Archives for January 2010

New World Vegetables with Cilantro-Lime Quinoa


I was at the Y today and ran into a fitness instructor I haven’t seen since sometime last summer; I almost didn’t recognize her. She’s always looked very strong and fit, but now her form seems smaller and more defined, and her face has a glow I never noticed before. I had to ask her what was different, and told me she’s lost 20-something pounds by modifying what she eats – not exactly dieting, but simply switching to real “clean” food.

Tosca Reno is a bodybuilding “fitness model” who popularized the Eat Clean diet on a mass market scale; she seems to churn out books faster than Rachael Ray. I’m not bowled over by the recipes and production quality of these books – they have a kind of generic, over-simplified feel that remind me of marketing brochures.

But I do like the message she sends – that choosing to eat food as close to the source as possible– like fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, and lean protein and avoiding anything processed helps people maintain weight loss, which can lead to life-changing habits and great health, almost like magic.

Seems like a no-brainer, but it always amazes me how hard it can be for people to stick to making the best food choices. So many of our food cravings have been crafted and catered to by those in the business of manufacturing and selling food that it can be hard to know what real food actually tastes like.

I see this in my own kids when they devour the occasional fast-food meal or sweet-salty junk food snack but shun my made-from-scratch soup — there’s nothing that frustrates me more than feeling like giant food companies have hijacked my childrens’ tastebuds.

Cooking and eating pure, real food is a way of life for me, but seeing the dramatic changes that can happen when people become aware of what they eat inspires me to keep cooking, creating and spreading the word.


Chickpea Cakes with Cashew Curry Cream

Every couple of months I get the urge to give up my carnivore ways and get off the meat-eating grid. That’s right, I admit it – I’d be happy to go crazy and swing totally vegetarian. Usually the feeling comes over me following episodes of particular overindulgence…after spit-roasting baby animals, for instance, or in my more recent case, a few weeks spent over the holidays cooking, feasting and drinking….a little too much.

Truth be told, I haven’t been cooking or eating much red meat lately. Whenever I shop for food I try to load up my cart heavily in the produce section before moving on to the seafood counter to see what looks good. I tiptoe past the meat department, occasionally getting a chicken to roast. Except for really good bacon, which I will argue is another category of food altogether, our consumption of meat has gone down considerably. And a few people I know have flirted with Mark Bittman’s concept of healthy, conscious eating – Vegan Until Six.

It can be a hard sell to a certain member of the family – my son- who shuns most vegetables unless, inconceivably, they are floating in some kind of soup. When I called these chickpea cakes “veggie burgers” I got a much more positive reaction than I expected. I served them in warm naan bread,  and the boy actually ate most of it.

This recipe is inspired from  one in Heidi Swanson’s book Super Natural Cooking, a book that I’ve used so much the pages are falling out – and now that I’m on the subject I wish the publisher had used a better binding – it’s kind of cheaply glued together. Celestial Arts, if you’re reading, heads up!

I made a dairy-free creamy sauce to accompany the cakes, but the recipe doesn’t qualify as vegan since there are a few eggs involved.

Chickpea Cakes with Cashew Curry Cream

Yield: about 12


  • 4 cups cooked chickpeas (or 2 cans, drained)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped green onions
  • 1 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh lime
  • 1 1/2 - 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • 1 cup raw cashews
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Pulse the chickpeas, eggs, salt, cumin, cayenne, cilantro, green onions, garlic and lime zest in a food processor until blended but still slightly chunky.
  2. Add 1 cup panko and pulse once or twice to incorporate. Let the mixture sit for a few minutes - if it looks too wet and gloppy add more panko 1/4 cup at a time until you can form a ball that holds together. Form into about 12 cakes about 3-inches in diameter.
  3. Meanwhile, blend the cashews, water, salt and curry in a blender until completely smooth, adding drops of water if it's too thick. Taste for seasoning. (you can wash out the food processor bowl and use that instead, but the sauce won't be as smooth).
  4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook half the cakes until browned on both sides; keep warm while cooking the rest of the cakes in the remaining oil.
  5. Serve warm naan or pita bread, topped with curry cream sauce. Garnish the plate with sliced avocado, spinach, tomato and a sprinkle of poppy seeds.