Tassajara Cookbook: Lunches, Picnics, and Appetizers

June 5, 2009 in cookbook, review, vegetable


Tassajara Zen Mountain Center is the famed mountain retreat of the San Francisco Zen Center. SF Zen center was founded by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi in the 60s. It is a vibrant Zen community (sangha) that has been instrumental in bringing Zen to the West and has served as an important crucible in the inevitable forging process as Eastern and Western thought forms have mixed, melded, and reacted against one another to form a uniquely American form of Zen.

You can learn so much by visiting their sites (listed above) and also, if you would like to go deeper, you can listen to teishos on podcast. Teishos are essentially lectures that are interspersed between 30 to 45 minute blocks of silent meditation. The center leader will speak on all manner of things that will help the sangha develop their practice. The more traditional teishos cover koans – extended riddle type narratives that have been used for millennia by the Chinese and Japanese to facilitate the awakening (kensho) of the sangha.

There are three locations for the community: City Center, Green Gulch Farm, and Tassajara Zen Mountain Center

Tassajara Zen Mountain Center lies north of San Francisco in the Ventana Wilderness, near the Pacific. I know of it from reading about the SF Zen center, their history (good and bad) and from my life long personal journey in Zen.

It is the first zen monastery in the west and is tasked with keeping body and soul together for the many people who dedicate their lives to deepening their zen practice. Part of this has been a delicious tradition of feeding the monks and other visitors delicious vegetarian foods.

I have never even really entertained the fantasy of being able to spend time at any of these centers as my life doesn’t afford me such opportunities. Its ok, I, like a huge number of other zen practitioners, practice quietly at home.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t think on how splendid it would be to be able to spend time at Tassajara in quiet bliss, practicing and also enjoying the wholesome foods (grown on site and also at Green Gulch Farm).

All of this is prologue to explain why I would jump at a chance to review two cookbooks from Tassajara (published by Gibbs Smith in 2007): Tassajara Dinners & Dessertsand Tassajara Cookbook: Lunched, Picnics, and Appetizers

Today I am going to talk about Tassajara Cookbook: Lunched, Picnics, and Appetizers and will cover Tassajara Dinners & Desserts in another post.

This book gives you some background on the monastery as well as how lunches have become elevated to these feasts of wholesome and tasty goodness. The recipes in this book open a window onto some of these offerings. The breadth is fantastic and the images are simply beautiful.

Whether you are vegetarian or a carnivore, you should be able to appreciate the mouth watering recipes in this cookbook.

The Table of Contents reads as follows:

  • Dairy Spreads
  • Vegan Spreads
  • Pate & Loaves
  • Tofu, Tempeh & Egg Salad Sandwich Fillings
  • Chutneys, Sauces & Salsas
  • Marinades for Tofu, Tempeh & Vegetables
  • Salads, Dressings, Pickles & Relishes
  • Dairy Cookies
  • Vegan Cookies & Sweets
  • Composing Your Movable Feast

There are so many delicious possibilities to chose from, it was hard to pick. In the end, I went shopping for ingredients on a very hot day (we were taking a run for 95 F on that day here in MA) so I chose a cold recipe. It is also the recipe featured on the cover of the book. I certainly didn’t do the cover any justice but we were VERY happy with the results.

Our taste testing for this recipe came out a resounding YUM. We usually do NOT eat tofu (so many issues with soy products and we are not vegetarian so we don’t use it to replace other protein) but I made an exception for this review. This means that my family (DH, kids – 12 yo, 5 yo, 2.5 yo) are not accustomed to eating tofu.

When the DH and 12 yo tried it, they loved it and got many tastes. The 5 yo is in a picky phase so she decided against more. The surprise was the toddler, who called it cheese, he could not get enough! He just loved it. He loves any sort of cheese, especially brie, so I am guessing he just fit this into his cheese universe.

I am definitely going to be making more of these recipes. Let me know if you get the book and which ones become your favorite!

Tassajara Cookbook: a review

Tofu Marinated with Parsley and Olive Oil (page 125)


  • 2 (12 ounce) blocks firm tofu
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • pinch ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons capers
  • 1/3 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, or thyme (optional)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, best quality


Slice the tofu into cubes. Mix garlic, parsley, salt, pepper, capers, lemon juice, and fresh herbs in a small bowl. Let this mix sit a few minutes and then add the olive oil, stir. Add the tofu and gently mix to coat all pieces. I added all this to a baggie, purged the excess air and then closed it up. I let this marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

Next day, let come to room temperature and serve with a sprinkling of fresh herbs.

Tassajara Cookbook: a review

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