Tasty Vegan Dinner Or Brunch Dishes

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High Summer Feasts For People And Plants

After the longest stretch of high temperature summery days in many years (here in the maritime Northwest, anyway), heat lovers like tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant are producing like crazy. The raspberries and basil just keep coming as well, and cherries and plums are also having a super good season. We’re eating as fast as we can to keep up, and canning and freezing as well. All those sunny, hot days can take it out of people and plants alike, so this is a grand time to give everybody a boost.

For the plants, the best booster I know combines fish fertilizer and liquid kelp, along with a little humic acid. The combination is perfect for high-volume producers, from tomatoes to hanging baskets or color bowls of bright annuals. To give tomatoes and peppers a second wind, spray it on plant foliage and water some in to the roots as well. Here’s my favorite recipe:

Happy Plant Elixir

1 tablespoon liquid kelp concentrate
1 tablespoon humic acid concentrate
1/4 cup liquid fish fertilizer
1 gallon water

Combine in a gallon jug and let stand overnight. Store in a cool, dark place. After watering, give each large plant (tomato, hanging flower basket, or pumpkin, or etc.) 1 cup of elixir, and each smaller plant (basil, parsley, etc.) 1/2 cup of elixir every 2 weeks. Plants in 1 gallon containers get 1/4 cup each on the same schedule.

Vegan Italian Tomato Pie

My family’s favorite dinner on a warm summer night is some version of the classic Italian Tomato Pie. The basic recipe is very simple: Line a pie dish with crust, then layer in ripe red tomatoes and some generous scatterings of chopped herbs, such as basil, oregano, lavender and/or rosemary as well as bread crumbs (especially if garlic-infused). For an extra flavor pop, add some whole cherry tomatoes, which explode into divine taste bombs in your mouth. Vegetarians who do dairy can add coarsely grated hard cheese, such as Pecorino, Romano or Parmesan. No matter how you assemble it, this beautiful, savory pie makes a refreshing and satisfying meal.

Fresh Tomato Pie

1 pie crust (vegan, gluten free, or any favorite)
2 thick slices whole grain bread
1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon rosemary, stemmed and chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, whole
1 cup fresh basil with stems, chopped in fine ribbons
1/4 cup stemmed fresh Italian parsley
1 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1/4 cup coarsely grated Pecorino or any hard cheese (optional)

Line a 9-inch pie dish with the crust, set aside. Grate bread in a food processor to get about 1-1/2 cups coarse crumbs, set aside. In a heavy frying pan, heat oil, garlic, and bread crumbs over medium high heat. Cook, stirring, until garlic is pale golden (3-4 minutes). Add rosemary and sprinkle with salt and pepper, cook 1 minute, set aside. Layer tomatoes, fresh herbs, and onion slices into pie crust, sprinkling each layer with salt and pepper and alternating with (and ending with) bread crumb mixture. Top with cheese if using and bake at 400 degrees F until hot through (20-25 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves at least one.

Cherry Tomato Tart With Goat (Or Vegan) Cheese

This summer, our favorite cherry tomatoes are coming from our crazy-cool grafted Ketchup ‘N Fries combo tomato-potato plant. They are utterly scrumptious and I have to keep a sharp eye on them or my unrepentant offspring eat all the ripe ones before I get a chance. (Yes, I am talking about you, Kate.) Pretty much any kind will be tastefully delightful in this warm tomato tart, laced with capers, shredded basil, and bits of sweet onion. Smoked paprika and smoked sea salt add a mysteriously rich note, while just a tad of creamy goat cheese (or vegan cheese) makes for a meltingly lovely finish. This simple tart looks gorgeous and tastes simply awesome warm or at room temperature, and leftovers heat up beautifully in the toaster oven.

1 pie crust (vegan, gluten free, or any favorite)
1 tablespoon fruity olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 teaspoons capers, drained
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely shredded
1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon smoked sea salt (or any)
1/8 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
2-3 ounces fresh goat cheese or vegan cheese, crumbled

Roll pie crust out into a rough circle (or unfold the store bought one), then place it on a heavy duty baking sheet and fold about 1 inch of the edge inward. Flute the doubled dough with your fingers to create a half-inch-high outer edge.  Brush crust with a little oil and layer on half the basil. Add tomatoes, cut side up, and sprinkle with capers, red onion, salt and paprika. Top with remaining basil and dot with crumbled goat or vegan cheese. Bake at 400 degrees F until crust is crisp (20-25 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4-6 as an entree or makes 18 appetizer slices.

Gluten-Free, Dairy Free Garden Pie

For those who eschew grains, here’s a gluten-free vegan version of a classic Italian torta. This crustless pie replaces eggs with tofu, which binds everything together in a gentle, custard-like base. This works best with firmer vegetables, since less dense ones will make a soupy, sauce-like mixture that tastes good but isn’t very pretty.

Savory Garden Pie

14-16 ounces firm tofu
1 cup cilantro, coarsely chopped (stems included)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/8-1/4 teaspoon chipotle pepper flakes
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon avocado or olive oil
10 pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
1 ancho pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 Walla Walla onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups chopped fillet beans
2 cups small cauliflower florets
1 cup sweet corn kernels

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a food processor, combine chunked up tofu with 1/2 cup cilantro, 1/4 teaspoon salt, the chipotle pepper and nutritional yeast, puree, set aside. In a wide, shallow pan, heat oil, olives, onion and garlic over medium high heat. Sprinkle with remaining salt and cook until barely soft (2-3 minutes). Add beans and cauliflower, cover pan and cook until beans are bright green (2-3 minutes). Remove from heat, gently fold in tofu mixture and spoon into a pie dish. Bake until set and lightly browned (35-40 minute). Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4-6.

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