Vegan Roasted Middle Eastern Tri-Color Carrot-Beet Spread (and a plug for Vegan Health & Fitness Magazine’s article about Whole Foods and John Mackey)

SideYield: approximately 1 cup

(for recipe, please scroll down)

Before my husband passed away in July, I never shopped at Whole Foods due to the expense, but it has become a little treat I give myself.

In some ways I find those activities and events that are exactly the same in his absence–like grocery shopping–more emotionally challenging even than the birthdays, holidays, and special occasions.  Perhaps it’s because I steel myself for the latter, shaping them in a way that plays to my strengths and minimizes my vulnerabilities.

But a couple of parties in both November and December required trips to Whole Foods.  The first was Joe’s posthumous birthday party that his sisters and I hosted at Total Wine for which we supplied the food (and decided that tapenade layered over hummus was our favorite new obsession).  He had purchased a wine tasting at a silent auction, but we never used it, and this seemed the perfect occasion.  The second event was my my annual all-girls Christmas, Chanukah, Curry & Cakes Party & Swap.  Joe wasn’t a part of it, but he always put in an appearance to everyone’s delight.

With my dear friend Donna Reiss in town to help me–emotionally and logistically–prepare for the fete, we chose a vegan menu that required a trip to Whole Foods.  With fond and tender memories of our outing, I decided that grocery shopping was a bit more bearable in the more “curated” environs of a store like WF who embraces, at least to some degree, my values. (Somewhere my museum curator friends just felt a stab in their sides because they deplore the way the word “curated” has been conscripted for marketing everything from groceries to jewelry to housewares.)

Vegan Health & FitnessSpeaking of Whole Foods’ values, the June 2016 issue of Vegan Health and Fitness Magazine (which I purchase at Whole Foods), includes a really thorough, fair, and balanced article about John Mackey, Whole Foods’ co-founder and co-CEO, who is controversial to some because, though he is vegan, his store is not.  Still, both editor Brenda Carey’s “Letter” and the article (on p. 52) make a convincing case for why Mackey should be applauded rather than derided for the compassionate and conscious changes he is helping bring about in the food production chain.

Now, I go most Saturdays and sometimes during my planning block at school to stock up on lunch items.  Sometimes I go with a list; most often I just respond to the aesthetics of the produce and purchase what catches my eye, figuring out what to do with it later.  I usually create new recipes though, occasionally and shamefully, I let some of it go to waste and end up composting it.  I would claim that it is because I am not accustomed to shopping and cooking for one, but who am I kidding?  I didn’t shop or cook for Joe in recent years, as he was a committed and unapologetic carnivore who eschewed most vegetables for more meat.  It’s more the case that I don’t consume nearly as much food as I used to.

But this carrot-beet spread is perfect for a mini-meal, as is my preference these days: healthy, beautiful, tasty, and satisfying.  It is worth trying to find the pomegranate or tamarind syrup and the sumac at a Middle Eastern or international market or even online.  But if you can’t, I provide substitutions below.  Sumac bushes produce red berries that are dried and ground to a powder that is used in Middle Eastern cuisines.  The flavor is lemony, but mellow, rounded and a hint earthy.  Lemon zest is a fine substitute, but definitely with zingier flavor notes. Similarly, maple syrup or agave nectar will contribute the desired sweetness and texture to the spread, but not deliver quite the desired authentic flavor of the Middle East.

If you or those for whom you cook think they are beet-haters, this recipe, along with some others here on The Blooming Platter, may change their minds.  But, if not, just substitute another couple of carrots.

PatsyRoasted Middle Eastern Carrot-Beet Spread

6-6 to 7-inch carrots, any color (I use a tri-color bunch), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces

3 small golden (or red) beets, about the size of a plum or a half-fist, peeled and quartered

2 tablespoon + 1/4 cup olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 large garlic clove

1 teaspoon pomegranate, tamarind, or maple syrup or agave nectar

1/2 teaspoon ground sumac (or lemon zest)

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Garnish: 2 to 4 tablespoons of pistachios

Accompaniments: crackers, toasts, green and/or black olives, and finishing salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss carrots and beets with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a generous pinch of salt in a large baking pan.  Roast for 20 to 30 minutes or until tender and caramelized to your liking.  Remove from oven, place in the bowl of a food processor with all other ingredients and process until as smooth as desired, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Taste and adjust all seasonings as desired.  Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with pistachios.  Serve with crackers, toast, olives and finishing salt (I use a little salt cellar of coarse sea salt).

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Vegan Beet Bruschetta–This Summer’s “It” Appetizer

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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Vegan Mashed Beets with “Butter” and “Sour Cream”–Win Over Beet Haters!

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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Vegan Beets Three Ways: Beet Spread, Beet Greens and Chickpeas, and Beet Green Pesto

Beets 3 Ways

Yield: 8 appetizer servings

A beautiful bunch of beets at the farmers market inspired this tasty trio.  I couldn’t decide how I wanted to prepare them, so I created three recipes, as delicious individually as they are together.

(In the photo, I combined some of the rich green pesto with a little vegan sour cream for color contrast with the sautéed greens.  However, the pesto is fantastic on its own.  When I serve the crostini with the pesto, I typically seve the sautéed greens on the side so that the dark green pesto sits right on top of the brilliant fuscia spread.)

 

Beet Green Pesto:

4 ounces beet greens, stemmed

1 large clove garlic, halved

4 ounces roasted and lightly salted cashews

Sea salt to taste (don’t skimp; the bitterness of these greens requires ample salt)

1 teaspoon maple syrup

1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

1/4 cup olive oil or enough to create the desired consistence

Place all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor and process until fintely chopped.  With motor running, stream in olive oil, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Taste and adjust seasoning if desired.

 

Beet Spread:

4-2 to 3 ounce fresh beets (trimmed weight), peeled and quartered

2 large cloves garlic

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Optional: 1 teaspoon ground sumac (a middle eastern spice that lends an earthy, slightly lemony flavor)

1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, except olive oil, and pulse until very finely chopped, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  With motor running, stream in olive oil and process until as smooth as desired.

 

Sauteed Beet Greens with Chickpeas:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, diced

4 ounces beet greens, stemmed, and torn or rough-chopped into approximately 2-inch pieces

Sea salt to taste

1 teaspoon natural sugar

1-15.5 ounce can chick peas, rinsed and drained

Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add onion, a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes, or until softened.  Add beet greens, another pinch of salt and sugar.  Saute, stirring constantly, for another 3 minutes or until slightly wilted.  Stir in chickpeas and heat through, stirring.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

 

To Serve:

Spread a little Beet Spread on toasted bread and top with some of the Sautéed Beet Greens and a dollop of Beet Pesto (whisked into an equal part sour cream for color contrast, if you like).  Or serve the greens on the side and dollop the pesto directly on top of the spread.

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Vegan Cilantro-Coriander Beet Spread (or Pesto)–Super Simple and Gluten-Free!

Beet Spread--Bird's Eye ViewYield:  approximately 2 cups

The Beet Muhummara spread in my Blooming Platter Cookbook is a rave with beet lovers and haters.  I know this both from experience and from others’ enthusiastic reports.

However, it contains bread crumbs, which is not a problem for most people, but I teach with someone who has Celiac Disease and it is a BIG problem for her.  With a birthday next week while we’re away on Spring Break, I wanted to send her home with a treat she could eat, so I created this version that is not simply Beet Muhummara sans bread crumbs, but it’s own delicious spread.

It was inspired by a really zippy dipping sauce my husband and I were served with some kicked-up tempura (baby beets, baby bok choy, Brussels sprouts, wax beans ,etc.) at a recent cooking demonstration.  The vegan batter contained just a few chili flakes and the beautiful green sauce was made with lots of cilantro, lime juice, cardamom pods, etc.

I started with beets, adding what I had on hand: cilantro from a cooking class I had taught (but not too much, as people either love it or hate it), smoked almonds because I always keep them at the ready to snack on, lemon juice, and some spices.  After tasting the spread, I decided that I really liked the flavor of the lemon, but that it also needed some lime, so I purchased one and added it.  The result was tamer in the citrus department than my inspiration because, if there is anything I would have changed about the latter, it would have been to make it slightly less tangy.  The resulting balance of flavors in my Cilantro-Coriander Beet Spread is perfect for my palate, but always feel free to adjust for yours!

4-2 to 3 ounce fresh beets (trimmed weight), peeled and quartered

1 cup, firmly packed, fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)

1/3 cup smoked almonds 2 large garlic cloves,  halved

1 tablespoon coriander seeds (whole) 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (whole)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (ground)

1/3 cup olive oil

Juice of 1 large lemon

Juice of 1 medium-large lime

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional: 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes or to taste

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until almost smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.

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What Would Cathy Eat for Thanksgiving? Blooming Platter Beet Muhummara!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn her blog “What Would Cathy Eat?,” Cathy’s healthy Thanksgiving menu includes The Blooming Platter’s Beet Muhummara!

I am so honored!  And what a coincidence after featuring that recipe in yesterday’s global Virtual Vegan Potluck.

Because of the beet spread’s jewel-tone color, I think it is lovely for Christmas and New Year’s too, but it’s so tasty, you don’t need a special occasion.

Cathy is not vegan, but she does promote healthy eating and a bounty of vegetarian and vegan food on her blog, so check it out.

Here’s to the health and happiness of all living creatures!

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Virtual Vegan Potluck Appetizer Contribution: Vegan Beet Muhummara

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWelcome to the Virtual Vegan Potluck, an international “progressive” potluck meal, and you are one of our special guests!

To begin at the first “house,” visit Lidia at Vegan Bloggers Unite!

I volunteered to bring an appetizer, and I chose one of everyone’s favorites: Beet Muhummara (backstory and recipe follows).

But there are lots of other appetizers being served.  Be sure to visit the “houses” on either side of mine and from there, link by link, you can “progress” right on through all of the courses in one of the tastiest and varied meals ever served.

SENSUAL APPEAL is sure to bring something to the feast to delight your senses.  And VEGAN SPARKLES will, no doubt, prove that all that glitters is not gold!

So come on along, dinner is served!…

Do you walk right past the beets in your fall market?  If so, my advice is to throw it in reverse and back-up!  If you think you are a beet-hater, think again!

This jewel-tone beauty–a favorite in my cookbook–is inspired by muhummara, a Turkish roasted red pepper and walnut spread.  And it has single-handedly converted many a beet-haters into a beet lover right before my eyes.

Perfect for festive occasions because of its shimmering color–but simple enough for any day of the week (you can “beet” the clock with this one!)–Beet Muhummara is lovely with warmed pita triangles and olives or rolled up in lettuce leaves for “skinny” beet burritos. 

Yield: 4 cups

  • 3 large fresh raw beets, peeled and quartered (do not use canned beets)
  • 1 1/3 cups toasted walnut pieces (plus more for garnish, optional)
  • 1/3 cup Panko bread crumbs
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses or mild molasses, not blackstrap
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil

In a food processor, combine the beets, walnuts, bread crumbs, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, molasses, and lemon juice and pulse to a textured paste.

With the motor running, drizzle in the olive oil and process until fairly smooth, but still textured. Scrape the mixture into a serving bowl, garnish with walnuts, if using, and serve.

From The Blooming Platter Cookbook by Betsy DiJulio. Copyright © 2011. Vegan Heritage Press.Used by permission.

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Vegan Baked Swiss Chard (or Kale) and Sweet Potato Spring Rolls with Anise-Scented Sage-Butter Sauce

DSCN1667Baked, rather than steamed OR fried–and seasoned with sage and anise–who knew what a lovely marriage that is?–these simple and sensational spring rolls are like little gifts to your palate!

Find my recipe at One Green Planet.

BTW, they are quick too, as they bake a mere 4 minutes for a texture transformation!

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Happy Birthday, Joooolia! Vegan Potato and Beet Salad a la Julia Child

DSCN1837This jewel-toned salad is a real gem!

I admit that the color is a bit shocking, courtesy of some beautiful fresh beets, but it looked right at home on the bountiful buffet at this year’s birthday bash for Julia Child.

For the last 4 years, 10 or so of our foodie friends gather to fete the ‘ole gal on the Saturday evening closest to her birthday, making the 2013 iteration of this favorite pot-luck party on August 10.

My contributions were this salad and my new Vegan Luscious Lavender and Creme de Cacao Ice Cream.  Ooh-la-la!

Guests are asked to bring a French dish (and something tasty to eat too–hahaha), one inspired by Julia Child, or one made according to her actual recipes.  We scarcely do any advance coordination, but the meal is somehow always perfect and so beautifully presented.  The group is made up of one vegan (moi), some vegetarians, and some out-and-out carnivores.  But the food is almost entirely vegetarian/vegan.

Lovely dishes brought by our guests included:

  • Fresh juicy cantaloup slices (with or without prosciutto–sorry!)
  • Broccoli aspic (a recipe from Julia Child)
  • La Salad Hericot Vert (with candied walnuts, arugula and radicchio)
  • Ratatouille
  • Beet (not “beef”!) Bourguignon over Lentils
  • Salmon (sorry again!), courtesy of my husband with my homemade basil Pistou (French pesto)

My Vegan Potato-beet salad, a riff on one of Julia Child’s, was a top favorite among at least two of the guests, though everyone seemed to enjoy it.  Be sure to use a neutral tasting mayonnaise, or it will overpower the other flavors.  I am a fan of Nayonaise for some dishes, but feel it is too strongly vinegary and spiced for this dish.  Vegenaise is a better choice in this case.

4 cups quartered new potatoes (at our local farm market, they are called “creamers”), boiled in salted water, partially covered, until tender, about 20 minutes, and drained

7 beets, peeled and diced (about 2 1/2 cups), cooked until tender, and drained (save juice for another purpose) [I place them in a bowl, cover them with water, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and microwave for 15 minutes, but avoid a steam burn when removing the wrap!)

1 cup haricot vert (green beans), trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces, and simmered just until tender, about 7 minutes, then shocked in cold/iced water, and drained

Vinaigrette (recipe follows)

1/4 cup green herbs, finely chopped (I highly recommend a blend of 2 or more, e.g. basil, chives, tarragon, parsley)

2 cups neutral tasting mayo, prepared or homemade (not too tangy, sweet, etc., I like Vegenaise for this recipe)

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large non-reactive (glass or ceramic) bowl, combine all vegetables, drizzle with vinaigrette, toss well, cover, and chill for several hours.  Sprinkle with herbs, fold in mayo, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Chill until serving time and garnish with sprigs of fresh herbs.

Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup sherry vinegar (in truth, whatever vinegar you have will be great)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 cup olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garlic powder to taste

In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together vinegar and mustard.  Then whisk in olive oil in a slow stream until emulsified.  Season to taste and whisk again.  (Or just combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake well.)

 

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