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.

Tomatoes

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!

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Vegan Mofo 2015!

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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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

Ice Cream Shmice Cream #22: Vanilla Fudge Swirl

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We were discussing ice cream flavors one night and my son suggested vanilla chocolate swirl. I flashed back to the many boxes of Breyer’s ice cream my mother brought home – vanilla fudge twirl, vanilla/chocolate/strawberry, mint chocolate chip, and cherry vanilla. All I had to do was swirl some homemade chocolate syrup into a vanillery base and voila vanilla fudge swirl. Here we are eating it during a break from our new favorite game, Splatoon.

Chocolate Syrup 
1/2 cup raw agave
1/2 cup raw cacao powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ice Cream
2 cans organic coconut milk
1/2 cup vegan sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder

Combine the coconut milk, sugar, and vanillas. Whisk it all together and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Pour the coconut milk mixture into the ice cream maker and churn for 10 minutes.

Get ready to do the swirl. The amount of syrup is not an exact science. Just don’t over swirl it or it will turn into chocolate ice cream!

Turn half of the ice cream out into a Tovolo ice cream tub or a freezer safe container. Drizzle two tablespoons of the chocolate syrup over the top and swirl using a knife or other long implement. Turn the rest of the ice cream out and repeat with a few more tablespoons of syrup.

Freeze and enjoy!

Note: this ice cream gets melty fast because of the chocolate sauce. If you leave it out too long, it will be soupy. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Farmer’s Market Roasted Shishito Peppers

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Sometimes it is the simplest ingredients that pack the biggest punch. I was roaming through the farmer’s market looking for something new, something exotic. Tucked in next to the heirloom tomatoes and overabundant zucchinis, I found these: shishito peppers. I had never seen them before and I always assume that any pepper other than a bell pepper is hot. Not so. These little goodies are the perfect little treat. A great appetizer and a definite crowd pleaser. They roast up sweet but the blistered skins give that excellent charred taste that I crave. Make a big plate of these for your next party and your guests will be very impressed!

Shishito peppers
Sunflower oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Lay the peppers onto the parchment and lightly brush the peppers with oil, turning them to coat both sides.

Season them with salt and pepper and place the tray in the oven. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes. They are done when the skins are blistered and have nice char on them.

Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Chickpea Crepes & Omelettes

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Chickpea crepes are a staple in my house. Inspired by my friends at Candle 79, I have created my own version that my son absolutely loves. We eat them plain or with jam for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. But whenever I can find Kite Hill Ricotta Cheese at Whole Foods, which is sadly not often, I turn the crepe into an omelette and rejoice at the beauty on my plate. Kite Hill calls it ricotta, but I say it’s cottage cheese – which is probably one of my top 10 foods so I am a happy girl while my bounty lasts!

Notes: The chickpea batter can be made ahead of time. Depending on the day, I either use a 10″ cast iron skillet or a 10″ nonstick skillet. Also, you can really use any plant milk you like but the thickness may or may not be effected. Be creative and figure out what works with what you have around!

Crepe/Omelette Batter
1/2 cup chickpea flour
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder
1 cup homemade creamy cashew milk (see recipe below) *

Whisk together the chickpea flour and arrowroot powder in a bowl. Slowly pour the cashew milk in and continuously whisk until a smooth batter forms.

For a plain crepe: Heat up a nonstick skillet and brush with high heat oil or vegan butter. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter onto the surface of the skillet. Lift it up and swirl it around so it spreads out to the edges of the skillet. Cook the first side until you see the chickpea batter becoming dry-ish. Flip it over and cook the second side.

For an omelette: Heat up a nonstick skillet and brush with high heat oil or vegan butter. Pour about 1/3 cup of batter onto the surface of the skillet. Lift it up and swirl it around so it spreads out to the edges of the skillet. Cook the first side until you see the chickpea batter becoming dry-ish. Flip it over. Drop some Kite Hill cheese down on half of the crepe and after a few seconds fold the top over heating the cheese through.

Either way, serve immediately and enjoy!

Creamy Cashew Milk
1 cup raw cashews
2 1/2 cups filtered water

Place the cashews in the Vitamix and let it rip for at least a minute until super creamy. Pour into a glass jar and store until ready to use.

Note: If you don’t have a Vitamix, please get one! What are you waiting for?? If you really aren’t going to get one, soak the cashews for 4 hours or soak them in boiling water for a few minutes.

Rotinis with Seared Zucchini & Tri-Color Pepper Sauce Topped with Ricotta Salata (Kite Hill Artisanal Cheese)

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Seared zucchini. Or a fancy way of saying, “Throw some diced zucchini into a dry sauté pan and cook until the bottom side is browning.” Tossed with this fantastic bell pepper sauce and topped with “ricotta salata,” this pasta makes for a really perfectly light summer evening meal.

This sauce was inspired by my sister-in-law Donna. We were comparing recipes and she mentioned this deliciousness. But she said, almost dismissively, as if I would not be able to handle it, that the most important aspect of this recipe is the Foley Food Mill. When I said, “I have a Foley Mill!” we hugged each other danced around the kitchen together like crazy kids. I have been raving about my Foley Mill for years on this blog – applesauce, tomato sauce and gnocchi – and it is one of my top 5 kitchen gadgets. I am not sure this recipe will work if you don’t have one. The food mill gives this sauce the perfect texture. It’s not pureed like baby food or blended too thin.

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Tri-Color Pepper Sauce
1 small onion
1/2 each red pepper, orange pepper, and yellow pepper
2 to 3 garlic cloves depending on size and desired level of garlickyness
Filtered water, for sautéing *
Salt, a few pinches

* I like to make this sauce with water to keep it free of oil. Keep a small measuring cup filled with filtered water next to the stove and use it when the water dries out. You can’t really go wrong here! Just be sure not to char the peppers as the sauce will not turn out as bright.

Cut the onion and peppers in a big dice. Cut the garlic into chunks.

Heat a nonstick skillet and toss the onions in. When they start to brown and stick, add some water to deglaze the pan. Next, add the garlic and peppers and a pinch of salt. Let it cook down. When the pan seems dry, add some more water. Keep going until the vegetables are completely soft.

Run through the Foley Mill and set aside. If making ahead, store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Pasta, enough for 2
Zucchini, about a cup
Kite Hill Soft Fresh Original

Cook your pasta according to the directions. Dice a zucchini and sear it in a dry nonstick skillet until it starts browning. Toss it around a few times. Press the Kite Hill cheese with the back of a fork to break it up.

Toss the pasta and zucchini with the sauce. Top with ricotta salata. Enjoy!

Top Secret Chocolate Mini Muffins (Secret Ingredients: Zucchini & Avocado)

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I got gorgeous bright big green zukes from the farmer’s market and in my endeavor to make as many creative and clever dishes for my family, I came up these fantastically moist, super chocolate-y, extra healthy, kid friendly muffins with not just one secret ingredient – but two! Zucchini + avocado. It’s not because I want to hide healthy things in chocolate. These muffins are genuinely delicious!

makes 40 mini muffins

1 cup grated zucchini
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 scanty cup vegan sugar (I used non-GMO beet sugar)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 regular size avocado
1/2 scanty cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 flax eggs (1 flax egg = 1 tablespoon ground flax + 3 tablespoons water)

Using a box grater, grate the zucchini and place it into a strainer over a bowl. Salt with 1 teaspoon of salt and stir around. Let sit for at least 15 minutes if not longer and press out the water.

Preheat the oven to 350.  Make flax eggs and set aside. Mash the avocado.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a mixing bowl and mix lightly with a fork to combine. Add the zucchini, avocado, water, vanilla extract and flax eggs. Using a hand mixer, mix well until batter forms.

Use a small ice cream scooper to spoon the batter into the muffin tins. Bake for 25 minutes. Enjoy!