Garam Masala Vegan Dip

Living the vegan lifestyle is a concept that I both accept and deny. I love vegetables and cannot imagine eating animal flesh, yet when in comes to the satisfying creaminess of cheese, ice cream and other dairy products, the thought of giving them up, causes my head to involuntarily shake out a most-emphatic, “NO!”

I’ve found with a pizza oven in the back yard, dairy product consumption is at an all-time high around our house, and has given me a little pause. And although we’re still topping our little wood-fired babies with fresh mozzarella, Pecorino Romano, and Gorgonzola, I’ve begun to wonder about vegan alternatives to cheese.

I’m not yet ready to take the dive, but thought I would start experimenting with vegan cream sauces. This recipe has as it’s base walnuts, olive oil and tahini and when mixed with a little soymilk, turned white and creamy and sweet. I was surprised by how sweet my plain soymilk made the dip, so to make it savory for the cucumber sticks, I added garlic, white wine vinegar and Garam Masala. As you can see I served it with vegetables, but it’s very satisfying spread on crackers as well. I might try it another time, sans savories, as the cream filling for a chilled fruit tart.

Ingredients:

Sweet:

  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup plain soymilk

Savories to add to Sweet:

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbs. white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Garam Masala

Directions: Mix all ingredients together in a food processor until smooth and creamy. Add more or less soymilk depending on how thick you want the dip.

 

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Baked (or not) Veggie Dip

Effortlessness is taken for granted. In the skills we have, we forget how it came to be that we do them effortless-ly. We forget that first we loved something and wanted to do it all the time, and then repeatedly put ourselves into a position where continued practice became a part of life.

Cooking is for me a skill that is mostly effortless, and every now and then I am reminded of where I started. My neighbor told me a funny story the other day about trying to get her husband to cook occasionally. He agreed to cook, thought it was a cool idea, and then, throughout the actual cooking process proceeded to ask questions like, “Is this the measuring cup you use? How much salt should I add? Is this the pan you would use?” She had to point out that if he was going to ask all those questions and need constant guidance, it was really like she was cooking anyway. She had been hoping that he would be able to take on the task and only call for her when dinner arrived on the table. We all had to go through the process of learning how much salt and which pan would work best, but when the skill becomes effortless, we forget.

Recently, I had the opportunity to watch a cook who makes it look effortless. Another neighbor, and CSA sharer, Courtney, whipped up some game snacks for a World Cup game a few days ago, and her work was impressive. She knew exactly where everything was, she had a plan, and her work was done efficiently. I never once pained while watching her, and in fact, marveled at her plan and technique.

Her brilliant and simple idea was to make a baked veggie dip using kale, spinach and broccoli from our CSA box. I riffed on her idea and spiced it up just a bit with some jalapeno. If you choose to bake it, do it quickly as the greens will brown under heat. I heated the one above under the broiler for just a few minutes which seemed to work well.

Baked Veggie Dip

  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small bunch “adolescent” kale, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 small head broccoli, chopped
  • 1 fresh jalapeno
  • 1 small bunch fresh basil
  • 2 0z. cream cheese
  • 1 cup Pecorino Romano
  • 1 cup white cheese (provolone, mozzarella, cheddar)
  • Dash salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • splash of milk

Directions:

Saute garlic for a minute in hot olive oil, add broccoli, kale and spinach. Cook until veggies are bright green and wilted.

Cut the hard cheeses into small chunks and run through the food processor, or grate them if you don’t have a processor. Add the cream cheese, jalapeno, basil, salt and pepper and the sautéed veggies. Pulse the processor until everything starts to pull together. Add the milk through the feed tube until the dip is creamy.

Put the dip into a small baking dish or ramekin. Bake for a few minutes right under the broiler until bubbly and beginning to brown.

Herb Chimichurri

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I know, I know. We’re not supposed to serve anything with bits of green at a party, but we’re all friends. If someone starts to bare their teeth ever so slightly and seems to be fighting an uncontrollable urge to stick a fingernail between two teeth, take that as a cue to excuse yourself to the bathroom for a green speck check. What else are you supposed to do when basil is in season?

I have to admit something. I still have basil pesto in my freezer from last summer. It’s true. I like the stuff a lot – once a year. It’s just too rich for me. It’s easy to overdose on it. So, I like to use my basil to make chimichurri instead. It still holds the wonderful basil flavor and you can use it much the same, but it’s just a little lighter. I learned about chimichurri while living in Ecuador where it was mostly made from parsley and used as a condiment for meat or empanadas. Every now and then, in different restaurants, I detected different herbs. That was all the permission I needed to think outside the box with chimichurri. I have made it with whatever herbs I have on hand, and it always tastes great.

My patio herb pot is exploding, so I plucked a huge pile of greens including rosemary, thyme and sage. The basil came from the CSA, and the cilantro is local but from the co-op. As you can see, chimichurri is a great accompaniment to fresh tomatoes, a lovely spread on sandwiches or a great condiment for any warm savory summer dish.

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Herb Chimichurri Recipe

Ingredients:

All herb amounts are approximate:

  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 handful fresh sage
  • 1/2 tsp. dried pepper flakes (optional: fresh chile)
  • 8 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbs. red wine vinegar
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Directions: Pulse in food procesor until well blended. This will be a little chunkier than pesto.

Coconut Cilantro Chutney

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I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I left you hanging yesterday with only a page number for this amazing sauce to scoop up with your spicy green beans and brown basmati.

This fabulous Indian recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian and can be found on page 663. It’s another mustard seed popper – I love that! I also love cilantro more than any other herb in the world, but have heard that some people don’t – I can’t imagine! This sauce is fresh and enormously flavorful and despite the fact that it has chiles in it, does not burn. In fact, it’s a great cool down accompaniment for spicy Indian dishes.

This recipe is so perfect that I do not improvise, but I do, of course, cut a few corners here and there. You know me.

Ms. Jaffrey states at the beginning of her recipe:

You may use 1 cup unsweetened dessicated coconut soaked in 3/4 cup of hot water for 30 minutes instead of fresh coconut, if you prefer. Use the soaking water as you grind.

First shortcut – I will absolutely use unsweetened dessicated coconut because I’ve lived in Latin America and I know how tricky it is to remove fresh coconut flesh.

Second shortcut – Put the coconut and water in a bowl and zap in the microwave for 2 minutes. While it’s cooling down, mix the other ingredients in the food processor or blender.

Coconut Cilantro Chutney Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup unsweetened coconut

3/4 cup water

1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger

2 medium shallots

2 fresh serranos

3 cups (or two bunches) cilantro

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tsp. peanut oil

1/2 tsp. whole brown mustard seeds

Directions:

Heat coconut with water in a microwave for two minutes. Let it sit until you mix all the other ingredients. In the food processor, pulse to chop the ginger, serrano peppers and shallots. Next add the cilantro and pulse. Scrape down the sides if you need. Add salt, sugar and lemon juice. Process until everything is chopped and starting to create a paste. Add the coconut and blend again. If it seems dry, you can add a drizzle of water.

In a saute pan heat the oil and add the mustard seeds. When they start popping, pour the oil and seeds into the coconut chutney and mix again. This chutney is served cold, so should be chilled in the refrigerator. According to Ms. Jaffrey, it should last 3 to 4 days and can also be frozen. Oh, heavenly deliciousness!

Tzatziki

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Flipping through the food folds of memory, I came across an old friend. Back when I was in college at the University of Minnesota, I met a Greek woman who was working on her PhD in physics. Following the custom of international friends in my family, I invited her to spend Christmas with us. We shared the Minnesota culinary custom of eating Wild Rice Casserole for Christmas dinner, and she taught us to eat Tzatziki and drink Ouzo. We eventually lost touch with each other, but her friendship is still alive in this light, refreshing and very versatile sauce. I love to serve this with warmed pita bread as a simple appetizer, it can be used to top spicy Indian dishes like a chutney, and is great as a light salad dressing.

Ingredients:

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1 medium English cucumber peeled

Pinch kosher salt

1 clove garlic

1 tsp. olive oil

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

5 to 6 mint leaves

Directions: Peel cucumber and chop into 1-inch pieces. Put all ingredients in food processor and zing.

Feta Walnut Spread

Feta Walnut Spread

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This is why I am vegetarian and not vegan – I have too many European genes. We’ve been eating cheese and grains for thousands of years, I can’t stop now! Were it not for cheese I could easily eat an all vegan diet. I abhor milk and detest eggs, but put a plate of stinky cheese in front of me, and I simply cannot resist.

This lovely feta spread is as easy as easy can be, and it’s another good place to hide some greens from those picky eaters in your life. This one has basil, but I often use cilantro and spinach. I love to send it for school lunch as it holds up well on bread and makes a great sandwich, or can be sent in a side dish along with chunks of whole wheat or crackers. Yummy.

Ingredients:

1 chunk feta (I’ve been buying sheep’s milk feta)

1 clove garlic

1 small bunch basil leaves (or cilantro)

1/2 cup walnuts

drizzle of milk, soymilk or water

Directions: Throw everything in the food processor and pulse. As the feta breaks apart you will see that you need to add liquid until the spread gets smooth. I just drizzle the liquid in while the machine runs so you can see how much you will need. Sorry, I never measure.

Fennel and Rosemary Pesto

Fennel and Rosemary Pesto


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I never know what to do with the abundance of feathery fennel frond. I’ve often used a little chopped up in a salad, or a few sprinkles on a sandwich, but I always end up feeding most of the fennel fronds to the composter. Today I decided to make a pesto from it. I like that licorice flavor and thought it might pair nicely with the Onion and Fennel Galette I made. I didn’t want it to become too rich, so I left out any nuts and only used parmesan and garlic.

Ingredients:

4 sprigs fresh rosemary

4 cups fennel fronds

olive oil

4 cloves garlic

1/4 cup parmesan

Directions:

Throw it in the food processor. Add oil until you reach a creamy consistency. Nada Mas.