What to do with all the kale?

Gardens, we're discovering, aren't linear, preditable things. One year the tomatoes are so prolific, you can't manage the marinara production. Another, broccoli abounds to the point you're giving it to the neighbors in bouquets. This year, it's greens. The kale. The chard. The arugula. All bitter and tangy and astringent, the greens are a forest of dark, swaying fronds so dense, the cats can hide and we're nary the wiser.

With some gift funds still available in my Amazon account and in my recumbent state, it's been easy to click "add to my cart" when something promises ideas for these things other than steam, plug your nose and chug.

Which is how this ended up on my doorstep. (There's recipes to be had if you click on the link...)

Spend a few minutes on Sara's site Sprouted Kitchen and you'll immediately notice the care and attention she gives the food and her readers. Glowing with her husband's evocative photography, Sprouted Kitchen serves up plate after plate of wholesome, mostly vegetarian dishes, heaping inspiration and simple goodness into every post.

Her book is exactly the same. A collaboration between she and her husband, Hugh, The Sprouted Kitchen is a dance between Sara's food and Hugh's images: Shot in extreme close-up, the Coconut Lime Tart coyly displays only a corner of the dessert, pistachio and coconut crumbs in delicious dishabille in the foreground. Or the Asian Tofu Tacos with Hoisin Slaw? You'll just want to crawl in between the folds of those whole-wheat torillas and bed down.

I'm up and about some at this point in my convalescence, and while curried tempeh leftovers were on tap for dinner, I snuck out the garden so as to try the Tuscan Kale Chopped Salad. Glistening with parmesan vinaigrette and punctuated with apples (our tree giveth and giveth) and dried cherries (in the pantry), the kale salad seemed just the thing (and so good for the eyes!). I whipped it, up eschewing the croutons in my tender state as well as the chickpeas, and substituted a tiny bit of raw garlic in the dressing for the shallots.

Hearty and packed with flavor, Mr. Nake-id must have eaten three platefuls.

We topped the meal off with Sara's Mango Mint Lassi using lemon as a stand-in for fresh orange juice, adoring its sweet, comforting coolness.

Yes, I'm smitten. Tonight we'll try the Honey Mustard Broccoli Salad, broccoli from the garden, and the Creamy Millet with Roasted Portobellos (topped with kale!)

So happily smitten.

Vegan Peach Zucchini Bread recipe

This is what we had in the house when Nake-id IT indicated a desire for something sweet. Being that kind of wife, I got busy immediately. It didn't hurt that there was writing to avoid, either.

Peach bread is a family favorite and one of the few recipes that came with me into the marriage. Take it with a grain of Himalayan Sea Salt:

Cream togrthrr two eggs, 1/2 cup shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar (reduce to one cup if using canned peaches. Add two cups mashed peaches, two cuops flour, one tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda and 1/4 tsp salt. Add 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 cup chopped nuts. Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes in a greased loaf pan.

Here's the new age version (adapted from Hell Yeah It's Vegan):

3 tbsp chia seeds whisked into ½ c + 1 tbsp warm water*
½ c neutral-flavored oil
1 1/2 cups pureed jarred peaches
1 cup organic cane sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup grated zucchini
1½ c all-purpose flour
1½ c whole wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two loaf pans.

Mix wet ingredients in one bowl, dry in another. Then combine, stirring until combined. Spoon into loaf pans.

Just one more way to squash an over abundance of zucchini.

The veg narcissist

This article hit home. In the last year, we've become those people, the obnoxious couple nobody knows how to feed. This statement particularly rankled: “Like a lot of chefs, I’m convinced that these diets are not always the results of the compromised immune systems of American diners, but their growing infantilism and narcissism."

Ouch.

Since we've gone veg for health reasons, we can't stand on the we-did-it-for-the-animals soapbox, though that's a not-insignificant plus. We also can't say we did it for environmental reasons, though arguably, less resources go to our care and feeding. Nope, it's all about us.

Or is it?

I get the foodie argument; food is one of the great pleasures. But does relying on meat make you a better cook or one who lacks industry and imagination?

Having spent the last year slicing, dicing and bleeding and variously failing and triumphing in pursuit of the flavorful vegan meal, I can say without hesitation that it's a lot more work than throwing a piece of chicken on the grill.

Yes, I'm bristling about the narcissim shot, but there's no judgment here for meat eaters. Really. We spent five decades loving ribs and hamburgers and fresh salmon, and in certain circumstances, continue to enjoy these things. Humans are omnivores. We succeeded as a species because of our dietary flexibility. But we are not carnivores. We don't need meat three times a day; we may not even need it three times a week. Who knows?

What we are is diverse. We have witnessed friends transform after giving up gluten. We've dropped pounds by eschewing meat (not that Nake-id IT needed to, good gravy, the man's a string bean). Other friends have thrived as Paleos.

In Colorado, dietary splintering has long been a fact of life. Almost 20 years ago, we included a vegetarian menu option at our wedding to accommodate veg friends and largely kosher family members. Today when we have guests, we often include a meat dish in the spirit of inclusivity but don't expect others to do likewise unless they're up for the adventure.

Does that make us narcissists? Or bad vegetarians?

Sliding into the weekend: Beet sliders

Life hands us few absolutes, but here's one:

Everything tastes better on a slider bun.

Take beets. Lovely with arugula and walnuts. But divine on a roll just the right size to accommodate two or three slices and some Green Goddess Dressing.

The recipe was a request from Nake-id IT, who spied it on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Since mayonnaise is sauce non grata in the Nake-id cucina, I adapted the Green Goddess Dressing thusly:

1 whole avocado

1 bunch fresh tarragon

1/2 bunch Italian parsley

1/4 bunch green onions, trimmed

3ish Tbs fresh lemon juice

4ish Tbs white wine vinegar

4ish Tbs water

1/4 cup olive oil

salt and pepper

Blend everything. (I ended up in a fight with our mixer, which was too large to accommodate the ingredients and did half a job. Opt for a small blender container or mini food processor.)

Create your slider. We used Costco's pretzel bread slider buns. Down one or a dozen.

For another take on the veggie slider, try BBQ'd portobello mushrooms with grilled onions and arugula. The sauce is so good you'll be tempted to moisturize with it.

Anyway, that's the big excitement here. What's up by you?

Out to lunch: Native Foods

While Denver/Boulder has been hailed as a rising vegan mecca, it lacks vegan restaurants (with the exception of the indomintable Vegan Van). Yes, there are wonderful places to dine where vegan fare is on offer, not the least of which, the many great Asian restaurants scattered across the Front Range. There's also Watercourse, Linger, Root Down, City, O City, the fabulous Leaf in Boulder, Whole Foods Cafes, Garbanzos, Mad Greens, Chipotle...lots of places to suck down a veg patty, salad or plate of pasta without breaking ranks.

Since I occasionally "leave the farm" for the sake of sociability, I'll also beg family and friends to vegify from time to time. Like Saturday after the Wool Market when I cajoled Mom and Ingrid to stop in Boulder at the newly opened Native Foods for lunch. (It's located in the 29th Street Mall near Pei Wei, fyi.)

Native Foods is a fast-casual dining concept, founded in 1994 by Chef Tanya Petrovna, that's growing rapidly. Plans are in the works, I was told, to open 15 stores in Colorado in coming years. (Why is it always Boulder first?)

We loved it, from Mom's veggie pizza topped with steamed kale and balsamic to my red-beans-kale-and-rice soul bowl and Ingrid's "sausage" and portobello mushroom burger (accompanied by a heap of seasoned sweet potato fries). And there's lavender lemonade, worth the drive right there.

While the food is fresh and intriguing, the brightly painted walls and sassy spirit of Native Foods' collateral all say "fun." This is the kind of place carnivores should visit in the same spirit of trying Thai, Indian, Ethiopian or other exotic cuisines.

Take a walk on the kale side and give it a try. And while you're there, tell them to open one in the Highlands, soon!

PS: Stopped at Atomic Tamale on the way home for a dozen vegan lovelies. Made a fabulous Monday night dinner with homemade guac and South-of-the-Border-inspired cole slaw.

Tofu Hot Wings

This recipe was inspired by the fabulous Vegan Van's sammie, Planet Rock, an impossibly tastey combination of Toffufallo hot wings and ranch celery-slaw on a roll.

Mine is a pale approximation, but it's become our go-to baked tofu solution. (Getting a successful "fry" on tofu eludes me.)

Eat up!

Ingredients

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce or Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids

1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot Wings Buffalo sauce

2 pounds tofu, sliced into 1/2-inch cutlets

Dusting of granulated garlic

Instructions

Preheat oven to 450. Line large baking pan (or two smaller pans) with baking parchment. Place tofu in a single layer on top of parchment. Brush with a layer of soy sauce, then a layer of Frank's. Dust with granulated garlic and bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and flip the tofu, repeating the brushing of soy sauce and Frank's mentioned above. Bake for another 20-30 minutes, checking so as not to cook tofu into an impenetrable jerky. You want your tofu to have a slightly touch skin and moist center.

Serve warm or at room temperature, alone, in sandwiches, stir fries or whatever your little heart desires.

 

 

Ethiopian injera bread

We like nothing more than a challenge here in the Nake-id Cucina and decided to take on Ethiopian injera bread, the wonderful, spongey sourdough that serves as both bread and utensil in Ethiopian cuisine.

I used the recipe in Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian Food but bumped the percentage of teff flour and used white whole wheat to replace the urad dal and brown rice flour the author suggests. I also tossed in a teaspoon or so of yeast, not trusting that wild yeast would bless my batter.

As with most breads, injera is forgiving. After 36 hours, I uncovered the bowl to find a bubbling, vaguely whiffy mass and set about making the crepes.

The pre-seasoned cast-iron griddle yielded a big fail, so I turned to the toxic teflon.

The toxic surface delivered. And, yes, my technique needs work.

How did they taste? Well, just like when making Chinese or Indian at home, not quite the same as restaurant-quality, but nice nonetheless. The recipe made tons of injera, enough for two full dinners plus leftovers. And the hassle factor? Also not bad. No worse than making a batch of pancakes, once the ingredients are on hand. Just plan for the fermenting and you'll be fine.

I could envision a feast where friends collaborate on different dishes and then tucking in together, deliriously. It is my answer to world peace. If you can understand someone's food and then share it, how can you not understand them?

 

 

Epic vegan baking fail

I was of a mind to make vegan hamentaschen, the traditional cookies eaten during the Jewish holiday Purim.

There's a reason hashem gave us eggs.

To make a proper cookie dough.

I cooled it. And rolled it. And coddled each and every fragile piece.

All I got for my trouble were these pretty pictures, a huge mess and some homely, mediocre cookies.

Eat like an Ethiopian

Buying cookbooks has become something of a avocational hazard.

When this surfaced on the internets--vegan, gluten-free Ethopian food deconstructed for neophytes...let's just say my Pay Pal is shaming on me, for clicking "submit" yet again.

Papa Tofu is by Kittee Berns, who keeps a lively vegan food blog and spent about 10 years perfecting her Ethiopian cuisine. Designed in the spirit of 'zines of yore (read 1990s), Papa Tofu is a sweet, charming throwback in these days of digital everything. Crafty, fabric illustrations punctuate the witty text, which provides basic terminology, ways to make difficult-to-source ingredients and simple recipes. Once you have the niter kibbeh, teff and berbere, you're good to go.

It's refreshing to hold something that's actually been printed and loved from the spoon to each delightful image.

Time for a trip to the international food Mecca and a little stove-top travel.

Vegan moussaka recipe mash-up

There was an eggplant in the fridge, a vow to try new recipes on the table and a snowy Saturday afternoon.

The Veganomicon doth provide.

The above is actually a melange of The Veganomicon's Eggplant Potato Moussaka with Pine Nut Cream and an old favorite from The New Basics (minus the lamb and creamy parts). I substituted chopped almonds for the breadcrumbs (gluten free!) and added dried apricots, raisins and extra spices to the sauce (cumin, additional cinnamon, some ginger and a dollop of agave to cut the tartness of the apricots, which have been lolling about the cabinets since the Bush administration.)

Don't try this on a weeknight or you'll be cursing your casserole. There are vegetables to roast (doing this earlier in the day would save oodles

of evening prep time) and tofu to Cuisinart. We served it with a plain arugula salad dressed in lemon and olive oil.

The clean up was epic. But the meal? Divine!