Chickpea Creole Gumbo

DSC08352-003Gumbo is a heavily seasoned stew-like dish that originated in southern Louisiana from the Louisiana Creole people during the 18th century. The dish combines ingredients and culinary practices of several cultures, including West African, French, Spanish, German, and Choctaw. Creole Gumbo interacts between all class barriers and ethnicities in the south especially in New Orleans, appearing on the tables of the poor as well as the wealthy. Gumbo traditionally contains spicy meat sausage, chicken and seafood; however for my plant-based version, all meat proteins were replaced with nutritious and satisfying chickpeas. Kelp powder can be added to impart a subtle seafood taste, if desired. Gumbo is traditionally served with rice.

Note: Gumbo filé, which is dried and ground sassafras leaves, is an ingredient sometimes added to gumbo (but I did not include in this recipe). It imparts an earthy flavor and is also used to thicken the gumbo. After consulting a chef colleague from New Orleans who specializes in Cajun cuisine, she informed me that the filé is purely an optional ingredient. In restaurants it is often contained in a shaker on the table which gives the diner the option to use it as desired. For the cook, filé can provide thickening when okra is not in season.

• ¼ cup cooking oil
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
• 3 ribs celery, chopped
• ¼ cup vegan butter or margarine
• ½ cup all-purpose flour (or rice flour for gluten-free)
• 8 cloves garlic, minced
• 4 cups water
• ⅓ cup tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos
(use wheat-free tamari or Bragg’s for gluten-free)
• ¼ cup vegan Worcestershire sauce
• 2 tsp browning liquid (optional; to enrich color)
• 1 tsp liquid smoke, or more to taste
• 1 can (14 to 15 oz) diced tomatoes with juice or 2 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes
• 4 cups frozen sliced okra
• 2 cans (15 oz each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained or about 3 and ½ cups cooked chickpeas
• 3 sprigs fresh thyme leaves or ½ tsp dried thyme
• 1 tsp kelp powder (optional)
• ½ tsp cayenne pepper, or more to taste
• 1 bay leaf
• sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper to taste
• 4 green onions, chopped, white and green parts
• ½ chopped flat leaf parsley plus chopped leaves for garnish

Prepare your mise en place (assemble and measure all ingredients).

Heat the oil in a large cooking pot over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and celery and sauté until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute. Add the butter or margarine and stir until melted. Sprinkle in the flour, stir to combine and cook until the flour emits a nutty aroma, about 2 minutes.

Incorporate the water in increments while stirring vigorously. Stir in the tamari, Worcestershire, liquid smoke, tomatoes with liquid, okra, chickpeas, thyme, optional kelp powder, cayenne and bay leaf. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat; partially cover and simmer for a minimum of 1 hour. While the gumbo is cooking, prepare white or brown rice, your choice, and keep warm until ready to serve.

Five minutes before serving, stir the green onions and parsley into the gumbo (reserve a little for garnishing). Add salt, black pepper or additional cayenne, kelp powder and/or liquid smoke as desired to taste. To serve, place a scoop of white or brown rice into serving bowls and ladle in the gumbo. Garnish with green onions and parsley.

Seasoned Tofu Chikun Strips

Stir Fry featuring Asian-Style Soy Chikun Strips

Stir Fry featuring Asian-Style Soy Chikun Strips

South of the Border Salad featuring Tex-Mex Soy Chikun Strips

South of the Border Salad featuring Tex-Mex Soy Chikun Strips

These soy-based chikun strips are incredibly easy to make and remarkably resemble grilled strips of seasoned chicken. The ingredients are simple: tofu and a seasoning marinade. The secret is all in the preparation technique. A tofu press is recommended in order to compress the tofu properly and remove as much water as possible. However, the traditional plate and heavy weight method will work too, but the texture may not be as dense.

Each block of tofu will yield 8 ounces of prepared chikun. Most households do not possess more than 1 tofu press, so if you wish to prepare additional chikun strips, press the first block and then store in the refrigerator in an airtight container while additional blocks are pressed. For additional blocks, simply double or triple the water and seasonings in the recipe.

IMPORTANT! DO NOT use a toaster oven for baking the tofu!

• 1 block (14 oz) extra-firm water-packed tofu (not silken tofu)
• ⅓ cup water
• 1 tsp nutritional yeast
• ½ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ½ tsp onion powder
• ¼ tsp poultry seasoning
• ¼ tsp garlic powder

Press the tofu until thoroughly compressed and as much water has been removed as possible (keep stored in the refrigerator while pressing). This will take a minimum of several hours (overnight being ideal). Blot the tofu with a paper towel.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a stainless steel cooking rack on a baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Place the block of tofu on the parchment paper and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The tofu will develop a firm golden crust while baking. Let the block cool completely after baking.

Trim the crust from the block of tofu and discard. Traces of crust may remain – that’s okay. For chikun strips, simply slice the tofu into strips. For shredded chikun, use the tines of a fork to tear off bite-size pieces. Place the strips or shreds into a zip-lock bag.

Now, in a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. The dry seasoning powders may take a moment to dissolve, so keep whisking until blended. Pour the seasoning marinade over the tofu in the bag. Press as much air out of the bag as possible; seal and refrigerate for several hours (overnight is best).

Note: Other herbs and spices can be added to the marinade to accommodate specific ethnic food flavors.

For a Tex-Mex variation, prepare the marinade with the basic recipe and add 1 tsp mild chili powder, an additional ½ tsp onion powder, ½ tsp ground cumin, an additional ¼ tsp garlic powder and ¼ tsp chipotle chili powder.

For an Asian Stir Fry variation, marinate and sauté the chikun as directed and add a dash or two of tamari while sautéing. Toss with a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce just before removing from the skillet.

For a Mediterranean variation, prepare the marinade with the basic recipe but reduce the water to ¼ cup. Add 1 T lemon juice, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, an additional ½ tsp onion powder and an additional ¼ tsp garlic powder. Finish with fresh ground black pepper.

The strips or shreds are now ready to be pan-grilled or sautéed. This step is necessary to prepare the chikun for serving or using in recipes. Lightly oil a non-stick skillet with cooking oil and place over medium heat. Add the chikun including any residual marinade.

Sauté until the excess liquid has evaporated and the chikun is golden. Use a gentle touch while sautéing; the chikun is firm but can break apart excessively if stirred roughly. Use immediately in your favorite hot recipe or chill for use in cold recipes (wraps, salads, etc.) For soups, add the chikun the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time to avoid becoming too soft.

Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within 5 days or freeze up to 1 month.


Fresh Fruit Ice Cream (Cashew Cream Base)

Heavy cashew cream and puréed fruit form the base for this delightful frozen treat. An ice cream maker is required for this recipe.

• 1 cup (5 oz. by weight) whole raw cashews
• 2 cups non-dairy milk of your choice
• ¾ cup organic sugar
• ½ tsp guar gum
• 2 cups chilled fruit purée, smooth or semi-chunky

Place the cashews and milk into a container with a lid, seal and place in the refrigerator to soak for a minimum of 8 hours. After soaking, place the ingredients in a high-powered blender and process on high speed for 2 full minutes.

The cream will now need to be strained to remove the solids. To do this, wash your hands thoroughly and pour the cream into the nut milk bag over a large bowl or pitcher.

While holding the top of the bag with one hand, gently knead the bag to help the cream pass through the ultra-fine mesh – avoid forcing the cream through. Discard or compost the solids in the bag.

Optionally, the cream can be poured (in increments) into a strainer lined with 4 layers of cheesecloth. Stir the cream gently with a spoon to help it pass through the cheesecloth.

Pour the heavy cream into a blender and add the sugar and guar gum; process until smooth. Pour the mixture into a container and refrigerate until very cold (or place in the freezer for about 30 minutes).

When well chilled, pour the cream mixture into your ice cream maker and add the chilled fruit purée. Process the mixture according to your ice cream maker’s instructions.

Chef’s Best Hoisin Sauce


Hoisin is a thick, aromatic condiment sauce with a salty and sweet flavor. It is commonly used in Chinese cuisine as a grilling glaze (superb for seitan, tempeh and tofu); as an addition to stir fries; or as dipping sauce (try it with spring rolls). It is also used as a condiment for phở, the classic Vietnamese soup. My homemade variation contains no added sugar, starch, gums, starches, colors or preservatives, unlike most of its commercial counterparts, since the fruit naturally sweetens and thickens the sauce. This recipe yields about 1 and ½ cup.

• 1 cup dark seedless raisins
• ⅔ cup water
• ⅓ cup tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 2 T rice vinegar
• 1 clove garlic, chopped
• 2 tsp sesame oil
• ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
• ¼ tsp Chinese Five Spice powder

Add all the ingredients to a small saucepan and bring to brief boil. Remove from the heat and let the mixture cool. Add the mixture to a blender and process until smooth, about 1 minute. Press through a fine mesh sieve back into the saucepan to catch any stray particles. Transfer to a sealable container and store in the refrigerator until ready to use; the sauce will thicken as it chills. Due to its salt and vinegar content, the sauce should remain preserved and fresh for a few weeks.


DSC08022Ceviche (pronounced “seh-VEE-chay”) is a Latin American dish which traditionally consists of raw fish or shellfish marinated in citrus juice (usually lime and/or lemon juice). The acid in the citrus juice coagulates (denatures) the proteins in the seafood, effectively cooking it. Since no heat is used, the dish is served cold. There are many recipe variations combining the marinated fish/shellfish with a wide variety of other fresh ingredients such as onion, tomato, cilantro, chili peppers and avocado.

My plant-based version relies upon cooked unripe green jackfruit as a replacement for the fish/shellfish, since it has a neutral flavor which takes on the flavor of the marinade and a flaky texture reminiscent of cooked crab. The dish is essentially a zesty, marinated plant-based salad which is served cold as a refreshing appetizer with crispy corn tortilla chips. This recipe yields enough ceviche for 2 to 3 guests; for more simply multiply the recipe.

• 1 can (20 oz) green jackfruit in water or brine
• ½ cup peeled and small diced tomato
• ½ cup peeled, seeded and small diced cucumber
• ¼ cup small diced onion
• ¼ cup chopped cilantro
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1 small Serrano chili, seeded and finely minced
• juice of 1 lime
• 1 T olive oil
• ½ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste
• ¼ tsp coarse ground black pepper
• ¼ tsp ground cumin
• ½ ripe but firm avocado, diced

*Canned green jackfruit bears a resemblance to flaked crabmeat when cooked. It can be found in Indian and Asian markets or purchased through the internet. Look for the label “Green Jackfruit” or “Young Green Jackfruit” and be sure that it’s packed in water or brine and not syrup. Cans of ripe jackfruit packed in syrup may be stocked nearby, but don’t be tempted to substitute as the ripe fruit will be too sweet for this application.

Chef’s note: Traditional ceviche made with fresh seafood has a fresh, clean flavor and should not be fishy. If you wish to add a subtle ocean flavor to this plant-based version, add a little bit of dried kelp flakes or flaked, toasted nori.

Drain the jackfruit and rinse. If the jackfruit was canned in brine, rinse thoroughly. Add the chunks of jackfruit to 1 quart salted boiling water. Reduce the heat to a slow boil and cook for 15 minutes. Drain in a colander and let cool. When cool enough to handle, remove the tough core from each chunk of jackfruit with a sharp knife and discard. Break the chunks apart with your fingers and remove the soft seeds and seed membranes and discard. The remaining flaky pulp is the only portion you will want to use in the dish, so sort through the chunks carefully (there will be a significant amount of unusable material). Wrap the pulp in a lint-free kitchen towel and squeeze to remove excess water. Coarsely chop the pulp and place in a mixing bowl.

Add the remaining ingredients EXCEPT for the avocado and toss well to combine. Refrigerate for several hours to marinate the ingredients and blend the flavors. Add the diced avocado just before serving and toss well. Season the ceviche with additional salt as desired and to taste. Serve with crunchy tortilla chips.

Chef’s Favorite Garden Salsa

This fresh chunky garden salsa has a medium heat which can be adjusted to suit your taste. I chose canned whole tomatoes because they are partially stewed during the canning process, thus producing a superb texture for salsa. It’s very easy to make and so much better than store-bought. This recipe yields about 4 cups.

• 2 cans (28 oz each) whole tomatoes
• 3 large scallions or 6 small scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped
• 2 large cloves garlic, finely minced (or 1 for timid palates)
• juice of 1 lime
• 1 small Serrano or jalapeno pepper, finely minced (about 1 T), or more to taste
(for a fiery salsa try including the seeds; for a milder salsa reduce or omit)
• ¼ cup chopped cilantro, or more to taste
• ¾ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt, or more to taste
• ½ tsp ground cumin

Remove the tomatoes from the can and finely dice, reserving any juice in the can for other uses, if desired. The tomatoes themselves contain a great deal of juice, so use a cutting board with irrigation channels if you have one; if not, dice 1 or 2 tomatoes at a time. Place the diced tomatoes in a mixing bowl and toss together with the remaining ingredients. Refrigerate for several hours to blend the flavors, ideally overnight.

Taste and add additional salt before serving, as desired. The salsa will keep for about 10 days in the refrigerator. Serve with your favorite tortilla chips; or use as a topping for your favorite Mexican or Tex-Mex recipes.

Refrigerator Pickles

These easy-to-make pickles are fresh, crisp, tangy and nicely seasoned. The amount of brine is sufficient for preparing 2 quarts of pickles.

• cucumbers, any variety, but pickling cucumbers are best
• 1 large onion, thinly sliced
• 3 cups filtered water
• ½ cup champagne vinegar or white vinegar
• 3 T sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 T organic sugar
• 2 T minced garlic (6 cloves)
• 2 T fresh chopped dill
• 1 tsp whole coriander seeds (optional)
• 1 tsp whole peppercorns or ½ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
• 2 bay leaves

In a bowl or large measuring cup, dissolve the salt and sugar in the vinegar and water to create the brine. Add the onion, garlic, bay leaves, dill and optional coriander seeds and pepper to a large container with a lid, or divide among 2 mason jars.

For smaller cucumbers, such as pickling cucumbers, leave unpeeled and slice in half or quarter lengthwise. For larger salad cucumbers which have tougher skins, use a vegetable peeler to cut strips of peel away, leaving some of the peel intact. This gives the cucumbers a nice variegated appearance; then cut into ¼ to ½-inch crosswise slices.

Stand the spears upright or layer the slices in the 2 jars. If using a large container, lay the spears on their side or layer the slices.

Pour the brine over the cucumbers, submerging them completely. Cover tightly. Refrigerate for a minimum of 72 hours, but the longer they “pickle”, the better. Enjoy!

Cheesy Jalapeno Popper Bean Dip

A zesty and cheesy Southwestern bean dip served hot with your favorite chips or bread for dipping.

• 1 can (15 oz) or 2 cups cooked white beans (cannellini, navy or Great Northern)
• mild-flavor cooking oil
• 3 large jalapenos, seeded and diced
• 1 large Anaheim chili, seeded and diced or 1 can (4 oz) diced mild green chilies
• ½ medium onion, diced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 and ¾ cup non-dairy milk (soymilk works best)
• ¼ cup tapioca flour (starch)
• 2 T nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 T mellow white miso paste
• 2 tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• 2 tsp lactic acid powder or 2 T fresh lemon juice
• 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
• ½ cup panko bread crumbs or plain, dry breadcrumbs

*Note: Use protective gloves when handling jalapeno peppers; or wash your hands thoroughly several times after handling.

If using canned beans, rinse thoroughly until all traces of foam disappear. Drain well and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a small, shallow baking dish with cooking oil and set aside.

Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to a skillet and place over medium-low heat. Add the jalapeno, fresh Anaheim chili, onion and garlic with a pinch of salt and “sweat” the vegetables until softened (if using canned mild green chilies, set aside for later).

If using canned green chilies, add them at this time. Increase the heat to medium and sauté until any liquid has evaporated and the onions are translucent and lightly golden – do not brown. Transfer to a mixing bowl to cool.

In a small saucepan, whisk together the non-dairy milk, tapioca flour, nutritional yeast, miso, salt and acids. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of cooking oil and place over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is hot, cheesy, bubbly and smooth (the cheese sauce will be somewhat salty at this stage but will balance out when mixed with the bean purée and vegetables). Keep warm over low heat.

Place the white beans into a food processor and process into a paste. Alternately, mash the beans thoroughly with a potato masher or ricer. Transfer to the mixing bowl.

Add the cheese mixture to the mixing bowl and stir all ingredients thoroughly. Transfer to the greased baking dish, spread evenly and top with the panko crumbs. Season the topping with coarse ground black pepper and mist with cooking oil spray. The oil will help the crumbs brown in the oven.

Place on the middle rack of the oven and bake uncovered for 45 to 50 minutes or until browned and bubbly. To enhance browning if necessary, place under the broiler for about 1 minute.

Serve hot with warm tortilla chips, chunks of crusty bread or crackers. The dip will be saucy when very hot but will thicken substantially as it cools.

Maryland Crab’less Cakes

Maryland Crab’less Cakes have an amazing crab-like texture and authentic seafood flavor, which makes them an impressive seafood appetizer or first course. The cakes are baked rather than fried, which ensures that they are cooked through evenly, and with less fat. This recipe yields 8 large to 12 standard-size crab’less cakes.

Crab’less cake ingredients:
• 1 can (14 oz.) hearts of palm*
• ½ cup chopped green onions, including some of the green
• ½ red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
• 2 T olive oil
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 block (14 oz.) firm or extra-firm water-packed tofu (do not use silken tofu)
• ½ sheet toasted nori seaweed, torn into pieces
• ½ cup vegan mayonnaise
• ¼ cup unmodified potato starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder
• 2 tsp Chesapeake Bay™ or Old Bay™ seasoning
• 1 tsp vegan Worcestershire Sauce (pg. ) or similar
• ½ tsp fine sea salt of kosher salt
• ⅓ cup panko crumbs (Japanese bread crumbs) or gluten-free bread or cracker crumbs

For the breading, you will need:
• 1 cup very fine, dry breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs of your choice
• 2 tsp Chesapeake Bay™ or Old Bay™ seasoning
• cooking oil spray for misting

*Canned hearts of palm can be found in most supermarkets. Hearts of palm, when flaked, bear a resemblance to crabmeat. Hearts of palm are commercially grown and harvested in Central America and Hawaii and have absolutely no relation to the palm species from which palm oil is derived.

Drain the liquid from the canned hearts of palm and rinse the hearts thoroughly in a colander; drain well. Cut the hearts into chunks.
Place the green onions and bell pepper into the food processor. Pulse until minced. Add the hearts of palm to the vegetables and pulse a few times until flaked. Do not purée!

Sauté the minced vegetables with the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat until the excess moisture is evaporated and the onion is lightly golden but not browned. Add the garlic and sauté an additional minute. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Drain the excess water from the tofu container and cut the tofu into quarters. Wrap the quarters in a lint-free kitchen towel, twist the top closed and squeeze the water from the tofu. Place the dry tofu in the food processor with the torn nori seaweed. Add the mayonnaise, starch, Chesapeake Bay™ or Old Bay™ seasoning, Worcestershire sauce and salt. Process the mixture briefly until the tofu has a crumbly texture. Do not process until smooth!

Transfer the seasoned tofu to the mixing bowl with the sautéed vegetables and add the panko crumbs. Stir well until the mixture begins to hold together.

Form 12 patties from the mixture, about 2 and ½-inches in diameter and ½-inch thick and set on a work surface. At this point, you will want to bread and bake only what you will be serving immediately. Store any extra patties in an airtight container between layers of wax paper and freeze until ready to use.

Baking the crab’less cakes:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a bowl, combine the fine breadcrumbs with the Bay seasoning. Gently press each patty into the breadcrumbs and place onto a lightly oiled baking sheet.

Mist the breaded patties lightly with cooking oil spray and bake for 20 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully flip the patties over. Continue to bake for 20 minutes. Remove the baking pan from the oven and let the patties cool for 10 minutes to set. Serve immediately with a sauce of your choice.

Grillin’ Burgers

Teriyaki Burger with Grilled Pineapple, Crispy Onion Straws and Guacamole

Teriyaki Burger with Grilled Pineapple,
Crispy Onion Straws and Guacamole

At last! A homemade cruelty-free burger with the appearance, flavor and texture of real ground beef hamburgers! This recipe yields 6 burgers.

For the dry ingredients you will need:
• 1 cup vital wheat gluten
• 2 T garbanzo bean flour or soy flour
• ½ tsp smoked paprika
• ¼ to ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
• ⅛ tsp ground rosemary

For the liquid ingredients you will need:
• ¾ cup water
• ¼ cup fresh shredded onion, including liquid (see the technique below for instructions)
• 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 1 T vegan Worcestershire Sauce
• 1 T olive oil
• 1 tsp liquid smoke
• ½ tsp browning liquid

For burgers with a uniform appearance, you will need a 3 and ½-inch ring mold. The burgers can also be shaped free-form if desired.

Place a stainless steel wire rack on a baking sheet and line the rack with parchment paper. This will provide a layer of air between the rack and the baking sheet which will prevent the bottom of the burgers from over-browning.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Stir together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

To shred the onion, cut the top and bottom from a large onion and peel away the outer layer. Shred the onion from the top or bottom end (which helps keep the rings from separating), using the largest holes on a box grater. Shred enough pulp to fill ¼ cup, including as much of the onion liquid as possible. Add the wet pulp to the other liquid ingredients in a separate bowl or measuring cup and stir.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and stir just until the ingredients are combined. Do not overwork the dough as the dough will become elastic and the burgers will be difficult to shape. The dough will be soft, wet and at saturation; this is necessary for producing the proper texture.

Divide the dough in the bowl into roughly 6 equal portions (divide the dough in half and each half into thirds).

Pick up a piece of dough and form it into a ball in your hands. Lay the ring mold on a work surface and press the ball of dough to fill the ring. If you don’t have a mold, simply press and shape the burgers free-form with your fingers.

Place the burgers onto the parchment paper and cover the baking sheet with foil. Crimp the edges to seal the foil around the baking sheet and place on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 45 minutes.

Remove the baking sheet and let the burgers cool with the foil cover in place. When sufficiently cool, remove the foil and transfer and stack the burgers on the foil. Fold to create a package and refrigerate for a minimum of 8 hours, or for up to 10 days, before grilling. Chilling will firm and enhance the burger texture. The burgers can also be wrapped in the foil between layers of wax paper or parchment paper and frozen for up to 3 months; just be sure to thaw the completely before grilling.

To grill the burgers on the stove, oil a non-stick skillet or grill pan and place over medium heat. Brush the burgers with liquid smoke or your favorite sauce, if desired, and pan-sear them until nicely browned. For outdoor grilling, brush the burgers with cooking oil and then liquid smoke or your favorite sauce, if desired. Grill over hot embers or a medium gas flame until grill marks appear. Avoid overcooking. Serve with your favorite condiments.