Friday, May 28, 2010
I might be a salad diva – I mean that in the most humble way. What I mean is I proudly make salads just about every day and not your typical lame side dish. Sure salads typically generate a big ole eye roll. But face it – when made creatively and thoughtfully they are nothing short of delicious and perfect for messing around with savory and sweet combinations. Fruit and veggies can coincide so happily atop a fluffy bed of greens, am I right? It’s important to avoid the makings of a boring salad: romaine or iceberg lettuce, grainy tomato, flavorless stale cucumber, maybe a canned black olive or two, boxed croutons, and gloppy ranch. Blah.
Shredded iceberg does not a salad make. There is a world of greenery out there, most of it edible. Think beyond romaine and spinach (not knocking spinach, but you’ve had your turn…let some other greens share the limelight). I also use the word salad for pretty much anything cold: chickpea quinoa salad, kale salad, Edamame rice salad, etc… it doesn’t even have to have greens. A salad can be an accompaniment to a fantastic meal – a brief, crisp repose from the main attraction – or it can be the featured fare, the underdog of entrees. It can be the avenue to use up the last bit of something before it spoils or to try out new pairings like avocado and apple.
A little chop-chop here and peel-and-shred there, you’re on your way to a dish of pure crunchy bliss. The kicker of course is the dressing. The salad doesn’t have to be all about the dressing, like those sad, tasteless salads you get chain restaurants completely smothered in dressing because what’s under it has no pizzazz. I like to let all components in a salad contribute, and the dressing is just a little something to make the fruit or veggies more vibrant. I don’t buy bottled dressings out of sheer principle. All you need is oil, vinegar, and something to fuse the two…mustard, Tahini, peanut butter, or yogurt. Spruce it up with some herbs or spices and you’re set. Dressing seems intimidating, but you probably have everything you need in your cupboard already. If you don’t have Tahini, try mustard in this dressing.
We ate this as a small side, but with a little baked tempeh, tofu, or some edamame or chickpeas, this could easily be a whole lunch. You could even add some quinoa to get more grains and protein in there. Enjoy!
Slivered Kale Salad with Baby Beets
Makes 2 side servings
4-6 Baby beets, assorted colors
4 oz Kale (about 5 leaves), slivered or cut in a chiffonade
¼ c. Zucchini, grated
¼ c. Carrot, grated
¼ c. Cucumber, grated
1 ½ T. White balsamic vinegar or other light tasting vinegar
2 tsp. Tahini
1 tsp. Lemon juice
½ tsp. Thyme, fresh or ¼ tsp. dried
¼ tsp. Salt
Pepper to taste
5-6 Walnuts, chopped
Place beets in a medium sauce pan and fill with just enough water to cover beets. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium. Cover pan and simmer for 6-7 minutes or until just tender. Remove from heat, drain, and set aside. When beets are cool enough to handle, slice them thinly.
To cut the kale in a chiffonade, cut out the stems and tough ribs and place leaves on top of each other. Role into a cigar shaped stack and thinly slice from one end to the other. You should have long strings of kale. Combine kale and other vegetables including beets in a medium mixing bowl.
In a separate small bowl, combine vinegar, Tahini and lemon juice. Whisk with a fork until Tahini completely breaks down and becomes creamy. Add thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over salad and stir to combine completely. Top with chopped walnuts and serve.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Sausage and potatoes is not an odd pair in the least nor is it difficult to muster up a recipe that calls for both. Luckily, with my gravy-craving pangs, both pair well with a thick white sauce. I thought of mashed potatoes and gravy, sausage gravy and biscuits or a breakfast-like hash with sausage for dinner, but none of the more conventional recipes involve many vegetables. And while they sound delicious, I still always need a colorful edge to my food, especially after a good, hot run. With all of these recipes ideas paired with my color craving, I starting cooking this dish with no idea of what I was making.
Over the weekend I came across a grilled potato recipe on Epicurious that sounded delish. I also have an unused grill pan that came into my possession when I acquired roommates. Easy enough as a base or side… I then had a sausage scramble idea in mind to go on top, but I knew it would fare on the dry side, especially over grilled potatoes that would themselves be dry unless I completely doused them with oil. So the solution was…gravy! I had only made vegan gravy once a very long time ago, but it didn’t seem that hard. Onion and garlic powder can turn a dull combo like flour, margarine and water into a tasty treat. Maybe it took a little more sprucing than that, but you get the point.
I like to make my own veggie sausages, but I realize it is a lot of work. This was quick, because I had them on hand, but you could also use store-bought links. I’ll include my recipe below, and it’s worth making the whole batch over the weekend to eat throughout the rest of the week. Whichever you choose, this will end up a tasty meal to be sure. As my designated omnivore taste-tester claimed, “This is my kind of meal!” To which this vegan replied, “Meat and potatoes…?” – Well, yeah.
Spicy Sausage Sauté with Gravy over Grilled Potatoes
Makes 2 servings
Cook time: 30 minutes
For the Sauté
½ T. Olive oil
½ c. Onion, chopped
1 Medium celery stalk, chopped
½ Large carrot, chopped
¾ c. Green bell pepper, chopped
1 Garlic clove, minced (about 2 tsp)
½ tsp. Sage, dried
½ tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Fennel seed
¼ tsp. Crushed red pepper
6-8 Veggie Sausage links (store bought or homemade – recipe below), chopped
For the Potatoes
1 Medium russet potato, ½ inch thick slices
1 T. Canola Oil
Salt & Pepper
For the Gravy
1 T. Earth Balance
1 ½ T. Flour
½ c. Almond milk
½ c. Water
¼ tsp. Onion powder
¼ tsp. Garlic powder
¼ tsp. Thyme, dried
¼ tsp. Salt
Pinch of white pepper
For the Sausage: Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large non-stick skillet and cook onions, celery, and carrots until vegetables are translucent and tender, 8-10 minutes. Add green pepper, garlic and spices to the pan and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in sausage and cook until brown, another 8-10 minutes, coating with cooking spray if mixture becomes too dry. Set aside.
For the potatoes: Put potato slices in a medium sauce pan and cover completely with water. Bring to a boil and reduce water to simmer. Parboil potatoes until just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside in a medium bowl. Coat with canola oil, salt and pepper. Heat a grill pan over high heat and coat with cooking spray. Cook potatoes until grill marks are dark brown, about 3 minutes per side. Set aside.
For the Gravy: Melt the Earth Balance in a small sauce pan over medium high heat. Add flour and stir until roux forms. Whisk in almond milk, water, and spices. Whisk until mixture is well-blended and heat until just bubbling. Lower heat to medium and cook until desired thickness is reach. Remove and set aside.
To Assemble: Place 6-8 potato slices on a plate. Top with 1 cup of sausage sauté and 3-4 tablespoons of gravy.
Veggie Sausage Links (Adapted from Bryanna Clark Grogan's Veggie Ground Pork Recipe)
Makes 10 patties, or 14-16 links
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
2 T. Soy sauce
1 tsp. Sage
1 tsp. Onion powder
1 tsp. Garlic powder
¾ tsp. Paprika
½ tsp. Fennel seed
½ tsp. Crushed Red Pepper
¾ c. Boiling water
1 c. TVP
4 oz. Extra firm tofu, crumbled
½ c. Wheat gluten flour
Mix soy sauce and spices together in small mixing bowl. Whisk in boiling water and stir to completely blended. Pour liquid over TVP and let rehydrate about 10 minutes. Mix in crumbled tofu and let mixture cool completely. Stir in gluten with hands and shape into patties, links or balls. Wrap in aluminum foil and steam or simmer for 20 minutes. After steaming, sausages can be frozen, cooled or sautéed.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
For a 50th birthday party with a fellow believer in “a spoonful of peanut butter helps the medicine go down” who happens to also have an infatuation with M&Ms, a perfect hybrid cookie was in order. There are more healing powers in the chocolate-peanut butter combo than modern medicine can offer. That might be a bold statement, but I have found no better cure for cramps. Having never made peanut butter cookies before, I felt I had to do a lot of research, especially since I am partial to softer cookies despite peanut butter varieties having a crunchier reputation. Of course there is a happy place in between, and working with dense, fat-filled peanut butter, I figured the moisture content wouldn’t be a problem if I found a good recipe.
Another story of infidelity….how do I manage to stray from recipes so easily? I can’t commit. I know everyone has faults, I’m not exempt. And sometimes it’s not so much a fault as it is a certain lacking. I found a great recipe that needed some minor adjustments, and I am only recently becoming comfortable with making my own tweaks while baking. Baking is fickle and one gram off could put 30 cookies in the garbage. So I tread carefully. This outcome was very successful. I’ve already made them twice and have requests for more at work. I have found that you can’t skimp on the margarine- the taste won’t be affected, but the cookie will fall apart easily. This cookie dough isn’t one that can be spooned onto the cookies sheet – you have to clump it together with your hands and shape them like patties. Stir in the chocolate chips before you clump the dough together or you’ll be kneading it for a while to get them incorporated.
Soft and crisp at the same time with chocolate surprises in every bite. Spreading an extra teaspoon of peanut butter on top of a freshly baked cookie like I did is optional but a highly recommended enhancement.
Makes about 36 small cookies
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
1 ¾ c. Unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ tsp. Baking soda
¾ tsp. Salt
1 c. Brown sugar
¾ c. Smooth peanut butter
½ c. Earth or Smart Balance
2-3 T. Almond or soy milk
2 T. Vanilla Extract
1 c. Chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375ºF.
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
In another bowl, beat the sugar, peanut butter and margarine together until smooth. Add almond/soy milk and vanilla and blend until well mixed. Add flour mixture and work with hands when it becomes too thick for your blender. Fold in chocolate chip, pressing firmly into dough.
Using 1 ½-2 tablespoons of dough per cookie, form dough into small discs. Press in 2 directions with the back of a fork for a crisscross pattern. Place on cookie sheet and bake in oven 7-8 minutes or until just golden on the edges. Be careful not to over bake. Remove from oven and let cool on pan to finish cooking. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Blueberry muffins are my favorite and bran muffins are a close second. I used to hate blueberries (a sore admission on my part), but I would eat a blueberry muffin in a heart beat. Blueberries are just starting to come around as a regular grocery item, so I had a few containers on hand. I had already planned to make muffins for the occasion and had picked out a recipe after an extensive online search. As I reached for the flour, what did I see? Flax, bran and nuts, oh my! Of course I wasn’t just going to follow a recipe, duh. I wanted some chew to my muffins and a sweet crunch on top. So I laced these babies with bran and used coconut oil for that magic je ne sais quoi.
The crunch was the important part. I have not had much success with typical streusel toppings consisting of just flour and sugar – they tend to get clumpy and not crunchy. Oat-based toppings are better, but my favorite features nuts. The kind of nut hardly matters, just mix it with sugar and I’m good. In this case I couldn’t decide between walnuts and pecans so I used both with fabulous results. It must have been this special edge that sparked the comment, “You’ve outdone yourself.” Gracias.
These muffins were incredibly moist and, as such, need much care when removed from the pan. Even with a generous amount of cooking spray, they need a good knife-around-the-edge careful lifting TLC. They fall apart easily, but it works out if you’d like to spread a dab of Earth balance in the middle. Delicious, moist, crunchy, semi-sweet and perfect for a healthy indulgence.
Makes 12 medium muffins
Prep time: 5 minute
Cook time: 25 minutes
1 ¼ c. Whole-wheat pastry flour
¼ c. Oat bran
¼ c. Wheat bran
¼ c. Flaxseed meal
1 tsp. Baking powder
1 tsp. Baking soda
½ tsp. Salt
¾ c. Almond milk
2/3 c. Sugar
¼ c. Applesauce
¼ c. Coconut oil
2 tsp. Vanilla
1 c. Blueberries, fresh or frozen
¼ c. Pecan/Walnut mix, coarsely ground
2 T. Sugar
½ tsp. Cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Coat a muffin pan with cooking spray and set aside.
Mix dry ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Blend wet ingredients together in a separate bowl and slowly add to dry. Stir mixture until no clumps are left. Add another 1-2 tablespoons of flour is mixture is too wet.
Mix nuts, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl. Pour batter into muffin pan and top each muffin evenly with streusel topping. Bake for 25 minutes or until inserting a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
I tend to think in regions when I plan a meal. Do I want Italian, Thai, Indian or Middle Eastern? I love exploring cuisines from around the world in my kitchen just as much as I love trying ethnic restaurants from anywhere on the globe. Lately though, when I am looking for new restaurants to try, I find that most of our options here are restaurants offering “New American” cuisine….huh? I don’t really know what that means. Classier than tuna casserole or putting lipstick on meatloaf? I began to wonder whether or not my ignorance is caused by an ill-defined genre of my unwillingness to branch out from my ethnic comfort zone. How strange does that sound – do I hide inside my bubble of worldly eats? Do I even know how to cook nouveau American in my own kitchen?
All the fixin’s for some smokin’ spring rolls were hanging out in my cupboard waiting to be wrapped in rice paper, but somewhere deep in my cooking subconscious rang these new insecurities regarding the absence of “American” recipes in my repertoire, save for my killer Mac n’ Cheez staple. Spring rolls felt too comfortable and I wanted to venture. After all, it’s can’t be blogged if it’s not a venture. So my big leafy bunch of greens came to mind as a sort of substitute for rice paper. I had also been dying to finish up the last batch of wild rice I got for Christmas. And it hit me? Is this what new American is? Remaking a spectacular ethnic delight but with homegrown ingredients? I don’t know, but these tasted fabulous.
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes
For the Wild Rice
½ c. Wild rice
3 c. Broth/water mix
1 sprig Thyme
1 sprig Rosemary
For the Marinated Tofu
8 oz. Extra Firm Tofu, drained
¼ c. Dry sherry
1 ½ T. Soy sauce
1 ½ T. Hoisin sauce
6-8 Drop of liquid smoke
For the Sauce
¼ c. Dried cranberries, sweetened
1 c. Water
¼ c. Balsamic vineagar
1 sprig Thyme
½ tsp Salt
For the Chard
1 Large carrot, sliced into 3” matchsticks
4-6 Large leaves of Swiss chard
Preheat oven to 400˚F.
For the wild rice: bring all rice ingredients to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer rice until tender, 40-45 minutes. Drain and set aside.
For the tofu: Drain and slice tofu into ¼” slices. Pat dry with a paper towel and place tofu in one layer in a glass baking dish. Combine remaining marinade ingredients and pour over tofu. Bake for 20 minutes. Flip slices over and bake an additional 10 minutes or until most of the marinade is absorbed. When cool enough to handle, cut tofu into matchstick slices. Set aside
For the sauce: Bring cranberries and water to a boil. Cook until cranberries have re-hydrated and water has reduced slightly, about 5 minutes. Add remaining ingredients and lower heat to medium. Cook until sauce is reduced to ½ cup, 6-8 minutes. Set aside.
For the chard: To blanch the chard, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and using tongs place chard one leaf at a time in water until bright green, about 10 seconds per leaf. Remove from heat and plunge in ice water or run under cold water. Set aside and dab until dry. Do the same with the match stick carrots, cooking for 20 seconds. Drain and set aside.
To assemble: Place one leaf on a large plate. Place 3 T. wild rice, 6-8 slices of tofu, and 4-6 slices of carrots in the center. Fold up leaf by bringing bottom over the stuffing, folding in the sides, and roll the chard from bottom to top. Place on another plate and repeat with remaining leaves. When finished, drizzle cranberry sauce on top of each roll and serve.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Sunday lunch was another episode of indecision combined with an intense craving for crunchy vegetables after a hot mid-morning jog. I couldn’t pass up a single thing in my crisper, so it all went in the wok. Ok - I passed on the chard after having just made the rolls, but I threw down most of what I had in this delicious stir-fry. Stir fry is such a simple dish that I almost feel stupid posting a recipe for it. I hate reading stir-fry recipes, because they all sound the same to me. I had forgotten how useful they were when I was just learning to cook. I don’t care who you are, you can make this regardless of your cooking know-how. Pick and choose your own veggies to throw in, add a little soy with a small pinch of sugar and be careful with the chili paste.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
1 tsp. Sambal oelek, or chili garlic paste*
1 tsp. Sugar or agave nectar
½ tsp. Soy sauce
*Sambal oelek is a very spicy chili paste. Start with one teaspoon and add more if desired.
Heat wok on stove over high heat. When pan is hot add oil and lower heat to medium-high. Add white parts of onions, ginger and garlic and fry for 30-45 seconds or until fragrant. Add vegetables, soy sauce and 2 T. water, increasing heat back to high and stirring frequently. Toss vegetables to coat and cook until just tender and liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Add black beans and remaining ingredients to the hot wok along with the other 2 T. of water. Cook until liquid has evaporated, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over vegetables.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
I’m not sure what sparked my extreme craving for polenta last night, but I pretty much had to have it last night after thinking about it all day. I’ve had so much wheat over the past couple of weeks that I started to develop a sense of negligence and apathy towards other grains. Shame on me. Taking inventory of my grain selection, I had a pretty full stock of polenta, or coarsely ground cornmeal. Something about this fluffy Italian staple just hits me in the right spot when I need something comforting and filling that feels and tastes like a fatty, guilty carb-indulgence though in reality it is very healthy and low in calories. I am allowed to pamper in the occasional illusion of digestively splurging on some creamy, cheesy, off-limits edible luxury by the plateful. On days where I reminisce of eating those comfort foods of yesteryear, polenta is a fabulous outlet.
I tend to make a lot of dishes that are semi-saucy, not too stewy, but thicker than soupy…if that makes sense. In other words, they are meant to be served over some kind of grain. I typically start with the usually onion-garlic-spices combo, add some liquid, and simmer until the dish has reduced. It ends up being somewhere in between thick and thin but with a lot of flavor. For topping my polenta, I had just purchased a fresh bunch of kale. Some Italian recipes came to mind as kale is also an Italian staple often paired with white cannellini beans or potatoes in soups, crostini toppings or side dishes. I definitely wanted a kale dish here, but beans are a tough sell in my household save for the brawnier varieties like Edamame, fresh fava and garbanzo beans. I was already taking a little texture risk with the polenta this time around so I didn’t want to put too many beans in one pod. I looked up a few recipes for kale and chickpeas together, but decided to just wing it in the end. Classic fresh Italian herbs added bright flavor and an extra punch of both crushed red and black pepper took the whole thing up a huge notch. All I have to say is….holy polenta Batman, this rocked.
Kale and Chickpea Stew with Basil Polenta
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
For the Stew
2 tsp. Olive oil
¾ c. Onion, chopped
2 Garlic cloves, minced
1 T. Tomato paste
1 tsp fresh thyme or ½ tsp dried
½ tsp fresh rosemary, minced or ¼ tsp dried
1/8 tsp Crushed red pepper
½ tsp Salt
1 ½ c. Tomatoes, chopped
½ c. Water or broth
1 c. Chickpeas, cooked or canned
2-3 c. Kale, de-stemmed and chopped
¼ tsp Black pepper or more to taste
For the Polenta
1 c. Water
1 c. Broth, vegetable or mushroom
½ c. Polenta
½ T Basil, dried
½ tsp Garlic powder
½ tsp Onion powder
¼ tsp Salt
3 T Nutritional Yeast
For the Stew: In a large shallow sauce pan or deep skillet, sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat. Cook until onions start to caramelize and brown, about 7-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute. Stir in tomato paste and cook another 30 seconds. Increase heat to medium high and add the next 6 ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook 2-3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium low, add remaining ingredients and simmer uncovered until liquid has reduced to a thin sauce and kale is tender, about 10 minutes.
For the Polenta: Combine water and broth in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Whisk water/broth in a circular motion and slowly pour in polenta. Continue whisking to avoid clumps. Once polenta is boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer. Add basil, onion powder, garlic powder and salt. Cook until polenta is tender and slightly stick to the pan, about 7-8 minutes. Stir in nutritional yeast and season with additional salt if desired.