Vegetarian Culinarian

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

Tag: vegan

Recipe: So Simple Fresh Tomato Sauce

The key to good, whole food is good, whole ingredients. I grew up thinking I hated apples, because all I’d ever been exposed to were the grocery store wax-coated mostly-tasteless “red” or “green”. However, I absolutely loved (and still love) spinach, because my grandfather grew it in his garden. Only years later, when I first tasted an apple off an orchard tree, did it all click for me. I realized I actually do like apples. A lot. Only they have to be real.  I immediately had to go out and try all of the fruits and vegetables I thought I didn’t like – only I had to try them fresh from someone’s garden, or from a farmers’ market. Turns out I adore brussels sprouts, eggplant, red bell peppers, and kale. I think it works the same way with pasta sauce. It’s best if you make the sauce from garden tomatoes. Lacking those, grocery store tomatoes will do. Anything is better than canned sauce, chock- full of salt, sugar, and chemicals. Simple is best. This is more of a recipe guideline – you’ll notice no measurements and a range of optional ingredients. It’s how I learned to cook – all of my grandmother’s “recipes” were handed down to me as lists of ingredients. Frameworks, really. Pasta sauce then becomes more of a celebration of whatever is on hand, whatever is in season, in whatever amount you have it.

Create Your Own So Simple Fresh Tomato Sauce Fast

Basic Ingredients:

Tomatoes, garlic, sea salt, basil or oregano, olive oil

Basic Sauce: To make the basic sauce, peel a few cloves of garlic (more or less according to your taste), and smash them or push them through a garlic press. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a sauce pan over medium-high heat, and add the garlic. After a minute, add 2 or 3 cups of chopped tomato. This can be around three to seven tomatoes, depending on tomato size (I use however many I have on hand). Add a few teaspoons of basil or oregano (or more if using chopped fresh herbs), and then about a teaspoon of salt. Stir for a minute or so, then taste and adjust seasoning – you may want to add salt or more herbs. Heat a few more minutes, so that the tomatoes begin to break down but are still chunky and defined. Viola! Fresh sauce.

Optional Ingredients:

Onion, carrots, celery, eggplant and/or broccoli (really, any vegetable you like will do)

Sauce With Added Veggies: If using any optional ingredients, begin with them FIRST, as they will need to cook longer. The beauty of making your own basic tomato sauce is that you can use any vegetables you like. The only things to remember are to dice your veggies so they are small, and to saute your vegetables in order of cooking time – vegetables that take longest should go in first. Dice an onion, carrot, and a few celery stalks. If using eggplant, dice about half a medium-sized eggplant. It seems like a lot at first, but shrinks as it cooks. If using broccoli, dice enough for half a cup or so (or to your liking).  Saute the onions in oil over high heat until almost translucent, then add the garlic, carrot, and celery. Saute a few minutes. Add the garlic. If using eggplant, add a bit more oil and then the eggplant. Eggplant absorbs a lot of liquid, so you may need to add more oil or some water. Saute several minutes until the eggplant is translucent, then add the broccoli. Saute a bit longer – only a minute or two, because you want your broccoli to be bright green and still crisp, not the sort of mush-green broccoli you’d get at a cafeteria – and then add in your tomatoes. Season with salt, basil, and/or oregano. (Try a few teaspoons of basil and oregano first, and then add more if you need to. If using fresh herbs, add a few tablespoons, then add more if you need to.) Cook a few minutes, then taste and adjust seasonings. You may need more salt or herbs. Cook down until sauce is combined but still chunky and fresh.

Photo Credits: Simon Howden

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=404

Advertisements

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.