GORDITAAAS

So before I made this recipe I had no idea what a gordita was (besides meaning lil fatty…). However, the ingredients looked so good together and they are the perfect little street food appetizer (or if you eat a bunch they can definitely serve as a meal as they are quite filling). For those of you who don’t know what a gordita is, it is essentially a cornmeal pancake stuffed with wonderful Mexican goodness. Generally, it is filled with meat, cheese and some sort of salsa, but in this case it is filled with salsa, beans and an extra large chunk of avocado. Gorditas can also be served as a dessert, filled with cream, sugar and cinnamon. You can make the tortillas as big or small as you would like, in this case we made them on the smaller size, perfect for munching. Now that I live in New York, I have started to notice Mexican street vendors selling gorditas, not vegan though sadly.

 

Gorditas Recipe (adapted from Cilantro and Citronella):

Makes about 10-12 palm sized gorditas

Ingredients:

For the Pico De Gallo (so tasty):

  • 3-4 medium tomatoes, diced
  • Half of a white onion (red is fine too!)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 a lime, juiced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Cornmeal Pancakes:

  • 2 cups yellow cornmeal (I ended up adding 1 more cup)
  • 1 cup flour (if needed)
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Oil for frying

Filling:

  • 3 cups cooked beans (I used pinto)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage or lettuce
  • Avocados, the more the merrier

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients for pico de gallo and put in fridge until needed.
  2. Combine pancake ingredients. In my case I ended up using more flour, as my batter was too liquidy and would not hold in a ball. Add more cornmeal and flour if that is the case for you too (slowly) until the dough sort of like cookie dough but little less firm ( so that you can flatten it and make it into pancakes)!
  3. Place dough balls ( 4 inch diameter, 1 inch thick) in between a large piece of plastic wrap (folded over) so that they are easier to flatten and won’t stick to your hands.
  4. Heat pan to medium heat with oil. Fry pancakes for a few minutes on each side until golden brown.
  5. Allow pancakes to cool and drain of oil by placing them on paper towels on top of plate. Once cooled you can make a slit in the pancakes, creating a pocket (like a pita) to fill with goodies!!!! 🙂

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~vietnamese spring rolls with a garlicky almond dipping sauce~ (gỏi cuốn chay)

Towards the end of my working period at Miss Saigon (a Vietnamese restaurant in Amherst, MA that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND, although I may be biased, but it’s so good), I was very inclined towards cooking a lot of Asian recipes. During lunch at the restaurant, most meals came with egg rolls. However, as I am vegan, I replaced them with their vegan spring rolls and soon found myself addicted and wanting to make my own. The process of creating the spring roll is very delicate and like an art, and with practice they take no time to roll. Me being a newbie, I had some difficulty getting the hang of wrapping vegetables and tofu with the sticky, translucent rice paper, but it is meditative in a way. This recipe also comes with a tasty almond chili garlicky dipping sauce; at the restaurant, they make their own peanut dipping sauce which I used to love until I found out that they put dairy in it (oops). However, I prefer this spicier version ;). It is also a great dressing for salads!

I was also very pleased about how my tofu came out, crispy and golden like at the restaurant. I used to marvel at the tofu in the restaurant, because my tofu never came out as crispy and tasty as home, and realized that I was doing everything completely wrong, ingredients-wise. The key is cornstarch and sesame oil! I am sure there are other methods, of which I need to investigate, but this method is for sure an A ++++ in my book.

So what is rice paper and what the heck are vermicelli rice noodles?

Rice paper can be used for fresh rolls (like spring or summer rolls) and can also be fried for other types of rolls. It is generally made of ground up rice, flour, water, salt, and a little bit of older rice paper batter for a slightly sour taste effect. However, there are variations of this recipe and it is hard to get authentic rice paper rolls in the U.S. If you are curious to see the process of making rice paper, click here.

Vermicelli rice noodles are also a component in this appetizer, and are also a frequent component in other Vietnamese dishes such as pho (a traditional Vietnamese soup) and vermicelli dishes (one of my favorite dishes, composed of a bed of cold rice noodles underneath a mixture of vegetables and meat/tofu in some sort of sauce). They are also primarily made of rice and you can see how they are made here.

They are very filling and refreshing, perfect for a snack or small meal!

Veggie Spring Rolls (recipe from Minimalist Baker):

Makes about 10-12 spring rolls

Ingredients:

Spring Roll:

  • 1/2 cup julienned carrots
  • 1/2 cup julienned cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup julienned red pepper
  • 1 bunch cilantro, rough chop
  • 4 ounces vermicelli, thin rice noodles (you can either find these bagged or frozen)
  • 8-10 rice spring roll papers

Almond Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/3 cup creamy salted almond butter
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce ( I love this stuff)
  • Hot water to thin

Crispy Tofu:

  • 8 ounces tofu, drained, pressed, and dried (you can press and dry it by covering the tofu with a cloth or paper towel and placing a heavy object on top)
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of almond butter dipping sauce
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Instructions:

  1. Boil a pot of water, add rice noodles and reduce heat, cooking for about ten minutes or until soft and sticky. Drain and set aside.
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  2. Chop tofu into small rectangles (about 2 inches long) or cubes. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add in 3 tablespoons sesame oil and 3 tablespoons of cornstarch. Add tofu and fry for about 5 minutes until crispy and golden and then set aside.
  3. Add all sauce ingredients, except water, to a small bowl and whisk to combine. Add water needed to make into desired sauce silkiness.
  4. Take 2 1/2 tablespoons of sauce and place in a small bowl with the remaining tablespoon of soy sauce, sesame oil and brown sugar. Transfer to tofu and heat everything in the skillet until the tofu looks glazed.

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5. Assemble spring rolls by soaking rice paper in a small bowl of warm water for 10 seconds or until translucent and soft. Then proceed to take a little bit of the rice noodles, veggies, and tofu and place in the center of the paper.

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6. Roll paper burrito style, folding over one end over the filling, then folding over the sides and continue to roll towards the other side, inevitably tucking in the rolled over sides. You can also view how to roll the spring roll here. Serve with dipping sauce and enjoy!!! 🙂

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Salad made from leftover ingredients 🙂13902204_10153935623946379_1806829345_o

super tasty garlic tahini baked fries

Helloo readers! Things have been busy once again and I have been going back and forth from Amherst to New York like a mad woman, and cannot wait to get off of this bus. Nevertheless, we still have been cooking up a storm in our little apartment and these fries, which I mentioned in my curried cauliflower dish, hit the spot! Cam overcooked the garlic a little too much, and the sauce did not come out as creamy as seen in the original recipe, but the flavor was nutty, spicy, and could throw the flavor of poutine, ketchup, or whatever else you put on your greasy fries out of the kitchen. I also like the quality and texture of these baked fries, as they are simply crisped without leaving too much oil on your fingers when you’re munching.

A quick aside about tahini. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds, and is used in a lot of middle eastern cooking (also used in hummus and baba ghanoush recipes featured in my posts). Tahini has 89 calories per 1 tablespoon and is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as a good source of copper, manganese, and methionine, an amino acid. Methionine is important for treating liver disorders and wounds. Tahini is also higher in fiber and lower in saturated fats than peanut butter!

Recipe adapted from Vegan Richa:

Ingredients:

For the Fries:

  • 2 large potatoes, we used yukon gold
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt, pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano

For the Magical Garlic Tahini Sauce:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons of hummus, or blended canned chickpeas with lemon juice to supplement
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dill or parsley, we used parsley
  • 2 tablespoons of water, add more as needed to thin the sauce

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F.
  2. Chop potatoes into matchsticks/wedge shape; combine other ingredients in a bowl and throw in the potatoes to evenly coat them.
  3. Place potatoes on a greased baking sheet (don’t overcrowd them!), lined with tin foil or parchment paper and bake for 20-30 minutes, checking the potatoes at around 15 minutes and every 5 minutes after that to ensure that they don’t get too brown.
  4. While potatoes are baking, heat skillet with oil over medium-low heat and add garlic, cooking until translucent.
  5. Blend remaining ingredients with half of the garlic in a food processor until creamy. Drizzle generously over the baked fries and sprinkle the remaining garlic over the sauce. The sauce is also great as a salad dressing or spread. 🙂

 

 

 

delish baba ghanoush and some eggcelent info on eggplants

As you will start to notice, I am a huge fan of Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine, not only due to the rich, spicy, and textural flavor, but also due to the many vegan options. I have been dying to make some baba ghanoush, a dip very similar to hummus but replaces chickpeas with grilled eggplant, and did not have access to a grill until recently. The eggplant came out charred to perfection, allowing me to easily remove the eggplant’s smoky entrails, which complemented the nutty flavor of the tahini and the aromatic garlic and lemon combo.

Before I go on talking about how much I love eggplant, I came across an interesting article a few weeks ago showing pictures of fruits and vegetables before we domesticated them. Here is a picture of eggplant!!! (So tiny and yellow unlike our gigantic purple modern day eggplant). More pictures and information can be viewed here.

wild-eggplant

Another fun fact: eggplants were originally named eggplant because they were first seen as small white plants, with an appearance similar to eggs. (More info here.)

WhiteEggplant

From a nutrition perspective, eggplants contain high amounts of fiber, folate, potassium, and manganese, as well as vitamins C, K, B6, and other minerals and nutrients. Eggplants also contain phenols/antioxidants/flavonoids, which are protective against cancer and heart disease, specifically anthocyanins. Chlorogenic acid, another phenolic compound found in eggplants, acts as an anti-carcinogen, promotes immune health, and even lowers levels of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). Eggplants are low in calories (only 20 calories per a cup of 1 inch cubes), and the high fiber content promotes satiety, which is beneficial for weight loss and blood sugar stabilization, especially for those with diabetes.

This baba ghanoush recipe also has low calorie content, only 23 calories per tablespoon, and is a great appetizer or snack during the day.

Baba Ghanoush Recipe (adapted from Serious Eats):

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant
  • 3 medium cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons of tahini
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt
  • Pita chips to dip (to make your own pita chips pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F and slice up pita (I prefer fluffy/naan-like pita) into little triangles and drizzle 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil with with a dash of black pepper and salt. Bake for 10 minutes or until warm and fluffy, or longer if crispy chips are desired).

Directions:

  1. Heat grill to medium heat and cook eggplant for 30-40 minutes, until majority of the sides are charred and the eggplant is tender and mushy.
  2. Place eggplant on tinfoil and set aside for 15 minutes.
  3. Place all ingredients into food processor. Add the slightly cooled down eggplant by scooping out the insides and disposing of the skin. Blend together all ingredients until creamy. Serve with pita chips!

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easy peasy pakora and a quick story about food waste

Yesterday was a snack kind of day, so it made sense that I would continue the movement through dinner. I had recently gone grocery shopping and had purchased a bag of mini zucchini (so cute!) Quick side story, if you are ever in Western Massachusetts and specifically the Amherst/Hadley/Northampton area please check out Maple Farm Foods in Hadley! They have a great selection of produce and ethnic food, and a whole section devoted to produce that is either over-ripe or appears to have a superficial defect (bruised or dirty veggies, etc.) grouped in bags of at least five or more items. The best part is that the entire bag of goodies is marked down to the price of 99 cents! Safe to say, this is a post-grad’s dream, and the food is still very delicious. I hope to see more of these types of initiatives in grocery stores and markets, as both the producer and consumer benefit by reducing food waste and increasing food accessibility and affordability. France  is a prime example of a country in support of the elimination of food waste via legislation. Although this may not work in the U.S., due to various economic/legislative reasons, many have been inspired by France’s action, including Whole Foods and Hungry Harvest, a company featured on the show entrepreneurship-themed ABC show Shark Tank (okay, I am guilty to Cam got me hooked on this one).

Once I started to become vegan, I immediately searched for egg alternatives, as I was used to having an omelet or scramble almost everyday for breakfast. I stumbled upon a recipe for a chickpea pancake, which I will definitely post on this blog in the near future, which served a similar purpose as an omelet and tasted so delicious. The primary ingredient is chickpea flour, which has become a frequent addition in many of my meals, and is indeed included in the recipe for pakoras. Chickpea flour, also known as gram flour, garbanzo bean flour, or besan, is a very common ingredient in many South Asian, Southeast Asian, and East Asian dishes. Chickpea flour is both a great egg and wheat flour substitute, and has many benefits including high fiber content, which is good for digestion, blood sugar stabilization and diabetes prevention, heart health, and the list goes on. (More discussion of chickpea flour will be mentioned in the future chickpea omelet blog post).

Now back to the mini zucchini…..One of my new favorite sites to use to find new recipes is http://yummly.com/, which is essentially a user-friendly database of recipes from various food blogs/sites all over the . I typed in zucchini and found a pakora recipe that met my snack needs. I have always been a huge fan of Indian food and while I was growing up would often frequent the Indian restaurant in my town, which was known for having a very cheap and diverse lunch buffet, which was where I tried pakora for the first time. These little veggie fritters are very simple and quick to make as well as customizable for your palate (in the future I hope to add more veggies, potentially spicy peppers to the mix).

Zucchini Pakora Recipe (Adapted from Autostraddle):

Makes about 8-10 Pakora

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of chickpea flour ( I use Bob’s Red Mill Garbanzo Bean Flour)
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 cup of zucchini, small dice
  • 1 cup of cilantro, diced
  • Olive or canola oil, use to your discretion
  • Optional veggies to include in the mix: onions, jalapeño peppers, bell peppers.
  • Optional: Hot sauce and/or chutney on the side.

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until a thick dough forms.
  2. Heat pan or griddle to medium heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. You will add more as you see fit.
  3. By using a tablespoon or ice cream scooper, place dollops of the dough on the hot pan, pressing down a little to flatten them and fry until crispy.

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