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So about the same time I discovered Miyoko Schinner and her vegan buffalo mozzarella recipeWhole Foods had a sale on heirloom tomatoes… and you just can’t ignore a coincidence like that.

This mozzarella was simpler to make than I expected, and very delicious.  For me, It turned out a little softer than the dairy version, but my testers and I didn’t really care because it made for a perfect caprese salad either way.

Oh and Miyoko is coming out with a book called Artisan Vegan Cheese available for pre-order on amazon today, and it will be released on August 8th!  The recipes are rumored to take cultured vegan cheeses to the next level, and according to her blog, a majority of the recipes are made without oil!

Vegan Caprese Salad

Tomatoes: Buy heirloom tomatoes if you can!  As you can see in the pictures, they have a lot more meat to them and don’t fall apart when you slice them.

Balsamic Reduction: Buy some cheap balsamic vinegar, and pour a third to half the bottle in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil over medium heat then simmer over medium-low heat till the vinegar is reduced by half and has a light syrupy consistency.  Let it sit in the fridge for 10-20 minutes and it will thicken up to a maple syrup consistency.

Basil: You can serve fresh basil leaves as shown above or do a chiffonade (click here for a step-by-step tutorial) and sprinkle on top.

Vegan Buffalo Mozzarella: Use this recipe from Miyoko Schinner.  You can also watch her demo it here.  Do not use the oil, and you might want to consider using some more agar flakes because my mozzarella could have been just a bit firmer.

I noticed that the closer you hold your ice cream scoop to the water, the more round the mozzarella balls turn out.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Cashew Cream and Sauteed Mushrooms, Vegan Sausage, and Greens.

Okay.  I’m just going to say it.  This is the best thing I’ve ever made!  This is omnivore approved and my mom puts it up there with my adapted version of the Vegan With a Vengeance Mushroom and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto.  Yes it’s that good.  A little involved, but so worth it.

I originally planned to make both orange and purple gnocchi (from purple potatoes)… but the purple just turned to mush when I cooked it.  I was just happy that ANY of this worked given that this was my first attempt at gnocchi. It takes time, but it’s really not rocket science.

Sweet Potato Gnocchi

Method based on this recipe.

  • 1 lb. garnet yams (about 2 potatoes)
  • whole wheat pastry flour (2-4 cups)

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into bite size chunks.  Steam in a steamer basket in a pot or medium-large saucepan until soft (approx. 20 minutes).

Mash with a potato ricer (the easy way) or a fork (the longer way) until completely lump-free.  Then spread the potatoes across your work surface/cutting board until cool enough to work with.

Pull the potatoes into a soft mound and sprinkle with 1/2 cup flour across the top.  To incorporate, use a metal spatula or a pastry scraper.  If the dough is easily sticking to the spatula or your hands, add another 1/2 cup flour and incorporate.  Then, continue adding 2-3 Tbsp flour at a time just until the point when the dough still feels slightly wet, but is not sticking to your spatula/hands (moist but not sticky).

Gently knead dough a few times to form into a ball.  Cut it into four pieces.  Now gently roll each fourth of the dough into a snake-shaped log, roughly the thickness of your thumb.  Use a knife to cut pieces every 3/4-inch.  Dust lightly with a bit more flour.

To shape the gnocchi, hold a fork in one hand so that the tines are curled toward you.  Using your thumb on your other hand roll each gnocchi pillow from the base of the tines to the tips.  What you’re aiming for is a slight “c” shape, where the back has small ridges to catch the sauce.  Set each gnocchi aside until ready to boil.

This is usually the point when I make my sauce and cook the veggies that will go with the gnocchi.  I thought they benefited from a few minutes of rest.  

When you are ready to cook the gnocchi, bring a pot of water to boil.  Cook the gnocchi in batches by dropping them into the boiling water roughly twenty at a time.  When they pop back up to the water’s surface, give them 10 seconds or so and remove them with a slotted spoon.  Have a large platter ready with a generous swirl of sauce.  Between each gnocchi batch, add a layer of your sauce and other ingredients, like cooked veggies and greens.

Sage Cashew Cream

  • 1 generous cup raw cashews (soaked for 30-60 minutes in very hot water and drained)
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 15 fresh sage leaves
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup water + more if needed

Blend all ingredients in a blender till smooth.  Add water until the sauce reaches the consistency of heavy cream.  It should make about 2 cups (add more cashews if sauce gets too thin, more water if too thick).

Sautéed Mushrooms, Vegan Sausage, and Greens

  • 12 oz. baby bella mushrooms, sliced thin
  • 2 links vegan Italian sausage, crumbled or diced small (I used Field Roast brand, but you could make your own)
  • 2 cups fresh dark leafy greens, however much you like (I used dandelion greens and spinach)

Heat mushrooms and 1/4 cup water on a pan over med-high heat until mushrooms are cooked down a little, about 3-5 minutes.  Add greens, and heat until wilted.  Drain any excess liquid, then add crumbled sausage, and heat until warm.

Serve with a few fresh sage leaves.

Left: cashew cream, field roast italian sausage, basil; Right: alfredo sauce, mushrooms, onions, sun-dried tomatoes, tofurky pepperoni

We experimented tonight with a few new pizza options with varying success:

Cashew cream (from “He speaks in the silence” website here): This was wonderful, it was lighter in texture than the vegan alfredo sauce I’ve been using, it’s mild in flavor, so it really let the veggie toppings shine.

Field Roast Italian Sausage:  so delicious and flavorful, but it’s a little higher in fat and made from gluten, so it’s not for everyday or for everybody, but it’s a great treat!

Tofurky Pepperoni: I was iffy about trying this one, and for me and my fellow pizza testers, it just wasn’t great.  There are just too many good veggies in the world… this just isn’t necessary to make it better.

“Flatout” Flatbread (from Costco): pros: 100% whole wheat, makes a crispy thin crust, works great for these pizzas. cons: the ingredient list is a little long.

this was a winner. last year we used field roast apple sage sausages in our thanksgiving stuffing, so we had high expectations… and we loved this!

Just didn’t have a lot of flavor, not terrible, but not great.

a great, quick option for weeknight pizza night.

Just to be clear… this is not a pesto made from kale.  I never understand how people can replace basil with cilantro or some random green like kale and still call it pesto!  Basil is irreplaceable in my book.

So I was needing a good dose of greens, but I didn’t want to eat them plain.  And I had some extra basil leftover from my tomato basil soup… so I made pesto.

Vegan Pesto

  • 1 tightly packed cup of basil leaves (rinsed clean)
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp sea salt, depending on personal taste preference

So there are a couple ways you can do this…

The easy way: Blend it all up in a food processor.  Done.

The less easy way: I wanted to try making it like an Italian grandmother (click here for link), because that just sounded too appealing!  So I followed her directions for the basil and garlic, but when it came time to incorporate the parmesan, I just grated some walnuts in a rotary cheese grater and added that and the nutritional yeast and salt to the minced basil mixture.

Then I steamed a bunch of kale in 1/3 cup of water till the water was mostly gone:

Then I combined the two… and voila!

I highly suggest serving this with leftover mashed potatoes and/or cauliflower, then you can be all fancy and call it “Pesto Colcannon”:

Vegan two cheese pizza: Parmesan Spread and Creamy White Cheese with broccolini, roasted corn, sun-dried tomatoes, and red onion. No Daiya, Teese, or added oils here!

Happy Vegan Pizza Day!

I really wanted to make something extraordinary for Vegan Pizza Day… Generally when I make pizza, it’s on a pita, doesn’t have any cheese, and is really just a quick, easy meal for a weeknight.

So I thought I’d try out a few homemade cheeses for this one.  I have to say, it makes this pizza pretty rich and filling, and I almost think I should have made two smaller pizzas… one with the cheeses and the other with the veggies.  Less is more.

The veggie combination is inspired by California Pizza Kitchen’s Vegetarian with Japanese Eggplant Pizza.  I think omitting the eggplant is the only change I made.  But seriously, these veggies don’t need cheese to be delicious… next time I will use them on their own!

Okay.  Now for the components:

The Crust

Trader Joe’s Pizza Dough.  Made with a mix of whole wheat and regular flour.  I wish it were 100% whole wheat, but hey… it’s delicious, quick, and cheap ($1.29).

The Sauce

3 ingredient pizza sauce…. does water count?

I don’t need a fancy sauce. I added about 2 Tbsp Italian seasoning, 1 Tbsp garlic powder, and water to a can of tomato paste… and really, that’s all it needed! For this pizza, the sauce is like the skinny models on the runway. They can’t be too pretty or voluptuous or they’ll distract people’s attention from the clothes. Same thing here. I just wanted the other components to shine.

Cheese # 1: Parmesan Spread

I’m not sure the name does it justice.  This stuff tastes like parmesan.  It was inspired by a bunch of recipes I found online and this one in particular that made a spread out of the sprinkle stuff.  I made mine oil-free by using cannellini beans.  These beans are awesome… they are light, creamy, and don’t have a strong flavor, so they were perfect for mixing with this parmesan.

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cooked cannellini beans (if from a can, then drained and rinsed)

First make some vegan parmesan.  My new favorite way of making it is using a cheese grater, another great tip from Cathy Fisher of StraightUpFood.com.  First, use the grater to grind the nuts.  Then, in the little barrel where the grated nuts are, mix in the nutritional yeast and salt.  This is one recipe where I would not leave out the salt… parmesan is a particularly salty food, so without it, I just don’t think it tastes right.

This grater is great because it has a little adjustable window. You can reduce the window to a crevice and it’s perfect for sprinkling parmesan at the table!

You can mix this up in a blender just as easily. Just make sure you get the nuts chopped up pretty fine. Blend parmesan and cannellini beans in a blender with 1/4 cup water. If the mixture is not moving, continue to add 1 Tbsp of water at a time, scraping down the sides of the blender, until you get a consistency a bit thicker than a hummus but not as thick as a paste.

Since this spread has a pretty strong flavor, I decided not to put a whole layer of it on top of the pizza sauce. I opted instead for these circles:

Cheese Sauce #2: Creamy White Sauce

This sauce is so creamy and based on my go-to mac and cheese sauce.

Chop the following veggies and steam in a steamer basket in a covered saucepan or pot (filled with about 1-2 inches of water) on med-high heat, until veggies are soft.

  • 1 cup yukon potatoes (if using russet, you will need to peel)
  • 1/3 cup red onion
  • 2 Tbsp shallots or more onion

While the veggies are steaming, blend in your blender:

  • – 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • – 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • – 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • – 1/8 tsp or a few drops of yellow mustard
  • – a few cloves garlic (depending on personal preference)
  • – 1 Tbsp lemon juice

When steamed veggies are soft, add to blender and process.  If mixture isn’t moving/gets stuck, then add 1 Tbsp of water at a time till mixture gets going.  The goal is to add as little water as possible so you aren’t pouring soup on your pizza!

The Veggie Toppings

Under the Creamy white Cheese:

  • broccolini / broccoli raab / baby broccoli, lightly steamed
On top:
  • Trader Joe’s roasted corn (or you can roast your own kernels on a non-stick frying pan)
  •  red onions, chopped
  • sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted a bit

I put most of the veggies underneath the cheese and they kind of got lost, so that’s why I recommend putting most of them on top.