October 31, 2009

Beans and Rice

Beans and rice are a great combination, both nutritionally and for taste. There is a world of flavors you can have with these two ingredients. Sometimes we make slightly sweetened beans to have for breakfast. This dish, however, may not make the best early morning dish. It calls for the sultry and rich black beans, plus a tangy twist provided by balsamic vinegar. Add a little avocado to calm everything down and you end up with a dish that we eat as a meal in itself. It doesn't last long in our house.

Cuban Beans and Rice


2 T lemon juice
2 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 t ground cumin
1 t salt
¼ t pepper
3 c cooked rice
1 15-oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 c dried black beans cooked
2 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, and chopped
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
1 firm-ripe avocado


1. In a large bowl, mix lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, cumin, salt, and pepper. Stir in the rice, beans, tomatoes, and parsley.

2. Cut the avocado in half, pop out the pit, and carefully scoop out the insides. Cut into dice and gently stir into the bean and rice mixture.

3. Serve chilled, room temperature, or heated up.

October 30, 2009

Lentil Burgers

I love veggies burgers, anything to play host to yummy condiments like pickles, ketchup, and mustard. The trick of a good veggie burger is to get the right flavor and texture to make you want to eat them again. This recipe is great of flavor, and ok on texture. They are a little soft inside, but the outside gets nice and crispy on the grill. Be sure to use a soft bun; otherwise the innards will squish out when chomping down on a hard bun.

In order to handle the rigors of grill cooking, these patties need to firm up in the freezer for a while, so plan your time accordingly.

Lentil Burgers


½ c dried lentils
2 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 1 c dried chickpeas cooked
½ dried parsley, or 1 c fresh
2 eggs, or flax seed "eggs"
2 t ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1 t salt
½ t ground black pepper
1 c oat bran
1 T potato flour
1 large carrot, grated


1. Cook lentils according to package directions. Drain.

2. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion and bell pepper until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

3. In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, parsley, eggs, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and the onion mixture. Blend for 2 minutes, or until very smooth.

4. Dump blended mixture into a large bowl, add the carrots and lentils, and mix well. Shape into 8 patties and lay on wax paper on a large cookie sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer for at least 4 hours.

5. When ready to cook, preheat grill and take patties out of the freezer. Don't defrost first, place frozen patties on the grill and cook 6-10 minutes on each side. Serve on buns or pitas.

October 26, 2009

Mushrooms in a Mustard-Wine Sauce

We eat a lot of mushrooms, much to my daughter's chagrin. If you really think about it, mushrooms are gross. I've seen enough wild mushrooms in the forest to start me thinking, "Do I really eat stuff related to this?"

But mushrooms do have nutritional value: They have a high selenium content, reported to help prevent prostate cancer, and they contain a fair amount of B-vitamins. Mushrooms also taste great if done right. So it's best to forget where mushrooms come from and what some of their uglier cousins look like.

The nice thing about mushrooms is that can readily adapt to just about any flavor. We typically mushrooms in an oriental setting, but this recipe is somewhat different. The mushrooms are cooked in a mustard and wine sauce, which gives it a tangy but rich flavor.

Mushrooms in a Mustard-Wine Sauce



1 T Dijon mustard
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 T brown sugar
¾ c dry red wine
1 T soy sauce
ground pepper


1 oz dried shiitake mushrooms
½ c boiling water
1 lb mushrooms
1½ T oil
1 onion, diced
salt to taste
1 large red bell pepper, diced
½ block of firm tofu, cubed


1. Cover the dried shiitake mushrooms with the boiling water and set aside until they soften, about 10 minutes. Reserve the soaking liquid and cut the hard stems out. Cut the mushrooms into strips.

2. Clean the fresh mushrooms and cut into halves (or quarters if they are big).

3. Heat oil in a large skillet, add the onions and a pinch of salt, and saute over medium heat until translucent, about 3-4 minutes.

4. Add both fresh and dried mushrooms and the peppers and cook a little bit more, stirring often, until the mushrooms begin to darken.

5. Add the sauce and the soaking liquid from the shiitakes. Add the tofu and simmer slowly until the sauce has reduced and thickened, about 40 minutes.

6. Serve in bowls on top of rice or noodles.

October 24, 2009

Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

Recently, we published a recipe for Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes, but here's a slightly different twist on the same theme. That recipe proves that the sweetness goes well with spiciness. This recipe will show how well that sweetness also compliments savory herbs like rosemary.

This is a perfect wintertime dish, mainly because it requires lengthy cooking in a hot oven. Nothing like warming up the house with the mouth-watering fragrance of roasted sweet potatoes!

Rosemary Sweet Potatoes


2 T unsalted butter
2 T olive oil
1 T fresh rosemary, or 2 t dried
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled
1 t salt
¼ t black pepper


1. Preheat the oven to 450º. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a small skillet, then add the rosemary. Set aside.

2. Cut the sweet potatoes lengthwise in ½-inch thick wedges and place in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and drizzle on the butter mixture. Toss gently.

3. Arrange wedges in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the upper part of the over for 10 minutes. Turn over and continue baking another 10 minutes or until the potatoes are slightly browned. Serve hot.

October 23, 2009

Radishes - Underperformer in the Kitchen

The Western diet doesn't quite know what to do with radishes. Mostly you see them sliced raw in salads. But did you know they can be in a cooked dish with good effect? Although they have that unique "heat", they blend well with other flavors quite well. This dish combines the lowly radish, sugar snap peas, and edamame (young, green soybeans) with a buttery lemon sauce. It's light and refreshing.

Peas, Beans, and Radishes with Lemon Butter


1 lb sugar snap peas, trimmed
1 c shelled frozen edamame
1 T olive oil
2 T shallots, minced
1 bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
2 t lemon zest
1 T unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste


1. Cook peas and edamame in boiling salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water.

2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add radishes and continue cooking until just tender, another 2-3 minutes.

3. Add peas and edamame, and saute until hot. Add zest and butter. Season with salt and pepper. Cook while stirring until butter is melted.

October 19, 2009

Cauliflower-Potato Curry

Nothing livens up boring cauliflower and potatoes like a flavorful curry sauce. This dish is best made in a pressure cooker, which quickly breaks the potato and cauliflower down. But it can be cooked in a large pot or dutch oven; just increase the cooking time.

Cauliflower-Potato Curry


1 large head of cauliflower
2 t oil
2 t whole cumin seeds
1½ c coconut milk
2 T ketchup
1 t ground coriander
2 T curry
¼ t ground cinnamon
¾ t salt
pinch of cayenne
1½ lbs thin-skin potatoes, like Yukon Gold
1 small red bell pepper, diced


1. Cut the cauliflower into florets no larger than 2 inches wide.

2. Heat oil in a pressure cooker. Sizzle the cumin seeds until they begin to pop, about 5-10 seconds. Carefully add the coconut milk and ketchup. While stirring, sprinkle in the curry powder, coriander, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne.

3. Bring to a boil. Set the potatoes and red bell pepper down into the liquid, then place the cauliflower on top.

4. Lock the lid in place and bring to high pressure. Maintain pressure for 3-6 minutes. Do a quick release of pressure.

5. Carefully open and stir the contents so that the cauliflower breaks up and incorporates into the sauce. Garnish with parsley or cilantro.

October 17, 2009

Pucker Up With Pomegranate Molasses

Today's exotic ingredient is pomegranate molasses. This is a popular ingredient in the Middle East and it highlights several well-known dishes, such as fesenjan and muhammarah. It is an intensely flavored reduction of pomegranate juice. I don't like to eat pomegranate fruit because of all those dang seeds, but the juice and molasses are delicious: tart and tangy, with a hint of sweetness.

The following dish is really about the sauce. At the core of it is pomegranate molasses, mellowed slightly with nuts. We purchase our molasses at the local Middle Eastern grocery, but you can also get it from Amazon: Pomegranate Molasses - 14 oz.

Since my daughter is allergic to walnuts, I used pecans instead. It still tasted great, so feel free to experiment with the nuts.

This sauce could go over roasted vegetables, or perhaps even over a pasta. In this recipe, I pair it with bland stir-fried tofu pieces.

Tofu with Pomegranate-Walnut Sauce


2 T olive oil
1 package firm tofu, drained and pressed in a towel
½ T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
½ c walnuts or pecans, finely chopped
1/8 t cinanamon
½ c water
2 t honey
¼ t salt


1. Make the tofu: cut tofu block into 5 or 6 thick slabs. Pan fry this in the 2 T olive oil.

2. Make the sauce: Heat the ½ T olive oil in a small skillet. When hot, saute onion and garlic until soft and transparent. Remove from heat.

3. Place nuts, cinnamon, and cooked onions into a blender. Pulse briefly, then add the remaining ingredients and blend for two minutes. Add water to get mixture to desired consistency (it should be thinner than mayonnaise.

4. Serve sauce over tofu, and optionally over rice.

October 15, 2009

Zen Stew

When the cold weather comes, the amount of soup that flows through the Evolution Kitchen can be enormous. As the first snow hits us here in the high plains, I wanted a hearty soup that soothes the stomach and the soul. This simple Asian-influenced soup fit the bill.

Zen Stew


2 oz of dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms
1 c water
1 c vegetable broth
½ c red onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
1 c brown rice, cooked
4 oz tofu, sliced into ½-inch cubes
1 scallion, thinly sliced
3 bunches of spinach, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1/3 c miso paste
½ c warm water


1. If using dried mushrooms, soak them in boiling water for 30 minutes. For both dried and fresh, remove hard stems and slice the caps in thin strips.

2. In a large saucepan, heat 1 cup of water and broth, and the mushrooms, onion, carrot, cooked rice, and tofu. Bring to a low boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from heat, add the scallion and stir in the spinach. Cover the saucepan for a few minutes until the spinach wilts.

3. Mix the miso with the ½ cup of warm water and stir until all lumps are gone. Stir this into the soup. Serve hot.

October 14, 2009

Spicy "Beef" Noodles

This recipe began life without the quotes around the word Beef, but I have since adapted it to a vegetarian version. You can use most any kind of meat substitute, such as tofu, tempeh, seiten, or just leave it out altogether. In this rendition, I used those Smart Strips, fake chicken pieces that are quite tasty and versatile in many recipes.

I also used a gluten-free fusilli pasta. These pastas have come a long way from when they first came out. I can hardly tell the difference sometimes, and the rice flour-based pasta we get from OrgraN and Tinkyada are wonderful.

But the star of this dish is the chili oil. A good chili oil will go a long way to improving any dish. Chili oil readily available in most Asian markets or any well-stocked super market; just go to the international aisle. The one we get I cannot read because it is in Chinese, but it has a picture of a grumpy looking Oriental woman. I encourage all to stock their fridge with some chili oil. You can jazz up most anything with a little dab of this tasty fire: rice, tofu, vegetables, even meat.

Spicy "Beef" Noodles


½ lb fusilli pasta
3 T olive oil, separate
1 package Smart Strips
1 onion, halved lengthwise and cut into thin wedges
3 c broccoli florets
3 T soy sauce
1 T chili oil
ground pepper
3 medium tomatoes, cut into 1-inch wedges


1. Cook the pasta according to the directions until just tender (not much more, as it will cook more later).

2. Meanwhile, heat 2 T oil in a large skillet and brown the chicken strips, about 5 minutes. Remove strips to a plate, add the remaining 1 T of oil and heat. When hot, add the onions and cook until it just turns brown, about 4 minutes.

3. Add the broccoli and cook until it is bright green, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce, chili oil, and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, about 3 more minutes.

4. Add reserved chicken strips and tomatoes. Stir well and heat about another minute to heat through. Serve hot with a sprinkling of parsley or cilantro.

October 13, 2009

Garlic Lemon Potatoes

We're not huge consumers of potatoes, but every once in a while, I stumble across a potato recipe that is darn good. This one originally came from a recipe card from Whole Foods. I modified it slightly to cut back on the oil and salt.

This calls for jalapeño slices. Some people like to leave the seeds in, but I prefer to have more flavor than heat, so I carefully remove the seeds and ribs after slicing. Also, if you like strong garlic flavor, put them in raw, but I prefer to saute my garlic slightly before adding.

Garlic Lemon Potatoes


2 T oil
4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (2 lbs) cut lengthwise into 8 wedges each
1 jalapeño, cut into ¼-inch slices
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 T olive oil
2 T lemon juice
1 t dried lemon peel
1 T dried oregano
1 t salt
ground black pepper


1. Heat 2 T oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet large enough to hold all potatoes in a single layer. Over medium-high heat, add potatoes and cook until golden brown, about 6 minutes. Flip over and brown the other side, about 5 more minutes.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low, add jalapeño, cover, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 5 minutes.

3. While potatoes cook, combine garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, lemon peel, and oregano in a small bowl. When the potatoes are tender, add the garlic lemon dressing, salt, and pepper. Combine carefully and cook another minute uncovered.

4. Garnish with some parsley and serve immediately.

October 12, 2009

Cabbage and Curried Tofu

This is vegetarian comfort food: cabbage and tofu. Neither of which has much flavor on its own, but the Indian-influenced spices liven this up to make a tasty, simple, and healthy dish.

Cabbage and Curried Tofu


1 T olive oil
½ green or red cabbage head, shredded
½ c frozen peas
2 medium onions chopped
1 block of firm tofu, crumbled
½ t turmeric
1 t chilli powder
½ t garam masala
½ t salt
black pepper
1 poblano, chopped (optional)


1. Heat oil and fry onions until soft. Add tofu, tumeric & chilli powder, garam masala, green chillies, salt, parsley and fry for 6-8 minutes.

2. Add cabbage and peas, cover slightly, and cook until cabbage is wilted, about 10 minutes.

October 10, 2009

Moroccan Shish Kabob

We will finish up our foray into Moroccan cuisine with a vegetarian shish kabob. Almost everyone has heard of shish kabobs. This is a common street food in Morocco, and I bet the aroma of the grilled meat and spices wafting about the streets is wonderful. But I wanted to try a vegetarian version, and I think I'm pretty close.

This recipe makes use of those lovely soya wadi chunks which I introduced in this article. Because the wadi is a bit small, I thought it would be futile to thread them on skewers, so I fried them in a skillet. The result was pretty darn good. I served these over rice, but they can also be tucked into a pita, or you can stick toothpicks in them and treat them like an appetizer.

Wadi Shish Kabobs


1 small onion, grated
½ t salt
1 c soya wadi
1 c beef broth
juice of 1 lemon
2 t ground cumin
2 t paprika
2 T dried parsley
black pepper

2 T olive oil


1. Place all the ingredients except olive oil into a pressure cooker, lock the lid in place, and bring to high pressure. Maintain high pressure for 10 minutes. Release pressure naturally.

2. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. When hot, transfer the contents of the pressure cooker and cook until the wadi starts to brown. Serve over rice or on flatbreads.

October 6, 2009

Moroccan Spinach

I continue the Moroccan theme here with an unusual but delicious spinach dish. It's called saute d' epinards and is a blend of nuts, spinach, and citrus. I like how Moroccan cuisine works lemon and oranges into their cooking. Westerners tend to just eat their citrus as is and don't cook with them much. But when they are introduced into cooking, they offer a different twist that is pleasant and refreshing.

Sauteed Spinach with Orange and Almonds


1 lb. fresh spinach, rinsed and drained
2 T olive oil
½ onion, choped
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice from one orange
zest from one orange
2 T slivered almonds, toasted
salt and pepper


1. In a dutch oven, place about 1 inch of water in and bring to boil. Place the spinach in the pot, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the spinach is soft. Remove spinach to a cutting board and chop finely.

2. Dump the cooking liquid from the pot and heat the oil over medium high heat. Stir in the onion and garlic and cook until they begin to color. Return the spinach back to the pot and mix. Add the orange juice and zest and season with salt and pepper. Cook only a minute to heat the spinach through.

3. Place in a serving dish and top with the slivered almonds.

October 5, 2009

Moroccan Feast

This past week I focused on Moroccan food. The cuisine from Morocco and North Africa is one of my favorites because the flavors and ingredients are fresh and lively and colorful. And it's no wonder, since Morocco is a blend of various cultures, each offering their own style and ingredients. The indigenous Berbers have their tangines and couscous; the nomadic Bedouins brought in dates, milk, and grains; the Moors from Spain brought olives, paprika, and herbs. Add some French influence to tidy it all up and you have a grand landscape of flavors that is not heavy on meat but showcases vegetables and fruits.

For my first recipe, I present a simple dip similar to hummus, but instead of chickpeas it uses fava beans. It is called bissara.

Garlic Fava Bean Dip


12 oz dried fava beans, soaked in water overnight
4 garlic cloves
2 t cumin seeds
4 T olive oil
pinch of paprika and thyme


1. Drain the beans, remove the outer brown skins, and drop them into a pressure cooker or pot. Add the garlic and the cumin seeds. Add enough water to cover. If using a pressure cooker, cook on high pressure for about 15 minutes. If using a pot, bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 1 hour.

2. Drain the beans and place in a food processor. Puree the beans and drizzle in the olive oil. Season to taste with salt, then sprinkle with paprika and thyme. Serve warm or at room temperature with bread.

October 3, 2009

Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes

We eat sweet potatoes year around, but consumption tends to go up in the fall because it is the quintessential fall vegetable. As I mentioned in this article back in February, we tend to avoid those recipes that add more sweetness to sweet potatoes. They are sweet enough as they are, and this sweetness lends itself well to other spices. In this dish, we add a little heat, some herbs, and fennel seeds. Quite an odd combination, but the flavor works well, and is subtle yet deep.

Roasted Spiced Sweet Potatoes


1 t coriander seeds
1/2 t fennel seeds
1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t dried hot red pepper flakes
1 t kosher salt
2 lb medium sweet potatoes
3 T vegetable oil


1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. Coarsely grind coriander, fennel, oregano, and red pepper flakes in an electric coffee/spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Stir together spices and salt.

3. Cut potatoes into ½-inch chunks.

4. Toss chunks with oil and spices in a large roasting pan and roast in middle of oven 20 minutes. Turn chunks over with a spatula and roast until tender and slightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes more.

October 1, 2009

Chard and Carrots

Harvest time tends to inspire dishes simply because the food is there and waiting for you to cook it. In this case, I had some chard and some carrots that were getting impatient. Having a left-over tomato on hand helped round out this simple yet surprisingly tasty dish. I added the tomato at the very end so it warmed up but did not cook much. This provided textural variety. One could go wild with the seasonings, but I kept it simple to let the vegetables speak for themselves.

Chard and Carrots


1 T olive oil
2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ t ginger, grated
1 bunch of chard, stems removed and chopped coarsely
2 scallions, sliced
1 tomato, chopped
dash of tamari sauce
pinch of dried basil
black pepper


1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic, ginger, and carrots. Saute for 3 minutes.

2. Add the chard and scallions, cover, turn heat down to medium-low, and cook until chard is tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the tomato, tamari, basil, and black pepper to taste. Stir to mix.