Tag Archives: basil

Oil-Free Tomato, Kalamata & Miso Salad Dressing

Dressing in BowlWhen it comes to salad dressing, I’m on auto-pilot.  It takes me mere seconds to whip up an oil-free vinaigrette and it’s really light and wonderful – but – it’s getting a bit tired.  Enter the ripe tomatoes Kel has been bringing in from the garden.  In went some olives and miso because everything tastes better with them.  The dates temper the tangy acid and the vegetable broth lends richness.  Takes almost as much time to make this as it does my old standby dressing.  Vary this by using fresh herbs instead of dry or a different vinegar.

Oil-free Tomato, Kalamata & Miso Salad Dressing
Enough for a few big salads

1 large ripe tomato, cored and cut into big chunks
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. vegetable broth
2 tbsp. water
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
2 small pitted dates, chopped
8 pitted kalamata olives
1 clove garlic
1 tbsp. brown rice miso paste
pinch black pepper
pinch dried oregano
pinch dried basil

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

Dressing in Clear Bowl

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez

Cheez SandwichA mere few weeks ago I was all hot for coconut butters.  Now I’m onto nut cheez.  The original recipe for this came from The Complete Guide to Vegan Substitutions and called for roasted red peppers and jalapenos.  I made a batch nearly straight-up (reduced the olive oil) true to the recipe and was just blown away by the flavor.  (When it’s still hot, it smells uncannily like diary cheese.)  It’s by far the best-tasting nut cheez I’ve ever made.  I’ve got a thing or two against commercial vegan cheezes but still felt like I was missing out, so this recipe is a great addition to my list of vegan staple items.  Slap a slice or two of this stuff between some red chile tortillas, grill – and you will be a very happy camper indeed.

The second time I made it, I thought pesto would be an ideal “add-in” instead of the jalapenos and red peppers.  It makes for a beautiful little loaf of healthy, reduced fat vegan cheez.  Totally worthy atop homemade crackers or melted between crunchy-soft bread.  Making cheez at home is not a cheap option – a 1 oz. bag of agar flakes is about $6.99 and cashews are pricey as well, but a little of this cheez goes a long way and last time I looked, my homemade stuff didn’t have any ingredients I couldn’t pronounce (or tons of oil, either).

Smoky Pesto Cashew Cheez
One big ol’ loaf or 2 smaller rounds

1 oz. agar flakes or powder
3 cups water
2 cups raw cashews, ground into a fine powder
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/4-1/2 tsp. Liquid Smoke
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. onion flakes or powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
~1 cup quick, oil-free pesto (recipe follows)

Pesto Cashew Cheez on Board


Quick Oil-free Pesto

2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
dash ground black pepper

Make the pesto:
In a food processor, pulse the basil, garlic and pepper until finely chopped.  Remove from processor and set aside.

Make the cheez:
Clean and dry the bowl of the food processor and grind the cashews. Either lightly oil a 9″ x 5″ loaf pan or use medium-sized ramekins to get round cheezes.  One loaf pan is perfect for this recipe, but if you go smaller, you will need more than one pan or dish.

In a medium-sized sauce pan, bring the 3 cups of water and agar flakes to a boil and keep the mixture at a nice, rolling boil for 5 minutes, whisking often.  Meanwhile, add the remaining cheez ingredients – but not the pesto or the water/agar – to the food processor.  Process until everything is combined and you have a thick paste.  When the agar mixture has boiled for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and immediately whisk in the cashew mixture.  It will start off rather chunky, but will melt into the agar.  Once it’s all whisked and smooth, quickly dump in the pesto and stir only one or two times.  You don’t want to fully incorporate the pesto – you’re looking for streaks and lumps.

Quickly pour the cheez into the prepared pan(s) or dish(es).  Pop into the ‘frige and allow to firm up.  Once the cheez is firm, you can remove it from the pan(s) by running a knife around the edges.  Serve sliced, as is, or use in quesadillas or grilled sandwiches.

Cheez on Board

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

How The Garden Grows

Green Tomato

Green tomatoes.

It’s really full-on summer here – though the calendar disagrees with me – in Oklahoma and besides having tomatoes, peppers and basil in the greenhouse, Kel has things humming along in the outside garden as well.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, he’s really been a one man show this year as far as the gardening goes.  I putter out to help here and there – and to help myself with whatever is ripe – but he’s done 99% of the work, and he’s done beautifully.

The garden space has slowly expanded since we moved here in 2007.  It took us a full year to realize that we cannot plant produce straight in the ground.  The soil just isn’t that good, but more than that, the Bermuda grass ate our lunch, so to speak.  It creeps, crawls and invades anything that it can.  So, we covered the garden plot with black plastic and let it cook for nearly a full year.  And we raised the beds to boot.  This year we’ve added a couple of new spots that will be ready next year, after the black plastic, the sun and the worms do their work.  Here’s how things look:

Full Garden

The full garden with areas under black plastic.

Basil Plants

Beautiful basil. Our honeybees will go crazy when these are in full bloom.

Strawberry Plant

A strawberry plant, new this year.

Grape Vine

So many grapes this year!

Green Peppers

Bell peppers from the greenhouse.

Potato Plant

Potato plants; imagine all of those happy, little spuds underground!

Straw Bale

Close-up of a straw bale. My artist’s eye loved the tangles of dry grass.

Blueberry Plant

Young blueberry plant, covered in unripe berries.

Row of Onions

Sturdy row of onions.


One of my contributions: lavender.

Red Hot Pokers

Red Hot Poker, for the hummingbirds.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Build It and They Will Come: Muffuletta with Smoky Tofu & Olive Salad

Muffalette SandwichI love baked tofu sandwiches.  But one thing that has always kind of nagged at me is that the baked tofu that I remove from the oven (dark brown, crisped edges) is not the same baked tofu that I remove from the refrigerator the next day.  It’s still delicious and perfect for stuffing sandwiches, adorning salads, or filling out stir-fries, but the texture has reverted back to its soft, cushy beginnings.  I decided to see what I could do about that.

I started by freezing the tofu because this easy process apparently changes the texture of the tofu and makes it firmer, chewier.  For added moisture reduction, I pressed the tofu prior to freezing it – then sliced it very thinly.  Once it had been frozen and thawed, I gently pressed it again, just using paper towels and the pressure from my hands.  The final step in creating a crispier tofu, was to broil it briefly after baking.  I’m very happy with results: a bit chewy, and bit crispy, but still tender.  The marinade is packed with flavor and combined with the olive salad this sandwich will do all kinds of good things to your taste buds.

A note on the bread that I made for these sandwiches.  It’s a pane Siciliano from Peter Reinhart’s wonderful book, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  I upped the whole wheat, but otherwise stuck to his 3-day process.  This loaf reminds me of the sesame seed-encrusted Italian bread from my childhood which makes perfect sense.  What does muffuletta mean?  Round, Sicilian sesame bread.

Muffuletta with Smoky Tofu & Olive Salad
Makes enough for several sandwiches

Tofu Marinade:
Sliced Tofu1 tbsp. vegetable broth
1 tbsp. Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 tbsp soy sauce/tamari
3 tbsp. red miso paste
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dried onion flakes
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
pinch ground black pepper
1 tsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. Liquid Smoke
1 tbsp. water

Olive Salad:
1 16 oz. jar of Italian Mix Giardianera
1 cup Kalamata olives
1 cup green olives
1/2 cup fresh parsley
1/2 cup fresh basil
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. Bragg Liquid Aminos
salt & pepper to taste

Prepare the tofu:
A day or two before making the sandwiches, freeze the tofu.  Before I did this, I pressed the tofu for about a half an hour, drained it and sliced it very thinly. You can see that I got 17 slices out of it.  I placed the slices on a parchment-lined half halfsheet baking pan, covered it with plastic wrap and popped it into the freezer.  After a day, it got a slight yellow color which disappeared after I thawed it.  Once it’s thawed, press down lightly on the tofu to extract moisture.  Now you’re ready to marinate and bake.

Make the tofu marinade:
Combine all of the marinade ingredients and whisk together.

Bake the tofu:
Preheat the oven to 425F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment (if using parchment, remove before broiling – no one wants to see their tofu go up in flames).  Brush both sides of the tofu slices with marinade.  Really slather it on there.  When the oven is ready, get the tofu in there and bake – taking it out now and again to baste the slices and turn them.  I kept doing this until the marinade was gone and the tofu had started to brown and crisp.  Because I was going for a really firm, crispy texture, I finished off the tofu by popping it under the broiler for a few minutes.

Either use the tofu immediately or store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Make the olive salad:
In a food processor, combine all of the olive salad ingredients.  Process until the desired consistency.  I like it evenly pulverized, but if you like bigger chunks, have at it.  Set aside or store in the refrigerator until ready to use.  You will have more than you need for a couple of sandwiches, but it makes a tasty spread or dip, too.  You’ll think of something.

Pane SicilianoBuild your sandwich:
Grab some hearty wheat rolls or thick slices of crusty bread and start layering.  Add what you love – tomatoes, lettuce, sprouts, red onion…

Build It

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Days of Salad. Day 5: Fruit with Basil-Lime Dressing

Fruit Salad CollageKel and I eat a small fruit salad every morning alongside our hot grains cereal (with slices of banana on top), have fruit with lunch and we conclude dinner with more whole fruit.  Getting fruit is not a problem for us.  But I rarely make a fruit salad with dressing.  The collusion of an interesting-sounding sauce from a Cooking Light Annual cookbook and my grocery offering lovely pineapples, mangoes, kiwis and strawberries made me think it was time to put together something special for after dinner one evening.  The dressing on this has so much flavor – a little zing from the lime and basil which is balanced by the sweet date sugar.  I think this dressing would be delicious with some mint leaves thrown in.  One thing – this salad is best consumed the day it is prepared.

Fruit with Basil-Lime Dressing
Serves 6

1/4 cup date sugar (or maple sugar, maple syrup or white sugar, if desired)
1/4-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup basil leaves
1 tbsp. lime zest
2 cups fresh pineapple, cut into small chunks
1 mango, cut into chunks
1 1/2 cups strawberries, cut into quarters
2 kiwi, peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced
unsweetened coconut flakes, toasted, optional

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar and water.  (If using date sugar, you will need more water.  Date sugar does not dissolve and become clear like white sugar so you will end up with a thick mixture.)  Bring to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and stir in the basil leaves and lime zest.  Set aside to cool.

Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl and discard solids.  If using date sugar, press the mixture gently to extract liquid.  You should end up with a 1/4 cup or so of thick liquid.  Set aside.

Combine the fruit in a large bowl, drizzle with sugar mixture and toss gently.  Sprinkle servings with toasted coconut.

Basil Leaves

Strawberries on Board

Mix of Fruit

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Days of Salad. Day 4: Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Couscous with Sweet Lime-Ginger Dressing

Sweet Potato Day FourPantry stapes combined with a few fresh ingredients…I usually have a sweet potato or two kicking around in the pantry and couscous and cans of black beans always.  Same for edamame in the freezer.  And with the last of the spinach from the greenhouse, the abundance of mint out in the perennial bed and a smidge of volunteer basil we had in the greenhouse (it had self-planted into one of the citrus pots), I created this colorful, super healthy salad.

Sweet Potato, Black Bean & Couscous Salad w/ Sweet Lime-Ginger Dressing
Serves 4

1 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. agave nectar (or to taste)
1 tsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. white miso paste
1/4-1/2 tsp. chile garlic paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
dash black pepper

2 sweet potatoes, roasted, cooled, peeled and cut into chunks
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup edamame
2 tbsp. red onion, chopped
2/3 cup (dry) whole wheat couscous, cooked and well-drained
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
4 cups fresh spinach, torn or chopped

Whisk together all dressing ingredients together and set aside.

Gently stir all of the salad ingredients – except the spinach – together, then add the dressing and stir again.  Divide the spinach between four big plates or bowls and top with the salad.

Basil, Ginger, LimesFor a quick side dish, I mixed together a splash of vegetable broth, soy sauce, white miso paste, ground black pepper and a clove of garlic (minced) and tossed in two sliced two zucchinis.  Baked it at 425F until the zukes were tender (turning now and again).  Pretty durn tasty.


Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

White Bean, Asparagus & Artichoke Heart Salad

White Bean SaladAs I was preparing this salad, a mass of rain clouds was stalled just to our west threatening a deluge of rain, thunder and lightning.  By the time the salad was in the refrigerator, ready for dinner that evening, the temperature outside had dropped from the 70s into the 50s.  Not exactly salad weather.  I guess I’d been a bit premature with the warm weather foods – it had been toasty warm for days.  Kel even had the gumption to put away his winter coat.  Come to think of it, that’s probably what brought the colder weather.

Anyway, a plan is a plan so dinner that night was a nice, cool salad.  Served up with warm biscuits and a cup of steaming hot green tea, it felt mighty cozy inside as we watched the rain come down.

White Bean, Asparagus & Artichoke Heart Salad
Serves 4

1 15 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups asparagus, cut into 1″ pieces
1/3 cup thinly sliced radishes (I used watermelon radishes – pretty!)
4-5 scallions, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 tbsp. orange juice
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 tsp. French mustard
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
splash soy sauce
salt & pepper to taste
fresh basil, for garnish

Lightly steam or microwave the asparagus.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the garlic, orange juice, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, mustard, nutritional yeast, soy sauce and salt and pepper.  (No, I did not forget the oil.)   Add the artichoke hearts, beans, asparagus, radishes and scallions, stirring to combine.

Serve over a bed of fresh greens, if desired and top with basil.

Asparagus Spears

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Honey is for Bees

Honeybee on Pear BlossomThere is every likelihood that the honeybees swarming in and around the Bradford Pear blossoms are ours. Our Girls.  Those industrious ladies who shack up in the hives Kel and I put together two years ago.  I can’t help but feel tugs of the maternal when I see them.  There is much activity now around the entrances to the hives, guard bees on the lookout for intruders; single-minded workers arriving with pollen-laden hind legs and new bees memorizing their home with wobbly orientation flights.

There is also every likelihood that Kel and I are the worst beekeepers on the planet.  In fact, I call what we do (or rather, don’t do), “beehosting,” rather then beekeeping.  (I wrote about it at length on Dough, Dirt & Dye.)  Those early hive “inspections” proved so traumatic for us and for the bees that we decided to take the less is more approach and allow the bees to do what they’ve done, unaided, for thousands of years.  We no longer open the hives or blast them with smoke and we’ve never once harvested honey.  We made that decision before we became vegans because it made sense to us that during the lean late winter months they should consume what they had so painstakingly created with all those air hours and probing of petals.  Providing them with a cheap substitute – sugar syrup – didn’t appeal.  And we had no stomach for pulling apart their beautiful honeycomb simply because we wanted to sweeten our tea.

Hive Inspection

For the humble shelter we provide, Our Girls perform a valuable service for which we are grateful.  They pollinate our fruit trees and tomato plants and zucchini; they sneak into the greenhouse and inspect the citrus plants and the basil.  They love basil.  And Kel and I enjoy watching them go about their business – with absolutely no interest or concern for us.  Just as it should be.

Hive, Orange Team

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Seitan Marsala with Pesto Mashed Potatoes

Seitan Marsala with Mashed PotatoesIf my parents ever come back to Oklahoma for a visit (hint, hint), I’m going to serve them this delicious dish.  Not only because I imagine it is something that they would enjoy eating in a meat version (a la chicken or something), but I think they might actually be surprised and impressed that it is possible to serve a completely meat-free version.  I might not even tell them it’s meatless.  The seitan has a nice chew that closely resembles meat and the slices even look like meat.  The sauce is rich and smooth and full of wonderful flavor and the mashed potatoes are a perfect accompaniment to soak up all the extra goodness.

Seitan Marsala with Pesto Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4

Seitan Marsala:
1 cup + 1/2 cup vegetable broth, divided
splash Bragg Liquid Aminos
4 shallots, quartered
1/2 cup dry Marsala wine
1 tbsp. or soy sauce
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. tomato paste
1 1/2 tbsp. cornstarch dissolved into 2 tbsp. water
1 pound Basic Seitan, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
salt & pepper to taste

Mashed Potatoes:
2 large Idaho potatoes, washed, peeled and cut into small cubes
~1/4 cup soy milk
4 tbsp. vegan basil pesto (or just stir in chopped fresh basil to taste)
garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste

Make the potatoes:
In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil.  Cook until very tender, about 10-15 minutes.  Drain and mash directly in the pan with a masher.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine thoroughly.  Add enough soy milk so that the potatoes are nice and creamy.  Keep warm while you prepare the seitan marsala.

Make the seitan Marsala:
Heat 1/4 cup vegetable broth and a splash of Liquid Aminos in a large skillet.  Saute the shallots until soft and browning.  Transfer to a plate and set aside.
Add 1 cup broth, Marsala, soy sauce, tomato paste and thyme to the pan and heat nearly to a boil.  Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and bring to a boil, whisking for 1 minute or until the sauce has thickened.  Transfer the sauce to a bowl and set aside while you prepare the seitan.

In the same skillet over medium-high heat, add the remaining 1/4 cup vegetable broth.  Add the seitan and season with salt and pepper.  Cook, turning once, until lightly browned on both sides.  Add the shallots and the sauce and simmer for about 5 minutes to heat through.

Divide the mashed potatoes between four warmed plates and ladle on the seitan Marsala and sauce.

(This recipe comes lightly adapted from Robin Robertson’s The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook.  It’s full of amazing, clever and delicious hearty dishes to delight vegans and fool the most dedicated meat-lovers.  As usual, I omitted the oil and sauteed with vegetable broth.)

Tagged , , , ,

Asparagus and Cilantro Soup

Bowl of Aspargus SoupThis is another simple, savory recipe that tastes like you are doing something healthful and healing for your body.  Because you are.  It would be the perfect meal after an overindulgent day.  The flavors are subtle and comforting: the smoky cumin, earthy asparagus and bright cilantro; the smooth texture is pure silken luxury for your tongue.  I served this alongside my Quick Quinoa Salad and thick slices of braided whole wheat walnut bread.

Asparagus and Cilantro Soup
Serves 6

1/4-1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 large onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small potato, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp. fresh basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. ground cumin
6 cups vegetable broth
2 pounds asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces (reserve several of the tips for garnish)
1 tbsp. tamari
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
ground black pepper to taste

Heat the 1/4-1/2 cup of vegetable broth in a soup-pot.  Add the onion, garlic and celery and cook until soft.  Stir in the potato, basil, oregano and cumin.  Then add the stock and bring to a simmer over high heat.  Decrease the heat to medium-low and cover, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.  Potato should be almost tender.  Add the asparagus (except the tips reserved for garnish) and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the asparagus is tender and the potato is very soft.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender or use a stick blender.  Stir in the tamari, pepper and cilantro and return to the heat.

Use the microwave to quickly cook the asparagus tips – just a few seconds so that they aren’t mushy, but retain their bright color and snap.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the asparagus tips.

(I stole this recipe lock, stock and asparagus tip from Ann Gentry’s The Real Food Daily Cookbook.  The only thing I changed was omitting the olive oil to saute the onion, garlic and celery.  You won’t miss it.)

Tagged , , , , ,

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 888 other followers

Powered by WordPress.com