Tomato-Peach Caprese (vegan & plant-based)

Today I offer a perfect late summer vegan/plant-based recipe and an apology…for being “gone” for so long.

First the recipe:

Tomato-Peach Caprese is perfect for a light summertime snack, lunch, or dinner. Made with Tofutti Better Than Ricotta Cheese, fresh peaches and tomatoes, and chopped pistachios, it is especially light and refreshing served with cucumber slices, but serve it with crostini for a treat that is a little more substantial. We love the ricotta, but if you can’t find it locally, feel free to substitute Better Than Cream Cheese. But, good news: all Tofutti products are available at PlantX.


2 large cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup Tofutti Better Than Ricotta Cheese

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar

1.5 ounces chives, snipped (use kitchen shears); reserve 1 to 2 tablespoons

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 large ripe peach, diced

1 large ripe tomato, diced

1 to 2 tablespoons pistachios, finely chopped

Sea salt

Accompaniments: crackers or cucumber slices


At least 30 minutes before preparing, combine garlic and olive oil in a small container and let steep at room temperature.

In a small bowl, stir together Tofutti Better Than Ricotta Cheese, red wine or balsamic vinegar, chives, and pepper until completely combined. Spread onto serving plate or board.

In another small bowl, gently toss together tomatoes and peaches with 1 tablespoon garlic oil and spoon on top of ricotta. Drizzle with remaining garlic oil and sprinkle with reserved chives, pistachios, and sea salt to taste.

Serve immediately with crackers and/or cucumber slices.

*Created exclusively for Tofutti Brands, Inc. by Betsy DiJulio of The Blooming Platter.

The apology:

As some of you may know, over a year ago, much to my delight, Tofutti Brands hired me as a recipe developer and food photographer. But, since fall 2020, I have also been a full-time teaching artist in the Upper School at Norfolk Academy in Norfolk, VA, where I concurrently–and gratefully–serve as the curator of Perrel Gallery. This rich new path follows a 16-year career as a public high school art teacher. And Tofutti isn’t my only side hustle, as I manage a busy magazine and newspaper freelance writing business.

I share this not as an excuse, but an explanation for my too-long neglect of my beloved website, The Blooming Platter.

Initially, I planned to post a recipe every time Tofutti did, but that plan got sidetracked by life and by my obsessive weekly recipe creation and testing. However, with this post, I am recommitting to that plan. I sometimes create other recipes which I will also share here. But for the most part, I am so consumed–see what I did there?–by my tasty work for Tofutti that virtually all my new recipes include Better Than Cream Cheese, Better Than Sour Cream, or Better Than Ricotta.

Substitutions/Tested Recipes

You can certainly try substituting other brands BUT be advised that, not only are Tofutti my favorite plant-based cream cheese, sour cream, and ricotta, but the recipes have only been tested with these products.

Get the Skinny

To make sure you don’t miss a single recipe, visit Tofutti here and sign up for our mailing list where your privacy will be respected and you will not be inundated. But you will receive all our recipes and eCookbooks, with the next featuring recipes for busy school and work mornings, afternoons, and evenings, as we gear back up for another school year.

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Mini-Tomato Pie Tartlets with Press-In Crust (vegan & plant-based)

Yield: 6 tartlets

I think I am becoming an unintended expert at micro-sizing food, mostly out of necessity. Namely becauseI am cooking for one and am a restless cook who grows bored easily if I have to eat the same thing day after day.

My omni partner, Bob, does not eat the way I do, almost on principle. We have had occasional heartfelt discussions, a story for a different day, about my feelings of rejection when he declines even a taste of the dishes I prepare because, as for many of us, cooking is a gesture of sharing and love.

But, he, a smoker for many years, truly tastes food differently and, like all of us, wants to control his own diet. Still, it is fun to cook together as long as we can tailor the ingredients for our own tastes and lifestyles. Basically, anything that can be custom-filled or -topped works well: tacos, pizzas, wontons, fried ravioli, etc. But, I can assure you, he would not go near a tomato pie.

If we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, I would share with friends as I always have, but many of us are not too keen on eating food from other people’s kitchens right now.

So cakes become cupcakes and cupcake recipes are downsized to make only four and, in this case, a big luscious tomato pie became six luscious two-bite tartlets.

Months ago, I purchased a bag of these tartlet pans at a thrift store to make this really cool metal floral wall hanging for a friend. All of the flowers were assembled out of metal housewares And I featured the end result in my DIY Decor column. I never really thought I would use the leftovers, but they have come in handy on a number of occasions.

Ingredient note: I am a calorie-counter and an avid exerciser. So I use Walton Farms no-calorie mayonnaise available at our Harris Teeter. (It is not great on its own, but when it is mixed with other ingredients with strong flavors, it is worth it to me to save 100 calories per tablespoon.) But use whatever kind of mayo you prefer, including homemade. I make a delicious tofu mayonnaise (available here on this site) with only 10 calories per tablespoon, but I was too hungry to stop and make a batch.

I use Everything Bagel seasoning in my creamy topping because I love the mixture of dried garlic and onion, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, etc. Feel free to omit, as there will be plenty of flavor without it. But, I highly recommend.

Whatever you choose to top yours with, enjoy celebrating these glistening red gems of the season in two-bitesize format.

Mini-Tomato Pie Tartlets Press-In Crust (vegan & plant-based)

6 approximately 1.5 x 3 inch tartlet pans

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 tablespoon non-dairy milk

Pinch sea salt

Pinch garlic powder

Pinch onion powder

1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise

3 tablespoons shredded vegan mozzarella cheese

1 tablespoon shredded or grated vegan parmesan cheese

1 generous teaspoon thinly sliced green onions

1 teaspoon minced fresh basil or chiffonade

Pinch sea salt

Pinch black pepper

Optional (but recommended): 1/2 tsp Everything Bagel seasoning or to taste

6 slices tomato (to fit your tart pans)

Garnish: fresh basil sprigs

Preheat oven to 350°. Place tart pans on baking sheet. In small bowl, combine flour, vegetable oil, non-dairy milk, salt, and garlic and onion powders. Mix together with a fork until moist and crumbly. Add a drop or two more oil or non-dairy milk if necessary. A little bit of the dough should hold together when pinched with your fingers. Divide into six portions, crumble into the bottom of each tart pan, and press evenly onto sides and bottom. Bake 10 minutes or until set and just beginning to turn golden. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, blend together remaining ingredients except tomatoes and garnish. After tart shells have baked, lay a slice of tomato in each one and top with 1/6 of mixture. Return to oven and bake for another 10 minutes. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs and serve warm or at room temperature.

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Tomato Jam–Simple as (Tomato) Pie!

Tomato Jam

Yield: 2 pints (4 cups)

Please forgive me for ignoring my precious blog and all of you.  You’ve been on my mind…

As the year anniversary of my husband’s death approached (July 30), I found myself struggling a bit emotionally.  It didn’t help that, right about the 11-month mark, I began to feel a deep longing for a romantic connection, a concept that had been repulsive up until that point.

There were signs–if you believe in that kind of thing–that it was time to move on in my romantic life [I literally found heart shaped items on the ground in front of me (jewelry, a red felt pouch, etc.)] and, at the suggestion of a friend, joined  That could be the subject for many posts, though probably not on a recipe blog.  But, suffice it to say, I have been more than a little distracted for a month, though a vacation last week provided some much-need perspective.

So, instead of a treatice on my looking-for-love life, I offer my tomato jam.

Of late, all of my gardening friends are sharing what appears to be their bumper crops of tomatoes this year: golden pear, cherry, big boys, heirlooms, and more.

Finding myself disappearing under the bounty, but not wanting the fruits of their labors to spoil and go to waste, I wanted to make a batch of something that would use a lot of the tomatoes, produce a manageable quantity–perhaps that I could give as gifts–and not require a lot of my limited time.  So, salsa was out.  I love it, but way too much chopping.  And I rarely eat pasta, so tomato sauce wasn’t the answer either.

Since my husband passed away (and since I joined Match!) I’ve lost 12 pounds and my appetite has gone on holiday.  So I find myself mostly snacking these days–healthy snacking–and love pretty little bites of contrasting tastes and textures.  You know, layers and dollops of this and that.  In the mix there has to be something that packs a little punch, like squirting mustard on a (vegan) hot dog.  So, the idea of a tomato jam occured to me, different than a catsup or a chutney.

I simply tossed tomatoes, onion, and garlic in the food processor and then transferred that mixture to a saucepan with sugar, red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and smoky paprika (for an extra layer of flavor), simmered it for about a half hour, and added about a tablespoon of fresh basil for a hint of freshness at the very end.  A little bit sweet, it is outstanding served with something a little salty and tangy like a Treeline or Heidi Ho brand vegan cheese on a crunchy cracker or crispbread of some type.

Normally, I wouldn’t post a photo of a recipe in which I hadn’t cleaned the rim of the serving vessel, but I had forgotten to photograph it at home, traveled yesterday evening to another town for a picnic with it, and realized I needed to snap a quick shot just as we were about to dine, so this is the best I could do.

I didn’t properly “can” it using a water bath–no time for that–instead, I simply put it in a clean jar, wrapped a strip of salvaged wrapping paper around it to hide the label–not time to remove it–and tied it with a bit of twine for a cute, casual gift presentation.

Enjoy one of the tastiest gifts of summer!

4 pints (8 cups) tomatoes of any color, including mixed (grape, cherry, larger tomatoes cut into chunks–whatever you have!)

1 small white or yellow onion, quartered

4 large cloves garlic, halved

1/2 cup natural sugar (I like demerera)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar (I used a chianti variety)

1 tablespoon smoked paprika (or try another spice like curry powder)

1 tablespoon sea salt

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1 tablespoon fresh basil chiffonade (leaves stacked, rolled, and very thinly sliced)

Place tomatoes, onion, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until pulpy, but textured.  Transfer to a saucepan and stir in sugar, vinegar, paprika, salt, and pepper.  Simmer on medium-high for about 30 minutes, stirring more frequently toward the end to prevent sticking or scorching, until almost all moisture has been evaporated.  It will cook way down to about half the volume.  Remove from heat, stir in basil, and store, refrigerated, in jars or cartons.  Perfect for gift-giving.

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Vegan Smokey Pumpkin Grits with Maple-Roasted Pepitas

Yield: 4 servings

This golden and delicious dish personifies fall.  Whether you serve it for breakfast or brunch, as tapas, or as a side dish, it is sure to satisfy as a warm and comforting ode to autumn.

When I was growing up, my family probably ate cheese grits for breakfast on more Sundays than not.  When I became vegan, I learned that cheesy grits need not be a faint and distant childhood memory, thanks to nutritional yeast.

For this recipe, I make the grits even more creamy and golden, with just a hint of smoke and savory sweetness, by incorporating coconut creamer, smoked paprika, vegan butter, and pureed pumpkin.  The creaminess of the grits is perfectly set off by crunchy pepitas lightly toasted with more nutritional yeast, salt, and just a hint of maple syrup.

For some recipes, the garnish is nice, though not necessary.  But for this one–though I would still make the dish even if I didn’t have fresh sage growing in the garden–I feel that tiny, tender and very young sage leaves add the perfect finishing touch to balance and accent all of the other flavor notes.

Find the simple and simply addicting recipe HERE at One Green Planet!


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Vegan Golden Grape Tomato Tart with Spinach Pesto and Spicy Romesco Sauce

Yield: 4 4-inch tarts (you will have enough pesto to make 8 and lots of Romesco sauce for drizzling over any number of dishes that would benefit from a creamy kick)

A lunch that ended up in the woods beside our house is the inauspicious beginning of this recipe that may just be an all-time favorite.

After a nice long hike at First Landing State Park (previously and more picturesquely named Seashore State Park) with my close friend Mary Beth Nixon, I stopped for an Indian buffet to-go from a fairly new restaurant near her house.  Neither the restaurant, nor the styro-box, emitted that intoxicating aroma characteristic of Indian restaurants.  Turns out, there was a good reason.  It was the blandest Indian food I have ever eaten.  Correction, it was the only bland Indian food I have ever eaten.  So I nibbled a little at it on the way home, but on the way up our long driveway, I stopped and tossed all but the container and spoon into my unofficial compost pile in the woods.

Pretty hungry after no breakfast, dog walks, and our hour-long park hike, I wracked my brain for what I could make from the ingredients I had on hand.  Yesterday, I had picked up golden grape tomatoes and bell peppers, among other produce, at a local farmer’s market.  Noting that I had half of a red pepper leftover from a dish I’d made for lunch yesterday, I remembered the outstanding Romesco sauce that had been served over chickpeas at the 1 Michelin-starred vegetarian restaurant, Ubuntu, where we had celebrated my birthday (for the final time this year!) last Saturday night in Napa.   I didn’t have almonds, but I had walnuts and they would have to do.

We had also been served the fruitiest, “meatiest” olives in a captivating fennel pesto.  So, while I didn’t have fennel, I did have some fresh baby spinach that I knew would make a lovely pesto.  With my go-to press-in dough baked to make the crust, I could then nestle the grape tomatoes onto a creamy layer of spinach pesto and drizzle the Romesco over the top for beautiful color contrasts and bursts of exciting flavors.

Voila!  Golden Grape Tomato Tarts were born.

Spicy Romesco Sauce:

1/2 of a large red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded

1 extra-large tomato, cored and quartered

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup walnuts (or the nut of your choice; almonds are traditional, but use what you have and feel free to mix and match)

1/4 cup Panko bread crumbs

2-3 large cloves garlic, fairly thickly sliced

2-4 small red dried chilies, ends removed, split, seeds removed, and torn into about 3 pieces

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or 1 tablespoon red wine + 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place oven rack in top position and preheat oven to broil.  Line a baking sheet with Silpat or foil and place bell pepper and tomatoes, cut side down, in center of sheet.  Broil for 5  minutes or until the pepper’s skin is charred.  Remove the pepper and broil the tomatoes 5 minutes longer or until their skin is charred.  When cool enough to handle, remove and discard skin.  Meanwhile, heat oil over medium-high in a large cast iron skillet.  Add nuts, bread crumbs, and garlic, and saute, stirring almost constantly, until ingredients begin to turn golden, about 1-2 minutes.  Then add chilies and cook 1-2 minutes more until the color of the chilies brighten and the nuts, bread crumbs and garlic are golden.  Watch carefully to prevent scorching.  Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor, including the bell pepper, tomato, all of the contents of the skillet, including the oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Process until almost smooth.  Scrape into an airtight container and set aside.  Store leftovers in the refrigerator.


1 1/2 whole wheat flour (I love spelt, but any kind will do, even white whole wheat or a combination)

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons natural sugar (may omit, but I like the slight sweetness with the sweet tomatoes and spiciness of the Romesco sauce)

2 tablespoons soy milk

1/2 cup canola oil (sounds like a lot, but it is needed; just eat low- or no-fat meals for the rest of the day)

Preheat oven to 400.  Place 4 4-inch tart shells with removable bottoms on a baking sheet (I line my sheet with Silpat).  Then place dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  Make a well in the center and pour in wet ingredients.  Stir together with a fork just until completely combined and mixture holds together.  Divide into fourths and press each evenly into the bottom and sides of each tart pan.  The bottom of a drinking glass can help with this task.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the crusts are barely starting to brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 3 minutes.  Leave oven on.  While crusts bake, make Spinach Pesto.

Spinach Pesto:

4 cups lightly packed fresh baby spinach

1/4 cup shelled pistachios (or the nut of your choice)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place spinach, nuts, and nutritional yeast in the bowl of a food processor and process until a paste begins to form, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.  With the motor running, drizzle in olive oil, balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, and a pinch of both salt and pepper.  Continue processing until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper if needed.  Scrape into an airtight container and set aside until needed.  Refrigerate any leftovers.

72 golden grape tomatoes or about 1 pint (red would be fine, but not as nice of a color contrast with the Romesco sauce)

Garnish: fresh basil sprigs

After crusts have baked and cooled for about 3 minutes, spread each with 1 generous tablespoon of Pesto Sauce.  Arrange 18 tomatoes–or whatever will fit nicely in one layer–on top of the pesto.  Drizzle each with 1 generous tablespoon of the Romesco Sauce.  Return the tarts to the oven and bake an additional 15 minutes or until the crusts are nicely browned and the Romesco Sauce looks slightly set.  Remove the baking sheet from the oven and carefully remove the tart pans to a wire rack until cool enough to handle.  Remove the tart bottoms from the side rings, leaving the tarts sitting on their removable bottoms.   Serve warm garnished with sprigs of basil.  You may heat and pass additional Romesco Sauce if desired.

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Vegan Antipasto Tart in Vegan No-Fuss Puff Pastry Crust

Yield: 4 servings

***My 100th Post!***

This main course was born out of a desire for a balanced meal starring fresh raw tomatoes because to cook them this time of year would be a sacrilege. The crust makes use of Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa’s, technique for making a rim that is as easy as pie. The filling is a melange of fresh uncooked “slicing tomatoes,” white beans, and Mediterranean items found on the increasingly common grocery store antipasto bars. A tahini dressing lightly binds the ingredients together. So, while this meal is pretty enough for company, it is simple enough for a weeknight family dinner.

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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Vegan Salad-on-a-Stick with Vegan Tomato Vinaigrette

Yield: 4 servings

A clever recipe for salad-on-a-stick in a recent issue of the Food Network Magazine inspired my slightly altered version. Because I decided to make a luscious tomato vinaigrette for dunking, I substituted red bell pepper chunks for cherry tomatoes on the skewers. And I also substituted folded Romaine leaves in place of the recommended iceberg wedges because the former looked especially good at the market. This fun salad might even have kids (and adult partners) wanting to eat their veggies.

4 long wooden or metal skewers

12 cucumber slices, about ¼-inch thick, cut on the diagonal
12 carrot slices, about ¼-inch thick, cut on the diagonal
12 small to medium Romaine lettuce leaves
1 red bell pepper, quartered lengthwise, cored, and each quarter cut crosswise into three pieces

String ingredients onto skewers in the order listed above. Repeat three times per skewer. For the lettuce, cut or break off any tough part of the stalk end and fold the leaves over vertically and horizontally before spearing with the skewer. Note: you can substitute any veggies of your choice, including small wedges of iceberg lettuce for the Romaine.

Roma Tomato Vinaigrette:
3 Roma tomatoes, quartered
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
5 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Leaves from 5-inch stalk of rosemary
Pinch sugar
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth. Pour into a serving vessel, cover, and refrigerate until serving time. May be made in advance.

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Vegan Black Olive Paste (in Cherry Tomato Boats)

Yield: 4 servings

These cute, tasty and fresh appetizers were inspired by an olive paste recipe I copied years ago out of The Surreal Gourmet and by the bounty of fresh tomatoes in our area this time of year. When I decided on the ingredients and amounts that I wanted to use in the paste, I went back and looked at my old recipe and they were surprisingly similar. I guess I had “implanted” that recipe deep into my psyche.

Olive Paste:
1-6 ounce can (dry weight) pitted black olives
2 tablespoons pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, etc.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup packed flat leaf parsley
1 ½ teaspoons fresh oregano leaves (or ½ teaspoon dried)
¾ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or ¼ teaspoon dried)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth. Scrape into a serving vessel, cover, and refrigerate until serving time. May be made in advance.

4-8 fairly large cherry tomatoes (one or two per person)
a handful of smoked almonds
sprigs of flat leaf parsley

Prepare tomatoes one of three ways: halve them, cut an “X” in the top, or use a melon baller to scoop out a little bit of the flesh from the top (save for another purpose). Using a small spoon, dollop olive paste in or on tomatoes and garnish each with 1-3 smoked almonds and a sprig of flat leaf parsley.

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Vegan Catalan Tomato Bread

Catalan Tomato Bread
Yield: 4 servings

My friend Cindy told me to be on the lookout for this bread when my husband and I went to Barcelona a few years back. We had no trouble finding each other and beginning a torrid Spanish affair. No recipe could be simpler nor truer to the essence of its main ingredients.

You may either prepare this recipe just before serving or allow each diner to prepare his or her own.

4 slices grilled or toasted crusty bread (Ciabatta is nice)
4 garlic cloves, sliced in half
2 large Roma tomatoes, sliced in half
Extra virgin olive oil (choose a shimmering gold or green variety)
Kosher or sea salt

Rub each slice of bread liberally with cut side of garlic clove. Then rub with cut side of tomato, squeezing juice and pulp onto bread. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.

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