Tomato-Peach Caprese (vegan & plant-based)

Today I offer a perfect late summer vegan/plant-based recipe and an apology…for being “gone” for so long.

First the recipe:

Tomato-Peach Caprese is perfect for a light summertime snack, lunch, or dinner. Made with Tofutti Better Than Ricotta Cheese, fresh peaches and tomatoes, and chopped pistachios, it is especially light and refreshing served with cucumber slices, but serve it with crostini for a treat that is a little more substantial. We love the ricotta, but if you can’t find it locally, feel free to substitute Better Than Cream Cheese. But, good news: all Tofutti products are available at PlantX.


2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup Tofutti Better Than Ricotta Cheese

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1.5 ounces chives, snipped (use kitchen shears); reserve 1 to 2 tablespoons

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large ripe peach, diced

1 large ripe tomato, diced

1 to 2 tablespoons pistachios, finely chopped

Sea salt

Accompaniments: crackers or cucumber slices


At least 30 minutes before preparing, combine garlic and olive oil in a small container and let steep at room temperature.

In a small bowl, stir together Tofutti Better Than Ricotta Cheese, red wine or balsamic vinegar, chives, and pepper until completely combined. Spread onto serving plate or board.

In another small bowl, gently toss together tomatoes and peaches with 1 tablespoon garlic oil and spoon on top of ricotta. Drizzle with remaining garlic oil and sprinkle with reserved chives, pistachios, and sea salt to taste.

Serve immediately with crackers and/or cucumber slices.

*Created exclusively for Tofutti Brands, Inc. by Betsy DiJulio of The Blooming Platter.

The apology:

As some of you may know, over a year ago, much to my delight, Tofutti Brands hired me as a recipe developer and food photographer. But, since fall 2020, I have also been a full-time teaching artist in the Upper School at Norfolk Academy in Norfolk, VA, where I concurrently–and gratefully–serve as the curator of Perrel Gallery. This rich new path follows a 16-year career as a public high school art teacher. And Tofutti isn’t my only side hustle, as I manage a busy magazine and newspaper freelance writing business.

I share this not as an excuse, but an explanation for my too-long neglect of my beloved website, The Blooming Platter.

Initially, I planned to post a recipe every time Tofutti did, but that plan got sidetracked by life and by my obsessive weekly recipe creation and testing. However, with this post, I am recommitting to that plan. I sometimes create other recipes which I will also share here. But for the most part, I am so consumed–see what I did there?–by my tasty work for Tofutti that virtually all my new recipes include Better Than Cream Cheese, Better Than Sour Cream, or Better Than Ricotta.

Substitutions/Tested Recipes

You can certainly try substituting other brands BUT be advised that, not only are Tofutti my favorite plant-based cream cheese, sour cream, and ricotta, but the recipes have only been tested with these products.

Get the Skinny

To make sure you don’t miss a single recipe, visit Tofutti here and sign up for our mailing list where your privacy will be respected and you will not be inundated. But you will receive all our recipes and eCookbooks, with the next featuring recipes for busy school and work mornings, afternoons, and evenings, as we gear back up for another school year.

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Terri Ann Lindelow’s Vegan Cranberry-Clementine and Walnut Sauce

Though my sisters-in-law travel to our home from Pennsylvania, they generously contribute to the Thanksgiving feast.  For the last two years, Terri Ann Lindelow’s take on traditional cranberry sauce has graced our table and it is a keeper!

She simply follows the recipe on the bag of cranberries (one bag of rinsed and picked cranberries, 1 cup of water and 1 cup of natural sugar simmered together for 5 to 10 minutes or until cranberries pop and the mixture thickens), but she substitutes clementine juice for the water and adds a generous portion of walnut pieces.  She doesn’t measure, so maybe start with 1/3 of a cup and see if you want more.

The brightness of the citrus and the texture of the walnuts makes this a very special cranberry sauce indeed!

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Red Wine Reduction for Grilled Peaches

Yield:  8 servings (1/2 to 3/4 cup sauce)

In August, Joe and I joined his sisters, Terri Ann and Tina, and their families for a short vacation in Ocean City, N.J.  (Our 14 year old niece, Gabriella, who is about as far removed from “Snooki” as one can get–thankfully!–does a great imitation.)  The DiJulios spent part of the summers there throughout their lives and, now that both of their parents are deceased, have vowed to keep the tradition alive.

Family dinners are part of the tradition so, late one afternoon on the way home from a bike ride, Terri Ann and I couldn’t resist the Jersey peaches at a local market.  Dinner was a grilled affair (marinated tofu for me) with my husband, Joe, in charge, so he put the peach halves on while we enjoyed dinner including Jersey corn and tomatoes plus sauteed kale from who knows where.

Before we sat down, I joined forces with Terri Ann (a good cook in her own right) and her husband’s son, Curt (a partner with Bonefish Grill who knows his way around a kitchen) and created a luscious, glistening, and not-too-sweet Cabernet sauce for the peaches.  We all gave it a can-I-please-have-some-more? enthusiastic thumb’s up!

I served it over a plain grilled peach for me, but added a little scoop of peach yogurt that was in the fridge for everyone else, omnivores all.  But, if you like, you can forget all the formalities and just eat it from a spoon!

Hopefully there are still a few summer peaches available in your neck of the woods, but if not, the sauce would be delicious over, say, grilled bananas, perhaps pears, vegan pound cake or ice cream (or both!), etc.

1 1 /2 cups Red wine (we used Silver Oak Alexander Valley Cabernet)

2/3 cup sugar

Bring both ingredients to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat, and simmer gently until reduced by about one-half to two-thirds.  You should have about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of sauce.  Remove from heat.  Reduction will thicken more as it cools.

Serve over grilled peaches with or without a dollop of vanilla or peach vegan yogurt.

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Vegan Chocolate Wafer Cookies Filled with Fresh Raspberry-Champagne Buttercream Frosting

Yield: approximately 2 dozen 1 3/4-inch wafers

This Raspberry-Champagne Buttercream Frosting is about the best thing, well, since sliced cookies.  Seriously, it had omnivores requesting the recipe and laying the compliments on thick!

It is as delicious on vanilla cupcakes–heck, it’s delicious on the end of your finger!–and it is in these not-too-sweet chocolate wafers, with their perfect balance of crispness and tenderness.

Coincidentally, while looking for commercial chocolate wafers to encase this buttercream (remember “Famous” brand?), I noticed that Oreos now come filled with a berry cream.  If the combination is good enough for Oreos, it’s definitely good enough for me!  And by the way, this recipe for homemade wafers is very close to what I remember of the taste and texture of Famous wafers, though a tad thicker.

The Chocolate Wafer Cookies are adapted from Alice Medrich’s Pure Dessert by and veganized by me (just a matter of substituting vegan butter for butter and soymilk for whole milk).  The frosting is The Blooming Platter all the way!

1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or white whole wheat flour (I always use the latter)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) vegan butter, slightly softened
3 tablespoons soymilk (plain or unsweetened)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 recipe Fresh Raspberry-Champagne Buttercream Frosing

Combine the flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, and baking soda in the bowl of food processor and pulse several times to mix thoroughly. Cut the butter into about 12 chunks and add them to the bowl. Pulse several times. Combine the soymilk and vanilla in a small cup. With the processor running, add the milk mixture and continue to process until the mixture clumps around the blade or the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a large bowl or a cutting board and knead a few times to make sure it is evenly blended.

Form the dough into a log about 14 inches long and 1 3/4 inches in diameter. Wrap the log in wax paper or foil and refrigerate until firm, at least one hour, or until needed.

Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line the baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the log of dough into slices a scant 1/4-inch thick, on a slight bias if you choose, and place them one inch apart on the lined sheets (cookies will spread just a little). Bake, rotating the baking sheet from top to bottom and back to front about halfway through baking, for a total of 12 to 15 minutes. The cookies will puff up and deflate; they are done about 1 1/2 minutes after they deflate.

Cool the cookies on the baking sheets on racks, or slide the parchment onto racks to cool completely. These cookies may be stored in an airtight container for up to two weeks or be frozen for up to two months.

Note: These cookies should crisp as they cool. If they don’t, you’re not baking them long enough, says Medrich — in which case, return them to the oven to reheat and bake a little longer, then cool again.

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Martha Washington’s Veganized Hoecakes with Savory Dried Cherry and Walnut Chutney for President’s Day and Beyond

My mother always made a cherry pie on President’s Day as a tribute to George Washington and the myth, now thought to be apocryphal, of him chopping down a cherry tree.  So, I had been thinking that I wanted to create some kind of cherry pie-inspired dish, but I wasn’t sure what.

But then, last week on NPR, I learned of a new exhibition of Martha Washington’s kitchen opening at Mount Vernon.   And in the report, they happened to mention her hoecakes being one of “GW’s” favorite recipes.  Field hands are reported to have cooked them on the back of a hoe or shovel over an open fire, hence the name.

Essentially, they are a pancake made with half cornmeal–I use self-rising cornmeal since I don’t use any egg–and half flour with melted butter in the batter.  Evidently, President Washington ate them every morning with more melted butter and honey drizzled over, as if they need more butter!  I veganized a recipe I found online and made them as small “silver dollar” versions so that they could be served as appetizers or tapas.  I also added a pinch of sea salt to offset the sugar nicely.

Joe and I served as judged for Hampton Roads Magazine’s Platinum Plate Awards (what a fun thing to do together!) and so were comped a pair of tickets to the annual Strolling Supper Party last night at the Virginia Beach Resort and Conference Center.  The winning restaurants set up stations and provided tapas size servings of some of their specialties.  I love eating that way so I had tapas on my mind.  As an aside, the only restaurants that prepared anything vegan were the two Indian establishments, and what they served was delicious: a tiny portion of lentil soup with one plump organic crouton and a cold chick pea and lentil dish topped with pineapple, mango, pomegranate seeds, cilantro, and a sauce they left off because it contained yogurt.  It was DIVINE even without the sauce.

Back to the hoecakes: I didn’t stop with just the hoecakes because I wanted to somehow include my mother’s cherry pie tradition in my new tradition.  Since fresh cherries are hardly available in February, she always used canned cherries or even cherry pie filling and we always loved her pies with their homemade crust.   But, being a seasonal cook, I couldn’t bring myself to use canned cherries, so when I chose dried ones, I decided to take them in a savory direction and make a chutney.

I think the end result is a fitting tribute to George and Mom.  Happy President’s Day!

Start chutney first and set aside:

Savory Dried Cherry and Walnut Chutney

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/3 cup red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or walnut pieces

2 tablespoons maple syrup (note: you may use all maple syrup or all natural sugar)

1 tablespoon natural sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional, but I love the richness it adds)

1/2 teaspoon anise seeds

1/2 teaspoon celery seeds

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

Red pepper flakes to taste (start with about 1/4 teaspoon)

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons red wine (I used a Vicious Petite Sirah–someone brought it to a party, probably because it had a dog on the label, but it’s good and spicy!)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Zest of 1/2 of a large naval orange

2 tablespoons minced dill

In a large cast iron skillet placed over medium-high, heat the olive oil to shimmering.  Add the onion and saute, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes.  Add bell pepper and continue sauteeing and stirring for another 2 minutes.  Add garlic and saute, stirring, for another minute; avoid letting the garlic brown, so reduce heat if necessary.  Add all remaining ingredients except orange zest and dill, and simmer, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking, for approximately 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to medium if necessary and add additional wine, 1 tablespoon at a time if necessary to keep mixture moist and pulpy.  Stir in zest and dill, and serve warm or at room temperature atop hoecakes, toasted bread, crackers, etc.  Dolloped on soup?  Use your imagination!

Martha Washington’s Veganized Hoecakes

Yield: 16 hoecakes

1 cup yellow self-rising cornmeal

1 cup wholewheat or white whole wheat flour (all-purpose is fine if that’s what you have)

1/4 cup natural sugar (you may omit, but I think a little sugar is nice for balance)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup vegan butter, melted (I use Earth Balance)

1 1/2 cups unsweetened soymilk (use plain if that’s what you have, but definitely omit the sugar)

Preheat the oven to low.  In a medium size mixing bowl, combine dry ingredients.  Make a well in the center and add melted butter and soymilk.  Using a fork, whisk the dry and wet ingredients together until well combined.  A few lumps are fine.  In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat about a tablespoon of vegan butter.  Fry hoecakes, about 4 at a time, using a generous tablespoon of batter.  Cook for approximately 2 minutes on each side until a light golden brown, adjusting heat as necessary.  Keep warm in the oven while you make the remaining 3 batches.  For each batch, melt a tablespoon of butter in the skillet before you add the batter.  Serve hoecakes with a dollop of the Savory Dried Cherry and Walnut Chutney.  Note: the hoecakes are delicious plain and/or with a drizzle of maple syrup.  But the chutney dresses them up and makes them extra special.

Photo Note: my hoecakes are perched on a plate atop a pot holder given to me by my good friend Becky Bump and made by our mutual friend, the incredibly talented Tammy Deane, who calls this line made from recycled or “upcycled” fabrics, sECOnd hand.

For 150+ more inspired seasonal recipes, check out a copy of The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes.


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Crash the Superbowl Snack Recipe #6: Fresh Pear and Dried Cranberry Chutney with Vegan Cheddar Cheese Spread

I did it again: missed a day yesterday in my “Crash the Superbowl Snack Recipe.”  Darn it.  It was a really busy day, but that’s no excuse.  So, I owe you two today.

Let’s start with one of the recipes I intended to post a while back when I mentioned having been invited to present a program, complete with samples, on The Blooming Platter Cookbook for Alpha Rho, the educational sorority to which I belong.

I love this combination of rich cashew cheese (featuring my secret “cheesy” ingredient!) and tangy sweet-and-savory chutney.  The pairing is perfect perched on a cracker but, after the meeting and some errands, I was starved, so I came home and made a grilled cheese-and-chutney sandwich on super-thin Danish rye bread.  Oh, my…

My recommendation is to make the Vegan Cheddar Cheese Spread first so that it can be chilling while you make the chutney.

Next, make the chutney.

Fresh Pear and Dried Cranberry Chutney

Yield: 4-5 cups

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 of a red onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

2-3 large cloves of garlic, minced

3 Asian pears, stemmed, cored, and coarsely chopped in a food processor (I’ve only every seen Asian pears in one size and that’s large!  About the size of a small grapefruit.)

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1/3 cup natural sugar

1/4 cup catsup

2 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon coriander

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder

1 1/3 cups dried cranberries

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary or to taste

In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil.  Add onion and saute, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and continue to saute and stir for about 30 seconds.  Add pears and saute, stirring frequently, for another 5 minutes or so, or until pears release juices and begin to cook down.  Add all remaining ingredients and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or until the mixture has reached the desired consistency.  Stir in rosemary and cook and stir for another minute.  Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  Serve chilled or at room temperature with crackers or crostini.

Note: To make a Grilled Cheese-and-Chutney Sandwich, melt about 1 tablespoon of vegan butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  While butter melts, spread one piece of bread first with the cheese and then with a layer of chutney.  Cover with a second piece of bread and grill for a minute or two on each side or until golden brown.

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Vegan Caramelized Onion and Apple Pizza with Smokey Cheddar Cheese and Rosemary-Garlic Oil Recipe

Yield: 2 pizzas/8 servings (2 slices per serving)

All things autumn was the inspiration for this absolutely addicting pizza.  I’ve enjoyed it three or four times this week and I have not yet had my fill!

Homemade pizza dough is so quick and easy to make that there is scarcely any reason to purchase it, especially since it can be frozen.  Hands on prep time is just minutes, but it does take a couple of hours to rise.  So, if you are super pressed for time and favor a brand like Trader Joe’s frozen dough, then go for it.  If you choose the purchased route, I would definitely recommend a prepared dough as opposed to a prepared crust.

My dough of choice comes from my Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes.  My recipe calls for a combination of self-rising and whole wheat flours.  However, for the pizza pictured, I didn’t have either, so I used all white whole wheat flour with some baking powder.  The only difference I found is that it makes a softer dough and, hence, requires additional flour.  The crust made this way also benefits from a couple of minutes in the oven before topping it and returning it to the oven to insure that the crust doesn’t become soggy.

Make the dough at least 3 hours before you plan to serve the pizza.

Blooming Platter Pizza Dough

Yield: 2 approximate 8-inch crusts

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons self-rising flour (or 3/4 cup  plus 2 tablespoons white whole wheat or all purpose flour combined with 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder and a scant 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt)

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour

Note:  you may substitute all white whole wheat or all-purpose flour for both of the above.  However, you will need considerably more flour, added 1/4 cup at a time, until dough is smooth and elastic, but slightly sticky.

1 teaspoon “quick rise” yeast

1 teaspoon natural sugar

1 teaspoon sea salt

3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons tepid water

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil plus 1 teaspoon to oil the bowl

Place all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl, stir to combine, and make a well in the center.  Add the water and 2 teaspoons olive oil to the well and stir the wet and dry ingredients together with a fork until fully incorporated.

Knead for 5 minutes with oiled hands or until the dough is smooth and elastic, but slightly sticky.  I knead it right in the bowl.  Do not over-knead.  Lift out the dough and pour the remaining teaspoon of olive oil into the bottom of the bowl and spread to coat the interior with your fingers.

Return the dough to the bowl, rolling it around on both sides to coat with the oil.  Cover the bowl loosely with a damp kitchen towel and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.  While the dough rises, prepare the other ingredients.

Next prepare Rosemary-Garlic Olive Oil:

1/4 cup olive oil (makes sure it is super flavorful)

1 5-inch stalk of fresh rosemary

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

Combine all ingredients in a small cup and set aside.


Prepare the Apple Cider Vinegar Reduction:

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoon maple syrup

Pinch sea salt

Combine ingredients in a 1-quart saucepan and simmer over medium-high until reduced to 1/4 cup.  Reduce heat if necessary, so that mixture doesn’t scorch.  Pour into a small ramekin or cup and set aside.

Before preparing topping, preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place two pizza stones (or two inverted baking sheets) into the oven and heat for 30 minutes.

Caramelized Onion and Apple Topping:

2 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium-large yellow onion, thinly sliced

4 small-medium apples, stemmed, cored, cut into 1/4-inch wedges; cut wedges crosswise into 3 to 4 pieces

Sea salt to taste

1/2 cup Blooming Platter Smokey Cheddar Vegan Cheese Spread

Optional garnish: fresh rosemary sprigs

Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, for approximately 15 minutes or until onions are beginning to develop a golden color.  Reduce heat if necessary to prevent onions from scorching.  Add apple, 2 tablespoons of the Apple Cider Vinegar Reduction, and a pinch of salt, and continue sauteing and stirring about 10 minutes, or until onion is deeply colored and apple is tender and has developed some color.   Add water, a teaspoon at a time as needed if mixture appears to be drying out.  Check for salt and adjust if necessary.  Remove the skillet from the heat.

To Assemble:

Remove the rosemary from the olive oil, strip the leaves off the stalk, mince, and set aside.

Lay two 10-inch sheets of aluminum foil, shiny side down, on a work surface.    Spray each sheet lightly with non-stick pray.  With hands lightly dusted with flour, divide the dough in half, shape each half into a ball, and place one in the center of each piece of foil.

Beginning in the center of the ball and working your way to the edges, use your fingertips and palms to gently press the dough into a circle about 8 1/2 inches in diameter, leaving a slightly raised 1/4-inch wide rim.  Brush the entire surface of each very lightly with the Rosemary-Garlic Olive Oil; you will likely have some left over.  Lift each piece of foil one at a time, crust and all, holding it taught, and place on one of the baking stones.  Bake for 2 minutes.  Remove the stones from the oven and divide the onion-apple topping between the two crusts, spreading evenly to the rims.  Divide the Cheese Spread between the pizzas, dotting the top of each with teaspoon-size dollops.  Sprinkle each with half of the minced rosemary.  Return the stones to the oven and cook the pizzas for 9-11 minutes or until the crust is golden and the topping is bubbly, switching the position of the stones halfway through if pizzas seem to be cooking unevenly.  Remove the stones from the oven and slide the pizzas, one at a time, onto a cutting board.  Drizzle each pizza with 1 tablespoon of the remaining Apple Cider Vinegar and cut each into 8 wedges.  Serve immediately garnished with fresh rosemary sprigs.

Note:  this pizza reheats beautifully on a pizza stone in a preheated 3350 degree oven for 10 minutes.

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Vegan Pumpkin Shortcakes with Warm Spiced Apple Filling

I decided to end Vegan MoFo 2011 on a sweet note.

But, first, speaking of sweet…

A big thank you is in order to Isa and all the good folks who are the driving force behind Vegan MoFo.  Thank you so much for continuing to feed this fire and for making it so easy, not to mention gratifying, for all of us vegan bloggers and many, many readers to participate.  What a beautiful thing.

Though MoFo officially ends today, I will still be here offering new recipes several times a week to Blooming Platter readers and subscribers.  So I invite you to subscribe if you haven’t already.  It’s now easier than ever and you can do it via email, no rss feed necessary.  Just look over at the top of the right-hand sidebar and follow the simple prompts.

This version features a split pumpkin biscuit.

And now a sweet for the sweet, but, not so sweet that you couldn’t serve this warming dish for a fall breakfast or brunch, which is how I first enjoyed it.

I grew up loving my mother’s biscuit-style Strawberry Shortcake which, incidentally, she would sometimes allow my sister and me to enjoy for breakfast.  So, my fall version of this treat is based on a sweetened pumpkin biscuit.

And it’s topped with a quick and spicy apple and walnut saute.  Your kitchen will be perfumed with some of the best fragrances of fall.

Yield: 4 Servings

Note: the following is the Herbed Biscuit recipe from my new Blooming Platter vegan cookbook without the herbs, but with the addition of dehydrated pumpkin powder and a little natural sugar.  Just click here to order the dehydrated pumpkin from Barry Farm.  I am partial to it rather than pumpkin puree, as it adds lots of flavor and golden color, but no additional un-needed nor unwanted moisture which requires additional flour and, hence, a heavy biscuit.  However, if you have a vegan pumpkin biscuit recipe you like, feel free to substitute.  Just add about 2 tablespoons of natural sugar to a cup of flour. 

My special biscuit method requires freezing the vegan butter and shortening, so don’t forget to pop it in the freezer the night before you plan to make them.  And I highly encourage taking the tiny bit of extra time to employ my modified french puff pastry folding method.  You won’t believe how buttery and flaky the two together will make your biscuit-shortcakes.

This version features an unsplit pumpkin biscuit.

Pumpkin Shortcakes

Note: this recipe makes about 10 biscuit-shortcakes, more than you need, but they are delicious plain and reheat nicely, so I predict you’ll be glad to have them on hand.

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 cup plain or unsweetened soy milk

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour (or 1 1/2 cups all purpose or white whole wheat flour + 1 tablespoon baking powder)

1/2 cup dehydrated pumpkin powder (I use Barry Farm brand–it’s like a fragrant golden powder)

3/4 teaspoon baking powder (add only if using the self-rising flour)

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice (or your own mix of ground cinnamon, clove and nutmeg to taste)

1/4 cup natural sugar

4 tablespoons frozen vegetable shortening

4 tablespoons frozen vegan butter + 2 tablespoons refrigerated vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)

Warm Spiced Apple Filling (recipe below)

About 1/4 cup of your favorite vegan whipped topping, sweetened cashew cream, or even vegan sour cream and a sprinkle of ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar into the soy milk and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder (3/4 teaspoon if using the self-rising flour and 1 tablespoon if using all purpose or white whole wheat), pumpkin powder, pumpkin pie spice, and natural sugar, and stir with a fork to combine.  Make a well in the center.  Spray your box grater very lightly with nonstick spray for easier clean up and then grate the frozen shortening and frozen vegan butter into the well.  Whisk the soy milk mixture and add it to the well.

2.  Incorporate the wet into the dry ingredients by stirring with a fork so that the warmth of your hands doesn’t melt the shortening and butter.  Place the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a 9-inch square pan and place it in the oven to melt the butter.  Remove the pan as soon as the butter has melted.

3.  On a lightly floured work surface, pat or roll the dough to about 1-inch thick (1/4-inch thicker than for my biscuits).  Fold it like a business letter: fold one side two-thirds of the way across and fold the remaining 1/3 back across.  Pat or gently roll the dough out to a 1-inch thickness again, turn it a quarter turn and repeat about 4 more times.  Do this fairly quickly so that the dough doesn’t warm up.

4.  Lightly flour the work surface as necessary.  The last time you pa the dough to a 1-inch, cut out biscuits wih a 2-inch biscuit, cookie cutter or drinking glass.  Place each biscuit in the prepared pan and flip to coat both sides with melted butter.  Bake the biscuits for about 15 minutes or until golden brown.   While biscuits bake, make filling (recipe below).

5.  When cool enough to handle, either place a biscuit on each of 4 plates; top with 1/4th of the Warm Spiced Apple Filling; garnish each serving with a tablespoon of vegan whipped topping, sweetened cashew cream, or vegan sour cream and a light dusting of ground cinnamon; and serve warm.  Or, split the biscuits and place 1/8th of the filling inside and another 1/8th of the filling on top, garnish, and serve.  Save the remaining 6 biscuits in an airtight container for another use.

Warm Spiced Apple Filling

1 tablespoon vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)

1/4 cup + 2 teaspoons chopped walnuts

2 medium apples (I like our local Winesaps), cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/4 cup natural sugar

1/4 cup ground cinnamon or to taste

1/4 cup ground ginger or to taste

1/8 teaspoon ground clove or to taste

1 tablespoon maple syrup

In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter.  Add walnuts and toast, stirring frequently for about 3 minutes or until lightly toasted.  Remove nuts to a paper towel-lined saucer.  Add apple, natural sugar, and spices.  Saute for about 3 minutes or until apples soften.  Add maple syrup and cook another minute or two until apples are very tender.  Add all but 1 tablespoon of walnuts, stir, and heat through.  Remove from heat and use as directed above.

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Vegan Smoky “Cheddar” Shortbread Crackers with Asian-Scented Tomato-Blackberry Marmalade

Yield: 48 crackers and 1 cup of marmalade

This pairing was inspired by those old-fashioned cheddar shortbread crackers kicked up with a little cayenne and served with pepper jelly in kitchens across the South.  

With tomatoes and blackberries at the peak of freshness at a local farm market, I created this glistening marmalade to showcase them both in place of the pepper jelly.  Thinking of Chinese dishes with tomatoey and fruit-infused sauces, I decided to combine the two with some hints of Asia to transform my farm market haul.

My take on the ubiquitous cheddar shortbread gets its rich flavor from smoked almonds and nutritional yeast, which may seem a little odd given the Asian direction of the marmalade, but there was a method to my madness, namely that almonds are frequently used in Chinese cooking.  What about the smokiness?  I have an answer for that too: smoked tofu sometimes seen on Chinese menus.  Does it work?  My lunch guest and I think so, but you be your own judge.  

Vegan Smoky “Cheddar” Shortbread Crackers

1/2 cup smoked almonds (feel free to use plain almonds–or any nut really–if you prefer not to have a smoky taste)

2 cups white whole wheat flour or 1 cup unbleached all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat flour (you can also try using all whole wheat flour, though I’ve not tested it that way)

1/2 cup nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4-1/2 cayenne pepper or to taste

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup vegan butter, broken into small pieces

Accompaniment: Vegan Asian-Scented Tomato-Blackberry Marmalade or your favorite marmalade, pepper jelly, or chutney.

Place almonds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, and pulse a few times until coarsely chopped.  Add remaining ingredients, in order, and then continue pulsing until dough pulls away from the sides and starts to come together in a ball.  Divide dough into quarters, knead each one a few times in your palms, and then roll into a cylinder 1 1/4 inches in diameter.  Wrap each in plastic wrap and set on a plate or baking sheet in the refrigerator for at least an hour or up to 3 days.  (May alternatively be frozen for a month and thawed before slicing and cooking.) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line one or two baking sheets with Silpat or parchment paper.  (If one, bake in two batches.)  With a sharp knife, cut logs into 1/3-inch slices and place coins 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Bake about 20 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool 1 minute on the sheet and then remove to wire racks to cool completely.  Store in airtight containers.  Serve with desired accompaniment.

Vegan Asian-Scented Tomato-Blackberry Marmalade

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small yellow onion, but into 1/4-inch dice

pinch of sea salt

generous 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, rinsed, drained, and quartered

2 large garlic cloves

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated (I use a microplane grater)

1/2 cup red table wine (or a non-alcoholic variety)

1/4 cup natural sugar

2 teaspoons Chinese mustard (I like the “extra hot”)

1 tablespoon vegan fish sauce (sold as vegetarian fish sauce in Asian markets)

1 teaspoon soy sauce (I use a low sodium variety)

1/4 teaspoon sweet Paprika

generous 1 1/2 cup fresh blackberries, rinsed and drained

2 star anise pods

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In  a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering.  Add onion and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring frequently, until some color develops, approximately 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, garlic and ginger, and saute, stirring frequently, until tomato begins to break down, approximately another 3 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients except blackberries and simmer, stirring occasionally, an additional 3 minutes.  Add blackberries and simmer, stirring occasionally for another 15 mnutes or until blackberries break down and mixture becomes pulpy.  Reduce heat if necessary to prevent from sticking or scorching.  Remove the skillet from the heat and cool to room temperature.  Serve about 1 teaspoon dolloped on each cracker.  Store any leftovers in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

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