Sunday, February 16, 2020

A Simple Indian Cooking Class with Chef Raj

On Saturday 2/15 we had our usual #WPFB Cooking lesson, which was basically a cooking demonstration by Chef Raj, to show how easy it can be to make a simple dal, while others prepared the salad and we had farmed out making the rice to Neerob restaurant. Khokon's wife Muni was in the class, but Khokon came over at 3:30 to bring the rice.

Chef Raj of PlantPoweredChefs

Simple Dal


  • Yellow pigeon peas aka toor dal (3-4 cups)
  • Ginger (5-10 grams~ thumbsized piece)
  • Mustard seeds(1tsp)
  • Asafoetida (1 tsp)
  • Garam masala (1/2tsp)
  • Turmeric powder (1/2 tsp)
  • Whole cumin seeds (1 tsp)
  • Black pepper powder (1/2 tsp)
  • Tomato (2 units large or 3 units medium)
  • Jalapeno chili, serrano, thai chili (1 unit //optional)
  • Fresh coriander (1 bunch ~8 oz)
  • Salt + to taste (1tsp)
The preparation is utterly simple.
You wash and soak the amount of Dal you are going to use. In this case we used Toor Dal, which is split pigeon peas.

You cut up the tomatoes and the peppers, and ginger

You heat up the pan with the spices (all except the garam masala which is roasted already). The dry roasting of the spices will release the fragrance. Make sure you stop before you burn them. 
Next you add the tomatoes and peppers and let that cook for a while, stirring regularly. When the tomatoes are soft, add the dal and enough water to cover. Let it cook till the dal is soft, stirring occasionally, about 30 mins.

Brown basmati rice (4-5 cups)


Cucumber (2 units) 
Lettuce, Cabbage or dark leafy greens mix (2 lb ~32 oz)
1/2/3 dressing
1 part Maple syrup, 2 parts Dijon Mustard, and 3 parts balsamic vinegar, with the juice of 1-2 lemons or a lemon and a lime.

In short, we had an easy dinner, and even with replenishing some supplies, we spent just $8 a head, so that St. Helena's got a nice donation from this group.

Happy Diners
With a rush visit from Fr. David   

Notes: The Asafoetida is a primarily Indian spice, and it really adds a flavor as if you had used onions and garlic. Very interesting.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Mexican #WFPB Cooking Class

This Saturday, January 18th, 2020 was our second ever Mexican cooking class, and we had Leobarda, the cook for the rectory at St. Helena's as our guest of honor.
Note that Mexican cuisine is an ideal starting point for your whole foods, plant-based lifestyle.

Here is what we made:

Cactus Salad


Red Onions
Optional: avocado
(Mexican) Oregano
Radish or daikon
Serrano peppers and/or fresh jalapeño, or Jalapeño in vinegar
3/2/1 dressing with lemon and lime
Pepper to taste
Variations: with cubes of firm tofu, or with cevici-style marinated mushrooms


Cut the nopales paddles in 1/2" strips and cut those to 1" lengths.

Boil the nopales paddles in ample water for 15-20 mins with a small onion and some garlic in the water.

Place the nopales in a large bowl; add the chopped tomato, onion, serrano peppers, radish and cilantro.

Mix the ingredients.

In a separate bowl mix the dressing with oregano, salt, and pepper.
Add this to the nopales mixture and stir.

Top the salad with crumbled fresh firm tofu and possibly some nutritional yeast and avocado slices.
(Radishes go well with this salad also).

Eat with corn tortillas or tostadas, or rice cakes.


Black Bean Salsa


1 lb bag of black beans, or 1 25Oz can, rinsed and drained
Optional: one 15 Oz can of Corn
A bunch of fresh Cilantro
2-3 celery stalks, sliced thin
Juice of 2-3 limes (depending on how juicy the lime)
16 Oz jar of medium green salsa
whatever peppers you choose - cut up fine - jalapenos, chilis, serrano, poblano - it all depends on your taste for more hot or aromatic
optionally add in some pickled jalapenos.


Soak and Cook the beans with a kombu strip (Abt. 45 mins.), or simply drain the can and rinse the beans.
Wash and chop up the cilantro
Add lime juice, mix in the black beans and the salsa.
Mix well.

Serve on rice cakes or tortillas.


Mexican Chili Bean Stuffed Peppers

Mexcian Stuffed Peppers from Nutrition Studies
NB. Here is the original recipe on Nutritionstudies in English and in Spanish.


1¼ cups red kidney beans, raw (or 4 cups cooked)
6 medium bell peppers, any color
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and sliced
1 medium jalapeno chili, stemmed, seeded and minced
1 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
3 tsp garlic, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp cilantro, chopped
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper


 1) Preheat oven to 425. Cut tops off peppers, keeping stems in tact. Scoop out the ribs and seeds. Place peppers and tops cut-side-down on a sheet pan and roast in a 425 F degree oven until slightly brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce heat to 350 F.
2 Heat a large skillet over high heat. Add peppers and onions. Cook until well-browned, about 10-12 minutes, stirring every few minutes. If peppers start to burn, add water and reduce the heat slightly.
3 Once peppers and onions are soft, add spices, garlic, and tomato paste. Cook another minute or two, just to toast the spices and darken the tomato paste.
4 Add 2-4 tbsp. water to deglaze the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any bits. Reduce heat to low, and cook until aromatic, about 5 more minutes (but you can keep this low saute for up to 20 minutes).
5 Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro, salt, and pepper.
6 Stuff each pepper with about 1 cup of the stuffing mixture. Place the peppers into a 350 F oven and heat until warm, about 10 minutes.

At the end of all that, we were able to contribute $4 to St.Helena's from the grocery money, and Fr. David had 1 stuffed pepper and some of the two salads with tortilla. There was 1 stuffed pepper for the seminarians, plus enough of the black bean salsa and cactus salad for 2-3 people. And I used the rest of the stuffing the next day for 4 more stuffed peppers. Net, net we spent about $14 per person, and that included stocking up on some staples.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

January in Mexico, or Mexico in January

Since not everyone can afford a vacation in Mexico, we will bring Mexico here, and make our January cooking class about some Mexican or Mexican inspired disches.


I started out trying some purple corn flour for breakfast, as an alternative to my usual steel cut oats:
Mama Tere Purple Corn Flour

There is a simple breakfast recipe on the back. You soak 1/2 cup of it in water overnight, bring it to a boil, constantly stirring and then start adding fruit, and maybe some sweetener (I used 1 tpsp of date sugar). I had apple, cinnamon, blueberries, some strawberries and a piece of Jackfruit.
Simple and it works. I think oats remains my favorite, but it is an interesting alternative. Sometimes I am just in the mood to deviate from the routine.


Next on the list is tortillas. Who knew there was more to it than the Guerrero, or Old El Paso and others at the supermarket... Some people still make these fresh at home... and the difference is that the supermarket brands are full of preservatives, but if you make them fresh, that's quite a different story!


The story begins with Masa, which is the corn flour that is made from corn kernels soaked overnight in typically calcium hydroxide, which softens and makes it more nutritious. From that you can make the dough for tortillas - you merely need to rinse it and grind it up and then mane the masa dough. You can roll it into balls and flatten them with a frying pan or a tortilla press and then all you need to do is to cook them in a frying pan or on a griddle.

Here is a good article on the whole process, from a website called Mexican Please. It is worth reading, also regarding his experience with store bought tortilla flower (masa harina).

This month, our cooking class will be Mexican inspired dishes. We will not be making our own Tortillas, but hopefully we will manage to have home cooked tortillas thanks to two fresh tortilla makers in the area, La Milpa in Yonkers, or
Tortilleria Nixtamal in Queens.

For our cooking class, we will prepare some Mexican style dishes, to be enjoyed with real tortillas!

Oh, and look what comes up on Nutrition studies if you look for some Mexican dishes: