I’m super excited to be hosting Nava Atlas on her Plant Power blog tour today. Nava’s cookbooks were among the first I bought when I went vegan, and because of them, I found going vegan to be relatively easy. I wish I had a copy of Nava’s new book Plant Power back when I made the transition to vegan (or even vegetarian) eating, as it’s packed with tons of tips on how to transition to plant-based eating, and it’s full of delicious, yet simple recipes. Plant Power focuses on the basics, from setting up a plant-powered pantry and fridge to choosing the best fresh foods for each season and streamlining daily meal preparation. Whether it’s a stir-fry using leftover veggies in the crisper, a fajita dinner to please different taste buds, yummy hummus wraps, or a pot of chili to savor on a cold winter evening, Plant Power takes the challenge out of meal-planning and makes it fun. Each of the fresh and flavor-packed recipes is easy to make and customizable, with tips on variations from turning up the heat and mixing up ingredients, to kid-friendly, gluten-free, and seasonal options.
Nava’s here today with a guest post, a recipe from Plant Power, and a chance to win a copy of her book. Without further ado, here’s Nava…
The plant-powered kitchen need not be magazine-gorgeous and outfitted with the latest gadgets and appliances. These things would be nice, of course, but they’re not required to create delicious meals. Still, an assortment of basic tools can make life in the kitchen easier and, in some cases, more enjoyable. Just as with pantry items, you don’t have to run out and buy all these items at once—or at all. These are tools I enjoy having in my kitchen and that you might, too, as as you begin to enjoy more plant-based meals. Everyone has their favorite kitchen helpers; for me, these first four items are must-haves:
Food processor: A food processor’s multiple uses—chopping, grating, and pureeing— make it your best friend among kitchen tools. If you get one of the name brands and take care of it, it may outlive you! I’ve had the same Cuisinart food processor for at least fifteen years, and it shows little sign of slowing down.
Wire whisk or coated wire whisk: This inexpensive tool helps make sauces, dressings, and gravies, and it helps when cooking fine grains (such as polenta) to lump-free textures. For cake and pancake batters that come out smooth without overbeating, a whisk is a must.
Kitchen shears: Shears, or kitchen scissors, have endless uses in the kitchen—cutting long Asian noodles, thinly slicing scallions and basil leaves, opening packages, even cutting pizza into wedges if you don’t have a pizza wheel.
Stir-fry pan: This type of wok-shaped pan will serve you well if you enjoy making stir- fries. It’s easier to deal with, in many ways, than a traditional wok—from cleaning to storage. If you make plenty of dishes involving quick-cooked veggies, you’ll get a lot of use from a good stir-fry pan. The one made by Circulon, with a hard-anodized surface, has served me well. Here are a few more items that are quite useful; while they’re not absolute necessities, having any of them adds to the ease and enjoyment of your life in the kitchen!
Immersion blender: If you have no room for a full-fledged blender, or don’t want to spring for one, an immersion blender can do a lot of the same tricks. My favorite way to use it is for pureeing soups in the same pot in which they cook. With it, there’s no need to transfer hot ingredients in and out of a food processor or blender. Easy to use, even easier to clean, and costing a fraction of what a food processor or blender costs, immersion blenders like this one by Cuisinartare also good for making smoothies and velvety sauces.
Pizza pan or pizza stone: A pizza pan is nothing more than a large round pan designed for baking pizzas. And a pizza stone is just that—a smooth round stone used for the same purpose. A stone ensures crisper crusts and is more tolerant of sharp pizza wheels. With veggie-driven pizzas in regular rotation in our home, both these tools have seen much use. If you like to make pizza, they won’t break the bank.
Salad spinner: A salad spinner isn’t an absolute must have. Even as a huge fan of salads of all kinds, I did without one for a long time. But once I finally got one and started using it, I was sold! I regret all those paper towels I wasted, blotting delicate leaves for salads and wraps and pressing liquid from kale before massaging it or making kale chips. Asalad spinner works kind of like the spin cycle in your washing machine, except that it needs no electricity.
Nut chopper or grinder: I enjoy my nut chopper, which grinds a few nuts at a time into a container, making the process easy and neat. While you can definitely live without it, nut enthusiasts will enjoy this item. It’s handy for turning nuts into a tasty topping for noodle dishes, grains, salads, and cereals.
Tofu press: Despite the fact I’ve been using and enjoying tofu for ages, this is the most recent addition to my roster of favorite kitchen tools. Tofu presses are simple devices using springs or tightening bolts to extract water from tofu efficiently, without any further weights and using no paper towels whatsoever! I enjoy both theEZ Tofu Press and the TofuXpress, which work a bit differently from each other but are both quite handy.
Produce keepers: Especially in the summertime, when garden are bursting with greens and farm market season is in full swing, produce keepers (such as the ones pictured in the first photo above) really do extend the life of produce. Of course, it’s ideal to use produce as soon as possible after you harvest or purchase it, but these kinds of containers extend freshness when need be.
Black Bean Tostadas
- 8 good-quality corn tortillas
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or 3 tablespoons vegetable broth or water
- 1 medium onion or two shallots finely chopped
- 2 to 4 cloves garlic minced
- Two 15-to 16-ounce cans black beans drained and rinsed, or 3 to 3 1/2 cups cooked black beans
- Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon or more, to taste
- 1 to 2 small hot green chili peppers seeded and sliced, optional
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- Shredded lettuce baby greens, or baby spinach
- Plenty of mild medium, or hot chunky salsa, such as chipotle, peach or mango
- Store-bought or homemade Vegan Sour Cream or Cashew Cream
To toast the torillas in the oven: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spread the tortillas on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes, or until crisp and dry and just starting to be touched with golden brown spots. Remove them from the oven and place on a serving platter.
To toast the tortillas on a stovetop: Heat a large skillet. Toast the tortillas over medium heat (two or three at a time, depending on the size of the skillet) for about 5 minutes or so on each side, until crisp and touched with golden brown spots. Don’t be afraid to let them get nice and crisp—that’s better than ending up with a soggy tostada.
Heat the oil, broth, or water in medium skillet. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients (aside from the garnishes, of course) along with 1/4 cup water and bring to a simmer. Using a potato masher, mash some of the beans so that the liquid becomes thick and saucy.
Place the shredded lettuce, sour cream, and salsa in separate serving bowls and let everyone assemble their tostadas as follows: A layer of shredded lettuce; the black bean mixture; salsa; and sour cream. Pick up the tostadas and eat out of hand (with plenty of napkins!).
Recipe and excerpt from Plant Power: Transform Your Kitchen, Plate, and Life with More Than 150 Fresh and Flavorful Vegan Recipes by Nava Atlas. ©2014, published by HarperOne, reprinted by permission.
Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.