Tassajara Cookbook: lunches, picnics & appetizers

Author Karla Oliveira has created a lovely cookbook filled with tempting recipes and great photos of the San Francisco  Zen Mountain Center surroundings. (The photos are by Patrick Tregenza and Renshin Judy Bunce.) The recipes are based on the lunches provided by the center for their guests.  Many of them are part of the “Bag Lunch” provided to those who choose not to be near the dining room at lunchtime. The grounds are enticing, so many may prefer to picnic. But these are no peanut butter and jelly sandwich picnic lunches. These are delectable dishes worthy of a feast!

The Table of Contents explains that the recipes are not all vegan, so there is a section on Dairy Spreads and one on Vegan Spreads and there is also a section on Dairy Cookies and Vegan Cookies. (The cookies used a little too much sugar for my palate, so the recipes below are from the salads section. In fact, for my grandson’s graduation, my daughter Eileen & I made two of the salads for a potluck celebration at a classmate’s home. See recipes below.)

In the Foreword by Edward Espe Brown+, who authored the best selling Tassajara Bread Book back in the 1970s, wrote:

Of course, if you haven’t been to “Bag Lunch,” you haven’t a clue to the incredible extravagance — the luscious display of breads, cheeses, spreads, sauces, salsas, fruits, home-baked cookies, chips, guacamole, tomato slices, lettuces, nut butters, jams and jellies…”

The colorful photos of some of the recipes couple with the lovely photos of nature caught my eye in the book store and I knew I wanted to own this book. The 8 1/2″ X 11″ format with only one or two recipes on a page makes for easy reading, and as the inside of the cover states: “…it is a valuable resource for picnics, snacks, appetizers, and small plates…. perfect for vegans and vegetarians on the go, or anyone who wants to add healthy, tasty snacks to his or her diet.”

The Tassajara Cookbook by Karla Oliveira is published by Gibbs Smith and is available in book stores or online at Amazon.com. Just click the icon below.

Here are just two of the many recipes of savory spreads, pates and loaves, sandwich fillings, granolas, salads, chutneys, sauces, marinades, baked goods and sweet treats.

Tabbouli Salad

This is a traditional Tabbouli Salad, but here currants embellish the recipe.


1 cup bulgur*
2 1/4 cups boiling water
1 cup minced green onions
1 cup minced parsley
1 tomato, chopped
salt & fresh pepper
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup chopped mint
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup fresh currants (optional)


Put the bulgur into a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl with a plate and let sit for 20 minutes; drain with a fine mesh strainer.

Add the green onions, parsley, tomato, salt, and pepper and mix well; add lemon juice and then refrigerate. Just before serving, add mint, olive oil and currants, if desired, and toss well. Serve in a bowl lined with lettuce leaves. (I used sprouts. es)

*Bulgur is a cracked wheat that has been partially cooked, so preparing it takes very little time. See the Glossary for a more complete description.



Couscous Salad

The flavors of Dijon mustard and coriander add zing to this delicious grain salad. A perfect addition to any picnic.


1 1/3 cups water
1 cup couscous ** (I used large pearled Israeli couscous instead of the smaller grained couscous. es)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons coriander
fresh-ground pepper to taste
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1/2 cup chopped  green onions
1 cup chopped tomato
1/2 cup seeded and chopped cucumber
1/2 cup minced parsley


In a small saucepan, bring the water to a boil and add the couscous and salt. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let sit 5 minutes. Just before using, fluff with a fork.

To make the dressing, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, Dijon. coriander and pepper in a small bowl.

Ina large bowl, combine the couscous, garbanzo beans, green onions, tomatoes, cucumber and parsley; mix well. Add the dressing and toss to combine. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving to allow the flavors to develop.

**Couscous – Couscous is actually a kind of middle eastern pasta. See the Glossary for a complete description.

My note: My daughter and I also added red belle peppers, grated carrots, and peas.

+Brown is a past president of the Zen Center and author Oliveira acknowledges Brown “for his teachings, humor and generous spirit.” Brown also helped found the renowned Green’s Restaurant in San Francisco, where I ate with my son and loved it. Chef Deborah Madison has her own best selling cookbooks, starting with The Greens Cookbook: Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine from the Celebrated Restaurant. If you Google Deborah Madison, her website will come up and you can look at all her cookbooks and what they offer.

Below is a link to The Tassajara Bread Book and one to The Greens Cookbook:







































































































































































2 thoughts on “Tassajara Cookbook: lunches, picnics & appetizers

  1. I love quinoa and I am also on a gluten free diet because of my tinnitus. Quinoa would make a great sub. for either couscous or bulgur. Maybe I will mention that!Thanx, ellensue

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