Monday, May 30, 2011


Best Blog Tips Just wondering!  Here are 5 of my fave condiments right now (What are yours?):

1.) Bacon Salt (yes, it can be vegan!):

 A baked potato with my homemade Bacon Salt-- here's my recipeAll the the bacon salt I have seen on the Internet is vegetarian-- it either just contains the flavorings for bacon (liquid smoke, brown sugar, etc.), or it contains some soy bacon bits, but some brands contain milk products (like J&D brand).

The sodium content of this condiment is much, much lower than table salt-- 1 teaspoon of my homemade recipe contains 90.2 mg. of sodium; 1 teaspoon of table salt contains 1880 mg of sodium! My recipe is much lower in sodium than the commercial brands I've checked.

If you don't want to make it yourself, this is the one I tasted first: Chef Salt Bacon BBQ Salt-- it is vegan.
On corn on the cob and popcorn and homemade oven-fries; seitan steaks; in BBQ sauces; in marinades for seitan TVP and tofu; in dips, spreads, and vegan mayonnaise; in baked beans; in salad dressings and on salads; as a seasoning in homemade seitan products; in mashed potatoes; on scrambled tofu; in eggless egg salad (made with tofu); roll tofu pieces in it and pan-fry; mix with olive oil for a French bread dip; on potatoes; in potato salad; on or in veggie burgers; on a grilled (vegan) cheese sandwich; with vegan cream cheese and/or vegan sour cream as a dip or spread; on steamed or grilled or roasted veggies; on pasta with a thin creamy sauce (a sort of vegan carbonara); on grits; in vegan mac'n'cheeze; on many types of sandwiches; in soups (or on them); on homemade potato crisps (chips) or other veggie crisps-- kale chips, maybe?-- I'm sure that's just the beginning! 

2.) Peruvian Restaurant-Style "Green Sauce":

 Sweet Potato Oven-Fries with Peruvian Restaurant-Style "Green Sauce".  Here's my recipe.

I still like good ketchup on fries, but we love this creamy, spicy sauce not only on sweet potato oven-fries, but also on veggie burgers and even tomato sandwiches! They use it as a dip for bread  and yucca fries in Peruvian restaurants, too. It's pretty addictive! (But, that's no problem, as my recipe has negligible fat and calories.)

3.) Ajvar (Pronounced Eye-vahr) (Balkan or Serbian "Salsa"): This is a name of Turkish origin given to a popular Balkan spread or relish made of roasted peppers and eggplant (and sometimes other vegetables, too).  I make it with zucchini instead of eggplant sometimes. Here's my recipe for making it at home, but it's widely available commercially.

This delicious condiment is originally from Macedonia, Croatia, and Serbia, but is popular also in Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Hungary, Turkey, etc., and all over the Middle East now, it seems. It is sometimes called "vegetable caviar", and  there are hot ajvars and mild ajvars. In some areas they use roasted green peppers.

Commercial versions are inexpensive in Middle Eastern stores and many brands are available from Trader Joe's sells it but they don't call it ajvar on the label. They call it Trader Joe's Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant and Garlic. I understand that Whole Foods sells an organic version with "Ajvar" on the label.

I use it on all kinds of wraps, panini, and sandwiches,or as a cracker spread or a dip. Serve it as an appetizer to spread on thick slices of country-style bread or flatbread such as pita or lavosh, or use it as a side dish. Or just use it like salsa. You can use it with rice or potatoes, or as a quick pasta sauce; or use it in hummous and other dips. It's used on grilled meats, so why not on grilled seitan or tofu? Or on some of those big Field Roast or Tofurkey veggie sausages? Or with white beans, veggie "meatloaf", or "cheese" toast, or bruschetta? Spice Island Vegan used it with my tofu fritatta from "Nonna's Italian Kitchen" and it would be good on scrambled tofu and vegan omelets, too. I also use it to color vegan cheeses  and sauces.

4.) Za'atar ( a seasoning mixture of wild thyme, lemony ground sumac and sesame seeds) is a popular seasoning in Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Palestine, Saudi Arabia,Syria, Tunisia, and Turkey.

 Pita bread with za-atar and olive oil

If you've never tasted za'atar (also spelled za'tar, zatar, zatr, zahatar, satar), prepare to be hooked! The taste of a za'atar mixture can described be tangy, herbal, nutty, or toasty-- actually all of the above!(The word can be used for wild thyme, or for the mixture of thyme, sumac, sesame and salt, by the way.) 

You can either spread it on flatbreads or pita with olive oil, or dip the bread in a mixture of olive oil and za'atar. (Use a really good extra virgin olive oil that you enjoy uncooked.)  I sprinkle it on top of roasted cauliflower, steamed broccoli and stir-fried Brussels sprouts, some soups (try it on Palestinian Red Lentil Soup , Levantine Bean Soup , Silky Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup or Balkh Brown Lentil Soup), on tofu feta and on dips and other vegan cheese preparations.  It would be great on grilled or fried tofu, or rubbed into your favorite seitan.  Try it in salad dressings and on latkes (potato pancakes) or oven-fried potatoes, sweet potatoes,  couscous, grilled zucchini, cucumber salad, tomatoes-- I'm sure you'll come up with many other ways to use it!

There are many, many different versions-- here's a formula to start with.  Or  you can buy some at Greek or Middle Eastern Markets, or on amazon here and here and more.

My absolute favorite za'atar is Zatoun fair trade brand, available from Ten Thousand Villages fair trade markets in Canada (you can order online) and here in the USA. The aroma of the wild thyme in this product is so amazing-- it bears no resemblance to the dried thyme we usually have available to use.

#5)  Spanish Smoked Paprika (Pimentón): How did I ever live without this product? I know it's a bit "old hat" now, but I still love it! Smoked paprika is the Spanish cousin to sweet Hungarian paprika. It's made from pimiento peppers that have been dried and smoked over an oak fire, then ground into a fine powder.

It was originally used in paella and in spicy Spanish sausages, but it's delicious sprinkled on soups, salads, dips (such as hummus) vegetables (especially roasted), pizza, potatoes, scrambled tofu, roasted tomatoes, and in stews and BBQ sauces. It's a great spice for adding smoky flavor and depth to vegan dishes, and low-fat dishes.

There are many, many brands available (amazon carries many) and in gourmet food stores and supermarkets.
Here is the brand I can find in my area, the sweet and the hot kind:

There is also a moderately spicy smoked paprika (Pimentón Agridulce), but I haven't found it around here.  Perhaps I should order the 3-pack from amazon!

Enjoy! (And I look forward to hearing what your favorites are!)

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Best Blog Tips  WHAT IS IT?

You might remember that I posted about this on Facebook. It's a JosephJoseph Rocker Garlic Crusher! I first saw it in Real Simple Magazine and liked the look of it.  It also sounded like it would be helpful for me because of the arthritis in my right thumb, which sometimes makes it hard to squeeze a conventional garlic crusher. Here's how you use it:

You hold it with both hands as above and rock" it down over the peeled garlic clove until it all comes through the holes:

As you can see, it's more like chopped than crushed .

The following picture is a pile of 4 large cloves.  I went over them again, rocking the "rocker" randomly back and forth across the pile to make it finer.  This is an easy way to "chop" alot of garlic.

It was easy to use and definitely easier on the thumbs!  You just run the edge of a spoon over the grate to get the garlic off-- if any stick you can poke them out with a toothpick, or use a sterile rough brush of some sort to coax it out.  It washes easily.  I like it!

What did I use the garlic in?  A pot of minestrone!

All the best,

Monday, May 23, 2011


Best Blog Tips

What a whirlwind trip to Whitehorse, our second trip! Wednesday was a glorious sunny day and the leaves literally tripled in a day! Don't let visions of the Far North with nothing but meat deter you from visiting Whitehorse, with its friendly people and spectacular scenery. (And, if you speak French, it's a plus, because there are lots of French-Canadians there-- my DH spoke more French there than he has in years!) You can eat well as a vegan in Whitehorse.  No trouble finding most ingredients and good produce.  Besides the Alpine Bakery, where everything is organic and it's almost all vegan, there is Ruby's (vegan).  There are several Chinese, Japanese, Caribbean and at least one Vietnamese restaurant in town, with vegan options. The Baked Cafe is vegan-friendly and so is The Kebabery, which has authentic Middle Eastern food.

The Alpine Bakery in Whitehorse-- organic, community-oriented, vegetarian (mostly vegan) (yoga studio upstairs)

 Me with Suat Tuzlak, the dynamic owner of the Alpine Bakery

Inside the Alpine Bakery:

 Oban preparing sandwiches

 Max loading the racks

 Calzone in the brick wood-fired oven

One of my classes in the bakery-- lots of interest and enthusiasm!

That's Trena, who hosted us at her house, on the right.  She had biked to the class (she's preparing for a big bike race!).  Trena started the vegetarian society in Whitehorse. We enjoyed staying with her, and meeting her husband Peter, and appreciated her hospitality despite her busy training schedule, and caring for her 2 (darling) young children.

A beautiful Inuit scene on a quilt in Trena's house.

In the center are Alpine Bakery staff members Christoff (L) and Max (R). Christoff is a baker and aspires to be a pastry chef and hotelier. He made a wonderful molded organic chocolate dessert with buckwheat! He now would like to take some of Fran Costigan's classes in New York!

Some of the food (UPDATE: all recipes in my book World Vegan Feast)--

Crispy Marinated Tofu with Italian Olive, Tomato and Corn Salsa (Relish)


Italian Kale and Butternut Squash tart with Olive Oil Crust

Focaccia and Velvety Brussels Sprout Crema (Creamy Italian Soup)

Peruvian-Style Crispy Tofu and Cabbage Salad (Salpicon de Tofu con Col)

Around Whitehorse:

Some of the great murals--

The Green party Office:

An old sign on one of the old historic hotels:

All the best,