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Vegan Planet: March 2008

Monday, March 31, 2008


Roasted Vegetable Towers

As you may have guessed from my previous post, I’m obsessed with roasting vegetables. Here’s one of my favorite ways to make them — it looks fancy, but it couldn’t be easier. All you need to do is roast slices of your favorite “stackable” veggies and then — you guessed it — stack them up! The photo shows a variation on the Vegetable Towers with Red Wine Sauce from my Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes cookbook, (served here with pesto instead of wine sauce) and a side of roasted asparagus.

Roasted Vegetable Towers
Much of the prep work can be done in advance and the delicious results are worth the time it takes to assemble the ingredients. This recipe is adapted from The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook.

3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into 8 slices total (about 1/2-inch thick)
Olive oil
1 large red onion, cut into 4 slices (about 1/4-inch thick)
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into rings (about 1/4-inch thick)
4 large Portobello mushroom caps
1 large ripe tomato cut into 4 slices (about 1/2-inch thick)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Spray or brush the potato slices with olive oil and transfer to a lightly oiled baking sheet. Place the potatoes in the oven and bake until soft and golden brown, turning once, about 20 minutes.
2. On a separate baking sheet, follow the same procedure with the onion slices. After turning the onion slices, place the bell pepper rings on the same baking sheet with the onions and return to the oven until the vegetables have softened, about 20 minutes total for the onion, and about 12 minutes for the peppers.
3. With a sharp knife, remove the dark brown gills from the underside of the mushroom caps. Lightly oil the mushrooms and place on a third baking sheet and bake until softened, about 10 minutes.
4. When all the vegetables have been cooked, allow them to cool slightly, then assemble the towers, seasoning each layer with salt and pepper. First, arrange 4 large potato slices in a lightly oiled shallow baking dish. Top each potato slice with an onion slice, followed by a pepper ring. Top with another potato slice, followed by a tomato slice, and top with a mushroom cap.
5. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Tightly cover the baking dish with aluminum foil and place in the oven. Bake until hot, about 15 to 20 minutes.
6. Using a metal spatula, carefully remove the towers and place one in the center of each dinner plate. Surround with sauce of choice.
Serves 4

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Thursday, March 27, 2008


Podcast on

In case anyone hasn't already heard the news: vegan author and publisher, Erik Marcus has relaunched his great website and reformatted his podcast to a weekly 20-minute interview show. I’m a longtime fan of Erik and his work, so naturally I was thrilled to be invited as a guest to talk about one of my favorite topics – spring produce!

On the podast, we discuss was how roasting brings out the flavor of many vegetables and how asparagus and baby red potatoes are especially great roasted. (BTW, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are amazing cooked this way, too) If any of these are vegetables that you think you don’t like, I encourage you to try them roasted at least once.

We also talk about the wonderful tender young green beans beginning to show up this time of year and, of course, the terrific baby greens and lettuces that are so great in salads. I promised Erik that his listeners could link over here to my blog to get some of the recipes we talked about on the show, so I’ve posted them below. Congrats to Erik on the new and improved!

Roasted Asparagus
When roasted, asparagus is my absolute favorite vegetable. I like it that way so much, that I rarely prepare it any other way. If you haven’t tried roasting asparagus, you’re in for a treat. Irresistible in its own right, serve it with a squeeze of lemon for supreme dining pleasure.

1 1/2 pounds fresh asparagus, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Place the trimmed asparagus spears on a lightly oiled baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Roast the asparagus until just tender, 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the spears. Serve hot.
Serves 4

Nicoise-Style Green Bean and New Potato Salad
This hearty and flavorful salad teams up spring produce favorites: tender green beans and new potatoes on a bed of mixed baby lettuces. Add black olives, tomatoes, and a zesty vinaigrette dressing for a delicious salad inspired by the country French classic. Chickpeas or white beans add substance and help to make it a meal. It’s great served with crusty grilled bread. I adapted this recipe from Vegan Planet.

1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes
8 ounces green beans, steamed
2 tablespoons minced scallions
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup Niçoise olives (or other imported black olives), pitted
1 cup cooked chickpeas or white beans
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Baby salad greens, to serve

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with enough salted cold water to cover, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, and cut in half or quarters. Transfer to a large bowl. Cut the green beans into 1-inch lengths and add to the bowl, along with the scallions, tomatoes, olives, and chickpeas, and set aside. In a small bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, parsley, basil, sugar, and salt and pepper. Whisk until blended and pour over the salad. Toss gently until thoroughly blended and serve on a bed of torn salad greens.
Serves 4 to 6

Note: you can also roast your potatoes for this recipes, instead of boiling or steaming them.

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Friday, March 21, 2008


My Vegan Easter Pie Tradition

When I first went vegan, one of the first things I needed to veganize was a traditional family dish: the Italian specialty we call Easter Pie. Each year my mother would make this savory pie with hot Italian sausage and ricotta cheese — about as non-vegan as you can get. We never ate the pie hot or even warm — in fact, we usually enjoyed it cold for breakfast. Over the years, I’ve tinkered with her recipe and I must say that the recipe in Vegan Fire & Spice comes pretty close. The recipe is below and includes my latest “tweaks” (I’m always zeroing in on just the right balance of flavors so it tastes as close to my mom’s version as I can get it.) The photo shows the slice I had for lunch today with a side of red beets on a nest of beet greens. Mmm.
It seems as though everyone who makes (traditional) Easter Pie (called “pastiche” and “scachette” in different places) includes something different in their recipe — some people use rice, others use noodles, and some make it on the sweet side. If you have a family Easter Pie tradition (and a vegan version!) I’d love to hear about it.

Italian Easter Pie
Called by many names in different regions of Italy, my family just called it Easter Pie because my mother only made it at Easter time. This is an adaptation of the recipe in Vegan Fire & Spice — the original version makes enough filling for a larger pie, and I decided to make a smaller one this year. Note: to save time, you can use ready-made pie shells, if you like.

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup non-hydrogenated vegan margarine
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup water
8 ounces vegan sausage, crumbled (homemade or purchased)
1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained and crumbled
1/4 cup vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast
1/4 cup minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon paprika

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a food processor, combine the flour, margarine, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. With the machine running, add enough water until a dough ball forms. Separate the dough into two equal balls, and refrigerate until needed.
In a large bowl combine the vegan sausage, tofu, soy parmesan, parsley, remaining 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, ground fennel seed, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and paprika. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Roll out the dough into 2 11-inch rounds. Place the bottom crust in a 10-inch pie plate, and spread the filling mixture over it. Cover with the top crust, pinching the edges, and prick with the tines of a fork. Bake for 1 hour or until the crust is golden brown.
Serves 6

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Busy Day, Easy Dinner

Whenever I cook rice, I always make extra so I have some leftover for another meal, especially on a busy weeknight. This time, I used the extra rice to make Hunan Fried Rice from Vegan Fire & Spice. The recipe is below. I followed the recipe pretty much to the letter, except I doubled the cayenne (we like a little extra heat) and I added an extra “oops” of sherry, too, just because.

Hunan Fried Rice
This is a flavorful version of fried rice with a touch of heat. Omit the cayenne for a mild version or double it if you want it hotter. Instead of cayenne, you could add a minced hot chile, if you have one on hand. This recipe is from Vegan Fire & Spice.

3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 tablespoon light brown sugar, or a natural sweetener
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons cold-pressed canola oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cups shredded napa cabbage or bok choy
1/4 cup minced scallions
3 cups cold cooked rice

In a shallow bowl, combine the soy sauce, sherry, sesame oil, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and cayenne. Add the tofu and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Drain the tofu, reserving the marinade. Blend the reserved marinade with the cornstarch and add to the tofu, tossing to coat.

Heat the canola oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper, cabbage, and scallions and stir fry 2 minutes. Add the tofu and marinade and stir-fry until the liquid is nearly absorbed. Add the rice and stir-fry until heated through and well combined.
Serves 4

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Monday, March 17, 2008


Eatin’ of the Green

Even though I’m not Irish, I’ve always enjoyed making a fun meal of Irish-inspired dishes. Actually, it’s just an elaborate excuse to make soda bread — (yum!) which I plan to make later today — it’s best eaten soon after it’s made.

Yesterday, however, I felt like playing in the kitchen, so I decided to make “corned seitan and cabbage” using my basic slow-cooker seitan pot roast recipe (see earlier post) and then coating the seitan with a layer of coarse mustard and brown sugar topped with pickling spices. I also added some ground coriander, mustard, and allspice to the seitan mixture. It turned out great, as you can see in the photo — I love the way the whole spices look on top! There’s lots leftover for tonight to go with the soda bread. If you’re looking for a great soda bread recipe, check out my Global Vegan column on Irish food in the latest issue of VegNews Magazine, where there's also a good recipe for Colcannon.

On another subject — “vegan” is the “Word of the Day” today on The guest wordsmith is Matt Ball, co-founder and executive director
of Vegan Outreach. Here’s the link:

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Thursday, March 13, 2008



I had planned to post something wonderful about vegan food today, but my cat, Gary, wouldn't hear of it. He's been a little testy with me lately and I finally figured out that he wants me to post his photo on my blog. It's not that he's especially egotistical, he just thinks it's his obligation to spread his adorableness around. I can't argue with his logic. So instead of a photo of my latest lasagna, here's....Gary! Cute, huh?

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Friday, March 7, 2008


Slow-Cooker Seitan Pot Roast

Whenever I know I have a busy afternoon coming up, I know I can rely on my slow cooker to help me get dinner on the table. I love seitan any way I can get it, but a seitan pot roast made in the slow cooker has to be near the top of my list of favorites. It was an easy choice for last night’s dinner menu. Within minutes, I was layering onions, potatoes, and little carrots in my slow cooker, seasoning them with salt, pepper, thyme, garlic, and vegetable broth. I then made a quick batch of seitan (from vital wheat gluten, which I buy in bulk). After shaping the seitan to fit in my cooker, I set it on top of the vegetables, turned on the cooker, and walked away. Within an hour, the house smelled amazing. Within 4 hours dinner was ready, even cooking it on low (I have several cookers — the one I used cooks quite hot, even when set to low). Fortunately, I had rubbed a little olive oil on the inside of the crockpot because the seitan wanted to stick to the sides, but it came loose easily after running a knife around the edge.
Instead of a sauce, I served the cooking liquid from the crockpot, which I later thickened by mashing some of the cooked veggies into it. The rich flavor of this meal is absolutely amazing and so easy. My only lament is that the potatoes and carrots don’t get that nice roasted brown crispness from oven roasting, but the rich slow-cooked flavors more than make up for it. To satisfy that crisp roasted craving, however, closer to dinnertime, I switched on the oven and roasted some asparagus. The photo shows a spoonful of horseradish in the foreground of the platter. I also served some applesauce on the side. What a great dinner!

Slow-Cooker Seitan Pot Roast
This is an easier version of the pot roast recipe in Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker.
Important:  You may need to adjust your cooking time according to the quirks of your own crockpot. The one I used for this recipe cooks fast — if I had used one of my other slow cookers, it would have taken nearly twice as long.

1 sweet yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 pound baby carrots
1 pound small red-skinned potatoes, halved or quartered
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup vegetable stock
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 cup water or vegetable broth, or more as needed
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon ketchup or tomato sauce

1. Arrange the onion, carrots, and potatoes in the bottom of a lightly oiled slow cooker. Season the vegetables to taste with salt and pepper and add the stock, garlic, and 1/2 teaspoon each of the thyme and marjoram.
2. In a large bowl, combine the wheat gluten flour, onion powder, garlic powder, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon each of thyme and marjoram, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Add the water or stock, soy sauce, and ketchup. Mix well, adding a little more water if the mixture is too dry, then knead for 2 minutes until smooth. Shape the gluten to fit inside your cooker and place on top of the vegetables. (You can place it on top of a piece of aluminum foil or wrap it in cheesecloth, if desired, to keep its shape). Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on LOW for 4 to 6 hours (or longer, depending on your slow cooker), or until the seitan and vegetables are cooked.
3. To serve, remove the vegetables and seitan from the slow cooker. Cut the seitan into slices and arrange them on a serving platter. Surround with the vegetables and spoon the cooking liquid over all or transfer the cooking liquid to a saucepan and thicken into a gravy.
Serves 4

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