I am THRILLED to be one of a dozen invited contributors to participate in “Let’s Eat,” a new initiative of Eastern Virginia’s public TV and radio station, WHRO!
I had no more created this recipe than I received the invitation.
Since it is sponsored by Whole Foods, VA Beach, and our local chapter of Buy Fresh, Buy Local, a recipe that featured local produce seemed in order. At the time I submitted it, pattypan squash was in season, but the site was just launched and, alas, pattypan squash is no longer in season, at least not in Coastal Virginia. But the pesto would be luscious on grilled pumpkin, sweet potatoes, and much more. And my basil is still in full bloom!
Stay tuned for more tasty treats ready for their close-up. I will be posting regularly on “Let’s Eat” and will direct you from here to there!
Like our dreams, sometimes the origins of cravings can be traced right to their source, and other times, they seem to have emerged out of nowhere. The latter is the case with these Vegan Thai Sloppy Joes.
I know not from whence the idea came, but I had to struggle during my Saturday morning yoga class to suppress visions of pungent red curry paste, creamy coconut milk, and crumbly-chewy tempeh so that I could follow my teacher’s directive to “focus on your breath.”
I whipped into the grocery store on the way home for lite coconut milk and nuts, but everything else was at the ready in our pantry and fridge, following last week’s trip to the farm stand and Trader Joe’s, speaking of Joes.
Sloppy Joes would not be considered a balanced meal by anyone’s standards, even when built around tempeh. And I wanted this to be a one dish wonder. So a quick mental review of veggies found in Thai dishes resulted in the addition of finely chopped carrot and farm stand-fresh kale (in place of the more typical spinach). The color, taste and texture that these ingredients added, not to mention the moisture, was exactly right.
You can certainly serve this addicting mixture on toasted buns, but trying to keep the finished dish more true to it’s Asian inspiration, I like it best served over lightly toasted rice cakes.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped carrot (I use a food processor for this task)
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
2 cups, stemmed, and finely chopped kale, Swiss chard or spinach (I use a food processor for this too)
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup water
8 ounces tempeh (any variety, unseasoned)
1 tablespoon red curry paste, or more to taste (available on the international foods aisle of most grocery stores and at Asian markets)
1 tablespoon tomato paste (you can substitute catchup in a pinch)
1 teaspoon soy sauce (I use lite or low sodium)
1/2 teaspoon natural sugar
1 can light coconut milk (you can use regular if you don’t mind the calories, as it does have more intense flavor)
1 tablespoon vegan fish sauce (sold as Vegetarian Fish Sauce in Asian markets; you can omit, but it adds a distinctive Thai flavor)
Zest of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Accompaniment: plain unsalted or lightly salted rice cakes (use small rice cakes if serving this dish as an appetizer), toasted quickly on each side in a skillet lightly coated with nonstick spray
Garnishes: lime wedges, lightly salted peanuts or cashews, fresh cilantro sprigs
Heat oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium-high. Add carrot and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes. Add the onion, another pinch of salt, and saute another 2 minutes. Then add the kale and the garlic, another pinch of salt and the water, and saute for an additional 2 minutes. Add the tempeh and saute 2 minutes more. Add curry paste, tomato paste, soy sauce, sugar, coconut milk and fish sauce, and saute, still stirring frequently, for a final 10 minutes or until mixture thickens, slightly reduces, and all flavors combine. Stir in lime zest and chopped cilantro, and serve immediately over toasted rice cakes garnished as desired.
It’s a little tricky to shoot nice images because, by the time the guests arrive with their beautiful food–made according to or adapted from Julia’s recipes or just very French–the light isn’t very cooperative. But, I remembered to stage this photograph with the small amount of leftovers we had of this scrumptious dish. I just never remembered to post it.
Called Thai Lettuce Wraps by their creator, Diane Stobo, we changed the name to “French Vietnamese” to fit our theme. Made by Amelia, aka “Little Chef,” the young niece of two of our guests, the dish was a hit with everyone. She is absolutely adorable and wanted to contribute something to the dinner, meet me–and our dogs–and have me sign a couple of copies of The Blooming Platter Cookbook. I was truly touched.
Amelia and her aunt recommend a few more walnuts in the filling. And, to veganize the sauce, simply substitute agave nectar for the honey. Also, since it’s now fall, use whatever tender lettuce leaves you can find in season.
For 150 original mouthwatering seasonal recipes, I invite you to check out my new cookbook, The Blooming Platter: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes.
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.
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).
I’ve never been a huge fan of the flavor of typical stuffed peppers. But I love bell peppers, including in Thai food. So why not stuff them with a creamy coconut filling chock full of other ingredients in some of my favorite Thai dishes? Why not indeed! The result is spectacular. Feel free to use Jasmine rice in place of the quinoa. The latter is what I had on hand and, even though it’s not typically Thai, I love it’s flavor, texture, and fairly high protein. Japanese eggplants and bell peppers were beautiful at our farm market today, so I used them, along with some spinach from the grocery store and some Thai basil from our garden, but feel free to use any of your favorite Thai ingredients like small cooked cubes of sweet potato, green peas, cilantro, mint, etc. Just be sure to contrast colors and textures. I love onion and meant to add some sliced spring onion but forgot, as I was juggling several different things, but I’m not sure they were needed. Still, onion is always good, so add if you like. Bottom line? This recipe is very flexible. Have fun!
2 yellow bell peppers, halved lengthwise, membrane and seeds removed
1 cup quinoa
1-15 ounce can coconut milk (lite or regular)
generous pinch of sea salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 Japanese eggplant, cut into 1/4 inch dice (approximately 1 cup)
pinch of sea salt and more to taste
1/2 cup 2-inch pieces of carrot, finely chopped (I use a food processor)
1/2 of a large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1 small mild-medium chile pepper, seeds and membrane removed, finely diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1/4 cup vegan fish sauce + an optional additional tablespoon (sold as vegetarian fish sauce in Asian markets)
Juice of 1 small-medium lime (approximately 1 tablespoon)
2 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach, finely chopped (I use a food processor)
1 tablespoon minced Thai or Vietnamese basil
Garnish: sprigs of Thai basil, cilantro, or mint; whole or chopped roasted and lightly salted cashews or peanuts; and optional lime wedges
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a small baking dish and add yellow bell pepper halves, cut side up. Bake approximately 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make filling. In a 1-quart saucepan, place quinoa, coconut milk and a generous pinch of sea salt. Stir well, partially cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until tender, thick, and creamy. While quinoa cooks, heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high. Add eggplant and a pinch of sea salt and saute, stirring frequently, for about a minute. Add carrot, red bell pepper, and diced chile pepper, and saute, stirring frequently, for another couple of minutes. Add garlic, ginger, fish sauce, and lime juice, and cook, stirring frequently, for about another minute or until garlic and ginger is softened. Stir in spinach and basil, stir, and heat through. Taste and add additional salt and/or vegan fish sauce if desired. Divide filling evenly among yellow bell pepper halves and return to oven for about 10 minutes or until filling is heated through and peppers are tender, but hold their shape. Serve hot garnished as desired.
Yield: 6-8 servings
Inspired by the gift of tiny sweet plums from Mike, a friend of our dance teacher Diane’s, this cool, light and refreshing Thai-inspired salad is a feast for the senses. (If you don’t have access to plums, you can substitute grape tomatoes for a similar color and texture and slightly different–but still delicious–flavor.)
I thought that cucumber sounded like an odd ingredient, but please don’t omit. It adds welcome color, taste and texture to this beautiful soup.
2-3 tablespoons canola oil
2 shallots or 1/3 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small dried chili, whole
6 cups vegetable stock
3 kaffir lime leaves (available in the freezer section of Asian markets)
2 medium-large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size dice
2 tablespoons vegan fish sauce
2 tablespoons lime juice
2-3 teaspoons sugar
1/2 of a large red bell pepper, cut into bite size pieces
1/2 cup rich or extra-rich coconut milk
1 medium cucumber, cut into bite size pieces (leave peel on)
Handful of fresh basil leaves, preferably Thai basil leaves
Heat oil until shimmering in the bottom of a soup pot or wok over medium-high heat. Add the shallot or onion, garlic and chili. Stir fry for just a few minutes to release fragrance and soften onion and garlic. Add stock and lime leaves and bring to a boil. Add the sweet potato. Reduce heat to medium and allow soup to simmer until the potato is easily pierced with a fork, about 6-8 minutes. While sweet potato is cooking, add the vegan fish sauce, lime juice and sugar. When sweet potato has softened, and the red pepper and the cucumber. Allow to simmer for only 1-2 minutes, as the vegetables should retain their firmness. Reduce heat to low and add the coconut milk, stirring to incorporate. Adjust seasoning for balance of salt, sweetness and spice. Stir in basil leaves and allow to wilt. Remove whole chili and serve warm. Soup keeps and reheats well.
Source: Veganized from: http://thaifood.about.com/od/thaisnacks/r/pumpkinsoup.htm
Yield: approximately 20 small fritters
These beautiful fritters flecked with yellow, red and green are perfect for any festive occasion, but easy enough for any night of the week. We served them for Thanksgiving as one of two side dishes. The original recipe called for two eggs which I decided to substitute with blended tofu. I was nervous about my decision, especially because there appeared to be too much tofu and veggies for the amount of liquid. But the batter came together nicely. And when the first mounds of it hit the oil, my fears were completely allayed. They were perfect! Not only did they hold together beautifully, but they were crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. And they were delicious with me and my sister-in-law, Tina’s, Thai Cranberry Dipping Sauce. I suggested some ingredients and she put them all together perfectly. See our (loose) recipe below.
1/2 cup mashed firm tofu
4 tablespoons vegan fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 block firm tofu, cut into small dice
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
4 scallions, sliced thin
1 loose cup chopped fresh coriander
1/2 of a medium red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 kaffir lime leaves (available in the freezer section of Asian markets), stems removed and snipped into slivers (I made a chiffonade by placing one on top of the other, rolling them up, and cutting them into thin slivers with scissors)
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour or rice flour (I used all-purpose)
1 teaspoon baking powder
canola oil for frying
Puree together first three ingredients in a blender. Add the next 8 ingredients and stir together. Mix the flour with the baking powder and add to mixture, stirring to blend in completely and form a thick, lumpy batter. Taste and add up to one more tablespoon of vegan fish sauce if not salty enough. Heat about 1-inch of canola oil in skillet over medium high heat until a droplet of water sizzles and sputters. When oil is ready, drop 4-5 heaping tablespoon or small scoops (my preference) of the mixture into the oil, preventing them from touching each other. (Odd shapes are desirable.) Cook for 1-2 minutes or until they are golden on the underside and are set enough to turn. Gently turn them with a spatula or tongs and fry until golden brown on the second side. Remove from oil and allow to drain on an absorbent towel or paper. Keep warm in the oven set on the lowest temperature. Continue frying in this manner until all of the batter has been used. Serve with Thai Cranberry Dipping Sauce.
Source: Veganized from http://thaifood.about.com/od/vegetarianthairecipes/r/thacornfritters.htm
Thai Cranberry Dipping Sauce:
1 small can of whole cranberry sauce (or about 1 cup of homemade cranberry sauce)
Stir sauce in a small bowl and add some of each of the following to taste:
Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Source: Betsy and Tina DiJulio