Lettuce Rejoice

Plate of lettuce salad
Source: National Cancer Institute’s 5 A Day Resources

It’s getting harder to find a satisfying bottled salad dressing, for the convenience. They seem sweeter now, at least the lower fat varieties.

Speaking of oil, there’s a way to cut that in half: toss your salad with a hand not utensils and you’ll need just half the dressing — 1 Tablespoon per serving instead of the suggested 2 — to coat the leaves. It takes seconds as your fingers quickly tell when all are moistened. That works when the cleaned lettuce is bone dry as experts advise or when the veggies are gently shaken of water.

Adapting this no-fat vegan 2-Minute Oil-Free Balsamic Dressing from Forks Over Knives has become my go-to rather than a Ken’s or Newman’s Own. I often prefer vegan mayo instead of Dijon mustard as the resulting emulsion is more creamy than tart.

The recipe is a modest amount but easily scalable. It makes just under a half cup of dressing, for 6-8 servings if hand-tossed (above) or 3-4 servings conventionally.

Easy, Real Salad Dressing

  • 2 Tablespoons quality vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • 1 Tablespoon vegan mayo OR prepared mustard such as Dijon
  • 1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon dried herbs such as basil or Italian spice blend
  • pinch dried garlic
  • pinch dry mustard (Colman’s recommended)
  • pinches salt and pepper

Place all ingredients in a small jar with a good lid and shake. Refrigerate until needed.

Notes: Balsamic or red wine vinegar work great, but if you want a lighter color then rice vinegar is good. Cider vinegar has a stronger taste, but sometimes that’s the right thing.

Nutritional yeast is a flavor booster with umami.

Heck yes, this recipe is a starting point. Don’t worry about the nutritional yeast. Replace the salt with a dash of soy sauce. If fresh herbs are available, mix rough-chopped ones in the bowl with the lettuce and drop the dried spices from the dressing. Whatever. Go for it.

Shakshuka 181, It’s Vegan

Skillet of Shakshuka 181
Vegan Reverse Shakshuka, 181

Shakshuka is a skillet dish where eggs are poached in a savory tomato sauce. It’s North African to Middle Eastern but generally considered Israeli. Cook and food writer Mark Bittman this week blogged on Epicurious editor David Tamarkin and his variation White Shakshuka.

Traditional shashuka, eggs poached in tomato sauce
Traditional shashuka, eggs poached in tomato sauce. Credit Wikimedia Commons

It looks wonderful, eggs poached in a stew of oniony-lemony white beans. It’s a reverse, though I’d call it 179 degrees not the full 180, as it’s still eggs.

Eggs and beans are redundant protein.

A true 180 would be egg-sized tomatoes floating in a whitish sauce. Call it 181, being a one-off from an impractical polar opposite. Mine is vegan with no added fat (but see notes).

The 181 is good looking and tasty. Grocery tomatoes are fine, so this is a year-round dish. Quick. It’s so quick that my pictures should be updated later on, as all I had were red onions and that darkened the stew to about a 182. Continue reading

A Neat Loaf

A Neat Loaf, Thanksgiving 2018. Also, PCRM mashed potatoes and Crescent Dragon's Neo-Classical Thanksgiving Dressing
A Neat Loaf, Thanksgiving 2018. Also, PCRM mashed potatoes and Crescent Dragonwagon’s Neo-Classical Thanksgiving Dressing.

Thanksgiving went great this year, food and conversation both. I handled vegan dishes and my sister-in-law the flesh ones as well as the green bean casserole. One success was my bean loaf, judging by how many took seconds on it.

A pot-luck omnivore and herbivore dinner needs a protein-emphasis entree from the latter. Having never settled on a bloodless loaf recipe, I “Googled” from scratch, but no recipes on the web appealed.

A phrase from one though called a loaf a glorified veggie burger. Hmm.

Well, I do have a favorite burger. It’s one of Mark Bittman’s. I  found it online in mid-2017, from Grub Street, “How to Make Mark Bittman’s Simple, Satisfying Veggie Burgers.” The print-out is full of my notes. It’s easy to make, tastes better than store-bought — maybe one exception — and if prepared well the texture is great, including how it doesn’t crumble into a pile of confused pilaf.

A sidebar in the seven-burger section of  Bittman’s encyclopedic How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food explained how to convert any into a veggie loaf. Eureka!

His book’s first recipe by the way is the one found online, “The Simplest Bean Burgers.” I barely changed enough of the recipe to call it an adaptation. Here ’tis, though, amounts for 4-6 burgers. Loaf adaptation follows. Continue reading

Wholemeal Tomato Soup

My "Wholemeal Tomato Soup"Tomato soup, rather like you remember, can be yours, homemade, vegan and protein-y. Healthy eaters do miss its grown-up convenience and childhood nostalgia flavor and texture. If you read the ingredients and nutrition levels of canned tomato soup, however, you will definitely want an alternative. Even the seemingly better choices of canned soup are pretty salty etc.

For being from scratch, it’s pretty quick, as it’s a pantry dish. To My Beloved and me, it’s real close to that ol’ heat-and-eat flavor but with full confidence in its quality.

“Wholemeal” is a repurposing of the British word for what Americans would call whole grain. Here it means I’ve tucked in healthy amounts of plant protein with little impact on flavor or texture, to make a whole meal, nutritionally.

Healthy red lentils are more orange but when cooked turn yellow.
Red lentils lose color when cooked. Source: Wikimedia Commons

  • 1-2 Tablespoons vegetable oil (olive oil or salad oil)
  • 1 medium-large onion, peeled and chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 Tablespoons tomato paste (about 1/4 can)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (2-3 teaspoons)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 4-6 cups water
  • 1 28 oz (large) can tomatoes (crushed, diced or whole), undrained
  • 1-2 teaspoons vegetable broth powder
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried herbs (such as Italian blend or tarragon or basil)
  • 1/2 cup dry red lentils, check for bad ones or dirt or gravel then rinse OR 1 14-15 oz can cannellini beans, undrained
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, to start with

Continue reading