Tomato and Basil Vinaigrette

This is a wonderful dressing for grilled vegetables, salads and is great on pasta salad, for a robust but not overpowering tomato touch. It is easy to prepare and takes literally a minute to throw together.

Ingredients

1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Tbsp Champagne Vinegar
1-2 tsp Celery Salt, to taste
3-4 fresh Basil Leaves, rolled and cut chiffonade
Few grindings of fresh Black Pepper
2 Tbsp of Tomato Concentrate. I prefer the concentrate in the tubes, as it does not have that metallic taste like many pastes in a can.

Just combine all ingredients and whisk vigorously until it emulsifies  You can also put all ingredients into a small jar and shake it vigorously to emulsify. This is an easier method if you plan on storing it afterwards.


Once you have this wonderful vinaigrette, here are some options to put it to good use:


Tomato and Basil Pasta Salad


1 Lb of Pasta, cooked al dente in salted water.

1 medium Red Onion, cut in half and sliced thinly.
1 medium Red Pepper, cut in half and sliced thinly.
1 bunch of fresh Basil, de-stemmed and leaves rolled and cut chiffonade.
10 Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half – Optional
Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste.

Combine all ingredients and toss gently, store in refrigerator  and bring back to room temperature before serving. Adjust for salt as needed.


Tomato, Strawberry and Basil Salad


Salad Greens, washed and dried. Too much water in greens is the reason many salads lack flavor.

10 Strawberries, sliced
3-4 Green Onions, chopped
2-3 leaves of fresh Basil, leaves rolled and cut chiffonade
10 Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half

Combine all ingredients and dress well with the vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

Sweet Potato Pie – Vegan Thanksgiving

I really wasn’t sure how this would work out, because I had never made a sweet potato pie without eggs and evaporated milk, but it really turned out well.

Ingredients

1 Pie Crust
4 cups sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tsp canola oil
1¼ cups coconut milk
1/2 cup Sugar

1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Tbsp Earth Balance Spread, melted – Optional
2 Tbsp Corn Starch
1 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Nutmeg, freshly grated

1/4 tsp Salt
2 Tbsp Sweetened Coconut

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and put the cut sweet potatoes, which have been tossed in the oil into the oven for 30-35 minutes, just until they are soft and just beginning to brown on the edges. Be careful not to burn them. Remove from the oven and let them cool.


In a food processor, combine the cooked sweet potato, coconut milk, melted Earth Balance, vanilla, sugar, corn starch, cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, and salt. Pulse until smooth.

Pour it into your pie crust and sprinkle your sweetened coconut over the top and lightly press it into the filling and then put into a 400 degree oven for 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is browning on the edges. Remove and let it cool completely before serving.

MaPo Tofu- My Favorite Sichuan Dish

This has always been a favorite dish of mine and I wanted to find a way to make it without the ground pork. I made it for friends last night and it was really good. It has all of the flavor I love, without the heaviness and greasiness of the pork.

It has a few critical ingredients, which might take a bit to find, but once you have them you will have enough to make it many times. I have divided it into four steps to make it easier to follow. As with all Asian food, make sure to prepare all ingredients before you start cooking.

Ingredients

Step One
Combine these ingredients into a small mixing bowl and mix thoroughly, and set aside.

½ cup Vegetable Broth

1 Tbsp Chili and Garlic Paste
2 tsp Dark Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
2 tsp Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Cornstarch

Step Two

Preheat your wok until hot and then add 3 Tbsp of oil and stir fry the garlic, ginger, mushrooms and green onions until just slightly softened.

3 Tbsp Oil

4 cloves of Garlic, minced
1 inch piece of fresh Ginger root,, peeled and minced
1 Red Pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces.
6 Green Onions, chopped, white part only. Set the green bits aside for dressing the dish at the end.

Step Three

Add in the black beans, peppercorns and chili bean paste and sauté briefly.

1 Tbsp Fermented Black Beans, mashed.

1 tsp Szechuan Peppercorns, ground. These are critical, so keep looking until you find them.
1 Tbsp Chili Bean Paste, also call doubanjiang


Step Four

Then add the tofu and gently toss for 1 -2 minutes. Then add the vegetable broth mixture and gently toss until the dish thickens. Sprinkle the reserved green onions on top as garnish and serve with white of brown rice.

14 oz Medium Firm Tofu, cut into ¾ inch cubes

Vegan Pancake Experiment

Okay, the kitchen is a mess, and I am on complete sugar rush from trying multiple pancakes, but we have a winner for the best vegan pancakes.

I have to admit, that I was not hopeful when I began, as I couldn\’t see how the pancakes could be good without the eggs to bind them, but I got a serious surprise. They tasted great without the eggs. I really couldn’t tell a difference.


I tried at least 6 recipes and most were a disaster, as they had instructions like 2 Tbsp of baking powder rather than 2 tsp (it blew up like a volcano!) and those sorts of things and they just didn’t work properly.


I came up with two recipes, a basic one and then a slightly more cakey one and I will leave it to you to decide which one you feel is best. Although I must say the basic one seemed fine to me.



Ingredients


Basic Vegan Pancakes


1 cup of AP Flour

2 tsp of Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
1 cup Soy Milk 
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

A Little Extra Something Vegan Pancakes


1 cup of AP Flour

2 tsp of Baking Powder
1 Tbsp Egg Replacer, I used the Ener-G brand.
1/4 tsp Salt
1 cup Soy Milk 
1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

Begin by putting your pan onto a medium heat and then begin preparing your batter. Mix all dry ingredients together and then gently whisk in the wet ingredients. Make sure al the ingredients are incorporated, but not over mixed or the pancakes will be tough. A few lumps are fine.


Lightly oil your pan and then pour 1/4 – 1/2 cup of batter and cook until just slightly browned around the edges (a lot of recipes say to wait until you see bubbles on top, but I find that they are often burned by this time, but do what works for you) and flip and finish until a golden brown. 


Serve with a non dairy butter like Earth Balance and warm maple syrup.

Piedmont Roasted Peppers

As I promised, I am reworking some of my own recipes and a few stand out recipes from fellow bloggers to try and introduce options for a vegan diet. Here is a vegan version of a dish from one of my fellow bloggers. I agree with her that these are just perfect and great with a nice crusty bread.

Ingredients

4 large Red Peppers
4 medium Tomatoes
3 Tbsp Shitake or Porcini Mushrooms, chopped
3- 4 large cloves Garlic
10 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 bunch of fresh Basil
Freshly ground Black Pepper
Sea Salt
Loaf of crusty Bread, Como or Focaccia
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
Begin by cutting the peppers in half lengthways, removing the seeds but leaving the stalks intact. (They’re not edible but they do look attractive and they help the pepper halves to keep their shape)
Lay the pepper halves in a lightly oiled roasting tray. Now put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave them for 1 minute then drain them and slip the skins off, using a cloth to protect the hands.
Then cut the tomatoes in quarters and place two quarters in each pepper half. After that, add the chopped mushrooms to each pepper. While the original recipe called for anchovies, I find that you can get a similar burst of umami flavor by using shitake or porcini mushrooms.
Peel the garlic cloves, slice them thinly and divide the slices equally among the peppers. Roll the basil and slice it chiffonade style and distribute over the peppers. Drizzle the olive oil over each pepper. Place the tray of peppers in the preheated oven and roast for at least 50 minutes and up to 1 hour.
Then transfer the cooked peppers to an attractive serving platter and pour all of the juices over top and garnish with more fresh slivered basil. Serve with your crusty bread and enjoy.

Salsa de Chili de Arbol

Staying with the Spanish/Mexican theme, I made a wonderful, albeit, very spicy salsa last night. Sorry, no step by step pics this time.

I have had this many times at taco stands and in Mexico, but never tried to make it myself, and it is really quite something. Be warned it is hot, but it is a fast hit of heat and then it fades. The smoky, nutty flavor is worth every tear.

Ingredients

30 Chili de Arbol, with hard stems cut off
2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
3-4 Roma Tomatoes, cut into quarters
4 cloves of Garlic
½ cup Water
2 -3 tsp Salt

 
Begin, but sautéing the chilies in the oil until they take on a nice golden color. Do not let them burn, or you will need to start over. Usually it takes about 5- 10 minutes on medium heat while stirring frequently.
 
When they are done, turn them over into a food processor or blender, and then add the tomatoes, salt and the whole garlic to the pan and sauté for a few minutes. Then add the water and continue sautéing until the tomatoes are cooked and some of the cooking liquid has evaporated.
 
Then turn into the blender and blend aggressively until smooth and serve warm or cool down in the refrigerator. I find this salsa is best when served at a slightly cool or room temperature. It is perfect with tortilla chips or on tacos on any roasted meat, especially chicken.

Salsa Roja- Mexican Roasted Salsa

Based upon the fact that the entire batch was eaten in one evening, I would say this is a thumbs up. There are so many types of salsa, but I find this one particularly good, because the ingredients are roasted prior to combining.

In many traditional Mexican recipes, the ingredients are roasted in a pan or fried in oil. I wanted to make it easier to prepare and a bit less fat and oil, so I did it this way and I was very happy with the results.

I really do think this is easier to make with a food processor, but if you want to be traditional, you can use a mortar and pestle, or as they are called in Mexico, molcajete.

The key to making this special is the roasting, so before you begin, preheat your oven to 375F or 190C. Then prepare all of your vegetables as described below.

Ingredients

8 Roma Tomatoes, sliced in half
1 Large Onion, peeled and cut into 4 quarters.
2-3 Jalapeno or 1-2 Serrano Chilies if you want it hotter
6 cloves of Garlic, peeled

Lie them all on a non stick baking sheet, skin side down for the tomatoes and drizzle with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil. Put into the oven and bake for 25-35 minutes. You want the ingredients to have a nice brown color along the edges, but not burnt. Then remove from oven and let them cool on the baking sheet.




Prepare the following:

1 bunch of fresh Cilantro, leaves and stems, about 2 cups unchopped, or 1 cup chopped.
Juice of two Limes, you may add more to taste.
2 tsp Sea Salt, you may need to add more, but start with the 2 tsp and see how you get on.

Take all of your roasted ingredients and the juices and oil from the baking sheet and put into the food processor and pulse until they are finely chopped, then add in the rest of your fresh ingredients and continue to blend until smooth. This is not a chunky salsa, but rather a smooth paste. 



Put into the refrigerator and cool for at least one hour, but two hours is better. Serve with tortilla chips and/or use as a condiment on eggs or as a dip for crudites. The uses are endless and it will keep easily in your fridge for at least a week.

Cider Pot Roast

As it is 104F here in Pasadena today, it might seem odd that I am posting a recipe for Pot Roast, but I just found this recipe again, so wanted to share it. I think this is good any time of the year.
What could be more simple and comforting than pot roast?  I put this on early in the day and allow it cook all day long. This is key to getting a pot roast that just falls apart when you look at it. I find my slow cooker is ideal for this recipe.

The cider vinegar and apples create a sweet and sour flavor that is a perfect balance. It is very similar to a German sauerbraten. Serve it as a one-pot meal, or add rice, bread or noodles to feed more.
Ingredients

4 lb Beef Roast, a sirloin or chuck roast is perfect.
3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 large Onion, sliced thinly
1 large Granny Smith Apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 lb baby Carrots
1 cup chopped Celery
1 Bay Leaf
½ cup Cider Vinegar
1-2 Tbsp Light Brown Sugar
1 can Tomato Paste
1 bottle of Dark Beer, such as Spaten or Guinness
1 Tbsp Sea Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
10 small whole baby Potatoes, or cut in half if they are medium size
 Preheat a large sauté pan or a deep cast iron casserole and then add the oil. Salt and pepper the meat on all sides. Once the pan is hot, sear the roast thoroughly on all sides, about 2 -3 minutes per side.
Add the roast to the slow cooker crock or to a heavy pot (a Le Creuset would be a fine choice). In the same sauté pan, quickly sweat the onion and apple, and then pour over the roast. Add the celery, carrots and potatoes to the slow cooker.
In same pan again, pour in the beer and deglaze the pan and reduce by half. Now add the tomato paste and the final ingredients (cider vinegar, bay leaf, sugar, remaining salt and more black pepper) to the pan and then pour over the roast.
If using a slow cooker, it will take approx. 4- 5 hours on high setting or 6-8 on low heat.
When finished, remove meat, slice and serve in a deep dish with vegetables and sauce over the meat.

Chili Pepper Experiment – Amazing!

One of my favorite things about the summer is being able to grow my own organic veg. This year I decided to try an experiment and I wanted to share my results. Maybe I am the only person that didn’t know this, but either way, I think it’s very interesting. What do they say, “small minds amuse easily”?

 
I chose to grow jalapeño chili peppers this year amongst other vegetables, however, I wanted to see if the chilies would change if they were left on the bush longer. I have always preferred red chili peppers, as I found them more robust in flavor, but in the past, I thought they were a different variety, and this is why they were red rather than green. Guess what, this is not the case.
 
Here is a photographic study of my chilies as they changed from green to a wonderful red. As you can see, early on they are a lovely green and the flavor while already quite spicy and flavorful, is still a bit bitter and tart.
 
 
Now, they are in a transitional stage, which is really amazing, because they have taken on an almost chocolate color. The flavor is not substantially different from the green, but it is changing and becoming less bitter.
 
 
And finally, the peppers have fully ripened to their wonderful red color and what a difference in taste. They are still quite hot, but they are also sweet and the flavor is more complex. It\’s not just a blast of heat, but rather a more rounded overall flavor.
 
 
This is a perfect picture to see how they develop in all stages at the same time. In the past I just picked them early on, when they were green, so I never saw this transition.
 
 
After doing a bit more research, I have found that this same ripening cycle is true with many other chilies, such as Thai Dragon chilies and Red Bullet chilies, so lesson learned. 
 
If all of this talk of chilies has left you wanted something spicy, I have many wonderful dishes in the archives to cure your craving. Enjoy!

Deviled Eggs and Sweet Potato Salad and others.

Summer is a great time for BBQ and since I shared a few of my favorite BBQ staples (Sun Dried Tomato and Macadamia Nut Pesto and Roasted Corn, Black Bean and Mango Salad), I wanted to add a few other fun ideas to really make your BBQ special.

Deviled Eggs

 
I can’t imagine a better BBQ side than this, and they will really go fast. I recently made 48 of them for a party and I can tell you they were gone before dinner started.
 
If these don’t remind you of church picnics and Southern family reunions, then nothing will. I remember some of the best from the church picnics as a little boy in Museville, Virginia. If you know where this is, then we’re probably related! This is my grandmother’s recipe, so it’s really special to me.

Ingredients 


1 dozen eggs
½ cup Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. Sweet pickle
1 tsp. Dry mustard (Coleman’s is perfect)
2 tsp. Cider vinegar
Paprika or cayenne (for the Deep South folks) or Tabasco for the bayou people.
 
Put the eggs into a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and then take off heat and cover the pot for 10 minutes in salted water. Then gently place into iced water, and allow to cool.
 
When the eggs have cooled, remove shells, split in half and put yolks into a separate bowl.
 
Mash yolks with mayonnaise, sweet pickle, vinegar, dry mustard and a little salt and pepper. Take about a Tbsp. of egg mixture and put it back into the egg halves. Sprinkle on paprika or cayenne and chill well before serving.
 

Cole Slaw w/Pineapple and Toasted Sesame Oil

 
This is something that I came up with by accident. I was at a friend’s house and we realized we didn’t have a salad and we only had the basics on hand. As is often the case, improvisation can create wonderful results.

Ingredients


8 cups of either Cabbage, or Cole Slaw mixture
1 can of chopped Pineapple in its own juice
2 cups of Mayonnaise
1 tbsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp of Salt
Freshly ground Black Pepper
 
Take the cole slaw mix or cabbage and add the pineapple with all its juice and the mayonnaise. Mix thoroughly until smooth. Then add the sesame oil, mix again and chill. It’s best if chilled for at least 2 hours before serving, as this allows the flavors to blend.
 

Sweet Potato Salad

 
This is a variation on the traditional potato salad, using one of my favorite ingredients, sweet potatoes. It is very refreshing and it has a wonderful sweet and sour taste.

Ingredients

2-3 lbs of Sweet Potatoes, or half sweet potatoes and half regular potatoes
1 cup Celery, chopped
1 cup of Onion, chopped
1 cup of Red Pepper, chopped
1 cup Mayonnaise
2 Tbsp Sweet Pickle
2 Tbsp Cider Vinegar, or more to taste.
Smoked Paprika, for dusting the top
Salt and Black Pepper
 
Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into ½ inch cubes. Put them into a pot of cold water and then boil them until done, but still firm. Then rinse and cool them down with some iced water. Drain and prepare your other ingredients and then fold it all together and chill before serving.
 

Grilled Peaches

 
Okay, I know this sounds strange but these are so good you won’t believe it and they are really easy to make. Just find peaches that are soft to the touch but not mushy. Split them in half and put them on the grill skin side down and then turn them over to finish them off. You can serve them as is, along with whatever else you grilled, or you can serve them as a dessert, with ice cream or even balsamic vinegar. They are amazing!