Tuesday, January 22, 2013

African Bean Soup

Yesterday I made African Bean Soup and was tweeted a question about what to reply when someone says "Hitler was a vegetarian." What these two experiences have in common is that both are discussed in my book Living Among Meat Eaters.

New vegans--you become the target for meat eaters because you strike them as so earnest; and your earnestness makes you vulnerable. You want to answer their questions. Better, fix them a big bowl of African Bean Soup.

Meat eaters think they are so original when they come up with arguments like "Hitler was a vegetarian" or "what about plants."  When you've heard this for the one hundredth time, you wish they could find some new argument. You could point out that Hitler wasn't a vegetarian, but that takes you down the path that they know for sure he was. You could say, well so was Gandhi, but they don't care. You could say, well Hitler was against smoking, does that mean I should start smoking so I'm not like Hitler? But why step into their illogical justification for eating an unjustifiable diet?

They are so defensive and anxious. Really, help them just relax.

People are perfectly happy eating vegan food, as long as they don't know that's what they are doing. That's why this recipe is in my book, Living Among Meat Eaters. This is such a hearty, tasty soup, everyone loves it. I learned it from Jennifer Raymond author of The Peaceful Palate. When she sent this recipe to me, she wrote "Mmm!" next to it.  I added "Great!" She kindly allowed me to include it in Living Among Meat Eaters.

African Bean Soup

·      3 tablespoons soy sauce
·      1 onion, sliced
·      2 small sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
·      1 large carrot, thinly sliced
·      1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
·      1 red or green bell pepper, diced
·      1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
·      3-4 cups vegetable stock. 
·      1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans
·      ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
·      1/3 cup peanut butter (I use ½ cup)
·      1-2 teaspoons curry powder
1.     Heat ½ cup water and the soy sauce in a large pot. Add onion and sweet potatoes. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
2.    Stir in carrot, celery and bell pepper. Check the water, if the pan is almost dry, add a little more water. Cover and continue cooking another 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3.     Add the tomatoes, stock, garbanzo beans, and cilantro.
4.    Blend the peanut butter with 1/3 cup of water than add it to the soup along with the curry power. Stir to mix. Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook ten minutes.

My variation today: I added chopped kale when I added the cilantro. I did not have enough vegetable stock but figured the peanut butter and tomatoes and curry would provide lots of flavor. They did.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Making strata from Pure Vegan

I just discovered a wonderful new cookbook, Pure Vegan by Joseph Shuldiner. It is a thoughtful book with delightful recipes, well-designed, and featuring inviting photographs. I decided to prepare his recipe for a "Breakfast Strata" and discovered it was one of the few recipes without an accompanying photo. So, I thought I would take photographs of some of the steps in making the strata. While he called it a strata, it felt more like a torte to me, but I am not an expert on baking nomenclature!

Shuldiner's "Breakfast Strata" is layers of vegetables, scrambled tofu, and cashew crema, contained within a pie crust.

After rolling out the pie crust, one drapes it over the springform pan and begins to add the layers of goodies. The first layer is scrambled tofu, which Shuldiner highlights with cumin. I woke up this morning thinking about the delicious tofu ricotta I make with tofu, fresh rosemary, lemon juice, and a little miso. I think next time I might try that instead of the scrambled tofu. 

Next to be added to the strata is a layer of thick cashew cream. Followed by steamed spinach or chard.

The photograph above shows those layers plus roasted oyster mushrooms. Shuldiner didn't explicitly say use oyster mushrooms, but my local Chinese grocery store sells organic oyster mushrooms and I use any excuse to prepare them they are so delicious.  Next comes roasted red peppers, seen below. My son Douglas felt that the strata could have used sun-dried tomatoes, so next time I would add them at this point in the assembly.

Then one works backwards, adding the ingredients in reverse order, so next were added more oyster mushrooms. Then the cashew crema, seen below:


After the cashew crema, the final ingredient of scrambled tofu is layered on top. Then I folded down the dough that had been over the sides, tucking in the ingredients. The scrambled tofu has a little tumeric in, giving it its color, which can be seen below surrounded by the folder down dough.

I topped it it with the remaining dough (at the beginning I had cut the dough into 3/4 and 1/4). When done, I used my thumb to seal the dough:

Shuldiner recommends assembling the strata a day ahead, and then the morning you are serving it, you bake it for an hour, let it rest for an hour. At this point it looks like this:

Then you release it from the springform pan, and voila, a delicious breakfast treat:
I love these Italian plates, which my mother bought back in the 1960s. In the morning sun, they were the perfect plates to feature the many-layered strata.