tomato onion herb bread

March 11, 2012

vegan bread, onion bread, savoury bread, vgourmet, ruth richardson

Tomatoes, onions, and herbs have always come together in a happy marriage. In this recipe they provide the building-blocks for a savory, versatile loaf topped with some smoked sea salt to provide additional depth of flavour. Any breadbasket would welcome a few pieces of this bread for the dinner table. It’s also great as a mid-afternoon snack, in the kids’ lunch bag, or some have even been known to eat it for breakfast.

1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1 cup hot water

4 tbsps olive oil

2 medium onions, diced

thyme and basil, chopped finely

2 tsps sea salt

1 lb fresh tomatoes, approx 5, chopped

1 cup whole wheat flour

4 cups all-purpose flour

4 1/2 tsps active dry yeast

2 tbsps sugar

course smoked sea salt

Pour hot water over the sun-dried tomatoes in a small bowl. Set aside and let soak for 1/2 hour or so.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsps of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet. Add chopped onions and 1 tsp salt. Cook the onions until they are soft and golden brown. Add the chopped herbs and sauté for another 1 – 2 minutes stirring often until the herbs are mixed in and you can smell the amazing aroma. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

Put the skillet back on the burner on medium heat, add the chopped tomatoes with their juices. Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes until they are tender and the liquids have boiled down. It should be slightly thickened and resemble a chunky sauce. Add the soaked sun-dried tomatoes with their water, 2 tbsps olive oil, and 1 tsp salt. Set aside and let mixture cool slightly.

In a large mixing bowl combine the whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups white flour with the yeast and sugar. Mix well. Add the tomatoes and liquid and mix well with a wooden spoon. Continue to add the rest of the white flour bit by bit until the batter is thick and elastic. Add the cooked onions and herbs. Combine well but don’t over work the batter. NB: You should have a sticky soft batter. This is not a dough that you knead but more like a stiff cake batter.

Oil a 9 x 12 rectangular baking pan with some olive oil. Spread the batter into the pan making sure to get it in the corners. Sprinkle with smoked sea salt. Cover, set aside, and let it rest until the batter rises to double its size, about 45 minutes.

Bake the bread in a pre-heated oven at 375F for 35 – 40 minutes until lightly browned and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped. Let the bread cool on a rack and then serve.


vegan lasagne, spinach lasagne, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson, vegan Italian food

My mom used to make lasagne with a veggie tomato sauce when I was little – this recipe is inspired by my memories of coming home to the smell of this quintessential comfort food baking in the oven. Of course her’s was doused in cheese. Mine is packed full of spinach with a garlicy picada crumble on top. It was my daughter, Rebekah, who both reminded me of that childhood favourite, and helped me come up with this new version. Those powerful food memories must run thick in the blood!

Tomato Vegetable Sauce

4 tbsps olive oil

2 onions, chopped finely

6 medium carrots, grated

6 celery stalks, grated

3 medium zucchini, grated

large handful enoki mushrooms

6 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 cup red wine

6 cups stewed tomatoes

1/4 cup tomato paste

basil, thyme, parsley, chopped

1 tbsp organic cane sugar

sea salt and pepper

Béchamel sauce

8 tsps olive oil

4 tbsps flour

2 cups rice or soy cream

pinch nutmeg

sea salt and pepper


1/2 cup almonds, toasted

2 slices white country-style bread

4 cloves garlic

sea salt


1 bunch of spinach, cleaned

1 package lasagne sheets

vegan lasagne, spinach lasagne, vegetable tomato sauce, picada, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson

To make the sauce, heat olive oil in a heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven. Add the onions and sauté until they start to turn translucent. Add grated carrots, celery, zucchini, and mushrooms. Sauté until beginning to get soft, 3 – 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until aromatic, about another 2 minutes.

Add the red wine and let simmer until reduced by about half. Add stewed tomatoes and the tomato paste. Bring to a boil. Add chopped herbs, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Turn down the heat and let simmer for about 30 minutes. Set aside for the flavours to meld.

Meanwhile, to make the béchamel sauce, heat the olive oil in a small pot on medium-high heat. Add the flour and stir until well blended. Let the mixture bubble away for a few minutes, stirring often so that it doesn’t burn. After 2 or 3 minutes, slowly add the rice or soy cream. It will immediately thicken as you add the first drops of cream. Add slowly and stir constantly until the sauce is smooth and well-blended. Turn down the heat and let simmer until thickened. Add a few pinches of nutmeg, sea salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

For the picada, toast the almonds in an oven at 350F until they’re pale gold, 8 – 10 minutes. Remove and set aside. Meanwhile, slowly fry slices of white country-style bread in 2 tbsps olive oil until golden on both sides, or toast well in a toaster. Place the grilled bread or toast, almonds, 4 large garlic cloves and pinch of salt in a food processor to make a crumbly paste. Set aside.

Wash the spinach. Cook the lasagne sheets in boiling water, about 3 or 4 sheets at a time making sure they don’t stick to one another. Do not cook al dente, you want them to be a little underdone (4 – 5 minutes should do the trick). As they cook, set them on a clean tea towel until you’re ready to use them.

Once all the components are ready, start to build your lasagne. In a large baking dish, start with a layer of tomato sauce, add a layer of spinach, then a layer of pasta. Next add a layer of béchamel sauce, a layer of spinach, then a layer of pasta. Repeat until all the ingredients are done ending with a layer of béchamel sauce at the top.

Bake in an oven at 400F for 30 minutes. Broil under high heat for another 3 minutes or so until top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a generous amount of picada. Serve piping hot next to a crispy green salad.


February 29, 2012

marmalade, vgourmet, vegan breakfast, Ruth Richardson

We’re just back from a trip to Tulum on the Mayan Riveria in Mexico – v:gourmet heading south to discover all sorts of new vegan treats. The first morning is always the most delicious. Waking up to the sound of bird song, and the wind in the palms. That first footstep onto the warm sand. The wind and the cold and the snow quickly evaporating into the clear blue sky. We had breakfast on a terrace overlooking the beach – fresh orange juice, organic mint tea, a plate of fresh fruit, and this housemade marmalade with toast. Of course the marmalade was different each morning depending on which fruit they needed to use up. One morning papaya. The next pineapple. This recipe is so simple, verstatile, and tasty, and it will infuse your mornings with the spirit of the south.

fruit, pineapples, papayas, or oranges

equal amount of organic cane sugar (for 1 large pineapple for example use about 2.5 cups sugar

a little lemon or lime juice (juice from 1 or 2 lemons or limes)

herbs if desired, mint or lavender

Peel and core the fruit. Chop as finely as possible or to your desired consistency. Put the fruit in a large heavy-bottomed pot with the sugar. Add the lemon or lime juice and the herbs if using and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pot, and let simmer for 1/2 hour, or until the fruit is tender. Take off the lid, turn up the heat and boil until the mixture thickens. Remove the marmalade form the heat, discard the herbs, and let cool. Transfer to a glass jar and keep refrigerated.

vegetable paella

February 18, 2012

Many of you will have heard of paella. For those of you who haven’t, paella is a Valencian rice dish that originated in Valencia, on the east coast of Spain. Many non-Spaniards view paella as Spain’s national dish, but most Spaniards consider it to be a regional Valencian dish. And, Valencians think of paella as one of those things that make them who they are. There are three widely known types of paella: paella valenciana, paella de mariscoa, paella mixta. But there are many others – all of them free-style combinations of  calasparra or bomba rices, wine, saffron and olive oil, green vegetables, beans, and seasoning. It’s a one pan dish full of flavour, texture, and satisfaction. Read on for the recipe below. Or check out v:gourmet’s first (of many) videos above produced by my main man Frantz who’s a student currently at Humber College. Frantz rocks. So does this recipe.

3 tbsps olive oil

1/2 spanish onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 small red bell pepper, cut into strips

1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 fennel bulb, cut into strips

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 cup calaspara rice (or another short-grain paella rice)

6 1/2 tbsps good quality sherry

2 cups veggie stock, heated

sea salt and pepper

3/4 cup shelled fava beans, peas or other green vegetable, cooked

4 tomatoes, cut into wedges

15 pitted kalamata olives

2 tbsps roughly chopped parsley

4 lemon wedges

Heat up the olive oil in a paella pan or large shallow skillet, and gently fry the onion for 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and fennel and continue to fry on medium heat for about 6 minutes, or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the bay leaves, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne to the vegetables and stir well. Then add the rice and stir thoroughly for 2 minutes before adding the sherry and saffron. Boil down for a minute, then add the stock and 1/3 tsp sea salt. Reduce the heat to the minimum and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Do not cover the pan and don’t stir during the cooking.

Remove the paella pan from the heat. Taste and add more salt if needed but without stirring the rice and vegetables much. Scatter the tomatoes, and peas or beans over the rice and cover the pan tightly with a lid or foil. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Take off the foil. Scatter the olives on top of the paella and sprinkle with parsley. Serve with wedges of lemons.

v:(alentine) gourmet

February 12, 2012

A friend complained to me the other day that she was stressed out about what to serve her sweetie for Valentine’s Day dessert. Let’s be honest – there are many things you should be doing on Valentine’s Day; stressing about dessert is not one of them. If you want to spend time in the kitchen cooking up a flourless chocolate cake, that’s fabulous. If not, why not put together a carefully curated selection of vegan chocolate, spiced pecans, and sliced pears to savour beside the fire after your Valentine’s Day feast?

I get my chocolate from Soma, my favourite chocolatemakers on the planet. Any of their dark chocolate is vegan by its very nature. The tumbled almonds are to die for. The old school chocolate bar has only two ingredients – cocoa nibs and cane sugar. Chocolate as it was back in the day, thousands of years ago. And then there’s always the chocolate with aleppo peppers or maldon salt or wild cherries, barberries, and cranberries. If you don’t have a Soma nearby, check out any of your local chocolate purveyors. You never know, if you ask, you might well receive. Happy v:(alentine’s) Day.


February 11, 2012

vegan harira, harira, moroccan soup, vegan soup, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson

I wonder about the exact origins of this soup. Most references trace it back to Morocco. It has a long and auspicious history including being the traditional soup Muslims eat to break the fasting day during the holy month of Ramadan. Each time I rinse my lentils and pick out the rocks, I think of those that might have had to do the same centuries ago. I’m sure there were those that did the picking, and those that definitely did NOT do the picking enjoying instead their sunny balconies in their djellaba and balgha overlooking the waves of one of the greatest seas on earth. This soup is like the sun. It makes me think of the desert, of the Mediterranean, of history, of ceremony, and of nourishment when one needs it most.

3 tbsps olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 celery stalks, diced

4 medium carrots, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsps ginger

2 tsps turmeric

2 tsps cumin

1/4 tsp cayenne

3 tbsps tomato paste

2 cups stewed tomatoes

5 cups vegetable or bean stock

1 bay leaf

2 tsps sea salt


2 cups chickpeas

1 cup brown lentils

juice from 1/2 lemon

parsley, chopped

cilantro, chopped

Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottom dutch oven. Add onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until tender. Add minced garlic and sauté for another 2 – 3 minutes until garlic is fragrant. Add spices and sauté over low heat until fragrant but be careful not to burn them.

Add the tomato paste and stir until it’s blended well. Slowly add the stewed tomatoes and stock stirring constantly until you have a smooth consistency. Add bay leaves and salt and pepper to taste.

Add chickpeas, cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until chickpeas begin to soften. Add lentils and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes longer or until chickpeas and lentils are cooked through.

Add lemon juice and chopped cilantro and parsley (or serve with chopped herbs on the side). Adjust seasoning and serve.

bean stock

February 8, 2012

bean stock, vegan stock, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson

Hardly a recipe, but essential for good food, deep flavours, and economies in the kitchen. When you are cooking beans, which I hope you do once in awhile, add a few bay leaves, some garlic cloves, maybe a carrot and a stalk of celery. When your beans are done, take out the accoutrements (bay leaves, garlic, carrot etc.) and discard. Then, when you drain the beans, don’t let that gorgeous bean stock get wasted down the kitchen sink! Save it. It’s luscious, and full of flavour, and works wonders in blackened rice, or moroccan tagine, or other bean-friendly dishes. Drain the beans off into a big bowl. Let the stock cool down, and then freeze it in different sized containers to use at your leisure. You won’t be sorry you took the extra 5 minutes to do so. Promise.

P.S. I learned from Cook’s Illustrated the other day that if you add a piece of kombu (seaweed) to your beans while cooking, it makes the beans more tender and flavourful. I think they’re right! Try it out.

vegan onion tarte, alsatian onion tarte, tarte a l'oignon, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson,

I’ve had a hankering for this dish for awhile, dreaming of being in a quaint little Parisian café about to dive into the sweetness of onion, the pungency of nutmeg, and the flakiness of pâte brisée. But how to veganize it without losing all that the French stand for in their cuisine? I can just hear it now, spreading like a whisper across an outraged city of lights, “Mais non! Ce n’est pas possible.” The travesty of it all. Well, now having made this heavenly version, I can say with confidence (and trying my best to put on those French puckered lips) “Mais oui mesdames and messieurs. C’est possible!” Franchement.

Single Crust Pâte Brisée

1  1/4 cups pastry flour

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup  vegetable shortening (I use organic, non GMO, Earth Balance shortening)

3 – 3 1/2 tbsps water, iced

Onion Filling

1/4 cup olive oil

7 or 8 medium-sized  onions, sliced thinly

2 tbsps all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

1/4 cup white wine

1/2 cup rice or soy cream

sea salt and pepper

vegan onion tarte, alsatian onion tarte, tarte a l'oignon, vgourmet, Ruth Richardson,

Putting it together

For the pâte brisée, whisk the flour and salt together in a mixing bowl. Add the shortening by cutting it into small pieces and then, using your hands or a pastry cutter, blend it into the flour working it into pea-sized pieces until it resembles a coarse crumb. Add the iced water, beginning with only 3 tablespoons, mixing enough to form a ball (do not over mix or your pâte will become stiff). Add more if you need it but it might not be necessary. Flatten the ball into a disk shape, wrap it, and chill the dough until ready to use; at least a half hour.

Once your pâte brisée has chilled, remove it from the fridge and roll the dough out to 1/4″ thickness with a floured rolling pin. Transfer it to a 9″ tart pan with a removable bottom. Shape it, trim the excess dough, leaving a 1/2″ overhang, then fold the overhang over the pastry sides and press against the side to reinforce the edge. Pierce the bottom with a fork a few times and place it in the fridge for 30 minutes until it’s firm.

While the pâte is chilling pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.

After the pastry has chilled, line the chilled shell with parchment paper and fill with pie weights. Bake until the pastry is set and pale golden along rim, 15 to 20 minutes. Carefully remove foil and weights and bake the shell until it’s golden all over, 10 to 15 minutes more. Transfer the shell to a rack.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

While your pasty is cooking, prepare your onions. Heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed dutch oven. Add onions and stir. Cover to cook over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes or until the onions have started sweating and have become quite soft. Remove the lid and cook for another 15 minutes until onions start to brown a little. Stir often to make sure they don’t burn and you cook them all evenly. Once cooked, add the flour and nutmeg and stir thoroughly so all the onions are coated. Let simmer over medium to low heat for another 3 or 4 minutes. Deglaze the onion mixture with the wine. Let simmer for a minute or two. Add rice or soy cream and stir until the mixture thickens. Add sea salt and pepper to taste and let it bubble away for about 15 minutes more.

Once the onion filling is cooked through, taste the mixture for seasoning. Adjust if necessary. Place it into the tart shell and spread it out evenly. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until the top sets and the filling binds with the sides of the dough. Let cool for a good 15 minutes or so before removing from the pan to let it set up a bit. Slice and serve.

While a nice large tart looks lovely, this recipe also lends itself to small individual tarts. Simply line large muffin tins or ramekins with the pâte brisée, and continue the process.

Wine: Pair this baby with a lovely grüner veltliner (a white wine variety grown primarily in Austria with a reputation of being a particularly food-friendly wine) or look to Alsace for a full pinot gris or gewürztraminer.

miso dressing

January 31, 2012

Andrew and I have often said that miso is so good, we think it could change the world. With its salty taste and buttery texture, this fermented paste super-charges soups, salads, and marinades alike. I tend to buy the mellow yellow rice version, but barley miso and soybean miso are equally tasty. Here’s a simple miso dressing that I’m particularly fond of on a mixed green salad with shredded carrot, green onions, and tamari pumpkin seeds.

3/4 cup organic rice miso

3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tsps toasted sesame oil

3 tbsps brown rice or apple cider vinegar

3 tsps maple syrup

6 tbsps water

1 1/2 tsps tamari

Put all ingredients in a mixing bowl and whisk briskly until well blended. Keep in a jar in the fridge for salads, marinades, or drizzled over steamed kale. If you want to thin it out, simply add more water, a teaspoon at a time, until it reaches desired consistency.

spiced apple butter

January 27, 2012

This apple butter might be more aptly named sweet spiced apple butter but of course that depends on the kind of apples you use. Macintosh will give you much sweeter butter than granny smith for instance, but use what you like and don’t worry about it too much. It’s perfect on a whole-grain toast in the morning. And it would be a lovely accompaniment to breakfast quinoa or oats just to mix things up a bit. It’s so tasty in fact that I’m now not sure why people put “normal” butter on their toast. But then again, I’ve come to wonder about a lot of things people eat. Just sayin’.

6 organic apples, either the same or different kinds, peeled, cored, and cut into rough chunks

2 star anise pods

6 cloves, whole, or 1/4 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 cup water or apple cider

1/2 cup organic cane sugar

1 tbsp lemon juice

Place apples, spices, and water or cider in a heavy bottomed pot and bring to a boil on high heat. After about 5 minutes or so, turn heat down to medium, add the sugar and lemon juice and let bubble away until the apples are very tender, about 25 minutes. If you need to add a bit more water or cider, do so a little bit at a time but you want your butter thick so don’t add too much.

Once cooked through and the apples are mushy, turn the heat off and let cool. Remove the star anise and cloves. Purée the mixture in a blender or food processor. Or if  you like it chunky, simply mash it with a potato masher until you’re happy with the consistency. Keep it in the fridge or freeze it for later use.