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Tomato Tart with Dill and White Bean-Dijon Puree

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Does anything capture summer better than tomatoes and a chilled rosé? In any event, add rich dough, a little spice, and fresh herb, and you're more than set for sunny afternoons, rainy evenings, and whatever else summer throws your way.

This tart is a simple riff on the classic french tart featuring tomatoes with a dose of strong mustard at the base. Here, dijon mustard is pureed into white beans to add a little creamy comfort and satiety.

Shown is a thin serving of the most irresistible pie dough that never fails to please a crowd around here (substituting an equal weight of Earth Balance will do fine—no one complains, promise), but the only problem with the otherwise unimpeachable tomato tart is trying to keep solidified fat cold in the heat of a July kitchen. This is the time of year rolling your dough out between wax paper can be a life-saver (or that olive oil crusts can come rushing to the rescue), but if you have a store-bought crust you like, consider this the perfect time to make a swap for convenience.

Tomato Tart with Dill and White Bean-Dijon Puree

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serves 4-6

tart dough of choice, rolled out to a 10-inch, 1/8-inch-thick circle

3/4 cup cooked white beans, drained

1 TBSP dijon mustard

1-2 TBSP water, as needed

salt and freshly cracked black pepper

3 small, ripe tomatoes, trimmed and sliced

2 TBSP fresh dill, plus more for garnish

Heat the oven to 375.

Lay dough in a 9-inch tart pan and rest in the freezer while the oven heats. Par bake as needed, depending on the dough you're using, but do not let it brown, keeping in mind that the dough is rolled rather thinly (reduce directed baking time, as needed).

Meanwhile, puree the beans and mustard with 1 TBSP water. Add a little additional water, if needed, just to make the pureeing go smoothly. You should still have a thick mixture at the end, but it should seem more creamy than paste-like. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Have your tomato trimmed and sliced 15-20 minutes before assembly to let the tomato slices give off a bit of extra liquid while they wait.

When the dough is ready, spread the bean puree evenly over the bottom of the crust. Sprinkle dill evenly over the puree. Add tomato slices in a spiral pattern, letting them overlap slightly, and top with a pinch of salt. Bake until tomatoes begin to shrivel and the crust is golden, about 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack. Garnish with fresh dill before serving at room temperature.

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Ginger-Cherry-Mint Tequila Smash

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Tequila time.

Of all the nice things about summer produce, one of the nicest has to be the pleasure of fresh fruit in your cocktails. Or spiked soda, which is really kind of what you have here. Either way, don't even think about turning on the stove to make a custom syrup. Hot days call for breezy, tall, cool ones, and not too much sauce. Thank heavens for ginger beer.

But probably not the ginger beer up in that shot. It wasn't until the second bottle of the pack was on its way to the recycling bin that I caught the giant list of ingredients on the front label announcing its non-vegan nature. Never stop reading labels, apparently.

To complement the spicy ginger beer, sweet dark cherries and fresh mint pair with a little lime and sugar to stand up to a swim with a serving of golden tequila. It makes for a seriously festive-looking drink begging to be handed to a friend.

Ginger-Cherry-Mint Tequila Smash

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2 sweet cherries, stemmed and pitted (plus another whole, for garnish, optional)

2 medium mint leaves (about 2 inches in length each)

1 TBSP natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)

1/2 oz lime juice

ice

2 oz tequila anejo

6 oz ginger beer

In the bottom of a Collins glass, muddle the cherries and mint until the cherries are pulpy and the mint is well bruised, but mostly intact. (Alternately, use a mortar and pestle and transfer the mix to a glass. You'll lose a touch of flavor, but that's life.)

In a small bowl, stir the sugar and lime juice until the sugar is dissolved. Fill the serving glass three-quarters full with ice. Add the sweetened lime juice, then pour in tequila. Top with ginger beer, stir, and garnish with a cherry, if desired.

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Smoky Cilantro-Mint Vinaigrette (with Dead Simple Summer Veg)

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It's July, and fresh produce is falling out of our collective ears in East Tennessee. It's not difficult to fall haphazardly into the makings of a great salad. Chop the veg, slice some fruit, toss in a handful of toasted nuts or seeds, or don't.

But what we can all always use is another bold vinaigrette to punch up the easiest of summer dishes, meaning you can do your simplest cooking of the year with big rewards.

Fruity, lemony, and showcasing the haunting combination of cilantro and mint, this dressing already has quite a bit going for it before you finish it with smoked salt. The smoke remains subtle, but adds surprising depth. Use the best fruity olive oil you can afford.

To serve the loveliest summer squash effortlessly (pictured at the top of the post), toss half-inch-thick slices of summer squash (allow one squash per person) into a nonstick pan over medium-medium-high heat, sprinkled with a touch of garlic salt (a generous pinch per squash). Let brown on both sides—about three minutes per side—plate, and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Hello, summer.

Or grab your tomatoes, trim the tops, scoop out any big pockets of seeds you catch, and spoon in the vinaigrette. Pop it all under the broiler for about ten minutes and serve with any grain you like for a gorgeous summer lunch. Soft or firm polenta or grits (crispy little cakes, anyone?) work their charms especially well with the juicy, herbed, warm tomatoes, but whatever's in the cabinet will likely do.

First one to try it on grilled corn on the cob wins.

Smoky Cilantro-Mint Vinaigrette

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serves 2-4, inspired by The Plaid Apron

3 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

1 TBSP lemon juice

2 TBSP finely chopped cilantro leaves

1 TBSP finely chopped mint leaves

1/4 tsp applewood smoked salt, or to taste

Whisk together all ingredients. Adjust salt as needed.

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Pistachio Pesto-Dressed Haricots Verts with Grilled Peaches

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Peaches and pistachios make a dead-stunning combination for summer, especially when those peaches are tossed on the grill. (Even if that grill is electric.)

And to make the most of summer's abundance, turn to pesto. Garnishing the salad with chopped pistachios announces their presence and adds texture, but using them in your pesto in place of pignoli will really load in the pistachio flavor. Toss that basil-packed sauce with thin green beans steamed until vibrant green, and you have just the savory thing to accompany quickly caramelized little peaches. For the best results, choose peaches that are just at the edge of ripe and still a bit firm.

Once your green beans are trimmed, you're looking at only about 15 minutes to put together a beautifully balanced salad that's a total feast for the eyes and a celebration of texture. To shave a little extra time off of your prep, feel free to make the pesto in advance. Either way, keep this one handy for the next time you're entertaining friends, or anytime you're in the mood to pamper yourself with warm-weather produce.

Pistachio Pesto-Dressed Haricots Verts with Grilled Peaches

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serves 4

1/2 cup raw, unsalted shelled pistachios, divided

2 oz basil leaves (about 1 tightly packed cup)

1 clove garlic

2 tsp red miso

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

12 oz trimmed thin green beans

4 small-medium ripe but firm peaches, halved and pitted

Toast 1/4 cup pistachios in a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing frequently, until fragrant and beginning to darken in color, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a small plate to let cool.

Add a few inches of water to a medium pot fitted with a steamer basket and bring to a boil, covered, over high heat.

Meanwhile, blend the basil, garlic, miso, remaining 1/4 cup pistachios, and oil to make a thick pesto. Set aside.

When the water is boiling, add green beans to steamer, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Steam until still crisp and vibrant green, 5-7 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath. Chop the toasted pistachios and set aside. When the beans are done, shock them in the ice bath and transfer to a clean kitchen towel to let dry.

Heat a closing countertop electric grill. When the grill is hot, add peaches, cut-side down, and close. Cook until fragrant and caramelized on the sear marks, 3-4 minutes.

Toss green beans with 1/4 cup of the pesto (save the rest for another purpose) and arrange on plates with two peach halves per plate. Garnish each plate with 1 TBSP chopped pistachios and serve.

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Hitting the Books No. 4: Simple Entrees from Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen

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This week, a dip into (an old edition of) a non-vegan, totally classic cookbook just snagged from the second-hand bookseller's shelf: Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen.

Again, decidedly a cookbook for omnivores, but one that honors beans and masa and masa and beans. To wit:

Talk about a crowd-pleaser. And the book itself is pretty lovely, too.

As tempting as it is to pour a whole bunch of oil into the pot and fry up some puffy masa, that's a hot, stinky, and delectable chore for another day. In fact, much of Mexican Kitchen involves a few separate processes per recipe. They look to come together smoothly with only minimal multitasking (and the notes helpfully provide make-ahead options throughout), but right now just isn't the time for ambition on any level in the MSV kitchen.

So today, two entrees that are low-demand and high-reward. The flavor construction is elegant and the textures deeply comforting, which makes for a winning combination for the home cook.

First up, black bean chilaquiles (the full dish, slightly more appetizing in appearance, is at the top of the post). Cook your beans, toss in tortilla chips, and there you have it. The core of the dish is entirely vegan, and it's garnished with chipotle, avocado, and Mexican Thick Cream. (Bayless's instructions for Thick Cream are the precise at-home creme fraiche mock-up ones I learned in my omnivore days.) Pictured here is a vegan experiment that showed great promise but ended up a bit underwhelming. You may see it again in the future if it works out. For a mystery-free version, thinned vegan sour cream, a little extra avocado, or a drizzle of poblano coconut sauce could easily replace the called-for dairy garnish.

The revelation in these chilaquiles, however, were the beans. Chipotles en adobo are frequently used as a bold addition to condiments—they're a generously flavorful shortcut. But used sparingly in a pot of beans (cooked from dried), they provide a surprisingly subtle, yet robust depth that likely forever changes the way beans get made around here. Seems obvious, and yet.

Next:

One of the great things about this book is Bayless' candor about the inherent corruption involved introducing a dish from one culture to another, especially for the home cook. He's clear about these being translations. So if this one is a cinch for a kitchen in the U.S., why not a vegan kitchen in the U.S.?

Here we have a tofu scramble, but this mixture of tomatoes, poblanos, onions, and garlic would also be gorgeous, naturally, over white beans. It's fairly lean, so extra avocado on top along with the cilantro really rounds it out. (And to stray from the recipe and stretch the dish, this also works tucked into warm corn tortillas.) The book offers an optional shortcut using canned tomatoes, which will do in a pinch, but freshly roasted will make the plate sing.

Back next week with a new recipe. Until then, happy reading.

About Hitting the Books: You know that shelf in your house with all the great cookbooks you don't get to nearly as often as you'd like? Yeah, there's one of those over here, too. The Hitting the Books series allows for occasional opportunities to dig into that shelf and highlight some handy cookbooks.

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Cantaloupe, Elderflower, & Thyme Sparkling Wine Cocktail

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It's officially hot outside, but you don't have to take it lying down. Chill the bubbly, sniff out a good melon at your nearest grocer, and prepare to show those summer temperatures who's boss.

Floral is the name of the game here, but not just from the liqueur. The classic combination of St. Germain elderflower liqueur and dry champagne (though here, any dry sparkling white wine that's tasty and inexpensive—even a lightly effervescent vinho verde) team up with another gorgeous and fragrant pairing: cantaloupe and thyme. In fact, if you've never made an agua fresca with cantaloupe and thyme, put that at the very top of your to-do list for the warm months. But today, we drink. And how.

Cantaloupe, Elderflower, and Thyme Sparkling Wine Cocktail

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1 small sprig fresh thyme

4 oz dry sparkling white wine or vinho verde

1 oz St. Germain

1 oz cantaloupe puree (instructions follow)

lemon wedge

Bruise the thyme with the back of a spoon, and add to serving glass. Measure out sparkling wine and pour over thyme. Add liqueur and cantaloupe puree. Mix with spoon used to bruise thyme. Finish with a squeeze of lemon and serve.

Cantaloupe Puree

yields 1 cup

1 heaping cup 1-inch cubes cantaloupe flesh

1 TBSP turbinado

Add ingredients to a quart jar and blend with an immersion blender until very smooth. Check yield, and, if needed, add another cube or so of cantaloupe and blend again until you have a full cup of puree.

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Dead Simple Sweet & Spicy Johnnycakes

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If you can get yourself in the mood for a little variety and temporarily suspend the notion that simplicity is most of the magic of Johnnycakes, then we can have a charming little breakfast.

You'll still get the core Johnnycake experience of crunchy cornmeal and irresistibly toasted edges under maple syrup, but you'll also enjoy a bonus of sweet raisins, gently warming chile powders, and fragrant pecans. Fruit and spice make everything nice.

This recipe makes two short, satisfying stacks, but you should have no problem doubling the recipe if you need to feed more folks. Or halving it to feed one, for that matter.

And of course, these are way easy to put together. Prunes also work gorgeously here if you have time and energy to cut them into small bits, but raisins and store-bought pecan pieces keep you from having to chop anything at all, making this nicely garnished plate a total snap.

Dead Simple Sweet & Spicy Johnnycakes

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yields 6 app. 4-inch cakes

1 cup cornmeal

2 tsp turbinado (or brown sugar)

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp table salt

1/4 tsp mild chile powder, such as ancho, or a blend

1/8 tsp chipotle powder

1/2 cup raisins

1 cup unsweetened soy milk (plus more, if needed)

3 TBSP chopped pecans

2 tsp coconut oil

maple syrup (grade B preferred), to serve

nondairy butter, to serve, optional

Heat a nonstick griddle (or large pan) over medium heat.

Meanwhile, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cornmeal, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and chile powders. Add raisins and stir. Measure out milk and set aside.

When the griddle is hot, add pecans and toast, tossing frequently, until fragrant and beginning to darken, about three minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

Add coconut oil to griddle. Add milk to ingredients and whisk to combine thoroughly. Use a quarter-cup measure to scoop out scant quarter-cup portions of batter and add to griddle. (If using a pan, you may need to cook in two batches. Add a little extra milk to the second batch before cooking, if needed, as the batter will thicken as it stands.) Cook until the edges begin to darken and bubbles appear all over the surface, about three minutes. Flip and cook another three minutes until cooked through and deep golden on the exterior.

Serve immediately, topped with pecans, with maple syrup and nondairy butter, if desired.

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Roasted Poblano Coconut Sauce

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There's a long tradition of combining poblano peppers with a cream base, and for good reason. This version, made with coconut milk, keeps it as simple as possible with gorgeous results. Roast the pepper, blend, and simmer the mixture briefly before letting it chill and thicken in the fridge. What you get for that bit of effort is a condiment that plays stunningly well with any flavors from your kitchen inspired by the food traditions of Latin America.

Drizzle it over a burrito or taco, mash it with beans for a pupusa filling, or pour it over a tortilla casserole—it's greater than the sum of its parts, and does not taste distractingly of coconut. Rather, the rich, fruity nature of coconut milk combined with the gently piquant hit of pepper makes for a sauce that adds seductive depth to the simplest of dishes, and pairs downright dreamily with the acidity of tomatoes.

You can take advantage of that fact by whipping up a little tofu ranchero dish for a sunny weeknight dinner. This version shows off fresh tortillas topped with the requisite salsa and a serving of simple seared tofu. The roasted poblano sauce adds richness and really brings the whole dish together.

For a fully fresh, homemade, low-key brunch for four, make your salsa and poblano sauce a day or two in advance. Sip a mimosa while you chat and make the tortillas. While the griddle is still hot, cook the tofu all in one batch. Munch away.

For a breezy dinner that's even fast enough to make for breakfast, saute a couple cups cooked beans with a couple handfuls of mushrooms (and/or some leafy greens), plus some cumin, coriander, and smoked paprika. Add smoked salt, if you have some lying around. When the mushrooms are tender, and everything's hot, melded, and smells irresistibly robust, remove the pan from heat and stir in a quarter-cup of chilled roasted poblano sauce. Serve with warm tortillas or toast, and finish the plate with a squeeze of lime.

Once you make a batch, you'll have no problem finding lots of other ways to put this stuff to work. And no one will blame you for doubling the recipe next time.

Roasted Poblano Coconut Sauce

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yields 3/4 - 1 cup (about 200 mg)

1 large poblano pepper

1 cup full-fat canned coconut milk

scant 1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

Heat the oven broiler with a rack in the top position.

Trim, seed, and halve the pepper lengthwise. Remove any thick membranes. Place peppers cut-side down under the heat sources, and broil until thoroughly blistered, 10-15 minutes. (Check the oven occasionally. If the broiler kicks off, open the door until it comes back on.)

Carefully add peppers to a small brown paper bag, or a small bowl covered tightly with a clean kitchen towel, and let rest 10 minutes. Peel off and discard blistered skins.

Transfer pepper, milk, and salt to a quart jar and blend thoroughly with an immersion blender. Transfer to a small pot, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat slightly to keep a strong simmer, and cook, stirring, five minutes. Remove from heat, let cool, and store in the fridge in an airtight container, where the sauce will thicken, until ready to use.

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Sweet Cornmeal Cake with Macerated Strawberries and Whipped Coconut Cream

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Let's savor one last classic strawberry spring dessert before the heat of summer is firmly at the door. And let's do it with a moist, sweet cake that hints at the coming of one of summer's most famous pieces of produce: corn.

A serious dose of cornmeal combined with silky cake flour gives the final product a yielding, but earthy, texture that's a wonderful and substantial foil for juicy little berry bits and rich, fluffy whipped coconut cream. Et voila, a classic dessert gets a personality boost.

The berries are only gently marinated in a combination of bourbon and orange liqueur to tease out sweetness and subtle depth. If you prefer a dessert without alcohol, a little balsamic vinegar, or even just a sprinkle of sugar can be substituted.

Sweet Cornmeal Cake with Macerated Strawberries and Whipped Coconut Cream

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serves 4-6

3/4 cup unsweetened soy milk

2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup cake flour (spoon-in-and-level-off method of measurement)

1/2 cup cornmeal

1/8 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)

1/4 cup canola oil

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/8 tsp almond extract

8-10 medium-large strawberries, trimmed and sliced

1 tsp bourbon

1 tsp orange liqueur

chilled coconut cream skimmed from one 15-oz can coconut milk

1 TBSP maple syrup (or powdered sugar)

Heat oven to 350.

In a large jar or bowl, combine soy milk and vinegar. Set aside.

Meanwhile, oil and flour a six-inch cake pan and set aside. Whisk together flours, salt, baking power, and baking soda in a mixing bowl.

Add sugar, oil, and extracts to soy milk. Whisk thoroughly. Add to dry ingredients. Whisk just until all dry mix has been incorporated (aim for a dozen strokes or fewer). The batter will be lumpy. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, 24-26 minutes.

Remove pan from oven and transfer the pan to a wire rack. Let cool 10 minutes. Use a thin spatula to gently ease the sides of the cake away from the sides of the pan. Turn cake out onto rack, gently turn back over onto its bottom, and let cool.

Half an hour before serving, combine sliced strawberries with bourbon and orange liqueur. Let sit, covered with a clean kitchen towel, stirring every ten minutes, until ready to serve.

Just before serving, whip chilled cream with syrup or sugar. Spoon berries over a cake slice and top with whipped coconut cream.

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Rhubarb-Ginger Witbier Cocktail

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Let's get breezy. With Witbier.

Dose fizzy, creamy, warm weather-ready white wheat beer with vodka and a hit of rhubarb-ginger syrup to add sweetness, gentle tang, and just a hint of spice.

Brighten the whole thing up with lemon juice, and done. You have a seriously inviting beer cocktail that goes down way easy, ready for any weekend hangout with pals that kicks off at high noon, or for a low-key happy hour at home.

Rhubarb-Ginger Witbier Cocktail

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1 oz vodka

1/2 oz chilled Rhubarb-Ginger Syrup, recipe follows

5.6 oz (or 1/2 can) white wheat beer (such as Wittekerke or Harpoon White UFO)

1/2 oz lemon juice

In a rocks glass, combine vodka and syrup. Add beer, then lemon juice, and give a stir.

Rhubarb-Ginger Syrup

2/3-3/4 lb rhubarb stalks cut into 1-inch slices (about 2 cups)

3 oz fresh ginger root, sliced (about 2 3x1-inch pieces)

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

Combine all ingredients in a medium pot and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a low steady simmer and let cook, undisturbed, 20 minutes. Turn off heat, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let stand 15 minutes. Strain, pressing the solids a bit to extract extra liquid. Let cool thoroughly before chilling.

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Lemon-Poppy & Herb Smoked Tofu-Salad Sandwich

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Today, a little love note to smoked tofu. (And tarragon, but that comes in a minute.) Warm weather begs for cool, protein-packed salads that can be kept on hand for quick sandwiches that provide easy nourishment at any time of the day. For that, it's hard to beat the ease of grabbing a pre-seasoned pack of tofu.

This salad really takes advantage of three store-bought convenience items: the smoked tofu, of course, and also a big dollop of plain nondairy yogurt seasoned with dijon mustard. You'll set those off with heaps of fresh and fragrant stuff: parsley, tarragon, cucumber, lemon zest, and, finally, lightly toasted poppy seeds.

Grate, chop, toast, stir, and you have lunch for days. Grab a half-loaf of pita, a bagel, or a couple slices of your favorite wheat bread. Whatever you have on hand will work and makes for a surprisingly sophisticated, dead-simple meal.

Lemon-Poppy & Herb Smoked Tofu-Salad Sandwich

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serves 4, adapted from Tartine Bread

1 tsp poppy seeds

zest of 1 lemon

3 TBSP plain nondairy yogurt(*)

1 TBSP dijon mustard

12 oz smoked tofu (such as Soy Boy brand), grated

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

1 bunch parsley, tough stems removed (about 1 cup loosely packed), chopped

4 large sprigs tarragon, stems discarded (about 1/4 cup loosely packed leaves), chopped

sandwich loaf slices, halved bagel, or pita, plus tender lettuce leaves, to serve

Add poppy seeds to a small dry skillet over medium heat. Toast, tossing constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds, being careful not to burn.

Combine poppy seeds, lemon zest, yogurt, and mustard in a small bowl. Put grated tofu, cucumber, parsley, and tarragon into a large mixing bowl. Add dressing and toss thoroughly. (Salt, if needed—this will depend on your brand of tofu.) Can be served immediately, but benefits from an hour in the fridge to allow the flavors to mingle.

When ready to serve, spoon salad onto bread, then sandwich. Press down with one hand and cut in half (compressing helps the sandwich hold together—not necessary if using pita).

(*Whole Soy Co. or So Delicious brands of plain yogurt are recommended. Because of the bitterness of the poppy and pungent nature of tarragon, the unsweetened variety is not recommended for this dish.)

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Strawberry-Radish Tartine with Radish Top-Pea Pesto

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This colorful tartine is a lovely way to celebrate the delicacy of spring while still getting sufficiently fed. Spicy little radishes paired with sweet strawberry slices showcase spring's first colorful fruits. Meanwhile, put those grassy radish leaves to work by balancing them with sweet peas and a dose of chives to make a bold pesto that's gentle on the wallet (gentler than basil pesto, anyway) and big on flavor. Crusty bread delivers it all in comforting, yet elegant-looking, style.

The tartine makes a satisfying snack, but is easily made part of a well-rounded meal when served with a bowl of lentil soup.

Strawberry-Radish Tartine with Radish Top-Pea Pesto

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For the pesto:

1/2 cup tightly packed radish leaves (from about a half-dozen radishes)

1/2 cup frozen (or fresh) shelled green peas, thawed

1/4 cup loosely packed chives (~1/4 oz)

1/4 cup shelled pepitas

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 small-medium clove garlic

2 tsp red miso

To serve:

sliced crusty bread

thinly sliced radishes

sliced strawberries

Blend all pesto ingredients until thoroughly combined. Spread pesto onto bread, and top with radish and strawberry slices.

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Grilled Veg Bread Salad with Savory Parsley-White Bean Dressing

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It's here! Knoxville's 2015 Market Square Farmers Market starts up this weekend, and not a moment too soon. The early markets are bursting with greens, lettuces, and sprouts, and as lovely as all those things are, there's still room to supplement with veg from larger grocers until the rest of the rainbow springs from East Tennessee soil. So here's a salad for just that.

Grilled crusty bread and vegetables add deep comfort when set against fresh lettuces, sliced cucumbers, and sprouts. To finish off the salad and tenderize the gorgeously yeasty bread chunks is a bright, satisfying dressing made hauntingly savory from miso and capers, plus made creamy from a generous addition of white beans. It also makes a killer sandwich condiment, of course.

Grilled Veg Bread Salad with Savory Parsley-White Bean Dressing

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serves 4

For the salad:

4-5 oz tender lettuce of choice, washed, dried, cored, and chopped

4 large sprigs dill, stemmed

1 small cucumber, thinly sliced

green sprouts of choice, to taste

4 tsp oil, divided

4 slices crusty bread from an eight-inch boule

handful sugar snap peas

2 carrots, sliced diagonally

1 small red pepper, chopped into 1-inch chunks

1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch slices

For the dressing (yields 1 1/3 cups):

1 cup white beans, such as navy or Great Northern (rinsed and drained if using canned)

1/2 cup water

1 no-salt-added vegetable bouillon cube

2 tsp red wine vinegar

1 cup loosely packed parsley (about 1 bunch, tough stems removed)

2 TBSP olive oil

2 tsp drained capers

2 tsp red miso

Combine lettuce and dill in a serving bowl and top with cucumber slices and sprouts. Set aside.

Heat a countertop electric grill with a closing lid, which you'll use to cook everything in batches. Brush 2 tsp oil onto bread slices and grill until marked and gently toasted before chopping into bite-size pieces. Meanwhile, add 1 tsp oil to a small mixing bowl. Add peas and toss to combine. Grill in a single layer until crisp-tender with sear marks, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Toss carrots in the same mixing bowl and grill 3-5 minutes. Add another 1 tsp oil to mixing bowl and repeat with pepper and zucchini.

To make the dressing, blend all ingredients until smooth. If making a day or two in advance, refrigerate until ready to use.

Top the lettuce in the serving bowl with the grilled veg and bread, toss thoroughly with dressing, and serve at once.

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Spiced Potato-Pinto Hash with Lemon-Dill Yogurt

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Let your spice rack do the heavy lifting in this hearty bean dish, and you have a dead-simple, highly flavorful plate of comfort and nutrition. Add to that the unbeatable ease of frozen cooked potatoes, and all you need is the energy to stir, chop a little pepper, and slice a couple scallions. Easy brunch, hello.

This recipe alone feeds two generously, but you can stretch it into a meal for more by tucking this mixture into warm corn tortillas and adding a green side salad.

You may notice the recipe doesn't go easy on the seasoning, but it'll all make sense once you spoon on the cool, creamy, and gently zippy yogurt. It's not the kind of condiment you'll want to eat off the spoon, but the good news is, that's not what condiments are for. And this one is a golden potato's best friend.

Spiced Potato-Pinto Hash with Lemon-Dill Yogurt

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serves 2 generously

1 TBSP oil

1 lb frozen red potato skin-on wedges (or other variety—look for a brand that contains nothing more than potatoes, oil, and salt; if you can find plain frozen potato wedges or dice, go for that)

1 small red pepper (or half of a large)

2 scallions

1 15-oz can pinto beans (preferably reduced-sodium)

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/4 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/8 tsp ground cayenne

small pinch ground cloves

small pinch ground cinnamon

Lemon-Dill Yogurt, to serve, recipe follows

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add potato wedges in one layer (as much as possible). Let cook, undisturbed, five minutes (but let your nose be your guide—if you have smaller bits, it may not need the full five). Flip wedges. Let cook another 4-5 minutes, and flip again. Repeat until all wedges are golden, about 15 minutes total, or longer, if needed.

While the potatoes cook, measure out the spices into a small bowl and set aside. Trim pepper and chop into small dice. Slice the white and green parts of the scallions.

When the potatoes are golden, add pepper and scallions to the skillet. Stir to combine and let cook while you open the beans. Rinse them in a sieve, shake off excess water, and add to skillet. Add spices. Stir to coat and let cook, stirring frequently, until peppers are beginning to soften and the beans have warmed through, about 3 minutes. Serve warm with lemon-dill yogurt at the table.

Lemon-Dill Yogurt

yields 1/2 cup

1/2 cup plain nondairy yogurt(*)

1 tsp dried dill

1/2 tsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp lemon juice

1/4 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

Stir all ingredients until well combined. Chill until ready to use.

(*Whole Soy Co. brand yogurt is strongly recommended. If you can't find that, So Delicious is a good substitute. For both brands, either the plain or unsweetened varieties should work.)

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Party Animals No. 34: Garlic-White Wine Almond Pate

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This week, another almond pate variation. This one packed with garlic, lemon, and white wine. Like its sweet counterpart in that post, this one's thoroughly addictive smeared on crackers or muffins, which is just how both were served at the 2015 Big Ears Brunch. (Which I had intended to blog about, but, for reasons not worth typing out, had to toss the idea of documenting with any care. Which is a shame because it featured some totally fabulous beet-lentil sliders made by a generous pal.)

So not only does the molded pate work as a star on a table of munchies, it can also do heavy lifting in a supporting role for a main dish. It works on sandwiches and begs to be crumbled into a salad. If you're in the mood to gild a lily, there should be no reason you can't knead crumbles into biscuit dough before baking.

For a simple way to really highlight this luscious spread, serve it on a bagel or as a tartine topped with herbs and veg for an any-day lunch worth lingering over.

Or expand that idea just slightly for something you can serve to guests by whipping up a tart crust and spreading the pate down before topping with herbs and any lovely thing you can grab—sauteed mushrooms, grilled asparagus or broccolini, or oven-dried tomatoes. Bake it off, pour some wine, and you're entertaining with ease.

Similarly, it makes great pizza.

It's fabulous to be able to mold the pate and serve it on a plate, but the good news is, if you don't need the firmer texture or an impressive presentation, you can skip chilling the pate before baking. That means no planning ahead. Blend, spoon into a ramekin, bake, and it's ready to go.

That works particularly well for this greens pie. Mixing the softer pate fresh from the oven into a mix of baby spinach and baby arugula allows the heat from the spread to wilt the greens just a bit before spreading the whole gorgeous shebang on pizza dough.

If green things on pizza don't work in your house, rest assured that topping a generous layer of pate (about a quarter-batch per 10-inch pie) with canned fire-roasted tomatoes and herbs makes a beautifully rich, salty, satisfying pie. And just imagine what substituting fresh tomatoes will do for the whole thing this summer.

Garlic-White Wine Almond Pate

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adapted from here (post includes credit links)

150g blanched almond meal

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup water

3 TBSP sunflower (or olive, or canola) oil

2 large (or 3 small-medium) cloves garlic

3/4 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

Heat oven to 350.

Blend all ingredients with an immersion blender until smooth.

For a softer spread, divide evenly between two 10-oz ramekins. Bake 40 minutes, until puffed and golden brown on top. The spread can be used immediately as a pizza or tart base before baking, or let cool before serving on a tartine or crackers.

Alternately, to mold, line two 10-oz ramekins with a double layer of cheesecloth. Divide the mixture evenly between the ramekins, fold cheesecloth over, and chill for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight. (In a pinch, chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.) Use the cheesecloth to lift the pate from the ramekins, carefully transfer to an oiled baking sheet (without cheesecloth), and bake for 40 minutes, until golden. Let cool thoroughly before serving.

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Spicy Lentils with Tomato, Heart of Palm, and Green Olives

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The genius Oaxacan tradition of combining mild peppers and briny green olives is here turned up a notch in heat and used to flavor a pile of comforting, nourishing, and affordable brown lentils. If you're sensitive to heat, feel free to substitute part of a poblano pepper for the jalapeno, or (for the more traditional route) use half a banana pepper. Add a chunk of crusty bread, and you have dinner. (And a serving of simply dressed salad greens, if you're feeling ambitious.)

Heart of palm adds texture and a bit of brightness. If you're looking to save money, try substituting chopped boiled cauliflower, but you may want to add a bit more lemon juice. Or to better suit chilly weather, substitute cooked cubed potato. Any way you tweak it, you get a heap of protein in a comforting, tomato-infused pot that feeds a crowd, or keeps you in easy-to-pack lunches all week long.

Spicy Lentils with Tomato, Heart of Palm, and Green Olives

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serves 6-8

1 TBSP olive oil

1 small yellow onion, diced

1 jalapeno, stemmed and finely chopped (seeded, if desired)

1 clove garlic, minced

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes (fire-roasted, if possible)

2 1/2 cups water

1 no-salt-added vegetable bouillon cube

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/8 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 1/2 cups dried brown lentils

1 cup canned/jarred sliced heart of palm

1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed green olives, drained

1 lemon, halved

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion, jalapeno, and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion begins to brown, 3-5 minutes.

Carefully add canned tomatoes with juice and deglaze pan. Add water, bouillon cube, oregano, salt, and pepper. Bring to a simmer, and stir to help cube dissolve. Once dissolved, add lentils, and stir to combine. Cover, bring back to a simmer, reduce heat to low (being sure to maintain a simmer), and cook until lentils are tender, 25-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse heart of palm in a sieve and set aside to let drain well before chopping into small bite-size pieces. Roughly chop green olives.

When lentils are tender, remove from heat. Stir in heart of palm and olives. Squeeze half the lemon over the pot, and stir to combine. Adjust seasoning, if needed. Serve immediately with crusty bread.

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Pastrami-Spiced Portobello Sandwich with Caramelized Onion-White Bean Spread

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This might sound like a lot of trouble for a sandwich, but the major parts require only sporadic attention. The hardest part is washing the food processor after you're done.

Your reward for that bit of effort is thick-cut, peppered-up mushrooms paired with dijon mustard, sauerkraut, and a hearty white bean puree made sweet from the addition of a heap of caramelized onions.

You'll have a lot more bean puree than you'll need for the sandwiches, which means, happily, you'll have it on hand for any crackers, crudite, or grilled sandwiches you might feel like munching on over the next few days.

Pastrami-Spiced Portobello Sandwich with Caramelized Onion-White Bean Spread

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serves 4

2 yellow onions, peeled, halved, and sliced

4 TBSP olive oil, divided

generous pinch fine sea or kosher salt

12 oz thickly sliced (about 3/4 inch) portobello mushrooms

1 1/2 TBSP freshly cracked black pepper

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp smoked salt

1 15-oz can Great Northern beans

1 TBSP balsamic vinegar

4 whole wheat buns, cut sides toasted

dijon mustard

sauerkraut

Heat a skillet with 2 TBSP of oil on the low side of medium-low heat. Add sliced onions, cover, and cook, stirring and scraping every five minutes or so until deeply browned, about an hour. (Reduce heat as needed if onions threaten to burn.)

Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 and lightly oil a roasting pan.

Whisk remaining 2 TBSP oil with all spices, pour over mushrooms in a large mixing bowl, and gently toss to combine (it will coat a little unevenly, but will settle out when you toss them in the oven after the mushrooms release their juices). Transfer mushrooms to pan and sprinkle on any spices that fell to the bottom of the bowl. Roast 40 minutes, tossing well after 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, rinse beans well and set aside in a sieve to let drain thoroughly. Add to a food processor when the onions are almost done.

When the onions are ready, add balsamic vinegar and use it to deglaze the pan one last time before removing from heat. Add onions to processor and process until smooth. Set aside to let cool a bit while you toast the buns.

To serve, spread dijon mustard on bottom bun, add one quarter of the mushrooms, then top with sauerkraut. Spread bean mixture on top bun, sandwich, and serve immediately.

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Dead Simple Red Bean, Collard, and Hominy Soup over Rice

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Brothy, nutty, warming, satisfying soup without touching a knife? Check. This dish a symphony of textures: tender greens, creamy kidney beans, and plenty of chew from hominy and rice. It all rests in an unassertive medium-bodied broth made savory and decidedly nutty from peanut butter and red miso, two potent ingredients added here in small quantities.

Serving this over brown rice will echo and deepen the nutty flavor, but feel free to use another variety to play with the dish's perfume.

Dead Simple Red Bean, Collard, and Hominy Soup over Rice

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serves 4-6

5 cups water

2 no-salt-added vegetable bouillon cubes

8 oz frozen chopped collards

freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

1 15-oz can kidney beans

1 15-oz can white hominy

1 TBSP smooth peanut butter (look for a brand that contains nothing but peanuts)

2 tsp red miso

1 TBSP rice vinegar

cooked brown rice, to serve

Begin cooking rice according to package directions.

To make the soup, in a medium pot, bring water to boil with bouillon cubes, stirring to dissolve. Add greens and black pepper. Bring back to a boil. Cook, uncovered, at a high simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse beans and hominy in a sieve. Set aside to let drain while the collards are cooking. After the first 10 minutes, add beans and hominy, and simmer, uncovered, another 10 minutes.

Add peanut butter and miso to a small bowl. Ladle out half a ladle of broth (1/4 cup), add to peanut butter and miso, and whisk until smooth. Remove pot from heat, stir in the slurry, then stir in vinegar. Adjust seasoning, if needed. Serve hot over rice.

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Roasted Black Bean-Portobello Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette

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One dressing, one pot, one pan, and you get one lovely little dinner salad. Light but satisfying—a nourishing blend of crisp and fresh ingredients combined with the comfort of warm, roasted bits—this simple green salad is first a feast for the eyes and begs to be served alongside a slice of crusty bread (topped with hummus or pesto, if you happen to have some on hand).

Once you've grated your ginger, you'll whisk it into a dressing, using half to roast a gorgeously meaty mix of sliced mushrooms and cooked black beans. Meanwhile, quickly steam broccoli and red pepper to bring out their natural sweetness and to bring the broccoli to a seriously vibrant green. Toss, top, and dig in.

And since dinner only took about half an hour, you have plenty of time for an after-dinner stroll in the stunning mid-March weather (once it rolls back around, that is).

Roasted Black Bean-Portobello Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette

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serves 2

2-inch knob fresh ginger

2 TBSP olive oil

2 TBSP rice vinegar

1/4 tsp natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)

1/4 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/8 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp reduced-sodium tamari

6 oz thickly sliced (about 3/4-inch thick) portobello mushrooms

1 15-oz can black beans

1 small broccoli crown, torn into small bite-size florets

1 small red pepper, trimmed and sliced

2.5 oz (one good handful) spring mix or tender salad greens of choice

additional salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 425.

Meanwhile, drain and rinse beans and set aside in a sieve to let drain well. Use a microplane zester to grate 1 TBSP of ginger, and add to a small bowl. Add oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, and garlic powder. Whisk. Pour half of dressing into another small bowl, setting the other half aside, and whisk in tamari.

Add mushrooms and black beans to a pan. Pour tamari-spiked half of dressing over and bake 25-30 minutes, tossing well after the first 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, add broccoli florets to a steamer basket. Top with red pepper slices. Steam just until broccoli turns bright green, 3-4 minutes. Shock in cold water and set aside to drain.

Add half of the remaining dressing to salad greens. Toss well. Top greens with steamed veg and drizzle with remaining dressing. Portion greens onto serving dishes and top each with mushroom-bean mixture. Top with a pinch of additional salt, if desired, and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste.

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Blueberry-Lemongrass Almond Pate

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First, credit where credit is due. Years ago, Vegetarian Times published this recipe, and Maple Spice posted a wildly convenient update taking advantage of store-bought almond meal to save us all from blanching and peeling and ensuring those of us without high-speed blenders could join the creamy fun.

If you aren't familiar with the basic recipe there, it's highly recommended. It's a big, dumb, entirely unsophisticated, totally genius dish—food designed to head straight for your pleasure center with no thoughtful tasting required. It's a household favorite, a vegan classic, and makes even the otherwise dullest vegetable sandwich seriously satisfying.

But today, a pretty little plate that puts that dead-simple recipe to work in a gently sweet direction with luscious results. Blueberries are first briefly cooked to tease out vibrancy.

Meanwhile, a little sugar, lemon, and lemongrass are added to almond meal to sandwich the blueberries. The lemongrass used here is dried—a gift from a friend—but don't let that stop you from making this if you can't locate it. It will be entirely lovely without, or sprinkle a touch of lemon zest in if you prefer to add a touch of something in its stead. All it takes is a quick blend, chill to firm it up, bake it off, and prepare to be fed and happy. And you should definitely feed this to anyone and everyone you care about.

It's lovely alone on a plate with crackers, fresh fruit, and a more salty/garlicky offering like hummus or baba ghanouj. No one could fault you for spreading it on a waffle. (And it would be shocking to find out this didn't work gorgeously on a grilled sandwich with tempeh bacon.) It's a winner any way you spread it.

Blueberry-Lemongrass Almond Pate

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serves 4-8, adapted from Vegetarian Times via Maple Spice

1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries

3 TBSP lemon juice, divided

3 TBSP natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice), divided

75 grams blanched almond meal [see Note]

1/4 cup water

1 TBSP vegetable oil, such as canola or sunflower

1 tsp dried lemongrass (optional)

generous pinch fine sea or kosher salt

Combine blueberries, 1 TBSP lemon juice, and 1 TBSP sugar in a small pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until berries break down (the mixture will still be chunky) and are thickly glazed, 5-7 minutes.

Blend all other ingredients, including remaining lemon juice and sugar, with an immersion blender until very smooth.

Line an 8-oz ramekin with a double layer of cheesecloth. (A closed nut milk bag may also be lain into the ramekin, but the softer cheesecloth will give you a neater mold.) Spoon half the almond mixture into the ramekin, spreading and smoothing the mixture into the mold with the back of your spoon. Spoon the berries on top, leaving a small border, then finish with the almond mixture. Smooth the top, and chill at least 3 hours, or as long as overnight.

Heat oven to 350, and oil a cookie sheet. Use the ends of the cheesecloth to lift the pate out of the ramekin, remove the cheesecloth, and transfer to the prepared cookie sheet. (Alternately, if your pate seems a bit soft—the longer the chilling time, the less likely this will be—simply invert it onto the baking sheet and then peel the cheesecloth from the bottom.) Bake in the center of the oven until just golden, 35-40 minutes. Let cool before serving.

[Note: This works out to approximately 3/4 cup, plus 2 TBSP. Weighing is strongly recommended, as the final consistency (read: creaminess) will be affected with too much or too little almond meal. Weighing the meal will provide more consistent results.]

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