Friday, October 28, 2011

Vegan Japanese Fall/Autumn Lunch (or Dinner)

This is easy even if it looks complex. I made a stock using some dried shitake mushrooms, some seaweed (kombu strips, a softer type that can be eaten in salad) and some carrots. But (check this out) I cooked the veggies in three separate pots with just a little water, then I kept the veggies and kombu aside, I mixed the three 'broths' and added some white miso paste. This was my soup. The carrots were cut like flowers, and then arranged with some seaweed 'leaves'. I mixed the remaining carrots and kombu with the mushrooms and pass them quickly in a frying pan with a little soy sauce, lemon juice, and sesame seeds. No oil.

I used the same pan, but added a little sesame oil and a little vegetable oil, to quickly cook some broccolini and bok choy (both from my garden) and added more soy sauce and lemon juice. For the rest... the rice was just plain, to be served with umeboshi plums, plus I had some ready made Japanese pickles (takuan, pickled daikon) and some nori seaweed cut into strips.

Probably in Japan this would look more like a breakfast than a lunch, but not for me (just caffellatte for breakfast!). And dessert was persimmon, the soft type that you eat with a spoon.
All good for Autumn, or Winter.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Champagne Zucchini

I made this a while ago but I didn't find the time to post it. I know that zucchini are not in season now, but many of you live in the Northern Hemisphere, so you may appreciate the idea. FYI I didn't buy Champagne especially to make this :-), I just had some leftover, and I didn't want to waste it.
Sauté the zucchini and a shallot with one tbsp of olive oil and a pinch of salt for a few minutes, then add the champagne (I had just over a glass).

Don't add water, between the champagne and the water from the zucchini you should have enough! Keep cooking and stir often until all liquid has absorbed and the zucchini are soft (about 20 minutes). Adjust with salt and pepper and finish with some fresh chopped parsley. I really liked it, and now I know what I will do if I ever get some leftover champagne again. Or any other bubbly :-).

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Brussels, Cauliflower and Broccoli Mix

About myself I could say that I love broccoli, I like cauliflower, and I eat brussels sprouts. Do you like them? I think that I buy them about once a year, I did plant them once but I wasn't very successful: they opened up like little cabbages (maybe it is not cold enough in Auckland) and they attracted lots of bugs. And nobody in the family is exactly 'crazy' about them. My husband saw my shopping bag and said 'Brussels???'. He wasn't looking forward to dinner. The kids didn't even remember the taste, since we eat them so rarely, but they hear horrible tales about them from other kids: nobody is supposed to like them.

But I love variety, and if I cook the brussels slowly in veggie stock, and maybe with other vegetables, I think that they can be interesting. I put them in vegetables soups, like minestrone, and they don't seem bitter then. This time, instead, I wanted to cook them with other brassica, so a made a big brussels/cauli/broccoli mix. 

Brussels, Cauliflower and Broccoli mix

I sauteed a garlic clove with a little olive oil, then I added my brassica: brussels and cauliflower florets first, and the after 5 minutes, the broccoli. Stir well during this time, you don't want to burn your brassicas!! Then I added 250 ml of vegetable stock, lowered the heat, covered with a lid, and cooked the lot until the liquid was absorbed.  They can be used as a side dish, but also with pasta, or to fill a pie. They were eaten no problem, with comments like: "Cooked like this they are not bad..." which probably meant "Ok I'll eat them, but can we have pizza tomorrow?"

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Banana flower salad

One of my banana plants has green bananas now, I read somewhere that it is good to cut the flower off, and wrap the bananas with blue plastic. I did just so, thinking that it is getting cold here, and maybe I won't get any bananas... and then I thought of, at least, eating the flower! I looked in all my books but I could not find a recipe, and yet I remembered eating banana flower salad ages ago, somewhere in Asia... I checked on the net, I found a few recipes, and the one that I most liked was this one. Of course I did a few variations, according to my taste.

Banana Flower Salad

1 banana flower
Juice of 2 lemons
1 clove of garlic
1 fresh chili
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
A few leaves of Vietnamese mint
A few leaves of coriander
1 large potato, peeled and cubed

First juice the lemons and keep the juice at hand. Start peeling the flower, removing all the purple and pink petals, and the flowers that you will find underneath, (apparently you can eat these too, but they need some fiddly cleaning which I didn't feel like doing, and the taste wasn't too strong or appealing.

Work on your flower until you get to the centre and you cannot remove anymore petals, but keep the petals aside for later.

Finely chop the banana flower core, sprinkling it with lemon juice as you go, since there is a sap that will quickly turn your bud black.

The leaves can be washed and dried and used as plates.

Put the chopped banana flower in a bowl and add the remaining lemon juice, the sugar and salt, the Vietnamese mint leaves. Finely chop the garlic, chili (I used a yellow one, but I removed the seeds) and coriander, and add to the salad.

The salad need to marinate for a few hours, otherwise it will taste really astringent, a bit like unripe persimmon.

To speed up the marinating process I pressed the salad down with a weight (in this case another bowl full of water. But I knew that it would still be a little astringent, so I decided to solve the problem by adding a potato. I peeled and cubed a big potato, and boiled it with a pinch of salt. Then I drained it and let it cool down.

I waited about 4 hours, then I stirred the salad well, drained off the excess liquid from the marinade (quite a bit), added the potatoes and stirred. I put everything inside four banana leaves, and served it as an antipasto to my family.

The verdict? They loved it, even the kids, they recognized the Vietnamese flavours in it (they loved Vietnam and its food) and they liked the texture and the fact that it was our own banana flower! Now they just hope that the bananas will ripen too, and that the other banana plants will also flower.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Tropical Smoothie

1 ripe mango, 1 large banana (or 2 small ones), 500 ml pineapple juice, blend everything and then serve with a slice of papaya. Serves 4.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Chinese Vegetables with Cashew Nuts

Vegan MoFo Day 9

Any vegetable is good, but I used a few dried shitake mushrooms (2 or 3 per person), bok choy, and carrots. Soak the mushrooms, cut the bok choy in big chunks, and the carrots into fat strips. In a pan or wok heat 1 tbsp of vegetable oil with 1 tsp of sesame oil. Add the mushrooms (keep the water aside for later), sizzle for a few minutes, then add the carrots, and after 2 minutes the bok choy (first the white stalks, then the green leaves). Add the cashews (about 2-3- tbsp) and stir. Mix the mushroom's soaking water with 2 tbsp of soy sauce (gluten free soy sauce if following a gluten free diet), 1 tsp of corn flour and half tsp of grated ginger. Add to the vegetables and stir until the sauce thickens. Serve immediately with rice.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pasta with Vegan Pesto, Potatoes and Cannellini Beans

 Vegan MoFo Day 8

I peeled two medium floury potatoes (like agria) and sauteed them in a pan with a little olive oil, then I added a pinch of salt, a little water, and a lid! Simmer until the potatoes are soft, then add the content of a can of cannellini beans. Simmer until all the liquid has been absorbed and keep warm.

 I made the pesto with a mortar and pestle: basil, garlic, salt and olive oil (no cheese, this is a vegan pesto). I cooked the spaghetti (would have been nice to have trofie pasta, but never mind...) and then drained them al dente and straight into the pan with the potatoes and beans.

Finally I added the pesto and tossed everything together. To some it may be strange to see pasta and potatoes in the same dish, but this dish is not uncommon in Italy, and for me it is a great way to make a one pot dish when I have little time. Incredibly filling!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Friday, October 7, 2011

Zaru Soba

Day 7 of Vegan MoFo

Zaru Soba

Kazuyo brought back some soba from Japan, three packs for me :-)! I love soba, the Japanese buckwheat noodles that can be eaten cold or hot.

When we were living in Japan my husband did a lot of editorial work for KodanshaInternational, and among the books he worked on there was this one: The Book of Soba by James Udesky. The book tells you how to make your fresh soba, but also how to cook the dry one, plus it has some recipes, some history and nutritional info. I like it.

This is my soba set: plates with fitting straw mats (zaru soba is served in baskets or on mats, to keep it fresh and drained), plus some matching soba dipping bowls. I also have some tea cups with the same pattern: dragonflies!

Zaru soba is cold soba topped with nori (I cut a sheet of nori in small pieces with a pair of scissor) and served with a simple dipping sauce and garnish. One thing that I learned form The Book of Soba is that soba is not cooked like pasta. The only thing in common with pasta is that you should use the biggest pot you have and have enough water as if you were to cook spaghetti. But don't add salt!

Bring the water to boil: add the soba, stir gently. When the water starts to froth add half a cup of cold water and lower the heat. Do this three times. After the third time your soba should be ready. Drain and collect the cooking water to make soup, if you like (full of starch and vitamins and minerals) and place the soba in a bowl with ice water. Or just rinse under cold water (I prefer this way, the soba may not be perfect but I cannot bear to loose anymore starch!

Place your cold and rinsed soba in a soba basket or on your soba plate (lined with the soba mat). If you don't have a soba mat use your sushi rolling mat. Top with nori. Garnish with other vegetables if you like.

For the dipping sauce I prepare a base broth by simmering a piece of kombu for 30 minutes in water, then I add a little soy sauce (most would use bonito flakes). Let the broth cool down: this is a cold dipping sauce. Before serving put a tiny bit of wasabi in each dipping bowls, and a little grated daikon or radish, and then some chopped spring onions or chives. Pour the broth over and stir. For a fancy dinner place all the garnishes in small plates and let your guests mix their own sauce. To eat pick up the soba with your chopsticks and dip into your dipping sauce, then slurp everything up. You can make a slurping noise too, but I am not good at that!

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Tofu and Brassica Green Curry

Day 6 of Vegan MoFo


1 tbs green curry paste (see recipe here)
1 can coconut milk
1 couliflower, cut into florettes
half carrot, sliced (I sliced it in the shape of flowers)
1 block tofu, cut into pieces
1 large broccoli, cut into florettes
1-2 chili peppers
Thai or regular fresh basil leaves
Thai or Vietnamese fresh mint leaves

Place the paste in a pot with the coconut milk, the cauliflower, carrot, and the tofu. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the broccoli, cover and simmer for 5 minutes (I like my broccoli to be still green and a little crunchy). Add the chili peppers and the fresh herbs, cover and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add salt to taste and serve with Thai rice.

Serves 4

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Ginger, Carrot and Pear Juice

5th day of posting for Vegan MoFo, juice today! If you like juices you may like this combo: 10 organic carrots, 4 organic juicy pears and a piece of ginger root. Serves 4 and it is super healthy!

Photo and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Papaya, Lime and Mint Salad

4th day of posting for Vegan MoFo

I prefer mango, but papaya is also an amazing fruit, especially if paired with lime. Try to slice a papaya and eat a piece of it. Then try squeezing a few drops of limes on the fruit and taste it again: you'll see what I mean!  Sometimes I can find ripe papaya really really cheap in the Chinese veggie stores: in supermarkets they often are too expensive, and sometimes they are not ripe. I like ripe papaya, I make smoothies, or a papaya salad for dessert. 

This is my lime squeezer, my husband got it for me in NY, in the shop of the Museum of Modern Art. It looks like a little boy popping up from a basin, I don't think that it is particularly effective for squeezing, but it is cute and original, and sort of... artistic.

Squeeze one lime and place into a bowl. Add sugar (from one tsp to one tbsp, depending on your taste), mix. Cut the papaya and place into the lime mixture, stir. Add a few mint leaves and refrigerate for a few hours. This is a great dessert after a spicy or tropical themed dinner, or even for breakfast.

Photos and Recipes by Alessandra Zecchini ©

With this recipe I take part in the event Sweet New Zealand, this month hosted by Sue of Couscous and Consciousness.