A monthly experiment.

Oh man, Dino’s book has some greatness in it. Yesterday I went with his eggplant planks and gravy but changed it slightly. Let’s dig in.

  • 1 eggplant
  • Cumin seeds
  • Clove
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander seeds
  • Oil

For the gravy I used you need

  • Oil
  • Flour
  • Vegetable stock
  • Tomato Sauce

To begin, set your oven to 400 degrees and get it going, toss some jasmine rice in a rice cooker and get it going as well.

Alright the eggplant couldn’t be simpler. I used a regular fat normal everyday eggplant. When shopping for eggplant make sure you pick them up and feel them. It should be firm but not hard as a rock; it should have some give but not be squishy. It should also be heavier than it looks like it should be. If its light get another one and don’t waste your money on that one, if it’s squishy and mushy move on to the next.

To prep the eggplant I cut off the side with the leaves and the tip on the bottom, then I slice the skin off of just 4 sides do it looks like its striped down the sides. Then cut it into 1/2 inch rounds and set on a wire rack on a baking sheet (if you don’t have a wire rack get one, but don’t sweat it for now), a griddle pan will work just as well as long as it is oven proof (meaning a metal handle).

Take all the spices and use a spice grinder (or a coffee grinder) and grind until nice and powdered. I used about a tsp of everything except clove, I went a little light on the clove, you can go as heavy as you want. Mix them with about 2 tbsp of oil and stir. Lay out the eggplant rounds on the rack and brush the mixture on one side of each, then pop in the oven for 20 minutes.

While these are cooking let’s make the gravy. Dino called for simple gravy of peanut oil and veg stock but I wanted something a little more robust, so I added some tomato sauce. Start with a tbsp of oil, heat in a pan until hot, add the tbsp flour and stir, cook this down until it turns a light brown/blonde color. This is a roux. Add the vegetable stock, about ½ a cup at first and watch it thicken up, you want to add enough vegetable stock until it’s the consistency of a thin gravy. Once you get there let it simmer for a few seconds to make sure it isn’t going to thicken back up. Add a few tbsp of tomato sauce, I used 4, you can use more or less. Add until you like the flavor, or leave it out all together and be happy with the regular gravy. Salt and pepper the gravy to taste and its ready.

Set a nice big mound of jasmine rice on your plate and place some eggplant rounds on it, top with the gravy and enjoy.

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On Friday we finished up the leftovers I had from the previous two days, so nothing new to report there.

On Saturday we made a dish from Dino’s cookbook called Alternative Vegan. If you have the chance order it, it’s amazing and will teach you more than I ever could.

We started with Chickpea and Tomato soup (kind of). Let’s start with the ingredient list

  • Cumin seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Turmeric
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 can tomatoes
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • Vegetable stock or water

Get some oil up pretty hot and toss in the cumin seeds. I used a decent amount, maybe 1 tbsp total. I also used a screen over my pan because these suckers explode. Anyway toss them in and you should hear them begin to detonate, a wonderful smoky flavor will begin wafting off the pan. After about 30 seconds toss in the sesame seeds, again 1 tbsp, these will also explode. As they explode a wonderful hint of sweetness will begin emanating from the pan and mixing with the smokiness of the cumin. At this stage add the turmeric, another tbsp here. Mix it all around and add the onions and mix them until they are yellow and coated. Now let these soften for a minute or two by adding a pinch of salt and stirring a little bit.

Once the onions are soft but not brown, add the tomatoes and crush them a little with the spoon you are using (you are using a wooden spoon right?) they will begin to break down a little, this is a good thing. After they have come up to temp add the chickpeas and stir until the chickpeas are hot. Then add as much vegetable stock or water as you want, bring to a simmer and it’s ready. Salt to taste.

I served mine over some thick rice noodles and it was not needed (and they weren’t very good, stupid instructions on the back) so I recommend some rice or a nice crusty loaf of bread.

Today I decided to finish up using some spinach and to take advantage of these nice white onions I bought. So let’s get the ingredients together.

  • 2 cups chopped spinach
  • 1 can chick peas
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1 handful almonds (slivered, flaked, whatever you like)
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp red chili flakes
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

So go ahead and heat the olive in a pan and slice the onion. Toss the onion into the pan and let it sweat with a pinch of salt. While those are softening mince the garlic and get the chickpeas drained and rinsed. When the onions are almost soft add in all the spices, the garlic, almonds and chickpeas. Mix occassionaly to let the chickpease get warm, about 5-7 minutes, and let the spices cook into then oil and coat everything. Mix thoroughly and then add the spinach a splash of water to loosen everything up and get some steam going

Put a lid on the pan and let the spinach wilt for a minute, then stir and replace lid. Let it steam another 30 seconds then pull the lid and stir again, get the spinach coated and incorporated into the dish. Add salt and pepper to taste, hit it with a dash of white wine vinegar for some acidity.

Plate it all up and eat. It’s a good, filling meal, very inexpensive to make and can feed plenty of people. It also smells and tastes delicious.

 Here is a tip; we were rushing to get out the door to the Spurs game tonight, so I set this dish up as a quick single bowl mixed dish, but you can easily separate it into 2. Instead of adding the spinach to the mixture start over. Reserve 1/4 of the minced garlic and find some nice vegetable stock. Cook everything the same but instead of adding the Spinach, put some more olive oil in a pan and add the garlic. Once the garlic gets going toss in the washed, chopped spinach. Add a bit of vegetable stock and cover to steam, once it wilts serve it along side the chickpea and almonds.

First nights dinner

So its the first night of Veganism for March. Let’s see what we can come up with. I’m going to start really easy with some butter beans and spices. First things first the ingredients:

  • 1 14oz can of Butter Beans
  • 2 Cloves Garlic finely chopped
  • Crushed red pepper flakes (I like the Korean ones)

So let’s set our pan to medium and bring up the heat on a few tablespoons of olive oil. Drain and rinse the beans and when the oil is hot, toss them in, after a few moments add the minced garlic.

Tip here, we don’t want the oil hot enough to be popping and frying like crazy, we just want it hot enough to give off a nice little sizzle. We want the beans intact and we want the garlic to be golden but not browned. Try medium; if you need more heat bump it up.

Once the butter beans are warm all the way through toss in the chili flakes and hit them with enough salt to taste good and a few grinds of black pepper. Toss it all together one last time and put it in a bowl.

Now while that’s there being hot let’s move towards the second dish tonight, Tomatoes and Peppadews in a kind of raw, deconstructed Romesco idea.

  • 3 tomatoes (I like the ones still on the vine)
  • 2 Peppadews (or another jarred piquant pepper)
  • 1 green onion
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Smoked Paprika
  • White Wine Vinegar

Core the tomatoes and dice them small, maybe 1/2 an inch or so. Toss them in a strainer over a bowl so you can collect the juice they want to lose. Mince up the garlic and slice the Peppadews and add them to the tomatoes. Wash the green onion and cut off the dark green part but save it. Remove the root from the white part and slice it in half long ways. The slice those into small strips, For the dark green part cut them into half inch on the bias (diagonally). Add all this to the tomatoes. Transfer all this to a bowl and mix it together, add enough olive oil to just get things glistening. Salt and pepper to taste, add a splash of white wine vinegar as well as a small dash of smoked paprika for some extra flavor.

Now we take a nice loaf of sourdough, fresh from the bakery and we slice it into decent pieces, rub some olive oil on them and toast one side in a hot dry pan. Go ahead and serve everything. You can eat everything bruschetta style (which is what I prefer to do) by piling it on to the toast or serve it however you want. There should easily be enough food to feed 2-3 people good portions.

So today I have decided to take upon myself the Vegan Challenge. Im going to cook nothing but Vegan food for the month of March. There will be fresh ingredients, nothing premade and no processed fake food. Game on.