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I am most certainly not taking any credit for this laughingly simple technique that impresses both in flavor, texture, and looks. My version coats a whole head of cauliflower in canola oil, and seasons it with smoked salt and freshly ground black pepper. Roast until crispy and dark brown on the outside, and tender inside. Serve a wedge over a smooth squash puree* (in this instance, kabocha) and garnish with a bright, fresh gremolata.

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*I went all indulgent with butter and cream, but feel free to omit for a vegan version.

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Now, I take pride in featuring vegetables as the stars in a vegetarian/vegan meal. Once in a while, however, I do use meat substitutes in traditional meat-based dishes. Perhaps it is out of sadism, as my S.S. is a hardcore meat-eater (or perhaps it is masochism, because, well, so am I). But every so often, I enjoy experimenting with different non-meat meats to see if they are actually tolerable (take this recipe for vegan chili, which is actually very good). This recipe for meatless “bolognese” is, suprisingly, delicious, hearty, and satisfying.

What’s the Man-O-Meter on this one? 7. I’ll take it.

3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, fine dice
3 medium carrots, fine dice (or pulsed in food processor)
3 stalks celery, fine dice (or pulsed in food processor)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz ground beef alternative (made from soy, wheat protein, or both)
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
1 5.5-oz can vegetable juice (or tomato sauce; I happened to have v8 on hand, one of the more random donations that my mother sent me home with the last time I visited)
1/2 tsp chili flakes, or more or less to taste
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 cups water

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, and celery, season with salt and epper, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
2. Add garlic and meatless ground beef and cook for another minute.
3. Add tomatoes, vegetable juice, chili flakes, vinegar, sugar, and water. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer, and cook to desired consistency, about 30-40 minutes.
4. Adjust seasoning and serve over pasta.

Makes enough for 1 pound of pasta.

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I originally made this soup for 300 people and with loads of butter. The curry flavor was subtle yet present enough to make people wonder why this soup was different from the previous version. Wanting to adapt this recipe to make it vegan and guiltless–yet still rich and satisfying–I swapped the butter for extra-virgin olive oil. By emulsifying it in at the end of the cooking process, the soup thickened and became creamy–much like a vinaigrette behaves once the oil has been added.

1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, medium dice
4 stalks celery, medium dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp ground coriander
2 28-oz cans whole peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand

1. Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a pot over medium heat.
2. Add onion and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
3. Add the garlic, curry powder, and coriander and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
4. Add tomatoes, pour in 3 1/2 cups water, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for about 30 minutes.
5. Puree soup until smooth, while gradually pouring in the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil.
6. Adjust seasoning to taste.

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Notes: Could use a bit more coriander, and perhaps some cumin for some smokiness.

Another dish that’s “just an idea” and follows no particular recipe. I should really work on that. But I promise: just throw this stuff together in any ratio you prefer and it will come out just as lovely as you are.

Tuscan kale, rough chop
Lemon juice
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Pomegranate seeds
Almonds, toasted, chopped
Cauliflower, pickled

Massage the kale with lemon juice, oil, salt, and black pepper. Garnish with pomegranate, almonds, and cauliflower (I made my own, but feel free to purchase, or pick through jarred giardiniera). Great as a starter or side dish, but also enjoyed in copious amounts to qualify as an entree.

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The restaurant I used to work for created a Tunisian-inspired savory oatmeal. I completely fell in love, and have been making my own version ever since (first blogged here). This one is a perfect springtime recipe that takes advantage of asparagus and sweet green peas, and pairs them with a spicy harissa oil.

1 1/2 c steel-cut oats (use certified gluten-free oats if gluten is an issue)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 c fresh or frozen green peas
2 Tbsp harissa paste
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
6 stalks medium asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on a bias
5 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
4 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
Lemon juice, for garnish
Pecorino or Parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional–omit for a vegan and dairy-free recipe)

1. Prepare oats according to package directions; season with salt and pepper.
2. If using fresh peas, blanch for 2 minutes and place under cold running water to cool. If using frozen, thaw.
3. Combine harissa and oil and set aside.
4. Spoon oatmeal into bowls and top each with asparagus, peas, scallions, pine nuts, lemon juice, harissa oil, and cheese (optional).

Serves 4.

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I like to think of romesco sauce as Spain’s answer to pesto. The tomato and roasted bell peppers lend sweetness, almonds give it a nutty richness, bread provides texture, and smoked paprika and cumin round it all out with a subtle smokiness. This version was adapted from this recipe, featured in Bon Appetit. This vegan sauce can be served alongside non-meat mains, like tempeh, seared tofu, or grilled cauliflower steaks; drizzled over charred spring or green onions for a vibrant side dish; or combined with pasta cooking water for a luxurious pasta sauce. I decided to entertain the carnivore inside of me and serve it with breaded chicken cutlets.

1 medium tomato, rough chop (I used a grilled, peeled tomato leftover from a recent “grill night”)
1 1/2 roasted red bell peppers, rough chop
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs, or torn stale bread
2/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
Pinch cumin
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1. Combine all ingredients, except for olive oil, in a food processor and whirl until mostly smooth.
2. Drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is running. Add water to thin, if desired.

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Notes: absolutely lovely, but I admit that I didn’t do a good job of recording exact ratios. The above was recorded from memory, and I will need to retest to recreate results.

High in fiber, low in fat, and completely adaptable to your taste, this soup is great for all seasons. Serve as an entree for a healthy, satisfying meal that comes together quickly for an easy weeknight meal.

1 Tbsp canola oil
1 medium onion, medium dice
3 medium carrots, medium dice
3 stalks celery, medium dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced
2 Tbsp tomato paste
2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1/2 cup white wine
1 28-oz can peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth to make it vegan)
3 15-oz cans black beans, drained
1 bay leaf
10 sprigs fresh thyme
Fresh cilantro (or parsley), rough chop, for garnish
Avocado, diced, for garnish
Lime juice, for garnish
Greek yogurt, for garnish (omit to make it vegan and dairy-free)

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and saute until tender, about 5-7 minutes.
2. Add garlic and jalapeno and cook for another minute.
3. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, and smoked paprika and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
4. Deglaze the pan with wine, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any stuck-on bits; reduce by half.
5. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, 1 cup water, beans, bay leaf, and thyme; bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Remove bay leaf and thyme and roughly puree with an immersion blender or regular blender (it should still be very chunky; alternately, you could eliminate this step completely and leave it as is).
7. Adjust seasoning and serve with cilantro (or parsley), avocado, lime juice, and yogurt (all optional).

Initially posted without a photo on account of a stolen phone, photo below was retrieved from the magical cloud!
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