Memorial Day minus the meat: Try these vegan recipes

May 21, 2012 at 5:16 PM ET

Dynise Balcavage
Dynise Balcavage

Memorial Day is the unofficial American start of the summer. Though we traditionally associate this long, celebratory weekend with meat, there are also plenty of portable, plant-based picnic provisions for vegans to enjoy (and we’re not just talking grilled veggies). Dynise Balcavage of Urban Vegan shares a few recipes from her book, “Celebrate Vegan.”

Caprese sandwich (makes 4 sandwiches)

When you think about it, fresh mozzarella cheese is bland and needs a drizzle of olive oil and a healthy sprinkle of salt and pepper to bring it to life. Just like mozzarella, tofu is bland, moist and undergoes a magical flavor transformation with the help of a little basil and tomato. These sandwiches travel well and make great Memorial Day picnic treats. Just wrap them in aluminum foil and go!

  • 4 T extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • Lots of fresh ground pepper and salt
  • 1 lb extra-firm organic tofu, cut into 4 equal slabs
  • 1 loaf ciabatta bread, cut into 4 pieces, and then cut in half (or use 4 ciabatta rolls)
  • 1-2 large tomatoes, slices (heirlooms, beefsteaks, kumatos or Jersey tomatoes — vine-ripened if possible)
  • About 1/3 cup whole, fresh basil leaves

Prepare the marinade. Mix oil, soy sauce and fresh ground pepper in a shallow pan. Soak the tofu in the marinade for at least an hour (preferably overnight), turning occasionally to ensure all sides soak up the marinade.

Make the sandwiches. Drizzle each bread slice with about 1 tsp of olive oil. Fill sandwich with one slice of tofu, one or two slices of tomato, and basil to taste. Season with salt and pepper, and if you're in a hedonistic mood, add another drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. Press together slightly and enjoy!

Carrie Bagnell Horsburgh
Carrie Bagnell Horsburgh

Macaroni salad (serves 6)

What would a summer picnic be without macaroni salad? This classic version combines the sweetness of sugar, carrots and Veganaise (decadent, egg-free mayo) with the acidity of the vinegar. Be sure to let this salad rest in the refrigerator for at least few hours before serving to allow all the flavors to meld.

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup Veganaise (I rarely recommend brands, but this is the only egg-free mayo I use. It’s simply the best.)
  • 2 T white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 T mustard
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
  • 1 green or red pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup grated carrot

Boil macaroni for about 8 minutes, then drain and rinse in cold water to stop cooking. It needs to be slightly chewier than “al dente,” since it will soften a bit as it rests with other ingredients. Do not overcook!

Mix the veganaise, vinegar, sugar, mustard, salt and peppers. Gently stir in the veggies and pasta. Refrigerate for a few hours or overnight, if possible.

Dynise Balcavage
Dynise Balcavage

Rhubarb-apple pie (Make 1 8-slice pie)


  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 4 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 large apples, peeled and chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 tsp lemon juice

Double crust

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 T Earth Balance or vegan, non-hydrogenated margarine
  • 4 T vegetable-based, non-hydrogenated shortening
  • 8-11 T cold water
  • 2 T soy milk (optional)
  • 1 tsp coarse crystals (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix sugar, flour, baking soda and spices. Add rhubarb, apple and lemon juice. Set aside.

In another large bowl, mix flour and salt. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender, and blend until pea-sized pieces appear. Sprinkle 1 T of cold water, and use a fork to mix it in. Continue this process until the dough begins to stick together. Remember: the less water you use and the less you mix, the flakier your crust will turn out.

Use your hands to form the dough into two balls. Place one ball on the center of a lightly floured surface or silpat. (I love my large silpat, not only because it makes clean-up a breeze, but also because it has measured templates for just about every pie size.) Roll out to a circle that's about an inch or two larger than your pie plate. Wrap it around the rolling pin and ease it onto the pie plate.

Roll out the other half of the crust as described above. Set aside.

Pour the filling into the pastry-lined pie crust. Gently top with the second crust. Trim the edges and crimp as desired. Cut a few air vents into the top to allow steam to escape. I used mini cookie cutters but if you have Martha Stewart tendencies, you can also use a knife to cut stars, swirls, leaves or the Mona Lisa into the crust.

If desired, gently brush the top of the pie with non-dairy milk and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Cover pie edges lightly with foil to prevent overbrowning. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove the foil, and bake for 25 to 30 more minutes or until top of pie is golden brown. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack before digging in.

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