April 28, 2009

Tofu "Meat" Balls

Some things I really miss from my old carnivore days are meatballs and sausage. I don't think it is so much the meat part that I miss, but the herbs and spices that went into them. There are more and more meat-free alternatives available in the grocery these days, but unfortunately most have wheat gluten in them. Therefore, I am constantly searching for the perfect vegetarian blend that holds up well under cooking/grilling and tastes great. Sausages made from black beans appeared in the Evolving Palate not long ago.

Those are pretty tasty, but here is another take; this time using tofu as the protein base instead of beans. These are gluten-free and they are baked, not fried, so they are low-fat. They originally called for barbecue sauce, but we never keep the stuff on hand, and I didn't want to buy some just for 3 tablespoons. The four ingredients starting with the soy sauce is my barbecue sauce substitute.

I find the mustard taste a tad too strong, so I have adjusted this recipe to decrease the mustard a bit. It could also use more herbs and pepper, but overall the texture is about right and the flavors are good, with some improvement possibilities. I don't think these meatballs are strong enough to hold up to being in a soup. I have some ideas of how to strengthen these guys up, but until then, here is a good start.

Tofu "Meat" Balls


1 pkg firm tofu, drained
1½ c gluten-free bread crumbs
½ c brown rice flour
1 t potato flour
1 T oat bran
1 t dried parsley
½ t dried basil
½ t chives
½ c green onions, chopped
½ t salt
pepper to taste
1 T soy sauce
2 T ketchup
½ t chili oil
1 t worcestershire sauce
1 T yellow mustard
2 T oil
2 garlic cloves, minced


1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Crumble up the tofu and combine all ingredients into a large bowl.

3. Use your hands and blend all the ingredients well.

4. Using your hands, roll the mixture into golf-ball sized balls. Place them on a cookie sheet, and bake for 15 minutes. Turn them over and cook another 15 minutes, or until golden on the outside.

April 27, 2009

Soya Wadi

Today's exotic ingredient is Soya Wadi. Wadi are chunks of TVP, or textured vegetable protein. Honestly, they look like dog food in their dried state, but when cooked they look like, uh, wet dog food. But don't let their appearance fool you; they absorb whatever flavor the cooking broth offers, and they take on a texture reminiscent of meatballs or chunks of meat. This makes them perfect for stews and stir fries.

Wadi is popular in Northern Indian cuisine, which explains why I have only found these in Indian markets. But as always, Amazon comes through, and you can order some here: Textured Vegetable Protein Chunks, 1 lb.

They may be strange and hard to find, but they are yet another good source of protein for vegetarians, and they can be a remarkable meat substitute when refactoring old recipes to meatless versions.

I find cooking them at high pressure for 8-10 minutes in a pressure cooker with a flavored broth to be the best way to cook them. Otherwise, you will have to simmer them in a pot for 15 minutes or so. I believe they can also be thrown into a crock pot, but I have no experience with cooking them that way.

Despite wadi's Indian character, I use them in all sorts of cooking. Today, I will present them in a Thai dish. I generally like Thai food, but many dishes contain meat and/or fish sauce. Therefore, I have to make many substitutions to get them "Evolved". Soya wadi makes a good substitute for pork, which was the original centerpiece of this dish.

Coconut Curried Wadi and Mango

To prepare the soya wadi, boil or pressure cook 1 cup of soya wadi in a cup of beef or chicken broth for 10 minutes.


1 c prepared soya wadi
1 T oil
1 t curry powder
1 c snow peas
1 t red curry paste
1/3 c coconut milk
1 mango, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
2 T shredded coconut


1. Put the wadi into a bowl and sprinkle the curry over it and blend well.

2. In another bowl, mix the coconut milk and red curry paste.

3. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the wadi and snow peas and stir fry for 3 minutes.

4. Add the coconut milk mixture to the pan and simmer. Stir in mango and cook for another minute.

5. Serve over hot rice, and sprinkle with the shredded coconut.

April 24, 2009


Our exotic ingredient for the day is buckwheat. Most people recognize Buckwheat as the name of that little boy (played by Billie Thomas) from the 1930's show Our Gang.

The buckwheat I want to talk about is another overlooked grain in the SAD. Buckwheat is quite common in Russian, Chinese, and Japanese cuisine.

Despite its name, buckwheat is not a wheat at all, nor is it a cereal or grass. It is a fruit seed related to rhubarb. The seeds can be cooked and eaten like a hot cereal, or used in pilaf type dishes. The seeds are also ground into a flour (gluten-free), which can be used in breads or noodles (like the Japanese soba).

Buckwheat is generally available in well-stocked groceries and markets. If you can't find it, there's always dependable Amazon: BUCKWHEAT GROATS, 12 oz bag

Buckwheat has a distinctive, earthy flavor that may not appeal to everyone. It pairs wonderfully with mushrooms. Therefore, this dish I present is a mushroom and buckwheat pilaf, a simple yet tasty side dish.

Buckwheat on Foodista

Mushroom and Buckwheat Pilaf

You can use toasted buckwheat, but that will have a much stronger and overpowering flavor. It is best to use raw buckwheat groats.


1 large onion, sliced thinly
2 T vegetable oil
½ lb mushrooms, washed and stems left intact, sliced
1 c raw buckwheat groats
1¾ c vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste


1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion for about 8 minutes, until they are translucent.

2. Stir in the buckwheat, broth, and the mushrooms. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until all the liquid is absorbed and the groats are tender (about 20 minutes). Add more water if needed.

April 23, 2009

Standard American Diet = SAD

At the risk of sounding un-American, I must say the typical American diet is pretty sad. I know there are naysayers out there that poo-poo these concerns, but the facts remain that our population is getting more and more obese, and cancers of various forms are skyrocketing.

The naysayers don't offer any compelling reasons why this is happening to us. They might blame the communists, lack of faith, or it's just a glandular problem.

But, gosh, don't you think it might have something to do with what we eat? Our food supply has changed dramatically over the past 3 or 4 decades-- going from fresh, homemade food to prepackaged, processed cheap food. This evolution of the food supply just so happens to parallel the downfall of our health.


You know the old saying, "You are what you eat." Put simply, what you put into your body has a tremendous effect on your health and well-being.

What makes the diet so bad?

Calorie intake is probably the most obvious, but it is likely the least of our worries. Most inert couch potatoes eat far more calories than they burn off. Therefore, the body stores those extra calories for "emergencies". In the context of human evolution, "emergency" here means having to go without food for several days while your clan migrates from one savanna to another, or having to run a couple miles while being chased by a saber tooth tiger. But in these modern times of readily available and affordable food, I think we can all stop binging and gorging ourselves every day.

Another problem with our diet is a heavy reliance on meat, particularly beef. Sure, humans are meat-eaters, but we're also plant eaters. Many people forget this. Countless studies show that eating too much meat is bad for you. Yet most people are addicted to it, and the cattle industry is right there shoving it into your mouths with their amazing marketing budgets and political clout.

Dairy products are also consumed in vast quantities. Milk, cheese, cream, butter. Humans are the only known animal that not only drinks the milk of another animal, but continues to do so well into their adult lives. Milk is designed by nature as a highly concentrated source of protein and fat to help young animals grow. Cow's milk, in particular, is designed to help young calves grow into big, fat cows. Get where I'm going with this?

And then there is what's not being eaten much of, namely vegetables and grains. To most Americans, eating a salad is what they call eating vegetables. Ignoring the fact that the salad is drenched in fat, gloppy dressing, lettuce is 95% water, by weight (reference). This is like drinking a glass of water with parsley flakes sprinkled on top. And most "grain" consumption is in the form of processed and bleached wheat "bread".

There are lots more that can be said about the SAD: There's the proliferation of processed, packaged food of low quality. There's the saturation of salt and sugar and HFCS in most everything we eat. There's the amount of chemicals in the form of hormones and preservatives in all our food. There's the distances our food travels to get from field (or factory) to fork. Need I go on?

To make things worse, there is an entire diet fad industry that feeds off the SAD. Grapefruit diets, protein diets, jelly bean diets, cigarette diets, etc. They're all bogus and dangerously unhealthy. The best diet is: eat less food, eat better food, and get off your butt and exercise.

There is a book out there which emphasizes the points I make above, whose cover image I show at the top. You can get this from Amazon: Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World. Pretty scary reading.

Despite the conspiracy advocates, I don't think that there is intent of malice on the part of the food industry. What would be the point of killing us all? You would think they would want us to live longer so we have to buy more food.

The food industry has simply given in to our demands for cheaper and more convenient food. That is what happens in a capitalist market. In order to make food cheaper, they had to cut quality. In order to make food convenient, they have to dump in tons of preservatives.

But not all is hopeless. We do have the power to turn this around. In the past few years, the demand for organics has increased. Other movements such as eating mostly locally grown or produced food is starting to take hold. Free range and grass-fed beef is in demand. High fructose corn syrup is under heavy assault; so bad that they have to air ridiculous ads stating that it is "natural".

In short, we must demand better quality food. You can do your share by not buying the crap food that pervades the supermarkets. If they can't sell it, they will stop making it. Do your body a favor. Do the environment a favor. Help steer the food industry back in the right direction.

Until that happens, prepare your own food using whole ingredients. That's where Evolving Palate, and scads of other recipe blog sites and books, can help. Stay tuned and live a better life.

April 22, 2009

Back to Basics: Polenta

Polenta is a recent discovery of ours. I've known about it for a long time, but never really tried it. If you haven't and you like corn, you should give it a try. Polenta is basically boiled cornmeal. Those in the Southern US may recognize a similar dish called grits. Polenta is enjoyed throughout Italy and Eastern Europe.

Polenta is typically made one of two ways: either as a porridge, or allowed to firm up which can then be sliced and cooked again. While we do eat the porridge style of polenta for breakfast, we also like the type that is firmed up. Afterward, it has a consistency of tofu and can be sliced or cubed. These can then be sauteed or grilled.

You may have seen tubes of pre-made polenta in the grocery. While this seems convenient, think about it: It's in a plastic tube. Sitting on the shelf. For months. Maybe even years. That's really gross, especially since you can make it at home relatively quickly.

To make polenta, all you need is coarse grits. I prefer the yellow ones, but white grits will do. Don't use quick-cooking grits. Polenta can be customized in hundreds of different ways: using various herbs, chunks of vegetables, etc. For this recipe, we throw in some corn kernels for extra corniness, and some thyme. Other herbs-- such as oregano, marjoram, etc --work just as well. You could also drop in some sun-dried tomatoes, or olives, or whatever you fancy.

We like fairly plain and simple food. Once the polenta is done, we like to either grill it or quickly pan-fry it. Add a little pasta sauce and a sprinkle of cheese and you have a meal!

Here is what the polenta looks like after firming up. It's almost like a grits jello:

Polenta with Corn and Thyme


2 T olive oil
1¼ t salt
1 c corn grits
1 c corn kernels
1 t fresh thyme leaves (or ½ t dried)


1. Bring 3½ c water to boil in large saucepan. Add oil and salt. Whisk in corn grits slowly until smooth and mixture returns to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add corn kernels and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until polenta pulls away from the sides of the pot. Stir in thyme.

3. Pour polenta into a pie plate or baking dish. Set aside until firm.

4. When firm cut into desrired shapes. Can then be pan fried, grilled, or simply heated in an oven.

Here a sample application of polenta. Pan fried in a little olive oil, drizzled with pasta sauce, and draped with a slice of mozzarella cheese:

April 21, 2009

Cardamon-Walnut Cookies

Based on our previous articles, one might think that the Evolution Kitchen is anti-dessert. Fact is, we love dessert, but not the ultra-sweet, glazed, creamy, heavy kind of glop that most people associate with dessert. If you're still hungry enough to eat a 500 calorie brownie after dinner, then you obviously didn't eat enough food prior to dessert.

Dessert should be the period at the end of the sentence, not an entire phrase. We're more into delicate sweets, those that are spicy or tart, not simply sugary. We prefer sugar to enhance the background flavors, just as salt is supposed to bring out the flavors underneath it. Sugar should never be the flavor.

This recipe is lightly sweetened to enhance the cardamom and walnut. Cardamom is a unique spice that is completely foreign to the SAD. Its taste works well in desserts and beverages, as well as in curries. This recipe has been converted to be gluten free, and the sugar has been cut back somewhat. Warning: this still has a lot of butter in it!

Cardamom-Walnut Cookies



½ c powdered sugar
½ t cardamom


½ c sugar
1½ t cardamom
1 c (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
2 t vanilla extract
1 t grated lemon peel
¼ t salt
2 c gluten-free flour (Or the blend below)
1½ c walnuts, toasted and finely chopped

Gluten-Free flour blend:

1 1/8 c brown rice flour
¾ c tapioca flour
4 t sugar
2 t xanthan gum
pinch of gelatin or agar agar


1. Mix the dusting in a bowl and set aside.

2. Combine sugar, butter, vanilla, cardamom, lemon peel, and salt in a large bowl. Using a hand mixer or spoon, mix until well blended. Add flour and chopped nuts. Beat some more until smooth.

3. Gather dough in ball and wrap in wax paper. Chill for at least one hour.

4. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two cookie sheets lightly with oil. Using your hands, roll dough into ¾-inch balls and place on cookie sheets.

5. Bake cookies until golden, about 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes on sheets.

6. Roll the warm cookies in the dusting mixture. Cool completely before storing.

April 20, 2009

Equipped For Indian Cooking

The standard American diet (SAD) is dominated by meat, potatoes, and cheese. For vegetarians who are also allergic to dairy and wheat, American cuisine has little to offer. So the Evolution Kitchen has long ago ventured beyond the American shores, and we have discovered a veritable garden of delights out there.

Asian Indian cuisine is my personal favorite. Their diet is largely meat and dairy free, and most parts of India do not eat much wheat either. The depth of flavors is leaps and bounds ahead of traditional American flavors, which seem to huddle around sweet, salty, and cheesy. Indian cuisine uses a full assortment of spices to create wonderful and exciting dishes.

Here at the Evolution Kitchen, we are by no means experts in Indian cooking. But we have been dabbling in it for about a year, and we can pass on a few suggestions for those who are just starting to or are thinking about it. One thing you'll soon notice when glancing through Indian recipes is that most of the ingredients are not in your pantry, and some aren't even your vocabulary.

This article will give you a brief introduction to the basic staples most cooks should have on hand if you want to experiment with Indian cuisine.


Generally speaking, cooking Indian does not require any fancy tools. Although it would be nice to have my own tandoori oven, there are suitable substitutions.

The most helpful tool you might consider getting is a pressure cooker. A pressure cooker is extremely handy for cooking beans, rice, and potatoes, especially if you live at high altitude. They cook the food at much higher temperatures and in about half the time as regular cooking. Even if you can't put a price on saved time, a pressure cooker can pay for itself simply by requiring less energy.

Another handy tool to have is some sort of mortar/pestle or spice grinder. Indian cooking uses a lot of spice blends, many which you concoct yourself from whole seeds. We have a pre-made curry powder that we hardly ever use; you blend your curry when making your recipe.

If you want to make your own naan and chapattis, you can do these on a charcoal or gas grill quite nicely. Hopefully, most people already have one of these.


Many of the foreign ingredients in Indian recipes are not not foreign at all; they just need to be translated. Here is a brief table of ingredient translations.

chickpea flour
capsicum bell pepper
dhaniya ground coriander
jeera cumin seeds
methi seeds
fenugreek seeds

The following are some of the ingredients that we use in many of our Indian dishes.

asafoetida. Also known as "hing". This is strange stuff that smells pretty bad. When used, it is usually just a pinch, because it is that potent. But it does provide a garlicky and buttery flavor to dishes. Rumor has it that beans cooked with a pinch of asafoetida will cause less gas. Your mileage may vary.

basmati rice. Certainly any rice will do, but if you want authentic flavor, basmati is the way to go. We usually opt for the brown basmati rice for extra fiber and nutrients, but we go with the white rice when we want a lighter dish.

beans and legumes. Indian cuisine prpvides most of its protein with beans. There must be dozens of different kinds. Seems like every time I go to an Indian market, I find a new one. Heavy hitters are chickpeas, lentils (green and red and whole red lentils called masoor), urad dal, channa dal, mung beans, and so on. You can't go wrong with any of them.

black mustard seeds. These are often used in spice blends or left whole in dishes. I don't know if they really have any flavor, but they have an aesthetic appeal.

chickpeas. Also known as garbonzo beans. You could use canned versions, but cooking dried ones provide better texture and flavor.

chili powder/dried chilis. The "heat" in Indian food comes from chilis. I really don't know what authentic Indian cooking uses for their chilis. I use a store-bought chili powder blend, and some cayenne pepper. When green chilis are called for, I use jalapeƱos.

cilantro. This is used for garnish and sometimes as an ingredient in dishes. I personally don't like the taste of cilantro, so I substitute parsley.

coriander seeds. These are the seeds of the cilantro plant. I have no idea why the seeds have a different name than the leaves. These are often roasted and then ground into the many spice blends. Despite my distaste for cilantro, I love coriander.

curry leaves. I got away without these for a long time. Many recipes suggest using bay leaves instead, but the flavor is very different. I finally bought some at an Indian market and they do provide an enhanced "Indian" taste to your dishes.

garam masala. I don't keep many spice blends on hand, but this one definitely has a permanent home in our spice cabinet. You can buy it pre-made, or you can roast the spices and grind them yourself.

ginger root. You'd expect ginger in Oriental cooking, but Indian cuisine uses it and garlic quite extensively. Buy the whole root, not the powder. I don't bother peeling it; I grate it skin and all, then throw out most of the fibers and skin that get stuck on the outside of the grater.

tamarind. This is a tree indigenous to tropical Africa but made its way to Indian centuries ago. It produces a sour fruit that is used in cooking throughout Asia. I buy a little jar of it in paste form and use it sparingly.

turmeric. Most Americans don't know what this is, but it is what gives mustard its yellow color. The flavor of turmeric is subtle, but it has been called a "poor man's saffron". It is widely used in Indian cooking. There is a belief it helps prevent memory loss and Alzheimers. It also will stain all your wooden utensils yellow.

April 15, 2009

Healthy Granola

Granola is typically a mixture of rolled oats, nuts, and fruit, which is then baked or toasted. When it is not baked, it is called muesli. I remember when granola first made the scene, it was kind of a "hippie" food, and traditional families tended to push it aside while reaching for the Cocoa Puffs and Super Sugar Smacks.

Slowly granola became a popular alternative to the cocoa-frosted sugar bombs. Now you would think granola is a rare commodity, as it costs $3.00 or more a pound. It's ironic, since oats used to be shunned by humans as just horse fodder.

I also noticed that most store-bought granola is just as sugar-laden as the other over-processed, over-sweetened cereals. Here is a quote from a Yahoo news article:

Bear Naked's latest "all natural" flavor contains 21 ingredients, including four types of sweeteners, chocolate, and peanut butter. It's also 140 calories per ¼ cup (that's a whopping 280 per serving!). Even low-fat granola packs a caloric punch. One serving of Health Valley's Real Oat Bran Almond Crunch clocks in at 200 calories.

Luckily, granola is dead simple to make at home. However, many of the recipes out there continue the sugar addiction and adds gobs of honey or maple syrup. Egads, we are a nation of human hummingbirds!

The following granola recipe is barely sweet at all. Certainly you can adjust the sugar content to your liking. You can use this as a base and add whatever you have on hand. Granola is very forgiving; you could put in rice flakes, croutons, M&Ms, whatever. I also add some puffed grain just to provide some texture contrast. You can use something else, or just more oats.

You'll notice I don't put any fruit in it. That comes later. Some recipes have you put dried fruit in the mixture before cooking, but this usually results in really dried fruit, and sometimes crispy fruit. I add fruit after it has been cooked and cooled.

Healthy Granola


4 c regular rolled oats (not instant)
1 c puffed grain (like rice, millet, or corn)
¾ c nuts
¾ c seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, etc)
1 t ground cinnamon

½ c apple juice
2 T canola oil
2 T brown sugar (or honey, maple syrup)
1 t vanilla extract


1. Preheat oven to 325°F.

2. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

3. Mix the wet ingredients in a small bowl. Pour wet ingredients over dry ingredients and stir thoroughly to mix.

4. Spray a 13x9 inch metal or glass baking pan with oil. Pour the granola mixture into the pan and spread it out.

5. Bake for about 45 minutes, depending on how crunchy you want your granola. Stir the mixture several times while baking.

6. Cool thoroughly before storing.

April 14, 2009

Barley Bread

Continuing with my experimentation with no-knead, quick rising breads (as introduced here), I have another success story. This time it is a barley Bread.

Bread in North Africa is sacred. Strong ties and friendships are cemented with the"breaking of bread" ceremony. When the Tuaregs of the Sahara share Bread with a stranger, they mark the occasion by saying "By bread and salt we are united."

The Bread commonly found in Morocco is usually dense and hearty, made with coarse grains such as whole wheat and barley. Barley is yet another mostly unknown and underused grain in the States. Most people see it only in beef barley soup, but the grain is actually quite versatile. When ground into a flour, it can make very sumptuous breads. Please note that barley does contain gluten, so this is not a grain or flour to be eaten by those who are gluten intolerant.

In this recipe, I blended half barley and half all-purpose wheat flour. I also threw in a dash of nigella seeds to add a little exotic touch to it. Nigella are black, triangular seeds that are similar to onion seeds, and in fact their taste has a hint of onion. They are used in Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine. This bread has a very delicate crumb. I would like to try to "toughen" it up a little, so more experimentation is in order.

Barley Bread


2 c barley flour
2 c all-purpose flour
1 t nigella seeds
1 t salt

1¾ c warm water (100° F)
2 T canonla oil
2 T honey
2½ t yeast


1. Prepare a bread pan by spraying with oil, then dusting with flour (I use semolina).

2. Mix all the wet ingredients in the bowl of your mixer.

3. With the mixer running on low speed, add the barley flour, salt, and wheat four. When all is moistened, turn the mixer on high and mix for 3-5 minutes.

4. With wet hands, press the dough into the prepared pan. Place a wet cloth over the pan and set it in a warm oven to rise. Let rise 20-30 minutes.

5. Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 30-35 minutes, until golden brown.

6. Turn out on a cooling rack and let cool completely before slicing.

April 11, 2009

Gluten-Free Raisin Rolls

Around Easter time every year we are inundated with recipes for Hot Cross Buns. I decided to take a look at one and try a gluten-free version. Wow! There is a lot of sugar in those things! Over half a cup of sugar, plus candied fruit, plus butter drizzled on, and then topped off with MORE sugar icing. Geesh, people. Not everything has to taste like candy.

So with pencil in hand, I edited that recipe beyond recognition. I can't even call them Hot Cross Buns anymore. What I ended up with tastes great and is far more healthy (and gluten free). They look a little lumpy and wrinkly in this picture, but that's just the camera... and maybe my photography skills.

Gluten-Free Raisin Roll


1½ c chickpea flour
½ c arrowroot starch (or cornstarch)
¾ c tapioca flour
1 c brown rice flour
⅓ cup sugar
5 t yeast, or 2 packages
½ cup powdered milk (soy, rice, moo)
1 T xanthan gum
1 t salt
1 T cinnamon
¾ - 1 c warm water
¼ c canola oil
3 eggs, lightly beaten, or 3 flax seed "eggs"
1 t vinegar
1 c raisins
½ t dried lemon peel
1 t dried orange peel


1. Lightly grease a 10-inch cake pan.

2. Mix flours, sugar, yeast, powdered milk, xanthan gum, salt and cinnamon together in the bowl of your mixer.

3. Add water, oil, eggs and vinegar and beat for 5 minutes.

4. Mix in raisins and dried fruit peels.

5. Scrape dough out onto a floured plate (rice flour). Cut the dough into 8 equal pieces and gently shape each into a ball. Place one ball of dough in the center of prepared cake pan. Loosely arrange the remaining balls around it, leaving room for buns to rise. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free spot for 30 minutes.

6. Preheat the oven to 375°. Place buns in preheated oven and bake for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

April 10, 2009

Moth Usal (Turkish Bean Curry)

No, we're not serving moths at the Evolution Kitchen. That just happens to be one of the spellings of a popular Asian Indian bean. It's also spelled "muth" and "mat", so it makes sense that it is pronounced like none of its spellings; it is pronounced "moat". These beans are also called Turkish gram. As you can see here, they are quite small and look like little candies:

My wife recently returned from the Indian market with a bag of these. I quickly looked them up and found numerous recipes. The first one I tried was not so good. The second recipe was very vague and had many details left out. So I basically filled in the gaps it and it turned out wonderful! It is a very simple recipe with very few ingredients. Here is my rendition of Moth Usal.

Moth Usal (Turkish Bean Curry)


1 t black mustard seeds
1 c moth beans, soaked overnight
2 T canola oil
pinch of asafoetida
pinch of turmeric
1 t chili powder
1½ c water
1 T shredded coconut
½ t salt


1. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker over medium-high heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and asafoetida. Let them splutter a few seconds, then dump in the drained beans. Stir to mix well. Add the turmeric and chili powder. Pour in the water and mix well.

2. Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure. Lower temperature and maintain high pressure for 10-12 minutes.

3. Release the pressure naturally for 10 minutes, then quick release any remaining pressure. Add the coconut and salt, stir to mix well. Garnish with parsley or cilantro and tomato wedges. Serve hot.

April 7, 2009

Tomato-Stuffed Portobellos

Portobello mushrooms used to be priced as a luxury food that put them into the "once in a blue moon" category, but lately their prices have come down enough to enjoy them once in a while. We love these cooked on the grill. With temperatures warming up, I pulled out the grill out of winter storage just for this recipe.

For the mozzarella cheese, we used a rice-based cheese, and it worked beautifully, melting just like you'd expect. Don't let my lousy photo fool you; it is wonderful!

Tomato-Stuffed Portobellos


2/3 c fresh tomatoes (about 2 medium), seeded and chopped
¼ c shredded mozzarella cheese
2 t olive oil, divided
1 t dried oregano
¼ t ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 T lemon juice
1 T balsamic vinegar
6 large portobello mushrooms, stems and gills removed


1. Preheat the grill to medium heat.

2. In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes, cheese, 1 teaspoon olive oil, oregano, pepper, and garlic.

3. In another small bowl, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, and the rest of the olive oil. Whisk to mix well.

4. Brush the lemon-oil juice on both sides of the mushrooms. Grill them stem side down first for 5-7 minutes or until soft. Flip them over and fill with the tomato mixture. Close the grill lid and cook another 3 minutes until the mixture is heated through and the cheese melts.

5. Sprinkle with parsley and/or basil. Serve hot.

April 3, 2009

Quinoa - Ancient Indian Superfood

There have been many foods touted as "super foods". The list includes food like chia seeds, blueberries, oats, green tea, and acai berries. I try not to get caught up in the hype of these unsubstantiated claims; I believe we should simply try to eat a balanced diet of all healthy foods. There is no "magic pill" in the food world.

Another food that is sometimes placed on this super-food list is quinoa, pronounced "KEEN-wah". This is an ancient grain that was sacred to the Incas as the mother of all grains. It is easily cultivated and it spread throughout South and Central America as a dietary staple until it was largely replaced by maize.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not all that crazy about quinoa. It is a small grain that invariably ends up all over the counter and stovetop whenever I cook it. It has a slightly bitter taste and must be thoroughly rinsed to remove the natural waxy coating that adds to the bitterness. But despite these negatives, it cooks quickly and is one of the few grains someone on a gluten-free diet can enjoy. And if you believe all the claims, quinoa has twice the protein as other cereal grains, and it is a "complete protein", which means it contains all essential amino acids.

If you can't find quinoa, you can order it here: NOW Foods, Organic Quinoa Grain - 1 lb

Quinoa can be used in place of couscous, but the flavor is sometimes not compatible. So I am always on the lookout for recipes that work well with quinoa. Here is one that is not half-bad, probably because the vegetables mask the quinoa flavor.

Quinoa Vegetable Pilaf

This can be served as a main dish, hot or cold.


1 c whole-grain quinoa
2 c water
2 T lemon or lime juice
3 T olive oil
2 T parsley, chopped
2 T fresh basil, chopped
½ t salt
¼ t pepper
3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
1 c sliced celery
1 c frozen corn
1 c red bell pepper, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced


1. Rinse quinoa well before using. In a medium saucepan, boil water and add quinoa. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and fluff with fork. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, whisk lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, basil, salt and pepper.

3. In a large skillet, briefly saute all the vegetables in a little bit of oil. Add vegetables to the bowl.

4. Add cooked quinoa to the bowl. Stir until well blended. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste.

April 1, 2009

Split Pea Soup

You can always tell it's winter when the Evolution Kitchen is constantly churning out soup. Often for dinner all we will have is a bowl of soup and some buttered bread or flat bread with a dip.

I apologize for yet another pressure cooker recipe, but when you have one of those babies, the world is laid out in front of your feet, begging you to cook it. You could cook this in a crock pot or a conventional pot, but it will take a lot longer than what is described here.

This soup is traditionally made with ham; the texture and saltiness of ham is a perfect match for this soup. We first thought about using tofu as a replacement, but felt that it didn't offer anything flavor-wise, it only absorbs flavors. We instead opted for this product we only find at Chinese markets. It has the same texture as ham, tastes like a cross between chicken and ham, and is completely vegetarian. I don't know what's in it; I probably don't want to know what's in it. Good thing I can't read the label. We topped off the soup with some smoked paprika to give it a little smokey hint.

Split Pea Soup

After this dish is done cooking, the peas break down and dissolve into the soup, making a wonderful, wholesome broth.


1 T oil
2 c onion, coarsely chopped
2 ribs celery, diced
7 c water
2 1/2 c dried green split peas, rinsed
2 c diced ham or ham substitute
2 bay leaves
1 t salt
1 t dried thyme
1 t smoked paprika (optional)


1. Heat the oil in the pressure cooker and stir in the onions, celery, water, split peas, ham, salt, and bay leaves.

2. Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure. Lower heat and maintain high pressure for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pressure come down naturally.

3. Remove the bay leaves and add the thyme and paprika (if using). Stir well to make sure the peas are fully dissolved and thyme is incorporated.