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
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.
This is the perfect light and lovely breakfast or brunch treat for Mom on her special day. Tofutti Better than Ricotta Cheese is not available everywhere, but hopefully you can find it or another vegan brand where you live, as there really is not an equivalent product to substitute.
Happy Mother’s Day to all…regardless of who your children are! (Mine happen to be 140 teenage art students that I am privileged to teach and “the twinz”: a pair of beloved lookalike canines.)
Tofutti loved my recipe and posted it HERE.
Vegan Ricotta Lemon Pancakes:
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons natural sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cup soymilk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
3/4 cup Tofutti Better than Ricotta Cheese
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
Lemony Maple-Ricotta Cream (recipe follows)
Garnish: fresh strawberries or blueberries plus additional lemon zest and/or confectioner’s sugar for dusting
In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Make a well in the center, pour in soymilk, and whisk just until combined. Add ricotta in several spoonfuls, and whisk into batter, along with almond extract and lemons zest. Avoid over-mixing. Spray cast iron skillet with non-stick spray. (For more flavor, but also more fat and calories, you may use a little oil and or vegan butter, melted.) Heat skillet over medium-high. Make pancakes using a 1/4 cup measure, 3 at a time. Cook for a couple of minutes on first side, or until small bubbles just begin to appear, pancakes puff slightly, and are golden brown on underside. Flip and cook on remaining side for a couple more minutes or until pancakes appear set and are golden brown on underside. Drizzle a tablespoon of Lemony Maple-Ricotta Cream over each pancake as you make the stacks. Garnish top of stack as desired with fresh berries, lemon zest, and or a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar.
Lemony Maple-Ricotta Cream:
1/2 cup Tofutti Better than Ricotta
1 tablespoon soymilk (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
1 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Process in food processor until smooth. The mixture will be creamy for drizzling; not fluffy.
These “Peeps” that I created–which I think look more like Toucans!–were inspired by “Ugly Ducklings” sold at a local Mediterranean restaurant called Azar’s.
I wanted to take the store-bought ones to an Easter dinner on Sunday, but the restaurant was closed and I could find no recipe, so I decided to “wing it,” so to speak. Fortunately, the ingredients are few.
I’m so glad I did, as they are super simple and so unique! I apologize for not having them ready to share with you in advance of Easter, but they are nice for spring in general, and certainly next year!
Resting in decorative cupcake liners and tucked, along with softly colored wooden eggs, into their straw nest, they looked peepin’ adorable and were also a rave in the taste department!
They seem especially appropriate for spring, but the ingredients are pretty season-less, so enjoy all year when a festive presentation and a little decadent bite is in order.
Approximately 1/2 cup (or slightly less) almond paste (I purchase it in a can on the baking aisle of the grocery store)
16 pitted dates, opened out (be sure to use fairly moist ones)
1-9 or 10 ounce package vegan chocolate chips
8 whole roasted and lightly salted cashews
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Using your fingers, mold a scant tablespoon of almond paste into an egg shape. Moisten your fingers if your paste seems dry. Then press into one of the dates, pressing another date over the top to encase the almond paste inside, forming an egg or bird body shape. Continue with all remaining dates and almond paste. Cover and refrigerate them for about a half hour. Melt chocolate in microwave in a narrow deep bowl for ease of dipping. (For 9 to 10 ounces, I have found that 1 minute on full power, a slight stir, and then 20 to 30 seconds at full power, followed by a good whisking works in my microwave.) Pierce each date-almond paste ball with a toothpick. One at a time, dip them into the chocolate, covering completely, and place on prepared baking sheet. Remove toothpicks and “patch” hole with a dab of melted chocolate if need be. Then, one at a time, dip half of each cashew into the chocolate and attach it to the top of each “body,” slightly toward one end, with the cashew “beak” curving into the body and touching at each tip–chocolate toward the center–so that it is secure. Refrigerate for a half hour or until chocolate is hardened. Arrange as desired and serve.
Note: you will have some chocolate left over, but when it gets low, it is difficult to coat the date-almond paste balls.
The weather has been like no other winter here in Eastern, VA, so, while I made these pears quite a while ago, sunshine and my schedule did not coalesce until yesterday for me to photograph or I would have posted well before now so that if you, too, were gifted with a box of Harry & David Pears, you would have a new and delicious way to serve them.
It was a gift of these pears sent also to my parents by my cousin (he sent mine much later due to a snafu of some sort) and my mom’s craving that resulted in this recipe. The cream-cheese orange filling makes them extra special and extra pretty.
Hopefully, now that the winter holidays are well behind us, you can enjoy this recipe with the crop of summer pears.
Hey, did you know those Harry & David pear crates make ideal tree ornament storage boxes?
Pears and Red Wine Reduction:
6 large pears (about 8 ounces each), halved lengthwise, stemmed and cored using a melon-baller or small spoon
2 cups Burgundy wine
1/4 cup sugar
1 large orange, zested (reserve zest), halved, and then sliced into 1/2-inch slices
3 cinnamon sticks
Combine wine and sugar in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears, cut side down, and then tuck orange slices and cinnamon sticks between them. Bring to a simmer and poach for 10 minutes on one side; gently flip, and poach 10 minutes on the other side. Arrange in a serving dish or on individual plates or bowls, cut side up. Place a dollop of filling in the hollow left when the core was removed, drizzle with Red Wine Reduction, and serve.
Vegan Cream Cheese-Orange Filling:
8 ounces vegan cream cheese such as *Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
2 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Reserved orange zest
In small bowl using a fork, mash together cream cheese and sugar. When almost smooth, incorporate vanilla extract and zest.
*You can also find this recipe HERE on the Tofutti website!
For our 10th anniversary, my husband and I took a Mediterranean Cruise, one of a number of life-changing trips to that magnetic part of the world from where his family hails (specifically, the Abruzzo region of of Italy). I fell in love repeatedly, including with Santorini.
My dish, created especially for the Yummy Food-Canarias Recipe Competition, is an ode to one of the most memorable and simplest “meals” I have ever eaten. We had spent the morning touring an ancient archeological dig on the island and had stopped at a cliffside vineyard overlooking the stunning atoll. There, in the wind-whipped courtyard, we were served wine, of course, accompanied by crisp fresh cucumber, olives and tomatoes. That was it. Simple perfection.
Since it is January and tomatoes are not in season, I chose instead to celebrate the cucumber and the olives, adding my beloved figs and pine nuts plus a little lemony brightness along with herby dill-scented cannelini beans for protein . The result is a simple little Mediterranean-infused bite-size meal.
Yield: 24 canapes or 8 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large garlic clove, minced
1-15.5 ounce can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup loosely packed finely chopped fresh dill
16 dried Calmyra or Mission figs, stems removed, halved (I like to use 8 of each)
1/4 cup brine-cured pitted black and green olives, drained (I like some that are a little spicy)
3 ounces toasted pine nuts
1 teaspoon tamarind syrup (you may substitute pomegranate syrup or agave nectar)
Zest of 1/2 large lemon
Garnish: fresh dill sprigs
Cucumber slices (or toasted bread rounds/crackers)
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high. Add onion and a pinch of salt and pepper and saute, stirring frequently, until onion begins to turn golden, about 8 to 9 minutes. Reduce heat if necessary to prevent scorching. Add garlic and saute, stirring constantly, for another minute. Stir in beans and remaining tablespoon of olive oil, partially mashing the beans with the back of the spoon. Add dill and remove from heat.
Process figs in a food processor, pulsing until coarsely chopped. Add olives, and continue pulsing until both are finely chopped. Add pine nuts and pulse a few more times or until all ingredients are very finely chopped. Add syrup, lemon zest, and additional salt and pepper if desired, and pulse just to combine.
Serve a spoonful of the beans topped with a spoonful of the tapenade on cucumber slices, toasted bread or crackers. Garnish with sprigs of fresh dill.
Alternative serving suggestion: spread the beans into a 1/2-inch thick disk on a serving plate, spread the tapenade over the top, garnish, and serve with cucumber slices (or toasted bread/crackers).
This recipe is a three-fer and may require a quick nip into the grocery store, so I wanted you to have a time to procure the ingredients before Christmas arrives because this little nosh packs big flavor and is exactly how my family prefers to eat on Christmas Day. Or you might even want to serve it tonight for Christmas Eve with your favorite beverage or imbibement.
Back in the day, my family loved a big feast. Now we nosh. But, regardless, this tri-level treat will be lovely alongside whatever else you serve.
My special Toasted Pumpkin Seeds don’t absolutely have to go on top, but I love nuts and seeds, so if a (wal)nut plus a (hazel) nut is good, a nut plus a seed is even better. Therefore, you can just put out a bowl of the seeds for nibbling, then stand back and watch them disappear.
Along those lines, any one of the three parts of this stacked appetizer has a multitude of uses, so let your imagination and the rest of your menu be your guide.
May you have exactly the kind of holiday you need!
Somehow it happened yet again this year: Thanksgiving is only one day away!
I saved the sweetest for last: this simple crisp with a twist in the form of the Chai spices in the streusel.
It goes together in a snap and disappears even faster.
Fresh raw kale is the base of this lovely salad chock full of lightly caramelized dried fruit and smoked almonds, all glistening from just the right amount of a savory-sweet-tart pomegranate vinaigrette. The most virtuous dish on the Thanksgiving table may just be the tastiest too!
I served this salad last year and, though the whole menu was scrumptious, I typically don’t duplicate. But this dish made the cut and I will be serving it again!
Yield: 8 quesadillas
Different, but not bizarre, this quesadilla celebrates the cozy flavors of fall.
2 large apples, halved, cored and cut into 12 wedges each
8 ounces tempeh (I use Trader Joe’s “3 Grain” variety)
2 teaspoons soy sauce (I use a lite variety with less sodium)
1 teaspoon dry rubbed sage or a tablespoon minced fresh sage
Optional: 1 teaspoon fresh minced rosemary
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup
1/2 cup Quick Vegan Cashew Cream (Recipe Follows)
1/2 cup water
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
8 6-inch wheat tortillas
Optional: 1/2 cup caramelized onions
Garnish: dollops of vegan sour cream or additional Quick Vegan Cashew Cream, fresh sage or rosemary sprigs, roasted pepitas
Grill lightly salted apple wedges in well-oiled grill pan over medium high heat until tender and nice grill marks develop, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet. Crumble tempeh into the skillet, add a pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, until golden brown in some places, adding about a teaspoon of olive oil if it appears to be drying out. Add soy sauce, sage and optional rosemary, and continue sauteing until golden throughout. Stir in balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, Cashew Cream, and water, and heat, stirring, until mixture comes together. Remove from heat and add additional salt, if necessary, and black pepper to taste. Transfer filling to a bowl or carton and wipe out skillet.
To make quesadillas, heat another tablespoon of olive oil in skillet over medium high. Place 1/8th of filling on half of each tortilla, top with 3 slices of grilled apple and optional 1/8th of caramelized onions. Fold other half of tortilla up over the filling and toast, 2 quesadillas at a time, in skillet for a couple of minutes on each side or until golden brown. Keep warm. Repeat with more oil as needed and remaining tortillas, filling and apples. Serve garnished as desired.
Quick Vegan Cashew Cream:
2 cups raw cashews
2 cups simmering water (heated stovetop or in microwave)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Place cashews in a heat-safe bowl and pour simmering water over. Let stand, covered, for a half hour. Drain and reserve 1 1/4 cups of water. Process cashews with sea salt and garlic powder until a thick past forms, about a minute or two. Reheat water and, with motor running, stream in 1 1/4 cups or enough to reach desired consistency. Serve as is, flavor as desired, or cover and refrigerate for use at a later date.
“Your peanut butter-apple pancakes were righteous!”
He then explained that he had been invited to give a vegan cooking demo and talk at a health food store near him and asked if he could prepare my recipe and print it for the attendees, with a credit and link to The Blooming Platter.
That required no thought at all, only a resounding “Of course!” especially when he said, “One thing I loved about the pancakes is that the PB was not overpowering. I love PB but it blended beautifully.”
I haven’t made my Vegan Peanut Butter and Fresh Apple Pancakes with Peanut Butter Maple Syrup in a while, but he reminded me how good they are; and, with local apples cropping up this autumn in farmers markets everywhere, I thought I should post a link.
What a great way to celebrate the first weekend of fall. Thanks, Gary!