Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Avocado Pesto and Tomato Pasta

In case today's 71-degree weather wasn't unseasonable enough for you, here's a summery dish that will bring a little warmth and brightness to your day.  This recipe for Avocado Pesto and Tomato pasta comes (slightly altered) from Chef Chloe.

A fresh-tasting, creamy pasta dish.
Given that tomatoes come at a high price during the winter, you might try making this dish with jarred, sun-dried tomatoes instead of raw, store-bought tomatoes.

Avocado Pesto and Tomato Pasta

  • 1 pound whole wheat linguine
  • 1 package frozen broccoli
  • 1 small bunch (approximately .75 ounces) fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2 avocados, pitted and peeled
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • halved cherry tomatoes or sliced sun-dried tomatoes, for garnish

First, bring a large pot of water to boil and begin preparing the linguine according to the package directions. When approximately five minutes of cooking time remain, add the broccoli to the pot.  Once the broccoli and pasta are tender, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, prepare the avocado pesto.  Combine the basil, pine nuts, avocados, lemon juice, garlic, oil, and salt and pepper in a food processor, and process until smooth. 

Toss the prepared pasta with the pesto, top with tomatoes, and serve warm.

Yields 6 servings. 

This is not your average, basil-heavy pesto dish.  Although basil does make an appearance in the recipe, its flavor is subtle.  Instead, the avocados and tomatoes take center stage, giving the dish a creamy, mild, fresh taste.  While this is one of the most naturally creamy pasta dishes I've enjoyed as a vegan, it is worth noting that the creaminess faded a bit once we reheated the dish as leftovers.  Next time I make this, I might try adding some crushed red pepper flakes to spice things up.
Unfortunately, this is a pretty pricey pasta dish.  The pine nuts and tomatoes--either cherry or sun-dried--are particularly costly.  To bring down the price, you could try using a different nut, such as walnuts (still expensive, but perhaps less so).
 Ease of Preparation:        
This is a quick and easy dish, as long as you have a food processor.  If you don't have a food processor or blender, try chopping up the ingredients and using a potato masher or spoon to combine.
Non-vegan friendliness:            
This rich pasta dish isn't missing anything.  Even though traditional pesto recipes often include Parmesan cheese, the avocado more than makes up for the lack of cheese. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Seitan and Broccoli Bowls

I received The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions for Christmas--a book that I recommend you all check out!  More than just a cookbook, it's a how-to guide for working without dairy, eggs, meat, and animal by-products. Plus, it labels recipes as gluten-free, soy-free, etc.

We decided to try out the book's recipe for "Beef" and Broccoli Bowls, or, as my version is called, Seitan and Broccoli Bowls.  I made a few adjustments to the original recipe, as detailed below.

Seitan and Broccoli Bowl topped with Sesame Seeds and Scallions
Seitan and Broccoli Bowls
  • brown rice (enough for 6 servings)
  • 6 cups frozen (or fresh) broccoli florets 
  • a heaping 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 6 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup white wine (or vegetable broth)
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1.5 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 24 ounces chopped seitan
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • toasted sesame seeds, for garnish

First, begin preparing the rice according to the package instructions.  When about 15-20 minutes remain in the cooking time, set the broccoli to steam.  As the broccoli and rice are cooking, move on to prepare the sauce.

To make the sauce, whisk together the agave, soy sauce, wine, oil, corn starch, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.  When the sauce begins to boil, turn down the heat and simmer, stirring often, until the sauce thickens a bit.  Then, add the seitan to the sauce and continue cooking until heated through.

Finally, layer the rice, broccoli, and saucy seitan in a bowl, top with scallions and sesame seeds, and serve.

Yields 6 servings. 


This flavorful, umami-filled dish is sweet, spicy, and satisfying.  The seitan, broccoli, and rice come together into a nice, substantive, healthy bite.  
While you can make seitan from scratch, we ventured to Whole Foods to buy prepared seitan (sold in the refrigerated section, often near the produce); it's not sold at other nearby grocery stores.  Don't let the agave nectar scare you--we had no trouble finding it at our regular grocery store, in the syrup/honey aisle.  Also, we found a small (single/double serving?) box of wine at the grocery store, meaning we didn't need to buy a whole bottle just for this recipe.
 Ease of Preparation:       
While there are several things going on at once in this recipe, they are all pretty low-maintenance and easy to do.  Using "instant" brown rice can speed things up.
Non-vegan friendliness:            
I'm intentionally calling this recipe Seitan and Broccoli Bowls, rather than "Beef" and Broccoli Bowls: seitan isn't the same as beef, so there's no need to force a comparison between them.  This healthy, tasty dish is satisfying on its own. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Baked Tofu -- Yea or Nay?

We made Sweet and Sour Purple Cabbage with Baked Marinated Tofu last night for dinner (a variation of this: in order to try out my new tofu press.  Unfortunately, the tofu came out soft and floppy rather than firm and crispy, as I usually like it--and as it usually comes out when browned with oil in a skillet.

Does anyone have any advice on baking tofu?  One of the problems might be that we used firm tofu instead of extra-firm, but I'm not sure that's the whole problem.  What's your recipe for success?

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Quinoa and Black Bean Chipotle Chili

Having lived in Minnesota for about ten years, I'm quite conscious of the fact that a high temperature of 39 degrees is nothing to write home about.  And yet, here I am, writing about how the cold, windy mornings and the dark, crisp evenings make me long for a warm bowl of chili.

Here's a recipe for Quinoa and Black Bean Chipotle Chili--a hearty, protein-filled dish that will warm you up in an instant. 

Chili garnished with scallions
Quinoa and Black Bean Chipotle Chili
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1.5 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 - 14.5 ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1.5 chiles from a small can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, minced
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • green onions, chopped, for garnish

First, heat the oil and garlic in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Once the oil is hot, add the onion and cook until it begins to brown, about 6 or 7 minutes.  Then add the chili powder and coriander, and stir.  Cook for another minute.

Next, stir in the tomatoes, beans, chiles, oregano, salt, sweet potatoes, and quinoa.  Add 2 cups of water, cover, and bring to a boil; then reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and quinoa are cooked through.  (Add more water as needed if the chili becomes too thick.)

Serve hot with green onions as garnish.  Yields 4-5 servings. 


We all thoroughly enjoyed this dish.  The addition of the chipotle chiles--with their smoky, spicy flavor--really makes a difference.  The incorporation of the quinoa right into the chili also gives it a nice thickness, while the sweet potatoes help vary the texture.  With all of these components together in one dish, it's a one-pot meal.
We had no trouble finding these ingredients.  Fire-roasted tomatoes can be found among the cans of diced, crushed, and other tomatoes.  We found chipotle chiles in the grocery store's hispanic food section.
 Ease of Preparation:       
This straightforward recipe is also pretty quick to make.  Just make sure you have the ingredients chopped in advance, as always.
Non-vegan friendliness:           
Chili-lovers of all kinds would enjoy this filling, flavorful dish (I might even make this again for a chili cook-off later this month.).  As a pretty customizable dish, chili is a crowd-pleaser.  Rachel and Simon both added a dollop of sour cream to their bowls; you could also serve it with chopped cilantro or vegan cheese as added garnishes.