Tangy Veggie Wrap

There’s nothing quite like eating a homemade meal, prepared with organic healthy ingredients and tons of love. This lovely tangy veggie wrap with lemon-dill hummus spread is easy to make and will soon be a favorite selection for lunch, dinner or a snack. I teach this recipe in my cooking classes for kids and they love it too!


1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium shallot cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 medium zucchini cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 medium yellow squash cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 medium fennel cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 medium tomato cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 medium garlic clove, minced
A pinch of sea salt
Lemon Dill Hummus (recipe here)
4-6 organic lavash bread sheets (10 x 12 inches, plain or flavored)

In a skillet, heat olive oil until hot. Add all of the vegetables to pan and pinch of sea salt. Sauté over medium heat for 10-15 minutes or until vegetables are lightly cooked and remain crunchy. Remove from the stove and let it stand at the room temperature while you are making the lemon-dill hummus spread.

To assemble, place a lavash bread sheet (10 x 12 inches) on a plate, spread a layer of lemon-dill hummus, then sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the veggie mixture. Start rolling the wrap. Cut the veggie wrap diagonally and enjoy.

YIELD: 4-6 servings

SOURCE: Chef Ellie Lavender of Lavender Design + Cuisine is a vegan Mediterranean personal chef, culinary instructor and artisan chocolatier. Her next cooking and wine pairing class is A Taste of Spain on Your Plate on Saturday,  April 7, 2018.

Fresh Parsley Pesto

While most are familiar with basil pesto, parsley makes a fresh tasting condiment too! Parsley is one of the most popular herbs used in cooking or garnishing. Parsley comes in two varieties — flat leaf (also called Italian parsley) or curly leaf. Parsley is high in vitamin K and has anti-inflammatory properties. Toss parsley pesto with hot pasta and some garlicky, toasted breadcrumbs. It’s also delicious served with poultry or drizzled on vegetables or rice.


2 cloves garlic, germ* removed
2 cups packed, stemmed Italian parsley
Course salt
1/4 cup walnuts, raw or toasted (but toasted offers more flavor)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or to taste
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Optional, but nice: 1-2 teaspoons Meyer lemon juice, or 1/2 teaspoon zest


Place the garlic, parsley, pinch salt, walnuts, and cheese in a food processor bowl. Process until mixture forms a paste. Gradually blend in olive oil, taste for seasoning, and adjust to taste with salt and pepper. Add Meyer lemon juice or zest to taste, if using.

*If the garlic has begun to sprout (the green ‘germ’ in the middle of the clove), remove it. Otherwise, it causes an unpleasant bitter-hot garlic flavor.

YIELD: About 2 1/2 cups

Linguine with Rapini, Garlic, and Toasted Breadcrumbs

Despite its resemblance to broccoli, rapini is actually a descendant of the turnip family. You might know rapini by one of its many other names: broccoli raab, rabe, or broccoletti. California produces approximately 90% of the rapini grown in the US with Monterey County being the largest producer in California with close to 3,000 acres in production.


1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, more as needed
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and slivered
1 cup breadcrumbs, preferably homemade (sourdough is great for crumbs)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste
About 1 pound rapini, trimmed and washed
1 pound fresh linguine or other long pasta
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Fill large pot with water and bring to a boil; when it reaches a boil, add salt.

In a large skillet, pour in 1/4 cup olive oil and heat over medium-low heat. When oil is hot, add slivered garlic and cook just until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add breadcrumbs and red pepper flakes and cook until breadcrumbs are golden, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes or so. Remove from skillet and set aside.

Add rapini to boiling water and cook until it is soft, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, reserving cooking water. Drain rapini; when cool enough to handle, chop roughly.

Add pasta to the cooking water and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, add remaining 1/4 olive oil to skillet over medium-low heat. Add chopped rapini and toss well; season with salt and pepper. When it is warm, add garlic and breadcrumbs and mix well.

When pasta is done, drain it, reserving a little cooking water.

Toss pasta in skillet with rapini mixture, moistening with a little reserved water if necessary.

Adjust seasonings and serve with freshly grated Parmesan.

SOURCE: Recipe adapted from recipe by Mark Bittman, New York Times

Garlic Flan Tarts

This recipe was adapted from one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, The Flavor of California: Fresh Vegetarian Cuisine from the Golden State, by Marlena Spieler. Don’t be shocked by the amount of garlic — the garlic cloves will soften and become very sweet and mellow. Serve individual tarts on a bed of lightly dressed greens. It makes an impressive first course or light lunch entrée.


Pastry for lining 6-8 individual tart pans, par-baked*
30 large garlic cloves, peeled, and dried ends removed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups vegetable (or chicken broth if not vegetarian)
1 tablespoon of fresh sage, chopped or 1/2 teaspoon of dried thyme
Freshly ground white pepper and salt to taste
3 large eggs, beaten
1 cup whipping cream
4 ounces freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped


Preheat oven to 325°F.

In a small saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat and add the flour, stirring and cooking the roux until lightly golden. Add the vegetable or chicken stock slowly, whisking constantly until the sauce starts to thicken. Reduce heat and add the garlic cloves and cook until the garlic is tender and the sauce is reduced by nearly half (about 10 minutes). Add the sage or thyme and white pepper. Set sauce aside to cool slightly.

Whisk the eggs with cream, Parmesan cheese, and chopped garlic. Whisk egg mixture in the cooked garlic sauce until well combined. Pour the custard into the tart shells. Bake until the custard has set, about 15-20 minutes. Allow tarts to cool.

Tarts are best served at room temperature.

Makes 6-8 small tarts, depending on tart pan size.

* Line small tart pans (such as white ceramic dishes that hold about 1/2 cup of filling) with a homemade Pâte Brisée pastry or store-bought piecrust and bake until very lightly browned in a hot oven.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

Stuffed bell peppers on white wooden tableINGREDIENTS:

6-8 medium bell peppers, any color
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1/3 cup garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup olive oil, plus additional olive oil
1 cup white rice
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
1/4 cup fresh chopped dill
1 cup chopped, peeled fresh tomatoes
2 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup warm water for pan


Heat olive oil in large sauté pan. Add onions and garlic and sauté on low heat until softened. Stir in rice, mint, dill, and tomatoes; continue cooking, stirring, for 5 minutes.

Add water, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, uncover, stir and allow rice mixture sit for at least 10 minutes. Rice should be almost completely cooked.

Meanwhile, cut off the tops of peppers (reserve tops) and remove seeds and membranes. Place the peppers in a baking pan so that they fit snuggly in the pan.

Fill each pepper with rice filling mixture, almost to the top. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of warm water over the top of each filled pepper. Replace pepper tops and brush sides and tops of filled peppers with olive oil. Add 1/2 cup of warm water to bottom of the pan.

Bake at 375°F for 1 1/2 hours.* Rice will be soft and tops of peppers just slightly charred.

*Yellow and orange bell peppers are more mature and are a bit thicker-skinned than green peppers. If using peppers other than green, they may need an additional 15 minutes cooking time.

Add 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese, if desired.
Add 1/2 lb. cooked ground meat (lamb, beef or turkey); this addition will increase the amount of filling and will fill 8 bell peppers.

Tomato Mozzarella Tart with Basil Garlic Crust


If you haven’t discovered the spectacular, intense flavor of organically grown, dry-farmed tomatoes, now is the time to give them a try! These tomatoes are a late summer favorite and available at the Aptos Farmers Market in mid August. The buttery herb-flavored crust of this tart is the perfect foil for the melted and slightly salty mozzarella and the sweet tomatoes. Serve with a lightly dressed spinach or mixed baby greens.


For the dough:
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1-2 cloves garlic
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8-10 pieces
4-5 tablespoons ice cold water

For the filling:
8 ounces low-moisture, high quality whole milk mozzarella, sliced
About 1 lb. flavorful, ripe dry farmed tomatoes, sliced*
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 – 2 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced into fine ribbons (chiffonade)
2 tablespoons Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered (optional)
Additional shredded basil leaves, garnish (optional)

* If using tomatoes other than dry farmed, slice the top off the tomato, and gently squeeze it to remove excess juice and seeds, then slice


To make the dough, combine the basil and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Process using several short pulses, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, until garlic and basil are finely minced. Add the flour and salt to the bowl. Pulse briefly to combine.

Add butter chunks and pulse about 10 times, or until the mixture resembles a coarse meal with some pea sized bits.

Add 3 tablespoons of the water and pulse a few times to incorporate. Add 1 more tablespoon and process for several seconds to see if the dough forms a ball. If not, add the remaining tablespoon of water and process until a ball of dough forms.

Remove the dough, flatten into a 5-inch disc, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

When ready to assemble the tart, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Transfer chilled dough to a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a 12-inch circle. Gently transfer the dough to 9-inch round tart pan and ease it into the pan. Press dough evenly around the sides of the pan. Trim the excess dough as needed.

Lay a piece of aluminum foil or parchment paper loosely over the tart dough and fill the center with baking beads. Bake in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil or parchment and baking beads. Return the tart shell to the oven to bake for 5 minutes more. Remove from the oven.

Lower oven temperature to 375°F.

Layer the bottom of the tart shell with the sliced mozzarella. Arrange the tomato slices on top of the cheese in a single even layer. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil. Top lightly with freshly grated Parmesan and finely sliced basil leaves. Arrange Kalamata olive pieces evenly over top, if using.

Bake 15 minutes, then rotate tart 180° and wick off any excess moisture that has collected on top with a paper towel, if necessary. Continue baking another 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly and lightly browned in places. Allow the tart to rest at least 5 minutes before slicing and serving.

Garnish with a few shreds of fresh basil leaves, if desired.

SOURCE: Adapted from The Complete Italian Vegetarian Cookbook by Jack Bishop


Spaghetti with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Colorful red, gold, yellow, and burgundy cherry tomatoes are a summer staple at the farmers markets. Many also enjoy growing these luscious little bites in their own backyard gardens. After picking, don’t refrigerate tomatoes. Leave tomatoes out at room temperature. A few more days of ripening deepens their flavor and helps to concentrate their natural sweetness. Keep cherry tomatoes on hand for salads, salsas, and snacking.


4 cups small cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon red chile flakes (plus more to taste)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (less, if using dried — but fresh is preferable)
1 pound fresh pasta (spaghetti or linguine)
Freshly ground pepper
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving


Heat the oven to 400°F. In a large bowl, place the cherry tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, generous pinch of salt, sugar and toss to coat the tomatoes well. Line a rimmed half sheet baking with a sheet of parchment paper. Pour the tomatoes onto the baking sheet in an even layer, place pan in the oven, and roast for 25 to 35 minutes, or until tomatoes begin to collapse and their skins begin to char. Remove the tomatoes from the oven and let them cool slightly. Carefully lift the paper and pour the tomatoes and roasting juices back into the mixing bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat.

In the meantime, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and red chile flakes and sauté for about 1 minute. Add the roasted tomatoes, accumulated juices, and oregano to the skillet. Using a large spoon, break up the tomatoes and cook until they are heated through.

When the water is boiling, add a scant tablespoon of salt, drop in the pasta, and stir. Cook the pasta until al dente. Remove and reserve some of the pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta.

Add the cooked pasta and about 1 tablespoon of the reserved cooking water to the tomato sauce. Stir and toss to thoroughly coat the spaghetti. Add a tablespoon or so of the remaining pasta water if the sauce is too dry or thick; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Turn the pasta into a large serving bowl. Sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Add 1/2 pound of small peeled shrimp into the skillet with the tomatoes, cook and stir for about 2 minutes, then add two generous handfuls of baby arugula and stir just until arugula begins to wilt.

Spaghetti with Garlic, Olive Oil, and Chili Pepper Flakes

This simple traditional Italian dish packs a lot of flavor with just a few ingredients — make sure to use the best possible extra virgin olive oil and quality pasta. Be sure not to overcook the pasta — it’s best al dente. The ingredient amounts in this recipe can be adjusted to suit your personal taste preferences — such as a little more garlic, less pepper flakes.


14-16 ounces spaghetti
6 garlic cloves, very finely minced
3 teaspoons chili pepper flakes
1/2 – 2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (the fresher the better)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper


Cook pasta according to the directions on the package, until it is al dente. DO NOT OVERCOOK.

Drain pasta and place in a large, pre-warmed serving dish.

Add minced garlic, chili pepper flakes, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toss together until pasta is evenly coated.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

YIELD: Serves 4 – 6

Vegan Polenta Lasagna

The organic coarse ground corn meal available from Coke’s Farm makes a particularly flavorful polenta for this dish.


1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 quarts vegetarian chicken broth
3 cups cornmeal
1 ounce vegan soy margarine
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano leaves

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup diced yellow onion
2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon dry oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon dry basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dry thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup julienne sundried tomatoes
1 cup canned diced tomatoes in juice
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 lb. crumbled Wildwood organic firm tofu
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons dry basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon dry oregano leaves
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 lb. baby spinach leaves
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


In sauce pan, sauté the garlic in olive oil, cooking over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and black pepper and cook 1 minute more. Add vegetarian chicken broth and bring to boil. Whisk cornmeal into boiling broth in a slow stream, stirring constantly. Simmer over low heat stirring often until polenta is tender and pulls away from side of pan. Remove from heat and add soy margarine and oregano leaves. Stir to blend thoroughly.

Pour polenta into two 10″ x 12″ pans sprayed with pan release and spread in even layers. Cool in refrigerator until ready to use.

Soak sundried tomatoes in hot water (not listed in recipe) for 20 minutes and drain excess water. Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil over medium heat until translucent. Add oregano, basil, thyme, black pepper and salt; cook 1 minute. Add diced tomatoes (with juice), crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and drained sundried tomatoes. Simmer 20 minutes. Add brown sugar and balsamic vinegar and stir well. Keep hot.

Sauté crumbled tofu in olive oil until it starts to brown. Season with basil, oregano, pepper and salt and cook 1 minute more. Hold hot.

In sauté pan cook garlic in olive oil until translucent over medium heat. Add washed and dried baby spinach leaves and wilt. Add salt and pepper. Drain any excess liquid. Keep hot.

Spread half of tomato sauce in even layer over one pan of polenta. Top with tofu mixture. Top with sautéed spinach. Spread remaining half of tomato sauce in even layer. Carefully remove polenta sheet from second pan and place on top of layers in first pan with the top side up. Cover with foil.

Bake in 350° oven for 35 minutes. Check for internal temperature of 165°. Cut 3 x 4 inches for 12 portions.

YIELD: 12 servings


Korean Panfried Tofu with Mushroom and Spicy Sesame Sauce


Korean and Japanese cooks often top sliced tofu with a sautéed mushroom medley. The main differences are that Koreans panfry the tofu first, and they garnish the dish with yangnyumjang, a spicy sesame and soy sauce. The Japanese approach is to warm the tofu and then crown it with the hot mushrooms, which have a delicate coating of savory sauce. Both versions are tasty, but I prefer the textures and punchy flavors of the Korean take.

Many markets nowadays carry a good assortment of fresh Asian mushrooms. The prices at Asian market are often reasonable. I like to use little ones such as flavorful enoki and brown or white shimeji (also called beech mushrooms and pioppini) so that they retain their distinctive appearances. Small oyster and shiitake would work, too. The size, shape, and color of the mushrooms matter.


1 pound firm or extra-firm tofu
8 ounces assorted fresh mushrooms, such as enoki, shimeji, oyster, and shiitake
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 big pinches salt
2 big pinches black pepper
1/3 cup Korean Seasoned Soy Sauce (see below)


Cut the tofu into chunky matchboxes, each about  1 1/2 inches by 2 inches by 1/2 inch. Line a plate with a nonterry dishtowel or double layer of paper towels. Place the tofu on top to drain for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, give each type of mushroom a very quick rinse under water to knock off any debris. Hold enoki and shimeji by the cluster. If you are using enoki or shimeji, trim and discard the sandy material that the mushroom grew in. The cluster should naturally fall apart. Trim oyster mushrooms at the ends and separate into individual ones. Tear large ones lengthwise into bite-size pieces. Trim and discard shiitake stems, then slice the caps a good 1/8 inch thick. Set the mushrooms aside.

Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Blot the tofu pieces before panfrying them until golden, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving plate and keep warm.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and sprinkle in the salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until the mushroom are soft, fragrant, and about half of their original volume.

Arrange the tofu on one large plate or individual plates. Top with the mushrooms and sauce. Serve hot or warm.


Korean Seasoned Soy Sauce


2 tablespoons soy sauce, Korean or Japanese soy sauce preferred
1 tablespoon water
1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
2 tablespoons lightly packed finely chopped green onion, white and green parts
2 to 3 teaspoons sesame seeds, toasted then crushed with a mortar and pestle


In a small bowl, stir together the soy sauce, water, sesame oil, and sugar, until the sugar has dissolved. Add the garlic, red pepper powder, green onion, and sesame seeds. Set aside for about 15 minutes for the flavors to develop.The sauce can be made in advance and refrigerated for up to a week.

This sauce can dramatically change its characteristics as it sits. Right before using, taste the sauce again and make any last-minute weaks. You want a strong savoryspicy-slightly-sweet finish because the tofu that will be served with this is not highly seasoned.

YIELD: Makes 1/3 cup

SOURCE: Asian Tofu: Discover the Best, Make Your Own, and Cook It at Home (Ten Speed Press, 2012), by Andrea Nguye