Lentil Pâté – Faux Gras

 Ahoy there! I have a new version of vegan pâté that will knock your socks off. It is packed with protein and has no added oils beyond what’s in the walnuts and lentils. Most importantly, it’s delicious with fresh vegetables for a nice snack. We served it for holiday dinner and our guest christened it as “faux gras”, and so it shall henceforth be known!

2 cups lentils
1 cup walnuts
6 large mushrooms, crimini or similar
1 yellow onion
about 1/3 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp Kala Namak salt, or to taste

Soak lentils overnight until they soften – it’ll improve the nutritional content of the dish. The next day, cover with water and cook until soft.

While the lentils are cooking, slice the onion thinly and cut mushrooms into little pieces. place two pans on the stove. In one of them, dry roast the walnuts for about 10 minutes, until they develop deep brown spots. In the other, place about 1 tbsp of vegetable broth and saute the onions for about 10 minutes or until translucent and brownish. Add more broth to prevent sticking to the pan. When onions are soft, add mushrooms and continue cooking until the onion is an appealing shade of brown. Place walnuts and onion-mushroom mixture in food processor and pulse-process until smooth. Add the lentils and pulse until everything is mixed to your desired consistency. Add tomato paste, cumin, and Kala Namak salt to taste and pulse until everything is to your taste. Serve with wedges and sticks of  vegetables, like cucumbers, radishes, carrots, celery sticks, or bell peppers, or use as an unusual and delicious sandwich filling.

Baked Tofu

In my grad school days, I used to eat sometimes at a little joint on Bancroft Avenue that served what Chad and I affectionately referred to as “Kentucky Fried Tofu”: crispy, spicy tofu cubes as a snack. It was very tasty and I’ve wanted to reproduce it ever since, preferably without the deep frying.

Today I worked quietly at home, and the rain outside (thank you, El Niño, from our vegetable garden!) made me want to have some warm snacks. I had a giant bowl of salad for lunch, followed by kale chips and oven fries, and am cooking a lovely chili on which I shall report later today. But for an extra snack, I’m making baked tofu, and my premature tasting suggests that this perfectly and deliciously replicates the crispness and joy of Kentucky Fried Tofu–without a drop of oil.

1 package extra-firm tofu
1 cup soy sauce, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, or a combination of both
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
1-inch ginger chunk, minced
a spritz of liquid smoke
a spritz of Sriracha
1 tbsp cornstarch

Remove tofu from packaging and place on a plate or in a bowl. Place a cutting board, or plate, on top of the tofu, and place a heavy object on top of that. Leave for about half an hour.

When you return, the tofu will have drained from some of its liquids. Great! Cut it into cubes (I’m doing about 3/4 inch cubes) and place in a tupperware. Throw in all remaining ingredients (save for the cornstarch) place lid on top of tupperware, give it a good shake, and leave it for 30 mins to absorb the taste. Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking sheet.

Now, remove tofu cubes from marinade, toss with cornstarch, and place in one layer, cubes not touching each other, on baking sheet. Bake for about 15 mins, then toss a bit, and bake for another 15 mins. SNACK TIME!

Summer Hosting: Stuffed Mushrooms and Eggless Salad

Sunday Streets, a city-organized block party occurring in a different neighborhood every month, was in the Excelsior today. Salsa and rock bands, booths, food trucks, and lots and lots of happy people on bicycles.

On a whim, we sent out an email inviting friends over for an open house today, so I made some cool snacks: it’s always good to serve some cherry tomatoes, carrot sticks, and blanched green beans, and I had a winter truffle cheese from Miyoko’s Kitchen. I also roasted an eggplant and served two fun inventions:

Eggless Salad

1 block extra-firm tofu
1.5 tbsp Just Mayo or Vegenaise
2 tbsp good quality brown mustard
about an inch off a leek, just the white part
1 large dill pickle
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp chana masala/garam masala powder
salt and pepper to taste

Mix mayo and vegenaise in a mixing bowl. Slice leeks very finely, then cut through to obtain thin strips. Cut pickle into small cubes.

Crumble entire block of tofu into bowl. Add leeks and pickle and mix well. Season to taste and keep refrigerated.

Stuffed Mushrooms

20 white or brown champignon mushrooms
1-2 tbsp Bragg’s Liquid Aminos
2 tbsp parsley
3 onion cloves
2 tbsp strained tomatoes
1 vegan sausage (I like using Field Roast)

Carefully remove stems from all mushrooms. Place stemmed mushrooms on a tray and sprinkle Bragg’s Liquid Aminos on top. Slice sausage into twenty discs and place one in the hollow of each mushroom. Finely chop the stems, parsley, and garlic, and mix with strained tomatoes. Spoon a bit of the mix on top of the sausage in each mushroom and bake for about 30-45 mins or as long as you like until the tops are browned.

Flax Crackers

To the left: an image of the very first batch of (oddly shaped) flax crackers, made in my new Excalibur dehydrator.

I used to eat these quite a bit after falling in love with them at Cafe Gratitude; they made theirs with grated carrots and whole flax seeds. Then, I bought ready-made varieties, but their prohibitive price made them something to be enjoyed on an infrequent basis. But, as it turns out, I have a huge bag of ground flax in the freezer, and the equipment necessary to make it into a tasty batch, so I set out to make some.

There’s really nothing to it: you mix the flax with water until you get something that has the consistency of yogurt. You let it sit for a few moments, during which the mixture thickens a bit, add seasonings (I threw in a generous handful of blackened cajun seasoning) and, using a rubber spatula, smooth it over a dehydrator tray (or three) until it’s a fairly thin layer (I’d say, about the thickness of two flax seeds.) I left mine working overnight, and was pleased to have a ready-made batch in the morning; just ate two of them and they are delicious.

I bet the following varieties would also be fabulous, but haven’t tried yet:

  • grated carrots (Cafe Gratitude style), possibly with curry or masala seasoning
  • with a hefty spoonful of tomato puree, a bit of thinly chopped garlic, and some dried basil or oregano
  • with thinly chopped onions, parsley, and sumac
For lunch, I plan to have squash-kasha patties served atop sauteed collard greens. Good times!

Roasted Chickpeas

This is one of the best snacks I’ve concocted recently, and with good quality canned chickpeas, so easy to make.


1 can chickpeas
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp sumak
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red paprika

Heat oven to 350 Fahrenheit. Layer a pan with foil. Mix all ingredients in a bowl, then arrange on foil in one layer. Bake for about 30 minutes, until chickpeas are crunchy.

My Favorite Wrap

My favorite wrap, these days – one that does not require any sophisticated cooking and relies on store-bought stuff – consists of the following delicious combination:

Sprouted Corn Tortillas!


Any kind of stone-ground mustard!

Tons and tons of fresh salad greens from the market!

And –

Baked Tofu, thinly sliced!

A good substitute for a sandwich, this is something you could not only eat at home, but wrap and take with you. And, given how busy I am (and the lack of time to cook to my heart’s content), it’ll have to do for a while.

Kentucky Fried Tofu

And here’s something else that’s pretty cool; these easy strips are excellent in a sandwich with mustard.

Block of firm tofu
Soy sauce
Grated ginger
Brown rice / whole wheat flour
Olive or canola oil

Slice up a block of firm tofu into thin (2 mm) slices. Place them on a tray, pour soy sauce, add ginger slices and leave the whole thing alone for a few hours.
Then, come back; wash and dry the tray, and spread some flour on it. Heat up some oil in a pan. When the pan is hot, you have to work fast; dip each slice in the flour, coating it from all sides, and fry it in the pan. Flip after about 30 seconds, get out of pan after an additional 30 seconds. Yum!