Thousands of wines at your fingertips

Search database of wine reviews
Read about wines BEFORE they hit the stores
Match wines with foods



A gift for the literate wine-lover in your life – who may be you. Tony's murder mystery novels, set in the world of wine, are now available at a discount – autographed.

Find out more...

Listen to Tony

Listen to Tony talk about wine on 680 NEWS radio on Fridays at 10:48 am, on Saturdays at 2:48 am and 9:48 am, and on Sundays at 12:48 am and 1:48 pm.
Tony Aspler
Wine Reviews
Food & Wine Match
Personal Wine Cellar
Pocket Wine Cellar
Gourmet Recipes
Wine Primer
More Tony Aspler
Tony's Books Tony's Books
Ontario Wine Awards
About Us About Us

E-mail Address or
Forget Password?


All about sparkling wine Port wine 101 Pairing food and wine Pairing wine and cheese What wine to serve with chocolate Why we like to visit wine country A wine tour of Italy Germany and German wines Wine touring France: Cognac and Bordeaux Wine touring France: Burgundy A tour of California wine country











More Gourmet Recipes  

Vegan? (January 24, 2013)

Polenta with Wild Mushrooms, Hazelnuts and Figs
Erin's Pizza On-The-Go
Heather Mills' Sesame Soba Noodles with Peanut Dressing
Pomegranate Poached Pears with Cashew Cream
Double Chocolate Chip Cookies
Shiso Leaf Martini

It all started at Thanksgiving when not one, but two guests gently inquired about bringing vegan side dishes! Later, a friend took us out to dinner; the restaurant was jammed with a waiting lineup. While we waited, we noticed enticing platters of food being served; it all looked delicious... whoa, the place is strictly vegan! All these people; all that food; what's going on here?

The term vegan was coined in England in 1944 by Donald Watson, co-founder of the British Vegan Society, to mean "non-dairy or eggs vegetarian." It's not quite that simple: dietary vegans are strict vegetarians who don't touch any animal-derived substances; ethical vegans extend the vegan philosophy farther, and are against using animals and animal products for any purpose; environmental vegans are motivated by the idea that industrial farming of animals is environmentally damaging and unsustainable.


Veganism is definitely a growing movement. In many countries the number of vegan restaurants is increasing, and some top athletes in endurance sports – including the Ironman triathlon and the ultramarathon – practice veganism, including raw veganism. They're not crazy: the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada have stated that a well-planned vegan diet is appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle. Going vegan has been found to offer protection against heart disease, as the diet tends to be higher in dietary fibre, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin E, iron, and phytochemicals, and lower in calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12. Researchers agree that vegans should eat foods fortified with B12 or take a daily supplement.

All this information is making us hungry, and happily we've got what's needed. Four vegan cookbooks just came in, plus two more that contain vegan recipes. Hey, this is big.

Pure Vegan by Joseph Shuldiner contains 70 recipes... as the author says, "For Beautiful Meals and Clean Living!" Seeing yummy breads, colorful salads, and dishes like Polenta with Wild Mushrooms, Hazelnuts and Figs, Tomato and Three Bean Salad, Potato Torte plus yes, alcoholic drinks such as Blood Orange Margarita and our favourite, Limoncello, we know this book was a winner! Shuldiner is a graphic designer, photographer, writer and cook with a passion for gourmet plant-based recipes, D.I.Y. cuisine and locally sourced ingredients. When not in the kitchen or garden, you'll find Joseph Shuldiner at Shuldiner Studio, a design and consulting firm in Los Angeles.

Sweet and Easy Vegan is full of treats made with whole grains and natural sweeteners, with 80 all-day recipes from hearty breakfast cereal and coffee-break breads to sinfully indulgent desserts worthy of the smartest dinner parties. Author and chef Robin Asbell shows you how with expert information on whole grains and natural sweeteners, plus a guide to ingredients and where to find them. Asbell is a food writer and cooking teacher specializing in natural foods, and the author of Big Vegan, New Vegetarian and The New Whole Grain Cookbook!

Linda Long has had a lifelong relationship with the food and hospitality industry, and has been a committed vegan for more than three decades. No wonder her latest book, Virgin Vegan, The Meatless Guide to Pleasing your Palate, is a rousing success. She's the real thing, folks; Linda has lectured at universities on vegan nutrition and as a member of the James Beard Foundation (JBF), she gave the first book talk on a vegan subject at the James Beard House. A member of International Association of culinary Professionals, the New York Women's Culinary Alliance and the American Society of Media Photographers, she authored and photographed the award-winning Great Chefs Cook Vegan featuring 25 of the nations' top chefs applying their talents to plant foods! (See my article on that cookbook!)

Everyone loves BabyCakes NYC, Chef Erin McKenna's bakery offering all-natural, organic and delicious breads and desserts free from the common allergens: wheat, gluten, dairy, casein and eggs. McKenna says, "White sugar will never be found in our bakery, nor will we ever use toxic chemical sweeteners. Instead, most products are sweetened with agave nectar – a natural syrup from a cactus which is low on the glycemic index and often a safe alternative to diabetics."

Her eponymous cookbook, BabyCakes, lets the home cook in on her delicious "secrets" to create mouth-watering dishes like Chocolate Shortbread Scones with Caramelized Bananas, Healthy Hostess Cupcakes (much loved by Pamela Anderson!), Double-chocolate Crumb Cake, and a fabulous Cherry Cobbler! Next time in New York or West Hollywood, stop in and you may be waiting in back of Mary-Louise Parker, Zooey Deschanel and Natalie Portman.

As committed carnivores, we were still a touch skeptical, but upon reading and trying the recipes from this collection, realized that we were not headed for a diet of tofu, nuts, shoots and grasses, but could enjoy real, wonderful, full flavour, belly-filling food! And you will too!

On today's menu:

Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (130 KB)


Polenta with Wild Mushrooms, Hazelnuts and Figs

Polenta with Wild Mushrooms, Hazelnuts and Figs

Make no mistake, this dish would be at home in 5-star restaurants anywhere in the world!

From Pure Vegan. Author Joseph Shuldiner says, "Wild mushrooms, hazelnuts, figs and thyme all make me think of the Pacific Northwest, so I came up with this dish to showcase the earthy flavours of an Oregon forest. The black currant dressing makes for a snazzy presentation that's guaranteed to impress." The preparation is a bit elaborate, but so worth the effort – this dish is absolutely dazzling!

Serves 4

  • 4 dried black Mission figs, stemmed
  • 1 cup black currant juice or 100% pomegranate juice
    Black Currant Dressing
  • Reserved black currant juice (from the figs)
  • 1½ tsp Dijon mustard
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 2 tsp minced shallot
  • 1 Tbsp crème de cassis
  • 1 Tbsp red wine
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup hazelnut oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan and brushing
  • 9 cups water
  • Salt
  • 2 cups polenta
  • 1 cup French green lentils, rinses and drained
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 2 Tbsp chopped shallot
  • 10 ounces mixed wild mushrooms (such as oyster, chanterelles, and stemmed shitake), thinly sliced
  • 2 Tbsp hazelnuts, toasted and skinned, and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • Baby lettuce, arugula, or microgreens for garnish

To prepare the figs:
Put the figs in a small bowl. In a small saucepan, bring the black currant juice to a boil over high heat. Pour the juice over the figs and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the juice, and coarsely chop the figs.

To make the dressing:
In a small saucepan, heat the reserved black currant juice over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 2 Tbsp, 20 to 30 minutes. Transfer the reduction to a blender. Add the mustard, lime juice, shallot, crème de cassis, wine and vinegar and blend until smooth. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the hazelnut oil and blend until the mixture is thick and smooth. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer into a squeeze bottle or bowl.

Lightly coat a 9-inch square baking pan with olive oil. In a large saucepan, combine 6 cups of the water and salt over high heat. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then slowly add the polenta, whisking constantly and vigorously to break up any lumps. Lower the heat to maintain a gentle boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until very thick and pulling away from the sides of the pan, about 20 minutes. Pour the polenta into the prepared pan and use the back of a wet spoon or a wet spatula to spread it in an even, flat layer and smoothen the surface. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 15 minutes.

Put the lentils in a medium saucepan and add the remaining 3 cups water. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat and simmer until soft, 30 to 45 minutes. Drain, then season with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat the 3 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and mushrooms and sauté until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the figs, hazelnuts and thyme and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes.

Preheat a medium-hot outdoor grill or heat a grill pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Cut four 3-inch circles of polenta using a biscuit cutter, glass or, in a pinch, a large can with the top and bottom removed. (Save the scraps for another use). Brush olive oil on both sides of the polenta and grill until the bottom is browned and the polenta no longer sticks to the grill, about 5 minutes.

Reheat the lentils and mushrooms, if need be. Spoon one-fourth of the lentils in a 4-inch pool in the center of each plate. Place a polenta round on top of the lentils. Spoon one-fourth of the mushroom mixture over the polenta, then top with a few leaves of the baby lettuce. Drizzle 2 to 3 Tbsp of the dressing over the top and around each plate and serve immediately, with the remaining dressing alongside.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Red Bordeaux, Ontario Meritage, New World Cabernet Sauvignon


Erin's Pizza On-The-Go

Erin's Pizza On-The-Go

We love this pizza version; quick, tasty, pretty and wonderfully healthy! It's from Erin Schrode, who Long describes as a young woman on the go (see She promotes a world view in relation to global sustainability, environmental education and conscious lifestyle choices. She certainly made a good one with this recipe!

Linda Long has filled her handy book Virgin Vegan with great photos, proving that a vegan diet is colorful and appealing. She certainly proved it for us!

Serves 4

  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 large brown rice tortillas
  • 1 medium green bell pepper
  • 1 medium sliced red onion
  • 3 medium sliced and quartered tomatoes, heirlooms if possible
  • 1 cup olives, a mix of kalamata and niçoise, pitted and chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • Pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp each basil, oregano, rosemary and thyme
  • Optional extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 450°F. On a cutting board, mash garlic and salt together, sliding side of knife back and forth to create a paste consistency. Bake tortillas for 5–7 minutes until slightly crispy. Remove from oven and spread with thin coating of garlic paste. Place bell pepper and onion on garlic, cover with tomato slices and sprinkle olives and basil over the top. Add salt, pepper and seasonings, to taste. Bake on top shelf of oven for 10–12 minutes until edges are golden brown, checking periodically to ensure top does not burn. Drizzle with olive oil if desired and serve.

Variation: add vegan cheese before adding vegetables.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, Pouilly- Fumé


Heather Mills' Sesame Soba Noodles with Peanut Dressing

Heather Mills' Sesame Soba Noodles with Peanut Dressing

From Virgin Vegan. Linda Long says this is a perfect recipe for everyone, but certainly is a great way to get children to have a high-protein plant dish using peanuts and buckwheat noodles (soba). It's so delicious that we don't care whose diet it covers, it's rich and satisfying without being an overstuff pasta dish! More please!!!!!

Serves 4

  • 1 cup peanuts, raw
  • 5 Tbsp nondairy milk (rice, soy or almond)
  • 5 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 5 Tbsp tahini
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 2 Tbsp sake or white wine, rice wine or  apple cider vinegar
  • 5 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp gingerroot, grated
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 package soba noodles, regular spaghetti or linguine
  • 3 tsp (only if making crispy noodles) sesame oil

Mix ingredients for dressing in a blender; if too thick, gradually add a little hot water. Set aside.

Cook noodles in boiling water for 7 minutes; drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. (For crispy noodles, cook noodles in hot sesame oil in a wok or large skillet for 5 minutes. However, if not using to crisp the noodles, drizzle 1/4 tsp of sesame oil over the newly rinsed noodles to make it easier to blend the peanut sauce with the noodles.)

Spread about a half cup of dressing in the bottom of a bowl; add noodles. With a spatula, gently lift some dressing up from the bottom and gently coax into the noodles. Add more dressing as desired.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Off-dry Riesling, Alsace dry Muscat


Pomegranate Poached Pears with Cashew Cream

Pomegranate Poached Pears with Cashew Cream

Sweet and Easy Vegan author Robin Asbell says "A pear is a lovely thing simply by virtue of its voluptuous form and sweet, mild flesh. In this gorgeous dessert, these natural qualities are enhanced by poaching the pears in ruby red, antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice and garnishing them with a creamy cashew topping." Feel free to substitute other red or purple juices or red with for the pomegranate juice. And remember to plan ahead as chilling time is involved. We add that this is the perfect dessert for a seduction dinner...

  • 4 Bosc pears
  • 2 cups pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup apple juice concentrate, thawed
  • 1/4 cup agave syrup

To make the poached pears: Carefully peel the pears, leaving the stems on if possible. Using a paring knife, cut a cone-shaped hollow in the base of each pear. Then carefully cut straight up into the pear to remove the seeds and core without cutting through the pear. Place the pears in a large saucepan and pour in the pomegranate juice, apple juice concentrate, and agave syrup. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, partially cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, turning the pears every 5 minutes to evenly colour them and suffuse them with the poaching liquid. Test for doneness by piercing with a paring knife. When the pears are tender but not falling apart, remove from the heat. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to gently transfer them to a plate.

Put the poaching liquid over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes. The liquid will be quite syrupy, and the bubbles will be large and shiny. Pour the syrup over the pears and baste them with any syrup that pools around them. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 4 hours.

Cashew Cream

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours
  • 1 Tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 4 Tbsp nondairy creamer
  • 4 sprigs fresh mint for garnish

Meanwhile, make the cashew cream. Drain the cashews and pat dry with a clean dish towel. In a blender or food processor, process the cashews until coarsely ground. Add the agave syrup, vanilla, salt and 2 Tbsp of the nondairy creamer and blend until smooth, gradually drizzling in the remaining 2 Tbsp nondairy creamer while raising the speed, an stopping a few times to scrape down the sides. Refrigerate until well chilled, about 3 hours.

Serve each pear topped with about 1/4 cup of the cashew cream; if you like, you can put the cream in a pastry bag with a large star tip and pipe it over the pears for a more decorative presentation. Garnish each serving with a mint sprig.

Tony's wine recommendation:
Ontario Icewine, Sauternes, Moscato d'Asti


Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Have you been eating twice as much chocolate now that studies have shown conclusively that this miraculous bean is actually good for you? Oh, we have, especially as it's certainly more appealing than gulping down a $7 wheatgrass shot with the rest of the aerobics squad at the health-food store! Here, then, is BabyCakes NYC's ode to cocoa: A tried-and-true chocolate-worshipping recipe with crunchy edges and a soft, chewy center that will put you in antioxidant overdrive! Bonus tip: if you add minced fresh mint to the dough, the cookies taste just like Girl Scout Thin Mints!

Makes 36

  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 1¼ cups evaporated cane juice
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups gluten-free all-purpose baking flour
  • 1/4 cup flax meal
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1½ tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, mix together the oil. Evaporated cane juice, applesauce, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, flax meal, baking soda, and xanthan gum. Using a rubber spatula, carefully add the dry ingredients to the wet mixture and combine until a dough is formed. Gently fold in the chocolate chips just until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.

Using a melon baller, scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing the portions 1 inch apart. Gently press each with the heel of your hand to help them spread. Bake the cookies on the center rack for 14 minutes, rotating the sheets 180 degrees after 9 minutes. The finished cookies will be crisp on the edges and soft in the center.

Let the cookies stand on the sheets for 10 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks and cool completely before covering . Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. (Hahahah if they last more than 3 minutes...)

Tony's wine recommendation:
Late bottled vintage Port, 10-year-old tawny Port, chilled cream Sherry


Shiso Leaf Martini

Shiso Leaf Martini

Well, we're thrilled. This sexy drink is one of several from Pure Vegan, and it's fabulous; a whole new taste sensation with a pow! Shiso, the scallop-edge dark green leaf from Japan, infuses this vodka martini with a minty, basil-inflected bite that is way more potent than mere sake! This erases forever the picture of veganistas as gentle folk in Birkenstocks and honest clothing carefully tending their tofu crop; they've been joined by smart, young things with IPOs and a great fashion sense!

  • 8 ounces vodka
  • 7 fresh shiso leaves (available at Japanese and Asian markets)
  • Ice cubes
  • 1½ ounces dry vermouth
  • 1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
  • Dash of Angostura bitters (optional)

Combine the vodka and 5 of the shiso leaves in a jar, cover tightly and infuse for at least 8 hours and up to overnight.

Chill two martini glasses in the freezer for at least 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, discard the steeped shiso leaves. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then add the infused vodka, vermouth, lime juice and bitters (if using). Shake vigorously until well chilled, about 10 seconds. Stain into the chilled glasses and float a shiso leaf in each glass as a garnish.

Tony's wine recommendation:
No match. Seriously.


We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and photographs:

Gibbs Smith, Layton, Utah, and Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, for Virgin Vegan, by Linda Long. Text © 2012 Linda Long. Photographs © 2012 Linda Long.

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, and Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, for Pure Vegan by Joesph Shuldiner. Text © 2012 Joseph Shuldiner. Photographs © 2102 Emily Brooke Sandor and Joseph Shuldiner.

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, and Raincoast Publishing, Vancouver, for Sweet & Easy Vegan by Robin Asbell. Text © 2012 Robin Asbell. Photographs © 2012 Joseph De Leo.

Clarkson Potter, a division of Random House, Inc., for BabyCakes by Erin McKenna. © 2009 Erin McKenna. Photographs © 2009 Tara Donne.


Download this article in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (130 KB)

Find more recipes with the recipe indexes by title and type

Happily enjoyed by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Helen Hatton and Ron Morris at Le Caveau des Gourmets in Gigondas




More Gourmet Recipes