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Mediterranean Orzo Pilaf

15 Jan

Here is a recipe for a tasty and quick orzo pilaf that I’ve made a couple times.  I was inspired by a non-vegan recipe I found on the back of a San Giorgio orzo box and made several substitutions and redactions, and I love the flavors of the simple ingredients combined with the toasted orzo.  It makes about 4 servings if served as a side, or 2-3 entree servings.

  • 2 tablespoons margarine
  • 8 oz. uncooked orzo
  • 2-1/4 cups water
  • 2 vegetable bouillon cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning (such as a mix of thyme and oregano)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce or chopped fresh tomato
  • 2 tablespoons chopped black olives
  • pepper
  1. Melt the margarine in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add the orzo and cook a few minutes, stirring frequently, until golden brown.
  3. Stir in the water, bouillon, and seasoning, and heat to boiling.  Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Stir in the tomato and olives, cover, and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
  5. Add pepper to taste and serve warm.


Sweet Potato Latkes

24 Dec

Two nights ago I did a twist on the traditional Chanukah dish and made latkes out of sweet potatoes, following a recipe I found here on Epicurious but substituting the eggs with Ener-G Egg Replacer.  A word of advice:  you may want to use more of the replacer mix than the directions call for, because I found my latkes to not be sticky enough and they were slightly falling apart.

However, they tasted absolutely superb!!  I think the sweet potatoes make even more delicious latkes than regular ones.

Vegan Potato Latkes

22 Dec

It’s Chanukah, so you know what that means:  the delicious potato pancakes known as latkes.  They’re a perfect comfort food for the winter, whether used as an entree or side dish.  Here is a vegan recipe, that makes about 8-10 latkes:

  • 1-1/2 lbs russet potatoes
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (preferably Kosher or sea salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Canola oil as required
  1. Peel the potatoes, then coarsely grate over medium holes in the grater (strips shouldn’t be too fine).
  2. Place grated potatoes in a colander over the sink, and squeeze out the liquid using your hands.  Then place the potatoes in a large bowl.
  3. Peel and grate the onion.  Place in the bowl with the potatoes.
  4. Add the parsley, flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper, and mix well with a spoon.
  5. Pour an approximately 1/8-inch layer of oil into a large skillet and heat over medium heat.
  6. Form the pancakes by taking a heaping tablespoonful of the batter and flattening it gently.  Place the pancakes a few at a time in the skillet, preventing them from touching, and fry a few minutes on each side until golden brown.  Repeat until you use up all the batter, adding more oil if necessary.
  7. After removing the latkes from the skillet, drain on paper towels.  Serve with applesauce and/or vegan sour cream.

Fried Potato Pierogi with Onions

29 Aug

Who says vegans can’t have hearty, fried comfort food?  And trust me, you haven’t had pierogi until you’ve had them home-made!  (Please note:  “pierogi” is the plural in Polish, not “pierogis”; the singular would be “pierog.”)

Eastern European cooking often does wonders with just a few simple ingredients, and this is the perfect example, creating fulfilling and delicious flavor out of just potatoes, onions, canola oil, and salt and pepper.  The project of making pierogi can be time-consuming and messy, but it’s worth it and can be a fun way to spend a stormy weekend afternoon.

I adapted this recipe from one that was published in Vegan Brunch by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and reprinted here on epicurious (for some reason epicurious doesn’t have the entire thing but I was able to find the missing page in Google books).  My boyfriend and I aren’t big on sauerkraut so I only made the potato filling, adjusting some of the ingredient quantities, and I used a different method to form and close the pierogi.  The original recipe incorporates a lot of unnecessary commentary that crowds up and complicates the directions, so I’ve simplified it.  Also, this particular author seems to be strongly against frying, but I believe pierogi are best when lightly fried after cooking, so I provide directions for that as well.

I used a 4 1/2-inch wide dessert dish as a cookie cutter because this was about the size of my Polish grandma’s home-made pierogi when I was growing up, but you may be used to smaller sizes.  The dough was enough for 13 sizable pierogi and I had quite a bit of leftover filling (which is delicious enough to eat on its own).

The entire process including prep and cooking took me over 3 hours.  Depending on your own preferences, kitchen space, and ability to multitask, you may work on the onions and filling in any order or simultaneously with each other or with the dough, as there are long cooking times.


For the caramelized onions:

  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2 lbs sweet onions, diced
For the potato filling:
  • 3 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
For the dough:
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, divided, plus extra for dusting
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
For serving:
  • Applesauce
To make the caramelized onions:
  1. Pre-heat a heavy-bottomed skillet.  Add the oil and onions (I also added 1 tablespoon margarine), toss the onions to coat.
  2. Cover, leaving a small gap for steam to escape, and cook over low heat for 20 minutes.  Stir every few minutes.  Onions should turn an amber color but shouldn’t burn, though a few dark spots are ok.
  3. Remove the cover and turn up the heat to a medium setting.  Cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring often, until the onions turn a darker amber color but do not burn.  (I reduced the heat to more of a medium-low halfway through to prevent burning and kept stirring almost constantly.)
  4. Remove from heat but cover the onions again to keep them warm until serving.
To make the potato filling:
  1. Place the cut-up potatoes in a large pot and pour in enough water to cover them.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, cook the potatoes for 20 more minutes, until soft and easily pierced with a fork.  Drain when done.
  3. Put the oil and onion in a large pan and sautee over medium heat for 7 minutes.  Turn off the heat.
  4. Add the cooked potatoes, salt, and pepper to the pan with the onion and oil.  Mash the potatoes until fluffy, stirring them into the oil and the other ingredients.
To make the dough:
  1. Pour the water and oil into a large bowl.  Add the salt and 2 cups of the flour, setting the 3rd cup aside.
  2. Stir with a fork until the ingredients begin to combine, then knead with your hands until a dough forms.
  3. Sprinkle your counter or rolling surface with flour and turn out the dough.  Knead the dough for about 10 minutes while adding the reserved cup of flour a little bit at a time, until it is smooth and elastic but no longer sticking to your fingers.  You may not need the entire cup of extra flour, or you may need a little more (I didn’t use the entire cup).
  4. Roll out the dough, dusting the counter and rolling pin with flour, until very thin but not see-through, about 1/16 of an inch thick.  Depending on your counter space, you may need to divide up the dough and do this in batches.  (In my tiny Manhattan-sized kitchen, I actually did this on a large plate in several small batches, with a Nalgene bottle as a rolling pin.)
  5. Use a glass or a cookie cutter that’s between 3 and 4 1/2 inches in diameter to cut circles out of the dough.  Transfer the circles onto a plate or plates; try to not stack them, but if they must overlap, make sure to dust them with flour so that they don’t stick together.  Combine the excess dough you cut off, roll it out, and try to get more circles out of it.
To combine and cook the pierogi:
  1. Take each dough circle and put about a tablespoon (adjust depending on the size of the circle) of the filling in the center.  Fold the dough in half, and roll and pinch the edges together to seal them.  Feel free to experiment with your own method for sealing up the pierogi, but they should basically look like a tiny calzone.  (The original recipe called for wetting the edges with water, but I found this to make the dough too sticky and thin.)
  2. Pour about 3 quarts (12 cups) of water into a pot and add a teaspoon or so of salt (I forgot the salt and I think that’s why my pierogi were sticking together after I boiled them).  Bring to a rapid boil.
  3. Lower the pierogi into the boiling water one at a time with a slotted spoon, but only cook a few at a time together so that they don’t stick together.  Cook each for about 4 minutes, at which point they should start to float.  Remove one by one with a slotted spoon.
  4. Pour a thin layer of canola oil into a skillet.  Fry each pierog on medium heat until golden, a few minutes on each side.
  5. Serve the pierogi warm, together with the caramelized onions and with applesauce.

Ma-Po Tofu

28 Aug

I adapted this recipe from one I found in one of my favorite books, The Food Matters Cookbook by Mark Bittman.  The recipe normally also adds pork, which I’ve omitted for obvious reasons, and cilantro for garnish which I decided not to add because I think the other ingredients make it flavorful enough.  I also use dried ground ginger instead of fresh minced, because you just need to buy one spice bottle of it that lasts a long time, and I chose to use red pepper flakes instead of chile flakes for a little less spice.  I’m generally not a fan of anything overly spicy, but as my boyfriend says, this one is “one of the most flavorful” dishes I make.

It makes about 4 servings and is very quick to make.  I recommend serving it with brown rice or pilaf.

  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil (enough to cover the surface of your skillet)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 cups peeled, chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions
  • One 1-lb. package firm tofu, drained and cubed
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Salt
  • Cilantro (optional)
  1. Put the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When it’s hot, add the garlic and cook less than a minute, until it begins to sizzle.
  2. Add the tomatoes, dried ginger, red pepper flakes, and scallions.  Add the tofu.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tofu begins to brown and absorbs some of the taste of the other ingredients.
  3. Stir in the soy sauce.  Season with salt to taste and more red pepper flakes and/or cilantro if you like.  Serve warm.
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