Do you ever feel a bit like a mad scientist when you cook? Man, I do, especially when concocting a new recipe. I had the tastiest salad yesterday at The ...
Do you ever feel a bit like a mad scientist when you cook? Man, I do, especially when concocting a new recipe. I had the tastiest salad yesterday at The Assembly, a new restaurant in Santa Cruz. So me being me, I had to deconstruct it and create my own version that will strike awe in the heart (and mouth) of my carnivore…and also at a baby shower I’m co-hosting. I don’t have a picture of myself creating things in my kitchen, but I’m pretty sure I look and sound like a cross between Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein and Monty Burns. “Mmm, yessss. Blend cumin and orange – no one will expect such a bewitching combination! Make the miniature Saturns of quinoa orbit the pearls of Israeli couscous. Yeessss. Mix in some golden beets, sweet currants, kale. And kumquats, yes kumquats, to make it come ALIVE!! Mooohahahahah!”
Although when my friends who do not cook see me in full-on chef-it-up kitchen-concoction mode, they stare at me as if I look like this:
But I digress. Don’t worry, no lab coat is needed to make this healthy, delicious, elegant salad. It’s actually quite simple to make, and it’s versatile too – it’s perfect as a meal or a side-dish. Trust me – you’ll love this delicious salad. It’s got everything: it’s both savory and sweet, it’s got a bit of crunch, there are earthy flavors and bright citrus highlights, it’s packed with protein, complex carbs, fruits, veggies, everything!
When you make this salad, be sure to serve it by holding the bowl high above your head and shouting “IT’S ALIVE!!” :-)
Israeli Couscous and Quinoa Salad with Orange Cumin Vinaigrette
From fridge to table: 15-20 minutes*
1 cup Israeli couscous (aka Pearl Couscous)
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup dried currants or chopped dates
10 kumquats, rolled and finely diced*
2 cups finely sliced kale
1 large cooked golden beet, peeled and chopped
* Cool tip about kumquats: roll them between your fingers to release oil held in the kumquat’s skin. You’ll see that it takes on a shiny sheen. This immediately takes the bitterness out of the skin so you can eat the kumquat whole. Pretty cool, huh?
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the Israeli couscous according to package (I boil 1 ¼ cup water with a pinch of salt, add the 1 cup of couscous, cover and simmer for 10 minutes). Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package (I combine 2 cups water with 1 cup quinoa, cover, bring to a boil, then simmer until water is absorbed, about 12 minutes). Once the couscous and quinoa are done, fluff them to cool, then combine them in the bowl with the other salad ingredients.
Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a lidded jar, shake well, then stir into the salad, to taste. Serve and enjoy!
It’s spring, which means it’s time to find new ways to dupe my husband into eating all the veggies I’m harvesting from our garden. Luckily I found a secret weapon: edible flowers! When you see something as pretty as a purple viola or bright red nasturtium on your plate, it draws your attention…and totally distracts John from the beets I’m tricking him into eating. Ha ha!
Now you and I know that freshly roasted golden beets – which are rapidly rolling into farmer’s markets and grocery stores – are simply delicious and have a slightly sweet, mellow flavor. And they’re one of the only sources for an awesome phytonutrient called betalains, which have anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties, not to mention vital free-radical-fighting antioxidants. And since there’s evidence that betalains help prevent cancer, eating beets is a tasty way to stay healthy, especially with this beautiful and delicious salad! But to John, beets are classified as “Weird Vegetables” in his “Never Eat That” food file. So naturally, I made it my mission to trick him into eating beets…and he LOVED this salad!
Being the devious cook that I am, I also decided to slip in some grapes and toasted hazelnuts to give this lovely spring salad some additional nutrients and protein, and a nice little crunch. Tossed with a light and zesty lemon vinaigrette, this salad will not only wow your friends and family with its beauty, but also with its refreshing and unique flavors and heath benefits. And yes, you will totally get to trick ‘weird vegetable’ haters into eating beets, which is both fun and yummy!
Cimeron’s Flower-Power Salad with Golden Beets, Grapes, Hazelnuts and Lemon Vinaigrette
Today we’re taking a trip to Japan (via New York’s Nobu restaurant, and my kitchen here in California) for a mouth-watering savory-sweet Miso-Marinated Tofu Sandwich. This dish is so good that it presents a dilemma. You’ll eat one and feel satisfied and full, but it’s so tasty that you’ll want to immediately throw 8 more down your gullet and will make you wish you had the expandable throat of a pelican. Sorta defeats the whole healthy eating thing, but I digress…
I got a hold of Nobu’s recipe for their world-famous Saikyo Miso-Glazed Black Cod and adapted it into a to-die-for vegan dish that I think you’re going to love as much as I do. The exterior of the tofu turns slightly firm and crisp around the edges when the sugary sake/mirin miso glaze caramelizes under the broiler, while the interior stays silky smooth. Mmm, can’t you practically taste the sweet, rich, miso-infused flavor? This is just irresistible on a sugar-glazed bun with some sauteed baby bok choy and drizzled with a vegan lemon-garlic aioli. It’s incredibly simple to make. (But please note that you’ve got to let it sit in the fridge for a few days so the marinade thoroughly infuses the tofu. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.)
The marinade makes enough for two full bricks of tofu, which when sliced, makes 6-8 sandwiches. It’s so sophisticated and unique on the palate that it makes a really wonderful meal to serve to special friends. It’s also a great dish to make on a Sunday if you want to have yummy sammies all week long. Or, you know, you could throw all of them down your mouth in one sitting, lie to your friends and say that you’re practicing for an eating contest. (You’re welcome).
Nobu-Style Saikyo Miso-Glazed Tofu Sandwich
Active cooking time: 20 minutes
Marinating time: 2-3 days
1/2 cup mirin (it’s a Japanese sweet rice wine – in the grocery store, it’s usually next to the sake)
2 cups white miso paste (note: it’s super cheap in Asian food stores. Regular grocery stores charge three times as much for it)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 bricks of medium-soft tofu
4 baby bok choy, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp sugar, dissolved into 3 tbsp of water
Vegan Lemon-Garlic Aioli:
3 tbsp vegan mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Prepare the marinade and tofu:
In a medium sized saucepan, combine the mirin and sake and bring to a boil for about 30 seconds to boil off some of the alcohol. Reduce heat to low and add the miso paste, stirring constantly. Once the miso has completely dissolved, turn heat up to medium high and add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Turn off heat and cool to lukewarm before marinating the tofu.
Cut your tofu width-wise to make two big tofu squares per brick. I like to use the hard plastic tofu trays to marinate it, or you could use a pyrex dish. Place some marinade on the bottom, then alternate layers of tofu and marinade. Be sure to slather the top piece of tofu with lots of marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 days.
Broil the tofu:
After 2-3 days of marinating the tofu, wipe a little bit of the marinade off the top and place on tin foil-lined baking sheet beneath a preheated broiler. Broil about 5 minutes per side until it looks like this:
Prepare the sandwich:
Personally, I like my buns toasted (and no, I’m not talking about tanned cheeks!) (Well actually, now that I think of it, that’s not so bad either). Brush the sugar-water atop each bun and place in the oven at 350 and bake until golden.
Saute or steam the bok choy. Then whisk together the aioli ingredients. Assemble the sandwich and serve with a side salad. After a couple of polite little bites, wait until no one is looking and proceed to shove the whole thing in your mouth as fast as you can. Enjoy!
When I think about my past business trips to Singapore, three things are always in my memory’s highlight reel:
1. Walking through a stunning sun-dappled tunnel of hanging orchids that were so beautiful that they inspired people to burst out in song. (Okay, maybe I was the only one who had a Julie Andrews moment, and maybe people stared at me like I was a serious weirdo nut job, but I like to think that they were singing along with me in their heads).
2. Gleefully wrapping myself in a pile of silk dresses in Chinatown (I am a degenerate silkaholic).
3. The spectacularly delicious array of international foods!
Like the diverse population of the city-nation, Singapore’s food is a glorious pan-Asian blend of exotic flavors and textures. One of my favorite dishes is the meal I’ve recreated for you here: Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies. The Indian turmeric in the luscious Thai yellow curry paste (which you can find in most Asian food stores or on Amazon) gives this mild curry its distinct golden glow and alluring taste. The creamy coconut milk and fragrant lemongrass remind me of the flavorful Malay influence on Singaporean cuisine. The soba noodles hail from Japan and do a great job soaking up the savory curry sauce. And the vibrant veggies bring it all together to create a multi-cultural harmony of flavor.
And did you see the part about this being a 10-minute meal? Seriously, could it get any better?! Why yes, it can! This simple, delicious and healthy noodle dish is as filling as it is tasty, so carnivores and veg-heads alike will join together to sing the praises of this lovely dish…and not just in their heads!
Cimeron’s 10-Minute Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies
From fridge to table: 10 minutes
3 shallots, chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, sliced in half
1 lemongrass stalk, peeled and finely minced (use only the white part)
1 tbsp yellow curry paste*
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups fresh asparagus, sliced into 1″ sections
5 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 package (12 oz) fresh soba noodles, or 8 oz dried noodles
2 tbsp tamari sauce (find it beside the soy sauce in your grocery store)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
* yellow curry paste is available in tins at most Asian food stores. You can also purchase jars of it on Amazon.com.
Prepare a pot of boiling water for the soba noodles, but don’t cook them until the last second.
In a wok, heat 1 tbsp of a high temperature oil (like grape seed oil) over medium-high. Saute the shallots, lemongrass and jalepeno until the shallots are just starting to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper and saute for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus, and shitake mushrooms, and stir for 2 minutes. Push the veggies aside to make room in the middle/bottom of the wok, then add the curry paste and heat until it softens, about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk and tamari sauce to the curry paste and stir together until blended, then mix well with the veggies until they fully coated. Turn off heat and discard the two halves of the jalepeno pepper.
Cook the soba noodles according to the package (for fresh noodles, boil for 1 minute). Drain, then immediately rinse the noodles under cold water, then drain again. Add to the curry/veggie mixture, sprinkle with cilantro and toss well. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Rejoice! There’s something awesome to celebrate this Valentine’s Day: Vegan Molten Chocolate Lava Cake! If you want to detonate a depth-charge of love for your taste buds, make this oooey, gooey, chocolaty, moan-worthy vegan delicacy. I guarantee that it will totally blow away carnivores and veggies alike.
It took me 7 attempts to perfect the recipe for this decadent dessert, but all the work and determination was worth it! I didn’t want to just match the intense flavor and alluring texture of the butter- and egg-laden version of this iconic gourmet dessert; I wanted to best it with a truly world-class, connoisseur version that also just happens to be vegan. And oh man, this melt-in-your-mouth lava cake totally does it! It explodes with the smooth, rich flavor of high quality cacao, and the silky texture will make you scream out “Oh God!! Yes, yes, yes!” The chocolate lava oozes through dense, velvety cake and beckons you to lick to the plate clean.
This vegan recipe for Molten Lava Cake isn’t only better than all those versions with animal products, it absolutely crushes them! This is an especially great dessert to make for those who mistakenly think vegans have to deprive themselves of decadence to eat an animal-free diet. And if you’re really nice, you can even invite them to lick the batter with you – it’s vegan, after all, so indulge!
Cimeron’s Vegan Molten Chocolate Lava Cake
Serves: 2 (or 4 if you share – this makes two individual cakes, but they’re huge and very filling)
From fridge to table: 20 minutes
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup soy milk
1/4 cup silken tofu
7 oz. Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate*, chopped
4 tbsp coconut oil
Vegan ice cream (optional)
* I highly recommend using Scharffen Berger chocolate for this recipe since its quality and flavor is truly unmatched, and it’s vegan. I tried all kinds of other chocolates for this recipe and none came close to incredibly complex flavor of Scharffen Bergers.
Preheat oven to 425. Generously grease two high-sided ramekins.
In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar and cornstarch and then whisk them to blend. Set aside.
Blend together the soy milk and silken tofu (I prefer using a stick blender for easy clean-up). Set aside.
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate and coconut oil, stirring constantly. Once fully melted, remove from heat and whisk in the soy milk/tofu mixture. Then pour the chocolate mixture into the mixing bowl and whisk together with the flour, sugar and cornstarch until silky smooth.
Divide equally between the two greased ramekins. Bake for 14 minutes. (If you prefer less lava, bake for 15-16 minutes). Remove from oven and immediately run a knife around inside edge of the ramekins so cakes will release smoothly. Place a plate atop each ramekin and then invert the cakes onto the plates. Top with vegan ice cream and raspberries and serve immediately. Then bask in the symphony of “om nom nom nom noms” that will accompany each bite of this delectable cake!
With this lovely molten lava cake, every day is Valentine’s Day for your taste buds.
Behold this toetally toeriffic new chopping technique:
I don’t recommend trying this method unless you too have broken your hand mountain biking and can’t grip a damn thing in your left hand/club. It also helps if you do a whole lot of yoga and have freakishly good grip with your toes. (Can you hear the gasps from friends who have eaten at my house recently? “You chopped my veggies with your feet?! Oh my God – EW!”) (Heh heh heh heh)
Which brings us to the yummy vegan recipe of the day: Roasted Red Pepper Footuccine. (Well, I used penne pasta, but footuccine sounds much more spectoecular!) Pan-roasting the onion, red peppers and tomatoes brings out a deep, smoky, caramelized flavor that is so satisfying on a cold winter night. The cannellini beans add a kick of protein, and they soak up the rich, savory goodness of the white wine sauce as it reduces. Be sure to finish with toasted herbed breadcrumbs and pine nuts to add a nice crunch to the dish. This meal so easy to prepare that you can make it with one hand tied behind your back (or encased in a cast).
Roasted Red Pepper Footuccine
From fridge to table: 30 minutes
3 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped into thin strips
1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped into thin strips
large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt (preferably a flavored salt, like porcini salt)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
red pepper flakes, to taste
10 oz fresh penne pasta, or about 3/4 pound dry penne
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
a handful of toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup toasted herbed bread crumbs (I like using panko since it’s so crunchy)
Preheat oven to 425. Toss the red peppers, onion, tomatoes and rosemary in 1-2 tbsp olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast – stirring a couple times while cooking – until veggies are very tender and red peppers start to blacken, about 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large chef’s pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Saute the garlic until fragrant and tender, about 2 minutes. Add wine, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and beans; cook for a few minutes until the wine reduces to about 1/2 cup. Cook and drain the pasta. Toss pasta with roasted veggies, wine sauce and fresh basil. Spoon into pasta bowls and top with toasted pine nuts and toasted bread crumbs. Then high five yourself with your foot and enjoy!
What could be better than seeing the look of pure joy on someone’s face when you bake them an awesome, beautiful, delectable Meyer lemon cake? Well, the fact that it took you only about 35 minutes start-to-finish makes it better. And for me, what makes the moment even sweeter is when I get to serve this yummy cake to a die-hard carnivore, knowing that in just moments when they’re moaning with joy, I get to see their jaws drop when I tell them that this cake is vegan…and healthy, and good for the environment, and good for animals!
That’s right, this moist, delicious, lemony heaven-cake has no animal products at all. And since it uses olive oil to make it moist (which has a host of benefits, from helping to prevent strokes and heart disease to protecting cells from damage), and agave nectar as a sweetener (which means your blood sugar level won’t spike), it’s a healthy dessert. Without traditional animal-based cake ingredients, like eggs, milk and butter, it saves some chickens and cows while also being better for the environment.
So bake the world a better and happier place by making this easy, super yummy crowd-pleaser that will make both carnivores and vegans smile. Happy holidays!
Cimeron’s Vegan Meyer Lemon Cake
From pantry to table: about 35 minutes
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour *
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup agave nectar
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup Meyer lemon juice
Zest of one Meyer lemon
2 tsp vanilla extract
Mixed berries to serve on top
* I like baking with whole wheat pastry flour since it makes desserts lighter and fluffier. I get mine at Whole Foods, but you can find it at most high-end grocery stores or health food stores.
Preheat oven to 350. Spray a Bundt pan lightly with oil. In a small bowl, mix together the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. In a large bowl, blend the olive oil, agave nectar, water, lemon juice, zest and vanilla extract. Mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and blend just until the lumps are gone. Pour into your Bundt pan and bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool the cake, invert, dust with powdered sugar and serve with fresh mixed berries or a simple compote. (To make a compote, toss the berries in a bowl with a generous squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt and agave nectar to taste – let sit for 15-30 minutes to allow the berries soften and release some juices).
This cake is definitely best when served on the same day it’s baked. Be sure to ziplock and refrigerate the leftovers to keep it moist. Enjoy!
Welcome to the third and final installment of the Great Spiced Nut Series! How about we play with our nuts today and dress them up with some yummy international flavors? (Hey, is that your mind right there in the gutter? Okay, I sort of lead you there, but still!) So today we’re off to Mexico for Chili-Lime Peanuts, to the American South for Spiced Maple-Glazed Pecans, and Japan for Wasabi-Soy Almonds. These are all so addictive and delicious that you’re going to proclaim to one and all the joys of playing with your nuts. Enjoy, and please let me know which ones you like best!
Mexican Chili-Lime Peanuts
From pantry to table: about 45 minutes
Chili + lime + peanuts + salt = heaven. Seriously, need I say more? Just imagine these classic flavors together – if you cannot taste them on your tongue right now, I’m sorry to tell you this, but I think your taste buds are dead.
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp chili powder
½ tsp smoked sea salt
1 cup roasted but unsalted peanuts
Heat oven to 250. In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients except peanuts. Then add peanuts and toss to coat. Toss all of this onto a parchment-lined pan and roast for 30-45 minutes, until toasted and the liquid is fully absorbed. Be sure to stir every 10 minutes or so. Serve once they’re cooled.
Spiced Maple-Glazed Pecans
From pantry to table: about 15 minutes
These nuts are slightly sweet, a little sticky, a teeny bit spicy, a touch smoky, and totally delicious. They’re especially fantastic on salads, but they’re also great on their own.
1 cup raw pecans
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground cumin
generous pinch of allspice
pinch of cayenne
¼ tsp smoked sea salt
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp nutmeg
2 tbsp maple syrup
Heat oven to 350. Toast pecans for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, in a metal bowl, combine the spices. Add in the maple syrup and blend well. When nuts are done, toss them in the syrup/spice mixture for a few minutes until fully coated. Spread them in a single layer on parchment paper and cool completely.
From pantry to table: about 16 minutes
If you like things a little spicy and crunchy, this recipe is for you! The rich flavor of soy and the clean-hot flavor of wasabi are a match made in heaven, and the smoky flavor of toasted almonds brings it all together to make a perfect snack.
1 cup raw almonds
Welcome to part two of the spiced-nut recipe series! Today we’re visiting Thailand and Spain with our taste buds. And special bonus: scroll down to the bottom to learn how to make these cute mini chalkboard clips, which are really great for labeling party food. It’s also great for freaking out your friends who will be convinced that a deranged person is running loose in your house and labeling things with chalk. (Please do not tell me that you write beautifully with chalk because this will thwart my efforts to convince my husband that everyone looks like they have maniac handwriting when they write on chalkboards.)
From pantry to table: about 35 minutes
If you’re a fan of Thai red curry, you are going to love these nuts, which feature the rich, slightly spicy, aromatic flavors of Thailand. Plus, these spiced nuts are super unique. Nummy!
1 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
3 tbsp lime juice
2 1/2 tsp Thai red chili paste (available in the Asian food section of most grocery stores) (add more paste if you want angry nuts and/or you want to be a fire-breathing dragon)
½ tsp smoked sea salt
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp dried basil
Heat oven to 250. In a small bowl, blend together all but the peanuts, then add peanuts to coat. Pour into a parchment-line baking pan and roast for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minuets. Cool completely, then watch them disappear.
Smoky Spanish Spiced Cashews
From pantry to table: 11 minutes
These nuts are pretty much my new addiction. The combination of smoky paprika with rosemary, brown sugar and salt is just flipping ridiculous. People go nuts (sorry for the pun) when I serve these. This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart’s The New Classics.
2 cups raw, unsalted cashews
2 tsbp finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp smoked sea salt
1 tbsp Earth Balance spread
Heat oven to 350 and toast the cashews for 10 minutes until golden. Meanwhile place all the other ingredients in a metal bowl. When the cashews are ready, mix them vigorously with the spice mixture until the Earth Balance melts and the cashews are fully coated. Cool and don’t even bother serving – just spoon them directly into your gullet.
How to make mini chalkboard clips
You don’t need to be Martha Stewart to make these cute little chalkboard clips. They’re super quick and easy to make. Just head down to (or go online to) Michael’s Craft Store and pick up any shape of wood cut-out you like. Here are a few that I picked out:
Next, buy some wooden clothespins, chalkboard paint (it comes in a variety of colors) and chalk – all available at the craft store. I also bought a $2 glue gun and some glue sticks to make this project go even quicker. Clip the clothespins onto something so they’re suspended off your work surface, then glue the wooden cut-outs onto the ends of the clips. Once dry, apply three coats of chalkboard paint, waiting until the paint is totally dry between applications. Then try like hell not to write like a serial killer on your new mini chalkboards.