Lemon Tempeh

DSC00777This dish is the vegan variation of Chinese lemon chicken. The tempeh can also be subbed with pressed extra-firm tofu or vegan chikun. The sauce is lemony, sweet, savory and has just a hint of heat.

Ingredients for the Tempeh
• 1 package (8 oz) tempeh (or 8 oz pressed and cubed block tofu or vegan chikun)
• 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 2 T Shaoxing wine or sweet mirin (or water)
• 2 T unmodified potato starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder
• 2 T all-purpose flour or rice flour
• toasted sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

For the Sauce
• 1 T peanut oil or other cooking oil, plus more for frying
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tsp grated ginger
• 1 cup vegan chikun broth or vegetable broth
• ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
• 2 T organic sugar, or to taste
• 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
• 1 tsp sambal oelek, Sriracha™ or other hot red pepper sauce
• 4 tsp unmodified potato starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder, dissolved in just enough water to create a slurry
• sea salt or kosher salt, to taste

Preparation
Slice the tempeh in half crosswise and simmer in enough water to cover for 10 minutes. This will help soften the tempeh and remove bitterness. Drain on paper towels until cooled. Slice the tempeh into bite-size cubes. Place the cubes into a food storage bag and add the tamari and wine/mirin. Seal and marinate in the refrigerator for a minimum of a few hours and best overnight.

Drain the excess marinade from the bag and add 2 tablespoons starch and the flour. Seal and gently toss to coat evenly. Place on a plate to dry while the sauce is prepared.

Add the 1 tablespoon oil to a medium saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté for 30 seconds. Add the remaining sauce ingredients except for the starch slurry. Bring to a boil, whisk in the starch slurry and stir until thickened. Taste the sauce and add additional sugar or salt as desired. Reduce the heat to low to keep warm while frying the tempeh.

In a wok or deep skillet, heat 1-inch of oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, carefully add the cubed tempeh and fry until golden brown. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

Add the fried tempeh to the lemon sauce and toss gently to coat. Serve immediately and sprinkle with the toasted sesame seeds.

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Greek Moussaka, Vegan-Style

DSC00743A hearty casserole, vegan Greek moussaka features layers of potato, eggplant, savory beaf crumbles cooked with onion, crushed tomatoes, parsley and red wine, and an enriched and creamy cashew-based Béchamel that’s baked until golden brown. My plant-based variation is an adaptation of a generational family recipe from the Greek village of Ardactos on the island of Crete. I tried to stay as true to the flavors of the dish as possible. This recipe requires several components, which can be prepare separately and then assembled prior to baking the dish; however, I’ve written the recipe so the dish can prepared seamlessly from start to finish.

Ingredients for the Eggplant Layer
• 2 medium eggplants (aubergine), about 3 lbs, peeled or unpeeled
• olive oil as needed
• coarse sea salt or kosher salt
• coarse ground black pepper

Ingredients for the Potato Layer
• 3 medium russet potatoes
• sea salt or kosher salt

Ingredients for the Meatless Meat Layer
• 2 T olive oil
• 1 large onion, peeled and diced
• ¾ cup water
• ½ cup dry red wine (such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, etc.)
• 2 T tamari, soy sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos™
• 1 T porcini mushroom powder
• 1 T Worcestershire sauce (pg. ) or commercial vegan equivalent
• 1 cup dry TVP/TSP granules (textured vegetable protein/textured soy protein)
• 1 cup crushed tomatoes (from canned)
• 1 T tomato paste
• ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
• sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Ingredients for the enriched Béchamel
• 2 and ⅔ cup plain unsweetened non-dairy milk
• ⅓ cup olive oil
• ½ cup (about 2.5 oz/71 g) whole raw cashews (pre-soaking unnecessary)
• 4 tsp nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 T mellow white miso paste
• 1 T fresh lemon juice
• 1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 tsp onion powder
• 1 tsp garlic powder
• ¼ tsp ground nutmeg

Preparation
Slice the eggplant crosswise about ¼-inch thick. Place a colander into the sink and add layer of eggplant slices. Sprinkle generously with the coarse salt and repeat with layers of eggplant and salt (don’t worry about using too much salt as it will be rinsed away later). Let the eggplant drain about 30 minutes and up to 1 hour to remove bitterness. Rinse well and pat dry on several layers of paper towels.

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F/180°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place layer of eggplant on the parchment. Brush with olive oil and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Repeat the layers as needed. Bake uncovered in the oven for 40 minutes. Remove to cool.

While the eggplant is baking, peel and slice the potatoes about ¼-inch thick. Immediately place into a large cooking pot with plenty of cold water to cover. Add 2 teaspoons salt and bring to a full boil. Drain in the colander and set aside to cool.

Next, add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large skillet and place over medium heat. Sauté the onions until tender and lightly golden. Add the water, red wine, tamari, mushroom powder and Worcestershire. Bring to a boil and add the TVP/TSP granules, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir well, reduce the heat to medium low, cover the skillet and cook about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally.

To prepare the Béchamel, add all ingredients to a blender and process on high speed for 2 full minutes. Transfer to a medium saucepan and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture comes to a simmer. Do not boil. Reduce the heat to low to keep warm.

Assembling the Moussaka

Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C (if not already heated).

Lightly oil a 9”x13” shallow baking dish. Arrange the potatoes in an even layer on the bottom of the baking dish, overlapping as you layer. Spread about ⅔ cup Béchamel sauce over the potatoes.

Next, layer the eggplant slices as you did the potatoes and spread about ⅔ cup Béchamel sauce over the eggplant.

Spread the meatless meat mixture over the eggplant and top with the remaining Béchamel sauce. Season with a little coarse ground black pepper and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
DSC00742

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Chile Relleno Chimichangas

DSC08602-001This dish is an original creation and is based upon the classic Chile Relleno; but rather than stuff the Poblano or Anaheim peppers with cheese and then batter them, the peppers are roasted and wrapped in soft tortillas with melted non-dairy Monterey Jack and flash-fried in a small amount of cooking oil (rather than deep-frying in a large amount of oil). The results are delicious and so much less greasy than the traditional dish. I chose the cheese melt over shredded block cheese since the chimichanga is flash-fried very quickly, which wouldn’t give the shredded cheese enough time to melt. The cheese melt is quick and easy to make too! (recipe follows)

Ingredients:
• 4 large Poblano or Anaheim chilies
• 4 whole wheat or white tortillas (burrito size)
• 1 cup Monterey Jack Melt (recipe follows)
• Chunky Garden Vegetable Salsa (recipe follows) or salsa of your choice
• toppings and garnishing of your choice, such as diced avocado or guacamole, chopped cilantro and/or non-dairy sour cream

Items needed:
• 8 toothpicks for securing
• large skillet with ¼-inch of cooking oil

Technique:
Prepare the salsa first since it requires about 45 minutes of cooking time. If using pre-prepared salsa, skip to the next step.

Roast the chilies on a hot grill or under a broiler. Turn them occasionally until the skins are blackened and charred. When the skins of the chilies have sufficiently charred and blistered, place them on a plate and cover with foil until cool. The residual heat will steam the peppers under the foil and fully cook them through. When cool, peel the skin from the chilies (they will remove easily) and blot them with a paper towel to remove any excess moisture. Cut the peppers into strips (you will need the strips of 1 pepper per tortilla); set aside.

Prepare the cheese melt according to the directions and keep warm over low heat until ready to assemble the dish.

Next, place a tortilla directly on the stove burner set to low heat. Flip after about 15 seconds and repeat as necessary until the tortilla is heated through and is soft and pliable.*

*An alternate method for heating the tortillas is to preheat the oven to 350°F. Wrap the tortillas in aluminum foil and warm them in the oven for approximately 15 minutes. The tortillas can also be wrapped in a damp towel and warmed in the microwave for about 15 seconds; or they can be misted with a spritz of water and heated briefly in a hot non-stick or cast iron skillet.

Place a tortilla on a work surface and place the pepper strips on top. Spread ¼ cup of the melted cheese over the peppers. Begin rolling the tortilla over the pepper/cheese mixture and fold in the sides as you roll (like wrapping a burrito or spring roll). Secure the seam of the tortilla with 2 toothpicks and repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Place the skillet with the oil over medium-high heat. When the oil begins to shimmer, fry the chimichangas until golden brown, turning with a pair of kitchen tongs. They will brown quickly, so turn frequently (it is advisable to only cook 1 or 2 at a time since they brown so quickly). Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Remove the toothpicks.

To serve, place on a serving plate and garnish as desired. Serve with the salsa.

Chunky Garden Vegetable Salsa
Salsa is the Spanish word for “sauce”. This is a cooked salsa which is served hot and is wonderful for topping a variety of Tex-Mex inspired dishes such as chimichangas, burritos and Tex-Mex tofu scrambles. Despite the inclusion of fresh jalapeno pepper, the sauce is relatively mild. To spice it up add a little chipotle chili powder or minced habanero pepper, to taste.

Ingredients:
• 1 can (28 oz) whole tomatoes
• 2 T olive oil
• 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 ribs celery, diced
• 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
• 3 cloves garlic, minced
• 2 tsp ancho chili powder or other mild chili powder
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Technique:
Drain the excess juice from the tomatoes (reserve for other uses) and pulse the tomatoes in a food processor until puréed but still chunky. Set aside.

Add the oil to a cooking pot and place over medium heat. Add the carrots and sauté for a few minutes. Now add the onions, celery, jalapeno and a couple pinches of salt and sauté until the onions are translucent and the vegetables have softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to sauté an additional minute.

Add the tomatoes and the chili powder, cumin and oregano. Season with black pepper as desired and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 45 minutes or until the carrots are very tender, stirring occasionally. Season the salsa with salt as needed and keep warm until ready to serve.

Monterey Jack Cheese Melt
This popular, mild white cheese can be used for a variety of Spanish and Mexican inspired dishes and is excellent as a spread for grilled cheese sandwiches. This recipe yields about 1 cup of melted cheese.

Ingredients:
• ¾ cup pure soymilk
• ¼ cup mild vegetable oil
• 3 T tapioca flour
• 1 T nutritional yeast flakes
• 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
• ½ tsp plus a pinch of fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ⅛ tsp lactic acid powder or ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
• ¼ tsp guar gum, sodium alginate or xanthan gum

Technique:
In a small saucepan, vigorously whisk together the ingredients until smooth. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring slowly and continually with a flexible spatula.
As the mixture thickens and curdles (forms lumps), begin stirring vigorously until the curds disappear and the cheese becomes very thick, smooth and glossy. Keep warm over low heat, stirring occasionally, until ready to use. For a spreadable consistency, remove from the heat and allow the melt to thicken.

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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.

Ingredients:
• 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
• 3 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 cup chopped flat leaf parsley plus chopped leaves for garnish

Technique:
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.

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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!

Ingredients:
• 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

Technique:
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 since it will be rather tough. Small amounts 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.

 

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Falafel

DSC06551
Falafel is a small, deep-fried patty made from ground chickpeas and a blend of herbs and spices. For my own signature version, I also incorporate ground split peas (which is optional) and season with my own blend of spices. Falafel is a traditional Arabic food, usually served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flatbread and topped with various sauces and vegetable garnishes. This recipe yields about 16 falafel patties.

Ingredients for the falafel:
• ¾ cup dried chickpeas and ¼ cup dried yellow or green split peas
– or 1 cup dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
• ¼ cup diced onion
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 and ¼ tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary or ¼ tsp dried powdered rosemary
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp ground coriander
• ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
• 6 T garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour or soy flour
• 2 T olive oil
• ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
• ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, loosely packed

Other ingredients needed:
• vegetable oil for frying
• pita or flat bread
• Tzatziki sauce, Tahini Sauce and/or Hummus
• thinly sliced onion
• sliced cucumbers
• chopped tomatoes

Technique:
Place the dried chickpeas and split peas (or chickpeas alone) in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let them soak for 24 hours, then drain thoroughly. DO NOT use canned chickpeas.

Place the drained, soaked chickpeas and split peas, onion, garlic, salt, rosemary, cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Process the mixture until all the peas are coarsely ground. Remove the lid and scrape down the peas as necessary to incorporate them into the mixture. DO NOT purée! It is important to retain a “grainy” texture”.

Sprinkle in the garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour, olive oil, black pepper and parsley and pulse the mixture several times to combine. Turn the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts and then gently press to flatten into small patties. The mixture will be moist and some will stick to your fingers, so keep a moist towel on hand while you work. Place the patties on a plate or cutting board.

In a deep skillet or wok, heat ½-inch of oil to 375°F, or for a full 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Fry the patties in batches for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Stuff half a pita with 3 falafel patties or serve on a plate. Garnish with fresh produce and condiment(s) of your choice. Store any remaining falafel in a covered container or zip-lock bag and refrigerate.

To reheat, wrap the falafel securely in foil and place in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes – or briefly reheat in the microwave.

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Falafel
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