Cauliflower Banh Mi Sandwich

For anyone who is unfamiliar, the banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich served on baguettes spread with pâté or spicy mayonnaise and stuffed with various marinated meats, cucumbers, herbs, and pickled veggies. I’ve seen vegetarian versions made with either tofu or tempeh and even though they looked delicious, I’d never had one.

Then a couple weeks ago in my Facebook news feed, I saw a post from the local co-op sharing for Meatless Monday a cauliflower banh mi from the Minimalist Baker, aka Dana Shultz. I was familiar with her blog and even have one of her cookbooks, so I knew this would be a solid recipe. It’s vegan and if you want it to be gluten-free, all that’s needed is swapping out the baguette for a gluten-free one or do it as a lettuce wrap. I was intrigued by a cauliflower version and put it on my must-make-soon list.

The first time, I made everything on a weeknight after work and by the time it was ready, we were famished. I then realized much of it can be prepared in advance. The pickled veggies taste better made a day or two ahead anyway, and you can chop up the cauliflower florets and make the aioli the night before, which is what I did the second time. This time we were able to sit down to dinner before we were so hungry we wanted to eat our fists!

Truly an amazing recipe, it definitely makes my list of top five best sandwiches I’ve had in my life. Spicy, crunchy, saucy, sweet and sour—all delicious. When you’re done eating, you’ll want more! Even those who aren’t big on cauliflower are going to love it. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Banh Mi Sandwich

Adapted from this Minimalist Baker recipe

Pickled Vegetables (best made a day ahead)
2/3 cup rice vinegar

1/3 cup hot water

½ teaspoon fine grain salt

1 tablespoon sugar

2/3 cup thinly sliced or shredded carrot

1/3 cup thinly sliced or shredded daikon, red, or watermelon radish

3 tablespoons chili garlic sauce (like Sambal Oelek)

1/3 cup tamari, coconut aminos, or, if no need to be gluten-free, soy sauce

1 ½ tablespoon pure maple syrup

1 ½ tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon neutral oil (avocado or grapeseed)

4 heaping cups cauliflower florets cut in bite sized pieces

½ cup vegan mayo (Vegenaise or Mindful Mayo brands are both delicious!)

2 teaspoons pure maple syrup

1 tablespoon sriracha or other hot sauce

2 small baguettes (gluten-free if that is a concern) or large lettuce leaf, used as a wrap

Fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley, mint—your choice—I used parsley and basil)

Thinly sliced cucumber

Fresh or pickled sliced jalapeño (I use Trader Joe’s Hot & Sweet Jalapeños)

To make the pickled veggies, shake vinegar, hot water, sugar, and salt in a glass jar until sugar and salt are dissolved. Add carrot and radish and push down to submerge. Cover jar and refrigerate; they’ll keep a couple weeks.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Make the cauliflower: Whisk together in a medium bowl the chili garlic sauce, tamari, maple syrup, lime juice, and oil. Add the cauliflower florets and toss to evenly coat.

Heat a large, oven-proof (preferably cast iron) skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, using a slotted spoon, transfer cauliflower to pan, reserving most of the liquid in the bowl.

Cook the cauliflower, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Then add most the of the reserved marinade to the pan, but save a little for serving. Toss to coat. Place pan in the oven and bake until cauliflower is crispy and caramelized, about 15 minutes.

While cauliflower is cooking, whisk together aioli ingredients together in a small bowl. Refrigerate until needed.

Chop your herbs, slice the cucumbers and jalapeño.

Halve your baguettes horizontally and place them in the oven, cut side down, directly on rack, during the last five minutes of the cauliflower cooking.

To assemble sandwiches, spread aioli on both sides of baguette. Top one half of baguette with cauliflower and drizzle some left-over cauliflower marinade. Top with pickled vegetables, cucumber, herbs, and jalapeño. Cover with top half of baguette. Have a napkin on hand too. You may have not use all the cauliflower and will probably also have leftover pickled veggies. Makes two sandwiches.


Beet Reuben Sandwiches

Sometimes you get a hankering for a good ol’ reuben sandwich, even if you’re vegetarian. At restaurants, once in while I’ll order the reuben minus the meat, which is usually met with a curious look by the server (and one, years ago, said, “Honey, that’s not going to be any cheaper.”). Occasionally there will be a meatless reuben on the menu with tempeh or portabella mushrooms swapped in for the corned beef. And when I happen to be on the Minneapolis side of the Twin Cities, I’ll pick up some vegan pastrami at the amazing Herbivorous Butcher, which makes for an outstanding pastrami rendition of the sandwich.

But a couple months ago, we came across a unique reuben on the menu at Red Cow in St. Paul that really intrigued me, a beet one. Interesting. And delicious! I knew I needed to recreate it at home, with the goal of making it even better.

A version with roasted sliced beets and dilled sauerkraut was my first attempt and it was tasty, but not knock-your-socks-off good. Then I made one with a caraway kraut that moved things up a notch. Today, though, I hit the jackpot. The key was braising the beets in a little water seasoned with the same spices you would use to make corned beef. Wow, it was fantastic!

To speed things up a bit, make the seasoning mixture and Russian dressing ahead of time. Also, make sure to have good quality rye bread on hand, either homemade or from your favorite bakery. Served with a batch of oven fries, you’ve got yourself a perfect comfort food meal. Enjoy!

Beet Reuben Sandwiches

Two large beets, peeled and sliced 1/3 to 1/4 inch thick

1 tablespoon seasoning mix (recipe follows)

Russian dressing (recipe follows)

4 slices Swiss cheese

About ¾ pound homemade or packaged sauerkraut, drained (I used Farmhouse Culture Classic Caraway Kraut)

8 slices good quality rye bread

Olive oil spray

Place sliced beets in medium saucepan and just barely cover with water. Add about a tablespoon of seasoning mixture. Cover pan and heat till boiling. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until beet slices are tender, 35-45 minutes. Remove beets from liquid and set aside. Discard liquid.

Preheat oven broiler. Arrange bread slices on large baking sheet and spritz with olive oil spray (alternately, brush bread slices lightly with olive oil). Broil about 6 inches from heat until bread is lightly browned, about 1 or 2 minutes.

Remove 4 slices of the bread to a cutting board. Flip the remaining 4 slices on the baking sheet and top with Russian dressing, beet slices, sauerkraut and cheese. Broil 6 inches from the heat until the cheese is all melty.

Meanwhile spread more Russian dressing on the untoasted side of the reserved bread slices. Remove pan from oven and top sandwiches with reserved bread slices. Cut in half and serve. Makes 4 sandwiches.

Russian Dressing:
Adapted from this Epicurious recipe

1 tablespoon finely chopped onion

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/8 cup ketchup

2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

1 teaspoon hot sauce, preferably Frank’s Red Hot Sauce

1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (I love Annie’s Organic)

1/8 teaspoon sweet paprika

Fine sea salt, to taste

Wisk together all ingredients, except onion, until smooth. Stir in onion, cover and refrigerate until cold and flavors have melded.

Seasoning mix:
½ tablespoon black peppercorns

½ tablespoon yellow mustard seeds

½ tablespoon coriander seeds

¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon allspice

¼ of one cinnamon stick

½ bay leaf, broken into small pieces

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon smoked sea salt

Toast peppercorns, mustard seeds and coriander seeds in a small dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant, shaking pan frequently, about three minutes. Transfer to a mortar, add remaining seasoning mix ingredients, and finely crush with a pestle (alternately, pulse mixture in a spice grinder to a coarse texture).

Cabbage, Onion, and Farro Soup

Last week I got a new cookbook,
Six Seasons—a New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg. It’s a heavy, hard-covered, almost 400-page tome that has tons of beautiful food photos, with recipes broken down into seasons, and summer gets three divisions (early, mid, and late), thus the  title.

Because I love cooking seasonally, of course the first recipe I made was from the Winter section. They all sounded wonderful, but something about this hearty soup got my attention. The cabbage and onion are caramelized and result in a sweet richness that was unexpected. And truth be told, it really doesn’t taste like cabbage. The farro makes this a full-meal-in-a-bowl and the flavor combination is warm and comforting just like a winter soup should be.

As with most soups, it is even better the next day, or next three days of work lunches this batch provided. Each day at lunch I kept saying to myself, “This is so good, this is so good!” Any recipe that makes me do that just has to be shared! Prepare to be amazed at the flavors you create. Enjoy!

Cabbage, Onion and Farro Soup

Ever so slightly adapted from Six Seasons—a New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden and Martha Holmberg.

Notes: If you want to go vegan, just omit the cheese; it’s still outstanding as I found out the third day when I forgot the Parmigiano-Reggiano. And if you don’t have farro, barley would be a good substitute or brown rice for a gluten-free version.

1-pound cabbage, savoy or green (I used green—couldn’t find savoy)

¼ cup Extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon, divided, and more for drizzling

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1 healthy sprig rosemary or thyme (I used thyme)

1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar (I used red)

2/3 cup uncooked farro

About 4 cups vegetable broth, homemade or store-bought (I used Edward & Sons Not-Beef Bouillon cubes)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Cut out the cabbage core and finely chop it. Cut the cabbage leaves into fine shreds.

Heat ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the cabbage core and onion, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion starts to soften and becomes fragrant, but not at all browned, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes until the garlic is soft too.

Add the shredded cabbage leaves and rosemary or thyme. Cover the pot and let it steam for a bit to soften the leaves, then toss the cabbage to help it wilt and soften more.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the cabbage is very tender and sweet, about 20-30 minutes. When the cabbage is ready, stir in the vinegar. Taste and adjust with more salt & pepper, if necessary.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the farro and cook, stirring constantly, until the farro is lightly toasted and fragrant, 5-8 minutes.

Stir the farro into the cabbage mixture and add broth. Adjust the heat to a lazy simmer and simmer until the farro is tender and all the flavors are married, 25 to 35 minutes.

Stir in the lemon juice. The soup should be very thick, but if it seems like it needs more liquid, add another ½ cup water or broth (I added about ½ cup more broth). Taste and adjust with more salt, pepper, or lemon juice. Remove the rosemary or thyme sprig.

Serve soup in shallow bowls, with a shower of Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil (I skipped the olive oil drizzle). Makes 4 generous servings.


Tofu Bulgogi

Bulgogi, a Korean dish typically made with beef or pork, is super easy to veganize. Switching out the meat for tofu, which easily absorbs the delicious marinade, makes for a dish with all the bold flavors and textures minus the meat.

Several years ago, my sister-in-law Jeannie shared this recipe on Facebook and it sounded so good, I made it immediately. Pete and I both loved it, but for some dumb reason, I didn’t make it again.

Recently Jeannie made a beef bulgogi for a family get-together and I was instantly reminded of that wonderful tofu version—making it again was a high priority and I knew I needed to share it as a blog post.

As with many traditional dishes, there are almost as many different recipes as there are cooks, but this one is definitely a winner. Vegetarian or not, your taste buds and tummy will be happy you made it. Enjoy!

EZ Tofu Press

Tofu Bulgogi

Slightly adapted from this Allyson Kramer recipe

Recipe note: Mirin is a Japanese rice wine similar to sake, but with a lower alcohol content. It can be found in Asian markets, the Asian section of well-stocked grocery stores, and on If you can’t find it, a sweet marsala wine will work as a substitute.

One 16-ounce block organic extra-firm tofu (water-packed, not vacuumed packed)

4 green onions, chopped, both white and green parts

3 cloves garlic, minced

Half a large onion, sliced

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger root

2/3 cup reduced sodium wheat-free tamari or use soy sauce if gluten-free isn’t important

4 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

¼ cup organic sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

4 tablespoons mirin (see recipe note above)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Half of a medium pear, shredded on a box grater (include skin—no need to peel)

Peanut oil for pan frying (or other neutral oil)

Cooked brown or white rice

Toasted sesame seeds

To remove excess moisture from the tofu, place the tofu block between a couple layers of paper towels and set on a cutting board. Top with another cutting board and weigh it down with a large can of tomatoes or a couple cookbooks. Let sit for at least 30 minutes. Alternately, use a tofu press for the same amount of time.

Meanwhile, make marinade: In a medium bowl, mix tamari, sesame oil, sugar, black pepper, red pepper flakes, mirin, and rice vinegar. Stir in shredded pear.

Cut drained tofu block in half and then slice into thin strips. Layer strips in a deep container and top with green onions, garlic, onion and ginger. Pour marinade over tofu and vegetables. Cover and marinade in refrigerator for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

When ready to start to cooking, drain marinade off into a measuring cup for easy pouring. Spoon vegetables off tofu into a bowl.

Heat a heavy skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium to medium-high heat. Add about a tablespoon of peanut oil or other neutral oil. Once oil is hot, add some of the tofu strips to pan in a single layer (you’ll have to do this in batches). Top with some of the veggies and pour a little marinade over tofu and veggies to just barely cover tofu. Cook until most of the marinade has cooked off and bottom of tofu is nicely browned. Flip tofu slices and cook a few more minutes until the underside is browed.

Serve tofu and vegetables over steamed brown rice. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds. Makes about 4 servings.

Lobster Mushroom Pasta

Last weekend at the Stillwater Farmers’ Market, I picked up a couple varieties of mushrooms I hadn’t had before, lobster and chicken of the woods. A local forager harvested them from area forests and sold them at his stand, along with chanterelles. Joking around, I asked if he had lots of experience and knew what he was doing so we wouldn’t be poisoned. He laughed and said when people ask, he usually points to the lobster mushrooms and tells them that’s what they should buy if they want to off their husbands. Okay, that didn’t really make me feel any better.

Lobster, chanterelle, and chicken of the woods (l-r).

The amusing mushroom man explained that the lobster mushrooms had a seafood-like flavor and the chicken of the woods variety, covered with barbeque sauce and grilled, would taste just like chicken. Interesting. They were expensive too, about $20/pound, but I figured that was a lot cheaper than lobster.

Not really sure how to prepare my new-found treasures, I decided to just do a simple pasta dish with the lobster mushrooms. There were lots of lobster pasta recipes out there, so why not just sub lobster mushrooms? You can’t go wrong with shallots, garlic, butter and thyme, right? And white wine, half & half, and parmesan aren’t likely to mess up a dish either. It all came together wonderfully, with the promised seafood flavor a happy surprise.

If you happen upon these somewhat freaky-looking, neon reddish-orange beauties, either while foraging or at your local farmers’ market, try this recipe; I think you’ll really like it. Enjoy!

Lobster Mushroom Pasta

2 tablespoons butter, divided

1 medium shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces lobster mushrooms, cleaned and cut into ½ inch chunks

1 teaspoon minced thyme leaves

A couple splashes dry white wine

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

A handful of baby greens (I used a bagged mixture of baby power greens from Trader Joe’s)

½ cup freshly grated parmesan or parmigiano reggiano

¼ cup half & half, cream, or whole milk

8 ounces whole wheat spaghetti, linguini or any long, thin pasta

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling, generously salt the water, then cook pasta according to package directions. When done, reserve about ½ cup of the pasta water and then drain pasta and return it to pot. Cover and keep warm.

While the pasta is cooking, in a large skillet, preferably cast iron, over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until the shallots have softened, about 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and thyme and cook until mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste. Increase heat to medium high and add the wine. Stir, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine has mostly cooked off.

Return heat on the pan to medium and add the second tablespoon of butter. Once it’s melted, add the greens. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the greens are wilted, but still bright green.

Add the mushroom mixture, cheese, and half & half to the warm pasta. Toss until combined. Add enough of the reserved pasta to make a sauce. Serve pasta in bowls. Makes 3-4 servings.

Chive Mint Pesto

There’s a patch of chives in front of our cabin that grows like crazy; not sure why it’s so prolific—could be it’s just as happy to be there as we are. I try and remember to cut some to bring home every time we’re there, but it seems like half the time I forget.

This time I remembered, and I brought home a lot! It’s especially nice if the chives are flowering their light purple blooms, so pretty and edible too—a mild onion flavor that works beautifully as a garnish on whatever you’ve used the chives in.

With this volume of chives, the first thing that came to mind was making pesto. I’ve made a
rustic chive pesto in the past, but this time I decided to do the more conventional pesto method, in the food processor. And with my mint and basil plants needing a trim, I opted to include a good amount of mint and a little basil.

Following the basic pesto recipe I’ve used for years, but subbing in chives and mint in place of basil and throwing in a shallot for good measure, the result was wonderful! On pasta, as a marinade for grilled vegetables, on pizza, in mashed potatoes, eggs, sandwiches, the uses are endless.

As in other pesto recipes I’ve shared in the past, there’s no cheese, which is not typical for pesto, but with the olive oil, it seems rich enough in my mind already, so I do without. Feel free to include some parmesan if you’d like.

This recipe makes a big batch that would be hard to use between Pete and me in the week or so it lasts in the fridge, so I froze half. Pesto freezes well and it’s nice to have on hand for whipping up yummy recipes at a moment’s notice (a quick defrost in the microwave and your frozen pesto is ready to use).

The bonus is I have enough chives left over to make a couple loaves of buttermilk chive bread—I can’t wait!

Chive Mint Pesto

  • Servings: makes 3 cups
  • Print
2 cups firmly packed fresh chives

1 cup fresh mint leaves, or a combination of mint and basil, firmly packed

1 cup chopped walnuts, almonds, pistachios, or a combination, toasted

¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 shallot, chopped

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients, except olive oil, in bowl of a food processor. Process until combined. Scrape down sides of food processor bowl.

With food processor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until mixture is completely blended. Scrape down sides again and give it a final pulse or two. Taste, and add more salt or lemon juice if necessary.

Keeps in the fridge for a week or so, in the freezer for a couple months. Makes about 3 cups.

Cauliflower Taco Meat

The humble cauliflower. That funny looking vegetable I hated as a child, continues to surprise me. First there was cauliflower pizza crust, then Buffalo cauliflower, cauliflower steaks, and now, wait for it…cauliflower taco meat!

Replacing the spicy ground beef in traditional tacos, this mixture of cauliflower, mushrooms, walnuts and bold seasonings amps up the deliciousness and it’s a healthy mix of superfoods to boot! What’s not to love? And I swear, even if you think you don’t like cauliflower, mushrooms, or walnuts, if you like tacos, you will like this.

I stumbled upon the recipe at Pinch of Yum, one of my favorite food blogs (and their photography is amazing!). Intrigued, I knew what I was going to make with that head of cauliflower in the fridge. The only thing that made me hesitate was the two cups of walnuts the recipe called for. I know walnuts are super healthy, full of good fats, omega 3s, and loaded with antioxidants, but they also pack a wallop of calories, which I certainly don’t need. Since mushrooms are so meaty, especially cremini mushrooms, I decided to replace half the walnuts with them. The result wowed us!

And don’t limit this yummy mixture to tacos; it would make a great filling for burritos, quesadillas, enchiladas, frittatas, taco salad and on and on. My mind is now working on a way to make this, with different seasonings, into a mixture for Italian recipes, lasagna, spaghetti sauce, meatballs, and stuffed peppers. And sloppy joes! I bet that would be wonderful!

The taco “meat” ingredients involve just a quick series of pulses in the food processor and then a half hour of baking, followed by a couple minute broil, then a sprinkling of fresh lime juice. While it’s in the oven, you can prep your taco accompaniments, so this is very doable on a weeknight after work. Plus, it reheats really well, and leftovers will not go to waste. Enjoy!

Cauliflower Taco Meat

Adapted from this Pinch of Yum recipe

3 cups cauliflower florets

1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup chopped cremini mushrooms

2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

1/4 cup tomato sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

Fresh squeezed lime juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Place all ingredients except lime juice in the bowl of a food processor and pulse on and off until the texture of cooked ground beef. I found it easier to get the right texture by doing this in two batches, half of each ingredient in each batch. The first time I made it I did it all at once and half of it was almost like a paste—still tasted great, but just not the right texture. Transfer mixture to the baking sheet and spread it out in an even layer.

Bake for 30 minutes, stirring once at the half-way point. After the 30 minutes, turn oven to broil and broil 8-12 inches from broiler for a minute or two. Watch carefully so it doesn’t burn. Drizzle with a tablespoon or two of lime juice and toss to distribute it.

That’s it. The “meat” is ready to use in tacos, burritos, taco salads, enchiladas, quesadillas, or whatever your heart desires. Reheats well and keeps several days in the fridge. Makes about 4 servings.