The Real Food Journal

Meal Prep Some Garlic and Veg Confit, Break Out of Your Rut

Garlic and Watermelon Radish Confits

Watermelon Radish and Garlic Confits

Garlic confit, if you aren’t familiar with it, might sound like a complicated French dish. But really, it’s a simple and easy way to prep all the garlic you need for weeks, or even months. The technique is also a great way to make vegetables into buttery soft, spreadable schmears.

I made some garlic confit the other day out of crankiness. I wanted roasted garlic and didn’t feel like turning on the oven. So I put whole cloves of garlic in a pan with olive oil to cover, and I simmered them over very low heat until they were tender.

That’s it. I had time to sit quietly and investigate my bad mood. And then I had garlic confit to smash on toast, so it was a win-win.

Of course, you can confit in the oven, but it works either way.

Garlic Confit makes Garlic Easy

Garlic is a good thing to eat plenty of, during cold season, and has many health benefits, from lowering cholesterol to boosting immunity, so this process will also make it easy to eat more healthy garlic!

garlic confit

Confit is a process, and it is most commonly associated with preserving duck, by salting it and then slow cooking it in its own fat. Some chefs might get cranky about calling what I’m doing “confit,” because the original method was all about meat and the fat that came with it. Plant-based chefs have been taking the techniques used to cook flesh and running with them, so if you don’t like calling it confit, I guess you’ll just have to get over it.

The process of slow cooking in oil is just as effective for cooking plant foods, and we should all do more of it. Enveloping a vegetable in oil seals in the moisture, and gives the veg an unctuous, buttery texture. Low, slow cooking sweetens without browning. Get your thermometer out, you do want to get the oil up to 160 F, for food safety reasons. The flavors in good olive oil seep into your vegetables, and the flavors of the veggie infuse the oil. Throw in some herbs, dried chilis, citrus zest, peppercorns, or whatever you want to infuse into the mix, and you’ve got a potent secret ingredient to add depth to everything you cook.

Confit Veggies, too

Any root veg or densely fleshed veg is up for confit, from onions, beets and carrots to winter squash or green beans. Fool around with it, salt the veg first, let stand for 20 minutes, then confit until soft. Then you’ll have a jar of super soft, super flavorful veg to play with.

Garlic and Radish Confit Pasta

Garlic and Radish Confit Pasta

Maybe garlic confit hasn’t caught on because of our lingering fears of fat, hanging on from the fat-free days of yesteryear. Some of you might wince at pouring half a bottle of spendy extra virgin olive oil into a pot, but fear not, it will not go to waste. You do use a good amount of oil to make a confit. Don’t worry, you won’t serve it all with one dish, but instead, you’ll use it as a seasoning in other dishes. The extra oil is a bonus, infused with the flavors of the garlic, or other vegetables you confit-ed in it. Just cook with it as you were going to anyway.

Make Easy Meals with Your Confit

I used my garlic and watermelon radish confits to make this easy pasta. It doesn’t look all that amazing, because the secret is in the garlic oil that coats the pasta. It’s studded with buttery soft whole cloves of garlic and wedges of meltingly soft watermelon radish, and sprinkled with fresh thyme leaves.

Of course, garlic confit makes an instant app, spread on bread, or a salad dressing, just mash the garlic and mix in some lemon or vinegar. I made a Winter Squash Hummus with a generous does of confit garlic and its oil and it was a big hit over the holidays. Throw the cloves on top of a soup for a beautiful garnish, or stir them into spaghetti sauce. It’s garlic prep, with no need to chop.

Even if you just mash some garlic confit on a sandwich, you’ll be glad you have it. And maybe even keep vampires at bay!

Garlic and Radish Confit Pasta

Garlic and Radish Confit Pasta

Garlic and Radish Confits with Rotini Pasta

Preserve and Prep your garlic and vegetables in good olive oil, then use them to make quick and easy dishes like this pasta.

Course Pasta
Keyword garlic confit, meal prep, quick and easy
Servings 2
Author Robin Asbell


Garlic Confit

  • 3 heads garlic peeled
  • extra virgin olive oil

Watermelon Radish Confit

  • 4 medium watermelon radishes peeled and quartered
  • extra virgin olive oil


  • 8 ounces whole wheat rotini
  • 1/4 cup oil from confit
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes halved
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme chopped
  • 3 medium scallions chopped
  • 1/4 cup garlic confit
  • 6 pieces watermelon radish confit
  • plenty of good coarse salt
  • toasted sliced almonds


  1. Place the garlic in a small pot and pour in olive oil to cover. Over medium heat, bring to a bubble, then lower the heat to keep the oil just barely bubbling. Check the temp, 160 F is what you are going for.

  2. Cook for about 45 minutes, until garlic is very tender when pierced with a knife. Cool in the oil, transfer to a clean jar. Refrigerate for up to a week.

  3. Salt the radishes and let stand for 20 minutes, then pat dry. Place the radishes in another pot, cover with oil. Repeat the process, cook for about 45 minutes to an hour at 160 F. Transfer to a clean jar. Refrigerate for up to a week.


  1. Put on a big pot of salted water for the pasta. Cook, according to package directions, about 10 minutes.

  2. Drain the pasta. In the same pot, warm the olive oil, then add the tomatoes, thyme and scallions. Saute over medium heat until the tomatoes are softened. Add the garlic and radishes and heat through, then add the drained pasta and toss to coat. Season with salt.

  3. Serve pasta hot with toasted almonds.

Buckwheat Biscuits, With A Crunchy Secret Ingredient

crunchy buckwheat biscuits

It’s biscuit season, and just in time for Veganuary, I’m baking up lots of these plant-based, versatile Crunchy Buckwheat Biscuits. There are many secrets to making a great whole grain biscuit, but these pack a crunchy punch that you may never have tried before.

The Buckwheat Secret

Unlike most grains, buckwheat kernels can actually be eaten without cooking them first. I’ve been stirring them into biscuits, cookies and breads since I discovered this in the early 90’s, baking at a collective restaurant. We were our own bosses, and I took the chance to improvise and create new dishes and ran with it. I can’t remember why I tried eating raw buckwheat, but I did, and thought it made a great stand-in for nuts.

crunchy buckwheat biscuits

The rest is history, I guess, and many years later I put a recipe for chocolate chip cookies with buckwheat kernels in my first book, The New Whole Grains Cookbook.

What’s Buckwheat?

If you aren’t familiar with Buckwheat, it’s a whole, gluten free grain that is often referred to as buckwheat “groats,” when it hasn’t been ground into flour. We usually think of buckwheat as the flour in pancakes and soba noodles, and you may have run across buckwheat groats in Russian Kashi, a traditional dish. Buckwheat is high in fiber, antioxidants, and a particularly beneficial chemical called Rutin, an antioxidant thought to reduce cholesterol and prevent heart disease, it’s even sold in pill form. Buckwheat has all 9 amino acids for complete protein, and is very low on the glycemic index. It’s also a great pre-biotic, feeding the good bacteria in your system, a benefit that is emerging as a really important factor in your health. For more, check out the Whole Grains Council page, here.

Another buckwheat recipe to try: Buckwheat Overnight Soak 

If you’re wondering what it tastes like, well, it tastes nutty, and the grains collapse to a slightly powdery, soft texture as you chew them. I love crunch, if you can’t tell, and the buckwheat kernels deliver a really appealing crunchiness. By putting them in baked goods, you are cooking them a little, but because they aren’t absorbing water, they stay firm.

Making Biscuits with Coconut Oil

Buckwheat Biscuits in Process

One of my favorite ways to make plant-based pastry is by using coconut oil. I melt the oil in the jar, either by microwaving it for a minute, or placing the jar in a pan of hot water. Then I pour the oil into a measuring cup and chill the cup until the oil is solid. Then, I use a grater to shred the oil into the flour mixture.

Buckwheat Biscuits in Process

Then, stir in an acidulated almond milk, just to make a firm dough. You can see chunks of both solid coconut oil and buckwheat in the dough, and that is what you want.

Buckwheat Biscuits in Process

Once they’re cut out, just bake them until the bottoms are toasty, about 15 minutes. You can make them any size you want, so just adjust the baking time accordingly.

I love to pair a biscuit with a soup for dinner, or even a dip, if I’m feeling lazy. The leftovers get slathered with almond butter and jam for breakfast or lunch. A batch of biscuits is a great meal prep item, since you can build all kinds of meals with it, just use it as you would crackers or bread.


crunchy buckwheat biscuitsCrunchy Buckwheat


Crunchy Buckwheat Biscuits

Tasty, crunchy biscuits are perfect with soups or salads, or just slathered with jam and peanut butter!

Course Breakfast
Author Robin Asbell


  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil melted, measured, then chilled
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup buckwheat groats
  • 2 tablespoons organic sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

    In a large bowl, mix the flour, buckwheat, sugar, soda, baking powder and salt. Using a grater, shred the cold coconut oil into the dry ingredients. Use your fingers to work it in a bit.

  2. Whisk together the milk, vinegar and flax in a cup, and
    let stand for 5 minutes, then quickly stir into the dry ingredients. When the
    mixture is just coming together, scrape it out onto the counter and flatten to
    3/4 inch thick. Cut out biscuits of the desired size. Put them on a baking
    sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes, depending on size.

  3. Cool on racks, serve warm. Store, tightly wrapped, in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Celebrate with Tajin-Bashed Potatoes, Go Plant Based for Veganuary?


Bashed Potatoes with Tajin and Avocado Crema

Happy New Year! Wave goodbye to 2019, and start fresh in 2020, woo hoo! It’s been a rocky year for me, I lost my Mother to cancer, and there have been a few other hard knocks, just show me my own strength. On the other hand, some great things have come my way, so I’ll be doing my best to focus on Gratitude.

I must surely be learning.

Happy Veganuary!


So, to ring in the new year, I offer these Tajin Spiced Bashed Potatoes with Avocado Crema. They are seasoned with the “hot” and trendy flavor of Tajin, the spice mix made for sprinkling on tropical fruits and crunchy veggies like jicama. It’s basically a mix of mild chilis and dehydrated lime juice, and it gives anything a bracing kick. Just in time for Veganuary.

Bashed Potatoes with Tajin and Avocado Crema

My sneaky motivation is posting all these mouth-wateringly delicious dishes is, yes, I hope you’ll eat more plants. Like mostly plants, or even, All Plants. In the spirit of January rebirth, an organization in England founded the idea of “Veganuary,” and I hope you’ll consider giving it a go.

Click here for more info on Veganuary

The concept is simple enough, go all plant-based for a month. See how it goes. It’ll be easier than you think. Really. If you slip up, get back on track and slide into home base at the end of the month.

Sure, you’ll have to say no to the office birthday cake and the bacon-wrapped poppers at the bar, but really, is that such a loss? You’ve undoubtedly heard that eating vegan will make you feel better, so experience it for yourself. A month is long enough to see if it agrees with you.

Try My Recipes to Make Veganuary Easy!

If the thought of kicking meat, dairy and eggs sounds too hard, there are tons of resources for you. This blog is rife with easy, fast recipes. I’ve written (ahem) a few books that can help, if you are interested. My Vegan Meal Prep Book is designed to give you a plan for just such a month, with plans to just keep rolling along if you have a good time. Big Vegan is my biggest, most comprehensive recipe collection, and with over 26,000 sold, the last time I checked.

Happy New Year!

If you only make this recipe, you’ll be off to a good start. I wish you all the best, and that all your meals are great meals. Thanks for reading my blog, and I hope to see more of you in the coming year!

Tajin-Spiced Bashed Potatoes with Avocado Crema and Baba Ghanouj

Harness the powerful punch of Tajin, and give your crispy potatoes a tropical twist!

Course Appetizer
Keyword Tajin
Servings 6
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 pound small yukon gold potatoes
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tablespoons Tajin Seasoning
  • Coarse salt

Avocado Crema

  • 1 clove garlic sliced
  • 2 large ripe avocados
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Baba Ghanouj

  • 12 ounces eggplant
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • extra virgin olive oil for drizzling


  1. First, place the potatoes in a pot with plenty of water to cover, bring to a boil. When boiling, reduce to a vigorous simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a paring knife. Drain and let cool slightly.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Drizzle 1 tbs of the olive oil on a sheet pan.

  3. Slice the warm potatoes into 3/4 inch thick rounds. Use a metal spatula to flatten each one to about 1/2 inch thick. Use the spatula to carefully transfer to the sheet pan.

  4. Sprinkle the potatoes with the remaining olive oil, the Tajin, and salt.

  5. Roast for about 25 minutes. If desired, switch to broil for the last minute or so to brown the tops.

Avocado Crema

  1. While the potatoes cook, place the garlic in the food processor bowl and puree. Add the avocado flesh and puree, scraping down as needed. Add the lemon juice and pulse, then add coconut milk and salt and puree. Transfer to dipping bowl.

Baba Ghanouj

  1. Halve the eggplant and place on an oiled sheet pan, roast for about 20 minutes, until collapsing and browned. Cool on a rack.

  2. Place the garlic and eggplant in the food processor and puree completely. Blend until smooth, scraping down as needed.

  3. Add the lemon, tahini, salt, and a shot of olive oil. Scrape into a serving bowl.

Get Crabby with Jackfruit-An Appealing Appetizer

Jackfruit Crabcakes

Spicy, Tangy, Crunchy, a little Crabby?

Plant-Based Meats are Hot!

We’ve been watching the world of non-meat “meats” expand and evolve over the last few years, with great anticipation. Whether you are excited about the possibility of stunningly realistic fakes, or could care less if they seem just like the “real thing” as long as they taste good, this has been a booming moment of expansion.

I even wrote a book about how to make your own Plant Based Meats.

The world seems to have plenty of beefy burgers and tacos, so industry has turned its attention to seafoods, like this “Tuna” that I made into tasty summer rolls here.

In that post, I looked into the coming wave of mock fish and seafood on your grocery store’s shelves. But it got me to thinking about the plant-based, home-style ways of making mock fish.

Jackfruit to the Rescue

The typical restaurant crab cake is an exercise in stretching a little crab with a lot of breadcrumbs, so it’s an ideal candidate for a homemade fake. The popularity of jackfruit in mock-meat dishes has to do with the fibrous texture and mild flavor of the unripe fruit, which also lends itself to a fish-like mouthfeel. Because it’s a cake, you can season the mixture to amp up the fish-y flavors, so I added minced nori seaweed. Old Bay is the classic fake-out, loading on the celery seed and spices we associate with seafood. A little white miso and nutritional yeast for umami, and you can see where we are heading.

Jackfruit Crabcakes

Everyone will want a tasty, crunchy crabcake!

I know that people want short ingredient lists, but when you are building a fish from plants, you need a few tools from the toolbox. Once the jackfruit is coarsely chopped and blended with crushed tofu and seasonings, you can always store it in the refrigerator overnight and form the cakes the next day, to spread the labor out over two days.

Jackfruit Plus Aquafaba Aioli for a Plant Based Winner

Of course, a fish cake is not complete without a tasty dipping sauce. I love this version of aquafaba mayo, which has a little more body from the addition of raw cashews.

(Click here for aquafaba info)

Make sure to follow the instructions and blend it for 4 minutes to aerate the aquafaba before slooooowly drizzling in the oil. You are creating an emulsion that will actually hold for a day or two in the refrigerator, from bean juice, nuts, and oil, and it takes a little finesse.

Jackfruit Crabcakes

The Aioli is pretty delicious, too!

I baked the cakes for a crunchy coating without all the oil of frying. These days I’m just not that into splattering oil on my stovetop, and who needs the extra fat, anyway? I’d rather enjoy the lush fats in the creamy sauce, thank you very much.

For a plant-based, tasty appetizer that reminds you of crab, try these cakes. The crabs were left to their own devices, while we feasted on jackfruit in our nostalgic finger-food.

All is well with the World!

Jackfruit "Crab"Cakes with Aquafaba Aioli

These crunchy coated, tender cakes have a hint of the sea, thanks to nori seaweed and Old Bay seasoning.

Course Appetizer
Servings 12
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 14 ounce can green jackfruit in brine rinsed
  • 12 ounces extra firm tofu drained
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/3 sheet nori finely minced
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 teaspoons white miso
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup panko

Aquafaba Aioli

  • 1/4 cups aquafaba
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews soaked at least 4 hours
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup avocado oil


  1. Drain, rinse, and soak the jackfruit in cold
    water while you prep, to remove as much of the brine flavor as possible. Wrap
    tofu in a towel to draw out moisture. Chop the onion in the processor by
    turning the machine on and dropping chunks of onion through the chute. Scrape
    into a bowl. Add the jackfruit and pulse to break up into fishy chunks, don't
    puree. Transfer to the bowl with the onions.

  2. Put the tofu, nori, nutritional yeast, old bay,
    garlic, soy sauce, Dijon and turmeric in the processor and pulse to finely
    crumble the tofu, don't puree. Add to the jackfruit with the oats and stir
    well, mix with your hands to make a mixture that holds together.

  3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Line a sheet pan with parchment.
    Spray with oil if desired. Preheat the oven to 375 F.

  4. Scoop 1/4 cup portions of the jackfruit mixture and place
    each in panko and gently press in the coating. Place on pan, bake for
    20 minutes, carefully flip the cakes and bake for 20 more. Cool on a rack or serve hot.


  1. In a good blender, combine the aquafaba, cashews, garlic,
    parsley lemon juice, Dijon and salt. Secure the lid and process, starting on a
    lower speed and increasing until the cashews are smoothly pureed. Stop and
    scrape down any bits of cashew that are on the sides of the blender
    container.When the mixture is smooth, remove the plug from the lid and replace
    the lid. Start on low and increase to high and process for 4 minutes. At that
    point, start very slowly drizzling in the canola oil in a thin stream. It
    should take a couple of minutes to incorporate it. Drizzle in the olive oil in
    the same manner. Scrape the aioli into a storage tub or jar and refrigerate. It
    will thicken more as it chills. Keeps, tightly covered, for up to a week.

Wow Your Guests with Purple Sweet Potato Pie

purple sweet potato pie

That gnarly looking purple sweet potato turns into something beautiful!

Still looking for a fun dessert for the holidays? Now that you’ve got Thanksgiving under your belt, so to speak, it’s time to plan the coming feasts, parties and get-togethers. Why not shake it up with a technicolor purple pie? Yes, this Purple Sweet Potato Pie is just the thing to give the dessert table a pop of color, while delivering the spiced sweet potato flavor we all love.

Purple Sweet Potato Pie Will Get Noticed

As we slide into the end of the year, perhaps people are a little jaded by pumpkin spice, and kind of over the same old pecan pie. That’s when you need to toss a purple bomb right in the middle of the party. The Stokes Purple variety of sweet potato is still unusual enough to surprise, but easy enough to find at your Coop or grocery store.

I know, I’m kind of obsessed, and I’ve written about them multiple times here, so you can check out recipes for  Purple Sweet Potato Gnocchi, Purple Sweet Potato Quesadillas, Hasselback Purple Sweet Potatoes, and probably more if you keep looking….

But this pie!

purple sweet potato pie

The Stokes Purple is brilliant purple all the way through, and unlike any other sweet potato I’ve tried. It’s drier and meatier in texture, so when you cook with it, you want to give it a little extra time to make sure it’s really, really tender. I steamed it for this, which kept it moist. As you can see by the pie, it makes a nice, slice-able filling, once baked.

The Stokes is a relative newcomer to our markets, and there is some dispute over the origin story. It may be a new and original variety, or it may have been derived from some Japanese cultivars. Whatever the origin, I’m all in. I’m just enjoying the beautiful purple sweet potato in all sorts of ways, and I hope it all works out for the best.


purple sweet potato pie

For this pie, I used my fave plant-based crust, and a simple filling with a touch of almond butter for a little nuttiness. I used an almond creamer, because I just love the taste of unsweetened almond milk and creamer. You could use coconut milk, too, for a hint of Tropical flavor. I started out with the spices I like in regular sweet potato pie, and added a little extra. Just because that’s how I like to roll.

I want this pie to wake people up. The color is just the first surprise, and the lovely sweetness and spice is the second little jolt.

If you were feeling a little blah at this time of year, this one will surely awaken all your senses.

Happy Holidays!

Purple Sweet Potato Pie

The Stokes Purple Sweet Potato makes an eye-catching pie.

Course Dessert
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 pie shell vegan,

  • 2 pounds Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes
  • 1 cup unsweetened non-dairy creamer
  • 1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoons ground clove
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • coconut sorbet or other non-dairy ice cream


  1. Make the pie crust and chill until cold.

  2. Halve and steam the purple sweet potatoes until very soft when pierced with a paring knife.

  3. When cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh into a food processor bowl and puree, scraping down and repeating as needed. Add the non-dairy creamer, light brown sugar, arrowroot, almond butter, cinnamon, allspice, cloves and salt and process, scraping down and repeating as needed to mix well and make very smooth.

  4. Preheat the oven to 375. Line the pie crust with foil and pour in pie weights or beans, then bake for 10 minutes.

  5. Transfer the purple puree to the pie crust and spread out, smooth the top. Swirl your spatula decoratively, the swirls will keep their shape as it bakes.

    Bake for about 1 hour, until the pie is puffed in the center and a little cracked around the edges. Cool on a rack before slicing.

“Just Enough” Vegan Recipes and Stories from Japan’s Buddhist Temples

Chirazi sushi and Agedashi tofu

Just Enough

This is the season for indulgence, when we all find ourselves eating, drinking and acquiring things with abandon. So, instead of another recipe for dessert, consider taking a few bites of wisdom from Gesshin Claire Greenwood, and reading her latest book, “Just Enough; Vegan Recipes and Stories from Japan’s Buddhist Temples (New world Library $17.95)

I made two of the recipes from the book and photographed my meal, and hope you’ll try the Sushi Chirashi and Tofu Agedashi. They were the perfect counterweight to balance the holiday feasting.

The book is part memoir, part cookbook, and gives the reader an intriguing peek into the world of contemporary Buddhism, both in Japan and the US. Greenwood starts her journey in her early 20’s when she uproots herself to journey to Japan and live an ascetic life in a monastery. Greenwood embraces the simple, hardworking lifestyle and finds great wisdom and peace in zen philosophy, and is eventually ordained as a priest.

Chirazi sushi and Agedashi tofu

Zen food

She also finds her place in the kitchen of the monastery, where rice, vegetables, and simple food are prepared in ritualized, carefully proscribed ways. The nuns teach and practice “oryoki,” which is a way of life in which one seeks to want and take only what one really needs. Just enough.

Every morning, before eating their porridge and vegetables, the nuns chant:

“We reflect on the effort that brought us this food and consider how it comes to us.

We reflect on our virtue and practice, and whether we are worthy of this offering.

We regard it as essential to free ourselves of excesses such as greed.

We regard this food as good medicine to sustain our life.

For the sake of enlightenment, we now receive this food.”

The nuns season with restraint, as Greenwood explains by describing how much less soy sauce she came to use on her food. Learning to taste food, and feel satisfied by it, is a step toward tasting life, and being satisfied with what you have.

I won’t spoil the book when I tell you that Greenwood, like many before her, opts to rejoin the secular world and leave the convent. She find a new Buddhist community in California, where the work and meals are just as proscribed, but definitely Americanized.

Greenwood describes her realization that following “the middle path” of the Buddha doesn’t have to mean inflicting suffering on herself, and that renouncing the pleasures of living to find spiritual purity isn’t the path for her. Greenwood has gone on to teach and write about Buddhism, while also finding love and happiness in the US. Her thoughtful, deeply personal writing on the struggle to practice Zen and live in the modern world gives us a glimpse at the space where spirituality and real life collide. Few of us have the tools to consider our actions with a deep Zen perspective, and her intellectual and emotional clarity is a gift.

She blogs at if you’d like to read more.

I recommend this book to anyone who is seeking balance in life, and has an interest in mindfulness. It’s become the buzzword, and it’s very valuable to look more deeply into practices that encourage gratitude. Even if you are just into Japanese food, you’ll enjoy trying the recipes from her time in Japan.

In a culture in which more is always better, it’s deeply refreshing to contemplate what might be “Just Enough.”


Fried Tofu in Sauce (Tofu Agedashi)

An excerpt from Just Enough by Gesshin Claire Greenwood

A necessary component in Fried Tofu in Sauce is excellent dashi, which in turn makes excellent sauce. This dish involves deep-frying tofu and serving it in a strong sweet-and-salty broth garnished with grated daikon and ginger. The grated ginger blends into the broth and gives the simple tofu a rich and satisfying


I know I say this about everything, but this truly is one of my all-time favorite Japanese foods. We would prepare this on special occasions at Nisodo, for example, for the annual ceremony to honor the temple members’ ancestors. For this event, the people would come to take part in the ceremonies and then dine in a private area afterward.


For this meal we would take out the formal obon, or black lacquered serving trays that you often see in fancy restaurants in Kyoto. We would spend days cleaning, prepping vegetables, and choosing and setting out the dishes. For the kitchen work group this was a particularly stressful time, because we had to serve about eight specialty dishes to order, as in a restaurant, rather than follow our staple rice, soup, and side-dish routine. Invariably, one of the eight dishes was either this Fried Tofu in Sauce or Marinated Fried Eggplant. Whoever was in charge of running the frying station would be covered in sweat by the end of the day, but the meal break when we could sample the specialty dishes was always a highlight.


Tofu agedashi is served in restaurants and izakaya bars (pubs) throughout Japan. In the United States, it has made its way to izakaya in major cities, but I’m always disappointed in the way it tastes. A gauge for the quality of an American Japanese restaurant is how well it prepares tofu agedashi. It’s not a hard dish to make, but something is often lost in translation. In this recipe, I cut a block of tofu into thirds because this is how we would celebrate and honor our guests (by giving them big pieces!), but you can cut the tofu into smaller pieces, as they do in izakaya, if you prefer.

Serves 3

  • 1 block (14 to 16 ounces) firm tofu
  • ½ cup cornstarch or katakuriko (potato starch)
  • Vegetable oil for deep-frying
  • ½ cup grated daikon, for garnish
  • 4 teaspoons grated ginger, for garnish
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced, for garnish


  • 1 cup dashi
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce


Cut the tofu into thirds and wrap each piece in paper towels. Cover all three with a tray or cutting board, put a weight on the tray/board, and let sit for 30 minutes to press out excess water. Remove the towels. If you prefer smaller pieces, cut the tofu into 1½-inch cubes. Pat the tofu dry with towels.


Bring the dashi, sugar, mirin, and soy sauce to a boil in a small saucepan. Simmer for 2 minutes, stir, and turn off the heat. Cover the saucepan with a lid.


On a plate or cutting board, spread the cornstarch or katakuriko into an even layer. Dip the tofu pieces in the starch, coating them evenly. Shake off any excess starch and set aside.


Pour at least 1½ inches of oil into a large deep pan and heat to between 350 and 370°F. (Or if you have a deep-fryer, use it following the manufacturer’s directions.) Working in batches, drop the tofu into the oil and fry until golden brown, flipping once. Remove the tofu from the oil and place it briefly on paper towels to absorb excess oil.


Divide the tofu among three small bowls. Spoon the hot soy broth over the tofu and garnish with the grated daikon, ginger, and sliced onions. Serve immediately, while the tofu is still hot.


Colorful “Sushi” Rice

An excerpt from Just Enough by Gesshin Claire Greenwood (Note: I skipped the Koyadofu when I made this dish, since I was making tofu on the side.)

Sushi chirashi, or “mixed sushi rice,” is a high-class specialty served in sushi restaurants in Japan. This dish is usually comprised of a bowl full of sweet vinegared rice covered in a layer of assorted sashimi (raw fish), fish eggs, and shredded egg. The vegan version of this begins with the same vinegared rice, but layers on edamame (green soybeans), stewed shiitakes (see chapter 3), koyadofu (tofu), grated carrot, and avocado. This provides a variety of interesting textures and plenty of umami (see chapter 3). In Japan, hardly anyone eats avocado with rice — this is a California innovation — but I do enjoy the rich fattiness of avocado.


Koyadofu is a kind of freeze-dried tofu that is reconstituted in water and then stewed so that it absorbs the flavor of the broth. It has a spongy texture that is off-putting to some Westerners. If you can’t find koyadofu in an Asian market or if the notion of a “spongy” texture doesn’t appeal to you, you can of course substitute sliced grilled tofu. But I think the inclusion of koyadofu helps approximate the taste and texture of raw fish.


Edamame can be purchased already shelled, which is easiest, or you can boil the unshelled beans for 5 minutes, drain, rinse, and then squeeze out the beans.


I first ate this dish at Nisodo. We were required to use the formal black lacquered oryoki bowls at all three meals, but if the cook wanted to serve an ippan, a separately plated specialty dish like this recipe, she would do away with the large rice bowl. We would eat soup from our middle bowl, the ippan, and pickles, of course.

Serves 2

  • 1 piece (2 × 2 inches) konbu (dried kelp)
  • 2 cups uncooked rice
  • 5 tablespoons sushi vinegar or 2 tablespoons sugar dissolved in 5 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 block (about ½ ounce) koyadofu (freeze-dried tofu)
  • 4 small dried shiitake mushrooms or 2 larger ones cut in half, soaked overnight in enough water to cover
  • 1 cup cooked and shelled edamame (green soybeans)
  • 1 carrot, julienned or grated
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • Sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Shredded nori, for garnish (optional)

Broth for the Koyadofu

  • 1 cup dashi
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1½ teaspoons sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons sake
  • 1½ teaspoons mirin

Broth for the Shiitakes

  • ½ cup dashi
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce


Add konbu to the rice and cook the rice according to package directions. When the rice is done, remove the konbu. Pour the rice into a bamboo serving basket or a heat-resistant bowl. Drizzle the vinegar over the hot rice and mix vigorously with a rice paddle. As you mix in the vinegar, fan the rice with a paper fan. This allows the rice to cool faster and makes it shiny rather than dull.


Reconstitute the koyadofu by soaking it in water for 5 minutes. After it has expanded and become soft, remove it from the water and squeeze out the excess liquid. Bring the dashi, soy sauce, sugar, sake, and mirin to a boil in a saucepan. Add the koyadofu and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the liquid to cool completely, if time allows. This will allow the koyadofu to absorb even more of the flavor from the broth.


Remove the shiitakes from the soaking liquid and slice them very thinly. In a saucepan bring the dashi, sugar, and soy sauce to a boil and add the shiitakes. Cook on medium for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are cooked through. Be careful — the broth is very sweet and may caramelize and burn!


Once the koyadofu has cooled, remove it from the broth, cut it in half lengthwise, and then slice it into 1/8-inch slices.


Spread the rice onto two plates in even layers. Keeping each ingredient separate, arrange the koyadofu, sliced shiitakes, edamame, and carrot on top of the rice, half on each plate. Layer the avocado slices carefully over everything. Garnish with sesame seeds and/or nori.


# # #


Gesshin Claire Greenwood is the author of Just Enough and Bow First, Ask Questions Later. She also writes the popular blog That’s So Zen. Ordained as a Buddhist nun in Japan by Seido Suzuki Roshi in 2010, she received her dharma transmission (authorization to teach.) in 2015. She returned to the United States in 2016 to complete her master’s degree in East Asian Studies. A popular meditation teacher, she lives in San Francisco, California. Find out more about her work at


Excerpted from the book Just Enough. Copyright ©2019 by Gesshin Claire Greenwood. Printed with permission from New World Library —


Poached Pears Make an Elegant Dessert, For a Break from Pumpkin!

Pears Poached in Cherry Juice

A beautiful, light dessert of Poached Pears in Cherry Syrup

I know we are in pumpkin pie season, but really, how many pies can you eat? Dare we break away for a moment to celebrate the beauty of the pear? I’ve been playing around with desserts that don’t have any added sugar lately, and this recipe for Poached Pears in Cherry Syrup is a winner.

Poached Pears are Just Enough

I love sweet desserts as much as the next person. I’ve also been reading lots of research that implicates a sugary diet in all kinds of health issues, from diabetes to Alzheimer’s. I know that cutting carbs can seem like a joyless exercise, so why not start by cutting the white sugar and refined foods, and turn to pure fruit?

Using Reduction to Make a Fruit Sauce

The recipes I’ve used to make poached pears in the past all employed white sugar to make the syrup thick and glossy. The pears were poached in red or white wine, then the wine was cooked with sugar to make a syrup. To dump the added sugar, I opted to use bottled dark cherry juice instead, and to reduce it to make a concentrated, flavorful sauce.

Reduction is Magic

By simmering the pears in the cherry juice, the flavors meld, giving the pears a hint of cherry and the cherry juice a hint of pear. I added orange peel, cinnamon sticks, and vanilla, too, to give it some depth and complexity. Once the poached pears are tender, the remaining juice is boiled down until thick and shiny. By boiling the liquids, all the flavorless water leaves the sauce, concentrating the juices for an intense, fruity syrup.

Fresh Tarragon and Pistachios Add Intrigue

Once the poached pears and syrup are complete, a sprinkle of fresh, licorice-scented tarragon gives the dish an unexpected kick. I like to toss some crunchy pistachios over the syrup-drizzled fruit, to finish it with added texture and color.

Of course, I served it with a small scoop of coconut sorbet. Adding a little fat to a meal slows digestion and lowers the glycemic index, so why not? The fiber in the poached pears also keeps the natural carbs in the fruit from spiking your blood sugars. The poached pears are also naturally gluten-free, plant-based, and vegan, so everybody can indulge.

Elegant and Impressive Dessert

Don’t tell anyone that this might be a little more healthful than that pie. It’s so alluring on its own, and its the perfect ending to any meal. When you just want something sweet after dinner, go for an all-fruit dessert.

Pears Poached in Sweet Cherry Syrup

Make this classic, elegant dessert and wow your guests. Using cherry juice instead of wine means you don't have to add sugar, unless you want to!

Course Dessert
Keyword plant based dessert
Servings 4


  • 4 medium bosc pears
  • 2 cups dark sweet cherry juice
  • 3 inches orange peel pared in a strip
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4 sprigs fresh tarragon plus a few leaves
  • chopped roasted pistachios
  • coconut sorbet or plant-based ice cream


  1. Carefully peel the pears, leaving the stems on. Using a paring knife,
    cut a cone shaped hollow in the base of the pear to remove the flower end. Pare
    straight up into the pear to remove the seeds, hollowing out the pear without
    cutting through it.

  2. Place the pears in a 2 quart sauce pan and pour in the cherry juice, add the orange
    peel, vanilla, and cinnamon stick. Over high heat, bring to a boil, then reduce
    to a simmer. Put the lid on, slightly ajar, and cook for about 15 minutes,
    turning the pears every 5 minutes to color them evenly. Test for doneness by
    piercing with the paring knife. When the pears are tender but not falling
    apart, take them off the heat. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to gently remove
    them from the juice and place on a plate.

  3. Put the juice mixture back on the heat and bring to a boil
    over high heat. Reduce to medium and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup,
    about 10 minutes. The juice will get quite syrupy and the bubbles will become
    large and shiny. Transfer the syrup to a small pitcher.

  4. Serve the cooked fruit drizzled with syrup and sprinkled
    with pistachios, and a scoop of your favorite plant-based ice cream or sorbet.

The Speedy Sheet Pan Meets Tofu and Veggies!

Sheet Pan Tofu and Veggies

Sheet Pan goodness, so simple to make!

Thanksgiving is coming, and your instagram feed is filling up with holiday food porn, so you can start planning for the big day. But between now and then, you still need to eat. If you like to make a big feast, you might find yourself putting all your kitchen time in on making pie crusts and cubing bread for stuffing, and having precious little energy left to make a decent dinner tonight. That’s where my Sheet Pan Tofu And Veggies can save the day.

Sheet Pan Meals Save Time

The sheet pan meal has become part of the popular consciousness in recent years, although it has been around forever. The simple practice of putting everything on a pan and baking it was often associated with meat-based dishes. But I’m here to tell you, there’s one plant-based food that is perfect for the sheet pan meal.

Tofu Veggie Sheet Pan Dinner

Roasted and Delicious!

Tofu is Better Baked

That’s right, the ancient food we associate with stir fries and soups is even better baked. I started baking my tofu when I cooked in restaurants, and it was a way to marinate and bake large quantities of tofu for use in salads, sandwiches, and other dishes. Instead of the quick sear that you get on deep-fried tofu in a Chinese restaurant, baking tofu makes it dense and chewy. Because you are baking it, you can use a small amount of good oil, and let the oven do the work.

(for more fun tofu recipes, check out the links below:)

Tofu Bao 

Tofu Sweet Potato Bowl with Kimchi

Sheet Pan Dinner with Tofu and Veggies

Satisfying and Hearty

Veggies love the Sheet Pan, Too

In this dish, I roasted sweet potato cubes alongside the tofu, since they both take the same amount of time. On another pan, cauliflower and kale get the heat treatment. The kale gets crispy, almost like a kale chip. You’ll love it, the meltingly tender veggies and chewy tofu contrast with the crisp kale.

Then, a Super Quick Sauce

After the tofu and veggies spend their time in the oven, you just stir up a simple tahini sauce and drizzle it over. That’s it. I went with some Sriracha sauce for zip, but you can use your favorite hot sauce.

Vegan Meal Prep Alert

You can serve your sheet pan meal now, or make it ahead of time and eat it all week. There’s nothing quite like having meal prep in the refrigerator, when you walk in that door. Thanks to your pre-planning, you can put your feet up and simply enjoy a meal.

So go ahead and plan and prep for the big holiday meals, but make yourself some sustaining food right now. Sheet Pans make it easy.

Sheet Pan Sesame Sriracha Tofu and Veggies

The sheet pan dinner is a sweet way to cook all your veggies and tofu at once. A simple sauce of tahini, lemon and Sriracha gives it all the flavor you crave, almost effortlessly.

Course Main Course
Keyword sheet pan, tofu
Servings 4 servings
Author Robin Asbell


  • 1 pound extra firm tofu drained
  • 2 cups cubed sweet potatoes
  • 2 cups cauliflower florets large
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons tamari
  • 2 tablespoons Sriracha Sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic pressed


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Get two sheet pans.

  2. Cut the tofu into 1/2 inch cubes. Place on one of the sheet pans. Place the sweet potatoes on the same pan and drizzle with half of the olive oil. Toss gently to coat with oil.

  3. On the other pan, place the cauliflower and kale and toss with the remaining half of the olive oil.

  4. Roast both pans for 20 minutes, then take out the cauliflower and kale, and gently stir the tofu and sweet potatoes, turning with a spatula. Roast for 20 minutes longer.

  5. While the vegetables roast, stir the tahini, lemon, tamari, sriracha and garlic in a cup. Pour over the warm vegetables and toss to coat.

    Serve hot, or cool completely and store in the refrigerator, tightly covered, for up to 4 days.

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