Tag Archive: vegan


Sumac Hummus with Pita Chips

I love when my travels take me through Inman Square. It’s a really eclectic neighborhood and a tasty place to visit, so I tend to linger there, paying visits to my favorite sandwich shop and the wonderful ice cream parlor just a bit further down the street. I fill my belly, I people-watch, I let the day slow down and I savor it like something delicious.

When I’ve had my fill of sandwiches and ginger-molasses (or chocolate orange…or burnt caramel…or almond khulfee) ice cream, I make my way over to the spice shop adjacent to the ice cream parlor. Never mind Inman Square or even the greater Boston area, this shop is one of my favorite places on Earth. When you walk in the door, you’re hit by the intoxicating, almost hypnotic smells of spices from every corner of the world.  Every available inch of the store is stocked with oils, vinegars, condiments, herbs, teas, tinctures, spices, and every type of grain, flour, and bean you can imagine. I never seem to make it out of there without bags full of hard-to-find pantry staples, like bitter orange, zaatar, harissa, baharat, smoked salt, and lots of different dried mushrooms and chiles. I also never leave without buying something new to add to my spice rack.

Being a huge fan of Middle Eastern cuisine, I love zaatar, which is a widely used spice blend. However, one of the components of zaatar – ground sumac berries – always seemed like an unnecessary purchase because it’s already in the zaatar, mellowed by thyme and sesame. But, during my last visit, I decided to buy it anyway and I’m so glad I did. On its own, it’s tart and bright, with a subtle herbal quality that complements pretty much everything.

I’ve been playing around with it for a few weeks and it’s been a delicious experience. I already have a few solid, sumac-spiced main dishes in my recipe arsenal, all of which I’ll share with you eventually, but since the Superbowl is coming up, I thought I’d make you a sumac snack!

Sumac Hummus with Pita Chips

  • 2 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 2 small lemons (preferably meyer), zested and juiced
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2-3 tablespoons tahini, to taste (I prefer less tahini, but feel free to adjust it to your taste)
  • 2 teaspoons sumac
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • olive oil, fresh parsley, sumac, black pepper for garnish

Pour the chickpeas into the food processor and pulse to mash. Add the garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, and water, then allow it to mix for about one minute to combine thoroughly. Add the tahini and sumac, then, with the food processor running, slowly stream in the olive oil. Season with salt. Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley, a little more sumac, and a few grinds of black pepper.

This hummus pairs well with veggies, olives, and…

Pita Chips

  • 4 whole pitas, cut into triangles
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon zaatar, if you’ve got it/want it (a 1/2 teaspoon each of dried thyme, oregano, sesame seeds, sumac, and cumin will work, too)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Place all ingredients in a large mixing bowl and toss thoroughly to coat. Spread the pita triangles out on a large baking sheet, making sure they’re evenly spaced to allow for even toasting.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and crisp. Serve with hummus or your favorite dip.

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Dairy-Free Waffles

Having a child with a severe food allergy seems overwhelming to a lot of people. The reality of it is: You get used to it. You have no choice. And it’s not as hard as you might think.

Lilah has been allergic to dairy since she was a baby. Not lactose intolerant, but actually allergic to milk protein. Like, if she had a sip of milk, her throat would close up and she’d die without an Epi-Pen injection.  In fact, her allergy is so severe that if a dairy product touches her skin, she gets hives at the point of contact. So, living without dairy is what we do and, given the alternative, we do it quite willingly and happily.

Admittedly, cooking without dairy was hard for me to get used to at first, but I did, and we’re probably healthier for it. Actually, I think learning to live without dairy has made me a better, more resourceful cook because I can’t count on the extra oomph from a pat of butter, a dollop of sour cream, or a sprinkle of cheese to round out a dish. Searching for extra flavor in other ingredients – spices, vegetables, herbs, high quality oils and vinegars, condiments, nuts, and olives – has been a wonderful learning experience, one that I wouldn’t trade for all of the fromage in France.

That being said, it does complicate things sometimes. Eating at restaurants, for instance, can be hard. We can’t just go wherever we want, we have to be sure that whatever restaurant we decide on isn’t going to result in a trip to the ER.  Thai, Japanese, and Chinese food, are all usually safe, tasty bets and, as a result, Lilah has become a sushi connoisseur. Of course, glatt kosher places are also totally safe, like our favorite Middle Eastern place up the street. It’s a win-win: the food is excellent and we can be 100% confident that it’s dairy-free. On the other hand, French, Greek, Turkish, and Indian food are all, unfortunately, too risky for Lilah to eat. And Italian food, with its abundance of cheese in the food and on the table, is completely out of the question.

Another sticky wicket in the dairy allergy dining experience is breakfast. We cannot go out for breakfast at all with Lilah, which makes me kind of sad because I love going out for breakfast and brunch.  Yeah, sure, she could eat bacon and eggs, but that’s boring and rather unfair, especially considering that her companions (namely, her siblings) would be gorging themselves on pancakes, waffles, and cheesy omelettes.

So, to get over my brunch angst, I’ve been experimenting with different recipes for YEARS in an attempt to make delicious, dairy-free pancakes and waffles from scratch. The pancakes are still only just OK, in my opinion, but I’m a stickler for buttermilk, so it’s unlikely that anything will ever strike me as a suitable replacement for that true, sour dairy tang. (And yes, I’ve tried using soy yogurt thinned with soy milk as a replacement, but the results are not even close to being as good as the real thing.) However, I think I’ve finally nailed the waffle recipe. I made them this morning and they were gorgeous – crisp, light, not too sweet, not too eggy. They are a bit labor intensive, but using a mixer or electric beaters helps to speed-up the prep work. Unless you’re a masochist. If you are, then, by all means, knock yourself out and whisk those egg whites by hand.

Anyway, we all loved them. The kids begged for seconds, then thirds, and even declared that they didn’t need maple syrup. My husband and I enjoyed ours with some coffee and fruit, happily acknowledging that this one is finally a keeper.

Dairy-Free Waffles

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups plain or vanilla soy milk (not unsweetened), at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature, separated
  • 1 large egg white, at  room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup melted vegan margarine or vegetable oil, plus more for brushing the iron
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Preheat a waffle iron to medium-high.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, egg yolks, vanilla, and 1/4 cup melted margarine or oil. Whisk the milk mixture into the flour mixture until a batter is formed. Take care not to over mix the batter.

In medium bowl with a hand-held electric beaters or whisk, or in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whip the 3 egg whites until they just begin to hold a loose peak. Scatter the sugar over the whites and continue beating until they hold a soft peak. Using a rubber spatula, fold a third of the egg whites into the batter to lighten the base. Fold in the remaining whites.

Brush the inside surface of the iron with margarine or oil. Pour in enough batter to lightly cover the surface of the iron, about 1/3 to 3/4 cup, depending upon the size of the iron. (Take into consideration that the batter will spread once the lid is closed.) Cover and cook until golden brown and slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. Repeat with the remaining batter. (If the waffle iron is well seasoned or nonstick it is not necessary to brush the inner surface each time before cooking the waffles.)

Serve the waffles immediately with syrup, jam, or fresh fruit, then pat yourself on the back for putting a waffle iron on your wedding registry.

Roasted Eggplant Dip

“Hey Mom, what smells so good?”, chirped Lilah as she jumped down the stairs. The smells of roasting eggplant, sauteed onion, garlic, and smoked paprika had made their way up to her room and she was jonesing for a taste. “Oooh, are those olives? Can I have one?”, the question was a formality, asked as she plucked a large, green olive out of the jar.

“I’m making eggplant dip and, yes, you can have an olive.”, I said. “Wanna help?”

Her answer was yes, of course, so I put her to work measuring pantry items and peeling the cooled eggplants. Then, once all of the ingredients were assembled, I let her push the button on the food processor and watch her hard work come together. After everything was mixed into the eggplant, her reward was the first taste on a freshly toasted pita chip. The verdict? “It tastes as good as it smells.”

I love this dip, too, and not just because it tastes great, but also because it’s the product of a very forgiving and endlessly adjustable recipe. You can truly make it suit your own taste.

Some ideas: Puree the eggplant with the tomato paste and simply fold in the other ingredients for a chunkier dip. Puree everything together for a smooth dip. Trade the paprika with a some sriracha or chile flakes for a spicier dip. Swap the green olives with pitted kalamata olives if you like more brininess. Replace the red wine vinegar with balsamic for more sweetness and depth. Add an anchovy, pine nuts, or some oregano if the mood strikes. You could even replace the eggplant with pureed white beans for a jacked-up Mediterranean hummus.

The possibilities are endless, but here’s the version I prefer:

Roasted Eggplant Dip

(adapted from Ina Garten)

  • 2 medium or 3 small eggplants
  • Good olive oil
  • 4 ounces fresh or jarred roasted red peppers (about 2 roasted peppers), diced
  • 1/2 cup large green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil.

Place the whole eggplants on the pan, pierce with them a fork in several places, and rub with olive oil. Roast for 45 to 50 minutes, until the eggplant is very soft when pierced with a knife. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until the onion is soft and lightly browned – about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and paprika, cook for 1 minute, then set the mixture aside.

Halve the eggplant, peel, and discard the skin. Place the eggplant, onion mixture, peppers, and olives in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until well-combined, but not completely pureed. Pour into a mixing bowl.

Add the parsley, lemon juice, capers, tomato paste, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to develop. Taste for seasonings and serve at room temperature with toasted pita triangles and veggies.

This would also be a wonderful accompaniment to grilled chicken, shrimp, fish, or pasta.

Happy Mothers’ Day! I hope you all enjoyed your burnt pancakes this morning.

Awhile back, I mentioned that I was fooling around with coconut milk in the hopes of making some really good dairy-free chocolate pudding for Lilah, who is severely allergic to all dairy products.  I came across several decent recipes during the course of this little experiment, some with eggs, others with additional ingredients like tofu and lecithin. All of them were just OK – a little too eggy, a little too chemical, a little too sweet. They all lacked that smooth, creamy, deeply chocolate richness that I was so hoping for.

Then I saw this recipe. It originally called for whole cow’s milk, which I easily replaced with coconut milk and hoped for the best.

And, well, let me tell you:  It is THE BEST. I love it so much that Pee-Wee Herman would probably suggest that I marry it.

Not only is it the most delicious pudding I’ve ever eaten, but it is also the easiest pudding recipe I’ve ever made. No eggs, no weird stuff – just pure chocolate-coconut bliss.

You can thank me when you’re done licking the bowl.

Chocolate-Coconut Pudding

(adapted from John Scharffenberger via Smitten Kitchen)

Serves 6

1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups light, unsweetened coconut milk
6 ounces 72% bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Combine the cornstarch, sugar and salt in the top of a double boiler*. Slowly whisk in the coconut milk, scraping the bottom and sides with a heatproof spatula to incorporate the dry ingredients. Place over gently simmering water and stir occasionally, scraping the bottom and sides. Use a whisk as necessary should lumps begin to form. After 20 minutes or so, when the mixture begins to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, add the chocolate. Continue stirring for about 4 to 6 minutes, or until the pudding is smooth and thickened. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

2. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer** into a serving bowl or into a large measuring cup with a spout and pour into individual serving dishes.

3. Cover dish(es) and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 3 days (if you can restrain yourself for that long).

*You can fashion your own double boiler by placing a heatproof bowl over a pot of water. Just make sure the bowl fits just inside the top of the pot without falling in!  And please save yourself a trip to the ER by using good oven mitts when removing the bowl from the pot.

** I didn’t strain the pudding. The world did not end.