Vegan Middle Eastern Roasted Tri-Color Carrots and Fennel with Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce

Middle Eastern Roasted Carrots with Yogurt, Chickpea, Cucumber ToppingYield: 6 servings

On Saturday, I found myself bringing home produce before I had even prepared produce from a Whole Foods run a couple of weeks ago.  Afraid that something would go bad before I could get to it, I just combined the beautiful tri-color carrots from the earlier trip with today’s fennel bulb.  I also roasted golden beets, but in a foil pouch and I’m not yet sure what I’m going to do with those little beauties.

In the meantime, enjoy this lovely dish with it’s mellow Middle Eastern flavor notes in either–or both–of two ways.  There are lots of tried and true carrot marriages, e.g. dill, mustard, orange, and maple.  But I wanted something a little different.  So, while I did include mustard and dried orange peel, I substituted tamarind syrup for maple and added several of my favorite Middle Eastern spices.  If you aren’t able to find tamarind or pomegranate syrup, maple will be tasty; and fresh lemon zest–say 1/2 teaspoon– is a fine substitution for sumac, just not quite as earthy.

As you can see below, the carrots are a beautiful side dish and I hope you’ll trust me on the taste.  However, yesterday, home form school for President’s Day, I wanted a lunch of the carrots, but with some protein.  Remembering that I had purchased a cucumber on Saturday and had some chickpeas and vegan sour cream on hand (here, no one sells unsweetened vegan yogurt), it occured to me that, combined, they would make a luscious and fresh-tasting protein-packed sauce for the carrots.  And they were.  Enjoy these beautiful roots as a side or a main dish and you’ll be blissfully content either way.

Middle Eastern Roasted Carrots

1 fennel bulb with stalks

1 pound tri-color carrots (or any carrots, really), trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea Salt

Freshly ground black peopper

1 tablespoon tamarind or pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon dried coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried orange peel

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sumac

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

4 cloves garlic, halved

Optional Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce (recipe follows)

Optional Garnish: reserved fennel fronds, whole or chopped pistachios, and smoked paprika (note, if you serve the carrots with the sauce, stir the fennel fronds into it and garnish with the pistachios and smoked paprika)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Remove fennel fronds from stalks, finely chop, and store, covered, in the refrigerator.  Trim stalks from fennel bulb and cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias.  Cut bulb in half and then slice each half into 6 to 8 wedges, about 3/4-inch thick at the widest part. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil into a large roasting pan.  Add fennel stalks and bulb wedges, carrots, and about 1/2 teaspoon sea salt adn 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Stir well to coat vegetables with oil.  Roast for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Whisk together molasses, mustard, corander, cumin, orange peel, smoked paprika, garlic powder and turmeric.  Drizzle over vegetables, add garlic, and stir to coat.  Roast another 10 to 20 minutes, stirring after 10, or until desired degree of caramelization is achieved.  (I like a lot of caramelization, so I roast them another 20, but be aware that the sugar content in the syrup means that too they will scorch more easily after it is added.)  Check for seasoning and stir in more salt and pepper if desired.  Serve warm or at room temperature garnished, if desired, with the reserved fennel fronds,  pistachios, and smoked paprika, or topped with the Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce and garnished as desired.

Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce

1/2 cup vegan unsweetened yogurt or sour cream

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1-7 to 8-inch cucumber, diced

Reserved finely chopped fennel fronds

1/8th teaspoon garlic powder

Pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, fold together all ingredients until well combined and chill in the refrigerator, covered, until serving time.

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Vegan Gratin of Carmelized Onion and Fresh Fennel, White Beans, and Kale (Non-vegan Husband-Approved!

Yield: 4 main dish servings or 6-8 side dish servings.

This is rustic, yet healthy, comfort food–just the kind of food I crave in winter.

You can call this delectable melange a side dish or a  main dish but, regardless, just call me when it’s ready!


2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium-large onion, halved and cut into 1/2-inch silvers

1 medium-large fennel bulb, halved, cored, and cut into 1/3-inch slivers

Sea salt to taste

1 tablespoon vegan butter (I use Earth Balance, but you could substitute olive oil)

1/2 to 3/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

1-15.5 ounce can white beans, rinsed and drained

2 cups finely chopped fresh kale (I use the food processor for this task)

1/4 cup minced fresh fennel fronds (I use the food processor for this task too)

Freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Spray an 9-inch ceramic baking dish with non-stick cooking spray; set aside. Pour one generous tablespoon of olive oil into a large roasting pan.  Add onion, fennel, and a generous pinch of salt, toss well to coat, and roast for about 40 minutes, stirring every 10, until onion and fennel have developed some nice golden color.  (Note: if you don’t want to wait this long, boost the oven temperature to 450 degrees and roast for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring every 10 and watching closely).  While vegetables roast, make breadcrumbs: in a one-quart saucepan or small skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat.  Add crumbs, toss to coat, and continue cooking and stirring until lightly golden brown.  Remove the pan from the heat.  When the onion and fennel have caramelized, remove the pan from the oven and stir in the white beans followed by the kale and fennel fronds.  Stir in the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and season to taste with additional sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper.  Spoon into the prepared baking dish, sprinkle evenly with crumbs, and bake just until heated through and crumbs are rich golden-brown, about 15 minutes.

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Vegan Roasted Garlic Whipped Cauliflower

Yield: 4-6 servings

I’ll just confess right off the bat that I have no specific proportions for this dish inspired by my dear friend Yvette Hetrick.  For some of you, the lack of a precise formula may come as a great relief, as you can ad lib to your heart’s content.

I started off keeping track of what I was adding for flavor.  However, since I was working in 3 batches for the number of guests we had for Thanksgiving–and since I kept adjusting–I gave up at some point.  (And, by the way, a double recipe would have been plenty for 8 people; I enjoyed lots of leftovers!)

So, following is all you need to know to veganize this old “Weight Watchers” standard to suit YOUR taste.  Don’t let the dish’s dietary “roots” turn you off; it’s just that, ounce for ounce, cauliflower has far fewer calories than potatoes.  However, by the time I get finished doctoring it up, I’m not sure how many fewer calories it actually has.  But it does have it’s own unique flavor somewhere between cauliflower and potatoes.  And for that reason alone, it’s a keeper.  By all means, feel free to go easy on the ‘butta, sour cream and such, and then you can reap the low-cal benefits.

Be forewarned: cauliflower is LOADED with fiber, so it is very easy to feel overly full after a moderate portion of this dish.  Of course, you could just exercise some portion control, but it is so tasty that that is easier than it sounds!

4 cups water

Sea salt

1 large head of cauliflower, cored, broken into florets, rinsed and drained

1 head roasted garlic (rub whole head with olive oil and roast at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until very soft)

Any or all of the following in whatever proportions you desire; let taste be your guide: vegan butter, vegan sour cream, vegan cream cheese, and nutritional yeast (do NOT omit the cheesy “nooch”!)

Pinch white pepper

Optional garnish: snipped fresh chives

In a 4-quart covered saucepan, bring generously salted water to a boil.  Add cauliflower, loosely cover pan, and gently boil for about 6 minutes, reducing the heat if necessary.  Drain cauliflower and WHILE IT IS STILL WARM (that is very important), add half the head of garlic and season to taste with vegan butter, sour cream, cream cheese, nutritional yeast, additional salt, and white pepper.  If desired, add some or all of the remaining roasted garlic.  Serve warm garnished if desired.

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FARM Publishes Vegan Kale and White Bean Stew (with Fennel and Vegan Sausage) from The Blooming Platter Cookbook in Today’s Meatout Monday eNewsletter

Thanks to FARM for not only publishing my vegan White Bean and Kale Stew recipe from The Blooming Platter Cookbook, but for also including nutritional information, Gimme Lean product information, and an article on the fast food-obesity connection.  Just click HERE to access the newsletter, including recipe.

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Vegan Thai-Fusion Beet Sushi with Vegan Thai Chili-Garlic-Ginger Mayo

Yield: approximately 12 pieces of sushi

With beets in the fridge and an ever-present craving for Thai food, I decided to “bring” this dish to An Unrefined Vegan’s weekly Vegan LINKY Potluck 7 today.

My husband, “a vegan and more” as he likes to call himself, is wild for sushi.  Many are the times I’ve sat and sipped miso soup, sake, and hot green tea while he satiates himself on huge platters of the stuff.

I think it is absolutely beautiful.  The colors and presentations are beyond reproach.  It’s just the death and dying aspect I have issues with.

So, being a huge fan of beets and able to buy them fresh and local this summer, I was trimming some one day when I had an “ah-ha” moment.  It suddenly occurred to me that thin translucent slices of beet were reminiscent of raw fish flesh and that, perhaps, if I simmered them in some seaweed brine, they might also have a pleasant taste of the sea. And they did!

For some reason, my taste buds were telling me to go with a Thai-fusion approach, so I created a mayo–more often served in hand rolls than on sushi per se–tingly with typical Thai tastes.  As the base, I decided on a sticky coconut rice.  The combination of tastes and textures is as delicious as it is beautiful.  I’m so excited to share this stunning dish with you!

Vegan Thai Chili-Garlic-Ginger Mayo:

Note: you may have more than you need, but save it for another purpose or for extra dipping, as working with smaller amounts is a little tedious in the measuring department.   Also, I refrigerated my sushi for a few hours before serving, which is why it turned pink.  It starts out more of a pale creamy color with flecks of green.

3 tablespoons vegan mayo

1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce

1 teaspoon vegan fish sauce

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger (about a 3/4-inch piece peeled and grated)

1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate until needed.


Coconut Sticky Rice:

1 cup jasmine rice

1-15 ounce can thick coconut milk (not the sweet “Cream of Coconut)

Pinch of sea salt

2 tablespoons vegan fish sauce (sold as vegetarian fish sauce at Asian markets)

Combine rice, coconut milk, and sea salt in a loosely-covered 2-quart saucepan (I like a non-stick for this) and place over medium-high heat.  When mixture comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium or a bare simmer and cook, stirring frequently (or it will scorch on the bottom!), for about 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice appears moist and sticky.  Removed from heat, stir in vegan fish sauce, and set aside to cool to room temperature.  Meanwhile, cook beets.



2 cups water

1/4 cup dulse flakes (red seaweed flakes)

Pinch sea salt

Approximately 3 medium beets, peeled, and thinly sliced into whatever shape/size you desire to sit nicely atop their rice bases (I halved them lengthwise, placed the flat side down, and then thinly sliced them).

In a 1-quart saucepan, stir together water, dulse flakes, and sea salt.  Add beets, cover loosely, and place over medium-high heat.  Simmer gently, reducing heat if necessary, just until beets are tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain, but avoid rinsing.  Some of the dulse may adhere to a few of the slices and, if so, just brush off with your fingers rather than rinsing.  Let cool to room temperature.



Scoop up palm-size balls of rice (about 1/12 of the total amount) and squeeze firmly in your palm, shaping into a “log” about 2 1/2 inches long and about 3/4 to 1-inch tall.  Place on a work surface, spread with about 1/2 teaspoon of the Vegan Thai Chili-Garlic-Ginger Mayo, and top with beets, however many slices cover the top nicely.  I like to slightly overlap 3 small slices so that the sushi can be eaten in several bites.  Transfer to a serving platter or plates.  Repeat with remaining ingredients and garnish platter or plates as desired.


Optional garnishes:

Whatever you have and/or think would be pretty is what you should use!  I used dabs of spinach pesto because green is so pretty with the color of the beets (but dabs of a mint or cilantro chutney or mint/cilantro oil squeezed into decorative lines would be nice too), cilantro sprigs (but Thai basil or mint would be lovely), and cashews (though chopped peanuts would be appropriate too).

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Vegan Parsnip, Kasha, and Spinach Fritters with Indian Cilantro or Mint Chutney

These uniquely delicious fritters proved worthy of a very special celebration.

Monday night, ten of my beloved Advanced and Advanced Placement (AP) art students gathered for an end-of-year celebratory dinner at my home.

For several years, I have marked the conclusion of each academic year for these classes with an in-school soy yogurt parfait breakfast.  This year, though, in light of the publication of my Blooming Platter Cookbook, they requested a vegan dinner party, and I was more than happy to oblige.

For starters, I served these Parsnip, Kasha and Spinach Fritters which received “extra credit” from my discriminating students.  Also on the menu were:

Indian Spiced Lentil Sloppy Joe’s (I altered Food Network’s Aarti Sequeira’s Bombay Sloppy Joe recipe quite a bit, substituting steamed lentils for turkey and spicing them up a bit more; I will post when I’ve made the recipe again, and actually written down the ingredients);

Oven-Baked Three-Spice Sweet Potato Fries;

A barley, cous-cous and kasha salad featuring finely diced cucumber, red onion, basil, and lightly sauteed homegrown yellow squash-from one of my student’s garden;

and TFLC Cookies (Tea-Infused Five-Spice Lime & Chocolate Cookies)–stay tuned for this slightly exotic, but simple recipe.

Over dessert, I gave out my annual certificates to the AP students.  Each one is specially illustrated and worded to reflect his or her Concentration theme and unique approach to the exploration of that theme.  This year, I also gave out gifts that the students had made each other as a last “Creative Challenge.”  After drawing a classmate’s name out of a basket, each student was tasked with creating a portrait of that person, i.e. a physical likeness done in the student artist’s own trademark style.  Everyone loved their portraits and, as one student said, couldn’t stop looking at herself!  At their request, we had an impromptu mini-critique of the artwork around the dining table; the best dinner conversation!  The pieces–not to mention the students–are priceless, as you will see (I’ll post a photo soon).

They all agreed that this event should be an annual occurrence, and I concur!

To earn your own high marks for these teen- and teacher-approved fritters, here is the simple recipe:

Vegan Parsnip, Kasha, and Spinach Fritters

Yield: 36

1 cup cooked and cooled Kasha (prepared according to package directions)

1 1/2 cups cooked and cooled parsnip and onion puree (see below)

2 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped coarse-fine in the food processor

1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

Pinch chipotle chili powder

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Optional: 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

Accompaniment: prepared cilantro and/or mint chutney (I purchase jars of these chutneys in a local Indian market, but any savory chutney with a contrasting color would be delicious and pretty)

Garnish: very thin slices or miniature “spears” of green onion and tiny leaves from a compatible herb (I used Thai basil buds)

Serving suggestion: place each fritter on a fresh baby spinach leaf

In a large cast-iron skillet, heat about 1/2-inch canola oil until a drop of water splattered on top sizzles.  Fry generous tablespoons of the mixture (I use a small scoop with a lever), about 9 at a time, for two minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Turn with a metal spatula.  They may feel slightly stuck on the bottom, but they will loosen easily.  Drain on paper towels, keep warm in a low oven, and serve warm or at room temperature accompanied and garnished as desired.  The fritters may be made ahead, drained, cooled, covered and reheated, uncovered, for about 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

Parsnip Puree:

3 medium parsnips, peeled and sliced cross-wise into 3/4-inch thick rings

1 small yellow onion, halved, peeled, and cut into 1/4-inch slices

2-3 cups unsweetened soymilk

Pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place parsnips and onion slices in a large cast-iron skillet.  Pour soymilk over almost to cover.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, cover loosely, and simmer over medium-high heat until parsnips are tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Avoid letting all of moisture evaporate.  Scrape mixture, including any remaining milk (don’t worry if top surface looks a little “scummy”), into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and pulse, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, until almost smooth.

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Vegan Grilled Asparagus with Spring Onion-Radish Butter

Yield: 4 servings (you’ll have a bit of extra butter)

A gift of garden fresh asparagus from my husband’s colleague, Freddie Stant, inspired this dish.  Be prepared for a new late spring favorite!

I knew I wanted to grill the asparagus and I knew I wanted something special on top, but that special something eluded me until I thought of the simplest and most elegant appetizer:  radishes spread with fresh creamy butter and a garnish of sea salt.  Perfect!

I simply mashed the vegan butter with the back of a fork and folded in finely diced radish and thinly sliced spring onion.  Because the butter I use is already salted, I went easy on the sea salt.  Then I dolloped the butter-vegetable mixture on the warm asparagus, allowing it to just barely start to melt.

Oh my goodness, this dish is amazing!

Vegan Spring Onion-Radish Butter:

1/4 cup vegan butter (I like Earth Balance), if too firm to mash, allow to warm slightly at room temperature

1/4 cup thinly sliced spring onion

1/3 cup thinly sliced and then diced radish (about 3)

Grilled Asparagus:

1 pound of asparagus, rinsed, drained and trimmed

1 tablespoon of olive oil

Sea salt (consider hand-grated pink Himalayan salt for the garnish)

Optional veggie garnish: 1 plump radish

In a medium-size bowl, mash butter with the back of a fork and gently fold in onion and radish until well combined.  Set aside.  Spray a seasoned grill pan with non-stick spray–or brush with olive oil–and preheat over medium-high.  In a large bowl or shallow pan, toss asparagus with olive oil and season lightly with sea salt.  Grill asparagus in one layer for approximately 8 minutes on each side or until lightly charred and crisp-tender.  Grill in two batches, if necessary, keeping first batch warm in the oven until second batch is finished cooking.  Place asparagus on a serving platter, top with butter mixture, sprinkle lightly with sea salt (hand-grated pink Himalayan salt would be fabulous!), top with optional whole radish, and serve immediately.  Store any leftover butter in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Note: this brand new recipe isn’t in my just-published cookbook, but there are 150+ similarly fresh, beautiful, and seasonal dishes you and yours will love.

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Vegan Roasted Parsnips and Onions in a Paprika-Spiced Red Wine-Balsamic Glaze

Yield: 2 servings

Happily house-bound because of the beautiful snow, our meals today consisted of what we had on hand. Fortunately, I had two parsnips, the “root” of several favorite new recipes this winter.

You’ll love my latest take on them even if you don’t happen to have truffle oil in the pantry–what a coup, right?

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 parsnips, trimmed, peeled, thick half sliced vertically, and both halves then cut into scant 1/2 inch slices
1 small-medium yellow onion, trimmed, peeled and cut into small wedges
4-6 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
coarse sea or kosher salt to taste
1 teaspoon paprika, divided in half (or to taste)
1 tablespoon medium-dry red wine
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1-2 teaspoons truffle oil (or more olive oil or flavored oil of your choice; something compatible with paprika)
1 tablespoon brown sugar
pinch cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pour olive oil into a medium roasting pan or a large cast iron skillet (I use mine for everything!). Add parsnips, onion, garlic and salt, and toss well to coat. Roast for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and add 1/2 teaspoon paprika. Stir and toss to coat and return to oven to roast for 10 more minutes. Remove from oven and add other 1/2 teaspoon of paprika along with remaining ingredients. Stir and toss well to coat for one last time, and return to oven to roast for 5 more minutes or until vegetables are very tender and nicely golden and caramelized. Check for seasoning; adjust if necessary; and serve warm with some greens and the vegan protein of your choice.

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