Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Rawsage & Cheezy Rice

Sorry if you’re getting sick of the raw kick, but I’m trying to get the biggest bang for my bucks spent on a ginormous food dehydrator AND I'm having fun! I have made several recipes (and actually somewhat followed them) from 2 different raw cookbooks that are good for starters, but now I’m ready for more improvisation. When I read an omnivore recipe, I know almost instantly how to make a vegan analog. Raw analogs are next but for me they require much more innovation. This kind of challenge is clearly my cup of tea.

So how did I come to even think of making raw cheesy rice? Last week I made an eggplant biryani with raw “rice” based on a recipe from a local vegan chef in Phoenix. First of all, I didn’t know you could eat eggplant raw - I actually thought it might be lethal. Secondly, I had a lurking fear of eating raw cruciferous vegetables (i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts) because of the foreboding side effects caused by our stomachs trying to breakdown all of that fiber. Who knew that cauliflower was the super-secret stand-in for raw rice? Now you know. Not only is it incredibly delicious, but breaking it in a food processor helps with digestion. Combining it with soaked almonds or cashews gives it a certain silkiness you find in cooked rice.

Now for the secret to cheesiness. On my last trip to Sedona, I purchased some raw kale chips from Frontier Market made by a local raw food shop. They tasted like Cheez-its and had the same addictive quality. So of course I memorized the ingredient list and told myself that someday I’d buy a food dehydrator to reinvent these chips. I’m a little impressed with myself that months later I actually did. Though I remembered the ingredients, I also perused through recipes online to come up with my own version. If you don’t have cashew butter, just use ground cashews. The texture will be a little more granular, but still yum. I could scoop this onto raw bread or eat it plain it’s so good. Mixed into rice is like a good ole casserole.

And lastly…raw sausage? Gross! Well of course its vegan and involves no “casing” (what a fancy term for stomach lining…next time I have heartburn I’m going to refer to my enflamed “casing”). Walnuts and pecans are common ingredients for raw meat analogs and of course walnuts have the Omega 3 edge going for them which his why they star in this recipe. When ground us, their meaty texture can be seasoned any way you want. Have cumin or chili powder? You can make raw taco meat. So I basically thought of a typical stuffing recipe and used the spice combination I use when making cooked vegan sausages. This method was WAY less labor intensive than and tasted SO good (eating a cup of nuts is high in fat though which is why it’s so tasty). You can even top this all off with some raw mushroom gravy if you’re feeling adventurous.

Rawsage & Cheezy Rice
Makes: 4 servings
Prep time: 10 minutes
Dehydrating time: 1 hour


For the Rawsage
1 c. walnuts
8-10 sundried tomatoes, soaked if not soft already
½ c. onion, chopped
½ c. celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
3 T. applesauce
2 tsp. sage, dried
1 tsp. fennel seed
1 tsp. poultry seasoning (optional)
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. paprika
½ tsp. white pepper

For the Cheezy Rice
2 T. cashew butter
2 T. tahini
2 T. Lemon juice
1 T. Nama shoyu or tamari
¼ c. nutritional yeast
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
Pinch of cayenne pepper
½ c. water (or more)

3 c. cauliflower, chopped (or about 1 ½ heads)
¾ c. almonds, soaked 2 hours and skins peeled
Salt and pepper to taste


For the rawsage: Combine all of the rawsage ingredients in a food processor and pulse until mixture is crumbly but can hold together in larger chunks. Add 1-2 T of water or additional applesauce if too dry (do not process into pate). Transfer to lined tray in food dehydrator or oven and heat at 110ºF for 1 hour or more until rawsage is warm and slightly dried. Prepare the rice while mixture dehydrates.

For the rice: In a small bowl, combine the first three ingredients and whisk vigorously with a fork until mixture becomes very creamy, about 2 minutes (the lemon juice will separate the cashew butter and tahini - as you whisk they will emulsify and become creamy). Add the nama shoyu, nutritional yeast and spices and mix so all are blended into a thick sauce. Thin using ¼ cup of water at a time until desired consistency is reached. Taste cheese sauce, add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

In a food processor, pulse cauliflower and soaked almonds together until it reaches a rice texture, small and crumbly. Transfer to a medium bowl and stir in cheese sauce. Let sit at room temperature until rawsage is warm. Serve rawsage over rice and enjoy!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Raw Noodles with Misoshrooms, Rawcotta and Marinara

Detox 2: it’s time again for a hard reset. I dabbled with a detox last fall to try and cleanse my body and restart my energy. I followed the rules but ultimately felt like I was in a world of restriction. Don’t eat this, don’t eat that. This left me with very basic options. Of all people, I rave about the benefits of simple foods and think we unnecessarily try to mask the real flavor of food more often than not. However, my previous attempt at a detox felt too simple… um ok boring. Though I felt the need to reboot, I really didn’t want to be eating dreary dishes that only involve some chopping and a sprinkle of lemon juice. So I have turned to raw cuisine to rejuvenate my excitement around new foods and unfamiliar cooking techniques. A true venture.

Why detox? There are two very central elements to the person I have become: food and exercise. These are not the only components of my identity of course but they are huge and the core contributors to my health and when they fall off track, I’m in the shizzle. A combination of factors - starting a new job, traveling every weekend, living a busy life – impacted my sense of “comfort.” I turned to food to fulfill that sense of mental or spiritual satiety that was lost somewhere along the road. Not just any kind of food: snack food, candy, bread, wine, etc… (This is not an original story nor is this misdirected path uncommon.) My mind was telling my belly I had enough “room” to gorge on sweets, so my need for some sort of balance is what pulled my exercise out of whack. Exercise became a matter of offsetting indulgence rather than a boosting energy. I ran to run off the chocolate, I hiked to burn off a bread binge. Not a good cycle. So finally, after thinking about a detox, rather dreading it, it was time to reboot.

Rod Rotondi 's Raw Food for Real People is sort of an intro to raw cuisine. It gives the basics on sprouting, making raw cheeses and dehydrating. I’ll admit: this is a time consuming activity if you take soaking and dehydrating into consideration. But actual food prep is pretty quick. I have read a lot about raw foods, but this is the first that I have actually sucked it up, gone out and bought the basic necessities and plunged onward down the raw, raw road. No, I’m not “going raw” – but this is so much fun! I made almond cheese and stuffed cabbage leaves for lunch yesterday, yum! I’ve felt so energized after a few raw meals, now I don’t want to look at a piece of bread or peanut-butter filled pretzel (so I’m telling myself).

Here I combined and altered a few of Rod’s recipes – I couldn't strictly follow them of course. This is a very basic starter recipe that takes well to improvisation. Word of caution: if you don't plan ahead and soak the nuts, you're doomed! Just kidding, just boil some water and pour it over the nuts and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Of course the nuts will not be raw then because they are exposed to temperatures over 100 F, but the raw roodies don't know what happens in your kitchen. I have to admit though, once you start soaking nuts, there is no turning back. You’ll be wanting rawcotta for breakfast.

Raw Noodles with Misoshrooms, Rawcotta and Marinara
Makes: 2-3 servings
Prep time: 30 minutes


For the noodles
2 medium summer squash, yellow and/or green
1 butternut squash (optional)
Lemon juice

For the Misoshrooms
1 ½ cup brown mushrooms, chopped
1 ½ T. red or dark miso
1 ½ T. lemon juice
1 garlic clove
¼ - ½ c. pine nuts (soaked 2 hours and drained)

For the Rawcotta
½ lemon, peeled and quartered
1-2 garlic cloves
1 T. chopped fresh basil (optional)
1 T. olive oil
¼ c. cashews (soaked 2 hours and drained)
¼ c. pine nuts (soaked 2 hours and drained)
¼ c. water, more or less
½ tsp salt

For the Marinara
¼ c. onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic
3 T. chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp mixed dried herbs (thyme, basil, oregano)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
¼ c. water, more or less
½ c. sundried tomatoes (soaked for 1 hour if not soft)
½ tsp salt


For the noodles: Cut the ends off and peel summer squash with a potato peeler or vegetable slicer. Place in a strainer and set aside. Cut the top end off the butternut squash and cut the squash at the base of the neck so that the straight part is separate from the bottom. Reserve the bottom for another use. Peel the squash and slice the neck with potato peeler or vegetable slicer in to thin strips. Place in strainer with summer squash. Sprinkle squash with salt and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Let sit while you prepare the toppings.

For the misoshrooms: Combine all ingredients in food processor and pulse until the mixture is very well chopped and in very small pieces. Transfer to small bowl and stir to make sure completely blended. Store the shrooms in refrigerator while you prepare the other goodies.

For the rawcotta: Combine the first 4 ingredients in food processor and process until well chopped into tiny pieces. Add cashews, pine nuts and 2 tablespoons of water. Process until mixture is almost creamy, adding water as necessary to reach a slightly chunky texture. Stir in salt and refrigerate while you prepare the sauce.

For the marinara: Combine first 4 ingredients in food processor and process until well chopped into tiny pieces. Add fresh tomatoes with 2 tablespoons of water and puree until mixture is smooth. Add sun dried tomatoes and pulse until desired chunkiness is reached or puree until smooth if that’s your thing. Add water as necessary and season with salt to taste.

To assemble: Squeeze moisture and juices out of noodles or pat them dry. Pile on 2 or 3 plates. Top noodles with a layer of shrooms, a scoop of sauce and a dollops of rawcotta. Garnish with fresh herbs for a real kick.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chunky Vegan Chili with Oven-Baked Fries

For about a week the blazing Arizona sun succumbed to a change in air pressure and brought a sense of relief just when I thought fall might abandon us this year. Translation: it chilled the hell down for a few days. Overwhelming illusions that it was time to break out the stockpot and possibly a cashmere sweater were brought into check eventually, but I did seize the small window to squeeze in a cool-weather dish. A comfort food craving came on with an itch for spice, so chili was the obvious choice.

I don’t have extensive chili experience, but it’s one of those dishes that give a certain flare to the reputations of real cooks. Do you recall ever hearing of someone who made a “decent” chili? Do you have a favorite cafe that makes a “pretty good” chili? Of course not. Mediocre chili does not invoke or enliven the soul in a blissful tango with taste. Those who make incredible chili leave a mark. That delectable memory gets to camp out in a special place reserved for things like Mom’s Chicken Noodle Soup and Grandma’s Swedish Kringle. Chili hits a spot that is best reached after raking leaves or building snowmen - a spot which is not as easily accessible in my current environment as it was when I was little. Therefore I have to seize every semblance of opportunity I get. Which means, when it drops below 90, I can pull out the crock pot.

Now that I’ve built up chili so much - it might be a let-down to learn that this is not the recipe that will make me an infamous vegan chef. It’s not my best, worst, or last attempt. But it was very exciting prancing around the kitchen throwing in spices Emeril-style...BAM! In fact, I based this off of one of his recipes and it turned out quite well. I think I need more onion next time, because soups never seem to have enough. Regardless of it’s small imperfections or opportunities for enhancement, the enthusiasm was doubled by the batch of french fries so perfectly prepared by my loving omnivore. Chili and fries! I can’t seem to pair the two together without an exclamation point!

Chunky Vegan Chili
Makes 4-6 servings
Total cook time: 40 minutes


2 T. Olive or Canola oil
1 1/2 c. Onion, chopped
2 T. Garlic, minced
1 Anaheim chili, chopped
1 Summer squash, chopped
1 c. Yellow corn (1-2 ears)
1 c. Brown or portobello mushrooms, chopped
1 c. Garbanzo beans, cooked or canned
4 Tomatoes, chopped
1 Chipotle chili in adobo sauce
2 T. Chili powder
1 T. Cumin, ground
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Cayenne or piquin pepper
1 tsp. Oregano, dried
1 can Tomato sauce
1 c. Vegetable broth
Pinch of sugar

6 oz Tempeh, chopped or sliced
Taco seasoning: 1 tsp each - chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder


Shredded vegan cheese
Chopped red onion
Chopped avocado


In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions. Cook until the onions are soft and transparent, about 10-12 minutes. Add garlic and Anaheim pepper. Cook another minute and add squash, mushrooms and corn. Cook vegetables 4-5 minutes and add beans, tomatoes and spices. Stir well to coat veggies in seasoning and pour in tomato sauce. Bring chili to a boil. Add vegetable broth and reduce heat. Simmer chili on low for 20-25 minutes while you prepare the tempeh.

In a small sauce pan, bring 1 c. water and seasoning to a medium boil. Add tempeh and reduce heat to medium. Steam tempeh in seasoned water until tender, about 7-8 minutes. Pour entire contents of pan into food processor and pulse 5 times, scrape tempeh down and pulse another 5 times. Heat a skillet over medium high heat, coat with cooking spray and add ground tempeh. Cook until browned, another 10 minutes.

Returning to chili, turn heat off but leave pot on the stove. Add pinch of sugar and tempeh. Let sit on warm stove another 10 minutes to let the flavors blend and cool. Serve with assorted toppings and side of fries.

Perfect Oven-Baked Fries
Makes 4-6 servings
Cook time: 30-40 minutes


2 medium russet potatoes
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut potatoes into wedges about 4” long and 1/4” thick. Coat with olive oil and generous pinch of salt and pepper. Spread on a non-stick baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. Turn fries and bake another 10-15 minutes. Remove fries when dark golden brown and crispy.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Dominican Beans over Brazilian Greens

I am recovering from a long and persistent canned food addiction. This is not news, I've admitted it before. But admitting the problem it has been a productive emergence from BPA denial. Now it’s no big deal to set up a bowl of soaking beans overnight and cook them in the morning while I get ready for the day. The taste and texture of home-cooked dried beans is beyond superior to their canned counterparts and I wouldn’t dare insult them now by calling them inconvenient. Can or no can though, they are still the magical fruit and there is no gettig around that.

While I have mastered the chickpea, mung bean and lentil, I am working on others to expand my repertoire. While not much skill is involved, sometimes I am insecure about the texture and “doneness” of my boiling beanies. Some are still kind of hard because I’ve become a nervous nancy about the cook time. Other have been mush because of my experience with the previous outcome. Black beans are pretty easy now, though I tend to undercook them slightly for some reason. Having expanded into my “Mexican/Latina fare” beans, I was finally inspired to try pinto beans.

Pintos were very easy to cook and I came out with a great batch on my first try. Once you cook the beans though, you have to figure out what to do with them. And for some reason, a typical quesadilla wasn’t going to cut it this time. Pintos are great with a little bit of vegan cheese or refried, but I really wanted to try something different. I went searching for a recipe and found a very intriguing one on Epicurious.com for Dominican Beans. It served as a great foundation, but I obviously changed it to suit my needs for timeliness and available resources. What I came up with was spectacular. I’ve never had a pinto like this and I don’t know if I’ll be satisfied by another pinto again.

The greens here were a great accompaniment but are only Brazilian because in my recipe meandering I discovered that this is apparently how collards are commonly prepared in Brazil. I would have made them this way anyway (with plenty of garlic) had I not found this out. Greens and garlic...duh. 

Dominican Beans over Brazilian Greens
Makes 2 servings
Prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


For the Beans
1 c. Pinto beans, cooked or canned if you must
1 c. Bean liquid (from can or from cooking water)
1/2 c. Onion, chopped
2-3 Garlic cloves, chopped
2 T. Organic ketchup
1 T. Distilled white vinegar
1/2 c. Anaheim pepper, chopped (or other green pepper)
1/2 c. Chopped tomato
1 Bay leaf, ground or whole
1/2 tsp. Oregano, ground or crumbled
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
8-10 Cilantro stalks

For the Greens
4-6 Large collard leaves
2 tsp. Olive oil
2 Garlic cloves, chopped
Salt to taste


For the beans: In a medium bowl, lightly mash the beans so that about half are mashed and half remain whole. Reserve liquid on the side. Heat a sauce pan over medium heat and coat with cooking spray. Cook onions and garlic, stirring constantly to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn, until onions are soft, about 6-7 minutes.While the onions are cooking, grind the herbs, salt and pepper together or mash in a mortar and pestle until well blended and set aside. Stir ketchup, vinegar, pepper and tomato into sauce pan. Cook until liquid is reduced slighty and increase heat to medium high. Stir in herb mixture, beans and liquid. Bring to a medium boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Tie cilantro stalks together or just group them together by the stem and lay on top of bean mixture, pressing into pan but with the stems still sticking out. Cover pan leaving a small edge uncovered and simmer until liquid has mostly evaporated and mixture has thickened, about 10-15 minutes. Turn heat off and let beans sit another 5-10 minutes on the burner. Remove cilantro and discard.

For the greens: To cut the collards into ribbons, destem each leaf, cut in quarters and lay each piece on top of each other in a neat pile. Roll the leaves from one end to another in a cigar shape and slice thinly from one end to another. Set aside. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and add garlic being VERY careful not to burn. Cook until garlic becomes fragrant, about 1 minute, and add collards. Toss in garlic oil and season with a touch of salt to taste. Cook until collards are just tender, about 3-4 minutes.

Serve beans over a nice little pile of greens and season with salt and pepper to taste.