice 2 pounds of chanterelles.
Heat up a large frying pan. sprinkle some sea salt on the pan and lay your mushrooms in the pan. Within a short amount of time, the fungus will give off its water. Drain the mushroom water but save it for stock or other uses as it is loaded with earthy flavors and minerals. After mushrooms have released their water, drain well and put aside.

Making the pizza
Take your dough and divide into 4 equal parts.
Roll each part into a circle, about 12 inches in diameter. This crust makes a very thin, neapolitan style pizza.
Smear (brooklyn word!) some pesto onto each one.
lay some caramelized leeks on each one.
place some of the chanterelles on each one.

Place pizza on a preheated pizza stone.
bake at VERY high temperature, 500 or whatever the highest your oven goes to.

this will bake in about 10 minutes.

avoid GMO: Monsanto get your hands off my pizza!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

yuzu-sichuan peppercorn truffles

i have always been intimidated by desserts and sweets in general. Truffles seemed like something you had to study in France in order to have a clue. Nonetheless i have been developing a fair amount of rather tasty and sometimes unique sweet dishes and i am rather proud of some of the accomplishments, particularly the vegan ice creams i have developed the past few years and have shared some recipes here on the blog and elsewhere.

Here is my first experiment with making truffles.

1 cup cocoa, very high grade
1 cup maple syrup
2 cups cashews
2 yuzu, juice and zest
several sichuan peppercorns ground down

in a food processor, grind the cashews down to butter. Then simply add the next 2 ingredients and blend very well and till totally smooth. Add yuzu juice and peppercorns and zest and mix well then refrigerate overnight.

Now you will need some matcha powder. Matcha is the powdered green tea from the Japanese tea ceremony, a delightful bittersweet flavor.
with a melon baller, create small balls. Roll the balls in matcha and refrigerate immediately.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

pumpkin gnocchi

One of the truly delightful fall and early winter dishes to come out of Italian cuisine. Not always vegan in stores and restaurants but easily can be when made at home. Gnocchi is not difficult to make once you understand the basic principles. From there it is simply a matter of practice to get the techniques together.

You will need
1 cup roasted pureed pumpkin
2 cups semolina flour
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp white pepper

Combine the dry ingredients. Add the pumpkin and work into a dough and knead for 20 minutes. A stand mixer is very nice to take care of this job for you.  The secret here is not to add too much flour! The less flour you add the lighter and more delicate will be your gnocchi.

Let the dough rest for 20 minutes in a dry, cool place, covered tightly.

Take a small piece of dough and roll out a log about 1/2 inch thick. Cut 1 inch long pieces from the log. Repeat till all the dough is rolled out into these small dumplings.

In a large pot, bring water to boil. Drop in gnocchi about 12 at a time. When they float, they are done so immediately remove them one at a time as they float. Plate and sauce and serve immediately. As with all pasta do not overcook. This is easy as the gnocchi literally tells you when it is done by coming to the surface, literally saying, time to eat.

i like this best with the walnut sage sauce i blogged about earlier or a nice basil pesto.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Steamed collard leaves stuffed with wild rice, garbanzos and caramelized onions and kabocha

Collard greens are amazing! Usually they are cooked for hours on end until they are mushy and tasteless, devoid of all nutrition and texture and then flavored with some dead pig parts. Yeah, great way to destroy an amazing green vegetable. There are countless ways to prepare collards. One thing i lke about them is how hearty they are how they can be steamed or blanched slightly and then laid out, filled with various kinds of delightful culinary treasures, rolled up, steamed and sauced to create an infinite amount of culinary orgasmic delights.
Here is one idea.

First you will need a bunch of collard leaves. In Northern California, they are locally harvested 12 months a year.  Assume 2 leaves per person if a main course or 1 leaf per person for an appetizer or small plate.
Since you are using organic collards, you need to wash them carefully as the undersides of the leaves are where bugs like to make their hang and lay eggs and do what bugs do. Easy to simply clean any off that lingered from the nearby farm.
Blanch your leaves in boiling water where you add 1/4 tsp baking soda. Simply drop the leaf in and immediately remove it and let drain. Do NOT boil them. Do NOT cook them. Simply drop the leaf in and immediately remove it. Forget the cell phone ringing or the awful christmas music that may have just appeared for no reason in your space.

Now for fillings
wild rice
i use a rice cooker for all my grains and put 1 1/2 cups wild rice into the cooker and added water to the 2 line. Then added a dash of sea salt and cooked it on the white rice setting. perfecto every time!

Soak 1 cup garbanzos over night. In the morning drain, rinse and place them in 3 cups water and bring to boil. Cover, simmer and cook for 45 minutes. If you have old beans it will take longer. Or use a presssure cooker and cook for 10 minutes. Life is better with pressure cookers!

After beans are cooked, drain them, well.

Caramelized onions and kabocha
1 onion diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small kabocha, chopped. (never peel kabocha as it tastes awesome)
i carrot, chopped
2 tsp oregano
1 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp olive oil
2 lemons, juiced

In cast iron skillet bring oil to temperature and add onions and salt. Stir well and sautee for 8 minutes stirring frequently. Add rest of ingredients except lemon juice. Cook for 7 minutes, stirring frequently. Add lemon, remove from heat.

Now for the package itself
Lay out your leaves on dry surfaces, spine side down. Gently smash the spine down if it is strong.
Place a small amount of wild rice on one end of your leaf. Add some beans and some of the onion/kabocha mixture. Do not overfill or it will be too difficult to keep closed.
Roll it up like you would a burrito or a nice spliff.

Repeat till all your leaves are filled. You should have enough mixture for about 15 leaves.

Place leaves in 3 tiers of bamboo steamers. Steam for 15 minutes.
From steamer, immediately place on plate. These can be sauced with a chanterelle sauce and/or a tahini/dill and many many other possibilities.

Monday, December 21, 2009

citron custard pie

sort of like a cheese cake but without the curdled extract of a lactating cow.

for the pie crust
1 cup pastry flour
1/4 cup non hydrogenated vegetable shortening
1 tsp tahini
pinch sea salt

combine shortening with flour, salt and tahini till it forms small pebble like pieces. Add enough water to form a dough and then refrigerate for one hour. Roll out into pie crust and fill immediately.

for the custard
1 pound silken tofu
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup tahini
1 citron
dash salt
1 tbsp lemon juice

Use the peel of the citron and
combine everything in a blender till very smooth.
Pour into pie shell and bake at 40 minutes. Let cool to room temperature before baking

Important note: Since this custard is made from silken tofu, it does not sit well. Thus you cannot make this in advance and refrigerate it. Must be served the day it is made or it will start to sour as all cooked tofu dishes do.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

carrot salad w/ mustard seeds and lemon

here is another simple dish, requiring very few ingredients yet giving great flavor and texture.

2 pounds carrots, grated
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp brown mustard seeds
1/3 cup freshy squeezed lemon juice

grate carrots.
heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add salt and mustard seeds and stir fry till seeds begin to pop.
Add this to the carrots along with the lemon juice. Stir well and let marinate an hour before serving.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Miso soup

Now here is one of the most fundamental recipes from any culinary culture. Miso soup is eaten by some people in Japan with every meal. And for good reason, it tastes good any time of day and  you can vary it every time with different types of miso and different vegetables to keep the same idea constantly varying.

a basic recipe follows:
for each serving
1 cup kombu-shitake dashi (see elsewhere on my blog)
1 tbsp miso
2 - 4 tbsp diced tofu and vegetables
dash sea salt

bring dashi to simmer, add tofu and vegetables and simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat. Combine miso with a few tbsp stock from the soup pot in a small cup and blend well. Add to soup, stir and serve immediately
NEVER boil miso.

Now here is where the variety comes in.
There are countless styles of miso made in Japan. These vary in what they are made from and how long they are aged. Number 1 rule in miso is only purchase miso that is naturally brewed and made from organic soybeans. Non organic soybeans are genetically modified in this country (GMO is banned in Japan and Europe) and are grown under the worst ecological conditions imaginable. Soy, along with corn is factory farming at its most horrendous.  The ingredients should never contain any of the following: any preservative or alchohol or msg or flavorings. If there are added preservatives or alcohol, this immediately tells you it is not aged long and thus needs to be preserved. Naturally fermented miso will last by itself for a while if kept refrigerated, thus no added preservatives need to be used.
Miso can be divided into categories such as: white, red , black  with the lighter being sweeter and less aged and the darker being much more saltier and far more aged. White miso are often used in dressings and sauces and are the most commonly used miso in my kitchen. They can also be used to make miso soup, especially for hot weather times.  Red miso are aged longer, slightly saltier and are excellent in soup in fall and springtime. They have a more earthy flavor than white but not nearly as dark and robust tasting as the black miso.  Red miso is also often used in marinade and sauces. Hatcho miso is the darkest miso and also the saltiest. This black miso produces a very strong flavored soup, often favored in dark winter times.  If you can get your hands on the real hatcho miso made by the Okozaki family, you are in for some serious culinary treats.
Within these very broad categories are many other styles of miso. Saikyo miso is another prized type of miso and is the whitest of all miso, being the sweetest and least salty. I use saikyo miso in many kinds of dressings and sauces.

Try out the various kinds of miso and see what you like. There are excellent books about miso in English such as "the book of miso" by William and Akiko Shurtleff.

Now for filling the soup.
usually any kind of miso soup wil have a few cubes of fresh tofu. Other than that use your imagination and what is local and in season. Sliced leeks or green onions are delightful. Wakame, a type of seaweed is another delight. In the summer, corn and daikon and wakame is my personal favorite. In the winter, slices of sweet potato, tofu and leek. Use what you have and you like, there are no limits

Friday, December 18, 2009

tahini sauce

to go with the falafels and fresh pita breads you will need some tahini sauce! This is a simple and delightful sauce that works on many sandwhiches and can also work as a salad dressing.

1/2 cup tahini paste
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1 head garlic
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
 1/4 tsp cumin

first roast your garlic in the oven.
Then combine all ingredients, blend well and serve.
add a little water if needed to get the desired texture

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Beets! Delightful earthy treasures to some and awful canned memories to others. Many of us grow up with soggy purple, somewhat rubbery, overly salty rings in jars and thus develop a serious anti-fondness for this vegetable. Those of us who get over this early beet trauma are left with a variety of culinary delights to play with. In northern California, beets are in season all year around and we have a variety of styles and colors to choose from. All beets are different, yet the classic purple beet is the most fun, as everything becomes a gorgeous deep purple that it touches.
One of the classic beet dishes is borscht, an Eastern European soup that is served cold in summer and hot in winter.  There are dozens of ways to make a great borscht and here i one.

Start with roasting some vegetables:
3 large beets, cut into small chunks
1 potato cut into small chunks
1 onion, quartered
8 cloves garlic
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp safflower oil

coat the vegetables in salt and oil and roast in a covered roasting pan at 425 for 30 minutes.

Place 1/4 of these roasted vegetables into a blender with 2 cups cold water, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar  and 1/4 cup fresh dill and puree.
Add this puree to the rest of the vegetables and add 2 more cups cold water.

To serve hot, simply heat up but do not boil. To serve cold, refrigerate a few hours.

Season to taste with more salt and more vinegar if needed  garnish with fresh parsley and chopped green onions

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

cranberry vanilla ice "cream" recipe

There are tons of non dairy ice creams on the market these days. Problem is they are all really awful; loaded with gums, stabilizers, white sugar, corn syrup and other non edible entities that have no place in a real kitchen or real diet. Fortunately, it is quite easy to make your own non dairy ice "creams", which i have demonstrated elsewhere on this blog. And as always, when you make your own, you take control and can put whatever you like in it and of course, NOT put what you do not like in it, thus creating a far tastier and far healthier product. And of course when you make your own, the ecological factor comes into play as you are no longer consuming PVC (processed vegan crap), thus removing a great deal of packaging and shipping in your life and well, that is a good thing for you and for everyone else.

Here is a delightful late fall/early winter flavor using fresh cranberries and homemade vanilla.

you will need the following:
1/2 cup raw cashews (toasted will not work and flavored nuts will kill the dish)
1 cup soymilk (see note below)
2 tbsp kudzu
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 pints fresh cranberries
1/2 cup maple syrup
1 tbsp vanilla extract (see my earlier blog to learn to make your own!)
2 more cups soymilk.

in a high speed blender place the cashews, 1 cup soymilk, kudzu and salt. Puree on high till very well processed. Keep this on high for 2 minutes, till the mixture heats up and thickens greatly. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend till smooth.
Place in your ice cream maker and process till frozen.

goes really well with pumpkin bread, pecan pie and apple tarts!

note on soymilk: as for all my recipes, soymilk can only contain 2 ingredients: organic soybeans and water. Any gums or stabilizers or sweeteners in your pvc soymilk will ruin this dish badly. Get a soymilk maker and make your own as it is so easy and so much better.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

cranberry pie filling

Another delightful American fall ingredient; cranberries! Since they have a very short harvest, i tend to go a little crazy with these tasty tart morsels during their 6 -8 week appearance at the end of the year. Here is a cranberry pie filling that can be used for pies, tarts, cobblers or anything else you may like.

2 pounds cranberries, washed and drained
1/2 cup port
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 vanilla bean, split
1 cinnamon stick
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup potato starch combined with enough water to dissolve

in a saucepan, place cranberries, port, maple syrup, vanilla bean, salt and cinnamon stick and over low heat, cover and cook till berries are split open, stirring frequently until a nice thick syrup is forming. The port will cook off (mostly) and the whole process takes about 15- 20 minutes. Add potato starch mixture and blend well; this will get very thick at this point.
This is now ready for further baking in tarts, newtons, pies, cobblers, grunts, buckles.

Here is a topping i like to bake cranberries with:
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup buckwheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch sea salt
1/3 cup agave
1/2 cup earth balance.

Combine all the dry ingredients. Blend the earth balance in, cutting in with a pastry cutter. Add agave and mix well.

for a real treat, use the pie crust i posted with the pumpkin pie recipe on the bottom, the cranberries in the middle and the pecan buckwheat oat topping and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Monday, December 14, 2009

potato-lotus root-cauliflower latkes

Updating the traditional latke with some new flavors and textures.

First the Jewish grandma recipe.
You will need some potatos, a little lotus root (everyones Jewish grandma says, "What the heck t is a lotus root? We did not have any lotus roots in the shtetl! My grandmother never used lotus root in her latkes so why do you need to use them in yours?") a small amount of cauliflower (Everyones Jewish grandma says, "oy vey, he is putting cauliflower in his latkes" and then goes off mumbling some insults in yiddish). Some matzah meal, a little salt and pepper to taste and some safflower or peanut oil to fry em up.

Now for something to try to follow on your own;
1 medium kennebec potato
1 large russet potato
1 small lotus root
1/4 of a small cauliflower
1 sheet of matzah
1 small yellow onion
1 tsp sea salt
freshly cracked pepper to taste
oil to fry

grate the potato and lotus, draining most of the liquid. Then grate the cauliflower and onion and add to the spud and lotus root gratings. In a food processor, whack your sheet of matzah down into a fine meal. Add this to your spud mixture along with salt and pepper.
Form small pancakes and fry em up in hot oil. serve hot out of the fryer and thank the talmud that once a year you are forced to indulge in fried goodness.

Note: The universal rule of pancakes applies, thus only turn once.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

homemade pasta

Nothing beats homemade pasta! And here is a great vegan dough recipe.  The garbanzo flour adds protein and fat, replacing the bird embryo that is sometimes  unnecessarily used for pasta doughs.

Another staple in my kitchen that is used for a variety of shapes of different noodles as well as ravioli and dumpling dough.

1 2/3 cups semolina flour
1/2 cup garbanzo flour
 1/3 cup white flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1  cup water

mix together and knead for 20 minutes. Let the dough rest a half hour before rolling out into noodles or dumpling/ravioli wrappers.

Once you make the dough, only your imagination limits you as to what to do with it. Get your hands on a pasta roller to make life easy.  I use the pasta roller attachment for my (not mentioning the name of the brand since they are not paying to advertise here) stand mixer and it works out really great.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Tonight is the first night of Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights, 8 days of a fried food extravaganza! This is one of the warped celebrations as far as i am concerned. When the temple is destroyed and most of the population is destroyed, i find it a little difficult to celebrate the fact that the lord let us know he was still present by making one small lamp of oil burn for 8 days. Personally, i would think the big one should have let his preence be known before the rape and pillaging but i see this religion thing differently than some others :)
Nonetheless, great food is great food and fried food always tastes good. And why not fatten up before winter with some fried starch!

The classic latkes (incidentally, Latke is yiddish for pancake) are made from potatos. However, one can easily blend in sweet potatos of various varieties, beets, squash and more. Use your imagination after you get the basic recipe/method together.

Now you need a special piece of equipment and it is hard to find these days, though very cheap. A grater that is a flat rectangle shape and has horizantal and verticle pieces of metal across it, thus leaving small squares that grate the spud. This gives the best latke texture available. If you are Jewish, trust me, your grandma and Aunt Rose (every Jewish person of my age has at least one Aunt Rose and often she was an awesome cook as mine was) had one of these. I came across one a couple years ago at some kitchen supply place and was thrilled.

After you have that, it is easy!

you will need a few ingredients:
oil for frying (HIGH heat oil such as peanut or safflower)
a handful of very good potatos such as kennebecs
a large onion
matzah meal (take some matzah and put it in the food processor till it is a fine meal)
some salt
some pepper

You will notice i am not giving amounts. Well, honestly this is the first ever dish i learned to make and i never learned to measure. As a kid, i made latkes for family a number of times.

Grate your potatos and drain them. Grate the onion into the potatos. Season with salt and pepper.  Add some matzah meal to the mixture. Form pancakes and fry up in hot oil on both sides till brown. Serve hot with applesauce!

or get into some Yiddish japanese fusion and serve with grated daikon, chopped green onions and shoyu as i plan to do tomorrow evening.

ok, now for amounts
3 potatos, large
1 medium onion
1 sheet of matzah
1 tsp salt
lots of freshly cracked black pepper

go for it! God told you to fry em up. Well, i think someone in the talmud said to do so but do you really need an excuse to eat something delightful?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

apple sauce

Chanukah is coming up which means latke time. And the perfect accompaniment to potato latkes is some freshly made homemade apple sauce.  As always, make your own to save money as well as to have a far superior tasting and more nutritious dish on your plate. And luckily, making applesauce is quite simple.

Use a variety of different apples if you can. Avoid the boring apples that are grown for longevity of shelf life instead of flavor and texture such as green and red delicious and macintosh. Instead go for fuji, braeburn, pink lady, pink pearl and other far tastier and nicer fleshed heriloom varieties of apples.

take 6 apples and core them and chop them up. In a saucepan, place your apples and a cinnamon stick  and one vanilla bean (split down the middle) and a small amount of lemon juice and a small amount of maple syrup. Over low heat, let the apples cook down till the flesh collapses. Stif often to prevent stirring and if needed, add a tiny bit of water to prevent burning.  Mash the cooked apples down further and serve with hot out of the frier latkes which will be coming to the blog very soon.

Experiment with different spices such as allspice, cardamom and cloves

Note: for those not familiar with Judaism, Chanukah is an 8 day festival of lights that one is supposed to eat fried foods during.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

how to make an edible pumpkin bowl from dumpling squash

This is easy to prepare, tastes incredible and looks awesome! You can stuff these "bowls" with several of the recipes i have posted or will post here, particularly the black bean stew and the green or red thai curries!

Simply take a dumpling squash and cut off the top stem end. Remove all the seeds and goeey part and save these for stock or the seeds for roasting.  Rub the squash with a very small amount of sea salt. Place in roasting pan, face up, add about 1/2 cup water to the bottom of the pan, making sure not to put water into the pumpkin itself. Cover tightly Roast at 425 for 30 minutes. Voila, an edible bowl waiting to be stuffed.

Because of the delightful sweetness of this bowl, it goes very well with a very spicy,  wet dish.Easy gourmet

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

spicy dal soup

Indian food is not one of my specialties but i have learned a number of dishes and methods of preparing dishes thanks to some friends and books. One book i highly recommend is Yamuna Devi's "the art of indian vegetarian cooking", 800 pages of information including 500+ recipes! Due to religious reasons she does not use onions or garlic and i have adapted her ideas, often adding these ingredients. Nothing personal to those who feel different but i could never join any group that bans garlic and leeks :)

This is a nice and fairly simple dal soup

8 cups water or pumpkin stock
1/2 cup moong dal, soaked overnight, drained
1/4 cup yellow mung dal
1/4 cup urad dal
1/2 kabocha, cubed

several cloves garlic, minced
1 or 2 chiles chopped
2 shallots, minced
2 tbsp chopped ginger
2 tsp fresh tumeric, minced
2 tsp coriander, ground
 1 cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf

1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 tbsp coconut oil

1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp ground fenugreek

3 jalapenos, sliced
3 tbsp cilantro, chopped

in soup pot add dals, water, ginger, chiles, garlic, shallots, tumeric, cinnamon stick, corianderbay leaf, dab of coconut oil. Bring to boil, lower heat and let simmer 1 hour

Now here is where it gets fun :)
In small frying pan heat 1 tbsp coconut oil. Add cumin seeds and mustard seeds and cook 20 seconds.
Add salt and jalapenos (optional) and cook 2 minutes till chilis are barely cooked.  Add fenugreek ad cilantro (optional) Add this to the soup , cover and let the flavors mingle a minute before serving.
You can vary the heat, of course, my limiting the amount of jalapenos but part of the joy of this dish is the heat as it will warm you up on a cold day!

Monday, December 7, 2009

lemongrass tempeh

Another southeastern flavored tempeh dish.

1/2 pound tempeh
1 bunch gai lan (chinese brocolli)
5 jalapenos, sliced
1 onion, sliced
2 stalks lemongrass, grated
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp mirin
1 tbsp shaoshing (chinese rice wine)
1 tbsp shoyu
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp sichuan chili oil
1 tbsp sesame oil (NON toasted)
3 tbsp mushroom-seaweed stock
cut tempeh in 1 inch cubes and roast at 425 for 10 minutes, set aside.

in large cast iron pot or work, stir fry garlic, lemongrass, jalapenos and onion in sesame oil till onion wilts. Add chinese brocolli and cook 2 minutes and add the rest of the ingredients, stir well, serve very hot over rice. Green papaya salad is a great accompaniment!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

cilantro-mint peanut yuzu pesto

Yet another nice way to use Yuzu, one of the great citrus fruits. Yuzu is now being grown by more farmers in California so the price is coming down. Used to be upwards of $12/pound it is now being found locally in the bay area for $4/pound.  This Japanese lime has one of the most delightful flavors and aromas imaginable.

Like all pestos, this is insanely easy to make. throw things in the food processor and hit the button and voila, gourmet tastes!

1 cup peanuts, toasted
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 tbsp saikyo miso
2 yuzu. Use the juice as well as zest
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 cloves garlic

place all in a food processor and grind down. Add a small bit of water to help it turn into a paste.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Thai Red Yuzu Curry paste

Spicy, and ultra flavorful and can be used in a wide variety of dishes. Instead of using kaffir lime leaves, i am using yuzu to give a very unique flavor to this classic paste.

8 dried guajillo chilis
20 fresh thai chilis
1 tbsp coriander seeds, toasted
1 tbsp cumin seeds, toasted
1 tsp black peppercorns, toasted
3 stalks lemongrass, chopped
2 tbsp ginger
8 cloves garlic
1/2 yuzu, seeds removed
1 tsp sea salt
1 tbsp chinese fermented bean curd (this replaces the fish sauce and is necessary)

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process till a smooth paste, adding a little water if needed.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

chanterelle sauce

In the fall in Northern California, a variety of wild mushrooms are available. Thanks to the wine and olive industry, spores of morels, chanterelles and porcinis are now propogating in this area as the spores tagged along with the vines.
Chanterelles are one of my favorite varieties that appear in the fall. And lately the prices are as low as 6 dollare a pound.
Here is a mushroom sauce that is very nice for pasta, tofu burgers, ravioli and many other possibilities

1 pound chanterelles, well cleaned and chopped
1 leek, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
many cloves garlic, miniced
several sprigs of fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup marsala wine
1 cup pumpkin stock or more to dilute to desired consistency
2 tbsp olive oil

in sautee pan, add olive oil, 1 tsp sea salt, thyme springs and the onions and leeks. Sautee till they begin to sweat. Add the rest of the vegetables and cook for 15 minutes till everything is well cooked. Add wine and simmer till it mostly cooks off.
Remove sprigs of thyme and put this mixture into blender and add enough stock to dilute the sauce to desired consistency. Bring back to saucepan, bring back to simmer and add more salt if needed. Season with black pepper and serve

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

homemade sichuan chili oil

Some like it hot! And some like it really hot! This is for those who like very spicy food. This oil will add incredible flavor and heat to many different dishes. Very easy to make and keeps for months if you store it in a cool, dark place.

This is referred to as numbing spicy oil, as the sichuan peppercorns leave a tingly numbing effect on the lips and tongue. Very sensual food!
Sichuan peppercorns are very unique and cannot be replaced with other peppercorns. In fact they are not even in the same family as the more familiar peppercorns. You can easily find them at reputable spice importers.

2 cups sesame oil (not toasted)
2 cups tien tsen dried chilis
1/4 cup sichuan peppercorns
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick

in a food processor, grind down the chilis and sichuan peppercorns coarsely.  Place these into a stainless steel or cast iron skillet and pan toast a couple of minutes. Add the sesame oil and bring to simmer, lower heat and let simmer 2 minutes. Remove from heat, add star anise and cinnamon stick.  Let fully cool and store in a glass jar (plastic is a very bad idea for any food, let alone one like this!). Let the oil mature for 2 weeks before using