Almost a Vegetarian, Day 3

From Boesgi’s photostream — that’s what you get when you search Flickr for “yummy.”
No, she doesn’t have much to do with food.

Over the weekend, I decided I would kinda sorta turn the family vegan. Not in any moralistic stick-up- the-ass “We won’t kill anything” way — we’ll still eat stuff that’s been brutally slaughtered — but as a general goal, an acknowledgment that less meat, more vegies = healthier diet.

I haven’t quite gotten the hang of it yet. For lunch today, I swung by the supermarket. Without giving it a second thought, I bought a ham sandwich, ate it and liked it. Can’t quell the carnivore overnight, I guess.

In the comments to my Daily Kos diary about the Safe Food Act, Kate (yeah, our Kate)(who has a CONTEST, doncha know) griped,

It’s a good diary but would be better with a few recipes.

Thought I would make amends here. Follow me below the fold for black bean cakes — major league YUM.

It’s been glitchy thus far. On Saturday, I made a tasty cioppino. I bought sea bass and clams, and when I went to debone the sea bass, I found a whopping huge (and living) anisakis worm. You know, I don’t care if the heat of the soup will kill it. I don’t like parasitic worms in my fish, okay? So I made the cioppino with clams, no fish, and loved it, but the memory of that wriggly li’l effer put me off my appetite.

Clever readers will note that eating clams ain’t exactly vegetarian. Guess I’m one of those lacto- ovo- fisho- vegetarians. But I might cut back on the fisho-, too, because mercury freaks me out. (And now I’m flashing on this short story I read in junior high about an old woman who becomes a vegetarian out of tender heartedness. Then her granddaughter tells her that plants have feelings, too; that they’ll grow faster if you talk to them, and they like classical music, yatta yatta. When her granddaughter next visits her, the old woman has died of starvation.)

Last night, I made sag paneer. Made my own cheese, too, which is dead easy if you’ve never tried it. Bring one quart of whole milk to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add a couple tablespoons of lemon juice. Stir until the curds and whey separate. Filter it through a few layers of cheesecloth, then gather up the corners of the cheesecloth so that you can squeeze out the rest of the whey. Done!

I made cauliflower fritters, too, but those didn’t go over too well. And as far as Jake was concerned, the sag paneer was a flop, too. (Karen and I liked it, though. Two thumbs up on that recipe. Karen pointed out that the recipe is a good deal lighter than usual — much less butter and no cream. Nothing wrong with that!)

But tonight’s dinner was a hit. Without further ado: black bean cakes from my newest cookbook, Cuba Cocina.

7 tablespoons (anal retentive, much?) olive oil
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped green bell pepper (I used a chopped mild jalapeno)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups cooked or canned black beans, rinsed (I used leftover beans from another Cuba Cocina recipe, “Erasmo’s Black Beans”)
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro
1 egg beaten with 1/3 cup low-fat milk
1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs, mixed with 1/2 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar (I used panko)
sour cream

Make a light tan roux with 2 tablespoons of flour and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Set it aside and wipe out the frying pan.

Make a sofrito by sauteeing the onion, garlic, and peppers in 2 tablespoons olive oil until just translucent. Add cumin, stir well, then add the beans. Next add the roux, and continue to stir over low to medium heat until the mixture thickens, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat and let it cool a bit. Add chopped cilantro. (The recipe doesn’t mention this, but this is the time to taste it and add the desired amount of salt.) Form into 8 cakes and refrigerate until firm.

To form the cakes, I sprinkled panko on scoops of bean mixture in order to make it easier to handle.

Once they’re firm, take them one at a time, coat with the egg mixture, then the bread crumbs (or panko) Saute the cakes in olive oil until browned on each side. Top with sour cream and a bit of cilantro.

I made a salad of arugula, avocado, and tomato, sprinkled with a raspberry vinaigrette. Salad on the side with a slice of lime, a bean cake, a dollop of sour cream . . . Pretty salad + bean cakes with sour cream and cilantro = mahvelous presentation. Yeah, I should have taken a picture, but I was too hungry. I don’t think you’d want to see it right now, ‘kay?

More beans tomorrow; some sort of beans-and-rice dish, perhaps. Unless the boy discovers the joys of lighting his own farts and burns the place down.


From the Department of So Damned Stupid It’s Funny: Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney confuses reality with an Orson Scott Card novel. It’s true.


PS: I found the dog photo on Flickr, and now I can’t find it again in order to give attribution. Damn it! I’ll try again tomorrow. Honest I will.


  1. Foodwise, the thing that has affected me most was the Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. It was a fascinating read about (among many other things) how little food there is in our food these days.
    I think the change that appeals most to me is the Slow Food movement, however. It makes a lot of sense to me, and I appreciate the romanticism behind the movement.

  2. mm says:

    Don’t forget to pull out your juicer, Doug. I’ve abandoned mine over the winter, but now prices are going back down on fresh veggies, it’s coming out again. When I used it faithfully, and dropped the processed foods, I felt fabulous and energetic, and the weight just fell off.

    Why did I stop?

  3. Walnut says:

    Hi Renee! Now I have to google “Slow Food” :) That’s a new one on me.

    Maureen, we put that sucker away when my wife demonstrated to me that no matter how clean I thought I had gotten the juicer, there was still crud left behind in the nooks and crannies. It’s a shame, since I enjoyed making those juices (but not cleaning the juicer).

  4. Lyvvie says:

    Sounds great! Just substitute the milk for soy, and the egg for…uhm…nothing to make it vegan. Does it really need breadcrumbs?

    What’s the deal with organic farms in California? Aren’t they better reared livestock??

  5. and the egg for…uhm…nothing

    There are commercially available (somewhat less-than-satisfactory) vegan egg substitutes out there that mostly provide a similar sort of thickening. You can also make your own from flax seed, or by substituting silken tofu w/ a smidge extra baking powder or flour… No, they aren’t the same, but they can come close.

  6. Walnut says:

    Lyvvie, your snotty nose came in the mail today. Thanks! (For the rest of you — that isn’t nearly as filthy as it sounds.)

    And why should I substitute anything for anything? I can get hormone- and antibiotic-free milk, so I don’t feel too terrible about that. As for the eggs . . . I don’t know. I’m having a hard enough time changing even this much. One step at a time!

  7. Personally, I wouldn’t substitute for eggs either – but we did back when The Boy was wee. Believe you me, there was much rejoicing the day he ate some egg and didn’t get the explosive runs.

    Got a good farmer’s market? Or a Community-Supported Agriculture program? Both can be good sources of non-factory eggs.

  8. Walnut says:

    I think I’ve only seen vegies at our Farmer’s Market, but now I’m tempted to go back and ask questions. Thanks for the suggestion.

  9. Suisan says:

    I’ll just second and third the votes for Omnivore’s Dilemma. Good reading.

    Also, some of those organic foods delivery companies sometimes include eggs. It depends upon which farms they are contracting with.

  10. Lyvvie says:

    I have a dairy free/egg free house due to Shorty’s allergies – trust me when you are forced to give up milk and eggs, you start to not miss them so much – especially eggs. Cream and butter and other such high fat naughtiness is another story. I bake cakes, muffins, cookies without either an no one would know the difference. All I’m saying is: the breadcrumbs will stick without the egg – they’re breadcrumbs, not laminates. If you want to dabble with veganism a vegan bean burger is a great start.

    Yes yes! support your local farmer and join an organic box scheme!!

    Glad to hear your boogers go there safely. 😉