Tomato Tart with Almond Feta and Caramelized Onions

tomato-tart     This Tomato Tart with Almond Feta and Caramelized Onions is quite rich, so I serve it with a light salad.  It’s adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine (May 1995 issue).   I make this when I have leftover Sprouted Almond Feta, but store-bought vegan cheese could be used too (like Miyoko’s or Treeline, etc.).  I usually have a few Pate Brisee pie crusts in the freezer, so this is actually a quick dish to throw together.  Caramelizing onions takes about an hour, but you can do myriad other things while that’s happening.  This tart is also pretty when made with halved cherry tomatoes of various colors.


Makes 6 to 8 slices

2 large white onions, sliced thinly  (don’t use red onions–they don’t caramelize as well)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Almond Feta Cheese (less than 1/2  a recipe’s worth)   (or store-bought creamy cheeze)
2 large tomatoes, or a bunch of cherry tomatoes
3-4 Kalamata or Nicoise olives,  pitted and sliced
one single pie crust  (I use this vegan Pate Brisee)

Put rolling pin in freezer.  Add oil and salt to large non-stick skillet, and cook onions, covered, over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 20 minutes.  Remove lid and cook onions another 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, and any liquid evaporates.  Remove skillet from heat so onions can cool.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.   Put a little bench flour on counter and roll out chilled pie crust.  Line glass or ceramic pie dish or tart pan with crust.  Spread caramelized onions over the dough, and top loosely with cheese.  Arrange sliced tomatoes and olives over the cheese and season with salt and pepper.  Use a pie shield or protect pie crust edges with crumpled tin foil.  Bake tart in center of oven for one hour or until pastry is golden, and cool on rack.  Serve tart hot or warm.

Notes:  I pull my pie crust from the freezer the night before, so the dough can rest a bit.  I prefer to use glass or ceramic with tomatoes, as acidic tomatoes do react to some metals.  Onions can be caramelized the day before, which saves a lot of time the day of.  Don’t put too much cheese–you should still see some of the onions underneath after you scatter the cheese.
img_3054 Cheese on top of caramelized onions.  This might even be a little bit too much cheese.
img_3053 Caramelized onions.
img_3057  The olives can be hidden underneath too.

One Pot Pasta

IMG_2843     One Pot Pasta is a thing–it’s all over the internet, so I tried it.  It’s good, but be aware that since you’re NOT draining the pasta, there is a slight starchy quality to the sauce.  It was quite good though, and it makes a quick meal with no colander to wash.  Also, there’s no walking to the sink with a heavy pot of boiling water (to drain the pasta).  I adapted this recipe from Martha Stewart, except I prefer thinner pasta, so I used spaghetti instead of linguine.


Serves 4

12 ounces spaghetti
12 ounces cherry tomatoes, or chopped fresh tomatoes, if in season
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 sprigs fresh basil, plus torn leaves for garnish
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
4.5 Cups water
vegan parmesan for sprinkling, such as Go Veggie Grated Parmesan Topping

In a large skillet with straight sides, or a small stock pot (which is what I use for everything), combine uncooked pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red-pepper flakes, basil, oil, salt, pepper and water.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat.  Keep at a low boil, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente, and water has nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes.  Divide among bowls and garnish with basil.

Serve with any toppings you like, such as vegan parmesan, sundried tomatoes, Kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, lemon zest, toasted pine nuts, cannellini beans, sautéed vegan sausage, blanched broccolini, etc.

Notes:  Can also be made with linguine.  Do not try this with capellini or angel hair, because finer pasta sort of breaks down into a starchy mess (speaking from experience).  I made this twice so I could be sure of the technique.  If there are no fresh tomatoes in season, I suppose one could try using well-drained canned tomatoes, and a few Tablespoons less water.
IMG_2849  I used red and yellow Amish tomatoes.
IMG_2848  Toppings.
IMG_2846  Still cooking.

Coconut Bacon

IMG_0231    This fast, easy and delicious Coconut Bacon recipe takes five minutes to prep for baking.    I adapted this from the wildy-popular recipe by Fettle Vegan.  Of course, you can always buy coconut bacon from Phoney Baloney, but it’s so easy to make your own.  Wherever you get your coconut bacon, it’s great strewn over salads, and chowder, in BLTs, or eaten out of hand.  I plan to try this in an Elvis Sandwich someday.


Makes 2 Cups

2 Cups large flake coconut, unsweetened
1 Tablespoon Liquid Smoke
1 Tablespoon Tamari
1 Tablespoon plus one teaspoon real maple syrup
1 Tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Set coconut aside.  In a medium mixing bowl, combine all other ingredients, whisking or stirring to blend.  Add coconut and fold gently with a wooden spoon or spatula to evenly coat the flakes.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread coconut flakes evenly onto it.  Bake 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.  BE VERY CAREFUL during the last five minutes, checking it several times to make sure it does not burn.  Coconut will crisp up as it cools.  Strew over salads, chowder, use in sandwiches or eat out of hand.  Cool completely and store in fridge for two weeks (I store mine for a month if the flaked coconut is not due to expire soon).

Notes:  Bigger coconut flakes may take longer to cook.   After cooling, if your coconut bacon is not crisp, put it back in the oven for 2 to 5 minutes, checking carefully to prevent burning.

Old Virginia Heirloom Tomato

IMG_0673    Vegan Mofo 2013.  Behold the Old Virginia heirloom tomato.  This is my first time growing this particular variety.  I’m a wicked tomato snob, and one year grew eleven varieties of organic heirlooms, which is no easy feat because if you plant one heirloom variety near another, they can easily cross-pollinate and hybridize.  I planted these seeds on April 14, here in my backyard on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Lars told me I should have started the seeds indoors 4-8 weeks prior, which I knew, but with the new podcast, lots of things fell to the wayside this year.  Old Virginia is supposedly a mid-season tomato but I started late from seed, and my two 12-foot-long raised beds are behind the garage and don’t get maximum sunlight.  I didn’t even pinch any axil buds this year, something I always do.  Anyway, I think we must have picked the first tomato right around September 1.  And now, of course, they’re coming on like gangbusters.  I figured with a name like Old Virginia, this cultivar could take the heat of a Maryland summer, and it has.  This beautiful tomato is also crack-resistant and has fewer seeds than many varieties.  I got my seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Saving seeds is worth it to me, but only if I’m growing heirlooms where I know they’ll reproduce true to the parent.  And it’s important to me to always get an organic seed, especially if I’m going to all the trouble to grow something from seed, and then save the seeds from harvest.  Also, I don’t want to grow GMO.  The flavor of this cultivar is good, although not the best of any heirloom.  However, heirloom tomatoes are often stingy in their production, and prone to cracking and other problems.  I’ve had summers where I have the most delicious heirlooms, but a low yield.  Of course, this beats any restaurant or supermarket tomato to Hell, and the other benefits make this a good, reliable addition to the heirloom tomato catalogue.

On the last episode of the Peaceful Table Podcast, I mentioned a few of my favorite tomato recipes.  Roasted Cream of Tomato SoupFried Green Tomatoes, and a lovely Indian salad called Timatar Ka.
IMG_0697  Fewer seeds than many other tomato varieties.

Seitan Bacon

IMG_0623    This Vegan Bacon Seitan is adapted from a combination of two recipes–this one from Vegan Nosh,  and this one from Veggie in Milwaukee.    You make two simple doughs that are easy to work with, stack them atop each other, bake and slice.   We had BLTs on sourdough bread with Old Virginia heirloom tomatoes, and we agreed this tastes more authentic than the store-bought vegan bacons we’ve tried.  It’s been years since I had a piece of bacon, but I remember it well.  I tweaked the original recipes–added some smoked paprika, changed amounts, added some oil (it is bacon, after all), etc.  This is meaty, smoky and chewy, and the best part is, nobody got hurt.


Red Dough
1 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten
1/4 Cup soy flour  (or garbanzo flour)
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
2 teaspoons regular paprika
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2/3 Cup warm water
3 Tablespoons Tamari
3 Tablespoons maple syrup
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
2 Tablespoons peanut oil

White Dough
1/2 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten
2 Tablespoons garbanzo flour  (or soy flour)
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2 Cup warm water
1 Tablespoon peanut oil

Red Dough:  In a medium mixing bowl, dry whisk together the dry ingredients.
Separately combine all the wet ingredients and stir or whisk until well blended.
Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until mixed.
Shape red dough into a fat log and cut into three equal pieces.

White Dough:  In a small mixing bowl, dry whisk together the dry ingredients.
To the dry ingredients, add in the water and oil, and stir with a spoon until mixed.
Divide the white dough into two equal pieces.

Lay a piece of plastic wrap on the counter and put one piece of red dough on it.
Cover the red dough with another piece of plastic wrap.
Gently roll out dough until it’s about 1/4-inch tall.  I suggest making it approx. 6″ x 7″.
Spray a piece of tin foil with cooking spray and transfer the flattened dough onto it.  I did this by picking up the piece of plastic and flipping it onto the foil.
Repeat the rolling process, alternating the white and red doughs, and stacking them onto the first piece that you laid onto the foil.  Don’t try to make them perfect.
Place a piece of plastic wrap on top of the stacked doughs.
Rest a medium-heavy book on top of the plastic for about 20 minutes.
Remove the plastic wrap, and wrap the whole slab of bacon in tin foil.
On a baking sheet, bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.
Your seitan will be a bit undercooked, but this is good because it will be easier to slice, and it will pan-fry better.
Cool and slice.

When you’re ready to use the bacon:  pan fry in a non-stick skillet with a bit of vegan butter and a few sprinkles of seasoning salt.  I used McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple Seasoning for some extra bacony kick.

Notes:  It’s my understanding that you can switch up the soy and garbanzo flours.  The red dough won’t look red until you add the liquid.  Once baked, you can freeze this bacon, and it’s good crumbled on casseroles, on mac and cheeze, in tofu breakfast sandwiches, etc.
IMG_0617  After pressing, before baking.

Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup

It’s Tomato Time in the garden.  I have always eschewed cardboard supermarket tomatoes and the sickly sliced tomatoes in restaurants.  Commercial tomatoes are picked green, sprayed with ethylene, and bred to withstand grueling shipping.  No wonder they’re mealy and tasteless.  We won’t even get into the horrible working conditions and slavery that goes on with tomato workers.  If you want to know more about that, here’s an NPR link.  But now the heirloom garden tomatoes are here!  I’ve already made Fried Green Tomatoes, and Bruschetta, and our favorite BLTs with fried Smart Bacon.  I adapted this vegan Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup from a recipe in an old Gourmet magazine, years ago.  It’s a soup that takes little effort to make, and it’s superlative in taste.  If you don’t have a Vitamix or other high-speed blender, you’ll want to strain this soup through a fine sieve to take out any bits of tomato skins and seeds.  This was always the only time-consuming part of this recipe.  But with the Vitamix, the need for any straining is eliminated, because the healthy tomato skins and seeds just get whirled into oblivion.  All parts of the tomato are healthy.  For example, tomato peels increase absorption of carotenoids.  And yes, even the gel and seeds are very nutritious (the seeds increase blood flow without the complications of daily aspirin).  So, this is where the Vitamix is a brilliant tool in the kitchen, but I made this soup for years with only a regular blender.  If you’ve got extra home-grown tomatoes, this soup is the ticket.  I usually make at least 6 pints to freeze, and then we enjoy them in the depths of winter.
Vegan Roasted Cream of Tomato Soup

Serves about 8 (freezes well)

Active time: 20 min.   Start to finish: 1 3/4 hr
4 lbs. garden-fresh tomatoes, halved lengthwise (any varieties)
6 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil,  or Earth Balance vegan butter
3 cups vegetable stock or vegetable broth (I used vegan Better Than Bouillon)
1/2 cup vegan creamer, such as Silk Soy Creamer, or So Delicious Creamer
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350°Fahrenheit.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat.
Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, in one layer on baking sheet.
Add unpeeled garlic cloves to baking sheet.
Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper.
Roast tomatoes and garlic 1 hour, then cool in pan.
Peel garlic.
In a large heavy pot, over medium-low heat, cook onion, oregano, and sugar in butter or oil,  stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes.
Add tomatoes, garlic and stock, and simmer (do not boil), covered, 15 minutes.
Let soup cool.
Puree soup in batches in a Vitamix or regular blender.
Force puree through a sieve into cleaned pot, discarding solids.  If you used a Vitamix, this soup should not need straining.
Stir in cream.
If you want to,  add a little salt and pepper to taste (I do not).
Simmer 2 minutes.
Garnish bowls of soup with a tiny oregano sprig, and/or a crouton.
Notes:  Soup can be made one day ahead.  Freezes well.
I used Better Than Bouillon,  Vegetable Flavor, to make my broth.


Reheat just before serving.


From the World English Dictionary:  bruschetta:  pronounced brus-ketta.  An Italian open sandwich of toasted bread topped with olive oil and tomatoes, olives, etc.  Anyone who really knows me, knows I am a little fanatical when it comes to heirloom tomatoes.  One year I grew eleven varieties.  So, what do you do when you’ve got the season’s last tomatoes in your hot little hands?  You might make a killer bruschetta, as I did.  The movie Julie and Julia has been playing on TV lately, and so we watched it again.  The Julia movie is so visually attractive (aside from all the cut-up dead animals), thanks to Nora Ephron.  Reading the book “Heartburn” by Nora Ephron was one of my first culinary fiction experiences.  Then, when the novel “Water For Chocolate” came out, I was hooked, and now have a good collection of culinary fiction collected over the last 20 years or more.  Back to the Julia movie; the only non-violent cooking scene is when Amy Adams is making bruschetta, and boy does she go all the way with it.  Yes, she fries the bread!  I just never in a million years would have thought of frying the bread.  But since we’re not using any animal products, and these are the last tomatoes from the garden, I thought, “Okay, we can do this.”  So, I got out my vintage cast-iron skillet, put a dollop of good olive oil in the pan and pressed a mini baguette (sliced in half the long way) around in the pan on medium heat, flipping it a couple of times.  I kept the topping uber simple; just chopped up my own heirloom tomatoes (Cherokee Purple and Brandywine cultivars), minced just a small bit of onion (one or two tablespoons), and put in a couple of good cranks of coarse sea salt, and mixed it all up.  You want to let your tomato mixture sit and marinate while you do your bread.  I didn’t put any oil in the tomatoes because there was already oil on the bread from the pan frying.  And . . . the bruschetta was AMAZING.  The fried bread gives it an unctuous, golden, crispy crust, that, in contrast to the velvety, savory softness of the luscious tomatoes, is a kind of nirvana.  Lars commented on it, and said, “Good.” with his mouth full.  And I asked, “Is this like the best bruschetta you’ve ever had?”  It was.

Timatar Ka Salad (Indian Tomato Salad)

I love Indian food, and want to work on building up a repertoire of dishes to make at home.  This simple tomato salad has one major requirement, in my opinion;  use only freshly picked tomatoes from the garden or your farmers market.  I don’t eat “fresh” (raw) tomatoes in winter, because they taste like cardboard.  The tomatoes in this photo are of the Cherokee Purple variety and that’s why they’re not the traditional bright red.  If you’re like me, you’ve got a lot of late tomatoes right now and need to use them up before the bounty of summer gets hit by the first frost.  This recipe is from the cookbook Quick and Easy Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey.  This was a book I bought BV (before veganism) but I kept it when I was culling all my old cookbooks because many Indian recipes are either already vegan or easily adapted to be so.  Maybe some of this has to do with Hinduism which holds the principle of nonviolence (ahimsa) in very high regard.  There is a conviction that eating other sentient beings as food is detrimental for the mind and body and spiritual development.  So, if you’re looking for a vegan restaurant meal, sometimes you’ll have good luck at Indian restaurants.  The one caveat is that many Indians are ovo-lacto vegetarians and so they do consume dairy and butter (ghee) and eggs, so you must request your meal to be vegan.  But many vegans find understanding and warmth at Indian restaurants, and many modern-day Indian restaurants are vegan also!  On with the recipe:

Serves 4-6

1.5 lbs. tomatoes
fresh basil leaves (or cilantro or mint leaves)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 T peanut oil  and  1 T mustard oil  (or substitute grapeseed oil)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (not ground cumin)
1/2 tsp black or yellow mustard seeds (not ground)

-Cut tomatoes into 1/4 inch slices and arrange in slightly overlapping layers on a large plate.
-Tuck the basil (or cilantro or mint) leaves in the center.
-Sprinkle the salt, black pepper, cayenne and lemon juice over the tomatoes, avoiding the leaves.
-Put the oil in a small saucepan and set over high heat.
-When oil is hot, put in cumin and mustard seeds.
-As soon as mustard seeds being to pop (this takes a few seconds), lift the saucepan off the heat and spoon the oil and spices over the tomatoes, being careful to avoid the leaves.
-Serve immediately.

Tomato Sauce

This tomato sauce is all over the internet.  It’s adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan.  I first made this in February, and what it taught me is that it’s super easy to make a really nice sauce without buying inferior-tasting bottled stuff that has additives. You can dress this any way you like, but it’s great as it is.

I use organic tomatoes (you can find them in most regular grocery stores now).  Quite a few bloggers have raved over this recipe, so I emailed it to my amazing friend Laurel on Kauai, and she replied that it was fantastic.  Enough of a recommendation for me!  So, with a 28 oz. can of tomatoes, one onion, and some pasta, you can make a lovely lunch or supper.  I served this to our friends Jim and Jan, and Jan commented that the tomato sauce tasted so fresh.  That’s what it tastes like, in a nutshell; it doesn’t taste like it comes from a can, and it’s got the subtle, delicate umami of the unmasked tomatoes.  The simplest version of the original recipe that I could find is here on epicurious.  All I did was switch out the butter for Earth Balance, and it still did have that buttery taste.  I reduced the fat in half as i just couldn’t see five whopping Tablespoons of butter in only one can of tomatoes.  Also, I have a problem with throwing away an onion, just couldn’t do it.  In fact throwing away an onion seems to be slightly bizarre behavior, and possibly a mortal sin.  So, I diced the onion and kept every bit of it in the sauce.  And yes, it is delicious, and simple, and quick to make.  I like to add some Trader Joe’s Meatless Meatballs into the pot with the sauce, for some extra protein.  Afterthought;  OK, OK, I guess for picky little ones, you could just cut the onion in half and then remove it at the end, as the original recipe calls for, but don’t tell me about it.
Vegan Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions 

Serves:  4 as a main course, at least.

-28 ounces whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano tomatoes are suggested but I don’t worry about this as long as they’re organic)
-2 tablespoons Earth Balance
-1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved (I chop mine fine)
-Salt to taste

Put tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan (it fit well in a 3-quart) over medium heat.
Bring sauce to simmer, then lower heat to low, to keep the sauce at a slow simmer for about 30 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes.
Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.
Remove from heat, add salt to taste and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.

Serve with pasta of your choice, with or without grated vegan parmesan cheese to pass, but, it’s better plain.  For pasta, I like penne, or vermicelli, or capellini. 

I’ve also made this with crushed tomatoes (which saved the crushing of the tomatoes in the pot), and another time with a can of tomato puree, because it was all I had.  Both of these also worked well, despite having slightly less texture.   Note:  The leftovers are great for meatball subs!

Fried Green Tomatoes

I’ve eaten Fried Green Tomatoes at restaurants and they’ve been hard as rocks.  I came home and read about them online and supposedly, they’re supposed to be meltingly soft.  I watched videos on youtube, and checked out blogs online.  After four tries, I found the key is using truly green, un-ripe tomatoes.  On the first go-round, I used Spelt flour and it stuck to the tomatoes really well.  Lars and I both felt that apple cider vinegar was way too strong, almost off-putting, so the third time around I used some inexpensive fig-infused white balsamic vinegar instead.  These vinegars can be found in most grocery stores, and I encourage you to try different “fancy” vinegars because the milder vinegar was so delicious.  One time I dipped the slices in rice milk before the pastry flour and that worked well too, and eliminates any vinegar flavor at all if that’s what you want.  The thick slices of firm tomato can really stand up to the slow frying, and the unique fruity flavor of the truly-green tomato comes right through the cornmeal batter and vinegar.  I’m sure you could use some gluten-free flour too.  I’m guessing the restaurant versions were hard as rocks because they were throwing them in the deep fryer instead of letting them fry slower in a pan.  There’s a photo of the finished dish at the bottom of this page.  One note is that I have cut this recipe in half below, since I’m usually only cooking for two.  Double it for four, of course.  On the side, try this remoulade dressing for vegetables, it kind of makes it.


2 large firm green un-ripe tomatoes
sea salt
1/4 cup “fancy” vinegar of some kind, white balsamic or sherry vinegar, etc.
1/4 cup safflower oil1/4 C spelt flour (or other flour)

1/2 C fine cornmeal, also known as corn flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne

Have your dipping sauce ready and chilling.    With a big serrated bread knife, cut green tomatoes into slices one half inch thick.    Lay slices on baking rack and sprinkle them lightly with sea salt, on both sides.  It’s ok for them to sit for 30 minutes or more as you work.

Set oil to heat in a sauce pan with higher sides, on medium heat (no higher).    Mix together all coating/dredging ingredients.    Put vinegar in a flattish bowl, like a cereal bowl.   One at a time, dip tomato slices into vinegar and then into flour dredging bowl.  I use a spoon to coat the tomato in the dredging bowl and then gently shake off any excess flour.  Using tongs helps prevent breaking the batter too much.    Return dipped-and-coated slices to the baking rack.    Repeat until all slices are dipped and coated.  These can sit while you work.

When the oil is hot, a single drop of water will sizzle.  You can judge if the oil is too hot at this point and turn it down just a hair.    Using tongs, carefully place slices in oil, and don’t crowd.    Fry about 3 minutes per side, until golden brown, not too dark.
Drain on paper towels.    Serve immediately with sauce, or keep warm in a 200 degree