Thursday, April 19, 2007

Vegan Carrot Cake

From Uprisings: The Whole Grain Bakers' Book
(with slight adjustments by me)

Makes one 10 inch pan

Combine in one bowl:
1/2 cup vegetable oil (Safflower is good for high heat / baking)
1/2 cup applesauce
3 cups grated carrots
1 tbl vanilla
3/4 cup honey
3/4 cup flax seed mixture
(1 part freshly ground flax seeds:3 parts water. 1/4 cup of this mixture generally replaces one egg.)

Combine in another bowl:
4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp salt
1 tbl cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder

Stir both mixtures together. Pour into an oiled pan (i usually rub on oil, then shake flour to coat all the sides... it's reliably nonstick.) Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until center is firm.


I really wanted to try this recipe from the class baking book. It's a cute book, put out by a whole grain bakers' collective, with contributions from lots of member bakeries. All the recipes are written out by hand. I liked the sound of how simple this was (it was even simpler before I tinkered a bit!) and thought carrots, honey, and flax would ensure a moist vegan cake.

Verdict: The taste was spot on. (The only thing I would add is lemon zest, but i wanted to try without.) April and I have been happily eating it up. It's certainly been the most satisfying breakfast I've had in a while. However, I'm not totally happy with flax as an egg substitute. It's a great binder, but won't help it rise. So the texture of this cake was a bit too thick and gluey. (It probably didn't help that I didn't have a good cake pan, and used a loaf pan instead.) All the reviews of vegan baking I've read say commercial egg substitutes make for a lighter cake than flax. But that's not the point! I don't really need a vegan cake, and if I have to use a weird processed food to make it right, I'd rather just use the nice local, free range eggs I have. BUT, I will try again, maybe in muffin tins, with less flax, and more baking powder.

Lemon cream cheese: Like I said, I was missing the lemon zest. So I made a really quick lemon topping. I squeezed and zested a lemon and heated that with a little agave nectar. Then I mixed it with organic cream cheese (again with the not vegan... I'm trying to cut back a bit on dairy, but fermented dairy like yogurt and cream cheese are really good for you). And there you have it! None of this cream cheese frosting with added butter and 2 cups of powdered sugar. It won't set up like a real frosting would, but it's perfect to spread on a slice at a time.

Labels: ,

Keftes de Espinaca (Sephardic Spinach Patties)

From epicurious. Originally published in:
Olive Trees and Honey, 2005
By Gil Marks

"Among my favorite spinach dishes are these simple but delicious patties. Even spinach haters can't resist them, especially when they're splashed with a little fresh lemon juice; fresh juice does make a major difference in taste. Onions add a sweet flavor and textural complexity. These patties are traditional on Passover and Rosh Hashanah, corresponding to the emergence of the early and late spinach crops."

Makes about 16 patties.

3 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
2 pounds fresh spinach, stemmed, cooked, chopped, and squeezed dry, or 20 ounces thawed frozen chopped spinach, squeezed dry
About 1 cup matza meal or fine dried bread crumbs
About 3/4 teaspoon table salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
Vegetable oil for frying
Lemon wedges for serving

1. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and, if using, the garlic and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the spinach, matza meal, salt, pepper, and, if using, the nutmeg. Stir in the eggs. If the mixture is too loose, add a little more matza meal. The mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for a day.

2. Shape the spinach mixture into patties 3 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, with tapered ends. In a large skillet, heat a thin layer of oil over medium heat. In batches, fry the patties, turning, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm, accompanied with lemon wedges.


Verdict: Wow, these came out exactly as promised!! Delicious! It's quite unlike me, but I actually followed the recipe as written and I was richly rewarded. Easy, simple, and other than the spinach I had all the ingredients on hand. It browned nicely in very little oil, and the flavors just caramelize together. And the lemon squeezed on was, in fact, the perfect touch. You could add cheese or any kind of sauce on top, but these were great as they were. They reheated wonderfully in the toaster oven, and probably freeze well too.

notes - I used a pound of organic baby spinach from the farmer's market. yum. I used my old matzo - whizzed it in the food processor until it was in little chunks. (you could easily crush it up by hand too.) I would definitely recommend that instead of fine bread crumbs, the texture was lovely. oh - the one change i made was to half the recipe, and so used only 1 egg. The mixture still held together nicely.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Sweet Potato and Carrot Tzimmes

2 pounds carrots - (about one large bunch)
3 pounds sweet potatoes - (about 4-5)
1 cup orange juice - freshly squeezed (about 4 oranges)
1 tbl orange zest
3/4 cup pitted prunes
3 tbl olive oil
1/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Peel and chop the carrots and sweet potatoes into 1-inch pieces and boil them until tender. While they are cooking, zest and juice the oranges. Roughly chop the prunes into halves or quarters. Drain the vegetables and add them to a shallow 3 qt casserole dish. Drizzle the olive oil onto the vegetables. Add the prunes, honey, salt, cinnamon and orange zest. Mix well. Cover with foil and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Uncover, stir gently, and bake for an additional 15 minutes. The tzimmes should be moist and saucy. Add additional liquid as needed. (Particularly if leave it to warm in the oven or reheat it later.)

Variation - Tzimmes is easy to adapt. Use any root veggies you prefer. The liquid can be whatever fruit juice you have on hand, or sweet kosher wine, or veggie stock, or a combination. If you like it cooked to pieces, like I do, increase cooking time (and liquid).

Traditionally served on Passover.

Labels: , , ,

Charoset (Ashkenazi style)

2 medium apples (Choose firm apples. Sweet or tart is your call. Mix varieties for the best flavor. I used a combo of Pink Lady and Gala.)
1 cup walnuts
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup sweet kosher wine (like Manischewitz)
dash of salt
1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Finely chop the walnuts. Peel and finely chop the apples (avoid using a food processor.) Mix all ingredients together and adjust to taste. Add the honey if you prefer a sweeter flavor, or if your apples are tart. The consistency should be chunky, a bit sticky, and not runny.
Cover and refrigerate for an hour. Serve at room temperature. Leftovers keep reasonably well for a day or two, but no longer.

Serving Suggestions: Charoset is one of the 6 symbolic foods on the seder plate at Passover, representing mortar. Eat it plain or pair it with matzah and horseradish.

I'm fond of organic, whole wheat matzah. (Hey, do you think those ancient Jews were adding pesticides and bleaching THEIR flour?) My local natural foods store carried a version by Yeruda. Also check out this Chicago-based bakery... they seem pretty awesome and I'll be sure to get my hands on their stuff next year. They also have a cool page showing the whole process of making their matzah, complete with photos of rabbis harvesting wheat.

Next year in...
I wanted to make the familiar version this time, but I'm excited to try traditional charoset recipes from around the world. Thanks to the Jewish diaspora, there's versions with apricots, dates, coconut, cranberries, pistachios, chestnuts, pine nuts, pecans, and blended and cooked kinds too. Mmm... mortar never tasted so good...
From The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden
From Cooking Light
From The Jewish Holiday Kitchen by Joan Nathan

Update 4/18/08: Boo, the chicago organic matzah website seems to have disappeared. I hope they haven't stopped making them.

Labels: , , ,