Archives for posts with tag: Vegetarian salad


A dish is like a play, each ingredient has a role, and the special attention taken to the ingredients are like clothes and makeup for the players. In a good dish, all the ingredients play off each other in such a way that they enhances each others flavors, but not lose themselves in the crowd.

In this salad, grilled eggplants are tossed with cognac poached pears, along with walnuts and slivers of pecorino cheese, in a garlic and herb vinaigrette, dotted with honey. Sweet, sharp, smoky, salty, there are so many possible permutations of flavor in this salad. Sometimes too many ingredients can make a dish confusing, but in this case it was perfect. Read the rest of this entry »

At a dinner party recently, a guest mentioned that their date was someone who was a non-dairy vegan… I got this message 1 hour before the start of the dinner party, and I was scrambling to figure out a plan, until I realized that two dishes that I had planned were already Vegan. This does changes my perception of vegan cooking since I’ve always thought that it would be super hard to eat and make vegan dishes. It was then that I was conscious of the fact that a lot of my favourite dishes are already vegan.

One of the two vegan dishes that I unknowingly made is one of my favourite salads. I found this recipe about a year ago, I had thought that the flavor combination sounded interesting, and when I actually made the dish I absolutely loved it. When I was planning this dinner party, I decided to make it again, and after finding out about the vegan guest, I was very relieved with that decision.

The dish is a salad composed of sliced celery and bibb lettuce tossed in a celery seed based salad dressing, and the greens are topped with a pan roasted grapes and oyster mushroom salad, which are tossed in a almond and parsley pesto.

The recipe calls for actual grilled grapes and mushrooms, but I just pan roasted both the grapes and the mushrooms because it’s easier.

The best part of the salad is the savory roasted almond, parsley, and celery leaf pesto. When you buy a head of celery, sometimes there are some left over leaves on the outer stalks, and most of the times there are a lot of younger, almost light yellow leaves at the center of the head. These leaves adds an additional level of celery flavor to go with the celery seed dressing for the greens.

The grapes and the mushrooms are tossed in the pesto.

The salad is tossed in the dressing, laid over a large plate, and the roasted vegetables in their pesto are spread over the greens.

The roasted grapes lends an unexpected burst of sweetness that really elevates the flavors in the salad.

The other “accidental” vegan dish is a tomato, zucchini, squash, and eggplant bread gratin. This dish is simple, delicious, and so pretty!

The recipe called for zucchinis only, but I decided to add another color to the dish by adding squash. Also instead of regular eggplant, I used Japanese eggplant, which has about the same circumference as the squash and the zucchini. To make the gratin, the eggplant, zucchini and squash are sliced to 1/4 inch thick, tossed in salt, and set aside for 10-20 minutes. This step is important because the salt draws out excess liquid from these vegetables, and because you will be baking this gratin, if the vegetables are baked as is, it will make the dish too soggy.

After about 20 minutes, you’ll notice that the vegetables, especially the eggplant, will have lost a lot of their moisture, and have become more pliable. At this point you want to drain the vegetables and pat them dry with paper towels, and they will be ready for use.

To assemble, some bread pieces are torn and spread on the bottom of a baking dish. Then some olive oil is drizzled on top and torn pieces of basil leaves are sprinkled on top of the bread.

Next the vegetables, along with sliced tomatoes, are placed, over lapping each other, on top of the bread. You can be as creative as you want with the patterning.

The vegetables are drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with some salt and pepper, and sprinkled with crushed garlic and fresh oregano. The dish is baked in the oven until the bread is brown on the bottom.

The finished product is crispy on the bottom and tender on the top. The vegetables are given a chance to show case their natural flavors, with a little enhancement from the olive oil, salt and pepper.

Crisp Tomato, Zucchini and Eggplant Bread Gratin:

Celery, Grilled Grape and Mushroom Salad:

I’m not a Vegan or a Vegetarian. I love meat. I also believe that if you love food and cooking, you should love and cook all types of food. One of the lessons I’ve learned from cooking and watching cooking shows is that people are forced to be more creative when there are restrictions placed on their projects. I’ve been thinking about doing a Vegan/Vegetarian dinner party for a while, and while I was researching for recipes, I came across the Vegan Enchiladas one. There was no photo to go with the description or the recipe, but based on the ingredients list, it looked like something that would be very interesting to try.

There are 3 main components to this dish. The cashew “sour cream”, the Tomatillo enchilada sauce, and the filling for the enchiladas. The cashew “sour cream” is what interested me the most, and also what ended up being the best part of the dish. Cashews are soaked in hot water for 2 hours, then pureed with some lime juice, vinegar, and smoked hot paprika for heat (You can find smoked sweet and hot paprika from Central Market). It was so simple, but so tasty. My boyfriend, who is raised on Tex-Mex food, was surprised by how rich and flavorful the vegan “sour cream” was. One issue I had with the cream was how much thicker it was than actual sour cream, so I had trouble spreading it on the final Enchiladas. I would suggest adding a little soaking water to the cashews while blending to lighten the viscosity.

the Tomatillo sauce is made from chopped Tomatillos, onions, Serrano (or Jalapeno) peppers. The vegetables are cooked in a vegetarian broth for 15 minutes on medium heat, then pureed.

Seasoning (salt and pepper) can do wonders for food. People tend to think that a dish without fat or oil will be bland, but with just the right amount of salt and pepper, you can dress up any dish. For those of you that follows Top Chef Texas, Paul Qui won the elimination challenge for the finale by making a vegetarian soup. A SOUP! It goes to show that you don’t need meat or bacon to give a dish flavor. Just add salt and pepper, and let the vegetables speak for themselves!! On that note, don’t forget to season your Tomatillo sauce.

Now the filling of the Enchiladas is composed of a sauteed mixture of onions, shitake mushrooms, roasted butternut squash, fresh corn (or frozen if you follow the recipe), and swiss kale. The butternut squash is cubed and roasted for 15 minutes in a 400F oven.

The onions and shallots are sweated in a heavy skillet, then sliced shitakes are added and sauteed until lightly browned.

The kale is finely chopped and added to the skillet along with the corn.

Once the kale has wilted, the skillet is removed from heat, and the roasted butternut squash is stirred in. Remember to season the vegetables to taste.

Corn tortillas need to take a quick dip in hot oil before using. If the tortilla is not quickly fried, it will not roll easily and will break when filling. Be careful not to leave the tortilla in the oil too long though, they will get too soft and break apart; just a few seconds on each side will work.

The tortillas should be drained on paper towels and set aside until all tortillas are ready for Enchilada assembly. The tortillas should not be filled too much. I used 5-6 inch diameter corn tortillas, so about 1/3 cup of filling was enough.

About a cup of Tomatillo sauce is spread on the bottom of the baking dish, and then the rolled Enchiladas are placed in the dish in rows.

The rest of the tomatillo sauce is poured over the enchiladas in the dish, covered in tin foil, and baked for 25 minutes in 375 oven.

After baking, the enchiladas should look puffy. I spread the cashew “sour cream” over the Enchiladas, and sprinkled some red onions, cilantro leaves, and pepita seeds.

I also made a simple chickpeas salad with yogurt, cumin, and pepita seeds to go with the Enchiladas.

I will definitely make the Enchiladas for my future vegan/vegetarian dinner party. The vegetables blended together really well, with the mushrooms and squash giving the Enchiladas a savory almost meaty flavor. The cashew “sour cream” was incredible, and I think you can almost eat it as a vegetable dip, similar to hummus.

Vegan Enchiladas:
Vegetarian Chickpea Salad: