Panzanella Bread Salad

It’s so hard to find good tomatoes these days. I’m not sure why that is. I remember summer tomatoes when I was a kid that were amazing. They were full of flavor and we would eat them on their own with a little sprinkle of salt. Of course, my parents grew tomatoes in their back yard so that’s probably why they were so good…they were perfectly fresh and ripened on the vine. The tomatoes that you find at the store or even at farm markets often don’t taste like much and don’t really compare to the ones I remember.

However, a little while back I did find some at Whole Foods that were grown at a local farm, and they were the best I’ve had in a long time. If you have some end of summer tomatoes and are looking for a good recipe, this is a classic dish that really showcases the tomatoes. It was also a good way to use up some of my basil. I grew it from seed and it’s finally growing well after staying kind of scrawny all summer. It’s in a sunnier spot now which it seems to enjoy. With bread, fresh basil, and tomatoes, it’s hard for this recipe to go wrong!

Panzanella

Ingredients:

1 small baguette (or about 2 rolls or half a loaf) of good crusty day old bread
olive oil
salt
pepper
garlic powder
2 tomatoes
1 cucumber
1/4 red onion
handful of fresh basil
3 cloves of garlic
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Directions:

  • Cut the bread into large cubes. If the bread it still soft (mine was even after a couple days), preheat the oven to 400°. Place the bread cubes on a baking pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over top and sprinkle on salt, black pepper, and garlic powder to taste. Bake the bread cubes for 5-10 minutes until they dry out a little bit. If your bread is still soft and you skip this step, the bread will be really soggy once it soaks up juices in the salad.
  • Chop the tomatoes, peel and chop the cucumber, and thinly slice the red onion and basil. Place all the veggies in a large mixing bowl.
  • Once the bread is finished toasting, add it to the bowl and mix it up.
  • Drizzle on a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle on some salt and pepper to taste. Stir so everything gets evenly coated and serve right away. This salad is best eaten the same day it’s made because the bread will get soggy in the fridge overnight.

Corn and Cilantro Pancakes

Want to eat pancakes for dinner? Why not make them savory pancakes? I adapted this recipe from one I found on Eating Well for Corn and Basil Pancakes. The original recipe contained milk and eggs so I veganized it and swapped out cilantro for most of the basil. I’m pretty sure these would be amazing with just basil, but I had a lot of cilantro on hand.

Corn and Cilantro Pancakes

I also doubled the amount of batter per corn and cilantro because it didn’t look like there would be enough batter to hold everything together otherwise. They turned out really yummy! I served these with the cucumber dill salad from my last post and vegan crab cakes from Sophie’s Kitchen. These savory pancakes are perfect to make on a summer night with fresh corn!

Corn and Cilantro Pancakes

Ingredients:

1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp Ener-G Egg Replacer powder mixed with 8 Tbsp warm water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup soy milk
2 cups corn
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (+basil), chopped

Directions:

  • Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and ground black pepper together in a mixing bowl.
  • In a separate small bowl, whisk together the warm water and Ener-G Egg Replacer powder. Add this to the dry ingredients along with the olive oil and soy milk. Whisk it all together until combined, but don’t overmix.
  • Stir in the corn, cilantro, and basil.

Corn and Cilantro Pancake Batter

  • Heat a skillet over medium heat, and drizzle in a little olive oil. Using a measuring cup, scoop about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook the pancakes until they start to bubble and the edge start to dry, then flip and allow the pancake to get golden brown.

CookingPancakes

  • Sprinkle some chopped cilantro on top, serve right away and enjoy!

 

Spring Planting – Potted Herbs and Hanging Baskets

I finished up what I think will be the last of my spring planting, but at the rate I’ve been acquiring plants I can never be sure! For Mother’s Day I potted up a little herb garden for my mom. It was so cute, I decided to make one for myself too. I don’t have a good picture of my mom’s pot of herbs, but I chose the same pot (the green one in the top picture) and similar herbs to use for mine. I had too many herbs to fit in one pot, so I filled up two.

Herbs

Herbs

It’s expensive to buy fresh herbs at the grocery store, and buying a little herb plant costs about the same as one bunch of herbs. It seemed to make sense to just plant herbs that I use often to keep on hand. There’s a flower market every year about two blocks from where we live, and they had a big selection of herbs. I ended up getting Silver Edge thyme, creeping Prostrate rosemary, dwarf sage, apple mint, dill, sweet basil, and Mini Purple basil.

Dill

I’m not convinced that the dill and Mini Purple basil are going to make it, but the rest look pretty hardy. The mini purple basil just doesn’t seem to be thriving as much as it was when I first bought it, and the dill promptly threw itself over sideways as soon as I planted it. We’ll see if it rights itself again.

Dill

The neighbor’s very friendly cat also came over for a snuggle, which he does just about every day.

Neighbor's Cat

He also rolled around in the potting soil getting himself all dirty. Sometimes I think he’s trying to move in with us because he hangs out at the back door quite often. The neighbors have dogs and I think he knows we’re an all cat household and wants in on that. He’s a real sweetheart.

Neighbor's Cat

And last but not least, I potted up some hanging baskets for the front porch. I got the hanging pots at Joann Fabrics for a good price. They were $19.99 to start, but were 50% off, and then I had an additional 20% off coupon so they were only about $8 each. Then, of course, add in the plants which were about $40 total, so it ended up being about $28 per hanging basket. Pre-potted ones in that type of basket can run a bit more than that at most garden centers, usually $30-$40 around here, so we saved a little bit by doing it ourselves. We filled the hanging baskets with Calibrachoa (Callie’s Peach), Dichondra (Silver Falls), and Amstel Begonias (Dark Britt).

Hanging Baskets

So that’s just about it for our spring planting. Are any of you planting up any herbs or flowers? What’s in your garden this year?

 

Hurricane Sandy and Vegan Pizza

It’s been a weird week with Hurricane Sandy. There’s still no power at my work office in NYC, so I’ve been out all week and cabin fever is setting in! I finally ventured out today and it was nice not to be stuck inside. Luckily, there was no damage where I am, but it’s sad to see all the photos from New York, Hoboken, the Jersey Shore and all the places that were badly affected by the storm. Hope you all fared ok if you were in the path of Hurricane Sandy!

I wanted to share a tasty meal I made during the storm. I’ve posted about homemade pizza in the past, but I figured I would share this new combo. I bought pizza dough from Trader Joe’s before the storm hit. I sauteed some garlic, dried basil, dried oregano, salt, and pepper in vegan butter. I used this as a garlic butter base rather than tomato sauce. Then I topped that with sauteed onions, vegan sausage, fresh slices of cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil. It made for a yummy and quick meal in the midst of all the rain and wind.

The storm left me thinking…how do vegans prepare for emergency situations? We stocked up on vegan granola bars, vegan soups and chili, almond milk, cereal, pasta and sauce, Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks, and all the usuals like water, bread, etc. What do you stock up on when a storm is headed your way? Anyone have any good tips?

Also, keep an eye out for the Virtual Vegan Potluck taking place tomorrow. There should be lots of yummy recipes!

Roasted Red Peppers

There were so many awesome recipes shared during the Virtual Vegan Potluck that it was hard to figure out which ones to try first. This recipe was shared on the blog Bringing Europe Home. I’ve always loved roasted peppers, but had never tried making them myself, so this was good motivation to try it out. It was a pretty easy process and the peppers were really yummy!

Check out the original recipe on Bringing Europe Home. She goes through several methods on how to make these, but I’ll tell you the way I ended up making them.

Ingredients

3 bell peppers (I used red and yellow)
About 10 whole cloves of garlic
Fresh Basil
Fresh Parsley
Dried Italian herbs
3 Tbsp Good Quality Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Baguette

Directions

  • Drizzle some olive oil on a baking pan. Place the three whole bell peppers in the pan along with about 10 whole peeled cloves of garlic. Set your oven to broil, and put the peppers on the top rack of the oven.
  • Check the peppers regularly. They’ll need a few minutes per side. The skin will start to char and turn black. Rotate the peppers as they broil so that each side gets charred and black. Take the peppers out of the oven and let them cool down a bit while you prep the other ingredients.
  • Chop the basil and parsley and place in a medium sized bowl. You can use as much or as little as you want, but I liked having a lot of parsley and basil. Add about 3 Tbsp of olive oil. Sprinkle a little salt, pepper, and dried Italian herbs in the bowl.
  • Once the peppers are cool enough to touch, peel off the charred skin. I just used my fingers to peel it off, but there are some other tricks on the Bringing Europe Home recipe if you want to try them out.
  • Pull out the stem and center of the peppers and remove any seeds. Slice the roasted peppers into strips. Add the pepper strips and whole roasted garlic to the bowl of herbs and olive oil and toss so the peppers get coated.
  • Eat the peppers as they are or slice a baguette and spread the peppers on top. This makes for a really pretty and yummy appetizer!

Pasta with Fresh Tomato and Basil Sauce

One of my favorite quick recipes is “Pasta with Fresh 5-Minute Basil Tomato Sauce” from Sarah Kramer’s book La Dolce Vegan! Vegan Livin’ Made Easy. She has a few different vegan cookbooks, and if you’re vegan you probably already own at least one.

This recipe is really fast, really yummy, and a nice change from regular tomato sauce and pasta. Usually I make it in the summer, but I realized I hadn’t made it in a while and summer is almost over! It went by so fast…


I stick pretty close to her recipe, but do a couple things a little differently. I can’t seem to ever follow recipes exactly! Here’s the way I do it.

Ingredients:
1 package pasta
4 tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves
1/4 cup fresh basil tightly packed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Dash of dried (or fresh) oregano

Directions:

  • Boil the pasta.
  • While it’s cooking, chop one tomato and set it aside for later.
  • Finely chop (or press) the garlic and sautee it until golden.
  • In a blender or food processor, blend together the remaining tomatoes, oil, garlic, basil, salt, pepper, and oregano until chunky. I recommend putting the tomatoes in the blender last so the other ingredients get chopped and mixed in before the tomatoes turn completely to liquid. The sauce can be a little watery, so if you don’t want that, you can squeeze out the seeds of the tomatoes before blending.
  • Drain the noodles and place in bowls for serving. Add sauce, chopped tomatoes, and a sprig of basil on top.