Vegan Tomato-Tuna Stack

Tuna and Tomato StackYield: 4 servings (very light)

I love my Vegan Tuna Salad with Sunflower Seeds, Apples, Capers, and Fresh Dill on sandwiches, crackers, toasted bagels, and more.

But since I am the only one in this house who eats it–though, Minnie would love it–I had enjoyed quite a bit of it that way and wanted something different for dinner one evening last week.  Something that was light, cold, fresh, and maybe a touch hydrating as it’s already pretty hot and humid here in Coastal Virginia.

That’s when I remembered that, growing up, a popular “ladies’ lunch” was a scoop of tuna salad tucked inside a tomato, often with the top trimmed into a kind of zig-zag.  And recently, I had seen on that most unlikely of vegan inspirations, “Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives,” a sauce that I was Jonesin’ for: mayo, mustard and Worcestershire.

So, not wanting to fool with hollowing out a tomato, nor wanting to waste any of this big beauty from the farmer’s market, I cut two thick slices, sandwiched my “tuna” inside, placed the stack on a bed of sprouts, and whipped together my vegan version of the Triple D sauce.  Voila: dinner!

This may well become a go-to summer meal at my house and, hopefully, at yours.

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon Liquid Aminos or vegan Worcestershire Sauce (soy sauce would be fine in a pinch)

1 cup sprouts

8 large, 1/2-inch thick slices of fresh tomato

1 cup Vegan Tuna Salad with Sunflower Seeds, Apples, Capers, and Fresh Dill


12 large capers

Freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl or cup, whisk together mayonnaise, mustard and Liquid Aminos until well-combined.  Taste and adjust proportions if desired and set aside.  Arrange one-fourth of sprouts on 4 plates and top each with a tomato slice.  Divide vegan tuna salad among the 4 tomato slices and spread gently to edges.  Top each with a remaining tomato slice, dollop with one-fourth of the sauce, garnish with 3 capers each and finish with a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper.  Serve immediately.

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Vegan “Tuna” Salad with Sunflower Seeds, Apple, Capers, and Dill

Nutty TunaYield: approximately 4 cups “tuna” salad

On Mother’s Day, my phenomenal weekend yoga instructor, Angela Philips, mentioned after our morning class that she had prepared her “Nutty Tuna,” made with sunflower seeeds, for her Mother’s Day brunch.  She had given me that recipe years ago and at the mere mention, I began craving it.

So I made a batch on Monday, but it wasn’t quite right.  I hadn’t consulted the recipe, choosing to make it from memory instead, and, among other things, I went overboard on my substitution of Nori powder for dulce flakes and used an inferior mayo I had on hand that had been given to me.  Honestly, it was kind of a dud.  I ate a fair amount of it during the week so as not to be wasteful, but it was off the mark, and I discarded the remainder today with little remorse.

But, this past Saturday, I purchased the ingredients I needed, tried it again yesterday afternoon, and I am happy to report that it is delicious.  This time, I consulted the recipe just to see if I needed to adhere more closely and decided that I didn’t because, for example, I didn’t want to include the parsley it called for and I knew I wanted mayonnaise to adhere all of the ingredients together, while the original recipe relies only on the moistness of the celery, onion, parsley, soaked sunflower seeds and a tiny bit of lemon juice.

From the original recipe, I did decide to use the capers called for instead of the pickle relish I had added last week.   When I was a pre-vegan kid, we always added pickle relish to our tuna salad, but it didn’t work so well with this vegan version.  And I added fresh dill, which Angela has started doing too.  Though I associate dill more with “chicken” salad, it is widely known to be compatible with seafood, and it is really nice in this recipe.  In addition, I included some dried apple, as we often chopped up fresh apple in our childhood tuna salad.  Since it is not apple season here and I had some moist and plump dried ones in the pantry, I opted for them and am so glad I did, as they lend just a hint of sweetness.

In the end, this recipe is a little down-home with all the mayo and a little upscale with the addition of capers.  As such, I think it is the best of both worlds and hope you agree.

Be sure to begin soaking sunflower seeds the day before you plan to serve the salad.


14 ounces roasted sunflower seeds (salted or not, but the salt will be drained away after soaking)

1 Nori sheet torn in pieces (or 1 teaspoon Nori powder or dulce flakes)

2 cups warm water

4 celery hearts, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces

3 green onions, white and green parts, cut into 2-inch pieces

3 tablespoons drained fresh capers

1 cup lightly packed fresh dill fronds, stemmed and broken in half

Optional but very good: 1/3 cup dried apple pieces (be sure they are moist and plump)

1-2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

8 to 10 tablespoons Vegenaise vegan mayonnaise (my favorite brand for this, but use the mayo of your choice)

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste


Place sunflower seeds and Nori sheet pieces in medium bowl and cover with warm water.  Cover and let stand 8 hours or over night.  Drain, pressing gently, to remove as much water as possible.  Place celery, green onions, capers, fresh dill, optional dried apple, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice in bowl of food processor and pulse until finely minced, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.  Add drained and pressed sunflower seeds and continue pulsing until sunflower seeds are also finely minced.  Add mayonnaise, submerge into mixture with a spatula, and pulse until well combined.  I prefer almost a spread consistency, but still with lots of texture.  Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, pepper, and additional teaspoon of lemon juice, if desired.  Pulse just to distribute.  Serve immediately or chilled on a sandwich, toasted bagel, stuffed in a tomato, or on crackers.  Note: if you desire a more pronounced flavor of the sea and a darker color, use Nori powder or dulce flakes and add them to the mixture in the food processor rather than to the soaking water.

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Vegan Crabcakes–A Crab-Friendly Chesapeake Bay Classic! (A Labor Day Menu Must!)

DSCN1746If you crave crabcakes but not the crab, and if, like me, you haven’t been able to enjoy that particular blend of deep sea flavor, creamy interior, and crispy exterior in far too long, then you have come to the right place!

Navitas Naturals Nori Powder and Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) are my no-longer-secret ingredients for this new recipe for Vegan Crabcakes!  (Just click on the orange link to go directly to the Navitas Naturals website for the delicious recipe.)

So many of my recipes do not try to be anything they are not.  In other words, I was never such a meat/chicken/seafood devotee that, now, as a vegan, I seek to imitate those flavors on a regular basis.  BUT, there are some dishes that I like the notion of–most often because of the texture, a spice blend, or maybe a sauce–but like MUCH better veganized; think buffalo wings, seafood gumbo, chicken salad, egg salad, etc.  Crabcakes fall squarely–or roundly, as it were–into that category.

These crabcakes are held together by a faux mousseline.  Mousseline is a sauce traditionally made with whipped cream.  I snagged this tip from America’s Test Kitchen who recommends making a shrimp and cream mousseline to hold crabmeat together in a cake in order not to “deaden” the flavor through the use of mayonnaise or egg.  I make my mousseline out of TVP and soymilk (but feel free to use your favorite unsweetened non-dairy milk.

The mixture bound together nicely, but was difficult to flip in a skillet, and required way too much oil, mess and calories.  So, I baked my second batch and found them perfect.  No flipping is involved, and they hold together beautifully when moved by spatula from pan to plate.  They also have a very appealing mouth-feel that is not unappetizing due to a texture that is too soft.

I hope you find my Vegan Crabcakes to be deeply satisfying in every way!

Many thanks to Navitas Naturals for publishing this recipe on their website…and for offering such a spectacular product!!

Note: you may substitute 2 Nori sheets for the 2 teaspoons Nori Powder in the stock if the powder is difficult for you to access, though it is sold online.  If using Nori sheets, let them steep for about an hour in the hot stock before straining out, returning the stock to a simmer, and proceeding with recipe.)

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My Vegan Gumbo Made with Navitas Naturals Nori Powder: A Rich Briny Marriage Made in Cajun Heaven!

Vegan Seafood GumboIn March, the good folks at VegNews published my Vegan Seafood Gumbo in “Recipe Club,” their e-newsletter, which I shared here on The Blooming Platter (just follow the link).

Not too long after that, the kind folks at Navitas Naturals sent me a sample of their delicious and nutritious organic Nori Powder (roasted seaweed powder) with which to experiment.  I didn’t get to it right away, but recently, with friends coming for dinner to whom I had promised gumbo, I decided to use the Nori Powder instead of Nori sheets in the gumbo stock, as I was out of the latter.

Product Image

Brilliant!  After a little research, mostly based on protein content, I determined that 1 teaspoon of Nori powder is the equivalent of 1 Nori sheet, and that worked out perfectly.  Both lend to the stock that deeply seductive briny flavor of the sea.

Plus, there is an ocean (couldn’t resist–sorry!) of uses for Nori powder.  It can be dissolved in just about anything to enhance  flavor and nutrition (protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber), e.g.  soups, stews, purees, sauces, doughs, fillings, etc.  And it is certified organic, kosher, non-GMO, gluten-free and raw.

Enjoy this great new product and my Seafood Gumbo recipe which they have generously published on their site!

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Vegan Fish-and-Chips (A Cleaned-Up British Classic!)

DSCN1363I don’t mean to brag, but…

If you eschew seafood, yet crave that briny taste of the sea, have I got a “fix” for you!

After one failed attempt to impart that elusive oceanic flavor to a vegetable-based alternative–tofu “fillets” in this case–I put the full weight of my mental capacity to the task at hand.

The result was a truly novel method for infusing the complex flavor and aroma of the sea into humble tofu triangles.  Hint: wrapping them in Nori sheets is one of my secrets.

This and all of the remaining secrets to my successful go at Vegan Fish-and-Chips are yours for the clicking at One Green Planet.

I call my version a “cleaned up British classic” because, after one oily and messy round of beer battering and frying the “fillets,” I created a different method for an ahoy-there-mate breading that is baked, as are my “chips.”  To me, the flavor AND the crunch of both are irresistible.  I hope you agree!


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VegNews Features the Blooming Platter’s Vegan Seafood Gumbo in This Week’s “Recipe Club” e-Newsletter

VegnNews Recipe Club--Vegan Seafood Gumbo--ScreenshotYield: 6 to 8 servings

Earlier this week, I was thrilled to learn that VegNews–THE culinary and lifestyle magazine for we meat-free folks–featured my brand new Vegan Seafood Gumbo recipe  in their culinary e-newsletter, “Recipe Club.”  Thanks to all the great folks at VegNews!

They were happy to grant me permission to post my recipe.  But, because they were so generous–and because everything they produce is of such high quality–I urge you to visit their website and scroll down on the right to  “Let’s Talk” where you can quickly sign up for the “Recipe Club” culinary e-newsletter with the click of a button.

Now, about that recipe…

Having once had a vegan gumbo prepared by one of the finest (albeit non-vegan) chefs on the Eastern Seaboard–and not caring for it–I thought a delicious briny-tasting seafood-flavored vegan gumbo simply couldn’t be achieved.

But fast-forward a few years and lots of cooking experience, and the stars aligned to bring authentic gumbo within my reach.  And I’m thrilled to share it with you

This is a true gumbo, folks; not a soup or a stew.  That means that the roux is all-important.  Besides fearing that I could never hit the right flavor profile, I shied away from gumbo for years, as I loathed the idea of standing over the stove, stirring a pot for nearly an hour.  But when I recently learned about an oven-baked method for making roux on Cook’s Country TV, that all changed.

Boy, did it!

Though gumbo is a fairly new addition to my repertoire, I am trying to make up for lost time.  My first recipe, one for a delicious (if I do say so) Vegan Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, was recently published here on One Green Planet.  However, since my Mississippi and Texas relatives have little more than disdain for any dish containing chicken and sausage that dares call itself gumbo, I knew I would have to eventually create a recipe for a vegan seafood gumbo.  And the opportunity presented itself sooner rather than later.  Actually,  a Sunday morning plus a powerful craving was all the urging I needed.

Laissez les bontemps rouler!


Blooming Platter Vegan Seafood Gumbo


  • 5 3/4 cups water
  • 6 sheets Nori (roasted seaweed; the type used for making sushi)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1/1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 2 cups textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • 3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I use white whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small-medium finely diced yellow onion
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 celery rib, chopped fine
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (or 1/4 teaspoon dry)
  • 1 teaspoon file (dried sassafras leaves)
  • 1-14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/4 cup vegan fish sauce
  • 2 cups frozen cut okra, thawed
  • Accompaniment: 3 to 4 cups of cooked white rice


  1. MAKE STOCK  In a 4-quart saucepan, combine water, Nori, 1 tablespoon salt, Old Bay Seasoning, soy sauce, and lemon halves.  Cover loosely, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Turn off heat, cover tightly, and let sit while continuing with recipe.  Strain before using, pressing on solids with the back of a wooden spoon.
  2. MAKE ROUX Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large cast iron skillet or heavy Dutch oven (my preference) over medium heat, toast ¾ cup flour, stirring constantly, until just beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in oil until smooth. Cover (use foil if you have no lid that fits your pan), transfer skillet or pot to oven, and cook until mixture is deep brown and fragrant, about 20 minutes, checking and stirring after 10. It will look almost chocolatey or the color of an old copper penny.  (If not making gumbo right away, store roux in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. To use, heat the roux in a  cast iron skillet or heavy Dutch oven over medium-high heat, whisking constantly, until just smoking, and continue with step 2.)
  3. COOK AROMATICS Transfer skillet or Dutch oven to stovetop and whisk cooked roux to combine. Add onion, bell pepper, celery, and a pinch of salt and pepper, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until softened, about 10 minutes. It will seem quite dry.  Stir in garlic, thyme, and file, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook about 1 minute. Slowly whisk in 3 3/4 cups of the stock along with the vegan fish sauce until smooth.  Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer.
  4. FINISH GUMBO Stir okra into gumbo and simmer for about 20 minutes while rice cooks; reduce heat to medium if cooking too fast.  Meanwhile, place textured vegetable protein (TVP) in a medium bowl and pour remaining 2 cups of hot stock over.  Let sit for 5 to10 minutes or until TVP has softened.  Stir into gumbo and adjust seasoning if desired. Serve with a scoop of white rice and, possibly, biscuits or garlic bread.


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Vegan Tuna “Fish” Salad with Secret “Boiled Egg” Ingredient

[Photo caveat: I apologize for the quality of this photo.  My trusty camera finally went on the fritz.  And, while I plan to replace it soon, I want to upgrade, but don’t want to spend the money just yet.  So, this photo was taken with my phone, which is a Droid rather than an iPhone, and I don’t believe the quality is as good as the latter.  However, before the summer is out, I plan to have a new camera!]

Okay, so it’s not exactly standard July 4 fare, but…cold and creamy, tuna fish salad (vegan of course) sounded so good to me on a recent hot and humid day that I decided to create a batch, holiday appropriate or not.  (BTW, does it amuse you like it does me that the weather reporters act like 90+ and a hundred degree weather in July is “news”?)

I had never tried a vegan version.  I do make a Vegan Clam Chowder that receives rave reviews, so I felt sure I could capture that briny taste…and I did (!) courtesy of some Dulce granules available in health food stores and, possibly upmarket grocery stores.  I buy it at our local Organic Depot.

But my mother always made tuna salad with chopped boiled egg and I wanted to try to capture that flavor as well.  My Vegan Egg Salad is tops in many folks’ (recipe) books so, I decided to add a little of the secret eggy ingredient: Indian black salt.  It has an aromatic sulfury taste that mimics that of cooked eggs perfectly.  You can buy it most affordably at Indian markets, but you can also order it online.

But what about the protein?  The only one I had in the house after a whole week away at TICA (what a beautiful honor and experience that was!) seemed oddly appropriate: chick peas, lightly mashed.

The rest was easy:  a little mayo, finely chopped celery, pickle relish and, for good measure, celery salt (though celery seed would substitute nicely).  Enjoy this salad as you would any tuna salad: on crackers; in a sandwich with toasted bread and some curly lettuce; stuffed inside a firm, ripe tomato as we do “down South;” as a lighter canape on cucumber slices; or as the ultimate indulgence: on fried green tomato slices as in the photo!  I garnished them with dab more mayo, a sliver of dill pickle (because I didn’t have sweet), and a tiny pinch of both Dulce granules and Indian black salt.

I simply couldn’t resist the tomatoes at the farmer’s market.  To fry them, just slice them about 1/4-1/3 of an inch thick, dredge them first in a little flour seasoned with salt and pepper, then in unsweetened soymilk seasoned with the same, and then back into the flour before sauteing a couple of minutes on each side in canola oil over medium-high heat.   Drain on paper towels.

2-15 ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup finely diced celery

4-5 tablespoons mayo (I like my own homemade mayo or Vegenaise the best, but can rarely find the latter, so Nayonaise is fine; it just has a stronger taste.  If you use milder Vegenaise, you may need slightly less Dulce granules.)

2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (use dill pickle relish if you prefer)

1 tablespoon Dulce granules (see note above next to “mayo.”  Also, feel free to substitute Kelp granules, but you may need to adjust the amount.)

1/2 teaspoon Indian black salt or to taste

1/2 teaspoon celery salt or celery seed or to taste

In a medium bowl, coarsely mash the chick peas with a fork or a potato masher and sprinkle celery over the top.  In a small bowl, whisk together mayo and remaining ingredients.  Pour over pea and celery mixture and toss well to fully incorporate.  Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container.









Though published a year ago, I hope my cookbook The Blooming Platter: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes will always be relevant with its emphasis on tasty, nutritious, beautiful, and seasonal vegan fare.  If you need a little gift for yourself or a friend/family member, you can obtain it simply by following the link. And thanks in advance !

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My Friends and I Ate Like (Vegan) Field Hands at Founding Farmers in D.C.

Vegan "Fish" and Chips at Founding Fathers Restaurant in D.C.

What’s better than introducing two of your nearest and dearest?

Nothing, unless it’s introducing them over a fabulous lunch at the hip and eco-sensitive restaurant, Founding Farmers!

In the middle of July, Allison Price, a close friend from my time in Nashville some 20+  years ago, spent a week here in VA Beach.  In the middle of the week, she and I headed to D.C. for an overnighter.

Our visit included lunch with Sonya Harmon, another close friend from some 10+ years ago when we worked together at the Contemporary Art Center of VA, followed by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden and the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden.

Allison, Betsy and Sonya at Founding Fathers in D.C.


Sonya now lives in the D.C. area and generously took the afternoon off from work so that she could join Allison and I for lunch and a little museum-going.  Both of these gifted gals coincidentally now work as editors and feel they’ve known each other for a long time.  Our lunch destination was Sonya’s spot-on recommendation.   Another coincidence:  Joe and I and another couple with whom we spent New Year’s Eve in D.C. had tried to get into Founding Fathers for brunch on New Year’s Day, but it was too crowded.

I am patting myself on the back for trying it again, as I enjoyed one of the most satisfying restaurant meals in recent memory.  Granted, the company was tops, which added to the experience immeasurably, but the restaurant was beautiful and comfortable in an eco-chic way, the service friendly and professional, and the food outstanding.  I splurged on the vegan “Fish” and Chips from their vegan menu and, for the record, I did NOT eat all of the chips and fries!

But I devoured the fried tofu “fish” and wasn’t hungry again until 9 p.m., and then only because our hotel, Hotel Palomar (fabulous!) at 2121 P Street, NW,  was next door to a magnificent Moroccan Restaurant called Marrakesh Palace where we dined on soup, chickpeas, and homemade bread spread with this nearly indescribable “pesto” of tomatoes, onions, garlic, celery, carrots, olives and olive oil.

The next morning, Allison and I drove to Baltimore with one destination in mind: the American Visionary Museum.  It came highly recommended by Trish and Ken Pfeifer, local collectors of “outsider art” among other genres who make an annual sojourn to the museum, and we weren’t disappointed.  In fact, we were thrilled.  It was such a refreshing change of pace from the rarefied atmosphere of the “Fragments of Time and Space” temporary exhibition at the Hirshhorn and their too often BS-ridden text panels.  A couple of pieces in the exhibition were noteworthy.  But too much of it fell in the “Emperor Has No Clothes” category.

Don’t get me wrong: I love contemporary art, worked as a contemporary art museum education director for 11 years, and frequently incorporate it into my studio art classes.  But precisely because I find so much of it so deeply meaningful, I cannot abide pseudo-intellectual/academic art or writing about it.  Sorry folks: too often the emperor has doffed his drawers!

The American Visionary Museum proved to be a peak artistic and cultural experience, worth enduring the stop-and-go traffic during our 6-hour ride home (which should have taken about 4 1/2).   Al and I talked until we were hoarse.  In fact, that morning, our eyes and mouths had snapped open simultaneously and we didn’t close them for a good 15  hours!

Betsy and Bus, American Visionary Museum, Baltimore
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Celebrate The Blooming Platter’s One Year Anniversary with Vegan Nutty Tuna Salad

Yield: approximately 4 cups

To celebrate the ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of The Blooming Platter, I’m posting this very springlike recipe for an old standby, tuna salad, given fresh new life as a vegan delicacy.

My friend Angela Phillips served this faux tuna salad as part of a lovely, healthy and light Sunday brunch. It’s been a while, but as I recall, everything was served in sparkling crystal and seemed magical.

Thank you for your support during this fledgling year of TBP. It’s enriched my life immeasurably, and I hope it has yours in some small way.

1 cup raw sunflower seeds (I could only find roasted, so I used them and it was delish)
1 cup raw almonds
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon kelp or dulse
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 of an onion, processed to yield 1/4 cup finely chopped
approximately 2-3 stalks celery processed to yield 1/2 cup finely chopped
small handful of parsley processed to yield 1/2 cup finely chopped
optional: 2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish or to taste

Barely cover sunflower seeds and almonds with water and soak for 4-8 hours. Drain. Place in food processor with lemon, salt, and kelp or dulse. Blend until it is a texture you like and mix with other ingredients. Serve with lettuce leaves to make wraps, with crackers, in a sandwich, or any way you enjoyed tuna salad in your pre-vegan days.

Source: Angela Phillips

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