Friday, August 31, 2007

Hummus & Heirloom Tomato Pizza

So, who's afraid of a vegan hummus pizza?

One of the things I love about blogging is how we play off each other's thoughts and ideas. I was psyched to see that Susan of Fat-Free Vegan was inspired to try Portobellos Stuffed with Red Pepper Hummus after seeing my post on Tempeh Bacon -Wrapped Portobello with Baba Ghanoush, a very juicy, sexy mouthful:

Anyway, thanks to Susan for her inspiration for this post. In her post Susan recalls a hummus pizza that sounded really good, but was actually dry and tasteless. Well, you know, I love pizza, and this sounded like a challenge!

Obviously, you don't want to "cook" hummus very long, so this pita-based pizza was prepared in 3 minutes under a hot broiler. The juicy and pretty heirloom tomatoes made this pizza quite succulent and it was a snap to prepare. Of course, if I wasn't thinking vegan, I would have added feta cheese. Did I miss it? Nope. As I didn't have to worry about the fat in the cheese, I topped the tomatoes with basil pesto and salt and pepper and "oh, golly, geez, damn"....(can you name the movie this line is from?)

I used a lot of pre-prepared foods like the hummus, pesto, and Affi's smoky eggplant pesto, which made this the kinda satisfying meal you could whip up in 15 minutes. The pine nuts made this completely satisfying. Here's the incredibly simple recipe:

Hummus & Heirloom Tomato Pizza (one serving):

1 pita bread
1 tsp olive oil
4 generous pinches zahtar
1 tsp smoky eggplant pesto (or sub baba ghanoush)
1 tbsp hummus (your fav!)
1 pretty heirloom tomato, sliced
1 tsp pesto
S & P
2 tbsp pine nuts

Preheat the broiler and wait until it's hot.

Place a pita bread on a foil-covered baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with 2 pinches of zahtar. Place under the broiler for 1 minute.

Top pita with eggplant pesto, hummus and slices of tomato. Top tomato with two pinches of zahtar, pesto, and S & P. Sprinkle with pine nuts.

Place under the broiler again for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes.

Cut into quarters and serve!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Millennium Cooking Class: Tomatoes

I can't imagine a better way to have spent this Sunday (my "day" off) than attending a cooking class with Eric Tucker at Millennium Restaurant.

You may remember I recently posted about an incredible meal I enjoyed there, and my all-time favorite summer cocktail, their basil gimlet.

Although I've practically been living off heirloom tomatoes for the past month (which somewhat explains why I've posted less frequently of late), I realized today, I've really not even touched the many tasty and satisfying possibilites those pretty fruits have to offer.

While the tomatoes are so good right now, they're perfectly satisfying with a pinch of salt, some basil, and fresh mozzarella, today I enjoyed them in all their sweet and savory glory.

Here Chef Tucker introduces us to the various different tomatoes we would be working with:

It was a serious team effort with nine other enthusiastic classmates, Chef Tucker, Thomas, and the cheerful intern Ryan, who turned the neatly prepared stations of ingredients into delectable dishes. Below is the prep for the Roasted Tomato and White Bean Galettes:

We were split into 2 groups of five and each team prepared variants of the selected tomato recipes.

I have to apologize up front for the poor quality and rather limited number of photographs. A foodblogger's nightmare, that darned battery warning light showed up on my first shot and resulted in hasty shots before the batteries completely crapped out.

The first recipe I worked on was this deliciously refreshing yellow tomato soup, topped with a melon salad (with serrano chiles, cucumber mint, and methi leaves). Thanks to Shuna's Knife Skills class, the pretty red flecks are peeled and diced red bell pepper. We later added spicy hot chili gel made with agar agar (but the camera crapped out before I could capture them):

The other team made this beautiful version out of green tomatoes (the white garnish is coconut milk) :

Round one also included delicious Tomato & White Bean Galettes with a roasted vegetable salsa that was out of this world:

Round two produced the sumptuous spread below: pooris in the back, (although the ones I worked on were more like puffy crisp flatbreads, they sure tasted good), chanterelle cream, sag paneer, breadcrumb topped lasagna with tomatoes, beans, and chanterelle cream, sauteed peaches, eggplant salsa, and okra with tomatoes and onions):

Here's a close-up of the chanterelle cream (made with cashew cream, imagine heaven):

Sadly, my batteries died completely before I got shots of the incredible desserts: our variant, the fig and tomato upside down cake with pinenut olive oil sorbet, and the original tomato upside down cake with candied rosemary olive oil sorbet. OK, I've said it before, I'm really not a dessert person, but these cakes and sorbets were totally amazing!

I took home my half-eaten tomato jam dot, recharged the batteries, so you could check out these amazing cookies with a pinenut cookie batter:

I think my favorite moments of the class were the adjustments when something didn't quite work out or we tasted a dish and brainstormed on ways to improve or embellish it. And, although the recipe packs provided were absolutely critical, I was very psyched to hear Chef Tucker say "we're just going to wing it on this one." As regular readers will know, there's nothing quite so appealing to me as "winging it" in the kitchen: what better way to learn how to be creative and produce something new and unique with ingredients you have on hand.

I can't wait for the next class!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Pizza Antica

I'd heard really good things about Pizza Antica and was psyched when my friend suggested the Mill Valley location for dinner last night. I wasn't sure what to expect, but I'd heard the pizza was really good.

The restaurant is one sizeable, high-ceilinged room with black and white tile and slightly painful accoustics. Drop a fork here and everyone will hear you. Kid and adult friendly, we were seated in a corner, at a table perhaps just a little too close to our neighbors, but it wasn't troublesome.

This is a great place for vegetarians! I was extremely excited to find that the antipasti appetizer plate was vegetarian, a rare treat. Although the presentation wasn't quite what it could have been, all of the antipasti was delicious. The lemon aioli dip was fantastic and I ate the whole plate!

We ordered two pizzas off the menu with substitutions. #9: Three Cheeses, Shaved Broccoli, Caramelized Onion and Pancetta, we substituted sauteed spinach for the Pancetta. This was really outstanding. I wasn't sure about a Broccoli pizza, but shaving it really worked (although my photo failed to capture the pizza in focus):

The second pizza was the #5: Fig with Gorgonzola and Caramelized Onions, and we substituted goat cheese for the meat (I think it was Pancetta again, but my memory forsakes me here). The waiter suggested doubling the Gorgonzola, but that would have been overwhelming so I'm glad we stuck to our Goat Cheese guns! The figs were a little too fresh and natural, making it a little too sweet and the fig texture was a little too grainy and not indulgent enough. I wish they'd added a little balsamic or oil and cooked the figs more, but it was good upfront and just became clawing at the end.

One thing I loved about their pizzas is how incredibly thin the crusts were. You really get to enjoy the toppings without getting weighted down with dough. They are also 100% flexible about substitutions and you are free to build your own pizza from a list of toppings.

Having just taken my Food Safety Manager Certification exam, I was dismayed to see one hatless cook. The servers were pleasant, but generally young, giving the place a decidedly casual feel. Still, the place was hopping and the food (and wine) was good, so for a casual meal or take-out (no delivery, darn it!), I like Pizza Antica (located in the Strawberry Shopping Center in Mill Valley).

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Caprese Towers : Vegan & Vegetarian

OK. So I can't get away from the heirloom tomato capreses and the vegetable tower concept! It is still summer after all, and a time to kick-back and play with the summer produce and "cook" as little as possible. Right?

So, the vegan (top) and vegetarian version look quite similar, but the vegan version lacked protein and a certain wow (the white layer is mushroom), although it was good. I added some baba ganoush post-pic, but now I'm thinking basil hummus or some macadamia nut cheese, if I ever get around to making it, or macadamia nut butter. So I compromised and just ate the macadamias on the side. As Sweetpea (7 going on 12) likes to say, "works for me."

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Vegetable Napolean with Tempeh Bacon


When I make a roasted vegetable napolean, I wonder why I ever eat anything else! So succulent and flavorful and perfect quick cooking for summer.

This one was no exception. All vegetables were broiler roasted brushed with olive oil and balsamic and included: portobellos, thai eggplant, red onion, and heirloom tomato. The eggplant were salted and sweated and took the longest to broil. The heirlooms took only 1-2 minutes. I layered ports, eggplant, red onion, and tomato, then topped with a medallion of fresh mozzarella (sliced into 2 lengthwise). Under the broiler for a minute.

The tempeh was pan fried and added at the end with fresh basil. Round two had the tempeh bacon under the tomatoes for a much prettier (and just as tasty) version.

Vegans - skip the mozzarella and you'll still love this!

Previous versions:

  • Roasted Portobello & Polenta Towers

  • Broiled Vegetable Towers
  • Thursday, August 16, 2007

    Corn Frittes

    Looking for a new recipe for all that delicious sweet corn that is in season?

    Although it was dark when I took the less than perfect photographs, these corn frittes with fresh corn, red onion, cilantro, and cheese, held together with a chickpea flour batter were an absolutely heavenly combination of sweet corn and savory. They were even better than I imagined and I'm sure you'll love them!

    I'm listing the recipe I used, but the corn pancakes fell apart a bit on turning in the saute pan, so I recommend doubling the batter, but only using as much as you need to hold the corn together. I did two versions, one with feta and one with cheddar and both were totally delicious.

    Corn Frittes:

    1 tbsp chickpea flour
    1 tbsp flour
    pinch of salt
    grind of pepper
    1/4 tsp olive oil
    2 tbsp water

    1 ear of fresh, sweet corn, kernels shaved
    1 tsp red onion, diced very finely
    2 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
    2 oz cheese ( I used 1 oz crumbled feta for one fritte and 1 oz grated cheddar for the other - both were awesome!)
    2 tsp olive oil

    Combine batter ingredients together with a whisk until smooth. Let rest for 15 minutes.

    Combine the batter with the corn, red onion, cilantro and cheese.

    Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet and form two frittes. Cook until brown and crispy on each side.

    Tuesday, August 14, 2007

    Tempeh Bacon-Wrapped Portobello with Baba Ghanoush

    I really love the smaller stuffing portobellos, available in a sweet six pack at Trader Joe's. Such a juicy, sexy, versatile two-bite mouthful!

    Tonight's variant was incredible (and vegan)! Broiled portobellos, stuffed with baba ghanoush, wrapped in smoky tempeh bacon, and topped with cilantro and black sesame seeds. Wow!

    I used Afi brand's amazing Baba Ghanoush (thanks to Margaret for inspiring me to try Baba Ghanoush again), and Lightlife's Smoky Tempeh Strips to wrap. This smoky version may be my favorite to date.

    Here's some other previously explored possibilities:

  • Portobellos Stuffed with Black Beans, Cheddar, and Guacamole

  • Farro-Stuffed Portabellos with Eggplant & Cacio di Bosco al Tartufo

  • Portobellos Stuffed with Potatoes, Leeks, Cheddar, & Chard
  • Friday, August 10, 2007

    Green Cauliflower & Olive Capellini

    So tonight, I skipped the heirloom tomato caprese (that I've been eating almost every night for weeks) for this pretty and very simple capellini pasta with green cauliflower, garlic, pesto, feta, and kalamata olives.

    I found the green cauliflower on special as I searched high and low for sea beans (apparently, there's been a recent local "rush" on sea beans as I'm told by everyone that they're "sold out". Locals...even Berkeley Bowl.) I wonder what this means...

    Anyway, despite my sudden Tofu-inspired interest in vegan and raw food, perhaps it means I should actually cook something for myself.

    I've always loved cauliflower, and usually think of eating it with a powerhouse cheese sauce. Here, however, I sauteed the green cauliflower with garlic and olive oil, and tossed it with cook capellini, pesto, sliced kalamata olives, and topped with a little feta (optional).

    Light, tasty and well-partnered with a glass of Chiati and La Brea's awesome Organic Wheat bread.

    Wednesday, August 08, 2007


    Going to a vegetarian restaurant is such a treat! To review a menu and feel spoilt for choice (vs limited to the 1-3 vegetarian choices at most restaurants), to think "I can eat all of this!" is quite a joy. Even better, when the food is delicious, and the service and company, excellent.

    Such was my experience last night at Millennium in San Francisco, joined by my best friend J, and two fabulous SF Food blogger celebrities (not to mention fun and lively dinner companions) Sam, and Amy (all non-vegetarians).

    Millennium is a gourmet vegan restaurant in San Francisco "influenced by the flavors and styles of many cultures" and "dedicated to the essential earthly concepts of organic food production...sustainable agriculture, supporting small local farms, as well as composting and recycling." You may remember, I won Executive Chef, Eric Tucker's (et al) challenging and beautiful book : The Artful Vegan (available on Millennium's website) recently:

    Filled with beautiful photos of some incredible-looking vegan dishes like African Teff Cakes with Fava-Wild Mushroom Wat and Carrot-Chile Chutney, Yellow Finn Potato Gnocchi with Beet-Merlot Reduction, Roasted Beets, and Walnuts, or Mediterranean Five-Lentil and Chard Soup with Walnut Gremolata.

    The food was magnificient. So charmed were we with the small plate concept, that we decided to order and share 10 of the 15 small plates, salads, and starters.

    Up top, was the Heirloom Tomato "Caprese" (herbed macademia nut "cheese", fresh basil, smoked onion date relish, radicchio salad, spice toasted pumpkin seeds, aged balsamic). The "cheese" was truly mozzarella-like and I think I must "know" that recipe.

    Next was the Roasted Corn Panzanella (roasted sweet corn, grilled sour dough bread, mariniated cherry tomatoes, and basil)

    You know, I don't like sourdough, but those croutons were delicious!

    Opps, sadly no photo of the Avocado & Sesame Salad (sea palm, ume-pink peppercorn pickled plum, sesame-ginger dressing, tea-smoked tofu (my #1 choice). Very good, but more avocado would have been even better.

    Grilled Flatbread with charred eggplant, curry leaf and coconut, roasted okra with tomato and cumin, peach-lime chutney (poor photo):

    Wish there had been more of the Cornmeal Crusted Fried Green Tomato (with zucchini-corn hash, cashew garlic "ranch"dressing, ancho chile paint):

    Black Bean Torte (whole wheat tortilla, caramelized plantains, smoky black bean puree, pumpkin-habanero papaazul, cashew sour cream, strawberry-cucumber salsa):

    If you're a vegetarian who once loved fried calamari, here's your answer: Cornmeal-Chickpea Crusted Oyster Mushrooms:

    Way better than fried calamari and even J. (who hates mushrooms), was pleasantly surprised by this one (as was I).

    And, I have to admit, I have a bit of a fritte fetish right now, which probably explains why we had to get two servings of the Garlic Herb Hand-Cut Frittes:

    I can't tell you how good these were and would have been happy to dip them in Heinz (although, Millennium kindly provided their own "sweet and spicy smoked tomato ketchup).

    Although my photography stopped here (I also missed the delicious Herb Marinated Olives : very generous portion), we went on to enjoy the following desserts: Warmed Blueberry-Nectarine Cobbler, Spiced Chocolate Hazelnut Torte, and Chocolate Almond Midnight. (And I have to tell you, I rarely order dessert).

    As sensual food and social experiences go, last night's dinner at Millennium was completely satisfying. And, as I venture out in my new singledom, and, of course, prerequesite requirements of future partners was a subject of discussion with my dear friends, would it be unreasonable of me to add to my list: must be able to prepare three Millennium style dishes? Really good frittes count!

    Basil Gimlet Mission

    The Basil Gimlet I had last night at Millennium was so good, I figured I'd try my hand at making it at home. I found this recipe at SF Gate, courtesy of Rye.

    I used vodka and this version was much stronger tasting, not nearly as refreshing, and quite tart. I added 1/2 tbsp simple syrup and 2 tbsp water and it was better (for me). It didn't have as much of a basil flavor as Millennium's, perhaps because I used a wooden spoon rather that the muddler I don't have. It was good, but something refreshing was definitely missing.

    Perhaps I'll try again tomorrow....

    Tuesday, August 07, 2007

    Summertime Refreshment: Basil Gimlet

    Looking for a refreshing summertime cocktail. Try a Basil Gimlet at The Millennium Restaurant in San Francisco.

    Despite my mediocre photograph (tough lighting), it's hard to describe how very refreshing this drink was. Basil, lime, and gin, it was really so perfect, I just had to have a second.

    More on the delicious food later....

    Friday, August 03, 2007

    Summer Soup with Edamame

    Summer headcold, summer soup....this one with plenty for protein from edamame (soy beans).

    Summer Soup with Edamame:

    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 shallot, diced
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    2 small potatoes, peeled and diced
    8 baby carrots, sliced
    1 tbsp butter
    2 cups vegetable stock
    1 cup water
    1 teaspoon pesto
    1 teaspoon tomato paste
    1/4 cup red wine (optional)
    1/2 cup frozen peas
    1/2 cup edamame
    1 cup baby spinach
    S & P

    Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan. Add the shallot and saute for 2 mintes. Add the minced garlic, and cook for 1 minute. Add the potatoes, carrots, and butter. Cover and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add the vegetable stock, water, pesto, tomato paste, and wine (if using). Season. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes and carrots are tender 10-15 minutes. Add the frozen peas and cook for 4 minutes. Add the edamame and baby spinach. Cook 2 minutes. Check seasoning and serve.

    Thursday, August 02, 2007

    Vegetarian Crispy Rolls & La Maison Tofu

    Alas, I have succumed to that most dreaded of all dreaded head colds, the summer head cold. What could be more incongruent that summery days, heirloom tomatoes, basil, swimming, and a "will my head explode?" cold.

    But even a summer head cold has it's silver lining. An excuse for high protein take-out. Back I go to La Maison de la Reine (Contemporary Vietnamese Cuisine) in Corte Madera for two delicious "no matter where your taste buds are" vegetarian dishes. Above, the incredible Vegetarian Crispy Rolls (deep fried roll stuffed with taro root, cabbage, carrots, and soy bean cake. Served with a vinaigrette sauce) . Honestly, these may be my favorite deep fried "rolls" of all time.

    And, definitely in need of a big helping of tofu, the La Maison Tofu was outstanding, with green beans, broccoli, and baby corn. Marked as spicy on the menu, this wasn't even vaguely spicy by my standards. If you're a local, check this place out. The friendly service, delicious aromas, clean, bright space, along with the fab food, will bring you back.