Three Bean Salad

   This classic American Three Bean Salad is lighter than many of the recipes out there, but it’s the best one I’ve had.  Filling and tangy, with plenty of protein, this salad travels well.  The fresh, raw crunch of the celery and shallot are a great contrast with the silky beans.  Three Bean Salads have supposedly been around since the 1800’s, and possibly became so popular because they needed little refrigeration, and hence were often brought to picnics and outings.  Serve with a slotted spoon so as to drain off most of the marinade.

THREE BEAN SALAD

Makes about 8 to 10 servings?

INGREDIENTS
15 oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed,  reserve 3 Tablespoons of bean liquid
15 oz. can green beans, drained and rinsed
15 oz. can yellow wax beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium-to-large stalk celery, diced fine
1 large shallot  chopped fine,  or 1/3 of a medium white onion
1/3 Cup white vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 Cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
pinch cayenne  (a pinch = 1/16th teaspoon)

DIRECTIONS
Take three Tablespoons of bean liquid from the can of kidney beans, and set aside.  In a large non-metal bowl and with a wooden spoon, gently mix the green beans, wax beans, celery and onion.  In a separate small bowl or glass, whisk together the bean liquid, vinegar, oil, sugar, and seasonings.  Add the rinsed-and-drained kidney beans and the vinegar dressing to the green-bean mixture.  Fold this salad gently with a wooden spoon to coat.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour or two before serving.  Stir gently with wooden spoon before serving (we are trying not to mash the kidney beans).  Serve with a slotted spoon so as to drain most of the marinade off and back into the serving bowl.

Notes:  This would also be good in a salad-in-a-jar situation.  For more salad ideas, check out the Salad category on this site.

Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Spices

img_3146     This Butternut Squash Soup with Apple and Spices is perfect for Fall, and good enough for Thanksgiving too.  I love it.  Sauté shallots and a little garlic in olive oil and white wine, add an apple and a bit of real maple syrup for sweetness.  Warming spices and coconut milk round it out.  Dress it up any which way, with homemade croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple slices, etc.

INGREDIENTS
2.5 to 3 lb. butternut squash  (cooked, seeded, peeled and chopped)
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter
1 Cup chopped shallots  (about 6 shallots, depending on size)
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 bay leaf,  one thyme sprig
1 Cup white wine
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric  (for color–you won’t taste it)
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup
4 Cups vegetable stock
1/2 Cup coconut creamer or coconut milk
one single star anise

Any toppings you desire, such as homemade croutons, toasted pumpkin seeds, dried apple bits, etc.

DIRECTIONS
In a large pot over medium heat, heat olive oil and butter and then add shallots, garlic, salt, pepper, bay leaf and thyme.  Cook until shallots are soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the wine, cinnamon, nutmeg and turmeric, and cook 3-5 minutes more.  Add squash, chopped apple, maple syrup, vegetable stock, coconut milk, and the single anise star.  Cook on low simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove bay leaf, thyme and star anise.  Let soup cool.

Puree soup in blender.  Re-heat and serve with any toppings you desire.

Notes:  I like Better Than Bouillon “No Chicken” base for this soup, but any vegetable stock will do.  Substitute onion for the shallots if necessary.   An easy way to cook the squash is to poke some slits down one side with a sharp knife, and then place it in a baking dish with about an inch of water.  Place in cold oven, set oven to 375 and bake for 90 minutes to 2 hours.  I add the anise star later in the cooking process so it doesn’t overpower the other flavors, but instead gives a delicate hint.

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.

TOMATO TART WITH ALMOND FETA AND CARAMELIZED ONIONS

Makes 6 to 8 slices

INGREDIENTS
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)

DIRECTIONS
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.

Vegan Caramelized Carrot Risotto

IMG_2868     After seeing the movie The Fault in Our Stars where they eat the Dragon Carrot Risotto, I knew I had to make it.  So last Fall, I ordered organic seeds from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply, and began planning a few dishes to make.   I found this recipe online and veganized it.  Swapping out the animal products still produced a classic, restaurant-style risotto, with a real flavor of parmesan.  Caramelizing the carrots is genius, and this is good enough for company, for a birthday, or even for Thanksgiving.  In the end, I did use a mélange of carrot cultivars to make this dish, because that day, along with the Dragon carrots, I also pulled Cosmic Purple carrots and Atomic Red carrots from the ground.   This dish makes a lot and reheats well.

VEGAN CARAMELIZED CARROT RISOTTO

Makes 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil, divided  (not canola oil)
3 Tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, divided
6 medium carrots, peeled and chopped as finely and evenly as possible (about 3 Cups)
(I used a food processor for the carrots)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon sugar
5 Cups vegetable broth  (I used Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base)
1/3 Cup minced onion
1.5 Cups Arborio rice
1/2 Cup dry white wine
1/4 Cup vegan cream cheese  (I like Trader Joe’s)
1/4 Cup vegan parmesan, I like Go Veggie Vegan Grated Parmesan
1 Tablespoon finely-chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus 1 Tablespoon for garnish
1 teaspoon roughly-chopped fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon pepper

DIRECTIONS
Heat 1 Tablespoon oil and 1 Tablespoon vegan butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot.  Add carrots and stir until well coated.  Ad 1/2 Cup water, salt and sugar, cover and cook 5 minutes, or until tender.  Uncover and cook a few minutes more, stirring occasionally until water evaporates and carrots are just starting to brown.  Reserve half of these cooked carrots.  In a blender, puree the other half with 3/4 Cup hot water.

Bring broth to a simmer and keep hot, covered, over low heat.

In same (unwashed) pot used for carrots, heat remaining oil and butter over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.  Add rice, stirring to coat rice with oil, 1 minute.  Add wine and cook, stirring until wine evaporates.  Add carrot puree and cook, stirring, until mixture no longer looks soupy.

Add 1/2 Cup hot broth, stirring often, until rice absorbs most of the liquid.  Repeat process, adding 1/2 Cup broth at a time and stirring often until each addition of broth is absorbed before adding the next, until rice is al dente (about 20 minutes).  At least 1 Cup of broth will remain.

Set aside 2 Tablespoons of the caramelized carrots.  Fold in the remaining carrots, cream cheese, parmesan, 1 Tablespoon parsley, and the thyme.  Add up to 1 Cup broth (1/4 Cup at a time) to loosen the risotto.  Season with pepper.

Garnish each bowl of risotto with the remaining parsley and reserved carrots.  Serve immediately.

Notes:  Better Than Bouillon also makes a very good Seasoned Vegetable Base that would work fine.  When reheating, add some leftover broth or water to loosen it up again.

cropped-IMG_2825.jpg  Organic carrots from my garden.

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Vegan Horseradish Aioli

IMG_2220     With a couple little tweaks, I veganized this quick and easy recipe from another site.  Now it’s just as delicious, but also cholesterol-free and cruelty-free.  You can have these in the oven in 5 minutes!

CRISPY ARTICHOKE HEARTS WITH VEGAN HORSERADISH AIOLI

Serves 2 to 4 as appetizers.

VEGAN HORSERADISH AIOLI
1 Tablespoon ground horseradish
2 Tablespoons Reduced Fat Vegenaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
pinch black pepper
2 drops Worcestershire sauce

CRISPY ARTICHOKE HEARTS
9 to 12 ounces frozen artichoke hearts
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Combine all ingredients for Horseradish Aioli and mix well.  Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve.

Toss frozen artichoke hearts with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet.  Bake for 45 minutes, flipping once or twice during baking, until crispy on the edges.  Remove from oven and serve with the aioli.

Notes:  Kelchner’s Horse-Radish (the plain one is vegan), can sometimes be found in the seafood department of the grocery store, in a 6.5 oz. jar.  I prefer Wizard brand Worcestershire sauce.
IMG_2218  These were the only frozen artichoke hearts I could find, but the original recipe calls for a 12-ounce bag.

Vegan Hollandaise using The Vegg

IMG_0420    This quick and easy vegan Hollandaise Sauce kind of blew my mind–it was so authentically good.  I put it on asparagus, and made vegan Eggs Benedict with it, but I can see where it would be good on a variety of vegetables, or just to dip toast points in.  You whip this up in the blender–so much easier than traditional Hollandaise, and cruelty free!    p.s. This is cholesterol-free too.

VEGAN HOLLANDAISE SAUCE USING THE VEGG

Makes approximately 2 Cups

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons of The Vegg powder
1/4 Cup Earth Balance Buttery Sticks, melted
1/4 Cup Reduced Fat Vegenaise
3 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
1.5 Cups to 2 Cups hot water (not boiling)
1/8 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch cayenne, or 1/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Into a blender, put 1.5 Cups of the hot water and The Vegg powder and blend until smooth.  Add in all other ingredients except the vegan butter, and blend again.  Melt butter in microwave at 10-second intervals–do not overheat the butter or it might separate.  Slowly add melted butter to blender, and blend again until glossy.  Serve.

If the Hollandaise starts to set up or get too thick, add some of the remaining water, a Tablespoon at a time.  Store in fridge.  To reheat, add a little water, heat and re-blend, or whisk in saucepan.

Notes:  To make vegan Eggs Benedict, extra-firm Silken tofu is good to fry up, as it has the consistency of over-easy eggs.  The Vegg really tastes and looks like egg yolks and even has that slightly-sulfury smell.  Home cooks and chefs all over the world are doing amazing things with The Vegg.  If you don’t have The Vegg, I suppose you could substitute in nutritional yeast and a bit of kala namak (black salt), but I have not tried this yet.  This recipe is adapted from this post and this post.  As I make this in future, I’ll try cutting some fat out of it, and start by reducing 1 Tablespoon of butter and 1 Tablespoon of mayo.  Should be fine.

IMG_0414  I already put this on my Instagram, but will add it here.  I prefer thicker asparagus, but make sure to peel the bottoms of the stalks with a potato peeler to remove stringy texture.  Meaty but tender.

Grilled Broccolini with Pistachio, Cured Olive, and Preserved Lemon – from the Vedge cookbook

IMG_0374     This Grilled Broccolini with Pistachio, Cured Olive and Preserved Lemon is yet another simple-but-superb dish from the Vedge cookbook.  This dish looks gorgeous and tastes even better.  The slightly-bitter and slightly-crunchy broccolini, bright lemon, salty olives and toothsome, creamy toasted nuts are an amazing combination.  I always have a jar of Preserved Lemons on hand for dishes like this.  I cut the oil in half, and also cut down on the salt, and this dish was still extremely flavorful and luscious.  I just used Trader Joe’s Kalamata olives packed in olive oil, and I found organic Broccolini at Whole Foods in Annapolis.   Whole Foods was also calling it Baby Broccoli, which it is not.  The Broccolini seed was developed in Japan, around 1993, and it’s a vegetable similar to broccoli, and is also called different things in different countries–such as broccolette, broccoletti, bimi, and tenderstem broccoli, among other names.  This was my first time cooking broccolini, but now I can say I prefer it to regular broccoli.  In future, I will slice any thick stems down the middle (the long way), while leaving the florets/head intact, to help the thicker stems cook to the same level as the thinner stems and delicate florets.   This recipe is a bit time-consuming if you prepare it all at once–maybe about 45 minutes.  However, you can prepare any or all of the individual components a day ahead, and then it’s quick to throw together.  I used my Calphalon 12-inch round, nonstick grill pan on top of my electric stove and had great results, but this can also be prepared on the outdoor grill.  You can substitute broccoli rabe if you cannot find the broccolini.    p.s.  Leftovers of this dish are fabulous chopped up and tossed with hot pasta!

Ensalada de Aguacate – Avocado Salad

IMG_0348    I love to order Ensalada de Aguacate (otherwise known as Avocado Salad) at Mexican restaurants.  However, I always wish they were a bit richer in flavor, and less oily.  Keeping the simple, perfect ingredients, the main thing was to create a more-complex vinaigrette.  After a few attempts, here’s my latest obsession.

ENSALADA de AGUACATE   (Avocado Salad)

Makes enough for three or four side salads.

INGREDIENTS
1 small head iceberg lettuce
2 Hass avocados, ripe but not mushy
1/4 red onion, diced
1 medium garlic clove, pressed,  or smashed and chopped finely
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 Tablespoon cooking sherry
1/4 teaspoon smooth stone-ground mustard
1/8 teaspoon ground Cumin
1/2 teaspoon cane sugar
1/2 teaspoon scant fine sea salt  (if regular salt, use a bit less)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
(if tomatoes are in season and really good, they can be cut into chunks and added)

DIRECTIONS
In a medium non-metal bowl, place garlic, oil, lime juice, sherry, mustard, cumin, sugar, salt and pepper.  Whisk until well blended.  Add diced onions to this vinaigrette, stir and set aside for the sugar and salt to further dissolve while you work.  The onion will do a quick “pickle” in the vinaigrette.

Wash, dry and chop enough lettuce into shreds.  Cover and protect shredded lettuce with a dish towel and set in fridge to prevent wilting.  When ready to serve, peel, pit and do a larger dice on the avocados, and immediately add them to the vinaigrette bowl (to prevent browning).  Using a wooden spoon, gently stir and fold the avocado cubes into the dressing/onion mixture.  As you stir, the dressing will become a bit creamier from the avocado.  Place a bed of shredded lettuce onto each plate and spoon the avocado and dressing over the center of each plate.  Let each person mix their own salad using their knife and fork.

Notes:  This classic and beautiful salad is popular in many Hispanic and Latin countries.  To stretch this salad a bit, add another avocado.

 

Cinnamon Stick Beets or Quick Pickled Beets

IMG_2556      These Quick Pickled Beets are an easy and delicious way to preserve fresh beets for weeks in the fridge.  They bring a rare and beautiful color to salads, but my favorite way to eat them is in hummus wraps with pan-toasted almonds.  Many recipes for pickled beets call for cloves, but I found that flavor too medicinal.  After making these three times, I settled on a three-inch stick of cinnamon in each jar, for a complex hint of spice that tempers the earthiness of the beets.   For other preserving recipes, check out the Pickles category.

CINNAMON STICK BEETS  or  QUICK PICKLED BEETS

Makes about 3 pints.

INGREDIENTS
6 fresh beets of medium, uniform size  (better for slicing and fitting into jars)
1 Cup white vinegar
2 Cups water
3 Tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt  (not kosher salt)
small cinnamon sticks  (one 3-inch stick per jar)
whole peppercorns      (about 8 per jar)  (totally optional)
brown mustard seeds  (a pinch per jar)  (totally optional)

DIRECTIONS
Do not preheat oven.  Trim greens off beets, leaving about one inch of stems.  Wash beets very well, and wrap in tin foil.  Place foil packet in a pan and place in cold oven.  Set oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 90 minutes.  Let beets cool a bit, and then peel, and slice however you like.  Consider thick batons, or circular slices or half circles.  If you want to make a stacked salad, whole circles are best.

In a small stock pot, heat vinegar, water, sugar and salt to a simmer, and stir to dissolve any visible salt or sugar.  Remove pot from heat and let liquid brine cool a bit, maybe 10 to 15 minutes at most.  Into each clean jar place one small cinnamon stick, and, if using, any peppercorns or mustard seeds.  Pack sliced beets into each jar.  Pour brine slowly into packed jars and let cool on counter for about 30 minutes.  Store in fridge.  Use diced into salads, drained and sliced in sandwiches, etc.

Notes.  Make sure jars and everything are very clean.  I prefer plastic jar lids because they’re non-reactive to the vinegar, and I like them to be BPA-free, but any lid is fine!   I keep my beets about a month in the fridge.  A good tip is that Vegenaise lids will often fit on small-mouth canning jars.  Using medium-size beets of uniform shape will make it easier to get them into jars, and you’ll have more whole, round slices.

You can see my post Growing Beets.  Other recipes on this site that use beets include Roasted Beet Salad and Salad in A Jar.
IMG_2487  Scrubbed beets ready to roast.
IMG_2509   The jar on the right is a recycled Vegenaise jar.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole Grain Mustard Sauce

IMG_1810    This is the 2nd delicious and easy recipe I’ve tried from the Vedge cookbook by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby.  I’ve eaten these Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Whole Grain Mustard Sauce at the Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia (see photo below), and this recipe replicates that experience very well.  My comments on the recipe are to make sure to divide your salt and pepper before you begin (I accidentally threw all the pepper into the sauce, which didn’t hurt it).  The sauce takes two minutes to make, so make that first and throw it in the fridge.  Cut the stems/bottoms well off the sprouts and discard.  I just used a knife to cut and shave the sprouts.  Make sure to cook the sprouts on high (as per the recipe) because that’s how you get the roasty bits.  Go easy on the sauce–a little goes a long way, and next time I would probably only make half of the sauce.  Out of the Vedge cookbook, I also made the Salt Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion, which is also an easy and super-delicious recipe.  It’s simple to make the components for both of these recipes ahead.  Once the sprouts are prepped, they take only a 5-minute sizzle in the pan before serving.   In short, I love this gorgeous cookbook.
IMG_1484  Here’s the dish we received at Vedge restaurant.  As you can see, lighting was super-low, and they used a very grainy mustard.  I just used organic whole-grain mustard from a jar, and it was still delicious.

Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion

IMG_1784    Salt-Roasted Golden Beets with Dill, Avocado, Capers and Red Onion.  This delicious recipe is from the Vedge cookbook by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby.  Although this dish has various components, it’s simple to make.  To save time, I roasted and peeled the beets the day before I needed them.  We also recently ate this salad at the Vedge restaurant in Philadelphia, and it was killer.  I was pleasantly surprised that the dish I made at home actually tasted like what we ate at the restaurant.  In the restaurant, this dish is served in a round stack with a circle of smoked tofu (see photo below).  My comments on this dish are that I used only 1/4 teaspoon of fine sea salt (since the capers are so salty), and I also reduced the second application of black pepper.  I was unable to procure fresh dill and it’s too early for dill in my garden, so I substituted 1 teaspoon of dried dill weed.  And . . . it was still wonderful.  I grow beets, and cook beets more than most people, and noticed no discernible difference with the salt roasting–so in future, I would simply wrap the beets in foil and roast them in the oven for 60-90 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  By the way, the cookbook is gorgeous, with 100 plant-based recipes that highlight The Vegetable.  It has a soft, matte cover with no pesky dust jacket, and beautiful photographs.  Since I had one of the best meals of my life at Vedge restaurant, this cookbook is not going on the shelf–because I’ll be too busy using it.
IMG_1483  At the restaurant, this is served in a stack with a ring of smoked tofu.

Sweet and Pungent Spinach

IMG_1447    The title of this recipe is a traditional Chinese one, in honor of the upcoming Chinese New Year on January 31, 2014.   This year, Chinese New Year officially begins on February 4, and it will be The Year of The Wooden Horse,  or The Year of The Green Horse.  As an Earth Dog, I’m predicted to have a very good year, hurrah!  This fast and delicious recipe is from a Chinese cooking class my Mom took back in the 1990’s.  I’ve reduced the oil and sugar, and added the flake salt.  See photos of the original recipe below, including the Chinese teacher’s chop (seal).

SWEET AND PUNGENT SPINACH

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
5 ounces fresh spinach  (142 grams)    (I usually double it, see notes below)
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1/4 Cup peanuts  (I like salted cocktail peanuts)
a sprinkle of fine sea salt, or any good salt

DRESSING INGREDIENTS
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

DIRECTIONS
In a large, non-stick skillet, heat oil on medium or one click below medium.  In a little bowl or cup, mix dressing ingredients.  Stir fry spinach until crisp tender but not too wilted–this happens very fast!  I turn my heat off half-way through and let the hot skillet do the rest as I stir.  Toss spinach with dressing and put into individual serving bowls.  Serve immediately with peanuts and salt.

Notes:  Because American spinach is generally very small and tender, I do not remove the spinach ribs.  The spinach cooks down a lot.   I usually double the amount of spinach for the two of us, but I keep the dressing amounts the same.  Spinach is loaded with iron, calcium, protein and Vitamin A.
IMG_1451 IMG_1452

Chickpea Zucchini Fries with Sumac and Lemon

IMG_1104    Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, this is my riff on Mario Batali’s Chickpea Fries.  We found his version too bland, so these have been spiced up a bit, and this recipe below is halved.  I didn’t bother wringing out the zucchini, just left it to drain longer instead.  Packed with fiber and protein, these golden fries are addictive when served with wedges of fresh lemon and sea salt.

CHICKPEA FRIES

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
1 large zucchini, partially peeled and grated  (approx. 3 cups of grated zucchini)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 Cups water
1.5 Cups chickpea flour  (also called garbanzo flour)
1.5 teaspoon ground sumac
1 teaspoon Shallot-Pepper  or any other spice(s)
1/4 Cup all-purpose flour for dredging (optional)
1/2 Cup peanut oil
2 lemons, cut into wedges
sea salt or other finishing salt

DIRECTIONS
Place grated zucchini in a bowl and sprinkle with the 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and stir to mix well.  Transfer grated zucchini to a colander set over a bowl, and set aside to drain for 30 minutes or so.  Occasionally, gently stir and press it with the back of a spoon.

Grease a baking dish and line the bottom with waxed paper or parchment paper.  I used waxed paper and a Pyrex dish of approx. 11×7 inches.  Set this prepared baking dish in the refrigerator while you work.

In a medium mixing bowl, dry whisk the sumac and shallot-pepper (or other seasonings) into the chickpea flour.  In a medium saucepan, simmer the water over medium heat.  Pour in the seasoned chickpea flour and stir constantly for one minute, making sure heat is not too high.  Add zucchini, stir well and remove from heat.  Pour zucchini mixture into prepared baking dish, and gently press and smooth it out with the back of a spoon.  Chill for at least one hour, or overnight.

Onto a large floured cutting board, turn out the set chickpea mixture.  Peel off and discard the waxed paper.  Cut into fries approx. 3″ x 1/2″.   In a heavy-bottom pot, heat the oil.  Dredge fries lightly in all-purpose flour (this step is optional but it’s the only way I’ve ever done it).  Working in batches, cook the chickpea fries until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes.  You’re going for golden brown here, not too dark.  Drain on paper towels and serve immediately with plenty of lemon wedges,  and sea salt for sprinkling.

Notes:  You can find ground sumac in any Middle-Eastern grocery.  These are worth getting out your best salt for.  Feel free to change up the spices.  I’ll try using black pepper and rosemary next time, to go with the lemon and sea salt.  These are called panisses in France, and panelle in Italy.  Here’s a video of Mario Batali making these.  More photos below.

IMG_1098 Zucchini draining into a bowl.
IMG_1100  Water drained from the zucchini.

Salad in A Jar

IMG_1079    I saw Salad In a Jar in a great blog post on these make-ahead, packable salads.  A few times a year, I have to attend a meeting where a lunch of dead animals is provided for everyone (except me).  This time, I had a beautiful meal instantly constructed on my plate, with just a shake and a tip of the wide-mouth canning jar.

SALAD IN A JAR

INGREDIENTS
wide-mouth canning jar(s), quart size
salad dressing
salad fixings

DIRECTIONS
Put salad dressing on the bottom of the jar(s) and start building.  First, add ingredients that benefit from a marinade in the salad dressing, things like beets or beans or lentils.  As you build up further away from the dressing, you could add chopped nuts, dried fruit, diced vegetables, drained mandarin oranges, greens or lettuces, cooked quinoa, croutons, etc.  Make sure to leave an inch or two of space at the top–this will allow you to shake the salad, and it will also keep your food away from any BPA in the canning jar lid.

Notes:  It’s easy to fill more than one jar at a time.  I prefer to cut my greens or lettuces into smaller pieces.  Ingredients can change with the seasons–in the summer, you could tuck some nasturtium flowers from the garden on top, and in the Fall you could use roasted root vegetables.   Take these flavors in any direction by changing up the dressing and fixings–Mexican, Greek, etc.   I’m thinking cold Japanese somen noodle salad with smoked tofu, green onions, fresh peas and seasame seeds.  Or Middle Eastern with tahini dressing, roasted chickpeas, cucumbers, pistachios or walnuts, and dried apricots.

Hashed Brussels Sprouts With Lemon Zest and Candied Hazelnuts

IMG_1037    Neither of us were crazy about Brussels Sprouts, until now.  I adapted this recipe from a non-vegan cookbook, and made some quick-candied hazelnuts.  These Brussels sprouts are still a bit crisp in texture, and bright with fresh lemon.  For me, the nuts added a missing element.

HASHED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH LEMON ZEST AND CANDIED HAZELNUTS

Serves 5 or 6

INGREDIENTS
Juice of one medium lemon, plus grated zest of 2 lemons.
1 pound of Brussels sprouts
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons vegan butter, such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks
1 garlic clove, mashed and minced
2 teaspoons black poppy seeds
2 Tablespoons white wine or vermouth
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/3 Cup chopped raw hazelnuts  (or pecans)
1 Tablespoon vegan butter
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch nutmeg

DIRECTIONS
Place lemon juice in a large non-metal bowl.  Cut bottoms well off sprouts and discard.  Peel any less-than-perfect leaves off each sprout and discard.  Halve sprouts lengthwise, and thinly slice them crosswise.  As you work, transfer slices into bowl with lemon juice.  When all sprouts are sliced, toss them well in the lemon juice with a non-metal spoon, and cover and refrigerate the sprouts for 15 minutes or up to three hours.

For candied hazelnuts:  in a very small skillet or saucepan, heat the butter, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and salt on medium heat.  Add chopped hazelnuts and cook and stir until you see a tinge of golden brown on a few of the nuts, this takes just a few minutes.  Set candied nuts on a clean plate.  Do not set them on paper towels, or they will stick.

When ready to serve, in a large skillet heat oil and butter over medium heat.  When hot, add sprouts, garlic and poppy seeds, and cook, stirring often, until sprouts are lightly cooked, but still bright green and crisp, about 4 minutes.

Add wine and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring for 1 minute more.  Turn off heat and stir in lemon zest, reserving a little zest for the top of the dish.  Transfer to a serving bowl or platter, sprinkle with some of the candied hazelnuts and the remaining zest, and serve.

Notes:  I recommend prepping some of the ingredients early, to save time, because the actual cooking is fairly quick.   I tried making them with vermouth but did not care for it.  When buying Brussels sprouts, look for fresh, green compact sprouts.  Wilted or yellow leaves are signs of age or mishandling.  Give them a sniff–old sprouts have a strong, cabbage-like odor.  Store up to three days in refrigerator.  The older they are, the less appealing their smell and flavor.  Overcooking also renders Brussels sprouts unappealing (in my opinion).

Caramelized Green Beans With Pine Nuts

IMG_0516    Vegan Mofo 2013.  This fast, easy dish is also a little bit elegant.  The skinnier beans get a bit more caramelized while the fatter beans stay closer to their original state.  Creamy pine nuts are thrown right in with the beans to toast in the last five minutes of cooking–no separate pan to wash or take up a burner.  I reduced the fat, and substituted in Earth Balance Buttery Spread.  This is a good dish to make while you’re working on other food in the kitchen, because it cooks in the pan for about 30 minutes.  Prep time is minimal.  This is adapted from an old Martha Stewart Recipe.   p.s.  My photo shows more pine nuts than the recipe calls for.

CARAMELIZED GREEN BEANS WITH PINE NUTS

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
2 teaspoons Earth Balance Organic Whipped Buttery Spread
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1.5 pounds green beans, washed, stem ends removed
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
sea salt
pepper (if desired)
lemon wedges  (optional, this was not part of the original recipe)

DIRECTIONS
In a large skillet, heat vegan butter and oil over medium-low heat
Add green beans, partially cover and cook, tossing occasionally, until beans are tender and brown in spots, about 30 minutes.
Add pine nuts, and cook until nuts are toasted, about 5 more minutes.
Season with sea salt and pepper.
Serve with lemon wedges.
IMG_0509

Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Here’s one of the best Dill Pickles I’ve ever eaten.  I used organic, pristinely-fresh, full-size cucumbers, and store-bought dill seed, to make this a year-round quick pickle.  By partially peeling and then slicing the cucumbers into spears, we now have a pickle that you can begin eating the next day.  The result is a crunchy, fresh, semi-raw-tasting pickle that’s addictive.  The original recipe appeared in the Dayton Daily News on August 14, 2006, but I cannot find the link and adapted my version from an old photocopy.   It’s one of those popular refrigerator-pickle recipes that’s probably not approved by the FDA.  However, my friend Gail has been making the original recipe for three years and nobody’s gotten sick yet, despite the fact that she refrigerates them for three to six months at a time.  When you consider, for example, the crocks of sauerkraut made around the world and stored in grubby basements, I think we’ll live.  You can find many recipes for refrigerator pickles online, on sites like cooks.com and people are letting them sit in the fridge for months on end and even adding fresh veg into the jars of original brine.  Pickling is the oldest form of food preservation, but there’s a real rebirth of fermented foods going on here in the United States, as evidenced by the plethora of books published on the subject recently (just go on amazon.com and type in “fermented foods“).  The original recipe is called “Cold Pack Dill Pickles” which is a bit of a misnomer, because supposedly, Cold Pack means using a water-bath canner instead of a pressure canner, but this simple recipe uses neither.  I’ve also reduced the salt a bit, added some mustard seeds and brought the yield down from 16 pints, to two quarts, which saves a lot of time and is fine for our home consumption.  Like my Pickled Red Onions, I’ll just make another quick batch when we’re out.  Thank you, Gail, for the original recipe, and all the fabulous garden produce you folks shared with us last summer.  Vegan Mofo 2012.
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Easy Refrigerator Dill Pickles

Makes 2 quarts.

INGREDIENTS
3 large, full-size, firm, fresh, organic cucumbers
(or four medium cukes)
3.5 Cups filtered water
1 Cup distilled white vinegar
3 Tablespoons fine sea salt
2 Tablespoons sugar

2 teaspoons Dill seeds
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds (optional)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

DIRECTIONS
To make brine:
In a large saucepan or small stock pot, add water, vinegar, salt, and sugar.
Heat until good and hot, stirring to dissolve salt and sugar.
Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly.
——–
Have 2 clean quart jars at the ready (or 4 pint jars).
Wash cucumbers carefully and partially peel them, leaving some green strips along the sides.  If the cucumbers are from a safe, organic garden (un-waxed cucumbers), peel them only lightly for visual appeal.
Cut the ends off each cucumber.
Cut each cucumber in half the short way, and then quarter each half into long spears.
Slice away at least half of the seeds from the length of each cucumber spear.
Rinse peeled garlic halves in hot water to make sure they’re clean, and divide the garlic between the two jars.
Add 1 teaspoon of Dill seeds to each jar.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of mustard seeds to each jar.
Place prepared cucumber spears vertically into jars, packing them in tightly.
Fill jars with the hot brine and then tighten the lids by hand.
Wipe jars dry and place them immediately into the fridge.
Supposedly, these keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 6 months.

Notes:  I always run my canning jars through the dishwasher with the other dishes to make sure they’re sterilized.  Make sure cutting board and knives are impeccably clean, etc.  The original recipe calls for chopping the garlic and adding 2 fresh dill sprigs to each jar.  It did not call for heating the brine, or peeling the cukes, and it recommended letting the completed pickles/jars sit out at room temperature for 24 hours, but I was too scared to do that, especially with the garlic in there.

Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squashes

These Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squashes can be made ahead to save time before dinner.  This protein-packed dish would be lovely for any Autumnal meal, or even Thanksgiving.  The Middle-Eastern ingredients are lightly spiced, and the raisins add chewy sweetness as a foil against the savory broth.  Instead of ground beef, I used chopped walnuts.  Walnuts provide not only extra protein and omegas, but a rich meatiness that pushes this into the main-dish arena.  For those who are avoiding gluten, you could easily substitute quinoa for the bulgur.  You could also add a cup of Beyond Beef Crumbles, or other vegan protein, if you want to.  Vegan Mofo 2012.
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Moroccan Stuffed Acorn Squashes

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
2 small Acorn squashes
1/2 Cup bulgur wheat  (or cooked quinoa)
1 Cup vegetable broth  (I used Better Than Bouillon)
1/3 Cup golden raisins
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and minced
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 Cup flat-leaf parsley, stems removed, chopped fine
1/2 Cup raw walnuts, chopped

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat one Cup of vegetable broth.
Put bulgur in a small bowl, pour in only 3/4 Cup of the steaming broth over the bulgur, and cover and wait 30 to 45 minutes.
Pour the remaining 1/4 Cup of hot broth over the raisins and set them aside to plump.

You will now pre-bake the squash so it’s easy to cut into.
Wash acorn squashes and set them in a baking dish with 1/2 inch of water.  Find the place where you will cut each squash in half and then pierce along that invisible line several times, to let steam escape.
Bake squashes for 35 minutes.
Remove from oven and carefully slice along your previous perforations with a sharp knife to create a continuous slit.
Bake 30 more minutes and then remove from oven to cool.

In a pot, heat oil and add onion and cook about 5 minutes.
Add garlic, spices and salt, and cook another minute or so.
Add hydrated bulgur and cook until any excessive moisture (if there is any) is gone, maybe 3 to 5 minutes.
Remove from heat, add parsley and walnuts and stir well.
Drain raisins and fold them into the bulgur mixture.
Scrape out the cooled squashes, forming squash bowls, and fold the squash meat into the bulgur mixture in the pot.
With a spoon, mix gently but well, and fill each squash bowl with stuffing.
You can now refrigerate these to bake later, if you want to.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place stuffed squashes side by side in a baking dish and bake until warmed through and tops are browned, about 20 minutes or so.  If squashes have been chilling, it might take longer.

Notes:  I used Bob’s Red Mill 100% Whole Grain Quick Cooking Bulgur.  All I had in the house were regular raisins, so the photo reflects that.

McCormick Grill Mates – Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

This might seem like an odd thing to recommend on a vegan food blog, but keep reading.   McCormick Grill Mates give seitan and other vegan foods a seasoning flavor reminiscent of traditional “meaty” dishes.  I have to give credit to our friend Tim for turning me onto the Montreal Steak Seasoning.  Shortly after I went vegan, Tim and Josie invited us over to barbecue, and Tim grilled up some portobello mushrooms with the Montreal Steak Seasoning.   The grill smoke and the traditional steak seasonings on the meaty portabella mushroom reminded me of the flavors I grew up with.   Since then, I’ve used the Smokehouse Maple Seasoning when cooking Smart Bacon, and it gives it that extra little bacon flavor that’s good in BLT’s, on tofu McMuffins, etc.   I have not tried the chicken flavored one yet, but plan to try it on some vegan cutlets for sandwiches and things.  Please note that not all these seasonings are vegan.  For example, the Molasses Bacon Seasoning has actual pig fat in it.  One last note is that there are various videos for grilling portabella mushrooms on youtube.  Some say the gills are slightly bitter, and so they scoop them out.  Some leave the gills in.  Some score the tops of the mushrooms with a knife, so they get a nice pattern on them and flatten out a bit for a burger.  Either way, these take just minutes to prepare and are delicious.
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Grilled Portobello Mushrooms

INGREDIENTS
2 to 4 Portobello mushrooms
olive oil
McCormick Grill Mates, Montreal Steak seasoning

DIRECTIONS
Twist off mushroom stems.
Gently scrape out gills with a teaspoon (optional)
Quickly but gently wash mushrooms with a soft cloth or brush, under cool water, and set immediately to drain.
Brush mushrooms top and bottom with olive oil.
Sprinkle both sides with McCormick Grill Mates Montreal Steak Seasoning.
In the refrigerator, let mushrooms marinate for one hour or less, in a Ziplock bag into which you’ve sprinkled another Tablespoon of oil.
Do not marinate too long.
Grill 8 to 10 minutes per side.

Note:  If leaving the gills in, make sure to rinse well, so as to dislodge any grit or soil that may be in the folds.  Make sure to buy impeccably fresh portobellos and use them soon, because they can get funky if they get older.

Crispy Onion Rings

This recipe is from the Food Wishes web site, and what makes it special is that the onion rings stay crispy longer than others.  I already have a good onion ring recipe on this site; Panko Coated Onion Rings, and if I recall correctly, they stay crispy for a pretty long time too.  This Food Wishes recipe also uses Panko.  I read about the FW recipe somewhere recently, and since we were having veggie burgers, decided to try it last night.  I should have taken a photo of the ones that cooked longer, so make sure yours are golden brown.  My conclusion is that these are really good, and they did stay crispy for a long time.  A winner.  On the Food Wishes web site, you can also watch the video if you want to.
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Crispy Onion Rings

Approx. 6 Servings?

INGREDIENTS
Vegetable oil for frying (I like peanut, or safflower or canola oil)
1-2 medium-size (not large) yellow onions
1/2 Cup all-purpose flour
1/4 Cup corn starch
2 Tablespoons instant mashed potatoes
a pinch of cayenne
1 Cup cold club soda
2-3 Cups Panko (Japanese-style bread crumbs)
fine sea salt, to taste

DIRECTIONS
Set oil to heat.
Put Panko in a shallow dish or pan.
In a bowl, put flour, corn starch, instant mashed potatoes, cayenne, and dry whisk to combine.
Add club soda to flour mixture and whisk again to combine.
This batter should now sit and thicken for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, peel and slice onions into 1/4-inch rings.
When oil is hot, dip rings one at a time, with a fork, into batter
   and then with a separate fork, into Panko, until coated.
Fry several onion rings at a time, but do not crowd the pot.
Flip onion rings halfway through, until golden brown.
Place finished onion rings onto a baking rack set onto a baking sheet.
You can keep these warm in a 200 degree oven, if necessary.

Notes:  Use one fork for the batter dipping, and a separate fork for the panko dipping.  The amounts in the video are for a smaller batch.  The amounts above will yield a larger batch, possibly 6 servings.  I found a little 3.5 oz. box of Edward & Sons Organic Mashed Potatoes at my health food store, which saved me from wasting a big box of Potato Buds.

Spicy Lebanese Potatoes – Batata Harra

According to Wikipedia, Batata Harra can also be a Syrian dish if made with red peppers, coriander and chili.  There’s an Indian version as well, but here we have a Lebanese dish.  Since the cilantro is briefly sauteed, it’s milder in flavor, and so might even appeal to those who have not yet acquired a taste for cilantro.

Batata Harra – Lebanese Spicy Potatoes

INGREDIENTS
6-8 medium-to-large red potatoes, or fingerling potatoes to equal
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Cup washed, chopped fresh cilantro, with stems removed
4 cloves garlic, pressed, or crushed and minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS
Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.   Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Do not peel potatoes.   Chop potatoes into small cubes, maybe 1/2 inch dice.
In a large bowl, toss potatoes with only 2 Tablespoons of the oil, and half of the salt.
Spread potatoes onto lined baking sheet, and bake for about 20 minutes, stirring them halfway through, until golden.
In a frying pan or wok, sauté garlic in remaining Tablespoon of olive oil for a minute or two.  Add potatoes and stir and saute for another minute or two.  Add in cilantro, remaining salt, cayenne and freshly ground pepper, and stir in pan before serving.

Notes:  Some cooks deep-fry the potatoes.  If you’re using potatoes with thicker skins, such as russets, you could mostly peel them.  Best served hot, but fine at room temperature too.

Corn Tomato Salad with Herbs and Fresh Lime Juice

I got this recipe down on Tilghman Island at an outdoor party some years ago.  I took one bite and began asking around the crowd of strangers, “Who made the corn salad?”  Luckily, the kind woman did remember to mail me the recipe and I now have it to share with you.  I make this every summer.  It’s simple and healthy, and tastes amazing.  The lime juice is essential, and this is a great salad for company or a BBQ or buffet table because it just tastes better as it sits out.  You can also double it easily for a crowd.   This salad does justice to fresh corn in high season, and it’s also a great time to use those little cherry tomatoes and herbs from the garden.  Sauteeing the garlic and thyme mellows them out and the lime juice gives it a hint of acidity,  it’s just balanced.

Corn Tomato Salad with Herbs and Fresh Lime Juice

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
6 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus another set aside
1 garlic clove, pressed or crushed and minced
1 tsp. coarsely chopped fresh thyme
1 bunch green onions, green portion only, thinly
  sliced on the diagonal
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
Juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil

DIRECTIONS
In a medium glass bowl, combine 1 Tablespoon of the oil, the lime juice, salt, pepper, sliced tomatoes, and chopped basil.  Set aside at room temperature.

Holding each ear of corn by its pointed end and steadying its stalk end in a large bowl, cut down along the ear with a sharp knife to strip off the kernels, turning the ear with each cut.
In a large nonstick saute pan over medium heat, heat the vegan butter and 1 Tablespoon of the olive oil until hot.
Add the garlic and saute, stirring constantly, 20 to 30 seconds.
Add corn and saute, stirring occasionally, just until tender, about 2 minutes.  Do not overcook the corn!
Add the thyme and green onions and saute for about 1 minute more. Transfer to a large metal or wooden (non-reactive) bowl.
Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes.
Add tomato mixture, and stir to combine.
Serve immediately or at room temperature.
 
You can double this if you need to.  Serve at room temperature. Good the next day too, but let it sit out a bit to warm up before serving, or zap it in the microwave for 30 seconds if you’re in a hurry.

Cauliflower Puree

I found this gorgeous green cauliflower at the grocery store.  The label says Carnival Multi-Color Cauliflower and it apparently comes in other colors too, such as purple or orange. I wasn’t sure what to do with it, but I used to make a cauliflower puree that was good, and so I veganized my old recipe.  I wanted a hint of cheesy-ness and not so much fat, so I added the Vitamin-B-12-rich “nooch” or Nutritional Yeast.  I tried making this in my steel Waring blender without a lot of success, so I scraped it into my Vitamix and got such a silky puree that it’s almost a soup.  If you do want a soup, it’s easily achieved simply by adding more liquid, by the way.  One last note is that I photographed this in different lights on different surfaces, trying to relate how green the color is.  Please know that this photo is several shades duller than the true celadon-with-a-hint-of-yellow green.  If you want a splash of elegant color on your plate, this is it.  Oh yeah, and it’s delicious too.
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Cauliflower Puree
Yield:  4 to 6 servings
INGREDIENTS
1 head of cauliflower
1 Tablespoon Earth Balance vegan butter
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper (ground)
1/4 Cup soy creamer (such as Silk brand) (non-flavored)
1/4 Cup Nutritional Yeast flakes
up to 1/2 Cup of the steaming water from the pot
DIRECTIONS
Trim the cauliflower and cut off all florets for steaming.
Bring water to a low boil.
Cover and steam florets for about 10-15 minutes, until easily pierced with a sharp knife.  Do not over-cook or the taste will become too strong.
Place about a third of the steamed florets into a Vitamix, food processor or blender (a blender would be my third choice).
Add the butter, and salt and pepper.
Add 1/4 Cup of of the steam water and the soy creamer, and process.
Scrape the sides down and add 1/3 more cauliflower, and process.
If you need to, add up to 1/4 Cup more of the steam water.

Add the rest of the cauliflower and finish processing.

Note:  If you want a soup, add more of the steam water, a little at a time.

Asparagus in Vinaigrette

My husband used to complain that asparagus was stringy, but this recipe converted him into a liker of asparagus.  This vegan asparagus dish travels well and is great for the buffet table or picnics or barbecues, because it can sit out for several hours, and just tastes better as it sits.  I adapted this from the “French Dressing or Sauce Vinaigrette” from my 1975 Joy of Cooking.  While many prefer thin spears, I’ll often choose thicker spears if given a choice.  I peel the spears with a potato peeler, something also recommended in my old Joy of Cooking, for thicker or older spears.  I peel the spears regardless of thickness, however, because it improves the texture so much.  My old Joy of Cooking recommends using this dressing on canned white asparagus tips (it was the ’70s, after all), but I’ve never tried doing that.

ASPARAGUS IN FRENCH VINAIGRETTE

INGREDIENTS
a bunch of asparagus
one lemon (go for organic because you’re also using the peel)
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (or ground black pepper)
One teaspoon Dijon or grainy mustard from a jar (or ½ tsp dry mustard)
¼ Cup extra-virgin olive oil (I’m a fanatic for first cold press too)

DIRECTIONS
Set water to boil with a bit of salt.   Trim ends off asparagus and discard the ends.
Rinse the stalks.   Peel asparagus stalks with a potato peeler, but do not peel the tops.  I usually stop peeling an inch or so short of (below) the tops.
If stalks are too long, trim them so they’ll easily fit in pot, but also cook the trimmings.

Peel or grate the zest off the lemon, into a small bowl.   Squeeze all the lemon juice into the same bowl (hopefully, you’ll wind up with close to ¼ cup of juice).   Add the salt, pepper, mustard and olive oil to the lemon juice, and whisk until emulsified.

Boil asparagus until spears are easily penetrated with a knife; for about 5 minutes for normal/thin stalks, or up to 10 minutes for thickest stalks.   Immediately rinse stalks under cold water, and drain well.   When asparagus is well drained, place it into a non-metal dish with sides.   Whisk vinaigrette again and pour over the asparagus.   Chill in refrigerator until ready to serve. Bring out at least 30 minutes before serving to give the oil a chance to liquefy fully.  If you can, tip the container back and forth a little to mix and redistribute the vinaigrette.

Notes:  You can make this the day before, if necessary, and it’s good at room temperature for a couple of hours.

A close-up view of the peeled and  trimmed spears.  I could not find thick organic asparagus this time.

Vegan Twice Baked Stuffed Potatoes

IMG_3042     These vegan Twice-Baked Stuffed Potatoes are one of those classic things you can prepare the day before and even take somewhere (as long as you can use the oven at your destination).  I developed this potato one Thanksgiving when 30 people were coming for supper, and I knew the last-minute scramble before serving would be a nightmare if I had to mash potatoes too.  This is not the gloppy, cheddar-cheese-filled concoction of the 1990’s, but (while still rich) a lighter, creamier addition to the plate.  It’s forgiving, in that the final baking can be done in the oven alongside anything else, on almost any temperature, for varied lengths of time.  I like to use only onion, and some vegan sour cream to make the texture silky.  A perfect dusting of paprika is achieved when you put a bit in a very fine sieve and hold it high above the potatoes and tap gently with one finger.  Here, I did pipe the potatoes through a pastry bag, but these look strikingly rustic when you simply fork the whipped potatoes into their little jackets any which way.  You can also rake the fork over the top of the potatoes (like plowing a field) to make little ridges that will crisp, and little swales that will hold that pooling pat of Earth Balance vegan butter.  I leave the salt out of the recipe, because you can taste it better if you put a finishing sprinkle of sea salt at table.

VEGAN TWICE BAKED STUFFED POTATOES

Makes 8 generous servings, and they freeze well too.

INGREDIENTS
4 white baking potatoes,  such as Russets or Idaho
One white onion  (or yellow, or shallots)
4 Tablespoons vegan sour cream

DIRECTIONS
Wash potatoes well.    Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place potatoes directly on lower-middle oven rack, and bake 30 minutes.
Dice the onion fine, and place into a large mixing bowl.
When 30 minutes is up, pierce each potato (deeply) twice with a dinner fork, along one long sideIt’s important where you poke it, because when you slice the baked potatoes open to hollow out the jackets, you’ll run your knife along the horizontal fork perforations on the one long side.

Put pierced potatoes back into hot oven and bake 30 minutes more, and then remove all from the oven.    Let potatoes cool only slightly, maybe 15 minutes.
Measure out the vegan sour cream into the onions bowl (this will allow the sour cream to soften slightly while you do the rest).
Using a potholder or clean dish cloth to protect your hand, slice potatoes open the long way, along the fork holes.   Taking care to reserve the empty potato skins intact, scoop out the potato innards into the onions bowl.

Mix all with an electric mixer a minute or two, until a thick-but-creamy mixture is attained.    Determine here if you wish to add another tablespoon or two of the vegan sour cream, and complete mixing.    Pipe or stuff the whipped potatoes into the empty potato jackets.    Dust with paprika from on high, through a fine mesh sieve.
Cover and refrigerate until it’s time to do the second baking.
Put any extra, stuffed potato boats in the freezer (they freeze well).
When you’re ready to do the final baking, place stuffed potatoes in the oven on a baking dish, and heat to whatever temperature you are using for your main dish.  You’ll know when they’re done by their golden  appearance.  A guideline would be 35 minutes on 350, or 30 minutes at 400, etc.  No worries, just as long as they’re good and hot.
Don’t forget to serve with a pat of Earth Balance Organic Whipped Butter, and a sprinkling of fine sea salt.

Polenta with Butternut Squash

This is a polenta you can make ahead and keep warm for a few hours before the meal is served!  I adapted this from a recipe on epicurious.com,   veganized it, added a few things, changed a quantity or two.  It’s delicious, and it’s something different from the tasteless squares of polenta I’ve had at upscale restaurants.  Please note that this polenta does NOT harden, due to the addition of squash, which is part of its brilliance.  It’s almost a creamy pudding that you ladle onto your plate, or serve in a little bowl as a side dish.  We like it on top of homemade red sauce with spaghetti and vegan meatballs, etc.  I made it once with almond milk and it was too sweet,  so stick with no-sugar-added plant milks.  There has been much talk in recent years about the fact that polenta is not cooked long enough, and the supposedly-big difference between instant polenta and slow-cooked.  In the book “Heat” author Bill Buford explains a way to cook the polenta for three hours without constant stirring.  I have the book on hold at the library, but haven’t received it yet.   No worries, this polenta cooks way quicker than that!  The photo here does not really do this dish justice;  it’s a rich golden color and very pretty on any plate where you would normally have polenta.   My friend Jan, who is a phenomenal cook, gave this a thumbs up.
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Vegan Polenta with Butternut Squash

Makes 6-8 side-dish servings

INGREDIENTS
3/4 cup finely chopped onion (1 medium onion)
4 tablespoons Earth Balance vegan butter, divided in half
1 (10-12 -oz.) package frozen butternut squash purée (sometimes called winter squash; 1.5 cups), thawed (or you can use freshly baked butternut squash, of course)  (in a pinch, you could also use a 15 oz. can of organic butternut squash, but I prefer frozen, if not fresh)
1 tsp brown sugar (no more)
¼ tsp ground cinnamon (no more)
2 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast
2 1/2 cups water
2 cups soy milk or hemp milk or oat milk (not almond) (use a plant milk with no sugar added if possible) (I use plain, unsweetened soy milk)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 cup real corn grits (polenta), such as Bob’s Red Mill brand (not instant)

DIRECTIONS
Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until very soft, about 8 minutes.
Stir in squash and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes.
Stir in brown sugar and cinnamon.
In a 4 quart heavy pot, bring water, milk, salt, and pepper to a boil.
Add polenta in a thin stream, whisking.
Cook polenta at a simmer, stirring often with a long-handled whisk and turning down heat as needed to prevent spattering, 20 minutes.
Add squash mixture and cook 10 to 15 minutes more.
Remove from heat, stir in remaining 2 tablespoons vegan butter.
Serve immediately, or cover and keep in a 200 degree Fahrenheit oven for up to two hours.

Notes: The polenta will still be soft and creamy the next day, due to the addition of the squash. If this is your first experience with polenta, usually you must serve it immediately or it will harden into a cake.  Warning, I made it with almond milk one time, and it was too sweet.

Vegan Red Cabbage Braised with Maple and Ginger

This is a takeoff on a Molly Stevens recipe.  I’ve eliminated the meat and added a tad more of the good fats to partially compensate, and left out the other bad fats (cow secretions).  The result is a really delectable, mild cabbage dish that you could add to almost any meal.  The teaspoon of fresh grated ginger scared me at first, but trust me, it melds into this succulent dish, and gets swallowed up and mellowed by the apple cider vinegar and the maple syrup.  You would think this cabbage would taste a bit acidic, but it does not!  And as you can see, it’s exceedingly beautiful, like shredded amethysts.  This photo doesn’t really do it justice.  This makes a lot, so I put some in the freezer, so see how it freezes.  I think this would be a neat twist on St. Patrick’s Day too.  You could do a lot with the leftovers, but this is possibly best just served hot or warm with a sprinkle of fleur de sel or other fine sea salt.  p.s.  I made this from start to finish in my Le Creuset 7-1/4 Quart Enameled Cast Iron French Oven.  I had to look up the instructions to confirm that I could use this heavy French oven on top of my glass-topped electric oven (it said I could).   Le Creuset has a good use and care section on their main web site.   This pot was my big Christmas gift two years ago and I’m using it more and more; a worthy investment.
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VEGAN RED CABBAGE BRAISED WITH GINGER AND MAPLE SYRUP

Serves 6 to 8.    Braising Time: about 1 hour

INGREDIENTS
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil or vegetable oil
1 to 2 Tablespoons of Earth Balance vegan butter
1 medium yellow onion (6 ounces), thinly sliced
1/4 tsp coarse salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced, and tossed with a little lemon juice (lemon juice is optional)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (use it all, you’ll hardly taste it)
1 medium head of red cabbage (about 1.75 pounds), quartered, cored, and thinly sliced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, such as Mapletree Farm brand

DIRECTIONS
-Heat the oven to 300 degrees.
-Set a large deep ovenproof pot or skillet over medium heat, and add the olive oil and one tablespoon of the Earth Balance vegan butter.
-Immediately add the sliced onion, salt and pepper, and sauté, stirring a few times, until the onion turns limp, about 2 minutes.
-Add the 2nd Tablespoon of vegan butter if you want to (optional).
-Add the apple and ginger and stir to combine.
-Increase the heat to medium-high and begin adding the thinly-sliced cabbage a few handfuls at a time. Once all the cabbage is in the skillet, sauté, stirring frequently, until the strands begin to wilt and have a moist gleam, about 6 minutes.
-Add the vinegar and maple syrup, stir to incorporate well.
-The braise: Cover the pan and slide into the middle of the oven. Braise at a gentle simmer, stirring every 20 minutes, until the cabbage is tender and deeply fragrant, about 1 hour.
-Serve warm or at room temperature.
(re-heats well)

World’s Best Braised Green Cabbage

This  is a Molly Stevens recipe.  She uses a lot of meat in her book, but this recipe was safe.  And freaking delicious.  That last sprinkle of good salt is a must.  The first bite is OK, the next bite is good and then the next is better.  Almost sweet and melt-in-your-mouth tender, and then a teensy bit of heat from the tiny dash of red pepper flakes.  This is going to be amazing in March when i try the vegan corned beef on Everyday Dish TV!  I can only imagine it with the horseradish cream I posted a while back.  It’s the slow cooking (braising) that sweetens the normally somewhat-strong earthy flavor of the cabbage.  I think next time I would add even a few more onion rings as they come out just slightly caramelized and exquisite.  I read one review that mentioned how good the carrots are, so they increased those.  I used a Le Creuset French (Dutch) oven.  The cookbook says it’s better the next day, so I plan to serve it tomorrow (Christmas Eve) with my vegan French Canadian Tourtiere (will blog).  p.s.  The long cooking time might seem a bit humbug, but it literally takes less than ten minutes to get this in the oven and then you can do whatever while it’s braising.

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World’s Best Braised Green Cabbage

Serves 6   (cooking time is 2 hours and 15 minutes)

INGREDIENTS
1 medium head green cabbage (about 2 pounds)
1 large yellow onion (about 8 ounces), thickly sliced
1 large carrot, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1/4 Cup of vegetable stock or water (I use a vegan stock cube)
1/4 C extra-virgin olive oil
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
Fleur de sel or coarse sea salt

DIRECTIONS
Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lightly oil a large gratin dish or baking dish (9″ x 13″ works well) (I used a 7 1/4 quart round Le Creuset French Oven (Dutch oven)
Peel off and discard any bruised or ragged outer leaves from the cabbage.  Cabbage should not be more than two pounds or it will crowd the braising dish.
Cut cabbage into 8 wedges.
Arrange wedges in baking dish, doing your best to create a single layer.  (I deviated from the recipe and laid my wedges with the pointy side up, not on their sides, and so I did not have to turn the wedges at all, I had more room in the pan, and the wedges kept their shape very well.  See photo below).
Scatter in the onion and carrot.
Drizzle over the oil, and the vegetable stock or water.
Season with salt, pepper and and red pepper flakes.
Cover tightly with foil, or the lid of your pot, and slide into the center of your oven to braise until vegetables are completely tender, about 2 hours.
If you have laid your wedges on their sides, then turn the wedges over after one hour, doing your best to keep them intact.
If the dish is drying out at all, add a few tablespoons of water before re-covering.
Once the cabbage is completely tender, remove the foil, increase the oven temperature to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and roast until the vegetables begin to brown, another 15 minutes or so.
Serve hot or warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with coarse Fleur de sel or other coarse salt.
You can warm this up the next day in a moderate oven for 20 minutes or so.  (cookbook says it’s even better next day).

If you look closely, you might be able to see that the cabbage wedges are placed in the baking dish with the pointy sides facing up, not on their sides.  This was my idea to eliminate turning them during the baking process, and it worked also to keep them intact better for nicer plating, and I had enough room for all the cabbage this way.

Another variation would be to sprinkle on 1-1/2 Tablespoons of balsamic halfway through the braising, but I urge you to try it this way first before experimenting.

Home Fried Potatoes from "The Vegan Table" cookbook

I had a couple of russet potatoes sitting on the counter and no time to use them in their intended dish, since I’ve got to be in Annapolis tomorrow.  So, I found this recipe in The Vegan Table cookbook.  The recipe calls for yellow potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, but I just used the russets, and this dish came out  great anyway.  I omitted the garlic since I didn’t want it to burn (I was juggling other dishes too).  I like the recipe’s technique where you just quarter the potatoes and put them in a steamer for 14 minutes and then cut them up and fry them with the spices and onion.  I don’t have an electric steamer but I do have a big stock pot with a steamer insert that I use all the time.  And then since I had all that hot water in the steamer, I went ahead and steamed some vegetables while the potatoes and other things were cooking, and I recommend doing this as it saves water and energy and time.  The recipe calls for adding a third tablespoon of oil at the end, but I did not add it, and it was great without it.  I only had dried parsley, and am sure fresh would be better and prettier too.  This is a forgiving dish, it can cook away on low heat while you do other things, but we like our potatoes crispy with some burnt edges, so that’s how they look.  We don’t have white potatoes very often, so this was a real treat.

Edamame Scented with Star Anise – Hawaiian Style

I was caught short for dinner last night, so I made agedashi tofu and Trader Joe’s Vegetable Bird’s Nests, and of course this special edamame.  This Anise-Scented Edamame is something I first had at my Uncle Stanley’s house in Hilo, back in the ’90s.  I can’t remember who made it, but I was instantly taken with this twist on traditional edamame.  It’s an easy, protein-packed delicious snack or side dish.  I received no written recipe, but was told to just add the anise pods to the boiling water.  I always use my Uncle Stanley’s seasoned Hawaiian salt recipe, the way the locals do, but I’m sure you could use plain sea salt, maybe even some fleur de sel, or Maldon salt, etc.  As a reference, seasoned Hawaiian sea salt will sometimes have ginger, cracked black pepper and garlic in it.  Yes, there is the sodium, but potato chips have sodium too, and the way you eat edamame, some of the salt gets left on the pods.  The anise adds this faint floral note and it just brings me back.  Sometimes you have to tell those who are not familiar with edamame how to eat them.  I’ve actually seen people put the star anise into their mouths, or try to chew the edamame pod.  If you already know how to eat edamame, ignore this next part.  First, look at the soy bean pod, and you’ll notice a very thin string that runs along the outward curve of the pod.  If you start at the stem, you could peel this string off, like a string bean, however, you don’t need to.  This string simply shows you where the edamame soy beans will pop easiest out of the pod, and this is the side you want to put to your mouth.  You hold the stem end between the thumb and forefinger of one hand, and gently squeeze the pod with your teeth so that the edamame beans pop into your mouth.  In the process, you will taste the salt crystals and spices clinging to the pod.
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Edamame Scented with Star Anise – Hawaiian Style

INGREDIENTS
10 oz. bag of frozen soybeans (I sometimes use Cascadian Farm organic)
12 star anise (or more or less,  to your taste)
1 teaspoon seasoned Hawaiian salt  (or 1/2 teaspoon)

DIRECTIONS
Bring water to boil.
Add frozen soybeans, and the anise stars.
Bring back to a boil.
Boil 5-15 minutes, depending upon your taste.
Test for tenderness along the way.  The soy beans should be tender but not mushy.
Drain well, reserving the anise stars on the side, or in the pot.
Toss with seasoned Hawaiian salt, or other sea salt.
Garnish with the reserved anise stars and serve.
Feel free to let them sit out for hours on a buffet, they just seem to get better.
Or chill in fridge for up 4 days.
Note:  (three ten ounce bags is plenty for finger food for 15 people if you have other things to eat).  p.s.  Dictionary.com says it’s pronounced an-is, not ann-eese.

Corn Perfumed with Indian Spices

I adapted this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s “Corn With Aromatic Seasonings.”  This year, the New York Times did a big spread on Vegetarian Thanksgiving dishes, and that’s where I spotted it.  We can’t get fresh corn here right now, so I resorted to a 16 ounce bag of frozen corn.  Jaffrey’s recipe calls for two 10 oz. bags of corn, so I also adjusted amounts of spices.  This came out well enough that I’ll definitely be making it next year when the fresh corn is ready; it would be so succulent with fresh corn.  Even my picky husband liked it.  I thought this dish was perfect to use with Spectrum Organic Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil.  In the cookbook “Skinny Bitch in The Kitch” they call a lot for cooking with coconut oil, and it turns out that the health benefits are many.  Refined coconut oil is a neutral flavor and can be used with medium-high heat.  Unrefined coconut oil does have a coconut flavor, although a very natural one, not like the strong artificial flavoring, and should be used only on medium heat.  One of the big advantages of cooking with coconut oil is that it has a higher smoking point, is less prone to oxidization than say, olive oil at certain temperatures.  It’s just a health thing in that respect but the coconut flavor of the unrefined oil lends a classic exotic taste to the Indian spices.  The start of this dish uses a common method of Indian cooking; where you heat the oil and then add the spices so they pop and release more flavor.  It makes me think of scenes in the Indian novels I like so much; where the women crack the cardamom pods between their teeth before adding them to the hot oil.  You’ll see that it’s a lovely moment; when the spices pop and sizzle and release their aromas into the air.  Now that I’ve made this particular dish, I might also add some lime zest if I had a lime in the fridge, but it’s not necessary.
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Corn Perfumed with Indian Spices 

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS
1 T Virgin Unrefined Coconut Oil, such as Spectrum brand
1 tsp whole brown or yellow mustard seeds
2 cardamom pods
2 whole cloves
1 one-inch cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated
1/2 fresh jalapeno pepper, minced finely  (or one pinch cayenne = 1/16th teaspoon)
4-6 ears of fresh corn, cut off the cobs,  or one 16-ounce bag of frozen corn
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 C  So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer,  Original Flavor  (plain flavor)

DIRECTIONS
Combine mustard seeds, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon and bay leaf in a small cup.
Pour oil into an 8-10 inch frying pan (no larger), and set to medium heat.
When oil is hot, put in all the whole spices.  As soon as mustard seeds pop (a matter of seconds), add the ginger and green chile.
Stir once or twice, then add in corn.  Stir for 2-3 minutes.
Add the salt and cream.
Continue to stir and cook for another minute.
Turn heat to low, and cook a few more minutes, until all cream is absorbed.
Remember to pick out and discard the cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaf, before serving.

Notes:  I do not use my largest frying pan for this.  I want to give the oil a bit of depth, so it can heat and pop those spices, in the Indian way, without using more fat.

Easy Baked Pumpkin – Sugar Pie Pumpkin

You know those big pumpkins we turn into jack-o-lanterns?  Well, those are not the best pumpkins for baking and eating, as it turns out.  These cute little pumpkins are smaller than the large ones, and they’re called Pie Pumpkins, or Sugar Pie Pumpkins, or Baking Pumpkins, etc.  I found that even at my local grocery stores, produce clerks were not sure of the difference.  Supposedly, one pound of Sugar Pie Pumpkin equals one cup of pumpkin puree, and the puree is usually what you bake with, make soups with, etc.  I took a photo here with a coffee mug so you can see the approximate size of this very-small Sugar Pie Pumpkin, and of course, they can be larger or sometimes even smaller.  I got exactly 2 cups of cooked flesh out of this little pumpkin, but many bigger Sugar Pie Pumpkins will yield at least 4 Cups (one quart) of cooked flesh.  Here below is my super-easy method of cooking a raw pumpkin.

EASY BAKED PUMPKIN

DIRECTIONS
Use a pumpkin big enough for your recipe.  One pound of Sugar Pie Pumpkin will equal one cup of pumpkin puree.  So if you need two cups of pumpkin puree, buy a two-pound Baking pumpkin.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put Sugar Pie Pumpkin in a baking dish or casserole, in one half inch of water.  Note, I do not cover with any foil or anything, and it works just great.

Bake for 30 minutes, and then pierce the pumpkin in several places with a sturdy, sharp knife.  Doing this will prevent the pumpkin from popping or exploding in the oven.

Bake 45-60 minutes more, until tender to the touch.

Cool and scoop out the innards, setting seeds and stringy matter aside (do not discard if you want to roast the seeds).  An ice cream scoop may come in handy here, but a large metal spoon is fine too.

Scoop out good flesh down to the skin, and process in a food processor.   If you don’t have a food processor, you can mash the pumpkin meat with a potato masher until it’s really broken down, or leave a few chunks and mash for soups, as desired.  I found a blender did not work well because we are not adding any liquid.

Freeze in one-cup portions.

These are less watery and stringy than ordinary jack o’ lantern pumpkins, and sweeter and meatier.  See photo below, so you can see that the flesh can be light golden instead of the dark russet color of canned pumpkin.  Every fresh pumpkin is different so the color of the flesh will vary.  Also, it can be smoother or as stringy as this.  I could have baked this a bit longer, but I figure it’s going to get pureed and cooked in a dish anyway.

    This photo is after baking but before pureeing.

Don’t throw away those pumpkin seeds!  Once separated from the stringy guts, rinse them (optional), pat them dry (optional) and toss them with 2 tsps melted Earth Balance, and the spices of your choice, or just a pinch of salt and bake them in a 300 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes.  Stir them around on the baking sheet and bake an additional 15 minutes.  Pumpkin seeds are nutritious, with plenty of potassium and magnesium and some zinc, folate and iron too.  See my recipe for Chat Masala Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.

Bruschetta

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.

Dark Leafy Greens With Sesame Miso Dressing

I had a bunch of curly kale in the fridge and needed to use it up, so found this recipe in The Vegan Table cookbook.  I cut and pasted this recipe from another web site for you here below.  I only changed the cooking time, as 5 minutes of steaming is not enough for really fresh greens (in my opinion), they come out a bit tough.  I was able to find a very small tub of Mellow White Organic Miso at my local health food store.  Starting off with a mellow miso is a great way to introduce this seasoning to your palate.  This dressing has a really nice, decidedly Japanese taste.  If your bunch of greens is not really large, don’t use all the dressing, as it would overpower the dish.  Since sesame seeds are rich in magnesium, they help your body absorb all that calcium in the dark leafy greens.  You’ll also get some zinc and iron from the sesame seeds.  I transfer the sesame seeds into a recycled glass jar and keep them in the fridge, so they don’t go rancid.  This is a good rule of thumb for all nuts and seeds.
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DARK LEAFY GREENS WITH SESAME MISO DRESSING

INGREDIENTS
1 large bunch greens (kale, turnip, mustard, collards or chard)
2 tablespoons raw sesame seeds
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon light or dark miso
1 tablespoon mirin
1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon tamari soy sauce

DIRECTIONS
Wash greens and remove tough stems and ribs from leaves, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Insert a steamer basket in a 3-quart pot with a few inches of water. (The water should come up to the bottom of the steamer basket, but the vegetables should not touch the water.)  Steam the greens for 10-15 minutes, then immediately plunge them into a bowl filled with cold water. Drain, gently squeeze out excess water, and set aside.
An alternative way to cook the greens is to boil them for three minutes, shock in cold water and then sauté.

Meanwhile, in a large dry sauté pan, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat, shaking or stirring constantly until they are fragrant or begin to pop.

Combine the oil, miso, mirin, lemon juice, and tamari in a small bowl. Add the greens to the sauté pan with the seeds in it, turn off the heat, and stir in the dressing, and toss all of the ingredients using non-stick tongs. You are not cooking the greens as much as just warming them up along with the dressing. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 2 servings

Note:  Miso, a traditional Japanese food, is a thick paste used for sauces, soups, and spreads, made by fermenting rice, barley and/or soybeans, with salt and a fermenting agent. The different types of miso available (found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store), such as light, dark, red, vary according to how long they have been fermented, how much salt is added, how sweet it is, etc. In general, light/white miso has a sweeter, more mild flavor, and red/dark is a bit stronger.

Also: Though soybeans are the common ingredient in miso, chickpea-based miso exists for those allergic to soy.

Per serving:  257 calories, 11 grams fat, 4 grams protein, 40 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 376 grams sodium.

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:
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TIMATAR KA  SALAD

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS
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)

DIRECTIONS
-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.

Sweet Potato Puree with Brown Sugar and Sherry

Last Thanksgiving, I was looking for a recipe for sweet potatoes that did not involve marshmallows.  I know many people love that dish but I just can’t imagine liking it.  Anyway, I found this recipe on Epicurious.com.  The Epicurious recipe serves 6-8 and I have cut it in half and modified it below.  For one thing, I find once you blend in the butter, even the ungodly amount of 1.25 sticks, the buttery taste gets a bit lost in the dish.  However, if I put a pat of butter on top of the hot sweet potatoes, I really taste it.  Also, sweet potatoes are, well, sweet, so we don’t need that much sugar in them.  The creator of the recipe says the hint of sherry is intriguing, and it is.  And it’s a bit elegant; fancy enough for company (but quick enough for a weekday meal).  Finally, this recipe is easy, and you can make it ahead and just pop it in the oven, or reheat it on the stove.  Don’t forget a sprinkle of sea salt over that pat of butter, to finish it off on the plate.
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Sweet Potato Purée with Brown Sugar and Sherry

adapted from Bon Appétit,  November 1999, by Janet Fletcher

Serves 4 to 6 

INGREDIENTS
– 2 pounds medium-size red and/or tan sweet potatoes (yams)
– 2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter, room temperature
– 1 tablespoon  (packed) golden brown sugar, or brown sugar
– 1-2 tablespoons dry Sherry

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 425°F. Pierce all sweet potatoes in several places with fork. Bake until tender when pierced with knife, about an hour. Cool slightly.  If potatoes are really big and round, I bump up the heat to 450.

Cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a metal soup spoon, scoop potato pulp into large bowl. Add butter and brown sugar to potatoes. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Beat in Sherry. Season to taste with salt and pepper (or let people season on their plate). If serving within a couple of hours, transfer to saucepan.  (Can be made 2 hours ahead and left to stand at room temperature.)  Rewarm sweet potatoes over medium-low heat, stirring often.

Notes:  This dish freezes great.  If cooking for two, put half in the freezer for another day.  You can also make this a day ahead and put in a small casserole dish and re-heat in the oven the next day.  For anyone watching their blood sugar, you can just leave the brown sugar out, and the dish is still very good!  And you can double the recipe back up for a crowd.

Spaghetti Squash

I remember back around 1990, one night after work, I made what was kind of unthinkable back then; a meatless supper.  We had never heard of Meatless Mondays and I don’t even know if the phrase existed yet.   I was a bit intimidated by spaghetti squash, and had never even eaten it before.  Once I got it home, I recall wishing I had a cleaver.  Every recipe called for cutting the rock-hard, raw squash in half the long way.  I don’t remember how I finally got the thing cut open, but it vaguely resembled an episode of “I Love Lucy,”  and I didn’t make it again for a long, long time.  Then, a couple of years ago, I cut a recipe out of the Sunday paper, because it didn’t call for chopping the raw squash open prior to cooking it.  After trying a couple of different recipes that did not require me to risk losing a finger, here’s what I came up with.  After all, I want to still be able to cook spaghetti squash even after I’m 90 and no longer strong enough to wield an axe.  Spaghetti squash is a great vehicle for a good tomato sauce, such as the one I adapted from Marcella Hazan’s famous recipe.  Another cool thing I have noticed lately are all these petite little spaghetti squashes on display at the grocery store,  just the right size for 2 to 4 servings.  And since you’re not serving pasta, you have an excuse to serve a bit of garlic bread with the meal, and you’re getting that extra vegetable in for the day.  A win/win situation all around.  If you have leftovers, you can saute it with anything you like, chopped spinach, garlic, pine nuts, etc.  There are even spaghetti squash casseroles, so this is just a base recipe to get at the spaghetti squash strands.  Here’s my simple method of cooking it.  I no longer have any use for the old turkey truss pins in my kitchen drawer, but kept them for other uses, like this.  In retrospect, a thicker metal BBQ skewer would work even better, so I’ll try that next time.

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Easy Spaghetti Squash

DIRECTIONS
-Preheat oven to 400 Fahrenheit
-Pierce whole squash all over with a small hammer and an old turkey truss pin or metal BBQ skewer.
-Microwave whole squash on high 2-3 minutes per pound.
-Let squash stand 5 minutes.
-Put a half inch of water in a rectangular glass or enamel baking dish.
-Bake whole squash in baking dish for one hour.
-Remove squash from oven, and place on cutting board.
(heavy rubber dishwashing gloves come in handy in these next steps)
-Slice squash in half the long way.
-Scoop out all seeds with a metal spoon.
-Using a dinner fork, scrape out all the clean spaghetti strands.
-Transfer spaghetti strands into a pot or skillet, and sauté until hot, with a tablespoon of olive oil or Earth Balance.
Season with a bit of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and heat.

Serve when hot.

Baked Corn on the Cob

I got this wonderful recipe recently from a newspaper column called Everyday Cheapskate.  It seemed so incredibly simple and quick, that I cut it out and tried it.  Some things are not too good to be true!   I put a photo here so you can see that the corn in the husk looks a bit sere and withered when it comes out of the oven.  No worries, the corn inside is moist and tender!  With this being the end of summer, grab the corn by the ears (OK, horrible pun) and try this.  You don’t even have to soak it!  No heating the grill, Nada, just delicioso corn in minutes with absolutely no fuss!
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Quick Corn by Jo M., Ohio

Snip dirty silk ends off corn husks with scissors (I added this step)

Place corn in husks on cookie sheet and place in cold oven.
(no soaking is necessary)

Turn oven on to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 30 minutes.

When it’s done, husks and silk will peel off easily.
The recipe writer makes a compound butter by adding chili powder and/or lime zest.  I just use a bit of Earth Balance and a sprinkle of Real Salt, wow.
Really good and super quick!

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.

VEGAN FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

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

DIRECTIONS
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
oven.

Panko Coated Onion Rings

My Mother In-Law is famous for her onions rings.  I have her recipe but it calls for eggs and milk.  Looking online, I found various recipes, some calling for bread crumbs and other types of breading, most with milk or buttermilk, some with an egg or two, and one even had crushed potato chips.  However, I’ve been wanting to make tempura and so I had a bag of Panko on hand.  Once I looked all around, I modified this recipe.   After reading The Kind Diet  by  Alicia Silverstone, I decided to use Safflower oil.  The results were really good and easy.  I love the simplicity of this recipe; only five ingredients, including an onion and water, and these taste better than 99% of anything you’d get in a restaurant.  One place in town has decent homemade onion rings, but they are just saturated with god-knows-what oil, cut too large for my taste, and the batter tends to slide off a little.  This recipe is a bit more sophisticated, just a tad Japanese, and a keeper.
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Panko Coated Onion Rings

INGREDIENTS
1 sweet onion, such as Maui or Vidalia, sliced medium thickness
1 C water
1 C all-purpose flour
4-5 dashes Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 C panko Japanese bread crumbs
Safflower oil

DIRECTIONS
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Turn oven on to 250.
Fill a tall metal pot with 2 inches of safflower oil, and heat on medium high.
In a cereal bowl, mix flour, water, Tabasco & salt, with a fork, do not overmix!
In another, slightly-larger bowl, put panko crumbs.
When you think oil is good and hot, put one drop of water in the oil.
If the water droplet sizzles and pops and crackles, the oil is hot.
One at a time, immerse each onion ring into the batter, then into the panko,
 and then into the hot oil.
Frying 4 or 5 onion rings at a time, turn them once when they start to look golden.
When fully golden, pull out with metal tongs and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
Place drained onion rings onto the baking sheet.
Keep this process going until you have your baking sheet full of onion rings
(I’m guessing this frying process took me a good 15 minutes).
Put rings in the oven to keep warm while you prepare the rest of your meal.
Serve with a grind of sea salt on top, and stand back for praise.

Note:  Once your oil is totally cooled off, strain through a small metal strainer and put in fridge to re-use.  One large sweet onion yields a lot of onion rings!  This photo is only half of one large onion, plenty for two hungry people.  I reheated some leftover onion rings the next day in a 300 degree oven for half an hour.  Reheated this way, they’re almost as good, but not quite.  Please note that you cannot re-use the batter, or the panko because the panko will be too damp.  One last, important note is to be careful when frying with hot oil.  I might “deep fry” something once or twice a year, so I had to remind myself of the precautions.  One reason I used a tall pot (a stock pot really) is that I didn’t want splattering.  And remember, if the oil is too hot, move the pot SLOWLY off the burner.  If a splash of oil hits the stove, it might ignite.  I looked up how to put out a “grease fire” and it said to smother it with a pot lid.  Another option is baking soda, but you might need a lot of it.  As we all learned as kids, you must NEVER throw water on it.  Here’s an article on oil temperature.

TAHINI DRESSING FOR GREENS

OK, this dressing might sound a bit odd, but trust me, it’s DELICIOUS on greens, and so simple and healthy.  One caveat is that on first making this dressing, it looks like it won’t blend together, like oil and water.  I have a little tool I bought almost 20 years ago that is indispensable in the kitchen, especially for whipping dressings or egg substitutes.  It’s called the Bonjour Caffe Latte Frother, and costs about $15,

OK, here we go.  For the greens, choose whatever you like.  This time I used kale, and just removed the stems and ribs, cut it chiffonade-style, and steamed until just tender and slightly limp.  An alternative way to cook the greens is to boil for three minutes, shock in cold water, and then sauté.

Tahini Salad Dressing

INGREDIENTS
1/2 C water
1 T Umeboshi plum vinegar
1/4 to 1/3 C tahini

Combine all and blend.  Once mixed, this will not separate for days.   At first, it will be a bit thin, but it is perfectly usable right away.  It will thicken in the fridge and be even creamier once it’s chilled.  Great to make ahead.  Tahini and Umeboshi plum vinegar can be found in any health food store, and in the international aisle of most supermarkets.