Tag Archives: vegan

Lenten combo – Spinach Pkhali and Himbasha

It’s been more than ten years since I was learning to make this exotic dish, which is perfect for Lent. My late husband did not keep Lent but he liked it very much, too. He had a hard time believing that there was no sour cream in the mix. I am re-posting the recipe and my notes unchanged since then. I hope I can make at least one batch this year.

The main ingredient is spinach, but the other ingredients in this dish, which can be a vegetable side or a spread for bread or crackers, make it very unusual and in my case, addictive. I know, eating in an uncontrolled manner is the opposite of what Lent is about, but maybe overdoing it on spinach is not as bad as some things. And to reduce temptation, so far I have made sure to take this dish to potlucks where I would be embarrassed to hover over the plate and reveal my piggishness.

The origin of pkhali is the Republic of Georgia. Though I have a Georgian acquaintance at church, I found the recipe on The Traveler’s Lunchbox blog, about a year ago. I’ve made it several times since then, at least twice using frozen chopped spinach, and most recently with fresh spinach.

The recipe, pasted from the link above:

Spinach Pkhali

Pkhali (the ‘kh’ is pronounced as a deep, guttural ‘h’) is a whole class of Georgian vegetable dishes that straddle the line between salad and dip. The constant is the walnut sauce, and the fact that the vegetable is cut very, very finely – almost (but not quite) to a puree. 

Beet pkhali is also very popular, and is often served alongside the spinach; to prepare beets this way, wrap 3 large ones in foil and bake until soft, then peel and finely chop (or pulse in a food processor) before mixing with the sauce. 

If you’d like to substitute frozen spinach in this recipe, I imagine it would work, though I’m not sure about the amount; maybe start with a pound (half a kilo) of the frozen stuff and add more as needed to balance out the flavors. [I used 2 -10 oz. packages, which was a bit much. -GJ]

p.s. After making this again, I’ve decided I like a slightly smaller amount of spinach, to let the flavors of the walnut sauce really shine. Alternatively, you could use the full 2lbs and make one and a half times the sauce. 

source: adapted from Anya von Bremzen’s Please to the Table
serves: 4-6 as an hors d’oeuvre or side dish

1.5-2 pounds (.75-1 kilo) fresh spinach, stems removed and washed in several      changes of water
1 cup (100g) walnuts
4 cloves garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
pinch cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or to taste
1 small onion, minced
3 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
1 1/2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh tarragon
salt
pomegranate seeds, for garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the spinach and cook just until tender, about one minute. Drain well and let cool. When manageable, wrap the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze until nearly dry. Chop it as finely as possible (don’t use a food processor or blender, which may puree it; it should have texture) and set aside.

In a blender [I used a food processor. -GJ], combine the walnuts, garlic, coriander, fenugreek, cayenne and vinegar. Add 3 tablespoons of warm water and blend until you have a smooth, creamy sauce about the consistency of mayonnaise, adding a little more water if needed to get things moving.

Add the walnut sauce to the spinach and stir until thoroughly blended and smooth. Stir in the minced onion, cilantro and tarragon, and season with salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours to allow the flavors to blend. Taste again before serving and adjust the salt and vinegar if needed.

To serve, spread the pkhali on a plate and smooth the top with a spatula. With a knife, make a pattern of diamonds in the top, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds (or, in a pinch, walnut pieces). Serve with bread.

(Me again) Using the fresh vegetable took more time, though boxes of Costco baby spinach make it easy; the result was definitely a refinement of the dish, as it did away with the many pieces of stem that you get in the frozen greens. As to quantities of all the ingredients, they are fairly flexible, and I did a lot of tasting at the end to make sure there was enough salt and spreadability.

The last time I took it to a community dinner, I also brought along a loaf of the Eritrean flatbread called himbasha, which dark-skinned parishioners in flowing white gauze bring to our church dinners every week to pass around in baskets. I always make sure to reach in and tear off a piece.

It was the first time I’d tried making it at my house. My loaf came out a little thick compared to what I think are the best versions I’ve eaten, because I didn’t notice I was supposed to make 2 loaves with the dough, and I put the whole thing into one large skillet. But it was wonderfully chewy and flavorful all the same, and my tasters loved it still warm from the pan with some of the pkhali spread on.

Here is that  recipe from a book I helped to compile, a small collection of international dishes that are cooked and served by members of each ethnic community (we are truly a pan-Orthodox group) for my church’s yearly food festival.
Himbasha
Makes two 12″ round breads
3 pounds flour
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cups water, at room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, yeast and sugar. Dissolve salt in water. Add oil and water/salt mixture to flour mixture, and mix until you have a stiff dough. Add raisins and mix until incorporated.
2. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured board. Form into one or two large circles the diameter of your frying pans and up to 1″ thick.
4. Lightly grease electric frying pan or cast iron skillet or paella pan. Heat over medium heat (about 300 degrees on an electric skillet) until a drop of water dances on it. Place dough carefully in pan, cover and cook about 15 minutes, until bottom is golden brown. Turn and cook another 15 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack.


And at right, a photo of the last plate of pkhali I accomplished. Pomegranates were not to be found in the supermarkets in March, so I used the walnut option for garnishing.

You can see the little pieces of onion that I hadn’t minced finely enough….I thought they would overwhelm the dish, but no, it was as addictive as ever. Still, I might put the onions in the food processor with the walnuts next time.

Will I have time to make this again during Lent? Probably not — but we spinach lovers don’t need to be fasting to enjoy something so yummy.

Greens, munchers, and seeds.

As I woke on Sunday morning I saw through the slats of my window blinds the full moon going down, against a background that was being colorized from gray to pale blue. Well, it probably wasn’t quite full — because Kate had sent me a picture she took from Panama City, of the full moon on Friday evening. Pretty close, though.

When I went to church I admired the flowering plums, and after my ZOOM church school class that afternoon, I planted SEEDS! A day after the full moon, a few hours before March dawned….

I was so glad to have a surprisingly balmy afternoon to work in, out in the garden. The day before, I had set up lots of little 6-pack  trays with potting soil, so that the soil could wick up water and be thoroughly moist. And because I ran out of time to plant anyway.

Two friends, Tim and John, had at different times given me seeds of Love-in-a-Mist from their gardens, one nearby and one in Oregon. So I planted them together, equal amounts, but in such a way that I could tell them apart. When they start sprouting I’ll update my blog report on what I’ve got going in there.

In the planter boxes I poked another (double) row and a half of snow peas into the soil, near where chamomile is coming up through the volunteer sweet peas:

I did some trimming and weeding in the rest of the garden, and discovered these caterpillars munching at my Yellow Bush Lupine. They are Genista Broom Moths, and I threw a few dozen of them into the green bin along with the trimmings. I’ve never noticed them as moths, but they look like they would be easy to miss. Maybe they will be a regular thing now that I have my lupine, which is the type of perennial and evergreen food they are known to like.

I feel about my collard patch the way some people feel about their chickens, or dahlias. They are so beautiful and healthy this year, I feel very proud and thankful, and want to take their picture again and again. Especially now that they are starting to flower, and I know I will need to pull them out and put summer squash in their place in another month or so. There were jungles of Hairy Bittercress in the grove of collards. I pulled weeds and pretty much scalped the plants to cook up a truly huge mess of greens.

Hairy Bittercress

Here is my absolute favorite way to cook collards. It’s a great recipe for church fast days and I make a big batch and put containers in the freezer.

COCONUT BRAISED VEGAN COLLARD GREENS

1 bunch collard greens
1 can of full-fat coconut milk
1 Tblsp. soy sauce
1/2 Tblsp. rice vinegar
1 bay leaf
1 pinch red pepper flakes (opt.)
1/2 tsp. sugar

Wash the greens and chop into bite-sized pieces. Put everything in a pot and simmer until tender. Add a little water if necessary and adjust seasonings to taste and to the quantity of greens.

I have made these several times with different amounts of collards every time. This last time I had at least eight quarts of chopped raw collards but still only used 1 can of coconut milk.

If you have a springtime garden, I hope it contains the minimum
of unwanted munchers and plenty of tender greens. To your health!

Daily Sustenance

It’s been cold here this week, and hailed for a few minutes yesterday. I hope my plum blossoms were not damaged! Maybe some that were hiding under leaves will be able to become plums.

Last Sunday our parish women’s book group was scheduled to meet at Ann’s house to discuss Father Arseny. I hadn’t planned to be there because Soldier and Liam were flying in from Colorado to celebrate my birthday with me; so I didn’t reread the book in preparation.

Of course my guests cancelled their plans, for everyone’s safety, and the women held a lively Zoom discussion which I “attended” along with eleven others. I sat in my garden at my laptop most of the time, until it got too chilly. We enjoyed ourselves immensely, and decided to meet again in a week just to chat; we’ve been missing each other and don’t want to wait a whole month or more till we’ve read the next book.

Now we are reading At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald. This title is a good one for a few reasons:

1) Several of us love George MacDonald and his books have come up before in our list of possible group reads.
2) Even though physical libraries are closed, his works are easily found as free library digital editions, for 99 cents on Kindle and as audiobooks.
3) For families with more time together sheltering in place, it’s a good read-aloud.
4) I haven’t read it for a long time, but knowing MacDonald generally, it’s likely good nourishment for our souls that need extra sustenance right now.

 

Sustenance consists of those things we need for life and health. The opposite is deprivation or starvation. Often our souls are starving for spiritual food when our bodies are overfed.

I had the odd experience in the last week of several times being so busy socializing that I didn’t take time to eat. Because of the many anniversaries and birthdays in my extended family, in addition to dear friends phoning to talk about the pestilence, I was on the phone more hours that week than I had been in the previous six months. Because I’m generally overfed, that brief bodily deprivation had little effect. Since then I’ve also caught up on Alone Time.

And I’ve cooked some things. When my Painted Lady runner beans produced a bumper crop last fall I resolved to make soup with them during Lent. What I came up with was a vegetable soup rich with onions and garlic, and not too many beans. It’s sustaining for sure.

 

Over the decades I’ve discovered two sorts of (vegan) chocolate pudding that are great for breakfast, and I don’t see that I have shared the recipes here before. Well, I did share a link for this version of the chocolate chia seed pudding, and here it is again: Minimalist Baker.

But the one I’ve made many more times in various flavors is so simple and adaptable, I didn’t even measure yesterday when I made a batch.

SILKEN TOFU PUDDING

-an amount of silken tofu, say, 14 oz.
-cocoa powder, try 1/2 cup
-sweetening to taste: sugar, maple syrup, etc.
-cinnamon or vanilla or almond extract, etc.

Mix in food processor until smooth, divide into portions and eat or refrigerate. Of course you might top it with fruit or nuts or granola. The above amounts are what I used last night and I divided it into three containers. I think it’s a good breakfast food because it has protein and caffeine, and don’t we all like something easy for breakfast?

I have made it without chocolate at times, in the past. I think there was a lemon version, or a pumpkin spice, but as I remember, chocolate was the winner.

 

My remodel: It is not finished; some construction workers are willing and wanting to work at this uncertain time, and some are not, so I am preparing my mind for an indefinite prolonging of this mess. Three times over the last 16 months I’ve moved out of my walk-in closet, into a spare bedroom across the house that is even now serving as my dressing room, with my clothes stacked all over the bed, my laundry hamper squeezed in the corner, some of my hanging clothes squeezed into the wardrobe.

My goal now is to clear that room and somehow fit my clothes and shoes into my own bedroom, and use it as my dressing room. It has no closet currently, and is still full of storage, but I can move some of that stuff temporarily into the sewing room cabinet that is waiting for doors, as you can see in the photo above that I have already begun to do.

The workers’ clutter in the sewing room I hope I can stash in the garage or the unfinished closet, depending on whose it is, so I can clean up the sewing room, too. I am tired of waiting to wash the windows, and I want to be able to sit in there in the mornings. Do you think that as soon as I complete all this work, the construction guys will come back and make a mess again? If they do, I won’t complain. That’s the walk-in closet at right, which I can’t even shut the door to. It’s been the view from my bathroom for two months now, unchanged.

The new guest bathroom is usable except for things like the shower curtain rod and towel ring. There are six such accessories that a worker came to install one day weeks ago, and he completed two of them.

Outdoors, I myself have neglected the garden quite a bit, but it’s still a lovely place to stroll, and I’m cutting asparagus and waiting for snow peas to show on the tall vines. (You can see them at the back in the last picture below.) The Coast Bush Lupine I planted sometime last year is now covered with buds! Everything looked so pretty after the rain and hail, these recent mornings when the sun broke through.

There’s plenty of sustenance in my larders!

How I saved my greens.

I’m ashamed to think of how much cilantro has gone bad in my fridge over the years. I love it, and so I buy a fresh bunch from time to time, which isn’t usually that pricey, but still, when it goes into the trash slimy and blackening, it’s a sad waste. 😦

Today I was busying myself cooking up vegetables that came in my CSA (community supported agriculture) box, and I came to the bunch of cilantro… Hmm… Maybe I had planned to combine that with tomatoes and peppers to make more Indian Egg Bhurji. But — No tomatoes were in the house, and I didn’t want to spend time de-stemming cilantro anyway. (I must need a special prayer to pray while I am doing that perfectly lovely job that seems so tedious. That’s what Kate told me to do about my boring floor exercises.)

An idea came to me when I saw the bag of arugula I’d bought yesterday — also something that I love, which I probably thought I’d put in a green salad, if I could get around to washing the lettuce… When I was a child, the task of preparing the large, leafy-green salad that without fail was part of our evening meal always fell to us children. I always wonder if I am harboring a childish rebelliousness deep in my psyche, that makes me resist salad-making, too.

The thought that occurred was, Could I make a sauce or pesto by combining arugula and cilantro? I’m not confident enough as a chef to go right at it, so I looked online and found that many people had done just that, with great variations. I customized mine to be fast-friendly (vegan) and not too lemony, and to use more arugula than cilantro, because I had a lot more of that leaf on hand. I kept the ingredients list short, and didn’t add garlic or pepper because the greens are both pretty flavorful already.

Here is what I came up with. All the amounts below are approximate. Many people like their pesto less thick, and will add more oil. Before washing the cilantro, I cut off the longest stems while they were still tied together in a bunch, but left the rest of the stems for the food processor to deal with. No de-stemming by hand!

SAVE the GREENS PESTO

3 cups packed cilantro
4 1/2 cups packed arugula
1/3 cup sunflower oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 cup toasted walnut pieces

Grind the walnuts in the food processor and then add the other ingredients to make a paste, adding more oil or salt or lemon to taste.

Until today I never paid much attention to all those “pestos” made from everything but the classic basil-olive oil-Parmesan combination, but recently I learned how to make Tarragon Salsa Verde from Jo, and found it very adaptable and always delicious. (I have planned to share my results with you but this recipe pushed ahead in line.)

I think its versatility gave me the hope that other green things could work together the same way. And they did indeed form something easy that saved us, greens and human, from possible shame, and added another tasty and healthy item to my menu options. Now I can spread my salad on crackers!