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Savory Tarragon and Black Pepper Loaf

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If you find yourself regularly wishing savory snacks were as easy to grab on the run as sweet ones, today's recipe is going to help you out.

This simple savory quick bread is dense, moist, and seriously tasty. Fresh tarragon lends it fragrance while freshly cracked black pepper gives it heat. A touch of sugar both takes the edge off the tarragon and pulls out the flavor of the modest dose of cornmeal you'll throw in.

The loaf makes a great snack all on its own and plays extremely well with fruit jams. If you're in search of an easy meal, it also makes a really lovely tartine with Dijon mustard, seared tempeh, fresh apple slices (hello, fall), and a little arugula. And probably any other open-faced sandwich you can dream up.

Savory Tarragon and Black Pepper Loaf

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yields 8 servings

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup cornmeal

1 TBSP baking powder

1 tsp psyllium husk powder (optional—assists binding)

1 TBSP finely chopped fresh tarragon

1 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

1/2 cup plain soy yogurt, such as Silk brand

1/4 cup canola oil

1 TBSP natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)

Heat oven to 350. Oil a 9x5" loaf pan.

Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and psyllium husk powder, if using. Stir in salt, pepper, and tarragon.

Separately, whisk together milk, yogurt, oil, and sugar. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir just until combined. Transfer batter to loaf pan and bake 43-45 minutes, or until a tester inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Let cool in the pan on a wire rack, 10 minutes. Carefully and gradually work the loaf loose from the sides and bottom of the pan with a very thin metal spatula. Turn out onto wire rack and let cool. Leftovers should be wrapped tightly, but keep well for several days at room temperature.

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Maple-Pecan French Toast

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September: sounds like fall, still feels mostly like summer. And this indulgent brunch dish is the perfect solution to your new cravings. All the bread, maple, and nuts associated with the cooler season without turning on the oven.

Start with a couple thick slices of sourdough, cook 'em up, and finish the whole thing off by taking an extra few minutes to put together a seriously luscious maple sauce packed with a pile of crunchy toasted pecans. So good. And so perfect for easy entertaining.

Maple-Pecan French Toast

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serves 2

For the French toast:

2 TBSP chickpea flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

pinch salt

1/4 cup unsweetened soy milk

2 tsp coconut oil

2 half-inch-thick slices sourdough, such as Knoxville Sourdough

For the maple-pecan sauce:

2 TBSP chopped raw, unsalted pecans

2 TBSP maple syrup (grade B preferred)

2 TBSP full-fat canned coconut milk

1 TBSP turbinado

1 tsp coconut oil

pinch fine sea or kosher salt

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Dry toast pecan pieces for several minutes, tossing frequently, until very fragrant.

Meanwhile, measure out chickpea flour, cinnamon, and salt into a wide bowl. Measure out all maple sauce ingredients, except pecans, into a small sauce pan. Set aside.

When pecans are toasted, transfer to a small plate to let cool. Return skillet to heat. Add two teaspoons coconut oil to skillet. Whisk milk into chickpea flour mixture. Press bread, one slice at a time, into chickpea batter, pressing each side in for 10-15 seconds. Carefully add bread to hot skillet. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until golden. Reduce heat to medium-low, flip, and cook another 3-4 minutes, or until golden. Transfer to plates.

While French toast cooks, bring maple sauce ingredients to a boil. Reduce heat immediately to medium-low and let simmer, stirring very frequently, until thickened, but still loose enough to pour, 3-5 minutes. (If you're not sure how thick to make it, err on the side of the mixture being too thin so you don't wind up with candy stuck to your pan.)

Remove sauce from heat, stir in toasted pecans, and divide sauce over French toast. Serve at once.

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Currant, Orange, and Rosemary Spread

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This fruity treat will spoil you forever for store-bought jams. The sweet stuff—complex, sticky currants and orange juice—gets a tasteful (and tasty) assist from woodsy fresh rosemary, bitter and fragrant orange zest, and a little black pepper for a touch of warmth. It all makes for an uncommonly lovely fruit spread. (First person to try it warm on ice cream, please let everyone know how it goes in the comments.)

It's fabulous on its own with any baked good you have lying around. It can also add a layered sweet note to tofu and avocado breakfast sandwiches:

And it makes seriously seductive peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. No joke.

Currant, Orange, and Rosemary Spread

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yields about 1 1/3 cups

juice of two oranges

zest of half an orange

8 oz dried black currants (about 1 3/4 cups)

2 TBSP finely chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Juice the oranges (after zesting half of one). Add enough water to the juice to get a total of one cup liquid. Add it, along with all other ingredients, to a small pot over medium heat. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Let simmer 30 minutes, covered, stirring every 10 minutes. Mixture should be thickened, but some visible liquid should remain.

Carefully transfer to a mason jar and puree with an immersion blender until smooth. Let cool completely before storing in the fridge.

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Tempeh Pate with Olives and Capers

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Earthy, nutty tempeh and briny olives make a great match. This pate is a perfect example. Green olives, Kalamata olives, and capers combine with quickly steamed tempeh for a dead-simple spread that becomes more than the sum of its parts. (Naturally, the better your olives, the better the dish.) Finish it off with finely chopped fresh red pepper for a little color and crunch.

You can obviously spread this on crackers to your heart's content, but it's also quite nice on a slice of plain or spinach lavash. Apply a generous amount (about a third of the recipe) to a slice, roll it up, and slice it into little pinwheels with a sharp knife. Munch.

Admittedly, this recipe is pretty fabulous on the second day, but it's so tasty straight from the food processor that you may need to make a double batch to make it last that long.

tempeh pate with olives and capers detail.jpg

Tempeh Pate with Olives and Capers

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serves 3-4

8 oz tempeh

1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives

1/4 cup pitted green olives

1 TBSP drained capers

1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp lemon juice

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 cup diced (1/4-inch) red bell pepper

Steam tempeh 10 minutes. Meanwhile, rinse the olives and capers in a fine sieve. Set aside to let drain thoroughly. When the tempeh is done, set aside to let cool a bit while you chop the bell pepper.

Carefully transfer tempeh to food processor. Add oil, lemon, oregano, and garlic powder. Process until smooth (for tempeh). Add olives and capers. Process until olives are very finely chopped, pausing to scrape the sides, as needed. Add bell pepper and pulse to combine. Serve at once or chill until ready to serve.

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Dead Simple Lemon-Pepper Tofu Spread

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Tofu on bread makes up a lot of easy dinners in the MSV house. This particular spread is a favorite for a couple of reasons, though. First, lemon and freshly cracked black pepper are a lovable combination that never gets old.

Second, there's pretty much always tofu and lemon hanging out in the kitchen, which means this mellow and simple spread can be on your plate pretty much any time you decide you feel like blending up a batch. And then you have leftovers.

This spread eats just fine on toast all alone (or crackers, if you need even more convenience), but the cool creaminess of the tofu, brightness of the lemon, and heat of the pepper are even better topped with, say, a little greens quickly sauteed with smoked paprika or smoked salt. With multigrain toast, that's a lot of satisfying flavor piled deep into a blissfully unfussy meal.

Dead Simple Lemon-Pepper Tofu Spread

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yields about one pound

1/2 cup pepitas, roasted and lightly salted

14-16 ounces firm tofu, drained

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

2 TBSP lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

Process pepitas in a food processor to fine crumbs. Add tofu, salt, and lemon juice, and blend until very smooth, pausing to scrape the sides as needed. Stir in lemon zest and black pepper. Adjust salt, if needed (particularly if you use unsalted pepitas). Flavor is best after chilling for an hour or so, but can be used immediately.

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Cherry Tart with a Dead Simple Salted Chocolate Crust

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This guy is gonna sell itself. Grab your dark cherries, season them a little on the stove, then pile them into an entirely lovable chocolate crust—with little hits of salt strewn throughout—that just happens to be the very definition of forgivable.

And because glossy fruit begs to be paired with creamy things, take a minute to whip up a combination of nondairy cream cheese and silken tofu for a dreamy effect that's stiffer than whipped cream, but fluffier than cream cheese. It's a really handy combination, and you can likely expect to see it here again in other applications.

Top the whole thing with fruit, swirl it around for a nice presentation, and you'll be one happy summer camper. And because you need to make this tart in advance, anyway, it's a seriously easy way to entertain.

Cherry Tart with a Dead Simple Salted Chocolate Crust

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serves 6-8

For the crust:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour (to measure, spoon in and level off)

1/4 cup cocoa powder, such as Equal Exchange brand

1/3 cup natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/4 cup refined coconut oil

For the cherry filling:

1 lb pitted dark cherries, frozen or fresh

2 TBSP natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)

juice of half a lemon

2 TBSP quick-cooking tapioca

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the creamy filling:

6 oz firm silken tofu (half of an aseptic pack)

4 oz nondairy cream cheese, such as Tofutti brand

2 tsp natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp lemon zest

Heat oven to 375.

Begin with the crust. Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt. Add coconut oil and mix until sandy and uniform. Press into a 14x4-inch nonstick rectangular tart pan. Bake 8-10 minutes. The crust will go from done to burned with speed, so watch—and smell—carefully. Transfer pan to a wire rack to let cool.

Prepare the cherry filling. Combine cherries, sugar, and lemon juice in a small pot over medium heat. Bring to a boil and let cook until cherries have released their liquid and begin to break down, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat slightly (to avoid splashing) and add tapioca. Cook, stirring frequently, five minutes. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and set aside to let cool a bit.

Finally, prepare the creamy filling. Puree all ingredients until very smooth.

When the crust has cooled, add all but one-half cup of cherry filling. Dollop and smooth creamy filling over the top. Dollop reserved half-cup of cherry mixture over that, and swirl with a chopstick by making infinity marks up and down the length of the tart. Chill at least a couple of hours before removing tart pan side piece and serving. During this time, the cherry filling will become more sliceable and the flavor of the creamy filling will come together. Fillings will continue to firm up over the next six to eight hours.

Tart will keep in the fridge, covered, for a few days.

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Rosemary-Dijon Tempeh Sandwiches with Sauerkraut and Smoky Tahini Sauce

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There are big flavors everywhere you turn in this tempeh sandwich.

Starting with the protein, there's not really any subtlety with the tempeh here. No gently enhancing its characteristics. Instead, you'll hit it with a good dose of Dijon-style mustard and fresh rosemary, plus a little tamari and sugar. The result is robust and heads straight for your pleasure center with no careful tasting required. Look at that gorgeous stuff.

Next, you'll add sauerkraut. It may already seem like there's a lot of acid piling up, but remember that between the tempeh, tahini, rosemary, and wheat bread, you have a lot of earthy and bitter elements in here that can stand up to the vinegar. The tahini gets a generous addition of lemon, but in the context of the sandwich, it keeps things bright without being sour (that's what the sauerkraut is for, of course). Along with the lemon, a nice sprinkling of smoked paprika is all you need to make this dead-simple tahini sauce your new favorite sandwich condiment.

Come fall, you may want to eat little else.

Rosemary-Dijon Tempeh Sandwiches with Sauerkraut and Smoky Tahini Sauce

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makes 2 large or 4 smaller sandwiches

For the tempeh:

8 oz tempeh

1 TBSP olive oil

1 TBSP Dijon-style mustard

1 TBSP water

1 tsp reduced-sodium tamari

1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tsp natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)

salt and freshly cracked black pepper

For the tahini sauce:

2 TBSP tahini

2 TBSP lemon juice

2 TBSP water

1/4 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

To serve:

sauerkraut

wheat bread

Begin by preparing the tempeh. Turn the block on its thin side and carefully slice in half. Leaving both halves still stacked, place the block back in landscape position (long end toward you), and cut in half. Cut each half on the diagonal to make eight triangles.

Place tempeh triangles in a dish in a single layer. Sprinkle a generous pinch or so of salt over them and repeat with freshly cracked black pepper. Whisk together oil, mustard, water, tamari, rosemary, and sugar. Pour slowly over tempeh and spread it out to cover the surface entirely. Cover loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let marinate 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, carefully whisk together all tahini sauce ingredients until smooth.

When tempeh is ready, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat until hot. Shake excess marinade off tempeh (there won't be much) before adding each triangle, marinated-side down, into the hot pan—it should sizzle at once. Let cook, undisturbed, four minutes (less if you start to smell danger of burning). While cooking, use the small amount of extra marinade to lightly coat the bare side of the tempeh while it cooks—proceed carefully, as the pan is hot and the oil can sputter. Flip tempeh and cook another four minutes, or until golden on the underside.

Assemble sandwiches, using a generous spoonful of tahini sauce for each, and grill or press until bread is crisp and golden. Serve at once.

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Party Animals No. 45: Lemony Potato (or Bean) Salad

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First, let's attack the obvious: this post is about potato salad, but eagle-eyes out there may have noticed that isn't potato salad up there, but rather chickpea salad. Despite not being made with potatoes, it's good stuff.

This potato salad came along to a backyard hangout a couple weeks back, and there was no plan to mention it on MSV. Not that the recipe isn't nice, but it's pretty straightforward: potatoes, celery, capers, lemon zest, and whatever herb you have lying around (the original recipe calls for basil, but it was parsley for the potato version for the party, dill with the chickpeas shown here). It's a long-time favorite in the MSV house and goes with pretty much anything, which makes it a great side to bring when you're planning on playing a quiet supporting role at a pal's gathering. But on the way out the door, the compliments started piling up. The host asked what was in the dressing. The answer is olive oil and lemon juice, plus a little dijon and sugar. That's it.

It's a good lesson for vegan cooking and entertaining. It's easy (and sometimes fun!) to sweat substitutes, but never forget that a little extra olive oil and lemon go a long way.

Naturally, the next step was to put together a protein-packed version. Relying on the convenience of canned beans, there's not a bit of heat to apply, and this recipe couldn't be easier. Or handier to keep in the fridge. Munch on it as-is, or tuck it into wraps or pitas with summer veg and sprouts. Leave the chickpeas whole or mash them up to make them easier to turn into sandwich filling. Try it with different beans, lentils, or tempeh.

So get the recipe. For the party, the recipe was doubled, using about four pounds of potatoes. For the chickpea version, make the recipe as directed using two cans of beans rinsed and well drained. You may not need all the dressing for a bean version, since beans aren't as starchy and absorbent as potatoes (but you may want to use it all, especially if you're making it as a sandwich filling—follow your bliss), but you won't be sad to have a little extra dressing in the fridge for whatever. You'll also need less salt for beans. Otherwise, you don't need any help getting this dead-simple side onto your plate.

Back next week with a new recipe.

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Lemon Creme Fruit Salad

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If your heat wave is anything like the heat wave in the MSV neighborhood, you're more than ready for this recipe.

This fresh fruit salad features lovely little blueberries and sweet red grapes stuffed into a wedge of cantaloupe, finished off with fresh mint. But not before being tossed in a creamy mix of equal parts coconut milk (for richness) and silken tofu (for a little protein-based structural assist). You'll mellow those two distinct flavors out with—what else?—sugar, lemon, and a little vanilla.

Serving the little guys in the melon wedge accomplishes three things. First, it looks beautiful. Second, it saves you melon-chopping time. Finally, you get great big unadorned scoops of melon just garnished with the creme-coated sweet small bites. That interplay really is nicer than just tossing everything in a bowl, so don't feel strange about treating yourself to a fancy presentation that saves time and boosts flavor.

Serving this with grilled zucchini planks crusted with panko crumbs and almonds won't steer you wrong for a blissfully low-key and summery meal at any hour, but if you keep a batch of chickpea salad on hand, you'll have a protein-packed accompaniment that means pulling whole meals straight from the fridge. No sweat.

Lemon Creme Fruit Salad

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serves 2

half of 1 medium ripe cantaloupe

generous 1/4 cup fresh ripe blueberries

generous 1/4 cup red grapes, halved

2 TBSP chilled Lemon Creme, recipe follows

fresh mint, finely chopped, to finish

Seed cantaloupe half and cut in half to make two large wedges.

In a small bowl, toss blueberries and grapes with creme. Spoon into melon wedges and sprinkle mint on top, to taste. Serve immediately.

Lemon Creme

yields a generous 3/4 cup (300 mL)

4 oz firm silken tofu (preferably water-packed)

1/2 cup chilled coconut cream

2 TBSP plus 2 tsp lemon juice

2 TBSP natural cane sugar (evaporated cane juice)

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Blend all ingredients until smooth, ensuring the sugar has dissolved completely. Chill several hours before using, preferably overnight.

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Party Animals No. 44: Cantaloupe, Ginger, & Chamomile Sparkling Agua Fresca

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Hello, dreamboat.

This unbelievably gorgeous cantaloupe concoction can treat you and yours on a quiet Tuesday evening, or it can be served to guests, be they longtime friends or strangers whose socks you'd like to knock off.

In case you've ever thought sweet, juicy cantaloupe wasn't quite floral enough, you can press the gas here by adding chamomile. But don't worry, you'll never feel like you're drinking a meadow. The dilution of the fruit with club soda, combined with the addition of gently spicy ginger, breezily balances everything out. You'll steep ginger in the chamomile syrup and also blend a smaller quantity of fresh root into the melon puree for a nice, well-rounded effect.

Yeah, there is syrup in here. That might mean this isn't technically an agua fresca, since it breaks the basic formula of fruit + turbinado + water + blender + cold, but it really drinks like one, light and refreshing enough to feel like you (wish you) could knock it back all day long. And while making the chamomile-ginger syrup adds one little step to the process, never doubt that it is absolutely worth it.

And if all that isn't enough, there's also the texture. Leaving the cantaloupe pulp in the drink gives it a really lovely body.

Cantaloupe, Ginger,  & Chamomile Sparkling Agua Fresca

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yields 1 generous quart

For the chamomile-ginger syrup:

1/4 cup turbinado

1/4 cup water

1 TBSP dried chamomile flowers

2 oz ginger root, sliced

For the fruit puree:

22 oz fresh, ripe cantaloupe, about half of one small-ish melon

1/4 cup lime juice

small piece peeled ginger root, 1 inch long and 1/4 inch wide (see Note)

To serve:

20 oz thoroughly chilled club soda

Begin by making the syrup. Combine turbinado and water in a small pot. Heat over medium heat, and stir until dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in chamomile and sliced ginger. Cover pot with a clean kitchen towel and let syrup steep one hour.

Meanwhile, cut the rind away from the cantaloupe flesh and discard. Cut melon into one-inch cubes and add to a large mason jar—you should get two cups. To the jar add lime juice and peeled ginger. Blend thoroughly with an immersion blender (see Note). You should now have a total of 1 1/2 cups puree (if you don't, you may need to add more or less club soda before serving). Chill.

When the syrup is ready, strain and discard solids.

Add cantaloupe puree to serving pitcher along with syrup. Stir well. Add club soda, stir again, and pour over ice. As the agua sits, the pulp will settle. Stir again before pouring if not serving all at once.

Note: immersion blenders with notches for liquid flow will tend to trap any ginger hairs, allowing you to puree the ginger piece without prep (other than peeling). If your immersion blender doesn't have notches that trap these hairs, or if you use a different blending apparatus, you may prefer to finely grate the ginger with a microplane zester before adding it to the cantaloupe and pureeing to avoid hairs in the finished product.

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Dead Simple Savory Zucchini Waffles

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This tasty, wildly handy, fuss-free little recipe is nothing more than a lazy fritter batter—stuffed with fresh grated zucchini—cooked in the waffle maker, where it won't heat up your kitchen in July. And isn't that pretty much everything your kitchen needs from summer?

Also, don't let the fork in this post fool you: you can definitely eat these guys with your hands for a snack.

On top of the deeply comforting flavor of seriously toasted wheat flour, there's a touch of extra protein here and a wonderful savory quality from chickpea flour. Relying on a heap of Old Bay seasoning ensures this recipe couldn't get any easier, which is the most important thing. Once you grate your zucchini, everything's a total breeze. Additionally, the Old Bay makes these guys enticingly salty (maybe serve them with a green salad) and spices them, of course, while the celery seed gently reminds you there's a bunch of veg in there. It's nice to play the zucchini up a little instead of trying to camouflage it entirely.

That said, now who's ready for a sweet chocolate zucchini waffle recipe?

Dead Simple Savory Zucchini Waffles

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yields about 18 waffles

2 very large zucchini (about 1.75 lbs total weight)

1 cup chickpea flour

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 TBSP Old Bay seasoning

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 cup canola oil

1 1/2 cups water

Grate zucchini into a large mixing bowl.

Heat waffle maker.

Add all other ingredients to the mixing bowl in the order listed, and mix with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined.

Pour 1/4 cup batter into waffle maker for each roughly four-inch square waffle. Cook until steam no longer emanates from the closed machine, about ten minutes, or until crisp, golden, and cooked through. Toast leftovers to re-crisp before serving.

Note: Due to the large quantity of zucchini, the interior will remain a bit creamy when hot, but that's different from uncooked batter. If needed, use a tester to ensure no wet batter remains.

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Creamy Lemon Orzo Salad with Chickpeas and Fresh Zucchini

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This breezy pasta salad is what happens you have an abundance of zucchini (hi, summer), a limited amount of patience, and a need for loaded-in nutrition that eats well for lunch and dinner.

Chickpeas provide protein and heft, the fresh thinly sliced zucchini is a light element with gently crisp texture, and the sauce is made from blended tofu to really pack in the protein and other good stuff. Lemon juice and zest brighten the whole thing up. Fluffy, mild white orzo makes a particularly nice canvas for these summery flavors, but if you can't give up your whole wheat pasta, it should still make for a pile of seasonal and convenient meals.

Creamy Lemon Orzo Salad with Chickpeas and Fresh Zucchini

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serves about 6

1 lb dried orzo

15 oz firm tofu, drained

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1 small clove garlic

1 tsp lemon zest

1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1 15-oz can chickpeas

1 medium zucchini

Cook pasta in unsalted boiling water for seven minutes, or until tender but firm.

Meanwhile, combine tofu, oil, lemon juice, basil, salt, and garlic in a food processor. Process until very smooth, about a minute, pausing to scrape the sides as needed. Stir in lemon zest and pepper.

When pasta is done, drain well and transfer to serving bowl. Add tofu puree and mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool.

While pasta cools, drain chickpeas in a fine sieve. Set aside to let drain thoroughly. Slice zucchini into very thin half-moons. Add both to serving bowl and toss to mix. Taste, and adjust salt to taste.

Fluff the whole thing again before serving slightly warm or at room temperature. Bring chilled leftovers to room temperature before fluffing and serving.

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Balsamic Onion Tofu-Pecan Meatball Sandwiches

Time to get out the slow cooker and satisfy your summer vegan meatball cravings.

As if tofu-pecan meatball sandwiches weren't lovable enough, today's version mixes in blissfully savory and sweet bits of onions cooked with balsamic vinegar. It's a breezy shortcut to seriously satisfying flavor. Keep those big flavors coming by topping it all with spicy mustard and tangy sauerkraut.

Balsamic Onion Tofu-Pecan Meatball Sandwiches

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see [Note] on yield , meatballs adapted from here

For the meatballs

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

2 TBSP olive oil

generous pinch fine sea or kosher salt

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 cup water

1 cup TVP (textured vegetable protein) 

1 lb Twin Oaks brand extra-firm tofu [see note on tofu]

1/2 cup unsalted pecans

3 sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, roughly chopped

2 TBSP reduced-sodium tamari

1/2 tsp liquid smoke

1 cup oat bran

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1/4 tsp celery seed

To serve

sandwich/burger buns

stone-ground mustard

sauerkraut

Heat oil over medium heat. When hot, add diced onion and generous pinch salt. Cook until onions have released their liquid and begin to turn translucent, about five minutes. Add balsamic vinegar and continue to cook, stirring/scraping the pan frequently, until onions are deep in color, another five to seven minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Boil one cup water in a small sauce pan. Remove from heat, stir in TVP, and let sit 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, roughly crumble the tofu into a food processor. Add pecans, sun-dried tomatoes, tamari, and liquid smoke. Process well, until uniform with no large chunks of pecans. 

In a large mixing bowl, combine oat bran, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, and celery seed. Stir to combine, add the tofu-pecan mixture, and mix thoroughly (hands are best). Add reconstituted TVP and onions when cool enough to handle and mix until incorporated.

Form meatballs, place them in a lightly oiled slow cooker and cook on low 4-5 hours (you may need 5-6 hours for golf-ball size). Alternately, bake in a 350-degree oven for 30 minutes, until warmed through and golden.

Note on yield: recipe yields 36-40 ping-pong size meatballs or 26-30 golf-ball size. Sandwiches will require 3-4 meatballs per bun, depending on bun size.

Note on tofu: Twin Oaks extra-firm is exceptionally dense. If you use a different brand, look for super-firm, or press your extra-firm tofu for 20-30 minutes, then weigh it out for the recipe.

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The Brew Mot (Pilsner, Grapefruit, Gin, and Elderflower Cocktail)

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Summer cocktails around here are supremely inviting. Something you feel like you could drink all day. That's mostly accomplished through a very light touch on the hard stuff and an emphasis on citrus. Today's cocktiail is no different.

MSV presents the Brew Mot. Essentially, it's something like a vieux mot re-imagined as a shandy. The result is heavenly. It's gently fizzy, bright and floral, and includes a little hit of Knox Whiskey Works' really nice gin. It begs to be sipped poolside. Or anywhere else it's hot.

Brew Mot

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4 oz fresh grapefruit juice

1 oz gin, such as Knox Whiskey Works

3/4 oz St. Germain

1/2 oz simple syrup

4 oz chilled German- or Czech-style Pilsner

Fill a pint glass (or a large Collins glass) a little less than half-full with ice.

Fill a cocktail shaker half-full with ice. Add grapefruit juice, gin, liqueur, and simple syrup. Shake to chill and strain into glass. Top with cold beer and gently stir.

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Dead Simple Chipotle Black Bean-Tempeh Tacos with Fresh Strawberry Salsa

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These half comforting and spicy, half crisp and fresh tacos are a great solution for any old day when you don't want to spend too much effort on cooking, but still feel like taking a minute to run your knife through something fresh and fragrant (hi, cilantro).

The title pretty much lays it all out here. You got your handy can of earthy black beans, your block of nutty tempeh, and you'll throw those into a pan with a good dose of chipotles en adobo—for maximum flavor with maximum convenience—and some garlic cloves. Load that into warm, soft corn tortillas and finish them off with what is essentially a pico de gallo with the tomatoes replaced with spring strawberries and the jalapeno omitted, since you already have plenty of that in your base. Dinner is served.

Dead Simple Chipotle Black Bean-Tempeh Tacos with Fresh Strawberry Salsa

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yields 6-8 tacos

1/4 cup finely diced white onion (from about half of one small onion)

juice of 1 lime

2 TBSP olive oil

8 oz tempeh

1 15-oz can black beans

2 chipotles en adobo, plus 1 additional TBSP adobo sauce

3 cloves garlic, crushed

8 oz fresh strawberries

1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro

fine sea or kosher salt

to serve, 6-8 warm corn tortillas

In a bowl large enough to hold the fresh salsa, combine diced onion and lime juice. Set aside to let the onion mellow while you prepare the filling.

Drain and rinse black beans in a sieve. Set aside to let drain thoroughly.

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is just warm enough to sizzle mildly when a piece of tempeh is added to it (not too hot), carefully crumble the tempeh finely with your hands into the pan. Let cook about five minutes, tossing only every couple of minutes to let the tempeh brown. Meanwhile, seed and finely chop chipotles en adobo.

Add crushed garlic cloves and chipotles to the pan. Cook another two-three minutes, tossing only every minute, until the garlic begins to turn golden. Add adobo sauce and drained beans. Let cook until hot, stirring frequently—this should only take a couple of minutes. Set aside and keep warm.

While you warm the tortillas, trim strawberries and chop into half-inch chunks. Chop cilantro. Add both to the onions and lime along with a generous pinch of salt. Stir well.

To assemble, discard garlic cloves before dividing black beans and tempeh among tortillas, then top with strawberry salsa. Serve immediately.

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Party Animals No. 43: Lemon and Herbes de Provence Almond Pate

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Listen up. Today's almond pate variety should be every vegan's first lesson in savory vegan entertaining. Or savory omnivore entertaining, for that matter. Unless you have an almond allergy (sorry, folks with almond allergies), there's little excuse not to have this creamy, rich, flavorful spread in your pie hole at every party you ever attend from now on. It's seriously gorgeous. And, thanks to store-bought almond meal, blissfully easy to make.

This version doesn't contain as much acid as MSV's garlic-white wine almond pate, but gets brightness from lemon zest, and is a little extra creamy from the addition of soy milk.

Toss in some complexity from woody and floral herbes de Provence, and you're all ready to triple the recipe and use a nine-inch springform pan to mold it so you can haul it to your next warm-weather party to feed a crowd(*). Everyone (without almond allergies) will adore it.

Or just make a single batch for days of indulgent snacks just for you and yours. That works, too.

(*The freezer shortcut offered in the instructions is not recommended for so large a wheel. Instead, refrigerate in the cheesecloth-lined springform pan four hours. Pull back the cheesecloth covering the top, invert onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, remove pan sides, then pan bottom, then peel off cheesecloth. Bake about 55 minutes.)

You can munch this at any temperature, but it's best slightly chilled (so leave it in the refrigerator until you're ready to walk out the door if you're taking it to an event). A little time out of the fridge lets the flavors wake up a bit while the last remaining chill keeps the natural sweetness of the blanched almonds from dominating.

But that's a minor detail. The important thing is that you make it. So good.

Lemon and Herbes de Provence Almond Pate

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serves 4-8, adapted from here (post includes credit links)

150g blanched almond meal

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk

3 TBSP olive oil

1 small clove garlic

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

1 TBSP herbes de Provence

1 tsp lemon zest (from about half a large lemon)

Blend all ingredients except herbs and lemon zest with an immersion blender until smooth. Stir in herbs and lemon zest.

For a softer spread, heat oven to 350. 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 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.)

Heat oven to 350. Use the cheesecloth to lift the pate from the ramekins, carefully transfer to an oiled (or parchment-lined) baking sheet (without cheesecloth), and bake 40 minutes, until golden.

Let cool thoroughly before transferring to the refrigerator. Best served slightly chilled.

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Strawberry-Tempeh Orzo Salad with Lemon-Parsley Dressing

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Strawberry season! If you're interested in finding a way to put your brilliantly red gems to work outside of eating them straight from the basket, there's always pasta salad.

Start with the nicest strawberries you can get your hands on.

You'll leave the berries in the biggest chunks to really accentuate them. Their sweetness will contrast the earthy tempeh (which you'll cut into smaller dice) and grassy scallions. The tempeh is also balanced by a seriously lemon-forward dressing packed with not a little parsley and a bit of pepitas blended in for additional body.

Give those bold flavors a soft, welcoming bed of orzo to sink into, and you're all set.

Strawberry-Tempeh Orzo Salad with Lemon-Parsley Dressing

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serves 4

For the dressing:

2 TBSP hulled raw, unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

3 scallions, white and tender green parts roughly chopped, tops reserved for the salad

1/4 cup tightly packed parsley leaves

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 TBSP lemon juice

2 TBSP water

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

For the salad:

8 oz tempeh

8 oz dried orzo

8 oz fresh strawberries, rinsed and dried

Fill a pot that can also hold a steamer basket with enough unsalted water to cook the pasta. Place the whole block of tempeh in a steamer basket, place into the pot (leaving enough room underneath for the water to boil), and cover. Bring to a boil over high heat.

While the water heats, puree all dressing ingredients (using only the white and light green parts of the scallions for the dressing) until smooth. There will still be flecks of parsley left—the focus is to get the pepitas well blended so that the dressing isn't chunky. Set aside.

When the water boils, carefully remove the steamer and add pasta. Replace steamer and cover, ensure the water comes back to a boil, and reduce heat to medium or medium-low to maintain a steady boil. Cook 8-9 minutes.

While the pasta cooks and the tempeh steams, trim and halve the strawberries (leave smaller berries whole). Slice scallion tops into 1/4-inch-thick rings. Add both to a serving bowl.

When pasta is done, transfer tempeh to a cutting board and drain pasta thoroughly. Add pasta to serving bowl, pour the dressing over, and toss everything.

As soon as tempeh is cool enough to handle, cut it into scant half-inch cubes. Add to serving bowl and toss everything again. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

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Cinnamon-Chipotle Prune-Orange Compote

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Hello, sugar and spice. Simmering prunes with an orange, plus a little maple syrup and brandy gets you a predictably sweet mixture ready for all your favorite carbs. Adding cinnamon and chipotle gets you a more complex treat with seductively warming qualities.

Spoon it over vanilla ice cream, spread it on pancakes or waffles, or for a truly dead-simple and gorgeous breakfast, pan-sear some prepared polenta slices in a little coconut oil. Serve the compote on top with a sprinkle of toasted pepitas to cut the sugar and add contrasting texture.

Cinnamon-Chipotle Prune-Orange Compote

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serves 4-6

1 cup water

1 cup pitted prunes

1 TBSP maple syrup (grade B preferred)

1 TBSP brandy

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp chipotle powder

1 orange

In a small pot, combine all ingredients except the orange. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium-low to low, as appropriate to maintain a steady simmer, and set a timer for 45 minutes.

While the pot heats, use a paring knife to remove peel and pith from the orange. Discard. Working over a bowl to catch the juices, slice alongside membranes to release segments. When done extracting segments, gently squeeze the remaining membrane to extract any juice from the pulp that clings to it before discarding the membrane. Add orange segments and juice to the cooking pot and cover again.

Stir mixture every 15 minutes (reduce heat if this is not frequent enough). At the first stir, the prunes will have swollen. At 30 minutes, stir and carefully break the softened prunes up with a wooden spoon. After about 45 minutes, the prunes will have broken down further and the remaining liquid will have reduced to a thick syrup. Remove from heat. Serve warm.

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Versatile Lentil, Green Bean, and Kidney Bean Salad with Orange-Walnut-Dijon Dressing

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So many nice things on one plate. Much of it packed into the dressing, so let's start there. Puree an orange, some walnuts, and a good spoonful of Dijon mustard to get everything moving in the right direction.

The body of the salad isn't much more complicated. Sit a steamer basket atop the pot you use to cook your lentils to gently tenderize the green bits while the lentils simmer away. Turn to the convenience of canned kidney beans to add contrasting color and texture. By the time the lentils are drained, you're ready to assemble.

This eats best after chilling for several hours, so naturally, it's a fabulous cold lunch salad. But it's not too shabby warm, when searing or grilling some slices of prepared polenta for a garnish adds a seriously satisfying finishing touch that makes this feel complete enough for dinner. Not to mention it makes the whole thing awfully pretty.

Versatile Lentil, Green Bean, and Kidney Bean Salad with Orange-Walnut-Dijon Dressing

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serves 3-4

1 cup dried brown lentils

4 cups water

1 dried bay leaf

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp fine sea or kosher salt, divided

6 oz green beans, fresh or frozen

1 cup cooked kidney beans, drained

1 orange

1/4 cup raw, unsalted walnut halves

1 TBSP Dijon-style mustard

1 tube prepared polenta, optional

In a medium pot that fits a steamer basket, combine lentils, water, bay leaf, thyme, garlic powder, and 1/4 tsp salt. Insert steamer basket, cover pot with lid, and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium, add green beans to steamer basket, and cover. Cook until beans turn bright green, just a few minutes.

When beans are ready, remove steamer basket, and cover lentil pot with the lid again. Shock beans in an ice bath and pat dry with a clean towel. Set aside to let dry further. Reduce heat on the lentils to medium-low and continue to simmer, covered, until tender (requires a total of 25-35 minutes). While the lentils cook, rinse kidney beans in a fine sieve and set aside to let drain thoroughly.

To make the dressing, use a paring knife to remove peel and pith from the orange. Discard. Working over a bowl to catch the juices, slice alongside membranes to release segments. When done extracting segments, gently squeeze the remaining membrane to extract any juice from the pulp that clings to it before discarding the membrane. Puree orange segments and juice with walnuts, remaining 1/4 tsp salt, and mustard.

When lentils are done, drain well. Let cool a few minutes. Toss lentils, green beans, and kidney beans with dressing. Chill until ready to serve. Alternately, if serving warm for dinner, grill or pan-sear half-moons of polenta until a crust forms on the outside and the slices are creamy on the inside. Divide the salad among plates, then top each serving with seared polenta.

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Apricot-Basil Chickpea Salad on Baguette

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You can never have too many chickpea salad sandwich variations. This one's a little fussier than the last one (which, by the by, is currently MSV's second most popular post ever), but only a bit. And it really sings of warm weather.

You have your chickpeas, of course, plus sweet and sunny dried apricots, fragrant basil, verdant scallions, rich and crunchy almonds, and a creamy yogurt base combined with a heap of lime to hug the whole lovable thing. Add a baguette, and who could resist?

So here are the fussy bits. Do take a few minutes to toast the almonds. It makes a lovely little difference, boosting the savory side of your nuts (in a pinch, use roasted unsalted almonds). Second, you can technically dig in right after assembly, but the salad benefits from a rest in the fridge. There are several bold flavors here—apricots, basil, and all that lime—and they get to know each other a little better and settle down after an hour or so. The bonus here is that this makes a great traveling sandwich, be it for sunny picnics or florescent-lit desk lunches. Finally, use the baguette. Again, with these bigger flavors, a couple leaves of romaine aren't the ideal accompaniment. This salad does best with a dreamy crusty bread that can absorb its personality.

Otherwise, you chop a handful of things and have instant lunch for days.

Apricot-Basil Chickpea Salad on Baguette

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serves 4-5

2 15-oz cans chickpeas

1/4 cup raw, unsalted almonds, roughly chopped

3/4 cup plain or plain unsweetened nondairy yogurt

1/4 cup loosely packed basil leaves, cut into chiffonade

1/4 cup lime juice

1/2 tsp celery seed

1/2 tsp sweet paprika

1/4 tsp garlic powder

5 medium scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and thinly sliced

heaping 1/4 cup dried apricots, cut into thin strips

1 tsp fine sea or kosher salt

generous 1/4 tsp freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste

1 long baguette

Drain chickpeas. Rinse well in a fine sieve and set aside to let drain thoroughly. Prep everything that needs chopping now to give them time to drain.

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Dry toast chopped almonds a few minutes, tossing very frequently, until fragrant. Transfer to a plate to let cool.

Whisk together yogurt, basil, lime juice, celery seed, paprika, and garlic powder. Set aside.

Transfer chickpeas to a mixing or serving bowl. Mash roughly with a fork or potato masher. Add scallions, apricots, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine. Add yogurt mixture and toss thoroughly. Adjust pepper, if needed.

Ideally, let salad chill for an hour before serving to allow the flavors to mingle. Serve sandwiched on baguette.

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