Vegan Cucumber-Dill Spread, Dip or Sauce

I wanted to share this photo of my Vegan Cucumber-Dill Spread, Dip or Sauce recipe as a Roma tomato topper–a cooling and refreshing summer appetizer or accompaniment to a savory soup. Doesn’t it look like a little boat? Served this way, the spread is even more healthful and colorful than on bread. You could alternatively serve the spread on cucumber slices for twice as much cucumber goodness. Just make sure that, whichever slice you choose, it is thick enough to support the topping when lifted from the plate. Find the recipe in the post below or at:

Note: the spread in the photo was actually made with silken, instead of regular, tofu. It is a little softer, but it is firm enough to hold its shape quite well.
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Vegan Cucumber-Dill Spread, Dip or Sauce

Yield: 2-3 cups spread, dip or sauce

Every good southern girl needs a tasty filling for tea sandwiches in her repertoire. This one was inspired by a favorite of my mother’s: cucumber-dill. The timing of this post was prompted by the gift of a home-grown cucumber from my friend and co-worker, Mylinda. Mom’s version was made with cream cheese and, while I could have simply substituted vegan cream cheese, it is expensive and has a fair amount of calories. So I experimented with regular firm tofu and the result was a sumptuous light spread, as delicious–and more healthful–on Roma tomato slices as it is on crustless bread. When prepared with silken firm tofu, it doubles as a dip or a sauce (delicious on vegan fish fillets or over fried green tomatoes). A few simple ingredients enhance the flavor so that you never even miss the cream cheese…what cream cheese?

1 cucumber, ends trimmed, grated, and left to drain for about an hour in a medium-fine strainer (I leave the skin on and the seeds in for added nutrition)
14 ounces regular firm tofu (or 12 ounces silken firm tofu)
2 garlic or roasted garlic cloves or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Amino Acids
1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
pinch granulated sugar or raw sugar (optional, but I like it for balance)
2 generous tablespoons fresh dill (you don’t need to chop first; just break off a couple of pieces equivalent to about 1 tablespoon each
zest of 1/2 of a lemon

Place tofu, garlic, lemon juice, Amino Acids, salt, seasoned salt, pepper and optional sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth and creamy. Scrape into a bowl and gently fold in dill, zest and cucumber until well-combined. It is a perhaps better if made a few hours ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container so that flavors can marry, but you may serve it immediately.

Note: the spread in the photo was actually made with silken, instead of regular, tofu. It is a little softer, but it holds its shape quite well.

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Vegan Egg Salad

Yield: approximately 2 cups

As a vegetarian, one of my all-time favorite old-fashioned sandwiches has to have been fluffy egg salad. Once I became a vegan, I figured they were a thing of the past. Happily, that turned out not to be the case. However, all tofu egg salad recipes are not created equal. I have made recipes and tasted purchased varieties that didn’t satisfy the craving. But this recent creation made the grade. Feel free to adjust proportions to suit your taste, but do keep in mind that, while it is an indispensable ingredient to an authentic taste, celery seed is a little bitter, so avoid over-doing it. Also, if you don’t eat sugar, you may leave it out. I found, though, that because boiled eggs are ever-so-slightly sweet–at least according to my best recollection–the sugar is a necessary addition if authenticity is your goal. Similarly, I use apple cider vinegar for its subtle sweet note but, by all means, use white vinegar if you have it on hand or even dill or sweet pickle juice.

14 ounces firm tofu, drained (not Silken–a test proved it to be unsatisfactory)

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 stalks of celery, trimmed, sliced vertically into 4 strips and sliced thinly crosswise

3 tablespoons vegan mayonnaise

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2-1 teaspoon yellow mustard

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon celery seed

1/2 teaspoon celery salt

1 teaspoon dried dill weed or 1 tablespoon fresh minced dill

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar to taste

Mash tofu with salt in a medium-size bowl using a potato masher or a fork. Don’t worry about over-mashing, as the texture seems to improve with additional mashing. Fold in celery with a fork. Whisk together all remaining ingredients except additional salt, black pepper and sugar. Pour over tofu mixture and mash until dressing is completely incorporated. Adjust seasoning with salt, pepper and sugar if needed. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
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Vegan Macaroni-and-Cheese

Yield: 4 Servings

The key to delicious macaroni and cheese is in the sauce. Vegan cheese sauces come in many permutations. Jo Stepaniak’s The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook contains many scrumptious varieties, each with a slightly different flavor and texture profile. Some are essentially white sauces (made with soy milk and water plus flour or kuzu) to which the likes of nutritional yeast, miso, nuts and more are added to yield a rich cheesy flavor. Others get their body from pureed veggies or white beans. And I suppose, you could also melt grated vegan block cheese in a white sauce (that is, if you could get it to melt!). The one I’ve created, inspired by Stepaniak, combines veggies with firm silken tofu and other goodies for a luscious and robust sauce that is thick, creamy and golden. Plus it is packed with both protein and vitamins.

Pasta:
water
salt (enough to make the cooking water taste like the ocean)
8 ounces pasta (I used whole wheat rotini in the photograph)

Sauce:
1-2 teaspoons olive oil
1/4 of a large red bell pepper, cut into large cubes
6 ounces firm Silken tofu, drained
1 cup cooked carrots
2 generous tablespoons cashews
4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon miso (dark or light)
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sweet or smoky Paprika
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2-3 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk or pasta water
salt and pepper to taste

Optional Topping:
1 tablespoon vegan butter or olive oil
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs (or whatever crumbs you prefer)

Inclusions:
Whatever strikes your fancy, from sauteed mushrooms to cooked green peas to diced sun-dried tomatoes. (In the photo, I served the peas on the side and as a garnish.)

In a large pot over medium-high heat, bring water and salt to a boil. Stir in pasta, reduce heat if necessary to simmer the pasta, and cover with a lid slightly ajar. Cook until al dente. Drain and combine with sauce (plus any optional inclusions) and top with crumbs if desired.

To make sauce, heat olive oil in a skillet. Add pepper hunks and saute until slightly browned in some places. While the peppers cook, make optional topping. I prefer to toast the crumbs on top of the stove and sprinkle over the dish so as not to dry out the macaroni and cheese. Simply heat the oil over medium-high in a skillet, stir in the bread crumbs, and continue stirring frequently until crumbs are golden brown.

Meanwhile, finish the sauce by combining peppers with remaining sauce ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process until smooth and creamy.

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Blackeyed Pea Pilaf over Collards with Green Tomato Salsa and Roasted Pecans

Yield: app. 4 servings

You can take the girl out of the Deep South, but you can’t take the Deep South out of the girl. Partially inspired by my roots and partially inspired by what was in my pantry, this dish is a cleaned up, contemporary take on collards and Hoppin’ John with a nod to fried green tomatoes, though there is nothing breaded or fried about it. Liquid Smoke replaces the fat back in the greens which are also cooked with diced tomatoes for a boost of color, flavor and vitamins. The next layer provides protein and fiber in the form of a whole grain pilaf that begins with a packaged mix to which blackeyed peas are added. For a burst of crunchy and colorful freshness, a salsa of green tomato, orange bell pepper and red onion crowns the layers. And for good measure, a few roasted pecan pieces provide the perfect garnish. Despite the layers, this dish comes together surprisingly quickly.

Pilaf:
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup finely chopped yellow, white or green onion
1 ¾ cup faux chicken stock (vegetable stock would work fine)
1 box Near East brand “Whole Grain Blends”—Roasted Pecan and Garlic flavor, including seasoning packet
1-15 ounce can vegan black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried

Greens:
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces rinsed, dried and chopped fresh collards (I use the pre-chopped read-to-eat variety that comes in a plastic bag)
1-15 ounce can petite diced tomatoes in juice
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
a few dashes of Liquid Smoke to taste (go easy so as not to overpower the other flavors)
2 tablespoons apple cider or white vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar or raw sugar

Salsa:
1 green tomato, cored and diced
½ of an orange bell pepper (red would be fine), cut in half cross-wise and then sliced into strips
¼ of a medium-large red onion, peeled and finely diced
1 scant tablespoon granulated white or raw sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider or white vinegar
salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce to taste

Garnish:
¼-1/3 cup pecan pieces, roasted at 450 degrees for 5-7 minutes (watch carefully) and lightly salted, if desired

In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté, stirring frequently, for a few minutes or until softened. Stir in faux chicken stock and pilaf and cover loosely. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook 25-30 minutes, stirring only occasionally, until water is absorbed/evaporated. Remove pan from heat, stir in spice packet and let stand 3-5 minutes. Gently stir in blackeyed peas and parsley.

Meanwhile, in a large pot or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium high heat. Add collards and stir-fry for approximately 10 minutes, stirring quite frequently to prevent sticking. Stir in remaining ingredients and cook approximately 7-10 more minutes or until greens are tender. Sadly, when the greens are at their brightest and prettiest green, they are not tender enough to be palatable. They will be a darker green when cooked to the optimum degree of doneness.

While greens/tomatoes and pilaf cook, prepare salsa by combining all ingredients and tossing gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate if not serving immediately; otherwise, set aside.

To serve, spoon greens and tomatoes into the bottom of a serving dish. Heap the pilaf into a pleasing dome on top of the greens and spoon the salsa over the mound. Top with a sprinkling of roasted pecans. Alternatively, follow the same procedure in individual shallow bowls.

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Vegan Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Yield: 6 Servings

This soup was inspired by “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network. While I find much of the food–not to mention the portion sizes–appalling, that show has nonetheless inspired some cleaned-up and veganized versions of diner food. Though fairly thick, this soup is still lighter than chicken pot pie because the thin crust is baked separately, broken up and served like croutons on top.



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 Savory Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Yield: 4 Servings

This recipe was mentioned in a recent post as a perennial Thanksgiving favorite by my good friend since childhood, Donna Lynn. Even as kids, my sister and I never cared for those sweet potatoes smothered in pillows of marshmallow. So, we pounced on this recipe when we found it. Simple though they may be, the flavors of the ingredients, when combined, are more than the sum of their parts. While the original recipe contained dairy, I’ve veganized it here:

2 medium sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons soy sour cream (the original recipe called for 1/2 cup–nowadays that seems like too much of a good thing)
2 tablespoons vegan butter (I like Earth Balance)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley or 2 teaspoons dried
2 green onions, sliced
Optional Garnish: 4 teaspoons sour cream and the green part of 1-2 green onions, finely sliced

Either bake the sweet potatoes, oiled and pierced, for 50 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven or microwave them on “high” until just tender, about 6-10 minutes. Cut in half lengthwise, scoop out the pulp and, using a fork, mash with next 3 ingredients until free of lumps. Stir in parsley and green onions and spoon lightly back into potato shells. If potatoes have cooled down more than you like, return to oven or microwave just until heated through. Serve warm with optional garnishes divided among the four halves.

Source: This recipe has been a family favorite for so long that we no longer know from whence it came, so I’m going to credit my sister Ginny as she discovered it initially.

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Vegan Fried Green Tomatoes

Yield: 2 servings

As hard as it may be to believe, it is a fallacy that egg is needed as a binder in baked goods or breading, as this recipe deliciously demonstrates.

½ cup whole wheat or unbleached all purpose flour
½ cup unsweetened soy milk (plain works too, but is a little sweeter)
½ cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
(feel free to season to taste with pinches of cumin, curry powder, smoked paprika, etc.)
2 medium-sized firm green tomatoes, cores removed and sliced into 1/3” slices
¼ inch canola oil in a 10-inch skillet

Heat oil over medium-high heat until a drop off water sizzles briskly. Watch oil closely and remove from heat if it starts to smoke. Meanwhile, place flour, soy milk and cornmeal into three separate small bowls. Divide the salt equally among all three. Add ¼ teaspoon of both the garlic and onion powders and 1/8 teaspoon of pepper to both the flour and the cornmeal. Stir to combine well.

Dip each tomato slice into flour, then soy milk, then cornmeal, coating well. Place into oil and cook for a couple of minutes or until golden brown. Carefully flip and repeat on the opposite side. Drain on paper towel or brown paper. Sprinkle with a little more salt and serve with the sauce of your choice. I prefer my Tahini Topping which can be dressed up in myriad ways. I like a plain version of the topping with a sprinkling of capers.

Note: You will have a little leftover flour, soy milk and cornmeal, but you need the ingredients to be deep enough in the bowls to coat the tomato slices easily. The ends of the tomatoes may not take the coating as nicely as the interior slices because of the slick skin vs. the absorbent flesh.

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Vegan Tomato Tart(s)

Yield: 4-4” tarts or 1-8” tart

This recipe was inspired last summer by the heirloom tomatoes at our local farmer’s market. I fell hopelessly in love with the nearly black-skinned ones. They tasted like more savory cousins of red plums, but still very sweet.

Some people may wonder why not just eat the tomatoes raw, and I do that too. However, in this tart, they become more of a complete meal. Yet the thickness of the slices and the short cooking time sets the topping while allowing the tomatoes to remain virtually uncooked.

Crust

1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar or raw sugar
½ cup canola oil
2 tablespoons unsweetened soy milk
(or, for less calories, 6 tablespoons oil and 4 tablespoons soy milk—works great, but the crust might be just a tiny bit less crispy)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix together all ingredients with a fork in a medium bowl. Press into the bottom and against sides of an 8” tart pan with a removable bottom. Or divide into 4 equal parts and do the same with 4-4” tart pans with removable bottoms. Try to keep the bottom and sides of the crust a similar thickness. Use a drinking glass to assist with the pressing if desired (as the glass allows you to compress the bottom and sides simultaneously). Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool approximately 3 minutes.

Filling

Enough ¼-inch thick tomato slices, preferably heirloom, to make two layers of tomato in shell(s)
12 ounces (1 ½ cups) Silken firm tofu or lite tofu
1 bunch fresh basil or dill OR 2 generous tablespoons dairy free pesto
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes (optional but recommended, especially if not using pesto)
1-2 teaspoons lemon juice
Additional salt and pepper to taste
Optional topping: vegan Parmesan or a sprinkling of nutritional yeast
Optional garnish: fresh basil leaves or dill sprigs

Layer slices of tomato into each crust. Combine tofu with next five ingredients in a food processor and blend well. Spoon mixture on top of tomato layer(s) and spread gently almost to the edges. Sprinkle with optional topping if desired and bake 15 minutes or until topping is almost set. Remove tart pan(s) to a rack until they are cool enough to handle and then push the bottom disk up through the ring, set ring aside, and gently slide the tart off of the disk onto the serving plate. Garnish, if desired, with basil leaves or dill sprigs.

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