Attention all other seasons: summer kicks your booties! With the weather warm, the flowers blooming, the sun sparkling and such an abundance of ripe fruits and tasty veggies available, it’s ...
Attention all other seasons: summer kicks your booties!
With the weather warm, the flowers blooming, the sun sparkling and such an abundance of ripe fruits and tasty veggies available, it’s such a great time for a picnic. But when I add the word “vegan” to “picnic,” it creates terror in some of my carnivore friends. It’s pretty funny to watch. “But, but, but, what do you serve at a vegan picnic? Carrot sticks and raw broccoli?” They look so horrified, so I usually respond with something like: “Of course not! We prefer cow patties sandwiched between pieces of tree bark. Duh!” Seriously, why are some people so flipped out about vegan food? It can be unbelievably delicious and a breeze to make, and bonus – it’s good for you, great for the environment, and even better for all the animals you’re saving.
To make things easier (and yummier) for your next picnic, here are my top 5 original creations of perfectly picnickable (that’s a word, right?) vegan dishes, and one spectacular summer beverage that will make your next outing out-of-this-world.
Hot damn, this guacamole will make your mouth so happy…even if you hate avocados (as my converting-carnivore husband and I do). Mmm, the lightly sweet mango and the unexpected tiny bright bits of pomegranate really make this guac amazing. Just pop it in a tupperware container and toss it in your picnic basket.
This has to be one of the easiest and yummiest thing you can whip up in 5 minutes. Can’t you just taste the lime, garlic and slightly piquant Thai sweet chili sauce? It’s lick-your-fingers good! This edamame dish is great at room-temp, so it’s perfect for summer outings.
No description needed, right? The title alone says it all – awesomeness awaits your taste buds! Throw these in a baggie and try your best not to eat them on the way to your picnic. (Note: do not try to eat just one. It is impossible).
Let’s keep with the Thai theme, shall we? These Thai-style noodles with a truly delicious peanut sauce and sautéed veggies is an awesome cold dish, and it takes no time at all to make.
If you haven’t had romesco sauce before, please, do yourself a favor and drop whatever you’re doing and make it right this very second! Your taste buds will thank you! It’s a super easy-to-make thick sauce that’s unreal as a sandwich spread, especially with roasted veggies. You won’t believe that it’s made from blanched almonds, roasted red peppers, sourdough bread, balsamic vinegar and couple spices – they blend together to make a sauce that’s even better than the sum of its parts. It is truly spectacular and will probably make you moan with joy a little bit.
And lastly, Summer Sangria
This is my most favorite and dangerous drink! Throw your favorite ripe, juicy summer fruits in there – peaches, strawberries, blueberries, melons – and savor the refreshing flavors of the season in this happy little sangria. But watch out – the light, fruity flavors are so good that you probably won’t taste the alcohol at all, so if you’re like me, you’ll likely drink one (or four) more glasses than you can actually handle. So you may be stumbling home from your picnic, but trust me, it’ll be worth it.
Man, Mondays blow. Especially after epic summer weekends! If you could use something yummy to pick you up, this dish will do the trick.
So you guys know that I usually only publish my original concoctions, but this recipe that my friend gave me (thank you, Bonnie!) is so delicious and awesome that I have to share it. This gorgeous, healthy, nutrient-packed, summery vegan “potato salad” is oil-free, refreshing yet filling, yummy-beyond-words and totally unique. The sweet potato provides a silky, flavorful foundation, while the grilled corn and chipotle give it a slightly smoky and caramelized flavor, which is perfectly balanced with the black beans and the sunny, herbaceous cilantro dressing. Not only is it tasty, but it’s also really good for you – the sweet potatoes are the best source of beta-carotene around (which strengths your immune system, gives you healthy skin and keeps your eyes happy), the beans are loaded with protein, and the corn has oodles of antioxidants. This makes a great meal or side dish. And it’s super convenient since it can be made ahead and served cold, at room temp, or packed up for a picnic or potluck. Oh yeah, and it’s also gluten-free. I am IN LOVE with this salad. I bet you’ll like it as much as I do!
Grilled Corn, Sweet Potato, Black-Bean Salad with Cilantro Dressing
From fridge to table: about 20 minutes
Serves: about 10-12 as a side dish
1 clove garlic
2 tsp blended chipotle sauce*
1 small shallot, minced
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup seasoned rice vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks (if you want a colorful salad, use garnet yams)
4 ears corn, husked
1 can whole black beans, rinsed and drained
4 scallions (white and green parts) thinly sliced
* The original recipe (by Associated Press) called for a lot more chipotle – like enough for my tongue to spontaneously combust, detach from my mouth and dive into a pool for relief – so I adjusted it down. Oh, and to make the chipotle “sauce,” get a can of “chipotle in adobo sauce,” which you can find in the Hispanic food aisle at the grocery store, and whirl the contents in a blender. I like to freeze the blended sauce in ice cube trays for easy future use.
First, make the dressing. Use a blender to whirl together the garlic, chipotle sauce, shallot, cilantro and rice vinegar and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a medium pot with steamer basket, boil a little bit of water, add the sweet potatoes, cover and steam until tender, which takes about 8 minutes. Transfer them to a bowl and immediately toss them with half of the salad dressing (to soak up the goodness of all that lovely herbal flavor), then set aside to cool.
Heat your grill to medium and lightly mist the corn with a cooking oil spray. Grill the corn evenly until the kernels are golden and tender. Remove from grill and cool until you can handle the corn without lighting your fingers on fire. Placing the fat end of the corn on your cutting board, slice the kernels from the cob. Then add the corn to the potatoes, along with the black beans and scallions. Pour the remaining dressing on top (to taste) and blend well. Then stuff your face with this yummy dish, and don’t feel guilty for a second since it’s so incredibly healthy for you!
Do you ever feel a bit like a mad scientist when you cook? Man, I do, especially when concocting a new recipe. I had the tastiest salad yesterday at The Assembly, a new restaurant in Santa Cruz. So me being me, I had to deconstruct it and create my own version that will strike awe in the heart (and mouth) of my carnivore…and also at a baby shower I’m co-hosting. I don’t have a picture of myself creating things in my kitchen, but I’m pretty sure I look and sound like a cross between Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein and Monty Burns. “Mmm, yessss. Blend cumin and orange – no one will expect such a bewitching combination! Make the miniature Saturns of quinoa orbit the pearls of Israeli couscous. Yeessss. Mix in some golden beets, sweet currants, kale. And kumquats, yes kumquats, to make it come ALIVE!! Mooohahahahah!”
Although when my friends who do not cook see me in full-on chef-it-up kitchen-concoction mode, they stare at me as if I look like this:
But I digress. Don’t worry, no lab coat is needed to make this healthy, delicious, elegant salad. It’s actually quite simple to make, and it’s versatile too – it’s perfect as a meal or a side-dish. Trust me – you’ll love this delicious salad. It’s got everything: it’s both savory and sweet, it’s got a bit of crunch, there are earthy flavors and bright citrus highlights, it’s packed with protein, complex carbs, fruits, veggies, everything!
When you make this salad, be sure to serve it by holding the bowl high above your head and shouting “IT’S ALIVE!!” :-)
Israeli Couscous and Quinoa Salad with Orange Cumin Vinaigrette
From fridge to table: 15-20 minutes*
1 cup Israeli couscous (aka Pearl Couscous)
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup dried currants or chopped dates
10 kumquats, rolled and finely diced*
2 cups finely sliced kale
1 large cooked golden beet, peeled and chopped **
* Cool tip about kumquats: roll them between your fingers to release oil held in the kumquat’s skin. You’ll see that it takes on a shiny sheen. This immediately takes the bitterness out of the skin so you can eat the kumquat whole. Pretty cool, huh?
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste
** There are tons of ways to cook beets, so if you’ve got your favorite method, go for it! If not, here’s an easy way: scrub the beets, rinse them off and put them in a casserole dish. Coat with a little oil, cover with foil and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes.
Prepare the Israeli couscous according to package (I boil 1 ¼ cup water with a pinch of salt, add the 1 cup of couscous, cover and simmer for 10 minutes). Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package (I combine 2 cups water with 1 cup quinoa, cover, bring to a boil, then simmer until water is absorbed, about 12 minutes). Once the couscous and quinoa are done, fluff them to cool, then combine them in the bowl with the other salad ingredients.
Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a lidded jar, shake well, then stir into the salad, to taste. Serve and enjoy!
It’s spring, which means it’s time to find new ways to dupe my husband into eating all the veggies I’m harvesting from our garden. Luckily I found a secret weapon: edible flowers! When you see something as pretty as a purple viola or bright red nasturtium on your plate, it draws your attention…and totally distracts John from the beets I’m tricking him into eating. Ha ha!
Now you and I know that freshly roasted golden beets – which are rapidly rolling into farmer’s markets and grocery stores – are simply delicious and have a slightly sweet, mellow flavor. And they’re one of the only sources for an awesome phytonutrient called betalains, which have anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties, not to mention vital free-radical-fighting antioxidants. And since there’s evidence that betalains help prevent cancer, eating beets is a tasty way to stay healthy, especially with this beautiful and delicious salad! But to John, beets are classified as “Weird Vegetables” in his “Never Eat That” food file. So naturally, I made it my mission to trick him into eating beets…and he LOVED this salad!
Being the devious cook that I am, I also decided to slip in some grapes and toasted hazelnuts to give this lovely spring salad some additional nutrients and protein, and a nice little crunch. Tossed with a light and zesty lemon vinaigrette, this salad will not only wow your friends and family with its beauty, but also with its refreshing and unique flavors and heath benefits. And yes, you will totally get to trick ‘weird vegetable’ haters into eating beets, which is both fun and yummy!
Cimeron’s Flower-Power Salad with Golden Beets, Grapes, Hazelnuts and Lemon Vinaigrette
Today we’re taking a trip to Japan (via New York’s Nobu restaurant, and my kitchen here in California) for a mouth-watering savory-sweet Miso-Marinated Tofu Sandwich. This dish is so good that it presents a dilemma. You’ll eat one and feel satisfied and full, but it’s so tasty that you’ll want to immediately throw 8 more down your gullet and will make you wish you had the expandable throat of a pelican. Sorta defeats the whole healthy eating thing, but I digress…
I got a hold of Nobu’s recipe for their world-famous Saikyo Miso-Glazed Black Cod and adapted it into a to-die-for vegan dish that I think you’re going to love as much as I do. The exterior of the tofu turns slightly firm and crisp around the edges when the sugary sake/mirin miso glaze caramelizes under the broiler, while the interior stays silky smooth. Mmm, can’t you practically taste the sweet, rich, miso-infused flavor? This is just irresistible on a sugar-glazed bun with some sauteed baby bok choy and drizzled with a vegan lemon-garlic aioli. It’s incredibly simple to make. (But please note that you’ve got to let it sit in the fridge for a few days so the marinade thoroughly infuses the tofu. Trust me, it’s worth the wait.)
The marinade makes enough for two full bricks of tofu, which when sliced, makes 6-8 sandwiches. It’s so sophisticated and unique on the palate that it makes a really wonderful meal to serve to special friends. It’s also a great dish to make on a Sunday if you want to have yummy sammies all week long. Or, you know, you could throw all of them down your mouth in one sitting, lie to your friends and say that you’re practicing for an eating contest. (You’re welcome).
Nobu-Style Saikyo Miso-Glazed Tofu Sandwich
Active cooking time: 20 minutes
Marinating time: 2-3 days
1/2 cup mirin (it’s a Japanese sweet rice wine – in the grocery store, it’s usually next to the sake)
2 cups white miso paste (note: it’s super cheap in Asian food stores. Regular grocery stores charge three times as much for it)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 bricks of medium-soft tofu
4 baby bok choy, coarsely chopped
1 tbsp sugar, dissolved into 3 tbsp of water
Vegan Lemon-Garlic Aioli:
3 tbsp vegan mayonnaise
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
Prepare the marinade and tofu:
In a medium sized saucepan, combine the mirin and sake and bring to a boil for about 30 seconds to boil off some of the alcohol. Reduce heat to low and add the miso paste, stirring constantly. Once the miso has completely dissolved, turn heat up to medium high and add the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Turn off heat and cool to lukewarm before marinating the tofu.
Cut your tofu width-wise to make two big tofu squares per brick. I like to use the hard plastic tofu trays to marinate it, or you could use a pyrex dish. Place some marinade on the bottom, then alternate layers of tofu and marinade. Be sure to slather the top piece of tofu with lots of marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 days.
Broil the tofu:
After 2-3 days of marinating the tofu, wipe a little bit of the marinade off the top and place on tin foil-lined baking sheet beneath a preheated broiler. Broil about 5 minutes per side until it looks like this:
Prepare the sandwich:
Personally, I like my buns toasted (and no, I’m not talking about tanned cheeks!) (Well actually, now that I think of it, that’s not so bad either). Brush the sugar-water atop each bun and place in the oven at 350 and bake until golden.
Saute or steam the bok choy. Then whisk together the aioli ingredients. Assemble the sandwich and serve with a side salad. After a couple of polite little bites, wait until no one is looking and proceed to shove the whole thing in your mouth as fast as you can. Enjoy!
When I think about my past business trips to Singapore, three things are always in my memory’s highlight reel:
1. Walking through a stunning sun-dappled tunnel of hanging orchids that were so beautiful that they inspired people to burst out in song. (Okay, maybe I was the only one who had a Julie Andrews moment, and maybe people stared at me like I was a serious weirdo nut job, but I like to think that they were singing along with me in their heads).
2. Gleefully wrapping myself in a pile of silk dresses in Chinatown (I am a degenerate silkaholic).
3. The spectacularly delicious array of international foods!
Like the diverse population of the city-nation, Singapore’s food is a glorious pan-Asian blend of exotic flavors and textures. One of my favorite dishes is the meal I’ve recreated for you here: Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies. The Indian turmeric in the luscious Thai yellow curry paste (which you can find in most Asian food stores or on Amazon) gives this mild curry its distinct golden glow and alluring taste. The creamy coconut milk and fragrant lemongrass remind me of the flavorful Malay influence on Singaporean cuisine. The soba noodles hail from Japan and do a great job soaking up the savory curry sauce. And the vibrant veggies bring it all together to create a multi-cultural harmony of flavor.
And did you see the part about this being a 10-minute meal? Seriously, could it get any better?! Why yes, it can! This simple, delicious and healthy noodle dish is as filling as it is tasty, so carnivores and veg-heads alike will join together to sing the praises of this lovely dish…and not just in their heads!
Cimeron’s 10-Minute Singapore-Style Curried Noodles with Veggies
From fridge to table: 10 minutes
3 shallots, chopped
1 jalepeno pepper, sliced in half
1 lemongrass stalk, peeled and finely minced (use only the white part)
1 tbsp yellow curry paste*
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups fresh asparagus, sliced into 1″ sections
5 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 package (12 oz) fresh soba noodles, or 8 oz dried noodles
2 tbsp tamari sauce (find it beside the soy sauce in your grocery store)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
* yellow curry paste is available in tins at most Asian food stores. You can also purchase jars of it on Amazon.com.
Prepare a pot of boiling water for the soba noodles, but don’t cook them until the last second.
In a wok, heat 1 tbsp of a high temperature oil (like grape seed oil) over medium-high. Saute the shallots, lemongrass and jalepeno until the shallots are just starting to turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the red pepper and saute for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus, and shitake mushrooms, and stir for 2 minutes. Push the veggies aside to make room in the middle/bottom of the wok, then add the curry paste and heat until it softens, about 30 seconds. Add the coconut milk and tamari sauce to the curry paste and stir together until blended, then mix well with the veggies until they fully coated. Turn off heat and discard the two halves of the jalepeno pepper.
Cook the soba noodles according to the package (for fresh noodles, boil for 1 minute). Drain, then immediately rinse the noodles under cold water, then drain again. Add to the curry/veggie mixture, sprinkle with cilantro and toss well. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Rejoice! There’s something awesome to celebrate this Valentine’s Day: Vegan Molten Chocolate Lava Cake! If you want to detonate a depth-charge of love for your taste buds, make this oooey, gooey, chocolaty, moan-worthy vegan delicacy. I guarantee that it will totally blow away carnivores and veggies alike.
It took me 7 attempts to perfect the recipe for this decadent dessert, but all the work and determination was worth it! I didn’t want to just match the intense flavor and alluring texture of the butter- and egg-laden version of this iconic gourmet dessert; I wanted to best it with a truly world-class, connoisseur version that also just happens to be vegan. And oh man, this melt-in-your-mouth lava cake totally does it! It explodes with the smooth, rich flavor of high quality cacao, and the silky texture will make you scream out “Oh God!! Yes, yes, yes!” The chocolate lava oozes through dense, velvety cake and beckons you to lick to the plate clean.
This vegan recipe for Molten Lava Cake isn’t only better than all those versions with animal products, it absolutely crushes them! This is an especially great dessert to make for those who mistakenly think vegans have to deprive themselves of decadence to eat an animal-free diet. And if you’re really nice, you can even invite them to lick the batter with you – it’s vegan, after all, so indulge!
Cimeron’s Vegan Molten Chocolate Lava Cake
Serves: 2 (or 4 if you share – this makes two individual cakes, but they’re huge and very filling)
From fridge to table: 20 minutes
6 tbsp all-purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tsp cornstarch
1/2 cup soy milk
1/4 cup silken tofu
7 oz. Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate*, chopped
4 tbsp coconut oil
Vegan ice cream (optional)
* I highly recommend using Scharffen Berger chocolate for this recipe since its quality and flavor is truly unmatched, and it’s vegan. I tried all kinds of other chocolates for this recipe and none came close to incredibly complex flavor of Scharffen Bergers.
Preheat oven to 425. Generously grease two high-sided ramekins.
In a mixing bowl, sift the flour, sugar and cornstarch and then whisk them to blend. Set aside.
Blend together the soy milk and silken tofu (I prefer using a stick blender for easy clean-up). Set aside.
In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the chocolate and coconut oil, stirring constantly. Once fully melted, remove from heat and whisk in the soy milk/tofu mixture. Then pour the chocolate mixture into the mixing bowl and whisk together with the flour, sugar and cornstarch until silky smooth.
Divide equally between the two greased ramekins. Bake for 14 minutes. (If you prefer less lava, bake for 15-16 minutes). Remove from oven and immediately run a knife around inside edge of the ramekins so cakes will release smoothly. Place a plate atop each ramekin and then invert the cakes onto the plates. Top with vegan ice cream and raspberries and serve immediately. Then bask in the symphony of “om nom nom nom noms” that will accompany each bite of this delectable cake!
With this lovely molten lava cake, every day is Valentine’s Day for your taste buds.
Behold this toetally toeriffic new chopping technique:
I don’t recommend trying this method unless you too have broken your hand mountain biking and can’t grip a damn thing in your left hand/club. It also helps if you do a whole lot of yoga and have freakishly good grip with your toes. (Can you hear the gasps from friends who have eaten at my house recently? “You chopped my veggies with your feet?! Oh my God – EW!”) (Heh heh heh heh)
Which brings us to the yummy vegan recipe of the day: Roasted Red Pepper Footuccine. (Well, I used penne pasta, but footuccine sounds much more spectoecular!) Pan-roasting the onion, red peppers and tomatoes brings out a deep, smoky, caramelized flavor that is so satisfying on a cold winter night. The cannellini beans add a kick of protein, and they soak up the rich, savory goodness of the white wine sauce as it reduces. Be sure to finish with toasted herbed breadcrumbs and pine nuts to add a nice crunch to the dish. This meal so easy to prepare that you can make it with one hand tied behind your back (or encased in a cast).
Roasted Red Pepper Footuccine
From fridge to table: 30 minutes
3 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped into thin strips
1/2 of a yellow onion, chopped into thin strips
large handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt (preferably a flavored salt, like porcini salt)
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
red pepper flakes, to taste
10 oz fresh penne pasta, or about 3/4 pound dry penne
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
a handful of toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup toasted herbed bread crumbs (I like using panko since it’s so crunchy)
Preheat oven to 425. Toss the red peppers, onion, tomatoes and rosemary in 1-2 tbsp olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Roast – stirring a couple times while cooking – until veggies are very tender and red peppers start to blacken, about 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large chef’s pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Saute the garlic until fragrant and tender, about 2 minutes. Add wine, oregano, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and beans; cook for a few minutes until the wine reduces to about 1/2 cup. Cook and drain the pasta. Toss pasta with roasted veggies, wine sauce and fresh basil. Spoon into pasta bowls and top with toasted pine nuts and toasted bread crumbs. Then high five yourself with your foot and enjoy!