Vegan Tex-Mex Sweet ‘Tater Skins
(with black beans and a Chipotle-Lime Sour Cream Sauce)

Yield: 8 potato skins

Powerful cravings seem to be inspiring a lot of my recipes lately.  This one was based on a dish spotted on the online menu of The Hound’s Tale in Williamsburg, VA: sweet potato and black bean tacos.

However, not feeling like I wanted the additional calories of taco shelsl, it occured to me that the potato “shells” would be the perfect containers–like cute little boats–and these delicious, spicy, but not-too-firey, potato skin boats were born.  An optional Frito scoop garnish nods in the tortilla direction.

Easy and quick, other than baking the potatoes, you can bulk them up many ways by adding additional ingredients like sauteed onion, garlic, and bell peppers for more of a fajita style.  But I like them just like they are.

Hungry though you may be, I would advise against microwaving the potatoes or skipping the extra 10-minute skin crisping step.  I promise the texture will be worth it.

4 medium-small sweet potatoes, scrubbed and lightly pricked all over with a fork

1/2 cup shredded vegan cheddar or cheddar-jack cheese blend (I use the So Delicious brand cheddar-jack variety) + optional 1/2 cup additional cheese

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

4 cups moderately firmly packed baby kale, lightly steamed (I microwave it for 1 minute in a medium bowl)

1-15.5 ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained

6 green onions, thinly sliced (optional: reserve 2 of the sliced onions for garnish)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Chipotle-Lime Sour Cream Sauce (recipe follows)

Garnishes: cilantro sprigs and optional Frito’s scoops and reserved green onions; roasted pumpkin seeds would also be lovely

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place potatoes on an oiled or Silpat-lined baking sheet and spray them lightly with non-stick cooking spray.  Bake 1 hour.  Reduce heat to 350 degrees.  Let potatoes cool enough to handle and then slice in half lengthwise.  Using a spoon, scoop out flesh leaving a 1/8-inch shell. Spray inside of shells lightly with non-stick spray and return to oven for 10 minutes.  In a large bowl, mash potato flesh with 1/2 cup cheese, cumin, garlic powder, and smoked paprika.  Fold in lightly steamed kale, black beans, and green onions.  Season to tasted with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide mixture evenly among potato skins, top with optional 1 tablespoon shredded cheese, and bake for 15 minutes.  Serve immediately drizzled with Chipotle-Lime Sour Cream sauce and garnished, as desired, with sprigs of cilantro, Frito’s scoops, reserved green onions, and/or roasted pumpkin seeds.

Chipotle-Lime Sour Cream Sauce

1/2 cup vegan sour creeam

1 teaspoon adobo sauce from a can of chipotle chilies in adobo sauce

Zest of 1/2 medium lime

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until completely combined.

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Vegan Buffalo Chickpea Potato Skins

 Yield: 8 potato skins

This recipe is my response to a powerful craving for comfort food during a week that experienced the Las Vegas mass shooting, the death of a friend, the death of a friend’s aunt, and the death of Tom Petty.

Every month, we have gotten together with  the Gelpis for two years and counting to cook back and forth at each of our homes, always with a theme. With comfort food this month’s concept, I was fantasizing about all kinds of naughty dishes like fried onion rings, Buffalo Chickpea Dip, potato skins, loaded tater tot nachos, and more.

As the week drew to an end, I had reigned myself in, deciding to make vegan pigs in a blanket with a pepper jelly – ketchup dipping sauce and combining the dip and the skins into one best-of-both-worlds dish: Buffalo Chickpea Potato Skins. The Gelpis contributed a tasty vegetable pizza ring and a vegan apple pie, both with divinely crispy crusts.

Small servings, no seconds, and smarter choices than I was contemplating at the beginning of the week meant that I was very satisfied, but not stuffed and ashamed.

I could make a steady diet of these potato skins and hope you agree.

  • 4 medium-small baking potatoes, scrubbed
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1-15.5 ounce can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot)
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup  + 1/4 cup vegan shredded cheddar cheese or cheddar cheese blend (I used So Delicious brand cheddar-jack blend)
  • 1/2 cup vegan blue cheese or ranch dressing (I used Daiya brand, which makes both)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Optional: 1/2 to 1 teaspoon non-chicken vegetable soup base (semi-liquid paste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 4 green onions, sliced
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prick the potatoes a few times with a fork, spray potatoes lightly with non-stick spray, and bake until tender, about 1 hour. Lower temperature to 350 degrees.
  3. Let the potatoes cool slightly, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out the flesh leaving about 1/8 inch shell. Place the scooped out potato in a large bowl.
  4. Spray the potato skins with nonstick spray and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
  5. Add all remaining ingredients to the scooped out potsto flesh except 1/4 cup shredded cheese and the sliced green onion. Stir well, Mash with a potato masher, and stir again until all ingredients are completely combined and the desired texture is reached.
  6. Divide potato and chickpea mixture evenly among potato skins, mounding attractively. Sprinkle with reservedcheese, dividing evenly.
  7. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through. (Shredded cheese on top may not look melted.)
  8. Garnish each potato skin with 1/8 of the green onions and serve immediately.
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Vegan Mini-Tater Tot Waffles
with Savory or Sweet Tot Toppings

Yield: 4 mini-waffles (recipe easily multplies)

[At bottom, I include instructions for one large waffle.]

Last week, eyes wide, a colleague brought down to my classroom a culinary magazine featuring a San Francisco restaurant specializing in Tater Tot Waffles.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Basially, anything is better atop a Tot it seems, so while this chef’s toppers tended to be fish-and meat-centric, I figured a crispy-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside potato base would be irresistable with anything–or nothing–on top.  And I was right.

I looked up a recipe pretty sure that Tater Tot Waffles are a thing–and they are–and followed it to the letter using Alexia’s Potato Puffs with roasted garlic and cracked black pepper.  I have nothing against good ‘ole Ore-Ida, but I found myself at Whole Foods, and Alexia’s the brand they stock.  But it took almost one bag–or 5ish servings–to make one waffle, which Bob and I split 3/4 to 1/4, and that’s a bit too much of a good thing.

So, tonight, with him out to dinner with his brother and me craving more of this crisp-and-slightly-greasy goodness, but not very hungry, I wondered if I could make Mini-Tater Tot Waffles.  Indeed!  They cook up brilliantly, are easier to remove from the waffle iron, and lend themselves to party fare or to the tapas-style meals I prefer.  Plus, just last night I had sent out invitations to the Starlight Supper Club gathering that Bob and I are hosting on March 4 and included Mini-Thai Tater Tots, so I figured I better make certain the concept actually worked.

Boy does it!  Having gone out for Ethiopian food on Saturday night and brought home leftovers, I decided to top mine with a tiny spoonful of the collard greens and a little piece of cooked tomato with a dab of vegan mayo for color and creamy contrast.  Wow!  But top them with anything you choose, savory or sweet..

Mini-Tater Tot Waffles

16 tater tots (I used Alexia brand Potato Puffs with roasted garlic and cracked black pepper)

Nonstick cooking spray

Savory or sweet toppings of choice (vegan greens, cheeses, spreads, salsas, tapenades, syrups, citrus curds, nuts, etc.)

Spray electric waffle iron with nonstick spray and preheat.  Meanwhile, place tater tots in a bowl and place in microwave on full power for a minute to two to thaw.  Place 4 tater tots, 2 sides of each one touching, in 1 layer of each quadrant of the waffle maker.  Close lid, gently press, and cook for about 5 minutes or until crispy and golden.  Carefully remove each waffle to a serving platter or plates, top as desired, and serve immediately.

Note: to make one large waffle, follow directions above except thaw about 4 to 5 servings of Tater Tots and use them to completely cover the surface of the waffle iron.  Cook 8 to 10 minutes.  You can check after about 5 minutes and fill in any holes with additional thawed tater tots if desired.

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Crispy Vegan Fan Potatoes (Faux Hasselback Potatoes)

Not to be cliche, but I am not quite sure where the time has gone since Christmas when I intended to post a number of scrumptious new recipes.  I guess snow storms, work, new love (!), and just life intervened.

As most of your know by  now, my husband unthinkably passed away July 30, 2015, and my dog and mother–all adored–within the next two months.  I have been figuring out a lot of things–including the holidays–since then.  And, I’m grateful for the new insights and perspectives gained.

To celebrate Christmas 2015, I suggested that I meet my father and sister–who live together in MS–in New Orleans, a richly idiosyncratic city passionately loved by my family.  And we did.  I was as blissfully content as I could have bee, wandering the streets of the historic French Quarter.  But my father and sister, both more sedentary than me–as an octogenarian, he has a good excuse–were restless and a hint malcontent, only leaving the room in our favorite hotel with its exposed brick walls, lovely courtyard, and newly renovated interior for meals (some disappointing) and a modicum of site seeing.  We visited the Roosevelt hotel with its magical Winter Wonderland of a lobby.  And the Monteleone Hotel–where my parents honeymooned and where we hosted their 50th wedding anniversary–with it’s slowly rotating bar.

So,while it wasn’t entirely a bust, I didn’t feel we should attempt a repeat.  Plus, in September, Bob and I feel in love and wanted to spend the holidays together.  He went with me to a wonderfully warm Thanksgiving in MS and LA (at close friends’ gracious home in Covington, just outside of New Orleans), so I felt we should spend Christmas in VA where much of his family lives.  I invited Papa and Gin, they readily accepted, and then they both took ill, my father, too ill to travel.  So my sister, of course, chose to stay with him, as I encouraged her to do.  It was nothing too serious; just a combination of maladies that, together, didn’t lent themselves to plane travel.

Before we realized they wouldn’t be making the trip, I had quickly set about planning our celebration, having not spent Christmas in my own home for the entire 26 years I have lived here.  Joe and I had always hosted Thanksgiving but then, without children, went to spend Christmas with each of our families, he in PA, me in MS.  With no frame of reference, I was so surprised at how many of our friends were available over the Christmas weekend and, pretty soon, a restaurant brunch was planned with friends for Christmas Eve Day and invitations were sent for a Christmas Cheer Open House on Christmas afternoon followed by Christmas Dinner with Bob’s and my families at  my house on Christmas Night.

Shortly thereafter, I was suddenly faced with wrapping my arms around the fact that my family wouldn’t be here–the first time in my entire life I had not been with them on Christmas–so I threw myself into merry making of a different sort, keeping all of our plans in place, just with a bit of a void created by the absence of Papa and Gin.  I had done my usual minimal, but sparkly and special, decorating with the help of my beloved friend and house guest, Donna Reiss, for my annual Christmas, Channukah, Curry & Cakes Party in mid-december.  That left concentrating on friends and food for Christmas weekend.

Here I share a favorite dish from Christmas Dinne 2017.  These potatoes are as delicious warmed and served the next day as when fresh and crispy out of the oven.  But don’t expect many leftovers.  And don’t wait for a holiday.  These spuds are striking, but easy enough for a weeknight provided you use a mandolin for slicing.

All of my recipes were easy this year, as I was all about low-stress, high times in the form of a tasty and festive new traditions. Though I cooked all day on Christmas–both the open house cookies and the dinner dishes had to be finished before the open house began–it was a very comfortable, perfectly balanced, unharried pace.

Crispy Vegan Fan Potatoes

2 pounds baking potatoes, scrubbed, and sliced about 1/4-inch thick (I used a mandolin for this purpose and microwave the small ends for gnoshing or potato salad)

1/4 cup (or more!) melted vegan butter

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 taspoon sea salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspooon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Smoked paprika

Spray with nonstick cooking spray a 9 x 13″ pan or therabouts.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Place the melted butter, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, and add the potatoes, a handful at a time, tossing as you go to coat them completely.  “Shingle” or “fan” the potatoes in rows in the prepared pan, overlapping them fairly closely. No one will tell if you drizzle just a hint more butter over the top.  Cover the pan tightly with foil or an oven-safe lid and cook for 30 minutes. Remove the foil–potatoes should be cooked through (the tip of a paring knife should easily pierce the potatoes)–and roast, uncovered, for another 25 minutes or more, until potatoes are golden and crispy on the edges.  Even, or maybe especially, a little overly brown is scrumptious.  Sprinkle the top with a bit of smoked paprika and let the potatoes cool for about 5 minutes before serving with a spatula.  Use the knife-edge of the spatula to cut into sections, and then lift each section out with the flat surface.

 

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Vegan “French Fries and Champagne”
Indian-Spiced Sweet Potato Wedges with Dipping Sauce

Indian Spiced French Fries and ChampagneYield: 4 appetizer servings (6 wedges each)

A couple of nights ago, I had “French Fries and Champagne” for dinner.  Don’t judge.  I’m a widow in need of the occasional comfort food…and, besides, I had kale, carrots, and fruit earlier in the day.  I only ate a few, so a friend and fellow-widow is coming over tonight to join me for a bike ride and leftovers.

Driving home the night before and listening to “Out of the Box,” Paul Shughru’s award-winning “new music” show on our local NPR affiliate, WHRV, he played The Hot Sardines “French Fries and Champagne.”  And that nostalgic 40’s-infused suggestion was all I needed.

To arrive at my version–which is roasted, not fried–my imagination went to favorite champagne food pairings, especially Indian or Thai with my all time favorite, Prosecco.  Thinking that an Indian flavored dry spice rub would be easier to create than one with Thai flavors–which seemed to rely more on fresh herbs that would burn at the high roasting temperature–I decided on sweet potato wedges with a golden Indiean spice rub mixed with Panko bread crumbs for a bit more crunch.

For a dipping sauce, any Indian chutney whisked into vegan sour cream or vegan yogurt (if you can find an unsweetened version, which we can’t in our area) is perfection, perhaps with a a few sprigs of cilantro on the side, if you’re a cilantro-lover.

In truth, I don’t actually recommend only french fries and champagne for dinner…at least not often.

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium sweet potatoes, cut in half lenghtwise, then crosswise, then each section cut into 3 wedges to yield 12 wedges per potato

Pinch of sea salt

1/4 to 1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons any vegan chutney (mango, mint, cilantro, etc., found in supermarkets or Indian/International markets)

4 tablespoons vegan sour cream (or vegan plain yogurt or mayo if you prefer)

Garnish: fresh cilantro sprigs, if desired, and champagne, Prosecco, or other sparkling wine

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Drizzle baking pan with olive oil, add potato wedges, toss lightly to coat, sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt, and toss again.  Roast for 20 minutes, stirring or turning about ever 6 or 7 minutes.  Meanwhile combine bread crumbs in a small bowl with ground coriander, cumin, garlic and onion powders, smoked paprika, turmeric, and black bepper.  Remove potatoes from oven, sprinkle with bread crumb and spice mixture, stir to coat, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes, stirring after 5.  (Note: if you prefer your potato wedges really crispy and caramelized, roast them for 25 to 30 minutes before adding the crumb mixture and roasting another 10.) Meanwhile, prepare dipping sauce by whisking together chutney with vegan sour cream in a small bowl.  Remove potatoes to a serving bowl or platter–I like to use a parchment paper- or napkin-lined plastic “burger basket”–sprinkle with any crumb mixture that remained in the pan and serve with dipping sauce,  fresh cilantro sprigs, if desired, and champagne.

Indian Spiced French Fries and Champagne--aerial

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Vegan Crispy Mustard-Roasted New Potatoes

Crispy Mustard-Roasted New PotatoesYield: 4 servings as a side dish

This recipe is based on one of Ina Garten’s, the Barefoot Contessa, as seen on the Food Network. My main changes are the addition of fresh minced mild chili pepper, which is optional, and garlic.

I had seen the introduction to one of her shows recently, where she mentioned these potatoes, but I didn’t watch it. So, when our farmer’s market had beautiful new potatoes that they call “creamers” this week, I bagged some planning to make the recipe, as I knew I could find it online. And I did.

But I didn’t write it down; I just created it from memory, adding a couple of ingredients. They are just delicious and quite beautiful…something about those mustard seeds.

3/4 pound golf ball size new potatoes (quartered; halved if potatoes are smaller)
1 medium onion, halved, and sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 tablespoons stone ground mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 2 teaspoons finely diced mild red chili pepper, seeds and membranes removed
1 large clove garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Oil a large roasting pan and place potatoes and onions in a single layer in the pan. In a small cup, whisk together olive oil, stone ground mustard, sea salt, and pepper. Drizzle over potatoes and onions, and toss well to completely coat; I like to use my hands for this task. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Sprinkle chili and garlic over potatoes, stir to distribute, and roast 20 more minutes, stirring after 10, or until potatoes are very crispy and brown and some of the onions are charred. Serve immediately.

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Vegan Cauliflower-Tofu “Potato” Salad

Tofu-Cauliflower Potato SaladYield: 8 servings

After making my Vegan Cauliflower Steaks with Curry Bechamel and Candied Eggplant, I had some leftover cauliflower that I had cooked before leaving town for the weekend.  We ate beautiful food al fresca while we were away, prepared and served by our generous and gracious hostess and friend, Juliane Curvin.

Though inspired to make her flavorful lentil soup, eggplant stew, and chickpea and pomegranate seed salad, with Independence Day approaching, I had more traditional picnic fare on my mind.

Essentially, this salad is what you would get if you added cooked potato to tofu egg salad, only with cauliflower replacing the potato as a lower calorie alternative.  So, it’s a kind of a potato salad-egg salad hybrid, which works beautifully, as the ingredients are similar and so compatiable: celery, (green) onion,  pickle relish, vegan mayo, mustard,  turmeric, garlic powder, and black salt with its uncannily-similar-to-boiled-egg flavor!

 

Salad:

14 ounces extra firm tofu, pressed, wrapped in paper towels, and drained

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon black salt (lends a distinctive “boiled egg” flavor–it’s magic!)

4 stalks celery hearts, finely diced

4 green onions, thinkly sliced

2 cups cooked cauliflower florets (should be quite tender)

Dressing (recipe follows)

Optional garnish: green onion and a pinch of paprika/smoked paprika

 

In a medium-large bowl, mash tofu (I like to use my fingers) with spices and then fold in celery, green onions and cauliflower using a fork.  Add dressing and toss to completely distribute.  Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.  Refrigerate until serving time to allow flavors to marry.  Garnish if desired

 

Dressing:

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise

3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (or dill pickle relish if you prefer)

1 tablespoon stone ground mustard

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

3/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds

3/4 teaspoon black mustard seeds

 

In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients.  Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

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