Bloodroot is a feminist bookstore and vegetarian restaurant in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Founded in 1977, Bloodroot is a collective, with membership that has varied through the years; at the time these books were written, the collective was down to two members. Bloodroot is also a community; a feminist community, which expects its members to embrace the Bloodroot ideology: “you can’t be anti-choice, anti-affirmative action, racist, pro-pornography or homophobic and be a feminist.” The two Bloodroot books in this post by Selma Miriam and Noel Furie with Lagusta Yearwood, are not the first Bloodroot cookbooks; they were preceded by three Political Palate cookbooks, books curiously not mentioned in our two cookbooks, The Best of Bloodroot, Volume One and Volume Two.
Volume One is subtitled Vegetarian Recipes, while Volume Two contains only vegan recipes. There are still lots of vegan recipes in the first volume, and the two books have a common index. Both books have a fair amount of non-food written material; there are sections on the history of Bloodroot, the author’s take on feminism, recommended music, art, and literature, and a polemic against pornography. I am all for polemics, but the authors could have done a better job of editing out the occasional eruptions of their own negativity and defensiveness in the rest of this material. Once we get to the recipes, the books are arranged seasonally, with each season divided into subsections of Soups, Salads, Entrees, and Desserts. Then there are a few final chapters: Bread, Muffins, Breakfast, Lunch (Volume Two), and Drinks. Bloodroot has a fondness for tamari and coconut milk. While I think that they go overboard on the tamari (why can’t feminists just use soy sauce?), I am all behind coconut as one of the best dairy substitutes. The food is standard vegetarian fare, in the spirit of Moosewood and Katzen, but is slightly better. The recipe format is a numbered list of instructions, with the ingredients highlighted in the text. There is a reason that ingredient lists have caught on; it’s a lot easier for making grocery lists or quickly getting the general idea of a recipe. But maybe there is something that I am not getting; perhaps ingredient lists are a manifestation of male hegemony.
“Crimson Slaw with Cranberries” (Volume One, page 143) is a very nice coleslaw indeed: with red cabbage, red onions, red cranberries, and red wine vinegar, this slaw is uncompromisingly red. There are a few scallions, but the small amount of green they add just brings out the red even more. Although it was not in the Bloodroot instructions, I salted my cabbage as I always do.
At least Bloodroot does not call their “Sabra Salad with Tahini Dressing” (Volume Two, page 285) “Zionist Entity Salad” although I suspect that such a name might be consistent with the Bloodroot take on feminism. This is just a standard, Israeli-style chopped salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, and parsley. The innovation is the tahini dressing, which I skipped. I was going to serve this salad with falafel and tahini sauce, so more tahini dressing was not going to be necessary.
We were into puréed food this week, since Alan was recovering from more gum surgery, and so I made three puréed soups from the Bloodroot books. The best was “Watercress Vichyssoise” (Volume One, page 240); it is not surprising that the best of the three soups was the dairy soup. This is a standard vichyssoise with potatoes and leeks; the cress goes in at the end, cooks a few minutes, then is blended with everything else. The cress provided a few extra nutrients, another dimension of taste, and some attractive green flecks.
There was nothing that special about “Red Lentil Soup” (Volume Two, page 188). It consists of red lentils with ginger, cumin, and coriander, along with tomatoes and a good dose of Bloodroot tamari (I used soy sauce). It all seemed rather Indian until the tamari came along. I assume the tamari is there to supply some meaty umami flavor that the lentils alone lack, but I suggest that Bloodroot should meditate on the feminist implications of this.
I used to love the mulligatawny soup at Ann Arbor’s Raja Rani Restaurant, but I have not had any for a long time. I have, however, been trying mulligatawny soup recipes for many years in hopes of coming close to their soup, but with no luck whatsoever so far. But hope springs eternal, and so I tried Bloodroot’s “Mulligatawny Soup” (Volume Two, page 185). Their soup is made with red lentils, although I used chana dal. Then there are some standard Indian spices, coconut milk, and lemon juice. When the soup was done, it tasted like nothing. This was not acceptable, so I started looking for something to add, and found half a jar of Thai red curry paste. The final soup was acceptable.
I copied the recipe for “Koshari” (Volume Two, page 292), which Alan saw and volunteered to make (just before the gum surgery); to this I happily acquiesced. By the time I checked back with him, he had given up on the Bloodroot recipe, and was following a recipe he had found on the internet: the Fork & Flower website. Their recipe more closely approximated the koshari that he had enjoyed at the Tom wa-Basal (Garlic and Onions) restaurant in Cairo. We all enjoyed this koshari very much, especially the vinegar sauce (entirely absent in the Bloodroot recipe).
Bloodroot recommends serving koshari with “Roasted Ginger Beets” (Volume Two, page 293), which seems to be an innovation on their part. I think that this is a very good innovation, and I, not a beet lover, liked these beets very much. The beets are roasted, then cooked with candied ginger and thyme in a little bit of water until the liquid turns syrupy. Lemon juice and dill complete the dish. This unlikely combination was a success! I usually don’t like adding sweet ingredients to sweet vegetables (e.g., marshmallows to sweet potatoes), but the candied ginger had enough ginger sharpness to offset the sweet on sweet. [Go to the recipe.]
Bloodroot seems to like dumplings. I made two of their dumpling dishes. “Estofado con Chochoyotes” ((Volume Two, page 138) is a stew of corn and beans with masa harina dumplings. There is also tamari (those vegetables just can’t make it on their own). I loved the little dumplings, but there just were not enough of them; twice the dumpling recipe would be more appropriate for the amount of stew in the recipe.
“Szekely Gulyas” (Volume One, page 70) was a much more interesting stew with dumplings. The main ingredient are seitan and sauerkraut; Bloodroot restrains their tamari lust and only suggests one tablespoon as an optional ingredient. Then there is sour cream, and anything with sour cream is good. The dumpling batter consists of grated potatoes, flour, and eggs, which we are supposed to boil. This latke-like batter did not look like a good candidate for boiling, and sure enough, as soon as I slipped a spoonful into the water, it immediately fell apart. I suppose I could have added more flour, but instead I just fried up the rest of the batter as mini-latkes, which worked quite well. We all liked this stew and its latke dumplings, despite my choice of chorizo flavored seitan. [Go to the recipe.]
I have made “Potato Cottage Cheese Dumplings with Cabbage Sauce” (Volume One, page 140) in the past, but not in this cooking session. The cottage cheese dumplings also had a tendency to fall apart, although with more added flour, this tendency could be minimized. The cabbage sauce is just cabbage cooked to death with a little bit of tomato, flavored with caraway, agave syrup and (of course) tamari. As long as the dumplings didn’t fall apart, this dish was good.
Bloodroot makes their falafel (Volume One, page 254) the right way: with dried chickpeas soaked in water overnight, then ground up with the falafel flavorings. No canned chickpeas or cooked chickpeas in this recipe! Unfortunately, the flavorings just aren’t assertive enough. Maybe more salt is the only thing that is needed. (I do not, however, think that tamari would have helped, which thankfully is not in the recipe). At least when we dipped the falafel balls in the Bloodroot tahini sauce, there was quite enough flavor.
“Justina Robledo’s Puerto Rican Rice” (Volume One, page 267) is made up of short grain rice cooked with onion, green pepper, jalapeños, garlic, cilantro, green olives, and tomato sauce. I found that I needed much more water than the recipe called for. For 1½ cups of rice, the recipe uses one cup of tomato sauce and one cup of water. Although we are told to “add more water if need be”, I needed to add at least another cup of water. This rice was tasty enough, but not too exciting.
Adapted from Selma Miriam and Noel Furie, The Best of Bloodroot Volume One
4 medium beets
3 tablespoons candied ginger, chopped
½ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt
Juice of ½ lemon
Wrap the beets in foil and roast them in a 400º oven for about an hour, until cooked. Cool the beets slightly and slide of the skin. Cube the beets. Combine the beets with the ginger, thyme, salt, pepper, and ½ cup of water. Cook over medium heat until the liquid is syrupy. Sprinkle with fresh chopped dill.
Seitan and Sauerkraut with Mini-Latke Dumplings
Adapted from Selma Miriam and Noel Furie, The Best of Bloodroot Volume Two
1 pound seitan
1 onion, chopped
½ teaspoon hot paprika
3½ teaspoons sweet paprika
2 cloves garlic
2½ tablespoons flour
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
½ cup water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
¼ cup white wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup sauerkraut
¾ cup sour cream
1 large floury potato
5 tablespoons flour
¼ cup minced onion
Drain, saving any liquid, and chop up the seitan. Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft. Add the paprika and garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for another minute. Next, add the tomatoes, water, soy sauce, and white wine. Stir in the seitan and any reserved seitan liquid. Add salt and pepper to taste and the oregano. Simmer for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse, and chop up[ the sauerkraut, then add to the stew. Finally, stir in the sour cream. When all is heated through, the stew is done.
To make the mini-latkes, peel and grate the potato, beat up the egg, and combine potato, egg, flour, onion, salt, and pepper. Heat some olive oil in a skillet. Cook tablespoons of the batter in the hot oil, turning once. Drain on paper towels. To serve, combine the stew and the mini-latkes.