Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Zucchini Latkes

I know what you are thinking.... zucchini latkes?? When you think of Chanukah, typically most people are thinking of potato latke. But really, what is the origin of potato latke and who said that we need to just eat potato latke for Chanukah. Well, we don't!

Potato latkes has its origin among Ashkenazi Jews in Europe, where potatoes grew in abundance. Consequently the potato latke became the quintessential Chanukah dish commemorating the little olive oil that the Jews found in the holy temple in Jerusalem after its desecration. Mizrachi (Eastern or Asian origin) Jews- of which I am,  eat a variation of latkes- mainly, but not exclusively consisting of any of the following: spinach, cauliflower, leeks or zucchini.  It really depends from which country you come from and what grows indigenous there. Nice to know that they were eating to the seasons and cooking with what is grown locally.  Makes sense, right?
Yet, there are more traditions behind the "Festival of Lights."

The eating of dairy foods amongst some Jews is another custom and has its roots in the story of Judith- the ultimate feminist. Judith was a pious woman who had a plan to save the Jews by pretending to surrender to an Assyrian general, Holofernes, who led his army in the 2nd century BCE to conquer over the Jews so that he could be exalted. The Holy Temple in Jerusalem was sieged and the Jews could not practice their religion. Judith used her beauty and charm to ingratiate herself onto Holofernes. She brought him her home made cheese and wine (nothing like food to a mans stomach) and went back to his tent.

Judith hand fed Holofernes her cheese and wine until he fell asleep. She managed to stop him from his terrible acts so that the Jews could recapture their Holy Temple and rededicate themselves to their holy services. The first order of business was to light the menorah in the temple, but very little oil was found and would only last one day. The miracle of Chanukah was that the little vile of oil that was supposed to last for one day lasted 8 days.

It is for this reason that we eat foods fried in oil (typically olive oil) and eat dairy to pay hommage to a brave woman who wooed a dangerous general with her cheese!

These zucchini fritters inculcate the story of Chanukah with green rope like strands sizzled in olive oil commemorating the miracle of the oil and has a touch of parmesan to honor the ultimate feminist Judith for her courageous acts. For an extra punch, I suggest dipping the fritters into a salsa which adds a delicate piquancy to these light zucchini fritters. 

Makes 12 fritters

3 1/2 cups zucchini, grated through a food processor fitted with a metal blade
2/3 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons All Purpose Gluten Free flour (or regular flour if you are not GF)
Olive oil, for frying
Salt and fresh ground black pepper 

  1. Squeeze the zucchini in a dish towel to remove an excess water, then combine with Parmesan, eggs, flour and salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Heat enough oil to cover the base of a large frying pan. Add 2 tablespoons of the mixture for each fritter and cook 3-4 at a time. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve warm with a spoonful of salsa.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Baingan Bharta (Eggplant Curry)

Baingan Bartha is a vegetarian dish from Indian and Pakistani cuisine. It is a Bhurta (minced vegetables) made from eggplant (Baigan), which is grilled on direct fire to impart a smoky flavor to the flesh of the eggplant and then cooked with spices and vegetables. The eggplant is then mashed and seasoned with fresh cilantro (coriander leaves) for a clean flavor. To bring up the heat, I tempered the mustard seeds and then fried up some fresh chile.   Serve with a dollop of yoghurt, if you want to cool your palette and serve with a side of Basmati brown rice.
Jump over Pakistan into Afghanistan, and you will find a variation of this eggplant curry, called bonjan salad. It too, is grilled eggplant that is softened to a point where the pulp just melts off and is then mashed with fresh garlic. This is usually eaten at room temperature with flat Afghan bread as an appetizer, along with main dishes.
I love the way food- in particular, eggplant has traveled throughout the Indian subcontinent and slowly morphed its way into varying recipes. If you think about it, we all share a connection to one another. Sometimes, just as food appears so different, the core is the same- the foundation of Baingan Bartha is the same a the Bonjon. As we move along through life, and meet people we become the sum of all parts- forgetting that we all share a connection to one another- a foundation. Our influences, adorn us- make us special and individuate us, but foods keep us connected to the superluminal connectedness of all things that are beyond our immediate perception.

Serves 4


2 large eggplants
3 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
1 bunch scallions, finely chopped
4 ounces button mushrooms, halved
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 fresh red Chile, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Brush the skin of both the eggplant with 1 tablespoon of the oil and prick with a fork. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until soft.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a saucepan and saute the mustard seeds for 2 minutes, until they begin to pop. Take care not to splash the oil.
  3. Add the scallions, mushrooms, crushed garlic and chopped chili and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric and salt and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Cut each eggplant in half lengthwise and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Mash the flesh briefly with a fork.
  5. Add the mashed eggplant and chopped cilantro to the saucepan. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens. Serve garnish with cilantro sprigs.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Sweet Potato Vegan Pie

What do you think of when you smell sweet potatoes roasting in the oven? How about when you see a carved pumpkin sitting on the outside steps of your neighbors' home? I think of Fall- of course, and these orange vegetables mimic the turning of the leaves with its vibrant hues bouncing off the sun.

Thanksgiving for Vegetarians can be challenging, since it's traditionally around a turkey, however thinking about this holiday for the real essence of what it was supposed to be is about being truly conscious of your surroundings and thankful for all that you have. In that light, you are more likely to take slow, healthier steps to consecrate this holiday in a more pleasurable way.

Thanksgiving is one of the rare holidays that my entire extended family have an opportunity to get together one time during the year. All my cousins, aunts and uncles can get together to celebrate just being together. Since we are roughly 60 people gathered in my aunt and uncles' house, each one of us has to bring a potluck dish. This pie is my contribution and my thanksgiving to my family for our cohesiveness and a gift on how to eat tastefully and humanely.

The flavors of this orange fleshed pie are full, warm and inviting- everything you would want from a holiday pie. In fact the texture is rich and creamy, reminiscent of cheesecake with a naturally sweetened oat crust. No one ever guesses, unless I tell them that it's vegan and that it's made from sweet potatoes. Thanks to Stella from the Witchy Kitchen for sharing this recipe and giving the gift of this pie to my entire family.

Serve 8


2 (1 ½ cups) Sweet Potatoes
3/4-Cup Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Tapioca flour
3/4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg
¼ teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
¾ cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
1/4-Cup Plain Vegan Yogurt

Oat Crust
1 1/4 Cups Rolled Oats
1/2-Cup Pecans
6 Dates, pitted
2 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 tablespoon Almond Butter (any nut butter can work)
3 tablespoons Cold Water

                        1      Preheat oven to 400° F.
                        2      Wash sweet potatoes and prick them with a fork. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until done.
                       3      Remove from the oven and lower heat to 350° F. Allow the sweet potatoes to cool.
                       4      Place pecans in a food processor and break down to a very course meal. Add oats and pulse a few times till they become part of the course meal. Then add the dates, oil, and almond butter. Pulse till combined (the mix will be dry). Add water and pulse once or twice.
                       5      Pour mixture into a pie pan and press it until it goes up the sides of the pan (start from the middle and move out). Place in the fridge till crust is ready for pie batter.
                       6      In a small mixing bowl, combine sugar, tapioca flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Set aside.
                       7      Place the sweet potato in another mixing bowl and mash it down with a fork until it is smooth. Add the sugar mixture and combine well. Then add the almond milk, yogurt, and vanilla. Blend till completely smooth.
       8      Pour into crust and place on the middle rack oven. Bake for 40 minutes or until filling hardens. Allow cooling on a baking rack for at least 3 hours.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Spiced Pear and Almond Sesame Parfait

Last week was the final week of the fruit share for the season from my CSA. Bless them... for a good portion of the fruit share I received apples and pears. So much so - that I just could not eat them fast enough. I decided that the best use for the pears was a spiced pear parfait.

 I spiced up the pears with a bit of cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom- scented them with vanilla and added some golden raisins to it. The combination of golden raisins and cardamom are classic combinations along the Silk Road- adding just a bit of bite to the sweet moist plump raisins.
Then I made some tofu cream- for all those out there that are vegan or avoiding dairy all together. I spiced up Silken Tofu with vanilla and blanched almonds. To top off this creamy Sunday, I made a sweet and salty almond crunch. 

A beautiful presentation in a glass with layers of golden pears and lightly colored cream laced with cinnamon. Whip some up in the fall when pears are at their peak. Thanks to Amy from the FragrantVanilla Cake for sharing this recipe and inspiring me to recreate desserts into healthier wholesome delights.

Serves 4


Pear Filling
4 Forelle Pears, peeled, cored and cubed
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup golden raisins
2-teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2-teaspoon cardamom
1/4-teaspoon nutmeg
2-teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt

1 package silken tofu
1/4-cup maple syrup 
1/4 cup blanched almonds
1/4-cup raw white sesame seeds
1-tablespoon vanilla extract
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 tsp sea salt

Nut topping (optional)
½ cup sliced almonds
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
2-tablespoon maple sugar
1/8-teaspoon sea salt

                      1      Place pears in a skillet over medium heat and combine with sugar, raisins, lemon juice, cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg. Stir occasionally so that the pears don’t stick to the skillet. Cook for 5 minutes or until pears have softened. Remove from heat and add vanilla extract, and salt. Let mixture cool completely then place in the refrigerator until cold.

                       2      To make cream: In a food processor, combine tofu, maple syrup, almonds, sesame seeds, vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon, lemon juice and salt and process until very smooth. Place in the fridge to chill until very cold before assembling parfaits.

                         3      To make nut topping:  preheat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray. Toss almonds, sesame seeds, maple syrup and salt until well combined. Spread out on prepared sheet, and bake for 7 minutes until seeds are fragrant and toasted. Remove pan from oven and let cool completely.

                       4       To assemble:  line up 4 (8 ounce glasses). Place a third of the cream in the bottom of each, dividing evenly between the three.  Top with half the pear mixture, dividing evenly between the three, then half the remaining cream, then the rest of the pears, then the last of the cream.  Top with the almond sesame mixture. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Apple Crumble

If you get a chance to do your own apple picking- do it! Driving right to the orchard, where you can set up a family picnic is an idyllic way to spend the day. Wander through the orchard with a basket in tow and breath the crisp fall air.

Apple picking is one of those familiar autumn traditions and with its bounty calls for an old-fashioned apple crumble. Easy to make and a perfect dessert to beckon the Fall season with warm baked apples.  An oat crust, that cracks audibly when you press it with your fork, sandwiches a moist apple filling in a cinnamon spiced syrupy juice.  Can be served warm with vanilla ice cream.

Serves 6


2 cups rolled oats
¾ cup vegan butter or 1 ½ sticks vegan butter
4 apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin (fugi or cameo)
1/2 cup brown sugar
¼ cup water
1-teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ cup crushed walnuts

1 Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9-inch pie pan.

2 In a bowl, combine rolled oats,  and ½ cup butter. Knead the crumble until all ingredients are mixed well.

3 Combine sliced apples with sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

4 Firmly pat three quarters of the dough into the pan. With finger, spread the dough out into a thin layer. The balance of the dough will be used for the crumble topping.

5 Pour apples on top of the oat crust and then the water. Cut remaining butter into pats and place over the apples. This helps to emulsify the apples when cooking. Add remaining crumble on top of the apples, firmly patting into place. It will not completely cover the apples, but that is fine. Sprinkle walnuts over the crumble and in between the gaps.

6 Bake covered for 50 minutes. Remove the cover and bake an additional 10 minutes.

7 Let cool for 30 minutes before serving.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Kale and Roasted Potato Salad

Kale is considered one of the oldest forms of cabbage, and native to the eastern Mediterranean, researchers believe it may have been grown as a food crop as early as 2000 B. C. 
Slice potatoes for roasting

Season potatoes with salt and pepper and layer with sliced onions. Drizzle with olive oil.
In order to properly prepare kale, make sure to remove the tough stem.  To do so, run your knife down either side of the center stem, pull to remove, and discard.  Then, coarsely chop the leaves into ribbons or pieces. Secondly, be sure to cook your kale until tender, but not overcooked.  This can take a little bit of getting used to, because kale takes a lot longer to cook than most greens due to it's thickness. When it's tender and turns a bright green, it's usually done.
Saute Kale

Now to this salad - which is more like a meal with the potatoes gently tossed in olive oil and roasted with sliced red onions, giving it a sweet tinge. A perfect light lunch as the weather turns colder and you need the nutrients of kale to keep your immunity strong. The kale is tossed with the potatoes, forming hefty servings once portioned out onto your plate. I like how the potatoes are a little crisp on the outside, yet not hard like a potato chip - the insides were still moist and a bit fluffy. Mixing it with tender greens coated in that tangy lemon dressing is a nice way to round out the dish. Simple, clean and a fantastic way to get in utilize my CSA share.

Serves 4

1 1/2 pounds potatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound kale
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh grated lemon zest
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 large clove of garlic, thinly sliced


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together potatoes, onion slices and 1 tablespoon oil - season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Spread mixture in a single layer between two baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Place into the oven and roast, flipping the potatoes and onions over halfway through, until the potatoes are brown and crisp, about 40 to 45 minutes.
  3. Trim kale and slice leaves into large pieces - rinse well and drain, leaving some water clinging to the leaves.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest and mustard.
  5. In a large skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high. Add garlic - cook, stirring constantly, until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add kale and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in mustard mixture, tossing well to coat - cook just until heated though. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Remove from the heat and toss with the roasted potato mixture to serve.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gluten Free Autumn Honey Cake

This past week was the beginning of the Jewish New Year, known as Rosh Hashana. The holiday signifies the creation of the human world some 5772 years ago. 

A traditional way to bring on the New Year is to celebrate with sweet edible things on the table, to symbolically express their wishes for a Sweet New Year. It's still not too late to make a honey cake for the New Year, since we are supposed to be eating sweet foods until Yom Kippur- this coming Friday. This recipe for Honey cake has been passed down through the generations with tones of cinnamon, allspice and clove, which are very grounding and homey during the New Year, when family gets together for the festival.

This honey cake is moist, soft and plush with a little crisp edge topped with almond slivers for an extra crunch. Another bonus with this cake is that it can be made up to a week in advance as it preserves really well. In fact, honey is a preserving agent and allows the spices to fully develop, so actually tastes better with time.

I find it so interesting that so many Jewish communities around the world have created their own signature sweet dishes for the Sweet New year. Among Askenazi Jews there is the custom to make a sweet noodle kugel and a sweet stuffed cabbage- just to name a few. So what are your traditional dishes that you make on Rosh Hashana?

Serves 2 (9-inch) loaf pans


3 ½ cups All-Purpose Gluten Free Flour
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1-teaspoon baking powder
1-teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
4 eggs
½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
1-cup vegetable oil
1-cup honey
1-cup strong brewed coffee
1 cup orange juice
¼ cup lemon juice
1-teaspoon vanilla extract
Zest of one lemon
1-cup raisins
½ cup almonds, slivered
¼ cup almonds, slivered for topping

               1    Preheat oven to 350°F
               2    In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt, allspice and clove.
               3    In a separate large bowl with an electric mixer, beat the eggs, gradually adding the sugar. Beat until thick and light in color, about 5 minutes. Beat in the oil, honey, coffee, orange juice, lemon juice, vanilla extract and lemon zest. The batter will be light and fluffy. Stir flour mixture slowly into batter. Fold in raisins and then mix in ½ cup almonds.
       4       4 Oil the two loaf pans and line bottom with waxed paper. Oil again and fill each pan with batter up to one inch from the top. Bake for 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes and remove from pan.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Korean Scallion Pancakes ~ Pa Jun

Photo by Jennifer Jagusak
Korea is not officially part of the Silk Road, but East-West trade extended there, and as a result, Korea’s cuisine influenced and was influenced by the travelers on the Silk Road. Pa Jun is a Korean pancake that can be served as a snack, appetizer, or side dish and is commonly found in Korean street markets. It’s a crispy scallion pancake that is chewy and moist on the inside, with fillings of carrots, mung beans and seafood. Today you can find it made in many different variations in most Korean restaurants, where it is served as a starter with a dipping sauce. Though Pa Jun is typically made with a pancake like batter, my Pa Jun is gluten free, made with rice flour. It’s speckled with zucchini and carrots and served with a ginger-soy dipping sauce--all together, a sure recipe for no leftovers. These pancakes can be eaten alone without the dipping sauce, just make sure to add some salt to taste to the batter.

Serves 8 to 10


1/4 cup rice flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
5 scallions, green parts only, cut into 3-inch lengths on the bias
1 medium carrot, grated
1 small zucchini, trimmed and grated

Dipping Sauce
3 tablespoons gluten-free or regular soy sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon granulated sugar

       1  In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the flour, eggs and 1 tablespoon of the oil with the water until a smooth batter is formed. Stir in the scallions, carrot, and zucchini and mix to combine. Chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to allow the rice flour to swell.
                       2   Coat the bottom of an 8-inch nonstick skillet with the remaining oil. Set over medium heat. When the pan is hot, ladle in about a quarter of the batter and spread it out into a circle, tilting the pan slightly to spread it evenly. Cook for about 8 minutes, or until the bottom is browned and you see holes in the pancake. With a spatula, flip the pancake and press firmly on the top to squeeze out any remaining batter that is not cooked.
                      3      Cook for another 8 minutes, or until the batter is cooked thoroughly and the pancake is browned. Repeat with the remaining batter.
                      4      In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, water, vinegar, ginger, red pepper flakes and sugar.
           5      Cut the pancakes into small triangles and serve with the dipping sauce.

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