Eggplant-Tomato Stacks w/ Vegan Ricotta

eggplant ricotta close up

These eggplant-tomato stacks are inspired by a recipe for eggplant parmesan I found in The Meatless Gourmet, a cookbook published in ’95 by Bonnie Hinman (co-author of the Lean and Luscious book series, as indicated on the cover), a cookbook of my mom’s that for as long as I can remember has sat nestled between New Recipes from the Moosewood Restaurant (1987). That book always fascinated me due to its endorsement by Francis Moore Lappe (author of Diet For a Small Planet) and influenced by Mollie Katzan, founder of Moosewood Restaurant, author of Moosewood Cookbook, and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest.

Despite my infatuation with those books ever since I can remember knowing what “vegetarian” meant, as I grew older and cut out dairy, eggs, etc. I wondered why the moosewood recipes involved so much butter and cream. The book is gorgeous and deliciously vintage in terms of typography and photography; however, I always found it confusing when turing to a page that exhibited a photograph of a very thin, vibrant-looking individual (or group of individuals) riding bikes or picnicking, when the majority of recipes involved such an asinine amount of fattening diary products.




Of course, this version is vegan—and eliminates the carb- and gluten-laden breadcrumbs and the oil typically present in eggplant parmesan or similar dishes.

Eggplant Ricotta Stacks

Ingredients

1 eggplant
1 beefsteak tomato
1 batch vegan ricotta (see below)
prepared marinara sauce, optional
greens for garnish/side, optional

eggplant ricotta stacks
eggplant stacks ricotta

for the vegan ricotta
5oz firm tofu
2 Tbsp cashew butter
3 Tbsp lime juice
3 artichoke hearts (from a can packed in water)
1 Tbsp chia seeds
black pepper

Add 1 Tbsp chia seeds and 2 Tbsp water to a blender or food processor. Let sit for 2 minutes until it forms a gel.

Add the cashew butter, artichokes, lime juice, and 2 Tbsp water/brine from the artichokes. Add more water/brine if additional liquid is needed for the ingredients to blend. The result should be mostly smooth, enough to pulverize the chia seeds and artichoke hearts—with a texture that resembles a thick sauce. Set aside. Mash/crumble the tofu with a fork or your hands, to achieve a texture similar to ricotta cheese. Add the cashew-artichoke mixture gradually, and stir to combine. Cover, and set aside.




Slice eggplant cross-wise to create circular pieces of 1cm thickness. Spread pieces on a lightly oiled broiler pan or cookie sheet large enough to avoid overlap (a little overlap is ok, and probably unavoidable depending on the size of your eggplant). Broil on low for 6-7 minutes on each side, until lightly browned, turning once. As the eggplant browns, slice the tomato in “standard” cuts i.e. like the type you would find at a sandwich bar or the kind served on hamburgers.

Remove eggplant from oven. When cool enough to touch, proceed to make the stacks.

Create stacks in layers with a piece of eggplant as the base, spread the vegan ricotta, then add a tomato slice; top with another slice of eggplant, then another layer of vegan ricotta, topped with another slice of tomato. In other words: eggplant, vegan ricotta, tomato, ricotta, eggplant, vegan ricotta, tomato.

3 eggplant ricotta stacks

When finished, broil stacks on low for 5 minutes. If after 5 minutes the tomatoes don’t appear fully cooked, return to the oven for another minute or two, checking to make sure they don’t burn.

Enjoy with a side of greens i.e. baby kale (pictured) and marinara sauce for dipping i.e. the Engine 2 oil-free, no-sugar-added tomato-basil marinara sold exclusively at Whole Foods and is suddenly all the rage and I purchased in order to review it (in an upcoming post)

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Mint-Infused Berry Smoothie

mint-berry-smoothie

Mint helps to ease cramping and nausea. Sometimes during a detox or cleanse, the body responds with nausea or stomach cramping. While ginger stimulates, mint soothes. Both help in instances of food poisoning or the stomach flu; ginger stimulates the production of bile to move the undigested or offending substance through the system to provide eventual relief, while mint soothes the stomach (making the process less painful).



Mint-Infused Berry Smoothie

Ingredients

1 cup frozen raspberries
5 frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 frozen banana
2 cups water
20 fresh spearmint leaves
1 lime (juiced)
a few drops liquid stevia extract, optional, to taste

Method

Combine berries with 1 cup water and purée until smooth. Add the banana, lime juice, and 1/2 the mint (10 leaves). Blend until smooth. Taste-test to determine whether to add more mint leaves. Adjust to your liking, blending after each addition. If desired, add a few drops liquid stevia extract.

Nutritional Info

Per serving (recipe serves 2): 120 Calories; 32 carbs; 1g fat; 2g protein; 9g fiber; 17g sugar.

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Thai-inspired Paleo Bowl

This post is inspired by the many Thai restaurants I have dined at in the United States. Of all the options available in those circumstances, I always felt torn between eggplant and peanut-based dishes. Since I’ve had great difficulty finding eggplant lately, I decided to invent a Pad Thai-influenced low-carb dish without the tofu (since it’s not sold in the proximity of my current abode) and obviously without egg or noodles. Green beans aka string beans work swimmingly as a replacement for pasta/noodles in my experience, and kale increases not only nutrition but also adds to the flavor profile of most dishes. I’d write more, but the WiFi isn’t exactly ideal.

thai-paleovegan (2)

Thai-inspired Paleo Bowl

Ingredients

1 cup green beans, stemmed and cut into thirds
1 cup dino kale, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, shelled
1/2 medium red onion, diced
1/4 tsp tamari
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp maple syrup or sweetener of choice
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 Tbsp thai-style chili garlic sauce
1/2 lime, juiced
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
thai-paleovegan (1)

Method

Place shelled peanuts into a plastic ziplock bag and crush with the back of a can opener or similar device. Remove from bag and set aside.

Add chopped kale and green beans to a small or medium pot and boil in 3 cups water. Add a pinch of salt, cover, and cook on medium-low for 5 minutes.




Add crushed peanuts to a wok or skillet with the 1/2 tsp sesame oil, 1 tsp minced ginger, diced onion, 1 tsp maple syrup, and 1 Tbsp thai chili garlic sauce. Heat for 1 minute on medium, to sauté.

Reduce heat to low. Add 1/4 teaspoon tamari and stir.

Add a portion of the kale/green bean mix to a serving dish. Top with the sauteed peanut/onion mixture. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and lime juice. Serve.

Nutritional Info

Per serving: 100 Calories, 10g Fat, 200mg Potassium, 3g Sugar, 3g Carbs, 3g Fiber, 5g Protein.

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Holiday Detox Survival Kit, Part 3

edamame

The key to a detox or cleanse lies in the ability to eliminate unnecessary foods and substances. To cleanse from that bottle of Pinot Noir or the sweet potato fries at the hipster establishment you dined at yesterday with an unsuccessful date you paired with via OK-Cupid, you might find yourself at a loss for what to eat or drink while watching reruns of The O.C. and cursing your problems. That’s where easy breezy omni-dieting comes in handy. Continue reading

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Holiday Detox Survival Kit, Part 2

The second addition to the Holiday Detox Survival Kit, this post features the first part of a soup-and-smoothie pairing: Savory Carrot Ginger Soup. Smoothie recipe will follow, in a subsequent post.

Ginger cleanses the body by stimulating digestion and circulation. Its digestive actions help to flush the build-up of waste and toxins in the liver and colon. Its high concentrations of gingerol and shoga, both of which have anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties, contribute to the production of digestive enzymes. Digestive enzymes neutralize acids in the body, providing relief from gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.

Savory Carrot Ginger Soup

carrot-ginger-soup Continue reading

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Holiday Detox Survival Kit, Part 1

The holidays make us prone to over-indulgence. I could go further, but I think that sentence more or less sums it up. Both recipes described below serve as prime examples of the “holiday detox” staples I swear by: oil free, starch-free vegetable stew and of course, green smoothies. More recipes ensue.

Holiday Detox Stew

holiday-detox-stew Continue reading

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Seared Purple Cauliflower “Steaks” with pea purée and rainbow chard

seared-purple-cauliflower-steaks-pea-puree-rainbow-chard
Day 3 in the paleoveganista mono-diet challenge. At the grocery store I spotted purple cauliflower and organic rainbow chard. The ease of availability [of everything one could ever want from the vegetable kingdom] is a privilege I formerly took for granted when I worked at Whole Foods Market and saw things like purple cauliflower, orange cauliflower, and romenesco (my favorite vegetable, hence the Paleoveganista logo) multiple times during every shift. It wasn’t until I lived in places where the only available cruciferous vegetables took the form of anemic broccoli or canned collard greens that I began to understand how lucky I once was.

Despite my enthusiasm for the vibrant color of the purple cauliflower in itself, I began to research it after moving back to the states to determine how its nutritional value compares with standard *white* cauliflower.

As it turns out, purple cauliflower contains anthocyanins, a subtype of flavinoid compound that studies show may be very useful in regulating blood sugar levels, improving brain function, and promoting weight control. It makes sense that purple cauliflower would be a step up from white cauliflower in terms of nutritional benefits. I can’t be bothered by over-analyzing the vitamin content of the vegetables I eat, however. The one golden rule I keep in mind is: the more color it has, the higher the quality+quantity of absorbable nutrients it contains.

**Update: Shortly after writing this post I learned that multicolored (purple, orange) cauliflower resulted from breeding experiments conducted at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y. in which scientists effectively bred caronetene into the cauliflower plant, turning it orange and 100 times richer in Vitamin A than white cauliflower. Apparently Dr. Micahel Dickenson achieved this by accident. Interestingly, the orange shade of the mutant cauliflower was derived from a process similar to that by which humans convert vitamin A (manifesting in darker skin or a “tan”). According to the documentation I read, Dr. Dickenson’s mutant orange cauliflower led to experimentation resulting in subsequent strains with pigments manifesting in different colors i.e. purple. By the year 2003, orange and purple cauliflower became available commercially. 11+ years later: nearly everyone in the states has seen a colorful cauliflower, so the novelty might have dissipated but demand is as high as ever.**

Unlike yesterday’s recipe and the two others before it, this one is more entree-like and the vibrant seared cauliflower looks gorgeous atop the pea puree alongside the rainbow chard. Unfortunately the pictures I took of this dish went missing, so I’ll have to add them later when I find them or try this again at a later date. I want to stay consistent in posting my recipes/meals plan during this mono-diet experiment, so I’ll post this now despite the lack of photographic representation.seared-purple-cauliflower-steaks-paleo

Seared Purple Cauliflower “Steaks” with pea purée and rainbow chard

Ingredients

1 head purple cauliflower
1 x 16oz bag organic frozen peas (I wish I’d had the time to find them fresh and shell them myself, but unfortunately my day job wouldn’t permit it).
1 bunch rainbow chard
2-4 garlic cloves (2 if you tolerate garlic; 3 if you like it, 4 if you love it)
Sea salt and black pepper

Method

Remove the leaves and the tough core from the cauliflower, and transfer to a bowl filled with warm water to loosen any dirt or debris. Yes, the leaves and core are part of this recipe. I’ll explain later.

Pre-heat oven to 450* F

Remove skins from the garlic cloves in 20 seconds or less using back of a knife to press each clove. This might be very common knowledge, but since I didn’t learn it until 19 I thought I’d mention it just in case.

If using a food processor or blender, add the peeled garlic cloves to the pitcher along with the non-dairy milk, lime juice, salt, and pepper. *Note: I personally can’t stand the taste of over-salted foods, so I add salt in increments of a “pinch” (about 1/16 teaspoon). Blend until a smooth liquid is achieved. Transfer to a container of some sort, and set aside.

In the absence of a food processor or blender: mince the garlic cloves as finely as possible. Then mix with the non-dairy milk and salt/pepper, using a whisk or a fork.

*Note: Both methods yield similar results; the main difference is that in the latter (manual) method the garlic will not pulverize completely.

Use a colander/strainer to drain the water from the soaking cauliflower leaves and stem/core. Check for any residual dirt, and rinse until clean. Slice thinly.

In a medium soup pot, bring 2 cups water to a boil. Add the cauliflower leaves and stem/core pieces. Boil for 5 minutes before adding the 2 cups frozen or fresh green peas.

Cover and let simmer on medium for 10 minutes.

As the cauliflower trimmings and green peas simmer, transfer the whole cauliflower head to a shallow oven pan and coat with garlic-lemon-nondairy-milk-blend using a basting brush if you have one. Otherwise. wing it by rotating the caulflower and gently pouring on the sauce to coat each side.

Oven temp should have reached 450* F by now. Place cauliflower in the oven. While it cooks, remove the green pea and cauliflower leaf blend from heat. Drain all liquid into a jar or other container. Set aside. After it cools for a few moments, transfer the pea-cauliflower leaf blend to the blender/food processor. Blend until smooth. It should resemble a very thick potato soup but not quite as thick as mashed potatoes.

Check the cauliflower. At this point it should need about 10 more minutes to fully “sear”. At this point the outer edges should look golden.

Pour the reserved [pea and cauliflower leaf] liquid into a saucepan. Meanwhile, chop the rainbow chard into bite-sized pieces. Sautee the chard in the vegetable water until tender. By this point, the cauliflower should be ready. It should look golden brown at the top but still distinctively purple throughout. Turn off oven and let cauliflower cool before creating the “steaks”.

Slice into the seared cauliflower to create pieces of approximately 1cm thickness. Plate atop a generous smear of pea puree and finish with a heaping spoonful of rainbow chard next to it. It looks really gorgeous. Let’s hope I find those pictures.

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Puerto Rican “Crab Cakes”

vegan-crab-cakeConsidering association(s) of the dish with Chesapeake Bay and Baltimore, It surprised me to find crab cakes served in shacks on the beach in Puerto Rico. This recipe adapts the type of crab cake commonly found in Puerto Rico, which differs from other vegan adaptations that tend to emulate the style of crab cake most people expect in the states. Instead of using Tempeh or another “meat substitute” I used heart of palm, which seemed more appropriate in this case not only culturally speaking–but also for the fact that it makes the recipe not only paleo-friendly but paleo-approved. I’d like to hear rebuttals of this statement, if anyone begs to differ.

I find it easier to make the mixture for the cakes the night before, so that the flavors combine and the cakes form more easily. Since this recipe adaptation doesn’t call for breadcrumbs as many crab cake recipes do (which tends to help them to keep from falling apart), I highly recommend going this route if you can. Otherwise: no worries. Just apply a bit more care to the handling of the cakes while frying.

Also—if you make the aoili the day before I guarantee a flavor upgrade. Even a few days before (fyi the lemon juice acts as a natural preservative so no need to worry; it will keep at least a week).

vegan-crab-cake-puerto-rican

Puerto Rican “Crab” Cakes

Ingredients

For the cakes:
1 (14 ounce) can or jar heart of palm, chopped
1 cup water
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil for pan frying
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper
4 Large Garlic Cloves (pressed)
1/4 cup freshly chopped cilantro, plus whole leaves for garnish
1/4 cup soy-free vegan mayo
1 Lime, juiced
1 Tbsp celery salt
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1 Tbsp dulse granules

Garlic aoili:
1/2 cup soy-free vegan mayo
1/2 lime, juiced
2 Tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp celery seed
pinch of cayenne pepper, or a bit more to taste

Method

Thoroughly combine all ingredients for the aioli in a small bowl. This does not require a mixer or food processor. Cover and move to the fridge.

Transfer all ingredients for the crab cakes in a bowl and mash with a fork. You can also use your hands.

To cook the cakes, preheat a thin layer of oil in a cast iron or otherwise non-stick skillet over medium heat. Scoop approximately 1/4 cup dough and form into a ball with your hands. Flatten gently and add to the skillet when ready. Depending on the circumference of your skillet, you can cook more than one at a time. When I developed this recipe I could only fit one in my (ridiculously small) cast iron skillet. I imagine most people own a larger one! But when cooking for 1, it works like a charm. Anyway: fry each 1 or each batch for 3 minutes on each side, allowing for the margin of error that could occur between types of stoves, skillets, oil used, etc.

Serve with lime wedges and garlic aioli. I think it tastes especially great atop flavorful wild lettuce leaves (such as “spring mix” that contains spicy lettuce i.e. arugula in addition to milder varieties e.g. baby romaine leaves). If you want to stick to authenticity of the region from which I adapted this recipe, serve it with shredded cabbage. *Totally unrelated: it’s my favorite vegetable…but I didn’t have any on hand for the photo.

crab-cakes-vegan

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Paleo Vegan Bagels

paleo-vegan-pizza-bagel
Until recently I never attempted to make my own bagels, since I imagined the task required fancy appliances and a lot of skill. The only paleo-friendly bagel recipes I’d found online required eggs–for which replacements such as flax or chia seeds should work in theory–but finding the perfect egg replacer in vegan recipe development can take many tries and several messes to clean. When you live with roommates, a mess in the kitchen can cause arguments and annoyed glances that just didn’t seem worth it in this case. Finally, while house-sitting one day I couldn’t resist the opportunity to utilize the empty kitchen and peaceful, quiet environment to make as many messes as it might take to develop this recipe. On the third try, after tweaking a few of the ingredients and proportions, my efforts paid off.

For this paleo vegan bagel recipe you need neither a bagel pan nor a mixer. Personally I found it easier to mix by hand, since it required significantly less clean-up afterward.

Paleo Vegan Bagels

This recipe yields 6 paleo vegan bagels. You will need:

Ingredients

1/2 cup blanched almond meal aka almond flour
1 Tbsp coconut flour
1/4 cup ground flax seeds or flaxseed meal
1/4 cup psyllium husk powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup almond milk
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup coconut butter, softened
sesame seeds or poppy seeds, optional

Method

1. Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, or in a food processor or mixer if you prefer.
2. Add the 1/2 cup almond milk, 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar, and 1/3 softened coconut butter. Continue to mix until ingredients combine to form a dough.
3. Separate dough into 6 uniform pieces and form into balls
4. Create a hole in each bagel (about the diameter of a quarter)
5. Sprinkle bagels with sesame seeds or poppy seeds, optional.
6. Bake on parchment paper at 350*F for 25 to 30 minutes.

Remove from oven, and let cool for an hour before serving.

To store the bagels for later use, transfer to the refrigerator or a cool, dry space in an airtight container.

Paleo vegan bagel topping ideas, some of my favorite combinations:

paleovegan-bagel-toppings

Savory Toppings

Avocado with red onion and black olives
Cilantro-pesto cheez with sliced heirloom tomatoes
Tahini with raw vegan sauerkraut

Or try my version of a “pizza” bagel:
Raw tahini with sun dried tomatoes, kale or arugula, and artichoke hearts; try it with Tofu ricotta for a low-fat version if you don’t have qualms about soy.

I usually make this open-faced but you can make it a bagel sandwich by spreading a thinner layer of tahini or tofu ricotta on both sides. If you spread it on both sides too thick, the flavor of the tahini tends to overpower the other ingredients. Too much tofu ricotta, on the other hand, will spill out both sides when you try to eat the sandwich.

Sweet Toppings

Tahini with thinly sliced apples, sprinkled with cinnamon
Hempseed butter, lightly sprinkled with cinnamon-stevia “sugar”
Almond butter with blueberries or blackberries (you can add them whole or mash them to make a spread or a “jam”. Add stevia to taste, optional, depending on the sweetness of the berries). Spread atop the almond butter.

Enjoy these paleo vegan bagels with different variations of your favorite ingredients.

bagel-sandwich-paleovegan

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