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!
1 small baguette (or about 2 rolls or half a loaf) of good crusty day old bread
1/4 red onion
handful of fresh basil
3 cloves of garlic
salt and pepper
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
Sprinkle some chopped cilantro on top, serve right away and enjoy!
Sometimes I get into a rut making the same foods, especially when it comes to breakfast. I was perusing the grocery store shelves, pondering new breakfast ideas when I remembered a yummy breakfast my brother-in-law made one time while I was visiting. I decided to try making something similar. It’s really simple to make and is a tasty alternative to the usual breakfast foods.
This dish features polenta, a tasty porridge made of cornmeal. I bought pre-made Polenta at Trader Joes for this, but you can make it yourself at home pretty easily. I was aiming for a quick breakfast this morning, so that’s why I used premade. Making polenta yourself isn’t hard, but it does take a little time and a decent amount of stirring. The blog theKitchn has pretty good instructions and info about how to make your own polenta. She uses butter in hers, but you can easily veganize it by using vegan butter instead. If you make it yourself, try to make it on the firmer side or let it sit overnight to firm up in the fridge.
A quick note about the “recipe”. This isn’t really a set in stone recipe so much as an idea you can customize. If you don’t like walnuts, leave them out or use almonds, pecans, etc. instead. The same goes for the brown sugar…you could use maple syrup, agave, etc. And of course the peaches are optional too. You could also use berries, jam, apple butter, or any other topping you like! This dish is sweet, but if you’re looking for a more savory polenta breakfast dish I posted the recipe for a Polenta Breakfast Casserole about a year and a half ago. It’s really, really good, so check it out if you missed it!
Ingredients: (Makes enough for 2-3 people)
18 ounce package of Polenta (or a batch of homemade polenta)
about a 1/2 cup of walnuts
2 – 3 Tbsp of brown sugar (about 1 Tbsp per serving)
1 fresh peach
Slice the polenta into 1/2 inch thick slices. Pan fry the slices in a little bit of vegan butter. Let them get crispy around the edges. Gently flip the polenta slices. They’ll fall apart if you’re too rough with them, but if you’re gentle they should hold together.
Toast the walnuts in a pan over medium heat, stirring them often so they don’t burn.
Wash and slice your peach.
Place the crispy polenta on a plate. Sprinkle the toasted walnuts on top, and then sprinkle on some brown sugar. Place the sliced peach on top and enjoy your simple, yummy breakfast!
I recently tried a couple of really yummy recipes from Post Punk Kitchen, Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s website, that I wanted to share. The first is called Summer Seitan Saute With Cilantro & Lime. I make stir fries with seitan pretty often for dinner and was looking for a way to change it up a bit. This was perfect! Most of my stir fries are Asian inspired…soy sauce, sesame oil, rice wine, etc. But this one is more Mexican, almost like a deconstructed burrito. Very yummy! You can find the recipe here.
I stuck to the recipe pretty closely, but instead of jalapenos, I used a sweet bell pepper. I don’t like food to be too spicy, but I might try it with the jalapenos sometime, since they’re usually milder than other peppers, especially without the seeds. I also left out the mushrooms, as I seem to be the only vegan who hates mushrooms! Next time I will also increase the quantity of cilantro, because I just really like cilantro.
This recipe is definitely worth a try, and we’ll be adding it to our usual dinner rotation. Play with the flavors to make it your own!
The other recipe that I tried from Post Punk Kitchen was Tofu Omelets. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture, because we ate them up too quickly! She’s got a great photo on her website though. They were really yummy and pretty simple to make. Again, I pretty much stuck to the recipe with the exception of black salt. I couldn’t find it at the store, but I will keep my eye out for it to use in the next batch. I was surprised by how much these looked like actual omelets. The taste and texture weren’t quite the same as eggs, but pretty close. They were really yummy as their own thing.
Has anyone else tried some recipes recently that they really enjoyed? I’m always on the lookout for new dinner ideas to keep things interesting!
While I was in California visiting my sister in May, she made us a lot of Indian food. She recently went on a trip through India, and was inspired by some of the dishes she had while she was there. This one is called Thoor Dahl with Tomato and Onion.
She served the dahl with idlis, which I’d never had before. They’re hard to describe, but they’re made of lentils and rice that forms a batter. It becomes a little bun or cake once it’s steamed. You can make them from scratch, but they have to ferment overnight. My sister used a mix, which you can probably find at an Indian grocery store if you have one near you, along with thoor dahl and curry leaves.
The dahl recipe that I’m posting here is served on top of the idlis. The recipe comes from the cookbook Savoring the Spice Coast by Maya Kaimal. You can also check out some of my sister’s beautiful photos from her trip on her travelogue, with more photos to come soon!
1 cup thoor dhal or yellow split peas
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup sliced onion
2 fresh green chilies (serrano or Thai), split lengthwise
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 cup chopped tomato
1 to 1-1/4 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 dried red chilies
10 to 12 fresh curry leaves
In a large bowl, wash the dhal in several changes of water, drain. Place the dhal, turmeric, and 2-1/2 cups water in a 2-quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cool, partially covered, for 30 minutes (45 minutes for yellow split peas), or until the water has been absorbed and the peas break up under pressure from the back of a spoon. Check to make sure it doesn’t boil over.
When the peas are soft, stir in the onion, green chilies, garlic, and ginger and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes or until the onions are soft. Add the tomato and salt and cook another 5 to 10 minutes until the tomatoes are cooked but not falling apart. Remove from the heat.
In a small frying pan heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the mustard seeds and cover. When the seeds have popped, toss in the dried red chilies and curry leaves. After the leaves crackle for a few seconds, pour the contents into the dhal and stir to combine. The mixture should be the texture of thick pea soup. Taste for salt.
Continuing my bread making studies, my sister sent me a recipe for soft pretzel rolls, which I made over the weekend. They’re pretty simple to make and especially yummy when you eat them hot out of the oven. If you have leftovers the next day, I recommend heating them in a toaster oven. They are definitely best when warm.
This recipe comes from Chow.com and I didn’t change anything other than add more water than it called for because it was too dry. I added 1 extra tbsp of water at a time until it formed into dough. The most important step is the baking soda boiling water bath, which is what gives the outside a pretzel-y texture.
1 cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 3/4 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
6 cups water
1/4 cup baking soda
Place warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle yeast on top. Set aside to rest until mixture bubbles, about 5 minutes. (If the mixture does not bubble, either the liquid was not at the correct temperature or the yeast is old.)
Place flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl and whisk briefly to break up any lumps and combine. Once yeast is ready, fit the bowl on the mixer, attach a dough hook, and dump in flour mixture. Mix on the lowest setting until dough comes together, then increase to medium speed and mix until dough is elastic and smooth, about 8 minutes.
Form dough into a ball, place in a large oiled mixing bowl, and turn dough to coat in oil. Cover with a clean, damp dishtowel, and let rest in a warm place until dough doubles in size, about 30 to 35 minutes. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, coat paper with vegetable oil, and set aside.
Once dough has risen, punch it down and knead it on a floured, dry surface just until it becomes smooth and springs back when poked, about 1 minute. Divide dough into 8 pieces and form into oblong rolls. Place rolls on the baking sheet and cut 4 (2-inch) diagonal slashes across the top of each. Cover with a damp towel and let dough rise in a warm place until almost doubled in volume, about 15 to 20 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 425°F and bring water to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat.
Once rolls have risen, stir baking soda into boiling water (water will foam up slightly). Boil two or three rolls for 2 minutes per side. Using a slotted spoon, remove rolls, drain, and place on the baking sheet, cut side up. Sprinkle well with salt, and repeat with remaining rolls.
Once all rolls are ready, place in the oven and bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Serve hot.
My sister visited from California to go on a quilting retreat with my mom and me this past weekend. Afterwards, she came back to NYC with me, and we spent the past two days visiting art museums in New York. It was my first time at the MoMA and The Met. They are both great, but they’re so big it’s impossible to see everything in one go! After a good dose of art, I’m left feeling creatively inspired! I really want to paint, draw, take photos, and quilt (though that’s not so different from my usual state of mind)!
During our excursions, we also tried out a vegetarian restaurant I’d never been to before. It’s in West Village, and it’s called Soy and Sake. It’s completely vegetarian and mostly vegan. They describe themselves as “a unique blend of soy products with traditional styles of Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Malaysian cuisine.” It has a nice ambience. There are a ton of windows for people watching, and a large fish tank in the middle. It’s nice without being overly fancy or stuffy and the prices are decent for dinner in NYC.
There were a lot of tempting appetizers and soups to choose from. We decided to try the veggie Roast Pork Buns, which were fluffy and tasty. We also got the steamed Japanese Vegetable Gyoza, which were also pretty tasty, but I must say I like homemade ones better. They had a Tom Yam Soup, which I didn’t get to try this trip, but I’m looking forward to trying it the next time I go.
As entrees we tried the Sesame Chicken and the Sweet and Sour Chicken. The “chicken” they use was battered and fried and had a seitan-like texture. There are some types of veggie chicken that I’m not fond of, but this was good. Sweet and Sour Chicken was one of my favorites as a kid, so it was nice to find a vegan version. For desert we shared fried bananas with a scoop of vegan pistachio ice cream. Both were yummy!
Overall, nothing was a real standout for me, but everything we had was good. There were no duds. I would definitely go back. There are a lot of menu options that look really tasty that I’d like to try. It’s definitely worth eating here if you’re in West Village and looking for a good vegan option! Thanks to my sister Jean for taking photos!
As promised, here is my mom’s pizza dough recipe. It’s not hard to make, but it takes a little bit of time, so you have to plan ahead. You can make it by hand or if you have a bread machine you can use that too. Either way it’s nice to be able to make a pizza entirely from scratch! This batch makes enough for 2 pizzas.
1 1/3 cups warm water
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp sugar
1 packet of dried yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp)
3/4 tsp salt
4 cups of flour (bread flour works best, but all-purpose will work too)
Directions for Bread Machine
If making this in a bread machine, place all the ingredients in the pan and set on the DOUGH cycle. Don’t accidentally set it to bake or you’ll just end up with bread. 🙂 Can’t be simpler!
Directions for Making Dough By Hand
Place water, oil, and sugar in a large bowl. Sprinkle on the yeast, and let it dissolve for a minute or so to activate it.
Add 3 cups of the flour and the salt and stir well. Keep adding the last cup of flour, a little at a time, until it forms a ball of dough. I didn’t need to use the whole last cup, only part of it. The dough should have enough flour in it that it isn’t sticking to your hands and the board, but not so much that it is falling apart. If you accidently put in too much flour, add just a little bit of water or olive oil to get it back to the right consistency.
Generously flour a cutting board or clean counter top and knead the dough until it becomes smooth and elastic (about 5-8 minutes). Add more flour as needed to keep it from sticking to the board or your hands. If you need a good demo on kneading dough, check out this video from Epicurious.
Lightly oil a large bowl. Gather the dough up into a ball and place it in the bowl. Turn the dough once to coat it with oil. Place a clean cotton or linen towel over the bowl and set it in a warm place to rise (about 45 min. – 1 hr.) The dough should be approximately doubled in size when it is risen.
Directions for Finishing the Pizza
When the dough cycle has completed in the bread machine, or the dough has finished rising in the bowl, turn out the dough onto a lightly oiled pizza pan. Divide the dough evenly in half and place the second half on another oiled pizza pan.
Let it rest for a couple minutes, then gently stretch it out to cover the bottom and up the sides of the pan.
Add the sauce and toppings of your choice. Don’t put too much sauce on or it will get soggy.
Bake the pizzas at 400°F for about 15 – 20 minutes. About halfway through the baking, swap the pan from the bottom to top rack, and top to bottom rack in the oven, so that the bottom crust and the top get evenly cooked. The crust should be a nice golden brown color when the pizzas are done.
A lot of times people ask me what I eat as a vegan. Everything doesn’t have to be an elaborate recipe. There are really simple things that you can make on a weeknight or if you just need a quick meal. One of my go-to quick dinners is vegan pizza.
It’s so simple and you can easily create your own favorite flavor combos. For this particular pizza, I picked up pizza dough from Trader Joe’s. You can make your own dough, but TJ’s pizza dough is good if you don’t have time to make it yourself. Someday I will share my mom’s pizza dough recipe with you. It’s easy to make, but it does need time for the dough to rise.
I stretch the dough out until it fits to the edges of my non-stick pizza pan. If any holes form as you stretch the dough, you can patch them up so the sauce and toppings don’t leak through. Once the dough is stretched out, add tomato sauce. Don’t use too much or it will make the dough soggy. I spoon the sauce on and spread it out until there is a thin layer over the dough. Then add your toppings and bake it for about 20-25 minutes at 400°. The pizza is done when the dough is golden brown and crispy.
For toppings, I used sauteed onions, garlic, and shallots, and vegan Italian sausage. I pan fried the sausage before putting in on the pizza so it would be crispier. TJ’s also has a vegan chorizo that I use on pizza sometimes…so tasty! You can use vegan cheese, like Daiya, if you want to, but I usually don’t. Experiment with your own favorite toppings. The combos are endless!
One thing that’s nice about working in Manhattan is that there are a lot of vegan lunch options. I’m lucky to work down the street from a little vegan restaurant called Terri. They are completely vegan and certified Kosher, and they also have gluten-free and soy-free options. They’re mostly take out, but do have a little barstool seating area.
My favorite items on their menu are the Chickpea Tuna Melt, the Green Power Smoothie, and the Apple Cider Donuts. I used to work at a farm market bakery, and apple cider donuts are so reminiscent of fall. It’s nice to have a vegan version! If you ever find yourself in the Flat Iron District, this place is definitely worth checking out for a quick bite to eat. The staff is also incredibly friendly, which makes it even better.
Also, to update the kitten story, I picked him up Saturday and he is settling in to his new home. Here’s a cute video of Tucker falling asleep. This is not at all representative of his usual energy level. He is quite a rambunctious kitten, but I do love these sleepy moments.