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Badridzhani Nigvsit: Georgian eggplant with walnut garlic filling

Vegtastic! is going to Georgia this week.

That’s right: Georgia the republic, not Georgia the state. The country of 4.7 million people in the Caucasus. The former Soviet Republic. Birthplace of Joseph Stalin (née Ioseb Besarionis dze Jugashvili). Territory that has been inhabited by Homo erectus since the Paleolithic Era. Location of the Golden Fleece sought by Jason and his Argonauts. Kingdom of David the Builder (who I picture as a more badass version of Bob the Builder). Subject to many raids, pillages, and long periods of anarchy. Recently at war with Russia.

A pretty awesome country.

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I’ve never been to Georgia, but fell in love with its cuisine at a restaurant in Moscow.

Here is a naturally vegan Georgian appetizer that I am so happy to have discovered: a flavorful walnut filling sandwiched between thin slices of eggplant. I don’t know what the name of this recipe is in Georgian, but it is pretty darn tasty. (Update 9.11.13: JK. it’s called Badridzhani Nigvsit.)

I’ve combined a couple of different recipes. Most versions call for frying the eggplant, but I baked mine just for convenience — if you want to fry it, be my guest. Most recipes recommend using the small, thin Japanese eggplants — this will make it easier to cut them, but all I could find at the grocery store was the larger Italian kind, which worked too.

My understanding is that this dish is traditionally eaten cold, so it’s a good make-ahead.

Ingredients

  • 1 eggplant or 3 of the small thin kind
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbs water (add more if you need to)

Instructions

  1. Slice eggplant into thin slices. Sprinkle with salt on paper towels, and let sweat for an hour. Rinse. Brush well with oil on both sides and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until soft. Set aside.
  2. Fry walnuts, onions, and garlic until onions are soft and browned, stirring so as not to burn the walnuts. Mix in the spices when the onions are almost ready, or whenever you feel like it. I’ve heard that it’s better to brown them in oil to fully release their aroma and flavor potentials, but I just dump ‘em in whenever I like. If someone wants to educate me on the proper time to add spices, please do.
  3. Blend walnut mixture with vinegar and water until it forms a paste.
  4. Spread walnut paste on one half of eggplant slice and fold over.

Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Soup + Tofu Balls from The Giant Book of Tofu Cooking

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When I moved to Seattle, my boss, Len, and my friend/coworker Somaly each gave me a tofu cookbook.

I can’t remember which colleague the Giant Book of Tofu Cooking by K. Lee Evans & Chris Rankin came from, but it’s a great resource, with 350 recipes using tofu covering breakfasts to desserts to soups to everything in between across a wide variety of cultures.

Most are vegan, and the vegetarian recipes are easily veganizable, and is a great introduction to cooking with cultured soy. Unfortunately, I believe the book is now out of print, which is a shame.

The tofu seems gratuitous in a few of the recipes (like the lentil soup with tofu — I eat legumes when I don’t want to eat tofu) but meshes really well with others. I picked a couple of recipes to cook where the tofu was integral, not incidental (to misquote Miss Maude).

Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Soup

Since it’s cold right now and I’m feeling lazy motivated to work on other projects, I gravitated towards the Creamy Cauliflower and Potato Soup (p. 88). Yes, my last post was also on cauliflower. It has only a few ingredients (potatoes + onion + cauliflower + broth + silken tofu) and whips up quickly.

I tend to use pureed white beans in my creamed soups because I consume enough soy as it is, so I’d probably sub in a can of white beans for the silken tofu next time (which kinda runs counter to the idea of cooking from a tofu cookbook, I know), but the tofu added a nice creaminess. I used an immersion blender instead of putting it into my Vitamix as recommended (yeah, the book recommended a blender, not specifically a Vitamix, but I want you to know that I HAVE A VITAMIX) just because it’s easier and I rarely use my immersion blender — the joy of having too many toys.

Madison Market only had orange or purple cauliflower (I went orange), which made me think that making this with purple cauliflower and purple potatoes would look really, really cool. Or gross — remember Heinz’s purple ketchup?

Tofu Balls with Sweet and Sour Sauce

The tofu balls (p. 66) are great in theory, though not in execution. I really like the flavor and texture of the bell pepper, mushrooms, scallions and celery suspended in the mixture, and the sweet and sour sauce is phenomenal (though the recipe yielded much more than I needed, even halving the recipe).

However, the silken tofu called for makes the balls disconcertingly soft — I’ll use firm tofu next time, and maybe fry them as patties rather than bake them as balls.

Appetizers from Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen

Let’s see: it’s October 1. Rent’s due (done). Gotta figure out what I’m going as for Halloween (done). Mary’s and my moratorium on September shopping is over (hello, new pants). What else?

OH CRAP! VEGAN MOFO 2012 IS HERE!

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I had some friends over the other night for drinks before dancing (soul night!), and used this as an opportunity to get a teensy bit of a head start by preparing the Provincial chickpea puree (p. 7-8) and eggplant caponata on polenta crostini (p. 17-18) from Donna Klein’s Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen.

The chickpea puree is like a lighter hummus — there’s no tahini, just chickpeas, garlic, lemon and a bit of olive oil blended silky-smooth, with parsley stirred in. The caponata is a little tangy-sweet due to vinegar and sugar, and makes a great gluten-free appetizer (though I honestly would just serve it with baguette slices next time).

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I’m not really into Italian food, which is why I’ve been hesitant to open this book up, but there are enough Greek, Spanish, French, and African influenced recipes in the book to make it a well-rounded collection.

Vegan 7 layer dip

My formula for which team to root for in any given American professional sporting event is as follows:

  1. A Bay Area sports team, as that is my native turf. In the rare, earthquake-inducing instance of two Bay Area sports team playing one another, the hierarchy is: Oakland for baseball, San Francisco for football. You’re not supposed to “switch sides,” but I prefer the American League (because that’s the league the Red Sox play in– see #3) and the Raiders are terrifying. This rule can be adjusted if a player on the formula-defined opposing team is especially cute. If no Bay Area sports teams are playing in a particular match, then:
  2. A Seattle sports team. This is generally the losing choice for every non-soccer sport, but, if crappy sports are one of the few downsides to living somewhere awesome, so be it. If no Seattle sports teams are playing in a particular match, then:
  3. Any team competing against any New England sports team because Boston fans are obnoxious. If a New England team is not playing in a particular match, then:
  4. The team a friend is rooting for or a team whose win or loss will impact my life (i.e., the Big Boss is in a better mood when the Packers or Cubs win; therefore, I want these teams to win). If two friends are rooting for competing teams, judge based on #’s 5 and 6, or by which is the better friend. If the outcome does not affect my life or a friend’s’ life, then:
  5. The team with the most aesthetically pleasing player. If all players are equally unattractive, then:
  6. The team with the best uniform, colors, mascot, city, QB not being a probable rapist, or some other arbitrary qualification.

I obviously don’t give the proverbial damn about sports, and only watch major athletic events because they’re an excuse to get drunk during the day and nibble on unhealthy foods.

But, with the playoffs upon us (49ers!) and the Super Bowl approaching, I’ve been asking myself, “what can vegans eat while the omnis gnaw on pizza and wings?”

7 layer dip is my favorite for idle game time munching: it’s the ooey-gooey good parts of man’s most perfect food, the burrito, minus the carbs.

My mom always made 7 layer dip for pool parties and gatherings with friends when I was growing up. Hers had refried beans, diced tomatoes and white onions, store-bought guacamole, canned chopped black olives, sour cream, and cheddar cheese.

Back then, I used to eat around the guacamole layer — kids are so silly.

This vegan version has vegetarian refried beans, Tofutti non-hydrogenated Sour Supreme, and Wayfare’s We Can’t Say It’s Cheese Cheddar spread; you could sub out the Sour Supreme with cashew sour cream to make this soy-free, and if you can’t find Wayfare at the local veg-friendly store, well, I feel sorry for you. My recipe also calls for salsa instead of fresh tomatoes and onions, purely for ease.

It’s just as cool, creamy, flavorful, and decadent as what Mom used to make, and will turn your living room into a tailgate party in 5 minutes.

Easy vegan 7 layer dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 oz) can vegetarian refried beans
  • 1 (4.25 oz) can chopped olives
  • 8 oz (1/2 jar) salsa
  • 2 avocados, mashed with garlic powder, lime or lemon juice, and salt (e.g., easy guac)
  • 2 (8 oz) tubs Wayfare cheddar spread
  • 1 (12 oz) tub vegan sour cream
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped

Instructions:

  1. Layer ingredients in an 8-cup baking dish in the order listed above. Or, in another order of your choosing — layer order will not affect flavor. Hell, put it all in a blender and it will taste just about the same.

Serve with tortilla chips and a healthy dose of willpower, because you’re going to need it. And, seriously: don’t waste your time with Tostitos. Cabo Loco and Juanita’s are the only way to go.

Beet fritters with dilled sour cream

If you’re sick of roasting your favorite ruby root veggies, I suggest you give fritters a try.

Now, grating beets for fritters makes your kitchen look like a butcher shop. You’ll have specks of red all over the countertop, microwave, whatever’s lying nearby, and yourself.

So, wear an apron and prepare for carnage. I know, I know — some of you are so vegan that this will be too much for you.

But, beet butchery has very tasty payoffs. Like pretty much anything else shredded thinly and immersed in hot oil for a certain amount of time, beets are delicious when fried.

Smother them with a thick, cool, creamy, dilly sauce and you’re really talking.

Beet fritters with dilled sour cream

makes 6

Ingredients:

fritters:

  • 1/2 onion, finely diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 (3/4 lb) beet, grated
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest (really only because I got a microplane grater for Christmas and use it now at every opportunity)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tbs ground flax disolved in 3 tbs warm water
  • oil, for frying

dilled sour cream:

  • 1/2 cup vegan sour cream
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh dill
  • 1 TBS lemon juice

Instructions:

  1. Saute onion and garlic until soft, about 5 minutes; remove from pan.
  2. Combine, onion/garlic, grated beet, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and flax mixture.
  3. Fry patties in 1/2 inch of oil for 5 minutes on each side; remove from pan and place on a plate lined with paper towels.
  4. Combine sour cream, dill, and lemon juice.

Serve fritters topped with dilled sour cream.

Fritters also do well when refrigerated overnight before being fried, so go ahead and make them in advance.

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