“When soaking the rice for the midday meal, the cook should not leave the vicinity of the sink. Keep a sharp eye on everything, so as not to waste even a single grain, and properly rinse out any foreign objects. Put the rice in the pots, light the fires, and steam it. Of old it was said: When steaming rice, treat the pot as one's own head; when rinsing the rice, know that the water is one's own lifeblood.”
About the Recipes
Over the years the Zen Center has received many requests for recipes. Here are a few of the most requested. The recipes were originally written to serve 25-55 people and have been cut down to a more manageable family size. Enjoy!
There are more than a thousand and one ways to prepare Gallo Pinto, so don’t be afraid to experiment. However, there are two major schools: the “rice-first” (you fry the rice a little bit before adding the beans), or the “beans-first, “ where you add the beans first to the spices and then the rice, such as in this recipe. We obviously follow the beans-first school.
Below are some basic recipes for rice and for beans, however, you can cook them anyway you like, and can do so ahead of time as well. (PDF of recipe.)
Rice1 cup rice
2 cloves garlic diced
1 medium onion diced
2 cups water
1-2 teaspoons of oil
1 teaspoon salt
Preparation: Rice should be fluffy for Gallo Pinto, so adjust water as needed depending on the type of rice you are using. Place all ingredients in a rice cooker, blend until all is mixed with the water and cook. Let the rice cool when finished and move with a fork in order to fluff the rice. Here at the Zen Center we use basmati rice but regular rice works as well.
Beans½ pound of black or red beans
½ medium onion diced
4 sprigs of thyme, 2 sprigs of oregano
2 bay leaves
1 stick of celery
1 sweet red pepper diced
1 bunch of cilantro finely chopped
Salt to taste
Preparation: Soak beans for a minimum of 6 hours or overnight before cooking. Discard soaking water, rinse, and place beans in slow cooker, covering the beans with water until it reaches approximately 4 fingers above the beans. Add onion, thyme, red pepper, cilantro, celery and bay leaves and stir all ingredients together. We also use kombu. Add salt to taste and cook beans until they are soft. Bay leaves, celery and kombu should be removed when the beans are finished cooking.
Note: Be careful not to overcook beans. They should be soft, but not broken. Once the beans are cooked, discard extra liquid (or save it for soup!), reserving the thickest broth for preparation of the Pinto.
Gallo Pinto1 sweet red pepper diced
1 ½ bunches of cilantro (1/2 bunch for decoration) finely chopped, separate the stems from the leaves but save the stems
½ head of garlic diced
3 sticks of celery diced
2 sprigs of thyme
Hot pepper to taste
Salsa Lizano to taste (available at Amazon)
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons oil
Preparation: In a large frying pan, heat oil and add the onion. When the onion has become translucent add the garlic, celery, cilantro stems and thyme and cook until celery is tender. Add the beans and blend well. Finally, add the rice until there is a blend of 50/50 of rice and beans. Add salt and Lizano to taste, sprinkle with cilantro leaves and enjoy!
An alternate to tofu with tahini sauce, often served at sesshin.
OVEN-BAKED MISO GLAZED TOFU WITH RED PEPPERS
1 box extra firm tofu
1/2 sweet red pepper, sliced into thin strips
3 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (optional)
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons lime juice
2 tablespoons light miso
2 tablespoons Mirin
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
Cut tofu into 6 slices. Place on towels and press dry. Set aside red pepper slices.
Whisk together remaining ingredients in a small bowl to make marinade. Pour a thin layer in the bottom of a sheet pan or casserole dish. Place single layer of tofu in the pan, then pour remaining marinade on top. Top with the red peppers and let sit for 15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, turning the peppers once until the edges of the tofu are just beginning to color, and the peppers are sizzling and beginning to color on the edges.
Serve with rice and green salad.
A sesshin dinner.
QUINOA WITH ZUCCHINI, CORN, AND SPINACH
1 cup quinoa, soaked, rinsed and drained
2 cups tomato juice
1 cup vegetable bouillon
1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
1 medium zucchini, diced
2 cups frozen corn, thawed
½ box frozen chopped spinach (drained)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
Place the quinoa in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let sit five minutes. Drain through a strainer, and rinse until the water runs clear.
Bring tomato juice and bouillon to a boil, then add the drained quinoa. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed and the spiral of the germ is visible, 12-15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes.
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the zucchini and onion and garlic powders (or you can use a chopped onion and minced clove of garlic). Saute for 5 minutes. Add the corn and spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, until the zucchini and corn are tender, 5 to 8 minutes.
Stir together the vegetables and quinoa; add the chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
A delicious Indian soup we serve during sesshin.
1 cup lentils (Toor Dal)
2 cups vegetables, such as sweet and white potatoes, butternut squash, carrots
1 1/3 cups kale
1 tablespoon ginger, grated
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups water (start with less)
½ cup tomato puree or diced tomatoes
Juice of ½ lime or 2 tablespoons lime juice
Once dhal is cooked add:
1/2 cup tomato puree, ground or diced
1 1/3 cups chopped kale
1 tablespoon + 1 tsp sesame oil
15 curry leaves (optional)
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1/3 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/3 teaspoon asafetida
cilantro , chopped (optional)
Soak dhal overnight. In the morning, drain, rinse and put the dhal into a pot with 4 cups water. Simmer until dhal is soft and well cooked, about 1 hour, adding additional water as needed.
When dhal is thoroughly cook, add all vegetables and spices EXCEPT the kale, tomatoes, lime juice and tarka spices. Cook until vegetables are tender and then add the TARKA (see instructions below). Add kale and tomatoes. Stir and cook over low heat for 15 minutes.
TARKA: Heat the oil in a small pan, when hot add the mustard seeds (covering them if necessary to prevent splattering), once the popping subsides, remove from heat, then add fenugreek and put on heat again, stir in asofetida and then curry leaves, if using. Once curry leaves are cooked, add the contents into the dhal and close lid immediately.
Just before serving, add any additional cooked vegetables you wish, such as carrots, broccoli, beans, etc., along with the lime juice.
Stir and serve with chopped cilantro, if using.
From the "Bentley Farm Cookbook." These are served, mini-size, at breakfast during sesshin. The batter keeps for as long as two months when stored tightly covered in the refrigerator.
REFRIGERATOR BRAN MUFFINS
2 cups all-bran cereal (Kellogg, Nabisco, or combination of both)
1 whole box seedless raisins (2 ½ cups), add to the bran cereal
2 cups boiling water, poured over the combined cereal and raisins, put aside to cool
1 cup white sugar, placed in very large mixing bowl
Stir into white sugar in order given:
1 cup corn or canola oil
2 cups Grandma's molasses (Do not use Blackstrap!)
4 eggs, well beaten
1 quart buttermilk
3 more cups dry all-bran cereal
Stir together and add to above combination:
5 cups flour
5 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Lastly, mix into above, the cooled raisin-bran mixture.
Spoon into buttered muffin pans, filling each section about 3/4 full, and bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15-18 minutes. (Or 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.) For mini size muffins bake at 375 degrees for 10-11 minutes. Allow to cool slightly in pans, on a rack. The muffins come out of pans more easily if given a short rest period. Ever so good served hot, cold, reheated, and frozen and reheated!
Makes around 50 large muffins
A quick and simple cold tomato soup served at sesshins during the all-too-brief warm weather season. This version has no raw onion or garlic as those vegetables are traditionally not served at Buddhist temples.
1 large European (seedless) cucumber
1 large green pepper
1 can Italian tomatoes (1 lb. 12 oz.), well chilled
1 can tomato juice (46 fl. oz.), well chilled
approx. 2 tablespoons olive oil
Seed pepper and peel cucumber. Cut into chunks and put in bowl of food processor. Drain liquid from tomatoes directly into food processor bowl. Chop vegetables using on-off pulse until fairly well chopped, then puree for a few seconds longer. Pour into a serving bowl.
Add tomatoes to food processor and chop briefly, just until pieces are small, but not pureed. Add to serving bowl with vegetables, stir. Whisk in tomato juice and olive oil. Chill thoroughly before serving with croutons.
A Zen Center sesshin staple for decades. Even confirmed squash haters love this soup. It is wonderfully thick, comforting, nourishing, and with just enough sweetness and saltiness to satisfy both of those cravings. At sesshin, this is served with cottage cheese, which people plop in the center of their soup, and hearty whole wheat bread, to clean out the last traces from the bowl.
SQUASH MISO SOUP
4 boxes frozen squash puree
1½ cups boiling water
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces
1 tablespoon tamari (or more to taste)
½ teaspoon onion powder
⅛ teaspoon nutmeg
⅓ cup honey
⅓ cup light miso
1 cup water
Combine all ingredients except miso and 1 cup water and heat until squash is thoroughly thawed and butter melted.
In a small bowl, whisk together the miso and remaining water. Add to soup. Correct seasoning and consistency, adding more water if necessary. Do not allow soup to come to a boil once miso has been added. The soup has a sweet-salty taste and a thick consistency.
A fair amount of work, but worth the trouble.
2-DAY VEGETABLE-BARLEY SOUP
This soup takes two days to make. On the first day, make the stock. The next day, or whenever you plan to serve the soup, add remaining vegetables and barley. For best flavor, do not add vegetables and barley more than one day before soup is to be served.
Day 1—Make Stock
1½ tablespoons olive oil
1 medium Spanish or Bermuda onion, peeled
2 large stalks celery, with leaves
2 gallons (8 quarts) cold water
½ small turnip
1½ cups okra
1 cup green beans
3 large potatoes
1 yellow squash
1 cups broccoli stems (reserve tops)
1 cups fresh parsley (do not use dried)
2 cloves fresh garlic
¼ cup tamari
1 bay leaves
½ teaspoon each basil and oregano
½ teaspoon thyme
½ tablespoon Maggi seasoning (if available)
Optional: 3 small vegetable bouillon cubes
1 small strip kombu seaweed
½ of a 29 oz. can crushed or whole tomatoes
Cut vegetables in large chunks. Okra and beans can be halved, potatoes quartered. Garlic may be left whole.
In a large pot, sauté onions and celery in oil until onion is soft. Add water and bring to a boil. Add all remaining vegetables and seasonings, except the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for two hours. Add tomatoes and simmer for one hour more.
Place a large colander or strainer over a pot and strain soup, pressing down on the vegetables (which at this point are cooked to a mush) to extract as much liquid as possible.
Reserve four cups of the vegetables. Try to exclude the potatoes, and make sure you do not have the bay leaves. In a food processor, blender, or food mill, puree these vegetables and return them to the stock. Refrigerate overnight.
Day 2—Finish soup
¾ cups barley, rinsed well
1 very small zucchini, in small dice
1 very small yellow squash, in small dice
1 cup okra, sliced into thin rounds
¾ cup green beans, cut into fourths
3 small potatoes, in small cubes
¾ cups broccoli tops, separated into small florets
Optional: ½ cup mushrooms, sliced
1 small can tomato paste
½ of a 29-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Cut vegetables into small pieces. Bring stock to a boil, add barley and additional vegetables, but do not add tomato paste and crushed tomatoes yet. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the beans are fully cooked, stirring frequently. Add tomato paste and canned tomatoes and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until barley is done. Stir every 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning. Serve piping hot.
Serves around 10-12
Probably the most requested Zen Center recipe of all time.
TOFU WITH TAHINI SAUCE
1-1½ lb. firm (not extra-firm) silken tofu, drained
Marinate tofu in a mixture of ⅛ cup tamari and ⅛ cup water. Slice tofu into sixths, place in pan, and cover with marinade. If there is not enough marinade, make enough to cover tofu. Let sit for 1 hour. Drain before proceeding with recipe. (The marinade drained from the tofu can be stored in the refrigerator and used again.)
⅓ cup tahini
½ tablespoon tamari
⅓ cup water
⅛ teaspoon mace
scant ½ teaspoon Coleman’s mustard powder
⅛ teaspoon onion powder, optional
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
Combine the tahini, tamari, water, mace, onion powder and mustard in pan. Cook over low heat until mixture thickens.
Pour sauce over drained, marinated tofu. Sprinkle with parsley. Cover and bake at 325° until warmed through, about 45 minutes.
Serve with rice and a green vegetable.
This looks and tastes just like the real thing, but with much less cholesterol. For a vegan version, substitute egg-free mayonnaise.
TOFU EGG(LESS) SALAD
1 (14-oz) package firm tofu, rinsed and drained
½ cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon dry mustard
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
cup chopped fresh chives
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
Finely mash tofu with a fork in a bowl, then let drain in a sieve set over another bowl, about 15 minutes (discard liquid).
While tofu drains, whisk together mayonnaise, lemon juice, turmeric, and mustard in bowl, then stir in tofu, celery, chives, salt, and pepper.
Served whenever we have an excuse for a Sangha breakfast.
1 lb firm or extra-firm tofu (do not use silken)
1 small onion, finely chopped
crushed hot red pepper
tumeric—for yellow color
tamari—not too much as it affects the color
salt and pepper
Rinse, drain, press, then crumble tofu into not too small pieces (should resemble scrambled eggs). Sauté onion and pepper in oil until thoroughly cooked. Add crumbled tofu and remaining ingredients. Add spices to taste. Heat through. Serve with ketchup and toast.
Another delicious tofu dish. This one is very quick and a kid-pleaser too.
SPICY BRAISED TOFU
2 tablespoons tamari
1½ tablespoons brown sugar
(1½ tablespoons cider vinegar—optional)
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon dry mustard
⅓ cup water
1½ teaspoons cornstarch
1 lb. tofu—use firm or extra firm silken tofu or firm regular tofu
½ -1 tablespoon canola or sesame oil
Optional, for garnish:
1 scallion, chopped
In a small bowl, combine all sauce ingredients and whisk until smooth. Set aside.
Drain tofu well and cut into bite-sized cubes.
In a skillet, heat the oil and sauté tofu until lightly browned. Whisk sauce, then add to tofu, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it sauce comes to a boil. Simmer for a few minutes, until thick and sauce is no longer a milky color. If desired, sprinkle with scallion and ginger.
Serve with rice and green vegetable.
Great hot, cold, or warm.
1 tablespoon tamari
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-2 tablespoons Solgar nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
fresh minced garlic and grated ginger to taste
1 lb. extra-firm tofu, sliced into 8 pieces
Mix first five ingredients. Barely cover bottom of baking pan with sauce. Add tofu slices and cover with remaining sauce. Bake, uncovered, at 400° for 25 minutes. This keeps well and is a great snack hot, warm or cold.
Originally prepared for participants of the art course, this soon became a sesshin recipe by popular demand. Especially delicious when served with the herbed yogurt sauce.
BULGUR & BUTTERNUT SQUASH PILAF
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1½ cups onions, diced
1 butternut squash (or equal amount of sweet potatoes), diced into ½" pieces
1 red or green pepper, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. garam masala
Pinch of dried chili powder (optional)
1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
¼ cup currants
½ tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
1½ cups vegetable stock
1¾ cups bulgur
Herbed Yogurt Sauce
Mix together and serve on side:
1 cup yogurt
1½ tsp. minced garlic
Minced fresh mint
In a large pot heat vegetable oil, add onions and sauté until soft but not browned. Add the squash and/or sweet potatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Add the green peppers, garlic, cinnamon, garam masala, chili powder, diced tomatoes, currants, salt, pepper, and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil; turn down the heat and simmer until the squash and potatoes are just cooked.
Add the bulgur and turn the heat back up to high. Once the pot comes to a boil again, stir well, turn the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn heat off and let pot sit with the cover on for another 15 minutes. Serve with herbed yogurt.
These lentils are way too good to be served only at sesshin. Enjoy them with crusty bread, salad, and a brightly colored vegetable. Served with cottage cheese during sesshin.
SWEET AND SOUR LENTILS
2 cups lentils, picked over and rinsed well
4 cups cold water
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoons onion powder
Sweet and sour sauce:
¼ cup canola oil
1½–2 tablespoons each dark brown sugar, molasses and honey
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon cumin
1½–2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
Bring lentils to boil in water with bay leaf and onion powder. When fully cooked—after about 25 to 35 minutes—add remaining ingredients. Really Important Note: If lentils are not completely cooked before the sweet and sour mixture is added, they will not finish cooking and will remain hard and inedible. Taste them before adding the sauce to avoid that sad state of affairs.
Bake, covered, at 350° for approximately one hour, or until sweet and sour mixture is partially absorbed. The consistency of the lentils should be similar to moist baked beans—neither dry nor soupy.
Serve with cottage cheese, crusty bread, and salad.