The Real Food Journal

Plant Based Fish in Summer Rolls? Meet Me at Veg Fest for Freebies!

Plant Based Fish Summer Rolls

Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce, Yum!

Plant Based Fish, The Next Big Thing

Plant Based Meats have been the food trend to watch, in recent years. I even wrote a book about it. Hot on the heels of mock meats is a new growth industry: Plant Based Fish. The hunger for familiar, high protein foods that come from plants is driving a surge in the development and sales of mock seafoods, and I’ve had some pretty tasty “crab” cakes, faux “salmon,” and now,”Tuna.”

While researching my Plant Based Meats cookbook, I met and spoke to lots of people in the business of making plant based foods. One of the earliest adopters of the plant based meat concept was the Loma Linda company, who started manufacturing veggie meats back in 1890.It’s quite an accomplishment that heir product line goes back 125 years. They are now part of Atlantic Natural Foods, along with Neat, makers of plant based “eggs,”  baking mixes and prepared foods,  I spoke to  the inventor of Neat Eggs, Laura Lapp, in this post. They recently came out with their own version of tuna, called “Tuno,” and it is in packets or cans, packed in water or Sriracha, Lemon Pepper, Thai Sweet Chili or Sesame Ginger Sauce.

I’ll Be Giving Away Cans of Plant Based Fish at Minnesota Veg Fest

Thanks to Atlantic Natural Foods, I’ve got a large assortment of plant based proteins to give away at my booth at Minnesota Veg Fest on September 15th!

The first 500 people who come to my booth get to pick a can, from an assortment including Tuno, Taco filling, and more. You can toss one in your swag bag, and not worry about it spoiling as you frolic at the festival. We are expecting several thousand attendees, so come early. I’ll be selling my books Plant Based Meats; Hearty High Protein Recipes for Vegans, Flexitarians and Curious Carnivores, Vegan Meal Prep: A 5-Week Plan with 125 Ready-To-Go Recipes, and Big Vegan, Over 350 Recipes, No Meat, No Dairy All Delicious.

The Tuna Question

Much was made, in recent articles, about Millenials not eating tuna. The folks at Starkist blame them for killing tuna sales, claiming that Millenials don’t own can openers and can’t be bothered to open the can and get utensils. That bit of creative PR overlooks a 30 year decline in tuna sales, fueled by fears of mercury in the fish, concerns about overfishing, dolphins being killed in the nets, and yes, the smell.

I can assure you, the Tuno I used in this recipe did not stink up the kitchen. My cats did stroll in when they heard me open the can, and they did want to sniff it, but that’s a cat’s automatic response to the sound of a can opener. Had it been smelly cat food or tuna, they would have been frantic with desire.

Tuno Plant Based Fish Summer Rolls

Enjoy a Light Meal with Tuno

Nostalgia for Tuna Salads and Casseroles

For this recipe, I used the Sriracha Tuno. If you can only get water-packed, you can always just drain it and sprinkle with Sriracha sauce before putting it in the rolls. If you miss the tuna salad sandwiches and casseroles of your youth, definitely try making them with Tuno. It’s got a nice, lightly seafood-ish taste and a tender but chewy texture that does remind you of tuna in all your fave tuna dishes. It’s less salty and fishy than real tuna, but that’s a plus, for most people. It’s made from Non-GMO soy protein, so popping open a can or packet delivers an easy protein to your day.

Summer Rolls are Great with Tuno

I took a little swerve from making the hits and made these veggie-packed Summer Rolls. A typical Vietnamese Summer Roll or rice paper roll will have shrimp, and sometimes a little pork thrown in for good measure. I usually make mine with tofu, but I wanted to see how the mock-fish interacted with the rice noodles and veggies and peanut sauce. It was a huge hit with my husband, and we made quick work of all ten of them!

So, look for Tuno at your local grocers, and if you can, come to Veg Fest on September 15th, 2019, and share in the plant based celebration!

"Tuno" Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Summer Rolls are a refreshing, light appetizer all year round. Try these and add the protein, texture and spicy flavor of Tuno to your meal.

Course Appetizer
Servings 10
Author Robin Asbell


Peanut Sauce

  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons red curry paste more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated
  • 2 teaspoons fresh turmeric grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup smooth peanut butter


  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon palm sugar or brown sugar
  • 4 ounces rice noodles I used red rice noodles
  • 2 cans Sriracha Tuno
  • 1 large avocado pitted, sliced in the shell and scooped out
  • 1/2 large cucumber peeled, seeded and sliced in strips
  • 1 cups thinly slivered red cabbage
  • 1 large carrot shredded
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint or Thai Basil
  • 10 large rice or tapioca wrappers


  1. In a 1 quart pot, combine the coconut milk, curry paste, ginger, turmeric, palm sugar and salt and heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the lime juice and peanut butter and simmer just until thick, if needed, thin with water to dippable consistency. Makes about 3/4 cup.

  2. Put water on to boil for noodles. Mix the rice vinegar and palm sugar in a small pot and bring to a boil just to melt the sugar. Let cool. Cook noodles and rinse under cold water, drain. Place in a medium bowl and add the vinegar mixture, toss to mix. Drain the Tuno in a wire mesh strainer, don't rinse. Prep the vegetables, keeping them in separate piles.

  3. Prepare a lasagne sized pan of warm water, and a kitchen towel lying flat beside it. Put a wrapper in the water and submerge gently. When it softens, put on towel to drain. On each wrapper, place a couple tablespoons of tuno, then about a tenth of the vegetables and rice noodles, then fold the sides in, then roll up. Place on a platter, not touching. Cover the rolls with a damp towel as you go. Serve within a few hours with peanut sauce for dipping.

Golden Oats, Delicious Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Golden Oats with Turmeric and Ginger

Delicious medicine

Life is dangerous. No matter how careful you are, pain is hovering in the wings, waiting for its moment. I can’t help with all the emotional pains, but lately, I’ve been looking for foods to help out with the physical ones. Anti-inflammatory foods have become my obsession, as I try to heal my own joint pains. Our innate inflammatory response is important to our survival, and is the first line of self defense when our bodies are injured or invaded by bacteria. But when inflammation becomes a chronic, ongoing condition, it stops being a positive thing, and aggravates many health conditions, often causing pain, and causing damage in itself.

Anti-inflammatory foods to the rescue

There are two types of inflammation. If you fall and bang up your knee, pain, redness, heat and swelling are part of your inflammatory response, and signal you to stop moving and let the body start emergency healing measures. That’s acute inflammation. Chronic inflammation is when the condition is ongoing, and the body fights a never-ending war. You might have a problem with an internal organ, which has no nerve endings to feel pain, or some other less visible part. An example is clogged arteries, in which cholesterol plaques create inflammation in the artery wall, and swelling is as detrimental to the flow of blood as the plaques are. (Click here to read more.) Chronic inflammation plays a role in obesity, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and other health problem.

In my case, I’m looking to cool down the inflammation in my joints. I didn’t fall and bang up my knee. It turns out that using my knees to exercise and work hard for all these years has convinced them that they need to be on high alert. When the doctor told me I had “Early overuse arthritis,” I was appalled. At least he said “early,” to cushion the blow. Arthritis was a mystery to me, something I expected might creep up on me much, much later in life. But there it is. It turns out that arthritis is a blanket term for several kinds of chronic, painful inflammation. The kicker is that the inflammation damages the joint, instead of helping.

(Link to a Harvard Health Publication on Understanding Inflammation)

Anti-inflammatory foods are good for lots of things

So I started researching anti-inflammatory foods. I can’t go back and undo what’s been done inside my joints, and I actually need to keep moving to keep the joint healthy. So, I’m taking charge of what I can, and filling my plate with foods that promise to calm the swelling and pain. In the bargain, I might just be helping all sorts of other things in my body as well, from my circulation to my skin, so it’s a good way to go.

Food as medicine

So, in my searches, familiar foods like turmeric, ginger, garlic, and green tea come up. I’ve written lots of posts about turmeric, like this  one with a recipe for Turmeric Carrot Tonic, this one with a golden turmeric sesame salad dressing, or this one with lots of info on on turmeric and a recipe for Dal.

fresh turmeric and ginger, anti-inflammatory foods

Fresh turmeric and ginger…

Other foods that seem to help include pineapple, sour cherries, strawberries, oranges, blueberries, tomatoes, nuts and seeds, leafy greens, whole grains, and the healthy fats from olive oil and either fatty fish or nuts like walnuts. Sour cherries, in particular, have antioxidants that have been shown to help with inflammation, and arthritis pain specifically.

Avoiding meat, refined flour and sugar, fried foods, lard, soda and junk food in general is a good practice for fighting inflammation. Of course, I was already avoiding the inflammation diet, so all I can do is double down on the anti-inflammatory foods I eat.

If you follow me on instagram, I’m posting my anti-inflammatory smoothies!

Golden Oats with Turmeric and Ginger


This is an easy overnight oat soak with turmeric, ginger, black pepper, and berries. It’s an easy meal prep for a breakfast that starts the day off right. I like to work out in the morning, so I figure eating anti-inflammatory foods afterward is a good plan.

Even if you have healthy, happy joints, adding some anti-inflammatory foods to your day is a smart idea. This one is pretty tasty, too!

Golden Oats with Berries

Anti-inflammatory foods star in this whole grain breakfast. Make it and keep it in the refrigerator for breakfast or snacks, and you can get a good start on your anti-inflammatory foods for the day.

Course Breakfast
Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 2 cups non-dairy milk I used cashew-almond
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups thick rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons sour cherry juice concentrate
  • fresh berries


  1. In a 2-3 cup storage tub, combine the milk, turmeric, ginger and black pepper. Whisk to mix well. Stir in the oats and cover the tub, refrigerate overnight, or at least 4 hours.

  2. Stir the oats until they are creamy. Serve topped with berries and drizzled with cherry concentrate.

Meal Prep: Make Chocolatey Zucchini Brownies

Vegan Zucchini Brownies

So deeply chocolatey that nobody will notice they are zucchini brownies!

Chocolate is always in season, isn’t it? Whether we are snuggled inside on a February snow day, or wilting in the heat of a humid August scorcher, chocolate always seems like a good idea. Right now, it’s zucchini season, and I can think of no better way to put a zucchini to good use than Zucchini Brownies.

The Secret Ingredient in Zucchini Brownies

These zucchini brownies are completely plant-based, loaded with chocolate chips, and completely discreet about their secret ingredient. Thanks to my trusty blender, the zucchini disappears into a rich, moist brownie without a trace. You’ll be too busy reveling in the bittersweet ganache and letting the chocolate melt on your tongue to even care how they stay so moist.

Brownies are Vegan Meal Prep

These brownies are a favorite meal prep recipe, too, so make a batch and take them for lunch all week long. You can even wrap them individually and freeze them, and have a chocolate fix at the ready.

Vegetable purees are a clever way to sneak a little plant goodness into all sorts of foods. In these zucchini brownies, the bland flesh of the zucchini slips quietly behind the assertive flavor of chocolate. It provides some of the bulk and moisture that eggs would have in a conventional brownie, with veggie fiber and nutrients.

The other plant-based secret in these chocolate bombs is aquafaba. If you haven’t tried it yet, aquafaba is the liquid leftover from cooking chickpeas, and it has many of the qualities of an egg, when you know how to bake with it. I used aquafaba from canned chickpeas, and I boiled it down to reduce it to “double strength.” Whenever I open a can of chickpeas, I drain the liquid and freeze it for baking.

For more on aquafaba, click here.

For an article and recipes I wrote for

For a recipe for Pastry Nests with Chocolate Mousse, click here.

Vegan Zucchini Brownies

Ganache and a dusting of powdered sugar to make them irresistible!

Add Some Veg with Zucchini Brownies

I know it’s hard to believe, but I let a batch of these brownies languish in my refrigerator for almost two weeks, and they stayed moist and delicious. The hard to believe part is that I was able to exercise that much restraint! I guess it means that I am a grown-up, right? Luckily for me, the zucchini brownies waited patiently, staying moist and delectable.

I’m convinced that the zucchini is the secret to their longevity. The puree is holding moisture and keeping the brownies from turning into sawdust, and that is a great contribution for a humble zucchini to make.

So whether it’s a hot summer day and the zucchini is overtaking the garden, or a freezing winter day and the icicles are gleaming against a grey sky, make these brownies.

Because chocolate is always in season!

Vegan Zucchini Brownies

Nobody will ever suspect that there's a zucchini in this pan of decadent, chocolatey goodness. Pureeing the squash makes it disappear, as it gives the brownies a little body and moisture.

Course Dessert
Servings 9
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 1/2 cup aquafaba
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 ounces zucchini, 1 medium chunks
  • 3 tablespoons refined coconut oil melted
  • 1/2 cup unbleached flour
  • 3/4 cup organic sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips


  • 4 ounces very dark chocolate chopped
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • powdered sugar for sifting over


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F, and oil a 9-inch square baking pan, reserve.

  2. Place the aquafaba in a 1 quart saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer vigorously to reduce to 3/4 cup. Let cool.

    Place the cooled aquafaba, vanilla, zucchini and coconut oil in strong blender and secure the lid. Puree until very smooth, reserve.

  3. In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt. Pour the zucchini mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until combined, then stir in the chocolate chips. Spread in the prepared pan.

  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top is dry and a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out with a little thick batter, don't overbake.

  5. Cool on a rack, then cover and refrigerate.


  1. For ganache: chop chocolate, then place the coconut milk in a small pan and bring to a boil. Take off the heat, add the chocolate and let stand for a minute, then stir. When the chocolate is melted, drizzle over the brownies. Spread evenly, unless you like the look of the drizzles Let cool.

  2. Chill the brownies so they will cut evenly. Slice 3 by 3 for 9 brownies. Sift powdered sugar over them and serve.

Keep Cool, Bake a Slow Cooker Dessert with Summer Fruit

Slow Cooker Dessert

Serve it right from the crock!

It’s an unavoidable truth. The summer fruits are perfect for baking into pies and crisps at the same time that you don’t want to turn on the oven. July and August are already heating up the house, and the last thing I want is to crank the oven for a couple of hours. That’s when you need to pull out the slow cooker, and start investigating slow cooker desserts.

( I made this slow cooker dessert on TV this week, click to watch the clip!)

Slow Cooker Dessert is the Cool Choice

The slow cooker is often thought of as the appliance for wintertime cookery, to simmer stews and pots of chili while we go about our day. But if you think about it, it’s really a self-contained stoneware oven. Turn on the slow cooker, and it heats an enclosed space, just like the oven. It’s just gentler, and because it’s tightly sealed, it stays moist.

Slow Cooker Dessert Crisp

Pick your favorite vanilla “ice cream” or top with whipped topping

Keep the kitchen cool

Once you start seeing the slow cooker as a free-standing oven, it makes perfect sense to “bake” slow cooker desserts. Cakes, cheesecakes, baked puddings, even this fruit crisp are just as delectable when prepared in the slow cooker.

Right now, nectarines and blueberries are ripe and ready. They are so good, they barely need any help to turn into a crowd-pleasing treat. I picked nectarines for this because they don’t need to be peeled, just sliced right into the crock. Throw in the berries, a slash of vanilla, that’s it.

Crumble is irresistible

The crumble topping is made from healthful whole grain flour and oats, but don’t tell anyone. It’s so sweet and crunchy, they don’t need to know that they are being a little bit virtuous. You can pick the fat for your crumble, coconut oil is really good in this, or you can go with buttery sticks or butter, if that is your thing.

Take off the lid, let it crisp

If you’re wondering whether the topping will be soft and moist from being in the pot for three hours, don’t worry. It is a little soft right when you take the lid off, but if you let is stand for a few minutes, the steam will escape and it will become crisp.

I hope this recipe will inspire you to make your own slow cooker dessert. Of course, you can use other fruit, like apples and pears in the Fall, whatever is good.

That way, you can make the most of the seasonal fruit, without breaking a sweat!

Blueberry Nectarine Crisp in the Slow Cooker

Course Dessert
Servings 6
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar or sucanat
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil or buttery sticks melted
  • 1/4 cup crystallized ginger minced
  • 2 pounds nectarines
  • 3 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch


  1. Lightly oil a large oval 4-quart crockpot insert and reserve.

  2. In a large bowl, mix the oats, flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Melt the butter, margarine or coconut oil and add to the bowl, stir to mix well. Stir in the ginger. Refrigerate while you cut the fruit.

  3. Slice the nectarines into a large bowl, add the berries, vanilla and arrowroot and toss to mix. Pour into the slow cooker.

    Sprinkle the oat mixture over the fruit, close the cooker.

  4. Cook on low for 3 hours. Uncover and take the crock out of the cooker and place on a cooling rack, or a trivet at the table. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving with your favorite ice cream, whipped topping, or vanilla yogurt.

Craveable Crispy Potato and Sweetcorn Croquettes

Vegan Sweetcorn Croquettes

Tender Potato Cakes With the Sweetest Corn

Sweetcorn is here

August is peak market time in Minnesota. Since Spring, there has been a teasingly gradual roll-out of my favorite vegetables and fruits, starting with radishes and rhubarb, moving to asparagus and raspberries, then finally, tomatoes, sweet corn, and melons. This is the one month when the maximum bounty of locally grown goodness is piled high at the farmer’s market. It’s tradition at my house to make meals of sweetcorn and watermelon, and not much else.

Call it the cook’s holiday.

Sweetcorn is versatile

In between feasting on simply boiled or grilled corn, I also occasionally cook with it. The same crisp, sweet kernels that are so easy to devour off the cob are a delightful addition to soups, salads, stir-fries, and little croquettes like this one.

(Here are a few other recipes for sweetcorn from the past)

sweet corn sambal

Nosh on Indonesian Corn Sambal and Krupuk Before Dinner

Sweet Corn Sambal

Korean Sweet Corn Pizza

Sweet Corn Salad with Mint

Sweet, Crisp Raw Corn with Tangy, Creamy Green Goddess

Sweetcorn Croquettes are frugal food

The croquette is the original no-waste recipe. Using up leftover bits of cooked vegetables, mashed potatoes, and herbs to make crispy little bites is an old-school French idea. I’m sure they weren’t the first to smash some leftovers together and make them into little patties, either. Little savory cakes are popular in many cuisines, as well as the home kitchens of people everywhere.

In these croquettes, I won’t assume that you have mashed potatoes languishing in the fridge. People don’t think of mashed potatoes as a weekly staple anymore, and it’s summer, when we are more into potato salad than mash. The potatoes are great at the market, though, so you can boil and mash some, and get real, true potato flavor. You wouldn’t want to make this recipe with mashed potatoes that have had milks and fats added, because these rely on firm, plain mashed potatoes.

You may have cooked too may ears of corn on Monday, but don’t let it go to waste.You can use those two leftover boiled or grilled cobs of corn. Just cut the kernels off. I used raw corn, which stayed crunchy. Both are delicious.

Potato and Sweetcorn Croquettes

Crunchy Outside, Creamy Inside.

The potatoes alone will bind the cakes, instead of eggs or flour. They are tender and a little delicate because of it. Be sure to chill the mixture before frying, so they will hold together.

Because it’s August, I went with handfuls of fresh basil in the cakes and in the sauce. Keep it simple, just stir basil into your fave mayo from a jar, and voila, a sauce.

Sweet corn is one of the joys of the summer, and these croquettes are a basil-laced, crispy bite that shows off that precious corn flavor.

Give your sweetcorn a little zazz with this croquette recipe, and your family will thank you!

Potato and Sweetcorn Croquettes

When the sweetcorn is in season, make these easy croquettes. Fresh basil makes them extra summery!

Servings 10 croquettes
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 pound Yukon Gold or other waxy potato
  • 2 medium ears of corn kernels removed
  • 1 cup fresh basil divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup panko
  • oil for frying
  • 1/2 cup avocado mayonnaise


  1. Boil the potatoes in their skins until very tender, then drain. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, slip off the skins and mash or put through a potato ricer. Put in a large bowl and let cool completely.

  2. Set up a large skillet and a large plate lined with a double layer of paper towels for draining the croquettes.

  3. To the potatoes, add the salt, corn kernels, and half of the basil. Stir to mix well. Form 1/4 cup portions, shape into patties, and coat with panko. Place on a plate and chill for at least an hour, or until time to cook.

  4. Place the large skillet over medium-high heat and let heat for a few seconds, then pour in oil to 1/4-inch deep. Let the oil heat to a "shimmer" and place one croquette in the pan. If it sizzles, add as many as you can fit without any of them touching. Cook, using a metal spatula to carefully turn them as they brown.

  5. Drain the finished croquettes on the paper towel lined plate.

  6. In a small bowl, stir the mayonnaise with the remaining basil.

  7. Serve croquettes with basil mayo.

Make a Pizza with Edible Flowers, It’s Like Eating Summer

Grilled Pizza with Edible Flowers

The perfect summer meal!

I recently did a cooking demonstration at the Mill City Farmer’s Market, showing the crowd how to cook stuffed squash blossoms. The number of people who told me that they had no idea that you could even eat squash blossoms convinced me that it’s time to talk about edible flowers. Edible flowers are the easiest way to elevate a dish from everyday to extra special.

flower pizza

Urban Roots Pizza by House of Gristle

A few days later, I went to a pizza party at one of my favorite places, Urban Roots, where talented Chef Jametta Raspberry was hosting a popup. The young people in the Urban Roots programs had harvested vegetables, made pizza dough, and were making a beautiful pizza with nasturtiums on top. I knew it was a sign. I had to make an edible flower topped pizza.

Edible Flowers Add Excitement

Edible flowers seem to mystify people. Maybe we didn’t grow up eating them, or just forget about them in between sightings. Flowers are fragile, so you don’t see them in restaurants that often. Perhaps an orchid in a Margarita, or a few rose petals on a dessert, but that’s it. The squash blossom is occasionally stuffed for a special of the day, if a chef has the flexibility to buy a basket of them and put it on the menu before they fade.

I grow nasturtiums in my window box every year, because I love the way they look, trailing over the edge of the box. Then I have a handy source of edible flowers and leaves, to pick and toss on salads, cupcakes, or this pizza.

Pizza with Edible Flowers

Dining in my garden…

I also grow Bachelors buttons and small Sunflowers, to use in summer meals. Chives and most edible herbs also have edible flowers. Pansies, Violets, Calendula and Marigolds, Impatiens, Gladiolus, Bee Balm, Roses, and some Orchids are spectacular in this recipe. I added squash blossoms, cut into strips. When using squash blossoms or other flowers with a big central calyx and stamens, use the petals only.

Look for edible flowers by the fresh herbs at your grocery store, at the Farmer’s Market, or grow them yourself. Only use organic, unsprayed ones, and make sure that they are edible. Don’t pick them on roadsides or in parks. If you have allergies to flowers, avoid eating them.

Pizza on the Grill with Edible Flowers

So, the only trick is to make a pizza with a schmear of fresh pesto and then top it later. Just make the crust, toss it on the grill, then as soon as it is firm enough to turn, flip it, spread with pesto and sprinkle with roasted tomatoes, and close the grill to finish the baking. Once it’s cooked through, top with edible flowers, and you have it.

It looks like the food of fairies, doesn’t it?

Pesto Pizza with Edible Flowers

When it's too hot to bake, make this pizza on the grill. My garden provides the tomatoes, basil, and of course, fresh flowers that make this as charming as it is easy to make.

Course Main Course
Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1/2 cup roasted cherry tomatoes (see link)


  • 1 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup bread flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Pesto and Flowers

  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 nasturtium flowers
  • 2 squash blossoms
  • 2 tablespoons broccoli raab flowers
  • oil for the grill


  1. The day before, place the warm water, yeast and sugar in a
    large storage tub and stir to mix. Let stand at room temperature until bubbly,
    about 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flours and salt, and mix
    just until combined. Use your hands to knead just enough to make it smooth,
    adding a little flour if it is sticking to your hands. Let the dough stand at
    room temperature for about an hour to double in size. Cover the tub and
    refrigerate overnight.

  2. Two hours before dinner, take the dough out of the
    refrigerator. Divide the dough into two pieces, shape each into an oval, place
    on a floured counter and let it come to room temperature.

Making the pizzas

  1. Make the pesto: In a food processor, place the basil, garlic, pine nuts and salt. Process, scraping down as needed, until a smooth paste is formed. Drizzle in the olive oil and puree to make a smooth pesto. Transfer to a cup.

  2. Preheat the grill to high, and pour a little oil in a cup,
    and crumple a paper towel to use to oil the grate. Get tongs and a large metal
    spatula, and a large cutting board.

  3. Flatten and stretch each out to the width of your cutting board, making an oval about 12 x 7 inches. You can fit both on the board. Sprinkle the board with flour and place the shaped dough on it. Using the tongs to hold the paper towel, oil the
    grill grate, and carefully place each portion of dough on the grill. Close the
    grill and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for three minutes, then uncover and use tongs to peek under the crust, looking for grill marks. When it feels firm
    around the edges and is marked, flip the dough. Quickly spread half of the pesto and sprinkle tomatoes on each crust, then cover the grill and let cook for three minutes.

  4. Arrange the flowers on the pizzas, cut, and serve.

Beets and Cukes in Miso Dressing with Pickled Ginger

Beet Salad with Miso and Pickled Ginger

Beet Salad with Miso and Pickled Ginger

I love beets. Their sweet, earthy essence seems to scare some people away, but not me. I do find it frustrating that the only way that beets are served in restaurants these days is in a salad with feta, chevre, or bleu. The sweetness of the beets is a perfect foil for salty, umami-rich cheese. But why not try another salty, umami-rich food, by adding a little miso? Beet salad will never be the same.

Beet Salads Need an Update

The roasted beet salad appeared on the restaurant scene in the 90’s, like a new kid in town. Italian restaurants started it, then it just infiltrated the zeitgeist. Like sushi and Sriracha sauce, the beet salad is now a fixture on the American dining landscape. But it hardly changes. It’s time to move it forward, and give the goat cheese a rest. It’s time for Miso.

Miso is Magic

In this golden age of fermentation, miso is the perfect way to get the boost of meatiness and saltiness that cheese delivers. Miso is made from protein rich soybeans, and often other beans and grains. The process of fermentation breaks loose amino acids from those proteins, so that your umami-sensing tastebuds can feel them. Suddenly, you’ve got a mouthfeel that is meatier and more satisfying than beets alone. If you leave the miso uncooked, as you will in this dressing, it even packs probiotic bacteria in every savory bite.

Beet Salad with Miso

Beets Get a Kick of Salty Umami from Miso

Miso-fusion for Flavor

The miso is Japanese, but I see no reason not to keep the cucumbers and basil that go so well with beets in the Italian versions. If you’ve got Thai Basil, that will be even more riotously flavorful, adding an anise-like kick to the final dish. Pickled Ginger is a familiar old friend, and deserves to be seen in more dishes than just sushi.

The great thing about such intensely flavored ingredients it that you hardly need to do anything. Beets, miso, pickled ginger, basil, all powerhouses that will carry the dish, with no need to do anything fancy. It’s almost too easy. If that were possible!

Run and Buy Some Beets

Because it’s summer, and it’s time to let the produce speak for itself, with just a little help from the magic of miso.

Some other beet recipes:

Chipotle Beet Hummus

Give your dip repertoire a pop of color

Chipotle Beet Hummus

Valentines Beet and Tofu Sushi

Love in a Handroll

Beet and Tofu Handrolls

Walnut-Beet Burger with Baby Lettuces

Spicy Beet and Walnut Burgers

Beets, Cukes and Pickled Ginger in Miso Dressing

Instead of the obligatory cheese sprinkled over roasted beets, this salad gets plenty of umami from miso.

Servings 4 cups
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 pound beets
  • 1/2 large cucumber sliced
  • 1/4 cup pickled ginger
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons red miso
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Bee Free Honee or agave
  • 1/2 cup fresh Thai or Italian basil slivered


  1. Quarter the beets and steam until tender. Drain and run cold water over the beets as you trim the tops and slip off the skins.

    Place the cooled beets on a cutting board and slice, then move to a large bowl. Add the cucumber slices and pickled ginger.

  2. In a cup, combine the olive oil, miso, cider vinegar, bee free honee or agave and stir.

  3. Serve topped with basil.

Try Fresh Currants in this Easy Kanten


It was a great farmer’s market find. Fresh Red Currants were ripe and ready at the market, and it was too hot to bake. So, I made kanten. Kanten is the plant-based world’s answer to Jell-o, and it couldn’t be more refreshing. Don’t tell anyone it’s vegan, just serve it. Kids and adults alike will relish the cooling treat.

The secretly awesome thing about kanten is that the sea vegetable that gels it is fiber rich and filling, so it is a light way to stave off hunger, as well as to hydrate with vitamin-rich fruit. It’s touted as a weight loss aid in Japan, if that’s of interest to you. I just love the way it melts in my mouth.

(I made a lovely Green Tea Kanten in this link)

Fruity Kanten is a Summer Treat

Kanten is actually the Japanese word for Agar Agar, the gelling powder, flakes or bars made from a kind of red algae. Don’t worry, it’s not even recognizable as a sea vegetable or algae, once wit’s been processed. I used powdered agar agar in this dish, for convenience. It’s similar to gelatin, but behaves a little differently. Because it’s a natural product, it sometimes varies in gelling power. It’s not a problem, in this dessert. If your kanten doesn’t set up, just strain it back into the pan, whisk in a teaspoon of agar powder, and heat until dissolved, then pour it over the currants in the baking dish to set.

fresh red currants

Fresh red currants from Good Courage Farm

Ruby Red Fruit in Sweet Kanten

Because of the nature of agar, the final gel has an almost linear texture, that cleaves into subtle shapes that remind me of rock formations. It’s still gorgeous and luminous in the light, and hey, no animals hooves were rendered to make it. Just plants. It also stays set at room temperature, unlike the melting jello of your youth. It’s most fun to eat when cold, though, and it keeps for a few days in the fridge.

red currant kanten

So easy and slice-able

To keep it simple, I just used bottled apple juice. You can use any juice you want, as long as you keep color in mind. I wanted a neutral color so that the currants could shine.

Red Currants are a Local Delicacy

When I hear red currant, I usually think of British food. Red currants seem to be synonymous with scones and jams from across the pond. But, who knew, the grow here in Minnesota! I was thrilled to find a stand selling them right here at the Mill City Market.

Good Courage Farm is a new vendor at the market, and it’s great to see some uncommon fruits, like gooseberries and currants, among the tried and true produce. The graceful trailing stems of berries are too pretty to pass up, and I hope that they are selling out every week.

Of course, kanten is as flexible as it is easy. Switch out the juice, or use another fruit, and it will be just as welcome when you crave something a little bit sweet. The bounty of local fruit is always inspiring, but it always seems to come at the hottest time of the year. I know I can only bake so many pies or scones before I’m ready for some kanten.

Make kanten a summer staple at your house, and keep cool all season long.

Fresh Red Currant Kanten

Miss jello? Kanten is the vegan version that we can eat with abandon.

Servings 4
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 cup fresh red currants or fresh cranberries
  • 4 cups apple juice
  • 2 teaspoons powdered agar
  • optional sweetener


  1. Wash the currants and pull from the stem, pat dry. Lightly oil a 9 by 9 inch or similar size dish.

  2. In a 2 quart pot, whisk the apple juice, agar, and an optional half cup organic sugar, if desired. Place over medium heat and bring to a simmer, whisking until the agar is dissolved.

  3. Sprinkle the currants over the bottom of the container. Pour the hot kanten over the currants, use a spoon to distribute the currants evenly.

  4. Chill until firm. Slice in 12 squares. serve garnished with more currants and plant-based whipped "cream," if desired.

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