(photo credit: Courtesy)
Vegetarian cuisine has come a long way since the macrobiotic meals we used to
savor at a modest eatery called Auberge Inn in Paris’s Latin Quarter in the late
1970s, where we dined on such fare as brown rice and beans sprinkled with
toasted sesame seeds. The food was hearty and tasty, but creativity was not one
of its qualities.
Last week innovation clearly characterized the spread
at the Compassionate Cuisine Celebration. The festival took place at the elegant
Japanese Garden at California State University, Long Beach, to commemorate World
Vegetarian Day and to benefit Animal Acres, a farmed animal sanctuary in
Our good friend Nancy Eisman of Melissa’s Worldwide
Produce had discussed the dish she was planning to prepare for this event, as we
were strolling last week down the aisles of our favorite East Asian supermarket.
We were eager to taste her creation and so we went to her booth first. She
presented a refreshing salad of fresh tofu with Vietnamese-inspired pickled
vegetables and a luscious pesto of cilantro and Mexican pumpkin seeds. This dish
was not only delicious; it needed no cooking! We put it at the top of our list
of dishes to make at home.
Another dish we enjoyed was Tuscan
cauliflower, prepared by the cook of a local market called Olives Gourmet
Grocer, who combined roasted seasoned cauliflower florets with artichokes,
garlic, capers and olive oil.
Vegetarian cooking in the West has been
enriched by contributions from Indian and Chinese cuisines, which have age-old
traditions of meatless cooking. In East Asia cooks developed tasty vegetarian
dishes imitating meats and fish. At the booth of Happy Family Vegetarian
Cuisine, some of the nonvegetarian guests sampling the spicy Chinese orange-peel
chicken and the sweet-and-sour meat forgot for a moment that this was not really
chicken or meat; all their “meats” were made from soy or wheat protein – also
known as seitan or wheat gluten.
These Asian faux meats also starred in
the Latin American chimichurri fajitas served by Native Foods Café, which
featured Mexican flavored seitan with roasted sweet peppers, onions and
tomatoes, accompanied by grilled organic corn tortillas. The Argentine
parsley-and-garlic chimichurri sauce is classically served with steak but proved
a fine partner for this vegetarian dish.
There were vegan quiches that
were surprisingly tasty considering the composition of the fillings – the chef
of Da Vinci’s Delight told us she made them from tofu pureed with uncooked
vegetables and baked in a flaky pastry crust.
We were impressed that the
quiches could be cut neatly although there were no eggs to hold the filling
C’est La V Bakeshop featured not only dairy- and egg-free
treats like pumpkin pie bars on an oatmeal pecan cookie crust, but even gluten-
and soy-free toffee cookie bars.
Some cooks focused on raw foods, which
have become trendy, and which the chef of Good To Go restaurant in Huntington
Beach, California, prefers to call “living foods.”
We didn’t expect to
like the unbaked pizza, but its crust of ground nuts and seeds was tasty indeed
and complemented the mushroom olive basil topping. Another successful
preparation was the restaurant’s chocolate mousse made by blending three
ingredients – cacao, avocado and agave nectar – one more idea to play with at
WITH ZUCCHINI AND CAPERS
These roasted vegetables make a tasty appetizer
or side dish. To turn them into a main course, add chickpeas or other cooked
beans. If you like, line the roasting pan with foil or baking paper to make
1 cauliflower, divided in small florets
1 or 2 zucchini
or white squash (kishuim), halved lengthwise and cut in chunks 1 small onion,
halved and sliced lengthwise
1 small red pepper, cut in thick strips (optional)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 to 4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil salt and freshly
1 to 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
1 Tbsp. drained capers
1 to 2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
Preheat oven to 190º. Put cauliflower in roasting
pan large enough to hold all the vegetables in one layer and sprinkle it with
about 1 tablespoon olive oil and a little salt. Roast for 10 minutes. Add onion
and sweet pepper, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon oil or to taste and a little salt and
pepper and roast for 10 minutes. Add zucchini and garlic and stir gently.
Sprinkle with 1 to 2 teaspoons oil and a little salt and pepper and roast for 20
Gently stir vegetables, turning pieces over. Roast for 10 more
minutes or until vegetables are done to your taste.
In a small bowl whisk
lemon juice with 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil and a little salt and pepper.
Spoon mixture over the vegetables. Taste and adjust seasoning.
vegetables hot, warm or at room temperature, sprinkled with parsley and
Makes 4 servings.
NANCY EISMAN’S FRESH TOFU WITH PICKLED
VEGETABLES AND CREAMY CILANTRO PESTO
The creamy pesto dressing is terrific not
only with tofu and greens, but also with hard-boiled eggs, baked eggplant and
all sorts of cooked vegetables.
These pickled vegetables in this dish are
gentle and savory-sweet. Depending on how long you let the vegetables sit in the
flavorful blend of pineapple juice, soy sauce, ginger and garlic, you could
think of them as marinated or as pickled. Their marinade doubles as a sauce for
Nancy uses the classic Vietnamese mixture of carrots and daikon
radish for the pickles, but you can use other long, mild radishes, kohlrabi,
mild fresh turnips or cucumber strips. To make julienne, cut the vegetables in
pieces 2.5 cm. to 3.75 cm. long, then in very thin strips.
Quick Pickled Vegetables – see recipe below
Cilantro Pesto Mayonnaise – see
4 or 5 cups mixed baby lettuces
a 350-gr. to 450-gr. package tofu,
preferably firm, cut into 8 pieces
Prepare Quick Pickled Vegetables at least a
day before you plan to serve the dish. Prepare Cilantro Pesto
To serve, place a handful of mixed greens on each of 8
plates. Place a piece of tofu on greens. Add a few pieces of pickled vegetables
on one side of tofu and a spoonful of cilantro pesto mayonnaise on the
Drizzle a little of the pickling marinade over the tofu and the
greens. Serve cold or at room temperature.
Makes 8 salad
Asian-style Quick Pickled Vegetables:
11⁄2 cups julienned
11⁄2 cups julienned daikon radish or other radish
1⁄2 cup sliced
jalapeno chili peppers or other hot or semi-hot peppers
11⁄2 cups pineapple
1⁄2 cup soy sauce
1 tsp. minced garlic 2 tsp. minced ginger
1 Tbsp. sugar
Put carrots, radishes and sliced chilies in a jar or a container. In a bowl
combine pineapple juice, soy sauce, garlic, ginger and sugar and whisk together
until blended. Pour this pickling marinade over the vegetables.
refrigerate at least 24 hours; or leave for 3 to 4 days for the vegetables to
absorb more flavor from the marinade.
Cilantro Pesto Mayonnaise:
chopped cilantro (fresh coriander)
1⁄4 to 1⁄3 cup vegetable oil 1 tsp. fresh
lemon juice, or more to taste
1⁄3 cup green pumpkin seeds, lightly toasted
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper or cayenne pepper to taste (optional)
1 cup good quality mayonnaise
In a blender process cilantro, oil, lemon juice
and pumpkin seeds. Add salt and pepper to taste, and additional oil or lemon
juice if needed to obtain the consistency of a pesto or thick sauce. In a bowl
mix the pesto with mayonnaise until well blended.
Taste and adjust
seasoning. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. You can keep it,
refrigerated, for several days.Faye Levy is the author of the
Faye Levy’s International Vegetable Cookbook.