Vegan Middle Eastern Pomegranate and Eggplant Melange–An Invited Guest Post for Tofutti

Middle Eastern Pomegranate and Eggplant Melange

I always love the opportunity to develop recipes for Tofutti, and you can find the original post here.

Yield: 6 servings

This versatile Middle Eastern-inspired mash-up is equally addicting as a creamy dip, stuffed in a pita or baked pepper, or piled atop a grilled flatbread.  Heck, it is delicious just heated and eaten with a spoon as I’ve done every day this week for my school lunches!

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small yellow onion (or 1/2 of a medium), diced

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 medium eggplant, stemmed and diced

1 large clove garlic, minced

1/4 cup red wine (a Merlot is nice)

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Optional: 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses or tamarind syrup (available at Middle Eastern/Mediterranean markets)

4 Roma tomatoes, diced

1/2 cup Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

1/4 cup Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream

Optional: 1 tablespoon tahini (sesame paste; available on the international aisle of grocery stores)

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon mild curry powder

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

Zest of 1 large lemon

Optional garnish: olives, fruit (fresh or dried), fresh herbs, nuts, etc.

Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high.  Add onion and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 3 minutes.  Add eggplant, garlic, and another pinch of salt plus a pinch of pepper, and sauté, still stirring frequently, until some color develops, about 3 minutes.  Add wine, balsamic vinegar, and optional molasses or syrup, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 7 minutes or until eggplant is fairly soft.  Mash firmly with a potato masher.  Stir in tomatoes and cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes.  Mash the mixture again.  Add Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese , Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, and optional tahini, and cook, stirring, until melted and completely combined.  Stir in all remaining ingredients until heated through and flavors are well-combined.  Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Serve as a dip, stuffed in a pita or baked pepper, or piled atop a grilled flatbread.  Garnish, if desired, with olives, fruit (fresh or dried), fresh herbs, nuts, etc.

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Vegan Sunny Souk Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad

Sunny Souk Chickpea and Sweet Potato Salad

Yield: 4 servings


“Sunny” because of this salad’s golden color and bright pop of citrus, and “souk” because it is redolent of an Arab marketplace, you will love Sunny Souk Sweet Potato and Chickpea Salad however you choose to enjoy it: over greens, stuffed in a wrap or pita pocket, scooped with veggie chips and more!  It is even veg(etarian) teenager approved!

*2 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1-15 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/2 pound cooked sweet potato, peeled and diced (I microwave the potato, allow it to cool a few minutes, remove skin–feed to dogs!–and dice)

1/2 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced

Zest of 1/2 large lemon (don’t omit this little bit ‘o brightness!)

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, cumin, paprika, turmeric, and garlic powder.  Add chickpeas, sweet potato, and red bell pepper.  Toss lightly to distribute dressing.  Add lemon zest, salt, and pepper, and toss one final time.  Serve immediately or chill, covered, until serving time.

*I have just discovered a delicious brand of vegan mayo not advertised as vegan but as “egg free” at Whole Foods called “Just Mayo” that I highly recommend.  I also love Veganaise and my own Blooming Platter Mayo (in my cookbook).


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Vegan Middle Eastern Migas

Middle Eastern MigasYield: 4 to 6 servings

This long, snowy winter here at the beach finds me loving the weather, actually, and hungry for warming and hearty, but still healthy, fare.

After a recent trip to Organic Depot, I found myself with three different kinds of Tofurky Sausage, including Spinach Pesto.  How did that happen?  I rolled around a number of ideas, none of which sounded just right until I thought of a Middle Eastern take on my beloved migas, substituting pita bread for the tortillas, chick peas for the black beans, etc.

Plus, these days,I seem to slip bitter winter greens into almost everything, and this dish was no different.  Packed full of vitamins, pungent mustard greens turned out to be the perfect flavor and color counterpoint.

And don’t leave out the lemon zest!  The complex depth of the spices in this dish and the slightly sweet peppadew sauce needs it for brightness and a little tangy zip.


12 peppadew peppers, drained (I purchase them on the “olive bar” at a chain grocery store, Kroger to be specific)

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons tahini

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Zest of 1/2 large lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth and creamy.  Set aside 4 tablespoons for garnish and reserve remainder for migas.



1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced

Sea salt

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 whole piece pita bread, plain or whole wheat, torn into bite-size pieces

8 ounces vegan link sausage, sliced (homemade or prepared; I use Tofurky brand Spinach Pesto flavored)

4 ounces mustard greens, coarsely torn or chopped

1/4 cup whole pistachios

Zest of 1/2 of large lemon

Topping: unsweetened vegan yogurt (or sour cream, in a pinch), and the 1/4 cup sauce set aside

Optional garnish(es):  lemon slices, pistachios, paprika

Heat olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high.  Add onion and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.  Add garlic and spices and saute, stirring, for 3o seconds.  Add bell pepper, and saute, again stirring frequently, for 3 minutes or until pepper is slightly softened.  Add pita bread, and saute, stirring, for a couple of minutes.  Then add sausage and saute for 2 to 3 minutes or until it starts to brown in spots.  Add mustard greens on top and gradually fold in, allowing them to wilt as they heat.  Once incorporated, add reserved sauce (still leaving 1/4 cup for garnish), pistachios and lemon zest, stirring well to incorporate and heat through.  Serve topped with a dollop of vegan yogurt on each serving and a drizzle of the remaining 1/4 cup of sauce, divided evenly among plates.  Garnish each serving, if desired, with a lemon slice, a few pistachios and/or  a sprinkle of paprika.

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On the 10th Day of Christmas…Cous-Cous with Grilled Butternut Squash and Anise, Sage, Sumac and Sesame-Scented Vinaigrette

Cous-Cous with Grilled Butternut SquashWith its heavenly–and earthy–star anise garnish and its anise-and-sage dressing, this simple and flavorful side-dish seems made for the winter holiday table.

My Cous-Cous with Grilled Butternut Squash feeds two birds with one cracker (as opposed to killing two birds with one stone!) because it is both starch and vegetable in one.  And, never fear, you won’t find me outside grilling in December (or any time for that matter), as I am an indoor grill pan devotee and that’s all you need for grilling the squash–my trustee pan is made by Lodge–though you could roast it instead.

If sumac is new to you, you should be able to find it in Mediterranean markets.  It is a beautiful golden reddish color and imparts a mellow tartness.  If you can’t find it, feel free to substitute just a little lemon zest, but its unique flavor makes it worth the hunt.  I love nutty undertones this time of year, and the sesame provides just the right hint, and is especially compatible with the sumac and anise.

If you have the green part of your menu taken care of, this would be an excellent addition.  (And, if you don’t, stay tuned, as greens are coming up!)


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Vegan Chickpea, Sweet Potato, Kale, Green Olive, Dried Fruit and Cashew Tagine

DSCN0776 Quick!  Before winter is a faint and distant memory, you will want to tuck into this amazing melange featuring kale and oh-so-much-more!

The balance of flavors and textures is exquisite…if I do say so myself.

When I created this recipe, it was without the spicy green olives.  And it was so delicious.  But the next time I prepared it, I decided to add them for a little zip, and it was beyond!

Serve up a healthy and heaping portion of this tasty tagine and feel good for all the right reasons!

Click HERE to go straight to my recipe as published by my pals at One Green Planet.

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Vegan Cous-Cous and Grilled Butternut Squash with Anise, Sage, Sumac & Sesame-Scented Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 servings as a side dish

I have to admit: I am quite proud of myself for the combination of spices in this dish!

I think I could eat foods seasoned with cumin and coriander; turmeric and smoked paprika; or sage and rosemary at every meal and be quite happy.

But I challenged myself to branch out, and this mixture, inspired by za’atar, seemed a fitting direction for the combination of cous-cous and butternut squash.  And it is!  Now it will be all I can do not to season every recipe with “Sass” (Sage, Anise, Sumac, and Sesame)!

Garnish this simple dish any way you choose, but since I used anise in the recipe, I thought that star anise would be a lovely, homespun, organic, yet festive nod to the winter holidays.


2 cups cooked cous-cous (To cook: bring 2 cups of salted water to a boil, stir in 1 cup cous-cous, cover, and remove from heat.  Let sit for 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork.)

1/2 pound peeled and seeded butternut squash rings, about 1/3 inch thick, grilled,and cut into 1/2 inch pieces (To grill: rub lightly with olive oil, sprinkle lightly with sea salt, and grill over medium high heat for about 4 minutes on each side or until nice grill marks appear and squash is tender.)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 teaspoon yellow mustard

1/2 teaspoon dry rubbed sage

1 teaspoon anise seeds, ground to a powder in a spice or coffee grinder

1 teaspoon white sesame seeds

*1 teaspoon sumac (available at Middle Eastern and some Indian markets)

Pinch garlic powder

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dried red pepper flakes to taste

Garnish: sage sprigs, chopped pistachios, toasted sesame seeds.

Place cooked cous-cous and grilled butternut squash in a serving bowl.  Drizzle vinaigrette over the top and gently fold in until evenly distributed.  Garnish with fresh sage sprigs, chopped pistachios, and/or toasted sesame seeds and serve warm or at room temperature.

*Note: sumac, with its earthy and subtle lemony flavor, is worth searching for.  But if you can’t find it, a small amount of lemon zest could be substituted, though I wouldn’t know how much to suggestion.  Maybe 1/4 teaspoon?

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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 Beet Muhummara from The Blooming Platter Cookbook was on My July 4 Menu

For us, July 4 has never been about BBQs or really even hanging out with friends.  In fact, I can’t remember what I’ve done on most of these holidays.  I do remember one July 4, just after graduate school when I still lived in Nashville, going berry picking with my roommate and good friend to this day, Mary Gattis.  Other than that, I’m blank.

Today was no different.  I worked until about 2:3o and then, while my husband smoked a cigar (I know; I can’t do anything with him) and read on the deck, I spent about 4 methodical hours in our garden.  We live on an acre and a half of wooded marsh-front property from which we removed only enough trees to build our house.

Because we live on the marsh, I’m sensitive to run-off issues related to lawns, so no lawn!  I also didn’t want a lawn because they are such resource hogs.  I opted instead for rock gardens with planting beds in our narrow back and side yard s(our property is long and narrow with a 200-foot driveway and our house situated sideways), and a dry creek bed, raised berms, and other plantings with a quasi-Asian feel in the front yard and along the street.

Soon I’ll post some photos of the improvements I made today using plants I’d purchased yesterday and according to a plan that has been a long time in coming.  Also partially responsible for the new look are 25 (!) canna lilies I found on a dog walk–rhizomes still attached–stacked next to someone’s curb waiting to be discarded!  The basic structure of the landscape was created with the help of a landscape designer about three years ago, but there were some things I wanted to change, yet a solution had been eluding me.

Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that I was glad  that I had made fresh Beet Muhummara yesterday and created (and photographed) a beautiful plate of the beet spread and accompaniments earlier today so that it was ready as soon as I had showered.  I served the spread with cucumber slices, spinach leaves, and some fresh fried sweet potato slices that I sprinkled with a mixture of 1 tablespoon sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika.  Oh, and some champagne.  🙂  Forgetting that walnuts were in the spread, I sprinkled a few pistachios on top.  That’s okay, though, the green nut looked really pretty against the bright fuscia spread.  And I think I’ll make some brownie bites with those leftover walnuts.

The recipe is in the Starters section of The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes. Honestly, this recipe–my take on a traditonal Turkish roasted red pepper spread–is so good that it’s reason alone to purchase the book!  But there are some 150+ other excellent reasons as well.

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Vegan Beet Muhammara (Middle Eastern Spread)

Yield: approximately 4 cups

If you think you hate beets, that’s all about to change. If you actually like beets, this recipe will deepen your relationship with this most misunderstood of root vegetables. My stunning and addicting spread is perfect for a number of festive occasions or any regular day or night of the week. It is based on Muhammara, a Turkish spread typically made from red peppers and walnuts that happens to be on my “best seller” list. Here in Virginia Beach one of our favorite restaurants, Garrison’s, serves a beet and walnut spread that I find mesmerizing on their Mediterranean Plate. I wondered if I could come close to it by substituting raw red beets for the red peppers in my Muhammara recipe and playing around fairly significantly with the proportions of the other ingredients. The answer is a resounding “Yes!” My concoction is to die for and even prettier than its inspiration. If you’re thinking, “Beets? Ick.” Please think again. True confession: I am not a huge beet fan. I have tried to love them; really I have. But they can be tricky. I think they are lovely and appealingly earthy. And, while I have roasted them and really liked them–provided I used enough acid to dress them–for the most part, as my father would say, “I don’t wake up screaming for them.” That is until I tried Garrison’s spread and, now, my own version which is a bit different but dare I say it, maybe even better??? Thinking of substituting canned ones? Don’t do it! Have you ever read the label? They have NO nutrition nor, to my way of thinking, anything else to recommend them. Make this spread with raw ones and you will be a fan for life.

For this recipe and some 170+ more,
I invite you to purchase my first cookbook:

The Blooming Platter:
A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes

Vegan Heritage Press
Spring 2011

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