Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Recipe: comfort minestrone

Here's a delicious and hearty minestrone for the cold days.
This thick soup has veggies, a combo of beans + grains for protein and energy, and herbs for taste. It's vegan, it's comforting, it's simply delicious.
Beware: when I made it, it took a very, *very* long time to cook: the beans wouldn't soften (they had been in my pantry for a while, plus some beans cook very slowly in an acidic substance like tomato). But it did cook in time for dinner, and it was worth the wait. (At some point I transferred it into a crock pot so it would cook without my supervision.)

Make this soup in advance: in the morning for dinner. This kind of soup/stew is better the day after anyway. And don't forget to soak the beans overnight beforehand!
This yields maybe 6 servings (yum, leftovers!)

beans (cannelloni, mixed beans, whatever you have in your pantry...) 2 cups -*soaked overnight*
vegetable oil for cooking (canola)
onion 1 big, chopped
(wheat-free)tamari -(proportions depend, 1/3 cup max)
garlic garlic 3 big cloves, minced
celery 4 stalks, chopped
carrots 4 chopped
herbs de Provence 1 tbsp
+ your blend of herbs: rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram -to taste
fresh parsley: 1/4 cup + more for garnish
crushed tomatoes 1 28oz can
hot water 1/2 cup
no-salt-added bouillon 3 cubes
water 6 cups
bay leaves 4
small-sized pasta 1 cup  (here: quinoa elbows)
salt and pepper to taste
Prep: Soak beans overnight.

In a large cooking pot, pour cooking oil so that the bottom is covered -heat up at medium heat.
When the oil is hot, add chopped onion. Cook until translucent, stirring regularly. When the onions start sticking at the bottom, add splashes of Tamari. (I like the onions well cooked, almost caramelized, because it gives more savor to the dish. So I stir for a while, adding tamari when needed, while I do other things like peeling garlic, chopping veggies...)
Add garlic and stir for 2 minutes. Add celery and carrots and cook until soft, adding tamari (or, if you feel it's becoming too salty tbs of water) if it sticks. Add all herbs and keep stirring.
When all is soft (and the sugars of the vegetables are well released!) add beans (they should have expanded in the overnight soaking), crushed tomatoes, stir. Dissolve the 3 bouillon cubes in 1/2 cup of hot water and add to the pot, as well as bay leaves and 6 cups of water.
Set the heat to high until, and before it actually boils, set to medium-low heat.
Simmer for 1 to several hours (depending on the beans, cooking can take more or less time -and believe me: you *do not want* to ingest undercooked beans!) At some point, you may transfer the soup to a crockpot.

Before meal: cook the pasta. Drain. If, like me, you made a bigger batch (so you'd have some for later) coat them with olive oil so they won't stick together.

When you are ready to eat: remove bay leaves. Ladle soup into bowls, add pasta (2/3 soup and 1/3 pasta... your choice, really), mix. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with parsley.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Lise Lefebvre and her bear rugs.

Lise Lefebvre is a French designer living and working in Amsterdam.
She combines beauty and sustainability and a witty sens of humor.

This project is her take on the traditional (and *not* vegan!) bear rug. She recycles wool blankets found in thrift stores. No one sleeps under these scratchy blankets anymore, but they do make a fun rug!

I really enjoy when creative people revisit traditions with a more sustainable approach.

Visit Lise Lefebvre's website.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Miso Soup Recipe

Has it really been a year since I last posted? Time flies!
healthy soup
I have been very busy with a lot of things, including my French lesson blog. I still enjoy cooking, I've had less time to research foods, recipes and be creative in the kitchen.

But today I really had to post something...
It's summer here in San Francisco, i.e. cold, grey and gloomy, and we are wearing scarves and socks, and everybody seems to be sick around me, including myself... Oy!
Here's a recipe for a San Francisco summer, because we deserve comfort, warmth and a boost to our immune system: a mighty miso soup.

miso paste
Miso (a paste made of fermented soy) is warming and said to affect positively the immune system.

In our enhanced version of the classic miso soup we are also using turmeric, garlic and ginger, i.e. foods with anti-inflammatory properties, as well as kale, a superfood packed with lots of good things like vitamin C.
Feel free to add more veggies or substitute the tofu for rice noodles if you don't eat unfermented soy.

One more thing: apart from being healthy this is also REALLY easy, fast(ish) and delicious.

Power Packed Miso Soup
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2 inches fresh ginger, sliced thin (I use a mandolin)
2 quarts water
4 leaves of kale, torn into in medium-size pieces (w/o the stem)
1/4 tsp turmeric
8 oz silken tofu, cut into cubes
4 scallions chopped fine
2 carrots, sliced thin (I use a mandolin)
2/3 brown-rice miso
1/2 cup of hot water to dissolve the miso

1. With the flat side of a knife, crush the garlic cloves. Heat the water with the crushed garlic and the sliced ginger. Bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile: slice the carrots and the scallions, cut the tofu and tear the kale leaves...
3. Remove the ginger and garlic from the broth and add kale leaves and turmeric. Cook at medium-high heat until tender (4 minutes depending on how you like it).
4. Add tofu, carrots and scallions and simmer for 2-3 minutes (you want carrots still a little crunchy but not quite raw).
6. Dissolve the miso paste 1/2 cup of hot water.
5. Turn the heat down. Pour the miso into the soup, stir, serve... voilà!

- My Sensei always told me it's important to not overheat/boil the miso because it would kill the good enzymes (as well as change the taste). So make sure to add the miso at the end, once the heat is turned off.
- If this is too salty for you, just add water.
- You can make it more copious by adding noodles, mushrooms, etc...

And if you are sick, and need your spirits lifted, Doctor says: stay home and watch Miyazaki's animes.
Castle in the sky:
Spirited Away :
Princess Mononoke, etc...

This recipe is freely adapted from Didi Emmons' Vegetarian Planet (a highly recommended cookbook!)
The soup photo comes from the raw food blog the Sunny Raw Kitchen.
Miso paste photo : Japan-i.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Style: Nikki, the Sentimental Thrifter

dress: Austin, TX; Belt found at estate give away in the Haight

One doesn't have to compromise on aesthetics to "live green". Nikki is a perfect example of this. She combines eco ethics with great fashion and home décor. This social worker always sports stylish thrifted outfits and adorns her beautiful Cole Valley home with furniture and bric-a-brac scored at small town antique stores, flea markets and garage sales.

Objects are always more than they seem to be. In this consumers' society, they are signs of status, wealth, social class, of whichever identity one wishes to display. But for Nikki, collecting objects is about much more than just owning valorizing stuff: every piece has a story to tell, a memory attached. Like Proust's madeleine, they transport her through time, and she can remember the circumstances, the people, the place, the smells, the weather, the sensations. She has also learned from her loved ones the art of scavenging, mending, repairing, and creatively turning used objects into something new. She's the sentimental thrifter.

Blue vintage suitcase: Portland, Oregon,
Blue polka dot dress : Austin, TX; Necklace : New Orleans

Why do you shop used?
I like treasure hunts. It's rewarding to work, to sort, to dig for that diamond in the rough. It's less wasteful to buy something second hand than to consume something new. It's more cost efficient. I like to give discarded things a new home where they will be loved (just like Joey my Chihuahua).

Joey the Rescued Chihuahua

Where do you shop?

I grew up shopping at the Goodwill in Cupertino. I still make pilgrimages back to San Jose to hit this little known goldmine. Many things in my home town have changed over the years, but the Goodwill still stands. Besides finding great stuff there, I like shopping in the same familiar building I roamed as a teenager.

"reading is sexy"
Skirt : Haight street Goodwill; Shirt: Buffalo Exchange on Valencia;
Patent belt: Austin, TX; Shoes : Goodwill Haight street
Antique chair: Alameda Flea Market

I also frequent the Goodwills in San Francisco. A friend turned me onto Savers in Daly City, which has become a favorite also. For home items, I scavenge Building Resources in the Bayview. There is a women’s shelter in my neighborhood. The residents leave all sorts of things out on the street as they are in transition. I guess you could say that I ‘shop the street’ regularly.

Sun dress: Painted bird, SF; Bandana: Williamsburg, NY

Skirt : Haight street Goodwill; Tee-shirt: Buffalo Exchange Market street;
Belt : found on street in Bayview during bike ride

What are your favorite pieces?
Many of my favorite pieces have an adventure associated with them. The thrift items become wearable souvenirs from trips I’ve taken. Like some people’s tattoos, they remind me of different times and people in my life. The pink necklace from New Orleans, the polka dot dress from Austin, the gold brooch from Portland- they are all bits of my special memories.

Red shirt: Crossroads Haight street, Marilyn skirt: Alameda flea market;
White beads : Cupertino Goodwill; Suspenders : Buffalo Exchange, Haight street

Rooster bell scored at the (sadly) now closed Pickled Hutch
in Noe Valley

Do you use stuff for other purposes?
Yes, it's good fun. Mom’s pitcher holds cooking utensils. Dad’s toothpick cup now offers Qtips. Soup pot becomes garden pot. Spaghetti jar becomes vase. The possibilies are endless.

Mom’s pitcher holds cooking utensils

What do you suggest for recycled gift ideas?
I make cards out of flyers I find, out of scrap paper, ribbons and out of old magazines.
I like getting dishware at garage sales and filling them with a home made food treat.
Old glasses can be shined and served up on a vintage tray. A lonely piece of crystal from a broken chandelier transformed into a gift necklace.

Nikki's apron collection

Nikki's homemade cards made of reused materials

A gift for a friend: this chandelier part is now a vase

Do you mend?
Bien sûr. And staple and tape and pin. Whatever it takes! Grandma’s sewing machine is a girl’s best friend for mending and alterations.

Knit shirt : Savers Daly city; Pleated skirt : Goodwill Cupertino;
Broche : Goodwill Portland;
Shoes : Goodwill Haight street; Sparkle belt Austin, TX

grandma's sewing machine, vintage fabric

vintage fabric

What are your tips to earn karma points?
Growing my own food.

Nikki's garden (here: zucchini plants)

herb garden

this over 10 y.o. plant was saved and is now thriving

Dad's lilies

the seeds of this corn were a gift from a squirrel

Nikki can be found walking her chihuhua Joey in Cole Valley, training for triathlons in the chilly San Francisco Bay, sharing with friends some home-made rosemary-infused vodka, or in a cute vintage apron, cooking elaborate vegan dinners with Queer Food For Love.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Vegan Dessert Challenge

ice-cream sandwiches

Here are two ideas for delicious vegan desserts: ice-cream sandwiches and chocolate-walnuts zucchini cake. The first one is quick and cute, perfect when you are in a rush but still want to make an impression, and the second one is rich and decadent, when you really want to make a statement.

One of the things non-vegans usually say about vegan pastry is how inferior it is to the "real thing", that what it has in good intentions, it lacks in taste. I find such statements not only unfair, but also very butter-&-lard-centric!

Chocolate Walnut Zucchini Cake
(made by Nikki and Greg)

There was an episode a couple of nights ago when my good friend Jenn -a talented cook and the sister of a celebrated pastry chef- decided to make impromptu cupcakes at a friend's house, and to make them vegan for my sake. Isn't that sweet? However, an inner voice kept prompting me to tell her to forget about it and stick to something she would normally make, because, if the attempt failed, the vegan would be blamed for spoiling everyone's pleasure!

Brittney's Strawberry-Banana-Coconut Milk Muffins

Of course, something went wrong, the kitchen did not have the right kind of chocolate, and the cupcakes turned out super blah, which, sadly, seemed to settle once and for all the case of the inferiority of vegan pastry. I did argue that another friend had made those very same cupcakes with the right kind of chocolate and they had turned out lip-smacking good, but my statement was probably attributed to my unreliable taste buds and filed under "pathetic attempt at vegan propaganda".

Vegan desserts are not inferior, just out of the Western norm where butter, dairy cream, eggs and sometimes lard prevail. Western tastebuds are just dairy-centric, that's all! When I became vegan, rather than lowering my standards, I believe I expanded my horizons. I do know for sure that butter tastes good, and so does dairy cream, and cheese: I'm French, I was raised on the best stuff! But I also know for sure that there's much more to life than this, even from a purely pleasure-based point of view. Dairy-centered folks are missing out on tastes and textures that truly deserve praise. How sad!

These were from a Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World recipe...
(the Book, the Blog) -picture by Yasmin

The only thing we can do is to convince the agnostics by blowing their minds with incredible goodness! It doesn't sound so awful, does it? (Except maybe for your waistline...)

Ice-cream sandwiches
These were my contribution to a cocktail party. I knew the homemade beverages were going to be fancy and elaborate, and served in pretty thrifted glasses. I wanted to contribute with something bite-size that would look very cute.

Sorbet or non-dairy ice-cream
Small-sized vegan cookies

These delicate little thing complemented the fancy beverages.
In the pitcher: Greg's Limoncello Punch.

I simply went to the store and purchased fruit-sweetened raspberry sorbet and lemon cookies. I then made the sandwiches in 10 minutes, at the party. Easy peasy!

Of course, you can also be truly amazing and make your own cookies and ice-cream...

raspberry + lemon= yum!

kinda cute...

Decadent Chocolate-Walnut Zucchini Cake

This recipe comes directly from the Post Punk Kitchen Website.

Dang! I gained three pounds just uploading the photo...

bundt pan, mixing bowls

2 1/2 cups grated, peeled, fresh zuchini
2 ripe bananas, mashed well
1 cup canola oil
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar*
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup ground walnuts
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
*I could cut a little bit of sugar...

In medium sized mixing bowl, combine zucchini, bananas, oil, and vanilla. Stir well or beat with electric mixer if you want to be fancy. In large bowl, combine all remaining ingredients except chocolate. Add wet mixture to dry, mix well and add chocolate chips. Pour into lightly greased and floured bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes, until toothpick or knife inserted comes out clean. Let cool upright 15 minutes, then invert onto cooling rack. Allow to cool 30 minutes before tasting. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vegan Smoked Bacon Crumbs

I love smoked foods. Unfortunately the taste is mostly found in animal products (meats, fish flesh, and those delicious smoked cheeses...). Thankfully, there is this thing called smoked salt, which, added to your recipes, renders that special flavor.

I used it for the first time to make a mean baked beans dip. Then my friend Yasmin seasoned a Cajun stew with it, and I believe it made the flavor more subtil and "authentic". I also substituted it to regular salt in simple black beans and it made me feel like a Woman of the Wild West... (Yes, some simple American things are still exotic to me and evoke a mythical past!)

My favorite smoked creation is fake bacon crumbs made with crushed almonds. It's a great way of making use of the almond pulp that remains after making your own almond milk. Almonds give the "fakon bits" a pleasant crunchy texture.

You can sprinkle it on a simple salad, or include it in a vegan quiche.

this salad never knew what hit it...

1 cup of Almond Pulp
3 tbsp* Smoked Salt
2 tbsp* wheat-free tamari (or any soy sauce)
Vegetable oil (1 tbsp, to cover the bottom of the dish)
*I never bother to measure...

unsung heroes: wheat-free tamari and hickory smoked salt

oven dish with a large flat surface

Preheat the oven to 350º
Mix the ingredients until you reach desired taste (it should be VERY salty and smoky)
Lay the pulp flat on a dish
Roast for about 30 minutes (do check regularly, the time depends on the oven and the amount of pulp)
It should come out brown, but watch out because it burns easily if roasted for too long. Take it out of the oven when it's brown but not too much. Actually, some bits might still be light brown and a little wet: they'll become all dry and crunchy while cooling down.

the finished product

bacon bits make this simple salad very exciting

Monday, May 11, 2009

Homemade Almond Milk

homemade milk!

It's so easy to make fresh almond milk that you'd have to be crazy not to do it! Making your own milk feels like having a cow in your backyard.
The good thing about making your own milk is that you use no packaging. Just buy almonds in bulk. A cup of almonds is also lighter to carry than a pack of milk (which makes a difference when you bike n' shop like me).

1 measure of raw almonds
4 measures of water
(some recipes call for a date, but I like it just plain)

Food processor
Fine mesh sieve
A big bowl
A container for the milk

How to proceed?
I make milk with raw sprouted almonds, which are more nutritious, healthier and easier to digest than unsprouted almonds. You might have difficulties finding truly raw almonds, since the Almond Board of California now requires growers to sell their production pasteurized (and most almonds in this country come from California), but my coop carries (imported*) unpasteurized raw almonds.

Fill a jar with almonds and water and soak for at least 12 hours. (Keep the jar in a place that won't be hit by the sun or get too hot). I usually soak the day before I want to make the milk.

Pour water and almonds in a food processor. (Soaked almonds are much softer and easier on your blades than unsoaked ones). Blend.

crushing the almonds

Drain through a sieve.

no udders required

Voilà! You now have delicious, nutritious almond milk.

Bonus: the almond pulp!
You can use it in cookies or breads recipes, or simply eat it with your morning porrigde, in a yogurt, etc.
I make fake bacon with it, by mixing it to (a little bit of) oil, wheat tamari and smoked salt, laying it flat on a baking tray, and roasting it in the oven (for an amont of time that I forget). I used it on salads and it is astonishingly tasty.

breakfast: almond pulp, cashew yogurt, blueberries on a quinoa + fruit porridge

*I know it's not very locavore of me, but it feels healthier and more natural. And pasteurization uses energy too, I guess...

An article on nuts. And another one.