Sunday, February 27, 2011

Roasted Garlic Soup with Carmelized Shallots and Sage Croutons

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The other night, I was watching The Best Thing Ever Ate on the Food Network that spotlighted chefs from around the world describing the best garlic-heavy dishes they've ever had. I was especially intrigued by Simon Majumdar's description of a creamy garlic soup from Bayona Restaurant in New Orleans. The recipe and method he described sounded vague yet doable: combining lots of roasted garlic with herbs and broth. So I came up with this simple recipe and added in some caramelized shallots and buttery sage croutons at the end, which really introduced an interesting and complimentary texture to this rich and rustic soup.

6 heads of garlic
4 TB Earth Balance
2 cups onion, chopped
2 tsp rubbed sage, divided
2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
1 tsp salt
4 cups Imagine Organic No-Chicken broth
2 cups of stale bread, (I used an italian loaf) cut into 1X1 inch pieces
4 shallots, sliced thinly into rings
olive oil

Separate the cloves from 5 heads of garlic. Do not peel. Place them in a medium-sized glass pyrex casserole dish and saturate well with plenty of olive oil. Cover with aluminum foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes. Remove the aluminum foil and give the garlic a good stir and bake, uncovered, for 40 minutes more. Let the garlic cool and then separate the garlic from the skins into a small bowl. Set aside.

Take the remaining head of garlic—separate and peel. Cut each clove in half and then smash each one with the flat end of a knife. In a medium-sized stock pot, add 3 TB of Earth Balance over medium heat. Throw in the raw garlic and saute for 10 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure the garlic does not burn.

Add in the onions, 1 tsp of the rubbed sage, thyme and salt and saute for 10 minutes more. Then add back in the roasted garlic and broth. Simmer for 20 minutes over medium heat, making sure that the soup does not come to a boil. Blend well in the pot, using an immersion blender. Reduce the heat and let sit over the lowest heat possible on your stovetop while you prepare the shallots and croutons.

While the soup is simmering, make the caramelized shallots: heat 2 TB olive oil over medium-low heat and add in the shallots. Let them slowly get brown and only stir every 5 minutes or so. After about 20 minutes, they should be nicely caramelized.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the bread cubes in 1 TB of melted Earth balance, 1 tsp of the rubbed sage, and a dash of salt and pepper. Bake on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with the caramelized shallots and croutons.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Raw Cashew Cheese with Oil Cured Olives and Fresh Tarragon

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Raw cashews are the perfect base for vegan cheeses and creams. They have lots of fat (flavor) but feature no dominant taste, so they are perfect for soaking and blending with other spices and ingredients. This recipe has been adapted from Chad Sarno's Cashew Cheese recipe, featured in VegNews. I've added some oil cured olives here for some saltiness and texture and layered it here with fresh chopped tarragon, which adds a clean and herby licorice note. 

To serve: Take a round ring mold and place it on a plate. (I use a 1.75 X 3 inch mold.) Using a spoon, place a 1-inch layer of cheese on the bottom of the mold and press gently but firmly. Add a layer of the chopped tarragon and then spoon another layer of cheese over that. Add a layer of chopped olives and then a final layer of cheese. To serve, simply lift the ring up.

This also travels well if you'd like to bring along to a potluck or party. Just lay some saran wrap under the ring mold with plenty of overhang and assemble as described in the paragraph above. Once completed, gather the edges at the top and tie off tightly with a twist tie. It holds everything together perfectly until ready to serve.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rosemary Soysage, Spinach and Mushroom with Farfalle

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This is a huge bowl of YUM. I found this recipe on epicurious years ago and kept taking things out, adding things in and tweaking things here and there until this concoction appeared and acted like it owned the place. Soysage, walnuts and mushrooms give the dish a wonderful heartiness while the spinach gives the dish a beautiful splash of bright green throughout. Oil cured olives are a perfect salty addition to top off this dish. To de-pit them, just press the flat side of of a knife down on each of them until you feel the pit—then simply pull the olive away and you'll have two perfect halves to throw into the dish.

About the spices in this dish: use fresh rosemary if you have it—dried will work, but fresh just elevates the dish to the next level. Fennel seed and pepper: these both bring out the flavor in the soysage perfectly, so be sure to use them if you have them. 

1 package of Gimmie Lean Soysage, sliced into cube-sized pieces
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 TB fresh rosemary, finely chopped, divided
8 ounces bella mushrooms, sliced
2 shallots, finely sliced
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 cup walnut halves
2 TB earth balance
1/2 cup dry white wine
black pepper
8 oz farfalle pasta
8 cups raw spinach
12 oil cured olives, depitted
olive oil for sauteing


In a very large skillet, heat about 2 TB olive oil over medium heat. Add the soysage and saute about 10 minutes, breaking up the soysage as it becomes more firm. Add the fennel seeds, a few dashes of black pepper and half of the fresh rosemary. Saute 5 minutes more and transfer to a large bowl.

Add about 1 TB more oil to the skillet and add the mushrooms. Saute about 3 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the soysage. Add the shallots and garlic to the skillet and saute for about 3 minutes, making sure that the garlic does not burn. Transfer to the bowl with the soysage and mushrooms.

Add the 2 TB of earth balance to the skillet and add the walnuts. Saute for 2 minutes and transfer to the bowl. Turn the heat up to medium high, wait about a minute and then deglaze the pan with the 1/2 cup of white wine. Reduce the heat back down to medium and add back into the skillet all of the contents of the bowl.

In a large pot, bring water to a boil. Add some salt and olive oil and the 8 ounce of pasta. Boil, stirring occasionally for 11 minutes.

While you are waiting for the pasta to cook add to the skillet, in small handfuls, the raw spinach until it is slightly wilted. Toss in the rest of the chopped fresh rosemary and oil cured olives.

Drain the pasta and toss everything together until well combined. Serve with lots of fresh black pepper.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tofutti, Capers and Red Onion Beggars Purses

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Forget post-its and velcro—the best invention ever created since the beginning of time by anyone is Tofutti cream cheese. One of my biggest vegan indulgences is a freshly toasted bagel with rich and creamy Tofutti. I've recently been thinking of other ways to incorporate Tofutti cream cheese into other dishes and came up with these adorable little beggars purses. These were made famous in New York City in the 1980s by Susan and Barry Wine, owners of the Quilted Giraffe, after a visit to France. Originally filled with caviar and crème fraîche, this version of beggars purses is filled with tofutti, of course, as well as capers for some briny bite and minced red onion for some texture.

These are simple to make and look totally fancypants. If you dislike raw red onion, simply give them a quick saute in a tiny amount of olive oil before mixing them into the Tofutti or leave them out altogether. The recipe below makes 6 purses and could easily be doubled or tripled. 

One 8 ounce tub of non-hydrogenated Toffuti Cream Cheese
1/3 cup of finely minced red onion
4 TB capers
The Fillo Factory's organic fillo dough, thawed overnight in the refrigerator and left out to thaw at room temperature for 2 hours
12 chives
1/3 cup Earth Balance spread, melted

Whip together in a small bowl the Tofutti cream cheese, onion and capers. Set aside. Cut the fillo dough into 5X5 inch squares to make about 25 sheets. They tear easily, so make some extra sheets just in case.

Assemble the purses by laying down one layer of fillo dough. Top that with another layer and brush lightly, using a pastry brush, some of the earth balance. Lay another sheet on top of that, and then another, brushing on that a thin layer of earth balance. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the cream cheese mixture into the center of the fillo dough and gently lift up each corner, one by one, until all of the corners join at the top. Tie off the top lightly with some baking twine and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat this process until you've used up all of the Tofutti mixture.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. In a small saucepan, bring some water to a boil and add the chives. Immediately turn off the heat and run the chives under cold water. Set aside.

Place your beggars purses in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Once they are done, let them rest for about 10 minutes. Remove the twine gently with scissors. Tie the end of two chives together to make one long strand and use to tie off the tops of the purses. Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lemongrass and Kaffir Lime Tea

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I love lemongrass, but I hate throwing away all of those beautiful and fragrant stalks since only the heart is usable in most thai dishes. I've found that steeping those stalks in hot water is a great way to enjoy some mild tea—it also pairs perfectly with any thai or asian dish. It's clean and simple and can easily be combined with other fruits and herbs. You can steep this in a saucepan on the stove and serve or place in a Bodum coffee press (pictured) to serve.


lemongrass outermost stalks, separated and bruised
3 kaffir lime leaves
lime wedges
ginger root, roughly chopped
8 cups boiling water


Combine all ingredients in a saucepan or coffee press. Add boiling water and let steep for at least 10 minutes before drinking. There's no need to remove the components from the water, since the flavor is so mild.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Vegan Tom Kha Gai

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This soup has everything—spicy hits of ginger and crushed red pepper, citrusy notes of galangal and lime, clean and crisp carrots and cilantro, and rich coconut milk with deep-fried tofu. While not a true Tom Kha Gai, this soup is inspired by and similar to the popular Thai dish. Since I make thai food often, I prepare my own vegan fish sauce, and freeze the whole batch in ice cube trays for perfect tablespoon-sized portions to add to soups and satay sauces. So while I've included the vegan fish sauce in the ingredient list here, it's not necessary to do all that work for this particular dish—even if you don't include it, it will still taste good.

4 cups of homemade broth or Imagine brand No-Chicken broth

5.46 fl. oz. coconut milk (1 small can)
1-2 stalks of lemongrass, hard outer layer peeled away and chopped
1 TB galangal root, sliced thinly
3 TB ginger, sliced thinly
5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1-2 TB soy sauce
3 kaffir lime leaves
1 shallot, sliced thinly
1-2 TB vegan fish sauce (optional)

1 carrot, peeled with a grater 
to make ribbons
6 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thinly
crushed red pepper
lime slices
1/2 block of tofu, cut into triangles

1 1/2 tsps Ener-G, whisked with 5 tbsps water

oil for frying
optional: glass noodles

Whisk the coconut milk and broth in a medium stockpot over medium heat. Add the lemongrass, galangal, ginger, garlic, half of the cilantro, soy sauce, vegan fish sauce, kaffir lime leaves and shallots. Simmer for 20 minutes and then remove half of these components from the broth with a skimmer and discard.

If you are going to include the glass noodles, boil some water in a small saucepan, place the noodles in the water, turn off the heat and let sit until you are ready to serve the soup.

To prepare the tofu, set up two wide shallow bowls—one with cornstarch and one with the Ener-G mixture. Heat plenty of vegetable oil in a wide frying pan over medium high heat, about 7 minutes. You can tell when the oil is ready by inserting a wooden spoon into the oil. If it bubbles up around the spoon, its ready.

Working in batches, dunk the tofu triangles into the Ener-G mixture, then transfer to the cornstarch, tapping off any excess. Add to the hot oil and fry on each side until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto paper towels to drain.

Return to the soup, adding the carrots and shiitake mushrooms. Let simmer for 5 minutes more.

Add all of the components into a bowl, topping with the fried tofu triangles, some of the fresh cilantro, crushed red pepper and lime slices.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Crockpot Steel Cut Oatmeal

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I love my vintage crockpot. It was given to me by a friend years ago who was getting rid of some "junk" and, although I own two other crockpots that were actually made within the last decade, nothing compares to this groovy Rival. Everything that's put into this crockpot comes out perfectly. Placing these ingredients into the crockpot before bed and waking up to a fully prepared breakfast with a beautiful and spicy aroma is a great way to infuse some warmth into a cold winter morning. The amount of water compared to the amount of oats seems way off, but sticking to the ratio below is critical to yielding a perfect consistency ... these oats of steel soak it all up and expand considerably. I add fresh black pepper to the mix, because I like how it tastes with the spices, but its not necessary. The leftover oatmeal also reheats nicely—just add a little water and pop into the microwave.

2/3 cup steel cut oats
3 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
dash of fresh cracked pepper (optional)
3 TB earth balance
2 TB brown sugar or 1 TB agave nectar

Place all of the ingredients into the crockpot before bed, giving it a little stir. Cover and cook on low overnight, 7-9 hours. Remove the cinnamon stick before serving. This tastes good with a splash of soymilk and/or fresh berries.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

PPK Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

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I am not a huge fan of baking, mainly because you have to be so exact for good results. There are about three or four cookies recipes that I can make without causing a major disaster in the kitchen—this is one of them. This is Isa Chandra Moskowitz's recipe, found on the
Post Punk Kitchen (PPK) website. This is one double-chocolately, chewy and cakey cookie. I think the addition of macadamia nuts is great, but they are not necessary for the recipe. The use of ground flax seeds dissolved in soy milk functions as the "egg," binding the ingredients together. And the secret added benefit of vegan cookies is—you can eat the batter without worrying about salmonella poisoning ... neato!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Field Roast, Oyster Mushrooms and Tiny Potatoes Over Polenta

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When I was flipping through Tal Ronnen's cookbook, The Conscious Cook, for the first time, I stopped at a beautifully shot page of various mushrooms—among them a king oyster which I've seen a million times—but never considering using. Chef Ronnen suggested slicing the stems into 1-inch pieces and roasting them. (I personally think the tops are useless—if you do too, throw them into a freezer bag to make stock later.) I immediately thought of pairing these "scallops" with some field roast and tiny roasted potatoes, using Old Bay, dill and melted earth balance for the seasoning—the result was a perfect combination of textures and flavors—this is easy, pretty and perfect for a quick and filling dinner. 


1 pound of tiny potatoes (about the size of grape tomatoes), halved
2 heads of garlic, separated and peeled
6 TB earth balance
5 TB olive oil
1 1/2 tsp dill
1 1/2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning

salt and pepper
2 field roast links, mexican chipolte flavor, cut into 1-inch slices
4-5 king oyster mushroom stems, cut into 1-inch slices
1 white onion, halved and cut into half-moon slices
2 1/2 cups water
3/4 cups instant polenta

3 TB toffuti vegan cream cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a large pyrex dish, combine 2 TB of the earth balance and 2TB of the olive oil. Add 1 tsp each of the dill and Old Bay seasoning. Add the garlic and potatoes and toss to coat. Cover with aluminum foil and place in the oven for 25 minutes.

In a small skillet, place 1 TB of the oil and the onion and saute over medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat up to medium high and saute for 15 minutes more, stirring frequently until browned but not burnt.

Remove the potatoes from the oven and stir. Place back in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes more, stirring every 10 minutes to prevent scorching.

Remove the onions from the skillet and add 1 more TB of oil. Add the field roast and saute on each side for 4 minutes over medium heat. Remove from the skillet. Add 1 TB of earth balance, 1/2 tsp each of dill and Old Bay to the skillet. Add the mushrooms and saute on each side over medium heat for 3 minutes on each side.

In a small saucepan, bring the 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and polenta and stir briskly until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add in the remaining 2 TB of Earth Balance and the vegan cream cheese.

To assemble the dish, place  a large spoonful of polenta onto a plate, followed by some onion, potatoes, field roast and oyster mushrooms.