Monday, March 5, 2012

African Curried Coconut Soup

When I first became vegan sixteen months ago I made this soup just about every week. It's very easy to make and is very satisfying. I think I don't make it as much as I used to because my palate has changed. Eating the 'SAD' (Standard American Diet) you tend to consume very rich, fatty, animal-based foods and preparing a dish with lush coconut milk is a good way to make the transition to vegan food, which tends to be leaner.

I ripped this recipe off from Before I became vegan their website was my go to source for recipes. But they really don't have a lot of good, satisfying vegan recipes on their website. They're getting better, but they're not quite there yet. Most of their vegetable dishes are meant to accompany meat main courses and some of their vegan recipes call for way too much tofu, in my opinion.

Following is the link to their website: It's from the book The Tropical Vegan Kitchen, by Donna Klein, which I'm considering buying since this recipe was so tasty!

I modified this recipe slightly based on what I had on hand. I used spicy curry powder instead of mild curry powder, substituted chiles de arbol for the jalapeno, used full fat coconut milk in place of light coconut milk, and used Ruby Red Jasmine Heirloom Whole Grain Rice instead of white or brown rice. They also recommend making this with black eyed peas instead of chick peas which I have tried on numerous occasions and is also very good. I prepared this last night and my husband had three large servings!

African Curried Coconut Soup with Chick Peas

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion (about 6 ounces), chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper (about 6 ounces), chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chili, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes, seeded and peeled, fresh or canned
  • 1 teaspoon mild curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 (14-ounce) can light coconut milk
  • 3/4 cup cooked white or brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
In a medium stockpot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and chili; cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add the broth, chickpeas, tomatoes, curry powder, salt, and black pepper; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Serve warm.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Baba ghanoush and Muhammara

Many people are familiar with baba ghanoush, but very few have heard of muhammara, Middle Eastern red pepper and walnut dip. I recently discovered muhammara at a local Lebanese restaurant. It seems there are as many versions of baba ghanoush as there are restaurants. I used to live in Brooklyn and every Middle Eastern restaurant that I ate at had their own take on baba ghanoush.

The photo above shows baba ghanoush on romaine leaves, flanking the red muhammara in the middle. I prepared this meal in late summer, buying the red peppers, eggplant and potatoes at my local farmer's market. I garnished it with olives. It's served with boiled red-skinned potatoes and drizzled throughout with pomegranate molasses. Pomegranate molasses is also the "secret ingredient" in the muhammara.  It seems that pomegranate molasses and all things pomegranate are very much in fashion in the United States. Why not? Their translucent ruby colored arils ('seeds') are beautiful, they're tasty and their juice is high in antioxidants. Pomegranates have been a major part of  the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean diet since ancient times.

I think the secret to making great baba ghanoush and muhammara  is to roast the eggplant and red peppers over a BBQ fire that has hickory or applewood chips smoking in the coals. My husband is still a carnivore, so when he BBQs himself a steak he also roasts the eggplant and red peppers for me. He enjoys the baba ganoush and muhammara, too!

I usually don't follow any recipes for making the baba ghanoush or muhammara as I have made them many times and like to vary them up a bit every time I make them (i.e. I may use less oil, tahini or walnuts than called for, or I may use hemp seed oil or pumpkin seed oil for part of the olive oil).

Following is a good recipe for a Greek version of baba ghanoush where they substitute walnuts for tahini. I found this at

"Eggplant Puree with Walnuts (baba ghanoush)


  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 to 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 cup shelled walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons strained fresh lemon juice
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Wash the eggplants and pat dry. Puncture the skin in several places with a fork. Place on an ungreased pan and bake for about 25 minutes, turning, until the skin is blistered and shriveled. Remove from oven and cool for a few minutes, until easy to handle.
2. While the eggplants are roasting, pulse the garlic, walnuts, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil together in a food processor until ground and pastelike.
3. Cut off the stem and cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scrape out the pulp, discarding as many of the seeds as possible. Add the eggplant, a little at a time, to the bowl of the food processor and pulse on and off. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, and remaining olive oil and pulse until well combined. The eggplant puree does not have to be perfectly smooth. Season with salt and add a bit of sugar if necessary, as eggplants sometimes impart a trace of bitterness.
Diane Kochilas shares her tips with Epicurious: • This version of the traditional eggplant spread melitzanosalata is from the north of Greece. Its similarity to the Middle Eastern dip baba ghanoush is due to the Turkish influence in Greek cuisine. • In Greece, hunks of country bread are traditionally dipped into this spread. Toasted pita is not as traditional but makes an equally delicious accompaniment."

Here is a recipe for the muhammara from; I usually leave out the breadcrumbs or you can substitute your choice of vegan, gluten-free bread crumbs :



  • Red bell peppers -- 4
  • Walnuts, toasted and chopped -- 3/4 cup
  • Breadcrumbs -- 1/2 cup (use gluten free if you're gluten sensitive or you can leave out)
  • Garlic, crushed -- 2-3 cloves
  • Lemon juice -- 1-2 tablespoons or 1-2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • Red pepper flakes -- 1 tablespoon
  • Ground cumin -- 1 teaspoon
  • Salt and pepper -- to taste
  • Olive oil -- 1/2 cup


  1. Place the the whole peppers under a broiler or over a stovetop flame, turning frequently, until the skin on all sides has turned black. Remove to a large bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Once the peppers have cooled, peel off the blackened skin and remove the stems and seeds. Rinse them quickly in running water and pat dry.
  2. Chop the peppers roughly and place them, along with all the remaining ingredients except the olive oil into a food processor or blender. Pulse to roughly chop the ingredients. Then slowly pulse in the olive oil. Try not to puree the ingredients too much. You want the dip to have a little texture.
  3. Adjust seasoning to taste and serve as a dip or spread with pita wedges, vegetables or kebabs.


  • Other Possible Additions: Chopped and sautéed onion, or paprika.
  • Muhammara is typically quite spicy. You can cut down on the red pepper flakes to adjust to your taste."

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Vegan Chocolate Truffles

Traditional chocolate truffles are made with cream, so they aren't vegan, but many chocolate desserts can easily be "veganized." I made these for Christmas and they were a huge hit at my sister's Christmas party. I based this on a recipe I found on the internet (posted below). Essentially, you can take any traditional chocolate truffle recipe and substitute coconut cream (the "cream" at the top of full-fat canned coconut milk). Remember to use high quality chocolate that doesn't contain milk. I flavored the truffles shown above with Cointreau and rolled them in roasted ground almonds, cocoa powder and shredded coconut. I served them with fresh raspberries.

I stole the recipe from the following website and modified it a bit based on flavorings and sweeteners I had available:

"Yield: 17-19 large truffles
  • 2 cups dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Camino semi-sweet)
  • 3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk (cream from top of can)
  • 3-4 tbsp pure maple syrup (or other liquid sweetener), to taste
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2-3/4 tsp kosher salt, to taste
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (optional)
  • Cocoa powder, for rolling (or finely chopped toasted nuts)

1. In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the chocolate chips on the lowest heat, stirring frequently. Alternatively, you can use a double boiler if you prefer.

2. Open a can of full-fat coconut milk, and gently scrape the cream from the top of the can to make 3/4 cup. Whisk this into the melted chocolate.

3. Stir in the vanilla, salt, maple syrup all to taste. Whisk well to remove all clumps, as the maple syrup may harden it up again. If it does harden up just keep heating it on low and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the coconut.

4. Scoop mixture into a bowl and place in the freezer for 30 mins. Stir with a spoon to break up the hardened spots and place in the fridge for 45 mins to firm up some more.

5. Once firm, shape mixture with fingers (I wore plastic gloves to avoid making a huge mess of my hands) into 1.5 inch balls. The mixture will be quite sticky. If it’s too sticky, simply return it to the fridge for a bit longer.

Roll into cocoa powder and repeat for the rest. Store in fridge until ready to use."

I  saw some other truffle recipes on the internet that substituted the cream with Tofutti Cream Cheese that also looked promising and I may try them in the future.