Sunday, November 14, 2021

One armed #WFPB with Neerob Restaurant

This is a case of necessity being the mother of invention. Some of us struggle to find the time for food prep, and if you really want to embrace the Whole Foods Plant-Based lifestyle, you have to create a routine that will get you through the week reliably. One solution is a new dinner special from Neerob. This particular challenge gained some fresh perspective for me recently, when I fractured my right wrist, and food prep became very hard. Now it was not just time, but a physical restriction.

I had an interesting experience with my friend Khokon, the owner of Neerob Restaurant, which has, since February of 2019 been the first restaurant in the Bronx certified by Plant Pure Communities. And, while Covid rudely interrupted us, we are now slowly working on a finding some sort of a new equilibrium, a new normal. The process was advanced a bit by my having a fractured wrist, which limited my food prep capabilities:

Dinner for three days, anyone?

Of course it was my right hand and I am right handed, and it is amazing how clumsy you can be with your non-dominant hand. I am getting better, but undoubtedly I will still be far from proficient when the cast comes off on December 3rd.

But a solution emerged quickly. It will soon be on the menu and we are going to develop a new page on the Neerob Website for #WFPB food.

There will be a "Market #WFPB" dinner, consisting of Salad, Rice, a Dal (lentil sauce) with a green vegetable in it, and one or two veggie dishes.
For a small extra charge, you can get the "Market #WFPB ++" for which they could make enough extra of the dal, and the veggie dishes to take home for at least two more days.

Day 2 & 3 

It could look like the dish on the right, or like the dish at the bottom (separate pics of salad and dinner)

On the second and 3rd day you would make your own salad, and cook your own rice, and get some low fat whole wheat and flax tortilla wraps from OLÉ, available at Chang-Li Market.
You can then make yourself some kind of a burrito with rice, dal, some veggies, and, if you want, some pickled jalapeños (I put1 4-5 nacho slices in each one).

You can vary the salad endlessly. This would cut your prep-time significantly, I ate two or three of those burritos for dinner. Easy, even if you only have one arm!

One day Shamim made me a dish with Brussels sprouts, and the next day I ate it as a salad next to my burrito, with rice and dal and jalapeños, and the third day I added a bag of roast chestnuts and that made a whole meal. Side salad optional.

Typically, I bring my own brown rice, for it is too much to ask them for making special brown rice for one. Not enough demand as yet.







Sunday, October 10, 2021

Mexican #WFPB Fusion Cauliflower Burrito




Ingredients

1 head of cauliflower split in florets

1 large or 2 smaller onions cut up fine
3-6 garlic cut up fine
1 cup water with Yondu, or Braggs Liquid aminos
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tbsp curry powder
1 serrano pepper cut up fine
2 jalapeño peppers cut up fine
1 bell pepper cut up in small chunks

======besan sauce

1/4 cup chickpea flour (besan)
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1/4 tbsp black salt (kala namak)

======faux parmesan

1 cup cashews
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tbp garlic powder
1/4 tsp black salt

========

rice
optional spinach leaves
whole wheat, low fat burrito wrappers.


Olé Whole Wheat Burrito Wraps with Flax

Note: I am using Olé Extreme Wellness Whole Wheat Tortilla Wraps with Flax, with just 2 or 3% fat.

Preparation

Steam the culiflower florets for 7 mins - al dente

Roast the onions dry for 5 mins
Stir-fry the onions for aonther while adding water, and adding in the cut-up peppers and garlic
mix-in the turmeric and the curry powder.

Mix the besan, nutritional yeast and black salt, and let it simmer on low flame for a while
gradually add 2 -3 more cups of water to get a sauce if desired consistency.

meanwhile run the ingredients for the faux parmesan through the blender, until it's a find powder.
add the parmesan to taste.

lay out a burrito wrapper, cut up a few spinach leaves, to lay down a center stripe
lay a bed of rice on top of the spinach, cut up some cauliflower and lay it in the rice.
poor some of the curry sauce over it to taste.
If desired you could add a few pickled jalapeños.

Roll-up and serve.


Thursday, September 30, 2021

Eggplant Pizzaiola inspired by Neerob

 We just had our monthly dinner with Fr. David. at Neerob Restaurant. Always on the 4th Tuesday at 9PM, after his Bible Class.

Here are some of the pics:


Eggplant pizzaiola. Even some people who thought they did not like eggplant, loved it!








A wonderful mixed fruit salad including star fruit, dragon fruit, strawberries, blueberries, and arugula with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Out of this world.









A disch of couscous, chickpeas, with veggies, balsamic and lemon juice.




To to top it off there was a wonderful sauce with vegetables including zucchini, etc. (not in piture)







A wonderful time was had by all. 

The next day, I felt inspired to try my hand at the eggplant pizzaiola at home. Here's what I came up with:

Ingredients:

  • 1  medium sized eggplant
  • 1-2 onions cut-up fine
  • several garlic cloves
  • some peppers (any color), cut up in small chunks
  • some fresh tomatoes, or, in my case used a 13.8 Oz package of Pomi Crushed Tomatoes.
  • Italian spices
  • a carrot shredded
  • some black olives sliced.
  • 1 cup of water with Yondu or Braggs Liquid Aminos

Preparation:

  • roast the onions dry for 5 mins,
  • begin adding in the water with yondu, the peppers, shredded carrot and garlic and stir fry for another 5 mins until the onions are caramelized.
  • add in the tomatoes and the italian herbs, Let simmer for 15 mins.
  • Cut up the eggplant in 1/2" slices
  • Put them on a silicone sheet on a backing tray, cover with the tomato sauce
  • Oven 350F, 25 mins.

That's all folks. 
if you want to make it "cheesy" you can make some vegan "parmesan" 

1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder

in the blender for a minute or two. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Cactus Salad - Ensalada de Nopales

 I wrote this up before.

https://starlingaveplantbased.blogspot.com/2020/10/mex-wfpb-002-nopales-cactus-salad.html


Today, I made it with 4 leaves nopales, and 1 jalapeño and 2 Serrano peppers, otherwise as before.

In other words, spicy. And nowadays I like to eat this type of stuff with tostadas


Ingredients:

4 good size Cactus leaves, cleaned.
1 Red Onions
15 Oz can of diced Tomato
Optional: avocado
1/2 bunch Cilantro
2 tbsp (Mexican) Oregano
some daikon, cut up fine
2 Serrano peppers and/or 1 jalapeño, 
3/2/1 dressing with lemon and lime
cubes of firm tofu
Some vegan parmesan (made with cashews, nutritional yeast and black salt)

Note: hot and spicey!

You can tone it down by using 2 jalapeños and 1 serrano pepper.

Also, adding avocado, will make it milder.

Preparation:

  • Cut the cactus leaves in 1" strips and cut in 1/2" chunks.
  • Cook in boiling water with some onion and garlic.
  • Let cool
  • meanwhile:
    • Cut up the red onion
    • Combine with the diced tomatoes
    • add the cilantro, Mexican Oregano
    • add in the radishes, cut fine, and/or the avocado, cut in slivers.
    • cut up the peppers (jalapeño, serrano, as the case may be)
    • add the salad dressing
    • mix and add in the nopales when cool.
    • Let it marinate in the fridge.

==== En Español =========================================

Ingredientes:

4 hojas de cactus de buen tamaño, limpias.

1 cebolla roja

Lata de 15 onzas de tomate cortado en cubitos

Opcional: aguacate

1/2 manojo de cilantro

2 cucharadas de orégano (mexicano)

un poco de daikon, cortado bien

2 chiles serranos y / o 1 jalapeño,

3/2/1 aderezo con limón y lima

cubos de tofu firme


Nota: ¡caliente y picante!

Puedes atenuarlo usando 2 jalapeños y 1 chile serrano.

Además, agregar aguacate lo hará más suave.


Preparación:

Corte las hojas de cactus en tiras de 1 "y córtelas en trozos de 1/2".

Cocine en agua hirviendo con un poco de cebolla y ajo.

Deje enfriar

mientras tanto:

Corta la cebolla morada

Combinar con los tomates cortados en cubitos.

agrega el cilantro, orégano mexicano

agregue los rábanos cortados finos y / o el aguacate cortado en rodajas.

cortar los chiles (jalapeño, serrano, según sea el caso)

agregue el aderezo para ensaladas

mezclar y agregar los nopales cuando estén fríos.

Déjalo marinar en la nevera.

================================================================

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Cooking inspiration with Yondu Culinary Studio

 We have used Yondu in our cooking classes, and it is an amazing tastemaker in the kitchen.

The company is doing some online cooking classes, and they are worth attending, you will get ideas. You can register for the classes through Eventbrite here.

Having said that, like most food businesses, they are trying to leverage the "plant-based' trend only in the general sense, and they stick to a traditional nutritional model, which can be confusing, particularly when it comes to the usual misunderstanding that it is hard to get sufficient protein on a plant-based diet. With high school nutrition, people worry always about "but where do you get your protein?" which is not warranted, and seems to be a problem only because they do not know the actual protein content of foods (like even rice or potatoes at 10-11% of calories from protein are a perfectly balanced food). The corollary to that problem is also the overconsumption of protein in the standard diet, which turns out to be unhealthy in the first place. So, as long as you get your staples of rice, or potatoes, etc., you can build a meal around that. In short, if the general conversion from a "normal" recipe to a #WFPB recipe involves seeing to your staples, which need to be complex carbs (brown rice, potatoes, or whole grain pasta, etc.) and not refined foods. Aside from that, you typically make more veggies than "ordinary food." That can include both cooked and raw.  

Accordingly, if I use a Yondu recipe here, I may post some comments or variations from time to time to illustrate how you can easily make proper Whole Foods, Plant-Based meals with Yondu. Used properly, Yondu allows you to create a lot of flavor without adding a lot of salt and that is really the crux of the whole thing. Their classes have given me some great ideas.

In my own cooking the easiest taste makers ("umami" is the word of the day for aromatic and flavorful taste) are:

  1. Yondu
  2. Braggs Liquid Aminos
  3. Panch Puran


Caramelizing onions

These days, caramelizing onions for me often involves Yondu, though sometimes, depending on what I am cooking, I may start with roasting some Panch Puran in my pan (the seeds, not the powder).

Here is my routine:
  1. [optional] Roast Panch Puran for 5 mins at 350F
  2. Dry roast the chopped onions at 350F for 5 mins (optionally chopped chili or peppers can also be added at this stage.
  3. Continue another 5 mins at 350F, and gradually stir in a cup of water with 1 Tsp Yondu.
  4. Add in chopped garlic

That's a great start for many wonderful vegetable dishes. You can make spinach, Malabar spinach (in my Bangla neighborhood "Poi leaf"), Amaranth leaves (" shaag"), chard, any green leafies can be started this way.  On the other hand, we also know that our taste buds do change on a plant-based diet, and I am often amazed how good something simple like steamed spinach can be.  


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Peppers Galore, it's Mexico time!

 One thing is to know your peppers, and another thing is to know your eaters. Different people appreciate heat from peppers differently, and you want to be appropriate. I give the heat in SHU, Scoville Heat Units, and of course you have some control for you can always make any pepper milder by seeding them.

My repertoire of Peppers is based on what is prominently available in my neighborhood. And I will bring in some information from a site called Pepperscale.

  1. Bell Peppers - Capsicum Annuum. I just include them for good order. They do not pack any heat necessarily, but they come loaded with vitamins and flavor. Get all the colors, they all represent a different nutrient profile and variation is the name of the game.
  2. Jamaican Peppers - Capsicum Annuum (also). 
  3. Poblano Peppers - slightly hot and aromatic, ca. 1,250 SHU.
  4. Chilaca Peppers - 1000 - 2,500 SHU - slightly hotter than Poblano. VEry flavorful.
  5. Jalapeño Peppers - 2,500 - 8,000 SHU median 5,250 SHU. Clearly hot, but aromatic. One of my favorites.
  6. Serrano Peppers - Median 16,500 SHU, ranging from 10,000 - 23,000 SHU. Like Jalapeño, but clearly hotter (3x). 

I will keep on editing this list.

Today, I am making Black Bean Salsa, but with a poblano, a chilaca, a jalapeño and a serrano pepper, as well as thee stalks of celery,  so I am clearly trying to create some depth of flavor but with some zing to it. I make sure to slice the serrano and the jalapeño extremely thin.

The recipe then becomes something like this:

Black Bean Salsa

  • 1 lb of black beans, soaked and cooked, or 2 15 Oz canss (or 1 25 Oz can) of black beans.
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1 bunch of fresh cilantro, cut up fine.
  • 3 stalks of celery, sliced thin
  • 1 16 Oz jar of Green Salsa
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • The simple version is with 3 jalapeños, or 2 jalapeños and a serrano pepper, sliced thin,
    but today, I made it with four peppers:
  • 1 serrano pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 poblano pepper, sliced thin
  • 1 chilaca pepper, sliced thin.
It is always best the next day, after it marinates in the fridge.

En Español:

Salsa de Frijoles Negros

  • 1 libra de frijoles negros, remojados y cocidos, o 2 latas de 15 oz (o 1 lata de 25 oz) de frijoles negros.
  • 1 lata de 15 Oz de maíz
  • 1 manojo de cilantro fresco, cortado fino.
  • 3 tallos de apio, en rodajas finas
  • 1 frasco de 16 oz de salsa verde
  • Jugo de 3 limones
  • La versión simple es con 3 jalapeños, o 2 jalapeños y un chile serrano, en rodajas finas,
  • pero hoy lo hice con cuatro pimientos:
  • 1 chile serrano, en rodajas finas
  • 1 chile jalapeño, en rodajas finas
  • 1 chile poblano, en rodajas finas
  • 1 chile chilaca, en rodajas finas.
Siempre es mejor al día siguiente, después de que se marina en la nevera.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And, I am serving it on oil-free tostadas, this brand: Tostadas Buena Vista, has three varieties, Corn, Sesame, and Multigrain. They are all delicious.
I get them at Frutas Y Vegetales La Reyna at 1300-1302 Beach Avenue (corner Westchester Avenue), Bronx, NY 10472. (Across the street from South of France).


Recently, I also made cactus salad and served them on these same tostadas. Winner!



 

Monday, June 28, 2021

Pasta Bolognese #WFPB style

Pasta Bolognese has some nostalgic value for me. When I was in highschool, if I wanted to take my girlfriend out to dinner, it was spaghetti bolognese at a Rotterdam institution, a student café/restaurant, De Pijp (the Pipe). A small restaurant on a side street, that was for students, and you always needed to be introduced by one of the members, the general public was not welcome. It still exists today, and it claims to be the oldest restaurant in Rotterdam.

So when Dr. Anna Borek (@ScepticalDoctor on Twitter), posted this recipe, I had to make it... and of course you can vary this endlessly, but the core concepts are simple and powerful.

The recipe has been tested by a neighbor and myself, as well as by Fr. David at St. Helena's and Rosemarie Ortiz, the church secretary. Everybody liked it!

Tofu Bolognese Sauce

from Anna Borek, The Sceptical Doctor


Ingredients

2 blocks of firm tofu
1 cup of cut-up celery stalks
1 cup of cut-up red onions
1/2 cup of water
3 cloves of garlic (or more, depending on your religion)
1 cup of cut-up carrots
2 cups of sliced mushrooms
a pinch of salt (or, alternatively use water with 1 tsp yondu)
2x 15 Oz or 1 25 Oz can of tomatoes
2 heaped tbsp of tomato paste.
1 cup of wine
2.5 cups of cooked red lentils (1 cup dry)
1 bunch chopped spinach
3 tbsp of Italian seasoning
1 cup of water
vegan parmesan to taste

Preparation

  • cut up the tofu into small cubes, and bake until evenly browned.
  • Precook the lentils - 3 mins of high pressure in the Instant Pot will do.
  • stir fry the celery and red onions in water in the sauce pan
  • add the garlic, diced carrots and cut-up mushrooms and lest it simmer for 10 minutes
  • add tomatoes, tomato paste and wine, as well as lentils, spinach and italian seasoning, as well as the baked tofu
  • simmer for 1-2 hours

for good measure, I am adding a recipe for vegan parmesan. 

Vegan Parmesan


Ingredients

1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Preparation

In the blender until it is a fine powder.


Note: 

I happily made the sauce with 1 bloc  of Tofu and 4 cups of mushrooms  (I used Baby Bella), because that is what I had around. I also threw in towards the end a box of grape tomatoes, careful not to cook them to the point of bursting. They enhance the fresh tomato taste. Or, you can use an extra package of diced or crushed tomatoes to enhance the tomato flavor and make the sauce a little thinner. Lastly you should always add a few scoops of the cooking water from your pasta to the sauce.

Note that in many pasta sauces, sugar is used to dampen the acidity, but in this sauce it is really the sweetness from the carrots which blends away the acidity, with an assist from the neutralizing flavor of the lentils.