Friday, July 29, 2011

Loukoumades with Orange-Cinnamon Syrup

Loukoumades (Greek Donuts) remind me of summertime.  I guess it's because my husband and I would travel to Greece during this time of year, and we would also attend just about every Greek festival in the Bay Area during summer.  The best Loukoumades that I've ever had were at the Belmont Greek Festival, which is held over Labor Day weekend.  The line for Loukoumades would wrap around the building for people to get a bowl of piping hot donuts dipped in warm honey syrup.   But since they're not vegan, no more Belmont for I wanted to make my own version and they are just as delicious if not more!  Everything tastes better when you take the time to make it yourself!

I used to have a great recipe for Loukoumades (kind of like a brioche dough) that I wanted to veganize, but I couldn't find it and so I had to start over experimenting with recipes to get the right texture and flavor.  Actually, I made a batch of these on Saturday night when I had family visiting, but the dough was very difficult to work with.  So my daughter-in-law, who went to pastry school and is an excellent baker, and I sat around afterwards discussing ways to revise the recipe.  We thought about reducing the yeast, reducing the soy, adding more flour, chilling the dough before frying and so I made another batch incorporating some of these changes, but they still weren't right.  I was about to give up because there is only so much fried-sugary food I want to put in my body, but I'm glad that I gave it another shot because as you can see they are perfect little balls of gooey goodness.

Dough Ingredients/Frying:

1 1/8 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm filtered water (110-115 degrees)
1/2 cup organic warm plain soy milk (110-115 degrees)
1 tbsp agave syrup
1 tbsp ground flax
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
1 liter canola oil for frying
Canola oil spray
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup toasted pistachios, finely chopped

  • In a large bowl add warm water and yeast and let sit for about five minutes to proof yeast.
  • Add warm soy milk, agave, ground flax, vanilla extract, salt and whisk to combine.
  • Add flour and stir to combine.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and let proof for about two hours.
  • Add canola oil to a deep dutch oven or pan and heat over medium heat to 350 degrees with a deep fry thermometer.
  • Remove plastic from bowl and stir dough a couple of times to remove air bubbles.
  • Using a small 1 tbsp ice cream scooper or a regular tablespoon, spray it lightly with canola and then scoop the dough and drop directly into the hot canola oil.  Work with about 6-8 donuts at a time turning them frequently so that they brown evenly.  Remove from oil with a large slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
  • While donuts are still hot, toss them in the orange-cinnamon syrup and top with finely chopped walnuts and pistachios.  This recipe makes a lot of donuts so I dipped some in cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar as well.
  • These donuts are best eaten warm, just after frying.
Orange-Cinnamon Syrup:

1/2 cup agave syrup
3/4-1 cup filtered water
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon

  • In a small sauce pan, add agave syrup and water, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Cook for about 15 minutes until sauce thickens.  You can tell when it's ready because it will start foaming.  To check consistency, spoon a little on to a plate and hold the plate at an angle.  You still want it to drip, but you want it to be a little thicker than maple syrup so that it coats the donuts nicely.
  • Remove syrup from heat and let cool.  The syrup will thicken as it cools, so you may need to add a little more water to thin out.
  • Once cool, stir in orange zest, vanilla, lemon juice and cinnamon and stir to combine.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Better Than Mom's Egg(less) Salad

I think that I've mentioned before on my blog that before I became a vegan, I never ate eggs.  I hated the look, the smell and the texture.  But there was one exception, my Mom's egg salad.  When I was a kid my friends always asked me, "can you ask your Mom to make some egg salad, please?"  She would make a large batch and it would be gone within minutes.  Well Mom, I hate to break it to you, but my egg salad is better than yours...and that's saying a lot because my Mom is an excellent cook!  My version uses the same ingredients, except for eggs of course, has no cholesterol, is low in fat, high in fiber (we used to eat it on white bread) and is delicious!  So Mom, when I come to visit you in October, I'm going to make my version and see if it passes the ultimate taste test!


1 lb organic extra firm tofu, drained and pressed to remove excess liquid
1/2 cup small diced organic celery
1/3 cup sliced Spanish Manzanilla Olives with Pimentos
1/3 - 1/2 cup Vegenaise, depending on consistency
1 1/2 tsp Black salt (found at Indian Grocers, really rose in color, not black)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt (more or less to taste--be careful because the black salt is salty)
1/2 tsp black pepper
Organic leafy green lettuce leaves
Sliced tomatoes
100% whole wheat bread
Note:  My Mom added cream cheese along with mayonnaise.  I don't like the flavor or texture of vegan cream cheese and so I omitted it and added more Vegenaise.

  • Drain tofu and press between two sheet pans for about an hour to remove excess liquid.  Crumble tofu in a medium size bowl and set aside.
  • In another bowl mix together Vegenaise, black salt, turmeric, Dijon and black pepper.
  • Add Vegenaise mixture to tofu, along with diced celery and olives and stir to combine.  Season with salt and pepper if needed.
  • Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour for flavors to combine.
  • Serve either on a bed of lettuce with tomatoes or on whole wheat bread.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Herb-Crusted Caesar Salad Sandwich

We had family visiting over the weekend and so instead of cooking we went out to dinner every night.  When they left yesterday, I decided that I wasn't going to the grocery store and would make something for dinner with whatever I had in my freezer and pantry.  So I decided to make a Herb-Crusted Caesar Salad Sandwich.  I used Gardein Chick'n Scallopini because that is what I had in my freezer, but this sandwich would be just as good with herb-crusted seitan, tempeh or extra firm tofu. 

Going out to dinner in the South Bay is a bit of a drag when you're vegan.  Unless you want to eat greasy fried Asian food, falafels, or vegan pizza, your options are really limited.  I wish we had better restaurant options here.  The next time I have family visit, I'm going to cook at home instead of going out to dinner.  At least I know that my food is healthier and definitely a lot better tasting, and my kitchen has a lot more options to choose from!

Herb-Crusted Fillets:

2 cups finely ground bread crumbs, or panko 
1 tbsp finely minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp crumbled dried oregano
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp canola oil
1-2 packages Gardein Chick'n Scallopini Fillets
Note:  Depending on how large your sandwich rolls are, you may need to purchase two packages of the Gardein.  Each sandwich uses about 1-1/2 fillets each.

  • Remove scallopini from freezer and defrost in microwave until softened.  Cover with plastic wrap and press lightly with the palm of your hand to increase size a little bit or roll lightly with a rolling pin.
  • Mix bread crumbs with herbs and spices in a bowl and set aside.
  • Working one fillet at a time, brush lightly with vegetable stock on both sides and dip in bread crumbs and press lightly to adhere.  Set on a baking sheet until all pieces are coated.
  • Heat a saute pan on medium heat, add canola oil and fry until golden brown and crispy on both sides, about 4 minutes each side.  Set aside.
Sandwich Ingredients:

1 recipe Caesar Salad Dressing
1 head organic romaine lettuce, outer leaves removed, chopped, washed and dried
2 large tomatoes, sliced
4 sandwich rolls of choice

  • Prepare Caesar salad dressing and set aside.
  • Prepare herb-crusted fillets and set aside.
  • Chop lettuce and toss lightly with Caesar dressing, add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Toast sandwich rolls and smear both sides with a little dressing.  Slice fillets in half or in strips and place on bottom half.  Top with dressed lettuce and sliced tomato.
  • I served mine with a side salad of baby spinach, tomatoes, and balsamic vinaigrette.  Delicious! 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Spicy Fried Rice with Marinated Baked Tofu

For my b-day last year my husband bought me a TofuXpress because I love marinating and cooking with baked tofu.  It's a nifty device and does a good job of removing all the liquid from tofu so that the tofu can then absorb the tasty marinade.  Before I used to press the tofu between sheet pans weighted down with heavy objects and not with always good results.  This device makes it really easy.  If you don't want to spend the money on the press, then the old fashioned way will work fine.  Also, I noticed that more stores are carrying "super firm" tofu that doesn't require any pressing.  

Baked Tofu Marinade:

1 tsp finely minced lemongrass
1 tsp finely minced garlic
1 tsp finely minced or grated ginger
1 tsp Sriracha
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp minced green onion
1/4 cup organic soy sauce
2 tbsp filtered water
Juice of 1 lime
1 lb firm organic tofu, drained, pressed for at least an hour, and diced

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix ingredients together in a medium bowl, add diced tofu, stir to cover and marinate for about 30-45 minutes until most the marinade is absorbed.  Drain tofu, but reserve marinade.  
  • Spray a sheet tray with canola oil.  Dry tofu with a paper towel and bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes until golden brown and firm. Set aside to cool.
Spicy Sauce:

1/4 cup organic soy sauce
1 tbsp minced shallot
1 tbsp minced or grated ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp agave syrup or brown sugar
2 tsp Thai Red Curry Paste or Sriracha (more or less to taste)
Juice of 1/2 lime

  • Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.
Rice Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups brown basmati rice
2 3/4 cups filtered water
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 cup diced carrots, blanched
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
2 cups diced Napa cabbage
2 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup chopped green onion, plus more for garnish
Juice of 1/2 lime

  • While tofu is marinating and baking start cooking basmati rice.
  • In a sauce pan on medium heat, add canola oil, basmati rice and salt and stir until rice is coated and starts to turn golden brown.
  • Add filtered water, bring to a boil, reduce to medium-low, cover and cook for 35 minutes until done.  Remove from heat at let sit for 10 minutes more before removing lid.  When finished, remove lid and fluff with a fork.  Set aside.
  • Dice carrots and blanch in boiling salted water for 3 minutes until crisp-tender.  Drain, and place under cool running water to stop cooking.  Chop cabbage and set aside.
  • Heat a large saute pan or wok on medium heat, add 1 tbsp canola oil, chopped Napa cabbage and chopped green onion.  Cook for about 3 minutes until cabbage starts to wilt.  
  • Add spicy sauce, along with remaining tofu marinade and stir to combine and cook for another 2 minutes for flavors to combine.  Remove cabbage mixture from pan and set aside.
  • Wipe out pan with a paper towel and add 1 tbsp canola oil.  Add rice and cook for about 2 minutes, add cabbage mixture, diced carrots, green peas and baked tofu and stir to combine.  
  • Check seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed.  Finish with a squeeze of lime juice and garnish with sliced green onions.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Veggie Calzone with Roasted Garlic Cream

If you like garlic then this calzone is for you!  This recipe contains two whole bulbs of garlic!  And if you're tired of using a standard red sauce for calzone's or pizza, then I really think that you'll love my Roasted Garlic Cream.

Roasted Garlic Cream Sauce:

1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least four hours or overnight
1 1/2 cups filtered water
1 bulb garlic
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic minced
1 tbsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Slice top off garlic bulb, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and wrap in aluminum foil.
  • Roast in the oven for about 40-50 minutes until tender.  Set aside to let cool.
  • Drain soaking water from cashews and place cashews in a blender.  Add filtered water and blend for about 3-4 minutes on high until smooth.
  • Heat a sauce pan on medium heat and saute onions, garlic and thyme until onions are soft.  
  • Add cashew cream, salt and pepper to taste and cook on low for about 15 minutes until sauce becomes thick, stirring frequently to prevent burning.  Set aside.
Tomato Concasse:

8 large Roma tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed and diced
2 tbsp finely minced garlic
2 tbsp minced fresh basil
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Note:  You can use diced canned tomatoes, but since tomatoes are in season, it really makes a difference using fresh.

  • Fill a sauce pan with water and bring it to a boil.  Slice an X on the top of each tomato and immerse in the boiling water until skins start to peel, about 30 seconds.  Remove tomatoes and place in ice water to cool, or rinse under cool water.  Peel tomatoes, slice in quarters, remove seeds and then dice.
  • Add olive oil to a sauce pan, add diced tomatoes, garlic, basil, salt and pepper to taste and cook until liquid is absorbed and tomato sauce is thick.  Set aside.
Calzone Ingredients/Assembly:

1 lb whole wheat/grain pizza dough (I used Trader Joe's), divided into 4 portions
1 head broccoli, sectioned into florets and steamed until crisp-tender
12 oz baby spinach leaves
4 cloves minced garlic
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more to brush top of calzone
1/2 package Daiya Mozzarella Cheese Shreds
Kosher salt and black pepper
Cornmeal for dusting pizza peel

  • Preheat oven to 500 degrees and preheat pizza stone for about one hour before using.
  • Let pizza dough come to room temperature for 30 minutes and then divide into 4 equal portions, roll into balls on a floured surface and cover and let sit for another 30 minutes for gluten to relax before rolling out.
  • Place broccoli florets in a steamer and steam for about 1-2 minutes until crisp-tender.  Cool and then chop into 1/2" pieces.  Set aside.
  • Heat a large saute pan on medium-low, add olive oil, garlic, spinach, salt and pepper to taste and cook until wilted.  Place spinach in a strainer and press with the back of a spoon to remove most liquid, set aside.
  • Roll out pizza dough to about an 8" circle, or to desired thickness and then transfer dough to pizza peel dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking.
  • Place about 2-3 tbsp roasted garlic cream sauce on the bottom half of the circle.  Top with chopped broccoli, sauteed spinach, 2-3 tbsp tomato concasse and 1/4 cup Daiya cheese.  Fold over top and seal edges tightly.  Brush with a little olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and black pepper.
  • Bake for about 7-10 minutes (depending on your oven) until puffy, bubbly and golden brown. 

Monday, July 18, 2011

Raw Kale Salad with Spiced Chickpeas

I shop at Whole Foods several times a week and while I'm there I usually purchase something from their prepared foods section.  They have an area for "oil-free" entrees and so I decided to try their raw kale salad with tahini dressing.  I was so disappointed when I was eating it that I tossed it out.  The raw kale leaves were so large (the size of the palm of my hand) that I had to tear them into smaller pieces while I was eating, or I would of choked.  And the dressing was so thick and overpowered with garlic that it burned the back of my throat.  I just don't know how they can serve a salad like this--I can't believe that someone in the kitchen tasted this and thought that it was good to go.  And I've been back on several occasions and the salad was the same.  

Anyway, here's my version and you won't be disappointed.  The salad is "oil-free" except that I added roasted chickpeas, roasted in a small amount of olive oil.  The chickpeas provide a nice texture to the salad and are good for you too.  You can roast them without oil, if you want to keep it oil free.  So Whole Foods, if you're listening, please re-do the recipe.  I believe that people want to purchase healthy prepared foods, but they've also got to taste good as well. 

Tahini Dressing:

1/4 cup tahini paste/sauce
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 cup tbsp filtered water
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp Bragg Liquid Aminos
1 tsp finely minced garlic
Juice of 1 1/2 - 2 lemons
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

  • Add all ingredients, except for minced garlic to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.  Pour into a bowl and stir in garlic and season with salt and pepper.
Roasted Spiced Chickpeas:

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight and cooked until tender
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

  • Soak chickpeas overnight and then cook until tender, about one hour.  
  • Drain, rinse and dry chickpeas really well, removing any skins that are loose.
  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees and roast chickpeas on a sheet tray until dry and slightly crisp, about 15 minutes.  Shake pan every five minutes or so to redistribute chickpeas.
  • Turn oven down to 350 degrees and whisk together ingredients in a medium size bowl.  Add chickpeas and toss to combine.  
  • Roast in the oven for about 20-30 minutes longer until golden brown and crisp.  Make sure that you check them on a regular basis and shake pan to redistribute chickpeas.  I usually set my kitchen timer for five minute intervals to make sure that I don't burn them, especially during the last 10 minutes of roasting, they can go from looking good to black  in a couple of minutes.
  • Remove sheet pan from oven and let cool.
Salad Ingredients/Assembly:

1 bunch of organic green leafy kale, torn into BITE SIZE pieces...:-)
Tahini dressing to taste
Roasted chickpeas
Kosher salt and black pepper

  • Wash kale pieces really well and dry in a salad spinner.
  • Add kale to a bowl and add enough tahini dressing to coat the leaves lightly.
  • Season with salt and pepper if needed and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.
  • Sprinkle with roasted chickpeas.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Tofu Lettuce Cups & Veggie Potstickers

Update:  8/3/11, Recipes posted below...:-)

I'm being super lazy with my post tonight.  Actually, I was rushing while making dinner and I forgot to write down all the measurements for the recipes.  To me the hardest part about updating a blog is documenting all the recipes.  I'm so used to adding ingredients to taste (a dash here, a teaspoon there) that I lose track of what I've added.  Anyway, everything was delicious and if you want the recipes, just send me an email and I'll be happy to send something to you.

Tofu Lettuce Cups:

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced small
4 green onions, sliced
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 1/2 cups diced shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
1 cup diced baby corn
1 cup diced water chestnuts
8 oz extra firm tofu, drained and diced
1/3 cup hoisin sauce
2 tbsp organic soy sauce
Splash of rice wine vinegar
1 tsp cornstarch
1/3 cup filtered water
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp sesame oil
Bib lettuce leaves, washed and spun dried
Sliced Fresno chili and chopped chives for garnish

  • Saute red pepper, mushrooms, onions, ginger and garlic in canola oil and sesame oil until soft, about five minutes.
  • In a small bowl mix together cornstarch, water, hoisin sauce, soy sauce and rice wine vinegar.
  • Add sauce to red pepper/mushroom mixture and cook until thickened.
  • Add water chestnuts, baby corn and tofu, stir to combine and heat through.

Veggie Potstickers:

1/2 cup textured soy protein, re-hydrated with hot water
1 cup diced shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
2 cups finely chopped Napa cabbage
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1 tbsp minced garlic
2 tsp minced ginger
3 tbsp hoisin sauce
2 tbsp organic soy sauce or tamari
2 tsp Chinese rice wine or Marsala
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 package egg free round potsticker wrappers
4 tbsp canola oil
1 cup vegetable stock, heated

  • Soak textured soy protein in hot water for about 15 minutes.  Drain really well and press with the back of a spoon to drain off additional liquid.  You want the TSP to be really dry.  Set aside.
  • Heat 1 tbsp canola oil in a large frying pan and add diced mushrooms, Napa cabbage, green onions, garlic and ginger and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes.
  • Add hoisin sauce, soy sauce, rice wine and sesame oil and cook until all liquid is absorbed.
  • Remove from heat and stir in textured soy protein and stir to combine.
  • Let mixture come to room temperature before stuffing potstickers.
  • Lay round potsticker wrapper on a flat surface and place a small amount of filling (1 tsp) on the bottom half of the wrapper.  With your finger rub a small amount of water around the entire edge of the potsticker and fold wrapper into a half moon and seal the edges.  Stand the potsticker up, pressing so that bottom flattens slightly and then form five creases around the edges of the wrapper using your thumb and index finger.  It's kind of like making a pie crust.  I start in the center and make the first crease and then make two creases on each side of the center for a total of five creases.
  • Heat oven to 250 degrees.
  • Heat a large saute pan on medium heat and add 1 tbsp of canola oil.  Working in three batches add about 6-8 potstickers at a time--you don't want to crowd the pan.  Sear potstickers until golden brown about 3-4 minutes.  Pour about 1/4 cup vegetable stock over the potstickers, cover with a lid and steam for an additional 2 minutes or until liquid evaporates.  Remove potstickers and place on sheet tray, covered with foil and place in the oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining potstickers.  Repeat process.

Ginger Dipping Sauce:

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
5 tbsp organic soy sauce
3 tbsp filtered water
1 1/2 tbsp agave syrup
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp Sriracha chili sauce
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
Thinly sliced green onion
Thinly sliced Fresno chili pepper

  • Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk to combine.  Serve at room temperature.



Thursday, July 14, 2011

BBQ Seitan Quesadillas with Pineapple Salsa

This recipe for BBQ Seitan Quesadillas is really good.  I had left over BBQ sauce from July 4th that I wanted to use up.  You can either make your own sauce or purchase your favorite brand.  I used original seitan from Sweet Earth, but tempeh would also taste really good, or you could easily make your own seitan.

Charred Pineapple Salsa:

1 fresh pineapple, peeled, sliced into 1/4" rings and cored
2 tbsp finely minced jalapeno, seeded first
2 tbsp finely minced red onion
2 tbsp finely minced cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

  • Heat a grill pan or skillet on medium-high and cook pineapple slices on both sides until lightly charred and caramelized.  Set aside to cool and then dice and place in a bowl.
  • Add all other ingredients and stir to combine and and chill until ready to use.

1 large ripe Hass avocado, peeled and diced
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tbsp sour cream or Vegenaise
Juice of 1 lime
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

  • Mash avocado with a fork until smooth and add other ingredients and stir to combine.
Quesadilla Ingredients/Assembly:

1 8 oz package seitan
1 cup BBQ sauce
1/2 cup Daiya Cheddar Cheese
1/2 cup Daiya Mozzarella Cheese
1 red onion, sliced
1 package whole wheat flour tortillas
2 cups red cabbage, thinly sliced
Juice of 1 lime
Cilantro leaves
Canola Oil
Kosher salt and black pepper

  • Slice seitan into strips and lightly fry in a saute pan.  Add BBQ sauce to taste, heat through and set aside.
  • In another saute pan, add a little canola oil and saute red onion until caramelized, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • Thinly slice red cabbage, add lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.
  • To assemble, heat a large saute pan on medium heat and brush lightly with canola oil.
  • Lightly coat one flour tortilla with BBQ sauce, sprinkle with cheddar and mozzarella cheese, add strips of BBQ seitan, caramelized onions and top with more cheese.  Press another flour tortilla on top and transfer to saute pan and fry on both sides until golden brown.
  • Transfer quesadilla to a cutting board and cut into slices.  Garnish with guacamole, red cabbage, pineapple salsa and cilantro leaves.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bucatini con Salsa di Pomodoro Fresco

I ordered this dish at a restaurant once and they served it with canned diced tomatoes.  I almost sent it back and I probably should have but I was really hungry.  And this was during the summer months when tomatoes were plentiful.  Perhaps their shipment for fresh organic tomatoes did not arrive that day and they forgot to remove (86) the dish from the menu for the evening.  I also remember that the sauce was so overpowered with balsamic vinegar that it was almost inedible.  And we were dining at a really nice restaurant.  Oh well, every restaurant has a bad day, but I never went back--first impressions are everything.

When I make a pasta dish I usually use whole grain pasta because it's healthier.  This dish is my one exception because the ingredients are so few (only 7) that I have to use my favorite pasta, Bucatini.  You can find Bucatini at specialty grocery stores in the Bay Area, or order online from the company who makes it, Maestri Pastai.  It's somewhat expensive for pasta, but it's really worth it.  Remember when you're cooking with few ingredients, you want each ingredient to be exceptional and this pasta dish is.

Fresh Tomato Sauce:

2 pounds assorted organic cherry tomatoes, sliced in half or quartered
1 1/2 tbsp finely minced garlic
1/3 cup capers, drained
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade, plus more for garnish
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

  • Slice or quarter tomatoes depending on size and place in a large bowl.  Add garlic, capers, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste and let marinate/macerate for up to four hours at room temperature, stirring frequently so that juices and flavors are distributed.
Pasta Assembly:

1 package Maestri Pastai Bucatini
3 cups organic arugula or wild rocket, washed and drained
Kosher salt
Extra virgin olive oil

  • Fill a large stock pot with water and bring to a boil.  Add a good amount of salt to the water (it should taste like the sea) and a splash of olive oil.  My pot was not big enough and so I cooked the pasta in two batches, stirring for the first five minutes of cooking to make sure that all the noodles were not sticking together.  The pasta takes about 15-20 minutes to cook until al dente.
  • Drain pasta and rinse well under cool water and drain again.
  • Add pasta to the bowl of fresh tomato sauce, along with the arugula and toss to combine.  Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if needed and perhaps more olive oil.
  • Serve pasta at room temperature garnished with additional basil.  



Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer Squash Ragu with Crispy Herb Polenta

Believe it or not, sometimes I really don't feel like cooking and last night was one of those rare nights.  Perhaps it was because I had made cupcakes before dinner and I wasn't hungry.  Anyway, I know that it's healthier to eat at home and so I decided to make something easy instead of going out or ordering carry out. This dish is simple to prepare and also very delicious.  Perfect for when you don't want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen.

Herb Polenta:

1 cup polenta cornmeal
4 cups vegetable stock, heated
1 1/2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tsp Earth Balance Butter
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Canola spray
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Note:  This recipe only serves two if the polenta is cut into circles.  You will get slightly more servings if you cut into squares or serve creamy instead.

  • Spray a casserole dish lightly with canola oil and set aside.
  • In a large sauce pan, heat vegetable stock to a rolling boil and whisk in polenta, making sure there are no lumps.
  • Add fresh herbs and season with salt and pepper and reduce heat to low.
  • While polenta is simmering, stir constantly with a wooden spoon to avoid polenta from scorching.  
  • Polenta will take about 30-35 minutes to cook.  The grains will become soft and pull away from the sides of the pan.  During cooking you may need to add a small amount of vegetable stock if too much liquid is absorbed before cornmeal is soft.
  • Just before pouring into casserole dish, or serving as is, stir in nutritional yeast and butter.
  • Immediately pour into casserole dish and smooth with a wooden spoon and shimmy pan until polenta is even and smooth.
  • Chill for about an hour and cut with a cookie cutter in circles or squares.
  • Heat a saute pan on medium and add olive oil.
  • Dredge polenta in flour and place in frying pan and fry until golden brown on both sides about five minutes per side.
  • Serve polenta under Summer Squash Ragu
Rustic Tomato Sauce:

1 medium onion, diced small
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
2 tbsp minced fresh basil leaves
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes, or tomato puree
2 cups filtered water
1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

  • Heat sauce pan on medium-low heat, add olive oil, onions and garlic and cook for about five minutes.
  • Add all other ingredients, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer and cook for about 30-45 minutes for flavors to combine, stirring often.  
  • Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Summer Squash:

1 medium yellow zucchini 
2 medium green zucchini
1 medium green Italian zucchini
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

  • Square off the sides of the zucchini and dice into 1/2" size pieces.
  • Heat a saute pan on medium-high heat, add olive oil and fry zucchini (in two batches) until golden brown, about 3 minutes.  You want them to be crisp tender.
  • When finished frying, add zucchini to tomato sauce and stir to combine.
  • Serve squash ragu over polenta and garnish with fresh basil.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Carrot Cupcakes with Maple-Date Frosting

My niece texted me this morning at 7:00 am asking me if I had a good recipe for organic carrot cupcakes.  I recommended a couple of websites and told her that I would make a batch today and post the recipe.  These cupcakes are almost all organic.  Every ingredient is organic except for the spices and a very small percentage of the cream cheese.  But more importantly, they are VEGAN and they contain no granulated or powdered sugars, and are made with whole grain flours.  Oh and by the way, they are wondie!!!

This recipe makes about 10 cupcakes.  The baking cups I used are very small, about 2-1/2" deep.  I like this brand (If You Care) because their products are unbleached (contain no chlorine) and are better for the environment.  However, they do make smaller cupcakes.  So just keep that in mind because you may want to double the recipe if you use different baking cups.

Cupcake Batter:

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup whole grain spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp finely ground flax seed
4 tbsp filtered water
3/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup peeled shredded carrots, plus 1 tbsp for garnish
1/4 cup chopped walnuts, plus 1 tbsp for garnish
1/4 cup chopped raisins
Note:  If you can't find spelt four, then you can use whole wheat pastry flour for the entire recipe.  I just like the texture spelt provides to baked goods.  Also, I made my own applesauce (2 organic pink lady apples, peeled, cored and diced, 1/2 cup filtered water, and 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon).  Place ingredients in a sauce pan and cook about 20 minutes until soft.  Blend in a food processor until smooth.

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Line a 12 cup cupcake or muffin tray with baking cups.
  • If making applesauce from scratch, prepare and set aside to cool.
  • In a medium size bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices together and set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk ground flax seed and water until frothy.  Add maple syrup, applesauce, vanilla, oil, carrots, walnuts and raisins and stir well to combine.
  • Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and stir to combine.
  • Using a 1/4 measuring cup, scoop an equal amount into each baking cup.
  • Place cupcake tray in the middle of the oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, turning once after 15 minutes of baking.  Using a toothpick check to see if they are done in the center.
  • Let cupcakes cool for about 15 minutes on a cooling rack before removing.
Maple-Date Cream Cheese Frosting:

6 oz pitted medjool dates (about 1 cup)
2 cups filtered water
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
8 oz vegan cream cheese (I like Follow Your Heart brand)
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp grated orange zest
Note:  I have used dates and maple syrup before to make a glaze for my Greek Tahini Cake, except the glaze was made with tahini, and not cream cheese.  For this recipe, the date puree provides a natural sweetness to the cream cheese, therefore eliminating the need for powdered sugar.

  • Heat water to boiling and pour over dates and let sit for about 20 minutes so that they soften.  Place dates in a strainer and remove any excess water by pressing with the back of a spoon.
  • Place dates in a food processor, along with maple syrup and blend for about 3-4 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl, until you have a creamy puree.
  • Add vanilla extract and cream cheese and blend until smooth.
  • Remove frosting from the food processor and fold in grated orange zest.  Chill for about 1 hour before using to firm to a spreading consistency.  I chilled mine in the freezer for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.
  • Spoon about 1-2 tbsp frosting over each cupcake and garnish with chopped walnuts and shredded carrots.