Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Panzanella (Tomato Bread Salad)

A recipe for Panzanella appeared in the Chronicle a couple weeks ago, and I've made a few variations of it several times since.  I'm obsessed with these dry-farmed tomatoes, and need to eat as many as possible before they are gone.  Their recipe called for heirlooms, which would also be delicious if you can't get the dry-farmed.  This dish is all about the tomatoes, so get the best you can find or don't bother.  With the right ingredients, it's simple and bursting with flavor, so get those yummy tomatoes while you still can!

1/2 baguette, torn and extremely lightly toasted (not croutons, here!)

8 dry-farmed tomatoes (or about 4 heirlooms), sliced

10 basil leaves, torn or chopped

1 shallot (or some red onion), sliced thin

2-3 Tablespoons EVOO

2-3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Feta (or goat cheese) crumbles, 2-4 oz. depending on taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the bread, tomatoes, basil, shallot and EVOO in a large bowl and toss until ingredients are well distributed.  Just before serving, season with salt and pepper, drizzle with balsamic and top with feta.  Give it one last toss and enjoy!

Serves 4

Friday, September 24, 2010

Taqueria Tacos, Vegan Style

These are vegan? Yes!
There's a taco shop on every block in the Mission District in San Francisco, but the best place is simply called La Taqueria (translation: The Taco Shop).  Alas, there is no vegan option (although, they could probably ditch the cabeza and lengua and make room for a sour cream alternative.)  Since I had a craving, I thought I'd try to recreate these award-winning tacos at home, vegan-style.  They were spectacular, if I do say so myself.  Hubby and kids loved them, too.  The Follow Your Heart sour cream was really too good to be true.  I'd say you could make these without telling anyone they were vegan and they wouldn't know any different.  Yum, and way better for you than the original.

1 Tbsp EVOO
1/4 cup chopped organic yellow onion
1 can organic pinto beans
Salt and pepper to taste
6 organic corn tortillas (try La Tortilla Factory Sonoma Hand Made Style)
Shredded vegan jack cheese
Herdez Salsa verde (this is important)
Fresh red salsa
Fresh guacamole
Sour cream alternative
1/4 cup chopped organic cilantro

Heat oil in sm/med pot and sautee onion until just soft.  Add beans and salt/pepper, simmer for 10 min, stirring occasionally.  Heat tortillas. I like to put them in a nonstick pan on low, top with a pinch of cheese and cover.  Remove when toasty and melty, then fill with the beans (use a slotted spoon), salsas, guac, sour cream, and top with cilantro.

makes 6 tacos

Monday, September 20, 2010

Grilled Radicchio with Balsamic Reduction and Goat Cheese

This dish reminds me of the dinners we used to have with our good friends, who have now moved back to San Diego (hard to blame them.) We ate it many times at a local Italian restaurant, then I set out to copy it at home. It might not sound like much, but the bitterness of the radicchio and the sweetness of the balsamic reduction make a winning combination. You could do this on the bbq, carefully, but I do it in a grill pan so I don't have to worry about the radicchio falling apart so much. I sure miss those dinners...and those friends. :)

EVOO for pan
1 head of radicchio for every 2 people
balsamic vinegar reduction (click here for instructions--it's easy, don't worry)
goat cheese crumbles

Slice head of radicchio in 4, keeping the base attached to hold the quarters together. Heat a little EVOO in a grill pan on med/high heat. Put radicchio quarters in pan, down on one side, then cover. After a few minutes, use tongs to carefully grab and grill the other side. At this point I like to add a little water or even some balsamic vinegar (not the reduction) to the pan to create some steam, especially if they are not wilting much for you. Continue to turn and cover until nicely grilled: the color should change from red to purple and look wilted but still have some firmness to it. (In other words, don't kill it.) Remove from pan and arrange on platter. Let cool slightly, then sprinkle with goat cheese and drizzle a decent amount of balsamic reduction over it all. I like to hold it up really high when I'm drizzling so you get nice thin lines. Serve immediately or within a couple of hours (it will hold up at room temp. for a bit.)

Friday, September 17, 2010

Grilled Eggplant with Salsa Verde

My mother-in-law and her sister are fantastic cooks. Any time either of them pass on a recipe, it's a must-try. I don't often seek out eggplant recipes, but when aunt Nini sent this along, well, I headed to the farmer's market and looked for eggplant. There were at least 5 different varieties, so I asked which were the best on the grill (Japanese or American, apparently.) I grabbed about 4 or 5 Japanese eggplant and a bunch of herbs and set out to make it. It was easy and delicious, served with grilled vegan sausages and dry-farmed tomato salad. By the way, this is in no way a spicy mexican dish. Salsa verde = green sauce. Speaking of which, my sauce is not so green in the photo because I used purple basil in lieu of green...delightful nonetheless.

Salsa Verde
1 cup fresh herbs such as thyme, parsley, oregano, basil (go easy as it can overwhelm the more delicate herbs), chives. A combo of 3-4 is good but less is okay too.
1 Tablespoon capers
1 shallot (optional)
1 small clove garlic
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 - 3/4 cup EVOO (I liked a little less)
pinch of salt
lemon juice or wine vinegar to taste (I did 1 Tablespoon of each)

Puree. Adjust for taste.

4-5 Japanese (or 2-3 American) eggplant, sliced about 1/2 - 3/4" thick.

Thickly slice eggplant and spray with olive oil on both sides and salt. Grill slowly. You want them soft and hot in the middle with nice grill marks. Pour sauce over hot eggplant and serve.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dry-Farmed Tomato Salad with Avocado, Purple Basil and Shallots

If you've never had an Early Girl dry-farmed tomato, you really are missing out on something special. As I mentioned before, I used to hate tomatoes. These are spectacularly different that the pathetic things they try to sling at most grocery stores. Basically, the farmers cut back on the irrigation, forcing to roots to grow deep to find water, which keeps the flavor concentrated. They are amazing. I found some dry-farmed tomatoes at my Whole Foods, but the best ones came from my little farmer's market. You don't need to do much to enjoy these. I happened to have a package of haloumi cheese sitting in the fridge, so I grilled that and tossed it in, but you don't need it at all. I'll keep this simple:

6-8 medium dry-farmed tomatoes, sliced
1 organic avocado, chopped
1 shallot (or some red onion), sliced
10 purple basil leaves (or green), torn or chopped
drizzle of EVOO and balsamic vinegar to taste
pinch of salt
1 package haloumi cheese, grilled and sliced (optional)

Toss ingredients together and enjoy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Enchiladas with Zucchini, Kale, Tofu, and Black Beans

Over the weekend, I found out my friend has breast cancer. Oh, and she's 6 months pregnant. What an unbelievable nightmare. Today's post is dedicated to her. After reading The China Study, I couldn't ignore the implications of diet and disease. As a result of losing both of my parents to cancer, I want to do whatever I can to make sure I'm around for my kids. At times, I struggle with eating vegan and allow myself some wiggle room. However, if giving up animal products allows me to live to see my grandkids, you bet I'm going to try my hardest to stick to it. Educate yourself about the food you are putting in your body. It is probably the single most important thing you can do for your health.

A lot of what I eat is based on what I used to eat, just veganized. This recipe is a good example (sorry the photo is not so great). I like it because I feel like I'm eating something indulgent, but it's actually really healthy. I'm not a huge fan of vegan cheeses, but in enchiladas or on pizza there is so much other stuff going on I hardly notice the difference (and neither does anyone I cook for). Make sure you read the labels on the cheese. Just because it is soy or rice cheese doesn't make it vegan. I'm not sure why, but some manufacturers put casein (milk protein) in their non-dairy cheese. You want to avoid that. Also, not all vegan cheeses are equal. Some are much better than others. I like Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cheeses. They melt really nicely and have a pretty good flavor. Also, you can swap out whatever veggies you want in this: spinach instead of kale, add some mushrooms, any kind of squash. And the whole wheat tortillas are nice and hearty, so try to go for those.

1 teaspoon EVOO
1 organic zucchini, chopped
1 ear of organic corn, kernels sliced off
1 cup chopped organic kale
1/2 package organic tofu, chopped into 1/2" cubeo
1 can organic black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can/jar red enchilada sauce
1/4 cup chopped organic cilantro
4 oz vegan cheddar, grated (or jack or mozzarella, or mix, whatever you prefer)
6 organic whole wheat tortillas

Preheat oven to 375F. In a large pot, heat the oil over med-high heat and add the zucchini and saute for a couple minutes. Add the kale and cook another minute. Add the corn, tofu, beans and about 1/3-1/2 of your sauce. Cook for a couple minutes more, then remove from heat. In a medium baking dish, put a couple of tablespoons of sauce in the bottom and coat the dish. Take a tortilla and spoon your veggies in, drop in a pinch of cilantro and a sprinkle of cheese, then roll it up in the dish, seam side down. Repeat for all tortillas. When finished, pour the remaining sauce over the whole thing and sprinkle with any remaining cheese. Cover with foil and bake about 30-35 minutes. Remove, let cool a few minutes, then sprinkle any remaining cilantro on the top.

Serves 3-4

Friday, September 10, 2010

Arugula Salad with Clementines, Avocado and Pistachio

On our way to a friend's house, I popped into the local grocery looking for last minute salad ingredients. I was totally unprepared, but I knew the friends would at least have some oil, vinegar and herbs around that could make a quick dressing. As I flew through the produce department, this is what I came up with. And, it worked out well because they happened to have a fantastic bottle of blood orange olive oil in their repertoire that worked perfectly with these ingredients.

4-6 cups arugula
3-4 clementines, peeled, segmented and sliced in half
1 avocado, chopped
1/4-1/2 cup pistachios

1/8 cup blood orange olive oil (or EVOO and juice of 1 clementine)
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2-1 Tablespoon, combo of the following dried herbs: basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme (whatever you have on hand)
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Shake dressing ingredients in a jar and pour desired amount over salad and toss.
Serves 4

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Vegan Lemon Tart with Blueberries

The nice thing about a lot of vegan desserts is that eliminating things like eggs, butter and milk take out a lot of fat and calories as well. This lemon tart would have used something like a dozen eggs and a stick of butter, which just doesn't work for me and my workout plan. I took this from a vegan lemon bar recipe and adjusted it to make a lovely tart. Not exactly guilt-free, but much better than its non-vegan alternative. Look for the silken tofu in the Asian section of your market. (I couldn't find it in the refrigerated section at WF.) The kind I bought is called Mori-Nu Organic Silken Tofu Firm.

3/4 cup earth balance (or other nondairy butter), room temp
3/8 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups organic unbleached AP flour

3/4 cup organic silken tofu (soft or firm)
1 1/2 cups organic sugar
Zest from 3 organic lemons
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (~3 lemons)
2 Tbsps organic unbleached AP flour
1 1/2 Tbsps cornstarch

1 cup organic blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly spray a tart pan (mine is 9.5") with cooking spray and dust with a pinch of flour. Cream the earth balance and sugar in a mixer until fluffy. Add the flour and mix until dough comes together. Press dough into tart pan, pushing up the sides. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove crust to cool while you work on the filling. In food processor or blender, zap the tofu for about a minute until creamy. Add the sugar and blend another minute. Add the lemon zest, juice, flour and cornstarch. Pour into prepared crust and bake for about 25-30 min more, until filling is set. Remove and let cool, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove from tart pan and top with blueberries (or raspberries).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Greek Salad

I love salads for dinner, especially when it's hot out. I hate that feeling of going to bed stuffed, so a dinner like this is the perfect solution. This is my riff on a Greek salad, which uses vegan "chicken" to make it meal. Spend the money and get a really good feta: it will make the salad. And feel free to add chopped red onion to make it more authentic. I'm not a fan, so it's not included, but it would probably taste great if you like that sort of thing. Serve it with a hunk of bread and a lovely Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Blanc and life will be pretty good.

For the "chicken":
60z (1/2 pkg) Quorn Chick'n Tenders
1 Tbsp EVOO
Lemon pepper seasoning to taste

Heat oil in a skillet on med/high heat and cook tenders with seasoning until heated through. Remove from heat and set aside.

For the dressing:
4 Tbsps red wine vinegar
4 Tbsps EVOO
1 Tbsp dijon mustard
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Italian herb seasoning

Shake ingredients in a jar.

For the salad:
8oz organic romaine lettuce, chopped
1 organic avocado, chopped
1/2 organic cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped,
1 handful organic cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/4 cup kalamata olives, sliced in half
2-3 oz organic feta

Combine ingredients in large bowl and toss with dressing and chick'n.
Serves 4
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