Vegan Tofu Bowls with Citrus Tahini Sauce

tofu bowl 2What should make when you need a reset after weekend eating? When you aren’t fully inspired, but have a fridge full of random vegetables? Or, when you feel like there is nothing in the fridge? When you have a bunch of diet restrictions at the dinner table? When you want to eat something incredibly satisfying and delicious?

Tofu bowls.

I’ve been making some variation of this bowl almost monthly for years. Tofu, rice, and the sauce are constants, but toppings always fluctuate depending on the season and what is in the fridge. If the ingredient list for the sauce seems long (or maybe contains nothing in your normal pantry), know that almost all the ingredients keep very well, so once you invest in them once you can make these bowls whenever the craving strikes (which will be often). The sauce is the great unifier and elevator that takes this from a bowl of health to a delightful dinner you really want to eat.

I like to use a mix of raw and cooked vegetables for textural contrast, but you can literally use whatever you fancy. Cucumbers, carrots, radishes, salad turnips, and avocado all make great options for a raw component. For cooked I’ve used many different types of greens (kale, collards, radish, turnip, chard), cabbage, Brussels sprouts, summer squashes, winter squashes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and eggplant. Don’t feel limited by these options, use what you’ve got. This is also a great time to utilize leftover cooked vegetables from another meal.

This is the tail end of my CSA and my final week included celeriac, sweet potatoes, radishes, parsley, scallions, and lettuce. I used the lettuce in a salad inspired by this recipe with roasted carrots, couscous, and yogurt. It is an excellent time of year to make these root vegetable bowls.  If you haven’t yet, it’s time to make the celeriac slaw from a couple weeks ago (I’d throw in the scallions too), or this excellent winter chowder. If you want to see the whole season of CSA recipes, they are under the Potter Hill tag!

Vegan Tofu Bowls with Citrus Tahini Sauce

Serves 6.

Tofu marinade and method adapted from Thug Kitchen, sauce just barely adapted from Bowl + Spoon (which is also posted here). I’ve written this to serve 6, but if you want to scale this assume ¼ cup uncooked brown rice (1 ½ cups total) and ~2.5 ounces tofu per serving.

Marinated Tofu

  • ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon garlic chili sauce (or, 1 teaspoon grated garlic and 2 teaspoons sriracha)
  • 1 14-ounce container extra firm tofu

Citrus Tahini Sauce

  • 1⁄3 cup fresh-squeezed orange, clementine, or tangerine juice (you only need a little, so go the distance)
  • ½ cup tahini
  • 2 tablespoons honey, maple syrup, or agave
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

For serving:

  • Cooked brown rice or noodles (see head note)
  • Raw vegetables and herbs (for these I used 1 small bunch radishes (sliced), pickled onions, scallions, and avocado)
  • Cooked vegetables (for these I used 1 large sweet potato which I cubed and roasted with the tofu, plus the radish greens which I threw on the same pan as the sweet potato in the last 2 minutes of cooking)

Remove tofu from container and drain all liquid (don’t discard the container!!!). Wrap tofu in a clean cloth napkin or dish towel, and place on a bowl/plate. Top with another bowl/plate, and place a weight on top (such as a full can of beans). Let drain for at least 30 minutes, but longer is great.

While tofu is draining place all marinade ingredients in a bowl and whisk to combine.

Remove tofu from the napkin and slice into 1/4″ planks width-wise (you should have 10-12 planks total). Return planks to their original container, and pour marinade over them. Poke in between the slices so the marinade can mingle. Let tofu marinate for 30 minutes (flip the slices over halfway through if you can remember to).

Preheat oven to 450F. Spread out tofu slices (reserving additional marinade) and roast for 15 minutes. Flip, spoon extra marinade over each slice, and roast for 10 more minutes. Flip one more time, spoon any remaining marinade over, and roast for 5 minutes more.

Whisk all sauce ingredients to combine. Prep vegetables for serving.

Serve bowls with rice, tofu, raw and cooked vegetables, any extra marinade, tahini citrus sauce, and extra sriracha. For maximum meal flexibility let diners assemble their own bowls.

 

 

Advertisements

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

IMG_20181018_173543805I have a certain affinity for unappetizing foods. Foods that look terrible no matter what, but taste so good. Poutine. Beans and rice. Baba ghanoush. This soup certainly fits into that category. It is completely brown. Not the rich, glistening brown of a crispy French fry, but the flat brown of a pureed soup. But (but!) it is worth making.

It starts with summer vegetables you know would taste so good roasted, but in August you can’t bring yourself to turn on the oven. While August may be their peak season, tomatoes and eggplant are usually hanging around until the first frost. Which is a point you welcome turning on the oven, and can take those vegetables that are no longer quite at their peak and concentrate their flavor.

You halve them, along with an onion and a few garlic cloves, and stick them in the oven for 45 minutes to get a little bit caramelized. Then you simmer them with some stock for another 45 minutes and puree. What you have is warm and comforting, but not a heavy soup. It is a fall soup made with summer ingredients, or a perfect soup for the transition of seasons. It’s not pretty, but we all have our days.

Besides the eggplant, tomato, and onions I used for this recipe, the rest of my Potter Hill CSA share this week was celeriac, spicy lettuce mix, chard, mustard greens, Tokyo bekana, parsley, and a jalapeño. Alongside this soup, we had a salad of spicy greens dressed with extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. I’m going to use basically all of the greens in the Olive Oil-Braised Chickpeas with Swiss Chard and Cumin from Dinner: Changing the Game. I haven’t decided how to use the celeriac and parsley yet, but I’ve made this slaw in the past and loved it. If you can’t decide how to use a jalapeño, you could always slice it and throw it into the jar of pickles you’ve already made, or use it to flavor a jar of pickles of another vegetable (spicy pickles carrots!!!).

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 3 medium tomatoes, halved
  • 1 large eggplant (about 1 1/2  pounds), halved lengthwise
  • 1 small onion, halved
  • 6 large garlic cloves (do not peel)
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. Place tomatoes, eggplant, onion, and garlic cloves on baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Roast for 20 minutes, then check to make sure everything is doing okay (especially the garlic cloves). Rotate the pan and return to the oven for 25 more minutes. All of the vegetables should be soft and slightly charred.

Let cool slightly and remove the skin/peel from the eggplant, onion, and garlic. Add all to the pot along with the tomatoes, broth, salt, and garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook with the lid on for 45 minutes. Using a stick blender puree the soup (or, you can blend in batches in a food processor or blender). Taste for seasoning and serve with crusty bread and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Herby couscous salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and pea shoots

IMG_6346 (2)The majority of August was a relief from the intense heat of July. That heat and humidity are back in full force this week, and I did my best to come up with a dinner that used as little cooking as possible. This is a quick couscous salad with lots of fresh herbs, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and pea shoots. It is a meal in itself, but would be an excellent picnic side or bed for some juicy grilled chicken or sausage.

I happened to have couscous in my pantry (plus it is so quick cooking), but this would also be great with other small pastas like Israeli couscous or orzo, or with another grain like quinoa. In an effort to minimize my heat in the kitchen, I didn’t use any cooked vegetables but roasted or grilled vegetables would be delicious too. I riffed off this parsley sauce, but used scallions as well and upped the quantity.

All of the vegetables and herbs in this salad are from my Potter Hill CSA share this week except the cucumber, which I bought separated from Paul. The rest of the share this week was a baby head of romaine lettuce, celery, 2 lbs of large tomatoes, microgreens, carrots, kale, and mint.

Lettuce and tomatoes went into an epic BLT with Short Creek bacon (order some this week!!!!). I’ve also been eating tomatoes my absolute favorite way: on top of toast slathered with mayo, with salt and pepper.  If you haven’t made these greens with yogurt yet then that is your kale plan (if you have made this…it is still your plan). This marinated celery salad looks like a great use for the giant head, plus some cherry tomatoes and scallions (it’s marinating in the fridge right now for dinner tomorrow!). I don’t have a plan for the carrots this week, but with the greens snipped off they will last in the fridge until inspiration (or hunger) strikes.

Herby couscous salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and pea shoots

Serves 6 as a meal, or 10-12 as a side

Couscous

  • 3 cups couscous
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Herb sauce

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ cups parsley leaves
  • 1 ½ cups chopped scallions
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 ½ lemons)
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Salad

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small cucumber (mine was 1 1/2 cups chopped)
  • 1 large handful pea shoots and/or microgreens (about 1 cup chopped)
  • 3.5 cups cooked chickpeas (2 15.5 oz cans, drained and rinsed)

Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil. Add in the couscous, olive oil, and salt. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Turn on a food processor with the S blade in and drop the garlic cloves through the opening at the top. When the garlic cloves stop bouncing around they are fully minced. Turn the food processor off and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Add the salt, a few grinds of pepper, parsley leaves, chopped scallions, and lemon juice. Turn the food processor on to chop them, then drizzle in the olive oil so a sauce forms. Alternatively, very finely mince the garlic, parsley, and scallions, then stir in the salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Quarter the cherry tomatoes, chop the cucumber, and chop the pea shoots or microgreens. Fluff the couscous with a fork and put it in a large bowl. Add the chickpeas and herb sauce and stir to combine. Add in the cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and pea shoots. Stir until they are evenly distributed.

Done is better than perfect

20180808_190615Sunday night I was surrounded by cookbooks, making a list of all the dishes I HAVE to cook this month. It is peak harvest in New England, and every year at this time I constantly feel like I am missing opportunities to eat the best, freshest produce in the all ways I’ve been dreaming of since December. Everything I love ripens at once – raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, nectarines, peaches, plums, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, green beans, greens, and every herb you can imagine.

I’ve joked before about taking the month off just to cook and eat, but this year I took real action and took a day off from work later this month with no plans other than to cook. But I can’t take every day off (and also, I like my job), so I’ve also tried to be more realistic about what I can accomplish on a weeknight.

This is surely not a new revelation. But I am an obsessive cook who takes immense pride in making things from scratch. When I have people over for tacos, I make the tortillas. I went on a camping trip and fried Scotch eggs to bring with us. This is not meant to be boastful, but just to help you to understand the level of crazy I generally operate on. There are many nights when I’ve taken on more than I can chew, and I stare at the mess of an unfinished cooking project around me at 10pm and wonder “HOW DID I GET HERE?”

So when I see a recipe with three sub-recipes like these pambazos, I see myself making enchilada sauce, refried beans, and pickled onions, and THEN frying eggplant to make the sandwiches. I do have some idea of my capacity for cooking projects on a weeknight, so I think I will have to wait for a Sunday. But then there are only four measly Sundays in August, and way more than four elaborate meals I want to cook. Which means that this will get pushed on to my list for next year, when the same thing will happen again, and then five years from now I will finally make this sandwich and wonder “How did it take me so long to do this????????”

But no. Instead, I looked at this recipe, and added refried beans and enchilada sauce to the shopping list. I pickled the onions last night while I was waiting for Will to get home from the grocery store with ingredients I needed to finish yesterday’s dinner. I relaxed after work by sitting in the AC, writing, and drinking a Miller High Life. Then I meandered into the kitchen around 6:00pm, fried up the eggplant, snacked on a few pieces as I made them, and put together these beast sandwiches that hold everything I love between two slices of bread and then are coated with enchilada sauce. Would this sandwich have been better if I had made the refried beans and enchilada sauce myself? Maybe. But as they say, a sandwich in the hand is worth two in the bush. Or something like that.

Summer Rolls Tutorial

IMG_20180718_191718580I’ve waxed poetic on the magic of having peanut sauce in your freezer for easy, no cook summer meals before, and I’m here to do it again. Last time I focused on the peanut sauce, which is still my favorite recipe (it makes a double batch for easy freezing). What I didn’t do was a thorough tutorial on how to make your summer rolls. Rice paper can take a bit of finesse, but once you get a sense for how it behaves the roll making is easy. If you can’t be bothered to make the rolls, you can make some rice or noodles and serve the veg and peanut sauce on top for much quicker assembly.

I’ve outlined what I put in these rolls, but feel free to work with what you have. I’ve also used leftover cooked vegetables in addition to raw ones. I had leftover tofu from a salad earlier in the week, but leftover chicken, pork, steak, or shrimp would be great additions as well (or leave out the protein altogether!). I used brown rice wrappers that I found at Whole Foods here, but white rice ones are much easier to find (look in the Asian section of the grocery store next to the noodles).

My whole Potter Hill CSA share this week was 2 heads of lettuce, salad turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro, savory, a small red cabbage, celery, fresh onions, and new potatoes. One night I made a quick pasta with pesto, soldier beans, cubed mozzarella, and a ton of sauteed greens (the leaves from the cauliflower, broccoli, and turnips). I didn’t make the pesto this time around because my mom gave me some she made (thanks Mom!!!!), but this recipe is very similar, just switch up the veg and add 1 can/about 2 cups of white beans. With both heads of lettuce I made a riff on this Thai tofu salad topped with shredded salad turnips, carrots, and cilantro. Breakfast has been a perennial favorite: potatoes, kale, and eggs. The celery is destined for this amazing Sichuan dish. Don’t forget – all my Potter Hill recipes so far are tagged here.

Summer Rolls

Makes 8-10 rolls – Serves 4 as a side

  • 1/2 lb red or green cabbage (about 1/4 of a large one), thinly sliced
  • 1 small cucumber, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 3 salad turnips, shredded (about 1/2 a cup)
  • 2 carrots, shredded (about 1/2 a cup)
  • 1/2 cup minced herbs (I used cilantro and Thai basil, mint or regular basil would work too)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped tofu (see note)
  • Rice paper wrappers
  • Water
  • Peanut sauce
  • Sriracha/hot sauce

Once all your veg are prepped, set them out around your cutting board. Fill a pie plate or baking dish with warm water – you want to be able to submerge your rice paper wrappers entirely. Dip the rice paper wrapper in the water and hold it under for 10 second. It should change texture and feel plastic-y/crinkly, but not be totally soft.

Lay the rice paper flat on the cutting board, and arrange a couple tablespoons of each filling on the half closest to you. the filling should be along an imaginary 3 inch line, so that every bite will get some of each filling. I use about 1/2 a cup to 2/3 of a cup of filling for each roll.

By now the residual water should have soaked into the rice paper, making it soft and pliable. Bring the bottom edge up over the filling, and then fold in each side. Roll away from yourself so a complete cylinder forms. Depending on how much filling you put in each you will have 8-10 rolls. Leave whole (better for transport/eating later) or cut rolls in half. Serve with peanut sauce and extra sriracha.

IMG_20180718_190154634IMG_20180718_190720652IMG_20180718_190733535IMG_20180718_190750580IMG_20180718_190807017IMG_20180718_190822383

Vegan Favorites

DSC01879After last month’s vegan puddle debacle, I felt that vegan food needed to be redeemed. Despite what my disappointing soup suggested, vegan food should not be bland and boring. It should be a celebration of flavors and textures in the most nourishing way. To remind myself how great vegan food can be, I returned to some old favorites and tried out a few new ones that have become fast favorites.

Curried Lentils with Coconut Milk – When made with red lentils this becomes much looser than the curry shown made with brown lentils, but it is no less delightful. The coconut milk makes for a rich dish that is heavily flavored (but not overpowered) with cumin, coriander, and turmeric. I like to serve this with some roasted or sauteed veg to mix in as well and give a bit more texture to the dish, like cauliflower or cabbage. The curry and a veg can be made in the time it takes you to make brown rice, so dinner is on the table in 45 minutes. (I’ve been cooking through Small Victories bit by bit and I am liking it so far. Julia’s lasagna is a revelation.)

Goodness Wrap – This is everything I look for in a vegan wrap: various textures, the bright acidity of a pickle, and a sauce to tie it all together. I made this in the same week that I made the curried lentils and just made some extra rice to include, but honestly I didn’t feel it added that much to the wrap. I also added in some chickpeas for extra heft, which felt necessary to power more active bodies. These were so, so good.

Thai Chopped Salad with Tofu – This salad is the most refreshing thing to eat a lunch on a hot day. The crunchy veg and slightly sour dressing are spot on, and the tofu marinade with curry paste is so flavorful you might forget you’re eating tofu.

Thai-ish Cauliflower Rice Salad – Sprouted Kitchen again with a wonderful mix of colorful vegetables in a Thai slaw. The cauliflower rice was a bit weird to me, and didn’t go with the texture of the rest of the dish (it just coated the other things in mush). Next time I would just roast the cauliflower to include, as there will definitely be a next time. I made the same roasted tofu as in the salad above to bulk it up and the flavors went really well together. The crunchy vegetables were nicely coated in the peanut sauce. This is definitely an indulgent dish as it calls for a lot of ingredients that are not always easily found, but so worth the time.

Summer rolls with peanut sauce (pictured at top) – Now seems like a good time to remind everyone that peanut sauce freezes super well so you make make a big batch on a colder day and then have it at the ready for those nights when turning on the oven would be torture. I just picked up some brown rice wrappers at Whole Foods that I am pumped to try with rolls this summer.  I use any mixture of chopped raw veg (collard, kale, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, beets, summer squash, etc, etc), herbs (mint, cilantro), and leftover protein in my rolls on hot nights to make the best cold dinner.

A story of three failures

I

A few weeks ago I made spinach pasta on a Sunday night. It wasn’t a particularly complicated recipe, but it involved cooking the spinach, straining and chopping it, then adding it to the dough as you made it, resting the dough, rolling it out, and cooking it. Since that didn’t seem like a particularly hard project (many parts, but none difficult), I was also prepping a few other things for the week ahead.

But the evening got away from me, and by the time I was actually cooking the pasta it was much later than I expected (almost 9pm). Since fresh pasta is often promised to be a transcendent and simple meal, I hadn’t planned to dress it with more than some butter, olive oil, and Parmeggiano Reggiano. I tasted some from the pan and was instantly disappointed by the blandness. Where was my transcendent simplicity????????????

This failure exacerbated stresses that were building for the work-week, and led to me sobbing over my terrible pasta that I had put so much effort into. (While I was finishing crying, Will excavated some pesto from the freezer and started defrosting it to save my dinner, and therefore wins Husband-of-the-Year one hundred times over.)

II

The next week I wanted to try a simple (catching a theme here?) vegan soup that involved a vibrantly green and thick herb coconut broth, broccoli, snap peas, tofu, and rice. In the cookbook photo the author used black rice noodles, which were incredibly dramatic and contrasted beautifully with the green broth. The photo of this dish makes you feel cleansed and restored just from looking at it. Like you’ve achieved absolute purity and suddenly understand why vegans forego meat and are ready to give it up forever too.

My first failure was in the liquid. A high speed blender was called for to combine the coconut milk, broth, and herbs. I don’t own a $500 blender, and I figured my stick blender could stand in as it usually does for pureed soups. Since the coconut milk/broth/lemongrass mixture is supposed to steep off the stove I tried to use my stick blender directly in the bowl it was cooling in. After a small wave covered my counter, I switched to the food processor. No amount of time processing would yield the thick, uniformly green broth the photo. Instead I was left with a thin broth with flecks of cilantro throughout. Given I wasn’t using the right equipment to start I wasn’t too dissuaded.

The recipe notes said to serve it with rice noodles or rice, and I happened to have black rice! I cooked some up, made my meager broth, and added in the vegetables and tofu. When it was time to serve, the rice went into the bowl, and was topped by the soup. But I had not rinsed the rice thoroughly enough. What had been a passable green broth, was now the color of mud.

I’m not one to judge a meal by its looks. But the photo I had for comparison was just so beautiful, and I was staring down at a puddle. I hoped taste would change my mind, but what I was eating did not live up to my expectations. It was thin, herby, flat, and very……healthy tasting. Like something I should always eat, but would never want to. It tasted like how people who hate vegan food on principle expect vegan food to taste. (I make vegan food on the regular and it can be overwhelmingly delicious, but this was not one of those times.)

III

Last week I knew I had an especially long work-day ahead of me, so I planned a fool-proof and almost effortless meal: tortellini with pesto and roasted asparagus. I was NOT making the pasta this time (it came pre-made from Wegmans). The pesto would be the last from the stash in the freezer that I was reminded about when Will used it to save my previous pasta dinner. The asparagus would go in the oven at 425F with salt, pepper, and olive oil for 15 minutes.

I put the asparagus in the oven and put the water on to boil. I had a double pack of tortellini, but decided to cook both in case we needed extra meals later in the week. This was a total of eight servings of pasta, which is way more than I usually make, but figured it would be useful when I had to work over the weekend.

The water on to boil, and put asparagus went in the oven. I put about the same amount of water in the pot I use for a pound of pasta, and didn’t think twice about it. The tortellini was in two separate but attached packs, and when I put the first in the pot was almost full, but it seemed like more could fit in. Partway through the addition of the second pack the water came dangerously close to the top, and I was in trouble. I took out a measuring cup to remove some of the water, but couldn’t remove enough of it in time. the tortellini threatened to boil over, and I knew the rest couldn’t fit in the pan…but I tried anyways.

Had I never made pasta before? Did I not understand that doubling the amount of pasta you make means you should also double the size or number of vessels you cook them in?

It was too late in the game to criticize myself; I just had to fix the problem. Some water went into the kettle to boil quickly, and I moved some of the pasta into a small pot. The tortellini monster was subdued for the moment. Eventually everything was cooked but somehow not overcooked, and I returned to the glass of wine I had hurtfully ignored.

The asparagus, by the way, was perfect.

IV

At work I teach kids cooking classes. Cooking with children is always an adventure, and often times they are doing something for the first time ever with me as their guide: cracking an egg, using a knife, measuring the flour. I always leave room for error in these situations and tell them this: sometimes when we cook we get delicious food, sometimes delicious food and a lesson, and sometimes just the lesson. But no matter what, you walk away with something.

Winter Root Vegetable Bowls with Vibrant Parsley Sauce

IMG_5457 (2)This recipe was born before I was headed away for a weekend and trying to use up veg in the fridge. After an overzealous trip to the winter farmers market I had celeriac, beets, radishes, and sweet potatoes. I knew I wanted something bright to counter the earthiness of the root vegetables, so out came the parsley and lemon. Chickpeas made it into a full meal. The feta adds a great salty tang, but can easily be omitted for a vegan meal. This bowl is distinctly wintery, but much more like bright sunshine reflecting off of white snow than dreary, pervasive brown.

IMG_5436 (2)IMG_5444 (3)Winter Root Vegetable Bowls with Vibrant Parsley Sauce

Serves 6

  • 3 lbs root vegetables, such as radishes, beets, carrots, sweet potato, potatoes, kohlrabi, and celeriac (for these photos I used watermelon radishes, purple daikon radishes, yellow carrots, orange carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil, divided
  • 3.5 cups cooked chickpeas (2 15.5 oz cans, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of packed parsley leaves (about 1 bunch worth)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Scrub all of the root vegetables and peel as needed. I peel veg with tough skin like kohlrabi and celeriac, plus winter radishes like watermelon, but don’t always feel the need to peel beets, carrots, and potatoes depending on how dirty they are and how thick their skin is. Chop all of the root veg into ½ inch pieces (you are aiming for them to be about the size of a chickpea). Toss the root vegetables in 2 tablespoons of neutral oil, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper and spread on to 2 baking sheets (the photo above is after I tossed them in oil on 1 baking sheet – the pieces should not be that close together for cooking). Roast them for 15 minutes, then take them out of the oven, toss them, and put them back in the oven on opposite racks. Roast them for another 10 minutes until they are starting to brown and can be easily pierced with a fork.

While the root vegetables are roasting, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion slices and a pinch of salt. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are thoroughly browned (about 30 minutes). I don’t usually go far enough to fully caramelize them, as that would take longer than it takes the root vegetables to cook. When the onions are cooked through, add in the chickpeas and stir to combine. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the chickpeas are warmed through.

Turn on a food processor with the S blade in and drop the garlic cloves through the opening at the top. When the garlic cloves stop bouncing around they are fully minced. Turn the food processor off and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper, parsley leaves, and lemon juice. Turn the food processor on to chop them, then drizzle in the olive oil so a smooth sauce forms. Alternatively, very finely mince the garlic and parsley, then stir in the salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Serve the root vegetables with a big spoonful of the chickpeas and onions, topped with crumbled feta (if using) and a generous drizzle of parsley sauce.

If you happen to have any parsley sauce leftover it is amazing stirred into hummus or labneh.

 

 

Quinoa Lentil Salad with Summer Veg and Tahini Dressing

20170809_154641I didn’t have a plan for dinner tonight. We already had pasta and sandwiches with chickpeas and tzatziki this week, and plans for pork with rice on Thursday. I wanted a different protein, so I pulled lentils from the pantry. The lentils reminded me of this salad, but I wanted it to be a meal in itself so I grabbed some quinoa. The fridge was stocked with cucumbers, kohlrabi, cilantro, scallions, and fresh onions from Potter Hill. I love the tahini dressing with the Smitten Kitchen lentil salad, so I just barely adapted it to fit what I had on hand (I only had one small lemon, so I used vinegar as well to have enough acid).

What resulted is a salad that could be easily adapted with the grain, protein, and vegetables you have on hand. What is most important to me is the pickled onions to brighten, and the creamy dressing to bring everything together.

Quinoa Lentil Salad with Summer Veg and Tahini Dressing

  • 1 cup green (Le Puy) lentils, rinsed
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 3 cups of water, divided
  • 1 small fresh onion, chopped (mine was the size of a large shallot and about 1/4 cup chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 4 small or 2 medium cucumbers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 medium kohlrabi, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves, chopped (about 1/4 cup chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon sumac (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

Dressing

  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the rinsed lentils, both halves of the garlic clove, bay leaf, and olive oil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 25-30 minutes. Check halfway through and add a bit more water if necessary. The lentils should be soft, but not falling apart. Taste a few to ensure the batch is done. Drain, and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Put 1 cup of water in a small saucepan to boil. Add the quinoa and a pinch of salt, cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the top, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool for a few minutes.

In a small dry pan toast the cumin and coriander over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and lightly toasted. Cool slightly, and grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

Add the minced onion to a small bowl and toss with the one tablespoon of vinegar. Let sit for 10 minutes (or more if you have time).

Mince the garlic, and then use the 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the side of your knife to mash it into a paste (use your knife to scrape the garlic and salt against the cutting board repeatedly until a paste forms). In a jar add the ground spices, the garlic salt paste, and the rest of the dressing ingredients. Cap the jar and shake to combine.

In a large bowl toss the cooked lentils, cooked quinoa, chopped cucumber and kohlrabi, scallions, cilantro, and dressing.  Toss until everything is thoroughly mixed and coated in the dressing. Garnish with the sumac and sesame seeds (if using).

 

Everyday Peanut Sauce

DSC01879Why aren’t we all making peanut sauce? Every day? To put on everything? These are big and important questions. Many a meal can be made from peanut sauce. It takes any combination of rice or noodles with vegetables and unites them into dinner. Or in this instance, takes a collection of vegetables and herbs from the garden/crisper, rolled up in rice paper skins, from a dry, protein lacking appetizer to a legitimate, hot weather dinner option (at least in these parts). This sauce is vegan, comes together quickly, freezes well, and can be easily adapted. It is mildly spicy on purpose, and I usually serve hot sauce alongside so people can increase heat at will. It is worth making a double or triple batch to stash in the freezer for dinner emergencies during heat waves.

Everyday Peanut Sauce

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen. This makes enough for 2 meals to each feed 4. I usually freeze half because frozen peanut sauce at the ready is money in the bank.

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or peanut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 15.5 oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup smooth natural peanut butter (though I have used chunky in a pinch and blended it at the end)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha or other Asian hot sauce (omit if spice adverse)
  • juice of one lime

Heat the oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute a minute or two, until they are just fragrant. Add the other ingredients except the lime juice and whisk to combine (it may take a couple minutes for the peanut butter to loosed up and integrate). Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from the heat. Add the lime juice and whisk to combine. If you like a really smooth sauce, put it in a blender or food processor for a minute.

Collards with Peanut Butter

Collards with Peanut Butter - Vegetal MattersIf you ever want to push yourself out of your cooking comfort zone, try signing up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) share. Yes, they are an up front commitment, but in the ones I’ve participated in, the produce quality and variety has been unparalleled. It can be a confusing concept, mostly because there is no one set way that a farm runs their CSA. The basic parts are that you pay an amount up front, and then receive a quantity of produce weekly based on the size share you choose (a full share often serves a family of four for a week, but again, they vary). Some farms deliver or you pick up a box of produce each week, and you get what you get. Some have a point system, where you get a certain number of points to spend each week and each vegetable or bunch is assigned a value. Plus the CSA model now has branched out far beyond just vegetables. I’ve heard of meat, fish, bread, pie, and even ice cream CSAs.

The up front cost can be significant ( several hundred dollars), but if that isn’t in the cards for you there are other options. I participated in a workshare CSA, where in exchange for my weekly share I worked a full day on the farm. Some also have payment plans or accept SNAP benefits.

No matter what level of choice you have in your CSA, there is a high likelihood that you will end up taking home a vegetable you’ve never cooked with (and how fun!!!!!). Obviously the internet is an endless source of recipes, but I still love having cookbooks around from trusted sources that I can turn to when confronted with a mystery vegetable. Chez Panisse Vegetables, Vegetable Literacy, and How to Cook Everything are all great references.

When I was doing the workshare I brought home some collard greens which I had never eaten, and the only dish I knew of involved a ham hock and a very long cooking time which is not really my weeknight style. I flipped through How to Cook Everything, which had a quick stir fry with collards and tahini, but suggested peanut butter as a substitution. Weird, but SOLD. What resulted was a dead simple dish with a great peanut sauce that coats the greens with a nutty richness. I loved collards at first bite and have made this many times over. I may need a shirt that says “Eat More Collards” to go along with my “Eat More Kale” one….and maybe one for every other vegetable while we’re at it.

Collards with Peanut Butter

Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side.

If this sounds weird to you, just think of it as a peanut sauce that you make in the pan. Serve atop brown rice or as a side dish. Especially excellent with rice and soy marinated tofu.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup onion (about a ¼ of a large one)
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup vegetable stock or water, plus more if it is dry
  • 1 lb collards, washed, large stems removed, and roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons smooth natural peanut butter (or other nut butter, or tahini), but I’ve use chunky in a pinch too
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoons lime juice

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet or pot with a lid over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes until it is slightly colored and fragrant. Add the collards, stock/water, peanut butter, salt, and pepper and stir everything up. Cover and cook until they are wilted, about 5 minutes. Uncover, and cook at a low bubble for 5 minutes more. If the pan looks dry add more stock/water, but you want to have a thicker sauce. Finish with the lime juice, stir, and serve.

Persiana and Turkish White Bean Salad

Turkish White Bean Salad - Vegetal Matters
You know what is better than a giant cookbook collection? A free giant cookbook collection. I usually end up with at least one cookbook borrowed during my weekly library trips. I hadn’t requested any new ones last week (the week before it was Paletas), but I took a quick look at the new non-fiction and Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour practically jumped into my arms. I looked through it during navigation breaks on this weekend’s road trip to upstate New York and planned out a summer’s worth of meals from its pages. Middle Eastern food is the theme, and the book is full of fresh vegetable and herb salads, hearty grains and legumes, warmly spiced meats, and varied mezze. A small sampling of recipes on my list are the Hummus, which incorporates chickpea cooking liquid, Smoked Eggplant Salad (ok, every eggplant recipe), and Tomato Salad with Pomegranate Molasses. The salads entice me most, as they are all simple but with lovely herb and spice combinations that excite me way more than my usual repertoire.

Turkish White Bean Salad - Vegetal Matters

Our last stop before home was the grocery store to grab some cans of white beans, an onion, and a lemon to make this salad. Cooking upon returning from a road trip is not usually an activity I jump to, but this was just a quick assembly and made me feel so much better then relying on someone else for a meal again after a weekend of eating out. I also took the basic concept of Ghayour’s fattoush dressing which is just lemon juice, olive oil, and sumac to make a salad with lettuce from the garden that grew like wild while I was gone. I’ve made many a lemon vinaigrette, but the sumac added a more nuanced sourness and lovely red flecks all over the lettuce (and (I’ve already made it again since). I also made the Eastern-Style Focaccia which took 2 hours start to finish and was full of cumin, coriander, sumac, and thyme, and Pistachio and Feta Dip to go along with it, which was as easy as throwing everything in a food processor (and an excellent use of the disappointingly unsalted pistachios I accidentally bought for road snacks). Persiana hasn’t been in my possession for long, but I already feel this book should be added to the my house library.

Turkish White Bean Salad (Piyaz)

Slightly adapted from Persiana

This salad is delicious leftover, but the Aleppo pepper does tint the dressing red after it sits for a while. If you are serving this to entertain, toss just before serving. Serves 4 as a light dinner or lunch, 6 as sides.

  • 3 cups cooked white beans, rinsed (2 14-oz cans)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion (mine was from half a large onion weighing ½ a lb)
  • 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper flakes (or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped (about a large handful)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (or juice of 1 lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Mix the beans, onion, Aleppo and parlsey in a large bowl. Put the rest of the ingredients in a smaller bowl and whisk until smooth. If it seems stiff, add a teaspoon of water at a time until the dressing is pour-able but still on the thick side. Pour the dressing onto the bean mixture and toss carefully to coat.

Dijon Lentils with Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes

Vegetal Matters - Dijon LentilsThis French lentil recipe by Ina Garten was my first introduction to cooking lentils. I’ve made it many times since that first delicious occurrence, but with quite a few changes. I find that the dressing adds enough flavor to the lentils that cooking them with a turnip that is discarded is unnecessary. Her quantity made just enough for 4 small meals, but I always wanted a little more and leftovers. I’ve made the lentils with roasted sausages, which could be in place of or with the cauliflower and potatoes. Some toasted bread with olive oil alongside is also quite nice, as would be a green salad.

Dijon Lentils with Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes

Serves 8 as a side, 6 as a meal.

  • ½ cup olive oil, plus 4 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 lb cauliflower cut into florets
  • 1 lb potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups green lentils
  • 2 cups carrots (about 4 medium)
  • 2 cups onion or leeks  (1 large onion, or 2 large leeks)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F. Mix the whole grain mustard and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss cauliflower and potatoes in mustard olive oil mixture plus salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes.

Pick over the lentils for debris and rinse. Bring a pot with the lentils generously covered in water to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Heat a large skillet with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and saute for 5 minutes, until they just start to soften. Add the onion, and saute for another 5 minutes until both are soft. Add the garlic, and saute for a minute or 2 more then turn off the heat.

While the carrot and onion are cooking whisk together the ½ cup of olive oil, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. In a large bowl mix the sauteed carrot and onion, Dijon dressing, and lentils. Serve with the roasted cauliflower and potatoes on top, with extra vinegar if needed.

Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls with Green Sauce

Vegetal Matters - Burrito Bowls with Green SauceI don’t repeat dishes often. What I’m cooking constantly changes based on seasons and whims. As always there are a few exceptions, but usually in the form of a dish based on staples that I can easily adapt with whatever veg and other seasonings are available. Burrito bowls have been in the rotation for years now, but I always felt like they could use some kind of binder and shredded cheese never really cut it. These grilled sweet potato bowls inspired me to go the sauce route, and the first time I made this green sauce I felt like I cracked the burrito bowl code. It is the kind of sauce you make a jar of then end up putting it on every meal you have. Try it with tacos, or the scrambled eggs you make to go along with leftover beans.

Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls with Green Sauce

Serves 6. Loosely based on these.

Sweet potatoes are a personal favorite, but you could use any veg you have in addition or instead of them. This could easily become vegan by making a few substitutions in the sauce: use agave instead of honey, silken tofu instead of the yogurt, or leave out the yogurt altogether. You could easily turn these into actual burritos, or serve with smaller tortillas on the side. To the cilantro haters: I’m very sorry, and parsley could be subbed. One more note: jalapeños can greatly vary in spiciness, so taste a little bit if you are worried about adding too much heat.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 1.5 lbs of sweet potatoes (this was 2 for me)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt

Black Beans

  • 3 cups of black beans and their cooking liquid (or 2 15oz cans)
  • 1/2 cup of  red onion (a quarter of  a large one for me, with a bit of the remainder chopped for topping)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

Green Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small jalapeño, or half a large (seeds removed if you don’t want the spice)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • juice from 1 lime (mine was 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek would work)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey

For serving

  • cooked brown rice
  • chopped red onion or scallion
  • hot sauce
  • chopped avocado
  • chopped jalapeño

Preheat the oven to 425F. Scrub the sweet potatoes (no need to peel though), and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Put the coriander and cumin seeds in a small dry pan and heat on medium. Let them toast for about 5 minutes, until they start to color and you can smell them. Let them cool for a minute and then grind in a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder if you have one, but not your coffee grinder). Toss the sweet potatoes in oil, ground spices, chili powder, and a pinch of salt. Pop them in the oven and roast for 25 minutes.

Chop the onion and then heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and saute uncovered for 5 minutes until slightly softened. While it is sauteing mince the garlic clove. After 5 minutes add the garlic clove and saute for 1 minute. Add the beans, cover, and bring to a simmer. Remove the lid, and left simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened. Finish with some salt and the teaspoon of vinegar.

Start the motor of your food processor and drop in the garlic clove. Let it get pulverized, then drop in the jalapeño until it is equally pulverized. Wipe down the sides with a spatula, then add the cilantro. Run until the cilantro is minced, then add the cumin, lime juice, yogurt, olive oil, honey, and a pinch of salt. Run until it is a smooth, green sauce. Alternatively, you can mince the garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro, then whisk together with the rest of the ingredients.

Serve bowls with rice, topped with beans and sweet potato. Let diners add additional toppings and sauce to their liking.