Monday, April 21, 2014

Oh She Glows Cookbook

It would seem that I am one of the few blog-reading vegans who is not intimately familiar with the Oh She Glows blog, so when I was contacted to review the new, companion cookbook- for which I'd been hearing rave reviews, I jumped at the chance.


Here it is moments after it arrived, already peppered with page markers.

I started with the crispy almond butter chocolate chip cookies because, well, hello; I'm me.  The recipe called for making your own almond and oat flour.  At first I thought that was crazy; you can just buy those things.  But when I realized how easy it was I felt pretty accomplished and found myself wondering why you'd buy something you could easily make at home.  I liked where this was going.

Here's the dough, which came together easily: exactly as outlined.

Here's the kitchen supervisor, 89.

She was openly judging me for using a scoop for the cookies instead of my hands and she was right. 

I rounded the next batch in my palms and they came out much better.

This is as close as she got.

You can get a bit closer.  I've never made a gluten-free cookie before; the texture of this one was definitely different: more crumbly than a typical cookie, yet still somehow moist.  My cookies looked and tasted a lot less crisp than those pictured in the book to accompany the recipe, but I didn't mind the soft texture.  The chips really delightfully punctuated the almond butter and flour.

They were packed up right away and brought to a large potluck where they were well appreciated- particularly by the gluten-free folks.

Since even I know that we can't survive on sweets alone (though I may try), I randomly decided to try the quick and easy chana masala next.  I do have a long history with chana masala: growing up, my best friend's mother used to make it for me by the quart.  Those days are long gone, yet I've never so much as attempted to make it myself...until now.

The recipe is written casually- as though it is from a friend.  It calls for a yellow onion: not a small, medium, or large yellow onion-  just a yellow onion.  At one point it instructs to "cook for a few minutes or so" (emphasis mine); there is no pretense or unnecessary pomp and circumstance.

It was superbly simple to bring together and it was done in no time. It had a very pleasant flavor on its own, but I couldn't help but to think that the flavors hadn't melded quite as well as I had hoped; even after sitting overnight it remained very much a chickpea and tomato dish as opposed to the chana masala I've grown accustomed to as a fan of Indian cuisine.

This was never more evident than alongside my aloo ghobi and bhindi masala takeout, where it stood out as an extremely mild (in both flavor and spice) version of the staple dish. 

Perhaps this recipe was not intended to be an authentic replica; I probably would have enjoyed it much more had I not expected it to be.  Maybe it would have been preferable for there to have been an Oh She Glows twist that would have better suited the dish to the audience and the tone of the book. 

The publisher has allowed me to share the recipe at the end of this post; try it for yourself to see what you think.

I'm not one for reading forewords; ever since I dodged a bullet by skipping the one in Lolita that would have ruined the whole book by basically spelling out the ending, I'm spoiler-shy.  Not sure how the same could possibly happen with a cookbook, but you never know.  However, after making these couple of recipes I decided it would be safe to peruse the book's introduction; I'm glad I did.  The author is a relatively new vegan (5 years), whose blog sparked something both in herself and her audience that has quickly allowed it to expand as far as this cookbook.  I offer her a heartfelt congratulations on her success and an especially respectful tip-of-the hat for acknowledging the animal rights component of veganism.

I have neither the capacity or inclination (or invitation!) to parlay my own blog into a book anytime soon, but I think Angela Liddon has quite a lot to share- particularly with new vegans.  This old vegan looks forward to exploring it a bit more as well.

quick & easy chana masala

1 tablespoon (15 mL) coconut oil or olive oil
1 1⁄2 teaspoons (7 mL) cumin seeds
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon (15 mL) minced peeled fresh ginger
1 green serrano chile pepper, seeded, if preferred, and minced
1 1⁄2 teaspoons (7 mL) garam masala
1 1⁄2 teaspoons (7 mL) ground coriander
1⁄2 teaspoon (2 mL) ground turmeric
3⁄4 teaspoon (4 mL) fine-grain sea salt, plus more as needed
1⁄4 teaspoon (1 mL) cayenne pepper (optional)
1 (28-ounce/793-g) can whole peeled or diced tomatoes, with their juices
1 (28-ounce/793-g) can chickpeas, or 3 cups (750 mL) cooked chickpeas (see page 290), drained and rinsed
1 cup (250 mL) dry/uncooked basmati rice, for serving (see page 302 for cooking  instructions)
Fresh lemon juice, for serving
Fresh cilantro, chopped, for serving

I’m a huge fan of chana masala, a spicy Indian chickpea dish, but I always thought that it would be too time-consuming to make at home due to the long list of spices the recipe requires. Once I purchased a few spices to add to my collection, there was no excuse not to make this easy, budget-friendly dish, and as it turns out, throwing them into a skillet really isn’t very time-consuming after all! You’ll be wondering why you didn’t make it sooner. To streamline this recipe, be sure to prep all the ingredients before starting; the cooking process for this dish moves quickly and it helps to have everything ready to go.

Serves 4
PREP TIME: 15 to 20 minutes
COOK TIME: 20 minutes
gluten-free, nut-free, soy-free, sugar-free, grain-free option

1.    In a large wok or saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. When a drop of water sizzles upon hitting the pan, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the cumin seeds. Stir and toast the seeds for a minute or two until golden and fragrant, watching carefully to avoid burning.

2.    Raise the heat to medium and stir in the onion, garlic, ginger, and serrano. Cook for a few minutes or so, then stir in the garam masala, coriander, turmeric, salt, and cayenne (if using), and cook for 2 minutes more.

3.    Add the whole peeled tomatoes and their juices and break them apart with a wooden spoon (skip if using diced tomatoes). You can leave some chunks of tomato for texture.

4.    Raise the heat to medium-high and add the chickpeas. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or longer to allow the flavors to develop.
5.    Serve over cooked basmati rice, if desired, and garnish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some chopped cilantro just before serving.

Tips: To thicken the tomato gravy, add a ladle of the curry into a mini processor and process until almost smooth. Stir this back into the curry to thicken.

For a grain-free option, serve the chana masala atop a baked potato.

Reprinted by arrangement with AVERY, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company. Copyright © GLO BAKERY CORPORATION, 2014.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Can We Talk About This Avocado?

Vegansaurus posted an avocado/chickpea sandwich a while back, so- as a true devotee, I stopped at my local supermarket for an avocado on my way home the very same day.  This particular market is usually known to have super-ripe avocados on hand, so it's a great place to go for one when you don't want to have to wait 5 days to eat what you're craving now.  However, on this day all of the avos were marked "ripe now!" but were hard as rocks...and cold.  It took me longer than I care to admit to realize that they were frozen.  WTH?  So, I wound up getting this instead.  


Hailing from the Dominican Republic, just look at the size of the pit! 

in fairness, it was a small tomato

I toasted up some rye bread (this is my patented "no sweat" cooling technique),

Got to mashing,

And, voila.  I realize it ain't fancy, but it got the job done.  It was pretty tasty: kind of like chickpea guacamole.

I wouldn't have noticed that the addition of the avo was anything out of the ordinary, but I have to admit that I still love Vegenaise chickpea salad sammies the best.