July 26, 2014

A South American take on tofu salad

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:13 pm by thecatwho

Marinating tofu isn’t new, but this inspiration from Mark Bittman uses a lime juice marinade and serves the tofu cold, like seviche. Here’s my version.

Lime-marinated tofu seviche salad

For the marinade, Sriracha chili sauce added a little heat and a touch of sweet; instead of salt, I used a few tablespoons of the liquid from the jar of pitted green Manzanilla olives. For the salad, the corn kernels and sweet peppers balanced the tangy lime juice and briny olives, and the almond slivers added nutty crunch.

  • lime juice or vinegar
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • salt
  • green onions or red onion, thinly sliced
  • jalapeño chile, thinly sliced
  • super-firm tofu, such as Wildwood or Trader Joe’s, cut into small cubes
  • cucumber, chopped
  • fresh corn kernels cut from the cob
  • red and orange sweet peppers, chopped
  • pitted green olives, whole or chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • pepper
  • avocado, cut into cubes
  • chopped fresh herbs, such as cilantro, basil, parsley, and/or mint
  • toasted almond slivers

1. Put lime juice, Sriracha, salt, and some water in a bowl. Whisk to combine, then add the onions, jalapeño, and tofu. Toss gently and chill for at least 15 minutes and up to 2 days.

2. Drain the tofu mixture, reserving the pickling liquid. Put the tofu mixture in a large bowl. Mix in cucumber, corn, sweet peppers, and olives.

3. Add a few tablespoons of the reserved pickling liquid, some olive oil, and pepper and toss. Gently stir in avocado. Season to taste with salt and more pickling liquid if you like. Sprinkle with herbs and almonds and serve.

July 21, 2014

Breakfast rice

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 9:16 pm by thecatwho

Coming up with different ways to use leftover brown rice is a passion of mine. To that end, I cook up the maximum amount allowable in my rice cooker so that I have some brown rice to play with.

I love savory breakfasts, so it is natural for me to consider combining rice with vegetables, eggs, herbs, nut butter, nuts, beans, mustard, salsa, and/or any sauces in the fridge.  Here is one of my combinations.

This recipe uses a microwave oven.

Brown rice with tomato and herbs

I had fresh oregano and almond butter in the fridge, so that’s what I used with great success.

  • cooked brown rice
  • fresh tomato, chopped
  • chopped fresh herbs, such as oregano, parsley, cilantro, thyme, or basil
  • nut butter, such as almond, cashew, or peanut
  • hot sauce or salsa
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Put the rice, tomato, herbs, nut butter, and hot sauce in a microwaveable dish. Cover and microwave until warmed, 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Stir to combine the nut butter with the other ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.



July 12, 2014

Sweet and savory slaw

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 7:18 am by thecatwho

Based on a forage in my refrigerator and an idea from a friend (thanks, Pam!), I created this unlikely but successful combination to bring to a potluck dinner picnic.

Kale-cabbage slaw with strawberries

If you have it on hand, leftover brown rice added heft although it disappeared into the slaw (no one knew it was there), and shredded carrot could add color, crunch, and a bit of sweetness.

  • kale, center rib removed and leaves shredded
  • cabbage, shredded
  • sweet pepper, chopped
  • green onion, thinly sliced
  • ripe, organic strawberries, sliced
  • leftover brown rice (optional)
  • balsamic vinegar
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • pumpkin seeds
  • toasted sunflower seeds
  • toasted sesame oil
  1. Mix kale, cabbage, sweet pepper, onion, strawberries, and rice, if using, in a large bowl. Toss with vinegar and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Chill for an hour or so, tossing occasionally.
  2. If you have time, allow slaw to come to room temperature. Add seeds and sesame oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

July 5, 2014

Purple vinegar

Posted in cooking, creativity, food, gluten free, urban homesteading, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , , at 11:05 am by thecatwho

If you haven’t tasted vinegar mixed with berries, you’re in for a treat. Berry-laced vinegar has a sweet acidity and is great on salads—cucumber salad, potato salad, green salad, roasted vegetable salad, etc. Drizzle the vinegar on cooked beans or a vegetable soup or stew to add a last-minute brightness.

Berry vinegar

The key to success is using ripe berries—deeply colored and bright. I use white balsamic vinegar as the base because it is mild and clear; find it at well-stocked grocery stores.

You will need glass bottles that have tight-fitting tops. For storing my homemade vinegars, I save empty vinegar bottles because they come with an insert that gives you the option of drizzling or pouring the vinegar. Wash the glass bottles in hot water before using.

  • fresh, ripe berries, such as blackberries, boysenberries, or loganberries
  • white balsamic vinegar
  1. Whirl berries in a blender or food processor. Strain through a fine mesh sieve to catch any seeds and save the juice.
  2. Pour some vinegar into one of the bottles and add some berry juice. Shake and taste. Add more vinegar and berry juice in the proportions that you like. Secure the bottle top and store chilled.

July 1, 2014

Summer soup from south of the border

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 1:36 pm by thecatwho

It’s the beginning of tomato and corn season at my local farmers’ market, so it’s time to think about tortilla soup! It is easy to consider soup a winter delight, but this soup might transform your thinking with its delicate but complex flavors and its summery toppings.

Tomatoey tortilla soup

Blog posts on Kahakai Kitchen and 101 Cookbooks along with a recipe from a friend (thanks, Lavina!) inspired this fresh-tasting soup.

If you don’t have time to make a broth from the corn cobs, use store-bought broth or water. Instead of green beans, add whatever vegetables you have on hand, such as summer squash. If the number of soup ingredients is intimidating, try omitting some and see what happens; toppings are optional.

Corn broth
  • ears of corn, husked
  • olive oil
  • onion, chopped or green onion, sliced
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil
  • onion, chopped
  • jalapeño chile, chopped
  • tamari or soy sauce
  • ground cumin 
  • salt
  • dried or fresh oregano
  • pepper
  • tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • Sriracha chili sauce
  • green beans, thinly sliced
  • diced tofu
  • garlic, minced
  • corn tortillas, coarsely chopped
  • finely chopped cilantro
  • corn tortillas
  • halved cherry tomatoes, roasted or raw
  • diced avocado
  • lime wedges
  • radish slices
  • carrot shreds
  • cabbage shreds
  • pitted green olives or olive tapenade
  • sliced jalapeño
  • sliced green onion
  • salsa fresca
  • hot sauce
  • pumpkin seeds
  • pesto
  1. Make broth: Slice corn kernels from ears of corn and set aside. Cut the corn cobs into pieces. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat and cook onion until soft. Add corn cobs, water to cover, Sriracha, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Pull out corn cobs and discard. Pour broth into a glass measuring bowl and set aside.
  2. Make soup: Heat more oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add jalapeño, tamari, cumin, salt, oregano, and pepper and cook a minute longer.
  3. Stir in broth and tomatoes. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are tender. Add Sriracha, corn kernels, green beans, diced tofu, garlic, and tortillas. Simmer until the tortillas fall apart. Stir in the cilantro. 
  4. Meanwhile, prepare toppings: Toast tortillas until crisp and break into pieces. Put toppings into serving bowls and set aside.
  5. Adjust seasonings and season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into soup bowls and serve with toppings.


June 28, 2014

A salad with hints of India and Italy

Posted in cooking, creativity, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , at 4:33 pm by thecatwho

Every summer when I was growing up, my mom would simmer sliced zucchini with onions, oregano, and tomato sauce. What I didn’t know until recently was that she added a secret ingredient to the mix: curry powder. That combination of ingredients inspired this salad.

You might have noticed that I add olives and chili sauce or chiles to many recipes. It is the brininess of the olives and the spiciness of the chiles that enhance the overall flavor of whatever I’m making. This recipe has both, and you get to decide how much of each to add.

Curried summer squash salad with olives and almonds

  • assorted green and yellow summer squash, such as pattypan, zucchini, and crookneck
  • olive oil
  • onion, sliced in half-moons
  • mushrooms, sliced
  • fresh tomato, chopped
  • Sriracha chili sauce (optional)
  • dried or fresh oregano
  • turmeric
  • curry powder
  • broth or water
  • pitted green olives, such as Manzanilla, whole or chopped
  • green onion, sliced
  • jalapeño chile, sliced (optional)
  • cilantro, chopped
  • slivered toasted almonds
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Cut summer squash into similar size pieces.
  2. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Add onion and mushrooms. Cover and cook until the onions are translucent and the mushrooms give off their liquid. Add squash, tomato, and Sriracha if using. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until squash begin to soften. Add oregano, turmeric, and curry powder, and simmer until squash is fully cooked. Add broth or water if vegetables begin to stick to pan.
  3. Let squash mixture cool to room temperature. Transfer to a large bowl. Toss with olives, green onion, jalapeño if using, cilantro, and almonds. Adjust seasonings and season to taste with salt and pepper.


June 20, 2014

Really green pesto

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:03 pm by thecatwho

Two bunches of spinach were calling my name from the fridge. Just last week I made a wilted spinach salad with roasted cauliflower, so I wasn’t inspired to make another salad for dinner. But I did have fresh basil and pine nuts. To make a tasty vegan pesto without garlic and parmesan cheese was a challenge I felt motivated to take. Here’s the outcome.

Pesto with spinach, parsley, and green olives

This pesto has your standard basil, pine nuts, and olive oil. What makes this version different: Spinach increases the green-vegetable flavor, parsley and green olives add tang, the tomato offers subtle depth, the sunflower seeds make it richer, and the chile produces a hint of heat. Using the pesto: with pasta, eggs, rice, leftovers, tortillas.

  • basil leaves, torn
  • fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • parsley, coarsely chopped
  • pitted green olives
  • fresh tomato, chopped
  • toasted pine nuts
  • toasted sunflower seeds
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sriracha chili sauce, chile powder, chopped jalapeño, or your favorite hot sauce (optional)
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Whirl the basil, spinach, parsley, olives, and tomato in a food processor. Add water, broth, or liquid from the olive jar as needed. When fully ground, whirl in pine nuts and sunflower seeds.
  2. Add a drizzle of olive oil to help the pesto hang together and chile heat if using. Whirl to incorporate. Adjust seasonings and season to taste with salt and pepper.

June 14, 2014

Grilled rosemary

Posted in cooking, creativity, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetarian tagged , , , , at 8:36 am by thecatwho

Rosemary is an easy-to-grow, evergreen herb that is great for drought-stricken California because it does not require much water. I add fresh aromatic rosemary sprigs to the pan when I roast almost anything in my toaster oven—potatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, turnips, asparagus, tofu, tempeh, etc.—because I love the smoky, pinelike flavor of toasted rosemary leaves.

Last weekend, when the Grill Chef was at the barbecue ready to grill my tofu, I thought, Why not put some sprigs of fresh rosemary on the grill with my slabs of tofu like I do in the toaster oven? Chef was afraid of burning the rosemary so instead grilled the rosemary only for a moment or two to barely brown it. (I plan to try browning the rosemary sprigs in my toaster oven to see if I can get the same effect.) When cool enough to handle, I separated the leaves from the stems and put the leaves into a small bowl.

At the table, we crushed the grilled rosemary leaves between our fingers and sprinkled the roasted bits over our food. I can see having toasted leaves on hand to add to cooked vegetables, salads, eggs, and rice dishes. Yum!

June 10, 2014

The magic vegetable

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , at 12:35 pm by thecatwho

Why is cauliflower a magic vegetable? You can transform it into couscous, mashed potatoes, and pizza crust. When fresh from the farm, it has a mild flavor that is a wonderful addition to salads.

Cauliflower spinach salad with chimichurri artichoke dressing

The dressing for this salad was inspired by a jar of chimichurri, a green sauce originally from Argentina, that I found at Cost Plus World Market. If you can’t find store-bought chimichurri, add parsley, cilantro, garlic, vinegar, and a little bit of jalapeño chile or chile flakes to the dressing.

Cooked cauliflower, while still warm, wilts the spinach and helps meld the flavors. The store-bought artichoke hearts and chimichurri usually contribute enough salty brininess, but feel free to add salt if you like.

  • marinated artichoke hearts
  • store-bought chimichurri (see Note)
  • olive tapenade or pitted olives
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • spinach, chopped
  • cauliflower, cut into florets
  • pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • pistachios
  • pepper
  • chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley and cilantro
  1. Whirl the chimichurri, the artichoke hearts plus some of the marinade from the jar, a few tablespoons of olive tapenade, and the basil in a blender or food processor to make the dressing.
  2. Put the spinach in a large bowl. Mix in the chimichurri dressing.
  3. Steam the cauliflower until soft. Quickly transfer to a bowl and break into small pieces with a large fork. Pour the warm cauliflower into the bowl of marinated spinach and mix. Add pumpkin seeds, pistachios, pepper, and herbs. Adjust seasonings as needed and serve warm or at room temperature.

May 13, 2014

Broccoli + hummus = delicious

Posted in cooking, food, gluten free, vegan, vegetables, vegetarian tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:51 am by thecatwho

It isn’t easy to add vegetables to a sandwich, taco, or wrap without making it difficult to hold and eat. But as I was whirling steamed cauliflower into smooth silkiness for a dinner side dish, I realized that processing cooked vegetables into a mashed-potato consistency would be the easy way to add them to a sandwich! With that in mind, I mixed the leftover blended cauliflower with hummus and spread it on a rice cake for a yummy snack. Then, I thought, Why not try another vegetable that I don’t usually blend and see what happens?

Broccoli hummus spread

You can use store-bought hummus instead of the chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil to make this spread. Or try replacing the chickpeas with cooked white beans to make a broccoli bean spread.

  • broccoli, roughly chopped
  • cooked chickpeas
  • garlic
  • tahini
  • fresh lemon juice
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • hot sauce (optional)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • parsley, minced
  1. Steam the broccoli until just soft. Let cool.
  2. Whirl broccoli, chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, hot sauce if using, salt, and pepper until blended the way you like. Taste and adjust seasonings. Mix in parsley.
  3. Transfer to a container with a tight lid. Store chilled.


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