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.
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.
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.
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.
This is my last post of the year. I started this blog in January along with a Whole 30 like challenge to help me change up and shake up my life. And it has been a successful journey – I quit my old job, was offered a new job that is better for me in every way at this stage in my career, have upped my game in the kitchen and discovered my creative juices in vegetarian recipe creation. While I don’t eat in a Whole 30-like fashion year round, it forced me to experiment on myself with elimination diets, do a bit of research and listen to others in terms of their dietary needs. I don’t have a problem with legumes, but people I know do. If they can’t eat chickpeas, they don’t often get to enjoy hummus which is unfortunate because I find it to be the best dipping sauce, best condiment, and best veg protein substitute. So to give my legume-free friends an experience with hummus, I created a chickpea-free hummus with zucchini, almonds, cashews and tahini.