Mexican Coconut Bacon
Passing through the market one day in San Cristobal, I noticed several young men pushing wheel barrows with freshly peeled coconuts in plastic bags that came with a little package of chile and salt and a section of lime. They would pierce through the bag and the coconut with a knife and pop in a straw. The chile and lime were for sprinkling on the coconut meat later to eat. These were not super young coconuts; the meat was relatively firm, but not as firm as a mature coconut or gelatinous like a very young coconut. After drinking the water, I took the coconut home to try making coconut bacon using Mexican ingredients. I did not want to use smoke flavoring to get the smokey flavor, but the smoked chipotles pulled off the job outstandingly and added a little extra bite. For the sweet, I chose piloncillo, which is a flavorful natural brown sugar. Soy sauce is not exactly Mexican, but readily available here with a lot of Asian immigrants in the country. There seemed to be enough oil in the coconut meat that the baking pan only needed a cursory greasing with coconut oil to avoid sticking. This marinade is enough for several coconuts and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. The coconut bacon made an excellent BLT on La Casa del Pan bread with our homemade vegan mayo and avocado.
Mexican Coconut Bacon
Tocino de Coco Mexicano
Makes 3 to 4 cups, depending on the size and maturity of the coconut
1 green or young coconut (coco tierno), shelled and peeled (mine was peeled in the market)
2 small chipotles
1/4 cup of the chile soaking water
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 clove garlic, pressed
4 tablespoons piloncillo, grated and packed (or maple syrup or packed brown sugar)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon coconut oil
Get out your machete and open the coconut and drain the water into a glass. Drink it. This is one of natures’ pure electrolyte solutions, high in potassium. There are a number of tutorials on the web for opening a coconut.
Peel the coconut if it is not already peeled. This can be a time consuming job done with a knife. Cut off any brown skin that remains. Cut the coconut into quarters and then into very thin strips, 1/32-inch.
Soak the chipotle chiles in hot water to cover for 5 minutes. Remove and slit open the chiles to remove the seeds and membranes.
Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Process the soy sauce, chipotles, water, sweetener, garlic, and salt in a blender. Marinate the coconut strips in the marinade for 5 minutes, and drain in a colander. Spread the coconut oil on a baking sheet and arrange the marinated strips in one layer. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, checking every 5 to 10 minutes to turn the strips so they don’t burn and removing any that a starting to darken. Drain the bacon on absorbent paper. Store in a container the refrigerator.
Mexican BLT Sandwich
January 21, 2012
Memélas made with blue corn masa filled with black beans and salsa de chile on the side.
I am in the Sierra Madre of Mexico in central Chiapas in San Cristobal de las Casas for the next few weeks doing recipe testing to veganize my friend Kippy Nigh’s vegetarian cookbook, A Taste of Mexico. This book features recipes from her restaurants, La Casa del Pan. Beyond removing and replacing all the eggs, cream, and cheese in the recipes, which are from Spanish influence, we are adding more traditional recipes from all regions, looking back to what was the cuisine here in pre-Columbian times. Although the original people of what is now Mexico were not strictly vegan, the protein basis of their diet was corn, beans, chia, and amaranth, foods that are indigenous to the area. Fruits and vegetables abound here with impressive diversity. We are collecting simple family recipes from the local people.
Kippy spreading black beans on an uncooked blue corn tortilla with a Meméla cooking in the background on the comal.
While shopping at the local organic market we had picked up a kilo of blue corn masa and were pondering what to do with it. Rosie, who works in the family kitchen here, suggested her family recipe for Memélas, a traditional recipe combining a corn tortilla folded over with mashed beans as a filling, cooked on a comal over a fire, and served with a salsa de chile. This is an example of original, simple, humble food, that is portable, nutritious, filling, delicious, and absolutely vegan.
Folding the tortilla over the beans and pressing to seal before laying on the comal to cook.
Below is a view overlooking San Cristobal at sunrise, living above the clouds at over 7000 feet.
January 15, 2012
Roasted Asparagus ready for noshing.
The asparagus is starting to come up and I am ready. My favorite way to eat asparagus is to snap it off and eat it raw, grazing in the garden. My next favorite way it to roast it. Roasting does an excellent job of reviving supermarket asparagus. It can be roasted plain, just rolled in a little olive oil with a sprinkle of salt, or add some pressed garlic and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice. So simple, and so good. Serve as an appetizer, vegetable, snack, or in salad.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
1 pound fresh asparagus
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sprinkle of salt
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced (optional)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar or lemon juice (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Rinse the asparagus. Break the tough ends of the asparagus by holding the stalk gently by both ends and bending until it breaks and discard the tough end. Alternatively, peel the tougher bottom end of the asparagus with a peeler down to a more tender level.
Lay the prepared asparagus in a single layer on a dark roasting pan and sprinkle with the olive oil. Roll the spears back and forth over the pan until they are evenly coated with the oil. Sprinkle with salt and the optional garlic and/or vinegar or lemon juice. Roll the spears again to distribute all evenly.
Asparagus in the pan ready to roast.
Roast in the oven 8 to 10 minutes, depending on how thick the spears are, until just tender when pierced with a fork.
April 28, 2010
Cilantro Miso Pesto with dippers.
Traditional unpasteurized miso is a live, fermented food that can enhance both daily fare and special occasion dishes. Along with being a tasty treat, it contains beneficial bacteria to aid digestion and can bind with toxins in the body and carry them out. Miso usually contains soy protein in the form of whole soybeans, which, unlike animal protein, allows the regular excretion of sodium from the body, helping to keep blood pressure lower. There are recent studies suggesting that the fermentation process in miso creates anti-hypertentive peptides that may also help lower blood pressure.
The traditional process of making miso begins with cooked grains (usually rice or barley) being inoculated with aspergillus oryzae spores. Together, they are incubated overnight and become what is called koji (pronounced KO-jee). The next day the koji is mixed with cooked soybeans, chickpeas, or other grains and sea salt. Soybeans add complete, high-quality protein plus all the healthful benefits of the whole soybean, while natural sea salt adds an abundance of trace minerals. This mixture is packed into wooden vats, then covered and weighted down. The fermentation process can last up to three years, if done using traditional methods.
Red and white miso.
The culturing and fermentation processes change the soybeans into a readily digestible form. It also transforms both bean and grain components into a kind of protein booster. Since the essential amino acids in the soy and grains complement each other, the amount of protein that can be utilized by the body is increased. When shopping for miso look for the words “unpasteurized” on the label. This insures that the miso is still alive. It will usually come in a tub with a small hole in the top to let gasses escape. If the miso is in a sealed bag, it is likely pasteurized and not alive anymore.
There are scores of ways to include miso in daily meals and holiday feasts celebrated in my book, Miso Cookery. Here is one of my favorite recipes for holidays or anytime. It is an especially tasty addition to any kind of burrito. Try it with last weeks’ soybean burritos!
Cilantro Miso Pesto
Yield: 1 cup
This versatile bright green pesto is an east/west fusion food that makes an colorful appetizer served with sweet red and yellow bell pepper strips or crackers and chips. For a festive finger food, fill bite-sized pastry shells with this quick and easy pesto. From the first time I put it together, it became a frequent addition to daily menus. Try tossing Cilantro Miso Pesto with hot pasta or add a little more oil and some vinegar or lemon juice to make a tasty salad dressing. Hempseed has a unique nutty flavor plus all the essential amino acids and both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.
Quick and easy to prepare, this pesto makes a great last minute addition to any everyday or party fare. It can be made a few hours ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight container–it will oxidize, so don’t make it too far ahead..
Process in a food processor until minced:
3 ounces (1 ½ cups chopped) cilantro
2 to 4 cloves garlic (to taste)
Add and process until well blended:
½ cup raw cashews, walnuts, or hulled hempseeds
2 tablespoons sweet white, mellow white, or sweet barley miso
2 tablespoons olive oil (optional)
April 9, 2010
Soybean burritos on corn tortillas ready to roll.
Soybean burritos became a “national dish” in the early days of The Farm community in Tennessee, and continue to be a favorite for many. They are always on the “vegan experience” menu for the groups of midwifery students that I feed while they are here for workshops. These burritos can be one of the best introductions to soyfoods as a main dish, providing affordable complete protein that is easy to prepare and served in a familiar, comforting tortilla wrap. Burritos can be put together with whatever fixings are your favorites; the options are endless, including a hefty serving of some type of raw greens. My favorite combination is a line of soybeans on corn tortillas (for a wheat-free dish) with fresh salsa, tofu sour cream, nutritional yeast, sliced avocado (in place of vegan margarine), and either chopped lettuce, baby kale, or sprouts.
Originally we always rolled or pressed our own tortillas, a special touch that can still be done if you have the time and inclination. Now there are a vast variety of ready made tortillas available when time is an issue. Canned soybeans are also available for that time issue making these burritos a truly quick, easy, and nutritious meal.
Cooking Whole Soybeans for Optimum Digestibility
To be truly digestible, soybeans need to be cooked until they are soft enough to squish on the roof of your mouth with your tongue. In our first soybean experiments in the Farm community (early 1970’s) we found the only way to achieve this was with a pressure cooker at 15 pounds pressure for about 75 minutes. That was in the days of the old time pressure cookers with the pressure rockers, and it could only be done without soaking the beans, since if the beans were soaked the skins came loose and got caught in pressure valve and caused the cooker to go on overload and try to blow up. The new generation of pressure cookers is vastly improved, with more safety features for pressure release when necessary. With the new type of pressure cooker, soaked soybeans can be safely cooked at 15 pounds pressure for 15 to 18 minutes, then removed from the heat source and let to drop down to zero pressure on it’s own. Salt to taste. The pressure cooker instruction books says the soaked soybeans only need 9 to 12 minutes at pressure, but they were not soft enough for my liking with that timing. This is still a great savings in time, energy, and money. Anyone who consumes beans would do well to invest in this new type of pressure cooker.
Another energy saving method for cooking soybeans that has proved worthwhile is the crock-pot or slow cooker. It takes longer than the pressure cooker, but still works well, and the slow cooker is a low energy use appliance.
Soaked soybeans before cooking with uniform rehydration.
For the crock pot or slow cooker, soak the soybeans 10 to 12 hours or until when one is split open it has uniform color and tenderness throughout. Rinse and drain the soybeans several times. Bring water to boil in the slow cooker on high, and bring the soybeans to boil in water in a pot on the stovetop. Transfer the boiling soybeans and water to the slow cooker and cook on high for 5 to 6 hours, making sure the beans stay covered with boiling water until the soybeans are soft enough to squish with your tongue on the roof of your mouth. Salt to taste.
The Basic Soybean Burrito
These are just some of the possible fillings for the burrito; choose what you like:
- cooked soft soybeans (pressure cooked, slow cooked or canned-see above)
- tortilla of your choice (corn, wheat, teff, etc), warmed to soften
- your favorite salsa or chopped fresh tomatoes and hot peppers
- chopped lettuce, greens, or sprouts of your choice
- chopped cilantro
- sliced avocado
- tofu sour cream or mayo (commercial or home made)
- nutritional yeast
Don’t put so much on one tortilla that you can’t roll it up. Folding the ends in as you roll makes helps avoid drips while you are enjoying your burrito.
April 2, 2010
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies with Rapadura
During a recent chocolate chip cookie attack, I found a forgotten chunk of rapadura my brother had brought from Brazil lurking in the back of my sweetener cupboard. Rapadura is the Brazilian name for blocks of dried sugar cane juice usually produced on site at sugar cane plantations. In its liquid state, it is poured into a form and dries in the shape of a brick. It is not highly processed and still contains many vitamins and mineral from the sugar cane. To be used in cooking, the brick must be shaved with a knife or grated. The same product has many different names in different parts of Central and South America. In Mexico it is called piloncillo (little pillars), and it is poured into cone shaped molds to dry, and has become relatively easy to find in the North.
The name “rapadura” most likely came from “raspadura” meaning to shave or grate something hard, but lost the “s” somewhere along the line. I tried both shaving with a knife and grating in the food processor. Both worked; the processor was less labor intensive but more noisy and made a finer, fluffier grate.
Rapadura grated in a food processor and shaved with a knife.
I’ve noticed that this form of sugar does not give me the intense sugar buzz and sugar drop I normally associate with refined sugar. It has the pleasing, molasses flavor of brown sugar. This makes it a good candidate for chocolate chip cookies that requires a moist brown sugar.
Using the classic chocolate chip cookie recipe I replaced the eggs with a mixture of soymilk and ground flax seed. To replace the butter, I used coconut oil with a little soymilk, melted together until the soymilk solids turned golden. I replaced the sugars with grated rapadura and melted it into the coconut oil/soymilk mixture.
Stirring and melting the rapadura into the warm coconut oil/soymilk mixture.
The cookie dough ready.
This made a nicely “short” cookie, although not as chewy as I would have liked, but still very good. They didn’t last long…
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies with Rapadura
Yield: 40-one tablespoon cookies
1 cup soymilk
¼ cup ground flax seed
½ cup coconut oil
¼ cup soymilk
2 cups shaved or grated rapadura, packed (about 10 ounces)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ¼ cups white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup chopped walnuts
Stir the ground flax seed into the soymilk and let it stand to thicken. Melt the coconut oil over low heat, stir in the soymilk and simmer until the solids start to turn golden. Turn off the heat, add two more tablespoons coconut oil and stir in the shaved or grated rapadura, letting it melt in the warm oil. When it has come to room temperature, transfer the mixture to a mixer, add the flax, soymilk mixture and beat until blended. Mix the flour, soda, and salt together, then beat into the wet ingredients. Beat in the chocolate chips and walnuts. Place by heaping tablespoonful on a baking sheet, press to about ¼ -inch thick, and bake in a preheated 375ºF oven for about 9 minutes or until golden.
March 21, 2010
Mason sampling the muffins.
These whole grain, wheat-free, sugar-free muffins are great ones to make ahead and freeze any surplus for breakfast on the go. This is another recipe that children can help with, and for small children, the mini-muffin size is a good choice. This recipe yields about 18 mini-muffins.
As a vehicle for blueberries (or other berries if you like), these muffins do not puff up as much as some muffins might, but are tasty and hearty. With whole grain oatmeal and no processed sugar added, two of these muffins make a filling breakfast for me. The frozen ones reheat very nicely in an oven or toaster oven at 325ºF for 15 to 20 minutes.
The flax and soymilk egg replacement mixture after about 15 minutes.
The ground flax seed soaked in soymilk is the egg replacement for this recipe. It’s egg-like consistency becomes apparent after in a few minutes of soaking. This mixture makes a good egg replacement for almost anything.
The oatmeal flour can be ground from old fashioned oats in a blender or coffee grinder if you don’t have oatmeal flour on hand.
Coating the blueberries with the dry ingredients before stirring in wet mixture helps to keep them separate in the muffins.
As with all muffins, to avoid a tough finished product, the batter requires only a few strokes to bring it together. If cooking with children, you might want to oversee this part. Little hands can also help oil the muffin tins and load the batter in.
Coating the blueberries with the dry ingredients.
Filling the muffin tins.
Vegan Oatmeal Blueberry Breakfast Muffins
Yield: 9 regular size muffins or 18 minis
¾ cup soymilk, ricemilk, or almondmilk
¼ cup ground flax seed
½ cup applesauce or pearsauce
1 1/3 cups old fashioned oatmeal flour (ground from 1 ½ cups old fashioned oatmeal)
½ tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cup blueberries
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Let the ground flax seed soak in the soymilk while measuring the other ingredients. Spray or spread oil in nine spaces in a regular muffin tin or line them with paper cups. Fill nine muffin spaces, and bake 20 minutes or until risen and golden brown. Let them cool for a few minutes before trying to remove them.
Muffins cooling in the tin.
February 28, 2010
The finished Raw Torte de Chocolate with Strawberry Icing, decorated with raw pecans and double impatients.
Oooooo, this one turned out really well, both as eye candy and truly tasty. This Raw Torte de Chocolate with Strawberry Icing was an experimental cake for the combined birthday party for my son and his wife. Mason, my grandson the sous chef, assisted. His job this time was pouring the ingredients into the food processor and then licking clean the emptied work bowl. He did take some photos and I did give him a bit of the torte mix to play with. A job well done.
The cake formed and ready to frost as the sous chef looks on with approval.
This came together quite quickly in the food processor. Be sure to process the nuts first, gradually adding the rest of the ingredients to mix in evenly. If you just throw everything in at once, there will be a lot of stopping and scraping and manually mixing and pressing it all together. I imagine a Vita-Mix would make short work of it all. It is on my short list of equipment to add to the kitchen along with a food dryer.
The soaking is short term–only an hour which doesn’t require too much thinking ahead, but it is essential. Soaking nuts, seeds, grains, or beans brings them to life again with augmented nutritional content as they begin to grow. Once the torte is mixed, there is no baking time, just manually forming the torte and chilling until firm. It could be formed into almost any shape. I did start a day ahead to let the completed cake firm up with an overnight chill in the fridge. This also allowed more time to do the rest of the party prep the day of.
The partially frosted raw cake.
Frosting on, ready to be chilled.
A raw cake is dense and potent in flavor, so the servings can be petite. It is more like candy than cake in intensity, but with no refined sugar, plus no wheat or soy. For the valentine theme, I chose strawberries for the topping, resulting in an alluring shade of pink. The combination of strawberry and chocolate with a little vanilla is classic, especially for Valentine’s Day. On the day of the party I checked the greenhouse to find whatever edible flowers might be blooming. It turned out to be double impatiens—no hibiscus flowers were open. Another option would have been streaking melted chocolate over the top that would have become solid as soon as touching the cold cake. The candles were a birthday party addition, but for Valentines Day, no candles are necessary.
¡Feliz Dia de Amistad!
Putting on the candles for the party.
Raw Torte de Chocolate with Strawberry Icing
Yield: one nine inch heart cake
For the Cake:
2 ½ cups pecans (12 ounces), soaked in pure water 1 hour
2 ½ cups pitted medjool dates
6 tablespoons raw cacao nibs, ground superfine
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
Drain the pecans and process the soaked nuts in a food processor into a fine meal. The soaking water can be used as stock for another recipe. Gradually process in the dates, ground cocoa nibs, and vanilla, continuing to process until the mixture forms a ball. Transfer to wax paper on a flat surface and form into the desired shape, about ¾-inch thick, then slip the paper onto a serving plate or platter. Cover and refrigerate until firm.
For the Icing:
1 cup macadamia nuts or raw cashews, soaked in pure water 1 hour
1 cup strawberries, stems removed (fresh or frozen)
¼ cup pitted medjool dates
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Drain the nuts (reserve the soaking water for stock) and combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender, process until smooth, thick, and creamy. Cut or peel the wax paper away from the cake then spread the icing over the chilled torte, and chill again until all is firm.
The raw cake cut open. I cut pieces about an inch wide and 1.5 inches long.
February 5, 2010
As much as possible I like to eat either what I can grow or find locally. There occasionally comes a time in the middle of winter when I give in to the less green options, especially when the pineapples start showing up from Central America, and the oranges and pomegranates are harvested in Southern California. So for a special treat recently with snow on the ground the icicles falling, Mason and I put together a colorful winter fruit ambrosia. His small hands were quite adept at separating the pomegranate seeds from their membranes after I opened it up for him. After slicing off the top off a pomegranate, you can usually see it has five sections separated by membranes that can be slit down with a knife and pulled open for easy access. If you can’t find a pomegranate, dried cranberries are a good substitute.
For chunks from a fresh pineapple, slice off about ½ inch of the top and bottom, then stand the fruit upright. Using a flexible, serrated knife, slice off the skin following the curve of the pineapple, cutting off as many of the dark brown eyes as possible with each downward slice and leaving as much fruit as possible. (You can always nibble out any good bits left attached to the removed skin). If you don’t get all the eyes with the first cutting, a shallow “V” cut can be made diagonally around the pineapple following the pattern of the eyes to lift them out. For pineapple chunks, cut the whole pineapple lengthwise into quarters, slice out the core, and chop into chunks.
We added fresh organic navel orange chunks and slices of a banana to the bowl along with some unsweetened shredded coconut, plus a touch of almond extract. The juices from the fresh fruit dress the mixture. This is definitely kid friendly food, as illustrated below. Mason has a pomegranate juice beard.
Mason mixing the Winter Fruit Ambrosia.
Winter Fruit Ambrosia
Yield: 8 to 10 cups
2 oranges, peeled and chopped
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks
1 banana, sliced
1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
This makes a wonderful winter fruit treat since all these fruits should be easy to find seasonally in a supermarket. It can be made a day ahead without the banana, which can be sliced and added upon serving. Serve as a salad, snack, or dessert.
Sampling the Ambrosia.
February 1, 2010
I was roasting sweet potato rounds in the oven recently when my grandson walked in sniffing the air. When I turned on the oven light and let him look through the oven window to see what was there, he exclaimed, “cookies!” Well, sort of…he certainly ate them like they were. I chose the round shape rather than logs purposefully.
The chef arranging sweet potato medallions on the baking sheet.
So, today when he came over, Mason helped me prepare some to roast. I did the peeling, since the sweet potatoes had sort of sad looking skins from having been forgotten in the potato bin. If the skins look good, i.e. smooth and paper-like on organic sweet potatoes, the skins don’t need to come off and will peel off easily after roasting if necessary. I did the slicing into about ¼-inch thick rounds. He tossed them in the bowl as I sprinkled on about two tablespoons of olive oil and a scant teaspoon of salt over the 3 pounds of the prepared sweet potatoes. Then he spread them out on the dry pans ready for the oven. There was a lot of finger licking going on after the rounds were spread out in one layer on the pans. The roasting and caramelizing takes about 20 minutes in a preheated 400ºF oven. The caramelization of the natural sugars in the sweet potatoes makes them sweet like cookies indeed.
When they came out of the oven and cooled a few minutes, once again he ate them like cookies and asked for a bag to take home with him for later.
Mason sampling the Sweet Potato Medallions.
Part of the morning glory family, sweet potatoes are both economical (easy on the budget) and a nutritional powerhouse. They are rich in dietary fiber as well as vitamins B6, A, and C, the last two being powerful antioxidants that work to eliminate free radicals that can damage cells in the body; a good food for any age. A medium sized roasted sweet potato of 100 grams or a ½ cup serving contains about 90 calories, 2 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and a glycemic load of 9.
If you are not growing them, choose sweet potatoes with firm, smooth skins and no bruises, cracks, or soft spots. If stored in a cool (about 55ºF), dark, well-ventilated space, (not the refrigerator) they can last for months. Storage in the refrigerator can result in a hard core forming in the center. Cut with a stainless steel knife to avoid discoloration. They can be roasted without the oil and salt, if this is an issue, and will still caramelize and be delicious. Back in the day of trying live off the land, we would take the very small sweet potato fingers from a harvest of all different sizes and roast them with the skins on with nothing added until they caramelized for a healthful sweet treat beyond compare. Bet you can’t eat just one….
January 25, 2010