Monday, February 23, 2009

Mardi Gras Fritters

It's Mardi Gras! Mardi Gras, i.e. Fat Tuesday, is celebrated in many countries worldwide. It's the last day of the Carnival extravaganza: people go wild, drink plenty and eat ultra rich. Fried foods are de rigueur. In France, we make beignets, made of fried dough or batter. Beignets actually go by many names, according to the region: bugnes near Lyon, bottereaux in the West (Bretagne, Vendée, Deux-Sèvres, where my family is from -my grand-mère makes delicious bottereaux), etc.

There are lots of savory options too. In Brazil, you can eat acarajé, black-eyed peas fritters. In Martinique, where Carnival is also celebrated in style, I remember making delicious breadfruit fritters, my inspiration for today's fried treat.

I wanted savory fritters just like these breadfruit fritters, i.e. not an item dipped in batter but, like potato latkes, or falafel: everything mixed together and fried.

I had leftover textured soy protein (TSP) from a trashy and delicious Tater Tots Casserole (thanks Shauna!), and it's what I used. TSP is a little disturbing at first, because it really looks and feels like ground meat, a little chewy. It takes exactly the taste that you give it. You DO have to give it a taste, with spices, tamari, onions, etc., orelse you end up with little sponges... I usually use it in vegan Bolognese or in hachis Parmentier. It a fun texture to play with.


I made my Mardi Gras fritters with TSP, onions, mushrooms and spices. It was both festive and tasty.

But before we proceed, here's a haïku, just for you.

winter is ending
Mardi Gras left us sated,
nice layer of lard

(I can't wait for Lent)


TSP mix:
1 cup dry TSP *
7/8 cup water (or, if you buy packaged TSP, as much as the label says)
1 onion, sliced
2 tbsp wheat-free tamari **
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/4 cup chopped spring onions (optional)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp caraway seeds (otional)
a pinch of Cayenne pepper

fritter mix
1 1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour
1 tsp arrow root or potato starch

+canola oil for frying

In a big bowl, mix 7/8 cups of water with 1 cup of TSP. Cover.

Slice onion and sauté with oil in a pan. If it sticks to the bottom, add 1 tsp tamari, or more. When the onion is translucent, add rehydrated TSP and the rest of the tamari. Mix. Cook for 5 minutes. Add mushrooms, spring onion, ginger, garlic, spices and sauté until cooked (minimum 15 minutes).

Cooked and sautéed TSP + friends

I ended up with about 2 cups of that mix.

Make the fritter mix: garbanzo flour + arrow root.
Mix flours and TSP and form a wet ball.

The raw stuff. I felt like Jeanne Dielman.

Make patties and throw in medium hot oil. When it's brown, it's done.

Cooked fritter and raw patty

* Suggestion: If you can't find TSP, use lentils instead.
** It doesn't have to be wheat-free, of course, but that way, you can make the whole recipe gluten-free.
suggestion: here, on a fresh spinach salad,
with a lemon-olive oil dressing sprinkled with homemade "bakin' bits".

Bon appétit! Bon Mardi-Gras!

Jeanne Dielman, making vegan Mardi-Gras fritters.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Heart-Shaped Power Bars

Look, I'm not really a Valentine's Day fanatic. I usually make sushi and have people over, coupled or non-coupled. I know it's a commercial institution more than a celebration of true love (normative love at that).
However, I chose to put Valentine's day in my food almanac (even though I believe every day should celebrate love!) I am also a bit of a cheeseball. So it's a good day to post a recipe for heart-shaped power bars.*

Just a little reminder: all those V. Day chocolates and flowers that you are supposed to buy are often grown and prepared in totally unethical conditions, and that's the very opposite of love. (Read here for chocolate, and here for flowers)

My treats were made with love, by me, and not by a child slave. The ingredients, healthy, human- and planet-friendly, were purchased at a store that guarantees the ethics of its origins. What does this mean? I get hella karma points!

Almond-Medjool Dates Power Bars
I used this recipe before, to make a raw pie crust. I simply changed the presentation and made a bunch of little hearts using a heart-shaped cookie cutter.

1 cup organic medjool dates (pitted)
1 cup raw almonds
1/2 tsp salt

Blend all ingredients together in food processor to form a paste (warning: it takes a while, and can be hard on your FP). Flatten paste on a flat cookie tray. Store in the fridge for 1/2 hour.
Cut with a cookie-cutter. Voilà!

Offer around and empower your loved ones!

*I am perfectly aware that power bars cannot, by definition, be heart-shaped. If you have a problem with this, just cut the paste into bars, what can I say?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Crêpes for la Chandeleur

Today is la Chandeleur, aka Crêpe Day in the French Cooking Almanac.

"A la Chandeleur, l'hiver prend fin ou prend vigueur" (At Chandeleur, winter ends or gets stonger). Chandeleur (from "chandelle", i.e. candle) marks the return of light, the lengthening of days: winter will be over soon. (In English, it is know as Candlemas, although I met no one here who had heard of Candlemas. Here's some Christian Wiki-info for you, and some pagan info. This page has proverbs).

To help you be patient and bear the cold, the best thing to do is to enjoy what winter is good for: greasy and heavy foods.
Traditionally, in France, families and friends gather together to make crêpes.

Crêpes used to be the poor person's fare: a simple mixture of flour and water. Nowadays, many recipes include animal by-products, but that is unnecessary. If you hear people say that real crepes have to contain eggs, milk and butter, it's simply not true: that's just the way they learned. "Real crepes" just have to be round and flat...

There are two types of crêpes: savory or sweet. Savory crêpes are made of buckwheat (a gluten-free flour), and sweet crêpes are made of wheat.

To stay true to the origins of crêpes, I made a very basic and recession-friendly recipe.

batter in a jar

ingredients for one crêpe
¼ cup flour (buckwheat or wheat)
¼ cup liquid (water, almond, rice or soy milk, or half water-half milk)
¼ tsp potato starch
¼ tsp sugar (for the sweet crêpes)
1 pinch salt
+½ tbsp oil for cooking

what you need
1 non-stick or well-seasoned cast iron pan
1 jar with a lid (or food processor)
1 paper towel
1 bowl for the oil
1 wooden spatula

Put all the ingredients (except the oil) in the jar. Close the lid and shake well until you have a smooth batter. (You can also do this the lazy way: in the food processor)
I don't even let it sit (but you might want to do it if you can).

Shake it, shake it!

Pour some oil in a small bowl. Heat up the pan. Dip a paper napkin in the oil and apply at the bottom of the pan. Once it's hot (after 20 s.) pour batter in pan, rotating the pan to make sure that the batter covers the whole surface. Like this:

It goes "Pshhh!"... Beautiful...

If you encounter difficulties, just use the spatula to spread the batter evenly.
Cook for about one minute, until the batter is compact, no longer liquid.

This one needs a few more seconds.

With a wooden spatula, delicately unstick the borders of the crêpes. Shake the pan horizontally: the crêpe should be loose.
Flip the crêpe, either with the spatula or by throwing it in the air, the way we like to do it in France.
Hold the handle in one hand and a coin in the other hand.
Make a wish. Flip.

If the crêpe falls back in the pan,
your wish will be granted. And you will be prosperous.

Great flipping job: prosperity is in the cards for 09!


Put your crêpe on a plate and top with any filling you want on it. Savory filling for the buckwheat crêpes, sweet filling for the wheat crêpes.

Don't overfill them: it's not a burrito!

Fold. Eat.


Ideas for fillings
The basic filling is butter and sugar: make it Earth Balance and agave sirup. It's delicious... if your veggie butter is salty: even better! In Bretagne, the land of crêpes, people typically eat salted butter.
"Nutshella" (That's what I call my vegan version of Nutella)
Nutshella and banana (a classic...)
Butter and jam
Any type of sweet spread (I made almond-fig paste)
Butter and apple sauce
Cooked apples and raisins

Veggie Butter
Sauteed or creamy spinach
Sauteed or creamy mushrooms
Butter and caramelized onions (OMG...)
Leek (I made creamy cumin leek, which was delicious)
Basically: anything you feel like or have in the fridge. Just make sure it doesn't come in big chunks: you need to ne able to fold and close your crêpe. Crêpes are NOT burritos!

Invite friends, have them flip crêpes. Light candles. Enjoy the smell of fried foods on your clothes and in your hair all night.

It's also great for breakfast, and for a dinner on a tight budget.

NB: for all of you gluten-intolerant folks, the good news is that buckwheat crepes ARE gluten-free (read about buckwheat here). I don't know if crêpe restaurants mix flours, though, so I would ask. You can also use buckwheat to make your own pancakes, quickbreads... The taste is different than white flour, but what's wrong about that?