Sunday, February 28, 2010

vegan crustless quiche - ethiopian style

an unusual pairing

One doesn't normally think of the words quiche and Ethiopian in the same sentence.  However, the other night that's exactly what I thought.  I originally intended to saute broccoli, cauliflower, baby bella mushrooms and onion in some niter kibbeh and then add lentils, berbere and vegetable broth to create a simple stew.

As I was pulling the vegetables out of the refrigerator a container of tofu caught my eye and before I knew it, a quiche was set in motion.

The flavor was great but the texture, while delightfully creamy, was slightly more dense than I would have preferred.

I knew the perfect Ethiopian quiche was within my reach and I had four ideas to improve the texture.

  1. Add small diced potatoes.
  2. Add mashed potatoes.
  3. Add some soy milk mixed with cornstarch.
  4. Add Ener-g beaten with water to form peaks and then folded in, like a souffle.
But which adjustment would do the trick?  I made the second quiche exactly as I did the first time, divided it into 4 bowls and added one of the above modifications to each bowl.  I then cooked them in a muffin pan to keep the changes separate.

The winner: soy milk mixed with cornstarch.  Marty and I both agreed that if I'm calling this a quiche, this version was the most quiche-like.  It was still smooth and creamy but much lighter than original version.

The second runner-up: mashed potatoes.  I quite liked this version but the mashed potatoes transformed the dish from quiche into casserole.  I would definitely make this again in the future, or some variation of it, because the potato increases the nutrition factor as well as the fiber content.

The diced potato version tasted similar to the mashed potato version however, despite cutting the potato into very small dices, the quiche fell apart and wasn't as easy to consume.

The Ener-G version was a huge flop.  It was looser and wetter and had an unpleasant mouthfeel.

For this recipe, it helps if you have the berbere and niter kibbeh pre-made.  If not, you'll need to make them (see our previous posts on berbere and niter kibbeh) and this will add about an hour to the preparation time.

Vegan Quiche - Ethiopian Style
serves 4-6

  • 1 tablespoon niter kibbeh
  • 4 cups of vegetables chopped into small pieces.  This is a great way to use up any veggie odds and ends you have. (For the first quiche I used equal amounts of onion, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms.  For the second quiche I swapped out the cauliflower for red bell pepper.)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 carrot, grated (optional but I add it because I like the orange flecks)
  • berbere, to taste (I used 2 teaspoons but since berbere mixes vary drastically in flavor and heat, I recommend starting with a little and adding more to suit your preference.)
  • 1 (14-ounce) block extra firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup unsweetened soy milk mixed with 4 teaspoons cornstarch*
  • 1 teaspoon white miso
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon salt (depending on your preference)
  • 1/8 teaspoon turmeric

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Heat niter kibbeh in a saute pan.  Add the vegetables and saute until soft.
  3. While the vegetables are sauteing, blend the tofu until smooth in a food processor.  Add the nutritional yeast, soy milk/cornstarch mix, miso, salt, turmeric and berbere (I used 1 teaspoon) and blend until everything is incorporated.
  4. When the vegetables are soft add the garlic, carrot and berbere (I used 1 teaspoon) and saute for another 2 minutes.
  5. Transfer both the tofu mixture and the vegetables to a large bowl and mix well.
  6. Taste the mixture. It should taste good prior to baking it. If necessary add extra berbere and/or salt & pepper.
  7. Pour into a greased pie pan (or muffin pan) smoothing out the top. 
  8. Bake for 25 minutes (20 minutes for muffin pan).  The top will start to brown and the edges will pull away from the pan.  Cool for 10 minutes before serving.

    * If you want to try the mashed potato or diced potato version, omit the soy milk and cornstarch and add 2 cups mashed or diced potatoes to step 5.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

vegan yellow split pea soup

in the style of Atar Allecha

As a newbie to plant-based eating, I've been spending a lot of time perusing cookbooks and blogs (we'll refer to these activities as research -- has a nice ring to it!). One of the sources that I've been using lately is The Real Food Daily Cookbook by Ann Gentry, which includes recipes used at the eponymous restaurants in California. In addition to being vegan, Real Food fare has a macrobiotic slant, which is a direction I'd like to explore more deeply. Since I haven't been to the restaurant, I appreciated Ms. Gentry's introduction and the numerous photographs of the restaurants and food presentation. It's also useful to find notes that indicate which recipes are particularly popular at the restaurant-- this helps narrow the field when choosing dishes to serve to company of various diet orientations!

The first recipe that I tried was the Curried Yellow Split Pea Soup, which played to the warm flavors of Indian cuisine, rather than the sweet, herbal (and usually porky) French version that I grew up with. I was pleased with the texture of the finished soup: the peas were partially-broken down, so they thickened the broth and remained a bit chewy. However, I thought the spice component could use a little more personality.

I decided to brighten the flavor of the soup with ginger and jalapeño, and quickly realized that the combination sounded like the Ethiopian dish, atar allecha (mashed yellow peas). In a nod to Ethiopian cooking, I sautéed the aromatics in niter kibbeh and added fresh jalapeño. The combination gave this mellow soup the sassy little top note that I was looking for.

Atar Allecha Soup
makes 2 1/2 quarts
  • 8 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 2 cups yellow split peas, rinsed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped, amount divided in half
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 large carrots, finely chopped
  • 1 cup butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 6 tablespoons niter kibbeh
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
  • Suggested garnishes: sliced fresh jalapeño, minced cilantro, sliced green onion
  1. Soak split peas in 3 cups of water for one hour (optional).
  2. Drain, rinse, and combine with broth and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
  3. While the peas are soaking or cooking, heat a large, dry pan over medium-high heat. Stir fry the garlic and half of the chopped onion for two minutes.
  4. Add the niter kibbeh to the pan and sauté until onion is transparent, about six minutes. Add the turmeric, salt, and jalapeno to the onion mixture and sauté for two minutes.
  5. Pour the onion mixture into the soup. Add the remaining onion, celery, carrots, and squash to the soup and stir to combine.
  6. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for 40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the peas have begun to break down. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

vegan niter kibbeh

ethiopian cooking oil

Crystal says...
Niter kibbeh is traditionally made with butter, but Earth Balance margarine or a mild-tasting vegetable oil are terrific substitutes. Considering all of the pungent spices that go into making niter kibbeh, it actually has a rather delicate taste.

When using niter kibbeh in Ethiopian dishes, the oil simply complements the complexity of the dishes. However, where it really stands out and shines is using it in applications where it's not competing with other strong flavors. I especially like to re-warm it and drizzle on vegetables or dip chunks of crusty bread into.

I originally got the recipe from Kittee's fun website, PakuPaku, but I've made some minor modifications to it so I've posted my version below. Oh, and the best part of making niter kibbeh is that your house smells amazing all day!

Danielle says...
Ever in search of shortcuts, I've made a batch of niter kibbeh using cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, and whole cloves in place of their ground forms. Though I allowed the spices to steep in the oil for a long time, the result was not as flavorful. So do as Crystal says and grind your spices, ya heard?

If you want to make your Ethiopian dishes totally soy-free, be sure to use canola oil for the niter kibbeh base, instead of Earth Balance.

Niter Kibbeh

  • 1 pound Earth Balance or 1 3/4 cup mild-tasting oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, finely chopped or pressed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, scraped and finely grated or minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamon seeds
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • scant 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  1. Heat the margarine or oil in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered on the lowest heat for about 45 minutes. Do not let it brown.
  3. Strain the mixture (I use a metal sieve) and discard the spices.
  4. This should store, refrigerated, for a couple of months.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


ethiopian spice mix

Crystal says...
Berbere, along with niter kibbeh, comprises the flavor foundation of many Ethiopian dishes. I like to make large batches of it to have on hand so that whenever I'm in the mood for Ethiopian food I don't have to do any advanced prep work.

What is authentic berbere? That's hard to say because making berbere is a lot like making marinara or curry - each cook has their own variation. From what I have read though, authentic berberes generally contain (among other ingredients) ajwain seeds and rue berries, two items I've never been able to find. All of the spices are then roasted and blended with shallots, garlic and oil to make a paste (although I prefer to stick with a dry seasoning blend as it's easier to store and because I love sprinkling berbere along with nutritional yeast on popcorn).

While it may not be authentic nor exactly the same as my favorite Ethiopian restaurant, the following recipe produces a wonderfully complex mixture that has worked well for me.

Danielle says..
I can attest to the glorious flavor of Crystal's dishes made with the recipe below. I also live near an Ethiopian grocery, where I bought a pound of berbere for around $9. As our Ethiopian cuisine mentor urges, obtain as many unique blends as you can get your hands on! Use a different blend for each of your dishes to give them slightly different flavors.

Got extra freezer space? Try your hand at making a paste-style berbere! And if you live near Nashville, pick up some berbere and injera at

A & H Merkato
2131 Murfreesboro Pike, #107
Nashville, TN 37217


  • 1/3 cup paprika
  • 1/8 -1/2 cup cayenne pepper, depending on your tolerance for heat
  • 1 teaspoon seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  1. Preheat oven to 300F.
  2. Mix spices in a cake pan.
  3. Roast for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent burning.
  4. Do not store until completely cooled.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

vegan red lentil stew

quick and easy

I recently received a box of cookies from my dear friend Leslie.  Every time I think of Leslie, I'm reminded me of this amazing lentil stew recipe she gave me a long time ago.  It has since been modified a few dozen times and the recipe below is for our favorite version.  It doesn't have strong or complex seasonings and usually I prefer it like that; mellow and understated.  However, occasionally I'll use it as a base to improvise with what I have on hand and what I'm in the mood for (perhaps adding a little adobo seasoning, cumin and lime to give it a southwestern flair or a bit of berbere and nitter kibbeh for an Ethiopian kick).

Vegan Red Lentil Stew
serves 4
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 T soy sauce
  • 1 T vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 bouillon cubes
  • 1 onion
  • 3 celery stalks
  • 2 carrots
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1-2 jalapenos (optional)
  • 1 t dried basil
  • 1/2 t dried oregano
  • few sprinkles red pepper flakes
  • a few handfuls of fresh spinach or a box of frozen chopped spinach
  1. In a medium sauce pan, combine lentils, water, diced tomatoes, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce and bouillon.  Bring to a boil, then turn down to low and simmer.  
  2. Meanwhile, roughly chop onion, celery and carrots.  Add them, with the garlic cloves and jalapeno (if using), to a food processor and pulse until finely diced (or finely dice by hand).
  3. Add vegetables to sauce pan along with the basil, oregano and red pepper flakes. 
  4. If using fresh spinach, chop and add to lentils.  If using frozen spinach, defrost in microwave, wring out extra water and add to lentils.
  5. Simmer for 30 minutes total (start timing once you turn the temperature down to simmer), stirring every once in a while.

Out of the goodness of her heart, Leslie shipped me a box of her delicious cookies. This batch was mint chocolate chip and they were just perfect. Slightly crispy around the edges and chewy in the centers with a hint of mint to make them extra special.

For a very reasonable price, she will happily mail you some cookies too! She's not only a terrific baker but she's also a very talented jeweler. Check out her etsy shop, Piece by Peace or her Facebook Fan Page!