VeganYumYum » appetizers Yup, I'm back. Thu, 08 Nov 2012 23:25:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Curried Chips with Lemon Sunflower Spread Wed, 19 Sep 2012 22:28:39 +0000 Lolo Curried Chips with Lemon Sunflower Spread

Here’s a quick little snack I whipped up today to use up bagels and pita bread I (stupidly) bought before going out of town. Bagel and pita chips are really easy to make, and you can spice them however you like.

I also bought some roasted sunflower seeds, but had a hard time imagining how I could make it through 1 1/2 cups of them before they went bad. Clearly I’m not the most practical shopper.

I used garam masala to flavor my chips, but you should treat any spices (and especially, any ground spice mixes you have) as fair game for this recipe. Smoked paprika? Old Bay? Japanese seven spice? Celery salt? So many possibilities.

Fresh Lemon Juice

The sunflower dip has fresh lemon, ground white pepper, and a dash of tabasco. Here again is a lovely blank canvas for you to experiment with. If I had it available I would have added some freshly chopped mint. Roasted garlic or fresh scallions would make a lovely addition as well, for people who are normal and like those sorts of things (i.e. not me).

The dip is really rich and reminds me a lot of tahini (sesame seed paste) but without the bitter taste. If you want an even more pronounced lemon flavor, add the zest. This dip can also be thinned out to form a dressing, used as a sandwich spread, or as stand in for hummus.

Curried Chips with Lemon Sunflower Spread
Makes about 1 cup of spread and 4 cups of chips

For the Chips
1 Bagel
2 Pita Bread Rounds
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1/2 – 1 tsp Garam Masala, or other spice mix

For the Spread
1 Cup Roasted, Salted Sunflower Seeds (shelled)
1 Tbs Olive Oil
Zest of 1 lemon, optional
1/4 to 1/3 Cup of Lemon Juice (2-3 lemons)
1 Cup Water
1/4 – 1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Tabasco, more if desired
White Pepper
Fresh Herbs (optional, such as mint, scallions)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Sliced Bagel

Slice your bagel into thin slices about 1/4 inch thick. Slice the pita bread rounds in half. Stack the halves and slice into 1 inch strips.

Spicing the Chips

Place all the bread into a large bowl and toss well with 2 Tbs of olive oil and garam masala.

Bagel and Pita Chips Before Baking

Arrange the chips in one layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with 2-3 pinches of salt. If needed, add a couple extra pinches of garam masala to any bits that need it.

Bake at 350 degrees F for approximately 15 minutes. Set your timer for 10 minutes and start checking them for doneness at that point. The chips are done when they are beginning to crisp and turn a lightly golden brown. Be careful not to over-bake. Remove and let cool.

Sunflower Seeds

Add the sunflower meats to a food processor and turn it on. While running, add the oil and lemon juice and zest. Slowly add in the water until a smooth, creamy dip is formed.

Lemon Sunflower Spread with White Pepper

Remove to a bowl and whisk in the salt, to taste, and the black pepper and tobasco. If needed, add more liquid to get the texture you like. Once the dip is ready, gently fold in any fresh chopped herbs you may be using.

The recipe makes a rather mild dip that would be appropriate even for kids’ palates, so feel free to bump up the spices, tobasco, and lemon juice of you want something a bit zippier!

Curried Chips with Lemon Sunflower Spread

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Wild Mushroom Tostadas with Lime Creme Fraiche Fri, 14 Sep 2012 04:50:00 +0000 Lolo Wild Mushroom Tostadas

It’s mushroom season!

I recently went on a wild edible plant walk here in the Boston area, and our guide told us that the best time to find mushrooms is between Labor Day and Columbus Day. We didn’t find any mushrooms on our walk, but he did get me thinking about making a recipe to show them off. I’m really interested in learning more about local wild, edible plants, so hopefully I’l be rooting around in the woods for some fungus soon.

And if you made the black pepper and cumin pickled carrots from last week, here’s a recipe to try them with.

Oyster and Chanterelle Mushrooms

Any wild mushrooms will do for this recipe, but I picked out two of my favorites today: oyster mushrooms and chanterelles.

Oyster mushrooms can be cultivated, so you are likely to find them outside of peak mushroom season. This also helps make them a bit more affordable than wild harvested mushrooms, but they are still many, many rungs up the ladder from the budget workhorse that is white button mushroom. If you are interested, there are many resources online that describe how you can grow oyster mushrooms yourself, at home.

Chanterelles, however, do not cooperate with human cultivation. This means the mushrooms you see in the store were growing wild in a wood somewhere before they reached the shelves. The effort it takes to locate and collect them, their wonderfully complex flavor, and their perishable nature contribute to their price tag.

A note about using wild mushrooms: if you’re super squicky about eating a little dirt, this may not be the best food for you. Washing mushrooms makes them soggy and sad. I pick off anything that’s big enough to be picked off, and then chop it up and cook away without thinking too hard about what might be on them. As long as the mushrooms are not slimy, don’t have any overly soft spots, aren’t hiding bugs, and don’t smell off… they are declared clean in my kitchen. A little dirt from the middle of a forest won’t hurt you.

And if you found your own, just be careful! Make sure you know what you have before you eat it.

Wild Mushroom Tostadas with Lime Creme Fraiche
Makes Six Tostadas

Six Corn Tortillas
Wild Mushroom Filling (recipe below)
Lime Creme Fraiche (recipe below)
1 Jalapeno Pepper, sliced thinly
1 Small Bunch Fresh Cilantro Leaves, roughly chopped
12 Pickled Carrot Sticks (recipe here)
1 Cup Daiya Vegan Cheese Shreds

Wild Mushroom Filling
340g or 3/4lb Wild Mushrooms, weighed after trimming
1/4 tsp Salt
1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
1 tsp Earth Balance Spread or Oil
Black Pepper

Lime Creme Fraiche
4 Tbs Tofutti Cream Cheese
4 Tbs Vegenaise Mayo
1 Tbs Fresh Lime Juice

Chopped Mushrooms

Arrange the racks in your oven so one is in the middle and one is in the highest position. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Chop your mushrooms into a medium to small dice. Add them to a dry skillet over medium high heat. The mushrooms will begin to release moisture after a few minutes.

Wild Mushroom Filling

After 3-4 minutes of cooking, add the salt, cumin and oregano. Keep an eye on the mushrooms and stir them every 10-15 seconds. Once most of the moisture has cooked out and they begin sticking to the bottom of the pan, about 7 minutes of total cooking time, add the Earth Balance and mix well. Remove mushrooms to a bowl and set aside.

Corn Tortillas

Place six corn tortillas on a baking sheet. Brush both sides very lightly with olive oil. Put tortillas in the middle rack of the oven and bake for approximately 8 minutes. The edges of the tortilla should be beginning to curl and they should only barely have the slightest hint of color. Remove from oven.

While the tortillas are baking, mix together the ingredients for the creme fraiche and refrigerate until ready to use. It will take a lot of whisking to get the mixture smooth, but it will happen if you keep at it!

Mushroom, Jalapeno, Cilantro

Once your tortillas are out of the oven, change the oven to the broil setting. Get everything ready for assembly: sliced jalapenos, cilantro, carrot sticks, cheese, creme fraiche, mushrooms.

Making Wild Mushroom Tostadas

Evenly divide the mushroom mixture across the tortillas. Top with a little vegan cheese. Place in the oven, this time on the very top rack, to broil. DO NOT WALK AWAY! Watch them as they cook until the cheese is melted and the tortillas are golden brown. Remove immediately.

Top each tostada with a dollop of the lime creme fraiche, some cilantro, a slice or two of jalapeno, and two picked carrot sticks. Serve immediately.

Wild Mushroom Tostadas

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Blackened Tomato Canapés Wed, 29 Aug 2012 20:26:35 +0000 Lolo Blackened Tomato Canapés

Well. Hello! I’ve missed you.

I’ve spent the last two years working in animal rescue, but it’s time to dust off the blog and get back in the kitchen. Today I have a super simple but delicious appetizer to share with you. It’s very nearly September and I am desperately clinging to the last gasps of summer. This might just be my favorite time of year; farmer’s markets are overflowing and I fall in love with ingredients I’ve taken for granted all over again.

Blackened Tomato Canapés

Case in point: the tomato.

This recipe was made for the late-summer haul of juicy, sweet, perfect tomatoes. Use tomatoes worthy of a spotlight. If you happen to be growing your own grape tomatoes (and your own basil!) than this has got your name all over it. It’s quick to prepare and tastes great at room temperature, so you can make a bunch and let your dinner party guests enjoy them at their leisure. Perhaps on a deck with a nice bottle of red? I don’t have a deck, and didn’t throw a party, so I won’t tell if you just make these for yourself as a light snack on a weekend afternoon. They are so easy you can absolutely make them without an occasion.

Blackened Tomato Canapés
Makes about 25 pieces

1 Pint Cherry Tomatoes
Around 7 Slices of Sourdough Bread
25 Basil Leaves
1 Cup Balsamic Vinegar (or prepared/purchased balsamic glaze)
Olive Oil
Sea or Kosher Salt
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper

Start off by preparing the crostini. Arrange your oven racks so you have one at the very top and set your oven to Broil.

Prepping the Crostini

Slice the sourdough into bite-sized triangles. I like to cut the bottom crust off with a long chef’s knife (helps you get a nice clean edge) and create one big triangle. Slice that in half for two triangles, and each of those in half again. Each piece of bread should give you 4 small triangles. You can save the scraps to make your own breadcrumbs, or toss them to the birds.

Prepping the Crostini

Arrange the bread on a baking sheet and brush lightly on one side with olive oil.

Prepping the Crostini

Season generously with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper. I like to go a little crazy with the black pepper, but if you don’t like its signature heat, you can ease up on it.

Seasoned Crostini

Broil for 2-4 minutes (watching constantly) until perfectly golden. Remove from oven and set aside. Do not walk away from these while they are in the oven or they will burn up!

Blackened Tomatoes

Now grab your cast-iron skillet and put it over high heat, very lightly oiled. You can make the tomatoes in a regular pan if you don’t have cast-iron, but a cast-iron pan is perfect for this application. Once the pan starts to smoke, add the tomatoes. Every 10 seconds or so, gently shake the pan to toss the tomatoes around. We are looking to char the skin a little while only lightly cooking the tomatoes.

Meanwhile, if you need to make your own balsamic glaze, add 1 cup of balsamic vinegar to a small sauce pot and bring to a boil. Reduce about 75%, until it becomes a thick glaze, being careful not to burn. Set aside when done. This takes about 10 minutes or less.

Blackened Tomatoes

The tomatoes are done when the skin is speckled with black char and begins to split. You are not making tomato sauce, so don’t overcook them until they are mushy. We want quick cooking over very high heat (about 5 minutes total) to add flavor but to keep the individual tomatoes whole.


Once all your ingredients are ready, begin assembly by placing a single basil leaf on each piece of crostini. I like to flip the leaf inside out to create a little boat for the tomato to sit in.

Blackened Tomato Canapés

Top each piece with a single tomato and drizzle the balsamic glaze over the top. If you did not salt the bread enough before baking, you may wish to add a little pinch of salt over the top, but taste it first to be sure!

That’s it! If you happen to have leftover tomatoes, they would be a wonderful addition to just about any recipe. I think they would be killer in pasta or chopped up as a salsa base.

Blackened Tomato Canapés

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BLT Salad Tue, 21 Jul 2009 21:03:48 +0000 Lolo BLT Salad

This salad isn’t exactly… healthy. What it is, exactly, is delicious. And it has a surprise. There’s no lettuce. The greens are baby spinach, and raw kale.

Stay with me, here!

Yes, I said raw kale. I know you are thinking that I have finally gone off the vegan deep end. But I swear, the water is nice!

You can eat raw kale, too, if you pay attention to these three things: the kind, the cut, and the preparation. Follow these three steps and I swear you’ll be eating your kale raw and loving it.

The first step is finding the right kind of kale. Lacinato kale is perfectly suited to eating raw. I find that it’s thinner and more tender than the other varieties, but sadly, it’s not nearly as common. Look for long, thin, flat leaves that are slightly dimpled.

Lacinato Kale

It’s not always obvious what the best cut is for a certain dish. Small, thin strips of kale is integral for this salad, or any meal where the kale is served raw or lightly cooked. When the kale is cut this way, the dressing has a much easier time tenderizing the kale without having to cook it. Larger pieces of kale would be much harder to eat.

With regular lettuce, you wait to add the dressing until just before serving. Otherwise the salt and acid in the dressing starts to break down the fresh, crisp greens, leaving you with a soggy mess. With a kale salad, this is to your advantage! Dress the salad ahead of time and refrigerate it for a bit. The dressing will soften up the kale just the right amount. Plus, the addition of a creamy dressing compliments kale’s flavors nicely.

BLT Salad

There are many fake bacon products out there. My favorite is what I’ve used in this recipe, Lightlife’s Smoky Tempeh Strips. While the package says “Fakin’ Bacon” I find that it’s not at all like what I remember of the real thing, but I still like it. It’s smoky and salty and tangy, and it’s AWESOME in this salad (or on sandwiches). But as awesome as it is, bacon it is not. If you’re looking for something that more closely approximates the texture and flavor of bacon, there are probably other brands out there, but I haven’t found one that I like.

One last note: due to the sturdy nature of kale, this is the perfect picnic and pot luck salad. You can throw it together ahead of time and it’ll be perky and crisp when you get around to serving it. If you’re looking for a side dish that can stand up to summer entertaining, this recipe is a good bet.

BLT Salad
4-6 Side Salads

1 Head Lacinato Kale (aka Tuscan or Dinosaur Kale)*
1 Package Lightelife Organic Smoky Tempeh Strips**
2 Tbs Peanut Oil, divided
1 to 1 1/2 Cups Baby Spinach, Packed
1 to 1 1/2 Cups Sweet Cherry Tomatoes (about 25)

1/4 Cup Vegenaise Mayo
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1/4 tsp Salt
1 tsp Lemon Juice
2 tsp Agave Nectar
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

*You can also use regular lettuce if you like, just make sure not to add the dressing until just before serving.

**Sub baked tofu, another mock bacon, or my Smoky Miso Tofu.

Wash and dry kale. Using kitchen shears (or a knife, or your fingers), remove and discard the center stem from each leaf. I find scissors makes the job quick and easy:

Deveining Kale

Stack the kale leaves on top of each other and slice into thin strips with a sharp knife:

Chopping Kale

Place the cut kale into a large bowl. Whisk the dressing together and toss with the kale until evenly coated. If you are using regular lettuce, keep the dressing separate until just before serving. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, longer is no problem.

Meanwhile, prepare the “bacon.” Slice the tempeh strips into thin, small pieces, and pan-fry in 1 Tbs peanut oil for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp on the edges. Drain on a paper towel and set aside:

Fakin' Bacon (tempeh)

Next, add another tablespoon of peanut oil to the same pan you cooked the bacon in (don’t wash it out!). Cook the tomatoes with 1/4 tsp salt for 3 minutes over high heat, or until beginning to soften and the juices are starting to come out. Remove to a bowl, with juices, and set aside.

Assembling the salad

Once you are ready to serve the salad, chop up the baby spinach and toss it with the kale, making sure everything is now covered in dressing. If you are using regular lettuce, mix in the dressing now. Add 3/4 of the bacon and the tomatoes and toss again. Plate, topping the salad with the rest of the bacon and some freshly cracked black pepper. Serve.

BLT Salad

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Vegetable Tempura Fri, 20 Feb 2009 19:21:05 +0000 Lolo Vegetable Tempura

I really love vegetable tempura, but it often the batter contains eggs, so I have to skip it when I’m eating at a japanese restaurant. But it’s really easy to make eggless tempura at home. You can absolutely pick up a box mix of “tempura powder” at a local asian market and skip the egg the directions call for — even the box says it’s optional. Or, you can use this recipe and make your own batter from scratch.

When you see “serve immediately” at the bottom of this recipe, I’m not kidding. You want to have absolutely everything set and everyone ready to eat when the veggies come out of the oil. As the veggies cool, the once crispy breading will begins to soften, leaving you with soggy tempura. No fun. So make sure you have your place settings, your dipping sauce, and your friends or family ready to go once the veggies hit the oil.

The oil temperature needs to be 180º C or 350º F. If you add a lot of veggies to the oil at once, not only will they stick together (not so bad), but the oil temperature will drop like a rock (very bad). Tempura fried at too low a temperature will never become crispy. It’ll cook, but it’ll be a soft, heavy coating instead of a light, crispy one.

Vegetable TempuraHow can you tell if your oil is hot enough? When you drop a batter coated veggie in, little bits of batter will explode off the veggie outward like tempura fireworks. These bits, called tenkasu, are a good indication that your batter is hot enough. The veggies should cook for 40 seconds to 1 minute and feel crispy when you knock them around. You don’t need them to be golden brown, so don’t wait for that.

Most vegetables will cook to the perfect tenderness in that time, including harder ones like carrots if you keep their width to 1/4″ thick. For harder vegetables like squash or sweet potatoes, you may want to briefly blanch them to get them going before frying. But broccoli, mushrooms, and green beans or snap peas don’t require any pre-cooking at all.

I recommend a traditional tentsuyu dipping sauce for these. My recipe is a little different than the ones you find online, but it’s my favorite.

Vegetable Tempura
Serves 2-4

1 Liter Vegetable Oil, for frying
1 Stalk Broccoli, florets only
2 Carrots, sliced on the bias, 1/4″ thick
1 Cup Mushrooms, your favorite
1 Cup Sugar Snap Peas or Green Beans
(Feel free to use any vegetables you like!)

Tempura Batter
1 Cup Cold Water (very cold!)
1 Cup Flour
2 Pinches Salt
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1 Tbs Ener-g Egg Replacer Powder mixed with 3 Tbs Water
1/4 Cup Extra Water, if needed, for thinning

Tentsuyu Dipping Sauce
1/4 Cup Vegetable Stock, or Dashi if you have it
1 Tbs Sugar
1/4 Cup Low Sodium Tamari
1 Tbs Rice Vinegar
1/4 Cup Water

Heat all the sauce ingredients in a small pan until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

Chop your vegetables, making sure harder vegetables like carrots are no more than 1/4″ thick if frying raw. Blanch vegetables like squash or sweet potatoes, if using.

Tempura Veggies

Heat your oil to 350º F. A little bit of batter dropped into the oil should float to the surface immediately, and little bits of batter should explode off the veggies when frying.

Dip your vegetables in the batter.

Veggies in Tempura Batter

Drop an assortment of battered vegetables into the oil, being careful not to overcrowd. You may need to turn up the temperature of the oil, because the vegetables will cool it.

Fry for 40 seconds to 1 minute until very crispy and light. Drain on a paper towel for a few seconds.

Serve immediately with dipping sauce and/or salt and pepper.

Vegetable Tempura

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Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole Wed, 12 Nov 2008 20:40:31 +0000 Lolo Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole

It is absolutely that time of year again.

I can’t say I’ve ever really been a huge fan of green bean casseroles. I think canned beans has a lot to do with that, along with the whole, you know, not vegan thing. I got some beautiful organic green beans in my veggie box yesterday, and I figured I’d do an updated, fresh, vegan green bean casserole.

But it’s been done. And done right. By the ever-brilliant Susan of FatFree Vegan Kitchen. Check it out! Fresh beans and a homemade gravy; there’s nothing canned about it.

So Susan had scooped me by about two years. What was I going to make? Well, I realized that since I didn’t really like green bean casseroles all that much to begin with, why make a casserole at all? And why not make the fried onions from scratch? And leave the gorgeous beans whole and beautiful?

Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole

If you like green bean casseroles, by all means, go over to Susan’s blog and make that one! It’s the one I would make, and it’d probably be the first green bean casserole I’d like. If you’re up for it, use the homemade fried onions from here to top it off. I know people love French’s, but homemade ones don’t have hydrogenated oil, TBHQ, or propylene glycol in them. And you can make them ahead of time, too!

If you don’t like casseroles all that much, but do like fresh beans, fried onions, and mushroom gravy, then give this a shot. It makes a beautiful starter or side dish.

Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole
Serves 8

Fried Onions
2 Medium Onions, sliced thinly
2+ Cups Soymik (or your favorite non-dairy milk)
All-Purpose Flour (or your fav. gluten-free blend!)
Oil for frying

Mushroom Celery Gravy
1 Tbs Olive Oil
2 Cups Sliced Mushrooms
2 Ribs Celery, diced
1 pinch Salt
4 Tbs Earth Balance Margarine
4 Tbs Flour
1 to 1 1/2 Cups Soymilk*
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Thyme
Black Pepper

1lb Fresh Green Beans
Scallions, for tying
Pepper, for garnish

*I thought it would be really smart to use the soymilk I soaked the onions in to make the gravy. It wasn’t. It gave the gravy an overwhelmingly raw-onion taste, and ruined it for me. Unless you really, really like onions, I suggest using fresh soymilk for the gravy.

Fried Onions
Begin by making the fried onions. Cut the ends off the onions, peel them, and slice them in half lengthwise. Slice them thinly into half-moons. Try to keep your slices all the same width so that the onions cook evenly.

Sliced Onions

Soak the onions in 2+ cups soymilk for at least 10 minutes. Heat oil over medium heat in a wok or other pot to a depth of 1-2 inches. I’ve found that I can use less oil to fry in a wok; since the sides are curved the oil pools in the middle.

Grab a handful of onions from the soymilk, shake them off a little, and place them in a bowl. Coat with flour completely, tossing with two forks to keep your hands clean. Use enough flour so that they’re not soggy.

Onions and Flour

Test the oil by putting one onion in, if it bubbles up, it’s ready. Guard against the oil being too hot – it should take 7-9 minutes before the onions start to turn golden brown!

Fry for 7-9 minutes a batch, turning occasionally, until the onions are very crispy and caramelized. The onions themselves should be a very rich golden brown, beautifully caramelized, and the breading a light golden brown. Drain on a paper towel or cloth, and sprinkle with salt to season.

Fried Onions

If making ahead, store in an airtight container until ready for use.

Green Beans
Next, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Blanch the green beans for 1-2 minutes, or until tender crisp but still bright green. Shock in an ice bath to stop the cooking, drain and set aside.

In a skillet, saute sliced mushrooms and celery in 1 Tbs of oilve oil until tender and fragrant. Season with a pinch of salt. Remove to a bowl and add earth balance margarine to the same pan over low heat (don’t bother to clean it out!). Once melted, add flour and whisk well to create a roux. Slowly add in the soymilk while whisking, turn the heat up, and whisk while it thickens to form a smooth sauce. Add thyme and salt to taste, adjusting the thickness by adding more soymilk if needed. Stir the mushrooms and celery in.

Slice the chives in half, lengthwise, and use them to tie up little bundles of green beans. You can reheat the green beans before serving by placing in a low oven or quickly steaming.

Tying Up Green Beans

To serve, place a few spoonfuls of gravy on a dish, and place the bean bundle on top. Sprinkle with fried onions and grind fresh pepper over everything. Enjoy!

Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole

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Asparagus and White Bean Pesto Tart Mon, 29 Sep 2008 20:34:34 +0000 Lolo Asparagus and White Bean Pesto Tart

I can’t believe it, but the holidays are coming. And when there are holidays, there are parties, and the ever growing need for easy, tasty, fancy seeming food that you can serve your guests. Here’s a beautiful, ridiculously delicious, and easy-to-make asparagus tart that is so freakin’ awesome you’ll want to make it even when you’re not expecting guests.

Now, there are a few trade-offs that make this recipe as easy as it is. The first Pepperidge Farm puff pastry, because it’s a pain the butt to make it from scratch. This stuff is miraculously vegan. The trade-off is that while it might be vegan, the ingredients list is pretty long and contains things like high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oil. This doesn’t bother me much, especially since I don’t eat things like this a lot. But I know some of my readers are uncomfortable eating products containing these ingredients at all. For those who aren’t, or don’t mind occasionally consuming something like this, head to the freezer section of your grocery store and pick up the Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets.  They’re easy to use and only require 40 minutes of defrosting before using.

Asparagus and White Bean Pesto Tart

If you’re interested in making your own vegan puff pastry, there is hope! VeganDad made some beautiful vegan puff pastry simply subbing Earth Balance margarine for butter and following FoodBeam’s thoughtful recipe.  Definitely check out both blogs.  One day I’m sure I’ll try to make my own puff pastry, but that day is not today. Props to VeganDad for giving me hope that it’s even possible! You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar.

The other time-saving tips include using canned beans (which I always do anyway, because I’m lazy?) and a pesto concentrate that you can find at Whole Foods (and many other grocery stores) in the pasta/tomato aisle.  It’s called Amore Pesto Paste, and the only ingredients are basil, sunflower oil, olive oil, salt, pine nuts, garlic, and citric acid.  It’s wonderful to use in all sorts of stuff, so pick up a tube and try it out.

Asparagus Tart with White Bean Pesto
Serves 8 as an appetizer

1 15 oz Can Navy Beans
1/2 tsp Salt
1/4 Heaping Cup Raw Cashews
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tbs Amore Pesto Paste
2 tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Tbs Soy or Rice Milk, or water

1 lb Fresh Asparagus
1 Puff Pastry Sheet
Salt, Pepper, Olive Oil

Remove 1 puff pastry sheet from the freezer and let it defrost on the counter for 40 minutes on top of parchment paper.  Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400º F and make the filling.

Drain and rinse the beans, and add them to the work bowl of a food processor.  Add of the remaining ingredients except the soymilk (salt through lemon juice). Pulse the food processor, stopping ever few pulses to scrape down the sides and pulse again.  You want to break up the beans and the cashews.  Once it’s as smooth as you can get it, dribble in the soymilk while the machine is running, as this should help further smooth the mixture.

After 40 minutes of defrosting, carefully unwrap the puff pastry on top of your parchment paper:

Raw puff pastry

Roll the puff pastry out slightly into a rectangle. Then add the white bean pesto mixture, leaving a 1 to 1 1/2 inch border on all sides:

White Bean Pesto

Trim your asparagus so that it fits the tart width-wise. Press the spears into the white bean pesto, alternating their direction so that there are tips and bases next to each other; this one everyone is guaranteed every part of the asparagus after cutting:

Placing the asparagus

With a sharp knife, trim all the edges to they are neat and square. Trim away as little as possible.

Trimming the edges

Brush the spears with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper:

Ready to Bake

Using the parchment paper, slide the tart onto a baking sheet (don’t remove the tart from the paper). Bake at 400ºF for 25-30 minutes until the tart is puffed and golden brown and the spears are tender. Serve while just warm.

Asparagus and White Bean Pesto Tart

You can reheat this tart in the oven for a few minutes if you have leftovers, but it’s also good at room temperature. Fresh basil is a nice garnish. If you’ve never worked with puff pastry before, this is a great recipe to get your feet wet. It really is easy to use, just as delicious as phyllo dough with none of the stress.  And it’s fun to watch it puff!

Asparagus and White Bean Pesto Tart

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Miniature Napoleons with Eggplant Creme Thu, 17 Jul 2008 22:00:02 +0000 Lolo Miniature Napoleons with Eggplant Creme

When I lay awake at night, trying to sleep, I try to create recipes in my head. I usually start with a single ingredient and turn it over and over in my mind until something clicks into place. A few days ago I was doing just this, contemplating two eggplants in my fridge. I was thinking about how difficult eggplants can be, and if I could create a recipe that would counteract some of the challenges they present.

Undercooked eggplants usually have a green taste and a tough texture that makes me sad. My favorite way of preparing them involves half a bottle of olive oil, a lot of salt, and a good stint in the oven, but that’s not always practical. When eggplant is good, it’s so damn good, and when it’s not, I personally find it gross. One of my memories from college is my geology professor turning to me and remarking that you can judge the quality of a restaurant by the quality of its eggplant dishes. (Yes, I managed to talk food even with a geology professor.) Whether or not that’s true, it does speak to what might be an essential truth:

Eggplant can be a real pain in the asparagus sometimes!

While laying in bed, it hit me. Eggplant mousse! Now, you’ll notice I’m not calling it “mousse” in the recipe. After talking about the idea with several friends and seeing them wince and make faces at the term “eggplant mousse”, I decided that it wasn’t testing well and I’d have to change the name for the blog. I don’t think eggplant creme is much better, to tell you the truth. Just imagine eggplant, cubed and stir-fried until soft and golden, the blended with cashews and herbs until a rich, creamy, yet light spread forms. It’s tasty! A lot tastier than “eggplant mousse” makes it sound.  Trust me?

I was also feeling the need to make something on the approachable side of fancy, and appetizers always fulfill that role for me.  Also, tiny food.  My ever-present obsession with teeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy food.  How tiny?  This tiny:

Miniature Napoleons with Eggplant Creme

Like, really tiny.

I decided to have the size of the napoleons be determined by the size of the cremini mushroom (baby portobello) caps I was using.  Plum tomatoes and an average-sized zucchini baked down to about the same diameter as the mushrooms, just as I had hoped.  You can easily make these on a larger scale with full-sized portobello mushrooms, but the tinyness of the napoleons is a real draw for me.

If you roast up more veggies than you need, you’ll have an easier time matching diameters, and you’ll have leftovers for a really tasty grilled veggie sandwich the next day.  Did I mention the eggplant stuff makes a great sandwich spread?  I’m also thinking about using it as the filling for ravioli.  But I digress.  To the recipe!

Miniature Napoleons with Eggplant Creme
Makes 12 Miniature Napoleons, with leftover creme

Roasted Vegetables
3-4 Plum Tomatoes, sliced thickly (at least 12 slices, between 1/4″ and 1/2″)
1 Zucchini, sliced thickly (at least 12 slices)
12 Cremini Mushroom Caps, de-stemmed and brushed clean
Tamari or Soy Sauce
Dried Italian Herbs (your choice!)
Spray Oil

Eggplant Creme
2 Eggplants
2/3 Cup Raw, Unsalted Cashews
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Dried Italian Herbs (your choice)
2ish Tbs Oil
Garlic, to taste, if desired

Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar

A piping bag, like the type used for cake decorating, or a plastic bag

Prepping VeggiesPreheat the oven to 300º F.

Slice the tomatoes and zucchini and place them on baking sheet; I used a baking mat, similar to a silpat, but foil or parchment will work.

Spray with oil to coat (or brush if you don’t have the spray stuff). Sprinkle with salt and pepper and herbs. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the veggies look dehydrated and smaller, like so:

Roasted Plum Tomatoes and Zucchini

Place the mushrooms on the same baking sheet, upside-down. Fill the centers with a little tamari, no more than 1/2 or 1 tsp (I eyeballed it). They’ll look like this:

Tamari Creminis

Spray them thoroughly with spray-oil and bake for 30 minutes, or until tender, at 300º F. Remove and let cool with the over veggies.

While the vegetables are baking, cut the ends off the eggplants and remove the skin. Cube the eggplants and place them on a large dish on top of three paper towels. (You’ll probably need to do this in batches). Microwave the eggplant on high for about 8 minutes, until the eggplant is soft and the paper towels have absorbed a lot of the moisture. This is a tip I picked up from Cook’s Illustrated that will prevent the eggplant from absorbing so much oil while cooking.

Heat a seasoned wok or a non-stick pan with 2 tbs of olive oil. Add the eggplant and saute for 5-10 minutes over medium-high heat, until very soft and browned. Add the eggplant to the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the salt, cashews, herbs and garlic (if using) and process for several minutes until VERY smooth. Season to taste, if needed, then place the eggplant creme in a piping bag or a plastic baggie with one of the corners cut off.

Start with a little dot of eggplant creme on the plate where you want the napoleon to be. This will act as an anchor, or the tastiest glue in the world:

Assembling the napoleons, anchor

Place a tomato on top of the anchor, and pipe more eggplant creme on the top. Not too much!

Assembling the napoleons

Add a slice of zucchini, then another layer of eggplant cream. Top with an upside-down mushroom cap, and place a dab of eggplant creme where the stem was:

Assembling the napoleons

For garnish, add a small piece of roasted tomato and a basil-leaf crown. Put a thin layer of olive oil in the bottom of the dish, surrounding the napoleons. Dribble balsamic vinegar into the oil, and you’ll get pretty little contrasting dots. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tapas party, anyone?

Miniature Napoleons with Eggplant Creme

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Tamarind Seitan Kabobs Fri, 11 Jul 2008 21:00:05 +0000 Lolo Tamarind Seitan Kabobs

Comments are working again, thanks for your patience!

Hello July!

I’ve been sitting on this tamarind glaze recipe for a while.  It needed something summery, something involving a grill, and something you can eat with your hands.

It needed seitan kabobs!

Who doesn’t love a kabob?  You can put anything you want on a kabob, and these are no exception.  I made my own seitan chunks (based off of Susan’s Seitan Ribz from FFVK) and added some freshly blanched broccoli, but any veggie that floats your boat, tofu, store-bought seitan… if it’s vegan and you can poke it with a stick, it’ll probably work.  Because this recipe?  It’s all about the sauce.

I LOVE this sauce.

I used to have to drive to a specialty Indian grocer to get tamarind concentrate (I prefer it to the pulp, if you have a choice), but I recently saw it sitting at Whole Foods near the grilling sauces.  The brand I use is called Tamicon, and it comes in a little yellow and red tub.  It keeps forever.  Buy some.

The base of this glaze is the tangy tamarind concentrate and sweet, sweet agave nectar (also available pretty much everywhere nowadays, near the honey).  I give it a little depth with tamari, and some spicey notes with cumin and ginger.  It’s awesome.  And if you have a whisk, or a fork for that matter, you can make it.

Tamarind Seitan Kabobs

Tamarind Seitan Kabobs
Makes 10 Kabobs (3 Pieces of Seitan Per Kabob)

1 Recipe Seitan, below
1 Recipe Tamarind Glaze, below
20 Broccoli Florets, or 20 Veggie Pieces, your choice
Wooden Skewers, with pointy ends

Seitan Cubes
1 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten
2 tsp Smoked Paprika
2 Tbs Nutritional Yeast
2 tsp Bill’s Best Chik’Nish Seasoning, optional
3/4 Cup Water
2 Tbs Olive Oil
1 Tbs Soy Sauce

Vegetable Stock, for simmering

Tamarind Glaze
1 Tbs Tamarind Concentrate
1/4 Cup Agave Nectar
1 Tbs Tamari or Soy Sauce
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Ginger
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Molasses
Black Pepper

Chopepd SeitanBegin by making the seitan.  In a medium bowl, combine the gluten with the dry ingredients and mix well.  Add the wet ingredients and knead for a few minutes. With a large knife, divide the seitan in half, and in half again. Continue to cut each piece in half until you have about 30 bite-sized chunks of seitan.

Place a large skillet (one that has sides) on the stove and fill with 1-2″ of vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer, then add the seitan cubes. The stock should be about level with the seitan, the same amount of liquid you’d use for braising. GENTLY simmer (no boiling allowed!) for 8-10 minutes. When the seitan chunks are done, they should be larger, paler, and springier than when you started. Remove the seitan chunks with a slotted spoon. Set them aside until they’re cool enough to handle.

Save the braising broth to blanch any vegetables you’ll be using on your kabobs.

Simmered Seitan

Blanch any veggies in the leftover broth and drain and set aside.  Stir together your tamarind glaze and set aside.

Making Kabobs

Begin assembling your kabobs.  Be careful with smaller pieces of veggies (especially broccoli), as they’ll split and fall off the skewer if they’re not large enough.  I like to alternate veggie/seitan/veggie, but it’s your kabob, so make it the way you want!

Kabobs, ready to grillAt this point, you can refrigerate the assembled kabobs for later. Wrap them up and they’ll be ready for grilling whenever you (or your party guests!) are ready for them.  Everything can be made a day ahead, even the sauce, so all you’ll need is a few minutes to grill before serving.

Speaking of the grill, here are a few tips:

  • If you’re grilling outside, soak the skewers in water for a few hours before assembling the kabobs. This will prevent them from, um, catching on fire.
  •  Larger pieces of veggies will stay on the skewers more securely
  •  Like all sweet glazes, be careful or they’ll burn!  Add the glaze towards the end of grilling, not right away.
  • This will work just as well in a grill pan inside.
  • Once you’re ready to grill, unwrap the kabobs and throw them on. Everything is already cooked, so you don’t need to worry about anything other than 1) heating the kabob up 2) getting some nice grill marks and 3) caramelizing the sauce a little.  I failed at getting grill marks, but the kabobs were still pretty.

    Grill for a minute or two on each side, then brush the sauce over the kabobs. When the sauce starts to sizzle and bubble, your kabobs are done. Serve immediately with lots of napkins.

    Tamarind Seitan Kabobs

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    Pot Stickers Thu, 07 Feb 2008 21:42:56 +0000 Lolo Pot Stickers

    I can’t tell you how pleased I am with these. I had NO idea how easy it was to make pot stickers. And not just any pot stickers, but the best pot stickers I’ve ever had. The filling I chose is a spicy ground setian mushroom mix, with fresh ginger and chilies. The possibility for fillings are endless, though, so feel free to play around and stuff these puppies with your idea of a good time. Cabbage and carrots? Go for it. Chinese five spice tofu? Yum. Tempeh with cilantro and mint? Yes please.

    See what I mean? If you can dream it up, you can put it in a pot sticker once you know the basics.

    Hot ChiliesI made my own seitan for this, and if that makes you nervous, relax. You can use store-bought seitan, but making your own baked seitan is really, really easy. It takes a little bit of forethought (it bakes for about an hour and a half), but if you’ve got the time it’s super easy to prepare. The recipe I used was inspired by the Seitan O’ Greatness, but mine is more mildly seasoned so I can flavor it up for the pot sticker filling.

    You’ll also need to find the right wrappers. My favorite are Japanese Gyoza wrappers. They’re easy to work with and easy to find. They’re sometimes sold in standard grocery stores, but you’re pretty much guaranteed to find them at any well-stocked asian grocer. The ones sold in my neck of the woods are egg free, but it’d be wise to read the label to verify before you pick them up.

    Pot stickers need not stick to your pot. This is the perfect dish for your non-stick skillet. In a regular omlet-sized pan (10-12 inches) you can fit 8-10 pot stickers. They won’t even pretend to stick. If you don’t have a non-stick pan, I recommend a well-seasoned cast-iron pan. Either way, choose something with a lid.

    Easy Baked Seitan
    Makes approximately 4 Cups

    1 1/2 Cup Vital Wheat Gluten
    1 tsp Salt
    2 Tbs Nutritional Yeast
    1 Tsp Smoked Paprika
    1 Cup Water
    2 Tbs Olive Oil
    1 tsp Mustard
    1 Tbs Tamari or Soy Sauce

    Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

    Mix the dry ingredients together until well combined. Mix the wet ingredients together. Add wet to dry and knead the dough for a few minutes. Let it rest for 3-5 minutes, then form the dough into a log. Roll the log up in aluminum foil, pinching in the ends. Bake for 80-90 minutes. Remove and let cool.

    Mushroom Seitan Filling
    Makes enough for approx. 24 Pot Stickers

    2 Cups of Chopped Seitan (roughly half the log)
    10-15 Cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
    1 Tbs Oil
    1-2 Cloves Garlic, minced
    1-3 tsp Fresh Ginger, minced
    2 Hot Green Chilies, deseeded and minced
    1 Tbs Soy Sauce
    1 Tbs Rice Vinegar
    2 Tbs Water mixed with 1 Tbs cornstarch

    Pot Sticker FillingRoughly chop the seitan and add it to your food processor. Process until it’s ground uniformly, it should look like breadcrumbs. Remove the ground seitan to a large bowl. Process the mushrooms in the same way. Heat the oil in a skillet, adding the garlic, ginger and chilies. Fry for a few minutes until the garlic begins to turn golden (don’t burn it), then add the mushrooms. Saute until softened, then add the ground seitan. Stir in the soy sauce and vinegar and taste. Season if necessary. Turn off the heat, and once the pan has cooled a bit, add in the water/cornstarch mixture and stir well. This will help the filling stick together. Let the filling cool a bit before you get going.

    Now we’re ready to make some pot stickers!

    Folding Pot Stickers

    Place one of your wrappers in front of you. Place 1 packed tablespoon of filling in the center. Wet the edges of the wrapper. I keep a little bowl of water next to me for this. Keep your stack of wrappers covered with plastic wrap while you’re working so they don’t try out.

    Folding Pot Stickers

    Gently fold it in half.

    Folding Pot Stickers

    Begin to press and seal the edges, forcing out as much of the air as you can.

    Folding Pot Stickers

    If desired, crimp the edges. This makes sure they’re sealed tight, and it looks pretty, too.

    Folding Pot Stickers

    Once you get the hang of it, start filling more than one at the time. Here I’m making two at a time, but I actually find it easiest to make four at a time.

    Searing the pot stickers

    Arrange them in your non-stick pan that has been lightly coated with oil. Place them over medium high heat and cook until the bottoms are browned and crispy. If you want a really golden bottom, add a drizzle of oil to the pan (but this is optional). You can lift them up to check on them as they’re cooking, as the photo above shows.

    Adding water to the hot pan

    Once they’re as brown as you’d like, add 3/4 cup of hot water to the pan and cover immediately with a lid. Turn the heat up to high.

    Set the timer for 7 minutes. Then give a peak. You want most or all of the water to be evaporated. If there’s still some water in the pan after 7 minutes, remove the lid cook until the pan is dried out and the bottoms have re-crisped. If desired, you can mist them with water or oil if they seem to be drying out.

    Once they’re crispy again, slide them out of the pan:

    Pot Stickers, just out of the pan

    Ideally, you want the non-brown sides to look like they’ve been shrink-wrapped. If you didn’t get all the air out while you were filling them, an air pocket might have developed. While this isn’t a tragedy, the ones that don’t have this pocket will be easier to eat (the filling won’t fall out as easy). Here’s a comparison of one with an air pocket, and one “perfect” one:


    Not that big of a difference, but pot sticker experts would prefer the one on the right.

    Want to see what the inside looks like?

    Pot Stickers, inside

    They’re really delicious. The wrapper is soft and chewy, the bottom crispy-crunchy, the filling hot and savory… the mushrooms add a nice depth but don’t overwhelm. They’re just downright tasty.

    Pot StickersI like to serve them with a dipping sauce–you can do the standard gyoza sauce, which is soy sauce mixed with rice vinegar, and sometimes a bit of sugar. I also like tonkatsu sauce, which is a thick Japanese steak sauce made from fruits and veggies. It’s sort of sweet, so I think it balances well with the salty filling.

    I also served these with some sauteed Chinese broccoli, but any green would work. I tossed them around in a hot wok with some oil until wilted, then added a splash of soy sauce, a pinch of sugar, and some sesame seeds on top. It’s the perfect accompaniment.

    Really, they’re better than take-out.

    Pot Stickers

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