Tuesday, December 11, 2012


For the "classic" Pesto recipe, I consulted Marcella Hazan and my two favorite Vegetarian cookbook authors, Mollie Katzen (Moosewood fame) and Deborah Madison (Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone). I was sure that Marcella's would be the best and certainly the most authentic recipe but I am going with a combination of the 3. I'll use asterisks to tell you how they differed in case you want to go with the Italian master.  The directions are Hazan's which are clearly the best.

2 plump garlic cloves
3 Tablespoons pine nuts*
3 cups loosely packed basil leaves, stems removed**
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano
2-3 Tablespoons grated pecorino Romano to taste***
2 Tablespoons soft butter, optional
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 pounds pasta

1) Briefly soak and wash the basil in cold water, and gently pat it thoroughly dry with paper towels.
2) Put the basil, olive oil, pine nuts, chopped garlic, and an ample pinch of salt in the processor bowl, and process to a uniform, creamy consistency. 
3) Transfer to a bowl, and mix in the two grated cheeses by hand. It is worth the slight effort to do it by hand to obtain the notably superior texture it produces. When the cheese has been evenly amalgamated with the other ingredients, mix in the softened butter, distributing it uniformly into the sauce.
4) When spooning the pesto over pasta, dilute it slightly with a tablespoon or two of the hot water in which the pasta was cooked. 

*Katzen called for a full 1/2 cup - way too much but also suggested that walnuts, almonds, or a combination of all 3 could be used. 
** Hazan called for only 2 cups. Katzen called for an additional 3/4 cups fresh chopped parsley. Genius.
*** Mollie Katzen totally left this out. 

Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Kale with Walnut Sauce

I am posting this recipe mainly for the sauce. The synergy with the 3 ingredients (plus water) in the walnut sauce is amazing. This is another recipe from the Esselstyn's in "Forks Over Knives". You will have leftover sauce. Ann Esselstyn says "It is good on absolutely everything."

1 bunch kale
1-2 Tablespoons low sodium tamari*
1/2 c. water, more or less depending on your preference for thick or thin
1/2 c. walnuts
1 garlic clove

1. Prepare the kale: Wash it, remove the tougher part of the spines. 
Chop it. Boil 1" or slightly more water and spread out the chopped kale in it. Cover and cook for 5 minutes or to your liking. Remove it from the heat, and drain.
2. Put in a blender or food processor the walnuts, a clove or more of 
garlic, and the tamari. *Cut the tamari to the lesser amount (or less) if you are not using low sodium. 
3. Blend and add as much water as necessary (a slight 1/2 cup) to make 
it the right consistency to pour over the kale. It can be quite thin to be good and a little goes a long way.

This was delicious with mashed potatoes and a salad. We had the leftover sauce the next day with pasta. No gripes from the meat eaters.
Bon Appétit!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Black Beans and Rice

This is Rip Esselstyn's mainstay dinner. This looks like the perfect healthy meal when there is no time to cook. The only work is in buying the ingredients and cooking the brown rice.  He says to serve it with warm corn tortillas or healthy chips. 

Serves 3-4

2 15oz. cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1-1 1/2 c. water or vegetable stock
1 Tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
1 teaspoon chile powder
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1 can water chestnuts, drained
1 cup corn, fresh, frozen, or canned
2 red, yellow, or green bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 bunch cilantro, rinsed and chopped
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
3 cups cooked brown rice
Salsa or tamari to taste  (Thanks for the tamari, Aug :)

Heat the beans with water stock, and add the liquid aminos and chile powder. Place the chopped vegetables and cilantro in individual bowls. To serve, place several big spoonfuls of brown rice onto large plates and ladle beans on top. Add generous amounts of chopped vegetables, cilantro, and avocado on top of the beans. Add tamari or salsa to taste.

Rip Esselstyn's Big Bowl

This is Rip Esselstyn's mainstay breakfast. It's great! Plus you can change it up according to what fruits are in season and what plant based milk you choose to use. I recommend making up a big batch to last a couple of weeks or so. (I did 2 c. of each main item). This is the first recipe I'm posting from "Forks over Knives". 

1/4 c. old fashioned oats
1/4 c. Grape-Nuts or Ezekiel brand equivalent
1/4 c. bite-size shredded wheat
1/4 c. Uncle Sam Cereal 
1 Tablespoon flaxseed meal
2 Tablespoons raisins (I used dates)
1/2 handful of walnuts

1 banana, sliced
1 kiwi, sliced (I used blueberries)
1 grapefruit (what? I omitted)
3/4 c. plant based milk (SILK DHA Omega-3 is great)

Toss all the dry ingredients. Serve with fruit and plant based milk. 

Substitute any fresh or frozen fruit. In a pinch you can add water instead of milk. (Rip Esselstyn says so.)

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A day's worth of plant based food:

Breakfast: Uncle Sam's Cereal with strawberries, blueberries, and bananas with DHA Omega 3 SILK.

Snack: Watermelon

Lunch: Brown Rice with about 1 T. of peanut butter, a few drops of sesame oil, a bit of soy sauce, and some green onions topped with some salad (leaf lettuce, spinach, red cabbage) and a small amount of Paul Newman Olive Oil dressing. Very tasty!

Snack: Peanut Butter Granola Bars

Supper: Missy's Pesto made with Basil, Spinach, Pine Nuts and Olive oil served over "Rao's" (the kind Puddy recommends) homemade pasta. I sauteed a lb. of brussel sprouts in 2 T. olive oil and Missy made a honey, lime, sriracha sauce to top it with. Fresh cherries. This meal was a little rich but satisfying. 
Pab alerted us to a documentary called "Forks over Knives". It was very compelling since the information offered came after years of research by 2 reputable scientists. They are advocating a plant based/whole foods diet.  Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn explains that eating meat, dairy, and oils injures the lining of our blood vessels, causing heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.  Dr. Colin Campbell reveals how cancer and other diseases skyrocket when eating meat and dairy is the norm—and plummet when a traditional plant-based diet persists. Some members of the family have agreed to try the diet for a month and we will compare notes. Here is the book version of the movie:
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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Picadillo - Mexican Hash

Nat asked for this one. I've adapted this from the McNair's cookbook. When the kids were young, they all complained about the raisins. But Nat says they use them with ground beef in Argentina. I always served this with corn or flour tortillas. Nannie served her American style hash with grits. You'll have to let us know what the tradition is over there, Nat!

2 lb. ground meat (I always used 1/2 turkey & 80/20 ground chuck)
2 large onions, chopped
4 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped (2 c. canned can be substituted)
1-2 potatoes, chopped (optional)
2-3 carrots, chopped (optional)
2-3 zucchini, chopped (optional)
3/4 c. raisins
1 Tbs. vinegar
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. sugar 
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cumin 
1/2 tsp. pepper
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped

Sauté meat and onions in frying pan until meat is brown and onions are clear. Drain off fat. Mix in remaining ingredients, stir and simmer for about 45 minutes. Add the garlic and cilantro in the last 10 minutes. Use as a main dish with rice or as a filling for tacos. Serves 6-8.

Phil's Italian Tex Mex Beef Stew

Phil concocted this recipe in Italy about a week ago . I'm listing the ingredients but there is a secret one that you'll have to find out about when you read his recipe. Any word on Neesha's twins, Phil?? 

3 small onions, chopped                                5 small tomatoes, chopped
several big mushrooms, chopped                  5 small potatoes, chopped
1 lb. or so beef stew meat                              2 zucchini, sliced              
1 frozen pork sausage (optional)                   cumin (1 t. approx.)                     
2 stalks celery, chopped                                 salt (2 t. approx)
5-6 carrots, roughly chopped                          garlic, minced, (3 cloves or so)
1 bell pepper, chopped                                   1 leek, tough green part removed
2 spicy peppers (serrano, jalapeno)               (optional - add with peppers if using)

First I chopped up three smallish onions, and several big mushrooms. Then I started sauteing them along with my beef stew meat. Then I added a frozen pork sausage (no need to do that -- it was just in the freezer left by a roommate who moved out, and I was just making freezer space. It was a delicious addition, but no need to gild the lily for future cases).
Instead of chopping everything ahead of time like I usually do, which is a little too OCD, I finally just started doing what you always recommend and adding stuff as I chopped. So then I added two stalks of celery to the skillet, followed by 5-6 carrots, chopped roughly, then a bell pepper, then two spicy peppers, and something with an Italian name that I'm not sure about only because it was the first time i cooked with it, but I think it might have been leeks. Unmistakably in the onion family but long , big, and cylindrical.

Then I chopped up about 5-6 smallish tomatoes, 5-6 smallish potatoes, and 2 zucchinis. I didn't add them at that point because I knew they give off a lot of water so it would be time to transfer it all to a stew pot at that point. So I transfered it all to a stew pot. 

Then came the special part. Sadly, this is the last time I can make this stew while in Italy, but you can make it. I then added one small box (9.5 oz) of Dona Maria mole. It's really good and I tasted it beforehand to make sure it didn't taste salty or artificial or something that would mess with the taste of my otherwise fresh stew, and don't worry it's fine. I added the small box along with some dried red peppers from Mission, Texas. Our friend Neesha (who writes comments on your food blog, and who is expecting twins any day now) sent Drew and I a care package this past fall with fun Mexican food we couldn't get here, and the mole mix was the oddball thing I never used till last night. But I'm sure you can find it in the San Benito HEB.  I also added some cumin, of course I salted the whole time, and then I put the lid on and simmered for an hour. Oh, I added garlic toward the end.

It was delicious. The vegetables cost me 7 Euro and the stew meat was 4 Euro, so about $14 in total, guesstimating the conversion to dollars. But it should last me about 5-6 good meals. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

cách kho thịt

rửa thịt sạch xắc ra thành cụt vuông ; bầm tỏi + ớt+ nước mắm + đường + bột ngọt , trộn với thịt để khoảng 20 phút bắt nồi lên bếp bỏ vô ít đường saò cho vàng rồi, đổ thịt vô nấu sôi đê lửa nhỏ đền khi thịt mềm

we made this last week. the recipe was handwritten and given to us by aunt number 5. it means:

wash the meat well and cut into cubes; add garlic, chili, fish sauce, sugar, msg, let marinade for 20 minutes. put a pot on the fire and add a little sugar until it gets dark, then put in the meat, cook on a low fire until it's tender.

Supplementary notes
The recipe is very traditional because it is so vague about the ingredients. Here is the extra information you need to actually prepare this.
1. "a little sugar" means enough sugar to melt and make about a quarter cup of caramel
2. the meat to use is pork belly. i used about a two pound portion of a pork belly with ribs attached. add just enough water to cover and simmer it with the top off.
3. after bringing the meat to a boil you will spend a good hour skimming off the foam that rises to the top. this is important to do so that you have a clear sauce at the end.
3a. After skimming you will want to adjust the seasoning by adding fish sauce (for saltiness) and granular sugar. The broth should be very sweet and salty. You are not supposed to drink the broth, just add a spoon or so on top of your rice, so you should not be too concerned. Also the broth needs to be strong in order for the dish to keep preserved.
4. once you have been skimming for a while, add in about a dozen boiled eggs. the eggs are supposed to absorb the sweet and salty sauce. duck or quail eggs are most traditional, but chicken eggs will also work.
5. in most recipes like this they use fried garlic rather than fresh garlic. to make fried garlic just mince a good amount of garlic and fry it in oil until golden, then let it cool and harden.
6. msg ("sweet powder") is of course optional. i put about a teaspoon. if you are skeptical, here is a simple experiment:
Rinse well a handful of spinach leaves. Heat a bit of peanut oil in a skillet, add some minced garlic to brown, then add the spinach, sprinkle about a teaspoon of sugar and a teaspoon of soy sauce. Cook a minute or two until wilted. Now do the same with another handful of spinach leaves, but add a quarter teaspoon of msg with the sugar. Can you taste the difference?
7. You should not eat this dish alone, but serve it on the side with a vegetable main course. The dish reaches its peak flavor after 10--20 days sitting in the refrigerator or sitting out at room temperature. If you set it out at room temperature, then bring the whole pot to a boil twice a day. If you store it in the refrigerator, then when you take it out, heat the whole pot up, serve out however much you will eat, then let it cool and store back in the refrigerator. If you just serve it as a side dish and only have a couple of bites with every other supper, then you will notice it improving over time. The eggs especially are transformed after sitting in the broth for two weeks. In Vietnam some families will eat one pot, reheated every day, for a full month.