Monday, December 5, 2016

More Kitchen Tools for Happy Vegans

Along with eating more vegetables, including many of them raw in salad, one of your key allies in the kitchen is  a good mandolin.

For my money the absolute winner in the category, as well as easily one of the safest designs is the Börner V-slicer, reviewed here on Cook's Illustrated.

And here is even a video review on America's Test Kitchen:

I consider this a pretty good review. I have owned two V-slicers over the last 40 years, and I have used other people's mandolins, but for me the V-slicer has always been the winner. Some of these mandolins actually make me scared from a safety standpoint, but the V-slicer is very safe to operate, although you must always be careful with sharp knives, not only to protect yourself, but also to keep them sharp longer. So grant yourself a Swissmar Börner V-slicer, and enjoy. It will make you an instant champ with vegetables, and able to make any number of fancy salads with some ingredients that might seem unwieldy otherwise.

Secret Weapons for Vegans: Rice Cookers

For one thing, in going vegan, you'll have a lot more fun cooking than ever before in your life, there's lots to discover, and as per usual, the key to it all is to make your kitchen efficient.

The pattern that has evolved for me is preparing some cold dishes ahead, so they're always ready to grab. That might include Tabouleh, or French Lentil salad, Black Bean Salsa, and usually I make some hummus so I can quickly make crackers with hummus and cucumber (and I like some sprinkles of Tajin or Siracha, or Sambal). Also I always have some quinoa, which I like to add to salads (minimum one a day, and meal size), and brown rice, or other whole grains.

Some of the tools you will find yourself looking for are a salad spinner, a mandolin, and generally sharp knives, plus I like to have a mortar and pestle around for crushing garlic and grinding spices. All these and more add convenience to your life. However, the one instrument that is absolutely indispensable and the key secret weapon for the vegan lifestyle is the rice cooker. And with rice cooker I mean a serious, top of the line automatic rice cooker, which must have a GABA brown rice (GBR) cycle and a timer function. The reason for having GBR is nutrition: GABA brown rice is simply more nutritious because the germination cycle allows Gamma-aminobutyric_acid (GABA) and other nutrients to develop, making it much more nutritious in the same way that various sprouts (beans, broccoli) are so exceptionally healthy. The timer thingy is phenomenal because it makes your life easier than having your own cook (rice cookers are endlessly patient), and you can put on your breakfast at night, to be ready when you wake up, and put on brown rice for dinner after you finish breakfast, so it's ready when your day is done. The extra money for the fancy models is easily worth it.
Here are two of my favorite designs (I am considering primarily the smallest models, for a one person household):

  • The ideal might be a rice cooker with Induction Heat and a pressure cooker, but Zojirushi doesn't make one in the smallest size, so my favorite is their NP-GBC05 which has a 3-cup capacity that is great for one person households and small families. I have had this one for years, and I can honestly say that without it, my transition to a fully vegan lifestyle would have been almost unthinkable.
  • Another phenomenal option would seem to be the Cuckoo CRP-EHS0309F, which is the same small size (3 cups), and offers generally the same conveniences as the Zojirushi, but it adds the pressure cooker feature, which does save time when you're in a hurry. Admittedly the timer should allow you to always cook ahead, but sometimes you forget, or you have a change of plans, and then saving time does count.
So, there you have it. The one thing to know is that brown rice has a shorter shelf-life than white rice, because it is more "alive." So you do not want to over-buy brown rice, lest you end up eating stale rice all the time. There are plenty of choices at most good supermarkets, and in our neighborhood Chang-Li is my favorite destination for rice, although, when I have a chance, I like to get some mixes like Organic 10 Mixed Grains at MayWah, or any one of the Lundberg varieties. Lundberg is the leader of the pack in terms of quality organic rice varieties and various products. The closest place you can get it in our neighborhood is at Good 'n Natural on White Plains Road by Pelham Parkway, which is one amazing health food store. Other places where you'll find Lundberg rice include Fairway, Whole Foods, and most any healthfood store in town.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Rogier's Black Bean Salsa

This recipe is based on Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr.'s book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, where on page 161 is his recipe for Best Black Bean Salsa. I wrote about some of my variations on the recipe before, but here it is in full:

Using ingredients from the neighborhood:

  1. 1 lb. Wild Harvest organic black beans (from Pioneer at 1345 Castle Hill Avenue)
  2. Optional: one 15 Oz can of Corn (Goya, other).
  3. 1 17.6 Oz. Jar of Green Salsa (Pioneer, Key Foods and Chang-li all have it _ Goya or other brands).
  4. 1 7 Oz. or 12 Oz. can of Chipotle peppers in adobo saus (La Morena, La Costeña, at Chang-Li, Pioneer or Key Food)
  5. 1 can of sliced Jalapeño Peppers
  6. 2-3 limes
  7. One bunch of fresh Cilantro
  8. Chunk of Kombu seaweed, sheets, or knots (from Chang-Li), alternatively use Savory (either summer or winter variety of Savory is good). Note: either kombu seaweed or savory is very helpful for the digestion of beans, and either adds depth to the flavor.


  • Sort and rinse the beans and the seaweed.
  • Cook the beans with the Kombu, or Savory about 45 minutes on a slow simmer after you bring it to the boil.
  • While it cooks, squeeze the 2-3 limes (depending on size), chop the Cilantro leaves, and chop the Chipotle peppers. Drain the corn.
  • Drain, remove Kombu, if you used it.
  • Add in the chopped Cilantro leaves, the lime juice, chipotle peppers and the adobo sauce. 
  • Mix, put away in the fridge. Best served next day.

Serving Suggestion:

Serve on puffed rice crackers, or you could use corn chips, but I don't like them because they are made with oil, and often it is canola oil, which I believe is unfit for human consumption and should be reserved for axle-grease, even aside from the no-oil directives of Dr. Esselstyn.