Beet Salad (Caprese)

Beet "salad" seems to mean beet caprese at most restaurants. Which I'm totally not complaining about- its flippin amazing! Therefore, I had to recreate and share. I roasted red and golden beets for 45 minutes (I highly recommend tin foil, as roasting's a hot mess), then let them cool a bit, sliced them and served with buffalo mozzerella, the RFD vinegrette and some chiffonade sliced basil. Throw some candied walnuts on the plate and voila! Ah-maz-ing starter! Perfect for making while you have beets in the house for Beet Burgers. If you're a newbie to beet roasting like I was, there's directions here.

Roasted Tomato Jalapeño Salsa

I was going for Frontera's Roasted Tomato/ Jalapeño Salsa here. This didn't come close at all, but is still a solid salsa, so I shall share:

1 lb tomatoes (mine were on the vine)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 lg jalapeño pepper, chopped fine
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomato paste
1 cup broth (I used Better than Bouillon no chicken flavor)
1t salt
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/2 lg lime, juiced

Heat oven to 350, roast tomatoes for 1/2 hour turning once or twice. I broiled them for a few minutes after to blacken them. Sautée onions until tender, add garlic and jalapeño and sautée for a few more minutes. Chop roasted tomatoes and discard cores. Add tomatoes to onion mix with paste, broth and salt. Simmer at least 1/2 hour. Add cilantro and blend. Stir in lime juice and serve.

*Here's my notes for next time: Though this salsa is super good (better the next day too after flavors have had a chance to get married), It wasn't as blackened and roasted as I was hoping for. I think that next time, I shall roast the onions, Jalapeños and garlic as well and really char the bejeezus out of everything. Also, I didn't leave the jalapeño seeds in, next time they stay to spice things up, as well as probably using 2 vs 1 to up that flavor in the salsa.

Smoked Paprika Hummus

Huzzah! This is from Candle 79's book. It is intensely flavored! I was a bit skeptical about using smoked paprika, a spice I've only used in faux sausage, in hummus. But, there's a lot going on in there; cayenne, tahini, lemon juice, etc- and it all makes for a really super intense hummus. Which I think is great! There are times that I want a more neutral hummus, but all and all to get a huge bang out of a quick snack- this is amazing. It's not any more complex than normal hummus but tastes far more complex. It would be great for a party since it makes a boat load- or next time I shall halve the recipe to make it a more reasonable amount!

Arancini w/ Roasted Tomato Sauce

This is an appetizer from the Candle 79 book. It was pretty darn good. Quite a lot of effort for an appetizer at home, but good. I had read it over and deemed it worthy of being an entree- but it turns out that they were right. It would have been far better as a starter.

Their sauce was a great lesson in simplicity though. Turns out that I have never written about my mama sauce recipe. I'll have to photo it and post it next time I make it. My childhood BFF is Italian. She refuses to eat any other red sauce besides her mom's. This is rather stereotypical (the whole "my mom's sauce is the best" thing)- but I've had Lucia's sauce. It is the best. My recipe is an amalgam of hers and RFD's, and involves a minimum of 6 hours of cooking. One time that I made it, I was tasting it throughout the day and found a significant shift between hours 5 and 6. At 5 it was a really good sauce, at 6- the flavors melded in a way that really dialed it to 11. And, Lucy had said that 8 hours simmer is ideal, so I'm going to listen to her.

Having said all that- this is a sauce that only takes about an hour. They get away with it because the only spices in it are fresh basil, salt and pepper. The key to boosting the flavor is roasting the tomatoes. I was extremely skeptical- being a mama sauce convert and all, but this is a really nice, fresh, light sauce that worked great with this dish and would be amazing with a really hearty ravioli. So, I shall keep it in my pocket for such occasions.

The balls themselves were good too. For one, they incited endless crass jokes and giggles from me and Davey (3rd grade humor). Also, they were tasty. They were a bit labor intensive for an appetizer, but would really be impressive at a dinner party. They are basically Italian rice that is supposed to be stuffed with tempeh and vegan cheese, then breaded and pan fried. All went well except that the rice mix wasn't firm enough to hold it's shape when I stuffed it so I mixed the filling into the rice and then rolled them up and breaded and fried them. This actually worked out well- I think that getting tempeh in most bites worked out best- it could even have used about double the tempeh to make me happy.

All in all- very tasty!

Samosas (again)

Okay, you'll see from my other samosa posts HERE and HERE that I've been trying to nail this down for awhile. And, I have good news to report- I found a good samosa exterior! And mostly a good interior, though it needs tinkering. The interior is the Joy of Cooking recipe that I did last time, only I used less lemon juice (very good), and a teaspoon of coriander seeds (good, but still not spiced enough). The whole inside is so close, but needs way more characteristically Indian spices in it. It's just too plain. Too white tater.

The chutney is also the same as last time, still good, only I would definitely stick to serrano only. The recipe said jalapeño was okay, so I used two of those and a serrano, and it was too jalapeño in flavor.

The exterior was a brand of frozen samosa dough from India Sweets and Spice here in L.A., it is by 'Prime Mazedar' and is called simply, "Samosa Pastry" and is a product of Pakistan. They work great pan fried (not deep fried, I tried to stay minimally healthier-ish). They stick a bit, but not nearly as much as the phyllo dough and they taste way more like a samosa- the phyllo just didn't taste like it was meant to be an Indian appetizer. I make no claims of authenticity, I'm a white, American mutt of European descent, but I've eaten my share of Indian restaurant samosas, and none were made with phyllo. Also, if you aren't up for making the samosas yourself, Indian Sweets has boxed Pillsbury ones (presumably imports). It's cool to see the Dough Boy on a samosa box though.

Dodo's White Trash Recipe

I don't have a photo of this, it's not vegan and best qualifies as super junk food. It is, however, amazingly addictive and delicious. A couple of years ago, we met up with my father-in-law, Jim, in Florida where he was visiting his aunt Dodo. Dodo is short for Dorothy and was the nickname bestowed upon her when Jim and his brother Jack were too young to pronounce Dorothy. It stuck, and was almost as adorable as she was. Dodo passed away last week. She was an amazingly sweet and wonderful woman who had an excellent sense of humor and was so warm and welcoming, I felt that I had known her my whole life.

We were at their house and she brought out some snacks. Sliced oranges, a bowl of pretzels, some cheese and crackers and a bowl of these clusters of stuff covered in white chocolate. Jim (who she still called, "Jimmy"- if he could call her Dodo, he could be Jimmy) asked her what the bowl of white cluster stuff was. "White Trash", she replied. After everyone giggled, we asked her again, and she said, "White. Trash." very slowly as if there were something wrong with us.

When I got home, she emailed me the recipe, here it is (thanks, Dodo :)

One block of Almond Bark
1 box (13 ounce) Golden Grahams Cereal
1 can regular peanuts

Mix cereal and peanuts in a large bowl. Melt almond bark and pour over peanut mixture. Mix well and then spread out on a brown paper bag. Let dry and then break into pieces.

Hope you enjoy= Love, Dodo

Samosas (take two- phyllo version) and Green Chutney

I'm getting closer. Close, but no real cigar. This is the second time that I've tried samosas lately (see RFD's here). These are the "Samosas with Potatoes and Peas" from the Joy of Cooking book, latest edition (which I don't own, I got it from the library). Btw- the library is an excellent source for culling vegan recipes from non-vegan books without having to buy a book that's comprised of 3/4 meat recipes.

Anyway, these are far, far closer to the classic Indian restaurant samosas that we know and love and that I'm trying to come up with a solid go-to recipe for. Still, I'll continue the quest and probably just cave in and make my own dough, as these two tries at samosas that use recipes that circumvent dough making fell a bit short of what I'm after.

Still, these are good in their own phyllo-y way. If you've never worked with phyllo, I must warn you that you desperately need to have two things in your house; counter space and beer, wine or liquor to take the edge off. Actually, it seems like it would be fun if you just had the former. I absolutely don't have counter space and didn't realize how much room that I needed (but didn't have) until I was in the throws of the phyllo. It needs to stay moist- but can't get wet or damp or it'll stick together. So, you cover the dough with wax paper to shield it from moisture, then cover the paper with a damp towel. If you don't have enough space, inevitably your towel will touch your dough and ruin a good few sheets by wadding them together. Conversely, if the dough were to, say, hang off the edge of your teensy counter on the bottom- said dough would be dried up and useless as well.

Somehow I got enough dough to work to make them. I also got to utilize my Girl Scout skill of flag folding, as that's how the phyllo is folded after you put your filling in.

The samosas themselves were good, a bit too lemony acidic, though, I'd cut back on that if I made this filling again (which I probably would, it was really close to my idea of a perfect potato samosa).

The chutney is from a book called, "Pure and Simple: Homemade Vegetarian Indian Cuisine" that I got from the library. This chutney could make any goofy attempt at samosas taste delicious! It has cilantro, green chilis, cumin seeds, coriander, salt and lemon juice in it. It's easy peasy as it's all thrown in a blender (besides the lemon, which is added after). It was a bit too thick, so I thinned it with a teeny bit of water, though. It was spicy, but not unbearably so. I also have a slight aversion to strong cilantro taste, which remarkably this didn't have even though there was 2 cups of the leaves in there.

I also cheated and picked up a tamarind chutney from a nearby restaurant (I made 3 recipes that night and was tired). I would recommend having both the chili and the tamarind- as the sweet and spice are a great combo.

Spring Rolls!

These are the spring rolls from RFD's cookbook. First thing's first- make these when you're having company over, not when you're solo for dinner like I was tonight. It's way too much prep and chopping and according to the book, they won't keep if you pre-make them (longer than 8 hours).

This was my first foray into spring rolls and I now wonder why I've ever paid for such a thing. They are ridiculously easy (aside from all of the time spent chopping). I used to get some in Chicago that had bits of tofu in them, I'd like to replicate that (these are veg-only), but these were pretty good. I wonder if bean sprouts wouldn't hurt either, I seem to remember those being in my favorite spring rolls.

But whatevs, I'll totally make these the next time that we entertain. I could see them being impressive despite the lack of hard work involved :)


This is easy peasy do-it-in-your-sleep easy, but I took a nice photo of it so I thought I'd share.

1 baguette
3 firm tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c basil chopped
Olive oil (about 4 T)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine tomatoes, garlic and basil in a bowl and set aside. Slice baguette into 1/5 ths, and then slice each piece lengthwise. Set out inside-side-up on a baking sheet and brush with olive oil. Bake 10 minutes or until crusty. Divide tomato mixture onto tops and serve immediately.