If, like me, you find yourself in need of quick, no-fuss holiday gifts from your kitchen, you and your recipients will love my twist on a classic. The Middle Eastern flavor of za’atar curls up next to a hint of smoked paprika, garlic, and tamarind syrup for an intoxicating savory and slightly sweet flavor combination that is tantalizingly exotic, but not odd.
Za’atar is an aromatic Middle Eastern herb blend of earthy-lemony sumac, oregano, thyme, savory, and sesame seeds.
Package these seeds in pretty canisters or jars…or enjoy them warm right off the baking sheet.
Note: adjust spices if necessary to suit your palate.
4 cups raw pumpkin seeds (I purchased sprouted seeds at Whole Foods)
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons za’tar
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons tamarind syrup (sold at Middle Eastern markets)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray (so that less oil is needed). Spread seeds out in an even layer. Drizzle with oil, sprinkle with remaining ingredients except tamarind syrup, and roast for 10 minutes or until lightly golden brown, stirring half-way through. Remove from oven, drizzle with tamarind syrup, stir well to distribute evenly, cool on wire rack, and package in airtight containers.
[Betsy’s Note: the “F” on Kim’s photo is the grade she gave herself for her adlibbed cheese layer of the sandwiches, NOT for the recipe.]
Today I was super ambitious and decided to take on two recipes.
The first one, Curried Couscous, was the easiest one I have made to date. My biggest challenge was the fact that I had no idea what couscous was. My family has never eaten it. So of course I’m standing in the rice aisle at the grocery store searching up and down. I suppose I looked lost because two of the store managers who were in a deep discussion behind me stopped and walked over to see if I needed help. I said I was looking for couscous explaining that I had never used it before and one pointed it out to me and then proceeded to show me all the different kinds. The other manager told him to stop confusing me and just handed me a box of the plain. They were both so kind that I took two and was on my way.
Putting this recipe together was totally uneventful, thus a real confidence builder for me. I’m totally getting the hang of this vegan cooking… until I took on the Pear Walnut and “Blue Cheese” Sandwiches.
Ok I had already decided that my “blue cheese” wasn’t going to have quotation marks around it. I was buzzing on a total confidence high from the couscous. Pears, bread, mustard, and brown sugar? I got this! The assortment of flavors sounded a little strange, but one thing I have learned from cooking The Blooming Platter is to just go with it and it all comes together in the end.
So I now have the sandwiches under the broiler and go to the fridge for my cheater blue cheese dressing and once again…I can’t find any. It’s gone. So now what? The sandwiches are now out of the oven and sitting on top of the stove not looking so appetizing to me (I was really looking forward to the blue cheese). I searched the fridge again hoping it would magically appear. It did not. So I started reading the recipe for the “blue cheese” and I have none of those ingredients. Time to get creative I guess.
I chose pepper jack cheese and cream cheese – I know, don’t judge me – and I layered it on the sandwiches and put them back under the broiler. Then I remembered I forgot to put the walnuts on it so I quickly took it back out and buried them under the cheese. It came out a little burnt around the edges so I cut the crust off and I honestly did eat it for lunch. I have to say it wasn’t bad!
I did not make this for my family because they really don’t like pears for one, and two, they would definitely object to using fruits with mustard and cheese; and my husband hates walnuts as well. I can definitely say I will be making both of these again. The couscous tasted really good! We served it right out of the pot so fast that I did not get a photo of it but it was beautiful. However I regret to say that I did get a photo of the “sandwich” even though I am sure it looks nothing like a pear, walnut and blue cheese sandwich. I promise to do it by the (cook)book next time!
On Saturday, I found myself bringing home produce before I had even prepared produce from a Whole Foods run a couple of weeks ago. Afraid that something would go bad before I could get to it, I just combined the beautiful tri-color carrots from the earlier trip with today’s fennel bulb. I also roasted golden beets, but in a foil pouch and I’m not yet sure what I’m going to do with those little beauties.
In the meantime, enjoy this lovely dish with it’s mellow Middle Eastern flavor notes in either–or both–of two ways. There are lots of tried and true carrot marriages, e.g. dill, mustard, orange, and maple. But I wanted something a little different. So, while I did include mustard and dried orange peel, I substituted tamarind syrup for maple and added several of my favorite Middle Eastern spices. If you aren’t able to find tamarind or pomegranate syrup, maple will be tasty; and fresh lemon zest–say 1/2 teaspoon– is a fine substitution for sumac, just not quite as earthy.
As you can see below, the carrots are a beautiful side dish and I hope you’ll trust me on the taste. However, yesterday, home form school for President’s Day, I wanted a lunch of the carrots, but with some protein. Remembering that I had purchased a cucumber on Saturday and had some chickpeas and vegan sour cream on hand (here, no one sells unsweetened vegan yogurt), it occured to me that, combined, they would make a luscious and fresh-tasting protein-packed sauce for the carrots. And they were. Enjoy these beautiful roots as a side or a main dish and you’ll be blissfully content either way.
1 fennel bulb with stalks
1 pound tri-color carrots (or any carrots, really), trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias
Optional Garnish: reserved fennel fronds, whole or chopped pistachios, and smoked paprika (note, if you serve the carrots with the sauce, stir the fennel fronds into it and garnish with the pistachios and smoked paprika)
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove fennel fronds from stalks, finely chop, and store, covered, in the refrigerator. Trim stalks from fennel bulb and cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias. Cut bulb in half and then slice each half into 6 to 8 wedges, about 3/4-inch thick at the widest part. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil into a large roasting pan. Add fennel stalks and bulb wedges, carrots, and about 1/2 teaspoon sea salt adn 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Stir well to coat vegetables with oil. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Whisk together molasses, mustard, corander, cumin, orange peel, smoked paprika, garlic powder and turmeric. Drizzle over vegetables, add garlic, and stir to coat. Roast another 10 to 20 minutes, stirring after 10, or until desired degree of caramelization is achieved. (I like a lot of caramelization, so I roast them another 20, but be aware that the sugar content in the syrup means that too they will scorch more easily after it is added.) Check for seasoning and stir in more salt and pepper if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature garnished, if desired, with the reserved fennel fronds, pistachios, and smoked paprika, or topped with the Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce and garnished as desired.
Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce
1/2 cup vegan unsweetened yogurt or sour cream
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1-7 to 8-inch cucumber, diced
Reserved finely chopped fennel fronds
1/8th teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper
In a medium bowl, fold together all ingredients until well combined and chill in the refrigerator, covered, until serving time.
These savory fritter-cake hybrids are made from a trifecta of favorite, healthful, colorful and plentiful ingredients: chopped fresh kale, shredded sweet potato, and black beans. Green onion adds a fresh, pungent, herb-y kick.
A food processor made short order of finely chopping the kale and, with a quick blade switch-out, creating beautiful, consistent shreds of sweet potatoes and no scraped knuckles. For efficiency, I used canned black beans, rinsed and well-drained, mashing about half of them with a potato masher to help the fritter-cakes hold together without a lot of additional ingredients. However, I did use a little flour and soymilk (use the nondairy milk of your choice) plus some baking powder and soda for a hint of lift, but not enough to create a “batter.” The finished consistency of these is somewhat similar to a latke with a bit more body.
For spices, black beans would suggest Mexican or southwestern flavor notes. But, for some reason, I wanted to nudge these fritter-cakes in a slightly Middle Eastern direction. So I did invite cumin, coriander and lime zest to the party, but also smoked paprika and sumac which lends a lovely earthy lemony profile. It is widely sold in Middle Eastern grocery stores, but if you can’t find it, just order it online or leave it out. However, it has been one of my favorite kitchen companions of the last few years.
For cooking, I tried both oil and nonstick spray and found that the calories in the oil were worth achieving a crispier crust, but see what you think.
I love a savory and ever-so-slightly sweet balance, so for a topping, I whisked a little lime juice and tamarind syrup into vegan sour cream. Tamarind syrup lends a heavenly, subtle and distinctively Middle Eastern floral note tempered by the sweetly acidic lime juice. Again, the syrup is sold at Middle Eastern grocery stores and online. But you could substitute pomegranate syrup which is fruity without being floral or just leave out all together and go with a citrus sour cream which would be delicious too.
A little spoonful of the sauce, a thin slice of lime, a few pine nuts and a sprinkling of smoked paprika created a beautiful presentation of these delectable disks, perfect for breakfast brunch, lunch or even dinner, perhaps with a side salad.
3 cups shredded sweet potatoes (slightly over a half-pound potato)
4 cups coarsely chopped or torn kale, finely chopped (I used a food processor)
1-15.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and well-drained; half of beans mashed with potato masher
6 green onions, very thinly sliced
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste + a small amount more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
1/2 cup soymilk (or an nondairy milk)
Tamarind-Lime Cream (recipe follows)
Garnishes (optional): thin slices of fresh lime, a few pine nuts, dusting of smoked paprika
Line a baking sheet with paper towel and set aside. Set oven to lowest temperature. In a large mixing bowl, toss together with your hands sweet potato, kale, green onions, and unmashed sweet potatoes. In a medium bowl, whisk together mashed beans, flour, baking powder, baking soda, all spices, including salt and pepper, and soymilk. Spoon in roughly even dollops over vegetable-bean mixture and combine well with a fork. The mixture will be very textured and moist, mounding nicely, but will not form a batter.
Heat a thin layer of vegetable oil (or a combination of vegetable and olive oil) in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high. Divide mixture into 1/12ths and, using a spoon or scoop, place 4 evenly-spaced mound into the sizzling oil pressing to about 1/2-inch thick with a metal spatula. Cook for about 2 minutes, flip and cook 2 more minutes, lowering temperature if necessary to prevent scorching. They will turn a rich nutty brown (as opposed to a light golden brown). Remove fritter-cakes and drain on prepared baking sheet, sprinkling each with a few granules of sea salt. Keep warm in oven. Repeat twice more with remaining mixture. Serve immediately topped with Tamarind-Lime Cream and garnished as desired.
I always love the opportunity to develop recipes for Tofutti, and you can find the original post here.
Yield: 6 servings
This versatile Middle Eastern-inspired mash-up is equally addicting as a creamy dip, stuffed in a pita or baked pepper, or piled atop a grilled flatbread. Heck, it is delicious just heated and eaten with a spoon as I’ve done every day this week for my school lunches!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion (or 1/2 of a medium), diced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 medium eggplant, stemmed and diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup red wine (a Merlot is nice)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Optional: 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses or tamarind syrup (available at Middle Eastern/Mediterranean markets)
4 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
1/4 cup Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
Optional: 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste; available on the international aisle of grocery stores)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon mild curry powder
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Zest of 1 large lemon
Optional garnish: olives, fruit (fresh or dried), fresh herbs, nuts, etc.
Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high. Add onion and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 3 minutes. Add eggplant, garlic, and another pinch of salt plus a pinch of pepper, and sauté, still stirring frequently, until some color develops, about 3 minutes. Add wine, balsamic vinegar, and optional molasses or syrup, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until eggplant is fairly soft. Mash firmly with a potato masher. Stir in tomatoes and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Mash the mixture again. Add Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese , Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, and optional tahini, and cook, stirring, until melted and completely combined. Stir in all remaining ingredients until heated through and flavors are well-combined. Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve as a dip, stuffed in a pita or baked pepper, or piled atop a grilled flatbread. Garnish, if desired, with olives, fruit (fresh or dried), fresh herbs, nuts, etc.
“Sunny” because of this salad’s golden color and bright pop of citrus, and “souk” because it is redolent of an Arab marketplace, you will love Sunny Souk Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad however you choose to enjoy it: over greens, stuffed in a wrap or pita pocket, scooped with veggie chips and more! It is even veg(etarian) teenager approved!
*2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1-15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 pound cooked sweet potato, peeled and diced (I microwave the potato, allow it to cool a few minutes, remove skin–feed to dogs!–and dice)
1/2 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
Zest of 1/2 large lemon (don’t omit this little bit ‘o brightness!)
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and garlic powder. Add chickpeas, sweet potato, and red bell pepper. Toss lightly to distribute dressing. Add lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and toss one final time. Serve immediately or chill, covered, until serving time.
*I have just discovered a delicious brand of vegan mayo not advertised as vegan but as “egg free” at Whole Foods called “Just Mayo” that I highly recommend. I also love Veganaise and my own Blooming Platter Mayo (in my cookbook).
This long, snowy winter here at the beach finds me loving the weather, actually, and hungry for warming and hearty, but still healthy, fare.
After a recent trip to Organic Depot, I found myself with three different kinds of Tofurky Sausage, including Spinach Pesto. How did that happen? I rolled around a number of ideas, none of which sounded just right until I thought of a Middle Eastern take on my beloved migas, substituting pita bread for the tortillas, chick peas for the black beans, etc.
Plus, these days,I seem to slip bitter winter greens into almost everything, and this dish was no different. Packed full of vitamins, pungent mustard greens turned out to be the perfect flavor and color counterpoint.
And don’t leave out the lemon zest! The complex depth of the spices in this dish and the slightly sweet peppadew sauce needs it for brightness and a little tangy zip.
12 peppadew peppers, drained (I purchase them on the “olive bar” at a chain grocery store, Kroger to be specific)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons tahini
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Set aside 4 tablespoons for garnish and reserve remainder for migas.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 whole piece pita bread, plain or whole wheat, torn into bite-size pieces
8 ounces vegan link sausage, sliced (homemade or prepared; I use Tofurky brand Spinach Pesto flavored)
4 ounces mustard greens, coarsely torn or chopped
1/4 cup whole pistachios
Zest of 1/2 of large lemon
Topping: unsweetened vegan yogurt (or sour cream, in a pinch), and the 1/4 cup sauce set aside
Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high. Add onion and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and spices and saute, stirring, for 3o seconds. Add bell pepper, and saute, again stirring frequently, for 3 minutes or until pepper is slightly softened. Add pita bread, and saute, stirring, for a couple of minutes. Then add sausage and saute for 2 to 3 minutes or until it starts to brown in spots. Add mustard greens on top and gradually fold in, allowing them to wilt as they heat. Once incorporated, add reserved sauce (still leaving 1/4 cup for garnish), pistachios and lemon zest, stirring well to incorporate and heat through. Serve topped with a dollop of vegan yogurt on each serving and a drizzle of the remaining 1/4 cup of sauce, divided evenly among plates. Garnish each serving, if desired, with a lemon slice, a few pistachios and/or a sprinkle of paprika.
With its heavenly–and earthy–star anise garnish and its anise-and-sage dressing, this simple and flavorful side-dish seems made for the winter holiday table.
My Cous-Cous with Grilled Butternut Squash feeds two birds with one cracker (as opposed to killing two birds with one stone!) because it is both starch and vegetable in one. And, never fear, you won’t find me outside grilling in December (or any time for that matter), as I am an indoor grill pan devotee and that’s all you need for grilling the squash–my trustee pan is made by Lodge–though you could roast it instead.
If sumac is new to you, you should be able to find it in Mediterranean markets. It is a beautiful golden reddish color and imparts a mellow tartness. If you can’t find it, feel free to substitute just a little lemon zest, but its unique flavor makes it worth the hunt. I love nutty undertones this time of year, and the sesame provides just the right hint, and is especially compatible with the sumac and anise.
If you have the green part of your menu taken care of, this would be an excellent addition. (And, if you don’t, stay tuned, as greens are coming up!)