Jewish Book Council reviews Silk Road Vegetarian

Silk Road Vegetarian: Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten Free Recipes for the Mindful Cook by Dahlia Abraham- Klein | Jewish Book Council.

Rice & Kale with Yoghurt Za’atar

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I have been avoiding writing on my blog lately. I just did not know how to start again….
My father passed away on August 9th, while I was in London. I flew to Israel to bury him, and met with the remainder of my family as we sat shiva there for seven days. I felt whirl-winded to say the least.
A very sullen feeling came over me.
My father was the ultimate trooper and was an eternal optimist. I could hear his words in my ear, lingering… “Dahling, carry on with your life” AKA as darling, carry on with your life. Imagine that in an Afghan/Indian accent.
I am doing exactly that, and exactly what he showed me and how he lived. Nothing lasts forever, but cherish what you have and live to the fullest. He did just that.

The gift, and there are many, is that my family and my father’s family from Italy and Asia were all in Israel, coincidentally. We could share in stories of my father. He was a one of a kind – gentleman, leader, mediator, and always opened up his pocket and business to help anyone in need.

Now that I have left my father in his final resting place in Israel, there is a craving for Israel.
Interestingly, my son, who flew in from Thailand to be at the burial in Israel has decided to move to Israel for now. My niece and nephew who flew in from Miami for the burial wished they could study in Israel. I like to think that the grandkids are clinging onto my dad – his essence– but I know that I have his essence where ever I am.

While I am still in full CSA season mode, I received a bunch of kale. To bring some Mediterranean influence into a well known European vegetable, and a little feeling of my father in Israel into my food , I decided to use some za’atar and greek yoghurt for this Rice and Kale bowl. Love the hearty crunch from the kale, that almost has a charred feeling to it and pairs perfectly with the yoghurt, capers and za’atar.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

olive oil
1 bunch of kale, destemmed and chopped
3 cups cooked brown rice or any grain you prefer

To serve:

capers, rinsed, dried, and pan-fried until blistered in olive oil
sunny side-up egg
dollop of salted greek yogurt
drizzle of good extra-virgin olive oil
za’atar, to taste
toasted sesame seeds

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet or pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the kale and a couple pinches of salt. Saute until the kale softens a bit and darkens.
  2. Stir in the cooked rice, and cook until the rice is hot. If your rice is on the dry side, you might have to add some water.
  3. Serve the kale rice topped with (preferably) all of the following: the capers, egg, yogurt drizzled with olive oil, and plenty of za’atar.

 

Tom Kha Kai – Thai Coconut Soup

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Since I was ten years old, I have been traveling to Bangkok to visit my parents, who were once living there. We usually ate at home with the cooks preparing a dish that my mother taught them in Central Asian style, usually made vegetarian, because kosher meat was hard to find. Being so young, I did not venture out on my own in Bangkok and just ate what was served at home.

In my late teens, when I returned to Bangkok to visit my parents, I had more of a social circle and would go out with my father’s clients. My father operated a vast gemstone business where he would broker deals between the miners and purchasers. At that time, the Holiday Inn on Silom Road opened up, and looking to try some Thai foods, I ventured over there. There was a restaurant overlooking Silom Road on the top floor of the hotel. I caught my eye on the Thai Coconut Soup called, Tom Kha Kai. It’s a coconut broth soup with seasonal vegetables, that is spicy with lime and usually made with seafood or chicken.

I explained to the waitress that I would like this soup made vegetarian, since the menu stated “with chicken”. It’s very standard for Asians to put fish broth in almost everything they cook. So when I explained to her that I was vegetarian, (because Thai think that fish broth is vegetarian), I also told her that I am allergic to any fish and meat, and I will choke and need hospital care if there is any flesh in the soup. I had to make this point clear, even though I over dramatized it. She obliged and told me, “no problem”.

Twenty minutes later, came out this lemon scented coconut rich soup that was permeating the surrounding air. I had a sip, and it was AMAZING! I loved the juxtapositions of flavors that just worked. Spicy, sour and sweet, all at the same time. Years later, being now, I have replicated this soup. It is so easy to make and so flavorful.  It will impress all your friends. Trust me. Since I am in full fledged CSA season, I have just added the vegetables that I had available. You can add any vegtable like, even tomatoes work.

A note about the noodles and lemongrass. You may have heard of Zero Noddles, which is the same as Tofu Shiritake. It’s a traditional Japanese noodle made from the konjac plant, which contains high amount of fiber and zero carbs. It has no taste and like tofu, absorbs the flavors of the surrounding ingredients. You can find it in any Asian supermarket or health food store. Lemongrass is prevalent in Thai cooking, and is optional in this recipe, but if you have it or can get your hands on it, it makes the difference and adds more of a citrus zing to the soup, which also is great for colds and flu.

Tom Kha Kai

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 ounces tofu shiritake
2 (14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk

1 (14-ounce) can water (use the coconut can to measure)
1-2 stalks minced lemongrass, optional*
2-inch knob of ginger, peeled and grated
3 large minced shallots
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons fine grain sea salt, or to taste

Lots of seasonal vegetables, for example this pot had:
1 head broccoli, cut into florets
16 ounces shiitake mushrooms
3 scallions, sliced
Garnish with squeeze of fresh lime juice and handful of fresh cilantro into each bowl

Directions

  1. In a large soup pot over medium high heat, bring the coconut milk, water, lemongrass (if using), ginger, shallots, red pepper flakes and salt to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for five to ten minutes.
  2. Add the seasonal vegetables to the simmering coconut milk, and cook until just tender. Depending on the vegetables used, it can be anywhere from 10-20 minutes.
  3. Drain the noodles from the bag and mix into the soup. Cook an additional 7 minutes.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and finish with a generous squeeze of lime and lots of cilantro.

* You can find fresh lemongrass in most Asian food and grocery stores. It is usually located with the other fresh produce, and is often sold in bundles of 2 or 3 stalks. When buying fresh lemongrass: Look for stalks that are fragrant, tightly formed, and of a lemony-green color on the lower stalk (near the bulb). The softer, fleshier part of the lemongrass – which is what you want to use in your cooking – is located under the tough outer leaves. Peel away these layers with your fingers and discard. What you will uncover is a pale yellow stalk that is softer and easier to slice. Cut off two inches from the bulb and make thin slices up to 2/3 of the stalk. Stop slicing when the stalk is no longer yellow and “fleshy”. Because lemongrass is so firm and fibrous, it helps to process the slices a little further. Place the lemongrass in a food processor (or chopper) and process well on “high”, OR pound for a minute or two with a pestle & mortar. Now it’s ready to use in your cooking. You can store leftovers in freezer bags and store in the freeze for up to six months.

Cocoa Chia Date Balls

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Of all the desserts I make, this is the simplest one to put together and one of the most popular ones too, especially if you are gluten free. Actually, this is more than a dessert, it’s an energy ball.
You know those energy bars that your trainer tries to sell you or your local natural food store carries, stating how healthy it is and natural they are. Well, these Cocoa Chia Date Balls beat those energy bars, hands down!

The key ingredient here is medjool dates. That’s right…. that dried fruit that grows indigenously across the Middle East and North Africa and is one of the seven blessed species that God blessed. There must be a reason, from all the fruits we have in this world, God decided that this is the one He’s blessing. For good reason, Medjool dates only contain about 66 calories each – so that’s ideal if you are concerned about your shvelt body. They are a good source of fiber and contain high levels of the essential minerals potassium, magnesium, copper, and manganese. In other words, it’s good for you. Dates were commonly eaten by nomadic travelers as they provide a lot of energy and healthful nutrients with the added benefit of being readily available. So if a nomad can survive on dates in an arid desert, you certainly can thrive on these as well. Although, right now in NY, it feels as hot as a blow dryer blowing on me.

Now about the taste of these delightful energy balls. They are raw!! That means, no baking. Just throw into a food processor and presto. The combination of cocoa and dates suggests a taste of a rum liqueur. Many people have asked me if I use rum, and somehow the cocoa just extracts the taste of rum when combined with dates. Each bite is like a cookie that is moist and a bit nutty. I added chia seeds, because it expands in your belly and makes you feel full. Plus there is a lot of talk about chia as a protein source. Important for us vegetarians. I originally made a version of these for my Silk Road Vegetarian cookbook called Orange Blossom Date Balls. For that recipe, you will need to purchase my book. As you can imagine by the name, it’s a fragrant date ball, more reminiscent of the Silk Road.

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Cocoa Chia Date Balls

Makes 16

Ingredients
2 tablespoons Chia Seeds
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons filtered water
10 medjool dates, pitted
1 tablespoon raw coconut oil
Sea Salt, to taste
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1 1/2 cups raw walnuts, soaked and dried, finely chopped
1 1/3 cups shredded dried coconut
Directions

  1. Combine chia seeds and water in a bowl and mix together.
  2. Let seeds absorb water. Once absorbed, place in the food processor with the dates and coconut oil, and process until smooth and well combined.
  3. Add the sea salt and cacao powder, and process until smooth and well combined.
  4. Add the walnuts and process until evenly distributed, then remove from the processor and stir in the coconut (the mixture will be very thick, and you may need to use your hands).
  5.  Form the mixture into 16 balls, and enjoy!  Store extra in the fridge.

Spicy Indian Green Peas ~ Matar Bhaji

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I’m back from the mayhem of my Silk Road Vegetarian book launch. It was so much fun and humbling that there was such a nice turnout. Probably nothing worse than coming to your own party and being the only one there! So now that it’s done, I can move on with posting some new recipes.

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I love fresh from the pod green peas, although when I can’t get them I go for a bag of frozen peas. Now when you slather these peas in coconut oil, ginger and some red pepper heat, you have got an outer world experience with green peas. I kid you not. The combination of the three ingredients brings out the sweetness in the peas, coupled with the peppery ginger and coconut – it’s a dance on your tongue. This is a lovely side dish with a bowl of lentils and a side of some of your favorite rice.

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Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

1/4 cup 100% organic coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons grated gingerroot
1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon unrefined whole cane sugar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons minced fresh red chili pepper
1 teaspoon minced fresh green chili pepper
2 ½ cups fresh peas (shelled) or frozen peas (defrosted)
Directions

1. Pour oil into large skillet or deep frying pan and heat over medium-high heat, about 1 minute, until hot.
2. Add oregano and cumin seeds and fry over medium heat for about 1 minute.
3. Add gingerroot and turmeric and fry an additional minute, mixing well.
4. Stir in sugar, salt, minced chili peppers and peas. Mix well, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, 10 to 12 minutes.
5. Remove lid, and stir again. Continue to cook, uncovered, until the peas become a dull green-brown color and are very tender, about 13 to 15 more minutes.
6. Serve hot with your favorite rice.

Book Giveaway For Silk Road Vegetarian: Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten Free Recipes for the Mindful Cook

Now is your chance to win a free copy of my cookbook. It’s so easy. Just follow the link below to goodreads and enter the contest.

The contest opens on June 6th and runs all the way until June 30th.

Good Luck!

  • Silk Road Vegetarian by Dahlia Abraham-Klein

    Silk Road Vegetarian: Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten Free Recipes for the Mindful Cook (Goodreads Contest Giveaway)

    by Dahlia Abraham-Klein (Goodreads Author),

    Release date: Jun 17, 2014

    “All I can say is WOW! You’ll be eating your veggies, I guarantee it!”—Levana Kirschenbaum, celebrity chef and author of The Whole Foods Kosher Kitche…more

Bukharian Pilaf with Kidney Beans and Carrots – Pilaf

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Photo; Courtesy of Sari Kamin

Right before Passover, Sari Kamin of Honey + Shmaltz reached out to me for a lesson on Bukharian cookery. Sari is a vegan who originally started out her career as a struggling actress looking to make ends meat by waitressing. She was in restaurants so often that she fell in love with food. Subsequently entered the Food Studies program at NYU where she culminated her program with writing a thesis on foods across the globe. Sari found me and wanted to interview me on Central Asian cuisine to include into her thesis project.

With camera in one hand and a recording device in another, she took photos of me and the dish I prepared and recorded me on her website here. I spoke about my family history along the storied route of the Silk Road and my family travels all along the Spice Routes, and how it has influenced they way I cook. Her website is a recipe index of both celebrated and home cooks that she interviewed as an ongoing memoir of Jewish food.

Sari, then invited me to join her as a guest interview on her show, The Morning After (sounds like a pill, but not) which is part of Heritage Radio. You can hear the podcast here.

Back to this dish, and less PR. This Pilaf is the national dish of Bukhara, Afghanistan and Iran. With its variant spellings in all these countries, it also varies in ingredients as well. It can be made with chicken, beef or lamb. Mine is vegan and made with red kidney beans and in Bukharian fashion, with a big hunk of garlic head, and a dash of seasoning: salt and pepper. The caramelized onions and the slivered carrots form the undertone to the dish, while everything else just creates a perfect melange of flavors. Even the head of garlic, is not so garlicky, but rather like butter with a hint of garlic. The tastes do not seem forced, but just gentle on your tongue. Below you will find step by step photos on how to cut carrots for Pilau. While you can employ the food processor, the traditional way is by hand. This recipe is featured in my new cookbook, Silk Road Vegetarian. Hope you enjoy.

Bukharian Pilaf

Prep Time: 30 minutes plus 12 hours for soaking the beans and 1 hour for soaking the rice
Cook Time: 2 hours plus 1 hour 30 minutes for the beans

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 cup (200 g) dried red kidney beans
2 cups (450 g) basmati rice
3 cups (750 ml) boiling water
2½ teaspoons sea salt
½ cup (75 g) raisins
3 large onions, finely chopped
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 large carrots, cut into thin matchsticks
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 head garlic
2/3 cup (160 ml) oil
6 cardamom pods
3 cups (750 ml) water
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

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Peel carrots, and slice them on the bias

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Perfectly oblong sliced carrots

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You can place a few medallions on top of each other, and then cut into matchsticks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Directions:

  1. Wash the rice until the water runs clear. Drain and pour the rice into a large bowl with 1 teaspoon salt and pour boiling water over it. Mix well and let it soak for 1 hour. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, plump the raisins in warm water.
  3. In a large saucepan set over medium-high heat, heat 4 tablespoons of the oil. Sauté the onion, stirring, for 7 minutes, or until softened. Then add the kidney beans, season with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pat down the mixture with the bottom of your spoon to form a fairly even layer.
  4. Make another layer with the carrots and season with remaining salt and cardamom. Make sure not to combine the carrots with the onions.
  5. Spoon the rice over the carrots, distributing it evenly all over the top.
  6. Bruise the cardamom pods: Place the pods on a flat surface, place the flat blade of a large chef’s knife on top of them and press down on it with the heel of your hand to crush them lightly until the outer husk cracks. Poke some holes into the rice and place the bruised cardamom pods into the holes. Pour 3 cups (750 ml) water and remaining oil over the rice in a circular motion.
  7. Drain the water from the raisins and season with cinnamon.
  8. With a spoon, form a pocket in the rice around the side of the saucepan, and place the raisins into the pocket. In the center of the saucepan, firmly push into the rice, the whole head of garlic.
  9. Place a paper towel large enough to cover the pan on the surface of the rice. The ends will extend outside the pot. Cover tightly with a lid. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 2 hours, or until the rice is fully cooked. (The towel will absorb the steam, preventing the rice from getting too sticky.) Check the rice periodically to make sure that the rice did not dry up. If the water has dried up during the cooking process and the rice is still not done, add ½ cup (125 ml) water.
  10. When the rice is done, use a skimmer to gently transfer each layer onto a serving dish. First, remove the garlic and set to the side of the platter. Then transfer the rice, then the carrots, and finally the beans. Scatter the raisins over the top for a sweet accent.

Chickpea Curry

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Years before I was a vegetarian, I used to make this dish with chicken. My mother in law, Shirley introduced the Chicken Curry dish to me all the way from her homeland of South Africa. Durban, at the southern end of Africa, by the Indian Ocean has a large population of Indians that were brought over as slaves for cotton picking. As a result, there is a large influence of Indian cookery in South African cuisine. In typical South African manner, the chicken curry is served with embellishments –  topped with sliced bananas and shredded coconut. It is simply sublime. Subsequently, since I became a vegetarian several years ago, I transformed this dish using chickpeas. The chickpeas are simmered in a fragrantly spiced tomato mixture, and kicked up with the South African toppings, thereby creating a melange of sweet, spicy, and crunchy.

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup dried chickpeas or 2 (15 ounce) cans of chickpeas
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 heaping teaspoon curry powder
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 small chili (seeds removed)
1 onion, diced
½ teaspoon chili powder
4 cloves crushed garlic
2 tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoon mango chutney (or any of your choice)
Sliced Banana, for topping (optional)
Shredded Coconut, for topping (optional)

Directions

  1. Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in a large bowl with plenty of cold water. The following day, drain the water and rinse again. Place in a large saucepan, and cover the chickpeas with cold water, one inch above the chickpeas. Bring to boil and simmer, skimming off any foam, for about an hour, or until tender. Drain and rinse and skin the chickpeas, preferable but optional.
  2. Heat coconut oil in a medium sized skillet over a medium high flame, add mustard seed, turmeric, curry powder, ginger, chili and chili powder. Stir for 2 minutes.
  3. Then add onions and garlic, stirring to make sure onions don’t brown. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes.
  4. Then add tomatoes, and cook until the tomatoes have liquified, about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the cooked chickpeas and let it simmer, covered for 30 minutes over low heat. Once cooked, add mango chutney. When ready to serve, top with sliced banana and shredded coconut with a side of basmati rice.

Inside Silk Road Vegetarian – my cookbook

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Drum roll please………. For those of you whom are anxious to see the inside of my book, it’s up on Amazon!!! I took most of the photos myself and am so proud of this book. This book of mine has been in the making for at least three years. I could have had 2 children by now. Instead, I birthed a book. You will get a big sneak peak into all the recipes I have been working on for the last three years. You can even start cooking now, as some of the recipes are available to see.

On the cover is a Moroccan Tomato Soup called Harira, which was photographed by Jennifer Jagusak. When I told my mother in law who lives in South Africa that I was writing a cookbook, she sent me this Moroccan recipe that she received from her Muslim neighbors. It’s typically eaten during Ramadan, because it is so hearty. It has everything I love in a soup – filling, sweet, tangy and spicy. A little like me, I think.

Please share this with anyone you know that would appreciate my ancient Central Asian heritage cuisine that I have geared to my vegetarian lifestyle and mindful way of living. I believe what you eat becomes part of the cellular building blocks of your ineffable essence. When food is grown, cultivated and prepared with mindfulness, you become aware of how we are all connected and connecting.

Pan Roasted Cinnamon Spiced Chickpeas

IMG_1777 There are few things tastier than golden, crusty, pan-fried chickpeas – and this is where I start. In a pan, I drop two dollops of coconut oil, which withstands high cooking temperatures and  nicely adds a subtle, sweet nuttiness that pairs beautifully with the pronounced cinnamon coated chickpeas. I can happily snack on this alone or have this as a side with some veggies, to turn this into a full fledged meal. I prefer to use fresh chickpeas, as it’s much more economical and it’s less mushy. I like the hardness. I suggest skinning the chickpeas, as it’s the skin that also makes it a harder legume and removing it makes for a smoother glide down the gullet.

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/2 cup dried chickpeas
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2
teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon agave

Sea salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Soak the dried chickpeas overnight in a large bowl with plenty of cold water. The following day, drain the water and rinse again. Place in a large saucepan, and cover the chickpeas with cold water, one inch above the chickpeas. Bring to boil and simmer, skimming off any foam, for about an hour, or until tender. Drain and rinse and skin the chickpeas, preferable but optional.
  2. Mix together the spice mixture with agave until it’s evenly coated.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Toss the cooked chickpeas into the heated pan, stirring and shaking until the chickpeas shrink a bit and let out a delicious fragrance, about 7 minutes.
  4. Serve with some chopped salad with a lemon dressing for a complete meal.