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Black eyed pea fritters, collard greens and spicy peanut sauce: a West African-influenced meal


Ever had disappointment turn into opportunity?

That’s probably a wee bit dramatic, considering this tale is just about eating in a restaurant, but bear with me.

My friends Tanya and Alex visit Seattle every year around Christmastime; Alex grew up here, and his folks are still in the area.

I’ve been meaning to introduce them to Pan Africa for a few years now, not because Tanya is from Africa (Mauritius, to be exact) but because they love fun, spicy food, and Pan Africa does this well.

Pan Africa’s menu has changed in the three years I’ve been dining there. The focus (I think) used to be more on Ethiopian cuisine (East), and it now offers veggie samplers from four regions: North, South, East, and West. I still typically go for East.

When we went for dinner on Thursday, the kitchen was out of nearly every East African dish we ordered, including injera and sambusas. (“We should come back when they’re open,” Alex quipped.)

We opted for the menu’s Western dishes instead: black eyed pea fritters, groundnut (peanut) stew and collard greens. All world-rockingly delicious, and none of which I would have tried had their Eastern counterparts been available.

See? Disappointment = opportunity.

The timing of this meal couldn’t be more perfect. Tomorrow is New Year’s day, and in the southern part of this country, it’s customary to eat black eyed peas on New Year’s with collard greens: the beans represent coins, and the greens represent the Benjamins. Money.

So, I present to you a recreation of a fortuitous bummer. Pan Africa fries their black eyed pea fritters; I baked mine, since the peanut sauce adds tons of richness.

It’s not quite a finalized collection of recipes yet (I’ve noted updates to make next time with the recipe), but a toothsome start.

May the new year bring you love, money (if you’re into that sort of thing), and deliciousness.

Ye’abesha Gomen (African Collard Greens)

double for output to be consistent with other recipes.

Peanut Sauce

adapted (well, basically taken verbatim, though I have a modification below) from The Congo Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • oil, for sauteing
  • 1/4 onion, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup vegetable broth*
  • red pepper flakes, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a skillet. Fry onions until brown.
  2. Add peanut butter, broth, and red pepper flakes, to taste. Stir until smooth and simmer over low heat for ten to fifteen minutes.

*Next time, I’ll add another 1/2 or whole cup of the broth and chop my onions finer: this turned out to be very thick and a little chunky, not ideal for drizzling over rice or black eyed pea fritters, though very, very tasty.

Baked Black Eyed Pea Fritters

adapted from The Food Network

Ingredients

  • 1 small to medium onion, finely diced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
  • oil, for sauteing
  • 1 (15 oz) can black eyed peas
  • 1 1/2 tsp Ener-G mixed with 2 TBS water
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • panko bread crumbs (these may not be necessary — I thought they would add extra crunch in lieu of frying)
  • cooking spray or oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Fry onions and jalapeno until brown and fragrant. Might want to turn on the stove fan for this — the spicy steam will make you cough.
  3. Mash beans in a medium bowl; add all other ingredients except for bread crumbs and cooking spray.
  4. Form mixture into 4-6 patties and coat with bread crumbs.
  5. Place patties on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Spritz with a bit more cooking spray.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip and bake for 5 more.

Serve over rice and collard greens topped with peanut sauce; top patties with additional peanut sauce.

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I’ll end my last post of 2011 with my (and possibly yours too — nearly 30 millions viewers can’t be wrong) favorite song of 2011:

Low-fat vegan brownies

Much like adolescent girls with Twilight heartthrobs, brownie lovers fall into two camps: team fudgey and team cakey.

If you are a member of team fudgey, you will enjoy these brownies. If you fall into the cakey camp, you might want to look for an alternative dessert. Or, you can suck it up and just enjoy something ooey and gooey and chocolately, which describes these brownies pretty accurately.

If you are on a low-fat or soy-free diet, you will also love these brownies — they use no oil or egg replacer.

What do they use instead? Black beans.

So, they’re actually kinda sorta good for you, in the same sort of way that Vitamin water or baked potato chips are good for you. As in, not really good for you, but not as bad as some alternatives.

I’m not going to say these are the best brownies on the face of the planet. They aren’t. They lack the oily crumb that makes full-fat brownies, fudgey and cakey alike, so delicious. You probably wouldn’t request these brownies as part of your last meal.

They’re also sort of polarizing: some people will gobble down, like, 5 of them, while others will take a bite and leave the rest untouched on their plate — I served them at a party and this is exactly what transpired.

So why am I posting such a love-’em-or-hate-’em-recipe that even I say is not the most delicious thing since the dawn of time?

Well, mostly because I’ve been curious about black bean brownies and wanted to report the facts and only the facts, ma’am. And I suspect you may be curious about them too. Plus, I feel that the spirit of VeganMoFo is an honest representation of everything you’ve cooked — what vegans really eat.

Also, they’re really good for what they are: a low-fat dessert — low fat desserts are never going to be as scrumptious as their full-fat alternatives.

Smother them in So Delicious coconut frozen dessert and hot fudge and call it a brownie sundae and you’ve got it made. That sorta defeats the purpose of low-fat, but increases the deliciousness factor. Or, stir them into a blended frozen banana.

I used No Meat Athlete’s black bean brownie recipe using all purpose flour instead of whole wheat and walnuts instead of hazelnuts, and added chocolate chips for a little extra decadence.

Minted Farro, Zucchini and Fava salad

This is a take on the Fava Bean and Asparagus Salad With Mint that “vegan before 6″ Mark Bittman includes in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Farro, also called emmer, is a chewy, nutty grain that has become very popular in recent years (so I probably don’t need to tell you any more about it).

Fava beans, though permanently creepy after their cameo in Silence of the Lambs, are a delicious (though somewhat time-consuming to prepare) legume– shucking them makes for a nice activity to perform on one’s deck on a warm summer afternoon while sipping a cool adult beverage with a fluffy grey cat at your feet.

All of the produce, save for the lemon, is in season in Seattle and readily available at the local farmer’s market or food coop.

Enjoy with a tasty adult beverage like … wait for it … a nice Chianti.

Ingredients

  • ≈3-4 lbs Fava beans (about 1 1/2 cup shelled and skinned)*
  • 1 cup dry farro
  • 1 zucchini, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 lemon
  • olive oil, to taste
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 2 sprigs mint, leaves removed and chopped

Method

  1. Shell fava beans. Blanch beans in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, then remove and discard outer skin.
  2. Boil farro in 5 cups water for 50-60 minutes. In the last 5 minutes of cooking time, add sliced zucchini and fava beans. Drain.
  3. Place drained farro, favas and zucchini in a large bowl. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over and drizzle with olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix.
  4. Serve warm or chilled.

*This is an estimate. Fava beans can be pricey (I think mine were $3/lb), but they are also incredibly delicious, so use more or less as you see fit. Farro and zucchini are also tasty, so they’ll balance it all out if you elect to go with fewer favas.

White bean ragout

If you’re looking for a hearty, soy-less, protein-packed vegan dish that will stand up to a robust red wine or rich beer, I think you’ll find this dish to be a pleasant addition to your dinner menu.

Serve with polenta topped with crock pot spaghetti sauce and sauteed greens. Or, you know, whatever.

White bean ragout
serves 4

  • 6 oz mushrooms, quartered
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 15-oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • a splash or two of wine (which I didn’t add but wish I had)
  • ≈2 TBS tomato paste
  • salt, pepper and ground thyme to taste
  • olive oil
  1. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan. Add mushrooms, carrots and leeks and saute until fragrant. Add salt, pepper and thyme, and saute a few minutes more.
  2. Stir in vegetable broth, tomato paste and beans.
  3. Cook until beans are heated through and vegetables are soft, ≈15-20 minutes.
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