Monthly Archives: March 2010

Posna Zeljanica Pita – Serbian Vegan Spinach Pie

My mom’s mom, my Baba makes the best cheese pita in the world. This is an undisputed fact, it is known among everyone whoever tried it. If you have ever had burek or gibanica it is like that. The recipe calls for half a dozen eggs, a pound of brick cheese, cream cheese, and a stick of butter. My mom more often would make the spinach version, like spanakopita, when I was a kid called Zeljanica which I preferred, probably because it is fun to say (zel E on it za). It was definitely the first dish that I can recall eating my greens and liking them. It was also one of the first things that I learned to make and when I went away to school I liked to make it for potlucks because it is so delicious and easy to make and the recipe makes more than just a few people *should* eat.

After I went vegan I sadly realized I would never eat it again since there was just too much to substitute. Plus, the eggs make it puff up and I didn’t want a bunch of green muck which happened to me once before when I didn’t have the recipe right. A few weeks ago Chicago Soy Dairy sent me some mozzarella Teese and it eventually got me thinking that now I had the perfect cheese element wrapped up in front of me! I could easily replace the cream cheese with tofutti cream cheese and olive oil replaced the butter (I didn’t want to use melted earth balance but I think it would be great). The only problem was the cottage cheese and egg so I replaced both with big tofu crumbles marinated for a couple of minutes in salt and lemon juice and some pine nuts. I also thought that I would have more texture using Swiss Chard, spinach’s sturdier cousin. Then since it is spring time I added a giant leek.  I really couldn’t believe how well it all turned out, I still can’t. It is just perfect, even better than I had hoped. The teese worked perfect, there is no weird taste and it is decidedly rich. I don’t want to say “you won’t believe it is vegan” but dammit, I have to!  I am also excited because I have my go to potluck dish back!

The Zeljanica also works great as an easter dish, especially if you want to serve it to your Serbian Orthodox friends for American easter since they will still be fasting for another week. You can also sing along with them to this video or enjoy 3 X Love and everyone can have a laugh. You could also serve it for your equinox festival, to celebrate the opening of the first public library (in 1833, in Peterborough, NH), your 4/20 throwdown, Buddha’s birthday or for brunch. It is a dish that will work for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snack, appetizer, or feast. Hot or cold, it doesn’t matter.

Zeljanica

1 lbs extra firm tofu
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
10 oz Mozzarella Teese, grated
1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and leaves torn
8 oz plain toffuti cream cheese
1 large leek, white part cleaned and chopped in skinny half moons
Box of Filo Dough, defrosted*
olive oil or melted earth balance
*the fresher the filo dough the better it will work. If you have a greek store you can usually find it there in the refrigerated section as opposed to the freezer. Otherwise, get the frozen kind and let it completely thaw in the fridge for a day before you use it. Don’t try any other method (trust me) it doesn’t work you have to wait.
Crumble the tofu into a bowl with your hands squeezing the water out as you go. You want pretty big chunks, like tablespoon size. Next, add the salt and lemon juice and mix together and let marinate while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Add the Teese, the chard, the leek and the toffuti to the bowl and mix everything together with your hands until everything is incorporated but not blended.
Next, Preheat the oven to 375 and assemble your workstation. You want everything at hand because once you get the filo out of the packaging it dries quickly. Get a baking sheet out and oil the bottom and put about a third of a cup of oil in a bowl with a pastry brush. Get a towel slightly dampened with no wet spots, you don’t the filo to get wet because it will stick together so make sure that your damp towel is not that damp! Open the filo and unfurl it and place it under the towel.Carefully peel off the first layer of filo. Usually the first layer doesn’t come off well so I end up putting it to the side. Don’t worry about messing it up because you have more dough in the box than you will need and the bottom layers don’t have to be perfect. Lay the first sheet down on the oiled pan, cover the remaining filo back up with the towel and oil the top of the first layer of dough. The oil works like mortar sealing everything together. You can patch pieces together and seal holes with any excess you have moved to the side. When you are done get the next piece out and repeat the process until you have 6 layers down. Then spread the filling out over the dough. Top with pine nuts and then, using the same process add 6 more layers to the top. . You can also use the filo in alternative ways with this filling although this is the easiest. Sometimes I do something decorative on the very top with the leftover filo, just use a lot of oil. I have spelled things out, tried to make flowers, and made a thicker crust around the edge. Or you can top with asparagus pieces and they will roast right on top and then when it is done you can cut it into little squares if you want to be fancy. Once it is assembled you can also refrigerate for a day or two and bake it the day you need it. Another fun thing to do is fold it into triangles and deep fry.

Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes. The edges will be the first thing to burn so keep an eye on them after 20 minutes. After it has cooled you can cut it into pieces to serve cold or you can keep it whole and warm it up back in the oven if you are not serving immediately. Enjoy!


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Swiss Chard & Pine Nut Couscous with Sicilian Olives

I have been trying to get my kitchen organized and it is a lot harder than I thought it would be which is making cooking really challenging. When it comes to food I am definitely a horder. I have every bean every grain and practically every spice I have ever heard of. I don’t know how it all started but I have been a horder since I was a little kid, you would think I was raised during the depression or something. For example, olives have always been my favorite food and I usually keep a back up jar but if I don’t have one I keep a lone emergency olive in the jar until I replenish my supply. That’s right folks it is no lie; at any time you can open my refrigerator and you are guaranteed to find at least one olive. And if there is one olive and you eat it…. well let’s just say you won’t make that mistake again.

I also have had an unlabeled bag of an unknown grain since I moved in to the last house. Mr. Smurf was trying to convince me that if I haven’t used it in 5 years I was never going to use and it was time to throw it out. Instead, it came to the new house and now with many more years of cooking experience I immediately identified it as couscous and decided it was time to make magic happen. First, I was going to toast some coriander and make kind of a Greek-style dish but then I couldn’t find the coriander anywhere so the old standbys of garlic and Italian seemed to be the perfect solution.

This dish turned out to be everything I had hoped: fast, easy, healthy and we were able to make gigantic portions and save some for lunch this week. I was going to use mushrooms too but they weren’t any good so if you try this add them in before the chard leaves if you have them around. And if you don’t love olives you might want to try raisins or another dried fruit instead.

Swiss Chard & Pine Nut Couscous with Sicilian Olives

1 medium yellow onion, cut into half moons

1 bunch of Swiss Chard, stalks chopped and separated from the leaves
1 Tablespoon of pine nuts
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup of sundried tomatoes, rehydrated with water reserved
1 cup (or so) of vegetable stock
2 cups couscous
juice of one lemon
1/4 cup Sicilian marinated olives chopped

Saute the onions in a cast iron skillet for a couple of minutes and then add the chard stems. Once they are all starting to brown shove everything to the side of the pan and toast the pine nuts over the hot spot. Make sure they don’t go from golden to burned, it can happen rather quickly and then move them to the side of the pan. Add the garlic, saute for 30 seconds, mix everything together and then add the chard leaves. Once the chard leaves cook down (like a minute) add the sundried tomatoes and their re-hydrating water, and about a cup of stock depending how much reserved water you have. Add the couscous and mix everything together. You don’t need to have the whole mess under water but you need enough that nothing is going to burn while you reduce the heat, put the lid on, and cook for about 10 minutes. Check on it and stir things up once or twice. Add the olives & lemon juice and enjoy!

SXSW Vegan Bakesale

Our second bake sale for earthquake relief was a huge success! Brooklyn Vegan had a day party at Club De Ville and Action for Animals & Veg Austin set up a table to get people to try vegan baked goods, donate money, and learn about veganism. It was a lot of fun! I was, once again, totally overwhelmed by the amazingness of our fellow Austin bakers. Liz made these amazingly cute cookie monster cupcakes that were a huge hit.

They were especially appreciate by two vegan boys.Kristen of Sugar-Skull made some oatmeal cream pies blew a lot of minds, Dianne made some MUCH appreciate gluten free pumpkin bread and Sarah made some cookies and cream cupcakes that were popular too.

There was also free beer and free tacos and really great music so it was just fantastic that so many people participated. So far we have made 1572 dollars to send to charity in total this year!

In other news, I don’t think I mentioned that I bought a house!I haven’t been blogging because I have been madly painting, packing, and moving while trying to keep my sanity (I have to admit some of it is lost forever). I have been eating out for several weeks now while the kitchen was a mess and I can’t wait to start cooking again! I have a gas stove now which makes everything cook SO FAST and I realized I have way too much kitchen stuff, certainly more than anything else.

I want to share, too, that I found the best realtor in the world Nanette Labastida. If you live in Austin (or want to move here because it is so great) I can’t recommend her highly enough. She helped me so much throughout the whole process and found me a fantastic deal and was basically one of the hardest workers I have ever dealt with in my life. And she is vegan and even helped with the bakesales and made a mean cookie. I can’t thank her enough but I will try!

I am so lucky to be surrounded by such fabulous people! Thank you everyone who donated their time and baked goods! Oh, and I did make it to a couple shows.and I snuggled with a dog or two ps this horrible green carpet is out of my life forever! Wahoo!

Thai Taco

Sometimes I wish I could force people to make a recipe. This is one of those times. But then, who knows, everyone’s tastes are different and you might not even like this fabulous taco that I made the other day. I think you would, though,  if you are anything like me! I’ll never know unless you try it and tell me. I thought it was totally amazing. Unreal. I made sausage a couple days earlier and the beagles opened the refrigerator and got two of them out! Still, the remaining sausages with the fixins was enough for the both of us humans and we have pretty big appetites so if you make this for two, you will probably have extra sausages. I used lentils in the sausages because I thought they would go the best with Thai food and I am really glad I tried it, although cooking them was an extra step I think it was well worth it because the texture of these sausages was just perfect. One thing I would change in the future is to add some hot peppers to sausages to make them spicy. I had some dried chili peppers but they didn’t make enough of a difference, I think a tiny jalapeno would work well, just remember to put gloves on before you knead the dough! Also, I have been using this healthy boy mushroom soy sauce and it is really amazing and added a lot to the vegan fish sauce.

Thai Sausages
1/2 cup cooked lentils
1 cup broth
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup red onions, chopped fine
5 Thai lime leaves, chopped fine
1/4 cup cilantro, roots and stems work
2 Tablespoons lemongrass, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon dried hot peppers (i think fresh would work better)

Knead the ingredients together and roll up tootsie roll style and steam for 40 minutes. Follow these directions if you haven’t done it before. Chop the sausages into bite size pieces and fry them in peanut oil while you steam the tortillas.

Toppings

1 cucumber, sliced into thin strips
1 carrot, sliced into thin strips
sprouts (mung bean or radish)
cilantro
Thai basil or mint
green onions
1 recipe vegan fish sauce
peanuts
lime

Enjoy!

In other news Spring has finally sprung here in Austin TX.

I spent the weekend getting organized for our move and doing some garage sale-ing.

I did not buy this troll

These people in South Austin take garage sailing to the next level.

Dinger found a place in the sunAnd we went to the dog parkIt was a good weekend.