Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chicken Souvlaki Salad

I've made a couple entree salads this month (such as Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad), and couldn't resist making another.  This salad riffs off the flavors of Greek souvlaki; technically, souvlaki refers to the "little skewers" on which meat is grilled, so in that sense, this salad doesn't deserve the name at all.  But souvlaki meat is then typically served in a pita with the Greek yogurt-cucumber sauce called tzatziki, and this salad captures that flavor and essence - with vegan equivalents, of course.  Enjoy!

  • 2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic, divided
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • 3 cups peeled and cubed cucumber
  • 1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled vegan feta (such as Sunergia)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped and pitted kalamata olives
  • 2 tomatoes*
  • 1/2 cup plain non-dairy yogurt
  • 1/4 cup peeled and grated cucumber
  • 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Combine 1 teaspoon of the bottled minced garlic with the lemon juice, olive oil, oregano, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper in a large zip-top plastic bag.  Add the Gardein chicken; seal and shake to coat.

2. Remove the chicken from the bag and grill for 5 minutes on each side, then cut into 1-inch pieces.

Note: this was another great occasion for me to use my Griddler counter-top grill, which lets me pretend I live in a home with a backyard instead of a New York City apartment.  Use a real grill, of course, if you prefer, or you can also broil the chicken in the oven for the same amount of time.

3. Core the tomatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Combine the tomatoes in a large bowl with the chopped chicken, remaining 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic, 3 cups cubed cucumber, red onion, feta, and kalamata olives.  Set aside.

4. In a bowl, combine the yogurt, 1/4 cup grated cucumber, white wine vinegar, garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt, ground red pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Pour the yogurt mixture over the chicken mixture and toss well.

To continue with the Greek theme of the evening, I served the salad with simple Greek pita wedges: cut 2 (6-inch) pitas into 6 wedges each.  Arrange the pita wedges on a baking sheet.  Coat with olive oil-flavored cooking spray and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt and 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano.  Bake at 375 degrees for 7 minutes, until golden and crisp. 

*My note on the tomatoes tonight is the same as for my Tuscan Panzanella - despite the multi-colored heirloom tomatoes all around this time of year, your best bet for this salad are plump, red, ripe tomatoes.  Aim for the 2 tomatoes to be about 1 pound total.  You can easily core them by cutting the tomatoes into quarters, and then slicing the core out of each quarter before chopping.

For a fun dessert to end the evening, I served vanilla non-dairy ice cream (my favorite is the plain vanilla from Soy Delicious), topped with an amazing new find - Suzanne's Just Like Honey rice nectar.  An even closer substitute for honey than agave nectar, this was a delicious discovery.  Drizzle it over the vegan vanilla of your choice, and sprinkle with a little cinnamon.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 cups), Calories 259

Tasting Notes:
This salad was divine - Zeus or Athena, take your pick.  Wonderfully creamy dressing, and bursting with flavor from the feta, kalamata olives, ripe tomatoes, and yummy chicken.  There was just a touch too much red pepper heat in the dressing for my taste when eating the salad alone, but once scooped up on a pita wedge, the balance was perfect.  


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Broccoli Salad

This is the perfect summer salad to pack for a picnic. Pack it in a cooler with ice packs, since it needs to chill for 1 hour before serving anyway.

  • 4 cups small broccoli florets
  • 1 and 1/2 cups halved seedless green grapes
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup salted sunflower seed kernels
  • 1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup plain non-dairy yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons vegan sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
1. Combine the broccoli, grapes, celery, raisins, and sunflower seeds in a large bowl.

2. In a second bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, sugar, and vinegar.  Pour the mayonnaise mixture over the broccoli mixture and toss well.  Chill for 1 hour before serving.

To round out my picnic menu, I added the chipotle-lime crispy chicken fingers from Gardein, cubed watermelon, potato chips, and big glasses of lemonade.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (about 1 cup), Calories 175 

Tasting Notes:
A great salad that's sure to become a summer standard.  The dressing was a little on the sweet side, so I recommend decreasing the sugar, but the other components were great - crunchy broccoli, sweet raisins, and salty sunflower seeds.  I did want a bit more of a salty element besides the sunflower seeds, so you might consider cooking and crumbling a couple slices of Lightlife bacon and adding to the mix.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tofurky Pesto Sandwiches

In the spring, I made a fancy Tofurky sandwich with homemade pesto and a caramelized onion filling (check out the post here).  The sandwich was to die for, but admittedly a little complicated.  Here's a version that comes together in literally 5 minutes, thanks to bottled pesto. 

  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon bottled pesto*
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 (2-ounce) French bread rolls
  • 2 cups trimmed arugula
  • 8 oven-roasted Tofurky deli slices
  • 8 (1/4-inch thick) slices tomato
  • 4 slices vegan mozzarella (such as Galaxy Foods)
1. In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, pesto, lemon juice, oregano, and black pepper.

2. Cut the bread rolls in half horizontally, and spread the mayonnaise mixture evenly over the cut sides of the rolls.  Divide the arugula, Tofurky slices, tomato slices, and mozzarella slices evenly among the bottom halves of the rolls.  Place on a baking sheet and broil for 2 minutes.  Remove from the oven and cover with the top halves of the rolls. 

Just add a fresh fruit salad to round out this dinner for a busy night.

*It used to be hard to find commercially bottled vegan pesto (i.e. without cheese) until Meditalia hit the shelves - this line makes pesto and tapenade that taste great, and proceeds go towards supporting peace efforts in Israel and Palestine.  If your local grocer doesn't carry the brand, does.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 sandwich), Calories 358 

Tasting Notes:
The pesto spread was amazing - creamy, with wonderful hints of lemon.  I would happily make it again and again for more than just this sandwich.  The rest of the sandwich also gets high marks - simple, and yet a great combination of the savory Tofurky slices, peppery arugula, fresh tomato, and crusty French bread - in sum, nearly a perfect bite every time.  I would increase the amount of turkey, and use larger rolls (or perhaps a full baguette, cut into slices).  The 2 ounce rolls nearly weren't big enough for all that filling.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Black Bean Tacos

I realized that I've been blogging for 6 months now at this address, and haven't once pulled out a recipe using seitan.  To be perfectly honest, I don't use seitan a whole lot - tempeh and tofu have always been my preference, and with the advent of vegan meats like Gardein and Match, I find myself using seitan even less.  That said, I occasionally season or stir-fry it for a simple supper, and tonight I thought I'd try it in these savory tacos. Start with a homemade avocado salsa for super-fresh flavor, then put together the tacos themselves.

For the Avocado Salsa:
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup peeled and chopped avocado
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 seeded and minced jalapeno pepper
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, and lightly mash with a fork.

Serve with the taco recipe that follows, or stop reading right here, and add this salsa to any taco or burrito supper, or serve with tortilla chips.  It's a fresh alternative to bottled salsa.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1/4 cup), Calories 24

Now for the tacos themselves...

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 seeded and minced jalapeno pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dry sherry*
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 (15-ounce) undrained can black beans
  • 1 (8-ounce) package seitan
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 12 hard taco shells
  • 2 cups shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 recipe Avocado Salsa
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion, dried oregano, garlic, and jalapeno; cook for 8 minutes, stirring frequently.  Finely chop the seitan and add to the pan, along with the sherry, soy sauce, and black beans.  Bring to a boil, then continue to cook for about 7 to 10 minutes, until the liquid is nearly all evaporated.  Sprinkle with the black pepper.

2. Warm the taco shells according to package directions. Stuff each taco with about 1/3 cup bean mixture, about 2 and 1/2 tablespoons lettuce, and about 2 and 1/2 tablespoons Avocado Salsa.

Note: I used the yellow taco shells from Whole Foods. 

A nice contrasting side dish to these tacos is crisp julienne-cut crudites.  Try jicama strips, bell pepper strips, carrot sticks, crisp radishes, and shredded cabbage.  You can toss the vegetables with a light dressing, or marinate in just a little olive oil and lemon before serving.  And voila!  You have all the fixings for a Tex-Mex meal.

*When buying sherry, your best bet is to look for one that is unfined and unfiltered, since almost all other sherries will have been fined through animal by-products.  My go-to sherry is the Fino en Rama from Alvear.  Because I'm not a sherry drinker, I find that a bottle will keep corked in the fridge a long time - a perfect arrangement since many recipes call for only a tablespoon or two.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (2 tacos), Calories 283

Tasting Notes:
These were quite simply to die for - so much flavor your taste buds won't know where to begin.  Wonderful savory seitan, soy sauce, and sherry, with contrasting fresh avocado and lime in the salsa on top.  Just yum.  You might consider playing around with this recipe - break the taco shells into pieces and place in a bowl with the other ingredients on top, for a taco "salad."  Or try the filling wrapped up in soft tortillas.  Guaranteed you're going to want to make the filling again.


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Chicken, Eggplant, and Tomato Curry

Here's a complete, satisfying meal with veggies, protein, and a starch.

  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 8 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 5 cups coarsely chopped eggplant
  • 1 and 2/3 cups thinly sliced onion
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (1/4-inch thick) sliced green bell pepper
  • 3/4 cup tomato juice
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 4 cups hot cooked rice
1. Combine the curry powder, salt, and paprika in a shallow dish.  Dredge the Gardein chicken in the curry mixture.

2. Heat 1 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add 4 of the chicken pieces; cook for 5 minutes on each side, until browned.  Remove the chicken from the pan, and repeat the process with the remaining 1 and 1/2 teaspoons oil and the remaining chicken.  Remove the chicken from the pan.

3. Add the eggplant, onion, and green bell pepper to the pan; cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Return the chicken to the pan, along with the tomato juice, crushed red pepper, and garlic.  Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 35 minutes.

You can cook the rice while the curry is simmering, and then serve the chicken and vegetables directly over the rice.  Sprinkle a little extra crushed red pepper on top if you like extra heat.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 chicken breast, 1/3 cup vegetables, 1/2 cup rice), Calories 310

Tasting Notes:
There was great curry flavor to this dish, and the eggplant was cooked to perfection, but I would make a couple of changes so it's even better next time.  First, I would definitely double the amount of tomato juice, and might add chopped tomatoes into the mix as well to heighten the tomato flavor.  I also think the dish would have benefited from plain non-dairy yogurt stirred in toward the end, to thicken the curry.  Finally, I didn't love leaving the chicken pieces intact.  Next time I would chop the chicken before returning it to the saucepan, so that this dish could be served family-style with a big ladle, rather than plating one chicken piece per serving.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Lebanese Layered Salad

This salad is a fairly standard recipe for tabbouleh - a Middle Eastern salad of bulgur, parsley, and tomatoes - but gets a visual pop from the layered ingredients.  It's worth buying a large glass bowl so you can present this dish the way it's meant to be seen, but in a pinch you can use any large bowl.  Right now is a great time to make tabbouleh, since the salad is bursting with the flavor of fresh herbs like parsley, dill, and mint.

  • 1 cup uncooked bulgur
  • 3/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 and 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 minced garlic cloves
  • 2 cups finely chopped red onion
  • 5 cups chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1.  Place the bulgur in a large (glass) bowl.  Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and the garlic, stirring with a whisk.  Drizzle the lemon juice mixture over the bulgur.

Note: don't be alarmed if the bulgur layer of the salad looks small at this point - the bulgur will expand as it soaks up the lemon juice mixture, and be full and tender once it's time to serve the salad.

2. Layer the red onion, tomato, parsley, mint, dill, cucumber, and red bell pepper evenly over the bulgur mixture, creating a stratified appearance.  Sprinkle with the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before serving - you can even make this up to 48 hours ahead.  The longer the salad stands, the more the bulgur will soften. 

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 cup), Calories 148

Tasting Notes:
The great fresh herb flavor hit me first - mostly the dill and parsley.  Even though the added veggies like cucumber and tomato gave the salad a healthful boost, I found myself wanting a bit more of the standard tabbouleh flavor - that is bulgur, parsley and lemon juice.  But this was a nice fresh take on an old stand-by.  Since this salad feeds a crowd, keep it in mind for summer get-togethers.


Vegan Extra:
If you're still craving fresh herbs after this salad, another fun one to play with is oregano. Here are a few of my favorite uses for this Mediterranean herb.

Sprinkle fresh oregano on top just before serving a classic Greek salad of romaine, bell peppers, onion, olive, and crumbled vegan feta.

Prepare a store-bought vegan pizza, but top with fresh oregano just before serving for a homemade taste.

Stir into tomato sauce and serve over couscous.

Serve in a sauce over Gardein chicken, or rub directly onto the chicken before cooking.

Shake together an oregano vinaigrette to drizzle over any salad.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Spring Vegetable Couscous

The very last days of spring are upon us, so here's my final recipe featuring spring's produce for the season.  You can play around with this recipe in the months to come, however; carrots, zucchini, and fresh spinach would all work great in this easy couscous.

  • 3 to 4 small beets (about 6 ounces total)
  • 1/2 cup fresh green peas
  • 1/2 cup (1-inch) diagonally cut asparagus
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow squash
  • 3 cups cooked couscous
  • 1/2 cup quartered radishes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled vegan feta (such as Sunergia)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1. Leave the roots and 1 inch of the stems on the beets.  Scrub with a brush and place in a saucepan.  Cover with water and bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, until tender.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Drain again and let cool.  Once cool, trim off the roots, rub off the skins, and cut each beet into quarters.  Set aside.

2. Steam the peas, asparagus, and yellow squash, covered, for 3 minutes.  Combine the beets, peas, asparagus, squash, and all of the remaining ingredients in a large bowl.

You can make this couscous the center of the meal, or it is also a great fresh side dish to veggie burgers.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 cup), Calories 172

Tasting Notes:
Freshness in every bite.  There was a decadence to this dish that I didn't expect while making it, from the olive oil and coarse salt.  The vegetables were perfectly crisp-tender, and the fresh peas, radishes, and feta in particular were delectable tidbits hidden among the couscous.  A definite keeper.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tuscan Panzanella

My fiance and I are headed to Tuscany in just over a month for our honeymoon, so I'm getting in the mood for all things Italian.  The title of the recipe for this beautiful summer salad caught my eye, as a result, and I thought I'd bring a little bit of Italy to my table tonight.  Panzanella is a classic Florentine salad, of day-old bread, tomatoes, onion, and basil - in short, summer on a plate.

  • 4 (1-ounce) slices Italian bread
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/3 cup pitted and halved kalamata olives
  • 2 pounds tomato*
  • 1 (16-ounce) rinsed and drained can cannellini beans
  • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Trim the crusts from the bread slices and discard the crusts.  Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet, and coat the bread cubes with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, until toasted.  Set aside.

2. Core the tomatoes, and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Combine the tomatoes in a large bowl with the basil, red onion, olives, and cannellini beans.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the red wine vinegar, water, olive oil, garlic, black pepper, and salt.  Pour the vinegar mixture over the tomato mixture, and toss to coat.  Add the bread and toss well.  Serve immediately, before the toasted bread gets soggy.

I served this main dish salad with easy eggplant napoleons on the side: arrange 12 (1/4-inch thick) slices eggplant on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray.  Coat the eggplant with cooking spray and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Broil for 2 minutes on each side.  Place 4 eggplant slices on a work surface; sprinkle each with 1 and 1/2 tablespoons shredded Daiya mozzarella.  Top with a basil leaf.  Repeat the layers (1 eggplant slice, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons mozzarella, 1 basil leaf), then top each napoleon with a final eggplant piece.  For a nice finish to the evening, bring out chilled dessert bowls of lemon sorbet. 

*There are, of course, wonderful, multicolored heirloom tomatoes on the market stands right now, but I always find that panzanella is best with simple, red, ripe, juicy tomatoes. To easily core the tomatoes, cut them into quarters, then slice the core out of each quarter.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 cups), Calories 255

Tasting Notes:
Fantastic!  These fresh ingredients needed no embellishment - just delicious bits of tomato, basil, bread, and olive on each forkful.  The white beans added a nice layer of heartiness and depth, and the subtle flavors of the dressing were perfect. 


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Blueberry Angel Food Cake

Forgive the exuberance if it comes exuding through in this post, but I am still blinking my eyes and pinching myself to make sure I'm not dreaming and that yes, I really did get a vegan angel food cake to work using Ener-G egg replacer.  I've seen other vegan bloggers try to replicate the airy texture of angel food cake (often with tofu), but I can't believe more people aren't on to the secret that if you beat Ener-G egg replacer for 12 minutes, you come up with a stiff, thick, glossy mixture that is like egg whites.  The only question remaining was whether or not this mixture would set enough into a cake batter, once in the oven.  The answer?  Success!  Read on.

For the cake:
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vegan sugar, divided
  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 12 Ener-G eggs
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 and 1/2 cups blueberries
  • 2 tablespoons cake flour
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
For the glaze:
  • 1 cup vegan powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
1. Sift together 1/2 cup of the sugar and 1 cup flour through a flour sifter or fine-mesh sieve into a bowl; set aside.

2. Make the Ener-G eggs in a large bowl (you'll need 6 tablespoons of the powder whisked into 1 and 1/2 cups warm water).  Beat with a hand mixer for 12 minutes, until the mixture is thick and stiff like egg whites. After the first minute, add the cream of tartar and salt.  At about the 6 minute mark, begin adding the remaining 1 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time.

Note: be sure to use your largest mixing bowl for this process - the mixture is going to have a lot of volume.

3. Sift the cake flour mixture over the Ener-G mixture, 1/4 cup at a time, and gently fold in.  Fold in the vanilla extract and blueberries.  Although you could use either fresh or frozen blueberries, I chose fresh.  Next time, however, I might go with frozen since they are smaller and more uniform in size; I found that it was hard to fold in some of the larger, fresh blueberries, and they clumped together in batches, as seen in my final photo in this post.

4. Sift the remaining 2 tablespoons cake flour over the lemon rind in a bowl, and toss to coat.  Sprinkle the lemon rind mixture over the cake batter, and fold in.

5. Spoon the batter into a 10-inch angel food cake pan, spreading evenly.  Run a knife through the batter to break up any air pockets.  Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes - I couldn't believe (peaking through the window of the oven) how wonderfully puffed in volume my cake became, and the lovely golden tinge it took on.

6. Remove from the oven and invert the pan over a plate.  If the cake doesn't fall out on its own, use a narrow metal spatula to release it from the sides of the pan; cool completely.  Alas, the cake deflated quite a bit the moment it was out of the oven (the batter was all the way to the top just before opening the oven door), but the sponge-y, spring-y texture remained.

7. To prepare the glaze, whisk together the powdered sugar and lemon juice.  Drizzle over the cooled cake.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 slice), Calories 297 

Tasting Notes:
I still can hardly get over the fact that this cake worked.  The texture was soft and sponge-y and delicious, and there was great blueberry and lemon flavor.  I actually would use less lemon glaze on top, since the tart lemon distracted from the cake itself, but overall, I was so pleased with this dessert.

Update: for more fun success whipping Ener-G egg replacer into egg whites, please see my posts for Chocolate and Berry-Covered Meringue and Arugula and Cheese Souffle.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Lemon-Macerated Okra and Olives

Here's another way to let summer's fresh produce shine - serve marinated veggies at your next cocktail party instead of standard peanuts or pretzels.  This recipe actually needs at least 2 days - and up to 3 - in the fridge, but it's a snap to throw together.  You just have to turn the bag occasionally until serving time.

  • 3 cups small okra pods
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag.  Marinate in the fridge for at least 48 hours and up to 72 hours, turning the bag occasionally.

2. Strain the mixture through a sieve over a bowl, and discard the marinade.

This okra is also fun to serve as part of a platter with bread, vegan cheese, marinated artichoke hearts, and cooked and chilled vegan shrimp, for a pretty antipasto course.

Nutrition Info:
14 servings (1/4 cup), Calories 29 

Tasting Notes:
A nice, crisp summer nosh, with great contrast between the crunchy okra and the meaty olives.  I would have liked even more lemon flavor, so would increase the amount of lemon juice in the marinade.  Other than that, this was simple and fresh - no complaints.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Creamy Zucchini Soup with Mixed Herbs

If you've got a bumper crop of zucchini, try this soup.  One batch calls for 9 cups of zucchini, which ought to help clear up some of your supply.  It's also a great way to take advantage of fresh herbs from your garden or farmers' market.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 9 cups (1-inch thick) sliced zucchini
  • 5 cups low-sodium broth*
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 16 (1/4-inch thick) slices French bread baguette
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 halved garlic clove
  • 3/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Heat 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and minced garlic cloves; saute for 5 minutes.  Add the zucchini, broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes - the zucchini should be very tender by the end.

2. Let stand for 5 minutes, then transfer half of the zucchini mixture to a blender.  Process until smooth.  Pour the pureed zucchini mixture into a large bowl.  Repeat with the remaining half of the zucchini mixture.

Note: since the zucchini mixture will still be quite hot, remove the center portion of your blender's lid, and cover over with a paper towel or dishtowel.  This way, steam will be able to escape, and you'll avoid a messy explosion in your kitchen.

3. Transfer the soup back to the pan, and cook over low heat for 5 minutes.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the croutons: place the bread slices in a single layer on a baking sheet, and coat with cooking spray.  Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes, until toasted.  Rub the cut sides of the halved garlic clove over the toast slices.

5. Place the flat-leaf parsley, tarragon, and chives in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, stir together the remaining 1 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, lemon juice, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.  Pour over the parsley mixture and toss to combine.  Divide the parsley mixture evenly among the toast slices (about 1 fingerful per toast slice).

6. Ladle 1 cup of soup into each of 8 bowls.  Top each serving with two of the topped toast slices.  This soup is best served immediately, or the croutons will get soggy.  However, if you want to prepare it ahead of time (or even brown bag it for lunch at work) just pack the croutons separately.

Serve with a simple tomato salad, and you'll get to enjoy even more summer produce.  Simply combine 6 cups chopped tomato, 3/4 cup peeled and chopped avocado, 1/3 cup chopped red onion, 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, 2 tablespoons capers, and 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice in a bowl, and toss gently to combine.  Add fresh fruit - cubed melon or sliced peaches, for example - to round out the meal. 

*A note on what kind of broth to use.  The original recipe called for chicken broth, and there are several vegan versions on the market (namely Imagine and Edward & Sons).  Generally, I like these broths in vegetable soups, but I don't know of a vegan chicken broth that is also low in sodium. Because I wanted to keep down the overall sodium content, I opted for low-sodium vegetable broth.  If you decide to use vegan chicken broth, I recommend cutting out the added salt.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 cup soup, 2 topped toast slices), Calories 125

Tasting Notes:
Rather disappointingly, I found the soup itself to be a little bland - and yet way too peppery.  Next time I would decrease the amount of pepper by half.  I also think the soup could have benefited from a splash of lemon juice or a swirl of vegan sour cream or creamer to brighten it up.  The croutons, on the other hand, were to die for - especially the fresh tarragon, which was just a burst of flavor.  So a "3" for the soup, but extra points awarded for such great croutons.


Vegan Extra:
If you're looking for some more ideas for fresh chives, here are some of my favorites.

Prepare a store-bought dip from a mix (such as Simply Organic), and sprinkle fresh chives on top just before serving with cut veggies.

Sprinkle fresh chives on or inside a Daiya mozzarella quesadilla.

Top baked potatoes with Tofutti sour cream and snipped fresh chives.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Barbecue Chicken and Grape Salad

Earlier in June I had fun using grapes in a novel way, as the base of a salsa (see post for Grape and Cucumber Salsa).  Tonight, I'm doing the same, letting grapes take the place of apples in a variation on Waldorf salad.  The salad also gets a twist from the barbecue rub on the Gardein chicken.

  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder*
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 4 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 3/4 cup halved seedless green grapes
  • 3/4 cup halved seedless red grapes
  • 2/3 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion**
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped and toasted walnuts
1. Combine the onion powder, paprika, chili powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a bowl.  Sprinkle evenly over the Gardein chicken.

2. Heat the oil in an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the chicken and saute for 2 minutes on each side.  Wrap the handle of the skillet with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven; bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and place on a platter; refrigerate until chilled, then chop into bite-sized pieces.

3. Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt with the green grapes, red grapes, celery, red onion, mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, and orange juice in a bowl.  Add the chopped chicken and toss to coat.  Sprinkle with the walnuts.

Note: you can quickly toast walnuts in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, shaking the pan almost constantly so the nuts don't burn.

*Don't substitute regular chili powder for the ancho chili powder here - the former is a blend of ground chiles, cumin, oregano, and other spices.  Ancho chili powder, on the other hand, is 100% ground ancho chile peppers - the ancho has mild heat, compared to other chiles, and will lend the perfect amount of spice to this dish.  Having trouble finding it?  Try Penzey's spices

**Ever find that there's too much bite to the raw red onion in your salads?  I know I do.  A trick is to rinse the onion after slicing it, then adding in with the rest of the ingredients - it will remove some of that bite.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 1/4 cups), Calories 266

Tasting Notes:
This salad was just about the perfect blend of ingredients.  Wonderfully creamy mayo dressing, tender vegan chicken with the exact right notes of spice, and a great contrast between the grapes and chicken.  Celery gave just the right crunch, and the walnuts practically infused the dish with a toasty scent and taste.   I wouldn't change a thing.


Monday, June 6, 2011

Steamed Japanese Eggplant with Spicy Green Onion-Ginger Sauce

As I mentioned at the beginning of this month, summer cooking to me means letting fresh fruits and vegetables shine, with minimal interference.  This quick side dish fits the bill - Japanese eggplant, which are smaller and thinner than the Italian or "globe" varieties - get a quick steam and just a toss with other ingredients.

  • 12 ounces Japanese eggplant
  • 1/3 cup minced green onions
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chile paste with garlic
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves (optional for garnish)
1. Cut the eggplant into 3-inch long x 1/2-inch wide sticks.  Steam, covered, for 2 minutes.

2. Combine the green onions, soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, olive oil, and chile paste in a bowl, stirring well with a whisk.  Divide the eggplant sticks evenly among 4 plates, and drizzle evenly with the sauce.  Add the cilantro leaves as a pretty pop of color for garnish, if desired.

This side dish pairs really well with the breaded vegan fish fillets from Sophie's Kitchen, which I have just recently discovered.  You can find them online at vegan retailers such as and  Just add steamed edamame to round out the meal.  This dish is best served immediately.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 cup eggplant sticks, 1 tablespoon sauce), Calories 45 

Tasting Notes:
When I pulled the eggplant from the steamer basket, I worried I ought to ignore the directions and cook longer - but one bite and I discovered that this dish was surprisingly, unexpectedly good.  The Japanese eggplant has a subtle, soft taste, and the sauce had just the right mix of bright and umami notes from the soy, ginger, and chile.  Overall, light and refreshing.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Praline Cream Pie

Normally, I think of the holiday season when it comes to pie - pumpkin pie, pecan pie, apple pie - in other words, heavy and rich.  But custard pie feels like the perfect version for summer, suited to the hot weather.  Since custard pies like this one need to chill for about 8 hours, you can make it in the morning and then forget about it in the fridge until just before serving dessert.

I have several custard pies I want to try in the future, but this one caught my eye because it was only just made possible for a vegan, thanks to a (relatively new) product on the market - the Madagascar vanilla wafer cookies from Back to Nature.  In the past, I ignored recipes that called for 'nilla wafers, so thank you Back to Nature for filling this much-needed hole in the vegan product market.

For the crust:
  • 1 cup vanilla wafer cookies (such as Back to Nature)
  • 2 tablespoons vegan brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted vegan butter
  • Cooking spray
For the praline:
  • 1/4 cup packed vegan brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plain non-dairy creamer
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1/2 cup sifted vegan powdered sugar
For the filling:
  • 1/2 cup vegan sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Ener-G egg
  • 1 and 3/4 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. To prepare the crust, place the cookies in a food processor and process until finely ground.  Add 2 tablespoons brown sugar and the melted butter; pulse about 3 times, until just combined.  Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and a little up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, then cool completely on a wire rack.

2. While the pie crust cools, prepare the praline: combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, the creamer, and 2 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, then cook for 3 minutes without stirring.  Remove from heat and add the powdered sugar, stirring with a whisk.  Spoon into the prepared crust.  Chill for 30 minutes, until completely cooled.

3. While the praline cools, prepare the custard filling: combine the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and Ener-G egg in a bowl, stirring with a whisk - the mixture will be quite thick.  Place the milk in a small, heavy saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until bubbles form around the edges, but before it comes to a boil - a candy thermometer should read between 150 to 160 degrees at this point.  Gradually add the hot milk to the sugar mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk, then transfer the whole mixture back to the saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, then continue to cook for 1 minute, still stirring constantly - the mixture should be thick.

4. Remove from heat and spoon the custard into a bowl.  Place this bowl in a larger bowl filled with ice and let stand for about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the custard cools to room temperature.  Remove from the bowl of ice and stir in the vanilla extract.  Spoon the custard mixture evenly over the cooled praline layer, spreading to the edges of the crust with a spatula.  Cover and chill for at least 8 hours - the pie filling should be firm.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 wedge), Calories 261 

Tasting Notes:
Oh my goodness, if you don't have a sweet tooth, abstain from this recipe.  Sugar sugar sugar.  If you do have a sweet tooth (like me) then you are going to gobble this pie up in about 30 seconds.  Use your thinnest spatula to remove the pie from the pie plate, or you risk leaving the cookie crust behind. I actually wished there was something to offset the very smooth filling - some chopped nuts stirred into the custard perhaps? - but nonetheless my vegan custard set perfectly and was deliciously sweet.