chickpea fennel saladHere’s another one of my no-recipe recipes. I could chalk it up to being a lazy blogger, but truth be told, quantities aren’t that important here. This is a universally appealing dish, as it’s both vegan and gluten-free, and provides some nice protein. I must give credit to my husband Tim for this fresh and bright salad, as he makes it often to take to his art studio for lunch.

Chickpea and Fennel Salad

This is the basic method:

Put some chickpeas in a bowl (I used 2 cans – be sure to look for BPA-free).

Add thinly sliced (with a mandoline) celery, fennel and red onion to your liking.

Throw in some flat-leaf parsley.

Squeeze on the juice of a lemon, and drizzle on a bit of olive oil.

If you’re feeling fancy, garnish with fennel fronds.

Salt and pepper, and you’re done.

You could build on this simple salad by adding orange segments, roasted red peppers, olives or cherry tomatoes. Let me know what you come up with!

Sour cherry pieTo prepare for my once-a-year sour cherry pie, I made a special trip into the city to try to find organic sour cherries. Alas, there were no organic ones to be found at the Union Square greenmarket, but I scored some that they claimed were “minimally sprayed” – probably a crock but I bought them anyway. If it’s a choice between that and no cherry pie, I’ll turn a blind eye this one time.  And the season for tart cherries is so short, I had to act fast. (Don’t even think of making this with sweet cherries – it’s not the same thing at all.)

I broke from tradition a bit this year by doing a crumb top crust. This recipe is adapted from from Melissa Murphy’s excellent The Sweet Melissa Baking Book, although I found it on Smitten Kitchen.  I made a few small changes:

  • More cherries – the amount specified did not seem like enough.
  • A different bottom crust and slighly-adapted almond crumb topping, to veganize.
  • Slightly less sugar in the topping.
  • No pre-baking of the bottom crust – I swear my vegan crust doesn’t get soggy!

The result was outstanding. There’s just nothing as sublime as biting into a piece of sour cherry pie – first you’re hit with the sweetness then you bite into the cherry and …wow! By the way, I don’t know why people insist on putting almond extract in cherry pies – why would you want to interfere with the perfect taste of this perfect fruit?

Vegan Sour Cherry Pie with Almond-Oat Crumble

For the bottom crust:

1 1/2 cups flour, sifted before measuring* (I recommend half white flour, half whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt, slightly rounded
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons organic high-oleic safflower oil
3 tablespoons non-dairy milk (I used Pacific Seven-Grain milk)

For the almond crumble:
2/3 cup rolled oats (not quick) ground in a food processor
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup raw whole almonds, coarsely ground in a food processor
2 tablespoons cold Earth Balance margarine, cut into pieces
2 1/2 tablespoons organic high-oleic safflower oil

For the sour cherry filling:
3/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
Pinch salt
2 1/2 quarts fresh sour cherries, pitted, with juice

Heat the oven to 375.

Almond crumble: Grind the oats well in a food processor. Add the flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and almonds. Process until the nuts are almost ground but still crumbly (not all the way to a fine grind.)  Place in a bowl, add the Earth Balance and drizzle on the oil. Mix with your fingers by pinching them together. Sprinkle with 1 or 2 teaspoons of water, and combine again lightly with your fingers until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.

Cherry filling: In a large bowl, mix the cherries with the sugar, cornstarch and salt.

Bottom crust (do not prepare in advance): Mix the flour and salt in a bowl.  Place the oil in a glass measuring cup, then add the milk, without stirring. Add to the flour mixture and combine quickly. Roll out between two pieces of wax paper, until it is about 12 inches in diameter. Remove the top sheet, and turn the crust over into a 9-inch pie plate. Remove the second sheet of wax paper. Crimp the edges, using the thumb and forefinger of one hand, and the index finger of the other hand.

Assembling the pie: Pour the cherries, including the liquid, into the pie pan lined with the bottom crust. (If your quarts of cherries were generous, you may end up with a dozen or so more cherries than you can fit – don’t force it.)  Sprinkle the almond crumble over the cherries. Place the pie plate on the oven rack, with a piece of foil on the rack below. Bake for about 1 hour, or until the juices are bubbling and thick. Cool on a rack to room temperature before serving.

* If you don’t have a sifter, spoon the flour lightly into the measuring cup.  Don’t scoop it – the measurement will be totally different.


Jun 22, 2015

Jerk chickpea burgers

vegan chickpea veggie burger

The other day, someone asked me, “When are you going to do a veggie burger recipe?”  As it happens, I had just perfected this baby: the jerk chickpea burger.

Veggie burgers can be a snore, but these got rave reviews at my recent backyard cookout. When developing this recipe, I was aiming for something super flavorful, and I think I hit that nail on the head. It does take a little while to grate/chop the vegetables, but if you have all the ingredients at hand, the burgers come together pretty easily. And they’re so worth it – the jerk sauce adds a Caribbean twist, while beets and tamari almonds take this burger to another level altogether.

I’m sure the choice of jerk sauce makes a difference in these burgers so choose carefully. I picked some Miss Lilly’s brand at Whole Foods and really like it, although the spicy variety is really spicy, so watch out!

Jerk Chickpea Burgers

2 cans chickpeas, well drained
¼ cup Jamaican jerk sauce
1 tablespoon ground flax seed whisked with 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 medium cooked beets, grated on the large holes of a box grater and squeezed dry (about ½ cup)
½ medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
1 medium carrot, grated on the large holes of a box grater (about ½ cup)
1 fresh jalapeño pepper, finely minced
1/3 c. medium-coarse bulgur, cooked according to directions and well drained
1/2 c. whole wheat panko bread crumbs
¼ cup tamari almonds, well chopped (I pulsed in food processor)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 teaspoon salt or more to taste
Generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
Whole wheat buns, red onions and romaine lettuce, for serving

Place the chickpeas, jerk sauce and flax-lime mixture in a food processor and process to a rough paste (can be slightly chunky).

In a bowl combine the chickpea mixture with the remaining ingredients, stirring well mixed. Refrigerate until read to use. Form into patties and grill on a well-oiled grate or vegetable tray. Alternatively, sauté in a skillet or brush with oil and bake at 375 for 10 minutes per side.

Serve on buns with additional jerk sauce, lettuce and sliced red onions.

Makes 8 burgers

Scrambled tofu I was never much of a tofu eater – I know all about the health concerns surrounding soy – but since I’ve gone vegan (OK, 99% vegan), I’ve let it sneak back into my diet once a week. Now, instead of our old Sunday morning egg ritual, we now have scrambled tofu. I figure eating tofu once a week can’t be too harmful – and I’ve really grown to love this dish.

Mind you, I’ve had a lot of really bad scrambled tofu in my day, especially dishes that are just cubes of tofu with vegetables and no hint of “scrambling.”  So it took me a while to come up with a combination that I liked. My secret ingredient is za’atar, a traditional Middle Eastern spice blend with cumin, sumac, sesame seeds and other spices. It gives the tofu a nice savory bite and nicely offsets the onions, peppers and tomatoes I use.

You can buy Za’atar at Whole Foods and elsewhere, but you can also make your own. The quality of the tofu you use makes a big difference, so choose carefully. If you can find a locally made brand, great. I use Woodstock Farms extra-firm tofu.

I hope you’ll make this for your next Sunday breakfast. You can try switching up the vegetables – I’ve been known to add sauteed kale or zucchini. If you come up with a great variation of your own, please leave a comment!

Scrambled Tofu with Za’atar

2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil or high-oleic safflower oil

1 small onion, or half a medium onion, minced

½ medium red bell pepper, diced small

1 medium tomato, diced

14-16 ounces extra-firm tofu (organic and non-GMO), well drained

1 tablespoon low-sodium tamari

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon za’atar

¾ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon sweet paprika

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Saute the onion and pepper over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the tomato and cook a couple minutes longer, until the tomato starts to break down. Add the tofu by squeezing the blocks through your fingers into the pan. Add the remaining ingredients except cilantro, raise the heat bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the liquid has evaporated. Stir in cilantro and serve.

Serves 2

Quinoa Salad with chickpeas

If I have one more quinoa salad that has nuts and dried fruit, or black beans and corn, just shoot me (and yes, I’m sure I have some of those on this very blog!). I just feel like I always know exactly what those salads are going to taste like before I try them. Plus they can be pretty carb-heavy when quinoa is the main ingredient.

I’ve been trying to pack more vegetables into every meal, so today I flipped the usual quinoa salad equation: this one is mostly vegetables; the quinoa plays more of a supporting role. For the vegetables, I went with radicchio, carrots, roasted red peppers and scallions. With protein in the form of chickpeas and pine nuts, plus olives and a tangy lemon-mustard vinaigrette, this dish is both nutritious and unexpected. My faith in quinoa salads has been restored!

P.S. This makes a large batch, so it’s a perfect dish for a party, or for lunches all week. Feel free to add more quinoa to stretch it even further – it’s good that way, too.

Quinoa Salad with Vegetables and Chickpeas

2 cups cooked quinoa
1 can organic chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 large head radicchio, cored and thinly sliced
3 scallions, sliced
6-8 large pitted green or black olives, sliced
2 carrots, thinly sliced, preferably with a mandoline
1 stalk celery, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
3 large roasted red peppers, chopped (homemade better but jarred ok, too)
2-3 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted (can substitute chopped toasted almonds)

1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of one organic lemon
¼ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
Generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk together the mustard, lemon juice, zest, salt and pepper, then slowly whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix well. Serve at room temperature.

Serves 8-12 as a side dish

Lentil Kale Sweet Potato Soup 2

Today’s delicious vegan soup recipe came about as a result of feedback from some of my readers. Dozens of people have written to me regarding Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s work, which you may be familiar with through his book Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, his son Rip’s book, The Engine 2 Diet, or the documentary film Forks Over Knives. Dr. Esselstyn advocates a totally plant-based, vegan diet, with no oil whatsoever. The claim is that with this diet, the damage to arteries due to heart disease can be undone. It sounds amazing and the evidence is compelling in many ways – but keep in mind that there are skeptics, like this one:

The readers who’ve contacted me ask why in the world I continue to use oil in my recipes when you can reverse heart disease through an oil-free, vegan diet. When I hear someone say they’d rather eat bacon even if it means they’ll live a shorter life, I’m infuriated. But here I am, saying I’m not sure I want to live olive oil-free, even if I kick the bucket sooner than I otherwise would (hopefully it will just be the difference between age 97 and 98!)

Besides the fact that I love olive oil, one of the big hurdles is travel. I can’t imagine going to Italy, Spain or Greece and having to avoid oil – since eating in Italy is about my favorite thing in the world. Even in cities where vegan food is plentiful, like San Francisco or Portland, enjoying restaurants is difficult, if not impossible. If I do ever decide to adopt this diet, I will most certainly ditch it when traveling.

I feel good about the fact that I eat tons of leafy greens, beans and whole grains, I avoid red meat and processed foods of all kinds, and I consume very little dairy. Just maintaining this diet is challenging enough – having to be “plant perfect” would probably send me over the edge. I’m about 90% of the way there … and that’s ok with me.

Having said all that, some dishes can be made oil-free with no sacrifice in flavor – so I figure why not cut out a little where you can. Which brings me to today’s soup. I think of this as my late winter detox soup: it’s full of nothing but vegetables and legumes. It’s delicious, and doesn’t contain a drop of oil!

Lentil, Kale and Sweet Potato Soup

1 medium onion, diced
1 large or 2 small carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 1/2 cups brown lentils
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
15-oz can petite-diced fire roasted tomatoes
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed (I used a white-fleshed variety)
handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme (or dried)
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 cups chopped curly kale (stems removed)

Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat (do not use a nonstick pan!). Add the onion, carrot and celery and cook, stirring, for 5-7 minutes, until vegetables soften and start to brown. Add the rest of the ingredients except kale. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 35-40 minutes, until sweet potatoes and lentils are tender. If the soup is too thick, add a little more broth or water. Season with salt to taste (if you used a salted broth, it should not need any more.) Add kale and cook another 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf and serve.

Serves 4