Monday, August 26, 2013

Strawberry Gazpacho with Cilantro-Lime Sour Cream

Gazpacho has been very "in" for the past few years, mostly watermelon. This year, strawberry is in the top spot, which makes me happy because it's my all-time favorite fruit.

This soup is really easy to make, but has the kind of complex flavors that will make people think it took forever. It works well as a starter course, or can be a light entree with some warm, crusty bread.

If you've never chopped a mango before, don't worry. It's not nearly as complicated as people make it out to be. The key is to use a really sharp knife. First, don't peel the mango. Let your knife slide in from the top and feel for the core by gauging the resistance as you slowly slice downward. It should meet little-to-no resistance. If your knife is slowed down, back up a bit and move slightly outward until it's easy to slice again.

Once you're done, you should have thick slices of mango on the peel. Cut those into cubes and then slice or gently pull them off.

2 lb. strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 5 cups)
1 small mango, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 large shallot, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, divided
1/4 cup lime juice, divided
4 tsp agave nectar, divided
1/2 cup vegan sour cream

Chop all your fruits and veggies and combine them in a bowl. Try your best not to just eat it at this point. It'd make a delicious and funky little salad.

Put it all into a blender with the oil, 2 tbsp of the cilantro, 2 tbsp of the lime juice and 3 tsp of the agave. The blender will be very full, but don't worry, it'll all fit and will easily combine after about 30 seconds or so.



Stir the sour cream with the remaining cilantro, lime juice and agave. At this point, it's ready. You can do this well ahead of time and put it all in the fridge until you're ready. Ladle the soup into the bowls and pour a spoonful of the sour cream in the center.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Blackberry Cobbler with White Peach Sorbet

One of the many reasons to look forward to summer is that, in Seattle, it's blackberry season. Blackberry bushes are everywhere here. They grow like weeds and it's not uncommon to see people pulled over to the side of a busy city street picking a few right off a wild vine. The best place to pick them is in one of our favorite spots in the city: Discovery Park. There are a few acres of prairie that have blackberry bushes everywhere. You can just grab a bucket and have at 'em.

A couple of Sundays ago, we spent a good hour out there picking berries and earning the battle scars from the thorns that got in our way. My legs were torn to shreds, but it was worth it. We came home with a couple of pounds, a haul that would have easily cost $50 or $60 at the store.

A bounty like this called for cobbler. I'd been wanting to make peach ice cream as well, but it would take a day or so to get that frozen just right. Sorbet was the perfect quick and easy solution. I used white peaches for this, but you really can use any kind you like. If you're in Washington, it's the best time of year to get peaches. I highly recommend the Pence peaches from a neighborhood farmer's market or Metropolitan Market. These white peaches came from the same orchard.


For the cobbler:
5 cups blackberries
1/2 cup brown sugar, divided
2 tbsp cornstarch
3/4 unbleached flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp soy milk
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon juice

For the sorbet:
2 cups evaporated cane sugar
1 cup water
3 peaches, peeled, pitted and quartered
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp liquor

Make the sorbet: Combine the sugar and water in a pot over medium heat, whisking occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and set aside. To peel the peaches, bring a pot of water to a boil. While it's heating up, take a knife and cut a small X onto the top and bottom of the peaches.

Drop the peaches into the boiling water and let them boil for about 20 seconds, then remove them to a bowl. Keep the water going because as you peel the peaches, you may find that one or two need some more time. If you do put a peach back into the water, don't let it boil more than 10 seconds or so. Starting at the X, pull the skin off the peaches until it's all off and the flesh is all exposed.

Once you've peeled the peaches, slice them around the pit and pull them apart. Cut the pit apart and discard it. Slice the peaches into quarters. Put the peach slices into a blender with the lemon juice and puree for 30-45 seconds. Pour the peach puree into a large bowl and whisk in the sugar syrup. Cover and put it in the refrigerator until it's chilled completely, about 1 or 2 hours.

When it's chilled completely, whisk in the liquor. Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and process it according to the instructions. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and freeze it until firm. It should take about 4 hours or so.

Make the cobbler: Mix the blackberries with 1/4 cup of the brown sugar and the cornstarch. Pour them into a square 8x8 1/2" baking dish, cook them in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. This will help break them down a bit ahead of time, so the batter can get into the berries a little easier. They'll still be firm after 20 minutes in the oven, just a little softer and juicier.

While they're in the oven, mix the remaining ingredients into a batter. Pour it over the top of the berries, making sure to spread it around until it covers the top of the dish completely. Bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. It'll come out golden and bubbly.

Slice it or spoon it onto a plate and serve with the sorbet or your favorite ice cream. I like to sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top as well.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Pearl Couscous Pilaf with Kalamata Olives and Sundried Tomatoes

I love a dish that I can throw together in a hurry, especially one that can be customized and changed, depending on what I have on hand. This is something I came across in a magazine in a waiting room ages ago. I committed it to memory and have changed it so much it bears little resemblance to what was on the page (I don't even remember all the original ingredients). This was the first time I'd made it in this configuration and it's probably my favorite. The only new thing I bought for it was the sundried tomatoes. Everything else was in the fridge left over from other stuff and waiting to be used up. It's an easy, one-pot dish that takes almost no time at all. Play around with substitutions and amounts until you find that combination you like.

Pearl couscous (also called Israeli couscous) is just a bigger form of couscous. I like using it because it holds flavors together better than the smaller stuff. It's substantial enough that I usually make this into a light dinner, though it's definitely good for a side dish as well.


1 cup pearl couscous
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped and pitted kalamata olives
5 sundried tomatoes
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, chopped (stems removed)
1 1/4 cup vegetable stock
1 tbsp chopped basil

Add the oil to a large skillet or pot over medium heat. Add the onion couscous and mushrooms and cook until the onion is soft and the couscous is browned a little, about five minutes.

Add the garlic, olives and sundried tomatoes and cook for another two minutes.

Add the stock, stirring constantly to incorporate it. Add some pepper, but not salt (the kalamatas will add some salty flavor while cooking, so save that for last). Let the broth come to a boil, then turn down the heat so that it bubbles gently.

Cover it and let it cook for 10 minutes or so. The liquid will be absorbed and the couscous will be soft.

Add the chopped basil last and taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper to taste. This can be served hot or at room temperature.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Buttery Biscuits

Of all the things you can find on a breakfast menu, biscuits have always been my favorite. There's just nothing better than a hot biscuit with melty butter and jam. When we first went vegan, I looked high and low for a vegan version of buttermilk biscuits, but there really were none. Most cookbooks contain a "spin" on biscuits that changes the flavor or texture in some major ways. That's fine, but sometimes I just want the real thing. That's why I came up with this recipe.

These biscuits are pretty straight-forward and simple, but don't let that fool you. They're light, flaky, buttery and delicious. Just what the doctor ordered. They'll stand up to anything, including a biscuit's best friend: gravy.


2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp Earth Balance butter
3/4 cup almond or soy milk

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

Cut the butter into small cubes and put it in the freezer for 2-3 minutes until it is very cold.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Drop the butter cubes into the flour mixture, being sure to break them up if they're sticking together.

Use a pastry cutter or a couple of knives to cut the butter into the flour mixture. They should be down to small pea-sized pebbles.

Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour the milk in. Mix it together with a wooden spoon until a sticky dough forms. Drop it onto a floured board or counter and kneed it for 2 minutes or so, just until it's smooth. You can make your biscuits extra flaky by folding the dough in half before rolling it out to cut. Either way, you'll want to roll the dough until it's 1/2" to 1" thick, depending on how big you want your biscuits to be. Cut them into rounds using a biscuit cutter or drinking glass.

Place them on a parchment-lined cooking sheet. You may have more biscuits than I did, depending on how tall and wide you make them. As far as I'm concerned, the bigger the biscuit, the better. Bake them for 12-15 minutes until they're golden brown on top.



These go great with any standard breakfast fare. They're especially good with a hearty tofu scramble.