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Potato croquettes with mushroom-lentil gravy

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“Russian food is heavy and your host mother will want to feed you,” they told me. “If you eat a lot on your first day, she will be offended if you don’t eat that much at other meals. You’re setting a precedent.”

With visions of gaining 25 pounds in a semester*, I tried to restrain myself when my host mother served me a giant plate of fried potato croquettes and mushroom gravy several minutes into my stay, but the hunger of a four-hour train ride and deliciousness of her cooking compelled me to devour the entire plateful, thus sending me on a downward spiral of food consumption that would persist for the next few months.

My attempt to recreate this meal turned out to be similar to large, fried gnocchi, not crisp deep-fried patties like hers were, but I’m not complaining. I’d try to deep fry them more next time, and if you have pointers for how to make them more croquette-like, please share.

Potato croquettes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb potatoes, skinned and boiled
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 small onion, diced and fried until brown
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 TBS water
  • 1 tsp oil

Instructions:

  1. Mash potatoes and stir in all other ingredients.
  2. Fry for a few minutes on each side.

Mushroom-lentil gravy

Ingredients

  • 4 oz. mushrooms
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup cooked lentils
  • 1 cup broth
  • 2 TBS flour
  • salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Saute mushrooms, onions, and garlic until basically cooked.
  2. Add broth, lentils and salt and pepper and simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Stir in flour to thicken.

* yeah yeah yeah, body shaming blah blah — I know. I was 20, okay?

Vegan golubtsi

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There are two kinds of Soviet buildings: plain depressing projects to remind that you are but one of the masses — a peon, a cog, expendable — and glorious monuments to the expendable peon cogs. My friend Michael lived in the second type.

Michael’s apartment complex probably had some sort of State significance, as it had a lovely neoclassical exterior with a giant Grecian statue and a radio in the kitchen with one channel (the party frequency) that could never be turned off, just all the way down.

Michael’s host mother adored him and was always cooking his favorite Russian dish: golubtsi, meat-and-rice-filled cabbage rolls.

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Being vegetarian, I never had the opportunity to taste golubtsi (aka golubtsy, golubzy, golubzi, etc.), but had always been curious about them – they sounded boring but Michael loved them, so they must have been okay, right?

Golubtsi are actually pretty tasty and somewhat time intensive, but relatively simple. And don’t be intimidated by the rolling: blanched cabbage leaves are much sturdier than, say, lumpia or egg roll wrappers.

I’ve used a mixture of lentils, mushrooms, and walnuts to give my golubtsi a hearty texture without relying on soy meat. The sauce does use soy-based sour cream, but I honestly think you could omit it or use cashew-cream if you’re avoiding the soy.

To give my hippie cabbage rolls more authentically Russian flavor, I used Kasha (toasted buckwheat groats) instead of rice — both are used traditionally. The taste/smell of kasha kinda reminds me of wet dog, so you can use rice or millet if you are in this camp. (Kasha is growing on me, I’ll note.)

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked lentils
  • 1 cup cooked kasha
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups mushrooms, diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, diced
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • red pepper (optional)
  • 1 head of cabbage
  • 2 TBS oil
  • 2 TBS flour
  • 4 TBS tomato paste
  • 8 TBS vegan sour cream
  • a few TBS water, if needed

Instructions:

  1. Sauté mushrooms, onions, and garlic until mushrooms are soft. Mix them with the lentils, kasha, walnuts, and salt and peppers in a large bowl.
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Core the cabbage and boil it in a large pot filled with enough water to completely submerge the head for 3 minutes or until leaves are soft enough to peel away. Remove from water. When leaves are soft enough, remove 15 or so. Chop the rest of the cabbage and line a Dutch oven with it.
  4. Holding a leaf like a cup, add a few spoonfuls (1/4 to 1/2 cup) to the stem side, fold the left and right sides up, and roll it. Place it in the chopped cabbage in the Dutch oven. Do this with all of the leaves and filling.
  5. In a saucepan, make a roux with the flour and oil. Add the tomato paste and sour cream, combine, and then pour/spread over the cabbage rolls.
  6. Cover and bake the rolls for an hour.

Vegan Katmis Satsivi (Georgian chicken with walnut sauce)

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Аппетит приходит во время еды. {Appetite comes with eating.}

~Russian Proverb

Hot damn — I love katmis satsivi , and I didn’t even know it existed until recently.

This sauce of this nut-based stew is rich, creamy, comforting, and incidentally (nearly) vegan, and because I accidentally kept the spices in the same proportions while halving the original recipe, it’s incredibly spicy and flavorful — reduce my measurements for hot pepper, paprika, coriander, cinnamon and fenugreek if what I’ve put if it seems like too much to you.

I used WestSoy’s chicken-style seitan in my adaptation of Saveur’s Katmis Satsivi recipe and it worked beautifully — it has a shredded, stewed effect that mimics the chicken of the original. I don’t think that Beyond Meat’s chicken would really work, but fried tofu or eggplant would probably be good.

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It looks kiiiiiida like dog food in the pic above (brown food, why are you so hard to photograph?), but seriously — give this one a try.

ძალიან გემრიელი იყო — it was delicious.

Vegan Katmis Satsivi

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups toasted walnuts
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth or vegan chicken broth, divided
  • 3/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 hot red pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (the recipe called for Holland peppers — I used cayenne)
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Olive oil, for sauteeing
  • 1 lb (1 package) chicken seitan
  • 3 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp. hot paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground fenugreek
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Blend walnuts, 1/2 cup of the chicken stock, half each of the cilantro, garlic, and onions, and all of the hot pepper, salt, and black pepper until smooth. Set aside. (I may have only blended half of my pepper and sauteed the rest in the next step.)
  2. Saute chicken-style seitan in oil with the remaining garlic and onions until onions turn brown. Add paprikas, coriander, fenugreek, and cinnamon and cook for a minute or so. Add walnut sauce, the other half of the cilantro, and the rest of the stock and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or so, until sauce reduces by a third.
  3. Stir in vinegar and add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Top with cilantro and chopped walnuts, if you feel like it.

Second Annual Vegan Filipino Dinner

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Dawn, Madeline, and I met up recently for our second annual vegan Filipino dinner. (You may recall last summer’s smorgasbord?)

This year’s feast featured kare-kare (vegetables and “tripe” in peanut sauce), dinuguan (pork blood stew, sans sang), and (of course) lumpia, with garlic-vinegar dipping sauce: just a few cloves of garlic, chopped, with white vinegar. For dessert: turon (sweet jackfruit and banana lumpia topped with cinnamon and sugar) and Madeline’s homemade coconut ice cream.

The veganized kare-kare sent us on a scavenger hunt around the ID, with a few new-to-us (well, new to Dawn and me) ingredients. Banana blossom. Achuete. Snow fungus (as a tripe stand-in).

Uwajimaya didn’t have banana blossom (not that we would have recognized it if it did), but Viet Wah came through. We bought 10 small packets of achuete powder (equivalent to the 1/2 cup the recipe called for) only to discover later that one package of that powder equals a cup of the regular powder. And snow fungus? Madeline had to make a run for that after we arrived at her house. And then we added about 10 times the amount of snow fungus that we should have.

It all turned out deliciously, and we had a blast cooking together, as always. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

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Kare-kare

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braaaaaaaains….

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Dinuguan

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Lumpia

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The finished product

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And dessert.

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Cheers, ladies.

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Mexi mac and cheese

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Sometimes you want to be comforted in a way only accomplished by vegan mac and cheese.

And sometimes you have soyrizo, a jalapeño, and a red bell pepper in your fridge, about to expire.

And sometimes, the two situations overlap in a Venn diagram of awesome.

I present to you: Mexi mac and cheese.

It’s all the cheesy spiciness of Mexican cuisine combined with all the weeknight easiness of down-home American cooking.

It’s Michoacán meets Michigan. Nuevo León meets Nuevo York. Baja California meets regular California.

It’s peppers, soyrizo, creamy Daiya, and wonderful carbs swirled together in the melting pot of a medium-sized saucepan.

It’s the type of thing your family will love you for, even if your family consists of just you and your cat. Seriously — it will make you happy, which will make your cat happy.

I utilized the one pot method here, even though this is really a two pot dish because you need to fry the peppers and soyrizo separately. Whatever. It’s tasty and your tastebuds will be richly rewarded for the additional clean-up effort.

Mexi Mac and Cheese

serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pasta (shells, spirals, bow-ties, etc)
  • 2 cups non-dairy milk (I used soy and almond)
  • 1 cup vegan cheese, shredded (I used Daiya cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup soyrizo (I used Tofurky)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and diced finely

Instructions:

  1. Combine pasta and milk in a medium saucepan. Heat until boiling, stirring frequently, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, until most of the milk has been absorbed and pasta is cooked to your desired consistency, about 12-15 minutes, I’d say. Follow the directions at White on Rice Couple’s post.
  2. While pasta is cooking, sauté peppers in a frying pan with a little oil. When peppers are almost done, add soyrizo and heat through. Set aside.
  3. When pasta is done, stir in cheese and then pepper/soyrizo mixture.
  4. Eat.

I paired mine with some classy tequila Mary brought me from Cabo, but I’d recommend beer instead. People say, “oh, you can sip Tequila like whiskey!” and sure, it has that same mellow-smooth sweetness, but there’s always that underlying tang of “this will end badly.”

Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry from Veganomicon

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tastier than I’ve made it look — I promise

I’ve already cooked a recipe from Veganomicon this month, but, like I said in my previous post on the matter, it’s a tome, and one worth mentioning twice.

So, what I’m currently eating as I blog on my lunch break, is the Red Lentil-Cauliflower Curry (p. 186). It’s stick-to-your-ribs filling and hot-but-not-tongue-burning spicy — perfect for these chilly October nights. The cauliflower adds bulk and flavor without a lot of calories (not that I’m counting) and is a natural partner with curry (think aloo gobi).

I’m not a huge fan of parsnips, so my first instinct was to sub the parsnip the recipe calls for with potato or carrot, but it’s grown on me after a few helpings over a few days.

Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream from Veganomicon

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Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (you apparently need three names to be a vegan cookbook author) is less of a cookbook and more of a tome — it’s heavy and epic.

I’m a huge fan of this book because it has so many excellent and fairly easy to prepare recipes, and because the name makes me think of Army of Darkness (10.11.12 edit: the book in that film is called the Necronomicon Ex-Mortis). I haven’t seen either of the Evil Dead movies (they look scary), but the ability to quote Army of Darkness won me points with nerd boys in high school, which was pretty much the only male attention I got in four years. (I had glasses, played in the orchestra, and wore a lot of oversize t-shirts.)

“Good. Bad. I’m the one with the gun.”

Anyhow, now that I’ve admitted that I didn’t have a life growing up, out of all the good stuff in Veganomicon, Eggplant-Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream (p. 164) most stood out on my most recent perusal. I wouldn’t typically make a casserole to try to impress someone, but I’d say this casserole is even worthy of being date night fare — definitely an elegant dish.

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I subbed butternut squash for the zucchini called for in the recipe, since zucchini is not in season (yeah, yeah, neither is eggplant, but whatever) and swapped out the nutmeg for cinnamon because the only nutmeg I own is Shaw’s brand nutmeg (I have nothing against Shaw’s brand nutmeg, but I haven’t lived near a Shaw’s since June, 2008, so do the math there).

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Other than needing, like, 5 different pans to roast all of the different veggies and having multiple steps, the recipe is pretty easy. It tastes rich, but since the bechemel topping is just silken tofu with pine nuts and lemon juice and a few other things, I don’t think it’s actually all that heavy or unhealthy. At least, I hope it’s not, because I’ve eaten a lot of it lately.

The recipe makes probably 8-12 servings, so maybe make your Eggplant-Potato Moussaka for a dinner party or a family or just hunker down for the long haul.

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It’s less pretty the next day, but still delicious.

“Gimme some sugar, baby.”

Chickpea Piccata from Appetite for Reduction

I’ve made a number of recipes from Appetite for Reduction by vegan demigod Isa Chandra Moskowitz. They tend to be easy to make when you have limited time, and are flavorful and filling despite being low-fat. It’s the cookbook in my collection that I’ve cooked from the most, and have never felt skimped, diety, or eating disorderly eating the results — some “healthy” books and blogs are little slices of anorexia sheltered by the facade of better living.

The description on the PPK says it all:

Low-fat cookbooks can be a warzone for women. I wanted to create something fun and positive. Something that would empower you at the stove, give you a reason to sport that cute vintage apron. I want you to love your kitchen, love yourself, and, yeah, maybe to love tofu just a little bit, too.

It’s food that’s normal enough that you can feed it to an omnivorous boyfriend (or any other skeptical eater) without him asking what you’re eating.

Among my many favorites are the red wine and kalamata tempeh (p. 157 — my go-to fancy dish), Goddess Nicoise (p. 25), the smoky split-pea soup (p. 223), and the edamame pesto linguine (p. 174), but the recipe that really stands out is the chickpea piccata (p. 115) over cauliflower mashed potatoes (p. 54).

I love this recipe for several reasons:

  1. capers.
  2. white wine.
  3. lemon.
  4. visible slices of sauteed garlic.

There was a period about a year ago where I ate chickpea piccata every single day for about two weeks AND I’M STILL NOT SICK OF IT. That’s how awesome it is.

If you don’t own the book and want to try before you buy, the recipe for chickpea piccata is available on the PPK. Give it a try if you haven’t!

Vegan Filipino Dinner

Dawn of Vegan Moxie, Madeline of Edible Joy, and I got together this weekend to cook up a vegan Filipino feast. Dawn and I are vegan, Madeline is Filipino, and all of us are alumni or future alumni of the Master of Communication in Digital Media program at UW.

I’m pretty sure the seeds of this dinner were planted in an MCDM class waaaay back in 2010, when Madeline told me her dream of opening a lumpia food truck, and asked what she might use as a vegan substitute for egg.

Sprouts shot up when I discovered (coincidentally vegan) karioka at Uwajimaya and asked Madeline for her advice on how to make my own karioka.

When Dawn was accepted into The Program this year, this little sprout blossomed into a towering redwood of culinary togetherness — a vegan Filipino meal, prepared by three awesome bloggers, was the only logical path.

Forgive the passive voice. It’s the only way I could convey the solemn magnitude of this occasion.

We convened upon Madeline’s lovely West Seattle home on Saturday at 5 p.m. (4:58 p.m. to be exact — Dawn and I were impressed enough by our punctuality to make note of it) with cutting boards, knives, and the raw components of future deliciousness.

And beer. Sweet, sweet beer.

Madeline wrote out the menu, as follows:

Is your mouth watering yet? Just wait.

Madeline arranged her kitchen in stations: the adobo station, the afritada station, and the lumpia station, each with a printed recipe delicately taped to a cabinet. We chopped and chit-chatted and photographed and fried and simmered and snuck black olives from the can when the others weren’t looking (wait, that was just me) and gossiped and bonded over shared love of food and Internet-based communication.

Then we wrapped lumpia.

Wrapping lumpia is definitely both an art and a science. The science part is as follows.

First of all, it’s usually very tricky to remove the lumpia wrappers from the frozen stack they come in. Madeline did we (us?) noobs a favor by buying wrappers individually wrapped in plastic. Environment, 0: Helen and Dawn: 1.

Next, place some filling in the center of a lumpia wrapper, about 3/4 of the way from the bottom edge.

Fold the upper edge over.

Crease the edges in and start to roll.

Dab some egg replacer mixed with water on the edges and press to seal.

Place lumpia seal side down on a flat surface and repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat…

The art part is making sure that you roll up your lumpia in perfect, plump, cylindrical little cigars, not floppy, flaccid, flat, uhhh, little cigars (you’re about 49 shades of grey too many if you thought I would say anything else). Ours were mostly the latter.

Then you fry them up. Dawn did an excellent job of this.

So. Freakin. Delicious. The secret to perfect fried food, according to Madeline and Alton Brown, is to salt it after frying.

Anyhow, the whole meal turned out excellently.

The tofu afritada.

The tangy portoabella adobo with spicy peppercorns.

And of course, the lumpia, of which I ate two and then snuck a third, because, c’mon — when am I going to eat lumpia again?

Also, not pictured, awesome Asian cucumber salad.

I think that the dreamy overexposure of this picture really emphasizes the overall sublimeness of this meal:

It was all supremely tasty, and best of all, passed the tastebuds of the most brutally honest critic of them all: Madeline’s adorable son, Lucas.

Oh, it didn’t end here. Out coconut sorbet didn’t firm up like we expected, but it made excellent sauce for turon, the glorious banana/plantain and jackfruit lumpia Madeline and her husband prepared while Dawn and I talked vegan Greater Seattle Area cat lady stuff.

So much fun. And we already have the next communal cooking night planned: tamales.

Want the recipes?

Mediterranean Veggie Dogs

This just in from the semi-homemade category: Field Roast franks (or Smart Dogs, or Tofurky dogs, or any other veggie dog, but please not real meat dogs), a light hummus (in this case, Lilly’s plain), roasted red bell peppers, kalamata olives, and capers.

Sorta a last-minute Fourth of July grilling idea.

Also, Trader Joe’s hot dog buns are probably the best commercial option I’ve tried: chewy but soft, just the right texture — perfect for summer BBQs.

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