Sometimes salads are complex, feel elaborate and deep, mature and intense. I’ve made couple of those in my life, like this incredible roasted beets and leeks salad with baby kale and the most amazing lemon vinaigrette. I also made salads that are just for fun, with a bit of this and a bit of that, by combining fruits, vegetables and nuts.
But during summer, I like my salads to be simple, yet out of the ordinary. Last summer I went nuts for a pasta salad that used only a handful of ingredients but which I could not stop making over and over again. I think we are at that point in summer when it’s time for another easy, yet amazing salad, with no greens allowed (I love the greens but there is sometimes scope to be just a bit different!).
This corn salad is it – and it’s absolutely a fabulous accompaniment to any grilled food feast. All you need are four simple ingredients and 10-15 minutes. If you have that – boom, boom, boom and you are done.
The corn I use most often is frozen sweet corn, but you could grill your corn and cut the kernels out and use that instead. I bet the grilled/charred corn flavor would be fantastic.
Place a large frying pan over medium high to high heat. Add olive oil and frozen corn. Let the corn brown as it defrosts. Mix frequently but do let the corn get some surface caramelization.
While the corn is cooking, toast your sesame seeds. You can do this in a toaster oven or using a stove top. Keep a close eye on your sesame seeds as they toast because they do from nicely toasted to completely burned in a matter of seconds!
Add the toasted sesame seeds to your corn, as well as the steak spice and mix well. The salad is best served room temperature, but you can serve it warm as well. Enjoy!
The adventures of the CSA share continue! This is our week 8 share and the eggplant, zucchini, and cucumbers are in full swing. If you need some zucchini inspiration, check out my stuffed zucchini boat recipe from last week. There are also some new items this week, and that’s my focus here: corn, green peppers, and flat (romano beans)! And this is what makes taking part in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program so great – finding surprise ingredients that your local supermarket may not carry, and figuring our what to do with them.
The credit for this soup goes entirely to my 7 year old who suggested we use flat beans for a soup, add corn to it, plus one tablespoon each of dried dill, dried basil and onion powder. Oh, and garlic and vegetable broth! Then I stepped in with some carrots, bay leaves, and green pepper (also courtesy of the CSA share this week). The rest is history and the recipe below!
What are flat beans?
Before we dive into cooking, let me just share what flat beans are. I don’t think I ran into them before, and I am guessing many of you are in the same boat! These beans are also known as romano beans, and also Italian flat green beans. They are similar to green beans, but much broader – about one inch (2.5 cm) or so, and they are quite long too. They have a good bite to them, although my seven year old helper did not like their taste when raw. These beans are meaty and that’s another reason why putting them into a stew or a hearty soup makes a lot of sense as they need a bit of time to cook, and I don’t think steaming them would work. So, if you like to try a green bean variety with a bit more meat and bite to it, these are a great option.
2 cups grilled corn, just kernels (frozen or canned whole kernel corn would work too!)
2 large carrots, chopped very finely using a food processor
1 green pepper, diced to small pieces
4 cups (about 1 L) vegetable broth
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced or crushed
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon dried dill
1 tablespoon dried basil
4 dried bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
Squeeze of lemon for serving (optional)
What you’ll do:
Place a large pot over the medium-high heat. Add oil then garlic and let the garlic brown just slightly for 1-2 minutes.
Next, add diced green peppers and sauté for 2-3 minutes, with occasional stirring.
Add finely chopped carrots, mix well and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
When the peppers have softened and the carrot pulp starts to brown, add the beans, corn and all the spices and sauté for another 5 minutes, then pour in the vegetable stock, bring to boil, lower the heat to simmer, put the lid on and leave it for 15 minutes.
Serve this soup as a light supper, lunch, or pair with a salad and some bread for a meal!
Grillin’ and chillin’ – that’s what we are all going to be doing for the next couple of months. School is out, summer is here and what better thing to do than to enjoy some grilled foods and outdoor dining. So, if anyone ever asks you “Do vegans (or plant-based eaters) actually grill anything?” all you need to say is “You betcha” and invite them over for a grill and BBQ party. If you are looking for some inspiration, you may want to try these BBQ ribs, or portobello steaks, or grilled tempeh. Besides these you can grill eggplant, lots of other veggies, as well as peaches, pineapple, plums… Grilling is a lovely way to bring intense flavors out and works for a range of fruits and vegetables!
Having the right side dish on your side
Plus, vegetables (and fruit) are essential for making your cookout a really special and memorable treat for everyone. These ingredients get transformed into a lovely array of side dishes, and quite frankly I usually pile up those and completely ignore the “main” course. With things like spicy cole slaw, or corn bread (or corn bread muffins), or Mac’n’Cheese, or delicious collard greens, or potato salad, or… Well, need I say more? Side dishes are what makes these grillin’ and chillin’ cookouts fun!!!
Baked beans are an institution
Although all these side dishes are dear to my heart, none comes even close to baked beans! Baked beans are absolutely an institution, both in the USA where I live, and in the Balkans, where I come from. But we all know that they are more broadly beloved than that, and many countries and cultures across the globe have a very special and prominent place for baked beans. And although many would think that you can’t have an amazing baked beans without some smokey meat component in there, this is far from the truth.
Sweetness and smokey flavors make baked beans special
What makes baked beans really special is a combination of sweetness and smokiness. One way of getting lots of sweetness to your baked beans is to use some dark brown sugar, maple syrup or dark molasses. But, if you are not careful these can quickly overpower the dish. So, I recommend that you go easy on the actual sweetener, and use lots of sweet onion instead for a more subtle sweet flavor. Baked beans are also quite smokey, and here spices like smoked paprika and chili powder, as well as a dash of liquid smoke will go a long way. If you can’t find liquid smoke, ground cumin is an example of a common spice that has a natural smokey flavor, or you could consider adding one or two smoked peppers, whole into the beans and then fishing them out before serving.
Sweet and Smokey Baked Beans with Caramelized Onions
What you’ll need:
1 large sweet onion, finely sliced
3 cups pinto beans, cooked or canned (if using canned rinse and drain the beans first)
Note: to make your own seasoning that’s enough for this recipe mix 1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar or 1/2 teaspoon of dark molasses, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke.
What you’ll do:
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
Slice the large onion in half than place the cut side down on your chopping board and slice across to create thin onion ribbons. Once the onion is sliced, use your fingers to pull the ribbons apart.
Place a large pan over medium heat and bring to temperature. Add the oil and onion ribbons and caramelize the onions for 5 minutes with frequent stirring. You want the onions to be soft, and partly browned but not fully caramelized.
Add the beans and the spice mix to a large mixing bowl and use your hands or a large fork to mash and mix everything together. Approximately, half of the beans should be mashed and half should stay whole. This will ensure that your baked beans are creamy, yet have an interesting texture.
Spray the bottom of you baking dish with some cooking spray and spread the beans in an even layer. The best size of the dish for this amount of beans is 8 x 8 in (20 x 20 cm), or about 2 QT (approximately 2 L).
Arrange the partly caramelized onions on the top. Don’t mix them in, just let the onions rest on top of the bean mix. You can get creative here and make a pattern or a design, but I went rustic!
Place in the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes. When you see that the edge of your beans is browned, you are done! Serve as a wonderful side dish for you BBQ party, or use the next day to make a yummy breakfast burrito.
For all of you out there who’s mouths have been watering when you see people share their vegan BBQ ribs recipes but don’t eat gluten, this one is for you! Of course, all of you who are gluten-lovers, I hope you check this recipe out as well – you will not be disappointed!
Big credit for these ribs goes to Linda and Alex Meyerson and their amazing new cookbook “Great Vegan BBQ without a Grill” (read my review here). Their recipe for BBQ ribs (or RIBZ, as they call them!) is amazing and I love it, but my husband has been avoiding gluten so I had to come up with an alternative.
After few trials and errors, I came across couple of recipes that use quinoa as a replacement for gluten. I have been trying to include quinoa into my cooking more often (in a gumbo-jambalaya fusion, as a stuffing for roasted eggplant, and as a perfect side dish for winter holidays), because, although almost impossible for me to pronounce it properly (is it keen-wah or kee-noah or something else?), it is super nutritious. Loads and loads of plant-based protein, fiber, minerals and vitamins!
It also has a subtle flavor which makes many people think of quinoa as bland, while I view it as versatile. This absence of strong flavor means that I can dress quinoa any way I like, and make it come out flavorful and different every time. These BBQ ribs are the proof!
As I said, the real credit goes to Alex and Linda because their idea to bake the rib meat before grilling it further is a real breakthrough. This lets your meat come together, and makes grilling a breeze. These ribs will withstand the indoor and the outdoor grilling so go crazy – and remember that you can prep your “meat” a day or two in advance and store it in the fridge, which can be a real lifesaver if you are having a large party over. All you will need to do is get your “meat” out, cut into the ribs, and grill before serving. This recipe is so fantastic that you can easily serve it to your omni friends and family, and they will not know the difference. Happy grilling!!!
Tip: this is definitely a recipe that you make in stages. You need to cook quinoa, roast some beets, sauté mushrooms, cook the beans (if not using store bought) – all before everything goes into the food processor, so be patient and plan ahead. It will be worth it!
Gluten-free Vegan BBQ Ribs
What you’ll need:
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
10 oz mushrooms, sautéed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 beet, roasted
2 cups dark red beans (canned or homemade)
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon liquid smoke (or less, depending on your taste)
Oil or cooking spray for preparing the grill or a grill pan
Extra BBQ sauce for serving!
What you’ll do:
Roast the beet – actually, instead of roasting one lonely beet, I recommend roasting a whole bunch of beets at the same time, at 425 F (220 C) for 45 minutes or so, and then using them to make these ribs, as well as eat them in a salad or make them into a hummus. This can be done on the grill too – wrap the beets in some foil and let them hang on the grill for about 45 minutes as you grill other things! You can make the beets in advance and store in the fridge for up to a week, and use in this, and many other recipes as needed. If you are in a tight time crunch you can use canned beets as well, but the roasted ones do add a bit of nice, earthy aroma that the canned ones simply don’t have.
Combine quinoa and vegetable broth into a pot large enough to hold it all, place over high heat, bring to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).
Place a large frying pan over medium high heat, add the oil then sliced mushrooms, and sauté the mushrooms until nicely browned.
If you have a large food processor, you can combine cooked quinoa, sautéd mushrooms, beans, 1/2 beet, and all the rest of the ingredients – except the BBQ sauce! – in the food processor and process until smooth and homogenous. If you don’t have a large food processor, but have a stick blender you can place everything into a large mixing bowl and then use the stick blender to blend it all together. This is your rib “meat” mix.
Line a 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) baking dish with parchment paper and spray the bottom and the sides with some cooking spray. Pour your rib “meat” mix into the pan, even out and bake for 30 minutes, or until baked through, and browned at the edges. Let the baked rib “meat” cool. This is also a good stopping point, as the “meat” can stay in the fridge overnight and be used the next day.
When you are ready to grill, slice the rib “meat” into strips – they should be roughly the same size as the real ribs, which is about 1 inch or 2-3 cm.
Prepare your grill pan or your outdoor grill as you normally do. For me, this means turning on the heat to high and letting the pan heat up nice and good before brushing with a little bit of oil or spraying with some cooking spray. For the outdoor grill, I turn the burners on to the max (I have a gas grill) and leave the grill covered for 10 minutes, then I use the brush to scrape the grates, oil them with a paper towel dipped into some oil (use your heat proof tongs to handle the towel paper and stay safe), and they are ready (note that the type of a brush you use depends on the kind of the grill grates you have, so follow the manufacturer instruction closely otherwise you may permanently damage your grill!).
Place the ribs on the grill or the grill pan and brush the top with some BBQ sauce. Let them grill for 3-4 minutes on one side then flip over, brush with some BBQ sauce and repeat. I usually flip the ribs three times so that each side has 2 brushes of BBQ sauce and two grilling periods, for a total of about 6 – 8 minutes per side.
Serve hot with the side of your favorite BBQ sauce (I recommend warming the sauce just slightly), and enjoy with your favorite sides, such as grilled corn, spicy cole slaw, or this fantastic arugula and watermelon salad that I just discovered!
Let me make one thing clear – if you are looking for a veggie burger recipe that looks and tastes like meat, you really should look elsewhere since this ain’t it! But, if you are looking for a different type of burger, that is unusual yet appealing, and that is amazingly nutritious then you have come to the right place.
This is my Sweet Potato Burger which is made of roasted sweet potatoes, oats, flax meal “egg”, and a dash of very spicy adobo sauce. The patties are held together by the joined action of oats and the flax meal egg, and do just fine on the outdoor grill. The flavor is nicely sweet, perfect for combining with some mustard, pickles and lettuce. In my view, tomatoes, mayo and cheese do not work well on this burger, but caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, or sliced avocado would add to it. Feel free to experiment and see how it goes!
Sweet Potato Burgers
What you’ll need:
2 cups roasted sweet potatoes, mashed
1 cup rolled oats
3 tablespoons flax meal
6 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon adobo sauce
1 teaspoon maple flavor
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
What you’ll do:
Roast sweet potatoes as you would normally. I usually roast them at 425 F (220 C) without peeling for 45 minutes or so, then let them cool completely before handling. My usual batch is about 8 large potatoes and I store them roasted in the refrigerator and use them through the week.
Start soaking flax meal in hot water 15-20 minutes prior to use. You can find detailed instructions on making the flax egg here.
Peel two potatoes and mash them with a fork or a potatoe masher. This should yield 2 cups of sweet potatoes. Measure it out and adjust by adding and removing the mashed sweet potato. The final amount does not need to be absolutely precise but do keep it close to the recipe.
Place the mashed sweet potatoe into a large mixing bowl, and add all the rest of the ingredients. Mix well, and use the immersion (stick) blender to get the consistency nice and smooth, and the oats broken up. If you don’t have the stick blender you can always use your food processor. Let the mix stand for 20 minutes or so to allow the oats to begin soaking up the excess moisture and swell.
Form the burger patties, and place them on a wax paper lined platter. Place the patties in a refrigerator for up to an hour to firm up.
Prepare and preheat your outdoor or indoor grill, or your grill pan in a usual way. I recommend oiling the grill grates well and grilling the burgers at medium heat. You can also use a grill pan or a regular pan – the burger will come out as delicious albeit without the lovely, charred grill marks. Sweet Potato Burgers need about 4-5 minutes per side, and they are ready to enjoy!
You probably know that veggie burgers are going through somewhat of a revolution, with companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, leading the way within US in creating plant-based products that taste and look like the real meat. I have not had an Impossible Burger yet, but I can attest to Beyond Burger being everything its creators wanted it to be – a plant-based burger that looks, cooks and tastes like fresh ground beef burger. It is absolutely spot on, thanks to some interesting protein biochemistry and biophysics that transfrorms pea protein into ground beef, as well as the use of plenty of fat for that greasy burger feeling, and a good amount of salt. And fat and salt are likely two components of this burger that, in addition to getting the texture of the protein component just right, make this type of burger so realistic and so delicious and so addictive.
Indulging in one of these burgers as an occasional treat is all fine and good, but making it on a daily basis is almost us unhealthy as eating the beef patty. That’s why I’ve been focusing on creating plant burgers (call them veggie burgers if you like) that can work on a grill or in a grill pan, look very burgery, and taste great without huge amounts of salt and fat. My blog now has the entire section dedicated to Burgers, Hot Dogs & More. Some of the burgers I made taste very much like a beef patty, some less so… At the end, what I discovered is that plant burger needs to pass two tests in order to qualify for being on my plate: it has to hold its shape well and sustain grilling on the grill or in a grill pan, and it has to taste amazing. Any burger that checks those two boxes off deserves to be shared!
The patty I am sharing today has three twists. Twist number one is that I decided to try using avocados as a fat source to add some juiciness to the burgers. Avocados, also known as Alligator Pear – isn’t that awesome? – are not something I ever considered cooking with but we recently had a huge avocado sales in my local grocery store and I got more than I should and there is a limit to how much avocado toasts one can eat in a week, so I was looking for something else to do with them. The idea to try making a burger with avocados was inspired by their high fat content and their creamy consistency (when they are ripe and perfect). I did quite a few internet searchers to see what other have done, but I could not find a single recipe that used avocados inside the actual burger patty. So, off I went to see if Avocado Burgers can be made into reality.
My twist number two is one of my favorite tricks to add umami flavor to just about anything – finely ground mushrooms. They work wonders in a dish like Meatless Shepherd’s Pie, or more generally any time you want to recreate that special “je ne sais quoi” of ground beef.
Final twist to this story is using extra firm tofu that has been frozen for few days than thawed all the way over the course of one to two days in the refrigerator. Freezing and defrosting tofu changes its texture daramatically. The tofu becomes tougher and stronger, and it absorbs the marinades and flavors better. There are no tricks to freezing tofu in my kitchen as I just put the container tofu comes in from the store into the freezer, but if you need a more refined method The Spruce has detailed step by step instructions. Before you use tofu, drain it well and then dig in – use your hands to press and squeeze and get the excess water out. I suppose you could use the tofu press for this or a method where you place tofu slices between paper towels and place a large weight on top for twenty minutes, but because tofu that’s been frozen then defrosted has this tougher and stronger texture, using your hands actually works quite well. Plus, you can easily go from squeezing to crumbling, which is the next step. At the end you will end up with a pile of small tofu crumbles.
To this pile of crumbles you will add mashed avocado, ground mushrooms, tomato paste, and couple of staples when it comes to boosting umami and grilled food flavors: soy sauce or liquid aminos, Worcestershire sauce and liquid smoke. The patties will be soft so it is a good idea to stick them into the fridge or a freezer to firm up before cooking. I felt like pairing only some crispy lattice with this burger but pickles, mustard, ketchup, tomatoes, and all the other common burger fixings will go well with it too!
Avocado Burger, step by step, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
What you’ll need:
1 16 oz. (450 g) block of extra firm tofu, frozen then thawed
8 oz. (225 g) crimini (baby bella) mushrooms
1 large avocado, ripe
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, vegan
1 tablespoon soy sauce or liquid aminos
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
Cooking spray (for the pan)
What you’ll do:
Freeze the tofu few days in advance and when completely frozen take it out of the freezer and leave it in refrigerator for a day or two, until completely defrosted. Drain the tofu and using your hands squeeze the water out of tofu. The tofu should feel like a relatively tough sponge soaked with water at the beginning, and at the end it should feel moist but not dripping wet. Crumble the tofu into a large mixing bowl.
Chop the mushrooms using a food processor until they are finely ground. Few chunkier bits here and there will not hurt but try to get the mushrooms to be about the same consistency as your tofu crumbles. Add to the tofu.
Cut and peel the avocado, and scoop out the green flesh into a small bowl and mash with the fork until finely mashed. Ideally the avocado should be as smooth as you can get it, and if you are using a perfectly ripe avocado this should not be a problem. Side note: If you discover that your avocado is tough that means that it is not ripe enough. If your avocado is turning black it means that it is past its prime. Unfortunately, when it comes to avocados only the perfectly ripe, perfectly green and perfectly soft will work, for this or any other recipe. If your avocados are tough to touch it means they need to ripen and you can help them out by putting them in a paper bag, closing it tightly and leaving them on the kitchen counter overnight. That usually helps – and if they are really, really green you can a ripe banana to the bag to help avocados along.
Add the avocado purée to the tofu mix, as well as the rest of ingredients.
Mix well to combine using your hands. You want to work the mix a bit, which means squeezing and mixing at the same time. Once everything is combined together, use your hands to form patties. Place the patties onto a tray lined with wax paper, and put them into the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes or into a freezer for 15 minutes or so.
Heat your grill pan or a cast iron skillet over the medium high heat. Spray with cooking spray and add 2-3 patties at a time. You need to leave enough room around tha patties to be able to flip them so keep that in mind. Cook on one side for 5 minutes then flip over and cook for another 4-5 minutes, until both sides are nice and brown.
Serve on your favorite hamburger bun with your favorite toppings. And in case you have couple of avocados still left over, go wild – slice them up, toss them on top, and have yourself a Double Avocado Burger!
Most people probably think “bubble tea” when they hear “tapioca pearls”. But these delicious little pearls are definitely worth getting to know more intimately, especially in the context of gluten free cooking. They are inexpensive and very simple to make. They actually require no cooking – just soaking – so although no cooking skills are required, some level of patience (and a good amount of time) is.
Before we go any further lets try to answer this questions first: “What are tapioca pearls?”. They can come in different sizes and colors. The ones I will focus here are white and small, close to the size of Israeli couscous. But unlike the couscous, which is made with wheat and thus off limits for those watching their gluten intake, tapioca pearls are made from starch extracted from cassava root. So, they are little starch balls when all is said and done. Think micro potatoes that don’t need peeling!
If you are into Indian food, you have likely already had some tapioca pearls because they are often used to make desserts, like kheer pudding. Earlier this summer I had some homemade Sabudana Khichdi and I loved it. Sabudana Khichdi is a traditional dish and usually consumed during Hindu fast days. The dish includes tapioca pearls, finely chopped, cooked potatoes, finely chopped peanuts, finely grated coconut flakes, and a nice combination of spices (curry leaf, cumin seeds and green chilis). There are some variations on the recipe and the ingredients may vary depending on whethe Sabudana Khichdi is served during the fast or outside the fasting days, and my friend who made the dish for us also mentioned that a more protein-rich version of Sabudana Khichdi can be made using quinoa, and she suggested I check a blog by another friend of hers called Indfused, which I did and so should you, especially if you are interested in creative Indian/American fusion cooking (FYI: Infused is not a vegan blog, so keep that in mind).
Back to the the version of Sabudana Khichdi I had – it was a delicious addition to our summer cook out and prompted me to get some tapioca pearls of my own and start experimenting. The recipe below is the second iteration and deviates from the original recipe quite a bit. I took some liberties so my Tapioca Pearl Salad is Sabudana Khichdi inspired, but not meant to be “traditional” in any way. First point of difference is that I left the potatoes out. In my view, leaving potatoes out does not affect the taste nor the nutritional profile of the dish, yet saves some time and effort. I also left the peanuts out and replaces them with slivered almonds. I used slightly different spice mix, to make the dish a bit more fragrant. Finally, I toasted my coconut flakes, because in my mind coconut is just better toasted!
The key to making tapioca pearls is patience. All you need to do is rinse the pearls in cold water, then soak them in enough cold water, usually in 1:2 ratio (for example 1 cup pearls and 2 cups water), for 2-3 hours. How do you know they are ready? They should feel loose, not stuck together, and soft, yet slightly chewy, to bite – think pasta al dente. You can go a bit further if you prefer softer texture, but you do want your pearls to remain pearly, not mushy, so don’t overdo it.
Now a key to make the dish really flavorful and spices vibrant, is toasting the spices. I use a frying pan here, and, although you can dry toast the spices, I do add a bit of oil in this case and let the spices toast for one to two minutes before adding the almonds to finish it off. I pour the toasted spice and almond mix over the drained tapioca pearls, instead the other way round, but that’s more of a personal preference I suppose. The toasted coconut flakes come next, and the chopped fresh cilantro is the final touch. You can serve this dish immediately, you can heat it up more and serve hot, or you can leave it in the refrigerator overnight and serve it cold. It actually works across the range of temperatures so it could work as a surprising pasta salad at your next picnic. It is a great, easy and inexpensive dish to make for your next pot luck or any other get together!
Tapioca Pearls with Almonds and Toasted Coconut Flakes
What you’ll need:
2 cups tapioca pearl
4 cups water
1 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup coconut flakes or shreds, unsweetened
2 tablespoon vegetable (or canola) oil
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
What you’ll do:
Rinse the tapioca pearls under cold water and place into a large bowl. Cover with water and let stand for 2 to 3 hours. The pearls will absorb water and they should become soft and al dente.
Drain the pearls well, pat dry with a paper towel and put into a large mixing bowl that you will use for serving as well. You can use the same bowl you used for soaking just remember to dry it well in the meantime.
Heat the oil over medium high in a large frying pan. Add the dry spices (cumin, curry and turmeric powder) and toast in oil for 1 minute.
Add slivered almonds and toast for another 2 to 3 minutes, until almonds start to brown.
Pour the hot almond and spice mix over tapioca pearls and mix well.
Toast coconut flakes in a toaster oven or a frying pan for 2-3 minutes. You need to keep an eye on your coconut flakes as they go from beautifully toasted to inedible in a blink of an eye! If you are using the frying pan, you can use the same pan you just used for almonds and spices, just don’t add extra oil as coconut flakes should be fatty enough.
Add hot, toasted coconut flakes to your tapioca pearls and mix well.
Let the mix stand for couple minutes and while those flavors are combining, wash and chop fresh cilantro.
Sprinkle the cilantro over your tapioca pearls, mix again and serve!
Mushrooms come in many different shapes and sizes. They also range a lot in terms of their availability and price. The kind I find readily available in my local supermarket are white button mushrooms. They tend to be affordable and versatile, and use them in many of my recipes. Those with bigger caps are easy to stuff, and I’ve experimented with couple of different types of stuffing, like the mashed potatoes and corn tortilla, Mexican-flavor inspired stuffing. Small and imperfect mushrooms are great for chopping up, and using for recipes like a quiche or a stews. White button mushrooms are also a common ingredient in my burgers and my homemade ground beef substitute, where I grind them and add to the burgers for color, texture and flavor.
In many aspects, white button mushrooms and baby portobello (crimini) mushrooms are interchangeable, and I may use one or the other or both depending on which variety looked best at the store that day. Crimini mushrooms had a more woody, deep and rich flavor than white button mushrooms, but the differences are not major, so they tend to cook and taste about the same. They also cost about the same as well, and tend to be on sale at the same time!
Once in a while I lay my hands on really large portobello mushrooms, and those I like to grill and transform into portobello steaks. They look and taste amazing, and make for an easy and healthy dinner. The price tag on these is a bit larger, and you do have make more of them to feed the crowd, because one portobello steak is usually not enough. But, they are absolutely irreplaceable if you need to make a great grilled steak vegan style.
What makes mushrooms an essential staple of any vegetarian, vegan and plant-based kitchen is their flavor, and a large amount of umami, the flavor associated with perception of meatiness. The naturally occurring chemicals behind this umami flavor are glutamate and guanylate (plus couple of others), and mushrooms have large amounts of them, none more than shiitakes. Shiitakes are native to Southeast Asia and have been used in local cuisines for centuries, either fresh or dried. They are also now becoming more commonly available in US supermarkets, although they tend to be more expensive.
Luckily for me, I recently ran into a pile of loose shiitake mushrooms in my store that were plump, fresh, large and reasonably priced. I bought about a pound (half a kilo) of shiitake mushrooms and decided to try making a Shiitake Mushroom Stroganoff. I am sure this recipe would work with other types of sturdier mushrooms but shiitakes, becasue of their sweeper umami flavor, work exceptionally well.
I paired Shiitake Mushroom Stroganoff with some spaghetti for a satisfying dinner. You can make the dish gluten free if you need to by the right kind of pasta. Alternatively, you can serve with quinoa for a higher protein meal.
Shiitake Mushroom Stroganoff
What you’ll need:
1 lbs (454 g) shiitake mushrooms
5-6 cloves garlic
1 cup raw cashews, unsalted
3/4 cup almond milk, plain & unsweetened
2 tablespoons tapioca starch
1 tablespoon olive oil
freshly ground black pepper, to taste (optional)
fresh basil (for garnish, optional)
crushed red pepper (for garnish, optional)
1/2 pound spaghetti, cooked according to instruction on the box
What you’ll do:
Cover the cashews with water and let them soak for at least 30 minutes, best overnight.
The next day, rinse the cashews and place them into a blender. Add almond milk and tapioca starch, and blend until creamy. Set aside.
Clean the shiitake mushrooms to remove the stems and any signs of visible dirt. Rinse them with water, pat dry with some paper towel and slice the caps intro strips.
Peel the garlic cloves and slice them very thinly.
Place a large pan over the medium heat and add olive oil to it.
When the oil is hot, add mushrooms and garlic to the pan. Stirring frequently sauté the two for 5 to 10 minutes, until mushrooms have softened.
Mix in the freshly ground black pepper to taste, then add cashew cream sauce and fold everything together.
Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is rich and thick.
Pour over your favorite pasta, quinoa or polenta, and enjoy with a sprinkle of crushed red peppers and fresh basil!
For me, pasta salad is a conceptually hard thing to swallow since I equate salads with (mostly) green leafy vegetables. Growing up, there was a clear separation between salads and pastas in my mother’s cooking and our family meals. But, after living in US for almost two decades, I’ve come around and appreciate that pasta salads have a place on my plate, especially if I am holding that plate during a large summer cookout or a potluck.
Having said that, I still think that many pasta salads leave a lot to be desired as they tend to be overloaded with mayonnaise, meat or even cheese. So, I decided to develop a pasta salad recipe that is simple and light, yet full of flavors and surprising textures.
The recipe below really blew me away! It’s super simple, uses only six ingredients, it takes less than twenty minutes to make, and it is a perfect pasta salad for big get togethers because it is super inexpensive.
The recipe is very simple and self-explanatory. Few tips here are: don’t cook your pasta for too long, drain it well but don’t rinse; mix the pasta with the rest of ingredients while it’s still hot, and then let it cool while the flavors are developing and merging; and if using kalamata olives in oil, scale back on the amount of olive oil you actually add – otherwise you’ll end up with something that’s too oily, which will be too bad!
And speaking of olives – kalamata olives that I get come with a nice level of acidity so I don’t feel like I need to use extra vinegar when I’m using them. This means that my recipe below does not include vinegar. Now, if you like a bit more tang, feel free to add some lemon juice or a dash of red wine vinegar to adjust the acidity level in this salad to your personal taste.
Finally, if you don’t have a box of penne rigate on hand, don’t worry. You can use any spoon friendly pasta for this – meaning not long pasta. Why do I recommend NOT using long pasta? Well, if you are thinking of this salad as picnic, pot luck, sharing-with-friends-and-family friendly, then help your friends and family help themselves by not having to wrestle with long pasta. I also think that tubular pastas work better for this recipe than flat ones – think penne, ditalini, macaroni as better, and farfalle as perhaps less suitable for this recipe – as tubular pastas have a bit more surface area to absorb the subtle flavors. And among the tubular pastas, those with ridges will work just slightly better because of the same surface area availability principle I mentioned. Having said all this, and having dragged you through likely totally unnecessary details on how to choose just the right pasta for this recipe, I’d like to stress again – just grab a box of pasta you have on hand and it will be just fine!
STOP: I just remembered – I would not recommend black bean pasta for this. I did not like the flavor of that one when I paired it with my Clams-free “Clam” Sauce and can’t recommend it for this application either. 😦
Simple Summer Pasta Salad
What you’ll need:
12 oz (340 g) penne rigate pasta
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup olive oil, extra virgin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3 tablespoons fresh basil
What you’ll do:
Cook the pasta following the instructions on the box. Don’t overcook it – the pasta will be ready when it is slightly chewy to the bite.
While pasta is cooking, chop the olives and the fresh basil leaves. Put to the side.
Drain the pasta well and place in a large mixing bowl. Add oil, chopped kalamata olives, garlic powder, and mix well.
Toast the almonds in a toaster oven or on the stove top in a heavy skillet. Watch the almonds constantly as they do burn quickly.
Add the toasted almonds to the rest of the pasta salad, mix well and leave for an hour or so.
Add fresh basil just before serving, toss everything together and enjoy. The result is fragrant, complex in flavors and textures, yet simple and cheap to make, perfect summer pasta salad.
It’s a bit ridiculous to share a smoothie recipe like it is a thing. After all, smoothie is nothing more than throwing couple of things in a blender and pressing a button. But, I’ve now made this version a few times, never straying from the original recipe and it is a keeper. Even people who usually refuse to drink almond milk were able to get behind this one, so I decided to share it with the world.
The recipe is super fast, super easy, super cheap, super convenient – all in a real superlative fest! All you need is a banana, five frozen strawberries, some almond milk, preferably unsweetened and vanilla flavored, a dash of unsweetened coconut flakes and a sprinkle of vegan mini chocolate chips. These last two ingredients are completely optional but they do elevate this smoothie to the seventh heaven.
I do recommend using frozen whole strawberries. First of all, they have great flavor all year round as most brands use the best looking whole strawberries for freezing. Note that you should stay away from chopped frozen strawberries because I am not so sure that you can tell what those looked likes before they were chopped, and you should definitely check that strawberries are the only ingredient in the bag, just to be on the safe side. Frozen whole strawberries are usually cheaper than fresh, and they are really handy to have on hand in your freezer to use for smoothies, or other recipes. For the purpose of this recipe you can definitely use fresh strawberries if you have some. In that case you may want to add an ice cube or two, if you like your smoothie cold. The benefit of using frozen strawberries is that no extra ice is needed – they give this smoothie a nice, subtle chill that is just fabulous for summer breakfast at home or on the go.
Final note for those who like a sturdier breakfast. This smoothie is light, has no added sugar and a minimal amount of fat that comes from the almond milk, coconut flakes and the mini chocolate chips. If you want to make this smoothie thicker and more filling, you can simply add two to three spoonfuls of rolled oats. If you are adding oats, I recommend you letting the smoothie rest for five minutes or so before enjoying to let the oats soften just a smidge.
Good Morning, Sunshine! Smoothie
What you’ll need:
5 frozen whole strawberries (fresh will work too!)
If you have not done so already, you should definitely try tempeh. I’ve been hearing about it for some time now, and seeing several different brands and varieties right next to the tofu that I usually get but I only got the first batch of tempeh just the other day. I bought several different varieties to try them out and spent few days reading about what’s tempeh good for and how to best cook with it. Tempeh is related to tofu because both are soy based. But, in terms of flavor and texture (and as far as I can tell in terms of how you actually make the two, based on what Wikipedia says), tofu and tempeh are quite different. Tempeh is firm, much firmer than the firmest tofu, and does not come in liquid. It is actually fermented soy beans mixed with rice [edited after reading comment from Mary S below – thanks Mary S, it’s good to get the facts all squared away. I am still a bit confused since the ingredients’ list of the tempeh I used did include rice; at the end of the day my confusion does not matter change the fact that the food was delicious], so although it is dry, it does feel sticky to touch and just a bit slimy. FYI: I am not saying this to freak you out, rather to forewarn you so that you are not as surprised when you start handling it as I was – I thought my tempeh has gone bad and wanted to throw it out! But, I double-checked the date on the bag, regained my cool and went for it.
I decided to start simple and build from there, so this Miso Glazed Grilled Tempeh is more or less my starting point. The brand of tempeh I got is Lightlife and the two varieties I started with are their Organic Garden Veggie and Organic Soy Tempeh. Each package is half a pound (about 250 g), and the block of tempeh comes in a vacuumed-sealed package, that’s within a sealed plastic bag, so there are two bags to remove! I used both blocks at the same time, since one just did not seem enough to make for the end of the week Friday dinner.
The first thing I did was to fire up the grill. I have a gas grill and it takes it about ten to fifteen minutes to get to be sizzling hot, with burners going at full blast and the lid down. That was just enough time for me to prep the tempeh and the glaze. For tempeh, I placed the pieces into a pan large enough to keep the pieces flat, covered with water, brought to boil and boiled for four to five minutes per side – I did flip the pieces over once since the pan I was using was shallow and the water did not fully cover the tempeh, so if your tempeh is fully covered you will not need to do the flip! After about ten minutes I took the tempeh out, pat dried the pieces, and left them uncovered on some paper towels.
While the tempeh was boiling and the grill was heating up, I mixed together a simple glaze with some soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, white miso glaze and vegetable oil. I spread the glaze over the tempeh pieces just before placing them on the grill the glazed side down. Then I glazed the top and let it grill for about five to six minutes. By that time the grill marks will be perfect, and the pieces ready to be flipped. I did reglaze both sides again and flipped again, so that at the end each side got two layers of glaze and about eight to ten minutes of grilling, so in total the grilling bit took less than twenty minutes. If you are in a rush, you can definitely skip the reglazing, but if you are outside hanging around the grill with friends and family and enjoying the lovely summer evening, then why not give tempeh extra love, glaze and grill time?
Let grilled tempeh rest for just a second, then slice and serve. You can serve it in a hamburger or a hot dog bun with the usual trimmings, but note that condiments, like mustard and ketchup, are going to overpower the flavor of the grilled tempeh. So, I recommend serving tempeh with a side of coleslaw and baked, or barbecue beans, which is how I had mine. Add to that a glass of cold beverage of choice, and what can be better?
Miso Glazed Grilled Tempeh
What you’ll need:
2 8 oz (227 g) blocks of tempeh (any variety and brand you like)
2 tablespoons soy sauce, reduced sodium
2 tablespoons white miso paste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce (vegan)
Oil for oiling the grill grates
What you’ll do:
Prepare your grill like you normally do. I recommend getting the grill really hot and letting any bits and pieces from the previous grill session burn off, then scrapping the grates with an appropriate type of a brush (please be careful here because you can really damage your grill grates if you don’t follow the manufactures instructions and recommendations), and then oil them generously with a paper towel dipped in vegetable oil – please use long tongs here to prevent getting burned!
Take tempeh out of the wrapping and palace in a pan large enough to hold it flat and straight. Cover with water, bring to boil and let it boil for 5 to 10 minutes. Make sure you flip the tempeh half way through if your tempeh is not fully submerged in water. If it is, no mid-way flipping is needed!
While tempeh is boiling and the grill is getting hot, mix together the glaze by whisking together soy sauce, vegetable oil, miso paste and Worcestershire sauce. The glaze should be smooth, but even if you have few lumps in there don’t worry about it – it won’t matter at the end.
Place the boiled tempeh onto some paper towels and gently dry.
Using a (silicone) food brush spread the glaze liberally ove the tempeh and place the piece of tempeh glaze side down on the hot grill. Keep the gas grill on medium high heat, or if you are using a charcoal grill keep it as hot as you would when grilling vegetables, veggie burgers, or mushroom or tofu steaks. Grill the glazed tempeh 5 to 6 minutes on one side, and while it is grilling apply the glaze on the other side, flip over, grill for 4 to 5 minutes, glaze, flip, grill, repeat for as long as you like.
Let stand for just a moment or two, slice and serve!!! This Miso Glazed Grilled Tempeh will work as an appetizer, finger food, as well as dinner, especially with some grilled corn, veggies, coleslaw, baked or barbecue beans, or as a salad topping…
During long, winter months when days are short, snow piles up high and it does not get above freezing for weeks on end, New Englander likes to enjoy things like pots and pots of piping hot New England Clam Chowder, a creamy and rich seafood based soup. This winter I did something that just a year ago would have sound like a total science fiction and impossibility. I made completely plant-based, clam-free New England “Clam” Chowder.
Now that we are approaching the high summer, I felt ready to tackles another recipe that New England self-identifies with, the Lobster Roll! If you’ve never tasted or seen a Lobster Roll let me quickly describe how it’s made. You take a hot dog bun, steam it or toast it and fill it with chunk so of cooked lobster meat tossed with some mayonnaise and chopped celery. The main flavor you get is usually the combination of mayo and celery, and you may get some citrus overtones since the roll is often served with a lemon wedge.
So far, jackfruit was my go-to seafood replacement. Jackfruit works really well in crab-less Jackfruit “Crab” Cakes, in Clam-free “Clam” Sauce, and in vegan New England “Clam” Chowder, but for the lobster rolls I wanted a different texture and milder flavor as canned jackfruit that I have access to is usually a bit salty and sour. So I did a little bit of research and discovered that heart of palm seems to be everybody’s favorite lobster stand-in. I have not really used heart of palm before so I was not sure what exactly to expect.
Luckily for me, my local Trader Joe’s carries 14 oz. jars of heart of palm in brine, so I decided to go for it. This amount of hearts of palm is enough to make four generous rolls using a standard size hot dog bun. The rolls come together in less than ten minutes and definitely qualify as a quick lunch or dinner. I recommend rinsing the heart of palm well and chopping it into relatively small piece. I know that chunks of lobster in some of the most revered lobster rolls out there are pretty large but in this case I do think that making celery and heart of palm pieces about the same size works better to integrate the flavors. Plus it makes for more manageable bites. So, get a large mixing bowl out and lets make a much lighter, cheaper, safer and, lets face it, tastier and kinder lobster roll.
Fancy Faux-lobster Roll
What you’ll need (for 4 servings):
1 14 oz (400 g) jar heart of palm
6 stalks celery
1/2 cup vegan Mayo (store bought or homemade)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon old bay seasoning
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3-4 springs of fresh dill, chopped
4 hot dog buns
What you’ll do:
Drain and rinse heart of palm. Pat dry and cut in half lengthwise and then across into 1/2 in (1 to 1.5 cm) pieces. Place into a large mixing bowl.
Chop celery into thin slices, approximately matching the size of the heart of palm pieces. Add to the mixing bowl.
Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Let rest for 30 minutes.
Toast four hot dog rolls then top them with generous amount of faux-lobster filling. Sprinkle more dill on, if you like, and enjoy! The flavor is so fresh and satisfying that you will not want to add anything to this, but just in case you are wondering what to pair Fancy Faux-Lobster Roll with, you can try boiled or baked potatoes with just a splash of olive oil. That ought to do it!