Vegan

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho

With another year under the belt, life continues to serve unexpected surprises. The Age of Question seems to only deepen with time as I find myself slowly inching towards 30. Does anyone know when it becomes the Age of Answers? Summer has been kind to us here in Texas. With mild temperatures and ample rain, we've had an abundant harvest this year. Especially our tomatoes: Teardrops, Green Zebras, Brandywine and assorted Heirlooms -- Nature has been very kind and giving this season.

There's something intrinsically magical and pure about growing your own food -- though it takes countless hours of work, sweat and patience -- the pay off seems to nourish in more ways than one. You can literally find the beauty of life in a tomato.

To think what once laid as a dormant seed, given water, soil and light, it awakens and sprouts. And with time, care and a little homemade compost -- it grows into a healthy plant that flowers and ultimately produces the lusciously juicy fruit.

We often forget to appreciate these tiny miracles but they are constantly around us: growing, thriving, living as the World intended.

As with all great ingredients, I allow them the spotlight -- to showcase their wonder without all the flare and masking.

 

We'll start with a yellow tomato gazpacho which I adapted from Bon Appetit. Topped with creamy avocado chunks, thinly sliced purple onions, dotted with meaty cubes of heirloom and drizzled with a bright and bold cilantro oil -- this Summer soup celebrates the beauty of the season.

The best part is, this soup can be made ahead and would serve as the perfect starter for any Summer party. Feel free to serve in shot glasses or tiny bowls and always make sure you serve this soup ICE COLD. Your guests will thank you :)

If yellow tomatoes are not available to you, feel free to use red tear drops -- though the color will be different the flavors will still be wonderful. For those who aren't a fan of heat, leave out the chile but being the thrill-seeker that I am, I put a yellow thai chili from our garden and rest assured, it did the job.

As chiles vary in heat, always be sure to taste the spiciness level and adjust accordingly.

Yellow Tomato Gazpacho
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 5 mins
Total time: 20 mins
Serves: 6
A chilled Summer soup that will leave you wanting more...
Ingredients
  • 1 3/4 pounds yellow tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup chopped seeded peeled cucumber
  • 1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeño chili with seeds, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • Garnish with cubes of avocado, thinly shaved onion and meaty cubes of heirloom tomato.
  • Cilantro Oil
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 medium jalapeño chili with seeds, chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/4 cup water
Instructions
  1. Squeeze tomato juices and seeds into strainer set over bowl. Press on seeds to extract all juice. Chop tomatoes. Set aside 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 1/4 cup cucumber, and 1/4 cup bell pepper.
  2. Combine remaining tomatoes, cucumber, and bell pepper in processor. Add tomato juices, onion, orange juice, oil, vinegar, garlic, and jalapeño; process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer soup to bowl; add reserved vegetables. Cover and chill overnight.
  3. Divide soup among 6 bowls. Garnish and drizzle with cilantro oil.
  4. Cilantro Oil
  5. Combine all ingredients except water in processor. Puree until almost smooth. Transfer puree to fine strainer set over bowl. Using rubber spatula, press on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids in strainer. Whisk 1/4 cup water into mixture in bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and refrigerate. Rewhisk before using.

 

 

 

Elotes

There's something wonderful about Elotes -- the refreshing aromas of lime and cilantro, the smokiness from the slight char, the sweetness of the kernels...it's like this happy awesome party in your mouth and everyone is invited! Now traditionally, Elotesare a staple in Mexican street food -- served on the cob, in a cup, topped with various toppings like chili powder, cheese, butter, sour cream, seasoned salt, lemon pepper...

With corn in season and our garden in full bloom, I wanted to utilize seasonal ingredients with whatever was affluent in our garden -- currently it's lots of chard, carrots, onion and KALE. But we'll get to that in a minute...

 

Traditional Elotes is usually smothered in generous amounts of butter and mayo (my favorite) but seeing that Summer is right around the corner, I am trying to keep my thighs in check. With that being said, I simply just brushed the corn with melted butter for a slight buttery flavor and let the other flavors be carried out through the fresh lime and spices.

 

And I got lazy. And didn't want to bug my husband to fire up the grill so I could grill two ears of corn.  So being the good wife that I am, I used the broiler to save him the pain :).

 

Now what do you do if you made a crap ton of Elotes and now you have a bunch left over?? Never you fret my pet. Why not use them for some healthy lettuce wraps? Since I had Tuscan Kale growing in the garden, I made some "vegan" lettuce wraps and topped it with some creamy avocado chunks. I even tossed in a habanero to the left over mixture to give it a nice kick. Feel free to use any type of lettuce in place of kale.

 

Eating healthy aint all bad y'all! You can also use your leftovers and use it as a corn salsa or put it on top of a salad or protein. I actually used it as breakfast -- I simply chopped up some kale, tossed it in lime and honey and salt, topped it with a fried egg, avocado slices and corn and VOILA -- breakfast of champions.

 

This would be a great recipe for Cinco de Mayo this weekend, be sure to share the love! Have a great weekend folks...

 

 

 

 

 

Grapefruit Negroni

 

As you know I'm not much of a drinker. A genetic mutation causes my body to process alcohol as if it were poison. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't stop me when I'm out at an event, a dinner, or when friends are in town, there are times when cocktails are needed or in this case, wanted.

 

Citrus season is in full bloom here in Texas. Grapefruits, clementines, oranges, lemons and limes are flowing in by the truckloads and naturally the aromas are a playful awakening to the palate. I thought this cocktail would be the perfect celebration for Chinese New Year -- the deep red from the sensuously bitter Campari, a sweet bite from the Hendrick's, finished by the intoxicating aromas of grapefruit --  it's meant to be sipped opposed to gulped.

This year we celebrate The Year of the Dragon -- the only mythical creature out of the 12 signs. It is believed that the dragon possess great power and may even have magical control over the weather and water. We'll be celebrating with Nian-Gao (Rice Cakes) and Hot Pot tonight as my brother in law was born in this year -- Go Carter! I managed to give the house a good scrub to make sure we start off the year free of spirits.

I called my mom today and could barely hear her over the fireworks that were exploding outside her window in Shanghai. Hopefully one year I'll be able to experience the excitement but for now, I'm more than complacent with my Grapefruit Negroni.  Thank you Esquire for the recipe.

 

 

Cucumber Tomato Basil Salad with Arugula and Bok Choy Flowers

It's funny how sometimes even after the most amazing experiences, nothing beats the excitement of coming home, lying in your awesome ass bed and relishing in the glory of everything familiar again.  Home sweet home. Even better, we came home to an exploding garden! Everything literally tripled in size while we were gone -- the beans, the tomatoes, my wildflowers. We instilled life back into this little yard, it's now filled with ladybugs, butterflies, bees Oh My! The Wells farm is up and kickin, we're keeping our fingers crossed for a bountiful harvest.

I made this salad tonight using vegetables from my dad's garden and basil, waxbeans and flowers from ours.  I never thought to use flowers in food but since starting our growing frenzy, I've managed to taste practically everything. And arugula, onion and bok choy flowers are on my list of top finds -- they are fantastic and give little bursts of flavors throughout the salad.  This recipe is a glorious celebration of everything life: from seed to flower to fruit, repeat.

Cucumber Tomato Basil Salad with Arugula and Bok Choy Flowers
Recipe Type: Appetizer
Author: Joy Zhang
Prep time: 10 mins
Total time: 10 mins
Serves: 2-4
A rustic salad using home-grown organic vegetables: japanese cucumber, brandywine tomatoes, basil, arugula flower, bok choy flower, onion flower, wax beans
Ingredients
  • 2 large brandywine tomatoes, 1" pieces
  • 1 japanese cucumber
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon of arugula flowers
  • 1 teaspoon of bokchoy flowers
  • 1 teaspoon of onion flowers
  • 1/2 cup wax beans
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Wash all vegetables thoroughly under water making sure to rid of all dirt. Dice the tomatoes into 1" pieces and thinly slice the cucumber.
  2. Cut off the ends of wax beans and cut them in half. In a large bowl mix the tomatoes, cucumber and beans together.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk oil with salt and pepper. Drizzle on salad and toss evenly. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Garnish with arugula and bokchoy flowers.
Notes

Arugula flowers have a nice spicy flavor much like the leaf -- be sure to pick the flowers when they are just blooming. If you wait too long they will taste bitter.

Bok Choy flowers are more grassy with umami undertones. Same rule of thumb, harvest when the flowers are newly blossomed.

Best Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes with Vegan Banana Ice Cream

Chocolate Vegan Peanut Butter Cupcake with Banana Ice Cream One of the many reasons why I fell in love with Collin was for his Superman abilities.  Whenever my computer crashed, BAM it’s fixed.  Whenever I couldn’t move that stupid heavy box, POOF he lifts it with one hand.  Even that one time when my heel got stuck in the crack of the sidewalk and my face was about to meet the pavement of death, like magic he not only pulls me back but frees my heel at the same time in the process.  I realize I’d never want to ever lose my hero, honestly, what would I do?  With that being said, although 99% of the time Collin is indestructible, like every Superman, he has his kryptonite: desserts.

Chocolate Vegan Peanut Butter Cupcake with Banana Ice Cream

Let’s start with a simple equation: Collin + Desserts = Epic Domination.  If I bake a pie and he sees it, within a couple hours it’ll be gone.  There have been instances at our dinner parties where he’ll even hoard a few portions of desserts for later, when after the guests leave.  Recently he’s been so good at sneaking my baked goods that I don’t realize anything is missing, until I pull the pan out of the oven.  The point is the man has no self-control when it comes to desserts, and he simply cannot stop.  When I make dessert recipes for the blog and you wonder “Wow who gets to eat that?”  The answer is Collin; he eats all of it, that night usually.

As a result of his bad boy behaviors, consequently his waist line suffers and then that leads to frustration towards me.  “I was SO hot before I met you, remember when I had a six-pack and some monster biceps??!!  Now look at me!  YOU DID THIS TO ME, STOP MAKING DESSERTS!!!”  He’s right.  I did.  I did do that to him.  But I didn’t mean to!  Desserts are evil, the only way they’re good is if they’re packed full of cream, eggs, sugar and butter.  How can the best things in life be so bad for us?  WHY IS THE WORLD PACKED FULL OF CONTRADICTORY SITUATIONS?

So this year I’ve been on a mission.  I realize to keep my Superman around I have to keep him healthy and in good shape.  However, it’s impossible to say I won’t make any desserts, life is too short for that but I can try to find dessert recipes that won’t give you a third ass.  This is one of them.

I finally found the ultimate vegan dessert recipe.  For all you vegan haters, hey I feel you – I was on that boat of “Uhm vegan dessert?  Those two words don’t ever go together.”  But this recipe changed my mind.  After trying a couple vegan cake recipes, I found this to be the best one.  The addition of the coffee along with the Valrona cocoa makes this cake moist, rich and delicious.  For the filling I used all natural peanut butter and sweetened it with some raw honey.  It is important that you opt for all-natural peanut butter; it contains monosaturated fats that are good for lowering LDL cholesterol as well as a good source of protein.  When you buy regular peanut butter, it usually contains high levels of hydrogenated fats (bad fats), preservatives, sugar and salt – save yourself go natural.  The banana ice cream is just frozen bananas blended – due to the low liquid content in bananas, when blended it turns into this creamy, milky texture.  It’s so easy to make and it tastes incredible, the more ripe the bananas the sweeter your ice cream (I wouldn’t recommend using bananas that don’t have brown spots on them)! Top it off with some cocoa nibs and cocoa powder for that nice earthy touch and I promise you’ll forget its even vegan.

Recipe for Chocolate Vegan Cake with Vegan Banana Ice Cream:

<Print Recipe Here>

 

Banana Ice Cream (makes about 3 cups)

  • 3 very ripe bananas, frozen
  • 1 Tablespoon soymilk (optional)

Using a blender or hand-held immersion blender, blend the bananas into a smooth paste.  If it feels a little thick, feel free to add the soymilk.  Place in a medium glass container and freeze for 30 minutes or more before using.

Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes (8-10 cupcakes)

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, I highly recommend you using Valrhona (yes it makes all the difference in the world)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup warm water
  • ½ cup brewed coffee
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon distilled vinegar

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  • 1 ½ cups all-natural peanut butter, room temperature
  • ½ cup honey
  • Cocoa nibs and cocoa powder for garnish

Mix peanut butter and honey together in a bowl until combined.  Set aside until ready to use.

If you’re interested in making the candied hazelnuts you can find the manual over at Martha Stewart.

Chocolate Vegan Peanut Butter Cupcake with Banana Ice Cream

Preheat oven at 350F.

In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together until well incorporated.  Add water, coffee, oil and vinegar into dry mixture, mix until fully blended.  Fill muffin pan with liners and fill with batter ¾ the way full.  Bake in oven for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Place on rack to cool.  Using a paring knife or tiny circular pastry cutter (1”-1.25”) cut out a hole in the center of each cupcake for the peanut butter filling.

Take banana ice cream out and set aside.  Fill each cupcake with peanut butter mixture up to the top and scoop banana ice cream on top.  Garnish with cocoa nibs and cocoa powder.  Serve immediately and eat often.

*** If you feel this dessert needs to be sweeter, simply add more honey on top!

(p.s. I know "technically" honey is not vegan so feel free to use agave as a substitute.)

Chocolate Vegan Peanut Butter Cupcake with Banana Ice Cream