Monday, June 27, 2011

Curried Plantains with Ginger Chard & Mango Relish

Plantains. A love affair.

Plantains are the kind of vegetable I daydream about cooking but always neglect at the market unless sold as a bag of chips. All at once they resonate ocean waves of the Caribbean (where I've never actually been), ice clinking in a nice cold mojito, and shoulder-shimmy cha cha drum beats at the local Salsa club. They are exotic and comforting, sweet and tangy, soft and delicious. So many lovely things wrapped up in one peel! 

Finally, the humble plantain caught my eye this weekend at the grocery store in it's perfectly ripe state. As I prepared for a week of veggie delights, I had no plans or recipes for the impromptu purchase but instead waitied for the inspiration. And it came with no work at all. I have a weakness for the aforementioned plantain chips, which are delicious but terribly addicting and therefore not so waist-friendly. Plantains are typically fried and served plain, but I had better intentions. Lower fat and more flavor.

This sweet, succulent and spicy dish came from blending Caribbean and Indian flavors, two different cuisines that are closer in flavor than they appear. Mango is common in both which made me think of a very underused jar in the back of my fridge...pickled mango was an impulse buy from a local Indian grocer. I had no idea how spicy it was at the time (runny nose spicy), but it was perfect in the relish and complimented the sweet flavors of the dish. The crunchy relish went perfectly with the soft texture and the garlicky ginger greens served as a scrumptious undertone to the symphony in my mouth. Well maybe less like a symphony and more like the Mamba. Cue in that cha cha drum beat.

Curried Plantains with Ginger Chard
Makes 2 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes


For the Plantains
2 ripe plantains, peeled and diagonally sliced
2 tsp curry powder
Cooking spray
Black pepper

For the Ginger Chard
1/2 T. fresh ginger root, minced
1/2 tsp. jalapeno, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 cups Swiss chard, chopped
Salt to taste

For the Relish
1/4 c. red bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 c. grape tomatoes, quartered
2 medium radishes, finely diced
1 green onion, finely sliced
1 tsp. pickled mango or mango chutney
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. agave nectar
Cayenne pepper (optional)


For the plantains: Preheat oven to 450F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the plantain sliced in a medium bowl and also coat with cooking spray. Toss plantains with curry powder and another quick spritz of cooking spray (alternatively you could use a half tablespoon of canola oil, but I like the spray's coverage better). Sprinkle plantain slices with black pepper. Transfer slices to baking sheet, making sure the slices are evenly spaced and laying flat without overlapping. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until slices become dark golden brown and crispy around the edges.

While the plantains are roasting...make the chard!

For the chard: Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and generously coat with cooking spray. When pan is hot, add ginger, jalapeno and garlic. Lower heat to medium and cook until ginger becomes fragrant, 30-40 seconds. Add chard and a splash of water (2 tablespoons), stir to coat in ginger mix. Add a pinch of salt and stir frequently until chard is wilted and tender, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.

When the chard and plantains are done...whip together the relish!

For the relish: Mix all relish ingredients together. If you do not have pickled mango, use mango chutney plus 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or super spicy hot sauce. If using mango chutney, be careful with the agave, as you may not need it. If using pickled mango, beware! Taste before adding more.

To assemble: Divide the chard between two plates and top with plantains. Scoop a few tablespoons of relish or more over the plantains and serve with a side of Caribbean Cauliflower rice (below).

Caribbean Cauliflower Rice
Makes 2 servings
Prep time: 5-7 minutes


2 cups cauliflower flowerets
1 T. coconut, dried and unsweetened
1 T. dried currants
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper to taste


In a food processor fitted with an "S" blade, pulse the raw cauliflower until crumbled. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and mix with currants and spices.

Heat a medium skillet (preferably the one you cooked the chard in and didn't clean yet) over medium high heat and toast the coconut until fragrant, about 30-45 seconds. Add cauliflower mixture and 1-2 tablespoons of water. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir well to heat through and remove from heat. Serve alongside plantains and chard.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

KB's Bangin’ Veggie Burgers

I have a confession. *Deep breath*

In the 3 years of being vegan, I have never made a homemade veggie burger. *Gasp*

It feels so good to get that off my chest. *Sigh*

There are so many veggie burger recipes out there, I’ve been indecisive and lacked motivation to sift through which ones sound spectacular and which ones appear average. Most of them looked plain and average to me. If I’m going to try to replicate the meat dish of all meat dishes, I don’t want it to be so-so. Avoiding the challenge was a way to avoid the risk of failure. Of ruining the notion of “burger” all together.

Well I finally risked it. And man, these were not so-so. These were BANGIN! I went through a few recipes and liked the technique of chilling the patties before cooking them. When it comes down to the ingredients, this was another fridge cleaning masterpiece. The last few sundried tomatoes, only 5 mushrooms in the drawer, some limp celery, and spare artichokes in the freezer to add to the filling. Not even an onion to my name. These were spectacular! The texture was perfect. Literally – the oats and flax give these bad boys a stick-to-your-ribs feel without feeling grainy. And they were sturdy enough not to bread apart in the pan.

I highly recommend serving these on English muffins. We happen to be lucky enough to live across the street from the best homemade English muffins in the Southwest that are so large, one side suffices per burger. As for the toppings, be creative. I loved the sprinkle of dill over a thin spread of Veganaise. My token omnivore put a little mozz and catsup on top. After one bite came the reassuring “mmmmmm.” After finishing the second burger, this was declared to be one of the very best meals to come out of my kitchen. This burger is here to stay.

KB's Bangin’ Veggie Burgers
Makes: 4 patties
Cook time: 30 minutes
Total Prep Time: 1 hour


½ c. dry red lentils, rinsed
½ T. canola oil
½ c. celery, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ c. mushrooms, diced
4-6 sundried tomatoes, minced
½ c. artichoke hearts, chopped (thawed from frozen or canned)
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
½ c. rolled oats
2 T. ground flax seed

4 English muffins
Arugula or spinach
Sliced tomatoes
Chopped kalamata olives
Fresh dill


Bring the lentils and 4 cups of water to a boil. Lower heat to medium and simmer until lentils are tender and falling apart, 15-20 minutes. Drain lentils and set aside. If you are using sundried tomatoes that were not packed in oil, rehydrate them by throwing them in the pot with lentils for 5-10 minutes. Pick them out with tongs when soft.

While lentils are cooking, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add celery and cook until it starts to become translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and stir until it becomes fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and additional broth or water if pan becomes too dry. Cook until all veggies are tender, 6-8 minutes. Remove and transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.

In the large mixing bowl, add 1 cup of lentils (you may end up with extra). Smoosh everything with a potato ricer at first to break lentils apart, then use your hands to knead everything together. The mixture will be really moist as you mush the lentils, and you can stir in additional lentils if you’d like. Add oats and flax and continue to mix until everything start to stick together. If the mixture is still too wet, add more flax and oats by the tablespoon. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Form the mixture into 4 medium patties (or meatless balls, or quarter pounders, whatever you feel) and refrigerate for 30 minutes. When the patties are nice and stiff they are ready to cook.

Preheat (toaster) oven to 450°F. While the oven is warming up, heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a non-stick or cast iron skillet over high heat. Lower heat slightly when oil is hot and add patties. Cook 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown. Transfer patties to oven to continue cooking until the middles are hot, about 5 minutes. You can also add the English muffins in the oven to toast along with the burger, or throw them in the toaster at this point.

To assemble: Spread some Veganaise over one side of the English muffin and sprinkle with dill. Follow with a layer of spinach or arugula. Place burger on top and follow with sliced tomatoes and olives. If you are using giant English muffins, feel free to use one side per burger. If you are using smaller ones, put the Veganaise on one side and the burger/toppings on the others.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sweet n’ Sassy Salad with Pickled Ginger and Pepitas

Every time I see a salad recipe, I think - really? Directions to make a salad? How hard can it be to throw ingredients in a bowl and top with a basic oil/vinegar dressing? Then I remember how salads have slowly become so second nature to me ever since I started this vegan venture. Not just lettuce or green salads, but bean and grain combos, shredded veggie slaws and the like. I never think to write up a recipe for them because they are truly a no brainer. Perusing through recipes on my own, I never stop to read the salad recipes. It isn’t until I make a crazy awesome, crunchy, yummy salad that I am possessed to make it possible for others to replicate the deliciousness.

This turned out to be one of those brilliant yet simple salads. Looking for a post-work snack yesterday, I was trying to avoid resigning myself bread, crackers or chips. But I didn’t want to work too hard for my snack. This came together so easily! Grape tomatoes are veggie manifestations of convenience, and sugar snap peas are effortlessly flavorful. Seeing as though I cannot make salads with fewer that 5 ingredients, something else had to be added.

Pickled ginger is typically used for one thing and one thing only: sushi. But it’s too delicious to be confined to this limitation. I tossed some in hoping it would mesh well with an Asian dressing and it worked! The pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds) gave it a rounded crunch in contrast to the severe crunch of the snap peas. So where do dulse flakes come in? Well Whole Foods had this sale once where you can buy one get one…yeah a lot of products in my kitchen start that way. Anyway, if you have some other kind of dried seaweed, the mild sea flavor gives the salad a lovely finish.

Just a note: I didn't actually make a dressing for this. I simply drizzled a little bit of rice vinegar on top, but if you are a fan of dressing, the one below should work nicely.

Sweet n’ Sassy Salad with Pickled Ginger and Pepitas
Makes: 3-4 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes


4 c. romaine lettuce, rinsed and chopped
1 c. grape tomatoes, whole or halved
1 c. sugar snap peas, chopped
¼ c. green onions, chopped
¼ c. pickled ginger, chopped
¼ c. pepitas (preferably unsalted)
2-3 T. dulse flakes

3 T. rice vinegar
½ T. soy sauce, low sodium or regular
½ T. agave nectar or maple syrup
¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1/8 tsp. sesame or canola oil (optional)


In a large bowl, combine first 4 ingredients and toss well. Top the salad off with pickled ginger and pepitas. Reserve dulse flakes for noe.

Prepare dressing by combining all ingredients in a small bowl and stirring to blend well. Adjust flavors to taste - if you like a milder dressing, add more canola oil and skip the sesame oil. If you like tart dressing, skip the agave and lower the soy sauce. Drizzle your preferred dressing over salad and top with dulse flakes.

Optional: You can pump this up by making a faux sea creature salad by mashing up some chickpeas, mixing with veganaise, green onions, pimentos and seaweed flakes (dulse or kelp). If you’re an omnivore, feel free to top with some kind of sustainably captured sashimi. Not advocating…just sayin.