Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Maafe (West African Peanut Stew)

Virginia is famous for its peanuts, but I recently learned that the history of Virginia peanut soup goes far beyond colonial Williamsburg.  Maafe, a traditional West African dish first made by the Mandinka and Bambara people of Mali, was brought to the United States through the slave trade and is the direct ancestor of Virginia peanut soup, according to African American foodways specialist Michael TwittyMaafe can be served with rice, couscous, or sweet potatoes, but when we made it the other night, we ate it as a stand-alone stew.  

I promise it tastes better than it looks.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 onions, diced
  • 1 - 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 - 6 ounce can tomato paste
  • 1.5 cups low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 acorn squash, peeled and cubed
  • 1 - 10 or 14 ounce bag of cole slaw cabbage 

First, heat the oil and garlic in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.

Then add all remaining ingredients except the cole slaw cabbage.  Stir together and bring to a boil.  Then add the cabbage and cook, stirring frequently, for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork.

Serve hot over rice or on its own.  Yields 6 servings.

Rachel and I are maafe's new biggest fans.  The sauce is incredibly rich and creamy, and the peanut butter taste is subtle but pleasant.  My favorite part was that the acorn squash almost melts in your mouth.  Rachel compared the flavor of the sauce to chicken makhani.  Simon wasn't as keen on the dish because it lacked something to bite into, but I think serving it over rice or with some bread to dip in would add a bit more heft.
None of these ingredients is difficult to find.  You can substitute the bag of cole slaw for half of a head of cabbage, if you prefer. 
 Ease of Preparation:         
The recipe is pretty simple, but peeling the acorn squash was the opposite of simple.  It took forever to peel because of the ridges!  (We also don't have a vegetable peeler, which surely didn't help.)  Next time, I might try out these tips for peeling acorn squash: http://lazyhomesteader.com/2011/10/11/how-to-peel-an-acorn-squash/. 
Non-vegan friendliness:         
This dish has a great flavor and smooth texture, though I think it would be best eaten along with rice, bread, or something else (rather than on its own). 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Creamy Noodles with Spinach and Green Peas

Sometimes recipes don't turn out as planned.  Yes, that can be a bad (burnt, crumbly, bland) thing, but in some cases it turns out to be a wonderful thing!  Last week we set out to make fettuccine Alfredo and ended up with a pasta dish that tasted nothing like the classic comfort food.  Instead, we ended up with a creamy, fresh, slightly sweet pasta dish that I'll definitely make again: Creamy Noodles with Spinach and Green Peas.

I love the two different shades of green from the peas and spinach.
Creamy Noodles with Spinach and Green Peas
  • 1 pound whole wheat fettuccine
  • 1.5 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 - 14 ounce can coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 4 ounces Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese (or another vegan cream cheese)
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 - 10 ounce package frozen spinach
  • 1 cup frozen peas

First, cook the fettuccine according to package directions. Set aside.

Meanwhile, place the corn in a food processor and process until well-blended.  Add the coconut milk, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and nutritional yeast and process until combined.  Set aside.

Then heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion once the butter melts.  Sauté the onion for five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Then lower the heat to medium-low, add the cream cheese, and allow the cream cheese to melt, stirring occasionally. 

Next, add the corn mixture, nutmeg, and frozen vegetables to the pot and heat until just boiling.  Use a wooden spoon to separate the spinach as it cooks. 

Once the sauce is hot, toss with the pasta, salt to taste, and serve hot. Yields 6 servings.

This pasta dish has a pretty unique flavor and texture.  The onions and blended corn add a bit of a crunch to the generally creamy dish, while the sweet, earthy flavor of the corn is noticeable but not overpowering.  Some dishes made with nutritional yeast can have a very particular (some say unappealing) aftertaste, but that's not the case with this one.   
While vegan cream cheese is now pretty easy to find in most grocery stores, nutritional yeast hasn't quite hit the mainstream.  We had to go to Whole Foods to get it--on the plus side, it's REALLY inexpensive (we bought about 1/2 cup for less than $1). 
 Ease of Preparation:         
This is a pretty quick recipe to make, and if you time it right, the noodles will be done cooking just as it's time to toss them with the sauce. 
Non-vegan friendliness:        
This is a tasty dish, but Simon noted that the taste didn't match his expectations based on the dish's appearance.  In other words, the dish looks like a cheesy-flavored dish, but that's not what it tastes like. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Aloo Matar

While I pretty much always choose chana masala when it comes to making or ordering Indian food, there are times when something different is in order.  Last week we made Aloo Matar: a saucy, somewhat spicy Indian dish with potatoes and green peas.  The dish was easy to make and very filling when served over brown rice; plus, it's full of beautiful colors that brighten up any meal. 

Aloo Matar served over brown rice.

Aloo Matar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 onion, diced 
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 - 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced 
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • a dash of each of the following spices: cinnamon, cumin, coriander, black pepper, cloves, and nutmeg (or use 1/2 teaspoon garam masala in place of these spices, if you can find it)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 2 large potatoes, cubed and boiled
  • 2 cups frozen peas 
  • salt, to taste
First, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the cumin and bay leaves and cook, stirring occasionally, for a couple minutes. 

Then add the onion, green pepper, garlic, and ginger; cook for about five minutes or until the onion and pepper begin to soften. 

Next, add 1 cup of the crushed tomatoes, the jalapeno, and the remaining spices.  Stir together and cook for another three minutes.  Add the remaining crushed tomatoes, potatoes, and peas and cook for two minutes. 

Finally, lower the heat, cover the skillet, and simmer for about 10 minutes. 

Salt to taste and serve hot over brown rice.  Yields 6 servings.


We all enjoyed this dish, but we found different elements to be noteworthy.  Rachel commented on how spicy it was (which I didn't notice).  I particularly enjoyed the ginger flavor.  Simon wished there were more vegetables involved, so next time we might include spinach. 
This recipe calls for several spices, and it can get expensive to buy them all just for this recipe.  But don't worry: most of these spices are pretty standard in Indian dishes (or other cuisines!), so any spice purchase will be worth your while. 
 Ease of Preparation:         
This is a pretty easy recipe, but it does require some attention to timing.  To make dinner preparation go more smoothly, make sure you boil the potatoes the day before, or as the first thing you do before chopping everything else.  You can also cook the rice while you're cooking everything else.
Non-vegan friendliness:        
Aloo Matar is a vegetarian dish by design, so there's nothing lacking in this version.  Plus, the potatoes really fill you up. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Spinach Lover's Lasagna

Hello Loyal Readers!  After nearly 10 months of avidly following Dinner Is Vegan, you surely know and adore Carol's affable prose and are presumably familiar with Simon's guest posts (spicy corn pakoras, anyone?).  However, I have no doubt that you've all been wondering for ages about this mysterious third roommate, the other half of the non-vegan contingent of the apartment.  Time for the big reveal!  I, Rachel, took the lead on making tonight's culinary creation, and am writing my inaugural guest post about our wonderful Spinach Lover's Lasagna.  In addition to being loaded with vitamins and calcium, this delightful iron-rich entree also gives you big Popeye muscles.

Thar she blows.
A single serving.

Spinach Lover's Lasagna
  • 1 pound lasagna noodles
  • 2 packages (10 oz each) frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 - 16 ounce package lite firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup soy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4.5 cups tomato sauce

First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and set on a large pot of water to prep your lasagna noodles.  Cook lasagna noodles according to package directions, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, thaw your frozen spinach in the microwave.  I recommend breaking up the icy chunks with a knife / fist to facilitate the thawing.  In the end, ours took about 15 minutes to thaw on the defrost setting, much to Carol's chagrin.  By the end, there should be no ice crystals remaining, and squeeze all excess water out of the spinach.  I literally grabbed hunks of it in my hand and squeezed over the sink.  Set aside in a large bowl.

Get out your trusty food processor.  Place pressed tofu (I recommend cutting into large chunks instead of cramming the whole block in there), sugar, milk, garlic powder, lemon juice, basil, and salt in the processor and blend until smooth.  The mixture should be creamy but not liquidy.  It really does look and feel like ricotta cheese.

Put the tofu and seasoning mixture into the big bowl with your squeeze-drained spinach.  Combine thoroughly.  At this point you could add some more salt if you like but I found that the 1 teaspoon I added to the blended mixture was plenty.

Then, cover the bottom of your 9 x 13 inch pan with a thin layer of tomato sauce.  Then put down a layer of noodles (probably about 5 noodles, somewhat overlapped, about a third of your total noodles).  Then put down a layer of the tofu filling (use half of the tofu-spinach mixture), and spread evenly.  I recommend putting small dollops all over the noodles and then spreading them out by hand.  Then pour over about half of the remaining tomato sauce, and then another layer of noodles.  Add the rest of the tofu filling and cover with the remaining noodles and finish with the remaining tomato sauce.  To recap, the layers are sauce, noodles, filling, sauce, noodles, filling, noodles, sauce.

Bake for about 40 to 45 minutes, until piping hot and bubbling.  Remove from oven.  Narrowly avoid scalding mouth, impress Olive Oyl, repeat. 

Makes one 9"x13" pan.


This lasagna is a really solid dish.  It's not anything particularly exciting or exotic, but it tastes really good and there is some heft to it because of all the layers of filling and noodles.  It reheats well so it's a good dish to make for the week.  Carol describes our version of lasagna as a "less-artery-clogging comfort food" -- a great taste without mounds of cheese and meat!

All of these ingredients are inexpensive and pretty easy to find.
 Ease of Preparation:         

We had some struggles with trying to get the spinach to thaw in the microwave, but the "ricotta" filling was easy and the layering of ingredients in the pan was pain free.  Pro tip:  try putting the spinach in the fridge the night before you make the recipe so that it will be already thawed.  The only bad part about this recipe is that it needs to cook for a long time, which is frustrating to growling tummies.
Non-vegan friendliness:        

I think this is a fully satisfying replacement for meaty lasagna.  Carol thinks the tofu does a good job of mimicking ricotta cheese.  She added that it doesn't taste like cheese, to which I reply, ricotta doesn't taste like cheese anyway!