Mexican Magic Rice

Mexican Magic Rice - vegan Dirty Rice / Messy Rice / Tomato Rice

When I was living in the small village of Lo de Marcos on the Pacific coast of Mexico, I went shopping at the vegetable shops in the neighborhood and cooked in the kitchen of our rented house every day. One of my favorite standard dishes, which I cooked at least twice a week, was Mexican Magic Rice. It’s sort of a spin-off of traditional Mexican Dirty Rice, also called Messy Rice. It’s basically a tomato rice dish – easy to make and always a treat. It’s great with smoked tofu or fancy mushrooms instead of seitan.

I’ve been focusing so much on the new Malaysia cookbook coming out later this year… and, sure, I’m still obsessed with the recipes from my new SRI LANKA cookbook. But now it’s time to give some more love to Mexico and all my favorite Mexican recipes from my previous cookbook with recipes inspired by my travels

I had always been fascinated by Mexico…

I wanted to spend more time there, since my first brief visit across the border with my family in the late 1980s. My second visit, in 2001, was a week-long visit with my father and brother Adam, and we went mountain climbing on Iztaccíhuatl. Fast forward to 2013: After the success of my first vegan cookbook inspired by my world travels, it was time to plan the next project. Mexico was my first pick for a winter escape from the cold Berlin winter. I talked with other travel bloggers I knew, and heard about the elusive town of San Pancho, an hour north of Puerto Vallarta, and just around the bend from surfer town Sayulita.

There’s a great story of how I found an amazing house to rent right on the sea, and where I spent two months living with the locals, learning to surf, improving my Spanish, and super-charging my Mexican cooking game.

The original plan was to find a house in San Pancho.

But the scene was much more touristy and less authentic than I had pictured. Maybe a few years earlier it was still real. And the rents were well over what we wanted to spend.After a few days of looking for a reasonable, charming and down-to-earth place, we pretty much gave up on San Pancho. Locals suggested I go north to Lo de Marcos and see what was up over there. The search continued: asking everyone, locals and foreigners, if anyone knew of a house to rent. After two days of walking around in the sun and asking, and exhausting all the online resources for holiday rentals, we were just about ready to give up again. We had only one more night at the small apartment for one week in San Pancho until we needed to find a new place.

On that fateful day, exhausted and sweaty, I sat down on the sidewalk on the small street a few minutes walk from the ocean. I saw two guys walking back from the beach, shirtless and tan. One had a fresh tattoo of Santa Muerte, the elaborately decorated Mexican Lady Death with a painted skeleton face, still healing on his chest. Should I ask them if they knew of any places to rent? Or would it be just like all the times before: no particularly helpful suggestions and just a smile and wish of good luck in our search?

If you don’t ask, the answer is always No.

I stood up and greeted the young men, “Buenos días, we’re looking for a place to rent for a few months. Do you know of anything.” The guy with the tattoo, laughed and said, “How about my house? We’re standing right in front of it. We leave to go to Montreal tomorrow afternoon. Want to come in and see the house?”

He unlocked the gate and we walked up the path. “I have to warn you, the house is kind of… unique. I love to cook and I built out the kitchen with a six-burner stove and giant double refrigerator from a restaurant that closed in Puerto Vallarta. It’s probably way more than you need, eh?” It was my turn to laugh. I told him that I cook every day and had come to Mexico to spend a few months learning more about the local cuisine and to work on recipes for a new cookbook.

The entry way opened up to an expansive garden with papaya trees, banana trees, towering coconut palms, and a large herb garden with massive bushes of basil, oregano, parsley, cilantro, and rosemary. The house itself was a cosy and quaint, two-level casita, painted bright yellow and had a classic terracotta tiled roof with a thatched veranda. “There are two bedrooms downstairs, and another room upstairs with its own bathroom and mini-kitchen. You can eat on the veranda upstairs, or downstairs on the patio. We’ve got fast internet, a working washing machine, and… oh, here’s the outdoor shower.”

Our Casita in Lo de Marcos Mexico

I imagined myself showering in the outdoor shower and rinsing the salt water from my surfboard after a day in the waves.

The house was perfect. Everything was falling into place in that awesome way. My friend Ben from Germany was coming to visit for a few weeks with his brother. My dad was planned to visit for a week, too. The upstairs room would be perfect for visitors, and could be my yoga room and work studio at other times. Instead of renting a small place (and we had seen many, but they just didn’t feel right, so we’d kept looking), we could rent this and the guests could stay here with us, instead of finding another place. We worked out a fair price for the rent the next day. I helped him finish packing the car and he gave me the keys to our beach house in Lo de Marcos, Mexico.

Mexican Magic Rice is fantastic with Cashew Sour Cream or Guacamole and served on a bed of greens, lettuce, or with a salad. It’s also awesome for packing killer bean burritos and much more fun than just plain rice. Similar to my Cambodian Fried Rice recipe from my first The Lotus and the Artichoke cookbook, this dish is a readers’ favorite, and can easily be doubled for a big family meal. I cook it all the time for dinner parties and cooking classes. And I still cook it regularly at home for my own family and friends.

Enjoy!

Mexican Magic Rice - Munich Surdham Göb Dinner Party 2016

Mexican Magic Rice

tomato rice with spicy seitan

serves 3 to 4 / time 35 min

recipe from The Lotus and the Artichoke – MÉXICO!
  • 5 oz (150 g) seitan sliced or chopped
  • 3/4 cup (75 g) green peas
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) black olives sliced or chopped
  • 3 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cumin ground
  • 1 tsp coriander ground
  • 1 cup (200 g) rice
  • 2 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric ground
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) beer or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika ground
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
  • 1/2 tsp ground chipotle or chili powder optional
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano chopped
  • 1 Tbs lemon juice
  • fresh cilantro or parsley chopped, for garnish
  1. Heat 2 Tbs oil in large pot on medium high heat. Add chopped onions, garlic, ground cumin, and coriander. Fry, stirring constantly, 2–3 min.
  2. Add rice, tomato paste, turmeric, bay leaf, salt. Mix well.
  3. Stir in beer (or vegetable broth) and water. Bring to boil, stirring, Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook 15–20 min until rice is cooked. Remove from heat. Mix with a fork. Cover and let sit 5–10 min.
  4. Heat 1 Tbs oil in large frying pan on medium high heat.
  5. Add ground paprika, pepper, chipotle (or chili powder), chopped seitan. Fry, stirring regularly, until lightly crispy and browned, 4–5 min.
  6. Stir in chopped oregano and lemon juice, followed by peas and chopped olives. Cook another 2–3 min, stirring regularly. Remove from heat. Cover until rice is ready.
  7. Add cooked seitan, peas, and olives to rice pot. Mix well. Cover until ready to serve.
  8. Garnish with chopped cilantro or parsley and serve.

Variations:

No fake meats: Replace seitan with chopped mushrooms. Sliced oyster Mushrooms or portabellos are best! No olives: Replace with corn kernels, chopped bell pepper, broccoli or other vegetables. Extra Spicy: Add 1 chopped chipotle (or other) chili with spices when frying seitan. More Red: Sauté 8–10 cherry or small plum tomatoes with seitan, halved or whole.

The Lotus and the Artichoke - MEXICO vegan cookbook cover

Cabbage Coconut Curry

Sri Lankan Cabbage & Coconut Curry - Gowa Mallum

Just one week into my ten weeks of travels through Sri Lanka, I had the opportunity to go in the kitchen at Mango Garden in Kandy, Sri Lanka to help prepare the New Year’s Eve dinner. The head cook showed me how to make a number of amazing vegetarian (vegan) Sri Lankan curries and dishes, including this one. I also learned how to make Pol Sambol for the first time, always awesome Beetroot Curry, fantastic Leek Curry, Dal Curry (of course), Green Bean “Bonchi” Curry, and Snake Gourd Curry (which can be made with any squash, such as Zucchini.) Continue reading

Arugula Mallum

Arugula Mallum - stir-fried Sri Lankan greens & coconut

Sri Lankan Mallum (or Mallung) is a dish typically made with stir-fried greens (or cabbage) and grated coconut.

While traveling for 10 weeks in Sri Lanka, I was served and learned how to cook half a dozen varieties of Mallum. Many involved local leafy greens that were kind of a cross between kale and spinach, and often sort of like collard greens. When I got back to Germany, I experimented with recreating the leafy greens mallum, and found that arugula worked quite well. It’s especially great for using up arugula in the fridge that’s no longer fresh enough for a salad or is too bitter to be eaten raw. Kind of like cooking with spinach, when cooked, the arugula will get a lot smaller and you’ll end up with less that you expected!

This is the recipe that I used for my third travel-inspired vegan cookbook, The Lotus and the Artichoke – SRI LANKAI called it Rocket Greens Curry. Curry perhaps isn’t really the best word. Mallums are mallums, just like chutneys are chutneys, even if we might want to call it a sauce.

You can serve this dish as one of many with a Sri Lankan meal, or as a starter – kind of a warm salad.

I make it when I have lots of greens to use up, or if I’m serving dal curry, beetroot curry, and Jackfruit Curry, and rice. The four curries together are four different colors, which provides a stunning visual element to the meal. If I’m ambitious and make more dishes to go with the meal, I go for Deviled Chickpeas or Soymeats Curry. The play of different colors, shapes, textures, and unique flavors always impresses dinner guests. Continue reading

Pol Sambol

Pol Sambol - spicy coconut chutney

Pol Sambol is one of those amazing Asian condiments that is easy to make and super satisfying. It adds a spice and heat kick to any dish and is great (and essential) with Sri Lankan curries.

The best Pol Sambol is made with fresh, grated coconut.

In Sri Lanka, fresh coconut halves are shredded with a hand-turned grater. Alternately, the coconut can be cut into chunks and grated with a box grater or hand grater, which takes considerably more time. If you don’t have fresh coconut on hand, any good dried, desiccated, grated coconut works well. Just soak it in hot water and press out the excess moisture after about 10 or 20 minutes before mixing with the spices and other ingredients. The red color is determined by how much paprika, chili powder or red chili flakes are used. Don’t be bashful or you’ll get a bland, pale Sambol! Increase the ground paprika to get more red color in your coconut chutney, if you’re going skipping the heat and don’t want to use chili.

The onion and garlic are not absolutely necessary for Pol Sambol, but the flavor and freshness is more intense. An ayurvedic version of the coconut chutney is made simply by omitting the onion and garlic. Which is how I prepare Pol Sambol about half the time.

I’m not sure when the first time was that I had Pol Sambol…

Maybe on my first trip to South India, or at at Sri Lankan restaurant in Berlin. But I do know that I had it dozens of times in the ten weeks of backpacking and travel in Sri Lanka. Unlike many dishes, it didn’t vary much from place to place, family to family. Traditionally, Pol Sanbol is often made with dried fish, such as Maldive fish flakes – quite common Sri Lanka. Obviously for a vegan version, I skip that. Continue reading

Watalappam

Wattalapam - Sri Lankan Spiced Coconut Custard Pudding

Watalappam is a traditional coconut dessert enjoyed in Sri Lanka.

This luscious custard is spiced-up with cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom, often with a hint of vanilla, and a smattering of nuts or dried fruits. The taste reminds me of a spicy, aromatic Indian cup of chai. But cold, coconutty, and soft! As with all recipes, everyone has their very own version. The Tamils make it different than the Singhalese, and the Muslims have another delightful variation.

I invented a vegan version of the coconut custard, and I added some variations of my own– including fresh (or frozen) berries. I often top it with dark, rich, sweet coconut blossom syrup (AKA palm syrup) which is extremely popular in Sri Lanka – and recently gaining popularity in Europe and the Americas. Sometimes I top the custard with blackstrap molasses or dark agave syrup, or some fresh fruit and nuts and maybe a bit of homemade fruit syrup, like I do with my vanilla muffins (also in The Lotus and the Artichoke – SRI LANKA cookbook.)

There’s actually a good story with the first time I had Watalappam in Sri Lanka. It highlights the need to stay cool, and remember that how we react in unexpected situations always influences how others perceive not just us as people, but whatever groups of people with whom we are associated – as foreign tourists, guests, citizens of particular countries, …and as vegetarians and vegans. In my travels, I try to be modest and respectful, and traveling vegan certainly comes with challenges here and there. Usually it’s much easier than others imagine, but I guess experience, a fair amount of luck and communication are all important factors.

One night I was invited to dinner at home with a Sri Lankan family in the small, charming town of Midigama.

Midigama is on the south west coast of Sri Lanka, and known for several great surfing spots, and I wanted to check it out. Sharani and her husband, a local tuk-tuk driver, lived with their two small children – and a funny green parrot that could talk – on a narrow, unpaved road a few minutes walk from the beach. She cooked for the better part of an afternoon, and by time dinner was ready, we were super hungry and totally curious what kind of deliciousness awaited us. Everything smelled fantastic! And then dinner was served: 5 Sri Lankan curries… including stir-fried Bonchi (green beans), spicy sautéed Brinjal (eggplant/aubergine), Carrot Curry, Dal (lentil) Curry, Soymeats Curry, and of course papadam, rice, and a simple salad of cucumbers and tomatoes.

After we finished eating, Sharani asked, “Do you like Watalappam? Sweets? Want to try?”

I was immediately curious, and asked her to describe it. “Made with coconut. Like a pudding. But very special flavors!” I tried once more, politely, to find out how it was made. “With eggs? Milk?” “No, no. Coconut!” “Butter?” “No, no. Coconut. And sugar! Palm syrup.” At this, she slid her chair back from the table, dashed to the kitchen, and returned with a chilled tray covered with plastic foil, which she was peeling back as she walked. Continue reading

Deviled Chickpeas – Kadala Thel Dala

Deviled Chickpeas - Kadala Thel Dala from The Lotus and the Artichoke - SRI LANKA vegan cookbook

This is another one of my favorite, quick-and-easy Sri Lankan recipes. I tried many versions of this spicy chickpea curry dish all over Sri Lanka during my 10 week adventure all across and around the island.

You can serve it as a main dish, but technically it’s a short eat (the Sri Lankan term for snack or appetizer or small meal.) Like most short eats, it’s a common snack from street food vendors, but also appears on restaurant menus and is often available from many take-out places… and on buses as a cheap finger food snack – in it’s much drier variation.

Traditionally it’s not served in a curry sauce, but is made “dry”. (This is something I found a lot in India and Sri Lanka — also with dishes such as Vegetable Manchurian or Gobi 65, and such.) I like cooking Kadala Thel Dala all kinds of ways, but usually make it without a really runny, liquid-y curry. Limiting the amount of chopped tomatoes (and cutting larger pieces) as well as using enough grated coconut (to soak up liquid) gets the chickpea curry to desired consistency. Note that rinsing and draining your chickpeas very well before cooking will help, and adding a few minutes of stir-frying on high, while constantly stirring, will also get rid of excess liquid.

Like my Jackfruit Curry, this dish is very popular with all types of eaters, it can be made spicy or not spicy (great for kids!), and is an excellent introduction to Sri Lankan flavors. It’s another one of my go-to recipes for dinner parties, cooking classes, cooking shows. I make it at home pretty often, too.

In addition to being in my third vegan cookbook The Lotus and the Artichoke – SRI LANKA, it’s been published in several vegan magazines in Germany. It’s such a simple and satisfying recipe. Also I love this photo! The little green hand-painted demon guy is on a decorative wooden thing I picked up at a shop in touristy – but gorgeous – Galle Fort, not too far from Unawatuna, and where we spent our last two weeks on the southwest coast in the beach village of Dalawella. Continue reading

Sri Lankan Jackfruit Curry

Jackfruit Curry Dinner from The Lotus and the Artichoke - SRI LANKA!

Sri Lankan Jackfruit Curry

This is absolutely one of my favorite dishes and recipes from my SRI LANKA vegan cookbook & ebook! I make it often at home, and have cooked it up for many dinner parties, cooking shows, and it’s regularly featured at the cooking classes I do, too. It’s really easy to make and it’s one of those dishes that’s a real crowd-pleaser, for vegans, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

Strangely, Sri Lankan food is still not really that well-known in the world culinary scene — and the vegan scene, but it’s popularity and visibility has improved in the last few years. It’s kind of like jackfruit itself, which only recently has started to get really hyped and celebrated outside of Asia, where it has a long tradition and has been enjoyed for… well, practically forever! I suspect as Sri Lanka becomes more popular as a travel destination, more people will fall in love with the cuisine. Admittedly, I fell in love with Sri Lankan food about 10 years before my trip to Sri Lanka — there are some amazing Sri Lankan and South Indian eateries in Paris and Berlin that blew me away!

This Sri Lankan Jackfruit Curry is made with coconut milk, and it’s really creamy and intense. Jackfruit, kind of like plain tofu or tempeh or soy chunks (TVP), takes on the flavors of the sauce and marinade. The texture and freshness are amazing, and I enjoy it much more than the soy and faux-meat variations. (Which all work in this curry mix, too, btw!) You can use all kinds of coconut milk, or even make your own. If I buy coconut milk, I always try to get organic coconut milk with no weird additives and preservatives. In Germany, my favorite coconut milk is from Dr Goerg. It’s super rich and creamy, and combined with a little hit of coconut blossom syrup in the curry, this dish gets crazy delicious!

The main thing to know about cooking with jackfruit outside of Asia is: It’s easy to find! It’s inexpensive and really nothing bizarre. Almost every Asian import grocery store I’ve been to in the US, Canada, Germany, France, England, Holland and other parts of Europe, whether big city or little town, has Green Jackfruit (unsweetened!) in a can… but the yellow jackfruit which is primarily for sweet dishes and desserts is also usable, if you rinse off the syrup and adjust the spices / salt accordingly. Green jackfruit is the unripened, slightly tougher, less sweet fruit.

I had Jackfruit Curry in at least 10 different places in the 10 weeks I spent in Sri Lanka. Each restaurant and every family make it a bit different. I’ve also made lots of different variations on this one– sometimes sweeter, sometimes spicier, sometimes creamier, sometimes with other fun stuff like greens… or even pineapple! Continue reading

German Lebkuchen

German Lebkuchen Cookies - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Cookbook

German Lebkuchen - Traditional Christmas Cookies

makes 12-14 / time 45 min

Cookie dough:

  • 2/3 cup / 100 g almonds ground
  • 2/3 cup / 100 g hazelnuts ground
  • 2/3 cup / 150 g sugar
  • 1/3 cup / 50 g flour
  • 3 Tbsn soy flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 Tbsn apricot or orange marmelade
  • 1/4 cup / 25 g candied lemon peel (Zitronat) or dried figs finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup / 25 g candied orange peel (Orangeat) or dried dates finely chopped
  • pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 12 to 14 baking wafers (70 mm)

Spice mix:

  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon ground
  • 1/4 tsp cardamom ground
  • 1/4 tsp cloves ground
  • pinch black pepper ground
  • pinch nutmeg ground
  • 2 Tbsn cocoa powder OPTIONAL

For decoration:

  • Orange zest, almonds, hazelnuts, candied orange and lime peel
  1. In a medium bowl, mix soy flour, sugar, marmalade, water well until mixture is smooth.
  2. In a food processor, chop candied orange and lemon peels or dates and figs very finely. (If using dates and figs, add 1/2 Tbsn orange zest + 1/2 Tbsn lemon zest.)
  3. In a large bowl, mix ground nuts, flour, salt, vanilla, and spice mix. Add contents of other bowl and chopped peels or dried fruit. Mix well to form smooth and moist dough.
  4. Refrigerate 1 hr, or preferably, overnight.
  5. Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C / level 5.
  6. Line baking tray with baking paper. Top a baking wafer with a heaping tablespoon of dough. Press down to form round and mostly flat cookies. Repeat with rest of the dough and wafers. Place well-spaced on baking tray. No baking wafers? Form flat and round cookies with a spoon and place directly on baking paper.
  7. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Note: Cookies will still be soft and similar shape when done.
  8. Remove from oven, allow to cool.

3 types of icing:

Chocolate icing:

  • 2 oz / 50 g dark chocolate
  1. Melt chocolate in medium pot set into larger pot of hot water.
  2. Apply melted chocolate with spoon or baking brush on cooled cookies. Garnish carefully, let cookies dry.

Plain icing:

  • 3 Tbsn water
  • 2 Tbsn sugar
  1. Mix water and sugar in small pot on medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool.
  2. Brush on/pour over with spoon on cooled cookies. Garnish carefully, let cookies dry.

White icing:

  • 3 Tbs powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbs coconut milk or soy cream
  1. Whisk powdered sugar and coconut milk or soy milk in small bowl. Mix well until thick and creamy, adding sugar or liquid as needed.
  2. Spread icing over cookies with spoon to fully cover. Garnish carefully, let cookies dry.

German Christmas Cookies - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Recipes from World Adventures

German Gingerbread Christmas Cookies with Matcha Sorbet and Blueberry Sorbet - The Lotus and the Artichoke

Blackberry Beet Smoothie

Blackberry Beet Smoothie - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Recipes from World Adventures

For years, I’d been dreaming of getting an awesome blender and making the transition from juice guy to smoothie guy. I’ve been into juicing for almost a decade, making a fresh juice about 4 or 5 times a week. When I go through phases of more raw living and detox days, and especially when I do a juice fast a few times a year, my juicer gets some serious play in the kitchen. Well, life took an amazing turn for me about two weeks ago…

I got a super duper, high-powered blender: a Vitamix Super TNC 5200. And I’m in love. I knew I’d love it, but I didn’t know I’d love it this much. It’s awesome for smoothies (duh!) but I also use it at least once more nearly every day for sauces, soups, spreads, desserts… in other words, all kind of prep work and kitchen fun. I also never expected it’d replace pretty much all of my favorite kitchen appliances, or at least fill them with envy. It’s kind of crazy how I just don’t need my small or large food processor anymore, and even my trusty coffee grinder, which I used daily for grinding nuts and spices has taken a back seat. Poor guys! Anyone want a used blender / food processor? Seriously, come and pick it up in Berlin.

Let’s be honest. These things are pricey, especially if you live in Europe, as I do, and get these goodies as imports from the U.S.. I keep telling people when they ask me: Could it possibly be worth the investment? Well, if you cook and blend a lot, and if you love smoothies; Yes. Find the funds, take the plunge. (In the intro to my cookbook, I talk about getting the best tools you can afford, and considering practical needs, priorities, as well as budget.) Soon, you’ll be wondering how you ever lived without a power blender. All the blenders I had over the years were difficult to clean and I avoided using them. This one’s a totally different story: Simple to clean and practically indestructible. It’s fun. It’s awesome.

Of course, there are other brands and models. It shouldn’t be too hard to find something that you can afford. And if you’re already buying smoothies outside the house regularly, in a few months you’d probably have spent the same amount of money. (Based on my current Smoothie Addiction, I’d be spending over 50€ a week if I was buying them, not making them at home. Instead, I probably spend about 5 or 6€ a week on fresh, mostly organic ingredients for juices and smoothies.)

Since I love to travel, I’m already starting to wonder how I’ll feel when I leave home for a few weeks or months (for example, this coming winter during my planned Mexico trip) and won’t have my beloved smoothies just about every morning. I guess I’ll be back to the stick blender, which fits well enough in my backpack and does the job. After all, I got by in India for a year without a juicer, and the stick (immersion) blender and small food processor I got there were enough. For several weeks in Africa I was always able to get by with a simple citrus press. So yeah, I’ll survive.

Enough about the blender! Give me the smoothie!

This smoothie recipe, a Blackberry Beet Smoothie (with lots of other fun stuff in it, too) is part of a series of smoothies I plan to post about. Many of them have stories that relate to my travels and places I’ve lived in the 40+ countries I’ve seen. But this one is just fun and delicious. I’ve always loved beets and berries. I could talk about how beets remind me of India and berries about my childhood days of scouting trips in the forests of Northeastern America. Nah… Let’s get on to the tasty stuff.

If you don’t have a power blender (yet), you could make this with a standard blender, or even an immersion blender. Just chop the stuff well, and soak the nuts and seeds longer. Or use cashew butter. Be creative, have fun. It’s your smoothie now. Enjoy!

Continue reading

Moroccan Stuffed Squash RELOADED!

Vegan Moroccan Stuffed Squash Reloaded with Quinoa - The Lotus and the Artichoke

Once in a while I have a recipe that I just keep coming back to and improving and evolving. Lately I’ve been enjoying lots of dinner parties and I’ve been cooking for friends very regularly. I’ve been cooking a lot of stuffed vegetables and experimenting with different fillings.

Just in the last few weeks I’ve cooked either my Tempeh Stuffed Mushrooms, Stuffed Peppers, and Stuffed Squash about a dozen times. (These are all recipes from my vegan cookbook.) It’s just so fun to make a giant batch of tomato rice or spicy quinoa or couscous and mix it up with more spices and other delicious foodstuffs. And then of course to fill up the vegetables and throw them in the oven.

A few days ago one of my good friends gave me an enormous zucchini from his home garden. I totally laughed when I saw the 2.5 kilogram monster squash. Everyone at our picnic was quite amused when I passed around the homegrown gift. It took me a few days to figure out how to best honor the gigantic gourd. And then it came to me yesterday afternoon: Make a killer variation of my Vegan Moroccan Stuffed Squash!

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Lemon Garlic Artichokes with Tomato Quinoa

Lemon Garlic Artichokes - Italian - The Lotus and the Artichoke Vegan Cookbook

Last month, The American University in Rome invited me to give a presentation on crowdfunding, creativity, and social activism. I discussed my experiences with Kickstarter, and told the story of how I funded my vegan cookbook – The Lotus and the Artichoke. I explained in detail how to use social media and crowdfunding to make dreams possible, promote and find support for projects, and to spread great ideas and inspire others. And then I opened things up for discussion and Q&A, and met the great folks in the audience. Then we ate up the 2 giant batches of Roasted Walnut Brownies that I made for the event. Yum!

This was my second visit to The Eternal City, and fourth trip to Italy. What made this visit so unique was having a project (the presentation) and an awesome apartment (and kitchen!) provided by the university. Instead of being a tourist, it was really like living there: I shopped at local markets, cooked several times a day, hung out with locals, enjoyed espresso on the apartment’s sunny terrace, walked miles and miles, rode the trams all around, and did my best to improve my language skills. It’s how I love to travel most. It’s great when it works out that way.

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Vegan French Toast

Vegan French Toast - Breakfast - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Cookbook

Way back in 1992, I published my first recipe for Vegan French Toast in Solace Kitchenzine, an old-fashioned cut & paste, photocopied vegan mini-cookbook fanzine I made as a teenager. I wrote short essays on environmental and social issues, did the artwork, and interviewed bands in the hardcore / punk music scene, mostly in the New Jersey and Pennsylvania area, but also from as far away as Boston, California, and Washington D.C. I was an avid pen pal, loved doing mail order in the U.S. and internationally, and took every opportunity to go on road trips with friends to other cities or states to watch bands play, meet new friends, and “distribute” my ‘zine.

It was a really magical time of my youth. In many ways the blog and cookbook project, now almost twenty years later, recall the excitement and interaction of those days. Back then I used to get letters in the mail (you know, the kind with stamps) almost every day. Now, I get enthusiastic emails and Facebook messages from friends and fans. Even years after Solace came out, I’d run into people that told me they knew my ‘zine. It was pretty cool. Though I’ve never been the preachy, dogmatic type, I was always proud when someone told me I helped or encouraged them on the path towards veganism / vegetarianism and daring to eat differently than the mainstream. Nowadays, vegan is a household word. Most restaurants – and relatives! – are way cooler about veggie eating habits. Sure, it still varies from country to country, county to county, and town to town…

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Dum Aloo

Dum Aloo – North Indian Tomato Potato Curry - The Lotus and the Artichoke

This recipe and story first appeared as a guest post on Scissors & Spice. Thanks again, Lynn!

Dum Aloo is one of many unsung heroes of Indian vegetarian cooking, with paneer, kofta, and mixed veg dishes usually stealing the spotlight. If you like potatoes and enjoy creamy, tomato-based curries, this delicious wonder will win you over. Soon you’ll be cooking it regularly and looking out for it on menus.

When I lived in Amravati, India, teaching Art and English for a year at a Cambridge International School, I quickly made friends with much of the neighborhood. From the first day, I was invited to family meals and constantly got amazing offers of home-cooked lunches. It was culinary heaven!

I learned so much about traditional Indian cooking (and a lot of Hindi) from the family of one of the local vegetable cart vendors who lived down the street. In the evenings, I’d often hear a knock at the door or get a short text message, and within minutes the kitchen was alive: full of cheery voices, sizzling sounds, amazing smells, and the incredible, vivid colors of spices and fresh vegetables.

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Vegetable Pad Thai

Vegetable Pad Thai with tofu - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Recipes from World Adventures

In the last few weeks I’ve been so super busy getting the design finished for the printed The Lotus and the Artichoke vegan cookbook, I’ve hardly had any time to get new recipes up on the website. The good news is: The cookbook is going to print this week, and I’ve got another time-tested favorite recipe inspired from my travels. This one is also in the cookbook, and it’s just too good not to share!

Along with the pineapple pancakes I recently posted, today’s dish has always been one of my favorite culinary memories of Thailand. I ate Vegetable Pad Thai at the street carts, at nice restaurants, in back alley neighborhood restaurants, and at the simple beach resort on Koh Chang. All over Bangkok you can get street food Pad Thai a dozen different ways. I always got the vegetarian stuff, which usually had tofu and vegetables, but sometimes just vegetables. For about thirty to fifty cents I’d get a steaming bowl of noodles and veg topped with sauce, crushed peanuts, and a lime slice or two. I usually dosed it with some more hot sauce and then sat down on the sidewalk somewhere to chow down.

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Quinoa Tomato Avocado with Carrot Ginger Sesame

Quinoa Tomato Avocado Salad - Carrot Ginger Sesame Dressing - The Lotus and the Artichoke

Here’s a quick and healthy vegan recipe for one of my favorite salads. It’s great for lunch on its own, or as an appetizer before a soup or lighter meal. Instead of quinoa, you can use other grains like couscous or bulgar, or use the dressing, avocado and tomato on fresh greens, like spinach or arugula.

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Paradise Pineapple Pancakes

Paradise Pineapple Pancakes - Thailand - The Lotus and the Artichoke

In December 2000, I flew to Bangkok with a backpack and a few changes of clothes, a small stack of books, my first digital camera, a new state-of-the-art mini-disc player with Beatles and Red House Painters albums and some of my other favorite traveling music. I read most of my Lonely Planet – Thailand book on the plane and even slept a little with my head on the window. Soon we landed in Bangkok. It was my second trip to Asia, and I’d read so much and seen so many foreign films about the region and culture, but it still totally blew me away.

From my first day there, I started a tradition of eating pineapple pancakes for breakfast at the guesthouse in a little alley behind Khao San Road. During the day, I rode in auto-rickshaws with unscrupulous and amusing drivers, explored the temples and markets, my favorites being the giant reclining buddha at Wat Pho, and day trips to the incredible floating markets. I was also delighted to find great used bookstores on Khao San road. I actually read the first 70 pages of Alex Garland’s The Beach (which takes place in Thailand) while standing at the shelf in the bookstore before paying a few bucks for the tattered paperback and finding a café to finish the book.

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Gibanica – Balkan Cheese Pie

Gibanica - Croatian Cheese Pie - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Recipes from World Adventures

This recipe is inspired by the famous Gibanica cheese pastry pies served throughout the Balkans. It’s a popular breakfast meal and savory snack I saw on menus and in bakeries in Montenegro and Croatia during my visit in October 2012. There are countless variations, including pastry pies with spinach, poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, and other fillings.

My recipe for vegan gibanica is best described as a curious cross between vegan quiche, lasagna, and strudel – all recipes which I just happen to have previously made for The Lotus and the Artichoke cookbook and this website. It’s no coincidence that the dish closely resembles Turkish and Greek cheese pastries, börek and tiropita. A glance at a map and we all know why. The Balkan states and their neighbors have their own variations (and names) for burek.

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Grah – Balkan Bean Stew

Grah - Balkan Bean Stew - Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian - The Lotus and the Artichoke

When two of my good friends announced they’d be moving to Herceg Novi, Montenegro for several months this year, I was excited for them and thrilled at the opportunity to visit them in a new part of world. After they settled in, started with the language, and began making local friends, I booked my flight to Dubrovnik. I ordered a Serbo-Croatian phrasebook and I started reading about cultural and culinary traditions, politics, and the history of the region. My friends arranged for me to rent a studio apartment in their building, with a balcony overlooking the Bay of Kotor and the Adriatic Sea. For our visit to Dubrovnik, they booked a furnished flat with Rock Palace Apartments, and we got a kitschy and fun Jimi Hendrix themed place for a few days on the hillside overlooking the old city.

My biggest supporter of The Lotus and the Artichoke – Vegan Cookbook Kickstarter project made an amazing contribution which made the entire trip possible! For the reward, I’d signed up to visit a new place and bring back recipes based on the food there, plus lots of photography and artwork. So, along with briefly exploring two new countries with my location independent friends Ryan and Angela (of Jets Like Taxis), I got to sample and learn about traditional Balkan food. This included Croatian, Montenegrin, Serbian, and Bosnian culinary customs. I wasn’t surprised to hear that the local food is considerably influenced by neighboring cuisines: Mediterranean, Turkish, Greek, Italian, as well as Central and Eastern European cooking.

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Turkish Bulgur Pilaf

Turkish Bulgur Pilaf - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Recipes from World Adventures

My first visit to Turkey was in late 2003. I’ve been back a couple of times, usually for brief visits on the way to India via Istanbul with Turkish Airlines.

On that first visit, I spent eight days exploring Istanbul, and took a ride out to the Black Sea and stayed in the sleepy seaside town of Amasra. Particularly in Istanbul, I recall afternoons of drinking tea and reading books. The days were beautifully punctuated by the competing calls to worship from mosques with their minarets pointed into the heavens. Continue reading

West African Spinach Peanut Stew with Fufu

West African Spinach Peanut Stew with Fufu - The Lotus and the Artichoke vegan cookbook

In October of 2009, I spent 2 weeks in Senegal and The Gambia. Julia had an internship with GADHOH (Gambian Association of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing) in Serrekunda, The Gambia, and I went to visit. I also helped film and edit a promotional video to support the girl’s school and I proudly watched Julia teach some science lessons in sign language with St. John’s School for the Deaf.

We met some amazing people and had some great times. The trip was a total adventure, including cross-country journeys in shared taxis, plus rides in donkey carts, rickshaws, ferries, and old school vans. I had to brush up my French to get around in Senegal, which was quite a challenge! If you know me, you know I love languages. For this trip, I even learned some Gambian Sign Language and International Sign Language so I could introduce myself and enjoy basic communications with our hosts and the deaf community.

From Dakar to Banjul to Jinack Island, then back to Dakar over to the hauntingly moving Île de Gorée, we had some great food and enjoyed the amazing landscapes and sunshine. Continue reading