Monday, July 29, 2013

Apricot and Cherry Salad with Lime-Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

Stone fruits have a fleeting season, so make sure you're eating your peaches, nectarines, and apricots while the getting is good. Earlier in the month I used glazed apricots in a dessert, but this summer fruit salad is a savory - but equally delightful - application in which to use them.

For the vinaigrette:
  • 1/3 cup vegan sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
For the salad:
  • 6 cups trimmed watercress
  • 4 cups sliced apricots
  • 3 cups halved and pitted cherries*
1. To prepare the vinaigrette, combine the sugar, water, lime juice, salt, and mustard in a blender; process until combined.  Add the canola oil and poppy seeds and process until blended.

2. Arrange 1 cup watercress on each of 6 plates. Top each serving with 2/3 cup apricot slices and 1/2 cup cherries.

3. Drizzle 2 tablespoons vinaigrette over each salad.

*Use your cherry pitter folks, or this could take all night.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (1 cup watercress, 2/3 cup apricots, 1/2 cup cherries, 2 tablespoons vinaigrette), Calories 184

Tasting Notes:
All that sugar in the dressing definitely makes it sweet, but it is surprisingly well tempered by the mustard and lime juice, for a pleasing overall taste. That said, you could safely decrease the sugar to 1/4 cup if you'd prefer to use less, and I don't think you'd miss much. Either way, the sweet dressing is perfect over the peppery watercress, so don't swap out another green. My apricots tonight were just so-so, but I had the sweetest most perfect cherries ever - who needs candy when fruit is this delish?


Thursday, July 25, 2013

Penne, Crispy Tofu, and Green Bean Salad

Pasta, check. Super fresh veggies, check. Hearty protein, check. This salad has a little bit of everything, and is sure to be a summer crowd pleaser. Prefer smaller pasta shapes? Check out my post for Orzo Salad with Corn, Tomatoes, and Basil.

For the salad:
  • 1 (15-ounce) package extra-firm tofu
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 2 cups uncooked penne pasta
  • 2 cups (2-inch) cut green beans
  • 2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill*
For the dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon vegan sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 crushed garlic cloves
1. To make the salad, drain the tofu and cut into 1-inch cubes.  Pat dry with a paper towel.  Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the tofu; saute for 5 minutes, making sure to brown on all sides.  Remove the tofu from the pan and chill for 30 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook the penne in boiling water for 5 minutes.  Add the green beans and cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Drain and rinse with cold water; drain again.

3. In a large bowl, combine the chilled tofu, penne, green beans, cherry tomatoes, and dill.

4. To prepare the dressing, combine all the ingredients listed under 'Dressing' in a jar.  Cover and shake to combine.  Pour the dressing over the salad, tossing to coat.  Cover and chill for 30 minutes before serving.

*Use 1 teaspoon dried dill if you don't have fresh on hand.

Nutrition Info:
8 servings (1 and 1/2 cups), Calories 187

Tasting Notes:
Certainly a nice summer salad, but I ought to have trusted my instinct to cook the tofu longer. I'd give it at least 10 minutes next time, for a very crisp, seared exterior, or better yet bake it in the oven for firmer texture. The dressing is light, so increase it if you want a better coating on the pasta, but the dill is a particularly nice touch. Make sure to use super fresh cherry tomatoes and green beans though, and you can't go wrong.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Mango-Passion Fruit Gelato

There is no better time to make homemade vegan ice cream than summer. The past couple years, I took the easy way out and stirred add-ins into commercial vegan ice cream, for brand new flavors like Strawberry Cheesecake, Maple-Bourbon, and Mocha. This year, I took the slightly longer route, and used my ice cream maker to churn up ice cream from scratch. This is a rich recipe, closer to Italian gelato than to American ice cream.

  • 1 cup vegan sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3 cups peeled and chopped mango
  • 2 cups passion fruit nectar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups plain non-dairy creamer
1. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water.  Bring to a boil, stirring at the beginning until the sugar dissolves.

2. Once boiling, transfer to a blender, along with the mango.  Process until smooth.  Pour the mango mixture into a large bowl and cool completely.

3. Once cool, stir in the nectar and the creamer.  Pour the mango mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer, and process according to the manufacturer's instructions. Pardon the blurry photos, as these were taken in motion, but your mixture will go from this:

to this:

Once fully frozen, scoop into bowls, or serve in vegan wafer cones (try Let's Do Organic), for an extra-fun summer treat. 

Nutrition Info:
14 servings (1/2 cup), Calories 130

Tasting Notes:
A fruity blend of the mango and passion fruit, and not overly sweet, which I was pleased to find. I wondered how the juice and the creamer (I used Silk) would mix, but the result is a consistency that tastes somewhat between an ice cream and a sorbet.  The consistency of this is definitely best if you let it sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Icy cold and refreshing!


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Split Pea-Garlic Dip (Skordalia)

Traditional Greek skordalia is a potato-based garlic puree, served over vegetables or as a dip. This recipe gives it a playful (and healthy!) twist by using two varieties of split peas in place of the potatoes. If you don't have split peas on hand, you could try chickpeas or any white bean in their place.

  • 1/2 cup green split peas
  • 1/2 cup yellow split peas
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons pitted and chopped kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional for garnish)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh arugula (optional for garnish)
1. Make sure to sort the split peas first, for any stray pebbles and the like. Rinse the split peas in a sieve.

2. In a saucepan, combine the split peas, water, oregano, and bay leaves.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 25 minutes.  Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook for an additional 15 minutes, until the split peas are tender.  Drain, and discard the bay leaves.

3. Transfer the split pea mixture to a food processor, along with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, the red wine vinegar, olive oil, black pepper, and garlic cloves.  Process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

4. Stir in the olives.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl, cover, and chill for 2 hours.

5. Before serving, sprinkle with the cilantro and arugula as garnish if desired.

The dip is great with baked pita wedges, or with raw veggies.

Nutrition Info:
36 servings (1 tablespoon), Calories 27

Tasting Notes:
I found this very similar in texture to a red lentil dip I prepared for this blog last fall, so as with that recipe, I felt this one needed a creamier consistency. To achieve better results, I wouldn't drain off the excess liquid after cooking the split peas, and would add a touch more olive oil. The bite from the raw garlic was just right though, as was the saltiness from the olives, and I enjoyed the earthy flavor (like a condensed split pea soup). The cilantro and arugula are a must, for great herbal and peppery flavor. My preference was definitely to serve this with pitas, rather than veggies.


You can also thin this dip with a little vegetable broth or (vegan) white wine, to make it more of a sauce. I loved it over steamed vegetables:

Gardein chicken:

and EcoVegan's fish fillets:

If thinning with broth, I recommend 2 tablespoons broth per 1/4 cup skordalia, but only 1 tablespoon per 1/4 cup if using wine. My preference was the wine variation.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

White Bean, Tomato, and Spinach Salad

I've prepared a few grain-based main dish salads already this month, but if beans and greens are your preference, look no further than this recipe. Two types of summer tomatoes make now the right time to prepare it.

For the dressing:
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
For the salad:
  • 4 cups chopped spinach
  • 2 cups copped tomato
  • 2 cups chopped yellow tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary*
  • 2 (15.5-ounce) rinsed and drained cans cannellini beans
1. To prepare the dressing, combine the vinegar, olive oil, black pepper, salt, and garlic cloves in a jar.  Cover and shake to combine.  Set aside.

2. To prepare the salad, combine the spinach, both tomato varieties, red onion, rosemary, and cannellini beans in a large bowl.  Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.

*If you prefer, substitute 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary for the fresh.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (2 cups), Calories 207

Tasting Notes:
Fairly standard flavors and Italian dressing, but the rosemary was unexpected and nice, and I loved the fresh tomatoes. The white beans definitely make this hearty enough for an entree, with bread or vegan cheese and crackers on the side.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Meat, Bulgur, and Rice Dolmades

Dolmades are a traditional appetizer, often served in Greek cuisine, featuring a grape leaf wrapped around a savory filling. The filling generally consists of rice, ground beef, spices, and herbs. For the ground meat in this vegan version, try any of the meatless crumbles on the market, whether Yves Veggie, Lightlife, Tofurky, or any other you prefer. If you'd rather a filling without the vegan beef, check out my post for Brown Rice-Stuffed Grape Leaves in Tomato Sauce.

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fennel
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped green onions
  • 8 ounces meatless crumbles
  • 2 tablespoons uncooked medium-grain rice (such as Arborio)
  • 2 tablespoons uncooked bulgur
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper*
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 30 bottled grape leaves
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups vegan chicken broth (such as Imagine)
  • 1/4 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • Lemon wedges (optional for garnish)
1. In a food processor, combine the fennel, onion, and green onions, and process until minced.

2. Combine the fennel mixture in a large bowl with the meatless crumbles, rice, bulgur, and olive oil.

3. Core the tomato and cut in half crosswise. Grate over the fennel mixture with the largest holes of a box grater, and discard the skin.

Note: This is a traditional method for preparing tomatoes in Greek cuisine, that eliminates the need to give them a water bath and then peel. The skin will fall away, leaving the pulp behind. Seeds are just fine.

4. Sprinkle the fennel mixture with the Aleppo pepper and the salt, and stir to combine.

5. Meanwhile, separate out 30 leaves from a bottle of grape leaves, choosing the largest ones for this recipe and reserving the remaining leaves for another use.  Drain and pat dry with paper towels.  Remove the stems with the tip of a paring knife, and discard.

6. Spoon 1 rounded tablespoon fennel mixture onto the center of each grape leaf.  Fold the sids of the leaf over the filling.  Beginning on the side closest to you, roll up tightly, jelly-roll fashion.  Repeat with the remaining leaves and filling.

7. Place the grape leaves, seam sides down, in a Dutch oven coated with cooking spray.  Add the broth and the lemon juice, and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.

8. Carefully remove the grape leaves from the pan (I found that a fork worked best, removing them one at a time).  Whisk together the cornstarch and water, and stir the cornstarch mixture into the broth.  Return to a boil and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the dill.

Serve 5 dolmades on each of 6 plates, along with 1/4 cup lemon broth, and a lemon wedge for garnish and a spritz before serving if desired.

*Aleppo pepper is a dried crushed red pepper from the Middle East, which is milder than most Mexican chile peppers.  I found a jar at Fairway market, but if you can't find this item, substitute about a dash of crushed red pepper.

Nutrition Info:
6 servings (5 dolmades, 1/4 cup lemon broth), Calories 132

Tasting Notes:
Tasty little packets. The rice leaves were perfectly tender, and the fennel, bulgur, and "beef" flavors of the filling really jumped out. The Aleppo pepper was disappointingly hard to discern, so consider increasing if you've gone to all the trouble of finding it. I would also add a touch more salt, or perhaps some Veg Cuisine feta crumbled up. The sauce is beautifully abundant with dill, and had a nice rich consistency from the cornstarch. 


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Coconut Tapioca Custard with Glazed Apricots

Tapioca pudding instantly brings me back to childhood, but this version gets an adult twist from the rum, and is a bit fancier thanks to coconut milk and a decadent apricot topping.

For the custard:
  • 2 and 1/4 cups plain non-dairy milk
  • 1 cup vegan sugar
  • 2/3 cup uncooked quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 (14-ounce) cans light coconut milk
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 2 tablespoons white rum
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon coconut extract
For the apricots:
  • 3/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 2 tablespoons white rum
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 10 apricots
1. To prepare the custard, combine the milk, sugar, tapioca, 1 teaspoon salt, coconut milk, and Ener-G eggs in a saucepan, whisking until blended.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly; be prepared for this step to take at least half an hour, since you are using a low heat setting. Once boiling, cook for 30 seconds, still stirring constantly, then remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons rum and the vanilla and coconut extracts.

Note: The custard will be quite thick at the end, almost heavy to stir, and the tapioca will have expanded, as shown in the photo below. 

2. Transfer the tapioca mixture to a large bowl; cover and chill for at least 2 hours.

3. To prepare the apricot topping, cut the apricots into 4 wedges each.  Combine in a skillet with the apricot preserves, 2 tablespoons rum, water, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes - the apricots should be soft.

Note: I love that apricots are so much easier to pit than their peach-y cousins, which tend to cling to their pits. Apricot pits, by contrast, practically seem eager to leap out at you once you cut the fruit in half. From there just cut into quarters and proceed with the recipe.

4. Spoon 3/4 cup custard into each of 10 dessert dishes.

5. Top each serving with 1/4 cup apricot mixture.

*Be sure to choose quick-cooking tapioca, which is granulated, not the small or large pearl varieties. If pearls are more to your liking, skip this recipe and check out the tapioca bubble teas from this month's VegNews magazine.

Nutrition Info:
10 servings (3/4 cup custard, 1/4 cup apricots), Calories 289 

Tasting Notes:
The tapioca pudding is similar in texture to any rice or tapioca pudding you've probably had before, but the coconut flavor - actually quite subtle - gives it a wonderfully tropical vibe. What makes this dish stand out though is the apricot topping, which I found surprising in the best way. The sauce has a salty, silky, lightly fruity taste and drizzles over the pudding for just the right touch to each bite. The apricots are tender but still taste fresh, not over-cooked or mushy. Delectable.


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Tofurky-Vegetable Wraps

Any kind of Tofurky slices would work in these wraps, but I particularly like the hickory smoked flavor.  If you're stumped on a vegan ranch dressing, try Organicville, available in health food stores or online.  I like to use whole wheat tortillas for an added nutrition kick, but white ones would work too.

  • 2 cups coarsely chopped hickory smoked Tofurky deli slices
  • 2 cups gourmet salad greens
  • 1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 3 tablespoons vegan ranch dressing
  • 4 (8-inch) flour tortillas
1. Combine the Tofurky, salad greens, corn, bell pepper, green onions, and ranch dressing in a bowl, tossing to coat.

2. Warm the tortillas according to package directions. Top each tortilla with 1 cup Tofurky mixture. Roll up and cut in half diagonally to serve.

This wrap was begging for a summery coleslaw on the side. Try this simple tangy coleslaw: in a bowl, combine 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise, 1/4 cup plain non-dairy yogurt, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons vegan sugar, 2 teaspoons bottled prepared horseradish, 1 teaspoon dry mustard, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Toss with 8 ounces packaged cabbage-and-carrot coleslaw, then cover and chill until serving time.

Finish off your summery meal with bowls of raspberry sorbet - bonus points for fresh raspberries and mint as garnish.

Nutrition Info:
4 servings (1 wrap), Calories 252

Tasting Notes:
The combination of smoked Tofurky and ranch dressing is to die for, and tastes perfect wrapped up in a warm whole wheat tortilla. I would add more corn since it's at its summer peak right now, but the amounts of greens and bell pepper were just right. I believe there were a few herbs, such as dill, in the "mixed greens" I bought, which added exceptional flavor, so if your packaged greens don't contain herbs, consider sneaking some in. I would leave out the green onion, but everything else was exceptional.