Thursday, November 4, 2010

Homemade Pesto

Homemade pesto is incredibly easy to make and so much better than anything I've ever bought from the store. Here are the ingredients:

fresh basil, walnuts or pine nuts, fresh grated parmesan cheese, a little salt and pepper, and a little olive oil

Put it all in the chopper attachment cup for an immersion blender (or a small food processor, or even a blender if you're making a larger amount) and chop, process, or blend away. Be careful how much salt and oil you add. I suggest adding a little at first and tasting to see if you need more.

Voila! Delicious pesto you can use right away or save for later.

My friend Emily suggests freezing pesto in ice cube trays. Then you can thaw it later to have just the right amount to toss with pasta. I made some last week and tossed it with Rising Moon Organics Artichoke & Olive Ravioli. Dinner was done in less than 20 minutes and the longest part of that was waiting for the water to boil.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Last year a friend gave me The Urban Vegan cookbook for my birthday. It was an unexpected and much appreciated gift, one which, along with many of our wedding gifts, I failed to write a thank you note for. So Walker, if you're reading this: Thank you very much for the cookbook, it has been wonderful. And for the set of spatulas you gave us for our wedding. They have been indispensable.

One of my favorite recipes from the book is for Bean and Bulgur Tacos. They are absolutely fantastic. According to wikipedia: Bulgur is cracked wheat grain (usually durum) that has been parboiled and dried. It is whole grain and very high in fiber. On this particular occasion there must have been a run on bulgur at Whole Foods (who can imagine?), because the bulk bin was completely empty. I was able to find cracked wheat though, which I bought since I didn't exactly have much of a choice and the ingredients were essentially the same. A little internet research later and I learned that cracked wheat is basically the raw version of bulgur. In the end I had to adjust my cooking time and add more liquid than usual, but the resulting tacos were just as delicious.

At the risk of plagiarizing, I'll just give an overview of the recipe. Basically simmer vegetable broth with onion, red bell pepper, jalapeno (or other hot pepper), cumin, salt, cayenne or chipotle spice, and bulgar in a covered pot until the onions and peppers and bulgar begin to soften. You want at least 2 parts liquid to 1 part bulgar. I usually find that I have to add more liquid to prevent the bulgar from sticking to the bottom. Add a can of drained and rinsed black beans and some chopped fresh cilantro and cook on medium heat until the liquid is absorbed.

Spoon the bean-bulgar mix onto tortillas and add whatever other toppings you like.

I added some dry sauteed mushrooms for extra nutrients and flavor

and topped it all off with spinach, fresh avocado and salsa.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Better Hash

This time I used the shredder attachment on the food processor and threw in one small sweet potato, half a green bell pepper, and a quarter of a large red onion. Add three large cloves of garlic from the garlic press, a little salt and pepper, and some jalapenos. What looks like meat on top is actually chorizo-style seitan sausage. For those who are unfamiliar, seitan is a meat substitute made from wheat gluten. Here's a link to an informative (I almost said interesting until I read past the first few paragraphs...) article about it: Seitan--The Vegetarian Wheat Meat

This made two large servings which Justin and I ate alongside our pumpkin banana chocolate chip pancakes this morning. For all my vegan baker friends: I can't seem to do without the egg in my pancakes. The result is just not appealing to me. Any suggestions for good substitutes?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hash disaster

We had the most fantastic sweet potato hash at Kozy Kitchen on Saturday morning. Too bad it ended up having bacon in it--there was a cool smokey flavor that I couldn't quite put my finger on... We had lots of potatoes at home--sweet and otherwise--so it's only natural that when the time came for lunch, we felt compelled to concoct a sweet potato hash of our own. Armed with a recent New York Times article, We loaded the potatoes into our food processor and chopped away.

I have always been a little hesitant to use the food processor as the be all, end all of food preparation. I don't seem to have the same luck with it as our friend, The Minimalist (aka Mark Bittman). Given the choice, I prefer blending my pastry dough by hand and chopping my vegetables with my right hand man, the sharp knife. As an aside, and as a general rule, I love anything by Mark Bittman. Last year Justin surprised me with a copy of his new book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. Hands down the best surprise gift. Ever. My loyalty to Mr Bittman is unwavering. I just don't share the same loyalty to the food processor.

Case in point:

The bottom of the pile ended up as raw potato mush while the top as huge barely chopped up chunks. In retrospect we should have gone with the grater attachment instead of the blade. Live and learn.

Forging ahead, Justin sauteed an assortment of peppers (red and green bell, sweet, and jalapeno) and onion in our trusty cast iron skillet along with some okra for good measure.

When the onions were good and translucent, we added the potatoes. In an effort to recreate the smoky flavor from Kozy's, we went in search of an ingredient on hand that might do the trick. The best we could come up with on such short notice was a bottle of Shiner Smokehaus. With a tagline that reads: It's Smokin' Good, we figured it was worth a try.

While the addition of the beer didn't do any harm to the flavor of the hash, it didn't do it any favors either, and certainly didn't result in a "Smokin' Good" taste. Even with our tremendous assortment of peppers, our hash was just plain bland. We added black pepper, cilantro, cumin; all to no avail. The problem was in the texture. That darn over-processed potato mush just wouldn't get crispy like good hash browns are supposed to do.

Again in retrospect, we might have had some decent potato pancakes on our hands if we'd planned ahead before filling up the skillet. Alas, hindsight is 20x20.

We forced the hash down for lunch, like little Oliver Twist with his gruel. Believe me, neither of us caused an uproar with the gentlemen by asking for more. And just to kick healthy veg even harder when it was down, come dinner time we surrendered ourselves to Gattitown for a far from plant-strong pizza feast.

I had one last trick in my bag to salvage the unpalatable hash for Sunday dinner. Perhaps if I could somehow achieve a crunchy top layer-- I spread the leftovers in my casserole dish, sprinkled on some bread crumbs and a layer of cheddar cheese and baked it in a super hot oven (450) until the cheese started to turned crisp and golden brown.

But those stubborn potatoes simply refused to get crispy. With some salsa and a fresh avocado, it was still just mediocre. All that effort for nothing. You win some, you lose some, I guess.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Edamame, Corn and Tomato

Super yummy and super fast:

Frozen shelled edamame and frozen corn, just over 2 cups total with more edamame than corn.

Boil 2-3 minutes and shock in ice water. Drain and combine with some halved cherry or grape tomatoes.

Add diced avocado and chopped fresh cilantro and toss with mustard sauce: 2 parts whole grain mustard, 1 part oil and a little salt and pepper.

Serve with leafy greens like romaine, spinach or chard.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Pasta Primavera

I am the worst about letting vegetables spoil in the bowl on our dining table on in the crisper drawer in the fridge. It used to drive my sister crazy when we lived together. Now that Justin and I have got more vegetables hanging around each week, the likelihood of 1 or 2 going bad before I get around to using them is even higher. Not so this week! Enter: Pasta Primavera.

An assortment of odds and ends I had in my fridge and a few things I got at the store on the way home:
According to wikipedia, pasta primavera can contain almost any kind of vegetable, although I suppose it'd be nice if you stayed true to the name and used mostly Spring vegetables. I used zucchini, mushrooms, a mild hatch chile, red bell pepper, broccoli, red currant tomatoes, garlic, onion, and even some fresh okra.

--I spent most of my prep time chopping vegetables, so you could get some pre-chopped ones from the store and it would really save you on time.--

Saute the onions; add the garlic; then peppers and mushrooms, then okra and broccoli. Turn down the heat and cover for a few minutes to let the okra and broccoli soften just a bit without burning. Uncover and turn the heat back up to medium-high and add the zucchini. Season with black pepper and a little bit of salt. Add the tomatoes at the last minute just to warm them.

Toss whole wheat pasta with a tiny bit of olive oil and some chopped fresh basil. Top with your veggies and just a sprinkle of fresh grated parmesan cheese. (It really tastes better if you grate it fresh from the block yourself rather than buy it already grated) If you've got the time, adding some toasted pine nuts will really add to the flavor. Toast a handful in the oven (or toaster oven) at 350 for 6-8 minutes, or in a heavy pan on the stove until they smell fragrant and turn toasty brown.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The makings of a beautiful sandwich

I continue to be amazed at the ability of so many restaurants to mess up something as simple as the veggie sandwich. Perhaps they subscribe to the same philosophy as Korean airlines: Vegan meal = the most bland and boring food one could possibly imagine. No wonder people think you need meat and cheese to make something taste good.

Here are the makings of a veggie sandwich I threw together last week:

-Whole Grain bread: I like the Seeduction loaf at Whole Foods

-Whole Grain or Stone Ground Mustard: Thinly spread on both slices of bread

-Roasted Veggies: I used 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash, cut in half and then sliced lengthwise and a small potato in thin slices. If I have a red bell pepper, I love to throw that in as well. Sprinkle with some black pepper, a little cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper (depending on your spicy tolerance), a generous portion of freshly minced garlic and a couple of slices of onion (just for flavor). And here's the key to making it more healthy: instead of using salt and oil, toss the veggies with some tamari (a low sodium version of soy sauce). Roast at about 400-425 for 20-30 minutes. You want the veggies to be tender but not mushy.

-Hummus: We like the flavors with peppers mixed in. I find the spiciness of the peppers is a great balance for the smoothness of the chickpeas. This week's flavor of choice was Green Chile.

-Avocado slices: A must. And don't be stingy. If the avocado is small, use half of one per sandwich, it it's large use about 1/4 per sandwich.

-A leafy green veggie. On this particular day I used Romaine. Depending on what we have, I like to use spinach, chard, or even kale.

Pile it all together and you'll have a better veggie sandwich than lots of restaurants.

The finished product: