Thursday, August 30, 2012

Corn and Roasted Pepper Salad

Having used homemade roasted bell peppers in stews, salsa, pizza, and more, it's time for one final post in this series.  Add the peppers to a simple salad of fresh corn for a twist on succotash - a perfect recipe to close out the month of August.

  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels
  • 1 cup chopped red, orange, or green Roasted Bell Peppers
  • 2/3 cup chopped and seeded plum tomato
  • 1/4 cup minced shallots
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons seeded and minced jalapeno pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lime rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Cut the corn from the cobs to equal 2 cups - start with about 3 to 4 ears, depending on size.

Note: when you buy corn, check the silky strands at the top to see if the ear inside is fresh; the strands should be white or golden brown.

2. Combine the corn kernels in a large bowl with the roasted bell peppers, tomato, shallots, parsley, and jalapeno.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime rind, lime juice, olive oil, salt, and black pepper.

4. Drizzle over the corn mixture and toss to combine. Don't forget extra flat-leaf parsley sprigs for a pretty garnish.

Try pairing with Gardein chicken for a quick supper: for an easy upgrade over the packaged sauce, sprinkle with salt, cracked black pepper, and paprika. Cook in a skillet for 7 minutes on each side, until nicely browned on the outside.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 72 

Tasting Notes:
If you're going to eat corn raw, this is the way to do it. The corn "cooks" just slightly in the acidity of the lime juice, making for perfect taste and texture. Wonderfully fresh, with the occasional kick from the jalapeno, and roasty toasty bell peppers, but I would use more parsley and more tomato. Because the salad paired so well with the paprika chicken, I might prepare a couple chicken breasts as suggested above, cut into bite-sized pieces, and stir directly into the salad. The same thing would no doubt be delicious with cubes of paprika-dusted baked tofu.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chicken Stew with Sweet Peppers

My fun with roasted bell peppers continues; they add a pop of bright color to this Gardein chicken stew.  Try a mixture of red, orange, and yellow peppers to contrast with the canned green chiles.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 Gardein Tuscan chicken breasts (without sauce)
  • 3 cups chopped zucchini
  • 1 cup finely chopped carrot
  • 1/3 cup drained canned chopped green chiles
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) drained can Great Northern beans
  • 1 and 3/4 cups vegan chicken broth (prepared from Not Chick'n bouillon)
  • 1 cup chopped red, orange, and yellow Roasted Bell Peppers
  • 4 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the pan, along with the onion; saute for 5 minutes.  Add the zucchini, carrot, green chiles, oregano, cumin, salt, black pepper, garlic, beans, and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes - the vegetables should be tender.

2. Stir in the roasted bell peppers; cook, uncovered, for a final 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with the cilantro.

Note: this is a great stew to make in advance - it will keep well in the fridge up to 2 days. Reheat over medium heat in a saucepan, but do sprinkle with the cilantro just before serving.

To round out the meal, add cooked couscous and these simple maple-roasted baby carrots: toss together 3 cups baby carrots, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Arrange on a baking pan or baking sheet lined with aluminum foil, and bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes. 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 and 1/2 cups), Calories 262 

Tasting Notes:
Good, although a little bland; I would use both more oregano and cumin, and perhaps a drizzle of olive oil just before serving. I actually liked the stew better served directly over couscous, instead of with the couscous on the side, turning this into more of a tagine.  Since the point was for the bell peppers to shine, I recommend doubling the amount; they get a bit lost under the flavor of the zucchini and beans.  Incidentally, this is not unlike my Chicken Chili with Pesto, which I hadn't anticipated while preparing it.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Mediterranean Salsa

Roasted peppers give a novel spin to an otherwise-ordinary salsa. Play up the Mediterranean feel by also adding basil, zucchini, and capers.  Any color of sweet bell pepper will work in this recipe - I used a combination of yellow, orange, and green, simply because the tomatoes were already red, but red bell peppers would work just as well.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups seeded and chopped tomato*
  • 1 cup finely chopped zucchini
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Roasted Bell Peppers
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons capers
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 minced garlic clove
1. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl.  You can make the salsa ahead if desired; it will keep in the fridge well for up to 2 days.

You can serve this salsa directly over toasted baguette slices for a bruschetta-type appetizer:

Or make it a side dish, alongside any entree - in which case I recommend something with a similarly Italianate feel.  I particularly enjoyed it spooned over Italian-style baked tofu; try West Soy or Soyboy:

And incidentally also delicious as a topping for baked potatoes:

*As with my recipe for Gazpacho with Roasted Peppers, it's worth taking the time to seed the tomatoes (though in this case, there's no need to peel them), otherwise your salsa will be watery. 

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 33 

Tasting Notes:
Vegetables at their best. Almost nothing added to them, so just the taste of the fresh veggies all mingled together. The salty pop of the capers was a delight; I might chop kalamata olives very finely next time and add to the mix.  Would use a touch more basil and parsley, but other than that, no changes or complaints.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Gazpacho with Roasted Peppers

There's nothing quite so summery as a bowl of chilled gazpacho.  This version stands out from the crowd with the addition of chopped roasted bell peppers.

  • 3 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato*
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 3 large basil leaves
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 cup finely chopped and peeled cucumber, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 cups tomato juice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Roasted Bell Pepper**
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Annie's Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1. Combine the tomato, red onion, basil, garlic, and 3/4 cup of the cucumber in a food processor; pulse 5 to 6 times, until coarsely pureed. You'll go from this:

to this:

2. Combine the pureed mixture in a large bowl with the tomato juice, bell peppers, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, olive oil, salt, and black pepper, stirring well.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, until the soup is thoroughly chilled.

3. Before serving, sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cucumber and the parsley.  The soup will keep well in the fridge for up to 2 days, but I recommend sprinkling with the parsley just before serving. 

*Peeling tomatoes is a surprisingly simple process: to start, score an X in the bottom of each tomato (start with about 1 and 1/2 pounds for this recipe). Place the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute; immediately transfer to a large bowl of ice water, to stop the cooking process. The skins will slip right off at this point. Seed and chop, and proceed with the recipe as directed.

**Since the soup is already red from the tomatoes, any combination of orange, yellow, or green bell peppers will look prettiest.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (about 1 cup), Calories 72 

Tasting Notes:
Easily one of the best bowls of gazpacho I've ever had.  The perfect mix of chunky and smooth, with wonderful sweetness from the bell peppers to balance the acidity of the vinegar and the saltiness of the tomato juice and Worcestershire. I know it takes extra effort to peel, seed, and chop all those tomatoes, but the results are so worth it; this was just bursting with the freshness of the tomatoes and cukes. Do make it now while summer veggies are at their best.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Pizza with Roasted Peppers, Caramelized Onions, and Olives

Last night, my Roasted Bell Peppers made their way into a hearty pilaf. Another great idea is to cut the peppers into julienne strips, rather than chopping, and use for a pizza topping. Red, orange, or yellow peppers are all interchangeable here, so use all of one color or a combination of the three. Whole Foods' pre-made thin crust pizza makes fast work of this dinner.

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups vertically sliced sweet onion (such as Vidalia)
  • 1 cup julienne-cut red, orange, or yellow Roasted Bell Peppers
  • 1/4 cup pitted and chopped kalamata olives
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) drained can Italian-style diced tomatoes
  • 1 pre-made thin pizza crust (such as Whole Foods)
  • 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheese
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned.  Remove from heat and stir in the bell peppers, olives, and tomatoes.

2. Place the pizza crust on a baking sheet or pizza pan.  Top evenly with the onion mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle evenly with the cheese.

Note: I liked Daiya's shredded mozzarella for this recipe, since it melts so well and has a creaminess that mimics classic pizza cheeses like provolone.

3. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cheese is melted.  Cut into quarters to serve.

Try pairing with a pilsner-style beer (Pilsner Urquell is just one of many that are vegan-friendly up on, for a refreshing and easy dinner. 

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1/4 of the pizza), Calories 342 

Tasting Notes:
Roasted peppers and olives are a classic pairing on pizza, and this was de-lish. The sweetness of the onions and peppers was balanced perfectly by the salty olives and savory tomato. I know that this would be even tastier on homemade pizza dough, but the store-bought crust can't be beat for convenience. With homemade dough, this would almost certainly rate a "5."


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Barley Pilaf with Roasted Peppers and Snow Peas

As promised, here's the first in a string of recipes that will put my Roasted Bell Peppers to use. For the prettiest version, I used a mix of red and yellow bell peppers. Heartier than a rice pilaf, this is a great way to add more fiber into your diet.

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 1 and 1/3 cups vegetable broth
  • 2/3 cup uncooked quick-cooking barley
  • 1/2 cup (1/2-inch) diagonally cut snow peas
  • 6 tablespoons finely chopped red and yellow Roasted Bell Peppers
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the celery and onion, and saute for 3 minutes. 

2. Add the vegetable broth; bring to a boil.  Stir in the barley.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes - the barley should be tender.

3. Stir in the snow peas, Roasted Bell Peppers, and black pepper.  Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes.

Make this a side dish to any vegan protein - whether tempeh, tofu, or mock meats like Gardein beef or chicken, or Match pork.

You can also double the suggested serving size below to make this your main dish.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (about 2/3 cup), Calories 113 

Tasting Notes:
Super easy but with great flavor from the aromatics and the bell peppers. The snow peas felt out of place, so although still good, I would replace them with another green veggie next time. I also would amp up the flavor by stirring in chopped, toasted walnuts, a swirl of sherry vinegar, or perhaps even vegan Parmesan sprinkles on top. Still, very all-purpose and great for weeknights.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Roasted Bell Peppers

Tonight's recipe should really be considered more of a building block; over the next few nights, I have recipes in mind that put these roasted peppers to use, but tonight, I want to lay out the perfect technique for making roasted bell peppers at home.

Sure, roasted bell peppers are available in a jar - but they'll never taste so fresh as when you roast them at home, and this process is surprisingly easy. Besides, although every grocery store sells bottled red bell peppers, it's harder to find yellow, orange, or green varieties. Roasting at home allows you to play around with color combinations for the most visually striking recipes. So use any color bell pepper you like, or a mixture.

  • 4 bell peppers (about 2 pounds)
1. Cut the peppers in half lengthwise, and discard all seeds, membranes, and stems.  Place the pepper halves, skin sides up, on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and flatten with your palm.

2. Broil until thoroughly blackened; although in a hurry I have broiled for as little as 10 to 15 minutes, giving the peppers a full 20 minutes will result in wonderfully sweet, deeply-roasted flavor.

3. Transfer the pepper halves immediately to a zip-top plastic bag and seal.  This step is the key, since the steam that builds up in the bag will help the skins slide right off. Let stand for 20 minutes.  Remove from the bag.

If serving plain, either serve the halves whole (great in sandwiches) or chop up to toss in a salad, or cut into strips. The peppers are excellent paired with other antipasto noshes like artichoke hearts, vegan deli salami (try Yves Veggie), bread, and olives:

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 pepper), Calories 44 

Tasting Notes:
As stated in my intro, this is such an easy staple to make at home, it seems a pity and a waste to buy a jar from the store. The homemade roasted peppers had a much fresher, firmer texture than their store-bought cousins (bottled ones often seem limp), and 20 minutes under the broiler yielded skins that slipped off perfectly and a sweet, mellow taste. I find the orange, red, and yellow to be nearly identical in flavor (kudos to you if you can distinguish these three in a blind taste test) but the roasted green peppers have a slightly more vegetal, grassy flavor. The '2' below is merely because bell peppers are, well, a touch plain on their own, but stay tuned for recipes using these goodies soon.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Strawberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

This is my last ice cream sundae post for the summer.  It's been delicious fun, though I am starting to crave healthier recipes again...

Before I change my focus, I had to try one last "stir-in" ice cream recipe, this time using non-dairy strawberry ice cream as the base. I've already tried vanilla (as with my recipe for Peanut Butter-Banana Ice Cream) and chocolate (as with my Mocha Ice Cream), so this rounds out the classic trio. My favorite vegan strawberry is the So Delicious from Turtle Mountain, so that's what I used tonight.

  • 4 cups low-fat strawberry non-dairy ice cream
  • 1 cup vegan sour cream*
  • 1 cup Tofutti cream cheese
  • 1 cup vegan powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Place a large bowl in the freezer to chill.  Meanwhile, let the ice cream stand at room temperature until softened (the So Delicious takes about 25 minutes).

2. While the ice cream softens, combine the sour cream and cream cheese in a bowl; beat with a hand mixer for about 1 minute, until combined.  Gradually add the powdered sugar, beating well. Beat in the vanilla extract.

3. Combine the softened ice cream and the cream cheese mixture in the chilled bowl, stirring with a rubber spatula to combine.  Cover, return to the freezer, and refreeze to desired consistency. 

For an "Ultimate Cheesecake" sundae, try topping this ice cream with my recipe for Fresh Strawberry Sauce, and sprinkling with graham cracker crumbs.

*I recommend using We Can't Say It's Sour Cream for this recipe. Other vegan sour creams would work fine, but they will rapidly increase the number of calories per serving, and part of what I liked about this dessert is that it's on the lighter side. 

Nutrition Info:
12 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 181 

Tasting Notes:
Wow - I was a little skeptical as I stirred all the ingredients together, but this really is surprisingly like a frozen strawberry cheesecake filling. Just the right tanginess from the sour cream, fruity from the strawberry, and not even too sweet from the powdered sugar. The ice cream is lacking in texture and crunch (solved a bit by my cheesecake sundae suggestion above), but I would stir crumbled graham crackers or vanilla wafer cookies right into the mix next time, which would also round out the full flavors of cheesecake. 


Monday, August 20, 2012

Fresh Strawberry Sauce

My summer ice cream sundae fun continues with this easy strawberry topping.  Super fresh, it's delicious over fruit sorbets or vegan ice cream. If strawberries aren't your preference, check out my posts for Warm Chocolate Sauce or Easy Fruit Compote for more sundae topping ideas.

  • 1 cup ripe strawberries
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 cups finely chopped strawberries
1. Mash 1 cup ripe strawberries with a potato masher. Make sure they are ripe (i.e. bright red). Yellow or green spots indicate under-ripe strawberries, and they won't mash as well with the potato masher.

2. Combine the mashed strawberries in a small saucepan with the water; bring to a boil. Continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

3. Press the mixture through a sieve over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup of the liquid (if you can't quite obtain a full 1/2 cup, add enough water to equal that amount as needed - I used an additional 2 tablespoons or so).  Discard the pulp.

4. Combine the sugar and cornstarch in the saucepan, and add the strawberry liquid, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil, and continue to cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat and cook for a final 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Note: lemon juice adds a beautiful, bright flavor to this sauce. If you want a mellow, earthier choice, try the same amount of balsamic vinegar.

5. Let cool slightly before stirring in the chopped strawberries.

Here are just two delicious ideas for this sauce.  Make an "Extreme Strawberry" sundae, by serving over strawberry sorbet:

Or, spoon over raspberry sorbet with additional fresh raspberries sprinkled on top, for a "Berry Good" sundae:

Nutrition Info:
16 servings (2 tablespoons), Calories 25 

Tasting Notes:
Only lightly sweet, with bright, fresh flavor. I loved the double-dose of strawberries, between the fresh chunks and the strained strawberry in the syrup. Next time, though, I would reverse the ratios, as this was mainly chunks of strawberry in a light coating of sauce, but I would have preferred a thick syrup with occasional fresh pieces of strawberry. I recommend decreasing the chopped strawberries by half, therefore, or doubling the syrup - whichever you prefer.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chicken-Penne Salad with Green Beans

This pasta salad is a perfect one-dish meal for no-fuss summer eating. 

  • 2 cups uncooked penne pasta
  • 2 cups (1-inch) cut green beans*
  • 2 cups cooked and shredded Gardein Tuscan chicken breast (without sauce)**
  • 1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 (7-ounce) bottle roasted red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cold water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon bottled minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. Cook the pasta in boiling water for 7 minutes.  Add the green beans and cook for an additional 4 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water; drain again.

2. Drain the bell peppers, and cut into thin strips.  Combine the bell peppers in a bowl with the pasta, green beans, chicken, red onion, basil, and parsley. The colors are just beautiful, as soon as you stir this together.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, cold water, salt, garlic, and black pepper.  Drizzle over the pasta mixture and toss gently. 

Round out the meal with simple cheesy mozzarella toasts: place 4 (1/2-inch thick) diagonally cut slices French bread baguette on a baking sheet, and sprinkle each slice with 1 tablespoon shredded Daiya mozzarella.  Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, until golden.  

For a perfect summer dessert, round out the meal with your favorite mixed berries dolloped with a little vanilla non-dairy yogurt. 

*To make quick work of your green beans, line up on a cutting board, trimming off the tough ends. Leave the pretty taper at the other end intact, as you cut into pieces about equal in length to the penne pasta.

**You can prepare the chicken ahead of time: cook according to package directions, then shred with a fork or by hand. Start with 3 of Gardein's chicken breasts to yield 2 cups shredded.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 cups), Calories 384 

Tasting Notes:
The instant I took I bite of this, I knew it was intended for a picnic supper somewhere - listening to the Philharmonic in Central Park perhaps, or whisked away to Tanglewood in the Berkshires. In other words, an ideal summer salad. There were great "antipasto" flavors from the roasted bell pepper, onion, and pasta; I would add quartered artichoke hearts or capers next time to play up the feeling, and also for a little added brininess. The vinegar dressing was nice and light; consider using balsamic vinegar for a variation.