Lemony Ricotta & Summer Squash Pizza; Pea Coconut Puree

Squash, squash y'all

When one is faced with this lengthy summer bounty, they start with the classics. They grate. They bake. They stuff. They roast. When it is warm, they carefully peel raw noodles. When there’s a breeze, they contemplate how this could extend their summer chili. They shred some more. From there, they google. With that, they stumble in love with Smitten Kitchen’s kemony zucchini goat cheese pizza.

From the moment I saw the result pop up with its enchanting image of thinly layered summer squash, I felt that much better about this weird summer. Inspired by Smitten’s design, my version changes the layout a bit, colorwise, adding a ring of black cherry cherry tomatoes, with plenty of fresh lemon juice whisked into the herbed tofu ricotta, on top of Hot Lips pizza dough ($2). It was all topped off with extra virgin olive oil and a bunch of freshly ground black pepper. As it should be.

Lemony herbed ricotta spread

Finale: Lemony Summer Squash Pizza with Tofu Ricotta, Fresh Basil & Cherry Tomatoes

This same weekend, I found myself shelling fresh peas. It was instantly therapeutic and I started thinking fresh pasta! risotto! creamy soups! puree! getting fishy!?! Blame on all the Gordon Ramsey I’ve been watching (I don’t have cable, so I make do with whatever cooking shows I can), but I took inspiration for this dish from all his bleeping scallops. My sister was quickly horrified when I told her I was making pea puree for dinner, but turned it around and approved once I assured her that was “fancy”. Er, thanks, sis! You enjoy that fettucine alfredo, I’ll break out the peas, coconut milk and fresh basil, thank you very much.

Grilled Tofu, marinated in a Citra Summer Blonde Ale & Yellow Curry sauce, fresh Pea & Coconut puree with Basil, Sesame Green Beans & Wild rice

Grilled tofu & peas: because when in doubt, play with textures and marinate in beer.

Tales from the Nut: Cashew Mushroom Alfredo

Vegan Cashew Alfredo, topped with sautéed Maitake and Porcini Mushrooms

cashew

If you’re vegan and enjoy cooking, I’m sure soaking nuts for cream sauces and vegan cheeses has already entered your culinary repertoire. If not, get on it. I’ve enjoyed my share of tofu-based cream sauces, but the silkiness of soaked nuts usually overrules thick soy.  If you’re allergic to nuts, well, I’ll cry into my cashew alfredo for you, and sympathetically relay my soul-crushing hazelnut allergy developments. It’s hard to admit, because that makes it real.

This recent cashew and mushroom alfredo was inspired by a lovely meal at a famed vegan trattoria down the street, and the never-ending container of soaked cashews in my fridge. I must be secretly hosting soft-toothed squirrels because my cats are simply not capable of such a production.

I loosely followed this recipe for Cashew Alfredo Sauce on Vegweb.  The sauce consisted of soaked cashews, water,  salt, freshly ground black pepper, freshly ground nutmeg, and nutritional yeast. It was pureed in one of the prides of my kitchen (and oh-my-god, food blogging perks), the Vita-Mix. I didn’t have any lemons, so I omitted that, and utilized garlic and olive oil while sauteing local maitake and porcini mushrooms. I half-considered indulgently adding the cream sauce to the mushroom mixture, but my personal preference was to keep things separate.

When I nut alfredo it up again, I’ll be sure to add sautéed or roasted garlic into the actual sauce.

alongside: Balsamic Grilled Sugar Snap Peas

balsamic grilled sugar snap peas

Cashew Alfredo, served over housemade fresh pasta from Pastaworks (a few varieties are actually vegan!)

cashew

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Grilled Seitan and Portobello with Pistou

Grilled Seitan and sliced Portobello with Pistou

pistou

I may not have a garden with fresh basil, or a backyard to grill in, but I do have access to numerous, inviting farmers markets and my handy dandy cast iron grilling pan.  I don’t completely forget about it in the winter; the desire to grill simply springs out this time of year.

Pistou sauce is traditionally made with a mortar and pestle. I don’t have one in my life, but I do have blending machines. This post really is all about looking on the bright side and smashing basil.

The seitan is based on the Seitan Cutlets in Veganomicon.  I cooked it as one large uh, dough, and played with the seasonings a bit.  The baking broth included basil, black pepper, and Bill’s Best Chick’nish seasoning.  Both sliced seitan strips and de-gilled portobella mushroom slices were carefully tossed and marinated in 1/2 cup of pistou for 30 minutes prior to grilling.

Basically, pistou is a generous, nutless pesto.  A lot of the recipes online call for fancy cheese, but traditionally, it doesn’t have to.  I stuck with a tablespoon of nooch. Any more, and it would have become cheesy sauce pistou.  Nothing wrong with that, and I believe in pesto mac, but it wasn’t what I was going for with this.  I added the vegetable broth because I didn’t want something incredibly oily, so do what you will.

The Pistou ingredients:

  • 1.5-2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon vegetable broth, or water
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • 1 clove of garlic (go for 2 if you’re using small cloves)

Directions: Pulse quickly in your blender or food processor.  You’re not looking to completely puree this, you want some specks of herb left.

This makes about 1 cup of sauce.  Use the leftover pistou as a marinade, spoon onto soup, make a sandwich spread mixed with Vegenaise, or do as I did, and top your favorite dishes.

Pistou

Pistou

Plated, over local green leaf lettuce

Pistou