Fire-Roasted Tomato & Red Pepper Sauce

If you’ve ever tried a fire-roasted tomato sauce you know that there’s nothing to compare, whether used as a pasta sauce, on pizza, or as a dip for raw veggies or canapes. This is our take on a super-fresh, handmade sauce, using vegetables and seasonings plucked straight from the garden (or at least your favorite market), and given the royal treatment over a searing-hot barbeque.┬áIf you like a bit of heat in your sauce, try doubling the amount of chilies, or roasting a hot pepper on the grill along with the vegetables. This recipe will satisfy any hungry palate, vegan or not – guaranteed!

What You’ll Need

– 4 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into large chunks
– 2 red bell peppers, halved and seeded
– 1/2 large red onion, cut into large chunks
– 1 small head garlic
– 1/4 c. olive oil
– 1/2 c. packed fresh basil leaves
– 1/2 T. fresh lemon juice
– 1/2 t. sea salt
– 1/2 t. crushed chilies (or red pepper flakes)
– 1/4 t. smoked paprika (optional)

Preparation
Preheat your grill to high heat. Throw tomatoes, peppers and onion together in a large bowl and toss with olive oil to coat. Trim the top off of the head of garlic so that the tips of each clove are exposed. Wrap the garlic in aluminum foil, drizzling with a tablespoon or two of olive oil before sealing the top.

Carefully place your bell pepper halves, onion chunks and tomatoes (skin-side down) over your hot grill along with the garlic in foil. Cook all of the vegetables over high heat, watching them carefully, until they are cooked through and well-charred.

The onions should be ready in 5 to 7 minutes, depending on the heat of your grill, and the tomatoes, peppers, and garlic may take as long as 10 minutes. The onions and peppers can be turned halfway through cooking, but the tomatoes may be left as they are until done; when they are ready to come off the grill they will be very soft and ready to fall apart, so be careful as you transfer them onto a plate or bowl!

If you are able, remove and discard the blackened skins from your tomato chunks – the sauce will still be fine with them as well, so don’t stress too much! In a food processor, combine your vegetables (including the juices they have collected since coming off the grill) and all remaining ingredients and pulse until you have a thick, well-combined tomato sauce. Feel free to experiment with the seasonings until the sauce is to your perfect liking.

Serve piping hot over pasta, or use as a dip for bread or veggies. You will never go back to store-bought tomato sauce after a taste of this!

Fire-roasted tomato & red pepper sauce loaded with veggie ground “beef,” served over brown rice pasta.
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Summer Green Bean Salad

Get your picnic baskets ready! This salad salutes great, late summer produce; showcasing the flavors of just-picked green beans, fresh basil, and beautifully sweet Roma tomatoes. Great as a side, and twice as nice on its own, this li’l number ensures that you see those last weeks of summer out in style.

Serves two.

What You’ll Need
– 1 lb. green beans, ends trimmed
– 3-4 ripe tomatoes of your choice, sliced into 1/4″ half-moons
– 3 T. basil, chiffonade
– 1 lemon, juiced
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 1 t. cracked black pepper
– 1/2 t. salt

Preparation
Start by blanching your green beans in boiling water for about 2 minutes, until tender-crisp. Place the beans into a bowl of ice water to prevent them from overcooking. Once cool, drain and toss into a salad-appropriate bowl, along with the tomatoes and basil. Then crack some salt and pepper over those suckers!

Now it’s time to make the oh-so-simple dressing: combine the lemon juice, olive oil, black pepper and salt into a jar, and give it a good shake. Add to the beans and let the salad stand for about 30 minutes at room temperature, to bring out the fantastic fresh flavors of your late-summer produce!

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Vegan Basil-Walnut Pesto

One of the most indispensable herbs in our garden, it’s tough to find a bad use for basil, and with the leaves at their peak in our part of the world, now is the perfect time to whip up a batch or two (or ten) of your very own homemade pesto. This year we were lucky to have a whole garden’s worth of this heavenly herb at our disposal, but if you’re short on garden space you can find wonderful fresh basil at your local market or grocery store.

This recipe calls for soy cheese in place of traditional Parmesan, but great results can be had by replacing the soy with nutritional yeast (use a bit less, as per the instructions below). Pesto is typically made with pine nuts, but toasted walnuts make an excellent and much more wallet-friendly replacement. If pesto is your thing, this recipe is king!

What You’ll Need
– 3 cloves garlic, peeled
– 1/2 c. toasted walnuts (or a combination walnuts & toasted sunflower seeds)
– 3 c. loosely-packed fresh basil leaves
– 1/2 c. grated Parmesan soy cheese (or 1/3 c. nutritional yeast)
– 1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil (or more, to your taste)
– 1/2 t. kosher salt
– 1/2 t. black peppercorns

Preparation
In a food processor, pulse garlic cloves with walnuts until ingredients are mixed and coarsely chopped. Add basil leaves and soy cheese (or nutritional yeast) and pulse again several times, until basil is well integrated into the mixture. Begin adding oil, 1/4 c. at a time, and pulse after each addition until the mixture is smooth and of your desired consistency. Add salt and pepper and blend in the processor a final time. Serve over pasta, toast rounds, crackers, pita chips, or use as a pizza sauce or dip for fresh veggies. Keep covered and refrigerated.

Our basil paradise!

If you’re feeling a little nuts, try adding in some other fresh herbs to add some complexity to your pesto. Here we added a small handful of spearmint leaves to the finished product and blended – yum! Other fine additions might be oregano, sage, or tarragon, but this is really only the beginning of the possibilities.

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Korean Kimchi Soup

Before you say anything, we admit it: this may not be the most traditional kimchi soup recipe you’ve ever encountered. For starters, the requisite pork belly is – for obvious reasons – absent (but not missed) in our version. We’ve also added miso paste to give the broth some extra body. Any way you slice it, this soup is a hearty meal unto itself and guaranteed to please adventurous palates.

Kimchi (fermented cabbage) is a true treat of Korean cuisine, loaded with nutrients and excellent in a variety of dishes. You can find bottled kimchi in a well-stocked Asian grocery, or if you’re feeling ambitious you can make your own – it takes a bit of time but is well worth it and the kimchi will keep, refrigerated, for a few months.

What you’ll need

Soup Base
– 1 T. fresh ginger, grated
– 2 T. red miso paste
– 3 T. Korean chili paste
– 4 T. soy sauce
– 6 cloves garlic, minced
– 3/4 t. black pepper, ground

Ingredients
– 1 onion, sliced
– 2 green onions, sliced
– 4 c. broth + 4 c. water
– 1/2 block of firm tofu, sliced.
– 1 T. vegetable oil for frying
– 2 c. kimchi (we make our own, but you can find kimchi at a well-stocked Asian grocer)
– 1 c. mushrooms, sliced
– 1 small package udon (about 1/2 lb., or one cup packed)
– 2-4 crushed Korean chilis (optional: add based on your tolerance for heat. Four will make for a blazing-hot soup!)

Preparation
In a large skillet, heat 1 T. vegetable oil over medium heat. Add kimchi (being sure to drain any excess liquid beforehand) and fry until softened (about 5 minutes). Set aside. Depending on your preference, you may also wish to fry the tofu before adding to the soup.

In a small bowl, mix together soup base seasonings with 1 c. of water until well-incorporated. In a large stockpot, add the soup base, along with 4 c. broth and remaining 3 c. water. Add tofu and vegetables – onion, garlic, green onion, mushrooms, and kimchi – and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Next, add the udon noodles and simmer for an additional 5 minutes until noodles are cooked and ready to eat. Remove soup from heat.

Serve hot and top with garnish of green onion and crushed chilis. A bowl of steamed rice makes a great addition, and a nice way to cool down between spoonfuls of soup.

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Nutso-Futso Mac & Cheese

Vegans, rejoice! The halcyon days of macaroni & cheese may not be as far behind as you think.

Having spent many days in hot pursuit of a suitable substitute for our long-lost macaroni dinner, and having tasted many veganized versions of our beloved classic (some more successful than others), we can say with all confidence that this is incontestably the best vegan macaroni & cheese we’ve ever gotten our hot little hands on (as the near-empty casserole dish will attest).

Initially, our intention was to approximate the neon-yellow Kraft Dinner of old, but this recipe turned out far more sophisticated than we could have predicted: rich, creamy and kicking out serious flavour, this is mac & cheese for grown-ups. Dress it up with sliced green onion and crumbled smoked tofu, or go classic with a healthy dose of ketchup: either way, you’re going to be a happy camper.

Serves 4 big appetites.

What you’ll Need
– 1 lb. macaroni, cooked and drained
– 3 T. vegan margarine
– 1 T. vegetable oil
– 1/3 c. flour
– 2 c. vegetable broth
– 1 c. almond milk
– 3/4 c. nutritional yeast
– 3/4 c. cashews, soaked in water
– 3 cloves garlic
– 3 T. tamari
– 1 1/2 T. tahini
– 1 T. grainy dijon mustard
– 1 T. lemon juice
– 2 t. red miso paste
– 1 t. turmeric
– 1/2 t. smoked paprika
– 1/4 t. fresh ground black pepper
– 1/8 t. white pepper
– pinch cayenne
– pinch nutmeg

Preparation

In a small bowl, add cashews and enough water to cover (roughly 1 c.), and let soak for about an hour until soft. Drain and set aside.

Combine almond milk, 1 c. vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, cashews, miso paste, tamari, tahini, garlic and mustard into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth.

In a large saucepan, heat margarine and vegetable oil over medium-low heat until melted. Next, gradually add flour to the mixture and stir well to incorporate (there shouldn’t be any lumps). You now have a roux! Let the roux cook over medium-low heat until lightly-toasted.

Once toasted, it is time to add your blended liquid to the saucepan. Add slowly, stirring frequently to avoid lumps. Your sauce should begin to thicken almost immediately upon contact with the roux. Add the remaining seasonings as the sauce thickens over medium-low heat. Remove from heat and let stand for a minute or two.

Author’s Note: You may notice that your sauce gets quite thick once removed from the heat. We left our’s as is (to excellent effect), but you may add an additional 1/2 c. of vegetable broth to suit your mac & cheese sensibilities.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Pour sauce onto your cooked macaroni, stirring until the noodles are completely coated in nutty, saucy goodness. Transfer macaroni & cheese to a greased 9″x13″ casserole dish, and top with breadcrumbs and a dusting of paprika for added effect. Cover casserole with aluminum foil, and bake for 20 minutes; uncover and bake for an additional 5 – 10 minutes, so the noodles get suitably crispy and brown around the edges. Remove from heat and dig in (but be careful – it’ll go fast)!

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Vegan Breakfast Burrito

Spice up your morning routine with a hearty breakfast burrito! Chock full of a savory mixture of beans, corn and the ever-popular tofu, this burrito is bound to become an indispensable breakfast companion. This recipe is also a great way to clear out leftover vegetables, so feel free to improvise or embellish with veggies of your choice.

Serves four.

What You’ll Need
– 2 large or 4 medium pitas or tortillas
– 1 block medium-soft or medium tofu, drained
– 1 c. black beans, cooked
– 3/4 c. corn kernels
– 1 medium tomato, diced
– 3 green onions, sliced
– 1/4 c. smoked tofu, cubed (optional)
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– 2 T. soy sauce or liquid soy seasoning (e.g., Bragg’s)
– 2 T. vegetable oil
– 1/2 t. cumin
– 1/2 t. chili powder
– 1/2 t. turmeric
– 1/2 t. oregano
– 1 t. crushed red pepper flakes
– 1/2 t. pepper
– 1/4 t. sea salt
– Juice of 1/2 lime
– A dash of liquid smoke
– A pinch of sugar

Serve with a side of guacamole and hot sauce to taste.

Preparation

In a large skillet, heat vegetable oil over medium heat. Add garlic, green onions, and crushed red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, 1 or 2 minutes. Crumble your block of tofu into the skillet so that it forms a suitable consistency for a scramble, and stir together with garlic and onion mixture. Let sit over medium heat until any liquid is cooked off, or about 4 to 5 minutes, tossing occasionally.

Add all of your remaining ingredients and toss well. Let the entire scramble sit over medium heat another 4 or 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat. Lay out a pita or tortilla, top with a generous scoop of the scramble mixture, and roll up. Serve with a side of guacamole and a dash of hot sauce, if desired.

Burrito carnage!

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Braided Marble Rye Bread

If you’re of our generation, chances are good that when someone mentions a “marble rye,” you think of that gorgeous chocolate-brown and tan loaf that caused such trouble in a classic episode of Seinfeld. With this recipe you can enjoy the benefits of a fine marbled rye without having to wrest it from the arms of a sweet elderly person. What’s more – using a sponge starter means that you’ll be able to reproduce the same perfect loaf of bread time and time again.

If you plan to make more ryes in the future, spoon out a half-cup or so of the sponge before adding your remaining ingredients; a sponge used time and time again will yield magnificent yeast flavours as it improves with age. For more information on sponge starters, see the excellent tips from The Fresh Loaf bread-baking site.

Bakes one large, braided loaf.

What You’ll Need
Sponge Starter:
– 1 c. warm water
– 1/2 c. lukewarm almond or soy milk
– 2 1/4 t. (1 package) active dry yeast
– 2 T. molasses
– 1 T. margarine
– 1/2 c. rye flour
– 1/2 c. all purpose flour

Dough:
– 2 T. vegetable shortening
– 1 1/2 t. sea salt
– 1 T. caraway seeds
– 1 c. rye flour
– 1 to 1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
– 2 T. cocoa powder

Preparation
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients of your sponge starter and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit in a warm place until bubbly and doubled in size, at least one hour. (The top of the refrigerator makes a nice, cozy home for your bubbling sponge starter!)

Once you have a very active sponge starter that has doubled in size, uncover and mix well with a spatula until completely de-gassed and returned to its original size. In two large bowls, divide your sponge starter into two equal mixtures. You will now begin to make two separate loaves of rye dough: one with cocoa powder, for color, and one without.

In one bowl, add your cocoa powder to your halved sponge starter and stir well. Carefully divide all of your remaining (i.e., “dough”) ingredients in two and split them between the two sponge starters. What you will end up with is two identical balls of dough, except that one contains 2 T. cocoa powder and the other does not.

(Start by adding 1/2 c. rye flour and 1/2 c. all purpose flour to each bowl. If more flour is needed, add more all purpose flour 1/8 c. at a time to each bowl, until you have a pliable, moist dough that is not sticky but not crumbly or dry. You may need the full 1 1/2 c. of all purpose flour called for above, but chances are you will need between 1/8 and 1/4 c. less per bowl.)

Turn your dough out onto a floured surface and knead until springy, about 5 to 10 minutes. Coat each ball of rye dough in vegetable oil, return them to their bowls covered with a damp towel, and let rise in a warm place at least one hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

Punch down your dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Cut each ball of dough in half, so that you have four equal-sized pieces of dough. These will be the strands of your braided loaf.

With firm hands, roll out each piece of dough into a thin log, about 1 to 1 1/2 feet long, which tapers off towards the end. Lay out each strand side by side, and pinch them together at one end. Now, you will begin to braid the strands together. Starting from the rightmost strand, lift the strand of dough and lift it OVER its neighbour, UNDER the next neighbour, and OVER the final (leftmost) strand.

Repeat this process, always starting with whichever strand of dough happens to be the rightmost strand. Lift this strand OVER the one immediately to its left, UNDER the strand after that, and OVER the leftmost strand. This process may take some practice to get right, but your dough will look very elegant even if it is not perfect – promise!

When you have braided each strand down to its very end, pinch these ends together and tuck BOTH pinched ends underneath the loaf. Oil or grease a large baking sheet, carefully transfer your loaf onto the sheet, and let rise again at least half an hour. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 F.

When your dough has risen a final time, and your oven is preheated, brush the loaf with a wash of soy milk or vegan margarine and bake in the oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until completely baked and hollow-sounding when knocked on its bottom.

Let cool on a rack at least a half an hour (sprinkle with flour for a more rustic-looking loaf), admire, slice and enjoy!

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