Day 80 – Recipe: M Cafe’s Chickpea & Dandelion Salad (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free)

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Let me start off by saying that I really hate bitter greens. There are only a few vegetables that I don’t like – one of them is fennel, and the other is the entire bitter greens family (endive, radicchio, frisée, God I hate frisée). Dandelion greens definitely fall into that bitter green category. If you haven’t tried them, well, they are really bitter and pretty disgusting. So why in the world did I make this dandelion greens salad, you might ask?  I really don’t know. I guess it seemed like a good idea when I found the recipe.

I used to eat this salad when I worked at M Cafe in Los Angeles, and though it wasn’t my absolute favorite, I still liked it and ate it frequently. This is probably the only way you could ever get me to eat dandelion greens. The tahini dressing is really nutty and creamy, and the sweet caramelized onions are a great compliment to the bitter greens. It really is a tasty salad, and if you like bitter greens you will like this dish a lot.

Dandelion, albeit gross, is really good for you. It’s one of those cancer-fighting, antioxidant, calcium-rich superfoods. So I kind of forced myself to eat it… and truthfully I picked some of it out. I like everything in this salad but the damn dandelion. Honestly when I make it again I will probably swap it out for some Tuscan kale.

So since I made this salad sound so good, I’m sure you really want to make it now :). But it’s worth a try, it’s easy and doesn’t require a lot of chopping. I served it with the Eggplant Tabbouleh I wrote about last week and it was the perfect compliment. So if I haven’t scared you away yet, copy, paste and print (someday I will figure out how to make a print button for these recipes, I promise).

M Cafe’s Chickpea & Dandelion Salad

For Tahini-Lemon Dressing:

  • 2 T sesame tahini
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup + 2 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 clove fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

For Frizzled Onions:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, cut into paper-thin half moons

For Salad:

  • 2 15-ounce cans organic chickpeas, drained
  • 1 cup red Bhutanese rice (or short grain brown rice), cooked
  • 2 cups celery hearts and inside leaves, sliced thin
  • 3 cups fresh dandelion greens, washed, dried and chopped
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Directions

For Tahini-Lemon Dressing:
Combine the tahini, extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, cumin, cayenne pepper, sea salt and black pepper in the mixing bowl. Adjust dressing with additional sea salt, black pepper or lemon juice, to taste.

For Frizzled Onions:
Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, and add the yellow onions. Fry the onions over medium heat until golden brown and “frizzled.” Transfer to absorbent toweling to drain excess oil. Season with sea salt and reserve.

For Salad:
Combine the chickpeas, cooked rice, celery hearts and dandelion greens in a mixing bowl. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of frizzled onions to bowl. Moisten salad with about 1/2 of a cup of the Tahini-Lemon Dressing and mix well to combine. Taste salad, and adjust with additional dressing, sea salt and black pepper as needed. Transfer salad to serving bowl or platter and drizzle additional dressing, if desired. Top with additional frizzled onions to garnish. Serves 8.

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Pictured with Eggplant and Fresh Herb Quinoa Tabbouleh.

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Day 74 – Recipe: Eggplant and Fresh Herb Quinoa Tabbouleh (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free)

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I’m getting a little confused about which day I’m on but I think it’s day 74. I wish it was day 364. When I’m home or when I’m at a vegan restaurant I don’t mind being on this diet, but whenever I’m out at a restaurant that has amazing smelling meat or pizza or waffles or bacon – you get the picture – I just can’t stand it, I get depressed. I love food so much, and being restrictive in my diet feels so unnatural to me. Sometimes I just want to say screw it and eat some boneless wings. The last couple weeks have been really hard. I’ve definitely eaten some things I shouldn’t have eaten (they were vegan, but processed) and I feel guilty about it. I hate feeling guilty. I wish this diet was easy. It’s not. I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m doing it because I don’t want someone to take a scalpel to my throat and cut me open. God that really sounds horrible.

Anyways, for about 2 months we had fresh basil and mint growing in our kitchen and I rarely used it. About a month and a half into it we started having a severe gnat issue and I couldn’t take it anymore – my boyfriend took the herbs to his parent’s house in Sedona to plant in their garden. Less than a week later I came across this recipe with copious amounts of both fresh mint and basil and was like Damn The Irony! Fortunately we were going to see his parents over the weekend and they brought us a bunch of herbs so I could make the dish. Yay!

So I found this recipe in Shape magazine, I changed it a lot but the original recipe is from Clotilde Dusoulier’s new vegetarian cookbook, The French Market Cookbook. She used whole wheat couscous in her recipe, to make it gluten-free I opted for quinoa. I think it turned out really good. The herbs kind of overpowered the eggplant, mostly because I used spearmint which is too strong for this recipe, I would suggest using Mojito mint which is much milder. Also her recipe called for harissa, which I couldn’t find anywhere, so I used an Asian chili paste instead, I think it worked just as well. So here is my version:

Eggplant and Fresh Herb Quinoa Tabbouleh

Serves 8 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 Lbs small Italian eggplants
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1.5 cups white quinoa
  • 1 small red onion, minced
  • 2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 T tahini
  • 1 T harissa or Asian chili paste
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh mojito mint leaves, sliced
  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves, sliced
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves, sliced

Directions:

  1. Cut eggplant into small 1/2 inch cubes. Place in a colander, sprinkle generously with salt, then toss to coat; let rest 1 hour. Rinse thoroughly. Turn onto a clean kitchen towel, roll up, and squeeze gently to absorb liquid.
  2. While eggplant is resting, mince the onion. Place minced onion, quinoa, 1 tsp sea salt, and 3 cups water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool. (To cool faster, spread onto a baking sheet and chill in the fridge.)
  3. Heat olive oil in a large non-stick skillet. Place eggplant cubes in skillet and toss well, until coated in oil. When eggplant is hot, cover and let steam in skillet for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Eggplant should be very tender. Set aside to cool.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk tahini and harissa or chili paste. Whisk in lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, making sure it is incorporated before adding more to prevent curdling. Whisk til smooth.
  5. Pour the dressing over cooled quinoa and toss to combine. Fold in eggplant, mint, basil and cilantro. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Enjoy!

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I served this dish with another Greek-inspired salad that I will post tomorrow. You can serve it with falafels, dolmas, hummus, pretty much any Mediterranean food, or just eat it by itself.

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It has a hint of spice to it but overall is pretty mild. If you want more spice, add more chili paste.

 

Day 72 – Recipe: Tanzanian Green Banana and Yam Stew (vegan, gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free)

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While flipping through a vegetarian cookbook at a restaurant, I came across this recipe for Banana and Yam Stew and instantly was intrigued. At first I thought it sounded really gross but the more I read I became extremely curious. I must’ve read the recipe over at least 4 times, I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Bananas in a stew? I decided I had to make it, even though it is not stew weather at all right now, it sounded so interesting – and I couldn’t stop thinking about it!

Thankfully it turned out really good. And it took less time than I expected, which is always a bonus. My boyfriend wasn’t as crazy about it as I was – he doesn’t really like cloves (which I didn’t know beforehand), and truthfully the cloves were a bit overpowering. When I make this again I will adjust the spices (this is reflected in the recipe below). I can definitely see eating it when it’s cooler outside, it’s a great winter stew, very hearty, warming, and slightly sweet. The recipe makes enough for about 12 people, I ended up freezing half of it because there was so much. I won’t make my boyfriend eat it again though, Mom and Dad I hope you like cloves!

Green Banana and Yam Stew
Adapted From Linda McCartney on Tour

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided

  • 2 pounds yams or sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves, chopped

  • 1 medium red onion, chopped

  • 1 large tomato, chopped roughly

  • 1 large carrot, sliced into thin rounds

  • 4 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin

  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 1 can coconut milk

  • 4 cups vegetable stock

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot mixed with 2 tablespoons water

  • 2 green bananas, sliced

 

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the yams or sweet potatoes and cook until slightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove to a plate or bowl. In the same pot, heat the other tablespoon of oil over medium heat and add the jalapeno, cilantro, onion, tomato, carrot, garlic, and spices. Cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the bay leaves and lower the heat to a simmer. Stir in the arrowroot mixture. Add the bananas and yams/sweet potatoes. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Serve alone or with quinoa or couscous. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

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Not the most appetizing color, I promise it tastes better than it looks here.

 

 

 

Day 64 – Breakfast for Dinner: M Cafe’s Vegan “Benedict” over rice (gluten-free)

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I was hoping to make this for breakfast on Sunday but unfortunately I didn’t wake up until the morning (and most of the afternoon) had passed. Woops. I’ve had a bad streak of insomnia lately (that I’m currently trying to fix) which has led to me sleeping through most of the day. This is really the only reason we had breakfast for dinner. Well actually it was technically my breakfast, but it was Colin’s dinner. Sorry Colin! I don’t think he minded though.

Anyway, as I mentioned before I used to work at M Cafe de Chaya in Los Angeles. I know I have given many of their dishes the title of “my favorite”, but it’s hard not to because all of their food is just amazing. This is absolutely my favorite breakfast item there though, and I was stoked to find the recipe online. I had made a different version of this recipe a few years ago (it was in a book that I bought at the restaurant) and it turned out terrible, it didn’t taste anything like the one I used to eat all the time. Probably because it was the wrong recipe. This is the right one. Yay!

The one I found online was for the Smoked Salmon Benedict, which is the non-vegan version, but I adapted it to reflect the Vegan Benedict (obviously) which is really only different because it is topped with tempeh bacon instead of smoked salmon. Technically it is served over grilled baguette slices, which makes it more like an actual benedict, but I always ordered it over brown rice because that’s how Alicia Silverstone ordered it whenever she came into the restaurant. I’m not ashamed to say that I copied her. But she had the right idea, this is awesome over brown rice. And better yet, gluten-free. So here it is, the Vegan Benedict with rice instead of bread… it is time consuming and you will use more pots than you want to clean but it’s all worth it. GO MAKE THIS NOW!

M Cafe’s Vegan Benedict Florentine with Soy Hollandaise

Ingredients:

Scrambled Tofu:

  • 14 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained on paper towels
  • 1 Tablespoon Earth Balance (I used the Soy Garden variety because it was the only one made without canola oil)
  • ¼ cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons scallions, julienned (optional)

Soy Hollandaise:

  • 4 ounces Earth Balance
  • ½ cup Veganaise
  • 6 ounces (1/2 a block) silken firm tofu (Mori-Nu brand)
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper
  • Dash of Tabasco

Tempeh Bacon and Garnishes:

  • 12 ounces tempeh bacon (Lightlife brand)
  • 1 small bunch green kale, washed well, de-stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, sliced thick
  • Brown Rice, cooked
  • Minced chives or black sesame seeds for garnish

PREPARATION

For Scrambled Tofu:
Crumble tofu coarsely by hand. Heat Earth Balance in a medium sauté pan. Add onion and sauté 3 minutes or until translucent. Add carrot and sauté 1 more minute. Add crumbled tofu, turmeric and sea salt and black pepper to taste. Heat through and add a few Tablespoons of water. Let simmer until tofu is thick and creamy, and resembles soft-cooked scrambled eggs. Fold in scallions, adjust seasonings, and reserve.

For Soy Hollandaise:
Melt Earth Balance and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in blender and blend well to combine. Drizzle in Earth Balance slowly until emulsified. Taste and adjust seasoning and lemon if necessary. Reserve.

For Tempeh Bacon and Garnishes:

Blanch kale in lightly salted boiling water until tender. Keep warm and reserve. (I did this the night before)

Heat tempeh in a large non-stick skillet til hot and set aside.

To Assemble and Serve:
Place 1/2 – 3/4 cup cooked brown rice on each plate and top with 2 slices tomato. Place steamed kale on top of tomato. Spoon scrambled tofu over kale and lay 2 slices tempeh evenly over tofu. Heat soy hollandaise in a double boiler until just warm – do not over heat or sauce will break. Spoon warm sauce over tempeh and drizzle around the plate. Garnish with chives or black sesame seeds. Enjoy!

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I like a lot of sauce 🙂

Since there are so many components I blanched the kale and cooked the rice the night before.

I also didn’t bother warming the hollandaise in a double boiler, everything else was hot so I just poured it over, it warmed on the plate.

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