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Vegan Planet: January 2010

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Picatta in a Flash

I got tired of being asked if I live under a rock, just because I hadn’t yet tried any Gardein products. So, I decided to sample some this week. I’ve been in the mood for something picatta. The Gardein chick’n scallopini seemed like a natural choice. Since I had purple and yellow fingerling potatoes, fresh asparagus, and Meyer lemons in the house, the menu practically wrote itself. It was so easy to make, the meal practically cooked itself too!

Once I got the potatoes and asparagus roasting, I quickly sautéed the scallopini for a few minutes. I then removed them from the pan while, I made a lightening quick picatta sauce with shallots, capers, white wine, Meyer lemon juice, and parsley. I swirled in a little Earth Balance to finish the sauce, then plated and served.

It was a wonderful meal. The tender asparagus and luscious potatoes were out of this world. Perfectly roasted and flavorful, they picked up enough of the picatta sauce to make their naturally delicious flavors sparkle. I don't usually use commercial meat alternatives, but I was impressed with the Gardein product. The texture is great, and the flavor light enough to allow the flavorful picatta sauce to shine through.

Making the sauce with Meyer lemons really elevated the sauce to “oh, wow!” status. I even sautéed some lemon slices to use as a garnish and we ended up eating them too, the lemon was that sweet. All in all, a delicious, an easy and elegant meal to enjoy on a snowy weekend in January.


Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Black Lentil Pilaf

Some of my favorite meals are those spontaneous, last-minute, clean-out-the-fridge concoctions where the end result is even better than anticipated. Case in point: this black lentil pilaf.

I had actually forgotten that I had those black lentils in the refrigerator. I bought them a while back at Trader Joes (sold already cooked in a vacuum-sealed package) and had planned to use them for something fancier, but never got around to it. A lack of time and increase of hunger prevailed and tossing together a quick pilaf won out.

The lentils teamed up nicely with other on-hand ingredients: cooked brown rice, chopped onion, garlic, red and yellow cherry tomatoes, a handful of frozen peas, some walnuts, and some seasonings. Within 15 minutes, a satisfying, tasty, and very colorful dinner was on the table.

In other news... A copy of 1000 Vegan Recipes is being given away this week on Here’s the link — post a comment for your chance to win.

I recently did an author Q&A with Matt on his blog NoMeatAthlete. Check it out (along with the great photo of my Mac and Chard recipe).

Speaking of great photos, my irrepressible cat Gary couldn’t resist getting in this basket and we couldn’t resist snapping his photo. Cute, huh?

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Burmese Tea Leaf Salad

I never thought I could be enchanted by a salad, but from my first bite of Burmese tea leaf salad, I was under its spell. This addictive salad has it all: good looks, great taste, fabulous textures, and, due to the high concentration of caffeine, it also has an incomparable “energizing” after-effect that can have you bouncing off the walls, depending on your caffeine tolerance.

After my first encounter, I knew I’d need to make it at home, since the nearest Burmese restaurant is, well, not very near. However, the main ingredient proved difficult to find. The Asian market I shop in doesn’t carry fermented tea leaves, so I asked my friend in Philadelphia to try her bigger/better store. Still no luck. I finally tracked down the elusive tea leaves online and ordered them from a source in New York. Within a few days, they were delivered to my door.

If you order the salad in a Burmese restaurant, chances are it will look much like the one in my photo (I’m a sucker for composed salads anyway, and this one is as composed as it gets.) In a restaurant, the server may bring it to your table and then mix it for you tableside, ala Caesar-salad style, with the fermented tea leaves (in the center of the salad) being tossed with the other ingredients.

You can find the recipe for this amazing salad (and more info about Burmese cooking) in my Global Vegan column in the current (January/February) issue of VegNews Magazine.

By the way, if you don’t tolerate caffeine well, you’ll be happy to know that the tea leaf salad has a close cousin that can be made with pickled ginger in place of the fermented tea leaf mixture. The ginger salad is equally beautiful and delicious as the tea leaf salad, but without the caffeine kick. Anyone who ever thought salads were boring needs to try one of these!

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Monday, January 11, 2010


Red Bean Jambalaya … and a Book Giveaway

Since the Tabasco sauce was still near the front of the refrigerator shelf from the New Year’s Hoppin’ John, it reminded me that I hadn’t made jambalaya in a long time. So before my sriracha sauce elbowed the Tabasco to the back of the fridge again, I thought I’d better make some. I decided on the Red Bean Jambalaya from 1,000 Vegan Recipes.

Beginning with the N’awlins “trinity” of onion, celery, and bell peppers, the spicy tomato-based sauce was simmering in minutes. The wonderful aroma wafted through the house and made me wonder why I waited so long to make it. In addition to the red beans, I added a few sliced vegan sausage links and, of course, the requisite Tabasco. Since I had some rice already cooked, I didn’t add any to the jambalaya, preferring instead to spoon the jambalaya over the rice. It really hit the spot in this cold weather.

Book Giveaway:
If you still haven’t snagged your copy of 1,000 Vegan Recipes, head on over to Vegan Appetite where Tami is giving away a copy of the book. Tami was a tester for 1,000 Vegan Recipes and shares her photos of some the dishes she made.

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Monday, January 4, 2010


Collards Stuffed with Hoppin’ John

It’s only fitting that my first post of 2010 should be about Hoppin’ John. A Southern tradition, this tasty rice and black-eyed peas combo served with collard greens has been a New Year’s Day fixture in my house since the 1980s, when I lived in Charleston, S.C. What’s not to love about a dish that is delicious, cheap, easy to make, and also holds the promise of good luck in the coming year?

This year I made my usual Hoppin’ John on New Year’s Day (you can find the recipe here), but I also wanted to break from tradition, so, the next day, I stuffed several steamed collard leaves with some of the Hoppin’ John — kind of like stuffed cabbage, Southern-style.

In anticipation, I had made a double batch of Hoppin’ John and bought extra collards, reserving several of the cooked leaves to use for stuffing. Since the ingredients were prepared ahead of time, it was a simple matter to stuff and roll the collards. I arranged them in a shallow baking dish and poured a small amount of vegetable broth over them. I then covered them with foil and baked them until hot.

Served with vegan sour cream, Tabasco, and a side of applesauce, the stuffed leaves have a wonderful flavor and they also make a gorgeous presentation. Those beautiful flat leaves are so much easier to work with than cabbage leaves — and much prettier too. I think these Hoppin’ John Stuffed Collards will be in a regular menu rotation throughout 2010.

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