Stupidly Simple & Delish Grilled Eggplant Zataar with Tahini Slaw (vegan/plant-based)

Tonight’s dinner alfresco was inspired by what was in our fridge, and what I was craving, namely something cold and something grilled… summer is here with a vengeance in Eastern Virginia.

There is really not much of a recipe. I just grilled planks of eggplant on my indoor grill pan with non-stick cooking spray and sprinkled with a little sea salt and zataar.

For the slaw on top, I used a ratio of 1 to 1 to 2 tahini, brine, and olive oil. You could use any vinegar or vinegary-type brine, but I used some leftover escabeche brine.

I simply tossed the dressing with some slaw mix, mounded it on top of the eggplant, garnished with some sliced cucumber and cherry tomatoes, and sprinkled with Everything Bagel spice blend.

Dinner is served!

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Sliced Cucumber Canapes (or Crostini) with Dill-Scented White Beans and Dried Fig, Olive, and Pine Nut Tapenade (A Yummy Food Blog-Canarias Recipe Competition Entry)

Dill-Scented White Beans with Fig, Olive and Pine Nut Tapenade

















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

Sea salt

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).

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Vegan Moroccan Grilled Eggplant, Onion and White Bean Spread

What would I do without my indoor grill pan?

This recipe is just one more reason why I love that pan so much.  It is so basic: just a cast iron square grill pan by Lodge. But it transforms humble ingredients like early fall eggplant into magic.

Smoked paprika in the dish and sprinkled on top plays off of the char grilled caramelization of the veggies just perfectly.  And the golden colors of the spread personify autumn to me, while the bed of fresh chives are the perfect fresh green counterpoint.

Speaking of colors…can anyone find the back of our beautiful brindle Great Dane, Minnie, in the photo?  Whenever there is food around, that girl is never far away!

Find the easy recipe HERE at One Green Planet.

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Vegan Mediterranean Kale Salad with Lentils, Red Onion, Orange Bell Pepper and Sunflower Seeds with Sumac Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 servings

I don’t need much of an excuse to create new kale recipes.  But I actually did have a good one: school started Monday with an in-service week for teachers and I needed something healthy and filling to pack for lunch.

I create this salad on Sunday–inspired by my foodie friend Trish Pfeifer’s love of sumac (this was the first time I ever cooked with it and I’m now a fan)–and took it a couple of days ago to share with my art teacher colleages, Mylinda McKinney and Sara Reich,.  They loved it!

Mylinda had brought boiled peanuts and fresh cherries, so we pooled our resources for a quirky but delicious and nutritious–not to mention brightly colored–school lunch.


Approximately 9 ounces of steamed lentils (I purchase them at Trader Joe’s in the produce department)

1/2 cup diced red onion (you can soak for about 20-30 minutes in unsweetened soymilk to remove a little of their peppery bite if you choose)

1 medium orange bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice (a yellow or red bell pepper would be just fine)

4 lightly packed cups kale, very finely chopped (I use a food processor for this task)

1/2 cup roasted and lightly salted sunflower seeds

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sumac Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon ground sumac (found in Middle Eastern/Mediterranean markets)

1 teaspoon ground coriander

Pinch sea salt

Pinch garlic powder

Combine all salad ingredients in a medium bowl.  In a small cup or bowl, whisk together vinaigrette ingredients.  Drizzle dressing over salad and toss gently to distribute dressing.  Serve immediately or refrigerate, covered, and serve chilled.

Note: I think some diced plump dried apricots would be a lovely addition to this dish; maybe a half cup or so.

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Vegan Chorizo, Chickpeas & Kale in a Creamy Coconut Milk-Pumpkin Sauce with Pepita and Sage Pesto Drizzle

This is one of my dream dinners: super healthy, lusciously creamy, beautiful to look at, and a “twofer” in that both the chickpea mixture and the pepita pesto can easily stand alone. Plus, it’s an anti-oxidant powerhouse of a one-dish meal.

I first made the pesto to drizzle over my Roasted Turks’ Turban Squash.  It was addicting!  So I knew I had to create other dishes with which to enjoy it lest I spend the fall eating nothing but Turks’ Turban squash.  Stay tuned for more to follow.

You can serve up a nice bowl of this thick spicy melange and serve the grilled bread on the side, or you can serve it as a crostini, like you see in the photo.  Either way, you’ll be licking your lips.

Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 of a medium-large yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

1/2 of a large orange bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/4-inch dice

Sea salt to taste

2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 cups of very finely chopped kale (I used a food processor for this task)

1-15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

6 ounces of vegan chorizo (I purchase Trader Joe’s brand)

1-15 ounce can coconut milk (I use the lite variety)

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

Optional: 2 tablespoons apple juice (this sounds like an odd addition, but adds a little hint of something delicious but unidentifiable)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon rubbed sage

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon Pomegranate Molasses

Zest of 1/2 of a lemon

Vegan Pepita and Sage Pesto (recipe follows)

Optional Garnish: a few lightly salted and roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and sprigs of fresh sage

Accompaniment: grilled slices of bread (about 3/4-inch thick)

In a large cast iron skillet, heat the tablespoon of olive oil to sizzling over medium-high.  Add onion, bell pepper, and a generous pinch of salt, and saute, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until softened. Add garlic and kale and saute, still stirring frequently, for another 3 minutes. Add chick peas and chorizo, stirring just to combine after each.  Stir in remaining ingredients, except lemon zest and pesto, and heat, stirring occasionally, for another 3-5 minutes.  Stir in lemon zest and serve hot drizzled with Pepita and Sage Pesto or pass the pesto in a small bowl with a serving spoon.  Garnish with pepitas if desired.  And serve with or on top of grilled bread.


Vegan Pepita and Sage Pesto

1/2 cup roasted and lightly salted Pepitas (I buy Trader Joe’s brand)

1 medium clove of garlic, peeled

8 fresh sage leaves (or pineapple sage leaves)

1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg (freshly grated is especially nice)

1/8 teaspoon of chipotle chile powder

1/2 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon maple syrup

Juice of 1/2 of a small lime

Optional: 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast

Sea salt to taste (I like a “goodly” amount in this)

Place Pepitas, garlic, sage, nutmeg and chili powder in the bowl of a food processor.  Process until a coarse paste forms.  With the motor running, add olive oil in a steady stream until the mixture is pulpy-smooth.  Turn off the motor.  Add maple syrup, lime, optional nutritional yeast, and salt to taste, and pulse just two or three times to combine.  Adjust seasoning if desired, and use immediately or store, covered, in the refrigerator.  Allow to come to room temperature or heat slightly before serving.

For 150+ other fresh seasonal recipes, I hope you might check out The Blooming Platter Cookook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes!

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Blooming Platter Cookbook Giveaway Reminder PLUS Vegan Chickpea Sausages with Roasted Apples, Onions, and Jalapenos with Cashew Cream & Pomegranate Molasses Drizzle

This Mediterranean riff on sausage and sauerkraut is perfect for Oktoberfest.  A fresh take on its forebear, my version will perfume your kitchen with warm North African spices when its cool outside.  And the presentation is so special, yet simple, that you can turn dinner into a dinner party.

Yield: 4 servings

Note: you will need to make the Cashew Cream a day in advance.

Cashew Cream

You will have lots of leftover, but you’ll be glad you do!

2 cups raw cashews, divided in half

2 cups water, divided in half

Sea salt to taste.

In a covered bowl, soak 1 cup cashews in 1 cup water overnight in the refrigerator.  Rinse and drain.  Process the cup of soaked cashews with the additional cup of raw unsoaked cashews and the remaining cup of water in a food processor for several minutes, or until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  Add salt to taste, process just to combine, and store covered in the refrigerator.

Vegan Chickpea Sausages

1 1/2 cups chickpeas, rinsed and drained (1-15.5 ounce can)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup vegetable broth

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce or Bragg Liquid Aminos

1 1/2 cups vital wheat gluten

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Pinch of sea salt

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Freshly ground black pepper or white pepper to taste

Roasted Apples, Onions, and Jalapenos (recipe follows)

Accompaniment: 8 cups of very lightly packed fresh baby spinach lightly barely sauteed in about 4 teaspoons of olive oil over medium high heat for about 30 seconds to 1 minute

Optional Garnish:

Cashew Cream (recipe is above)

A drizzle of Pomegranate Molasses (available at Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Markets)

Tear off 4 sheets of foil about 6 inches wide. Place a steamer basket in a 4-quart saucepan and fill with water just to the bottom of the steamer. Cover the pan and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer.

In a medium bowl, mash the chickpeas and garlic until creamy. A few small pieces of beans may remain. Stir in the vegetable broth, olive oil, and Worcestershire sauce, and set aside. In another medium bowl, whisk together vital wheat gluten, salt, coriander, cumin, paprika, and pepper.  Pour the bean mixture into a well in the center of the dry ingredients and, using a fork, stir the dry ingredients around the edge of the bowl into the wet center until all of the ingredients are completely combined.

Divide the dough into four equal parts. Place each part on a sheet of foil and shape into 5 to 6-inch long logs about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, pressing mixture together fairly firmly. Lay each log along one long edge of the foil and roll snugly, bending up the foil at the ends. Place the logs into the steamer–either  vertically or horizontally, two on the bottom and two on top of them–and steam for 40  minutes, adding more hot water to the saucepan
if necessary to prevent it from evaporating completely.

Remove the sausages from the steamer and unroll them when cool enough to handle. Be careful that you don’t burn yourself with escaping steam. At this point, I like to split the sausages lengthwise and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side on my stovetop grill pan.  Serve the sausages on a bed of the lightly sauteed spinach topped with the roasted apples and garnished with a dollop of cashew cream and a drizzle of pomegranate syrup.  While the sausages steam, make roasted apples.

Roasted Apples, Onions, and Jalapenos

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 gala apples (or your favorite sweet-tart variety), stemmed, cored, and cut into 8 wedges each

1/2 of a large Vidallia or other yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch slivers

1 jalapeno, stemmed, cored, seeded, and cut into 1/8-inch slivers (you can use two if you choose, but that makes for a really spicy dish!)

Sea salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Pour olive oil into a large metal roasting pan.  (If the ingredients are crowded, they will steam instead of roast.)  Add remaining ingredients and toss to coat with the oil.  Roast for 20 minutes, stirring after 10.  Remove the pan from the oven and serve as described above.


Blooming Platter Cookbook Giveaway

For more than 150 additional mouthwatering recipes to celebrate all year long, I invite you to check out The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes.

Enter to win you very own copy by clicking here.  Deadline is Saturday, October 8 at midnight!

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Vegan Crostini Topped with White Beans, Spicy Chorizo, Fresh Figs, Green Olives, and Marconi Almonds

Yield: approximately 12 crostini or 4 servings (you may have slightly more bean and chorizo topping than you need)

I love figs any way I can get them, which is dried most of the year.  But come late August in our area, we are treated to a brief and fleeting flourish of the fabulous fresh fig.

Though there is nothing wrong with enjoying them straight out of the bag, I like to make them last by using them to top salads, tarts and, here, a hardy, yet summery, crostini.  This preparation was partially inspired by a non-vegan dish that our friend Sharon Tanner brought to our annual “Happy Birthday Julia Child’s” potluck dinner party.   The sauce for her dish featured prunes and green olives.  It was but a short mental leap from there to my slightly Spanish summer stack.

Grilled rustic bread serves as the crostini.  A simple and flavorful mashed white bean mixture forms the first layer which is topped with a spicy vegan chorizo, orange bell pepper, and spinach mixture followed by chopped green olives and deliciously different Spanish Marconi almonds.  When figs are not in season, you could stop right there and be perfectly happy.  However, when they are, crown this layered Mediterranean mini-feast with half of a plump fig and the herb of your choice and you will have created a still life on a (blooming) platter.  See the photo at bottom for the special ingredient in my still life.

12 pieces rustic bread, sliced on the diagonal about 1/3 to 1/2-inch thick and grilled (about 3 to 3 1/2 inches in length is a nice size)

6 to 8 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium yellow onion, cut into 1/4-inch dice

Sea salt to taste

3 large cloves garlic, minced

2-15 ounce cans white beans, rinsed and drained

Freshly ground black pepper

Approximately 1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley

1 orange bell pepper, stemmed, cored and seeded, cut into 1/4-inch dice (red or yellow bell pepper would be just as lovely)

12 ounces vegan chorizo, casing removed and crumbled (I use Trader Joe’s brand)

2 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach, finely chopped (I pulse it about 10 times in a food processor)

approximately 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pitted green olives

approximately 1/4 cup coarsely chopped Marconi almonds (feel free to substitute another roasted and lightly salted type of almond, but these have an extra-special flavor and crunch, especially if the skins are left on)

In season: 6 fresh figs, stemmed and sliced in half vertically

Garnish: 12 leaves of your favorite compatible herb (I used a pineapple sage in the photograph)

In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat  1 tablespoon of the olive oil to shimmering.  Add the onion and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes or until softened.  Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds to a minute or until also softened.  Stir in beans and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper and mash the mixture coarsely with a potato masher.  Stir in 4 to 6 tablespoons of olive oil, just until the beans take on a pleasant creaminess, followed by the parsley.  Scrape into a bowl and set aside.

Wipe out the skillet and heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to shimmering over medium high heat.  Add the bell pepper and saute about 3 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened.  Add the chorizo and saute, stirring, until heated through.  Stir in the spinach and cook, stirring  continuously, for another minute.  Remove from the heat.

To serve, top each crostini with about 1/12th of the bean mixture, followed by about 1/12th of the chorizo mixture, 1 teaspoon of chopped olives and 1 teaspoon of the chopped almonds, nestling a fig half on top and garnishing as desired.  Serve immediately.  Note: if 1/12th of the bean and chorizo mixtures seems like too much of a good thing, use whatever amount seems appropriate.   Store any leftover mixtures in airtight containers in the refrigerator.

Still Life with Crostini and Minnie

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Vegan Spicy Chickpeas Romesco a la Ubuntu Restaurant

Yield: 4 servings

The fun and delicious vegan food continued to flow in California after The Blooming Platter Cookbook book-signing dinner at Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco. 

The next morning, our host Yvette Hetrick, her husband Randy, my husband Joe, and I took a TRX class at the TRX Training Center and then headed to the Napa Valley for two nights at Auberge du Soleil (think yoga each morning in The Pagode that looked out over the terraced vineyards), a belated “milestone birthday” celebration for grateful me.  

For Saturday night’s dinner, Yvette had made reservations at Ubuntu, a 1 Michelin starred vegetarian restaurant in the town of Napa.   So amidst a chorus of teasing from our husbands, we set off to find this mecca of plant-based cuisine.  And it turns out that all of us–even the guys–were glad we did. 

A warm and energetic ambiance in a converted warehouse space provided the context for our stellar meal of one tapas style dish after another, most made with produce and herbs from the restaurant’s organic garden.  All of the vegetarian dishes on the menu can be prepared vegan, so I went vegan while the others opted for some cheese. 

One of the vegan dishes that was a favorite of all of ours was not on the menu, but we eyed it on some other diners’ table.  Happily, we were told that it was considered a bar snack but that we were welcome to order it, so order we did.  These chickpeas with Romesco Sauce were so delicious–tender chickpeas in a silken, vibrant sauce perfect for “sopping” with a little bread–that we ended up ordering them again later in the meal.   

Back here at home in Virginia, I was fantasizing about that Romesco Sauce, among many other dishes from our tantalizing meal at Ubuntu.  So first, I created my new Golden Grape Tomato Tart with Spinach Pesto and Spicy Romesco Sauce.  Afterwards, with leftover Romesco Sauce in the fridge, I decided to try the dish that inspired it all.  The key to this dish, in addition to the livelyRomesco, is the drizzle of olive oil at the finish.  By all means, if you’re fortunate enough to have an opportunity to dine at Ubuntu, do!  But if not–or in between visits–I hope my dish will tide you over.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped into 1/4-inch dice

Pinch sea salt

1 medium tomato (preferably an heirloom), cut into 1/4-inch dice (a generous half-cup)

1-2 large cloves garlic, minced

1-15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup Romesco Sauce

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

Garnish: a drizzle of fruity olive oil, olives and cilantro sprigs

In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering.  Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until softened.  Cook another minute or two if you want a little color to develop.  Add tomato and garlic and cook down, stirring frequently, for another 3 minutes, or until tomato juices release and start to evaporate.  Add Chick peas and heat through, followed by Romesco sauce and smoked paprika.  Cook until mixture is hot through and thickened.  Check for seasoning and adjust with salt and pepper as needed.  Serve drizzled with olive oil–it adds just the right finish to the dish in taste, texture and appearance–and garnished with olives and cilantro.

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Vegan Golden Grape Tomato Tart with Spinach Pesto and Spicy Romesco Sauce

Yield: 4 4-inch tarts (you will have enough pesto to make 8 and lots of Romesco sauce for drizzling over any number of dishes that would benefit from a creamy kick)

A lunch that ended up in the woods beside our house is the inauspicious beginning of this recipe that may just be an all-time favorite.

After a nice long hike at First Landing State Park (previously and more picturesquely named Seashore State Park) with my close friend Mary Beth Nixon, I stopped for an Indian buffet to-go from a fairly new restaurant near her house.  Neither the restaurant, nor the styro-box, emitted that intoxicating aroma characteristic of Indian restaurants.  Turns out, there was a good reason.  It was the blandest Indian food I have ever eaten.  Correction, it was the only bland Indian food I have ever eaten.  So I nibbled a little at it on the way home, but on the way up our long driveway, I stopped and tossed all but the container and spoon into my unofficial compost pile in the woods.

Pretty hungry after no breakfast, dog walks, and our hour-long park hike, I wracked my brain for what I could make from the ingredients I had on hand.  Yesterday, I had picked up golden grape tomatoes and bell peppers, among other produce, at a local farmer’s market.  Noting that I had half of a red pepper leftover from a dish I’d made for lunch yesterday, I remembered the outstanding Romesco sauce that had been served over chickpeas at the 1 Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant, Ubuntu, where we had celebrated my birthday (for the final time this year!) last Saturday night in Napa.   I didn’t have almonds, but I had walnuts and they would have to do.

We had also been served the fruitiest, “meatiest” olives in a captivating fennel pesto.  So, while I didn’t have fennel, I did have some fresh baby spinach that I knew would make a lovely pesto.  With my go-to press-in dough baked to make the crust, I could then nestle the grape tomatoes onto a creamy layer of spinach pesto and drizzle the Romesco over the top for beautiful color contrasts and bursts of exciting flavors.

Voila!  Golden Grape Tomato Tarts were born.

Spicy Romesco Sauce:

1/2 of a large red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded

1 extra-large tomato, cored and quartered

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup walnuts (or the nut of your choice; almonds are traditional, but use what you have and feel free to mix and match)

1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

2-3 large cloves garlic, fairly thickly sliced

2-4 small red dried chilies, ends removed, split, seeds removed, and torn into about 3 pieces

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or 1 tablespoon red wine + 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place oven rack in top position and preheat oven to broil.  Line a baking sheet with Silpat or foil and place bell pepper and tomatoes, cut side down, in center of sheet.  Broil for 5  minutes or until the pepper’s skin is charred.  Remove the pepper and broil the tomatoes 5 minutes longer or until their skin is charred.  When cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin.  Meanwhile, heat oil over medium-high in a large cast iron skillet.  Add nuts, bread crumbs, and garlic, and saute, stirring almost constantly, until ingredients begin to turn golden, about 1-2 minutes.  Then add chilies and cook 1-2 minutes more until the color of the chilies brighten and the nuts, bread crumbs and garlic are golden.  Watch carefully to prevent scorching.  Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, including the bell pepper, tomato, all of the contents of the skillet, including the oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Process until almost smooth.  Scrape into an airtight container and set aside.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.


1 1/2 whole wheat flour (I love spelt, but any kind will do, even white whole wheat or a combination)

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons natural sugar (may omit, but I like the slight sweetness with the sweet tomatoes and spiciness of the Romesco sauce)

2 tablespoons soy milk

1/2 cup canola oil (sounds like a lot, but it is needed; just eat low- or no-fat meals for the rest of the day)

Preheat oven to 400.  Place 4 4-inch tart shells with removable bottoms on a baking sheet (I line my sheet with Silpat).  Then place dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in wet ingredients.  Stir together with a fork just until completely combined and mixture holds together.  Divide into fourths and press each evenly into the bottom and sides of each tart pan.  The bottom of a drinking glass can help with this task.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crusts are barely starting to brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes.  Leave oven on.  While crusts bake, make Spinach Pesto.

Spinach Pesto:

4 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach

1/4 cup shelled pistachios (or the nut of your choice)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place spinach, nuts, and nutritional yeast in the bowl of a food processor and process until a paste begins to form, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  With the motor running, drizzle in olive oil, balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, and a pinch of both salt and pepper.  Continue processing until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if needed.  Scrape into an airtight container and set aside until needed.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

72 golden grape tomatoes or about 1 pint (red would be fine, but not as nice of a color contrast with the Romesco sauce)

Garnish: fresh basil sprigs

After crusts have baked and cooled for about 3 minutes, spread each with 1 generous tablespoon of Pesto Sauce.  Arrange 18 tomatoes–or whatever will fit nicely in one layer–on top of the pesto.  Drizzle each with 1 generous tablespoon of the Romesco Sauce.  Return the tarts to the oven and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the crusts are nicely browned and the Romesco Sauce looks slightly set.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully remove the tart pans to a wire rack until cool enough to handle.  Remove the tart bottoms from the side rings, leaving the tarts sitting on their removable bottoms.   Serve warm garnished with sprigs of basil.  You may heat and pass additional Romesco Sauce if desired.

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