A simple versitile tomato salad that’s bursting with the fresh flavors and colors of Italy.
1/2 c. baby spinach
2 c. cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 c. baked tofu
1/2 c. toasted pine nuts
One handful fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
3 T. olive oil
1-1 1/2 T. good quality red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Place all the salad ingredients in a bowl, except the basil chiffonade and pine nuts. Heat a small cast iron skillet and toast the pine nuts until golden. Toss the nuts into the salad. Whisk briefly to emulsify the olive oil and vinegar, then add salt and pepper to taste, pour over the salad, top with the basil chiffonade, and toss again lightly. Taste, adjust seasoning, and serve.
With lasagna, I serve this salad on the side, but it’s also wonderful on top of the garlic bread as a bruschetta. Though this recipe serves only two, it easily doubles or triples.
It’s a shame that fennel is often overlooked as a cooked side dish because it really is delicious. Usually served in its crunchy raw state in salads, fennel is also an easy, sweet, cooked vegetable and it’s quite popular that way in Europe. Here is a recipe that can be made with or without the Parmesan cheese (vegan or otherwise) and which offers options for other vegetable additions such as sundried tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, garlic, or black olives.
3-4 fennel bulbs, cleaned and trimmed
3-4 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/3 c. good quality white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T. to 1/4 c. grated vegan or dairy parmesan cheese
Prepare the fennel by cutting off the stems and trimming the tough bottom. Remove also the thick outer layer which is sometimes quite woody. Slice the fennel into 1/2-inch slices.
Heat a heavy sauté pan, large enough to hold the fennel slices in a single layer. A little overlap is fine, but they shouldn’t be sitting on top of each other. Heat the oil just until it’s heated through, but not smoking. Slide the fennel slices into the pan, along with a little salt and pepper, and the wine. Cover and allow the vegetables to simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the fennel is fairly tender. The fennel should begin caramelizing a bit and turning a light golden brown. Most of the liquid should be absorbed.
Turn the fennel slices, put the cover back on, and continue cooking until the other side colors – this should take about 5 minutes or so. Remove the pan from the heat and sprinkle with cheese, if you’d like, and serve immediately.
This is a terrific side dish served alongside other dishes or by itself over nutty brown rice. I have also served it on rye toast or tuscan bread prepared as bruschetta.