GMO-Free Corn Millet Cakes with Basil Avocado Salsa

Organic Corn Millet Cakes with Corn Avocado Salsa

While there were so many awesome victories at the ballot box last Tuesday (go Maine, Maryland, and Washington!!), there is one loss that I’m absolutely heartbroken about. All week long my heart has been sinking in sadness, my pulse has been fired up in anger, and my brain has been struggling to sort out how Proposition 37 did not pass.

Organic Corn Millet Cakes with Corn Avocado Salsa

Prop 37 would have simply mandated the labeling of foods containing Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMO’s) in the exact same way that we all are able to currently enjoy the mandatory labeling of nutrition facts and allergen information on packaged goods. I don’t know about you, but I love being able to see exactly what is in the food I’m purchasing. It allows me, not only as a consumer, but more importantly as a person fueling my body, to make informed decisions. I just can’t wrap my head around why anyone would vote against a proposition where the outcome merely allows them to make more-informed choices. Why would anyone choose ignorance?

It’s particularly embarrassing knowing that 51 other countries all over the world—including Japan, all of the EU, Russia, and even China—require GMO labeling on packaged goods. Why does it always feel like the US is the last country to make smart, forward-thinking decisions?

Corn Millet Basil Cakes with Corn Avocado Salsa
And then I have to remember that Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, and many other chemical companies spent over 1 million dollars a day on misinformational advertising campaigns confusing the public. It really just confirms how much our country is run by media, advertising, and corporations because, prior to their huge ad push, the polls were showing a large majority voting in favor of Prop 37.

While I feel this sense of dread pulsing through my body in these moments following defeat, I know that I need to find ways to cultivate these uncomfortable feelings into something constructive. This makes me realize I need to do more of my part at educating the public on issues like this.

Corn Millet Cakes with Corn Avocado Salsa

These GMO-free corn millet cakes are my salute to all of the hard work that went into getting Prop 37 on the ballot this year. I chose corn as my focus because up to 85% of all corn grown in the US is genetically engineered making it one of the most prevalent GMO crops in the country, and until companies start labeling GMO ingredients, the only way to be sure you’re not buying GMO corn is to buy organic corn.

Millet Cake Ingredients

When you see the ingredients above you realize just how easy these millet cakes are to put together.

First, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sauté pan and then add your diced onions. Sauté them for about 10 minutes or until translucent and just starting to brown. Meanwhile, bring the 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot and then add the salt, a tablespoon of oil, and millet. Then, while stirring with a wire whisk, slowly add the corn grits. Simmer on medium-low heat uncovered for 25 minutes or until all water has been absorbed and the millet is sticky like the above-right photo.

Add the sautéed onions, corn kernels, and basil to the millet mixture and stir well.

Using a measuring cup, cookie scoop, or any other shape you want to make your cakes, form them and place them on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Tip: I always dip my measuring cup in an ice cold bowl of water between forming each cake. It helps to keep the cakes from sticking to the scoop.

Corn Millet Basil Cakes

After forming all of your cakes, place the cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until slightly crisp and golden on the outside.

While the cakes are baking, put together the salsa by peeling, deseeding, and chopping your cucumbers.
Organic Corn Avocado Salsa

Chop your red onion and slice the grape tomatoes.

Prep your  avocados by running your knife down the inside lengthwise and then doing the same thing crosswise to create little squares in the avocado.

Add your sliced tomatoes to the bowl and then scoop the avocado out of it’s shell.

Squeeze the lime and press the garlic into the bowl.

Mixing Corn Avocado Salsa

Lastly, add the tomatoes, chopped basil, and salt to taste and then mix it until well-combined. Place the millet cakes on a plate with a heaping dollop of salsa on top.Corn Millet Cakes with Corn Avocado Basil Salsa

GMO-Free Corn Millet Cakes with Basil Avocado Salsa

Corn Millet Cakes

  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3/4 cup millet, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup organic corn grits (polenta)
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 cup frozen organic corn, thawed
  • 2 heaping tablespoons basil, chopped

Basil Avocado Salsa

  • 2 medium avocados, chopped
  • 3/4 cup frozen organic corn kernels, thawed
  • 1 heaping cup sliced grape tomatoes (about 40 grape tomatoes)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1 medium cucumber, deseeded and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 1/4 cup basil, chopped
  • salt, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Sauté Onions: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sauté pan and then add your diced onions. Sauté them for about 10 minutes or until translucent and just starting to brown.

Cook Millet: Meanwhile, bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium pot. Add the salt, a tablespoon of oil, and the millet. Then, while stirring with a wire whisk, slowly add the corn grits whisking out any lumps as they form. Whisk well then simmer on medium-low heat uncovered for 25 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed and the millet is sticky. Stir occassionally as the millet and corn grits cook to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. As the end of cooking time nears you’ll want to stir more frequently.

Form Cakes and Bake: Add the sautéed onions, corn kernels, and basil to the millet mixture and stir well. Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup (this is what I used), cookie scoop, or any other shape you want to make your cakes, form them and place them on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet. Keep a bowl of ice-cold water nearby and dip your measuring cup in it between forming each cake. I’ve found that this help to prevent the millet from sticking to the cup.

Mix Salsa: Place all ingredients (except salt) into a bowl and stir to combine. Add salt, to taste, and stir again.

Serve: Place the millet cakes on a plate with a heaping dollop of salsa on top and serve warm as an appetizer. Enjoy!

GMO-Free Corn Millet Cakes with Corn Avocado Salsa

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Vegan Lime Cheesecake Bars

Vegan Cheesecake Lime Bars

These tasty little lime bars are such a great hot weather treat. With minimal baking required (only a few minutes in the oven for the crust), you don’t need to be slaving over a hot kitchen in the middle of summer’s heat to whip up a batch of these insanely delicious treats! Plus, they’re super quick and very easy to put together.

Vegan Cheesecake Lime Bars

As for the taste—who can resist that delicious, creamy consistency coupled with the fresh and light flavor of lime? Not many, apparently, as I’ve served these bars at several potlucks now and the pan has never failed to come home empty. And the craziest thing about these cheesecake bars is that they consistently fool unsuspecting people who have no clue that they’re vegan.

So here’s how you too can enjoy this creamy, delicious, lime bliss.

You’ll first want to crush your 12 graham crackers. You can do this the easy way by putting them in a food processor and processing until crumbly, or you can do this the fun way by putting them in a Ziploc bag and crushing the hell out of them with a rolling pin. I chose the latter… mostly so that I didn’t have to wash and dry my food processor bowl to make topping. Lazy? Smart use of time? Yep, exactly.

You then want to melt your Earth Balance in the microwave. It took me somewhere between 30 seconds and 1 minute on high to melt completely.

You’ll then add the granulated sugar, graham cracker crumbs and stir to combine until everything is well incorporated.

Pour the mixture into your 9×9 (or even an 8×8—you’d just end up with slightly thicker bars) pan and press it down firmly to form the crust. Place it in your preheated 350 degree oven and bake for 8 minutes.

While the crust is baking, squeeze your limes and grate the zest. Set them both aside.

Add the pudding mixture to your food processor along with the block of tofu, lime juice, and lime zest.

Add the agave (or other liquid sweetener) and puree. Finally, add the Tofutti cream cheese and puree until smooth again.

Pour the creamy topping on the baked (and cooled) crust.

Spread it evenly with a spatula and then shake it so that it’s flat and well distributed. Place it in the refrigerator and let it chill for 2-3 hours before serving. Lastly, cut it into bars or squares and enjoy!

Vegan Cheesecake Lime Bars

I added a slice of lime on top for decoration, but I could see adding lime zest as well, or sticking with no garnish as they’re just as pretty plain.

Vegan Cheesecake Lime Bars

YUM! Seriously, so good!

Vegan Cheesecake Lime Bars

Vegan Lime Cheesecake Bars

Crust

  • 2 cups crushed vegan graham crackers (this is exactly 12 crackers and Nabisco Original Grahams, in the red box, is the only brand I’ve been able to find that does not have honey)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) Earth Balance, melted
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
Filling
  • 1 12 oz. package firm silken tofu (I used Mori-Nu that are found in aseptic packages and don’t need refrigeration)
  • 8 oz. Tofutti cream cheese (1 container), softened to room temperature
  • 1/2 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • zest from 1 lime
  • 2 packages Mori-Nu vanilla pudding mix
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup (or other liquid sweetener of your choice)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Crust: Combine graham cracker crumbs, melted butter, and sugar in a medium bowl. Pour the mixture in a 9×9 baking dish (if the pan isn’t non-stick, you may want to grease it first) and press down firmly to form a crust. Bake for 8 minutes and then set on a wire rack to cool.

Filling: Blend the silken tofu, lime juice, lime zest, pudding mix packets, agave, and Tofutti cream cheese in a blender or food processor until smooth. Pour over cooled crust and chill in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours before cutting into squares and serving.

Vegan Cheesecake Lime Bars

Roasted Sesame Seed Hummus (in the Blender)

Toasted Sesame Seed Hummus

A while back one of my readers who has a severe nut allergy asked whether I knew of a completely peanut- and tree nut-free brand of tahini. Gosh! I had no idea that tahini was often contaminated with nuts so I checked my jar (I believe this particular jar was Once Again) and sure enough the label said, “CONTAINS SESAME SEEDS.” Duh! But the finer print underneath that said “Manufactured in a facility that also processes peanuts and soy, and on equipment that processes other tree nuts and seeds.” Interesting. And a bummer for those with very sensitive nut allergies because I would have thought that seed butters are the perfect replacement for nut butters in those cases, but apparently that’s not so.

Roasted Sesame Seed Hummus

To add salt to the allergy suffers’ wounds, tahini adds a certain richness to hummus that you just can’t achieve when it’s omitted or even swapped out for olive oil. It’s not just the fat content in tahini, but also that thick paste-like consistency that gives hummus a deliciously smooth and rich consistency.

So my solution to all of the dear nut allergy sufferers of the world who want to have their hummus and eat it too, is to toast your own sesame seeds and essentially make your own tahini by adding them to a blender (note: not your food processor) along with your other hummus ingredients. Glorious sesame paste without the allergy can be achieved!

First you need to toast your sesame seeds in a medium skillet over medium heat. Shake the pan and stir the seeds with a wooden spoon so that all of them are evenly roasted. Once they’ve browned and become fragrant immediately remove them from the heat and empty into a heat-proof bowl or plate.

Hummus Ingredients

Then take all of your hummus ingredients and empty them into your blender and whirl away. Add small amounts of water at a time until you achieve that perfect hummus consistency. Finally, add salt at the very last step.

In comparison to regular ‘ol tahini hummus, this version has a much stronger sesame seed flavor. In fact, I was pretty floored by how much more flavor it added and it was a flavor that I absolutely loved. However, if it’s too strong for you or if you don’t like that roasted flavor you could add the sesame seeds raw, too. Even though I haven’t personally tested this, it should work in theory.

Toasted Sesame Seed Hummus (in the blender)

Ingredients

  • 2 cans cooked chickpeas
  • 1-2 lemons, juiced (I used 1 1/2 of the lemons pictured above. They were rather sizeable and provided a ton of lemony flavor to the hummus. I would start with one lemon and add more if you like it lemonier)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • salt, to taste
  • 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds, toasted (see below instructions)
  • water, as needed (I used roughly 3/4 of a cup, but you may want more or less so add in small amounts at a time)

Toast Sesame Seeds: Pour your 1/4 cup of sesame seeds into a medium skillet over medium heat and cook for about 3-5 minutes. You’ll want to shake and stir the pan very frequently whiling cooking so that they are evenly roasted. They’ll become fragrant and slightly brown when done. Immediately empty the sesame seeds into a heat-proof bowl or onto a plate to stop the cooking.

Blend it All Together: Add the chickpeas, lemon juice, garlic, sesame seeds, and 1/4 cup of water to your blender. Continue to add water in small amounts to the blender until it reaches the consistency you desire. Then add salt. Again, start in small increments and keep adding until you’ve achieved the perfect-to-your-tastes saltiness.

Serve with fresh cut veggies, pita, or on a sandwich or wrap. Also, if you’re serving this to a crowd you may want to add a dusting of paprika for garnish.

Toasted Sesame Seed Hummus

Heirloom Tomato Penne Pasta with Veggie Meatballs

Heirloom Tomato Penne with Vegetarian Meatballs and Basil

This past Saturday Alex and I were having dinner with some new friends and, as these situations are wont to do, found ourselves on the topic of head traumas. Whenever this topic arises in conversation I always have a particularly pertinent (and traumatic!) story to share.

It happened many years ago, when Alex and I were Juniors in college and he had an especially bad case of light-headedness after standing up quickly. You know how that can happen where you see spots and perhaps get a little light-headed when you stand up quickly after sitting for a period of time? Recently, I’ve noticed this occasionally happening to me in yoga when moving fast from the floor to standing (though, it happens far less the more yoga I do). But this has always happened quite severely for Alex to the point that he can temporarily lose his sight and the world becomes black.

Heirloom Tomato Penne with Vegetarian Meatballs

So his head trauma went down like this. It was a hot summery day and after sitting at the computer for some time, he quickly jumped up and headed to the kitchen to prepare some lunch. At the time, I was in the bedroom and shortly after heard a loud thump from the kitchen—it sounded like something had fallen from the top of the refrigerator. “Did the waffle iron just commit small-appliance suicide?” I thought to myself. A brief second later, I heard Alex meekly call my name and I walked over to the kitchen to find him laying flat on the floor. Oh! That wasn’t the waffle iron, but a person! Before I could ask the question of how he ended up on the floor, he asked me what happened. In my own confusion, my best answer was “I think you fell on the floor and hit your head.” “Oh, ok,” he said. Then about five seconds later he asked the exact same question to which I replied the exact same way. After the third time of him asking the exact same question with no recollection that he had already asked me the same question three times, my panic meter started to rise. He sensed my panic and started to reassure me not to worry and that he was beginning to feel better. Whew! I calmed down a bit, but it was only a brief minute as the same words “What happened?” began to spew out of his mouth. At this point I called the ER and we headed to the hospital me fearing the worst—that he had endured a serious brain injury and may never be the same person again. If you’ve ever seen Memento, which I happened to watch in the theaters a week later (thank god it was not before!) this whole incident, Alex behaved exactly like the star of that film—his short-term memory was completely kaputt.

On the way to the hospital, I tested his long-term memory quizzing him as to who his parents and sister were, what his middle name was, where he grew up and, interestingly, all of that checked out fine. However, anything that happened within the past few minutes was wiped entirely from his memory shortly after it happened. Actually, I also recall asking him about the class he attended that morning and he had so much confusion about it responding with, “I’m taking a class?” So I guess his memory loss included other more immediate memories too.

Heirloom Tomato Penne with Veggie Meatballs

After spending 8 hours at the hospital and having countless head (and other body) tests performed, we slowly noticed Alex start to regain some of his short-term memory and by the end of the day he was pretty much back to normal. All of the tests checked out fine and it was concluded that his short-term memory loss was due to hitting his head (big surprise there).

Needless to say, the entire event was extremely traumatic for me and, while the ordeal only lasted a day it has impacted me years later to this very day. I no longer shrug off loud noises that happen in another room and sometimes find myself immediately jumping to the worst possible conclusion as to what produced the noise. Thankfully, this crazy reaction has lessened over the years as the distance from the event has grown.

TVP Meatball and Heirloom Tomato Penne

Anyways, I tell this story not just because it came up at dinner on Saturday, but also because it reminds me of today’s post and highlight, TVP. After Alex’s post-head-trauma drama, our unmedically substantiated diagnosis was that he needed to get more protein, which we later learned from the cardiologist was completely wrong as it turns out that salt and water are the antidote to combat that light-headed feeling.

But back to the protein solution. After doing some research and seeing TVP, textured vegetable protein, at our local co-op we concluded that it was the fastest and least expensive (we were college poor) way to consume high quantities of protein (Alex wasn’t even vegetarian at the time so it’s fascinating that he figured that out.) I remember him eating dried TVP in his yogurt like you’d put granola in your yogurt to pack in the protein and it wasn’t until a couple years later that we figured out how to make tasty food creations with it, like baco-bits and these super-delicious, could-pass-as-animal-flesh meatballs.

Not only are the meatballs in this dish amazing, but the abundance of fresh tomatoes seen in the markets right now are a perfect way to enjoy those fruits of summer as well. And here’s how to do it.

Measure and pour the two cups of TVP into a heat-proof dish and then pour 1 3/4 cups boiling water over it. Stir it well so that all of the TVP is moistened. Let it sit.

Then saute your onion in olive oil for 10 minutes and add it to the TVP. Mix well.

Add your spices, soy sauce, and flour. Again, stir to combine so that everything is well incorporated.

Form your balls. I measure mine in a small cookie scoop so that all of them are of equal size and firmly squeeze and roll them in my hands so that they don’t fall apart when you handle them.

This recipe made around 28 balls for me, but the number you make will, obviously, depend on the size of your balls. If you like larger balls, you’re not going to have as many of them.

Then you want to fry them in oil for several minutes on each side. Make sure you slide a spatula underneath each of them (or a fork, if you’re into that). That sad, broken ball in the middle was a result of not rolling it around enough, so it ended up sticking to the pan. Make sure you give them lots of attention, because nobody likes sticky balls. My second batch was much better with zero casualties after making sure none of them were sticking while cooking.

While my meatballs were cooking (thus the divided attention and sad meatball incident) I started to prepare my sauce. I first chopped my basil in chiffonade style where you stack several leaves on top of each other, roll them and then slice. You end up with these pretty curls that you see in the below photo.

After chopping my basil, I diced my tomatoes and minced my garlic. I poured the 1/4 cup of olive oil into a large saute pan and heated it over medium heat. When it was hot, I added the garlic and cooked it for about 3-5 minutes—just until it started to brown a little.

Then I added the tomatoes and cooked them until they were heated through. Oh, I forgot to mention that while I was doing all of that, I put a pot of water on to boil and cooked penne pasta so that finished cooking just as my sauce was done. I poured the strained pasta on top of the tomato sauce and mixed them all together.

I then added my spices; fresh basil and dried oregano and mixed it all together.

Heirloom Tomato Penne with TVP Meatballs

I served it on large soup dish with 4 meatballs and topped it with fresh basil chiffonade.

Heirloom Tomato Penne Pasta with TVP Meatballs

Makes 4-6 entree-size servings

TVP Meatballs

  • 2 cups dry textured vegetable protein (TVP)
  • 1 3/4 cups boiling water
  • 1 small onion, diced finely
  • 2 tablespoons oil (canola, vegetable, or olive)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or wheat free tamari to make it gluten-free)
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup white flour (or sub gluten-free flour)

Tomato Sauce

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 7 garlic cloves minced
  • 5 large tomatoes (preferably heirloom), diced
  • 1 cup basil chiffonade, plus another 1/2 cup for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • salt and pepper, to taste (season with these two at the very end)

Penne Pasta

  • 1 12 ounce package of penne pasta (use gluten-free pasta to make the entire dish gluten-free)

Make Meatballs: Pour boiling water over TVP and let it soak for 10 minutes. Saute the onion in the olive oil for 10 minutes (until soft and translucent), and then add it to the TVP along with the chili powder, garlic powder, pepper, salt, oregano, soy sauce, and flour. Stir until well-mixed. Mold this mixture into balls and be sure to press them together firmly so that they don’t fall apart when handling or frying. Fry in oil until crispy (several minutes on each side.) And don’t forget to run a fork or spatula underneath them while they’re cooking to prevent them from sticking to the pan.

Cook Pasta: Put a large saucepan filled with water on high heat and add the entire package of dried pasta when it begins to boil. Cook for 10 minutes or until al dente, then drain the water.

Tomato Sauce: In a very large saute pan, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium-high heat and when it’s hot add the minced garlic. Cook for 3-5 minutes or until it just begins to brown. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 3-5 minutes until they’re heated through.

Put it Together: Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce and mix well. Add 1 cup of the basil and the teaspoon of oregano. Stir to combine. Lastly, add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in a large bowl or plate with the meatballs and fresh basil on top and get ready to pop them in your mouth!

Heirloom Tomato Penne with Veggie Meatballs

Review: Gentle Gourmet Cafe — Paris, France

Did I say I was going to get better about my posting frequency? Because, clearly, that was a lie. A busy few work weeks coupled with an equally busy social calendar has resulted in some serious blogging deficencies. And it’s particularly tragic because I have a slough of recipe ideas running through my head burning my brains with the desire to send me to the kitchen, but no time to dive into food experiments. Such an unfortunate conflict that perhaps others can identify with? So, for now, I will leave you with this review of a gourmet vegan restaurant we dined at in Paris a few weeks back.

It’s called Gentle Gourmet Cafe and it’s entirely vegan. Yes, in the land of butter and cream it’s actually possible to find a restaurant that serves neither of those. As the name suggests, it’s a gourmet restaurant serving exemplary food creations. Every dish we tried was stellar and my only regret is that we weren’t able to go there multiple times to try more of their creative, fresh, and incredibly tasty food.

As an appetizer, I started with this lovely cold cucumber avocado soup. It was light and refreshing just like cucumber avocado soup should be. To be honest, though, you’d have to be a pretty terrible cook to mess up this dish as I’ve made my own version of it at home and as long as you know how to plug in your blender you can pretty much nail it. However, I give them major presentation points as the sliced radishes, edible flower, and chili flakes were a beautiful visual touch and my tastebuds were not disappointed.

For my entree, I had a raw lasagne. I ordered it on the waitress’s suggestion, but I was hesitant because my past raw “noodle” experiences have been a major letdown. But not this dish! I LOVED this dish. I loved it so much I would strip my clothes and swim in a huge vat of it with my mouth wide open so that I could consume it in quantities in far excess of this dainty serving. What I most loved about it was the “ricotta” filling that tasted so strikingly similar to actual ricotta, yet the cashew base left me feeling so light in the tummy. The zuchini and tomato layers were also amazing along with the well-dressed greens on top. An all-around fantastic dish!

Every table had these pretty flowers that matched the rest of the restaurant’s decor. Actually, that’s another notable part of this restaurant. The ambiance and decor are beautiful and have an upscale vibe so if you’re looking for a “nice” dinner in Paris this is where to go.

French Fries Gentle Gourmet Cafe

All lightness that I felt in my belly was gone after these fries were served. You may be surprised to learn that I actually love fries. I really do! With one exception. They have to be the thick, hearty steak fries version to win my affection. We decided to order them because they’re French, right? And we’re in France so they should be good. And, yep, no complaints from me on these tasty little deep-fried potato batons. My mouth saw nearly all of the fries on this plate, but don’t worry, I did manage to save a couple for Alex.

After the cooks got word from our waitress that Alex had a nut allergy they went above and beyond to make sure that he was served a dish that not only had zero nuts in it, but also had no chance of any cross-contamination. We tried reassuring them that his allergy was not that severe and they shouldn’t worry about such insignificant quantities, but they couldn’t shake themselves of past anaphylactic shock experiences and were insistent on creating an off-the-menu salad for him. And this is what they came up with—the veggies on the bottom were briefly blanched and then bathed in an olive oil-based marinade. The mixed greens had a tasty dressing and the avocado with marinated cherry tomatoes were all a lovely combination. Overall, it was a very well-prepared salad.

Gentle Gourmet Cafe Paris France

Here is Gentle Gourmet Cafe from the curb. We sat near the windows, but the seating actually goes quite deep into the building. I love the very Parisian black/grey, pink and white color scheme.

As a side note, after lunch we spent hours crawling the city trying to find vegan croissants only to find that the one place noted online was closed that day! However, after doing a bit more research, it appears that Gentle Gourmet Cafe actually serves amazing vegan croissants. UGH! I can only imagine how perfect their croissants would be considering how fantastic the rest of their food was. Such a missed opportunity.

Overall we had an amazing dining experience here and I really wish that we could have sampled more items from their menu. So, please, everyone who visits Paris go there and order everything on the menu so that this restaurant can survive and I can go there the next time I’m in Paris!!

Corn, Summer Squash & Watercress Salad with Thyme

Summer Squash Corn Watercress Salad with Thyme

I love this time of the year! I particularly love how farmer’s markets are brimming with such a variety of produce. And even though we Californians are lucky to see fresh produce (like strawberries) year-round, there is still seasonality to a lot of what shows up in the markets. Two specifically summer veggies that caught my eye this week were fresh corn on the cob and bright yellow summer squash. I decided to pair them together along with bright green watercress and flavorful thyme to create this light, summery, side dish. It turned out awesomely and I’m thinking it would be a great dish to bring to a 4th of July potluck this Wednesday. Hmmm… now I just need a potluck to be invited to.

To start, place a large saucepan full of water over high heat, cover, and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, shuck your corn and gently place each ear in the boiling water being careful not to burn yourself. Turn the heat down to a simmer and cook the corn for 10 minutes, partially covered.

While the corn is cooking, chop your summer squash and heat the olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium high heat. When the oil is hot add the squash and saute for 5-7 minutes.

While the corn is cooking and squash is sauteeing, de-stem and rinse your watercress in cold water and roughly chop it.

When the corn is finished cooking, cut the kernels from the cob. Add the sauteed squash, chopped watercress and stir well to combine. Measure your dried thyme, place it in the palm of your hand and crush it between your fingers or hands before adding it in the bowl. Add salt and combine everything again. And that’s all there is to this easy, delicious summer side-dish!

Summer Squash Corn Watercress Salad with Thyme

I really love how all of the flavors go so well together. I especially love how the slight pepperyness of the watercress plays off of the super sweetness of the corn.

Summer Squash Corn Watercress Salad with Thyme

Corn, Summer Squash & Watercress Salad with Thyme

Ingredients

makes 6 side-dish servings

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 1/2 lbs. of yellow summer squash (this was 3 medium ones for me)
  • 1 bunch of watercress
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt to taste

Corn: Fill a large stockpot with water and place it on high heat; cover with a lid and bring to boil. Meanwhile, shuck all 4 ears of corn and gently place them in the boiling water.

Squash: Chop your summer squash into small dice. Add the extra virgin olive oil to a medium saute pan and heat it over medium high heat. When the oil is hot, add the summer squash and saute for 5-7 minutes.

Watercress: De-stem and wash your watercress in cold water and then roughly chop it.

Put it all together: In a large bowl slice off the kernels of corn from the cob (as demonstrated in the third photo from the top), add the summer squash, and watercress. Stir well until all is combined. Measure the dried thyme and then rub it between the palms of your hands so that it the flavors are brought out as it falls into the dish. Add salt and then stir until everything is combined.

Summer Squash Corn Watercress Salad with Thyme

Review: Bake the Difference – Lisbon, Portugal

After returning from our awesome vacation to Portugal (see photos and what we did here), life has been hella busy, thus my patheticly infrequent posts of late. Hopefully I’ll find the time to get back up to speed soon!

In between life’s hecticness, I did manage to squeeze in some time to go through photos from our trip and wanted to share one of our favorite restaurants. It’s called Bake the Difference and it’s an entirely vegan restaurant in downtown Lisbon. It’s in a great location and the food is warm-in-your-tummy hometown-good.

Particularly the empanadas. They were off the hook! Not only was the filling tasty, but the best part was the crust. In all of our empanada-consuming years, we’ve only come across ones with a heavy, doughy crust and, don’t get me wrong, they too have been fantastic, but the light, melt-in-your-mouth crust of these were an awesome change. It’s not that it was thin or flaky, just light and delicious in a way that didn’t weigh you down. Alex could eat three or four of them in a sitting and still have room for another dish and a dessert!

The ones above were filled with red bell pepper, seitan, and coriander.

While this one was carrot leek. Again, all of them were delicious and at 1.50 Euros each you cannot beat the price!

Their salads were also good and a very welcome change from the desiccated, cardboard treats we’d been served by Air France the prior 24 hours. This particular salad was specially created by the owner for me. That was the other noteworthy thing about Bake the Difference is that the owner, waitstaff, and cooks, all of whom we interacted with, were such wonderful, friendly people. So wonderful, in fact, that I ended up leaving a 33% tip—they totally deserved it!

For dessert we had to try the salame de chocolate. Yes, that’s right CHOCOLATE SALAMI! It’s a traditional Portuguese dessert and is a gooey-chocolatey slab with bits of cookie crumbles mixed in, which resemble the white fat in salami. I know these photos don’t provide the best view of the entire slab, but you can kind of see the similarity, no?

I have big plans for chocolate salami and am going to try recreating it this weekend. I will definitely share how it turns out!

Bake the Difference also does amazing juices. We had a fantastic carrot-apple-ginger juice as well as fresh-squeezed orange juice.

As if the chocolate salami was not enough, we ordered more dessert—a chocolate cake with strawberry filling. And since I am dreadfully afflicted with an ice cream addiction and was dying to try the non-dairy ice creams of Portugal, I had to order a scoop of raspberry swirl on the side.

It was soy-based and had a super creamy consistency—very, very good. The cake, too, was amazing, but left Alex with an itchy mouth after discovering the frosting was topped with hazelnuts, not peanuts. D:

Vegan Portuguese Seafood Mushroom Dish

On another visit to Bake the Difference, we had this sauteed mushroom and garlic dish over rice. The owner explained that it’s based on a traditional Portuguese seafood dish, which was why we decided to give it a try even though neither of us are huge mushroom fans. The plate went back to the kitchen empty, which says a lot for a mushroom-hater (Alex) and a mushroom meh-er (me.)

On another occasion we tried the vegan hot dog, which was solid. A fairly standard veggie dog with a dazzling array of toppings.

On our last day in Lisbon I finally had my beloved plain Provamel soy yogurt. I absolutely adore this stuff—it’s tart and tangy just like plain yogurt should be and I look forward to having it every trip to Europe. It’s similar to Whole Soy Plain Unsweetened and Wildwood Plain Unsweetened found in the states as well as Plain Sojade, which is another brand found in Europe. They’re all amazing, yet slightly different.

Raspberry and French Vanilla Soy Ice Cream

Also, on our last day, I was forced to get a couple scoops of ice cream—this time French vanilla in additional to another scoop of raspberry swirl. And then I was, god forbid, forced to eat it all. Tragedy! 😛

Alex ordered a slice of carrot cake, which turned out to be a major bummer of a slice. Not because it wasn’t super delicious (because it was!), but rather because instead of making it with almonds like they usually do, that day it was made with walnuts. It took us awhile to figure out what exactly he was allergic to because, in addition to the unusual substitution of walnuts for almonds, the Portugese word for walnut (“noz”) is often used to refer to nuts in general and also appears in the word “noz-moscada” (nutmeg!), which the cake did contain. The scene somewhat resembled a Monty Python sketch! But the good thing is that his walnut allergy isn’t terribly severe and after taking a Claritin he was fine for the rest of the day.

Bake the Difference Lisbon Portugal

Here’s a shot of what it looks like when you enter. It’s such a cute little cafe and, I swear, it’s always busy—clearly a popular place in the neighborhood and, I’d imagine, a Lisbon attraction for vegan tourists like us.

Everyone at the restaurant was so apologetic about the nut mix-up. The cook, who happens to be from California, even came out of the kitchen to tell us how sorry he was (did I mention the people there are awesome? Because they are!) and that he wanted to give us a couple slices of chocolate salami for the road. And when delicious chocolate salami in a cute little to-go bag is being presented to us, how can we refuse?

Five stars all-around for the stellar food, service, atmosphere, and price at Bake the Difference!

Bake the Difference Lisbon Portugal