Saturday, September 25, 2010

To market, to market

      Tomorrow I am leaving to participate in Appalachia Rising ( to continue to work on ending the horrific practice of mountaintop removal (for more info:, so today my partner wanted to spend time with me before I headed off to D.C. Since he had never been to the Asheville farmer's market (I, being from Asheville, spent very many fond moments there), we decided we should go on an adventure. So we loaded ourselves up and headed through the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains to the quirky little city of Asheville.
      The wonderful thing about the farmer's market in Asheville is that it is open all year round, usually seven days a week. It's a pretty amazing place where you can find locally made cheeses, locally grown produce of all sorts, original Appalachian jams, jellies, and butters (for instance "frog jam" which is made out of figs,
raspberries, oranges and ginger, or moonshine jelly, jalapeno jelly, pumpkin butter, sweet potato butter, etc etc.), fudge, homemade ice cream, crafts and more. I hadn't been there for some time, so revisiting it was, for me, something like a six year old going to Disney. We looked at the amazing assortment of pumpkins, perused the endless aisles of canned jellies and honey, tasted amazing cheese, and in general had a wonderful time.
Perfect apples!                                                       Giant pumpkin!
      While we were there we picked out some pretty exciting local produce, which I plan on using this week once I make it home from D.C. Tonight, though, I am using some beautiful sweet potatoes we picked up to make some baked sweet potato souffle with pecans (recipe below), along with some southern style pinto beans (you can find this recipe in the post "I'm from the South"). I was also going to make some Southern fried tofu, but after eating a delicious meal of tempelo wings and southern style greens with cornbread and vegan gravy from Rosetta's Kitchen (an AMAZING vegetarian/vegan restaurant that uses local food in downtown Asheville), we decided we would have a light dinner.

Our amazing meal from Rosetta's Kitchen

Below, enjoy my simple sweet potato souffle with pecans:

3 large sweet potatoes, washed, peeled, and cut into cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, sage, black pepper, salt
3-4 tablespoons agave nectar
3 tablespoons butter or vegan butter
1 cup of pecans, ground up or finely chopped
3 tablespoons of brown sugar

Boil your sweet potatoes in a large pot of water with the olive oil (I actually put mine on low heat for about 30 minutes)
Strain potatoes, place in a baking dish (I used an 8X8 dish), add butter and using a hand-held masher, mash potatoes. Add agave nectar, mash again. Add spices, and mash again, making sure everything is mixed up well.
Mix your pecans and brown sugar together and layer them out evenly on top of the potatoes.
Place in oven at 350 degrees and bake for about 15-20 minutes


Friday, September 24, 2010

A tale that begins with a beet.....

So after acquiring beets from my farmer friend this summer I have become slightly obsessed with learning how to cook with them. My first dish with beets was Aloo Koora, an Indian curry with beets and potatoes (I will post this at some point in the future). But now, as fall steadily approaches, I have been searching for hearty fall-spiced dishes that help stave off the melancholy end of summer and imminent approach of winter. For some reason, this has manifested itself in a slight fascination with eastern European dishes. So tonight I am going to make a vegetarian version of Ukrainsky Borshch, a Ukrainian beet and cabbage stew. Below you will find the recipe I have concocted.

We will approach this with caution, however, because as they say: "a tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil" (and I suppose we could do without devils for dinner).

(Recipe adapted from:

3 cups vegetable broth
2 large potatoes or 4 small potatoes of your choice cut up into large chunks (you can peel them if you want, I prefer skins-on potatoes).
1 large tomato or 2 small tomatoes diced
1/4 cup oil (canola, vegetable or olive)
1/2 cup of diced onion
1-2 carrots diced
1 can of sauerkraut or 1/4 head of cabbage diced                
3-4 beets roasted (directions below) and diced
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup of raisins or 3-4 pitted prunes
3 tbspns of tomato paste
1 tsp sugar or brown sugar
black pepper
1-2 cloves diced garlic
parsley/dill/basil (spices of choice)
2-3 teaspoons liquid smoke

Roasting beets:
prepare beets ahead of time by washing and slicing them, placing them in a baking dish lined with aluminum foil, brush them with oil and herbs (I use olive oil with onion powder, sage, basil leaves, salt and black pepper, and a little brown sugar), cover the beets with the foil, and bake at 350 degrees until they can be easily pierced with a fork (approximately 1- 1 1/2 hours)

1. Bring vegetable broth/stock to a boil over high heat. Add potatoes and tomatoes, season to taste with salt, add liquid smoke, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until potatoes are just soft, about 15 minutes.
 2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots, and cook, stirring often, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add cabbage/sauerkraut and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until cabbage wilts, 6–8 minutes.
3. Add vegetable mixture, beets, and lemon juice to stock in pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add raisins/prunes, tomato paste, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste and continue to simmer until prunes soften and begin to dissolve, about 10 minutes more.
4.  Remove pot from heat, add garlic, parsley, and dill, (possibly more liquid smoke if you prefer) then set soup aside to rest for 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings. Serve with sour cream on side.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I'm from the South

Being a vegetarian in the southeastern United States is often entertaining. Basic food items here generally come loaded up with some form of ham or bacon. Or brown beef gravy. Or white sausage gravy. And let's not forget bbq, ribs, fried chicken, etc. I am very often asked "What DO you eat?" as if there could not possibly be anything Southern that I could eat. Well, I am glad to inform you that I have been able to create this wonderful list of recipes that fulfill my very Southern appetite =)


BBQ Tofu

1 lb block of tofu (I use Twin Oaks brand tofu from EarthFare, it’s locally(ish) and cooperatively grown (from Virginia)! And it is always really firm and not too juicy. When you get home, put your tofu in the freezer and freeze it for at least one day, leave tofu out for a few hours before you make this recipe, and then cut tofu out of package and drain it/squeeze it to make it as dry as possible)
¼ cup of peanut butter or peanut sauce
¼ cup of tamari or soy sauce
1-2 teaspoons of liquid smoke
1/3 cup of olive oil
1 clove of minced garlic
2 tablespoons of onion powder
Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl. Take your tofu and cut it into really thin slices, then use your fingers to pull it apart into decent sized chunks reminiscent of a pulled pork look. Pour marinade over tofu, make sure all tofu is covered. I take a potato masher and lightly press on the tofu to make sure it absorbs the marinade well (don’t press too hard or mash up tofu). Let sit in refrigerator for at least 1 hour (sometimes I leave mine over night).
Marinating tofu
Heat oven to 400, cook tofu 10-15 minutes, or until liquid is dry and tofu is slightly crispy (you can take it out before it is completely crispy because as it cools it will harden).
Baked tofu
 Now, you can use any bbq sauce you want for the tofu shreds you have made. I usually combine Carolina gold brand and add hot mustard and spicy red bbq sauce, but really this is entirely up to what kind of bbq sauce you like. You can mix and match or experiment with making your own. But, once you have figured out what you want to use for bbq, take your tofu and put it into a container with the sauce, mix it up thoroughly, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes for the tofu to absorb it.

Southern Fried Tofu
(note: I mostly stole this recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen:
1 block of tofu defrosted and cut into triangles. (freeze your tofu before use, as before)
Organic White Flour
*Cayenne pepper
*Garlic powder
*Sea Salt
*Fresh ground pepper
A teaspoon of cornstarch
1/4 cup cold water
1 cup warmed vegetable broth
Canola oil for frying

*All of these are according to taste*

~For spicy tofu, melt two tablespoons of dairy free butter and mix with your favorite hot sauce in a bowl. Set aside.

Leave your tofu sitting in warm water

In a small cup, add the cold water and the corn starch and stir until dissolved. Mix in with vegetable broth.
In a separate bowl, mix all of the dry ingredients together.

It turns out better if you 'double dip' the tofu. Take a triangle and dip it into the flour mixture first. After that, dip in the vegetable broth mixture and then back into the flour until evenly covered. Set the battered tofu on a plate and prepare the rest of the pieces the same way. Get your oil good and hot.

Fry your battered tofu and turn regularly until brown on all sides. It doesn't take that long. Do yourself a favor and use tongs!

If you want to, once the tofu is cooked, toss it into the hot sauce/butter mix. It is good plain too.

Vegan Gumbo
So, there is a small back story here: one of my friends posted a facebook status that she was making gumbo, someone commented asking if there was a way to make vegan gumbo. I, realizing I had not had gumbo since my childhood, decided that I would find a way to make vegan gumbo. Thus, stealing and tweaking a recipe from the famous Paula Deen, I created this:


  • 1 block of cajun marinated tofu (see directions below)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3-4 pieces of vegan Italian sausage (note: Morning Star brand is NOT vegan!) seasoned with cumin and cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 8 cloves garlic minced
  • 3 stalks celery chopped
  • 1/4 cup soy/tamari sauce
  • 1/4 bunch flat leaf parsley, stems and leaves, coarsely chopped, plus chopped leaves for garnish (I used basil)
  • 4 cups hot vegetable broth/stock
  • 1 (14-ounce can) stewed tomatoes with juice (I use fresh tomatoes, I used about 3-4, diced up)
  • 2 cups frozen sliced okra
  • 4 green onions, sliced, white and green parts


      Cajun marinated tofu:
    combine 1/4 cup tamari/soy sauce, 1/3 cup of olive oil 2-3 teaspoons of liquid smoke, 1 tablespoon onion powder, 1 clove minced garlic, 2 tablespoons of cajun seasoning, and 2-3 teaspoons of cumin. cut tofu into large chunks and marinate for about 1 hour (or as long as you want) then bake at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, or until tofu is slightly crispy.

    Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat.Add tofu until browned on both sides and remove. Add the sausage and cook until browned, then remove (sprinkle the warmed tofu and sausage lightly with cajun seasoning and cumin).
    Sprinkle the flour over the oil, add 2 tablespoons of vegan butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until brown, about 10 minutes. Let the roux cool.
    Return the Dutch oven to low heat and melt the remaining 3 tablespoons vegan butter. Add the onion, garlic,  and celery and cook for 5-6minutes.

    Add soy/tamari sauce, salt and pepper, to taste and the 1/4 bunch parsley. Cook, while stirring frequently, for 5-6minutes.
    Add vegetable stock/broth, whisking constantly. Add the tofu and sausage. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add tomatoes and okra. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Just before serving add the green onions and chopped parsley.
    Note: I also used zucchini and carrots in my gumbo. You can add any vegetable you have on hand, really.
    finished gumbo


    Southern Style Pinto Beans
    1 bag dry pinto beans or 1 can vegetarian pinto beans
    Liquid smoke
    Butter (or vegan butter)

                For the dry pinto beans you will need to cover the pan of beans with water at least three inches above the beans. Soak overnight. The next morning the beans will be plump and ready to cook. Pour out the water and fill with clean tap water, covering beans at least one inch above the beans. Bring beans to boil. Reduce heat and simmer with lid on for about 4-6 hours (until they are well cooked and soft) checking every hour to make sure beans continue to have enough water.
                For canned beans, you just need to heat them up in a pot.
                Add a few dashes of liquid smoke (maybe about 4-5 teaspoons?)
                Add about 1 tablespoon of butter/vegan butter
                Salt and pepper to taste

    Cajun Pinto Beans
                Dry beans or can of beans
                Brown sugar
                Cajun seasoning
                Liquid smoke

    Prepare your beans, add 2-3 tablespoons of brown sugar, a few dashes of liquid smoke, mix well. Dice up tomato and about 1/3 cup of onion, add to beans, stir well. Add about 1 teaspoon of cumin and 2-3 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning. To make them spicy you can add red pepper flakes.

    Southern Style Greens
                Greens of your choice (I have used swiss chard, beet greens, dandelion greens, and poke salad, usually I use collard greens though)
                Liquid smoke
                1 clove of Garlic (minced)
                Additional/optional vegetables (I sometimes use zucchini or mushrooms when I make greens, but you don’t have to add anything unless you have it on hand)

    Heat about ¼ cup of oil with garlic and onions, cook until onions are transparent. Add greens (and additional vegetables if you are using them). Add a few dashes of liquid smoke. Stir well, cook for about 10-15 minutes (depending on if you want your greens softer or crispier), stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper to taste, you can also add red pepper flakes if you want them spicier.

    Fried Green Tomatoes
                Green tomatoes (I usually use 2)
                Corn flour
                1 egg (beaten) (for vegan use vegetable stock/broth)
                Salt and pepper
                Slice tomatoes. In a bag or on a plate mix salt, pepper, and corn flour. Dip tomatoes in egg and then place in corn flour mix to thoroughly coat. Heat about ¼ cup of oil in frying pan, cook tomatoes, turning often, until they are thoroughly golden brown on both sides. 
    When zucchini is in season I often fry it up with the tomatoes too.

      Enjoy your Southern feast!