Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Curried Sweet Potato Latkes

Who said that latkes has to be made strictly from potatoes? Although it's a custom that came from
East Europe. Being that potatoes was the main crop, potatoes were used and then fried in oil, symbolic of the oil from the Hanukkah story that kept the Second Temple of ancient Israel lit with a long-lasting flame that is celebrated as a miracle.

The word "latke" itself is derived (via Yiddish) from the Russian/Ukrainian word meaning "patch." I suppose that the latke is patched together with some flour and eggs, and that may be how the name was derived. I love the Yiddish language... somehow the words they come up with sound so slapstick.

On the last week of the CSA I belong to,  the farm delivered sweet potatoes. Although the word potato is in sweet potato, it originated in Central America, no where near Europe. Although it is believe that Christopher Columbus brought sweet potatoes to Europe. In any event, now that you got a little culinary history,  I thought of making latkes with these and spicing it up with some curry. After all... I am a Mizrachi (Eastern Jew) Jew and I have to add my own personality to these. I also like the fact that eating something orange, that almost looks like a flame, illustrates the "Festival of Lights" with savory, aromatic and melt in your mouth deliciousness.

I made a batch of these for a Chanukah party I was invited to, and it's a good thing I took these photos before I took them, because they were gone within 5 minutes flat. That's how good they are. This recipe is inspired from Joan Nathan's Jewish Cooking in America.

Curried Sweet Potato Latkes

Makes 16 pancakes

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled (3 medium sized sweet potatoes)
1/2 cup All-Purpose Gluten Free flour
3 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup Rice milk or soy milk
Light olive oil, for frying

grated sweet potatoes

flour, sugar, baking soda, salt and spices

Dollop of batter to form latkes in olive oil

  1. Grate the sweet potatoes in a food processor fitted with a grating disc.
  2.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and spices.
  3. Add the beaten eggs and rice milk to the dry ingredients to make a batter. Add in the grated potatoes and mix. The batter should be moist, but not runny. If it is, then add a little flour.
  4. Heat a thin layer of oil in a large skillet. Drop a tablespoon of mixture to form the latkes. Fry for about 2-3 minutes on each side. They should form a golden crust on the outside and be moist on the inside.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Coleslaw Salad with Peanuts and Lime Dressing

I have been out of commission for the last 2 weeks. Not by choice... actually I had no choice, no power, and no heat due to Hurricane Sandy. I am sure you have heard of this notorious hurricane that moved slowly across the eastern seaboard only to collide with a No'easter. Long Island was in the dark.
It knocked nearly all electric out for 2 weeks. While I am grateful, we got the power restored and my home is intact, during that entire time I did not cook. So, my diet was a bit haphazard due to my disorientation of this whole ordeal.

My CSA along the eastern tip of Long Island somehow managed to deliver fresh produce to my garage, which is the central depot in my area. Their thinking was that so many people who like me were on a poor diet for the last 2 weeks could use a boost of healthy organic produce. They were right.

So this week, among the wide assortment of vegetables, I made this quick and easy salad made from cabbage and cilantro. It's Indian inspired and in South India, they eat a variation of this salad cooked. If you though that coleslaw was a german side to a tripple decker pastrami sandwich, know that the Indians thought of it first.

The easiest way to cut up cabbage is to cut it up into cubes and then toss in the food processor to grate. If you don't have a food processor, you can always practice your knife skills slowly and methodically cutting the cabbage into fine ribbons.

Coleslaw Salad with Peanuts and Lime Dressing
Serves 6 


1 1/2 cups unsalted raw peanuts
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
   1/2 of a medium-large cabbage
  1 basket of tiny cherry tomatoes, washed and quartered
  1 jalapeno chile, seeded and diced
  3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  2 tablespoons olive oil
  1/4 teaspoon + fine-grain sea salt

  1. In a skillet or oven (350F) roast the peanuts for 5 to 10 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice along the way, until golden and toasted.
  2. Cut the cabbage into two quarters and cut out the core. Using a knife shred each quarter into whisper thin slices. The key here is bite-sized and thin. If any pieces look like they might be awkwardly long, cut those in half. Combine the cabbage, tomatoes, jalapeno, and cilantro in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl combine the lime juice, olive oil, salt. Add to the cabbage mixture and stir to combine. Just before serving toss in the peanuts to retain their crunch. Taste and adjust the flavor with more salt if needed.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Zucchini & Carrot with Tofu in a Coconut sauce

A few years ago, I went to Costa Rica’s Vista Del Valle (View of the Valley). It's a lush self-sustaining hotel that grows its own produce, has an estuary, tropical birds and a butterfly garden pitched atop a mountain that is carved into the tropical forest. Below you will find some of the photos from our trip. The restaurant uses all the produce that grows in the forest, creating surprising dishes from Earth gifts. The head chef there served this dish to me from El Rosario, Costa Rica who graciously shared this simple and outstanding Zucchini & Carrot with Tofu in Coconut Sauce. I decided to post it now, because I just got some fall carrots from my CSA and had some zucchini to throw in. At the bottom of this post you will find directions on how to purchase tofu and make it taste outstanding. 

Race Horses flown in from Spain
Outdoor restaurant overlooking the lush mountains. Even the tables are made from the trees that fall in the forest.

Zucchini & Carrot with Tofu in Coconut Sauce

Follow post to the bottom where I make suggestions on how to purchase and make tofu taste great.
Serve this dish over jasmine rice and garnish with some fresh basil for a beautiful presentation.

Serves 4

3 tablespoons canola oil
1 (16 ounce) package of firm tofu, pressed and drained (click on link for directions) and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium onion
3 carrots, julienned
2 zucchinis, trimmed and julienned
½ cup Coconut Milk 
½ teaspoon red pepper
1-teaspoon sea salt
Brown Jasmine Rice or your favorite rice, for serving


  1. Preheat that skillet over high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of oil. Spread over the surface of the pan. Pat the tofu dry one more time and put it in the skillet it in a single layer, with plenty of room around each piece. Don’t crowd the pan, or the heat will drop too much and the tofu will steam, not brown. You will probably need to do this in two batches if it's too crowded. Cook on one side until it is deeply golden brown, then flip. If you are doing cubes, it becomes impractical to get all sides of every piece, so instead you’ll just toss them every minute or so and hope to get most of them.  When both sides are done, remove to a plate. 
  2.  In the same skillet, heat remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, stirring and shaking the pan, for about 7 minutes or until it just begins to turn translucent. Add the carrots and sprinkle with salt so that the carrots will sweat. Cook, stirring often for 5 minutes. Then add the zucchini and stir to combine with all the other ingredients. Cover the skillet, reduce the heat and let simmer for another 5 minutes.
  3. Uncover the skillet, add the tofu to the vegetables and stir gently. Pour in the coconut milk and red pepper and stir to distribute evenly. You can add salt to taste if you like. 

Crispy Pan-Fried Tofu

I use this method in lots of recipes, and frequently for simple stir fry weeknight meals. It is easy to do, takes just minutes, and the results are far superior to simply cutting up cubes and throwing them in your stir-fry.

Step 1: Buy Good Tofu. Find a store that moves a lot of tofu so you are getting the freshest tofu available. You want the stuff packed in a rectangular, water filled box (or maybe wrapped in plastic), in the refrigerator section, not the shelf-stable boxes. Choose an extra-firm tofu with the latest expiration date you can find. If you open it and smell more than a tiny whiff of sourness,  or it feels slimy, it isn’t going to be good.

Step 2: Dry Your Tofu. Open the package, drain out the water, and press it. You can follow another post I wrote I pressing tofu here. Cut the tofu into desired cubes or slabs. What we need to do is get the surface of your tofu dry so that it browns up on the skillet. Put down a clean dishtowel. Lay the tofu out in a single layer on said dish towel. Put another clean dishtowel on top and pat well, all over, to remove as much surface moisture as possible. It will also reduce dangerous and unpleasant sputtering when you put it in the skillet.

Step 3: Pan Fry Your Tofu. The optimum pan for this job is a cast iron skillet.  It holds a ton of heat, and develops a lovely non-sticking surface. You will cook this over very high heat, in a flat bottomed skillet because it allows the tofu to stay in contact with the hot surface for longer periods of time.

So: preheat that skillet over high heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of a neutral vegetable oil that can tolerate a high smoke point, like sunflower oil or canola oil. Spread over the surface of the pan. Pat the tofu dry one more time and put it in the skillet it in a single layer, with plenty of room around each piece. Don’t crowd the pan, or the heat will drop too much and the tofu will steam, not brown. You will probably need to do this in two batches if it's too crowded.

Cook on one side until it is deeply golden brown, then flip. If you are doing cubes, it becomes impractical to get all sides, so instead you’ll just toss them every minute or so and hope to get most of them.  When both sides are done, remove to a plate. Don’t add the vegetables and sauce on top of the tofu. It will ruin the crust. Instead, remove the tofu from the pan, do your vegetables, then add the tofu back just in time to marry with the sauce.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Kale & Potato Curry

We just celebrated Rosh Hashana in the sign of Virgo where attention to systems, health, details and routines are all up and in the lime light during this time. It is a time we renew ourselves and start over in this new year. Intentions and goals set during this time find energetic support by the newly born year.

I ended my year with submitting my manuscript to my publisher for my upcoming cookbook Silk & Spice: Mindful Eating for the Vegetarian from the Silk Road  due out in Fall 2013. It was a three year process to formulate and write my cookbook, and although I am ecstatic that it's getting published, I am a bit sad that this project of mine is over. It was my companion for a long time. We cooked, tweaked and revised together until we got to perfection. I will write another post about the process of writing my cookbook.

For me, this Rosh Hashana is about introspection and food, and connecting them both in a way, where food can be used to grace ones life with Gods presence. I will be working on my next labor of love, Spiritual Kneading for Rosh Chodesh which is about taking the physical matter of dough and kneading it as a means to clear the mind and connect with God and your innermost goodness. 

And speaking of goodness, I just made this Kale & Potato Curry dish utilizing Falls' typical produce, which shines on your face like a warm summers day with these golden potatoes. If you want to make it ahead of time and refrigerate or freeze it, leave out the yoghurt and add it at the last minute, just before serving.

Servings 4


1 bunch kale
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 onion, halved and finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, peeled
1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 inch piece of ginger, minced
l ½ teaspoon mustard seeds
l ½ teaspoon ground cumin
l ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cardamom pods, smashed
4 medium potatoes, cut into bite size chunks
1 cup plain (full-fat) yoghurt
1½ tablespoons tomato purée
small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped
small handful of almonds, cashews or pistachios, toasted and chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Separate the kale from the stalks and roughly chop the leaves.
  2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onion and saute until just golden.
  3. Meanwhile, pound the garlic, chili and ginger together with a pinch of salt to a paste. Add to the onion and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Tip in the rest of the spices and stir for a minute or two.
  4. Add the potatoes and chopped kale and saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes, so that they are well coated with the spice mixture.
  5. Pour in enough water to just cover the vegetables. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes until the potatoes are just tender. Add the kale, stir and cook until just wilted.
  6. In a bowl, whisk together the yoghurt, tomato puree and some of the hot liquid from the curry. 
  7. Remove the curry from the heat, stir in the yoghurt mixture, return to the heat and warm through very gently (if it gets too hot, the yoghurt will curdle). Stir in most of the cilantro.
  8. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. Scatter over the toasted nuts and remaining cilantro, then serve with rice.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Olive Oil Cake with Red Wine Glaze

In the last post, I told you about a cooking class I took with Jennifer Abadi at Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC. She introduced this olive oil cake, which has it's roots in the Mediterranean. Her specialty, like mine is to teach and write about dishes from the Silk Road. Jennifer's predominant focus is on Syrian cooking. Mine is Central Asia. In any event, all countries along the Silk Road have influenced each other in one way or another. The traveling caravans, not only passed through the countries, but picked up a dish and morphed it. Much like the game of telephone.... you say a message and then some where along the line, the message has completely changed, but maybe a word here and there has remained. Same holds true for this cake. As cake moved to Europe, butter became the fat and flavor of the cake, probably because olive oil was virtually non existent.

You might think, a cake is a cake. Flour, sugar, eggs and butter. Presto! Typically when we think of cake, we think of butter, but here the olive oil is used for fat which is pretty standard in the Medditerenean. Much better and healthier than butter, and yet it also gives it a rustic flair. This cake has a slight crunch at the edges, like a beloved one at a nearby coffee shop. And above all else, it has lemon zest for flavor and red wine which needs little in the way of a supporting cast.But I know, you’re just here for the cake. And you should be, as it meets all of the aforementioned cake batter requirements, but gets a little pretty boost from the red wine. Wine and olive oil are wonderful together; they both have bitter undertones and fruity finishes and in this cake, you taste both things with each bite. 

Serves 8 to 10


For Glaze:

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup unrefined whole cane sugar
1 tablespoon red wine

For Cake:

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups All Purpose Gluten-Free flour
3/4 cup unrefined whole cane sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 1/3 cups extra virgin olive oil
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup water
2 tablespoons red wine (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease a standard loaf pan.
2. In a medium size mixing bowl combine all 3 glaze ingredients and mix well. Set aside to
prepare batter for cake.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine baking powder, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and cloves and mix well.
4. Add the lemon zest and mix again.
5. In a separate large mixing bowl combine the olive oil, eggs, water and red wine
(optional). Add to the dry mixture above, and mix well until it becomes a smooth batter.
6. Pour the batter into the greased loaf pan. Place the pan on the center rack of the preheated
oven and bake for 20 minutes.
7. Gently pull the rack out just enough to pour the glaze over the entire top of the cake.
Carefully slide the cake back into the oven and bake an additional 15 to 25 minutes, or
until a toothpick inserted into its center comes out clean (time will depend upon the heat
of your oven and size of your pan).
8. Remove cake from oven and allow to cool at least 30 minutes before inverting the pan and
dislodging the cake. Turn cake upright and sprinkle with additional sugar if desired.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Muhammara ~ Syrian Roasted Red Bell Pepper Dip

I am on a roll with peppers. What can I say... who can resist fire roasted peppers in the summer when the grill is going. Broiling peppers releases the natural sugars, which makes this hot tamale a winner for many recipes.

A little while back, I took a culinary class led by Jennifer Abadi at The Natural Gourmet Institute. We made a host of dishes from the famed Silk Road. One of them was this Muhammara dip. It is addictive!! So much so that I had to make it again.

Muhammara also pronounced mhammara, which means red color — originates from Aleppo, Syria, and is quite popular in the Middle East. It is a spicy red pepper dip, easy to make and can be served warm or cold. I suggest serving it with crusty bread or fresh veggies. 

What makes this dip unique is the unusual combination of spices and ingredients that are used.
For instance, pomegranate molasses provides a unique sweet and sour taste, which makes it a signature dish. Long before the modern day beverage POM existed there was pomegranate syrup which originated in Persia. The savory blend of tangy pomegranates and roasted red peppers mix with ground walnuts and our unique blend of spices to create this nutty and irresistibly exotic spread.

Makes: about 3 cups (6 to 8 servings)


For Dip
1 pound red bell peppers (3 medium) or 1 (24 oz.) jar roasted red bell peppers (1 cup, drained)
3 cups walnut halves
5 medium cloves garlic, peeled
1 tablespoon water, room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate syrup
1  teaspoon ground cumin
1  teaspoon sea salt (if using fresh peppers), or to taste (if using roasted peppers from a jar)

For Serving
extra virgin olive or walnut oil
crushed, toasted walnuts
thick and crusty bread or vegetable crudite


1. If using peppers from the jar, skip down to step #2. If using fresh peppers, rinse
thoroughly under cold water. Preheat the broiler (on “Hi” if using an electric oven), and
place the peppers, on a baking sheet or small baking pan and set under the broiler. After
about 12 to 15 minutes (skins should start to blacken and wilt), turn the peppers over and
broil the other side an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Keep turning and rotating the peppers
until all sides blister. (Note: It is good if they turn black as you will peel these thin skins
off, and the char will give a smoky flavor and you can grill this on the fire if your prefer).
Remove from the broiler and let cool until lukewarm. Peel the thin skin from each pepper
and discard.

2. If using peppers from the jar, drain liquid and place into a small bowl. Cover with cold
water and soak the peppers, 1 to 2 hours, changing the water frequently to flush out the
excess salt and vinegar. Drain well.

3. Place walnuts in a large skillet and begin to brown over high heat for about 2 minutes.
Lower to medium heat and shaking the pan frequently to prevent burning, continue to dryroast the walnuts until dark brown on all sides, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat
and pour onto a large plate or baking pan to cool completely to room temperature. Set
aside . cup for the garnish when serving.

4. Put roasted and peeled peppers, the3 cups of toasted walnuts, garlic cloves, and water into a food processor and pulse to combine.

5. Add the tomato paste, olive oil, walnut oil, pomegranate syrup, cumin, and fenugreek (if
desired) and process until very smooth and creamy, about 3 to 5 minutes.

6. Taste and add the salt (if using freshly roasted peppers) or to taste (if necessary when
using the jarred peppers).

7. Serve at room temperature drizzled with olive or walnut oil, pomegranate syrup and toasted

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Raw Tuscan Kale Salad

I think kale is the quintessential vegetable that leads people to associate it with an organic lifestyle.... if that means meditating, chanting, vegetarianism- it's just all healthy and environmentally friendly. Probably every vegetarian organic restaurant I have ever been to features kale on the menu- and it's no wonder, as it has a strong dose of anti oxidants which has anti cancer properties.

Usually I eat kale steamed with potatoes and create a curry dish tossing some spices and onions together in the pan. However, this past week, my CSA delivered tender kale greens which forms the perfect background layer to this intense salad that is combined with the strong flavored ingredients of dry-roasted slivered  almonds, red pepper flakes, and a simple lemon with olive oil dressing. This has become one of my FAVORITE salads because it has all the things I love in a salad- crunch, cheese and mostly satisfying.

The salad calls for just a handful of ingredients, but they all deliver. Simple, but special- just use fresh and the best. It's a salad I throw together for a light dinner, but also something I can make for friends or family when they come over on the spur. 

This recipe has been inspired by Melissa Clark's In The Kitchen with a Good Appetite

 1 bunch Tuscan kale 
              1/2 garlic clove or 1 garlic scape 
              1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus a pinch
1/4 cup (or small handful) grated pecorino cheese, plus additional for garnish
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for garnish
Freshly squeezed juice of one lemon 
              1/2 toasted slivered almonds 
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Trim the bottom few inches off the kale stems and discard. Slice the kale into 3/4-inch ribbons. You should have 4 to 5 cups. Place the kale in a large bowl.
  2. Using a mortar and pestle or a knife, pound or mince the garlic or garlic scape and 1/4 teaspoon of salt into a paste. Transfer the garlic to a small bowl. Add 1/4 cup cheese, 3 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, pinch of salt, pepper flakes, and black pepper and whisk to combine. Pour the dressing over the kale and toss very well (the dressing will be thick and need lots of tossing to coat the leaves). Let the salad sit for 5 minutes, then serve topped with the toasted slivered almonds, additional cheese, and a drizzle of oil.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Roasting Peppers

As a married couple, my husband and I often have to delegate jobs to each other. This makes our expectations of each other quite clear. Although once in a while we do things that are out of our "job descriptions." For one... is the cooking. That is generally left to me.  Sometimes, my husband wants to cook and I let him, because he is a great cook, but also because he enjoys doing certain tasks in the kitchen that I don't. One of them is roasting peppers. That is his job! The purchasing of peppers, grilling on the fire, cleaning up and peeling is his pleasure. Lucky for me. I sit back and enjoy the ride.

This post is about roasting peppers. I can tell you, that once you taste these peppers, you will find ways to enjoy them in any dish. Roasting softens the intense flavor of pepper, bringing out their earthy, smoky goodness. 

The method here uses an open flame - either from a gas stove or a grill. Roasting peppers until the skins are blistered and black also makes pulling off their skins as easy as peeling off a piece of tin foil. Use fresh, firm peppers for roasting and choose peppers with smooth and unblemished skins. Arrange peppers over the gas stove or on a grill. Cook, turning to roast evenly, until skin is blistering and blackened on as much of the peppers as possible. If you have a lot of peppers, this can easily be done in batches.
Transfer roasted peppers to a large bowl and cover tightly with aluminum foil, or plastic wrap. Let peppers sit at least 15 minutes or until cool enough to handle. This allows the peppers to cool so you won't burn yourself peeling them, continues to soften the peppers, and steams them a bit which helps separate the skin and the flesh of the peppers and makes them easier to peel.
Working with one pepper at a time, peel off and discard blackened skin. The skins should come off very easily.  You can see my husband, Mervin is gently scathing away at the skin like a surgeon. A fork to hold the pepper in place and a knife to skin.
Continue peeling until all skin is removed. You can now also easily pull out the stem.

Roasted and peeled peppers can now be used in recipes or put in resealable plastic bags and frozen where they will keep up to six months. I use them rather quickly so store there in a glass container with a lid and drench in olive oil.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Quinoa and Swiss Chard with Parmesan

Short of 2 weeks ago, my CSA started up for the season. This is my 4th year hosting the Great Neck, Long Island site (uhmm... that I started- bragging rights). Happy to say that over the years there has been an overwhelming response to the CSA in Great Neck, that it had to spill over to another site close by. Although there is less traffic in my garage, which is where my makeshift CSA is, I at least get to know everyone in my group on a more personal basis.

Typical of crops that grow well in the late spring, is the Swiss Chard- which made it's first appearance the first week of the CSA. It contains a lot of fiber, and a host of antioxidant vitamins. It is a tall leafy green vegetable with a thick, crunchy stalk that comes in a fuchsia stem with wide fan-like green leaves. Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste profile: it has the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavor of spinach leaves. Both the leaves and stalk of chard are edible. I decided to cook it with quinoa, which is a complete protein and makes a fulfilling and satisfying dish that could last for a couple of meals. Cremini mushrooms are added, also known as the "younger" portobello mushroom, for a hearty and meaty chew against the nutty quinoa.

Serves 4


1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 pound Swiss Chard, stems and leaves cut into 1/2 inch pieces, rinsed well
Coarse  Sea Salt and freshly ground pepper
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced thin
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 ounce Parmesan cheese, shaved


  1. Cook quinoa according to package instructions. Meanwhile heat 1 teaspoon oil in a skillet over medium heat. Cook Swiss Chard, stirring until wilted and tender, about 8 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and season with pepper. Add pepper flakes and toss. Transfer to a platter.
  2. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil and the garlic to skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring until garlic is slightly golden, about 1 minute. Add mushrooms, and cook stirring occassionally, until they release their juices, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste. Continue to cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in cooked quinoa; cook to heat, about 1 minute and add thyme. Serve the mushroom-quinoa mixture over the Swiss chard, topped with parmesan.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tofu Xpress Review

Comes with:
- a Marinating Lid
- an Instruction Booklet and Recipe Guide.
- 1 year limited warranty

As I was writing the chapter on Tofu for my upcoming cookbook on Silk Road inspired vegetarian cuisine, I decided it would be a good idea to include step by step instructions on how to press tofu. Tofu comes in a variety of textures from silken to extra firm and the firmer the tofu, the higher the fat content. In order for tofu to taste good, it needs to be pressed, drained and then marinated. The water content needs to be removed, so that the tofu can absorb the marinade.

As I was researching the steps to pressing tofu, I came by a tool called Tofu XPress, which is designed to press tofu with out the hassle of setting up so many props to drain the water from tofu. Subsequently, I contacted Tofu XPress and asked them if I could try out this tool for my cookbook and that I would write a review on it.
I only use organic non-GMO tofu
Cut around the edges of the package to remove water content from the package and drain over sink
It's easy enough to slide the lid on the tofu press, however the spring sat slanted on the tofu.
After 30 minutes of pressing, look how much water got released. 
* Due to the spring sitting slanted on the tofu, one side got more pressed than the other.

After using the TofuXpress, I can say that it does remove water efficiently from tofu to change its texture and allows for significant marination to occur. The longer you press the tofu, the more water it will excrete. The pictures show a pressing of 30 minutes, which I was satisfied with, however I will look into why the spring was not sitting evenly on the tofu next time to make sure I don't press my tofu lopsided.

I am saying goodbye to using a lot of paper towels and the weight of books to drain my tofu and will be turning to Tofu XPress regularly to prepare tofu.

There is an optional Light Tension #2 Spring attachment for pressing cheeses, silken tofu, and yogurts, but I did not get a chance to use it. The tool converts into a marinating dish - however I did not use it, because I sliced up my tofu and this option took a lot of space.

Marinade for Orange Spiced Tofu

Here are more recipes on my blog using tofu that needs to be pressed:
Spicy Tofu & Asparagus Stir Fry
Cabbage Slaw in Peanut Sesame Dressing
Mixed Tofu & Vegetables in Lime Ginger Sauce
Orange Spiced Tofu

* Update on this post 5/30/12 *

Since I posted this review, Tofu XPress reached out to me to explain why the tofu got pressed slanted.
" If after inserting the assembled top into the base of the unit you notice the Press Plate (the part touching the brick of tofu) is not lying flush on the brick of tofu then remove the assembled top and press down on the corner of the tofu that is sticking up so the brick of tofu is even in height on all sides, then put back the assembled top in the base. The Press Plate should now be sitting flush on the brick of tofu."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gluten Free Ginger Bread

About 20 years ago, I was a practicing Naturopathic doctor in Manhattan. The philosophy of naturopathy, is to feed the body the nutrients it needs to heal itself. By and part, this also means avoiding certain foods that may trigger the body to attack itself. I entered the field of natural medicine as a consequence of a debilitating ulcer. After seeing many gastroenterologists, who medicated meds that were not helping me feel any better,  I went to see a holistic practitioner.  Dr. Michael Wald- who now practices in Westchester guided me to avoid all wheat and dairy. After a couple of months on an elimination diet, I was on my way to healing my ulcer. I was fascinated by the outcome, and spent many hours in the NY Academy of Medicine researching medical documentation on how to cure an ulcer naturally.

In any event, and not to digress too much, that was the turning point in my life that led me to study naturopathy. Although, I was told by my MD's to avoid spices, ginger was my ally. Ginger has been a popular culinary spice and medicinal herb around the world for centuries, especially in Asia, India and the Middle East. It is used regularly to treat indigestion, gas and bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. In fact, early references to ginger bread to treat an upset stomach has been documented from the 15th century in Sweden. Thereby this recipe....

At one time gingerbread was made with breadcrumbs and sweetened with honey, but as it made its way throughout the world it was adapted to meet the tastes of different cultures. And of course, I always love to morph a recipe to suit my culinary taste. That is why if you sample gingerbread in a country other than your own it may not look or taste as you expected. It can be a bread or a spicy sweet cake in a molded shaped. My version is gluten free- and now that you know a little about my history, you can undertand why all the recipes on this blog are gluten free. 

Akin to the original Middle Eastern recipes, English gingerbread is a dense, molasses-based, spice cake- which is the way I like it too. Some recipes add mustardpepperraisinsnutsapple, and other spices to the batter. If you want to sprinkle any of these into your version, I strongly encourage that you mix in the flavors you fancy.

This recipes utilizes the classic method for making gingerbread, which requires melting the butter in with the molasses, and sugar before adding the dry ingredients - in this case they are gluten free. To give it some extra kick I used two forms of ginger: ground, and candied to ensure a pronounced ginger flavor. A heavy dose of other classic gingerbread spices give the cake some more dimension. These methods and ingredients together create a gingerbread that is dark, dense, a little bit sticky, and outrageously flavorful.

Serves 10


1/2 cup light brown sugar
6 tablespoons vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1/2 cup molasses
7 tablespoons coconut milk
1 egg, beaten
1 cup Gluten Free oat flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1/2 cup sweet rice flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup crystallized ginger (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 325F. Lightly grease and line a 13 x 4 x 4 inch loaf pan. Place the sugar, butter, and molasses in a sauce pan and heat gently until melted and blended, stirring occasionally. 
  2. Remove the pan from the heat, let cool slightly, then mix in the coconut milk and egg.
  3. Mix the flours, salt, spices and baking powder in a large bowl.
  4. Make a well in the center, pour in the liquid mixture and beat well.
  5. Add crystalized ginger and mix into the batter, if you desire a more pronounced ginger taste.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 40 minutes, or until firm to the touch and lightly browned.
  7. Allow to cool in the pan for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container or wrap in foil.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gluten Free Spiced Banana Nut Cookies

The true origin of Bananas is found in the region of Malaysia. By way of curious travelers, it ended up in India.  Alexander the Great relished his first taste of the banana, and is credited with bringing the banana from India to the Western world. In the late part of the 1800's is when Americans tasted the first bananas to arrive in their country. 

Ever since then, bananas have been used as a sweetener in many desserts. These moist banana morsels are an ode to the past, and yet modernized with rolled oats which adds just the right amount of crunch and fiber. Oats contain a healthy dose of soluble and insoluble fiber. The fiber in oats is slow to be digested, making you fuller longer. The fiber in oats is also beneficial to the digestive tract in keeping the bowels functioning regularly.

Mashed ripe bananas and dates adds sweetness and flavor - a delicious way to use up your overripe bananas, and add even more of a nutritional value to these cookies.Forget about buying all those power bars with complicated ingredients, instead bake these amazingly simple, gluten free and vegan nuggets and enjoy it on the go.

Yields 36 cookies


3 overripe bananas
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup crushed walnuts
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Stir in the oats, dates, oil, walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and ground cardamom. Mix well and allow to sit for 15 minutes.
  3. Grease a cookie sheet and then drop teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cauliflower and Green Pea Curry

This is a variation of Aloo Gobi; a Punjabi classic made with potatoes (aloo) and cauliflower (gobi), however I have omitted the potatoes to lighten up on the carbs. I love Indian food because it’s inexpensive and relatively simple to prepare, but more importantly, it never fails to light up my eyes, nose and tastebuds with its piquant flavors and vivid colors. This dish is filling, without being a total carb bomb (sans potatoes) and the leftovers are good for a couple of lunches during the week.The combination of cauliflower and green peas may not sound like much, but they happen to be the perfect canvas to paint on the vibrant flavors of ginger, garlic and onions. The turmeric does it’s part by imparting a golden hue to the cauliflower contrasting to the green peas, making this dish look exciting. Indian food is all about the use and combination of spices for amazing flavors.  Even though there are a lot of spices in the ingredient list, you will find that they are staples to the Silk Road repertoire. Serve alongside basmati rice.

Serves 6


1/4 cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite sized florets
1/4 cup water
2 cups green peas
1 teaspoon sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh parsley, for garnish

  1. In a large skillet, melt the coconut oil over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and turmeric and saute until they begin to pop, about 30 seconds. Add the onion and saute until translucent, about 7 minutes. Then add the garlic and ginger, and saute until fragrant. 
  2. Add the cauliflower and saute until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the water, peas, salt, pepper and red pepper. Cover, reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is fork tender, but not mushy. Serve in a bowl or platter, garnished with parsley.

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