Squash-Kasha Patties

Still living off the soaked kasha from two days ago! Today, I mixed about a cup of it with a cup of pureed butternut squash, added some herbs and flavorings and grilled patties made of the mixture. It was very tasty, especially served atop mixed sautéed leafy greens, but didn’t have as  much of a cohesive structure as I’d hoped. I’ll had to add some chia in water next time I make patties.

What with this, the flax crackers, and the lovely vegetable broth slowly brewing in the slow-cooker (from all the stems and ends of the vegetables I used today), I think I’m good, foodwise, for a few days.

Kasha with Greens, Squash, and Mushrooms

I just found out something amazing! You can soak kasha (buckwheat) in water, and the result is just as tasty as cooked kasha.

It was the result of a happy accident; I intended to soak it for just a couple of hours, but forgot it in the soaking pot for a day and a half. Ah, well, I thought – I’ll just cook it up. But then I tasted a couple of kernels and realized it didn’t really need any cooking – just a quick turn in the pan that already had a stir-fry from yesterday in it.

Chad had made himself a dinner of greens, squash, and mushrooms, and ate it (probably) over pasta. I got about 8 leaves of young chard, and a handful of spinach, from our garden, threw it in there with the stir fry, and added a few handfuls of kasha. The result was extremely tasty, and improved with a generous sprinkling of nutritional yeast while cooking, as well as a tiny bit of truffle salt.

Mini Pita Sliders

We had lovely guests over the weekend, and yesterday I made a Mexican brunch for them that included short-grain brown rice and Rancho Gordo pinto beans. This morning, as an airport sendoff, I used some of the leftover grains and beans to make them travel sandwiches, and there was enough to make a tasty breakfast for us, too. 

Serves four:

1 cup brown rice, cooked
1 cup pinto beans, cooked
1/2 white onion
1 tsp olive oil
4-5 drops liquid smoke
1 tsp coconut aminos
1 tsp nutritional yeast
2 whole-wheat pitas
2 tbsp tahini or vegenaise
vegetables and herbs according to taste (I used some of yesterday’s pico de gallo and cilantro)

Chop onion finely and brown in olive oil. As the onion is browning, in a mixing bowl, mash together brown rice and beans. Add onions to rice and bean mixture. Add liquid smoke, aminos, and nutritional yeast.

Make eight small balls out of the mixture and place in hot pan. Flatten the balls with wooden spoon. Brown 5 minutes, then flip and brown other side for 5 minutes.

Cut each pita into quarters. Coat insides with tahini. Place a burger in each quarter, then garnish with vegetables and herbs.

Bon Appetit!

Quick Tomato Soup with Rice

The weather in the magical city of San Francisco has been, well, unpredictable. This morning started with more than a drizzle of rain, then the sun came out, and now it’s foggy again. And quite cold, too.

One sure way to overcome the cold is eating soup. At first I thought I’d make some lentil soup, but then I remembered the delicious tomato soup with rice that the lovely people at the Tel Aviv University cafeteria used to make. I decided to do the same, with three healthy twist: using about a cup of leftover ratatouille from yesterday (it was delicious and one day will merit a post of its own), cooking the soup with brown rice, and using quinoa. Here goes.

3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup brown rice, uncooked
1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 can Muir Glen diced tomatoes (the fire roasted variety is particularly yummy)
1 large heirloom tomato
1 cup leftover cooked vegetables (optional)
1 healthy handful of parsley

Mash up the garlic, chop up tomato and parsley. Place all of them, and the leftover vegetables, in a big pot. Add the grains and the water. Bring to a boil, then cover pot and cook for another 30 mins. or until grains are soft. Do not be afraid to overcook; the rice holds up quite nicely in the soup, and the comfort food taste actually improves if the rice is nice and soft.

Stay warm! When Mark Twain said the coldest winter he ever had was the summer he spent in San Francisco, he wasn’t kidding.
6 cups water

Persian Brown Rice with Spice Mixes

Today we made, for the second time, a successful and fragrant batch of Persian brown rice! We owe our success to two sources: Mira Efrati’s new book Tasty from Nature, and our inspiring visit to the fantastic spice store in Beit Lechem HaGlilit this afternoon. I urge all Israeli readers to head there when they can and buy some lovely blends; there are delectable and unique herbal tea blends and some wonderful mixtures for rice, soup, and other yummy foods.

Mira Efrati’s book, which aims at providing macrobiotic foods, actually makes great strides toward making healthy food palatable; to be honest, it does so at the expense of health, and includes sugar (albeit brown) in many of its sweet recipes. I think it would be particularly useful for people making the transition to healthy whole foods who don’t have a lot of experience cooking. It does, however, offer fabulous tips on how to make a basic sourdough and yeast whole grain bread, and on how to make various types of rice based on a basic Persian recipe.

We modified the recipe a bit, so that the rice wouldn’t burn the bottom of the pot, and used one of the delicious spice blends; this one included, in addition to a variety of “red” spices which gave the rice a wonderful reddish hue, onions, pine nuts and pecans. But I bet you could use the basic recipe with any spice mix you have. Here goes.

2 cups long grain brown rice
lots of water for stage 1
1 cup water for stage 2 (possibly a bit more)
a pinch of salt
2 tbsps olive oil
5 tbsps dry spice mix

Rinse rice in water several times, then place in pot with tons of water and salt. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, or until rice is barely chewable but not ready yet. Drain rice into a collander.

Then, coat bottom of pot with olive oil. Layer half the rice on top, then layer spice mix and other half of rice. Make a “hole” in the rice hill, so steam can escape. Drizzle about 3/4 cup water on top.

Place a towel on top of the pot, then place the lid. Cook for about 15 minutes, then check if water has evaporated; if rice is still dry, add the rest of the water. Cook until soft and fragrant. Yum!

The Perfect Mejedderah

Hi all,
I’ve finally found the secret to a great mejedderah (a traditional Middle Eastern rice and beans dish), very similar to the one my grandma makes.
My grandma used to make this very often, and we’d be thrilled when we smelled it from outside their home. Her version had white rice, whereas mine has brown long grain rice, but other than that, it’s very much like hers.
Which is wonderful; because I don’t know about you, gentle reader, but my memories from home and childhood are very much memories of scent and taste. Shabbat lunches at my grandma’s were a delight; she is a wonderful cook, and though she hosts less than she used to, she still has a touch for everything edible and an amazing combination of creativity and order.
The other place I enjoy eating mejedderah is in a small restaurant in a gas station near my parents’ home. Theirs is very brown and delicious, but not like my grandma’s. I suspect their spice palette is different.
Anyway: I’ve been making mejedderah ever since I started living on my own, and something wasn’t quite right. Ever. And I just figured out what it was.
My onions weren’t caramelized enough.
I’m so glad I realized this, because now I’m eating a nice bowl of mejedderah as I work, and thinking of grandma. The technique for browning them properly is well-explained by my dear pal Barbara, right here, and I strongly recommend you make plenty, because they are so useful for quite a variety of foods. I combined them today in my split-personality-spring-soup, made with various sweet roots and spring fresh greens.

2 large yellow onions
lots of olive oil
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 cup brown lentils

Slice onions thinly and brown them in a heavy onion skillet, according to Barbara’s instructions.
Place about half the browned onion in a pot with the rice and the lentils. Over a high heat, swish around rice, lentils and onions, until everything is glossy and shiny and happy.
Then, add 3.5 cups of hot water. Wait for a boil, then lower the heat to a medium flame, add salt and pepper to taste, and cover the pot.
When all rice and lentils are ready, mix them with the remaining caramelized onions.

Rice, Mung Beans, and Rice noodles with Turmeric, Fennel and Roasted Garlic

I was somewhat hungry this evening, but haven’t gone shopping in a while, and therefore the fridge was disturbingly empty. Nevertheless, I managed to dig some leftover uncooked grains and beans from the cupboard, and with the help of a few spices, made something that might count as a decent dinner.

I think this would be much better if vegetables were added to the cooking water (carrots and celery come to mind).

1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup mung beans
1 cup boiling water
1 handful brown rice noodles (of the vermicelli ilk, broken into 2-inch pieces)
5 cloves garlic
1 heaping tbsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
1/2 tbsp black pepper
(optional and probably recommended): chopped carrots and celery

Wrap garlic cloves in aluminum paper, and roast in oven for about 30 minutes.
While garlic is roasting, place rice and beans in pan with boiling water. Bring to a second boil, then add turmeric, fennel and black pepper. Lower fire to a medium and close lid.
After about ten minutes, add noodles. Mix well and close lid again.
After another five minutes, add peeled roasted garlic cloves; mash them a bit with a wooden spoon, either before adding or in the pot.
Continue to cook until rice and beans are tender.

Back! And bearing a quinoa salad offering!

Hi, everyone!

After a long LONG absence, I’m back! A few folks emailed inquiring when I’d be posting again… I was extremely busy – what with moving to a new country, starting a new job, getting a new home together – and didn’t do much cooking. Things are beginning to settle down, so I’ll do my best to start cooking delicious, healthy food again.

These days, I’m hailing from the beautiful city of San Francisco, where I shop for my vegetables in several wonderful places: the Valencia Farmers Market, a little grocery shop full of healthy wonders and devoid of pretension; the Noe Valley Farmers Market, close to my house, where every Saturday is like a block party of meeting neighbors, listening to local musicians, and seeing new and exciting vegetables; and the Civic Center Farmers Market, which happens every Wednesday close to work.

The beauty of shopping in farmers market need hardly be explained to those who have incorporated the experience into their daily routine. Somehow, the vegetables feel so much more alive when they are out in the open, sold by the people who lovingly grow them, and generate fun conversation and recipe exchanges among neighbors. There are always people selling ready-made healthy foods; in Civic Center, I can always get interesting salads and fun vegan, wheatless “lasagnas” from the young and enthusiastic crew of Alive!, and on Saturdays I enjoy fresh juices and fantastic tempeh burritos from Lisa, Paul and their crew of helpers from Juicey Lucy. Lisa is a fabulous person, and I recently got to know her and some of her family and friends while going on a ten-day juice fast.

The juice fast was a fabulous experience; I feel wonderful, and am as committed as I ever was to eating healthy and organic. It was almost difficult to go back to eating again; but, fortunately, this city really lures one into eating wonderful foods, so the difficulty was short-lived.

My schedule these days makes it difficult to cook much at home, but I do make fun stuff sometimes. Watch this space for reports about delicious wraps and date-nut rolls with raisins and coconut, and today, here’s a quick recipe for a quinoa salad, which reminds me a little of tabouleh.

1/2 cup quinoa (white or brown, or mixed)
6 fresh celery stalks
1/2 cup fresh parsley
juice from 1/2 lemon

Cook quinoa in 1.5 cups water until ready; leave in pot to cool a bit. Chop celery and parsley into tiny bits. Mix with quinoa and lemon.


One more entry for our quinoa festival.

I have to say, for us, all this quinoa consumption isn’t merely a trend. We both grew up in South America, where quinoa, made as a side dish or a soup, is a staple.

1 cup quinoa
3 garlic cloves
3 carrots
1/2 purple cabbage
3 beets
2 tbsps fresh parsley
2 cups vegetable broth

Cut vegetables into cubes/stripes. Sautee garlic in olive oil; add cubed veg and about 1/2 cup of the broth and mix up. Cook for an additional three or four minutes, until the water sort of becomes pink. Add quinoa, parsley, and simmer, with lid closed, occasionally peeping in and mixing up. When all broth is absorbed, you get pink quinoa! And veg! And it all tastes so nice! Much better than the weird rice-with-ketchup of our childhood, and with a color that’s even freakier.