Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Spiced Dried Fruit Quinoa (Vegan, Gluten Free)

It has been quite some time since I got a chance to sit down and write a post. Passover has taken a good chunk of my time, between cooking and cleaning. 
For many Jews around the world, Passover is a tough holiday because it's eight days with out eating any leavened bread, and for Ashkenazi Jews this has extended to almost anything leavened- like beans and rice also known as kitniyot. The custom is for Jews to follow their culinary heritage and traditions. So for the Ashkenazi Jews, kitniyot were not part of the culinary practice in Eastern Europe. I, on the other hand am a Sephardi Jew who eats rice and beans during Passover, because this were staple ingredients along most of the Silk Road. Now, where it gets a bit sticky is with my husband who is of Eastern European descent and was not accustomed to rice and beans on Passover. As a fair compromise to him, I made this Spiced Dried Fruit Quinoa, since it is one of the permissible foods to eat during Passover.
It was very important for me to celebrate my heritage as a Sephardi Jew, but also respect my husbands' traditions. Along the Silk Road, dried fruits are regularly used to catapult an ordinary dish to a festive dish. Since Passover is a holiday commemorating the Jews release from slavery, it calls for a celebratory dish. This quinoa dish was a fair compromise for us both. The quinoa is adorned with dried apricots and dates enhancing the aromatic flavors of the cinnamon, cardamom and ginger. The result is a warm and slightly sweet flavor almost sweet enough for a dessert, but I suggest it served with a curried vegetable dish. With this dish you are transported with flavors from around the world into your home. This recipe has been adapted from Martha Stewarts, Cinnamon Scented Couscous.

1/3 cup almonds, slivered
3 cups water
2/3 cup dates, diced
1/3 cup  dried apricots, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ½ cups quinoa
Serves 6

      1      Preheat over to 350°F
      2      Toast almonds in baking sheet for 10 minutes, stirring once.
      3      Combine water, dates, apricots, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, salt, oil  and quinoa in a medium saucepan under a medium high flame.
      4      Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until all water is absorbed.
      5      Stir in almonds and serve.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Spicy Tofu and Asparagus Stir Fry (vegan, Gluten free)

It has been well over a year since I have been writing my cookbook. A labor of love getting all the recipes I grew up with (Central Asian cuisine) and turning it mostly to vegan versions. At another post, I will discuss the concept of my cookbook more. So I was looking for inspiration with the concept of mindful cooking and mindful eating.... along I found Robin Robertson. She has written several vegan cookbooks, but my all time favorite book of hers is The Sacred Kitchen, which explores the interconnection of world wisdoms to elevate the kitchen into a healing shrine. It just so happens to sit well with me because I come from so many different cultural worlds myself- my parents are Afghan/Bukharian Jews who lived in Pakistan, India, Israel, Thailand and the United States. My fathers' side of the family lives in Italy and Hong Kong. You should see my passport with all those stamps!

In any event, Robin wrote a cookbook with a title of a similar name that I was thinking of for my cookbook (subsequently I will not be using it) Vegan, Fire and Spice. The book is an homage to world cuisines- of course I can appreciate that. Spicy Tofu brings such family nostalgia for me- my years in Thailand visiting with my parents and the Thai food is spicy and sweet (much like me!). The recipe I am posting today is from Vegan, Fire and Spice, a very simple stir-fry that took less than 10 minutes to prepare and 10 minutes to cook. The sauce is quite simple made up of mostly soy sauce, sugar, and a little seasame oil. But the tofu is enhanced with fresh garlic and ginger. And lastly, the extra spice of red pepper flakes will clear your sinuses. The flavors so simple, but exquisitely paired with the delicate asparagus. Be sure to buy the asparagus that are thin, otherwise you will need to trim the bottoms and pair them.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons soy sauce (Gluten Free)
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 bunch asparagus, cut diagonally into 2-inch pieces
12 ounces extra-firm tofu, well drained and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 scallions, finely sliced
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds (optional)

  1. In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, sesame oil, water, and sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet or wok, heat the canola oil over medium‑high heat. Add the asparagus and stir‑fry for 2 minutes, then transfer to a bowl using a slotted spoon.
  3. In the same skillet, add the tofu, garlic, ginger, and scallions, and stir-fry until the tofu is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Return the asparagus to the skillet along with the red pepper flakes and stir‑fry until the asparagus is just tender. Add the soy sauce mixture and stir‑fry a minute longer, or until hot.
  4. Serve over Jasmine rice and top with a sprinkle of sesame seeds.
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