Pico de Gallo

Next to salsa, pico de gallo is the ultimate Mexican condiment. Translating to beak of the rooster, or roosters beak, it is something we’ve all come to expect when we eat Mexican food. Unlike salsa, pico de gallo doesn’t vary much. The ingredients are basically the same and they are always fresh. The fact that the ingredients are always fresh and never cooked is one of the main distinctions between it and salsa and also the reason you may hear it called salsa fresca which translates to fresh sauce.

Pico de gallo will always have some sort of combination of tomato, cilantro, lime, onion and chilies. Some people may use serrano or habenero chilies but I use jalapeños for this recipe as they tend to be the most readily available.

One of the other main distinctions about pico de gallo is that it isn’t blended or watery like a lot of salsas tend to be. Salsas can be raw or cooked, thick or thin or somewhere in between. It is almost like a salad and can even be eaten so. Because there is so little liquid in it, it can be put in tacos and burritos without leaking out the bottom and drowning the tortilla. The thing that I love most about pico de gallo is the refreshing simplicity of it and all the flavors that I’ve come to associate with summer. You can’t get it from a can because it must be fresh. It is a great recipe to make in the middle of the summer when all of the ingredients are in season and at the peak of their flavor. Just in time for all of our barbeques, pool side parties, fourth of July and festivals.

The easiest way to prepare this recipe is to chop and measure out all of the ingredients beforehand and mix them up when they are ready. It doesn’t get any easier than that! You can either eat it right away or let it marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour or so until the flavors marry and then serve it. Either way it will be delicious.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 Cups tomatoes chopped small (about half an inch or less)
  • 1/3 Cup diced red onion
  • 1/3 Cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 2 Tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 or 2 Tablespoons of minced jalapeño
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  1. Chop and measure all ingredients. Use one tablespoon of jalapeño for a mild dish and two tablespoons for a spicier one.
  2. Combine all ingredients and mix well.
  3. Serve right away or let it marinate.
  4. Serve as a garnish on tacos or enchiladas, a filling in burritos or as a dip for chips.

Vegan Enchiladas Verdes

Whenever I go to a Mexican restaurant I always order enchiladas. There’s not a whole lot to order from the menu if you’re a vegetarian, but they are always filled with cheese and rarely anything else, which leaves me feeling bloated and tired. This is a satisfying yet non traditional version of enchiladas that I like and I don’t even miss the cheese. I use flour tortillas instead of corn so they get nice and soft in the oven and soak in the verde sauce. You can also make them with red enchilada sauce but green was what I had at hand. So we have enchiladas verdes!

One thing that I do a little different from other people is that I like to leave the liquid from the can of beans instead of draining it. The liquid in the can is called aquafaba and has been used for some time in vegan cooking as a replacement for eggs. Usually aquafaba from chickpeas is the one used most often as an egg replacement. It is clear and can easily be used in baked goods. It may sound strange but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. I use the aquafaba from the pinto beans in this recipe because I like the way it thickens the filling and almost gives it a creamy consistency.

Since there is no cheese on the top of these enchiladas, it opens them up for your personal creativity. I used avocado, red onions, tomato and hemp seeds. You could use any number of ingredients. I would recommend using different colors. You can use red bell peppers, cilantro, radishes, or vegan cheese if you choose.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 8, eight inch flour tortillas
  • 1 Cup zucchini sliced
  • 1 Cup Cremini mushrooms sliced
  • 1/2 Cup red onion chopped
  • 1/2 Cup chopped bell pepper, any color
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • one 28 ounce can of prepared green enchilada sauce
  • one 15 ounce can of pinto beans undrained
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • oil for sauteing
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Begin sauteing onions and garlic in oil until the onions begin to turn translucent, about two to three minutes.
  3. Add the zucchini, mushrooms and bell peppers. Cook for approximately five minutes or until the vegetable become somewhat soft.
  4. Add the can of beans with the liquid, and the spices and cook until the liquid begins to evaporate and the mixture thickens. About 5 more minutes.
  5. Using a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish, lightly grease with oil and fill the bottom of the dish with approximately 1/4 of an inch of enchilada sauce.
  6. One by one, fill each tortilla with about a third of a cup of filling. Roll and place in the casserole dish on top of the enchilada sauce.
  7. When all of the tortillas are rolled and lined in the dish, pour the remaining sauce on top of the enchiladas. It will seem like a lot but it’s OK to make the dish very saucey.
  8. Cook at 400 degrees uncovered for fifteen minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for five minutes. Top with your favorite garnish. I used avocado, red onions, tomatoes and hemp seeds.

Tabouleh Style Couscous Salad

I love couscous! Couscous is type of pasta made with durum wheat that is quick to cook and full of versatility. Originally from North Africa, it has found its way onto tables all over the world. Just like any other pasta, it can be eaten either hot or cold. This tiny pasta has been a staple in my life for many years. If I’m in a rush, I’ll saute up some vegetables with spices and couscous. If I’m camping or backpacking it cooks up with very little effort, is light weight and can be bought pre-seasoned from boxed meals like those from Near East, or Whole Foods brand 365. You can add garbanzo beans for protein, tofu, tempeh or pretty much anything else that you like.

I used to work in a kitchen that required me to make a cold salad everyday. Sometimes I would make it with barley, sometimes quinoa, orzo, bulgur or any other type of grain that happened to be around. My favorite was couscous because I love the texture and taste. It does well with a variety of flavors and doesn’t end up being the bulkiest thing in the salad like regular pasta can do. You don’t have to mix it with a bunch of mayonnaise or oil to make it taste good either. I like to think of it as more of an accent to the other ingredients.

Growing up in the Los Angeles area, I was used to dishes from all over the world. I had friends from many different countries including Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, Iran, Armenia and Lebanon. Tabouleh is a traditional side dish from Lebanon but it has made its way into the cuisine of the surrounding countries. I was always given tabbouleh when I would visit my middle eastern friends. Traditionally Tabouleh is made with bulgur wheat but I much prefer the texture and flavor of couscous. When I was reminiscing recently about the good middle eastern food I used to get on a regular basis, I came up with this recipe.

I’m sure this recipe will satisfy anyone who is craving a fresh and flavorful salad. It is filled with healthy ingredients that will make your mouth water but it is also a very simple dish that requires very little effort. It can easily be made in less than half and hour and be ready for a barbecue or a potluck. If you can’t serve it immediately and make it ahead just add a little extra olive oil to it the moisten it back up. I hope you enjoy this recipe and consider making it next time you have a gathering.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 Cups Vegetable Broth or Water
  • 1 Cup Couscous
  • 1/4 olive oil plus 1 Tablespoon for cooking couscous
  • 1 Cup thinly sliced cucumber
  • 1 Pint grape or cherry tomatoes sliced lengthwise in half
  • 1 Cup or 1 bunch of parsley chopped
  • 1/4 Cup mint chopped
  • 1/4 Cup green onion chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  1. Bring vegetable broth or water to a boil with 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
  2. Add couscous, stir well, cover and remove from heat.
  3. Let couscous sit for 5 minutes, covered. After 5 minutes remove lid and fluff with a fork. Allow couscous to cool for about 10 minutes.
  4. While couscous is cooling chop parsley, mint and green onions. Slice tomatoes and cucumbers, and squeeze 2 tablespoons of lemon juice.
  5. Once couscous is cooled, mix all ingredients together in a mixing bowl and serve immediately.

Southwestern Black Bean Chipotle Burgers

Burgers are the all american comfort food. Anywhere you go now, you can get a burger and the variety in the grocery store is abundant! Twenty years ago a vegetarian had almost no options when on a road trip. If you were a vegan you had none. You could get a gardenburger at Denny’s and that was pretty much it. Oh how times have changed! Now Burger King serves the Impossible Burger, Carl’s Jr. serves the Beyond Burger and all other restaurants seem to either have one of those or their own house made patty.

A homemade veggie patty can be both cheap and easy, let alone tasty. The possibilities are endless. This is a recipe that I like because I love the flavors of the southwest. I was born and raised in Southern California and spent so much time as a child camping and going on road trips through the Southwest. Even though I’ve spent most of my time in the Pacific Northwest as an adult, I have driven through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas several times and tasted the different cuisines depending on location. I like the basic ingredients used like chipotle, corn, and black beans. I used all purpose flour in this recipe, but it would work just as well with a gluten free flour.

TIME: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

2 (15 ounce) cans of black beans

1 Cup of frozen white corn

1 1/2 Cups all purpose flour

1/2 Cup red onion roughly chopped

1/2 Cup carrots roughly chopped

1/4 Cup celery roughly chopped

2 cloves of garlic

1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce

1 tsp salt

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp cumin

oil for frying

YIELDS: eight, four inch patties

Using the knife blade put the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and chipotle in the food processor. Pulse until the veggies are roughly chopped.

 

Drain and rinse the two cans of black beans and make sure to get as much liquid out as possible before placing in the food processor. Add the salt, paprika and cumin and pulse again until the mixture is like a paste. If you were to try to form them into patties at this point they would just be sticky and wouldn’t form.

Empty the contents into a mixing bowl and fold in the corn. We want the whole kernels of corn in our patties, so that’s why I add them in after the processing. Once that is mixed well, add the flour in half a cup at a time. The mixture will still be pretty sticky but you can always add more flour if you like for consistency.

 

When forming the patties, it helps to flour your hands between each patty so they don’t stick to you too much. Form eight, four inch patties and set them aside.

 

Heat a pan on the stove with oil at medium high heat and lightly fry the patties. This should take about two to three minutes on each side. As you cook them, you will notice them firming up pretty quickly. Your burgers will be ready for you to enjoy and share with your loved ones. Serve with tomatoes, onion, pickles, lettuce or sauerkraut.

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Creamy Vegan Cashew Cheese

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It seems like there are thousands of cashew recipes out there to choose from, but I have my own of course. My first experience with making cashew cheese of my own was when I worked as a cook at a vegan restaurant where we made two variations of cashew cheese, one traditional and one with chipotles. We would spread it on sandwiches or put it on the inside of quesadillas. If we served nachos, we would just water it down and warm it up. The same can be done with this recipe. We also used it in conjunction with Daiya and Follow your Heart cheeses.

I was at a new vegan comfort food restaurant the other day called Vertical Diner  in Portland and I had their breakfast burrito. It was fabulous! It was filled with black beans, rice, a delicious tofu scramble and vegan sausage all wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla with cheese sauce, red sauce and guacamole. This recipe is very similar to their cheese sauce as far as flavor but it’s just thicker. It’s very much a sauce when you first make it but it thickens after you refrigerate it and it can be used as a spread.

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As soon as I made it, I steamed some broccoli that I needed to use up and lathered it in this cheese. The next day when I made a burrito bowl I put a dollop on top of the bowl and it added a creamy consistency that you would normally get from sour cream or a highly processed cheese sauce.

TIME: 10 minutes, plus two hours for soaking cashews

Ingredients:

1 Cup raw cashews

1/2 Cup non-dairy milk

1/4 Cup nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground mustard

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp garlic powder

2 Tbsp lemon juice

YIELDS: 2 cups

It’s important to have a high speed blender for a recipe like this one. If you don’t have a high speed blender you may not be able to get it quite as smooth but it will still get the job done, you will just have to make sure to soak your cashews! If you’ve thought about making this ahead of time, then I recommend soaking the cashews in water, in the refrigerator overnight. You can also speed up the process by pouring hot water over them and soaking anywhere from half an hour to two hours.

The process is simple. If you’ve soaked the cashews, make sure to strain them well, there is already plenty of liquid in this recipe with the milk and lemon juice.

Throw all of the ingredients in your blender and blend to a smooth consistency. Like I said, the smoothness of your cheese will be dependant on the blender that you have, but don’t be afraid to experiment with what your blender can do.

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Use this cheese as a sauce when you first make it or as a spread for sandwiches or dipping chips or veggies once it’s been made. If you put it on something hot like a burrito bowl it will begin to soften again and act like a cheese sauce.

 

Indian Spiced Coconut Curry Soup

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Even though it’s August and therefore very hot outside, sometimes I still crave soup. I figure people in hot climates all over the world eat soup year round so why should I be any different. Usually my favorite soups contain coconut milk and some kind of curry. I’ve never had a curry I didn’t like. I even had curry at a Chinese restaurant the other day when I was visiting my Aunt in Los Angeles. I don’t think I’ve ever had Chinese curry but it was amazing! In fact, I may have to attempt one of my own. One of the nice things about LA is the number of truly authentic ethnic restaurants. I miss having that amount of good food around every corner.

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So here I am sitting in my very hot, non air conditioned apartment, thinking about curry. I have a can of coconut milk in my pantry, some vegetable broth and chickpeas. In my fridge I have garnet yams and some tomatoes on the counter that are about to become over-ripe. So what do you do when you have different ingredients and something that needs to be used before it goes bad? You make soup!

Here’s my version of an Indian curry soup that I made with some super yummy Indian curry powder that I got from work.

TIME: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

2 Tablespoons coconut oil

1 Cup yellow onion diced

2 cloves garlic minced

1 Tablespoon ginger minced

1/2 Cup red bell pepper diced

1 Tablespoon jalepeño

2 Cups diced tomato

1.5 Cups garnet yams

13.5 ounce can of coconut milk

32 ounces of vegetable broth

15 ounce can of chickpeas

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 Tablespoons curry powder

cilantro to garnish

YIELDS: 8 cups

Heat coconut oil in a large sauce pan on medium high heat and add garlic and onions. Cook until onions become translucent and mix in ginger until aromatic or for about 30 seconds. Add bell pepper and jalepeño and cook for another couple of moments or until the bell pepper is soft.

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Pour in vegetable broth, coconut milk, chickpeas, yams and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, stir in curry and salt and reduce to a simmer. After about ten minutes the yams should be soft and cooked through, if they aren’t, keep it simmering until the are done.

Serve with cilantro to garnish!