Tag Archives: Vegetarian Tips

Braised Escarole with White Bean Vinaigrette

By guest chef, Cathi DiCocco

A delicious whole foods dinner by restauranteur Cathi Dicocco.

Cathi grew up cooking in her fathers Italian restaurant in upstate NY.  She is a hidden gem we found in the Maine woods. If you’re ever in Bethel, Maine, stop and visit  Cathi’s restaurant and market

serves 4

To make the Beans:

1 cup of dry beans

1 sprig of rosemary

1 head of garlic, loose skin removed and cut in half through the middle

 Cover dry beans by three inched with cold water and soak in the refrigerator overnight. Drain beans and rinse well. Place the beans in a pot and add 3 cups of cold water. Add the rosemary and the garlic. Bring the beans to a boil for 5 minutes, reduce heat and simmer for one hour or until the beans are tender.  Remove and reserve the garlic halves. Drain the beans, rinse and set aside.

 One cup of dry beans will yield 3 cups of cooked.


3 Cups cooked cannellini beans

¼ cup or more hot water

1 half bulb of the prepared garlic (more to taste)

Juice of ½ lemon

2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons Balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

Process or mash 1 1/2 cup of prepared beans with the hot water. Try to get this as smooth as possible. The consistency should be thin but not watery. Take the prepared garlic and gently squeeze out the softened cloves into the bean “juice”. Mash and blend the garlic. Add the lemon juice, chopped rosemary, olive oil and vinegar. Mix well. Add remaining beans, mash slightly retaining a fair amount of bean texture and gently fold ingredients together in the dressing. Season with salt and pepper to taste and set aside. Prepare escarole.


1 large head of Escarole, cut into quarters

Olive oil

 Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in two quarters of escarole. Reduce the heat to a low boil and cook the escarole for 5-7 minutes. Meanwhile preheat a grill to 400 degrees or if you’re grilling the escarole inside preheat a cast iron grill pan for about 5 minutes on high. After 5 minutes lower the preheating grill pan to medium high.  The pan should be very hot but not smoking.

While the escarole is cooking and grill preheating fill a large bowl with cold water and 2 cups of ice.

Using large tongs remove the escarole from the pot, place them into a colander and then immediately plunge them into the cold water bath.  Alternatively you may rinse the escarole under cold running water.  When the escarole has cooled down, about 1 minute, remove the greens and blot very dry in a large clean cotton towel.  If preparing the full head of escarole or 4 portions repeat this process.

Brush one side of the escarole with olive oil and place onto the grill or grill pan, oiled side down. Grill for about 3-4 minutes or until grill marks are visible. Brush the top with oil and flip. Once the underside is nicely grilled, remove the escarole and set onto a serving plate.

Stir the white bean dressing and then spoon the beans onto the escarole. Season the escarole with a generous grating of black pepper and additional olive oil if desired. Serve with crusty garlic bread.


DVD potato pizza veg plate72

Potato Rosemary Pizza

by Toni Fiore,  author of Totally vegetarian. The Totally vegetarian TV show is now online.

Watch this recipe on Delicious TV’s Vegan Mashup

Establishments that serve pizza by the slice are popping up everywhere around Italy. When I travel I love sampling different pizzas with loads of delicious vegetables!  This traditional Italian Pizza Patata (Potato Pizza) like many other vegetable pizzas in Italy, is made without cheese. I’ve chosen rosemary as my herb topping but fresh sage, oregano or thyme also yield fantastic results!

1 Premade Flatbread (12”)

Olive Oil

1 Yukon Gold or other waxy potato, sliced thin

1-2 branches of fresh rosemary

Kosher salt and fresh black pepper

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Lay the flatbread crust on a lightweight baking sheet or pizza pan. Drizzle the bread with olive oil and spread the oil to evenly cover the bread. Season with a few grinds of black pepper. Lay the potatoes on the bread close to the top edge in a circular pattern overlapping slightly.  Season the potatoes with a few sprinkles of salt. Pull the rosemary off of the stems and chop slightly or use whole. Sprinkle the rosemary over the potatoes. Lightly drizzle the topping with some olive oil and place into the oven. Bake the pizza for about 10-12 minutes until the crust is nice and golden brown.

Season and serve. This pizza is equally delicious hot, at room temperature or even cold. It packs and reheats well!

Vegan Pizza Spreads Across US!


Oh so many years ago when we first became vegetarians, in order to get a decent, tasty vegan pizza, you had to make it yourself. While it’s still a wonderful thing to DIY – check out Toni’s amazing Potato Sage Pizza – it’s also nice to know that from Boston to Seattle and in a growing number of cities in between, you can find pizza parlors who have mastered the fine art of vegan pizza making.

T.J. Scallywaggles – Boston, MA
Pizza Plaza – Oakland, CA
Pizza Pi – Seattle, WA
The Rudyard Kipling – Louisville, KY
Viva Herbal Pizzeria – NYC
Gianna’s Grille – Philadelphia, PA (check out their veg specialties too!)
Este Pizzeria – Salt Lake City, UT
Tomato Joe’s – Valencia, CA
Bobby G’s Pizzeria – Berkeley, CA (vegan pizza by the slice!)

Summertime and the grillin’ is easy

veg-grillFor us, summer means less time in the kitchen and more time outside in “the big room” – so of course, the less fuss involved in the preparation of meals, the better we like it.  And what could be less fussy (and more delicious) than a stir fry prepared al fresco on the grill?  Utilizing any of the super fresh, yummy vegetables of summer, you really can stir fry practically anywhere even over a camper hotplate or an open fire.

The following list is just a small sample of our favorite summer fresh vegetables for stir frying: green beans, peppers, onions, eggplant slices, carrots, zucchini, pattypan or yellow squash, chard, sugar snap and snow peas, asparagus, and of course sweet corn. Use your imagination when combining vegetables for a stir fry and never be afraid to experiment.  Summer is the best time of year to enjoy all the flavorful benefits and easy preparation of vegetarian food.  So, go on…stir fry!

Cashew Cream Spread

1-2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/3 c. cashew nut butter
2 T. white or red miso
2 t. olive oil

In a food processor or blender, add the nut butter, miso and garlic. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, the olive oil, and process. The spread should have a smooth consistency similar to mayonnaise.

This also makes a wonderful creamy salad dressing with the addition of a bit more water, added a little at a time, to your preferred consistency.

Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

How To Re-Hydrate Dry TVP

I just received a question about rehydrating dry TVP (textured vegetable protein). Many stores carry ready to cook TVP in the form of faux “meats” (whether frozen, refrigerated, or canned), but in some areas, these types of products can be difficult to find. In that case, dry TVP may be your only alternative.

For people in those areas here’s my advice. The general rule of thumb for rehydrating TVP is 1 cup of TVP to ¾-1 cup of boiling water. I always start at the lower measure first, you can always add more water. After pouring the water over it, give the TVP about 10 minutes to rehydrate. Once it has plumped up and is softened, squeeze out the excess water and use.

If you feel the TVP is still too wet, simply spread it out on a baking sheet and pop it in the oven at 300 degrees for 10-15 minutes and the texture will become drier and chewier. If you are going to bake off excess water, make sure to check the TVP at 10 minutes, since all ovens bake differently. If the TVP does become too dry – I prefer it on the drier side – I would still use it, unless it’s totally blackened. Once you add it to your recipe, it will plump back up. If at first you’re not satisfied with the results you get, give it a few tries, you’ll get the knack of it!

Use fine-textured TVP in sauces, or for tacos and chili. Use the larger crumbles to replace beef in stews, stir-fries, soups, and pot pies. Dry TVP can be stored in a cool dry location for up to 6 months. Rehydrated TVP needs to be refrigerated and should be used up within 3-5 days.

What is Macerating?

Macerating vs. Marinating

I just received an email asking what the difference is between marinating and macerating.

Macerating is a procedure used in food preparation where raw, dried, or preserved fruits or vegetables are soaked in a seasoned, usually acidic, liquid before cooking. Macerating is often confused with “marination,” and some use the terms interchangeably. But they do have a different purpose.

Macerating refers to the softening or breaking down of tough fibers in foods using a liquid. This process not only helps to make a particular food more flavorful, it also makes it easier to digest. This is especially helpful with raw onions. Fruit, on the other hand, is usually sprinkled with sugar and a little fresh lemon, then left to sit and release its own juices.

Marinating will do the same thing to some extent, but it is really designed to simply impart additional added flavor before and during the cooking process. So while these two processes share some of the same purposes, there is a difference.

Rediscover Lentils

Rediscover Lentils

Lentils are one of the most ancient of cultivated crops, and they’re widely consumed throughout Europe, India, and Africa. They are wonderfully all-purpose, low in fat, high in protein and fiber, and unlike other legumes, they cook quickly and require no soaking. They are a terrific meat substitute for vegetarians in a variety of forms – as in burgers and loaves. Lentils have a mild, earthy flavor, and stand up well against more assertive flavorings.

Puy lentils or French lentils are some of the finest available. While they take a bit longer to cook than brown lentils, they’re worth the extra time because they hold their shape well after cooking. Puy lentils are smaller than brown lentils and they’re a beautiful blue green color. They will darken after cooking and I wouldn’t recommend they be used in a burger or loaf recipe as they cost more than brown lentils and they’re very refined. At one time they were only grown in the volcanic soil of Puy, France, but they are now also grown in Italy and North America, which makes them more affordable.

All lentils are best when simmered gently and shouldn’t be used just for soups. Use them as you would other beans – they make great tacos, for example. All lentils are a wonderful, protein-rich addition to salads or are a delicious side dish to any meal.

Dal (or split lentils) are often sold in Indian markets. They cook down quickly and are best puréed or added to soups.

Before cooking, simply rinse lentils and pick out any stones. Salting the water during cooking will slow the process, so season them just before serving. A delicious lentil dish can be ready in as little as half an hour. An essential pantry item, lentils of all types will last up to a year stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.

Recently during an informal get together, I made a simple stew with puy lentils, garlic and onions which I served over wilted baby spinach and cornbread with a drizzle of olive oil, chopped cilantro a squeeze of fresh lemon, and fresh cracked pepper. It was the easiest meal you can imagine, and turned out to be a great success with my supper guests. Next time you think of passing by lentils at the store, take the leap and grab a bag – you won’t be sorry.

Texture Tips

Texture Tips

One of the most important elements people seek in food, especially vegetarian food is texture. From the moment we begin eating solid food, texture plays an extremely important role in our diets and our palates. Taste is equally important, but how food “feels” remains an issue for many. Consequently, tofu, beans, and other vegetables are given a bad rap while fried and processed foods are touted everywhere.

One of our goals is to show our viewers how easy it really is to change and increase the texture and palatability of soy and vegetable-based dishes. Simple adjustments like choosing whole grain breads versus soft white, adding nuts and whole grains to vegetables, and roasting foods instead of boiling can make a huge difference not only nutritionally but in our mindset. Old habits die hard and diet is no exception. In fact, diet is one of the most difficult things of all to change because our choices are so often steeped in family tradition.

If you want to add texture to your diet, nuts are a wonderful and easy way to begin. Adding toasted nuts to pasta sauces, cereals, desserts, and vegetable dishes not only adds terrific texture but necessary vitamins and protein as well. Another way to get more texture into your food is the use of whole grains. Millet, buckwheat groats, and quinoa are easy to prepare, delicious, chewy and nutritious ways of getting your grains and boosting the texture of just about anything you add them to. These wonderful grains can be eaten at just about any meal, added to baked goods, soups, muffins, meatless burgers, combined with rice, or simply eaten on their own as side dishes. Lately, I’ve been using kasha frequently in my recipes. It cooks quickly, in fifteen minutes or so, has a wonderful nutty taste, supplies more than 20% of your daily fiber, is loaded with B vitamins, protein, and amino acids. I usually make a double batch and use leftovers during the week. Having it ready to go increases the likelihood that you’ll use it. Stored in the refrigerator, cooked grains should last up to seven days. So when you make your resolutions to eat healthier be sure to put nuts and whole grains on top of your list. It’s so easy you’ll wonder why you waited all year.

Where do pine nuts come from?

Where do pine nuts come from?

Yesterday I attended a pot luck dinner with some friends. I brought a dish that contained toasted pine nuts and during the course of the evening, it became apparent that not many people knew where pine nuts actually come from.

Having grown up in Italy, these nuts were a regular staple and available everywhere. Pine nuts (pignoli nuts) are the seeds of the Stone Pine, a native of the Mediterranean region, but the seeds of various other pines are also eaten in different parts of the world including the seeds of the Korean Pine or North American piñon tree.

Pine nuts are very labor intensive to harvest which explains their relatively high cost, but the Italian variety is far costlier than Asian pine nuts and there is a difference in shape and quality between the two. The Italian nuts have a slimmer shape, firmer texture, and more flavor, but they’re often three to four times more expensive. Pine nuts are vital for pesto, and are absolutely delicious lightly toasted. They can easily get rancid so store them in the refrigerator or freezer. 100 grams of pine nuts contain 31 grams of protein, the highest of all nuts and seeds, and they have a slightly sweet buttery flavor. While the Italian pine nut is superior in flavor to the more commonly found Chinese variety, I still recommend purchasing the less expensive variety if cost is a factor just to get pine nuts into your diet.

Pine nuts are a welcome, healthy, and delicious addition to many dishes.