The Blooming Platter of Vegan Recipes

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Torta 2Yield: 4 main dish servings (2 slices each, as they are so light) or 8 side dish servings

Last Tuesday, realizing that I was leaving town in a couple of days (for my annual summer day hiking trip with my cousin Earl) and that I had a big beautiful zucchini and yellow squash from the farmer’s market in the fridge, I realized I needed to create something that would showcase them for lunch for the next couple of days.

Whatever it was, I wanted it to be light with a chilled component.  With just about a cup of tofu in the fridge, the idea of a salad-topped torta struck and I set about seeing what I could come up with.

The result was a well-behaved  one-dish meal that is as addicting as it is nutritious and low calorie.  In fact, this dish is so light, who cares if you wipe out the whole torta in one setting?  Okay, well maybe half.  I confess to devouring three slices for lunch both days.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-8 inch zucchini (about 2″ in diameter at widest section), very thinly sliced

1-8 inch yellow squash (about 2″ in diameter at widest section), very thinly sliced

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 large cloves garlic, minced

7 to 8 ounces extra firm regular tofu (half of a 14 to 16 ounce box, however your favorite brand is sold)

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos or soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (nothing beats freshly ground!)

8 to 12 fresh basil leaves

Tomato Cucumber Salad (recipe follows)

Garnish: sprigs of fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add zucchini and yellow squash slices and a pinch of sea salt and pepper.  Saute, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes or until squash begins to soften.  Add 1 clove of minced garlic and saute, stirring frequently, for another 2 to 3 minutes or until squash is perfectly tender and most of moisture is absorbed/evaporated.  Remove from heat and lightly smooth the top to create a flat surface.  In a food processor, blend all remaining ingredients, except basil, including remaining clove of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.  Add basil leaves and pulse just to chop and distribute.  Pour mixture over cooked squashes, sealing to edges.  Bake in center of oven for about 35 minutes or until set and lightly browned on top.  Cool about 15 minutes or until just warm for best flavor, texture, and easy removal from the pan.  Serve topped with Tomato Cucumber Salad and garnished with fresh basil sprigs.

Tomato Cucumber Salad

1 cup diced cucumber

1 cup quartered cherry or grape tomatoes

2 teaspoons mild vinegar like cider or malt

Pinch Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, gently combine all ingredients.  Check for seasoning and adjust to taste.

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Beet BruschettaYield: 4 servings (8 bruschetta)

As I’ve mentioned, the newly formed Starlight Supper Club consisting of three couples–a vegan (me), 2 vegetarians, 1 pescetarian and, yes, my husband the carnivore–celebrated our inaugural dinner last Saturday night at the home of Becky Bump and Reese Lusk.  The setting–their tiny log cabin with an exquisitely designed interior and a furnished deck on Chubb Lake–was outdone only by the food and company.

The appetizer alone set me off on a several day-binge of Beet Bruschetta.  I can’t believe I never thought of it before, but it has quickly become a staple.  Becky and Reese made theirs on Reese’s delicious sourdough bread, but I just used bread from the bakery section of the grocery store and it was tasty.

Be sure to roast the beet a little over an hour before serving time.  And keep the bruschetta on the smaller side or it is too difficult to pick up and enjoy.

1 fist-size beet (which will shrink slightly while roasting), rubbed with olive oil, sprinkled lightly with salt, wrapped in foil over a pan to catch drips, roasted at 375 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until tender, and slightly cooled

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 large clove garlic

Sea salt

8-1/3 to 1/2″ thick slices ciabatta bread (or something similar), about 2 1/2″ in diameter

Approximately 7 ounces extra firm tofu, crumbled (half of a 14 ounce box, as is available here) or Homemade Vegan Ricotta

Freshly ground black pepper

8 large basil leaves

 

While beet roasts, mince garlic into olive oil, add a tiny pinch of sea salt, stir to combine, and set aside.  While beet is cooling, brush bread very lightly with garlic oil and grill in an indoor grill pan over medium-high for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until lightly toasted.  (If you don’t have a grill pan, broil, watching carefully).  Lightly mash tofu with about 1 teaspoon garlic oil and a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Cut beet into 8 slices, crosswise.  Divide tofu among bread slices and place a basil leaf on top of each, followed by a beet slice.  Drizzle with garlic oil and finish with a few grains of sea salt.

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Mashed Beets with Butter and Sour CreamYield: 4 servings

Saturday night, Joe and I and two other couples celebrated not only the almost-Summer Solstice, but the inaugural dinner of our Starlight Supper Club (named after the Stardust Supper Club in the small town where I grew up).

The first dinner was hosted by Becky Bump and Reese Lusk, two inspired cooks and highly creative individuals:  Reese is an artist and designer and Becky owns a public relations firm.  I have been fantasizing about the appetizer–and the pie!–ever since and, in fact, we had not been home from the party a full 12 hours before I was roasting beets to make my version of their Beet Bruschetta–genius!  Stay tuned for this recipe on Saturday, June 27.

But I had a lot of beets and remembered that Reese had said that the only way he enjoys beets is in my Beet Muhummara which is, if I so stay so, a spectacular spread.  But I started wondering why beets couldn’t be prepared like mashed potatoes, complete with butter, sour cream, cream, salt and pepper.  And they can:  wow!

Mashed beets are beautiful and delicious and, while they still taste like the best of beets, the other ingredients mask that beet-y “whang” that some folks don’t care for.

8 “woman’s fist size” beets, trimmed, but  not peeled (the beets will shrink as they roast)

olive oil

sea salt

4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons vegan butter

4 tablespoons vegan sour cream

2 tablespoons plain soy creamer (unsweetened if you can find it)

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Optional garnish: fresh thyme sprigs

Prheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place beets on a sheet of foil on a baking sheet (to catch any overflow juices), rub with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with just a bit of sea salt.  Wrap and roast for about an hour (check for tenderness at 45 minutes).  Unwrap, allow to cool for about 10 minutes or until comfortable to handle, peel, and cut into quarters.  Put through a food ricer or puree in a food processor with remaining ingredients.  Serve warm, topped with a tiny pad butter (about 1/2 teaspoon) and a sprig of thyme if desired.

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Orange-Mocha Ice CreamYield: 1 quart

Over the very hot and humid weekend, I decided that my Vegan-Espresso Dreamsicle Smoothie might make a scrumptious ice cream…and I was right!

I love this ice cream’s rich almost caramely color which results from combining the bright orange frozen orange juice concentrate with the warm browns of espresso and cocoa powder.

And the flavor is so complex: tart, but with deep dark, yet somehow subtle,  notes of coffee and chocolate.

Cream of Coconut makes a luscious ice cream base, but only reveals the barest whisper of coconut flavor to those who know to be “looking” for it.  So those who don’t fancy coconut won’t even know it’s there.

14 to 16 ounces extra-firm tofu (whatever weight in which your favorite brand is sold), regular or,f for extra creaminess, silken

1-15.5 ounce can Creme of Coconut, refrigerated (located where alcoholic drink mixers are sold in the grocery store; Coco Lopez is a popular brand)

1-8 ounce can frozen orange juice (look for an organic brand)

1/4 cup sugar (I use demerara)

1 tablespoon espresso or instant coffee, regular or decaf

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 tablespoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

Place tofu in the bowl of a food processor and process until almost smooth.  Add all remaining ingredients and process for about 3 minutes or until very smooth.  Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions.  (I love my electric Cuisnart.) Transfer to a lidded container and freeze several hours or over night to ripen.

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Fruit Pickles--Peaches and RosemaryYield: 1 quart

I think that canned fruits and vegetables are so beautiful, sparkling like jewels under glass.  But, sterilizing jars is  a deal-breaker for me.

So, when I saw this recipe from Robby Melvin in Southern Living, I was all about it.  These quick pickles are “put up” in jars, but no sterilizing is required, as they stay refrigerated.

His paired strawberries and rosemary, honedew and thyme, and peaches and mint, but pair up any fruit or berry and woody herb you choose.

I altered the recipe just a little only because I  didn’t have white balsamic vinegar on hand, but did have white balsamic vinegar reduction and white vinegar.  I also upped the vinegar in the vinegar-water ration–I love bold flavors–and I didn’t have mint in my herb garden, so I used rosemary with the peaches I purchased at the farmer’s market on the way home from yoga yesterday morning.

I doubled my recipe to make 2 jars and took them as gifts to the inaugrual dinner of the Starlight Supper Club last night.  I’ve always wanted to be in a “supper club,” so two friends and our husbands finally started one.  Becky Bump and Reese Lusk set the bar high  with a deliciously inspired menu in a breathtaking setting among treasured friends. More on our wining and dining throughout the year.

Note: you may substitute 1 generous cup white balsamic vinegar for the white vinegar and white balsamic vinegar reduction if you choose.

1 1/2 cups white vinegar

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup sugar (I use demerara sugar)

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar reduction (I purchase at Kroger)

2 teaspoons sea salt

3 peaches

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

In a 2-quart saucepan, bring vinegar, sugar, water, white balsamic vinegar reduction, and salt to a boil.  Remove from heat and completely cool (about 1 hour).   After about 45 minutes, slice peaches into eighths and place in a 1 quart jar along with rosemary on the sides so that it shows nicely.  Poor cooled pickle brine over the fruit, seal tightly with a lid and refrigerate for 1 hour, at least, but best after 8 to 12.  Keeps about 1 week in the refrigerator.

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Southwestern Quinoa Confetti SaladThis delicious salad was inspired by one I enjoyed at Pompano in NYC.  I use more ingredients–including the kale, tomatoes, cucmbers, and optional black beans–because if the salad was scrumptious without them, it would be even better with.

Yield: 6 servings

1 cup uncooked quinoa (I used a mixed colored variety)

2 cups water

Sea salt

1-15 ounce can yellow hominy, rinsed and drained

Optional: 1-15 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained (not included in accompanying photograph)

1/2 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices

1 cup coarsely chopped kale

2-6 inch cucumbers, diced

Approximately 12 grape tomatoes, quartered

1/4 cup olive oil

Juice of 1/2 large lime

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon chile powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, or to taste

Optional: 1 tablespoon nutrition yeast

 

In a 2-quart saucepan, combine quinoa, water and a teaspoon of sea salt, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, for about 15 to 20 minutes or until quinoa is tender and water is absorbed/evaporated, stirring occasionally.  Meanwhile, preheatoiled  grill pan over medium high.  Place onion slices in one half of pan and kale in the other, lightly salt, and grill for about 3 minutes on each side or until nice caramelized grill marks appear.  Combine quinoa, hominy grilled onion and kale, cucumbers, and grape tomatoes in a large non-reactive bowl.  In a small cup or bowl whisk together olive oil, lime juice, and all spices, seasoning to taste with additional sea salt.  Pour over salad, sprinkle with cilantro and optional nutritional yeast, and gently toss to coat completely.  Note: I like to enjoy a couple or three servings of the salad without the black beans and then add them to the leftovers to enjoy for a another few servings.

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Leftover Redux--Coconut Yellow Dal CakesYield: 1 serving of 2 medium cakes (easily multiplies for the amount of leftovers on-hand)

Let’s just say, to put it non-judgmentally, that my husband has a very different diet than I do.  So, when I make a dish, it is usually mine and mine alone.

On Saturday, I posted a recipe for my divine Vegan Coconut Dal with Grilled Kale and Cashews which I have been enjoying all week because it serves 6.  Yesterday, wanting to finish it for lunch but perhaps in a different form, the idea for Dal Cakes sprang into my mind.

Wow, how simple and delicious!

On the way home from yoga Sunday morning, I was brainstorming what I would use to thicken the mixture to be able to shape it into patties–Panko bread crumbs, cashew meal, flour, etc.–but when it came to making them, I wondered how simple I could keep it.

Pretty darn simple as it turns out.  I just added half as much Panko breadcrumbs as I had leftovers, stirred gently with a fork and, instead of pre-shaping into patties, I just mounded the mixture into the lightly oiled and preheated skillet, flattening the tops to make about 3/4- to 1-inch thick cakes.  After a couple of minutes, they were plenty firm enough to flip, somewhere between a pancake and a veggie burger.  If you want them, firmer, however, simply add a few more breadcrumbs.

I topped mine with vegan sour cream, as we are uanble in our area to purchase vegan yogurt that isn’t very sweet and quite runny.  Had I had some cucumbers, I would have diced a few up in the sour cream or placed a few slices on top.  But I didn’t, and my mini-meal was still delicious.  Nontheless, wanting a hint of green and not having any cilantro, I added sprigs of lemon thyme from my herb garden.  Though there is no thyme in the dish, it seemed appropriate given the citrusy notes and lent a lovely herby freshness.  Half of a grape tomato would be a really nice addition, as well, adding contrasts of color, flavor and texture.

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/2 cup leftover Vegan Coconut Yellow Dal with Grilled Kale and Cashews (you only need the dal part for this recipe), very thick and very cold

1/4 cup Panko or other coarse, dry breadcrumbs

Sea salt

Optional toppings: vegan sour cream/plain yogurt, pinch of chili powder or plain/smoked paprika, sliced or diced cucumber, sprigs of fresh cilantro or lemon thyme, and halved grape tomatoes

Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium-high.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together leftover Coconut Yellow Dal with breadcrumbs and a pinch of sea salt to taste, adding more bread crumbs if necessary to reach desired consistency.  Divide mixture in half, making two mounds in the skillet and gently flattening each with a spatula to create 3/4- to 1-inch thick cakes and to help compact the cakes.   Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until golden brown and a little crusty, loosening each cake from the bottom of the skillet with a spatula after about a minute.  Carefully flip and cook for 2 to 3 more minutes on the second side, again loosening the cakes from the bottom of the skillet after the first minute, and pressing gently on the top to compact.  Lower heat at any point if necessary to prevent scorching.  Serve immediately topped with vegan sour cream or yogurt, cucumbers, sprig of herbs and, if desired, grape tomato halves.  Note: cakes on the smaller side are easier to flip, so avoid getting over-zealous with the size.

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Coconut Dal with Grilled Kale and CashewsYield: 6 servings

Last Saturday night, Joe and I were so pleased with ourselves for choosing Pompano as our dining destination in NYC.

Yes, I know that coconut dal isn’t Mexcian, so keep reading…

Located at 209 East 49th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues, it is a beautiful restaurant with a second story that opens onto a terrace, which is where we were seated.  The weather was perfect–like early fall–the service swift, and the food outstanding, with lots of  vegan options, provided cheese or sour cream is omitted.

For my dinner, I ordered smooth-as-velvet black bean soup with a grilled plantain garnish and a black quinoa salad with corn, onions, and grilled–yes, grilled–kale.  Divine!  You can imagine that I came home commited to grilling some kale before week’s end.

On the Thursday night we arrived for our weekend in the city on the occasion of  a dear friend’s wedding, we dined at Amma (246 E. 51st Street between 2nd and 3rd), an intimate and warmly contemporary second story Indian restaurant.  (For meals, we tended to stick close to “home” which was POD51 at 230 E. 51st Street: hip, modern, and well-designed from quality materials with compact rooms.  Ours was a queen POD with a private bath and a very intimate one indeed: think airplane restroom–in size, not style–with a shower.)

I came home Sunday with a powerful craving for Indian food and decided to put the two together: Indian and grilled kale.  For the dal, I used a recipe from Deryn Macey at RunningOnRealFood.com with no substantive changes except more water that is ridiculously tasty, especially scooped up in lettuce leaves instead of naan which, unless veganized, contains yogurt.  To make it more “buttery” while adding a third texture contrast, I sprinkled it with roasted cashews.  And to create more of a  one-dish vitamin-packed meal, I topped it with grilled kale.

For the kale, all I had was pre-chopped, so I used it and thought it made a perfectly textured topping, though you could certainly grill whole kale leaves and use them differently.  I am an indoor griller and found my Lodge cast iron grill pan to do a beautiful job.  Grill the kale, which just takes a few minutes, in two batches while the dal cooks to creamy perfection.

Vegan Coconut Yellow Dal with Grilled Kale and Cashews

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 medium onion, diced

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated (I used 1 teaspoon ground ginger, as I had no fresh on hand)

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups dry yellow lentils

1-15 ounce can coconut milk

4 to 4 1/2 cups water

Grilled Kale (recipe follows)

Roasted and lightly salted cashew halves and pieces

In a large cast iron skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high.  Add onions and saute, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and ginger and continue to saute and stir frequently for about 2 more minutes until onions are quite soft.  Lower heat to avoid scorching garlic if necessary.  Add the spices, coconut milk, lentils and 3 cups water, whisking in one cup of water at a time.  Simmer for about 45 minutes or until soft and thick, lowering heat if necessary, adding another 1/2 cup water about every 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and serve topped with grilled kale and a sprinkling of cashews.  Note: if desired, toss kale with about 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro before topping dal.

 

Grilled Kale

4 cups coarsely chopped kale (when I purchase from the grocery store instead of farmer’s market, I purchase a bag of, prewashed and coarsely chopped

Small amount of olive oil (If possible, dispense from a spray can or spritzer to avoid over-doing it)

See salt

Heat lightly oiled grill pan over medium-high.  Add half of kale in an even thin layer to pan and grill about 3 minutes to until it starts to char, flip with a spatula and grill about 3 more minutes or until desired color and texture is achieved.  Remove to a platter (avoid heaping it in a bowl or it will steam) and repeat with remaining kale.  Sprinkle with a small amount of sea salt if desired.  Prepared this way, you can use the kale myriad ways: in salads, soups, sandwiches, side dishes, and more.  Its pretty darn good “right by itself,” as they say in the ‘Sip (Mississippi).

 

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Toasted Orzo RisottoYield: 4 side dish servings (easily doubles)

Joe and I are headed to NYC today for a dear friend’s wedding.  While, we are mostly excited about the wedding, we haven’t been to New York in far too long, so we are also amped about our POD hotel in East Midtown and the food!

Yesterday afternoon, another good friend who gets to Manhattan every year sent me her list of restaurant recommendations and I found myself starving.  Though, in truth, by 5 p.m. I am always starving.  I rise at 5:30 and teach high school all day, which I love, but which works up quite an appetite.

A handful of roasted peanuts and cashews–even with nutritional yeaste–didn’t do the trick.  So, I was casting about for something to snack on before I meet Joe at 7:30 for date night when I remembered that I had created this orzo risotto dish, but never finished it.  Yum!  Since I won’t be posting until after our weekend in the city, I thought I would go ahead and share now.

The recipe came about after making my Vegan Smokey Grilled Asparagus and White Bean Spread to take to a party.  I hated to waste–even to compost–all of the asparagus trimmings, so I made a stock.  But then I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I thought about a soup, but was craving something sort of creamy, starchy and chewy.  An opened box of orzo in the pantry provided all the inspiration I needed for this delectable Toasted Orzo Risotto that whispers spring with its oh-so-subtle hint of asparagus and bright fresh lemon zest.

 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup dried orzo

1/8th teaspoon sea salt + more to taste, if desired (to finish the dish)

2 1/2 cups asparagus stock (asparagus trimmings and a pinch of sea salt simmered in 2 cups water for 20 minutes and steeped until cool) OR any vegetable stock, preferably low sodium

1/2 cup dry white wine (I use a pinot grigio)

1/2 cup plain coconut or soy creamer (use unsweetened if you can find it)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste

Zest of 1/2 large lemon

Garnish: lemon zest, sprigs of fresh herbs, or the primary vegetabel from stock, if homemade.

In a large cast iron skillet over medium high, heat olive oil, add orzo, stir to coat and toast, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until lighly browned, avoid over-browning, especially toward the end.  Add one-third of  stock and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes.  Repeat with remaining stock, one-third at a time, followed by white wine and creamer, for a total of 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time.  To finish the dish, stir in nutritional yeast, black pepper, and lemon zest.  Check for salt and add more if desired.  Serve garnished as desired.  (I used grilled asparagus spears.)

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As a high school art teacher frequently in need of cheap prizes (fun erasers, pencil sharpenters, etc.) for my “Prize Patrol”–a bin of prizes I award to the winners of art-related competitions during our morning journal entries–I often find myself in Dollar Tree, a locally-grown (get it?) company.  Wherever you live, I hope Dollar Tree has come to your area.  It’s a life-saver for so many occasions.

Recently, I was standing in the checkout line behind a woman who decided that she didn’t want the box of veggie burgers she had picked up.  I quickly said that, if they were vegan, I would be happy to try them.  And they were (though they are called “100% Vegetarian”)!  Chef Ernesto’s Veggie Burgers come two to a box and the box costs, yep, $1, as does everything in the store.

While they are not necessarily the best veggie burgers I have ever eaten–the texture is a bit soft for my taste–they are respectable and right tasty.  A little spicy, they are packed with recognizeable veggies, but they are also a little oily (though they contain no trans fat or saturated fat).  So they definitely aren’t plagued by dryness, as so many brands are.  I would recommend blotting them on paper towels before serving, and I would heat them in a skillet rather than the microwave for a hint of crunchiness on the exterior.

Each all-natural pattie contains 130 calories and, at 5 grams, not terribly packed with protein but, again, for 50 cents a burger, they are a bargain and I will likely be purchasing more.  The vegan line also includes Vegetable Samosas and Battered Mushrooms (that look breaded to me), so, if you have access to a Dollar Tree, check them out and let me know what you think.

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