Tassajara Vegetarian Whole Wheat Lasagna

September 24, 2009 in cookbook, cooking, ingredient, recipe, review, vegetable


Some time ago I reviewed a cookbook called “Tassajara Cookbook: Lunches, Picnics, and Appetizers” by Karla Oliveira where I covered Tassajara, a magical mountain retreat for the San Francisco Zen Center.

Today’s review covers the related book Tassajara Dinners & Desserts by Dale and Melissa Kent, a beautiful and delicious cookbook that shares simple go-to vegetarian meals used at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Retreat to nourish the monks, trainees and students who live in this amazing place.


The photography is just fantastic, inviting you to dive into this book to learn how to make these tasty dinners. The front cover holds nothing back, just take a look at it!


Foreword by Senior Dharma Teacher Eijun Linda Ruth Cutts


  • What is it like to do active cooking meditation
  • How the zen kitchen works


  • Ginger Hummus
  • Grandma Chu’s Sweet & Sour Marinated Asparagus

Vegetable Side Dishes

  • Pungent Cucumber Salad with Black Sesame ad Ginger
  • Moroxican Spiced Potatoes

Vegetable Entrees

  • James Creek Farm Ratatouille
  • Tagine with Apricots, Olives, and Artichoke Hearts

Baked Entrees

  • Baked Muffaletta Crepes
  • Annie’s Frittata with Caramelized Onions, Goat Cheese, and Sage

Beans & Legumes

  • Butch’s Black Eyed Peas
  • Chickpea Stew with Collard Greens and Indian Spices


  • Dragon’s Head Tofu
  • Mole Verde with Tofu

Grains & Pastas

  • Mushroom Squash Risotto
  • Mint-Cilantro Udon with Fresh Ginger and Meyer Lemon


  • Lemon Sponge Custard with Raspberry Sauce
  • Ricotta Chevre with Ginger Berry Compote

Basic Techniques

  • Vegetable Stock and Variations
  • Basic Ingredients and Sauces

Tassajara Dinners & Desserts: Tofu Lasagna

For this review I chose to make the a vegetarian lasagna with a change to the book’s recipe. Instead of just using a store bought past (fresh or dried) I used some homemade lasagna I made from organic sprouted whole wheat I had made (see this post for information on making your own sprouted whole wheat flour “Making Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour” and this post on how to make lasagna pasta out of it “Homemade Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta“). I also used homemade goat cheese (chevre) from our own goats in our backyard (Making chevre cheese from our home-milked goat milk) and organic chard I grew in our garden and egg from our chickens (Humble Garden).

Tofu Lasagna with Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, and Chard


  • 1 pound dried pasta or 1.5 pounds fresh pasta
  • Sauce:
  • 1.5 cups chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minded
  • 1 tablespoon dried italian herb seasoning (I used fresh oregano and basil from garden)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cups crumbled tofu
  • 4-5 cups diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • Filling:
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 1 pound mushrooms, washed and quartered
  • 1 pound goat cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups grated Provolone, Mozzarella, Fontina, or Gruyere



Saute onions, carrots, and celery over medium heat until soft and a bit brown. Add garlic and herbs without stirring. Turn up heat to brown and then add wine to deglaze (scrape up fond – stuck bits). Add tofu and cook with much stirring until liquid almost gone. Brown the tofu a bit, coat with all other sauce parts. Add tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes.


Wash greens, remove stems, set the stems aside. Cop stems into tiny bits. Blanch greens and stem bits in boiling water (or steam them) until cooked through. Shock in icy water (this “sets” the chlorophylls so that the chard will be a bright green) and then drain. Chop roughly and then dry completely.

Bake the mushrooms in a 425 F oven or sear them on the stovetop. Set aside with the greens.

Mix the goat cheese, egg, parmesan cheese and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Prepare the lasagna pasta as per instructions.

Oil a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, ladle some sauce on the bottom, add first layer of pasta. Spread 1/4th of the filling over the pasta and cover with some sauce. Layer on some tofu, goat cheese, greens, mushrooms as well as mozzarella (if using). Put down the next layer of pasta and repeat as before, 3 more times. The whole thing should end with a layer of pasta at the top and some more sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and even, possibly bechamel sauce. (I didnt put the bechamel sauce, seemed a bit much to me).

Bake at 350 F for 30 – 40 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and top is toasty brown.

Our Take on this dish:
Everyone from the toddler on up completely enjoyed this dish. Remember that sprouted wheat yields a bit sweeter product (because the sprouting process started some of the starches on their enzymatic journey) and that any whole wheat pasta product will have a different sort of mouth feel than your usual “white bread” sort of “enriched” pasta product. In this case, the pasta had a lot of presence in this dish, lending an almost “meaty” sort of sensation, which was a plus to those family members who like to have meat at every meal!

My Take on this cookbook:

The book is simply beautiful, the recipes are diverse and quite inspiring for all sorts of eaters: vegetarians to omnivores! I can only say good things about this cookbook, it has been a pleasure to review and oogle over. I suggest giving it a try!

Tassajara Dinners & Desserts: Tofu Lasagna

Product Details:

  • Title: Tassajara Dinners & Desserts
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Gibbs Smith (January 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423605209
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423605201
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds

Peach Mint Preserves

August 27, 2009 in cookbook, review


In concert with the Can Around the Nation canning event this weekend (see this post for more details Join the Canvolution!) in Somerville, MA where I will be teaching pressure canning, I am sharing a review of a cookbook I received on putting up food!

The cookbook is called Putting Up: A Seasonal Guide to Canning in the Southern Tradition and it was written by Stephen Palmer Dowdney.

These recipes are meant to have a southern bias. When I lived in the south, for decades, I never hooked into the Southern Canning Scene (as it were) so I dont know if these are, in fact, old southern goldies.

I can say that they all sound delicious! I can also say that the recipe I tested out, for Peach Mint Preserves, is delicious and easy. I share my experience with it below.

The author of this book, Stephen Palmer Dowdney, has quite a varied background, from Citadel grad to United States Army: Airborne, Ranger and Special Forces qualified, other various activities, and is the owner of Rockland Plantation Products, a company focused on canning traditional recipes previously found in pantries all across America. Its from a background of producing small batch preserves in a commercial setting for 12 years in the deep south (South Carolina) that Dowdney writes this book.

For book review

After the introduction is a chapter called Canning and in it the author spins a beautiful remembrance of an idyllic childhood on a southern self-sufficient plantation next to the ocean. From there he launched into many other endeavors but 50 years later, he came back to a nurturing place when he began to make the preserves and pickles of his grandmother.

Note that to use this cookbook you MUST read the Canning chapter and in particular the “How” part. He explains in great detail all the fundamentals of boiling water canning (no pressure canning in this book). Please read this section completely. You will need to understand what he means by hot packing, raw packing, etc to be able to do the recipes.

The book is then organized into recipes by month of the SOUTHERN food calendar. I note it’s southern-ness as I live far north of South Carolina so what we get, comes into season at a different time. If you are working with produce from the store, seasonality will not be an issue. If you live up north and are putting up the bounty of your own production or that of local farmers markets, you will need to adjust your monthly expectations!

The chapters, with sample recipes, include:

Part One: Canning

Part Two: The Recipes


  • Lowcountry Pluff Mud


  • Artichoke Pickles
  • Artichoke ChowChow


  • Strawberry Preserves
  • Pickled Asparagus


  • Strawberry-Orange Marmalade
  • Pickled Beets


  • Green Tomato Chow-Chow
  • Very Berry Preserves


  • Pickled Shrimp
  • Dilled String Beans


  • Garden Vegetable Soup
  • Hot Pepper Jelly


  • Whole Fig Preserves and Jam
  • Watermelon Rind Pickles


  • Pear Relish
  • Corn Liquor BBQ Sauce


  • Pumpkin Chips
  • Sweet Potato Butter


  • Cranberry Chutney
  • Mint Jelly


  • Christmas Morning Marmalade
  • Field Pea Relish

Part Three: Afterthoughts


So now, on to the Peach Mint Preserve! I can tell you it comes out delicious and it is quite easy to do.

Peach Mint Preserves

Peach Mint Preserves (page 118)


  • 4 C peaches (peeled)
  • 1/2 C chopped mint, packed tight
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 pack pectin or 1/3 C bulk pectin
  • 5 1/2 C sugar

He provides canning notes, as follows:

  • This is a hot pack, acid recipe
  • pH is not an issue, no testing is required
  • Recipe makes 6 1/2 pint jars
  • Recipe can be halved or doubled


Prepared and place all ingredients except the sugar into the pot.

Peach Mint Preserves

Over high heat, with much stirring, bring to a strong boil. Add the sugar and stir hard, bring to a rolling boil (Watch out for hot sugary splatters!)

Begin the 1 1/2 minute timing before canning: but after 1 minute, check for signs of jelling (see book for details).

Peach Mint Preserves

Hot pack according to the book.

Peach Mint Preserves

Peach Mint Preserves

Peach Mint Preserves

Peach Mint Preserves

And then, Enjoy!

putting up: Peach Mint Preserves

Product Details:

putting up: Peach Mint Preserves

Goat Cheese cookbook – a review

June 23, 2009 in cheese, cookbook, recipe, review


Goat Cheese by Maggie Foard (published by Gibbs Smith in July 1, 2008) is a delightful cookbook that explores a range of ways for using goats milk cheeses.

You may remember that we have our own herd of 18 LaMancha dairy goats and that we milk 7 does on a daily basis (we are up to 2 gallons a day). I blogged on how to make chevre cheese from goats milk some time ago – Making chevre cheese from our home-milked goat milk. Its quite easy and I do it now on a daily basis! Only difference between the chevre I make and what you buy in the store is that ours is extremely fresh (taste just blows you over) and its raw – has not been pasteurized.

torte being milked

With 1 gallon making about $30 worth of cheese (about 30 ounces) we have a lot of cheese! I also make yogurt, Labne (strained yogurt), and buttermilk. We also drink it fresh. All of this is consumed raw so that we can get the full benefit of the special ecology of our goats. We do love them so!

Back to the chevre. In the near future I will be making semi-soft, semi-firm and hard cheeses from the goat milk but for now its chevre. This cookbook could not have come at a better time. Not all of the recipes are for chevre, some are for the other sorts you can buy at better cheese shops (Whole Foods for example).

I tested out a chevre recipe and found it to be simply fantastic and one that I think I could eat several times a week and at any time of day (great for breakfast, lunch or supper).

I highly recommend this book for the experienced cheese type and to those of you who are new to goat cheeses. Foard has an excellent section at the back of the book that goes over the different types of goat cheeses that are made. She does a beautiful job in the introduction to the book giving you a sense for how she came to goat cheese (she kept a goat and then it all spiraled out from there). The many recipes and photos span a great variety of palate pleasing dishes that are sure to hit on some of your own favorites or entice you to make something new!

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Morning Breads and Pancakes
  • Frittatas, Omelettes and Eggs
  • Pizzas and Quesadillas
  • Appetizers and Sandwiches
  • Soups and Salads
  • Main Dishes and Pastas
  • Desserts
  • A Beginners Guide to Goat Cheesesz

I tried out a recipe on Page 86 called “Farmstand Lettuce with Baked Goat Cheese Buttons and Rosemary Walnuts” but had to change a few things.

I can tell from the photo that this would be a fantastically delicious salad. Thing is, we have nut allergies so I had to pass up on those delicious sounding rosemary walnuts.

I also had to improvise a bit with the rest as I realized I had no panko!

I decided to use some unsweetened organic flaked coconut with rosemary and turmeric (to give it a golden color) as a replacement for the panko.

One last change I made was that I pan fried it (in organic coconut oil) instead of baking it as the book suggests. I served it with lettuce from our garden (mustard greens and other mesclun types) as well as coconut oil sauted red bell peppers that were so sweet and a delightful counter-flavor to the tangy goat cheese.

Goat Cheese cookbook: A Review

I will list to recipes here – the one as found in the cookbook and then the one I actually made that you see in the photos here.

“Farmstand Lettuce with Baked Goat Cheese Buttons and Rosemary Walnuts” (Page 86)


  • Several heads of young farmstand lettuce or 1/2 pound baby lettuce mix
  • 8 ounces fresh chevre
  • 2 tablespoons minced herbs, like rosemary, thyme, and oregano
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 cup coarse fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or fresh lemon juice
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • pinch salt
  • Rosemary Walnuts (see below)
  • Fresh Baquettes


Preheat oven to 350 F. Wash and dry lettuce, set aside. Place chevre and herbs in a small bowl. Poach the garlic in the olive oil (do not let get dark). Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the garlic oil into the chevre and then mix with a fork. Make 4 little chevre patties and dredge them in the crumbs. Cover and put in the freezer for 10-15 minutes.

Pour remaining oil into the bottom of a large salad bowl, add the vinegar or lemon juice, mustard, honey, and salt. Whisk vigorously until emulsified. Toss lettuce in this and put out onto 4 small salad plates.

Bake the cheese buttons for about 7 minutes or until the cheese JUST begins to soften. Remove from the oven and cool slightly. Serve out onto the salad plates, top with the Rosemary Walnuts and add toasted baquettes.

Rosemary Walnuts


  • 1 1/2 cups walnut halves and pieces
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh or dried rosemary, roughly chopped
  • kosher salt


Preheat oven to 350 F. In a small baking pan, combine walnuts,olive oil and rosemary. Toss and coat. Spread them out in the pan and sprinkle with some salt. Bake 7 – 8 minutes or until fragrant. Do not overbake or burn!

Nika’s Coconut Rosemary Goat Cheese buttons


  • 8 ounces freshly made chevre
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh marjoram, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon celtic sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons organic unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons organic coconut oil

Mix chevre, minced herbs and salt until distributed. Form into buttons or patties, mix coconut, turmeric and rosemary, at coconut mixture onto the two sides of the cold chevre buttons, put in freezer for 10 – 15 minutes.

Add coconut oil to a medium cast iron pan and allow to melt.

Fry the buttons until golden. Use a heavy metal ad sharp spatula, flip quickly and then remove carefully.

Goat Cheese cookbook: A Review

Serve with eggs or as a salad.


Goat Cheese cookbook: A Review

Product Details

  • Goat Cheese
  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Gibbs Smith (July 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423603680
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423603689
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 9.3 x 0.8 inches

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

Product Details