Those poor girls, always part of a joke having to explain why they cross the road. Why can’t we just let the chickens be? We can. I have been eating a lot of eggs for protein lately but have been questioning whether it is appropriate for me or not. The industrialized farming process in this country is inhumane and it is not always easy to access eggs raised on small ethical farms. I want to limit my egg consumption to those eggs I get from farmers we trust at the farmers market and friends that raise chickens. When I was asked to be vegan for a month for the animals, I jumped on it – it would challenge me to create new recipes and devote my focus on reducing my egg consumption. On Whole30, I was making egg salads with my avocado mayo. I was craving a replacement – something simple, filling, versatile and tasty. When I was young, I was obsessed with chicken salad. Such a simple food that gave you protein, fat and some veggies with a crunch. Using almonds as the base, with some celery, carrot, cabbage and an avocado based mayo enhanced with kelp this is my plant based chicken salad. No soy, no dairy. Tasty goodness.
Like many American families, we are a multicultural family. He’s from France, born and raised. I am a first generation American of Indian immigrants (often referred to an ABCD – an American born confused Desi with Desi being a term referring to people of the Indian subcontinent). We solidified our relationship in California, which in some respects seems like its own country (much like NYC, where I am from). This has introduced a blend of cultures that has found its way into my food. Just this past week, my husband was sworn in as an American citizen – well a dual American French citizen (yes he is dual AF) and I wanted to celebrate with a feast. I chose to center this feast around the Cali Mex cuisine with a twist. Lettuce taco bout plant based cuisine: lettuce wrap tacos with plant based taco meat. The meat was re-purposed into a collard wrap burrito. And there was was also a cashew based queso because chips and dip please.
I have the chemical symbol for capsaicin, the active ingredient for a chili pepper, tattooed on my arm because I think spice adds to life. Since moving to Cali, I have been noticing hatch peppers – a large spicy chili from New Mexico – at the beginning of fall. I was feeling the need for some spice to shake up my life. Rather than just add the flavor of the hatch to a dish, I decided to stuff them with a plant-based meat made of mushrooms, veggies, nuts and seeds and top it with a plant based “crema” made from cashews, lime, nutritional yeast and cilantro. The filling was robust, light yet rich and satisfying and the “crema” provided the perfect sauce with acid to cut through the richness. The hatch…well the hatch was spicy spicy spicy. Beware the hatch – the spice did not leave my fingertips for days even with multiple washings and milk soakings. If they are too spicy for you, stuff a jalapeno or a bell pepper. We tried them all and they were all equally amazing.
There is so much to talk about with this mousse. It started off as two separate culinary experiments – one with mousse made with seaweed as a thickener (yes, seaweed and no, it’s not agar) and another with a savory vegan shortbread. Each was really amazing on its own, but the cookie was not the cookie I wanted. I did not want to waste the dough. The creative kitchen witch came out and I combined the two. O. M. G. Bob Ross once said, “There are no mistakes, only happy accidents.” This was a magnificent accident. The two together form the perfect bite. The mousse is chocolatey, creamy, rich, yet light with a subtle hint of mint. There is a crunch with cacao nibs. The crust is textured, salted with subtle hints of rosemary and citrus. The whole dessert is sweetened only with dates. My mouth waters as I write this. I think I will have a slice while I type.
Whenever I want to give to someone or the world in some way, I usually provide homemade food. A while back, a friend could not eat solid food due to a car accident and was tired of the liquids she was forced to eat. I wanted to provide her with something nourishing, filling and interesting. I created a version of a ground nut stew from West Africa – a stew of tomatoes, sweet potatoes, hearty greens, and peanuts. A surprising combination of foods and flavors that work well together. Rather than leave it chunky as a stew, I blended it into a drinkable soup. It was rich, tasty, and filling. I was dreaming about this stew the other night and wanted to recreate it with almond butter. The stew is typically served over rice with chicken. I decided to serve it as a sauce with sweet potato noodles and broccoli along with sesame seeds, almonds, and sunflower seeds for texture a bit of protein. This dish is nourishing, full of texture and depth and satisfying hot or cold with or without the broccoli.
I was feeling nostalgic about the Northeast and that conjured up thoughts of chowder and bisques with coastal seafood. Growing up in an Indian household, we did not eat these classic New England cuisines but they so closely tied to the east coast that it came up in my mind with nostalgia. Cauliflower is a versatile food. I often make cauliflower mash, so I thought about a cauliflower chowder. I included some Indian spices to merge it with my heritage and give it more complexity. And since it is spring, chanterelles have shown up at the market. The earthy but mild peppery taste works well with Indian spices. The result was creamy, flavorful and satisfying.
I officially became a vegetarian when I was about 22 years old. In those 22 years I had never heard of chicken and waffles – it wasn’t a thing in New York. I moved out to LA when I was 33 and everyone wanted to meet at Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles before drinks. I showed up later for drinks. The closest I ever came to Roscoe’s in LA was rewatching Tarantino’s Jackie Brown. Being a New Yorker, I like to watch sporting events (the few I do watch) and election debates in bars – so during the 2012 election, I watched the debates from a bar on Pico located very close to a Roscoe’s. Turns out the person I was talking to next to me was Herb Hudson – the founder of Roscoe’s. He is a Harlem native and we talked a lot about NYC vs LA. He suggested I visit Roscoe’s noting that Obama had made a stop at a Roscoe’s, but once I told him I was vegetarian the conversation came to an abrupt halt. I have often been curious about the appeal of chicken and waffles. So I created a chicken-fried mushroom with a gluten-free and dairy-free nut crust. And put it on top of a gluten-free dairy free waffle. And topped it with sweet fruit toppings, green veggieful toppings, savory toppings, spicy toppings. Savory. Sweet. Soft and Crunchy. Chicken and waffles. I get it now.
So if you know me you know that I don’t care about football (cue shock and horror). But I can get behind anything associated with food. I love that watching football requires an array of tasty eats. Tasty not so good for you eats. With the Super Bowl is coming up, some friends on the Whole 30 or just watching what they eat have asked me for ideas. That was all the incentive I needed to post a creation I made for last year’s Super Bowl. Stay away from the tasty but not so gut friendly potato skins and opt instead of crispy sweet potato skins stuffed with spinach and cashew cheese and topped with shiitake bacon. For those of you who want more protein and don’t care about the inclusion of dairy or processed foods – I have a cottage cheese alternative (you would never know it was cottage cheese) that you can top with tempeh/seitan bacon. Crispy, gooey, savory good for you snack food.
On a cold rainy day I crave warm tasty comfort food. The first thing that comes to mind is a grilled cheese and tomato soup. Oh yeah. And while my taste buds crave the bread and cheese, my digestive system does not. So I decided to soup up my tomato soup so it can stand as a hearty meal on its own. This vegan soup is made with tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, celery, leeks, coconut milk and my kale beet green almond walnut pesto. Creamy. Nutritious. Warm. Rich. Satisfying.
During the holidays, as a vegetarian, I refuse to settle for side dishes or a store bought mock turkey as my meal. I need a tasty impressive main meal – so my centerpiece is a stuffed pumpkin – typically stuffed with cheese and cream. As tasty as the dish is, I knew this could be made without any dairy and remain tasty. A hint of cayenne and hickory smoke, cream from cashews and coconut milk, almonds for a crunch and veggies for nutrition – this dairy-free gluten-free stuffed pumpkin has been a hit over the holidays.