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A Colorful Twist on Salade Nicoise

I think we’re finally nearing the end of our green bean and tomato harvest. Even after eating them frequently for weeks on end, I still haven’t tired of them. One of the reasons, I think, is the fantastic Nicoise-style salad that I make at least once a week. Sometimes I just combine all the ingredients in a salad bowl and toss, but most often, especially when that’s all I’m serving for dinner, I prefer to serve a “composed” salad, arranging the various ingredients aesthetically on dinner plates.

Just for fun, I changed things up a bit the other day. I came up with a colorful twist on the classic salad, using roasted sweet potatoes instead of steamed white potatoes, yellow tomatoes instead of red, and dark red kidney beans instead of my usual chickpeas (which I use instead of the traditional tuna.) For comparison to the colorful salad above, I’m also posting a photo of my regular Nicoise.


Here is the recipe so you can make it either way:

Nicoise-Style Salad
(This recipe is adapted from The Vegetarian Meat and Potatoes Cookbook by Robin Robertson.) The colorful adaptation ingredients are in brackets.

1 1/2 pounds white potatoes [or sweet potatoes]
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces green beans
1 or 2 ripe red tomatoes, sliced [or yellow tomato]
2 tablespoons Niçoise or Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed [or dark red kidney beans]
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
Torn salad greens
Cut the potatoes into 1/2-inch dice and steam over boiling water until tender. Alternately, the potatoes can be tossed with olive oil and spread on a baking sheet and roasted in a 435 degree oven until tender. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
Steam the green beans until tender. Run cold water over them to stop the cooking process. Set aside.
Place a layer of salad greens on dinner plates. Arrange a portion of the potatoes, green beans, tomato slices and chickpeas (or beans) decoratively on each plate. (Alternately you can cut the green beans and tomatoes and combine all the salad ingredients in a large salad bowl, including torn salad greens.)
In a small bowl, combine the oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, parsley, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until blended, then drizzle some of the dressing over each salad, or if making one large salad, drizzle on enough dressing to coat and toss gently.

Serves 4
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A Spontaneous Shepherd’s Pie


Usually, the combination of cold weather and leftover mashed potatoes inspire me to make a Shepherd’s Pie. Yesterday I had one – the cold weather – but not the other. What I did have was a small piece of seitan and some leftover green beans, and that was enough to get me started. For the potato topping, I microwaved 3 medium-sized potatoes until soft, leaving the skin on. While the potatoes were in the microwave, I chopped some onion and cut a carrot into small dice and sautéed them until soft. I then I chopped the seitan and placed it in the bottom of a baking dish along with the leftover green beans, which I already cut into bite-sized pieces. I added some frozen corn kernels and frozen peas and set it aside to make the sauce. By the time the sauce was made the potatoes were cooked.

After coarsely mashing the potatoes with a bit of soy milk, margarine, and salt and pepper, I mixed the sauce into the vegetables and seitan. Then I spooned the mashed potatoes on top and smoothed it out evenly. After sprinkling the snowy top with paprika, I baked it in a preheated 375-degree F. oven for 30 minutes. It was so good that it was hard not to eat the entire casserole between the two of us. We finished up the leftovers for lunch today and enjoyed it all over again.

Here’s the basic recipe that I used, but if you don’t have seitan, you can use chopped cooked tempeh, chopped veggie burgers or frozen crumbles, or simply add a cup and a half of cooked chickpeas.

Simple Shepherd’s Pie
This recipe is an adaptation of Ultimate Shepherd’s Pie in Vegan Planet. Since the sauce can be made while the veggies are cooking and the potatoes are in the microwave, it can be assembled in a very short amount of time.

3 red-skinned or Yukon Gold potatoes, well scrubbed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped seitan
1 cup cooked green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon minced fresh marjoram or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon Earth Balance margarine
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Microwave the potatoes until tender.
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot. Cover and cook until tender. Set aside.
3. Spread the seitan, green beans (if using), peas, and corn in the bottom of a shallow baking dish. Add the reserved onion and carrot and set aside.
4. Heat the vegetable stock in the same saucepan you used to cook the onion and carrot and bring to a boil. Stir in the tamari, thyme, marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer, stirring, to thicken slightly.
5. Pour the sauce over the filling mixture and set aside.
6. When the potatoes are soft, mash them in a bowl with the soy milk, margarine, and salt and pepper, to taste. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the casserole and sprinkle with paprika. Bake until hot and bubbly and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Serves 4

My Special Valentine’s Day Dinner

I decided to make my special Valentine’s Day dinner a day early so it would be available for anyone who may want to make all or part of it for their own Valentine celebration.

There’s nothing quick and easy about the prep. Lots of cutting things into heart shapes, which is time consuming, but, hey, that’s what makes it special. I have heart-shaped cookie cutters somewhere, but I can’t find them since moving last Spring, so I cut everything free-hand.

The “Here’s My Heart Salad” features artichoke hearts, romaine hearts, hearts of palm, and heart-shaped red beets. You can use your favorite dressing — I used a vegan Caesar, but a balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette would be nice to cast a rosy glow.

For the Wellingtons, I cut seitan and portobello caps cut into heart shapes and sautéed them and let them cool. I then stacked them and wrapped them in a piece of puff pastry that I shaped like a heart and baked them at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.

At the last minute, I decided to pierce the pastry with an asparagus “arrow” (cute, huh? My husband thinks I go overboard.) The sauce is a red wine sauce.

The heart-shaped potatoes were cut out of a large russet and roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper. I placed a roasted red bell pepper heart on each slice of potato.

For dessert, I made a small plain cheesecake and then enrobed it with melted chocolate. The garnish on top is some heart-shaped cherry jam topped with a chocolate-cherry truffle, that I shaped into a heart, and “iced” with vegan cream cheese. More truffles and some dried cherries complete the effect.

Okay, so I told you about my special dinner – now I’d like to hear about your Vegan Valentines celebration.