The Unexpected

AriCooks, asian-inspired, Dairy Free, Quick Meals, Salad, Summer, Vegan, vegetarian

Can't stand the heat? This light and nutritious tofu salad is perfect for summertime lunches.

It’s a tried and true fact of living that few things are what you expect them to be and that life is full of surprises. Of course both those things sound like cliches, but we have sayings for a reason, and as the years go by I am more and more struck by the universality of the human experience.

When we decided to leave Boston it was after a long period of frustration with a place that is undeniably cold and (as a matter of perspective) cold-mannered and, in many ways, ambivalent. Having been a part of a largely non-Jewish (and apolitical) dance community for many years in Boston, few people had much to say to me about our upcoming move in terms of choice of location. Unexpectedly however, a friend who is a well known Irish Dancer mentioned that she knew a fiddle player who was moving to Israel at the same time as we were. I was intrigued.

“An Irish fiddle player?” I asked, “Moving to Jerusalem?”

As it turned out the musician in question was married to a journalist who had just accepted the rather overwhelming job of being the Middle East Correspondent for Public Radio, and they would be transplanted to Jerusalem for the next three years.

“How brave…” I murmured, “To be the wife of a journalist in a land that is so foreign to you, to which you have no idealogical or religious connection. And with small children to boot…”

Seeing as we would both be new in town, the Irish dancer offered to connect us.

“You can show her the ropes,” I believe was the general gist of conversation.

Although I suppose I have showed Ellery around a bit since we both arrived in Israel, our friendship has proven to be a lot more complex than simply a half-Israeli helping out a newbie (who, as it turns out, is quite capable of learning the lay of the land with or without a guide). With Ellery, Matt, and the kids so much a part of our lives here in Israel, I am constantly reminded that Boston is a home. We wax poetic about our favorite cafes, markets and restaurants, and trade anecdotes about Somerville and East Boston (our respective old neighborhoods). I also have the opportunity to see Jerusalem through the eyes of someone who neither loathes nor romanticizes this wild place, a truly refreshing opportunity. Ellery is quick-witted, dry and often very funny in her day-to-day assessments of Israeli society as she sees it. For these and many other reasons (such as my having a partner in Cheesecake Factory-bashing), I am thankful that she is here. I look forward to more adventures with her and the whole K-B crew.

E, this tofu salad is for you!

Ellery and Pookie, drinking a beer.

Tofu Salad, Yerushalmi Style

8 oz firm tofu, drained and crumbled

1/2 cup cooked short grain brown rice (or any cooked grain you have avaiblable)

1 Tbs fresh lemon juice

2 Tbs Tamari soy sauce

3 Tbs tahini paste

2 Tbs dijon mustard

1/4 cup mayonaise

3 scallion, green parts only, finely chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped

2 small carrots, diced

1 small cucumber, peeled and diced

1/3 cup parsley, finely chopped

a few fresh basil leaves, minced

salt and pepper, to taste

Cook the crumbled tofu in a dry skillet over medium heat, until it loses some of its moisture and shrinks slightly.

Put the tofu into a mixing bowl and add the cooked rice. While the tofu is still hot, swiftly stir in the lemon juice and soy sauce.

Now add the tahini, dijon and mayonnaise and stir everything together. Add the chopped veggies and herbs and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy on its own, or stuffed into a pita with extra mustard and crisp lettuce leaves.

The Payoff

AriCooks, asian-inspired, Dairy Free, Quick Meals, Summer, Vegan, vegetarian, Wheat Free

So, the downside to being away this summer was that I did not get to do any gardening. In past years I have grown little porch gardens in summer and helped my friend Jayne, at the Dance Complex with her amazing garden oasis. The fruits of those labors have been cherry tomatoes, loads of fresh basil, blackberries and often a zucchini or two. I missed those little prizes this year and was resigning myself to expensive farmers’ market produce until Jeff walked in the door last week with an armful of peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden of a house he is doing some work on. The family Jeff does most of his carpentry for, are VERY generous, and this year their garden produced bountiful results. Jeff has been pretty busy over there from the moment we returned home, and I am excited that part of the payoff is that we can partake in this summer’s harvest!

It did not take me long to figure out what I wanted to do with a variety of spicy peppers and a few handfuls of fresh basil…

Thai curry of course!

This recipe is sort of free-form. You can really play with it and tailor the end result to your liking. The basic idea is that you have some spicy peppers, a lot of fresh basil, and as much garlic as you like, and you use those three ingredients as your base. From there you need a can of coconut milk and any veggies and or proteins that you prefer. I also like to boost the flavor with a little massaman or green thai curry paste, so if those are available where you live, try adding a teaspoon or two (taste a little first, they can be very HOT).

Ari’s Free-Form Thai Curry

you will want to have some cooked rice (I like short grain brown) on hand to serve this over

serves 4-6

2-3 Tbs spicy garden peppers (you can use thai, jalepeno, serrano, etc), finely chopped

2-3 handfuls fresh basil (thai basil is even better, but whatever you’ve got will taste great), chopped

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

neutral-tasting vegetable oil (canola)

1-2 heaping tsp thai curry paste (massaman or green are both good choices — a little goes a long way)

1 (14 oz) can coconut milk

the following are what I chose to add, you can use what you like or what you have on hand

1 thinly sliced onion

1 thinly sliced bell pepper

2 thinly sliced, peeled carrots

1 lb extra firm tofu ,drained, pressed, and cubed

salt

In a wide 12-14 inch skillet heat up some oil on medium heat. When the oil is heated add the garlic, hot peppers and basil and gently saute until the peppers have softened and the mixture is very fragrant – be careful not to burn your garlic.

Add the coconut milk (shake can before opening) and the curry paste and stir, turning the eat to medium-low.

When the coconut milk has begun to simmer  add the veggies and protein, if using. Cover and simmer over low heat (coconut milk will bubble over quickly if the heat is too high) until the veggies are tender. Season with salt and serve with more fresh basil over rice. Enjoy!

Wasabi Ice Cream

asian-inspired, Dairy Free, dessert, Vegan

I realize it is still February and I have always been one of those summer-time-only ice cream eaters. As a matter of fact, even some summer evenings here in Boston are too chilly for me to eat ice cream and on those occasions it has to be the right circumstances (i.e. either my own creation or from Christina’s— the only place for ice cream as far as I am concerned). But I was getting a little bored of cakes, pies, cookies, cupcakes and (when desperation hit) squares of dark baking chocolate. We believe in eating dessert after almost every meal in our house, so it goes without saying that we have had our share and more of all those things this chilly season. Suddenly, standing in my kitchen amongst the bags of flour, measuring cups and mixing bowls, I could not stand to grease one more pan or measure another cup of whole wheat pastry flour. I needed something really different.

I guess I should let you know right now that this recipe has neither wasabi nor cream. This “ice cream” came from Wheeler Del Torro’s The Vegan Scoop, which is a pretty incredible book of 150 dairy-free recipes that are divided into aptly titled categories, such as “Classic Flavors”, “Fruity Flavors”, “Asian Flavors”, “Aphrodisiacal Flavors” and so on. As far as the wasabi goes, what I used here was a paste that, while labeled “wasabi paste,” was in actuality (as many if not most wasabi pastes in supermarkets and restaurants are) a mixture of horseradish (a close relative of wasabi root), tumeric and food coloring. Now that we have the disclaimers out of the way, we can move on.

If you are vegan or lactose intolerant and an ice cream lover, I highly recommend that you pick up a copy of The Vegan Scoop. I assure you, I have tried many vegan ice cream recipes and Del Torro’s formula is by far the absolute best. Also he is so creative and obviously not at all satisfied with simply having made the best tasting vegan ice cream out there. He has also experimented extensively, bringing us recipes like “Goji Berry Banana”, “Orange Dragon Fruit”, and “Vanilla Cardomom” as well as the classics, such as “Mint Chocolate Chip”, “Black Raspberry” and “Butter Pecan”. If you need more prompting, just google the man and you will see the praise that has been heaped upon him for his frozen creations.

Wasabi Ice Cream, from The Vegan Scoop

special equipment: ice cream maker (I use this one)

1 cup soymilk

2 Tbs arrowroot powder

2 cups soy milk creamer (I use the Silk brand)

1 Tbs wasabi paste (get the real thing if you can, but the substitutes will do. If all you can find is the powder- you can combine it will a little bit of water to form a paste)

3/4 cup sugar

1 Tbs vanilla extract

check the fine print

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup soy milk with the arrowroot powder, stir and set aside.

Mix the soy creamer and remaining 3/4 cup of soy milk, wasabi paste, and sugar in a saucepan and cook over low heat. Once mixture has just begun to boil, remove from heat (keep your eye on it, or it will quickly bubble over) and immediately add arrowroot cream. This will cause the liquid to thicken noticeably.

Add vanilla extract.

Refrigerate until chilled, ~ 2-3 hours. Freeze according to your ice cream makers instructions.

Yield: ~ 1 quart.