Monday, December 26, 2022

Black Chickpea Curry (Kala Chana Dal)

 A simple, nutritious dish.

Here is a plate of: 
Brown Basmati, 
with Kala Chana Dal, and 
topped with some sun-dried Fenugreek leaves (Kasoori Methi), 
and Okra.

Simple, nutritious and delicious.

This is definitely one of these meals that you can vary endlessly. I provide the recipe hereby, with some suggestions of what you might change:


  • 1/2 Tsp cumin seeds, or 1 TSP Panch Puran
  • 1 cup onions, finely cut-up
  • 1-2 green chili, chopped or slit
  • 1 cup dry (Kala Chana), rinsed, and soaked 6-8 hours or overnight
  • 3/4 to 1 cup tomatoes, chopped or pureed - 2 medium 200 grams
  • 1-1/2 Tsp ginger/garlic paste, or 3 garlic cloves + 1/2" ginger, ground
  • optional: cut up stems (1/4") of kale or collard greens, cooked with the kala chana.
  • optional: one sliced carrot (to sweeten the tomato flavor)
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 - 3/4 Tsp Garam Masala
  • 1/2 Tsp Red Chili Powder
  • 1/4 Tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 1-1/2 Tsp Coriander Powder
  • 1/2-1 Tsp salt (depending on your religion)


  • Briefly roast the spices (cumin or panch puran), in a stainless steel skillet.
  • Add the onion and green chili, and chopped kale stems if using, and a 1/2 cup of water with Yondu. 
  • Sautée until soft.
  • Add the ginger and garlic, sautée for one minute
  • Pour 1 cup of tomato puree or chopped tomatoes
  • Sautée and stir for a minute
  • Add the Garam Masala and other spices. Sauté 2-3 minutes
  • Add the soaked Kala Chana and 2 cups of water
  • Pressure cook 35 mins (or 40 mins if beans are older).

Optionally after it is done you can add some methi leaves, and some sliced ginger.

The option of the kale or collard greens stems is superb, for this dish cooks a bit longer, and you use the pressure cooker, so those stems will be completely cooked, but the deepen the flavor of this dish and add a lot of nutrition.
For the tomatoes I used one 15 Oz package of crushed tomatoes and a small can (6 Oz) of tomato puree.
Optionally, you can precook the kala chana until they are just soft, even before putting them in the IP.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Spicy Karela (Bitter Melon) Side Dish


Chinese Bitter Melon Recipe

Side Dish, probably, but who am I to quibble if you want to make it a main dish and if you want to make it #WFPB style, just leave out the oil and instead stir-fry some finely cut-up onion in 1/2 cup of water  water, and at the end, if you want to serve this over rice, I would add a 1/2 cup of water with 1/2 tsp arrowroot dissolved, and you would have some kind of a spicy karela sauce. You can serve that over rice. I even did this for breakfast once - that'll wake you up.

In general, I am finding that when oil seems essential, you can always caramelize some onions in water first. In this case, you would actually first stirfry the Sichuan peppercorns, then discard them, as shown on the video and add the finely cut-up onions into the peppery water, 

PRINTABLE RECIPE - INGREDIENTS 500 grams of bitter melon 1 tsp of salt to reduce the bitter taste 6-8 pieces of dried red chilies 3-4 pieces of fresh red chilies 1 tsp of salt to rub the bitter melon 3-5 cloves of garlic 1 small onion cut-up fine
1 cup of water with Yondu 1 tsp of Sichuan peppercorn optional: 1/4 cup of water with 1/2 tsp arrowroot (or other starch)
Salt to taste, but not needed if using Yondu.


* Cut the bitter melon in half, then quarter it. Remove the white spongy inside part. You can use a rounded teaspoon (or a grapefruit spoon with serrated edges) to scrape the last bits of the white part.

* Cut it with a 45-degree angle into 1/3 of an inch thick slices. Season it with 1 tsp of salt. Rub for a few minutes. Let it sit for 15 minutes.

* Cut some red, dried chilies open and remove the seeds.

* Roughly dice some fresh red chilies

* Press 5 cloves of garlic through a garlic presser.

* Optionally, prepare 1 tsp of Sichuan peppercorns.

* Now go back and check out the bitter melon. Squeeze out as much moisture as you can.

* Rinse the bitter melon with cold running water several times. Drain it but doesn’t need to be thorough, for you need some water anyway.

* Stir-fry the Sichuan peppercorns in 1/4 cup of the water with Yondu.

* Once you see the color of the peppercorns is getting dark, you can take them out and discard them.

* Next, stir-fry the onions with 1/2 cup of water with Yondu.

*Turn the heat to medium. Add in the bitter melon, dried chili, fresh chili, and garlic. Stir for a couple of minutes.

* Turn the heat to low. As the temperature climbs up slowly, the water will be seasoned with the peppercorn flavor and the onions.

* Give it a taste. The Yondu makes the taste, you can adjust with more Yondu or a small amount of Bragg's Liquid Aminos. Add the 1/4 cup of water with starch. The salt in the Yondu or the Liquid Aminos will suppress a little bit of the bitter taste, the starch will make the sauce. 

* Give it a final stir and you are done.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Pad Thai in a Hurry, with Cauliflower

 The other day, coming home from a tiresome journey, I needed a meal to pick me up, but I had no energy for any big production, and here the conveniences of a smart pantry came to the rescue.

On the way home I had picked up a beautiful head of Fioretto cauliflower, and I remembered that I still

had some Annie Chun's Brown Rice Pad Thai noodles, and some Maesri Thai Red Curry Paste, as well as a package of frozen Goya Fajita Mix, as well as a king mushroom. With the help of some onions and garlic, a deliciously refreshing and spicy meal was quickly ready.
Usually, I regard meal prep as a necessary part of therapy, it is a wonderful way of communing with nature on the 4th floor in the Bronx, and looking out on a side street.

But there are times when convenience counts, and 

you can still have a healthy meal, so here we go:


  • 1 onion
  • 3-6 cloves of garlic
  • 1 king mushroom
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can of Thai Curry
  • 1 bag of Fajita Mix
  • 1 TBSP of arrowroot (or other starch)
  • Brown Rice Pad Thai noodles.


  • Soak the Pad Thai noodles in hot water for 10 mins, rinse cold and set aside.
  • Cut up the onion fine.
  • Mince the garlic
  • Cut up the king mushroom in strips (I use a mandoline)
  • Stir-fry in the water for a while
  • Add the curry paste
  • Cut up the Cauliflower in florets
  • Add to the mix and let it cook on medium flame for 2 minutes
  • Add the Fajita Mix, and cook until soft, turn down the heat to just a simmer
  • mix the starch with a 1/4 cup of cold water, and add to the mix.
  • At the end add in the noodles and let them warm up.
Serve. Enjoy.

Evidently you could use different mushrooms, or you can add in a handful of fresh peanuts if you have them, and depending if you permit yourself some nuts, which tends to be a hot topic in plant-based circles. Evidently, if you are a serious heart patient, follow Dr. Esselstyn and avoid nuts and seeds, avocado and coconut, because of the oil content. You get all the fat you need from beans, etc.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

A final word on Dr. Esselstyn's Black Bean Salsa

 Jose, who works at the Premium Halal Supermarket on the corner of Starling Avenue and Odell Street, has become my official taste tester for any Mexican-style dishes I try my hand at. Recently that was Cactus salad (approved), and lately I have been perfecting Dr. Esselstyn's Black Bean Salsa (From the book How to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease). First time I gave it to him, I had forgotten the cilantro (pics), but yesterday I gave it to him with the cilantro, which was definitely better, but I am also fine tuning the number and blend of peppers that go into it. Recipe follows. 

By the way, while we're at it, there is an excellent site to research peppers, called Pepperscale.

I now like to use the following in my Black Bean Salsa:

Now for the updated recipe:

  • 2 cans of black beans, or 1 lb dry beans (cooked with some kombu in the pressure cooker or Instant Pot).
  • 1 can of corn
  • 3 stalks of celery, sliced paper thin
  • 2-3 Jalapeños, finely sliced
  • 2 Serranos, finely sliced
  • 1 Chilaca or Poblano pepper, sliced fine
  • 1 bunch of cilantro finely chopped
  • 1 bottle of Salsa Verde
  • 2-3 limes, juiced 

Clean all the ingredients, and slice the peppers fine, paper thin is the ideal. The celery also, paper thin is best (use the mandoline). I use all of the cilantro and again, just try to millimeter is. Now you'll understand why I love sharp knives. The finer you cut these things, the more the flavor spreads throughout. The secret to success here is the balance between aroma and heat.

As a practical matter, if you first pour the Salsa over the mixture, then you can wash out the bottle with the lime juice to get all of the salsa out. 

I prefer to let it marinate in the fridge for a day, and you can keep it for 4-5 days. You can serve it on tostadas, or rice cakes, or masa tortillas.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Start of Summer at Neerob & Honoring Sal - #WFPB style.

Sal, Salvatore Falzetta ("Mr. Hairstyling from Italy"), was the man of the hour yesterday at our small celebratory #WFPB (Whole Foods, Plant-Based) dinner, to celebrate the start of summer but also to honor Sal, who is the most famous barber in the neighborhood. He now practices at Silver Star Salon at 1470 Unionport Avenue, around the corner from Neerob Restaurant, where we had our dinner.

This was a recent picture of Sal, reading the paper between clients at Silver Star. Sal started cutting my hair fourteen years ago, and upon listening to my lengthy explanation of how I wanted it, including hand gestures, he rolled his eyes, and said: "I got it. Notta too long, notta too short." That was the one and only time we talked about hair.

Our dinner on June 21st was a proper Italian dinner with a small Bangladeshi flourish.

The appetizer was Capellini Pesto, with Rogier's Green Pasta Sauce, as per the recipe I recently posted here, and followed by a Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, along with a wonderful Arugula salad and Mixed Vegetables (Broccoli and carrots) as well as a Dal with spinach, and some whole wheat naan bread. Naturally, for the appetizer we used whole wheat angel hair pasta (Ronzoni), and for the main course we used Luigi Vitelli Whole Wheat Pasta. Desert was fresh strawberries with a drizzle of a 50/50 mix of Balsamic glaze and Balsamic vinegar.

As a practical matter, for the Puttanesca sauce, I used this Kelp this time instead of the hijiki and wakame that are listed in the recipe, which also worked just fine. I soaked it and cut it up, and, along with the capers and the kalamata olives, it provides all the flavoring that anchovies otherwise would in a traditional style recipe. 

The whole project was a collaboration with Neerob Restaurant, I cooked the Pesto Sauce, and Red Sauce - and the Restaurant, made the salads, the vegetable sides and the dal, and put the whole thing together.

One of Sal's loyal clients, my friend Ed Kremer, presented Sal with a Honor Certificate to celebrate his achievements. Sal came to the USA from Italy in 1958, form Cosenza, Reggio Calabria, and he's been a barber in the Starling Avenue neighborhood for 50 years. (The certificate said 1963 by mistake, but it was 1958).

We had mostly clients of Sal, and a few of my friends from other parts of town, and the result was a wonderful mix of people, and lots of interesting discussions.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Time for #WFPB Pasta Puttanesca

Supposedly, you cannot make Pasta Puttanesca without anchovies, but this story proves otherwise.

I was famous among friends for my pasta marinara with mushrooms as a teenager. I figured it was because none of my friends liked to cook but they did like to eat. Be that as it may. At that time I discovered the natural way of countering the acidity of the tomatoes by adding in a julienned carrot (or two) to the recipe. The sweetness of the carrots deepens the flavor of the sauce and buffers the acidity of the tomatoes.

Anyway, I seem to be having a new Italian period in my cooking, just when I was starting to get excited about Mexican food. I will get back to the Mexican cuisine, and for now I am going wild with my Italian Renaissance on Starling Avenue in the Bronx. 

The other day, a Chinese friend stopped by for dinner, but gave me only a half our notice, and normally it takes 2 hours lead time to get Neerob to do a #WFPB meal. So we met at Neerob Restaurant and Shamim improvised a delicious soup, and for the main course, we had Rogier's Green Pasta, for I had just cooked a batch of my green sauce, and I brought it, a box of cherry tomatoes, and some angel hair pasta, and Neerob served that for the main course. The owner, Khokon tried it and loved it, and one of the other diners also sampled some of it and loved it too!

So here comes the next Italian dish, #WFPB style.


1-2 red onion and optionally a few shallots
4-8 cloves garlic, smashed
1 carrot julienned
1 bell pepper, or preferably a mix of some green, red and yellow or orange pepper.
1 pinch of hijiki and 1 pinch of wakame, rinsed
1 cup water with yondu
1 tsp Italian Herbs
1 (28-oz.) can diced tomatoes
optional a 12 Oz box of Cherry tomatoes.
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted, sliced and/or some other sliced black olives
1/4 cup capers
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Optional topping: some basil leaves and some vegan parmesan.
You can have veggies on the side, zucchini, egg plant, spinach, broccoli, steamed carrots, whatever tickles your fancy.


Note: Best cooked in a skillet to help with the evaporation of the liquid.

* Cut up the onions fine.
* Smash the garlic and cut it up fine.
* Julienne one or two carrots
* Cut up the peppers, I used a quarter green, a quarter red, a quarter yellow and a quarter orange pepper.
* Briefly roast the onions with the peppers and garlic and then add the water with Yondu.
* Add in the crushed red pepper flakes.
* Once the onions are caramelized, add in the olives, the capers, and the Italian herbs, the hijiki and wakame, and then add the tomatoes. Note: you can splurge on the olives and the capers to make up for skipping the anchovies, and the pinch of hijiki and wakame imparts a bit of "sea flavor," and in general depth to the flavoring of the sauce.
* Let the whole thing simmer until some of the moisture has evaporated and you have a sauce with some substance to it.

Serve over spaghetti, or linguini, or whatever shape pasta you happen to like.


Sunday, April 24, 2022

Rogier's Green Pasta Recipe

Luigi Nanni died in April 1998, which probably means nothing to you, but Nanni was the proprietor of Restaurant Nanni, on East 46th, corner Lexington Avenue, and given I worked in Greenwich in the 80's it was one place that was convenient for lunch in the city, coming into Grand Central. Nanni was a center of serious Italian cuisine in the city. The death of Mr. Nanni was certainly an event, written up here by my friend Bryan Miller, who was then the restaurant critic for the New York Times.

One of my favorites was angel hair with pesto sauce. 

After the death of Mr Nanni, it lived on for a while, run by Vittorio, the old maitre d' and the cook, but they did not seem to have a happy partnership and a few years ago it all fell apart.

In any case, ever since I committed to a Whole Foods, Plant-Based diet, one of the biggest challenges was what to do for a pesto sauce. For the longest time, I was resigned to the idea that I would never again have angel hair with pesto sauce. Until one day recently, my #WFPB-friend and associate Enrica Sacca in Queens gave me the idea of making a pesto sauce based on sweet peas. Creativity took over and the result blew me away. It was better than the original. Since then, I've now made it three times and I think I've got the recipe down pat, and I think it will be a house favorite for a long time to come. 

There does seem to be an unwritten law that pesto sauce is served over angel hair, so angel hair is now sold out in my neighborhood. Normally, I buy Luigi Vitelli's Whole Wheat Pasta Capellini, but nobody had that, except one package, so I had to settle for Ronzoni, who apparently are Italian in name only, and don't have an Italian bone in their body and they just call it "thin spaghetti." Another marketing opportunity missed. 

So, here goes. This is simple as can be - about 30 minutes for a delicious home made sauce.


1/4 cup of walnut pieces with some pine nuts

1 15 Oz can of green peas

1 bunch of basil

1 bunch of spinach

5-6 cloves of garlic, minced, or at least sliced thin.

1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast

1 cup water

1 tsp Yondu

Optional: sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, and, if you blend in one jalapeño pepper, nobody will notice it, but it will pick the whole thing up a notch, some vegan parmesan


In your blender:
- add the 1/4 cup of nuts
- add the basil leaves, washed (sandy!)
- drain the peas and add them on top of the basil
- in a frying pan cook the spinach with the garlic, adding the cup of water with Yondu
- as soon as the spinach is wilted, put the spinach in the blender
- add the cooking water from the spinach.
- puree

This quantity is enough for 4 people.

Cook the angel hair - 3 mins.
- The sauce will probably still be too thick, so you can add some cooking water from the pasta to make it more liquid - I use about 1-2 cups of it.

If you want to get fancy, you can cut up some sun-dried tomatoes in small pieces, and add those in the sauce, and I like making it with cherry tomatoes.
At your option, you can add some vegan parmesan.

Finger-licking good. I can't stop eating it.

Obviously, this is a very healthy sauce and you can make a meal out of this, I like it with mushrooms and some vegetable, be it broccoli or zucchini, or steamed carrots go really well because of the color combination: the green pasta, the orange carrots (with some parsley) and the red cherry tomatoes.

P.S. In the interest of science I tried regular angel hair with Pesto Sauce recently, and realized that now I cannot imagine why I ever liked that oily sauce. You just lose your taste for it.

Thursday, March 31, 2022

PPMNY 3rd Anniversary at Neerob Restaurant in the Bronx

A lovely dinner celebration was held at Neerob Restaurant on Starling Avenue in the Bronx, and it was a small demonstration of how Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition is reaching more and more people, along with lifestyle medicine.

#WFPB, Lifestyle Medicine, Neerob, PPMNY
Behind us is the banner from PPMNY, in the center is Md "Khokon" Rahman, the owner of Neerob, and from left to right, Tee Jay, Fr. David Powers, Rogier FvV, Khokon, Diane Brownlee, Lenwood Hicks, Nathanael Smith, and the Rev. Edith Mayfield.

The stories are interesting. Khokon was first introduced to plant-based food through me, and Neerob Restaurant was the first restaurant in the Bronx to be certified by Plant Pure Communities as of February of 2019. Before Coronavirus, for a few years, we had a Dinner for Doctors every six months, where there would be a substantive medical or nutritional presentation and we often had 40-50 people. Fr. David and myself had a monthly dinner, which we have recently resumed, on the 4th Tuesday of the month, at 9PM (after Bible class at St. Helenas). I also was conducting #WFPB cooking classes at the school cafeteria at St. Helena's school, which we hope to resume soon.

Neerob is a restaurant that services the local community, and predominantly Bangladeshi, but it has interesting menu options. Usually there is a "Tropical Bean Salad," which is #WFPB qualified. And there are a few #WFPB items on the menu, but they should always be ordered in advance directly with Khokon or with Shamim, for the demand is still infrequent. We are now planning to introduce a #WFPB Market Special Dinner at a fixed price, and, for about 50% premium, a #WFPB Market Special Dinner +1 with enough take home (except for the rice) for 1 other person or another day. Details will be forthcoming shortly, and posted on the Neerob website.

As to the various participants, the backstories are interesting, for they are a demonstration of how word about Lifestyle Medicine and Whole Foods, Plant-Based nutrition is getting around.

The Rev. Edith Mayfield is an ambassador for the Heartsmarts program, at New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, developed by Dr. Naa-Solo Tettey and directed by Dr. Holly Anderson of the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute. This shows again that the knowledge of plant-based nutrition is spreading. This program is focused on racial inequities, but I assure you "Southern Food," or "comfort food" is bad for white people too. ;-)

Nathanael Smith and Tee Jay graced us with their presence, coming all the way from Jersey City. Nathanael is ACLM certified Nurse Practitioner at the famous Ethos Primary care and Tee Jay also works in the healthcare field. They are a living example of how the word is spreading. And it is very exciting that there are ACLM-qualified practitioners like Nathanael in the field.
Interestingly, Nathanael shared with us that they now routinely test people for TMAO, which is the toxic chemical that is produced in your gut if you eat animal protein. Regular doctors do not pay attention to these things, but this is a very simple and direct test to ascertain your gut health, for TMAO is a reactive oxygen species, and your gut simply stops making it if you go plant-based.

Fr. David Powers and myself have both attended some of the trainings from Dr. Robert Ostfeld's Cardiac Wellness Program, and I used to attend the annual Montefiore Einstein Preventative Cardiology Conference, also B.C. - Before Coronavirus. Dr. Robert Ostfeld is definitely one of the leaders in the Lifestyle Medicine arena and whole foods, plant-based nutrition. Throughout the Montefiore Einstein system, plant based nutrition is becoming more available, and more doctors are recommending it.

The Menu for this dinner consisted of:

  • Vegetable Barley Soup
  • Grilled Veggie Oreganato
  • Vegetable Pasta
  • Salad with nuts
  • Whole Wheat Roti and Brown Rice
  • Moong dal with Squash
It was finger-liking good all the way around, and the company was great!




Monday, March 28, 2022

Hausa Koko, a new ingredient for breakfast

 Ok, is a picture still worth a thousand words? We shall see. I found this Hausa Koko at my nearby African store, Lady Afrique International Market, at 1406 Castle Hill Avenue.

Hausa Koko

The ingredients are fascinating:
Millet flour,
West Africa Black Pepper

I have made porridge from it directly and it works well, if you're into a breakfast that puts hair on your chest. It definitely has a hint of hot spices, but I love that, and while it may be counter intuitive to some, it combines well with sweet, including all my typical fruit and dried fruits:

  • grated apple
  • blueberries
  • raisins
  • goji berries
  • dates
  • cacao nibs and some cacao powder
And for a topping some strawberries and banana, hempseeds, and balsamic vinegar.

I think I may like it even better mixed with my steelcut oats, about 50/50. In that case I am leaving out my usual teaspoon of cinnamon, as I don't think that would combine very well. I have made it both ways, and I think I prefer the blend, for the steelcut oats add some more substance. I don't like the smooth porridge as much.

And here's the store front, in case you were looking for it:

Friday, March 4, 2022

Breakfast scramble

A friend gave me this amazing hot sauce from Sakara, a company that offers delivered meals and some food products that are plant-based, without actually following #WFPB nutrition. However, it is always fun to adopt recipes, and make them #WFPB, so here goes with a breakfast scramble that I found is quite amazing, it used one ingredient from Sakara, a limited edition Hot Pepper Sauce, but you can of course use your own favorite hot pepper sauce. Theirs was somewhat hot and very aromatic: 

Breakfast Bowl:


Besan (Chickpea flour) Scramble

  • 1/3 cup besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp kala namak (black salt)
  • 1/2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (or fresh turmeric if you have it)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 cup water


  • 1-2 onions, garlic to taste,
  • 5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 scallion chopped
  • 1-2 sliced jalapeño peppers - to taste
  • 1-3 sliced thai chilis - to taste


  • 1 cup spring mix greens
  • 1/2 avocado sliced
  • 1 cup water with Yondu, or Braggs Liquid Aminos


- juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 tsp of your favorite hot sauce


  • Whisk all the chickpea scramble ingredients in a bowl and let it sit for 5 mins.
  • In a pan over medium heat, caramelize the onions, and add the peppers (jalapeños, chilis, or whatever), sear the mushrooms with the scallions, using the cup of water with Yondu, until they moisture evaporates.
  • Pour the Chickpea Scramble over the mushroom mixture. Stir to create the "scramble," add more water as needed to achieve the desired consistency.
  • Place your favorite cooked grains in a bowl, and layer your spring greens on top.
  • Make a dressing for the lemon juice with the hot sauce and sprinkle it over the greens
  • Pour out the Chickpea Scramble on top of this, and enjoy!