Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking

Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking by Kittee BernsAbout a month ago, I received a copy of Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking
by Kittee Berns. I received it from the publisher for the blog tour, but I can promise you that if I hadn’t, I would have been buying it as soon as it was available. (And as soon as it was, I ordered a copy for a friend.)

I knew without question that I was going to love it. I’d already immersed myself in the recipes of Kittee’s Ethiopian zine that preceded the book and had fallen hard for it. (You may remember that her mac and cheese from the zine was one of my favorite meals of last year.)

I have it bad for Ethiopian food, but it’s not available where I live. The closest Ethiopian restaurant is four hours away. But with Kittee’s recipes, it became possible to have the flavors I crave in the convenience of my own kitchen.

Ethiopian platter from Teff Love by Kittee BernsAfter making an absurd amount of recipes from Teff Love, I can safely say that it delivers restaurant-quality food and better. It is crazy, crazy good. Plus, the food is very inexpensive and pantry-friendly. I recently had an Ethiopian dinner party, and the grocery list included a variety of lentils, beans, onions, garlic, peppers, mushrooms, and the like. It’s easy on the pocketbook and full of no frills, good-for-you foods.

So like I said, I’ve had Teff Love for about a month. In that time, I’ve made over 20 recipes. That’s seriously more recipes from a single cookbook than I’ve made from some cookbooks I’ve had for years.

So let’s get started!

Teff Love starts with a bit of Ethiopian history, a description of the spices, grocery list, and menu ideas for cooking for a crowd.   It then breaks down the recipes into sections including breakfast, appetizers and snacks, various wots (stews) and vegetable dishes, beverages, and sweets.

If you get a copy of Teff Love, the best place to start is with the seasoned oil, ye’qimen zeyet. I made it with organic Earth Balance, but it can also be made with coconut oil, canola oil, or a combination of both. The oil is cooked with onions, garlic, and lots of spices, until it is completely infused with flavor. It is then strained and kept in the refrigerator, where it adds deliciousness to everything it touches.

Just with the oil alone, you can cook intuitively. If you sauté onions and garlic in it and then add vegetables of your choosing or a can of drained beans, it is guaranteed to be tasty. I like making polenta for breakfast and then using the oil in place of extra virgin olive oil.

Teff Love: Adventures in Ethiopian CookingAfter that, head to the ye’abesha gomen (tender, stewed collard greens) and Ethiopian-style mac ‘n’ cheesie. They are two of my favorite dishes and wonderful together as a meal. Above I served them together with ye’shimbra duket kwas. They are chickpea tofu dumplings, which are kind of like a spicy Ethiopian falafel.

The nice thing about these recipes together when you’re just getting started is that they don’t require injera, the fermented pancake-style bread that is used for scooping the stews. There’s an injera recipe in the book, including a quick crepe version. Or you can track it down at Ethiopian grocery stores or restaurants, if there’s one in your area.

For a while I was buying injera on trips in large packs, dividing it into portions of three with parchment paper in between, wrapping it in plastic wrap, and freezing it. When I needed injera, I let it thaw on the counter, or put it straight into a warm oven. However, I hit some seriously good luck recently, and a friend of mine connected me with a local lady who makes and sells injera from her home for friends and neighbors. Both times I’ve gone to pick it up, it was still warm from being freshly made. Heavenly.

Breakfast

For a savory breakfast fan like myself, Teff Love has lots to offer.

Teff Love by Kittee Berns - shehan fulTwice already I have made a refried beans-style dish called shehan ful with small brown fava beans cooked from scratch. The tender beans were topped with tomatoes and avocado for a substantive and delicious start to the day.

Ethiopian tofu scramble from Teff Love by Kittee BernsYe’tofu enkulal firfir is an Ethiopian spin on a tofu scramble, cooked in seasoned oil and with spices like coriander, berbere, and turmeric. I served it with leftover bozena shiro and ye’atakilt alicha, which I’ll cover a little later.

Injera firfir from Teff Love by Kittee BernsWhen my first batch of injera was past its prime and getting dry, I used it to make injera firfir. It’s like a spicy stuffing recipe, but made with injera. I served it with a roasted cabbage recipe that I’ll be sharing later this week.

Chickpea flour pancakes from Teff Love by Kittee BernsThese chickpea flour pancakes, ye’shimbra chechebsa, have delicious layers of flavor. I made them twice – first topped with seasoned oil and berbere and then later stuffed with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. It’s a hearty and warming start to the day.

Dinner

For appetizers, I made sambusas, which are crunchy, chickpea flour pastries that are stuffed with lentils. I tend to shy away from dough recipes, because I don’t have great instincts there. I’ll admit that it did take some fussing to get the water ratio right. However, the end result was terrific, and I served them with three kinds of dipping sauces. (The sambusas flew at our dinner party, and I didn’t get a great picture of them. However, you can see the finished result on Instagram.)

Ethiopian platter from Teff Love by Kittee BernsWhen I’m serving an Ethiopian platter, I like to dish out the stews in several small repeating portions, instead of in one single pile.  That way it’s like theatre-in-the-round; wherever you’re sitting, it’s a good seat.

One evening for dinner, I made bozena shiro, which is a spicy legume sauce with tomatoes and veggie meat. I used plain Upton’s seitan for the veggie meat. I served it with ye’ingudai awaze tibs, which are spicy mushrooms in a wine sauce, and ye’atakilt alicha.

The ye’atakilt alicha is a combination of cabbage, potatoes, and carrots in a mild sauce. It’s an especially handy recipe, because it’s cooked in the oven. A lot of the recipes require a stovetop, and so when you’re making several things at once, it’s nice to have a dish that you can throw in the oven and forget about it.

Ethiopian platter from Teff Love by Kittee BernsAnother night I used leftover chickpea dumplings to make ye’duket kwas be’siquar denich alicha. The dumplings are cooked in a mild sweet potato sauce that is outrageously good. This was one of my favorite recipes from the book so far. Highly recommended. I served it with ayib be’gomen, which is collard greens mixed with tangy homemade cashew cheese, and ye’misser wot, a winning red lentil dish in a spicy sauce.

For our dinner party, I made gomen, ye’misser wot be’ingudai (a spicy red lentil dish with mushrooms), and ye’nech bakela alicha. The ye’nech bakela alicha is a creamy, garlicky white bean dish. White beans are surprisingly amazing in Ethiopian dishes, because they are so mild in flavor. That means they just soak up all of the seasonings and spices like a sponge.

White bean stew from Teff Love by Kittee BernsWe had some leftovers the next day, and so I slathered the beans onto injera, rolled them into pinwheels, and cut them in sections. I served them with awaze (red hot pepper sauce), roasted dat’a (roasted green chili hot sauce), and senafich (spicy hot mustard sauce). The hot mustard sauce went especially well with the mild beans, and it was incredibly easy to make.

Spicy lasagna from Teff Love by Kittee BernsFinally, one day I made spicy lasagna roll-ups. I realize that may seem completely different from all of the aforementioned foods. However, Italy tried to conquer Ethiopia and failed. They did manage to leave behind some Italian remnants, which is obvious in this dish of tender kale with carrots, onions, and spices, homemade cashew and soy milk cheese, spicy tomato sauce, and noodles.

As you might have guessed from the name, the cookbook calls to make these as roll-ups. However, I made the dish like a standard lasagna, because my noodles didn’t need to be boiled first. It seemed easier to just put everything in a baking dish and call it a day. (Since the noodles needed to soak up more of the liquid, I doubled the amount of tomato sauce.) The end result was excellent with a spicy kick that’s a break from ordinary lasagna.

So after a month of endless Ethiopian dishes, am I ready to take a break?

Absolutely not. I have awaze tofu marinating in the refrigerator right this second, and I had chickpea flour pancakes for breakfast.

If you love Ethiopian food or trying new things, I absolutely recommend this cookbook. The recipes may look daunting at first, but after the seasoned oil has been made, many of the dishes are surprisingly weeknight-friendly, especially if you can pull frozen injera out of the freezer.

I also think that some people may be intimidated by the unfamiliar names of the dishes; however, there are full descriptions of all of the dishes. Just flip through the book, press on some post-its, and get started. You won’t regret it.

To see more from the blog tour, Vegansaurus is giving a copy away, and Windy City Vegan will post next on February 19th.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Teff Love for review.  The thoughts and opinions are totally my own.  The post contains an Amazon affiliate link.

14 Favorite Bites of 2014

Vegan puffy flour taco - chorizo & black beanAfter a wild New Year’s Eve on the couch eating salad with roasted chickpeas and watching The One I Love with the one I love, 2014 has come to a close. (Happy New Year!) But before we forge ahead, let’s look back on my 14 favorite foods of 2014.  There are some simple things and some complicated.  Some of the meals are my own creation and others are from restaurants and cookbooks.  (They’re posted in no particular order.)

Donut Friend - Los AngelesDonut Friend in Highland Park, California

I am a long-time donut fan, but as we all know, fried yeast donuts that are vegan can be elusive. What used to be a once a month trek for glazed or chocolate covered cream filled donuts before I was vegan has become a vacation-only kind of thing. I’ve had vegan donuts at Ronald’s in Vegas, Fritz Pastry in Chicago, Voodoo Doughnuts in Portland, and Dun-Well Doughnuts in Brooklyn. However, no donut, vegan or otherwise, compares to those that I had at Donut Friend in Highland Park, California.

The donuts are served deli-sandwich style. They slice them open, and you get to choose your own fillings and toppings from a wide array of options. I have another trip planned to Los Angeles later this year, and Donut Friend will absolutely be on the must-visit list.

Rahel in Los Angeles, California

Injera splattered with greens, lentils, potatoes, and carrots is my dream dinner, and no one does it better than Rahel in Little Ethiopia in Southern California. I was able to have a dinner there with friends early in 2014, and there was no way it wouldn’t be up there as one of my favorite meals of the year.

(The other vegan Ethiopian restaurant I visited this year, Bunna in Brooklyn, is also up there for memorable meals of the year. Their inclusion of kale salad with avocado on the injera platter is the kind of out of the box idea that I love.)

Stuff I Eat in Inglewood, California

Yes, more from California. Even though Stuff I Eat has been around since 2008, I didn’t visit their restaurant until January of 2014. I am a big fan of soul food, and their platters of greens, black-eyed peas, mac and cheese, and barbecued tofu take me to my happy place.

Eggy Tofu & ToastEggy Tofu & Toast

Eggy tofu and toast has become one of my standard breakfasts. I love it that I can buy a large 20-ounce block of vacuum-packed tofu that doesn’t need pressing. Then every morning I just cut off a couple of slices, lightly fry it, and add kala namak (black salt) and pepper. The tofu is ready in the same amount of time that it takes to make toast. It tastes like the fried eggs and toast that I used to eat before I went vegan, and it makes a terrific sandwich with seitan bacon and eggless mayonnaise.

Backyard Buffalo Ranch Caesar Salad - Salad SamuraiBackyard Buffalo Ranch Caesar Salad from Salad Samurai

The Backyard Buffalo Ranch Caesar Salad was in very regular rotation this summer. Salad Samurai came out in 2014, and this salad took the blogosphere by storm. With tofu that’s been lightly fried and tossed in buffalo sauce over crisp greens, it’s a wonderful combination of spicy, cool, and crunchy.

Modern Love Omaha - squash blossom appetizerModern Love in Omaha, Nebraska

Living in the middle of the country, very often it takes months or longer before the cool new vegan specialty products hit my area, and awesome new vegan restaurants generally require airfare. However, this time around the Midwest lucked out in a major way when vegan cookbook author extraordinaire, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, opened a hot new vegan restaurant in Omaha. Mind you, Omaha is still a road-trip away, but it’s a doable drive.

For my birthday this year, David and I went to Modern Love for one of their menu tastings, and it was one of the best restaurant meals ever. Everything was absolutely fabulous, but if I had to pick a favorite from the night I’d either say the seitan marsala or the stuffed squash blossom (above). However, all of it was worth repeating. I don’t know when I’ll make it back to Modern Love in Omaha, but it’s almost guaranteed to happen sometime in 2015.

Buttery noodles with Red Wine MushroomsGarlicky Butter Noodles with Red Wine Infused Mushrooms

These garlicky noodles with mushrooms are such a simple dish, but we’ve gotten hooked on them this year. The key is having really great ingredients – fresh oyster mushrooms from a local grower, papparadelle that’s made by hand at a nearby pasta shop, and loads and loads of chopped garlic. When I was a kid, my favorite way to have noodles was simply tossed with butter, salt, and pepper, and this veganized adult version takes me back and then improves on the memory.

Vegan chorizo & black bean fried puffy tacosSeitan Chorizo & Black Bean Puffy Tacos

This puffy taco was another blast from the past from Vegan MoFo this year. It’s inspired by the puffy tacos that were served at one of my high school haunts. The fried shells are such a fun indulgence, and they are filled with spicy seitan, lettuce, tomato, and non-dairy cheese.

Central Park - New York CityBagel in Central Park, New York City, New York

When I think about our fall trip to New York City, the first food memory that stands out is from the morning that David and I rolled out of bed, walked to a nearby bagel place, and grabbed coffee and bagels with tofu cream cheese. We headed to Central Park, climbed up on one of the large rock formations and dove into the chewy, fresh bagels. It wasn’t a glamorous meal by any stretch, especially in a food mecca like Manhattan, but it was one of those picture perfect New York moments.

Blossom on Columbus, New York City

New Yorkers have seitan mastered. Time and again while I was there, they had me wondering how they make it so piecey and juicy. An excellent example of masterful seitan was in the gyro at Blossom on Columbus. The saucy, spicy dish was a filling lunch that packed a wallop of flavor.

Forbidden Planet in Iowa City, Iowa

I am so psyched that Eastern Iowa has gotten some top notch pizza. In a town that is dominated by college dorm-style pizza, Forbidden Planet offers something really unique. They have toppings like roasted Brussels sprouts, potatoes, truffles, truffle oil, four different vegan sauces, and three different vegan crusts, including a deep dish. Plus, afterwards you get to play Doctor Who pinball. It’s the kind of thing I didn’t know I needed in my life until it was here.

Spinach & Artichoke Dip

This creamy, velvety dip reminds me of nights when spinach and artichoke dip along with a pile of hot tortilla chips was a standard meal at T.G.I. Friday’s. You’d never believe that the base of my version is made with cashews and carrots. With big chunks of artichokes, this dip is perfect for parties or even just all on your own.

Dukka from Vegan Eats World

Vegan Eats World didn’t come out this year; however, the paperback version did. With its paperback release, I revisited it and became entranced with this recipe for dukka. Dukka is made by roasting whole hazelnuts, removing their skins, toasting spices like cumin, fennel, coriander, and caraway, and then grinding them with smoked salt.  It adds a salty and savory crunch when dipping fresh baguette into oil and then dukka. A little goes a long way, and so a full batch in the fridge can be used again and again. I need to make another batch as it makes a dinner of salad and bread exponentially more exciting.

Ethiopian style mac & cheese from Papa Tofu Loves EthiopianMac & Cheese and Gomen from Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian

Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian was one of the most-used cookbooks in our house this year. It’s actually a zine, and it is no longer in print. However, the author, Kittee Berns, has a full vegan Ethiopian cookbook that will be coming out in two weeks called Teff Love. I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I’m on the blog tour for the cookbook, and so you’ll definitely be seeing a full write-up early this year.

I have loved everything I’ve made from Papa Tofu Loves Ethiopian, but the combination that has become our number one favorite is the Ethiopian-inspired mac and cheese and gomen made with collard greens. They are the comfort food power couple. I actually made them this year for Christmas, because what could be better than having one of your favorite meals on one of the best days of the year?

What have been your stand-out vegan meals of 2014?

Disclaimer: Post contains Amazon affiliate links