Braided Onion Bread

This braided onion bread is made with a rich, buttery, yeast-based dough. Each of the four strands in the braid is stuffed with a caramelized onion and grated cheese mixture.

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One of my first memories related to baking was a demonstration conducted at my kindergarten where bread dough was shaped into turtles, and birds, and elaborate braids. Scissors were used to create the tiny bread spikes on the backs of alligator and hedgehog-shaped loaves. Lobster claws got a snip up the center for visual effect and each figure was placed in an oven until puffy, golden, and fragrant. We were each allowed to take one home. The whole experience blew my five year-old mind. Braided Onion Bread filled With Caramelized Onions and Gruyere Cheese
I still like to bake elaborate braided loaves. Especially when things in my life are tumultuous. I made this one a couple of times prior to the holidays, and decided to make it again last week to photograph and share with you. It’s made with a rich, buttery, yeast-based dough. Each of the four strands in the braid is stuffed with a caramelized onion and grated cheese mixture. If you’ve never baked a braided loaf before, I’ll admit that stuffing the strands adds a layer of complexity, but the whole process is incredibly forgiving if you commit and keep going. If you look at the shape below and think “no way” just remember it’s a simple braid coiled into a snail shape. 
Braided Onion Bread Prior to Baking

The (Stuffed) Braided Bread Process

To make this bread you start by making beautiful yeast dough. You roll your dough into a rectangle, cut that rectangle into four strips, and then stuff each strand with awesomeness. I usually prepare the stuffing a day ahead of time, or the morning of the day I plan on baking. This gives the filling some time to cool. I’ve locked onto this onion-cheese combo lately, but you can imagine endless variations.

To fill the dough, you run the filling in a line up the middle of each of the four strips of dough. Fold them each in half, and then pinch the seam to seal the filling in. Now you have four filled strands that you’ll arrange side-by-side (below). Pinch them together at the top and start braiding (see diagram below). Coil the braid into a tight round, snail shape, let the dough rise, brush with an egg wash, and bake! 

Diagram of a Four Strand Braid

A Four-strand Braid

First, let me say – if you’re worried about trying the four-strand braid, I understand! If you want to fall back to a chubby three-strand bread braid the first time through, go for it. The main thing is to commit to the braid either way. Even if you’re convinced things aren’t going well. This feeling can be triggered by a few things. A common problem is strands splitting open to reveal the filling – just re-pinch and keep going. Or, you might feel like your strands keep stretching and getting longer and longer? It’s ok, you will coil them into a round shape. Keep braiding even if your strands are longer than your sheet pan. Boss the dough around a bit. If it’s too sticky, dust with a bit of flour. The main thing? Don’t get discouraged, keep going.

Braided Onion Bread filled With Caramelized Onions and Gruyere Cheese just After Baking
Please let me know if you bake a braided loaf, or send me a message on Insta. Or if you experiment with other fillings, please leave a comment. I can’t wait to see what you do with this one. I loved seeing all of you posting soup pics last week. xo – h

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Fire Broth Noodle Soup

This is the soup that saved me after my dad came home from the hospital recently. It’s loaded with good things like beans, greens, and pasta and the broth is spicy and invigorating with lots of pepper, garlic, ginger, and chiles.

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This is the soup that saved me after my dad came home from the hospital recently. I made the first pot on the fly, loading it up with all the things that make me feel good (beans, pasta, kale, turmeric), and seasoning it just the way I like it with a broth that is nuclear spicy (cayenne, ginger, garlic). All the ingredients went into the largest pot I could find, one of my dad’s pasta pots, so there would be enough soup to portion out and freeze into meals for days. It’s the kind of soup I never get tired of, and the kind of thing I needed to have on hand to keep myself going at a terrible time. For any of you who missed what has been going on with me between my past post and now, I posted more details here and here, but the short of it is that my mom died unexpectedly, and my dad has also been very sick. 
Fire Broth Noodle Soup
But the soup has helped. The soup does the job. And somewhat shockingly, my dad also loves it. He lost nearly fifty pounds in a short time period while he was in the hospital and acute rehab. Swallowing was hard, and radiation treatment to his throat caused all sorts of problems. I wasn’t sure if he could tolerate this soup, because spicy foods can be trouble when you’re not eating much and/or getting radiation treatment to your neck. At any rate, he asked to try it and now he requests for bowl after bowl of this, preferably with a dollop of sour cream on top or a bit of grated Parmesan cheese. He calls it, “that spicy soup.” My English brother-in-law saw how much chopped kale is added, and nicknamed it “hot salad.” Laugh/cry. We make a big pot every week.

The Noodles:

Any short, substantial noodles will do here. I started by using farfalle pasta (butterflies), and when those ran out, I switched to egg noodles – the kind you might use in a kugel. I wouldn’t hesitate to use gemelli or fusilli.

The Beans:

My preference is cranberry beans. I made the first two pots of this with these. But don’t get hung up if you don’t have cranberry beans. Chickpeas are also a win, you could try a favorite white bean, or a blend it also good. I always cook up a pound of dried beans before making this soup, but you can certainly make it with canned, and I’ll leave notes in the recipe to reflect this.

Fire Broth Noodle Soup

The Spices:

My advice here is to roll with what you have on hand. You likely have much of what you need. The objective? An assertively spicy, balanced broth. I call for cayenne pepper here, but I’ve also made this soup substituting an equal amount of Szechuan pepper, and it was all good. If you’re concerned about the soup being too spicy, scale back a bit on any ingredient you’re nervous about, and salt and season with more toward the end of cooking. This way, the seasoning will be exactly to your liking.

Fire Broth Noodle Soup

Use a Big Pot:

The main thing to know is you need to use a very large pot here. This recipe makes a lot of soup. I make it in a big pasta or stock pot. Just keep in mind, in addition to all your ingredients, you’ll add 14 cups of water. If you don’t have a large enough pot, cut the recipe in half (or do 3/4 of the recipe) to be safe.

Stretching Out Leftovers:

You’ll have leftovers for days with this recipe. That’s part of the magic here. Keep some refrigerated for the coming day or two, and freeze the rest in smaller portions. You might want to add more water to the soup upon reheating – it tends to thickens up. Be sure to pre-season with more salt and cayenne before serving, after re-heating.

Please enjoy the soup. It takes a good amount of chopping, but the payoff is rich. And I wanted to extend another heartfelt thank you for all your notes, support and condolences. I’m looking forward and hoping for more bright spots for all of us in 2021. -h

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Black Sticky Gingerbread

This black sticky gingerbread recipe makes an outrageously dark, dense, flavorful and delicious cake. The burnt-caramel-esque crust that forms on the top of the cake is part of what makes this recipe a keeper.

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I’ve experimented with a good number of gingerbread recipes in the years since I highlighted Regan Daley’s Black Sticky Gingerbread. There were single, double, and triple ginger gingerbreads. Cakes that were spice-kissed, and others with experience at first and second base. They’re all good, really. But hers is the one I keep coming back to when it counts. And because it has been hiding in the archives for so long, I thought I’d run my updated version today complete with tweaks, and fresh insights. Please enjoy!
Black Sticky Gingerbread Dusted with Powdered Sugar
Back then, here’s what I said, “…The Black Sticky Gingerbread comes together like the cake that it is – straight-forward, unfussy, with a bit of kick and attitude. Melt the butter with the sweeteners, stir in a few eggs, fold in the fragrant spices and flour, spike it with some freshly grated ginger, and pour the batter into the prepared pan. The cake is outrageously dark, dense, flavorful, and delicious. Not the prettiest cake you’ll ever make, but one of the tastiest. The burnt-caramel-esque crust that forms on the top of the cake is outrageous, and that was the first part of the cake to go.”Black Sticky Gingerbread Dusted with Powdered Sugar

What is the Best Gingerbread Pan?

I’ve baked this gingerbread cake in a range of pans over the years. Honestly, it’s hard to go wrong. You might have to adjust the baking time depend on what you’re using. Less time if you’re baking in muffin or cupcake tins, or longer if you’re using a sheet pan or large bundt pan. There is guidance in the recipe notes. This is just a long way of saying, experiment!

Black Sticky Gingerbread

Your Gingerbread Suggestions

A number of you have left insightful comments over the years, and I wanted to highlight a few here. Kelly noted,” I made this for Christmas dinner this year with homemade lemon curd and it was fabulous!” There has been success swapping in gluten-free flour for the flour. And Haruspex loaded it up saying, “I halved the recipe, made it in a loaf pan, added a fistful of sherry-soaked chopped dates & raisins and another of chopped walnuts, and brought it to a New Year’s Eve party.” Have fun, I’d love to know if any of you give this a try over the holidays, or if you make any other personalized tweaks to it! xo -h

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Simple Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies

This is the recipe I use anytime I want perfect sugar cookies. Great flavor, and the dough is a dream to work with.

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This is the recipe I use anytime I want perfect sugar cookies. They bake up beautifully with nice structure and a hint of snap when you break them in two. Especially true if you can wait that extra minute or two before taking them from the oven. So they have time to shift from just-plain-baked to golden, crisp, and toasted. The dough is an absolute dream to work with. And the flavor? They have just the right amount of salt to counter the sweet. Simple Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies
This recipe makes enough dough to yield plenty of cookies, with dough left over to freeze. I typically run out of energy before I run out of dough. I thought I’d posted this recipe long ago(!), but a search through the archives proved me wrong! I’m also including the icing I like.

Icing

As far as icing goes, I have a lot of thoughts. 😉 I have a base recipe I use and then tweak it from there. Sometimes, I like my icing somewhat translucent, like a wash – so I add more water. Other times, I want it more opaque, so I leave it as written (below). I always like it to be a bit matte, and not hyper-glossy, so that’s what you’ll get here. Also, have fun with natural colors. You could do tiny hot-pink dots on the trees pictured with some raspberry powder plus a bit of the icing added to it. I like saffron for yellow, matcha for green, etc. Play around!

Simple Whole Wheat Sugar Cookies

Pro-tip! Keep your eyes peeled at yard sales, flea markets, and the like for special cookie cutters – that’s where you’ll find the gems. I have a bin of favorites that I can go to each time I make cookies.

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Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad

Ravioli salads are the best! Plump raviolis tossed with toasted hazelnuts, lemony chard, and caramelized onions are at the heart of this ravioli salad recipe. The colorful platter is finished off with a dusting of cheese, snipped chives, and lemon zest.

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If you’re invited to a potluck this winter, consider bringing this. I first published the recipe over a decade ago, and still cook it regularly for a whole host of reasons. We’re talking about plump raviolis tossed with toasted hazelnuts, lemony flecks of chard, and deeply caramelized onions. You’ve got crunch from toasted hazelnuts, and brightness from a bit of zest. It’s delicious, flexible, and totally satisfying. Also, appropriately, it makes a great vegetarian main for gatherings like Thanksgiving. I’ve updated and streamlined the instructions and ingredient list here so it reflects how I make it today. For example, I used to cook the chard on the side, but now I don’t bother, and just massage it with lemon juice. Little tricks and improvements, and in this case, one less pan to clean.

Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad

You can prepare most of the components ahead of time, and throw it together in less than five minutes when you’re ready to serve it up family-style. Whenever I have a window in the days prior, I wash and chop the chard (or kale), caramelize the onions, and toast the hazelnuts.

Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad

Keep in mind, this whole idea is super adaptable. You can play around with the type of raviolis you use – vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.

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Watermelon Raspberry Breakfast Bowl

This chia-centric Watermelon Raspberry Breakfast Bowl is an A-plus make-ahead blender breakfast.

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I spent a good chunk of time this week cooking beautiful Indian food from the recipes in Dishoom. With the air-quality in Los Angeles getting increasingly bad, staying inside to cook through a number of intensive recipes helped me take my mind off the increasingly heart-breaking situation here in California and West Coast. In addition to the bhel puri, multiple chutneys, mattar paneer, black daal, aloo sabzi, and a technicolor-flavored garam masala, I put a wonderfully sweet watermelon to use. It was a gift from a neighbor we’re lucky to have. I used little chunks of it in place of pomegranate seeds in the bhel puri, and then whipped up this chia-centric Watermelon Raspberry Breakfast Bowl in the blender.
Watermelon Raspberry Breakfast Bowl
You can see it pictured here topped with extra watermelon balls, toasted almonds, crushed freeze-dried raspberries, and a sprinkling of chia seeds. I can imagine a kid-friendly version where you serve it in a tall glass, and sink a bunch of whole watermelon balls into it. The whole recipe really takes on the flavor of the watermelon, balanced out by the tartness of the raspberries. The key here is getting your hands on a super-sweet, top notch watermelon.
Watermelon Balls in Weck Jar
I shaped the watermelon into balls with a melon baller tool probably as old as I am. I’ll forever love eating melons in this shape, but if you don’t want to go to the effort, seedless chunks, roughly bite-sized are what you’re aiming for. They go in the blender, but also make an easy topping if you want to double down on the watermelon front.
Watermelon Raspberry Breakfast Bowl Ingredients in a Blender
I like making a big jar of this sort of breakfast using whatever is seasonal because they keep nicely for up to 4-5 days. I mean, the jar is typically empty by day 2 or 3, but it’s a good make-ahead breakfast. It’s also a good way to kick off your morning with some fruit, fiber, and nuts.
Watermelon Raspberry Breakfast Bowl
One last thought, and this is a personal preference. I find that with breakfast bowls of this sort, I really enjoy having lots of crunchy components on top. Here, you can see toasted almonds filling that roll, but I tend to switch it up day to day. If I have a good homemade cereal blend on hand (like this Breakfast Magic, or this Triple Oat Breakfast Cereal) I use that. Basically anything dry with a good-amount of crunch is fair game and encouraged.
Watermelon Raspberry Breakfast Bowl

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50 Vegan Recipes

Great vegan recipes are like gold. Especially when they feature real whole foods, and lots of plants. This type of cooking supports your health and overall well-being in important ways. No meat? No dairy? No eggs? Don’t sweat it. There are many other ingredients to get excited about.

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Great vegan recipes are like gold. Especially when they feature whole foods, and lots of plants. This type of cooking supports your health and overall well-being in important ways. No meat? No dairy? No eggs? Don’t sweat it. There are many other ingredients to get excited about when you’re cooking and eating.

Mains

  1. Caramelized Tofu

    Caramelized strips of tofu served over sautéed shredded brussels sprouts. Caramelized Tofu

  2. Sunshine Pad Thai

    One simple trick makes this a turmeric noodle version of a classic. Vegan Pad Thai

  3. Last Minute Red Lasagna

    This is a true weeknight lasagna. No pre-cooking sauces, no pre-cooking noodles. Last Minute Red Lasagna

  4. Quick Vegan Enchiladas

    In the oven in less that ten minutes, and a healthful alternative to all the heavy cheese versions out there. With black beans, sweet potatoes, and a stealthy turmeric boost. Vegan Enchiladas

  5. Sushi Bowl

    a de-constructed sushi roll – brown rice, tofu, avocado, toasted nori and green onions served with a tangy, sweet citrus-soy dressing. Sushi Bowl

  6. Rice Porridge

    It’s a one pot, effortless, green, nutrient-packed twist on one of my favorite things to eat. Rice Porridge

  7. Chia Breakfast Bowl

    Chia Breakfast Bowl

  8. Vegetarian Paella

    Vegetarian Paella

  9. Steaming Vegetables

    Steaming Vegetables

  10. Green Falafel Bowl

    Green Falafel Bowl

  11. Ottolenghi Red Rice and Quinoa

  12. TLT Sandwich

  13. Pan-glazed Tempeh

  14. Weeknight Ponzu Pasta

  15. Soups

  16. Vegetable Noodle Soup

    Vegetable noodle soup is as simple, direct, and delicious as it gets. If you’re vegetarian or vegan looking for an alternative to chicken noodle soup, try this! Vegetable Noodle Soup

  17. Broccoli Cheddar Soup

    A simple, everyday broccoli soup made special with crusty, mustardy croutons and cheddar cheese. Broccoli Cheddar Soup

  18. Immunity Soup

    White pepper with jolts of ginger, and stabs of garlic – clear and strong topped with tofu, mushrooms, watermelon radish, and lots of green onions. Immunity Soup

  19. Simple Asparagus Soup

    A simple asparagus soup – fresh asparagus, new potatoes, a bit of green curry paste, and coconut milk are pureed to make this spring favorite. Simple Asparagus Soup

  20. Simple Cauliflower Soup

    This is the simplest cauliflower soup. Simple Cauliflower Soup

  21. Ribollita

    Ribollita is a thick Tuscan stew – dark greens, lots of beans, vegetables, olive oil, thickened with day-old bread. Ribollita

  22. Green Pea Soup

  23. Miso Tahini Soup

  24. Posole in Broth

  25. Leek Soup with Dill Oil

  26. Salads

  27. Taco Salad

    Tempeh taco salad – crushed tortilla chips bring the crunch, black beans and crumbled tempeh coated with taco seasoning brings the substance, and a strong, smoked paprika-apple cider dressing pulls everything together. Taco Salad<

  28. Rainbow Noodle Salad

    A radiant, color-flecked tangle of noodles, cabbage, shredded carrots, pickled sushi ginger, and an abundance of cilantro, basil, and scallions. Rainbow Noodle Salad

  29. Easy Tomato Pasta Salad

    Whole-grain pasta, baby kale, basil, and the best tomatoes you can get your hands on, with a generous drizzle of strong harissa dressing. Easy Tomato Pasta Salad

  30. Grilled Zucchini Bread Salad

  31. Smash-and-Toss Roasted Potato Salad

  32. Lazy Day Peanut Noodle Salad

  33. Summer Corn Salad

  34. Dips, Snacks and Appetizers

  35. Goth Hummus

    Goth Hummus

  36. Golden Beet Hummus

    Billowy and smooth, it’s a boosted hummus for everyday, all-day w/ golden beets, turmeric, and chickpeas. Golden Beet Hummus

  37. Turmeric Cashews

    Turmeric Cashews tossed with cayenne, nori, and sesame.

  38. Asparagus Tartine

    Avocado smeared across toasted day-old slabs of sesame bread, layered with arugula and garlicky caraway asparagus + toasted pepitas. Asparagus Tartine

  39. Roasted Tomato Salsa

    Deep, caramelized flavors of roasted tomatoes and onions alongside the smokiness of the chipotles equals the best salsa. Salsa

  40. Vegan Nachos

    Packed with beneficial spices, cashews, garlic, and grated sweet potatoes, and lasts up to a week refrigerated. Vegan Nachos

  41. Power Bars

    Savory power bars with toasted walnuts, crumbled kale chips, and oil-cured olives. Power Bars

  42. Muhammara

    Traditional red pepper spread originating from Syria made with a fascinating blend of red peppers, walnuts, olive oil, pomegranate molasses. Muhammara

  43. Mung Bean Hummus

    For creamy hummus, without the extra effort, I use mung beans instead. They work beautifully. Top the hummus with shallot oil, fresh chives Mung Bean Hummus

  44. Spicy Boosted Nut Butter

  45. Walnut Olive Miso Magic Sauce

  46. Cinnamon Vanilla Sunflower Butter

  47. Roasted Lemon Chutney

  48. Drinks and Desserts

  49. Rhubarb Rosewater Syrup

    Perfect on (or in) everything from yogurt, spritzers, waffles, or oatmeal. Rhubarb Rosewater Syrup

  50. Lime, Grapefruit and Ginger Juice

    Lime, Grapefruit and Ginger Juice

  51. Vitamin C Tea Blend

    Hibiscus and rose hips are both Vitamin C power houses. This is a much appreciated tea blend for when an immunity boost is needed. Vitamin C Tea Blend

  52. Homemade Strawberry Almond Milk

    Once you’ve tasted homemade almond milk it’s quite difficult to return to store-bought. Homemade Strawberry Almond Milk

  53. No Bake Energy Bites

    No-bake energy bites, my favorite alternative to energy bars. No Bake Energy Bites

  54. Two-ingredient Candied Citrus Lolipops

    Plump, juicy, citrus segments coated in thin, crunchy, sugar shells. Two-ingredient Candied Citrus Lolipops

My hope is you’ll find many ideas here to inspire more vegan meals in your home and life. The recipes listed here are vegan, or easily made vegan (with a minor tweak or two). I only list them here if I’ve actually mentioned how to make the recipe vegan in the recipe or in the head notes of the recipe. Here’s a favorite vegan recipe to start!

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Heirloom Apple Salad

The sort of hearty apple salad I love. It has heirloom apples, shaved celery, and toasted nuts of your choosing. The dressing is creamy and spiked with rosemary, garlic and champagne vinegar.

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If you’re looking for a simple apple salad, you’re in the right place. There’s a reasonable chance that you have the ingredients needed to make it sprinkled around your kitchen – on counter tops, or in the crisper. And if not, there are lots of ways to make substitutes. It’s hearty and substantial, colorful and crunchy – made with heirloom apples, shaved celery, and toasted nuts of your choosing. The dressing is crème fraîche (or sour cream) spiked with rosemary, garlic and champagne vinegar. 
Heirloom Apple Salad

Apple Salads – All About the Crunch

This salad is big on crunch. And that alone is likely the reason it has become a fall favorite. There’s crunch from crisp apples, celery, and nuts. Pair that with the creaminess in the dressing? It’s a nice contrast. My main tip? Seek out crisp apples with good flavor. And pass on mealy apples.
Heirloom Apple Salad

Substitutions

Think of this recipe as more of a sketch than anything else. I used arugula because it’s what I had on hand, but the baby gems at the market looked great and would have been a nice substitute. Same goes for the nuts. Toast whatever you have on hand – pine nuts, almonds, or walnuts. And on the dressing front, crème fraîche brings a beautiful luxe texture into the mix, but  you can certainly use sour cream or even yogurt, and whatever good-tasting white wine vinegar you like.
Slicing Apples for Apple Salad

Slicing the Apples

Another variable you can experiment is the cut of the apple. You can see my preferred slices up above. They thick enough to retain some snap, and bite-sized. I like them sliced this way so you can get a bit of everything on a fork – some arugula, apple, nuts, etc. But if you really love apples, add more and slice them thicker. I also have it in my notes to do an apple salsa of sorts – with everything chopped smaller & a few serrano chiles chopped and added to the mix. For use on winter panini, and the like.
Bowl of Apple Salad in the Kitchen

The Dressing

The dressing is great on all sorts of things. Not just apple salad. It’s decadent drizzled over roasted potatoes (or sweet potatoes!), as a finishing kiss for mushrooms, or as a slather on panini. I also love it drizzled over oven-roasted broccoli, or a medley of sheet-pan baked vegetables.Heirloom Apple Salad

Your Apple Salad Ideas

Over the years you’ve left some great suggestions and variations in the comments. I’m going to highlight a few and also encourage you to let us know of any riffs on the recipe you enjoy in the future!

  • Amanda says, ” I grated a half a celery root into the salad as well, which boosted the yummy celery flavor and added another texture. So good!”
  • Chase brilliantly swapped in pears, “I have made this salad 8 times in the last 10 days!!!! An instant favorite! Hazelnuts were the nut of choice and a pear/apple mix with some added Rosemary crostini crumbled in gives it a great crunch!!!”
  • Dana turned it into more of a main dish, “I added some cooked and cooled wheat berries to this salad and it was divine! Nutty crunch and great nutrition to bulk it up for a main course dinner.”
  • Kara introduced a few ingredients, ““Hallelujah!” is what I thought when I bit into this salad today for lunch! I substituted baby broccoli for the celery, used walnuts, and some sliced Parmesan.”

Have fun and poke around for more salad recipes, or more fall recipe inspiration. I love this Genius Kale Salad, this Shaved Fennel Salad from Super Natural Every Day, this pure Cilantro Salad for the cilantro fans out there, and for more of a main, this Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad is always a go-to.

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Simple Bruschetta

Good tomatoes are the thing that matters most when it comes to making this classic Italian antipasto. It is such a simple preparation that paying attention to the little details matters. My favorite bruschetta techniques, and a few simple variations as well.

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This is the very best time of year to make bruschetta. It’s late summer and tomatoes are vivid and ripe, saturated with flavor. Good tomatoes are the thing that matters most when it comes to making this classic, open-faced Italian antipasto. This is such a simple preparation it means paying attention to the little details matters. Today I’m going to talk through how I make my favorite bruschetta, and include a few simple variations as well.
Simple Bruschetta

The Importance of Using Good Ingredients

The first rule of making great bruschetta is to use the best ingredients you can get. You’re using such a short list of ingredients, it’s important they’re all super flavorful. Use fragrant, golden extra-virgin olive oil, vinegar that tastes good, and in-season, ripe tomatoes. We’ll talk about choosing bread next, but using good bread and tomatoes and olive oil is everything here and dictates whether your results will be “pretty good”, or “omg so good.”

What Kind of Bread Should you Use for Bruschetta?

In short, you want a hearty bread that can stand up to grilling. Marcella Hazan says, “the name bruschetta comes from bruscare, which means “to roast over coals” the original and still the best way of toasting the bread.” She calls for Italian whole wheat bread (pane integrale) sliced 1 1/2 inches thick. I usually use whatever hearty sourdough or country loaf I have on hand at the time. If you’re baking homemade sourdough, by all means use that. Bruschetta is a great way to use up day(s)-old bread. Many sources will tell you 1/2-inch slices are the goal, and Marcella weighs in suggesting we use bread sliced 1 1/2-inches thick. I find that slices 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch thick hit the sweet spot where you can get a good ratio of topping to bread in each bite. 

That said, let me back up a minute and note that a lot of the bruschetta I see photos of are actually crostini – small two-bite toasts sliced from a white baguette-style bread and topped with a tomato mixture. That’s not what I’m talking about today. The bruschetta I love uses hearty slabs of bread, preferably with a dense crumb. It is grilled, rubbed well with garlic (both sides!), and topped. These aren’t two-bite affairs, they’re more like 5-6.

As far as grilling the bread? In the A16: Food+Wine cookbook they note, “the word bruschetta, which is derived from bruciare, “to burn” implies that some charring on the bread is desirable.” Assuming both sources are right about the origins of the name bruschetta, we want to grill our bread, and get a kiss of the burn you get from grilling. If you don’t have access to a grill, second choice would be to use a broiler. Third option, use  a stovetop grill pan.
Grilled Sourdough Bread for Making Bruschetta

A Tip for Grilling Bread

Brush each slice with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil before grilling. I find this helps keep the bread from drying out as it is toasting. As soon as you’ve removed the bread from the grill, and it is cool enough to handle, rub both sides vigorously with a peeled clove of garlic. Especially if you love garlic as much as I do.

Today’s Bruschetta Recipe

It’s my favorite, simple, use-your-best-tomatoes version. Red tomatoes are tossed with olive oil, salt, torn basil, and a splash of vinegar. I’ll include the recipe for this down below, but you can use the same approach for the other variations I list here.
Simple Bruschetta with Ripe Red Tomatoes and Basil

Let’s Talk about the Vinegar Component

I think of the vinegar in bruschetta as a seasoning component of sorts. It brings acidity, melds with the olive oil, and brings some balance. I’ll say it outright. You can’t use awful vinegar and there’s a lot of it out there. I made so much bruschetta in my twenties using harsh vinegars, and I’m just sad it took me a while to find the magic of good ones. Two favorite vinegars top of mind right now include Katz vinegars, and Brightland’s Parasol.

If you taste your vinegar and wince hard, or if it has a musty smell, consider investing in a new bottle. In Italy you encounter bruschetta using a range of vinegars. I tend to use a favorite white wine vinegar (for this and many salads), but if you have a red wine vinegar, herb vinegar or balsamic vinegar you love, use that. I’d even argue, a squeeze of lemon juice is a better choice than a bad tasting vinegar. If you use lemon juice, add some zest while you’re at it. It might not be traditional, but it will be delicious! 
Bruschetta Made with Seasonal Tomatoes and Basil

A Few Bruschetta Variations

  • Yellow Tomato Bruschetta with Dukkah & Lemon Zest: A version of bruschetta with yellow teardrop tomatoes tossed with good olive oil, torn basil, a splash of good-tasting white wine vinegar. Pictured below. Finished with lots of lemon zest and a generous sprinkling of dukkah. You can make your dukkah. Or, I also love this Botanica version. If you keep a lemon olive oil on hand, use that for an extra-special version.
    Bruschetta with Yellow Tomatoes
  • Pan-blistered Artichoke Bruschetta: Top grilled bread with golden-crusted baby artichokes, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil or lemon olive oil, black pepper, and sprinkle with chives and/or chive flowers. Pictured in the center of the photo below.
    Bruschetta - Three Different Ways
  • More ideas: I love a spicy red tomato version drizzled with lots of spicy garlic-chili oil
  • Or a yellow tomato version tossed with a garlic-turmeric oil, and finished with lots of black pepper. This take is zero-percent traditional but everyone loves it.
    An Assortment of Simple Bruschetta

    Cold-weather Bruschetta

    Although I’m writing this in summer – prime tomato and grilling season – you can experiment with bruschetta all year long. Roasted slabs of winter squash or sweet potatoes topped with a salsa verde are great. Or sautéed garlicky winter greens or kale and a bit of grated cheese. Think of all the toppings you can do with roasted mushrooms, roasted beets, and the like. Combine any of these with the last of whatever beans you may have cooked earlier in the week.  I’ll also note, this is the time of year I shift any bruschetta-making to the broiler from the grill.
    Preparing Bruschetta in the Kitchen
    I hope more than anything that this post is a reminder that the simplest food can be the best food. The tail end of a loaf of homemade sourdough, a few tomatoes from the garden along with a sprinkling of whatever herbs and herb flowers are there, garlic, and olive oil? Makes a perfect little meal, or party spread (if we were still having parties xx). 

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Super Natural Vegan Sushi

This is homemade vegan sushi made with sweet potato fries, seasoned tofu, avocado, kale chips, and a whole grain sushi rice blend. A quick kiss of strong wasabi-spiked soy sauce is my preferred dipping sauce.

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I make this vegan sushi constantly. Especially anytime the weather is hot (read:now). It’s a recipe I planned to include in Super Natural Simple, but ended up leaving it out at the last minute. So! They’re making their appearance here where I have more room to talk through rices, rolling technique, and variations. And don’t worry, you don’t need any special tools to make it. This is homemade vegan sushi made with sweet potato fries, seasoned tofu, avocado, kale chips, and a whole grain sushi rice blend. A quick kiss of strong wasabi-spiked soy sauce is my preferred dipping sauce.
Super Natural Vegan Sushi

Let’s Talk About Sushi Rice

The key to your success here is choosing the appropriate rice. One way to be sure your sushi rolls hold together is to use white short-grain sushi rice. For this recipe you’ll combine cooked white sushi rice with other whole grains to “boost” it nutritionally. I’ve found that using a percentage of white rice really helps the rolls come together. More importantly, it helps them hold together, especially important for newbie sushi makers or if you’re having kids help out.

To cook the sushi rice, rinse the rice grains well before cooking. And if you have time to let them soak, even better. I use 2 cups of rice and 3 cups of water, and a bit of salt – scant 1/2 teaspoon. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Allow to sit, covered, for 10 minutes more. You should end up with perfect chubby, sticky grains of rice you can then combine with other quinoa, cooked grains, pearled barley, black rice, or brown rice. I’ll outline the ratio I like below, but you can experiment. This organic sushi rice is an example of the kind of rice you’re after for the white sushi rice component.

Seasoning: Traditional sushi rice also uses a vinegar and sugar mixture as seasoning. Sometimes I add it to my cooked rice, other times I skip it. I know this might be a controversial admission, but I’d encourage you to think through a range of different ways you can season, spice, or boost your rice. The rice in these sushi rolls is plain and simple. That said, once you get the hang of the basics, you can experiment if you like! Use strong broth in place of the water in your rice. You can add spices (turmeric, curry blends, etc.) or ingredients like minced garlic, ginger, or scallions. Play around!
Vegan Sushi Ingredients

No Sushi Mat, No Problem!

You don’t need to have a special sushi mat to make sushi. I tend to use parchment paper. A clean linen or cotton towel can also work. If you want to make reverse roll (where the rice is on the outside, line your parchment paper with a sheet of plastic wrap. Do a layer of rice, next add the sheet of nori followed by more ingredients and/or rice. You can see my set up for getting ready to roll sushi in the photos below. Basically this is a long way of saying, you don’t need a bunch of specialty equipment to make vegetable or vegan sushi.Tofu in Skillet for Vegan Sushi

Vegan Sushi Filling Ideas

As I mention up above, I’m highlighting my favorite “everyday” vegan sushi roll for you today. I’ve made them twice this week! I’ll talk you through the main components:

  • Seasoned Tofu: Marinate slabs of tofu in a simple soy sauce, water, sesame-chile oil mixture. You can grill the tofu or cook it in a skillet (above) until golden. Cool a bit, and use a sharp knife to slice into matchsticks. You can see the sliced tofu pictured below.
  • Sweet Potato “Fries”: Slice sweet potatoes into fry shapes. Skins on or off, your choice. Toss with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, a bake at 400F until golden, flipping once or twice along the way. I tend to use the sweet potato version of these oven fries, but Wayne sometimes buys pre-cut sweet potato oven fries in a freezer bag, and those work great too.
  • Avocado: Thinly sliced, and perfectly ripe is what you’re after.
  • Kale Chips: I like the crunch you get from adding a few kale chips. Consider adding them a bonus if you have some on hand.
  • Sesame seeds: In your rolls, on your rolls, whatever.
  • Wildcards: If I have them sometimes I add a bit of cucumber, spicy tempeh crumble, or I’ll make the sushi with this tempeh in place of the tofu. I love this all-natural wasabi paste, and mix it with soy sauce, shoyu, or tamari as a dipping sauce.

As I mentioned, on the rice front, I like a rice blend with a good amount of whole grains in it, and have had the best results using half white sushi rice mixed well with half whole grain rice. For the whole grain rice portions, I like to cook short grain brown rice with a good amount of quinoa in it. That said, any whole grain blend should work with the white sushi rice. It’s sticky and helps everything hold together nicely.

How to Assemble Your Sushi

Sushi doesn’t have to be perfect to be delicious. Keep that in mind if you’re new to this. I thought I’d post a play-by-play photo series of how these rolls come together. Before we get into it, one thing that is helpful to know if your sushi rice is sticky and hard to work with is this. Use cold water to wet your hands or spatula. It’s a game changer.

Ready to roll: Once you have all your ingredients prepared it’s time to make sushi. What you see in the photo below is a sheet of parchment paper in place of a sushi mat. On top of that a 8×8-inch sheet of nori is placed. About a cup of rice is spread across the bottom third. Pat it down with a spatula so it holds together. Now add strips of avocado, sweet potato, tofu, and whatever else you’d like in your sushi.

Preparing Vegan Sushi on Sheet of Nori
Working from the bottom, use your sushi mat or parchment paper to start gently (but confidently!) guiding and shaping everything tightly into a roll. You can see how it starts in the photo below. 
Demonstration of How to Start Rolling Sushi
Use your extra fingers to keep ingredients in place and to pull the roll in toward the sushi mat. See photo below. The goal is shaping and keeping things tight. Keep guiding and rolling.
Demonstrating Sushi Tuck-and-Roll Technique
Once the rice and fillings have been encircled by the nori, compress and pull things tight one more time. I basically run my hands along the length of the roll making sure nothing is loose. 
Using Sushi Mat or Parchment Paper to Roll Sushi
Continue rolling to the end of the nori at this point, guiding the sushi mat or parchment paper out of the way as you go. See above and below examples.
Finished Vegan Sushi Roll
At this point you should be able cut the roll into pieces of sushi. Use your sharpest knife, and keep it clean as you go.
Super Natural Vegan Sushi Recipe
It’s a lot of fun to explore the world of vegetarian and vegan sushi. Next up on my list is to make a roll using sushi rice version of Bryant Terry’s Amazing Green Rice. Basically, I imagine it will be very similar to this roll, but using his blender technique to green-ify the rice. Or maybe as we make our way into the fall a mushroom-centric roll. Excited to see your versions!

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