Fresh Tomato Tomato Sauce

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My niece runs an urban farm in the middle of Bridgeport, CT. She is doing some amazing work – raising crops, managing the both the working farm and the community farm plots, running the farm stand in the middle of the longest standing food desert in the country, and educating the local community. It is pretty amazing. We brought our drone to take some fun pictures for the farm’s website too!

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She and her team have grown over 2 tons of food this season. When we went to visit the farm last weekend, we harvested cherry tomatoes, kale, rainbow chard and ground cherries. I also got to bring home some beautiful zinnias that I cut myself! As we were leaving, my niece handed me 2 lbs. of fresh Roma tomatoes that were just harvested that morning.

As I have been doing all summer, when I have too many tomatoes, I turned them into sauce. I can’t believe I haven’t posted this sooner!

Note: In order to make this sauce work, I use my Foley Food Mill which is one of the best kitchen tools ever. When I run the sauce through it and “foley,” I can get all of the skins off without losing a drop of saucy goodness. If you don’t have a Foley mill, you can take the skins off before cooking the tomatoes by blanching them, shocking them, and then peeling tem.

2 lbs. fresh Roma tomatoes
2 tablespoons good olive oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pot)
1 big clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt

Coat the bottom of a heavy pot with olive oil. Add the tomatoes. Press the garlic right over the tomatoes and add the salt.

Bring the heat up to medium and when you start to hear the tomatoes sizzling, stir around. Then lower the heat just a touch and cook down until the tomatoes are all popped and it looks saucy and delicious.

Run the sauce through the food mill and then use immediately or store for when you are ready for some saucy sauce!

Oil Free Baked Eggplant + Eggplant Pesto Stacks

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I recently read a post on Instagram from someone who baked eggplant without oil and of course I had to try it because roasted eggplant is usually so greasy and mushy. These little beauties come out crispy and are great plain but they are also fabulous stacked with tomato sauce and pesto!

The key is to salt the eggplant, much like salting zucchini, to get the natural water out. I find this works best on a cooling rack set over a baking tray. I am sure you can do this on paper towels, so don’t sweat it (haha!) if you don’t have a cooling rack. Although you should get one because it is great for baking.

Baked Eggplant
1 eggplant
Salt, as needed
1 chickpea flour egg (1 chickpea flour egg = 1 tablespoon chickpea flour + 3 tablespoons water)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (homemade is best)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (nooch)

Cut the eggplant into rounds. Set a cooling rack on a baking tray. Sprinkle the tops of eggplant rounds with salt. Turn them over and sprinkle the other side. Let them sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Pat them dry with paper towels.

Set up a breading station. Whisk the chickpea egg in a shallow bowl. Mix the breadcrumbs and nooch.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil.

Dredge the eggplant rounds in the chickpea flour and then into the breadcrumb mixture. Coat all around. Gently place on the baking sheet. When they are all coated, bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden.

Eat as is right out of the oven or stack with tomato sauce and/or pesto. You can also reheat leftover rounds and then make the stacks, which is what I did in the picture below. Either way, enjoy!

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Blue Plate Special #59: BBQ Tofu with Roasted Potatoes, Corn on the Cob & Purple Cabbage Slaw

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BBQ tofu with easy sides makes for a perfect dinner! It’s all about the sauce and my homemade barbecue sauce does the trick. Make it ahead of time and use it whenever you feel like a little BBQ flavor for din din.

For this meal, I used half a box of extra firm tofu, roasted some potatoes and heated up some fresh corn on the cob. I also made purple cabbage slaw. But you can easily make this with tempeh and any sides that you have around. Just make as much as you need for the number of people you are serving.

Lisa’s BBQ Sauce (makes about 1 cup)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon each onion powder, mustard powder, and garlic powder
Salt, a pinch

Whisk all of the ingredients together. Taste and adjust to your liking. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Cabbage Slaw
1/2 a big purple cabbage
1/4 cup vegan mayo (or homemade mayo)
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon coconut sugar
Salt, a big pinch

In the bottom of a big mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Shred the cabbage and toss it with the dressing. Slaw is always better when it has a little time to chill out so the flavors come together.

BBQ Tofu (serves 2)
1/2 block extra firm tofu
1/2 cup BBQ sauce
1 teaspoon sunflower oil

Press the tofu for as long as you have time for. Heat the oil in a nonstick pan and add the tofu. Brush the tops with sauce and flip them over. Brush the tops again with sauce and cook until it starts to smell good. Flip them over and cook the other side. The sauce will start to caramelize a little. It is ready when it is hot!

Roasted Potatoes
Potatoes
Sunflower oil
Salt, a pinch

Cut the potatoes. Coat in oil and salt. Roast in a 400 oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until done.

Corn
Boil and serve.

Plate it up and enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash with Lemon Herb Oil, Tofu, Corn & Scallions

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This is a recipe that I call a happy accident. I had the ingredients on hand from other dishes I had made and put this delightful meal together. I love the lemon herb olive oil that I usually use on top of tofu – it is one of my favorite flavor combos. So here, it gets tossed into this dish, as the sauce, for amazing flavor!

Note: This is one of those meals that you can prep ahead of time. The squash can be roasted a few days in advance. And the lemon herb oil can be made a few days in advance too!

Makes 2 nice portions

1 small spaghetti squash
1/2 block extra firm tofu
Lemon herb olive oil (recipe below)
1 cup of corn (fresh off the cob, canned, or frozen)
2 scallions
Salt and fresh pepper, to taste
Olive oil, a few teaspooons

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil. Cut squash in half lengthwise and place cut side down on baking sheet. Roast for about 30 minutes or until a sharp knife can be easily inserted. Let cool enough to touch and then use a fork to scrape out the flesh.

Lemon Herb Olive Oil
1/3 cup fresh chives
1/3 cup fresh parsley
1/3 cup fresh dill
The zest of 1/2 lemon
The juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup olive oil

Place all of the ingredients into the processor and process until the herbs are chopped up.

To make the dish, cut the tofu into squares and add to a pan with a little olive oil and sauté until it starts to brown. Add the cooked spaghetti squash, cooked corn and lemon herb oil, a pinch of salt, and mix with tongs until everything is mixed through.

Thinly slice the scallions and toss them and just cook long enough for them to just start to get soft. The only real cooking at this point is to heat everything through.

Plate it up and grind some fresh pepper over the top. Enjoy!

Recipe Redux: Pizza

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We are now professional pizza makers around here! I stopped making it for a while because it was such a hassle, but now, with the Jim Lahey no knead technique, we are all in. The recipe is all over the internet so I feel comfortable posting it here.

This can’t be easier and of course you can top it however you like. This recipe makes either 2 big pizzas or 4 little ones. We like the little ones because that way we can each design our own toppings. The key to this pizza is baking it for 10 minutes before putting anything on top. Otherwise the toppings dry out too fast.

Also,  the dough freezes really well. In fact, I usually make it ahead of time and store it for when we decide it is a pizza kind of day. I brush a piece of plastic wrap with a little olive oil and drop the dough onto it. Then I wrap it up tightly and put it into a freezer bag. When I want to use the dough, I defrost it in the refrigerator overnight and bring it to room temperature before making the pie.

For one big pie, use a baker’s half sheet. Or make two on one sheet. Or use a quarter sheet for each little pie.

500g bread flour (3 3/4 cups)
10 g instant or active dry yeast (2 1/2 teaspoons)
5 g salt (3/4 teaspoon)
3 g coconut (or other vegan) sugar (3/4 teaspoon + a pinch)
300g room temperature water (1 1/3 cups)
Olive oil, for baking

Measure out the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Mix together with a fork. Add the water and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until the dough has doubled in size, at least 2 hours.

Flour a clean work surface and form the dough into a ball. Cut the dough in half with a bench scraper. If you are not using now, wrap in the oiled plastic and freeze. Otherwise, continue.

Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let sit for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 500 with the rack in the middle. Brush the baking sheet(s) liberally with olive oil.

With floured hands, stretch the dough the length of the baking sheet and gently pull and stretch it apart and try to get it to the edges of the baking sheet. It doesn’t have to go all the way. But the objective is to make an even layer. If the dough tears, pinch the holes together.

Bake for 10 minutes. Take out of the oven and top your pizza as you wish. I could give you a million ideas…but it’s pizza. It’s personal. We like pesto, sauce, and Kite Hill ricotta. We also love pizza bianca which is just olive oil and salt. Whatever you top your pizza with, put it back in to the oven for 5 or 10 minutes depending on how well done you like your pizza. Enjoy!

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Fight Colds/Feel Better Shots

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My friend Colleen decided to recreate one of the best shots the old Organic Avenue used to offer: Dragon’s Breath. It’s ginger, turmeric, lemon juice and cayenne pepper. When Colleen told me how it easy it is to make them, I jumped right on board! And then when my husband took a shot and said he likes them better than anything else he has EVER had, I knew we are onto something!

We named these fight colds/feel better shots because that is exactly what they are. All of the elements do their jobs including but not limited to:

Ginger: immune boosting, detoxing, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
Turmeric: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, detoxing
Lemon Juice: immune boosting, detoxing
Cayenne Pepper: anti-cold, anti-flu, anti-fungal

And now that we are about to leave our summer vacation bubble and head back to the city, we need to make sure we are fortified for the school year!

I had to buy some new equipment for this project but it is well worth it. I got a dozen of these cute little 2oz. bottles and these little stainless steel funnels so that we could properly portion out our shots and not waste a drop! I made these in the Vitamix and I can’t vouch for them if made in a blender. So you know what I say? It’s time to get a Vitamix!

This recipe makes about 11 2oz. shots. The size of ginger and turmeric varies but really some amount like what is pictured below is fine.

1 3/4 cup filtered water
The juice of 4 lemons
1 piece of big ginger
3 pieces turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
11 2oz. bottles
1 funnel
1 fine mesh strainer

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 Pour the water into the Vitamix. Squeeze in the fresh lemon juice.

Peel the ginger and add it to the Vitamix. Next, add the turmeric, unpeeled. Add the cayenne pepper.

Start the Vitamix on low and then turn it up and let it rip until it is yellow and you don’t hear any more grinding.

Set the fine mesh strainer over a 2 cup measuring cup and pour the mixture through. Press the remaining pulp with the back of a spoon and get out as much as you can. There will be only a small amount of pulp left. You an also skip this step.

Set the bottles up in an assembly line and get the funnel ready. Have a spoon handy to mix the measuring cup every few pours to make sure the pulp doesn’t settle and it is evenly distributed among the bottles.

Pour the shots and then twist the covers on tightly. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week. Shake them up before shooting them and enjoy!

Stuffed Patty Pan Squash with Fresh Summer Corn, Basil & Pecans

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I got two of the cutest little patty pan squashes at the farmer’s market. And here is what I did with them. This combo is so summery and delicious, there is more stuffing than space inside the patty pan, so I ate the overflow with a spoon!

But, first just take a second to look at Mother Nature’s handiwork. I just love taking pictures of gorgeous food like this!

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2 patty pan squash
Olive oil, for brushing and sautéing
1 big clove of garlic
2 scallions
1 ear of corn, about 1 cup
1/2 cup pecans
Basil, a few leaves
Salt, a pinch

Preheat the oven to 400. Line a baking sheet with nonstick foil.

Slice the top off the squash, but not too much. I like to keep it as an edible decoration and really utilize the as much of the squash as I can.

Use a melon baller, or a small spoon, to hollow out the squash. Try to get as much out as you, and get close but not too close to the edges. Also, don’t go through the bottom! Set the insides aside for a second while you prep the squashes to roast.

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Brush the squash, including the little top that you cut off, with olive oil and place cut side up on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and set the timer for 10 minutes. At 10 minutes, you will flip them over so the cut side is down. Set the timer again for another 10 minutes.

While that is happening, make the stuffing.

Heat a teaspoon of olive oil in a pan and press the garlic right into the oil. Let it cook on low until it starts to smell great.

Run your knife through the squash insides and really dice it up. Add to the pan with the garlic and raise the heat to medium. Mix around to coat the squash with the garlic.

Thinly slice the scallions and add to the pan. Cut the kernels off the cob and add into the pan. Chop the pecans and add them too. Toss around and turn the flame to low just to keep the stuffing heated.

Chiffonade a few leaves of basil and toss in at the last minute.

Take the squashes out of the oven and gently place them on a plate. Use a spoon to fill the squash with the stuffing. There will be plenty. Let it overflow.

Serve and enjoy!

Tofu Scallopine with Shallots, Peas & Asparagus in White Wine Sauce

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I love making different variations of tofu and vegetables. This happens to be one of my favorites. Thinly cut pieces of tofu, called scaloppine, are dredged in seasoned chickpea flour and pan fried to perfection.

I have to admit that I usually make this when I have an open bottle of Vegan Vine chardonnay, which, when cooked with the shallots, reduces down into a nice, very light sauce. And then I add peas (that kind of shriveled up!) and fresh asparagus finish it off.

Serves 2

1/2 block extra firm tofu *
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1 big shallot
1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
6 stalks of asparagus
1/2 cup white wine
Water, as needed
S and P, to taste
1 teaspoon sunflower oil, for sautéing the tofu

*I use extra firm tofu that I have pressed for at least a day. Press it for as long as you have time for but I would suggest buying a tofu press and using it to press the tofu in the refrigerator.

Peel and slice the shallot. Add to pan with sides and add the white wine. Bring to a slight boil and cook until the shallots are starting to soften. Add water if the pan seems dry, but the wine will mostly evaporate and kind of thicken up.

Cut off the tough end of the asparagus. One way to do this is to bend back each stalk and let it snap off. Discard the tough end side and cut the rest into small pieces. Add to the pan with the shallots. Add a touch of water to ensure that the asparagus have liquid to cook in. Add the peas right before you are ready to serve and heat them through.

Thinly slice the tofu into 4 pieces.

Season the chickpea flour with a pinch of salt and a turn of the pepper mill. Dredge the tofu in the chickpea flour and shake off the excess.

Heat a nonstick skillet and add 1 teaspoon of oil. Gently place the tofu scaloppine in the oil. Shake it around just slightly so that the tofu doesn’t stick. Flip over after a minute or two and cook on the other side. It should be golden and hot.

To serve, top the tofu with the vegetables. Enjoy!

Carrot Dogs

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Oh yes I did! There is a trend going on in the vegan world. Put a carrot in a hot dog bun and top it with all of the usual toppings and call it a carrot dog! I wasn’t sure about this…but it is such a great idea!

I roasted the carrots in a little oil seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika. And then whipped up my own purple cabbage relish slaw inspired by my deli-style cole slaw. Loaded up on sauerkraut and relish and we had us some carrot dogs!

Note: if you have a grill, these would probably be amazing. I don’t have one so I don’t know how long you would need to cook them but I am sure you can figure it out!

Carrots, enough for how many people you are serving or maybe two each…
Salt, pepper and paprika
Oil, for roasting
Buns, enough for each carrot
Toppings: sauerkraut, relish, purple relish slaw (recipe below), scallions, pickles and whatever else you like!

Preheat the oven to 400. Clean and peel (if you prefer not to, don’t) the carrots. If they are way longer than the buns, cut the skinny end a bit but not too much, there will be some shrinkage.

Drizzle some oil (not too much) over them and coat well. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper and a sprinkle of paprika, just enough to cover and coat the carrots.

Place onto a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes. Don’t go too long, you want the carrots to be al dente.

Toast the hot dog buns and top with your fave toppings. Enjoy!

Purple Relish
1/2 a big red cabbage or 1 small one
1/4 cup vegan mayo (make your own or use a store bought brand)
1 tablespoon vegan cane sugar
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a small container that has a top, mix the dressing ingredients. Shred the cabbage in the food processor or cut as thinly as possible. Drop the cabbage into the container and seal it. Shake it around. Refrigerate for several hours. Enjoy!

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Sweet Summer Corn Palm Cakes

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If you have ever made Palm Cakes you will love these. The original recipe is from Darbster restaurant in Florida but in this recipe I add fresh, sweet summer corn and yellow peppers. These can be made any time of year, using canned corn, which I have to say is one of my all time favorite things. Either way, these make a great appetizer or side.

The key ingredient is vegan mayo. I make my own cashew mayo but you can easily use one of the great vegan mayos on the market – Vegenaise, Just Mayo or Fabanaise.

Makes about a dozen, using a 3 tablespoon ice cream scooper.

Sweet Summer Corn Palm Cakes 
1 14 oz. can hearts of palm
1 ear of corn, about 1/2 cup
2 scallions
1/2 yellow pepper
Fresh parsley, handful
1 teaspoon Old Bay
3 tablespoons vegan mayo
1 cup quinoa flakes
S and P
Sunflower oil, 1 teaspoon for every 4 palm cakes

Drain and chop the hearts of palm.

Place the scallion and pepper into the food processor and pulse a few times until everything is processed.

Turn out vegetables into a big bowl and mix with the chopped hearts of palm. Chop the parsley and add to the mixture. Add the Old Bay, vegan mayo and quinoa flakes and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate for a half hour or more.

Use the ice cream scooper to scoop up some of the mixture and press it against the side of the bowl so you can pack it in. Form it into a cake. Prep all 12 palm cakes.

Heat 1 teaspoon of sunflower oil in a non-stick skillet. Place four palm cakes at a time on the hot oil. Cook until the bottom side is brown and then flip over and flatten a bit and cook until the bottom is browned. Drain on a paper towel. Finish all the palm cakes.

Caper Remoulade
1/2 cup vegan mayo
1 tablespoon relish
1 tablespoon capers
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove of garlic
1 teaspoon chickpea miso
Paprika, a few dashes
Fresh parsley, small handful
S and P

Press the garlic and place everything into a bowl. Mix together. Add fresh parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Serve the palm cakes topped with the remoulade. Enjoy!

Note: these are best after they have had a few minutes to rest.