THE PERFECT ICE-BREAKER–A HOT BUBBLING APPETIZER!

Tomatoes overGARLIC TOMATOES AND SNOW MOUNTAIN

Who doesn’t welcome a warming, savory appetizer that invites the guests to “play in the pool” together! The perfect icebreaker and conversation starter for a holiday gathering, this dish urges everyone to dip chunks of sourdough bread into the steaming hot dish together. As the first dipper, you may need to demonstrate how to scoop some of the Garlic Tomato Sauce along with the Snow Mountain onto the bread. For squeamish dippers, providing spoons or spreading knives might make them more comfortable and is definitely less messy.

And don’t forget to provide plenty of napkins–this well-seasoned appetizer is outrageously delicious and lots of fun with everyone plunging into the bowl for the next bite–but it can also be a bit drippy.

This tangy and very winning appetizer is ideal for those extra-special times when you want to present a starter that stands apart. This is not one of those dishes everyone has in their repertoire–but you might be the first one to introduce it to your friends and family.

Party hosts love this recipe because it’s a delicious, make-head dish and can be prepared in three convenient stages: making the Garlic Tomatoes, preparing the Snow Mountain, and heating the dish just before serving).

All this starter needs is a basket of dipping breads like chunks of sourdough, soft or toasted whole-grain pita wedges, quartered toasted whole-grain bread, baked corn chips, or toasted cocktail breads. I think sourdough bread makes one of the tastiest bases for this sumptuous appetizer, but other choices are equally as good.

Here’s the process in a nutshell: Chop tomatoes, onions, and garlic. Cook them with herbs. Transfer them to a deep dish pie plate and set aside. Make the snow mountain. Spoon it into the pie plate. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Heat in the oven until bubbling and serve.

Tomato Ingredients

Tomatoes cooking

Herbs for seasoning

Tofu

Refrig appetizer

Tomatoes finishedIn addition to making a delightful appetizer, you might consider turning Garlic Tomatoes and Snow Mountain into a light lunch or dinner by providing a hearty salad before serving the bubbling starter. This is one of those dishes that’s really handy to have ready-made in your refrigerator when you’re busy shopping for holiday gifts, attending festive events, or rushing to the airport for out of town guests.

A NOTE ABOUT SEASONING DISHES IN GENERAL: I noticed that when I add salt at the end of cooking, the dish requires much less of the salt to bring up the flavor. This is especially true of tomato dishes that already contribute a rich, umami flavor–even without salt.

GARLIC TOMATOES AND SNOW MOUNTAIN

Yield: 10 to 12 servings as a starter or 5 to 6 as a light lunch or dinner

Garlic Tomatoes

2 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, chopped

2 large onions, choppedTomato Ingredients

7 to 8 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt

Snow Mountain

1 pound firm or extra firm tofu

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juiceTofu

1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon rice vinegar

2 large garlic cloves

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon dill weed

1/2 teaspoon onion powderTomatoes over

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Garnish

Paprika

1 sprig fresh herbs (basil, mint, cilantro

  1. Have ready a 9- or 10-inch, deep-dish, heat-proof pie plate or an 8-inch square baking dish.
  2. TO MAKE THE GARLIC TOMATOES, combine the tomatoes and onions in a large, deep skillet and cook over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and add the garlic, thyme, oregano, and basil. Stirring frequently, cook about 20 minutes, or until the tomatoes and onions are broken down, the liquid evaporated, and the sauce is thickened and chunky.
  4. Add the salt and mix well. Adjust the seasonings, if needed. Transfer the garlic tomatoes to the pie plate, and set aside.
  5. TO MAKE THE SNOW MOUNTAIN, drain and rinse the tofu, break it into pieces, and put it in a food processor. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, garlic, salt, coriander, dill weed, onion powder, and pepper and process until smooth and creamy.
  6. Spoon the tofu mountain into the center of the garlic tomatoes, forming a tall mound. Garnish with a sprinkle of parsley and place the herb sprig at the top of Snow Mountain. At this point you can refrigerate the appetizer until shortly before serving.
  7. PREPARE THE APPETIZER FOR SERVING: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. If you’re serving the dish shortly after preparing it, put the pie plate on a large, rimmed baking sheet for easy handling. Tuck the appetizer into the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbling.
  8. Remove from the oven, sprinkle very lightly with paprika, and add the fresh herb sprig. Bring the bubbling appetizer to the table and set it on a trivet–and don’t forget the dipping breads!

Important:

If you’ve prepared the dish in advance and have chilled it, bring it out of the fridge about 2 or 3 hours before serving. Then pop it into the preheated oven.

If you’re taking it right from the fridge and want to heat it, put it on a baking sheet and pop it in a cold oven. Set the temperature to 400 degrees F. and warm for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until it is bubbling. Refrigerated, the leftovers keep well for up to 5 days.

Tomatoes finished

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MAKE IT ITALIAN–MAMA MIA!!!!

TOMATO-PINE NUT PIE WITH SWEET POTATO AND NUT CRUST

Tomato Pine Nut Pie SummerSuch a beauty and such a company favorite! You don’t even have to wait for the holidays to enjoy this tasty dish, because all the ingredients are available year-round.

In summer, when the home-grown or farm-stand tomatoes are fire-engine red, melt-in-the-mouth sweet and ultra juicy, the pie has a bright, cheery appearance. So tempting, the summer pie looks like the one above.

The bright tomato color turns a bit pastel in winter, but the pie still pops with the rich OacakesItalian-inspired flavor of homemade “Parmesan” and always makes guests ooohh and aaaahhh a little. I think it’s because this pie is so unique and looks really appetizing and festive.

The first thing my guests notice is the unusual crust. And, yes, it is certainly different. Rather than a standard flour-based pie crust, this one features sweet potatoes and almonds and balances the savory flavors with a pleasant, delicate sweetness.

For a small gathering, one pie is just right and can actually go a little farther if there are several other dishes on the menu. When I was expecting about 15 people, I doubled the recipe and prepared it in a large rimmed baking sheet. Of course, I planned an additional entrée and several side dishes, too. Made in the baking sheet, the pie becomes more of a tart and makes a delicious appetizer, too.

Pine Nut Tomato TartTOMATO-PINE NUT PIE WITH SWEET POTATO AND NUT CRUST

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie or 6 servings

Crust

12 ounces sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 1/4 cups whole almondsOacakes

2/3 cup mashed tofu

1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Light oil a 9-inch pie pan.
  2. To make the crust, put the sweet potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan with water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork-tender. Drain the sweet potatoes well, transfer them to a large bowl and mash them well. Set aside.
  3. Put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are finely ground, yet still retain a little texture. Add the tofu and salt and process until well incorporated, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Spoon the tofu mixture into the bowl with the sweet potatoes and mix well.
  4. Spoon the sweet potato mixture into the prepared pan. Use your fingers to press it onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Build up the sides of the crust 1/2 -inch higher than the pie pan. Bake the crust for 15 minutes and let cool.

FillingOacakes

2 green onions, sliced

1 to 2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup pine nuts

2 to 3 tablespoons Homemade Parmesan (recipe below) or prepared vegan Parmesan

2 to 3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 small eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch slices

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

4 to 5 large red or green tomatoes, seeded and sliced

  1. To make the filling, put the green onions, garlic, pine nuts, and Homemade Parmesan in individual bowls. Sprinkle the cornstarch on a plate.
  2. Cover the bottom of the crust with one layer of eggplant slices. (This prevents the crust from getting soggy). Reserve remaining eggplant for another use. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and pepper.
  3. Dredge only the first layer of the tomato slices in the cornstarch. Arrange the dredged tomato slices over the eggplant, filling all the spaces with small bits of tomato. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one third each of the green onions, garlic, pine nuts, and Homemade Parmesan over the tomatoes. Repeat the process to make three layers.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.Vegan Holidays lowres

Note: If using green tomatoes, the pie might have to bake another 15 minutes.

This recipe is one of the tasty dishes from my Vegan for the Holidays cookbook. Order from Vegetarians in Paradise http://www.vegparadise.com or from Amazon.com

HOMEMADE PARMESAN

Often I’ve come to rely on a sprinkle of vegan Parmesan to add sparkle to a dish, soup, a casserole, or an appetizer. With only five ingredients, this recipe is almost instant to make and tastes enough like the real thing to put the Italian touch on everything from pizza to minestrone and a host of holiday or everyday dishes.

1 cup almonds

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are finely ground, yet still retain a bit of texture. (Avoid over-processing or it will turn into almond butter.)
  1. Add the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, and garlic powder and pulse until well mixed. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use. Covered and refrigerated, Homemade Parmesan will keep for 3 months.

Portobello Mini Pies–a Vegan for the Holidays Spectacular!

Portobello MinisPORTOBELLO MINI PIES

WITH MEDITERRANEAN RELISH

Portobello mushrooms, with their intense, earthy, and woodsy flavor, claim the limelight to offer a platter of richly flavored mini pies with winning charm that has enough pizazz to stand alone. Top the little pies with Mediterranean Relish and they morph into an eye appealing, elegant, and compellingly delicious main dish for the holiday season.

These little mini pies are ideal for a quiet family meal, but they’re also compelling and sophisticated enough to serve your most discriminating foodie guests for a holiday dinner.

Prepare the mini pies and the relish in advance so after a busy day of holiday shopping you can tuck them into the oven for a quick warming. They’ll be ready in minutes.

Add a salad and a steamed vegetable and dinner is done. Then you’ll have plenty of time to relax and share your shopping finds at the dinner table–unless they’re a surprise!

PORTOBELLO MINI PIES

WITH MEDITERRANEAN RELISH

Makes 10 to 12 mini pies 3-inches in diameter.

 

Mushroom Mini Pies

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon flaxseed meal

 

2 to 3 giant portobello mushrooms (about 3/4 pound), or 3/4 pound cremini or button mushrooms

 

1 cup cooked brown rice, barley, or buckwheat

1 cup diced onions

1/2 cup almond meal or hazelnut meal

1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

 

Mediterranean Relish

1 (14-ounce) can water-packed artichoke hearts, drained and diced

1 1/4 cups diced fresh tomatoes

10 pitted Kalamata olives, diced

6 pitted Spanish olives, diced

1 green onion, minced

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

2 cloves garlic, minced

Pinch cayenne

Freshly ground pepper to taste

 

Few sprigs fresh basil

 

  1. TO MAKE THE MUSHROOM MINI PIES, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. and have ready a large, rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the water and flaxseed meal. Mix well and set aside to thicken.
  3. Coarsely chop the mushrooms, put them into the food processor in batches, and pulse until finely minced. Transfer the mushrooms to a large bowl.
  4. Add the cooked brown rice, onions, almond meal, rolled oats, nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper to the bowl and mix well with clean hands to distribute ingredients evenly.
  5. If the reserved flaxseed meal has not thickened, beat it with a fork until it forms a thick slurry or put it into the blender and blend for 1 minute to form the thick slurry, about the texture of cooked oatmeal. Add the slurry to the mushrooms and mix thoroughly to distribute the slurry evenly.
  6. Using your hands, form the mixture into mini pies or patties and place them on the prepared baking sheet. Press lightly on the tops to flatten them slightly. Bake for 30 minutes. Turn the mini pies with a metal spatula and bake 12 to 15 minutes longer until tops are firm.
  7. TO MAKE THE MEDITERRANEAN RELISH, combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  8. TO SERVE, place the mushroom mini pies on a platter and garnish each with a generous dollop of the Mediterranean Relish. Artfully place a basil leaf on each mini pie and bring the remaining relish to the table.

Note: The mini pies and the relish are also the ultimate convenience foods—prepare them a day ahead and chill them separately. Reheat the mini pies at 350 degrees F. for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. The relish will keep for up to 4 days.

Important: If you’ve chosen to use the buckwheat in the in the mini cakes, you may need to add a small amount of water. If the mixture is too dry to hold together when forming the mini pies, add 1 to 3 tablespoons water and mix well with the hands. The mixture should be firm, yet moist but not watery.