Tag Archives: romesco

Time for a Yummy Vegan Picnic!

It's summer and vegan picnic timeAttention 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.

Pomegranate-Mango Guacamole

Mango-Pomegranate Guacamole and Chips

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.

Thai Sweet Chili and Lime Edamame 

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.

Thai Spiced Peanuts and Smoky Spanish Cashews Smoky Spanish Spiced Cashews

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).

Peanut-Sauce Glazed Noodles and Veggies

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.

Grilled veggie sandwich with romesco sauce

Grilled Veggie Sandwiches with Romesco Sauce

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.

Happy picnicking!

Seriously spectacular sangria

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Smoky Grilled Veggies With Romesco Sauce

My friend Julia, who has been getting over the vegan hump for a couple of weeks, asked what she should do about a recent dinner invitation to a French restaurant. She’s worried that there may not be any food choices sans animal products. She’s smart to be thinking ahead. Let’s face it: if it were legal for a French chef to marry a wheel of brie, a brick of butter or a slab of fillet mignon, they’d be racing to the Hall of Justice and beating each other with baguettes to be the first to wed their beloved foods.

Generally, I find that most restaurants are very accommodating about requests for vegan meals, but for restaurants with multi-course meals and price-fixed menus,  it helps to call a day in advance to notify them of your dietary needs. This gives the chef time to come up with an interesting dish for you. On rare occasions, I’ve had chefs get ornery and try to convert me into being a carnivore – yeah, like the arguments of an guy who has goose fat oozing out of his sweaty pours and is seconds away from having a heart attack could convince me to eat meat!  I’ve also seen some chefs totally cop out and basically serve me an entree-sized portion of a lame side dish, which recently happened to me – but with surprising results – at a super cool farmhouse dinner with Outstanding in the Field.

We had really high expectations at the dinner since we’d had a great Outstanding in the Field experience last year, and when we saw the table for this event set up along the banks of a peaceful stream running through the organic farm, and we heard that the chef of Michelin-starred Chez TJ was cooking for us at the farm, my mouth watered while thinking of the cool concoctions he’d surely come up with.

That’s me and my converting carnivore, John, at the Outstanding in the Field dinner

And yes, I gave ample notice that I wanted a vegan meal. Much to my dismay, my entree consisted of a large plate of grilled veggies with romesco sauce, which was the side dish to the carnivore’s entree. Seriously, that’s just phoning it in! Or so I thought… until I took my first bite. Oh my goodness, I could have eaten three plates of these divinely smoky farm-fresh vegetables and that savory, smoky, deeply flavored sauce of joy! (He also served it with a carrot-top pesto that didn’t do anything for me, so let’s just focus on the romesco, shall we?) The chef was kind enough to share some of his ingenious secrets with me, which I’ll now share with you below. This makes a surprisingly tasty and filling entree, but it’s also a great side-dish, and you could also make it into a yummy sandwich, so I hope you like it!

By the way, the funniest part about that Outstanding in the Field meal is that all the carnivores were totally jealous of my meal. The chef served them an epic fail of a main course: a super fatty cut of pork belly that was utterly devoid of flavor, that jiggled ominously when the plate moved, and that no one could eat. That helped convert several carnivores at our table into vegans! 🙂

Seriously, who could eat meat after seeing this horrifying mess of pork fat?!

Smoky Grilled Vegetables with Romesco Sauce

Serves: 8 as a side dish, 4 as a main dish

From fridge to table: 15 minutes

– A large handful of redwood tips (that is, the new growth at the end of redwood tree branches. If redwoods don’t grow near you, try using hickory or alderwood chips, which you can find in any store that sells grills)
– 3 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slabs
– 2 red peppers, seeded and cut into large flat slabs
– 3 spring onions, cut into 1/2 inch slabs
– A large handful of flavorful mushrooms (like shitake or crimini), stemmed
– Three large carrots, chopped diagonally to create long, 1/2 inch thick coins
– Two large tomatoes, halved
– A handful of asparagus tips
– Any other vegetables that you like to grill (cauliflower, fingerling potatoes, you name it!)

For the Romesco Sauce:

– 1/3 cup skinned almond slivers
– 1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
– 1 slice of sourdough sandwich bread, crust removed (any firm white bread will work, but c’mon, we all know that sourdough is tastiest!)
– 2 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, skinned and finely chopped (you can save time by using roasted red peppers from a jar)
– 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
– 1/4 tsp smoked sea salt
– 1/4 cup olive oil (preferably extra virgin)

Heat up your grill and spray (or brush) your veggies with olive oil. When the grill gets really hot, place your veggies on the grate and just before you close the lid, toss the redwood tips on the hot coals. Close the lid and allow the smoke to infuse the vegetables with insanely awesome flavor. Check your veggies after about 4 minutes and flip when they’ve got nice char marks. Note: some will cook faster than others. Continue cooking until the vegetables are cooked through.

Meanwhile, prepare your romesco sauce. In a food processor, blend together the almonds, red pepper flakes, chunks of torn bread and garlic. When it’s done, it should resemble a fine meal, like thick breadcrumbs. Then add the balsamic vinegar, roasted red peppers and salt then puree. Add the olive oil slowly while the processor is running. It will create a luscious, thick sauce.

Serve the veggies with romesco sauce spread on top, and be sure to pass around the extra sauce since you and your guests will want to use your veggies like a zamboni to get every bit of that delicious romesco. Enjoy!