Drought Friendly Vegan Migas

A longer story covering our (Super Sous and my) Drought Friendly Recipes has been posted on the Central Valley NPR site and is  running on KVPR!

Screen Shot 2015-05-21 at 9.47.32 AMPLUS~here’s a NEW Drought Friendly Recipe that Super Sous has created. Being from Texas, Super Sous gets a hankering for Tex Mex now and again. The other day, she was craving migas, which in Tex Mex language is a scrambled eggs dish made with tortilla chips. To make it drought friendly, Super Sous subbed crumbled organic tofu for the eggs. The rest is all veggie and spice goodness. Enjoy!

Migas1

Sauteing the onions, bell pepper, potatoes and poblano.

Migas2

Tofu Potato Migas

 

Drought Friendly Tofu Potato Migas

Yield: 4 servings

 

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced small (2 cups)

1 large red bell pepper, diced small (1 cup)

½ pound potatoes, scrubbed and diced small

1 small poblano pepper, seeded, deveined and diced small

4 2-inch sprigs fresh thyme

1½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

5 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced (1½ tablespoons)

1½ teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground coriander

¼ teaspoon ground chipotle powder

1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

14-ounces organic extra firm tofu, patted dry and crumbled

1¼ cup broken organic corn tortilla chips

1 lime, halved

2 haas avocados, pitted and thinly sliced

½ cup picked fresh cilantro leaves

1 bottle of your favorite hot sauce

1 jar or batch of your favorite salsa, optional (try my tomatillo tomato salsa)

 

Place a large nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat and add oil. Let heat for 1 minute until hot. Add onion, red bell pepper, potato, poblano, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are cooked through, approximately 15 minutes.

Add garlic, cumin, paprika, turmeric, coriander and chipotle powder. Stir and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Add tomatoes. Stir and cook for 1 minute, until liquid has mostly evaporated. Add tofu, stir and cook for 5 additional minutes.

Turn off heat. Add in tortilla chips, squeeze over half a lime, stir to combine and season to taste with salt, pepper and additional lime as needed. Remove thyme sprigs.

Serve on plates with slices of avocado, cilantro, a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce and some salsa.

Spicy Mango Ginger Popsicle

As I write this blog post (another in the series of “Drought Friendly Recipes“), a light rain is falling in Los Angeles – music to everyone’s ears.

Some good news on the drought front – Starbucks has said that it is phasing out its use of California water for its Ethos brand bottled water. Ethos brand water gives a percentage of it’s sales to ” help support water, sanitation and hygiene education programs in water-stressed countries” so it makes sense that pulling water from drought stricken California makes no sense at all.

Meanwhile, Nestle is still sucking up California water at the rate of some 240 million gallons a year. Aquafina and Dasani are also using California water for their bottled water, among others.

In an effort to conserve California water, let’s fill our own water bottles before we head out of the house and avoid buying bottled water as much as we can since it’s most likely coming from California.

And now for something sweet, refreshing and delicious – perfect for your upcoming summer potluck and barbecue parties.

spicy mango popsicle

Spicy Mango Ginger Popsicle

Yields: 6 popsicles

 

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice

1/16 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1½ cups sweetened mango puree or pulp

 

Combine lime juice, sugar, ginger juice and cayenne pepper in a medium bowl. Stir until sugar dissolves. Add mango puree and stir to combine. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.

Not Too Spicy Green Papaya Salad

California drought friendly and delicious, this papaya salad is a refreshing, bright, crunchy, herbaceous and spicy (not too spicy!) dish, perfect for warm weather months.

Super Sous and I traveled to Vietnam in February, our first stop being Hanoi, the capital city in the North. Upon arrival, we immediately arranged a street food tour of the Old Quarter of Hanoi (where we were staying). Our wonderful guide, Tam, took us on a whirlwind food extravaganza through the streets, alleys and hidden corridors to eat some of the best food Hanoi has to offer. From classics like Bun Cha to Egg Coffee to Beef Pho we ate A LOT, probably hitting up 7 different street food vendors/restaurants within the 3 hours of wandering.

Our third stop for the night was at a spot that served the best Papaya Salad we have ever had. At first, Super Sous and I were a little nervous about this dish as papaya salads we have eaten in Thai restaurants have been extremely spicy, but this salad was the perfect blend and balance of sweet, sour and spice. It was then that Super Sous and I fell in love with the Vietnamese papaya salad and despite our best efforts to not overeat and pace ourselves that evening, we couldn’t resist finishing off the whole salad.

Tam NL SS

Me, Tam – our street food tour guide – and Super Sous

Upon returning to California, we created our own version which comes pretty close to our experience. A note about the green papaya – you can find these in an Asian grocery store. (Sometimes they even have it pre-shredded in bags – score!) To shred yourself, cut in half, peel the section you want to use and shred using a citrus zester (photo below), a “noodler” (the instrument that makes zucchini noodles) a food processor (with the shredding attachment) or a box grater.

Citrus Zester

Citrus Zester

Now, a note about drought friendly recipes: Super Sous and I started the project of creating drought friendly recipes as a way for all of us around the country to help conserve California’s water. What I love about this recipe is the use of Virginia peanuts. They are so good! (It wouldn’t at all have anything to do with me being a Native Virginian…) Peanuts are a groundnut and therefore do not grow like almonds or walnuts in large orchards that require a lot of watering. Peanuts are a good source of protein and with their low water footprint, are a great alternative to almonds. According to the Water Footprint Organization, it takes 381 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of peanuts, whereas almonds require 6 times that amount. So, yay for peanuts!

green papaya salad

Green Papaya Salad

Yields: 2 servings

 

Dressing:

1 tablespoon light brown sugar

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

2 teaspoons fish sauce

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

¾ teaspoon freshly grated ginger, grated on a microplane

½ teaspoon freshly grated garlic, grated on a microplane

2 teaspoons minced lemongrass

¼ Bird’s eye aka Thai chili, finely chopped

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

 

Salad:

2 cups packed shredded green papaya

¼ cup grated carrot (1 medium carrot)

½ cup finely sliced green beans, sliced on a bias (8 beans)

3 tablespoons whole toasted peanuts

½ cup quartered grape tomatoes (7 tomatoes)

¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves

¼ cup fresh Thai basil leaves

¼ cup fresh mint leaves

 

Combine dressing ingredients in a medium mixing bowl and let sit for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so the sugar dissolves.

Add papaya, carrot and green beans to dressing and massage ingredients together with your hands for approximately 30 seconds, to meld all flavors and allow dressing to permeate papaya.

Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Divide onto plates and serve.

Pickled Radish and Radish Top Red Pepper Salsa – Drought Friendly Recipe

On March 18, Super Sous and I wrote a blog introducing our “Drought Friendly Recipe” project. Recipes that are delicious and have low water footprints. Good to make no matter where you are in the USA – since 50% of all California produce is shipped to feed the country.

In that blog, we mentioned the idea of food waste, writing that 40% of all food that is grown in the US is wasted. This happens on all levels of the food chain. From the farms to transportation to grocery stores to restaurants to our own homes. Inherent in that 40% is approximately 11 trillion gallons of lost water. California is relying heavily on groundwater (think using your savings account instead of living off of your checking account – where your checking account would be California’s reservoirs). As the groundwater has been depleting, we are drilling wells reaching water that fell to the earth 20,000 years ago. As Mother Jones writes, “Such water is not just old. It’s prehistoric. It is older than the earliest pyramids on the Nile, older than the world’s oldest tree, the bristlecone pine. It was swirling down rivers and streams 15,000 to 20,000 years ago when humans were crossing the Bering Strait from Asia.”

We need to conserve all the water we can!

On April 22 (Earth Day and Super Sous’ birthday!), MSNBC will be broadcasting a documentary on food waste called “Just Eat It.” You can watch the trailer and/or check out this fascinating view of food waste at its origins on the farm:

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 11.42.22 AM

Although we may not have control over how something is farmed, we can certainly control things once we purchase them.

Let’s take the simple radish. Somewhat underestimated, the radish is a delicious addition to your regular repertoire. Radishes are a crunchy, spicy root vegetable that are delicious whether raw or roasted.

Not only is the radish delicious, but radish tops are a tasty green. Mild with a slight hint of pepper; delicate, but not too delicate; they have integrity. Radish tops often get discarded, but they are so worth preparing – raw, sauteed or in this radish top red pepper salsa recipe which is perfect for a taco, chips/crackers, potatoes…

Since it’s edible, delicious and took water to grow, let’s enjoy the whole thing. Here’s one idea to utilize the whole radish – from root to top.

pickeld radish

Pickled Radish

½ pound radish, rinsed and cut into 1/8-inch slices

1 cup distilled white vinegar

¾ cup water

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

Add all ingredients to a small bowl and mix to combine.

Let sit for at least 1 hour before using.

Radish Top and Red Pepper Salsa

Radish Top and Red Pepper Salsa

Yield: 1 cup

5 large fire-roasted red bell peppers, drained and rough chopped (1 cup)

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and rough chopped

¼ cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

¼ cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves

1 cup roughly chopped (rinsed) radish greens

1½ tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Zest of ½ small lemon (1/4 teaspoon)

Juice of ½ small lemon (1 Tablespoon)

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon ground coriander

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

½ teaspoon granulated sugar

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Season to taste with additional salt, lemon and/or sugar. Let sit for 1 hour for flavors to meld before serving.

Drought Friendly Recipe – Roasted Eggplant Caponata

It’s time for another drought friendly recipe.

On March 18, Super Sous and I wrote a blog post about the California Drought and introduced the idea of Drought Friendly Recipes. These are recipes that use foods with a low water footprint. (Lower than some of the heavier hitting foods, like California nuts (e.g. almonds, walnuts, pistachios) and anything related to the California beef/cattle industry.)

The premise of this idea is that between 74-80% of all water (figures vary) in California is used for agriculture and 50% of all our agriculture is exported to feed the rest of the country, so we are all affected by this drought and we can all help conserve California water.

This week, California’s Governor Jerry Brown announced mandatory cuts to water use for the residential users of California’s water. (A reduction of 25%) And while every drop counts and Californian’s pull up their grass to install drought tolerant plants and restaurants stop serving water to patrons unless requested, what is being done to address the 80% of water use?

California farming/commodities is a 46.4 billion dollar industry with 1/3 of that amount being attributed to milk & cream, grapes and almonds crops.

Let’s take a brief moment to reminisce. What happened to the days of the good ole peanut? Peanut butter, peanuts on a your salad? Virginia grown peanuts?  You know… think back about 5-10 years ago. California almonds use 9-10% of California’s agriculture water. Almonds trees need to be watered year round. I love almonds like the next person, but in a time of extreme drought, how many almonds do we need to be eating? Some figures state that it takes about a gallon of water to produce 1 almond.  In our original blog post, Super Sous and I gave the global water footprint number (from the Water Footprint Organization) which is 1,927 gallons of water for 1 pound of almonds. Upon tweeting this from @chefnathanlyon Twitter account, the California Almond board and I had this conversation:

1of3almonds

20f3almonds

3of3almonds

So… until that number is produced, I think we can safely say that it takes a lot of water to produce a pound of almonds.

I think the real / underlying question is – where is the oversight in our agriculture and water system here in California? Who is looking at the big picture view? Certainly, no one wants a small farmer/family business, regardless of the crop, to go under because of this drought (which sadly is already happening). California grows over 400 crops. It’s a wonderful thing… if you have water.

If you own a farm which has access to groundwater that hasn’t dried out and/or has access to reservoir water and can afford the water, then you are green-light-go. If you own a farm that has no ground water or access to reservoir water or you can’t afford the water, then your fields will go fallow. Anyone can choose to plant any crop on their land. There is no one saying that we need x amount of wheat or x amount of nuts from California to feed the world. In times of extreme drought, should there be? And should Governor Brown give restrictions to farmers? Should farmers also be subjected to a 25% reduction of water?

Jon Stewart from The Daily Show addressed this very issue the other night:

Daily Show Drought Clip

Regardless of restrictions, we need to have a ready supply of water in California if we want to keep California agriculture a thriving business. We need a solution.

So really – when are we going to start talking about a water pipeline or desalination. Every time these ideas come up, the phrase “so expensive” follows suit. Isn’t it more expensive for California to lose its 46.4 billion dollar industry? Or for residents to run out of water (which has already happened in some towns)? Or for the United States to have to import more food internationally?

In the meantime, every bite we take counts in conservation. So, enjoy our latest drought friendly recipe. It’s a Roasted Eggplant Caponata. My take on the classic Sicilian eggplant dish chock full of cooked, sweet veggies. Pairs well with pasta, toasted baguette, over a bed of greens or with a bowl and your favorite spoon. No nuts needed.

eggplant caponata

Roasted Eggplant Caponata

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

1 large Italian eggplant, peeled and diced medium (approximately 7 to 8 cups)

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced small (2 cups)

7 tablespoons of grapeseed oil, divided

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced (1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground fennel seed

¼ teaspoon crushed red chile pepper (chile flakes), or to taste

1 fennel bulb, diced small (1 cup)

1 large red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cored and diced small (1¼ cup)

1 (14-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

3 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained, and chopped roughly

1 cup green olives, pits removed and chopped roughly

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

⅓ cup roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley

7 medium-sized fresh basil leaves, stacked, rolled and sliced very thinly

Adjust two oven racks to the middle position, then preheat the oven to 450ºF.

In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 3 tablespoons of oil, and season well with salt and pepper.

Spread out the eggplant in one layer onto two parchment paper-lined sheet pans. Roast, uncovered, in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the sheet pans from the oven, stir the eggplant, then place the sheet pans back in the oven, this time on opposite racks. Bake 15 minutes more, until the eggplants are lightly colored and cooked through.

After the eggplant has been cooking for 15 minutes, stir the diced onion with ¼ cup of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft, translucent, and lightly caramelized.

Next, stir in the garlic, cumin, ground fennel, and chile flakes and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Add the diced fennel and the bell pepper and cook until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes, capers, olives, vinegar and baked eggplant. Cook until the caponata has thickened, approximately 15 minutes, then remove from the heat, season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley and basil.

Serve and enjoy.

P.S. Check out our recent Drought Friendly Recipe for Eggless Shakshuka.

Drought Friendly Eggless Shakshuka

On March 18, Super Sous and I posted a blog about the California Drought and how it affects the entire United States via the food grown in California (50% of California fruits and veggies are exported across the US – not just to grocery stores, but to restaurants, institutions, hospitals, schools, etc.).

Another thing that we mentioned in the blog post, is that we (Super Sous and I) have decided to create some “Drought Friendly Recipes”. Since 74% of all water in California is used for agriculture, our idea is that we can incorporate foods into our day-to-day lives that have a lower water footprint (than others).

For example, if the Water Footprint Organization says (global average) that it takes 28 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of lettuce, this might be a better drought friendly food choice than, say, eating a pound of figs which they slate at 401 gallons of water per pound.

Of course, figs and lettuce have different nutritional properties (and you are probably not going to eat a pound of either in one sitting!), but these drought friendly recipes aren’t about completely re-arranging your diet or skipping out on the nutrients you need. It’s about being aware of the drought and what each of us can do to conserve our precious water. If we can substitute a “water heavy” meal (like beef which is calculated to take anywhere between 1500 to 2000 gallons of water per pound), for a drought friendly recipe even once a week, it will make a difference in terms of conservation. (Fun fact: Did you know that 1 pound of goat meat takes only 127 gallons of water to produce?)

Now, this is not a perfect science/water calculation and we know it.

This is about having a conversation about the drought and dialoguing about conservation and solutions.

Our first “Drought Friendly” recipe is an Eggless Shakshuka. Shakshuka is a North African egg dish with tomatoes, onions and spices. Here, Super Sous and I substitute eggs with goat cheese and avocado. You can add both goat cheese and avocado or choose one or the other. Whatever you like best.

1 egg is cited by National Geographic to require 53 gallons of water to produce, whereas 1 pound of avocados (2-3 avocados) takes  237 gallons. Shakshuka would normally call for 6 eggs. So, this dish, (eggs alone) would take 317 gallons of water to produce. The 1 avocado used is 1/3 of that. And whereas a typical American breakfast might be eggs and bacon breakfast or a cup of greek yogurt or grabbing something on the go, this is a great alternative.

Since I began on my culinary journey, from learning how to garden with my grandparents as a child to working at farmers markets for over 10 years to cooking on television, I have always told people to shop locally as much as possible. Go to farmers markets, shop in season and support your local farmer, when you can. If you live outside of California, for example in Virginia where I’m from, and you are buying all of your meat and produce locally, and you are cooking all your meals at home, then wow! you are amazing and Super Sous I want to come over for dinner! But seriously, if you are able to do such a thing, than these recipes will be more food for thought than drought friendly conservation efforts. However, most of us don’t cook every meal at home. And most people don’t shop solely at farmers market nor even have that option depending on where in the country we live and what time of year it is. So, there’s a good chance you are shopping at grocery stores and eating at restaurants that are using California produce.

The last thing I want to mention is about food waste. This recipe calls for beet greens. There are so many recipes for beets out there, but less so for beet greens (although they are so tasty). Super Sous and I want to utilize as much as possible of the fruit and/or vegetable we are cooking with. 40% of all food goes to waste in the United States which translates to trillions of lost gallons of water. No need to discard the beet greens next time you grab a bunch of beets – here’s a great way to enjoy them.

Finally, Super Sous and I would love to hear from you. Comments, questions, thoughts, ideas, etc. Like I wrote, this is not an exact science or a strict dietary plan or about restricting your meals or nutritional needs. This is about a conversation that needs to be happening a lot more.

So, let’s gather around the communal table and discuss. I’ll bring the bread, you bring the shakshuka.

Shakshuka Goat Cheese

Shakshuka with goat cheese only

Shakshuka Goat and Avocado

Shakshuka with goat cheese and avocado

 

Drought Friendly Eggless Shakshuka

 

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

 

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons grapeseed oil

¼ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced medium (1½ cups)

10 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (3 tablespoons)

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika

¼ teaspoon crushed red chile pepper (chile flakes)

2 cups roughly chopped beet greens, rinsed but not dried

2 large fire-roasted red bell peppers, diced medium

1 (28-ounce) can diced fire-roasted tomatoes, undrained

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 small avocado, pitted and sliced

3 tablespoons fresh goat cheese (chevre)

20 fresh cilantro leaves

1 baguette, sliced into large pieces

 

Place a large sauté pan over medium-low heat and add oil, onion and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes, until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add garlic, cumin, paprika and chile flakes. Stir and cook until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

Add beet greens and stir. The remaining moisture from rinsing the greens will release any brown bits from the bottom of the sauté pan. Continue cooking and stirring, for 3 to 5 minutes, until the chard has steamed, softened and reduced to half of its original volume.

Add the peppers, tomatoes and black pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for approximately 10 minutes, until the liquid has thickened slightly.

Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

Remove from heat.

Arrange slices of avocado and dollops of goat cheese on the shakshuka. Sprinkle over fresh cilantro.

Serve on plates with a slice of fresh baguette.