Spring is upon us, and with it come asparagus, beets, artichokes, and citrus fruits. Here are three fantastic dishes using the best that spring has to offer. Try them together for a vegan meal that’ll even have carnivores begging for seconds.
Starter: Shaved asparagus salad
This spring-inspired salad from Sunny Vegan blogger Amanda is crisp, light, and quick (no cooking required).
1 pound large stalk asparagus
8 ounces firm tofu- crumbled
1/4 cup Italian parsley - roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoon light agave
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper
With a mandoline, knife, or vegetable peeler, shave off long lengths of asparagus. In a jar or bowl with whisk, combine dressing ingredients and mix well. Pour dressing over shaved asparagus, add tofu and parsley and toss together. Serve immediately.
Main: Creamy penne pasta bake with zucchini
Cook time: 35 minutes
While zucchini isn't officially in season until late spring or early summer, this creamy pasta from Gluten-Free Goddess lends itself perfectly to be used with any of your favorite spring veggies. We suggest substituting artichoke hearts, arugula, peas, or spinach until zucchini begins to bloom.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Lightly oil the bottom of a large gratin dish or casserole and set aside.
12 ounces gluten-free brown rice penne pasta
1 medium zucchini
1 garlic clove, minced
Sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
Sprinkle of dried dill or Italian herbs, to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons vegan butter such as Smart Balance
4 tablespoons brown rice flour
2 1/2 cups organic soy milk* see notes
1/4 cup gluten-free nutritional yeast* see notes
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon mild rice vinegar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, optional
Chopped fresh chives
Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and partially cook the brown rice penne, till just this side of al dente. You don't want to cook it completely, or you'll end up with mushy pasta, after it bakes.
Meanwhile, wash, trim, and slice the zucchini into half moons. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add a splash of olive oil. Add the zucchini and minced garlic, season with sea salt, ground pepper, and a dash or two of dried dill or Italian herbs. Stir to coat, and quickly stir-fry, just until the zucchini is tender-crisp. Don't overcook it. It will continue to cook in the oven.
Start making the creamy pasta sauce. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the vegan butter. When the "butter" melts, add in the brown rice flour and stir with a whisk to make a paste. Heat it through, stirring and cooking the paste for a minute. Slowly add in the soy milk (or your milk of choice) and whisk the milk with the paste to combine. Add in the nutritional yeast, garlic powder, sea salt, nutmeg, rice vinegar and mustard (if using). Stir the sauce until it thickens and turn down the heat. If it gets too thick you can thin it with a dash of white wine, or more soy milk.
When the pasta is done, drain it well, and drizzle it with a touch of good olive oil. Pour the cooked penne into a large gratin dish or casserole. Add in the zucchini. Pour the sauce in and gently, very gently, combine the penne, zucchini, and sauce until the penne is coated. Sprinkle the top with fresh snipped chives.
Cover the dish with foil. Bake the penne in the center of a preheated oven for 20 minutes, until heated through and bubbling.
I used organic soy milk in this sauce- and it helps make the sauce rich and creamy. If you cannot tolerate soy, try unsweetened, clean tasting hemp milk, almond milk, or light coconut milk (like So Delicious).
If you do not care for nutritional yeast, omit it and add one to two tablespoons
Dessert: Triple chocolate beet Bundt cake
Makes one 10" Bundt cake
It's true -- you can have your cake and eat your veggies, too. Or at least with this fabulous Bundt cake by Sarah of The Sweet Life you can. All your guests will be begging to know what the secret ingredient is.
3 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups beet puree (6-7 small beets)
1 cup warm water
3/4 cup apple sauce
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips
Place beets in a large pot and cover with about 2 inches of water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until beets are soft and can be easily pierced with a knife. Remove from heat, drain, and allow beets to cool for 15-20 minutes. Once cool enough to touch, remove skins and place in a food processor. Blend until smooth. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 10" Bundt pan and set aside.
In a large bowl combine flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
In a separate bowl whisk together beet puree, apple sauce, water, canola oil, and vanilla extract. Add the wets to the dries and mix until just combined. Fold in the chocolate chips.
Transfer to prepared Bundt pan and bake for about 45-60 minutes, until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the pan for 20 minutes. Flip out onto a cooling rack and cool completely.To make the chocolate ganache, place chocolate chips in a small, shallow bowl. Heat coconut milk to a scald (you should see a skin form over the surface). Pour over chocolate chips and cover for 5 minutes. Gently stir together until the ganache is well combined and thickened. Pour over cooled cake and serve.
--all recipes used with permission by the respective blog
--first image courtesy of Sunny Vegan, second image courtesy of Gluten-Free Goddess, third image courtesy of The Sweet Life
Jessica Zischke is a former editorial intern at Sierra. She is currently studying environmental studies at Dartmouth College, where she also works as an editor of Dartbeat, the blog of the student-run newspaper The Dartmouth.