Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Tomato-and-Carrot Soup

This tomato-based soup will help you think beyond gazpacho for summer soup. Even hot soups can be lovely, as long as they're based on fresh produce, instead of heavy ingredients like you'd find in a winter stew.

  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 6 cups chopped, seeded, and peeled tomato*
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 and 3/4 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 tablespoons plain non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion and carrot and saute for 5 minutes.

2. Add the tomato; cook for 10 minutes.  Stir in the black pepper and vegetable broth and cook for an additional 10 minutes.

3. Transfer half of the tomato mixture to a blender and process until smooth.  Transfer to a large bowl and repeat with the remaining tomato mixture.

4. Ladle 1 cup of soup into each of 6 bowls, and top each serving with 1 tablespoon yogurt and 1/2 teaspoon tarragon.

*The biggest effort in making this soup was the preparation of the tomatoes ahead of time. To peel, slit an X on the bottom of each tomato with a knife. Cook in boiling water for 1 minute, just until the skins loosen. Transfer immediately to a bowl of ice water, then slip off the peels. Be sure to seed thoroughly before chopping (to seed, cut tomatoes into quarters, and scoop the seeds from each quarter with your thumbs), to avoid an overly-watery soup.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 cup soup, 1 tablespoon yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon tarragon), Calories 84

Tasting Notes:
The soup itself is full of fresh tomato and carrot flavor, although a little bland. That tiny sprinkle of licorice-laced tarragon on top, though, makes all the flavors here pop wonderfully, and the little swirl of yogurt makes it feel elegant, like something you'd be served for a first course at a farm-to-table restaurant. I worried the tomato would dominate, but the carrot actually comes through quite nicely, even from only 1/2 a cup. 


Monday, June 24, 2013

Tomato-and-Mango Salad with Curry-Orange Vinaigrette

You can let the produce do pretty much all the talking in this vibrant summer salad. This isn't the time to buy dull hothouse tomatoes or unripe mangoes - pick the very best of each you can find.

  • 2 cups fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 and 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 medium mangoes (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 tablespoon thinly sliced mint
1. Place the orange juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook anywhere from 25 to 50 minutes, until reduced to 1/2 cup. You'll know it's done when it becomes syrupy and thick.

2. Remove from heat and stir in the canola oil, curry powder, and salt.  Cool to room temperature.

3. To plate the salad, core the tomatoes and cut into 3/4-inch thick wedges.  Peel the mangoes, pit, and cut into 1/2-inch thick strips.  Divide the tomato and mango evenly among 6 salad plates.

4. Drizzle evenly with the dressing (about a tablespoon and a half per serving) and sprinkle with the mint.

Note: Pitting a mango perplexed me until I learned the pit is oblong, rather than round in the center like in peaches or plums. Cut the flesh away from the pit on either side, as shown, then cut into strips for the salad.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 portion), Calories 181

Tasting Notes:
Tomatoes and mango, who knew? I can't think of any better way to express it except somehow the mango made the tomato taste tomato-ier, and the tomato enhanced the sweetness of the mango, for an exceptional and striking combination. The juice in the dressing condenses until thick and syrupy, for great sweet flavor accented by the toasty curry. A little nip of the dressing off a spoon made me think of dessert in an Indian restaurant, or the saffron-flavored kulfi I once veganized at home. Perfect for a summer afternoon or evening.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Indian-Style Green Tomatoes and Vegetables over Rice

I've been having fun experimenting with green tomatoes lately.  Give the unripe tomatoes an Indian twist with this easy recipe. It works as a side dish or an entree, if you double the portions.

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 cup chopped baking potato
  • 1 cup chopped cauliflower
  • 1 cup chopped green tomato
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups hot cooked basmati rice
1. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the mustard seeds and cook for 1 minute.

2. Add the potato, cauliflower, green tomato, coriander, cumin, salt, turmeric, and ground red pepper, stirring to coat the vegetables in the spices.  Add the water and bring to a boil.

3. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes - the vegetables should be tender.  Uncover and cook until the liquid evaporates, stirring frequently. This could take anywhere from 4 to 20 minutes, but don't skimp on this step and let only a little liquid evaporate off. It will slowly condense into a rich coating on the veggies. Here it is about midway through evaporating off:

4. Meanwhile, prepare the rice.  Spoon 1/2 cup cooked rice and 1/2 cup vegetable mixture onto each of 4 plates to serve.

The veggies were also delicious alongside Gardein chicken.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1/2 cup vegetables, 1/2 cup rice), Calories 195

Tasting Notes:
I was skeptical when the ingredients first went into the skillet, but after slowly simmering, you wind up with super-tender vegetables, and a thick sauce of spices coating them. The spiciness was just perfect - toasty and tingly, and a perfect contrast to the tender potatoes and basmati rice. If I had been served this in a restaurant, I very well might have sent it back to the kitchen thinking it contained ghee, because it tastes almost buttery, especially the cauliflower. The green tomato flavor is muted, but a nice spin on a more traditional aloo gobi.  What would have made this a "5"?  Chickpeas! I definitely wished I had some on hand to stir in, as they would have improved the overall flavor, and also made the dish heartier.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Cilantro Pesto Pizza Topped with Portobellos and Red Onion

There's lots going on in this pizza. Start with a fresh homemade pizza crust, add a surprisingly different pesto based on cilantro instead of basil, and top with an earthy mixture of portobello mushrooms and red onion. To save time, make the pesto and prepare the mushroom topping while the dough is rising.

For the crust:
  • 1 package dry yeast (about 2 and 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon vegan sugar
  • 1/2 cup warm water (between 100 and 110 degrees)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 teaspoons yellow cornmeal
For the pesto:
  • 2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon vegan Parmesan sprinkles (such as Galaxy Foods)
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons water
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
For the topping:
  • 4 and 1/2 cups coarsely chopped portobello mushrooms
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 3/4 cup shredded vegan cheese
1. To prepare the crust, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the warm water in a large bowl. Let stand for 5 minutes.

2. Lightly spoon the flour into dry measuring cups and level with a knife.  Add 1 and 1/4 cups flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt to the yeast mixture, stirring to form a soft dough.  Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead about 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.  Add the remaining 1/4 cup flour as needed, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. I used an extra 3 tablespoons or so.

3. Place the dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, and turn so the top of the dough is coated as well.  Cover and let rise some place warm and free from drafts (like a closed, unheated oven) for 30 minutes.  The dough should be doubled in size.

4. Punch the dough down, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes.  Roll into a 12-inch circle on a floured surface.  Place on a 12-inch pizza pan or baking sheet sprinkled with the cornmeal, and crimp the edges with your fingers to form a rim.  Cover and let rise for 10 minutes - you want the dough to be puffy.

5. Meanwhile, prepare the pesto: combine the cilantro, walnuts, Parmesan sprinkles, olive oil, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a food processor.  Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.  Set aside.

6. To prepare the topping, heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add the portobello; cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly - the moisture in the pan should be evaporated.  Add the vinegar and cook until the liquid evaporates (which will happen almost instantly).  Sprinkle with the final 1/4 teaspoon salt and the black pepper.

7. Spoon the mushroom mixture onto the prepared crust.  Drop the pesto by teaspoonfuls over the mushroom mixture (you'll have enough for about 9 or 10 dollops).

8 Top with the red onion and sprinkle with the cheese.

Note: I used Daiya's shredded mozzarella.  Any creamy vegan cheese that melts well will work fine.

9. Bake at 450 degrees for 14 to 15 minutes - the crust should be lightly browned.  Let stand at least 5 minutes before cutting into 6 wedges. 

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 wedge), Calories 233 

Tasting Notes:
Absolutely utterly awesome, and well worth the time and effort. The crust came out perfectly - crisp but not burned, and not too floury as I find can sometimes be the case with homemade pizza dough. The mushrooms and red onion were earthy, and there was just the right amount of gooey melted cheese. But the best part by far was the cilantro pesto. It's quite salty, so if you ever make it for an application other than this pizza, consider decreasing the amount of salt to 1/4 teaspoon. But for this pizza, the pesto made for delectable little pockets full of fresh cilantro, toasted walnuts, and saltiness. 


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Green and Yellow Bean Salad with Chunky Tomato Dressing and Feta

There's no time like summer for fresh green bean salads. The addition of wax beans and a tomato "dressing" keep this one visually interesting and different. If this recipe doesn't suit your tastes, check out my posts from last summer for Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad or, for a main dish, Chicken-Penne Salad with Green Beans.

  • 12 ounces trimmed wax beans
  • 12 ounces trimmed green beans
  • 2 cups chopped tomato
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup crumbled vegan feta (such as Veg Cuisine)
1. Cook the wax and green beans in boiling water for 5 minutes, until crisp-tender.  Drain and rinse with cold water; set aside.

2. In a bowl, combine the tomato, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and black pepper.

3. Divide the beans evenly among 8 plates (about 3/4 cup per serving) and spoon 1/4 cup tomato mixture over each serving.

4. Sprinkle each serving with 1 tablespoon basil and 1 tablespoon feta.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (3/4 cup beans, 1/4 cup tomato mixture, 1 tablespoon basil, 1 tablespoon feta), Calories 67

Tasting Notes:
Super fresh and summer-y. The tomato mixture is bursting with flavor, with just a nice light hint of the olive oil, and it's beautiful paired with the fresh basil and feta. The tomato juices and vinegar drizzle down onto the crisp-tender beans, which retained just the right crunch.  In sum, this recipe feels meant to be eaten al fresco on a warm summer evening.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Stir-Fried Tofu, Shiitake Mushrooms, and Chinese Peas

This Thai-inspired stir-fry features bird chiles, which actually originated in South America, but have become widely-used in Thai cuisine. The chiles can be red or green, and are quite small and very hot. If you can't find them, use serrano instead, but increase the amount below to 1 teaspoon.

  • 1 tablespoon julienne-cut and peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps
  • 1 cup trimmed snow peas
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced bird chile
  • 12 ounces lite firm tofu
  • 1/2 cup (1-inch) sliced green onions
  • 3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1. In a small bowl, combine the ginger and salt, and let stand for 5 minutes; the salt will draw out some of the ginger juice, making it drier and better suited for stir-frying.

2. Rinse the ginger with cold water and pat dry.  Combine with the cornstarch and set aside.

3. Heat the canola oil in a large skillet (or wok, if you have one) over medium-high heat.  Add the shiitake and stir-fry for 2 minutes.  Add the ginger mixture, snow peas, and bird chile; stir-fry for 2 minutes.

4. Cut the tofu into cubes, and add to the pan; stir-fry for 1 minute.  Add the green onions and soy sauce, and stir-fry for a final 2 minutes.

Note: If ever there was a recipe for mise en place, this is it folks. Stir-fries move fast, so have everything chopped and ready to go.

I recommend serving with long-grain rice.

Nutrition Info:
2 servings (1 and 3/4 cups), Calories 208

Tasting Notes:
I have never before prepared ginger this way, draining off the liquid with salt, but the resulting ginger flavor was exquisite, and quite simply made this dish. The bird chile is truly fiery, so a little goes a long way, but it pairs perfectly with the tender shiitake and tofu. The only bit I'd leave out is the green onion. The sauce was silky-smooth from the soy sauce and cornstarch, but I do recommend serving with or over rice, to catch all the juices.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Tofu Pita with Peanut Sauce

If you don't have an outdoor grill, prepare the tofu and bell pepper for these yummy sandwiches on an indoor grill pan. It's a hearty recipe for your next vegan cookout.  You can use either firm or extra-firm tofu for this recipe, but I chose the former.

For the sauce:
  • 1/4 cup light coconut milk*
  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 2 teaspoons vegan brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 1 minced garlic clove
For the tofu:
  • 1 pound firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 3 cups trimmed watercress
  • 1 large cucumber
  • 3 (6-inch) pitas
1. To prepare the sauce, whisk together all ingredients listed under 'Sauce' above, whisking until combined.  Set aside.

2. To prepare the tofu, drain and cut into 3 slices lengthwise.  Cut each tofu slice in half vertically.  Place the tofu pieces on several layers of paper towels and cover with additional paper towels; let stand for 30 minutes, pressing down occasionally.

3. Whisk together 1 tablespoon soy sauce, the sesame oil, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Brush evenly over the tofu slices.

4. Cut the bell pepper into 1-inch strips.  Add the bell pepper and tofu to an outdoor grill or indoor grill pan coated with cooking spray, and grill for 4 minutes on each side - the tofu should be golden.

5. Halve the cucumber lengthwise, seed, and chop.  Combine the cucumber, watercress, bell pepper strips, and peanut sauce in a large bowl, tossing to coat.

6. Cut each pita in half, and fill each half with about 1/2 cup cucumber mixture and 1 tofu slice.

Note: To streamline preparation, you can prepare the sauce ahead of time, as well as chop and prep all the veggies. That leaves just the grilling and assembling until the very end.

*You'll have nearly a whole can of coconut milk leftover; transfer any remaining coconut milk to an airtight container and store in the fridge up to a few days. It's great for cooking couscous:

or rice:

using coconut milk in place of water for some or all of the liquid. 

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 pita half), Calories 204

Tasting Notes:
The flavors here are excellent, so my changes next time would be about presentation. No matter how soon before serving you stuff the pita halves, the pita bread becomes soggy the moment it touches the peanut sauce. It made these very difficult (and quite messy) to eat. Instead, I recommend preparing exactly as stated above, except serving over rice.  With that housekeeping out of the way, the light sesame flavor on the tofu is wonderful, and the grilled tofu could easily stand on its own as a main dish. The sauce had a creamy texture and great blend of peanut and coconut flavors, with just a hint of spice from the crushed red pepper.  The cucumber and watercress helped keep the overall flavor light and fresh. So a winner all around, if it weren't for that darn soggy pita bread.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Sweet-and-Sour Green-Tomato Salsa

Having bought a big batch of beautiful green tomatoes at the market earlier in the week, I'm having fun playing with this ingredient, which I rarely use. Last night, I made a healthier version of fried green tomatoes, and tonight I'm trying them in place of standard red tomatoes for salsa.

  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 2 and 1/2 cups chopped green tomato
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vegan brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped sweet onion (such as Vidalia)
  • 1 minced garlic clove
1. Cut the bell pepper in half lengthwise and discard the seeds and membranes.  Place on a foil-lined baking sheet, skin sides up, and flatten with your hand.  Broil for 10 minutes, until blackened.  Transfer the pepper halves to a zip-top plastic bag and seal; let stand for 10 minutes. Peel off the skins, and finely chop the pepper; set aside.

2. Meanwhile, combine the green tomato, balsamic, brown sugar, and salt in a blender or food processor. Process until smooth.

3. Transfer the tomato mixture to a small saucepan and cook over medium-high heat for 5 to 15 minutes; the liquid should be almost all evaporated. 

Note: This step sounded odd, since previously you have pureed the mixture until smooth, so isn't it all liquid now? As it evaporates down, though, you'll find that you're left with a deep green tomato pulp. I recommend giving it close to 15 minutes to achieve the proper texture. So your mixture will transform from this:

to this:

4. Transfer to a small bowl and cool to room temperature, then stir in the roasted bell pepper, sweet onion, and garlic.

Serve with your favorite tortilla chips of course.  Note that your serving size may vary slightly from the nutrition info below, depending how large your bell pepper is.

Nutrition Info:
3 servings (1/4 cup), Calories 13

Tasting Notes:
You definitely get both sweet (the brown sugar) and sour (the tart tomatoes, the vinegar) in this recipe, making for a nice mix - almost reminiscent of a sweet pickle relish. The salsa also was very similar to the Tomatillo Salsa I prepared on this blog ages ago, which of course only makes sense since tomatoes and tomatillos are of the same family (though while green tomatoes are the unripe version, green tomatillos are exactly ripe enough). I  would use only half as much bell pepper and onion next time, for better tomato flavor. Use a sturdy tortilla chip, since thin ones won't hold up under this hearty mix. I recommend Garden of Eatin's multigrain everything chips.


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Unfried Green Tomatoes with Fresh Tomato Gravy

I've only had green tomatoes a handful of times, so am still surprised by how tart and firm they are, in contrast to their ripe, red cousins. This recipe transforms the Southern classic into healthier fare, since the tomatoes are baked in the oven instead of fried. A fresh tomato gravy on the side means you'll get a double-tomato dose in one sitting.

For the green tomatoes:
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Dash of sugar
  • 16 (1/2-inch thick) slices green tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup plain non-dairy milk
  • Cooking spray
For the gravy:
  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter
  • 1 cup chopped mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cups finely chopped and peeled red tomato*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1. To prepare the green tomatoes, combine the flour, cornmeal, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and sugar in a shallow dish.

2. Place the milk in a small bowl.  Dip the tomato slices in the milk, and dredge in the flour mixture. Lightly coat both sides of the tomato slices with cooking spray.

Note: To yield 16 tomato slices, you'll need to start with about 3 or 4 green tomatoes, depending how large they are.

3. Meanwhile, place a baking sheet in the oven at 400 degrees for 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and immediately coat with cooking spray.  Place the tomato slices on the heated baking sheet, and return to the oven for 25 minutes, turning over at the 15 minute mark.

4. Meanwhile, prepare the gravy: melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and onion; cook for 4 minutes, until tender.

5. Add the red tomato; bring to a boil.  Cook for 10 minutes, until the liquid is almost all evaporated.  Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.

Spoon the gravy over the tomato slices to serve.

I recommend serving with a homey meal, like mashed potatoes and Gardein's chick'n sliders. 

*To peel the red tomatoes, score an X into the bottom of each tomato, and place in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water.  The peels will slip off easily. Finely chop and proceed with the recipe.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (4 tomato slices, about 1/3 cup gravy), Calories 142 

Tasting Notes:
I'm a novice when it comes to true fried green tomatoes, so I can't say how close these are to the real thing, but I do know that I loved the warm, soft green tomatoes, lightly sweet from baking, with a soft interior and crisp breaded exterior. The cornmeal mixture had a touch too much black pepper, so I'd decrease that, and increase the salt slightly. The tomato gravy had sweet, roasted flavor, but I decided I wasn't wild about the tomato/tomato combo; the best parts of the gravy were the tender mushrooms and onion, and the lightly buttery flavor, so I'd make this more of a traditional brown gravy or mushroom sauce next time.

Update: Again, I'm no expert, so I don't know whether fried green tomatoes are always meant to be served piping hot, but I actually enjoyed leftovers cold from the fridge even more - the flavors came through better than they did when fresh out of the oven.