Book Report: Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine

COVER. Crossroads very hi res

Tis the season of vegan cookbooks! Today on the blog, it is Los Angeles based chef Tal Ronnen’s new book Crossroads: Extraordinary Recipes from the Restaurant That Is Reinventing Vegan Cuisine which will be released next Tuesday, October 6th.

From the cover to the photos to the recipes, this is one spectacular book. They say you can’t judge a book by it’s cover but…just look at those ravioli! And the top half – the white part where the title is written – has a kind of texture to it that says, “This is no ordinary cookbook. I am fancy and upscale.” I am a big fan of Chef Tal’s Kite Hill cheese (how many posts have I raved about it on here?!) and, since Crossroads is in LA and I am in NYC, I was really excited to get my copy to see what the buzz is all about.

The recipes in this book are super creative – masterfully turning vegetables into gorgeous, rich, cutting-edge dishes. Chef Tal is quick to point out that this book is not about vegan cooking, just cooking that happens to be vegan – elevating the vegetables, using fancy cooking techniques and ditching tofu and tempeh. Personally, I don’t understand why it is so important to make that point but let’s chalk it up to whatever it takes to bring people over to our side.

The recipes are a bit more involved and complex than how I typically cook. There are dishes with three or four separate recipes, but because there are no crazy ingredients – except for maybe black garlic – they are not that intimidating. And I am inspired to work with ingredients that I usually pass right by like cipollini onions. But a few are super simple like Papas Arrugadas (Spanish wrinkled potatoes) which I made last night. It is a Spanish tapas dish – potatoes boiled in a cup of Kosher salt and as Chef Tal promises, they come out tender and with a dusty coating that is amazingly not salty. They are really cute, too. They reminded of zeppoles!

There are nine chapters in the book, starting with with snacks and spreads. How about leek pâté? Yes, please. That will be happening in my kitchen asap. Next, there is a chapter on gorgeous salads with a creative mix ingredients and dressing ideas which can all be mixed, matched and adapted based on seasonal ingredients or whatever is on hand.

How about a whole chapter on flatbreads with innovative toppings like sweet corn puree and tomato pepper jam? And a chapter on small plates including one of the restaurant’s signature dishes Hearts of Palm Calamari. See recipe below!

And then there is a whole chapter on homemade pasta recipes – my fave food group – complete with a pasta tutorial. I have only made pasta once and so with this book, I plan to spend the winter perfecting it in my kitchen. And the book wraps with desserts, cocktails and basics, all of which have great ideas.

Overall, I will say that regardless of your kitchen skills or where you are at in your vegan journey, this is a great book to have on hand. It is creative, inventive and perfectly vegan.

116_Hearts of Palm Calamari with Cocktail Sauce and Lemon-Caper Aioli

Excerpted from Crossroads by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by Lisa Romerein.

Hearts of Palm Calamari with Cocktail Sauce and Lemon-Caper Aïoli
Serves 4

Much of the Crossroads philosophy is about taking classic, familiar dishes and giving them new soul as plant-based renditions. Here hearts of palm are sliced into rounds that look like rings of calamari. They are lightly coated in a batter seasoned with Old Bay and nori seaweed and fried to golden perfection. The cooked palm rings look like calamari and taste like calamari, and if you tell your guests the dish is fried calamari, they’ll likely believe you.

The cashew cream for the batter needs to be prepared a day in advance, but all of the components can be made ahead of time, so frying and serving happen quickly. The cocktail sauce and lemon-caper aïoli are dipping sauces typically served with calamari. For an Italian spin, you could also serve Scoty’s Marinara Sauce.

After hollowing out the hearts of palm, you can cut up the unused centers and toss into a salad, such as the Melon Salad with Watercress and Oroblanco Vinaigrette.

1 cup Cashew Cream (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons filtered water
1 tablespoon toasted nori flakes, finely ground
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Two 14-ounce cans hearts of palm (12), drained and rinsed
1 cup finely ground yellow cornmeal or polenta
1 cup rice flour
1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
Expeller-pressed canola oil, for frying
Cocktail Sauce (recipe follows)
Lemon-Caper Aïoli (recipe follows)

1. To prepare the batter: Put the cashew cream in a bowl and add the water, ground nori, salt, and pepper. Stir the batter to combine; it should be smooth and not gloppy in the slightest. Set aside at room temperature to let the flavors meld while you prepare the hearts of palm.

2. To prepare the hearts of palm calamari: Trim both ends of each heart of palm to expose the center; this will make it easier to see and remove. Working from the narrow end, gently push out the insides of each cylinder, using your pinkie or a chopstick. Some pieces will be easier to gut than others—don’t worry if a few split. (Reserve the insides for another use—see the headnote.)

3. Using a paring knife, carefully cut each hollow spear into four 1-inch-wide rings. You should end up with about 48 pieces.

4. Add the hearts of palm to the cashew cream batter, gently turning the pieces over with your hands until thoroughly coated. Set aside.

5. Put the cornmeal in a food processor and process to a fine powder. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, add the rice flour, Old Bay seasoning, salt, and pepper, and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly.

6. Using a slotted spoon, working in batches, scoop the hearts of palm from the batter, letting the excess drip back into the bowl, add to the cornmeal mixture, and toss with your hands until evenly coated on all sides. Transfer the breaded hearts of palm to a strainer set over a bowl, or work over the sink, and shake off the excess cornmeal. This is a key step to ensure that the cornmeal crust is light and not clumpy whatsoever. (All of this can be prepared up to 2 hours in advance. Arrange the breaded hearts of palm in a single layer on a baking sheet and refrigerate, uncovered. Allow the hearts of palm to come to room temperature before frying.)

7. To deep-fry the hearts of palm calamari: Heat 2 inches of oil to 325°F in a cast-iron skillet or heavy saucepan. Working in batches, add the hearts of palm to the hot oil and fry, carefully turning with tongs, until golden brown and crispy on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the cooked pieces to a paper towel–lined platter to drain. Season the hearts lightly with salt, pepper, and a sprinkle of Old Bay seasoning while still hot.

8. Pile the hearts of palm on a large platter and serve with the cocktail sauce and lemon-caper aïoli for dipping.

Cashew Cream
Makes 3 cups

Cashew cream, made from soaking raw cashews and blending them with water, is an indispensable part of my vegan cooking. It stands in for heavy cream in a variety of ways—in the batter for Hearts of Palm Calamari and as a base for Spinach Cream Sauce among others. The cream is at its best when used for cooking; it thickens up even faster than heavy cream and adds richness. You will never miss dairy if you use cashew cream.

It’s essential to use raw cashews to make the cream; the raw nuts have little flavor of their own but provide a fatty creaminess. Roasted cashews taste too strong and won’t blend as well.

Making cashew cream requires planning ahead, since you have to soak the cashews for at least 12 hours. Use only filtered water; the impurities in tap water will add a grayish tinge to the final product. The cream keeps for up to 4 days in the refrigerator and can be frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw it in the refrigerator, at room temperature, or in a large bowl of warm water. The cream will separate upon defrosting, so give it a whirl in a blender to re-emulsify.

2 cups whole raw cashews, rinsed
Filtered water

1. Put the cashews in a bowl and pour in enough cold filtered water to cover. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours, or up to 1 day.

2. Drain the cashews in a colander and rinse with cold water. Transfer the cashews to a blender, preferably a Vitamix, and pour in enough cold filtered water to cover them by 1 inch, about 3 cups. Blend on high for 2 to 3 minutes, until very smooth and creamy without any trace of graininess. The cashew cream should be smooth on the palate; add more water if necessary. If you’re not using a heavy-duty blender, you may need to strain the cashew cream through a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of any grittiness.

3. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. It will thicken as it sits, so blend with ½ cup or so filtered water if needed to reach the desired consistency. It can also be frozen; see the headnote.

Makes 2 cups

1. To make thick cashew cream, reduce the amount of water in the blender so that it just covers the cashews, about 2 cups.

Cocktail Sauce
Makes 1 cup

This couldn’t-be-simpler cocktail sauce is so much better than store-bought, you will never buy bottled again.

1 cup organic ketchup
1 to 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, or more if you like it hot
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon vegan Worcestershire sauce, such as Wizard

1. Combine the ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, and Worcestershire in a small bowl. Gently whisk until well combined. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

The flavor of the cocktail sauce gets better as it sits, and it keeps in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Lemon-Caper Aïoli
Makes 1 1/2 cups

Aïoli is chef code for souped-up mayo. Try this as a dip with grilled artichokes or as a savory sandwich spread.

1 cup vegan mayonnaise, such as Vegenaise
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon capers, drained and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put the vegan mayonnaise, lemon juice, parsley, capers, and garlic in a small bowl and gently whisk until combined. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the oil until the aïoli is thickened and smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and chill for at least 30 minutes.

2. The flavor of the aïoli gets better as it sits, and it keeps in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Stir in 1 tablespoon water or lemon juice to thin it if needed.

Excerpted from Crossroads by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones. (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by Lisa Romerein.

Tofu Balls (Courtesy of Tofu Cookery via The PPK)

IMG_9141 (1)

Have you ever made these? Isa Moskowitz of vegan fame has been making this recipe for over 20 years and it was originally from a cookbook called Tofu Cookery. And this recipe is super delicious which surprised me because I usually like my tofu straight up.

It’s the flavor combo. There is something great about peanut butter and tamari together. Don’t be scared! And get this, Isa serves them over spaghetti with tomato sauce (which I am not sure about.) Personally, I like them straight up. A dipping sauce or salad dressing is a nice touch.

1/2 block extra firm tofu
3 scallions (the ones I used in this batch were purple)
1 1/2 tablespoons tamari
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Chickpea flour, about 2 tablespoons
Sunflower oil, about 2 teaspoons

Break up the tofu and place it into the food processor. Coarsely chop the scallions and add them in. Add the tamari, peanut butter, and bread crumbs and pulse a few times. Turn out into a mixing bowl and squeeze the mixture together. It should stick together.

Using a 1 tablespoon ice cream scoop, scoop up the mixture and form balls. Roll in the chickpea flour.

Heat a big skillet and add the oil. Cook the balls until slightly to medium brown on all sides.

Enjoy these hot or cold!

IMG_9138 (2)

Portobello Pot Roast


My friend and I have been trying to figure out a good substitute dish for our mother’s pot roasts. I tried a tempeh version of my mother’s recipe but it was just not right. When I read through my copy of The Plant-Based Journey, I found the most amazing idea – portobello pot roast! Freakin’ brilliant. If you want to see the original recipe, go to A Virtual Vegan’s blog or buy the book.

The keys to this amazingness are the wine (be sure to use one that you would actually drink), the Worcestershire sauce and the fresh herbs. I love savory and rosemary but feel free to use herbs like parsley, sage and thyme. You can also use vegetable stock instead of water, adjusting salt as needed. And, I made this all in my Dutch oven, but if you dont’ have one, you can still make this! Follow the recipe, get the vegetables started on the stovetop, and then transfer everything into a baking dish.

Remember, cooking is more art than science. Vegetable sizes differ so use what you can find and just make the whole dish look pretty and proportioned. I like to err on the side of more mushrooms so I use 5 but you can use 4 or even 6. I love carrots so I might throw in another small one. And, if you like parsnips, they work well too!

So, as you can see this dish is versatile and lends itself to your preferences. The most important thing is that it is one of those “wow” dishes that vegans and non-vegans will love (assuming they like mushrooms!)

serves 4 to 6

4 to 6 portobello mushrooms
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic
2 carrots
1 to 2 Russet potatoes
1 1/2 cups good red wine, divided
1 cup water
2 tablespoons chickpea flour
2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce
2 sprigs savory
1 sprig rosemary
Salt, a few pinches

Preheat the oven to 350.

Gently wipe the portobellos clean with a paper towel. Remove the stems and turn them on the their backs so the gills are facing up. Slice them into thick pieces – each should yield like 4 to 5 pieces.

Add the portobellos to the pot – dry. Over medium heat, cook them until they start to brown and soften, about 3 minutes. Stir them around gently with a wooden spoon to make sure they all get cooked a bit.

NOTE: if the portobellos are really big and it seems like they won’t all cook down in one shot, cook half of the them, take them out, then cook the other half. Put the first half back in and proceed to the next step.

Add 1/2 cup of wine into the pot and cook for about 2 minutes until the mushrooms have absorbed some of the wine. Use a spider strainer to remove them from the pot and set aside.

Slice the onions into bite size chunks. Press the garlic.

Add the onions and garlic to the pot, with the leftover wine, and stir around. Cook for a few minutes. Season with a pinch of salt.

Peel and cut the carrots and potatoes into bite size chunks, roughly the same size. Add the carrots and potatoes. Stir around to coat with the wine. Season with a pinch of salt.

Pull the savory and rosemary off the stems and give them a rough chop. Drop about half of the herbs into the mix and toss around. Let the vegetables cook on a medium heat while you proceed to the next step.

In a small pot, add 1 cup of wine and 1 cup of water. Whisk in 2 tablespoons of chickpea flour and 2 tablespoonsWorcestershire sauce. Add the herbs and bring to a quick boil. Continue to whisk for another minute to be sure the flour has dissolved and there are no lumps.

Layer the mushrooms on top of the vegetables. Pour the sauce over everything. Cover the pot and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the potatoes and carrots are easily pierced with a fork.

This dish is gorgeous and tasty right out of the oven. But I think it tastes even better after it has had time to sit for a bit. I like to keep it covered and leave it out on the counter (or on the stovetop but not on a flame) and then reheat it later in the day.

Leftovers will last for a good few days even if the colors get a little dark from the wine. No worries, just garnish it with a fresh sprig of rosemary for color!

Book Report: The Plant-Based Journey + Book Giveaway + Bonus Recipe!


My blog is today’s stop on the blog tour of the new book “The Plant-Based Journey” by Lani Muelrath. And today is also the official release date of the book. Exciting!

Designed to support people through making the transition to a vegan/plant-based lifestyle, this book is a great resource for even a seasoned vegan like me – it is full of clever strategies, the science to back it all up, inspiring stories and great recipe ideas.

Lani Muelrath is an award-winning teacher, author, speaker, plant-based, active, mindful living expert. She is certified in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University (I am too!) and has served as presenter and consultant for both the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Complete Health Improvement Project. She has written several books but more importantly, she has lived this life – for more than 40 years – and has coached thousands of others in their transition to plant filled lives.

Part therapist, part coach, part trainer and part chef, this book takes us through the concept of living a plant-based. It starts with the awakening – making the plant-based connection, all the reasons not to eat animal protein or drink milk (ugh!), and models for change. Then comes setting the stage for success – a description of what being plant-based is, what a plant-based meal looks like, how to satisfy hunger, and what you need to do to fix your kitchen and pantry. Then comes actually making the switch and sticking to it by creating systems for success. Then the book turns to taking the lifestyle on the road and dealing with work, restaurants and what Lani calls “food pushers” which is a nice way of saying people who can’t deal with the fact that we don’t eat what they do and want to try to force us to eat their way which is to say the SAD way (Standard American Diet.)

Even with all of that info, I still wanted to ask Lani a few questions directly.

LPV: Why did you include a lot of case studies in the book?

LM: There are many kinds of personal stories in the book that are inspiring because they show us what people have overcome – as simple a thing as changing what is on their plate. All the examples from people’s personal transitions are deeply instructive because they use one of the most powerful teaching tools of all – modeling!

LPV: All of the tips you offer are fantastic, but if you had to boil it down to just one, what would it be?

LM: I am thrilled to see that an overwhelming response from those who already have a copy of The Plant-Based Journey is the overwhelming sense of relief and empowerment people feel. Instead of being overwhelmed by “don’t do,” they are telling me they feel a surge in “can do!” As a teacher and coach, this is high marks!

So to answer your question, start where you are and begin to incorporate more of what you want in your life—in food, fitness, and frame of mind. Remember that you are a project in the works—and will be for the rest of your life—and be specific about small changes—I call them micro changes—that you can make to move in the direction you want to go. Some people can manage several micro changes at once, some only one at a time.

And, respect the stages of the adventure! The five steps in Journey are universal to everyone who has experienced sustainable success on this transition. And that’s what I am interested in—sustainable change. And I think most people are too.

LPV: I love the recipes in the book. The portobello pot roast, which was reviewed on A Virtual Vegan’s site as part of this blog tour, a version of which has already happened in my kitchen, was especially inspirational, a definite crowd pleaser as you call it. But you also present a really great idea – recipe templates – a recipe with several easy variations. Sort of like a no recipe recipe which is how I like to cook! What was your rationale behind them?

LM: Thank you! I put the templates in as a practical tool for people to prepare plant-based meals in a simple fashion—plus it’s how I cook! The templates are pulled from my kitchen. One of the stumbling blocks to getting started is that people feel they have to learn fancy recipes and a long list of unfamiliar and strange foods. I want to blow that one out of the water by showing how easy it is to simply get more plants on your plate.

With permission from the publisher, I am posting one of the templates right here.

Bean Spread Template
Yield: About 1 cup
Bean spreads make quick and easy sandwich fillings, an irresistible dip for vegetables or baked chips, or, thinned with vinegar, a delicious dressing for salads, whole grains, or starchy vegetables.

1 (15-ounce) can chickpea, pinto or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (about 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon seed or nut butter or ¼ cup pitted olives
1 1/2 teaspoons seasonings, to taste (ex: cumin, paprika, chipotle)
2 cloves garlic, crushed, or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon mild yellow miso or salt or 1/2 teaspoon tamari
3 tablespoons lemon or lime juice
2 tablespoons water, as needed

Place the ingredients except for the water in a food processor or blender. Process, adding the water 1 tablespoon at a time, to the desired texture (chunky or smooth).

Note: For a lower-fat version, eliminate the nut butter/olives; for a richer version, add more. Adjust the lemon/lime juice and garlic to taste. This goes fast, so I usually double the recipe.

Do you want this insightful, inspiring, and well organized book?

Write to me at l i s a s p r o j e c t v e g a n @ g m a i l . c o m by the end of the day and tell me why you should be the owner of this book!

I only have ONE book to give away!

Please include your mailing address (U.S. and Canada mailing addresses only.)


Dill Pickles!


I have been wanting to make real pickles for a long time now. They are up there with the last bastion of homemade things that I thought I could never make. Even though I have pickled onions and cucumbers in the refrigerator using vinegar, this time I went the old-fashioned way – no vinegar – if that is really considered the old-fashioned way.

It took three tries but this recipe has now worked perfectly several times. There is a whole lot of science behind the pickling madness so feel free to read up on it. People sometimes have issues with “scum” forming at the top of the jar. I have not had that happen yet but if that does happen, just skim it off. Also, there are different spices you can use to jazz pickles up. They even make special spice blends. But in the end, this is my basic easy pickle recipe and remember, if I can do this so can you!

Note: These are not “officially canned” pickles. So that means they should be eaten soon. Also, the water may turn a little cloudy. Don’t worry, that is just from the fresh dill.

1 32 oz. wide-mouth sterilized glass canning jar
6 to 7 Persian/Kirby cucumbers
1 1/2 cups filtered water
2 1/4 teaspoons sea salt
Dill, fresh, a big bunch, 8 to 10 sprigs
1 big clove of garlic
1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

Add the salt to the water and mix well, allowing the salt to dissolve. Set aside.

Cut the ends of the cukes off and set them aside. Then cut them into spears. That works well for Kirbys. For cukes out of the garden, chips are a nice shape. Save the ends.

Place a few dill sprigs at the bottom of the jar and drop the garlic clove and mustard seeds in. Then, place the spears into the jar and pack them in as tightly as possible (but space is not a deal breaker.)

Top it off with the cut ends of the cukes and if they fall into any spaces that is fine. Then, add the rest of the dill on the top to help take up space in the jar.

Pour the salted water over the cukes and lightly twist the top closed. Leave on the counter in the kitchen.

After three days, check the pickles. They will definitely look and smell like dill pickles so you can stop the process now and place them in the refrigerator. I have waited up to two more days before they were pickle-y enough for me. And when my son said, “we have pickles!” I knew they were done. Store in the refrigerator. Enjoy at will!

How to Skin Tomatoes

IMG_9599IMG_9602I’ve been loving all of the fresh tomatoes from the garden and farmer’s market this summer. And, I found a great method for skinning tomatoes in the NY Times. I prefer this method of getting the skins off vs. the scoring/blanching. It’s super easy – grate the tomatoes on the box grater! This method yields the perfect “crushed tomato” texture that I like to use to make tomato sauce.


Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally. You can squeeze out the seeds if you like but I prefer to have them in the mix. Press the cut side of the tomato against the large holes of a box grater and grate the tomato flesh into a bowl. Discard the skins.

Depending on the kind of tomatoes you use, you will get varying amounts. Pour into a measuring cup to see how much you got.

Make a batch of homemade tomato sauce right away. Adjust your sauce recipe for your yield. Then, use the sauce right away, store it in the refrigerator for a few days, or freeze it for delicious fresh tomato sauce in the middle of winter. Enjoy!


Vegan Mofo 2015!


It is that time of year again –The Vegan Month of Food! Starting tomorrow, September 1st, vegans around the world will be doing what we do best: talking about food, taking pictures of food, writing about food and eating food!

In 2012, in addition to recipes, I posted restaurant and cookbook reviews, health and wellness information, links to vegan writers and important websites, and interviews. In 2013, I spent the month experimenting with the whole foods plant based diet where I cooked without oil, used less refined sugar, and little to no salt. And last year, in 2014, I did my own recipe roundups where I categorized my favorite recipes into groups like appetizers, blue plate specials, pasta, ice cream, salad, and my all time faves.

This year is going to be a little different. The MoFo team has created a list of prompts that we will all follow this year, like favorite breakfast, something blue, lunch on the go, etc. And because social media has really changed the way we share our lives, this year I am going to be posting on Instagram and Facebook in addition to the blog.

There may be different posts on different platforms, depending on what is going that day so follow me on Instagram and Facebook!

You too can get in on the fun! Repost and regram using the hashtags #vgnmf15 and #veganmofo to spread the vegan love!

Hearts of Palm Salad AKA Vegan Lobster Roll


When I was growing up, we always went to this place called Lobster Roll on the east end of Long Island where we got, you guessed it, lobster rolls. Recently I have been reading about the famous seafood tower they are making at Crossroads Kitchen using hearts of palm and I realized that I use hearts of palm for faux crab cakes called palm cakes. Why not use them for a lobster style salad?!

This is so simple it is not even a recipe and it is so good! This makes enough for 2 open faced sandwiches.

1 can hearts of palm
1 or 2 stalks of celery
Mayo, homemade or store bought
Crusty bread, homemade or store bought

Drain the hearts of palm. Run your knife through it until they are chopped up, leaving a few big chunks.

Dice the celery. Mix the hearts of palm and celery with a small amount of mayo, adding more to your desired consistency.

Place the bread under the broiler to toast it. Top with a mound of salad. Enjoy!

Farmer’s Market Pesto Trapanese


I have to be honest and say that I have never had Pesto alla Trapanese but with all of these beautiful tomatoes and basil from the market I was inspired to try something new. There is a recipe for Trapanese in the Vedge cookbook and of course Lidia Bastianich, the famous Italian chef and restauranteur, has her own recipe. So after doing some research and experimenting, this is my take on a basically raw, seedy tomato sauce. It is really a perfect farmer’s market summer dish.


Pesto alla Trapanese
2 cups fresh tomatoes (I used the mix pictured here)
A big handful of fresh basil, about 12 leaves
1/4 cup raw almonds
1 big clove of garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil, optional

Place all ingredients into the food processor and process until a sauce forms. It is kind of more saucy than pesto-y but you can adjust the nuts, basil and garlic to your liking. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

When ready to make a meal out of it, boil up some spaghetti or linguine and toss the hot pasta with the pesto. Sprinkle breadcrumbs on top for garnish and crunch. Enjoy!

Caponota Toast

IMG_9362My niece brought the most gorgeous vegetables from her farm. We turned some of them into this glorious “caponata” and devoured it over my crusty toasty homemade bread. This may just be the perfect lunch.


Lisa & Ellie’s Caponata
1 eggplant
1 green pepper
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
1 zucchini
2 tomatoes (we used 1 yellow and 1 red)
A few dashes red wine vinegar
Salt, a pinch
Fresh basil, 6 to 8 leaves
Olive oil, just about 2 teaspoons, optional

Cut the eggplant into bite sized pieces. Heat a nonstick skillet and add the olive oil. Add the eggplant and cook for a few minutes until it starts to soften and has absorbed the oil.

To keep the dish oil free, sauté the eggplant in water.

Dice the onion and add to the eggplant. When it starts to soften, press the garlic over the onions and continue to cook.

Cut the green pepper into bite sized pieces and to the vegetables. Then, cut the zucchini into bite sized pieces and add into the mix.

Dice up the tomatoes and add them to the pan. Add as much of their juices as you can. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and cook down until a light sauce has formed and the vegetables are soft.

Pour the red wine vinegar over the vegetables and let it cook in. Chiffonade the basil and add to the mixture. Cook it down for a few more minutes until it looks good enough to eat.

To serve, place a few slices of good crusty bread under the broiler for a few minutes until it is toasted. Pour some caponata over the bread. Enjoy!