Tuesday, November 30, 2010


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  Last Vegan MoFo Post!

UPDATE: OMG!  I'm so bogged down with this manuscript that I don't know whether I'm coming or going!  When I re-posted it, I thought it had not made it into the book, but it is in the book (World Vegan Feast)!  So I have to take down the recipe!  But look for it when the book comes out!  I'm so sorry about that!  What a klutz I am these days!

It's so yummy and easy-- we had it for dinner last night and lunch today!  It is a hearty casserole that is a little out-of the-ordinary, but not so strange that kids would not like it!

 Made with fresh tomatoes in summer

 Made with canned Italian tomatoes in winter


Monday, November 29, 2010


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My old 1970's cooking notebook
In this post, I talked about my old cooking notebooks, particularly the one from 1973.  Well, it inspired a hankering for a very simple zucchini recipe that my mother used to make frequently.  It's so simple that it isn't really a recipe!  I didn't make it for years because it requires cheddar cheese and when I first became a vegan there was nothing decent in the vegan cheese department!  Even now, vegan "cheddar" is usually pretty bland.  I think the best one is Sheese.  I didn't have any in the house to make this recipe and was stuck with Tofutti Slices, but it still brought back memories!  Next time I'll use Sheese Strong Cheddar.  (Sheese Smoked Cheddar and Cheshire are actually my preferences, but they don't sell them in our local HF store.)

ANYWAY, TO MAKE THIS, simply take some small zucchini (4-6 inches long), wash, trim, and cut them in half lengthwise, steam them until almost tender, and then lay them out cut-side-up on a cookie sheet.  Slather on some tasty tomato sauce and top with vegan cheese (see remarks above).  Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes. That's it!  We gobbled this down as kids!  (Yes, it was the 50's and 60's, but  we were California kids with a half-Italian father-- grew up on zucchini and greens!)

I think I'll update this, not only with vegan cheddar, but with roasting the zucchini with a bit of olive oil instead of steaming it-- since you have to turn on the oven anyway.

I've done this for yearsBefore you leave the house in morning, or as you go about your morning business, soak the rice in 2-3 cups of water per cup of dry rice. Soak for 2 hours to overnight.
Before cooking, rinse the rice briefly after pouring off the soaking water. Add 1 1/2 cups fresh water per cup of drained soaked rice. Add a little salt if you like. Cook rice as usual for 15-20 minutes, then turn heat off and let stand, covered for about 10 minutes. Fluff the rice with a fork.
We got a new stove the other day and I decided to take some pictures of my tiny kitchen.  It works for me, though-- everything I use often is at hand.  (Though we have a big freezer outside and a pantry/closet for alot of our food.  I keep some of the serving dishes and bowls, etc., that I don't use often in the dining area.)


Sunday, November 28, 2010


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Peanut Butter Lava Cake (with chocolate ganache filling)
We went to a great vegan dinner party with 2 other couples last night-- good food, wine, talk and company!  My contribution was the dessert.

(I also made a vanilla gelato, but my freezer seems to be sluggish and the gelato didn't freeze it sufficiently, so we used it as a sauce!)

Printable Recipe


Serves 8-16

These individual peanutty cakes have a soft center of chocolate ganache that erupts in a rich, dark puddle from the cakes.  They are best served right out of the oven, but they can be quickly reheated in a microwave oven just before serving. NOTE: The molten lava filling has to be frozen for at least 4 hours first, though, so you can’t make these on short notice unless you have the filling in the freezer already.

Originally, this type of cake was a flourless cake based on eggs that formed a molten center when the batter was baked, or, rather, under-baked.  These days, more often than not, a rich cake batter containing flour is used and a frozen chocolate mixture is placed between layers of batter before baking.  This is the version that I started with to make a vegan version of this cake. 

**These cakes are baked individually.   Use ramekins, little soufflé dishes, giant (1 cup) muffin tins, ceramic coffee cups, 8 oz. custard or pudding dishes or custard cupsanything that holds 1 cup (8 oz.).  They should be generously greased with vegan margarine and placed on cookie sheets, not touching. 

Chocolate Molten Lava filling:
4 oz. bittersweet or semisweet organic dark dairy-free chocolate (eating chocolate or chocolate chips are fine)
1/2 cup plus 7 teaspoons vegan creamer OR rich soymilk or nut milk
4 teaspoons agave nectar, maple syrup, brown rice syrup,or organic corn syrup
1 1/4 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Peanut Butter Cake:
1/2 cup    peanut butter, smooth natural  
1/2 cup    vegan butter  
1 cup    brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup    organic light granulated sugar  
1/2 cup    medium-firm tofu OR firm to extra-firm silken tofu, mashed  
1 tablespoon    egg replacer powder  
1 teaspoon    pure vanilla extract  
1 and 1/4 cups    whole wheat pastry flour  
1 and 1/4 cups    unbleached all-purpose flour  
1 tablespoon    baking powder  
1/2 teaspoon    salt  
1 cup    nondairy milk 

To Make the Chocolate Molten Lava Filling (make at least 4 hours ahead of baking time):
Melt the chocolate gently with the creamer or milk and syrup in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat.   Whisk until smooth.  Add the vanilla and let cool until tepid.  (This will seem runny, but don’t worry!)

Spray an ice cube tray with oil from a pump sprayer. Fill 8 of the ice cube cups with the chocolate mixture, distributing it evenly.  Freeze for 4 hours, or cover and freeze for up to a month.

To make the cake (make this just before baking): Preheat the oven to 350ºF.  Have the cups or ramekins for the cakes prepared as noted above**.

Cream together the peanut butter and vegan butter, using a stand mixer, electric beaters or a food processor. When smooth, add the sugars and beat well again. Add the tofu, egg replacer and vanilla and beat again until very smooth.

If using a food processor, scoop the mixture into a mixing bowl.

Whisk the flours, baking powder, and salt well in a smaller mixing bowl.

Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the milk, starting and ending with the flour mixture, and beating just enough so that you don't see the flour or milk anymore between additions.  Divide the batter in half by scraping the batter into a 2-qt. measuring pitcher/batter bowl.  Level it off, figure out exactly what half of the batter amounts to and scoop that top half back into the original bowl.

Divide the half of the batter evenly into the prepared cups or ramekins.  Gently place one of the frozen chocolate cubes in the center of each (on top—don’t force down) and then top evenly with the remaining half of the batter.
Bake in the center of the oven until puffy and set, and slightly cracked on top, about 40 minutes.  Test on the side of one of the cakes with a cake tester or toothpick.  

Let cool in the pan 10 minutes, then loosen carefully and overturn onto individual dessert plates.(This is quite rich, so 1/2 a cake might be enough for light eaters!)

Serve hot with topping of your choice— a vanilla nondairy “ice cream", is particularly good, but a vegan whipped topping is also a good choice.

The cakes cans be reheated by microwaving them for 30 to 40 seconds.


Friday, November 26, 2010


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I had a craving for pho the other day and thought it also might be the perfect antidote for the over-eating at Thanksgiving-- not that I had that problem (we had our Thanksgiving in October), but we were overeating while I made all those dishes to photograph!

According to Vietnamese pho experts, pho is "noodles in soup", not "noodle soup".  You're supposed to have plenty of the savory broth to drink after you eat the noodles, etc..  Also,  I have it on good authority that pho is not really pho unless you use beef or chicken (not turkey, pork, etc.), BUT there is a dispensation for vegetarian pho (which is called Pho Chay).  Pho Chay is usually made with tofu (or tofu and mushrooms), but I decided to make it with thin slices of my Seitan Steak (that recipe is in my new book, World Vegan Feast.   However, you can use any favorite "beefy seitan", or beefy Chinese TVP strips, or commercial "steak strips" or "beef strips" instead.  Since gluten "mock meats" have been common in Asia for centuries, I'm hoping that this doesn't take my soup out of the real pho realm!

Choices for "beef strips":

My Beefy Seitan Steaks (that recipe is in my new bookWorld Vegan Feast)

Chinese TVP "Beef" Slices 

Commercial "beefy strips" or "steak strips"-- there are several brands available.

You could also use "Beefy Soy Curls®" (recipe at link):

I wanted to be as authentic as possible, but I also needed to make a slightly streamlined version (time was short).  I know that the broth is very important and should be particularly tasty, but I needed to skip the traditional charring of the ginger (and sometimes onion, too) to save time. (Acually, I already saved several hours by not using animal bones to make the broth!) The broth was still delicious!

The green onions for the garnish should be the green part only, and sliced very thinly on the diagonal (not chopped) and the onion should be sliced paper-thin with a mandoline slicer.  Cilantro is the most common garnish, but Thai basil and mint are also used (and I generally use one of these because DH dislikes cilantro).

This soup is so comforting on a cold day! And yet you have all the crunchy fresh sprouts and herbs to add sunshine to the meal!

Printable Recipe

Serves 4
This comforting vegan version of the popular Vietnamese noodle soup is light but filling.  Slurping is practically mandatory! 

8 ounces dry flat medium Vietnamese rice noodles (rice stick noodles)—not the “vermicelli” or the very wide ones-- banh pho, like this:

8 cups mushroom bouillon or Rich Mushroom Broth (good brands of mushroom bouillon at same link)
4 ounces fresh ginger, smashed with the side of a cleaver or large knife
2/ 3” cinnamon sticks
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
3 star anise
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
4 teaspoons Bragg's Liquid Aminos, or light soy sauce
1 to 1 1/4 lb. Seitan Steaks (that recipe is in my new bookWorld Vegan Feast), or you can use 16 ounces (
458 g) of one of the suggested substitutes above in the text (if the substitute is dried, the weight is for the reconstituted product)
2-4 cups fresh bean sprouts
1/2 a medium yellow onion, sliced paper-thin
8 green onions, green only, very thinly sliced on the diagonal
1/4 cup thinly-sliced cilantro, mint, or Thai basil
Garnishes (choose all of them or whichever you like):
Hoisin sauce
Vietnamese hot sauce (Sriracha)
sliced hot red or geen chiles
more fresh Thai basil, cilantro or mint leaves
fresh lime juice or lime wedges 
Bragg's Liquid Aminos, or light soy sauce  
Soak the dry noodles by covering in cold water in a large bowl for 20-30 minutes while you make the broth.

Mix together the mushroom bouillon or Rich Mushroom Broth, ginger, cinnamon sticks, coriander seeds, and star anise in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

While the broth simmers, assemble the other ingredients and garnishes, bring another large pot of water to a boil (to cook the noodles), and prepare the steak.  Sear the steak (or the commercial “steak strips”) on all sides over medium-high heat in a non-stick skillet sprayed with oil from a pump sprayer.  Slice the steak into thin strips.  If using one of the alternatives, slice the strips into even thinner strips.

Strain the broth through a cheesecloth-lined colander and pour the broth back into the pot. Add the sugar, pepper, and Bragg’s or soy sauce to the broth. 

Drain the soaked dried noodles, transfer to the pot of boiling water, and boil for a for a short time-- check after 2 minutes.  When they are tender but not mushy, drain them in a colander.

Divide the cooked noodles between 4 soup bowls, and add handful of the bean sprouts, and some of the green onions to each bowl.  Top with 1/4 of the steak strips.

Ladle the broth over the vegetables. Top each bowl with another handful of bean sprouts and some of the chopped herbs.  Serve with the garnishes, and each diner adds what they like to the soup.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Best Blog Tips
Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends!

I mentioned my old cooking notebooks in this post. This was before I started my Italian vegan cookbook, “Nonna’s Italian Kitchen”, which was published in 1998.  I was just starting to conceive the idea and to really research Italian cooking on a daily basis.

1.) Front page:
Tutto il mono è paese/All the world is kin

2.) My paternal grandmother’s family was from the Genoa area (Liguria), the towns of Rapallo and Chiavari.  My grandmother's name was Clothilde Guerrini Roncagliolo [Note: My second cousin Luigi Roncagliolo spelled it Guerrine.] [Note: She was born in Peru.] Her mother, Giuseppina Guerrine (sp?) was from Chiavari.  Her father was Giuseppe Roncagliolo.


  Discovered by Dr. Louis Camille Maillard in 1912

When heated, the plant proteins in tomato paste darken and the tomato sugars caramelize. Brings depth of color and flavour w/ a little fat.

 Good Italian tomato paste in a tube

Avoid burning; use a heavy pan; use medium heat; stir constantly.

When making spaghetti sauce, brown the onion & garlic, then add a little more olive oil & add some tomato paste.  Stir over medium heat until the paste darkens, about 10 minutes. Add wine, water, tomatoes, etc.

4.) Cooking pasta—“Al Segreto Method” (Giobbi mentions this):  Cook pasta 2 minutes less than al dente; drain but don’t rinse.  Add to some of the sauce in a skillet and cook over low heat 2-3 minutes.

Pasta can be made in advance this way and finished later in the sauce.  Heat the pasta bowl.

5.) “Don’t disgrace the pasta with a spoon.” [Didn’t say where that came from, but my grandmother did not approve of using a spoon with pasta.]