Mala Femmina

Autumn is hanging on by its fingernails here in California. We’re still having gloriously sunny days (with the odd showery one), and cool nights. It’s a very short season, being only about 4 – 6 weeks long, so I don’t think it will be more than another couple of weeks before I’ll be wanting to light the fire in the family room. However, as yet, it’s not too late to be eating salads. There’s nothing quite like a looming deadline for motivation!

This is a salad version of Pasta Puttanesca.


Gluten free vegan pasta salad.

4 salad tomatoes
6 – 8 oz dry GF penne pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp finely chopped onion
2 medium sized cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp capers, drained and roughly chopped
3/4 cup (~30) black olives, halved
~14 large basil leaves, torn to small shreds

Cook the pasta in plenty of  salted water according to packet instructions, until just cooked, but not fragile.

While the pasta is boiling, use a sharp knife to make a small gash in the skin of each of the tomatoes; use a slotted spoon to add the tomatoes to the boiling pasta water for about 60 seconds each, so that their skins start to peel back from the gash.

Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water with the slotted spoon, and peel off (and discard) the skins (which should pretty much slip off on their own).

Dice the tomato flesh.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it, and toss gently in a large bowl with the olive oil.

Add the remaining ingredients; stir to combine.

Check for salt, adjust if necessary. If your stomach can stand it, you can drizzle this with a little more olive oil.

Refrigerate until required (this can help the flavors develop), but no more than about an hour, as you don’t want the basil to go brown.

Caesar Salad Dressing

Making the most of the vestiges of the summer, I wanted to get at least one more salad related blog written before hotter dishes are required. Traditional Caesar salad contains both cheese and anchovies, neither of which I will eat. This version is slightly cheesy, and very garlicky. It is not for the faint of heart nor for delicately flavored salads …. by which I mean, I like it just served with crispy lettuce leaves (Romaine or cos) to dip in it, and both girls gave me the thumbs up, when I gave it to them on baked potato. If you are a lover of garlic as I am, you can use large cloves of garlic; if you have to be sociable the day after, try smaller cloves …. and if you want to drizzle the dressing over shredded lettuce and cubes of fried GF bread, slacken the dressing off with a tablespoon of rice milk first.

Ceasar Salad

1/2 cup mild flavored mayonnaise (Soy Vegan Mayonnaise is good)
1/4 tsp mild, light colored miso
1 tsp nutritional yeast
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/8 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp ground seaweed

Stir all ingredients together with a non-metal utensil, and use immediately.

Tofu Florentine with Hollandaise Sauce

This is a Sunday morning special, easily used for entertaining as all parts of this dish can be made in advance, and just reheated and put together when you’re ready for it. The bread is delightfully chewy, contrasting well with the soft, creamy spinach making this a very (physically and mentally) satisfying breakfast. There’s something very liberating about feeling ‘normal’, and I got that feeling from this breakfast.

Traditional hollandaise sauce is made predominantly from eggs and huge amounts of butter. Even if I wanted to just substitute vegan margarine for the butter, my tummy couldn’t cope with the quantity of fat called for. My head can’t quite get around the number of calories involved, either. My version isn’t exactly diet-worthy, it is an indulgence, but not one that you’ll be paying for 3 days later! For an even less calorific weekday version, just omit the bread.

Tofu Benedict_1

Tofu Florentine in the dawn sunlight. I made this one without the sweet corn in the spinach, as the Hollandaise sauce provided the counterpoint to the spinach that the corn was used for, and without the carrot coloring.

If you’re not avoiding eggs, then you can substitute a fried or poached egg for the tofu. However, the tofu has a delightfully chewy texture which adds body to the dish.

Note that the recipe calls for 1 onion layer. You could use a slice, if you wanted to, but I find it easier to remove the onion after it has infused, if there’s only one piece to locate.

Tofu hollandaise 2

Note how the small amount of carrot included in the hollandaise sauce changes it to a rich, buttery/eggy color.

Serves ~3 – 6

6 slices Bagel Bread

1 recipe Creamed Spinach (with or without the corn)

For the Hollandaise Sauce:

16 fl oz (2 cups) water
2 1/2 oz (1/2 cup) cashews
3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
1/2 large onion layer (i.e. peel 1/2 a layer from a large onion.)
2″ carrot, finely chopped (for color)
a pinch of allspice/mace
1 big bay leaf
a good pinch of ground pepper
2/3 tsp salt (kala namak, if liked)

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan, and bring to a gentle simmer, cooking for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse.

Remove the bay leaf and onion, transfer the rest to a blender, and blend until smooth.

Pour the blended sauce back into the saucepan, and bring to a simmer to thicken to desired consistency and cook off the harsh part of the vinegar flavor, stirring frequently (5-10 mins).

Adjust consistency with water if necessary. This sauce should be a thick, pourable, cream. Thin enough to flow, but thick enough to coat.

For the Tofu:

14-16 oz firm tofu, cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 tbsp margarine (I use Earth Balance)
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp onion powder

First, make sure the surface of your tofu is as dry as you can get it (to stop it from sticking to the pan): leave the drained cubes uncovered in the fridge overnight OR put them on 2 layers of kitchen paper towel wrapped in a cloth kitchen towel for 1/2 an hour.

Heat the margarine over a high heat, and once hot, add the dried tofu, stirring frequently with a thin plastic spatula until the tofu starts to brown. (When it gets to this stage, the tofu is much less likely to stick.) Keep cooking the tofu until browned on most sides, and the texture has changed from somewhat jelly-like to slightly crunchy on the outside, and slightly chewy on the inside. (~10-15 mins)

Sprinkle the seasonings over the tofu, adjust as necessary, and turn off the heat.

To Assemble:

Make sure the spinach, tofu, and hollandaise sauce are all hot.

Toast the bagel bread slices in a toaster.

Top each slice with spinach, a handful of tofu, and then spoon the hollandaise sauce over the top.