Vegetarian Culinarian

Recipes and resources for food lovers going green, local, and compassionate.

Category: Vegetarian/Vegan Resources

Recipe: Quick Mediterranean Flatbread

About a decade ago, I did my student teaching at a school lucky enough to be chosen for a new program our school district was piloting called ‘Cooking with Kids‘. Its purpose was to introduce cheap, whole food alternatives to the packaged, refined foods students regularly ate. Volunteers came into the classroom and taught the students how to cook a few simple basics, such as bread and salad. The students loved it, and the recipes were amazing. I have been making this delicious, whole wheat flatbread (or a version thereof) ever since. It is something I make and use at least weekly. It is a yeast bread that doesn’t require rising time, and it is incredibly versatile. Skip the za’atar topping, and use the bread to scoop up hummus. Wrap beans in it for a burrito, or use it as a falafel wrap. It is great to snack on during road trips. Or use it as pizza dough: my apartment overseas didn’t have a reliable oven, and I used this flatbread to create individual stovetop pizzas. Cook the flatbread on one side briefly, flip, and top with cheese, olives, tomatoes, etc. Cover the pan with a lid so that the steam will help melt the cheese. One last note: the students who learned how to make this flatbread were Kindergarteners, so you know it’s easy!

Mediterranean Flatbread

Makes 12.

1 ½ C warm water

1 tsp yeast

1 C whole wheat flour

1 tsp salt (if not using za’atar, increase this)

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 ½ C white flour

Combine warm water and yeast. (Ensure that the warm water is not so hot that you cannot leave your finger in it; if it is, it will kill the yeast.) Allow the yeast to sit for five to ten minutes. Then add the oil, salt, and whole wheat flour. Add the remaining white flour in a bit at a time, stirring after each addition. Once the dough comes together loosely, sprinkle flour on a board and knead until you have a smooth ball (about five minutes). Cover and let the dough sit for ten minutes. Alternately, you can cover and refrigerate up to two days at this point. Divide the dough into twelve balls, and roll each ball into a circle. Cook in a skillet on medium high to high heat, covered, about one minute on each side. Covering allows the steam to help cook the flatbread, which aids in keeping the bread supple. However, sometimes I don’t cover, and it still works.

Za’atar Topping:

1 Tbsp sesame seeds

½ tsp dried thyme

¼ tsp salt

Combine the sesame seeds, dried thyme, and salt. Brush each flatbread with olive oil, and sprinkle with za’atar.

Photo Credits: Graeme Weatherston

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=330

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Beans

Beans are a great food for vegetarians and vegans. High in fiber, folic acid, iron, and protein, beans are very inexpensive and store well in the pantry. If you buy your beans in bulk, store them in an airtight container like Tupperware®, and use them within six months.

Three Methods of Cooking

The three basic methods of cooking beans, from fastest to slowest, are using a pressure cooker, boiling on the stovetop, or using a Crock-Pot®. I’ve never used a pressure cooker, but the link above will take you to instructions. The stovetop method requires a soak and then a slow simmer in water on the stove. The Crock-Pot® method requires dumping in one or two cups of beans, filling the Crock-Pot® with water, and turning it on (although if you want to soak beans ahead of time, it will cut cooking time in the Crock-Pot®).

Yield

1 cup dry beans yields 2 to 3 cups cooked beans

Soaking

Soaking helps create evenly-cooked, tender beans. After sorting through your beans and picking out stones, discolored beans, or beans that aren’t smooth and firm, cover beans in cool water, and let soak for four to twelve hours before cooking. Alternately, quick-soak your beans by covering beans with two inches of water and boiling for 2 minutes.

Stovetop Cooking Times by Bean Types

After soaking, rinse beans in a colander. Put beans in a large pot. Add 3 to 4 cups of water for every cup of dry beans you use. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer gently for the recommended cooking times listed below. Keep in mind that cooking times vary widely depending on soaking time, bean type, bean age, and cooking method. The times below are approximate. It is a good idea to start checking for doneness a half hour to an hour before the recommended cooking time is complete. I check for doneness by tasting one of the beans. Also keep in mind that if you are going to use the cooked beans in a recipe that will further cook the beans (as in Iranian Rice with Beans and Dill), it’s best to leave the beans a tad firm to ensure they don’t get mushy by the end. You can access a photo and nutritional info from Something Better Natural Foods by clicking on the links following simmer times.

Adzuki – Simmer 1/2 hour after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Adzuki Beans

Baby Lima Beans – Simmer 1 hour after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Lima Beans

Black Beans – Simmer 1 1/2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Black Beans

Black-Eyed Peas – Simmer 1 1/2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Black-Eyed Peas

Cannellini Beans – Simmer 1 1/2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Cannellini Beans

Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) – Simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Chickpeas

Cranberry Beans – Simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Cranberry Beans

Fava Beans – Simmer 1 1/2 to 2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Fava Beans

Great Northern Beans – Simmer 1 hour after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Great Northern Beans

Mung Beans – Simmer 1 1/4 hour after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Mung Beans

Navy Beans – Simmer 2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Navy Beans

Pinto Beans – Simmer 2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Pinto Beans

Red Beans – Simmer 2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Red Beans

Red Kidney Beans – Simmer 1 1/2 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Kidney Beans

Soy Beans – Simmer 3 to 4 hours after bringing to a boil. Nutritional Information for Soy Beans

Sources for Stovetop Cooking Times by Bean Types: Buying In Bulk by Whole Foods, Something Better Natural Foods

Crock-Pot® Method

I usually use a Crock-Pot. You don’t need to soak (although if you do, it will cut cooking time) – just sort through your beans (pick out stones, discolored beans, and beans that aren’t smooth and firm) then rinse your beans in a colander, add the desired amount of beans to the Crock-Pot® (1 cup dried beans yields 2 to 3 cups cooked beans), and fill the Crock-Pot with water. Filling with water will ensure that as the beans absorb the fluid, the Crock-Pot interior doesn’t dry out. I have a small Crock-Pot (1.5 quart – it was about $10 at Target), and I start with 1 1/2 cups of dried pinto, kidney, lima, black, or cannellini beans and end up with about 3 cups cooked beans. Add salt to the water as you would when boiling pasta. This lengthens cooking time a bit, but if you salt after the beans are finished, it won’t be as effective. If you are around to add the salt halfway through cooking time, this is best. Also, if you are following a recipe that calls for adding tomatoes, lemon juice, vinegar, or any other type of acid, don’t add it until the beans are fully cooked. The acid will prevent the beans from softening as they cook. It generally takes 4 to 5 hours on high, or 6 to 7 on low, for beans to cook in a slow cooker without a presoak, but they are done to perfection, and if you put the beans in the Crock-Pot® before leaving for work, they are done when you get home. Alternately, put the beans in the slow cooker in the evening, and they’ll be done when you get up in the morning. So convenient! Keep in mind that actual cooking times for beans vary widely – not just by bean type, but also by bean age. It’s a good idea to start checking for doneness an hour to a half hour before the recommended cooking time is complete. I check for doneness by tasting one of the beans. Also keep in mind that if you are going to use the cooked beans in a recipe that will further cook the beans (as in Iranian Rice with Beans and Dill), it’s best to leave the beans a tad firm to ensure they don’t get mushy by the end.


Recipe Links for Beans:

BLACK BEANS: I absolutely love these Black Bean Brownies. I am an ardent follower of 101cookbooks, and this recipe is one of the reasons why! If you love chocolate, you will love these!

BUTTER BEANS: I grew up in a community with many Persians, and some of my favorite memories are of potluck tables and platters heaped with Persian rice dishes. Even though my best friend is Persian, I have been slow at learning the dishes. Except for this one, which turns out amazing every time: Iranian Rice with Butter Beans and Dill

CHICKPEAS (GARBANZO BEANS): Hummus is a staple at my house, and this recipe for Hummus bi Tahina by Emeril Lagasse is great. Instead of the canned chickpeas, though, cook your own. So much fresher and cheaper that way!

WHITE BEANS: Another great 101cookbooks entry, Carrot, Dill & White Bean Salad is wonderful! Also, check out Bruschetta with White Bean Puree by Michael Chiarello for the Cooking Channel.

ALL BEANS: You will never want to leave this site – check out all of the bean recipes at 101cookbooks. Find a wealth of recipes at Savvy Vegetarian. Find international bean recipes (such as various types of Indian dhal) contributed by members of the International Vegetarian Union. You can find reader recipes organized by bean type at Veg Web.

Photo Credits: Another great one by Carlos Porto http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=345

Resources for a Compassionate Lifestyle

I took this photo at a beach in Tonga.Every year, my students find out I’m a vegetarian. They inevitably notice what I bring for lunch, or my gentle refusals to share in meat-based meals (read: pepperoni pizza parents bring for birthdays). They always ask me why.  One student explained to another, “She won’t eat anything with a face!” It’s true – I don’t eat meat or anything made with meat, which includes foods which contain gelatin (made of animal hooves) or rennet (made of stomach lining). My students are so sweet every year. They gradually learn – without any prompting or preaching from me – which foods have meat, gelatin, rennet, and the like. Children are often more accepting of personal choices than others – although a colleague of mine recently brought a vegan chocolate cake to our staff potluck because she was worried I wouldn’t get any dessert! Basically, I don’t eat or use anything which came from suffering animals, including milk or eggs which haven’t come from small, local, open farms which don’t send their animals to slaughter when they can no longer lay or produce milk. My best friend, B, and I call them ‘pain-free’ products. One of us will pick up something in the grocery store, and the other will say, “Is it pain-free?” Or, “Have you got pain-free eggs on the grocery list?” This includes non-food items, too, like shampoo and make-up. I know it’s good for the earth.  I know it’s good for me.  But really, even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t stand being the cause, or the monetary support, of another being’s suffering. That’s what it comes down to. If it gets too expensive, I eat something else. If it gets too time consuming to check labels and websites (finding sugar that hasn’t been filtered with bone was a bit trying) then I eat something else, or I do without. I can’t face being part of a chain of suffering. And that’s about it.

The Resources

Listed below are links to facts, recipes, articles, and BBC’s great “pitfalls” page, which lists slaughter by-products hidden in foods you might not be aware of.

  • Farm Sanctuary: This group “works to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living.” Find facts, resources, and current campaigns.
  • Veg for Life: This is a Farm Sanctuary campaign. Find a wealth of resources for beginning vegetarians, in addition to helpful links like a directory for cruelty-free clothing. I love the FAQs section.
  • Tal Ronnen: Find recipes from and info about this vegan chef.