Vegan White Gazpacho with Green Grapes and a Twist
A Spanish Favorite My Way

White Gazpacho 2(To go straight to the recipe, please scroll down.)
At cocktail hour on Friday evening, the only thing that kept me from setting upon the ravishing vegan Spanish repast prepared by Juan and Barbara Gelpi for their daughter, Amalia’s, high school graduation party like an aunt at a picnic was a hot yoga class two and a half hours later.  So, while I treated myself to only the tiniest tastes of most everything, including a little sangria, I felt completely satisfied when I left.  

Since declaring this the Year of the Mini-Meal upon my husband’s untimely death in July, I prefer to eat this way anyway, letting my eyes consume what my stomach once did. And, besides, when I am less focused on devouring food, I can enjoy all of the other aspects of a party: the conversation, the setting and, in this case, a private mini concert by the brilliant and multi-talented Amalia accompanying herself on baby grand as she did dynamic justice to Nina Simone’s, “Feeling Good” before other guests arrived.

Juan, a surgeon, is of Cuban decent and, while everything he and Barbara cook is inspired, his deft hands may be particularly at home with Spanish and Cuban food, improvising with as much skill in the kitchen as Amalia does at the piano. Many new traditions have arisen since Joe died.  One favorite is joining forces with the Gelpis every few weeks, alternating houses, to cook fairly technical, but relaxed, vegan meals together because we all really love cooking, not just tossing together a few ingredient.  Paella, gumbo, pigeon pie, and crabcakes have been on recent menus.

Eggplant and Chickpea SaladHearts of Palm CevicheAt last night’s party, golden sangria and desserts–Barbara’s silky chocolate pie, a cake, and a cheesecake topped with a glistening fruit pinwheel–were set out on the breakfast room table.  Sliced and spreadable cheeses (all from Whole Foods), Marconi almonds roasted with paprika, three kinds of black and green olives, and a luscious white gazpacho lined the kitchen buffet.  And a veritable groaning board of “meats,” salads, and savory pastries covered the dining room table (which is usually covered with beautiful quilts that Barbara, also a doctor, creates for charity): spinach and puff pastry squares; a carrot, an eggplant and chickpea, and a tomato salad; hearts of palm ceviche; roasted red pepper and goat cheese crostini; meatballs in a tomato-based sauce; chorizo (really cripsy on the edges like I like it); and two of Juan’s special potato tortillas made with Follow Your Heart egg substitute.  Because families have been known to split over whether onion should be included in a tortilla, he made one each way.

Black Olives and Paprika Marconi AlmondsI couldn’t begin to choose a favorite dish, though I had to steer clear of the ceviche as I am wildly allergic to avacado.  (How cruel, right? Allergic to this staple of the vegan diet.)  Pretty high on the list, though, was the little chilled shot glasses of white gazpacho served with green grape halves.  In fact, I was so smitten that I purchased what I needed for my own version, based on Juan’s quickly recited list of ingredients, while on my Saturday morning post-yoga Whole Foods shopping spree.

In truth my “white” gazpacho is more of a pale spring green.  One reason is that I can’t bear to remove the nutritious skin from most vegetables, so I left it on the cucmber.  The other is that, though I had purchased fresh fennel for another dish, I used some of the licorice-y fronds in the soup for a beautiful pairing with the hint of sherry.  By all means, if you want a nearly pure white soup, peel the cucumber and perhaps only use the fennel fronds as a garnish, or omit them entirely, though I love the flavor.

Cheesecake Topped with Fruit PinwheelThis version of white gazbacho is made with soaked bread and my bread selection was based entirely on wanting to dip a little pretzel loaf in the cup of vegan lentil soup I purchased from the prepared foods bar at Whole Foods. But the remaining pretzel loaf was delectable in the gazpacho.  Yet, virtually any plain bread would do.  Just avoid breads studded with seeds, nuts, fruits, garlic, rosemary, and the like.

For the milk, I purchased unsweetened almond, as I wanted to play up the flavor of the actual almonds, which are also soaked add pureed into the soup.  What I didn’t realize until I got home, though, is that I had purchased “vanilla” unsweetened.  Afraid I had blown it, I tasted a little, and the vanilla was so barely-there subtle that I went with it.  My thinking was that vanilla notes would be more appealing than sweet ones and I loved it.  Regardless, be sure to use plenty of sea salt to awaken all of the flavors.  The soup shouldn’t taste salty, but one of the secrets of restaurant food is adequate salt.  Finding the sweet spot of just the right amount of salt makes magic out of the mundane.

In terms of processing the soup to pureed perfection, I didn’t time how long I let the motor run.  But it was however long it takes to slip off to the ladies room, wash my hands, and return to the kitchen.  Maybe 3 minutes?

This soup is so perfectly creamy, yet light, that a cup or bowl would not be too much.  But it does look irresistably fetching garnished and served up in chilled shot glasses, arranged on a tray.

White GazpachoVegan White Gazpacho with Green Grapes and a Twist

Yield: approximately 8 cups

2 cups bread torn into bite size pieces

2 cups whole or slivered blanched, skinless almonds

2 cups unsweetened almond milk (believe it or not, vanilla unsweetened is just delicious)

1 large European seedless cucumber, peeled or unpeeled and cut into 2-inch chunks (I prefer unpeeled)

1/4 cup fennel fronds and tender stems

2 large cloves garlic, halved (use roasted garlic if you prefer less pungency)

1/4 cup dry sherry (you can begin with less if you’re not too sure abou the shrry)

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

Plenty of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Garnish: finel chopped fennel fronds and green grape halves

Place bread and almonds in a large bowl.  Scald milk in a saucepan on top of the stove or heat for 2 minutes in the microwave and pour immediately over bread and almonds.  Let soak for an hour, pressing solids down into milk every so often.  At the end of the soaking time, place cucumber, fennel, garlic, sherry, vinegar and a large pinch of sea salt and pepper into the bowl of a food processor.  Process for a couple of minutes, scraping down sides of the bowl as necessary, until smooth.  Add bread, almonds, milk, and another pinch of salt and pepper and process for about 3 minutes, again scraping down sides of bowl as necessary, or until very creamy and smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Be sure to add plenty of salt to amplify the flavors, though the soup shouldn’t taste salty.  Garnish with finely chopped fennel fronds, if desired, and green grape halves. If serving in a shot glass, I like to spear a grape half on a cocktail pick and rest across the rim of the glass.

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Vegan Chorizo, Apple, and Chickpeas with Fresh Kale and Cashew Sauce

Yield: 4 servings (you may have left over Kale Sauce)

Now that school is back in session for the year, my schedule is dramatically different.  So, I have a bit less time to cook, photograph, and post.  But, as has been the case since the launch of The Blooming Platter several years ago, I plan to offer you delicious new recipes right here several times a week with only the occasional hiatus, as in the last week or so.

We had open house at school late one night last week, my 22nd(!) anniversary was Saturday, I had a book-signing at our fabulous “Farm to Fork” event sponsored by Buy Fresh Buy Local Hampton Roads, and then I caught a cold.  Whew!  At any rate, I hope you’ll agree that this one was worth waiting for!

This Spanish-inspired dish is so pretty with its warm golden stew-like base and it’s fresh green sauce.  And the flavors complement each other perfectly: the spicy chorizo offset and cooled just a bit by the fresh kale sauce, made rich and creamy with buttery cashews.  The sweet-tart apples temper the heat of the chorizo, as well, creating a beautifully balanced fall dish that goes together in a snap.  I like to serve it as tapas, but no one would take issue with a big bowl of it!

For the simple recipe, just click on over to One Green Planet who generously shares a bounty of Blooming Platter recipes with their readers. Thanks OGP!


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Vegan Lentils with Soy Chorizo, Orange Tomato, Caramelized Onion, and Kale

Yield: 4 servings

So simple, so satisfying, so colorful, and so nutritious…this dish is fabulously tasty warm, room temperature or even chilled.

I use Trader Joe’s brand soy chorizo and it is mighty spicy.  I find that the sweetness of the tomato helps temper the heat of the chorizo, as does this particular selection and proportion of additional ingredients.

Though it doesn’t need it for flavor, I top the mixture with a little cashew cream for color contrast and sprinkle with just a few roasted and lightly salted pepitas (also from Trader Joe’s) for texture contrast.

It’s the ultimate one-dish wonder!


3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium yellow onion, halved and slivered

Pinch sea salt

1-2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon natural sugar

1-12 ounce package Soy Chorizo (I like Trader Joe’s brand)

4 lightly packed cups chopped fresh kale

Approximately 18 ounces steamed lentils (I purchase Trader Joe’s in the produce department)

1 fresh very large orange tomato or 2 medium, cut into 1/4-inch dice (any color will do; I just think orange is especially pretty in this dish)

Juice of one medium  lime

Optional garnish: cashew cream and roasted and lightly salted pepitas

In a large cast iron skillet over medium high, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Add onion and caramelize, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.  After about 5 minutes, add water and natural sugar.  Reduce heat if necessary to prevent scorching, but you want the onions to be a deep golden brown.  Transfer onions to a medium bowl.

In the same skillet, heat remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, break up chorizo into the skillet and saute until lightly browned and heated through.  Add kale, and continue sauteing just until kale is almost tender; it should still be bright green.  Add lentils and continue cooking until kale is tender and lentils are heated through.  Transfer to bowl with onions, add tomato, sprinkle with lime juice, and toss all together.

Serve warm, room temperature or chilled with a dollop of cashew cream and a sprinkling of pepitas.

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Vegan Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash with Black Salt Cashew Cream

Yikes, today almost came and went with no MoFo!

But never fear, I’ve got the perfect fall recipe for when you need to dish up a little comfort, and who doesn’t need that these days?

Since hash is traditionally served with an egg, and I had a little savory cashew cream in my fridge, I wondered if I could flavor it with black salt, whose distinctly sulpher-y taste is uncannily reminiscent of an egg, and use it as a topping.  Indeed!  It was perfect.

Thank you, Isa, for turning me on to the wonders of Indian black salt, which is actually a beautiful gray color.  Pick up a bottle at Indian markets or specialty food stores.  I snagged mine at Napa Style (and probably paid a lot more) while on vacation in San Francisco this past summer.

Begin making the Cashew Cream the day before you plan to use it:

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 Chorizo and Sweet Potato Hash with Black Salt Cashew Cream

Yield: 4 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil

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

1 large clove garlic

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

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice (it is very important to patiently cut the dice this small

1-12 ounce package vegan Chorizo, casing removed (I use Trader Joe’s brand)

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves


4 or so tablespoons of plain Cashew Cream, seasoned to taste with a pinch or more of black salt (recipe above)

4 sprigs of fresh thyme (it’s especially pretty when in bloom)

In a large cast iron skillet over medium-high, heat olive oil to shimmering.  Add onion and saute, stirring frequently, until softened and a little bit of color starts to develop, about 3 to 5 minutes.  Add garlic, bell pepper, and sweet potato, and saute, stirring frequently about 5 minutes or slightly longer until the bell pepper is quite soft and the sweet potato is beginning to become tender. Crumble chorizo into the pan and saute, still stirring very frequently, for an additional 5 minutes or slightly longer until sweet potato is very tender.  At any point, if the mixture appears to be drying out, you may add another tablespoon of olive oil or water, and/or slightly reduce the heat.  Sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and heat through for another 30 seconds to a minute.  Serve hot with dollops of the Cashew Cream mixture and a sprig of fresh thyme.

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Vegan Spanish Chorizo Pizza with Green Olives, Creamy Macadamia “Cheese” and Marconi Almonds

Yield: 4 pizzas

A couple of weekends ago, Hurricane Irene battered our coast, fortunately with much less ferocity than was anticipated.

When a major storm like Irene threatens, everyone’s minds turn to food and drink.  Water for some, wine for us–ha!  Seriously, we joined our neighbors who cleared the grocery store shelves of bottled water–also recycling bottles and filling them with tap water–but we had plenty of wine on hand too.  For this dish, I recommend something like an Albarino.

Around lunch time, we still had power, and I got the inspiration for this quickie pizza which I figured would just require 3-5 minutes under the broiler.  Surely the power would stay on that long.  And it did; in fact, it never went out.  We were so lucky!  However, the light quality on that stormy day wasn’t optimal for photography, so I apologize for this photo.

At any rate,  when you need a quick fix, regardless of the reason, this one is a keeper.

4-6 inch corn tortillas

1 cup vegan chorizo filling (This delicious filling comes from a new crostini recipe of which I had leftovers; just click the link.  Note, you only need the chorizo, not the white bean, filling.)

8 green olives stuffed with pimentos, sliced in half lenghwise (if you want more, use more!)

approximately 1/2 cup  vegan Creamy Macadamia “Cheese” Spread (this recipe was published on One Green Planet; again, just click the link.)

16 Marconi almonds (these are especially good, but any roasted and lightly salted almond will work)

Preheat broiler to high.  Place the tortillas on a baking sheet; I like to line my baking sheet with Silpat.  Spread each tortilla with about 1/4 cup of the chorizo mixture.  Top each with a pinwheel of 4 olive halves(or more if you choose), cut side up, dollop with approximately 2 tablespoons of cheese, and dot with 4 or so almonds.  Broil on top oven rack for 3 to 5 minutes or until heated through with toasty edges.  Serve immediately with a knife and fork.

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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 Chorizo, White Beans and Spinach Valencian

Yield: 4-6 servings

My good friend and dance teacher, Brent Dunn, has been gradually learning the “Vegan-ese Waltz.”  Recently, he turned me on to Trader Joe’s vegan chorizo.  ¡Delicioso!  It’s rich red spicy goodness doesn’t cry out for much to become a meal.  But I was obsessed with combining it with the flavor of orange, having been at a party Friday night hosted by my friend who went to college in Spain and was regaling us with a tale of a trip to Valencia.  Here’s my spicy Valencian ode (almost as spicy as the story she told!):

1 tablespoon hazelnut or walnut oil (olive oil or canola oil would work fine)

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

pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 large cloves, garlic, minced

1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch slices and then cut in half

12 ounces vegan chorizo, casing removed

1 teaspoon smoked paprika (be sure it’s smoked)

1-15.5 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup vegetable stock

1-15 ounce can petite diced tomatoes

4 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach

1/2 cup cream sherry (contains no cream; refers to a slight sweetness)

Zest of one medium-large naval orange

1/4 cup minced parsley or 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon dried

2 tablespoons plain soy creamer

1/2 to 3/4 cup sliced black olives (choose a meaty variety; brine-cured preferred)

Optional accompaniment: sliced bread, brushed with hazelnut oil (or olive oil) and grilled

Optional garnish: finely chopped hazelnuts

Heat oil to shimmering in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, and saute, stirring, for one minute.  Season with salt and pepper, and add garlic and continue to saute, stirring, for 2 more minutes.   Add bell pepper, and continue sauteeing for about 3 minutes.  Crumble chorizo into the pan and sprinkle with paprika.  Continue sauteeing for about 2 minutes or until heated through.  Add the beans and do the same.  Add stock, tomatoes and sherry and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.  Stir in spinach just until uniformly wilted, but still bright green.  Stir in zest, parsley and soy creamer and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through.  Remove from heat, stir in olives, garnish if desired, and serve hot.

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