Now to use those Moroccan carrots…

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After I made my Moroccan Carrot Salad, I decided maybe I should make a meal to go with them.

On the left is a favorite Algerian and Moroccan salad combination, cauliflower and roasted zucchini. To the right of that is a lemony and garlicky cooked spinach salad . . . then, of course, Moroccan Carrot Salad. Around the back are Red Lentil Kefta, for which I will soon post a recipe. Just in case those kefta weren’t zesty enough for anyone, I included harif/harissa, a very hot sauce.

Moroccan Carrot Salad

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This Moroccan Carrot Salad is a traditional Shabbat salad among my friends in West Rogers Park, and I got in the habit of making it weekly. Its beautiful colors contribute to a festive table along with my other salads.

Ingredients
(Makes 1 Quart)

Ingredients
Carrots, 1 lb.
Garlic, 1 clove, minced
Lemon, 1 juiced (2 TB)
Extra virgin olive oil, 2 TB
Sea salt, 1 tsp.
Cumin, 2 tsp.
Szeged hot paprika, 1 tsp.
Cilantro, 1 oz., chopped

Directions

  1. Wash, slice and cook the carrots in water just to cover (bring water to boil before adding carrots).
  2. While carrots are cooking, mince the garlic and chop the cilantro.
  3. When carrots are just tender, remove from heat.
  4. Add lots of ice to quickly cool carrots.
  5. Drain.
  6. Place cooled carrots in mixing bowl.
  7. Add olive oil, fresh lemon juice, minced garlic and chopped cilantro.
  8. Season with salt, cumin and hot paprika to taste. The salad should be “zesty.”

An inspirational project

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When my son, Jeremy, decided on a career shift, he got engaged with an amazing volunteer organization. Their story is inspirational and a reminder that “people are basically good at heart.”

Check out this article from the front page of the New York Times online this week: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/17/science/hand-of-a-superhero.html?_r=0.

Read more in Jeremy’s blog at 3duniverse.org or check out his business page at shop3duniverse.com.

Food Products or . . . Food?

“You have a choice. You can continue eating the foods manufacturers want you to buy that are making you unhealthy. Or you can return to eating the foods God provided for you, already magnificently packaged in their own skins, rinds, pods and shells” . . . Rabbi Celso Cukiercorn

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Picture this: a five-year old watching TV happily munching a fluffer-nutter sandwich on something manufacturers alleged was white bread. That was me, more than 60 years ago (OMG!).

I enjoyed fluffer-nutters and many other American favorites for the next 15 years. Then in 1968, my Fort Smith, Arkansas, grandmother died of colon cancer at 65 years of age. I had a vague sense her disease was what some of us call “a foodborne illness.”

I began a lifelong research project with a consistent theme: “real food.” I campaigned to bring real food back to the center of my table. I raised a family on real food, much of which got its start in my organic garden. I even owned and operated a five-star vegetarian cafe featuring real food. I never ate another fluffer-nutter.

What is real food? In Food Rules, Michael Pollan says: “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.” Food choices I make for myself, my family and my cafe are guided by the real food principle. I cook my own food and choose the least processed ingredients — plant food, organic when possible. I stick to the produce section of the supermarket.

Healthy vegetarian foods can be a tough sell, easier in recent years as research supports what was anecdotal 40 years ago. Finally, though, healthy eating has to taste good and satisfy. I believe that is most likely to happen with real food, prepared by hand from whole, fresh ingredients.

Veggie Chili

(Makes about 1/2 gal. – 6-8 servings)

This chili is a favorite that I have made in my family for many years. Originally it contained meat, but with certain adjustments to the recipe, it remained a favorite when we moved to meatless meals.

Please read my post about handling the beans before preparing this soup: http://vegetatingwithleslie.org/?p=818

Ingredients
Extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
Garlic, 1 TB
Green bell peppers, 2
Spanish Onion, 1
Poblano pepper, 1
Dried small red beans, 1/2 lb.
Dried dark red kidney beans, 1/2 lb.
Plum tomatoes, 8 large (or one 19 oz. can petite diced tomatoes)
Tomato paste, one 6 oz. can
Salt, 1 TB
Cumin, 1.5 TB
Hot chili powder, 1 TB
Hot paprika, 2 tsp
Cilantro, 1 bunch

Directions
1. Prepare Beans. Read my post on preparing beans – http://vegetatingwithleslie.org/?p=818

2. Prepare Veggies. Cut bell peppers and onions into 1″ dice. Mince poblano and cilantro.

3. Prepare Tomato Sauce. Hand-dice tomatoes or pulse briefly in a food processor. Measure the tomatoes, which should come to about 1 pint. Fresh tomatoes can be replaced with one 19 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes.  Add tomato paste to this mixture and water to reach 1-1/4 quarts (including the tomatoes and tomato paste).

4. Make Chili. Add olive oil to bottom of a 1 gallon pot. Saute garlic, peppers and onions until slightly soft. Add tomato mixture, and heat until entire mixture is simmering. Add remaining seasonings, and simmer a few minutes. Add cooked beans, reserving juices. You can add this back into the chili if it is too thick. Bring to a simmer.

5. Season and Finish. Add seasonings to chili, and simmer all together at least long enough to allow seasonings to permeate ingredients. Add cilantro toward end of cooking time, and adjust seasoning.

Black Bean Soup

(Makes 1.5 Gallons)

Ingredients

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 1/2 cup
  • Spanish Onions, 1 lg., small diced
  • Garlic, 16 cloves (2 TB minced)
  • Carrots, 1/2 lb., small diced
  • Celery, 5 lg. stalks, small diced
  • Red bell pepper, 1 lg., small diced
  • Black beans, 3 lb.
  • Plum tomatoes, 1 lb. petite diced (about 8) or one 19-oz. can petite diced)
  • Tomato paste, 1-6 oz. can
  • Water, about 4-5 quarts
  • Salt, 1 TB (to taste)
  • Cumin, 2 TB
  • Hot chili powder, 1-1/2 tsp.
  • Hot paprika, 1-1/2 tsp.
  • Lemon or lime to taste
  • Cilantro and red pepper garnish

Directions

  1. Prepare the beans – read my post: http://vegetatingwithleslie.org/?p=818
  2. Add extra virgin olive oil to another pot, covering the bottom to about 1/8″.
  3. Add onions and garlic to saute briefly.
  4. Add diced veggies and saute briefly until softened.
  5. Add beans, tomatoes, tomato paste and seasonings. Simmer for a moment or two and remove from burner while preparing beans.
  6. Drain cooked beans in a colander over a bowl to capture cooking liquid.
  7. Measure the cooking liquid and add 4-5 quarts to the tomato and veggie mixture along with the beans (add less to start if you use the blanch-soak method of bean preparation).
  8. Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook the soup until all has blended together well, beans are very tender and soup has reached desired thickness.
  9. I usually mash some of the soup with a potato ricer.
  10. Add lemon or lime if desired.
  11. Adjust liquid and other seasonings.
  12. Garnish with chopped red peppers and cilantro and serve.

Babaganoush

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I love babaganoush with its creaminess and fresh taste. I make mine with labne, a Middle Eastern yogurt spread. I’m including instructions below for a vegan version.

Although a good variety of smoked paprika will give a beautiful smoky flavor to the babaganoush, smoking the eggplants rather than running them under the broiler will accomplish the same.

(Makes about a quart)

BABAGANOUSH
For a vegan version, replace the Labne, Tahina, Salt and Cumin in the following recipe with 1 cup of Tahina Sauce (tahina, lemon, garlic, salt, water). You may need to add a bit more salt and lemon at the end.

Ingredients

  • Eggplants, 3 lg.
  • Tahina, ¼ cup
  • Lemon, ½ juiced (about 1 TB)
  • Labne, 1 cup
  • Garlic, 1 tsp., rounded (or 1 lg. clove, minced)
  • Sea salt, 1.5 tsp.
  • Cumin, 1.5 tsp.
  • Szeged hot paprika, ½ tsp.
  • Smoked paprika, ½ tsp.
  • Parsley, 1 lg. bunch (3 oz.)

Directions

  1. Roast eggplant with peels on under the broiler to blacken skin (about 15 minutes, turning every five minutes).
  2. Cool eggplant.
  3. Remove skin from flesh, and drain thoroughly (an hour is best, but at least while preparing the remainder of the recipe).
  4. Place garlic and roughly chopped parsley in a food processor bowl. Process until fairly smooth, scraping down the sides.
  5. Add tahina, lemon juice and seasonings to the processor bowl and blend well (if making vegan version, add extra virgin olive oil along with the tahina).
  6.  Add thoroughly drained, cut-up eggplant and pulse until well-mixed but still has texture. DO NOT OVER-PROCESS.

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8. Stir in the labne (Middle Eastern yoghurt spread – if making vegan version, leave out).

9. Spread on a dish for serving, garnish with extra virgin olive oil, parsley or paprika or sumac or za’atar and enjoy.

Salad for breakfast

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My favorite ingredients for Israeli/Jerusalem Salad: tomato, cucumber, red bell peppers, avocado, red onion . . . and sometimes I add a little finely chopped cilantro.

“The breakfast of champions is not cereal, it’s the opposition” …Nick Seitz

Finding a breakfast cereal without sugar can be challenging. Finding one that doesn’t taste like sawdust even more so. I propose a solution to this problem: an Israeli-style breakfast.

I visited Israel for the first time almost 40 years ago. Israel is one of those places that floods one’s mind and senses with thoughts and images. It resonates with the voices of its history and culture, voices which have become part of so many of us through biblical literature although we may have never been to Israel.

One of the most memorable experiences I had on that first visit was totally unanticipated: an Israeli breakfast. Originally a very simple meal, Israeli breakfasts have become famous. Many contemporary restaurants specialize in elaborate versions of it.

Israeli breakfasts originated with the halutzim (early pioneers). Quickly prepared from local ingredients, the meal featured a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, onion and perhaps avocado, dressed with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Other typical components of the meal were soft cheeses, hard boiled eggs, pickles, olives and bread. Beans in the form of  hummus (a chickpea “dip”) or ful (fava beans) might also be part of the meal. Ful is the breakfast food of choice in Egypt and is served up with lemon, chopped garlic, onions and olive oil.

When I returned home from that first trip, I began to make a simple version of the Israeli breakfast every morning. Although my knife skills are unfortunate, I became proficient in the small dice typical of an Israeli or Jerusalem salad. We sometimes enjoyed dicing contests to see who could make the salad most quickly and with the most precision.

I love to make Israeli Salad. Because of its precision (some would call it tedious), it requires focus, especially if you don’t have great knife skills. For me, it’s “vegetative,” that is, a meditative exercise involving beautiful vegetables:

ISRAELI SALAD

Ingredients
(Serves four along with other breakfast items)
Plum tomatoes, 6 ripe but firm
Pickling cucumbers, 2-3 or Persian cucumbers,* 3-4
Green onions, 2
Red bell peppers, 1-2
Avocado (opt.), 1-2 ripe but firm
Cilantro (opt.)
Extra virgin olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Salt and pepper

*Pickling cucumbers are preferable because of their finer grain and because they require no deseeding. Persian cucumbers are even better where available.

Directions
Although not necessary if the salad is eaten immediately, deseeding the tomatoes extends the time the salad will last without drowning in its own juices. Cut all the veggies into a uniform 1/4″ dice. Chop the onions and cilantro. Add extra virgin olive oil, the juice of a lemon and salt and pepper to taste.

VIDEO #1: For a demo of the dice, see the video my son created of himself preparing Israeli/Jerusalem salad in my cafe (mandolin optional – I do it by hand): http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=bzEcBa9bzu0.

VIDEO #2: Here’s one more video – a session I did at our Woodstock Farmers Market on the Israeli Breakfast. I’m a good deal slower and less expert than my son, but here’s the good news: if I can make this salad, anyone can! – https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=XNAdGkxq5vc

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

Israeli White Bean Soup

(Makes about 1 gal.)

Ingredients 

  • Olive Oil, 1/3 cup
  • Garlic, 1 TB
  • Spanish onion, 1 lg, petite diced
  • Celery, 2 lg stalks, bias cut
  • Carrots, 2 lg, bias cut
  • Potatoes, 5 size “A” potatoes, 1″ dice, skin on
  • Cumin, 1 TB
  • Tomato, 8 lg plum tomatoes, petite diced, or one  28 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
  • Tomato Paste,  3 heaping TB or to desired thickness
  • Salt, 2 tsp or to taste
  • Szeged hot paprika, 1 tsp
  • Cilantro, 1 bunch, chopped
  • White beans (Navy Pea Beans or Canellini), 2 lb. dried
  • Water, 3 quarts to start

Directions

  1. Add olive oil to a pot large enough to hold the entire soup, and saute garlic.
  2. Add petite diced or chopped onions and sauté.
  3. Rinse beans well, and put in pot to cook with fresh water to cover, about 3 quarts. Bring to a boil. Turn down heat to simmer, cover pot and cook ’til beans are almost tended.
  4. Add celery and carrots cut on the bias. Simmer for about 10 minutes, adding more water if needed.
  5. Add potatoes and diced tomatoes and continue to simmer until the potatoes are barely tender.
  6. Add remaining seasonings and tomato paste to desired thickness, and bring soup back to simmer.
  7. When finished, the soup should be thick with veggies and beans but with enough broth to be soup.
  8. Add chopped cilantro at end of cooking process, and remove from heat.

7-Grain Spelt Bread

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I love this beautiful comment from a post in the Weston Price website. The author is contrasting modern bread-making methods with the ways grains were traditionally handled and breads made:

“Grains comprise a wholesome category of foods that must be respected for the complexity of nutrient contributions they can make to the human diet, and must always be prepared with care to maximize those nutrients’ availability as well as neutralize naturally occurring antinutrients. . .

“Growing and preparing food ought to be a sacramental service. It should not be based on violence, as is most of modern agriculture, factory animal farms and factories that produce finished food items like bread. All those processes are based on “conquering” the food item and forcing it into a form defined by commerce. There are no more subtle energies in these debased foods, let alone mere measureable nutrients or soul-satisfying taste and vitality.

“Food is holy. Its preparation and enjoyment constitute a daily opportunity to experience happiness, satisfaction and gratitude.”

I make this 7-Grain Spelt Bread weekly. Spelt is an ancient, easier-to-digest grain. My recipe uses little or no sugar and about 1/3 the yeast in most contemporary bread recipes. Allow plenty of rising time, at least 1-1/2 hours each time. I’m anxious to test out a sourdough version!

Ingredients
(Makes about 40 buns)

  • Bob’s Red Mill 7-grain cereal, 2-1/2 cups (14 oz.)
  • Boiling water, 5 cups
  • Extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 cup
  • Sugar, 1 tsp. (opt.)
  • Dry yeast, 1 tsp.
  • Spelt flour, 4 cups (1 lb. 5 oz.)
  • Unbleached white flour, 3 cups (1 lb. – if you’re happy with a denser texture and longer rising time, replace white with spelt flour)
  • Salt, 1 TB

Directions

  1. Boil the water, stir the 7-grain cereal into it.
  2. Let the cereal soak for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add oil, sugar and yeast to cereal mixture. Stir in and let sit.
  4. Mix flours and salt together.
  5. Mix flours into cereal mixture.
  6. Knead the entire mix on a smooth, lightly floured surface or knead mechanically for 10 minutes. I use my Kitchenaid mixer.
  7. The dough should be very slightly sticky. Keep as light as possible.
  8. Knead dough by hand into a smooth ball.
  9. Place in a well-oiled bowl and oil top of dough. Cover with non-porous material. Plastic garbage bags work. I clean and re-use the same bag every week.
  10. Let rise 1-2 hours. Punch down. Let rise again if there’s time. If not, continue to next step.
  11. Using a 1/4 cup dry measure, pull off a piece of dough and pack it into the cup.
  12. Remove from cup, knead slightly, press smooth side down into cup. Tap firmly on counter to remove from cup and place on baking sheet.
  13. Repeat this process until all buns have been formed.
  14. Cover buns and let rise.
  15. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
  16. Remove from oven, cool, enjoy.