Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No-Mayo Potato Salad

It's no secret that I despise mayonnaise. It's ranked number one in my list of most hated condiments and probably in the top five of my most hated foods of all time. I've felt this strongly about the stuff since I was a kid, so I've always avoided it like the plague. Sadly, that means I've also stayed away from all sorts of fare that, if not for the white goo, I would probably find quite tasty. Potato salad is one of those dishes I haven't been able to enjoy. A potato fiend like me, kept from such a potato-centric summertime classic! Absolutely tragic. Fortunately, the sad tune of that story changed a couple summers ago.

I was at a barbecue hosted by my friend Samantha when I spotted some potato salad on the table. To my surprise, it wasn't whitewashed. It also smelled vinegary and looked delicious. "Is it possible", I thought, "that I'll finally get to enjoy the goodness that potato salad can be?". I cautiously put a small serving on my plate and had a bite. Cue celestial music, followed by fireworks. It was all that I'd dreamed it could be. Curious, I asked Samantha about the salad. She was probably thinking the same thing you are, "First of all, it's just potato salad. Secondly, how the heck have you gone over twenty years without encountering a German-style (or vinegar based) potato salad?". But instead of looking at me like I was insane, Samantha graciously offered to send me the recipe, more of a template really, she used to make it. By the next day I had a few scanned pages of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything in my inbox.

I've been making potato salad a bunch of different ways ever since. For the most part, I supplement the potatoes with whatever veggies I happen to have on hand. The one thing I always add are onions -- green, white or red-- or shallots, though. I make the dressing a little differently every time too, but one thing is for damn sure, I NEVER EVER add mayo.

No-Mayo Potato Salad
Makes about 4 servings
Inspired by Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything recipe
  • 3 lb young red potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 teaspoon miso
  • 1 heaping teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, sliced widthwise on the bias
  • 2 large shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped parsely
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped Kalamata olives
1.  Fill a large pot about three quarters of the way with water and bring it to a boil. Salt the water and add the potatoes. Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and set them aside in a large bowl.
2.  In a small mixing bowl, whisk the miso, mustard, salt, pepper, vinegar and oil together until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients to the potatoes, drizzle in the dressing and toss to coat the salad evenly. Allow the salad to chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Serve cold, or at room temperature if you can't help yourself (I couldn't).

Friday, May 27, 2011

Vegan Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sorry I've kind of fallen off the face of the earth this last week but it's been a terrible week. Our cat got sick a couple days ago and, after spending the whole day at the vet, it turns out she just has some sort of flu-like bug. I was extremely upset about Lira being sick, and it caught me a bit by surprise. Part of it was being a new pet owner, and not knowing how attached you become to your furry ones. I guess I also didn't realize how sad I actually was before Lira got sick. How is it that life often manages to land a serious right hook square in your jaw when you're already down?

Last Wednesday I received news that, after two years of declining mental and physical health, my grandmother's death seemed imminent. By Friday morning I had flown to New Hampshire and was at her bedside talking to her, reading to her, comforting her when her breathing got distressed. I'd like to think she knew I was there, and that it was ok to stop fighting and let go. When I woke up on Saturday, my uncle told me she had passed away early in the morning.

My grandmother and I were extremely close and her death, although expected, hit me extremely hard (like a Mack truck ran me over in my sleep, I don't feel like moving, let alone cooking, hard). We spent about two and a half months of every summer together, until my I finished my junior year in college and an internship usurped the time I usually spent with her at our family's lake home. While our summers at the lake were filled with visitors and random outings, we always found plenty of time to just sit down and talk to each other. I found it easy to chat with her for hours because she was a great listener and I always felt comfortable talking to her about anything (and I do mean anything).  She made me feel like the most loved, special, spoiled and appreciated grandchild on the planet, and often managed to do so while whipping some sweet treats.

I'm pretty sure she took pleasure in fattening my parents and me up with baked goodies -- brownies, blondies, cookies, pies, coffee cakes, spice cake... I couldn't tell you how many spice cakes I've made with her. I need to find the pictures of me licking those dripping beaters, with that caramel-colored batter running down my face. I also once made over 50 pies for a charity bake sale with her and some of her friends. And don't even get me started on the brownies, or the blondies, which my friend Mario thinks are the tastiest thing he's ever eaten. You see, my mother isn't much of a baker (her quiet rebellion against my grandmother's ways, no doubt) so I relished the time I got to spend with my grandmother amongst doughs and batters.

Maybe someday she and I will get to bake together again. If so, I might whip this recipe out of my back pocket and say "Grammie, I made these for you". She would definitely approve.

Vegan Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 15 cookies
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened dried coconut
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3.5 oz / 100 g bar of dark chocolate, chopped (I used Trader Joe's Swiss Dark Chocolate)
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F / 175 C. In a large bowl, mix together the flours, coconut, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices.
2.  In a medium, microwave safe bowl combine the coconut oil, maple syrup, almond milk and vanilla. Microwave the liquid mixture for about 30 seconds or until the coconut oil is soft enough to blend with the rest of the liquid ingredients (if it's too cold it will remain kind of chunky when beaten). Only microwave the mixture as long as you need to though; you don't want the wet ingredients to get too warm or else they'll melt the chocolate. I beat the wet ingredients until smooth using a hand mixer, but I suspect some intense whisking would also do the trick.
3. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and add the chunks of dark chocolate. Mix using a spatula until just combined. Using your hands, roll out walnut-sized balls of dough and flatten them onto a parchment lined or greased cookie sheet. Cook the cookies 12 at a time for about 9 minutes or until they're slightly brown on the bottom.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Black Bean, Mango and Couscous Salad with Jalapeño Dressing

Hey all! Sorry for not posting as much as usual this past week, but I was busy relaxing in Punta Cana. The resort we stayed, the Excellence Punta Cana, was fantastic. One of the best things about it was the seven restaurants on the premises, all of which had vegetarian menus. Despite the quality and the variety of the resort's food, I missed my kitchen. I tried to console myself by drinking copious amounts of coconut water,

hanging out by the wonderful pool,

and posing for some aerial shots (not as graceful I would like, but at least my calves look good).

Not surprisingly, I was able to push my yearnings for my kitchen aside and enjoy our wonderful vacation.  Now that we're at home, I find myself with a hankering for some Dominican foods, like the wonderful fruit we had at breakfast. Missing something no mater where I am! I just can't win! (I know, you can't possibly pity me so soon after my trip.) I decided to pick up some mangoes and put my tropical fruit craving to rest.

I usually eat mango straight up or in a smoothie. Today, though, I was in the mood for something spicy, which is how I thought up this couscous salad. It brings together the sweetness of mango, the acidity of tomato and lemon, the heartiness of black beans and a nice jalapeño kick. As a wonderful bonus, it comes together in under 15 minutes.

Black Bean, Mango and Couscous Salad with Jalapeño Dressing
Makes about 4 servings

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups couscous
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 15 oz / 425 g can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/4 cup lemon or lime juice, about the juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded if you don't like heat
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Optional: 1 avocado, diced
1.  Pour the water into a pot and bring to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper and the couscous. Give the mixture a quick stir and remove the pot from the heat. Let it sit covered for about 4-5 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork and transfer it into a bowl along with the mango, tomato, bell pepper, cilantro and black beans.
2. Blend the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, lemon juice, garlic and jalapeño until smooth. I used my Magic Bullet Blender for this but a mini food processor would work great too. If you don't feel like dirtying your large blender or food processor, you could always just finely mince the garlic and jalapeño, or pound them with a mortar and pestle, and whisk all the dressing ingredients together.
3. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss it. Serve the salad room temperature or chilled. If you're going to store this salad don't add the avocado ahead of time or it will oxidize; toss it in right before you eat the salad instead.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Root Vegetable Torte

If you've been following along for the past couple weeks, you've heard me complain about how the veggies in my CSA box don't seem to have gotten the memo that it's practically summer here in Durham. Just like I did months ago, I seem to be getting tons of greens and root veggies. I realize that having access to local produce is a luxury but that doesn't keep me from whining about it. I don't discriminate against winter produce though; towards the end of the summer I also complain about overdosing on tomatoes, zucchini, and squash. You've been warned.

Last summer I came across this wonderful Smitten Kitchen herbed summer squash and potato torte recipe while trying to make a serious dent in our massive squash stash. It wasn't squash I was trying to get rid of this time though, it was turnips. Honestly, I'm not a huge fan. Most people I know eat them smothered in cream, which isn't really my cup of tea, or in a soup. Since I didn't feel like making a hot blended soup (Austin opposes them on principle; he says they look like baby food) I was at a loss. I decided the best thing to do would be to hide them between layers of root veggies I do enjoy -- Yukon Gold and sweet potatoes -- and sprinkle them with almesan, which makes everything better. To my surprise, the turnips taste does come through and that's actually a good thing. Roasting them slowly brings out their subtle sweetness which complements the sweet potatoes and provides some contrast to the savoriness of the Yukon Golds and the almesan.

This recipe requires slicing all the root vegetables uniformly so that they cook evenly. Doing so is orders of magnitude easier if you use a mandoline slicer. If you don't have one, consider this a knife skills refresher. Either way, give this torte a try. We usually eat it for dinner, but I think it would make a fantastic brunch dish.

Root Vegetable Torte
Makes 2 9-inch tortes, or about 8 servings
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen's Herbed Summer Squash and Potato Torte
  • 1 cup almesan
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions or scallions
  • 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 lb yukon gold potatoes, peeled cut into 1/8 inch / 3 mm slices
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled cut into 1/8 inch / 3 mm slices
  • 14 oz / 400 g turnips, peeled cut into 1/8 inch / 3 mm slices
  • About 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil 
1.  Preheat the oven to 375 F. In a small bowl, mix together the almesan, green onions, all purpose flour, salt, pepper, thyme and nutmeg.  Then, grease 2 9-inch pie dishes with some olive oil. Arrange 1/4 of the sweet potato slices in concentric circles with a little overlap in the bottom one dish. Drizzle the sweet potatoes with 1-1 1/2 teaspoons of olive oil and sprinkle with 1/8 of the almesan mixture. Repeat the process with 1/2 of the turnips, 1/2 of the potato slices, and 1/4 of the sweet potato slices, making sure to drizzle some olive oil and sprinkle some almesan in between each layer and on the top of the torte. Use the same method to put together the second torte.

2.  Cover the tortes with aluminum foil and cook for about 40 minutes. Uncover them and cook for another 20 minutes or until the top layer starts to brown.

    Collard Wraps with Beet and Almond Butter Sauce

    Dear Beets,

    You know my love for you runs deep. I've been your admirer since the moment my mother first introduced me to you. You are sweet, earthy and a great color. I've had more of you than ever this year, enjoying your deliciousness all through the winter months. But it's May now, and it feels like summer here in Durham. With new seasons come new cravings and new beginnings and, since you're not a summer vegetable, it would be nice if you would stop appearing on my list of CSA veggies for a while.

    I know I ordered you this week but it was because, quite honestly, I was sick of some Greens. As soon as I got you home I threw you in the oven to roast, still uncertain of how I would consume you. I had planed on giving Collard Wraps some love that night, and was looking forward to them mingling with Almond Butter's dipping sauce, when I saw you sitting on the counter. You were all blistered from the roast, looking tasty as ever though, and longing to be used. I decided to let you join your boy Almond Butter, and some of his crew, in the dipping sauce. Oh, sorry for the rough ride you all had in the Magic Bullet. He's promised to blend with more care next time.

    Even though I thought you were amazing in the sauce, I would still rather we spent some time apart. I would really appreciate it if you packed up your stuff and let some more summery, exciting veggies set up camp for while. Please don't blame yourself for this Beets; it's not you, it's me. When I get tired of Tomatoes, Squash, and Zucchini I'll give you call. I know I'm fickle, but hey, you knew that when you met me. Take care Beets. Remember, this isn't a good bye, just a see you later.

    Sincerely (but not yours),

    Collard Wraps with Almond Butter Beet Sauce
    Makes 4 wraps (Austin and I each ate 2)

    Unless you're a dip enthusiast, you'll probably have some leftover sauce. Use it to dip raw veggies in or as a salad dressing.
    • 4 small beets, or about 3/4 cup chopped
    • 4 teaspoons olive oil 
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt plus extra for the beets
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper plus extra for the beets
    • 1/4 cup almond butter
    • 1/2 cup water or more if you'd like a thinner sauce
    • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 4 large collard leaves, wiped clean
    • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into strips
    • 2 medium carrots, shaved with a vegetable peeler
    • 1/2 avocado, thinly sliced
    • 2 radishes, cut into thin strips
    1.  Preheat the oven to 350 F. Place each beet on some foil, drizzle it in a teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Make a small sealed packet with each piece of foil and place them on a sheet pan or other oven safe dish. Cook the beets for about 40 minutes or until fork tender. Once they're cool enough to handle, the beets should be easy to peel by sliding the skin off with your hands.
    2.  Place the roasted beets, almond butter, water, vinegar, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
    3.  Place the collard leaf darkest side down on a cutting board. Using a sharp paring knife, slice of the top protruding part of the stem as Gena over at Choosing Raw indicates in this tutorial. Cut off any part of the stem that extends pass the leafy part of the collard. Arrange half of the vegetables to one side of the stem, going up and down the leaf. Fold in the top and bottom of the collard and start rolling the wrap from the side containing the filling to the opposite side. Place on a plate seam side down and slice on the bias if you'd like. Repeat the process for the other wraps. Dip the wrap into the almond butter and beet sauce and dig in.

    Sunday, May 8, 2011

    Semi-Homemade Sundried Tomato "Cheese" Ravioli with Arugula Pesto

    This meal isn't exactly diet food. Actually, it's the exact opposite. I don't know why I decided to cook such rich food last Friday, the day before we left for an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. Oh yeah, I forgot to let you all know I'm on the beach right now. In. The. Caribbean. I'm probably sipping a fancy beverage in paradise right now and will be doing so until Friday the 13th. I made sure you'd barely notice my absence by writing a few posts ahead of time and scheduling to upload automatically this week.

    But enough about exotic locations and Blogger's handy features. Let's get back to the food. You may remember that in my vegetable dumplings post I mentioned using wonton wrappers to make ravioli, as recommended in this Saveur article. Well, ever since then I haven't been able to stop thinking about whipping up my own semi-homemade ravioli. I decided to stuff them with a sundried tomato almond "cheese" this time, but I intend to experiment with other, perhaps lighter, fillings. Topped with some peppery arugula pesto, these ravioli were most certainly a delicious stick to your ribs meal.

    Sundried Tomato "Cheese" Ravioli
    Makes 16 very large ravioli or about 4 servings
    • 1 1/4 cup almonds, soaked for 12 to 24 hours (the longer the better) and drained
    • 1 teaspoon miso 
    • Juice of 1/4 lemon
    • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
    • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes (I used the kind packed in oil)
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 32 wonton wrappers (make sure you get the kind without eggs)
    • 1 batch Arugula Pesto
    1.  If you're a little OCD like me and would like a smoother "cheese" you'll want to peel your almonds. This isn't as terrible as it sounds. Once they've been soaked most of the skins just slip off if you apply a bit of pressure. Don't sweat it if some skins won't budge. A little almond skin never hurt anyone.
    2.  Place the almonds, miso, lemon juice, nutritional yeast, pepper, basil and oregano in the food processor and whiz until it forms a uniform paste, scrapping down the sides if necessary. Add the water and blend for about another minute. Toss in the sundried tomatoes and start the motor. Slowly drizzle the olive oil in through the feeding tube. Continue to process the "cheese" until the oil and the tomatoes are mixed in uniformly.
    3. Place two wonton wrappers on a plate or cutting board. Dip your finger in some water and moisten the outer 1/2 inch or so of each wrapper. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in one wrapper and cover it with the other wrapper so that the moist parts touch. Using your hands, apply pressure to the outside of the raviolo to seal in the filling. Place on a parchment-lined sheet pan or plate. Repeat the process for the remaining 15 ravioli. As you can see from the penny comparison in the picture, these ravioli are king and queen sized.

    4. Once your ravioli are assembled, you can either freeze them or cook them within a couple days. To freeze them, place them on a plate in the freezer, making sure they don't touch, for about 30 minutes. When they've hardened somewhat you can put them in a bag or container and keep them in the freezer until you'd like to use them. You can place frozen ravioli directly in boiling water without thawing first. If your ravioli are still fresh, cook about 6 of them at a time in a large pot of boiling water for approximately 4 minutes or until al dente. Carefully remove the ravioli from the water with a slotted spoon. Serve topped with some warm arugula pesto or another sauce of your choice.

    Arugula Pesto
    Makes about 1 1/4 cup
    • 3 packed cups arugula
    • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
    • 1/2 cup pecans or walnuts
    • 4 garlic cloves
    • 3/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
    • 1/2 cup canola oil or other light tasting vegetable oil
    Toss the arugula, nutritional yeast, pecans, garlic, salt and pepper into the food processor and blend until a uniform paste forms. Scrape down the sides of the food processor, start it up again and slowly drizzle in the oil through the feeding tube. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

    Friday, May 6, 2011

    Asian Cabbage and Leeks with Crispy Tofu (with Taco Variation)

    My mother deserves sainthood for a lot of reasons, one of which is particularly relevant to today's post: she put up with an extremely picky eater, yours truly, for about 18 years. (Mom, I know I owe you big time. You're the best.) I repeatedly ignored her requests for a week-long menu I would gladly devour, so she did the only thing she could do -- feed me the select number of dishes I would eat without complaining. Due to her lack of options, my poor mother didn't have much room for experimentation. Once in a while though, she would brave the little snot that young Sara could be and put something new on the table. This cabbage is one such deviation from the norm, and a very tasty one at that.

    My original intention was to serve this cabbage with with one batch of my beloved crispy baked tofu which I'd intended to dip in this sauce. As I was taking the picture Austin said "You know what would be tasty? If we stuffed the cabbage and tofu into a tortilla and drizzled some of the sauce over it. Bam! Asian tacos!". I told Austin that sounded great, and he replied with a phrase he utters frequently: "Good ideas, I'm full of them".  He then told me I'd better give him credit. Babe, the world would be a duller place without your wonderful ideas.

    Asian Cabbage and Leeks
    Makes 4 servings

    If you stuff this cabbage and crispy baked tofu, drizzled with this dipping sauce into corn tortillas you'll probably have enough for 6 tacos, with a little left over cabbage.

    • 1 tablespoon canola or olive oil
    • 4 leeks, halved lengthwise then thinly sliced widthwise
    • 1/2 head green cabbage, cut into 1/3 inch / 1cm strips
    • 3 medium carrots, shaved into strips using a vegetable peeler
    • 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon Chinese five spice
    • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
    • 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
    • Juice 1/2 lime
    • 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup or agave
    • 1 teaspoon miso
    • Optional: Sesame seeds for garnish
    1.  In a large saute pan with a lid, heat the oil between medium and medium-high heat. Toss in the leeks and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft but not brown. Stir in the cabbage, cover the pan and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the cabbage has softened.
    2. While the cabbage cooks, whisk the remaining ingredients together, except for the carrots, until combined. Once the cabbage is cooked, stir in the carrots and the sauce you just mixed. Cook uncovered until most of the liquid has evaporated, which should take around 5 minutes. Serve immediately, garnished with sesame seeds if you'd like.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2011

    Potaje de Garbanzos (Spanish Chickpea Stew)

    When my parents were visiting, my dad and I got to talking about a plate of potaje -- or traditional Spanish chickpea stew normally served during Lent-- he'd had a few days earlier. With a longing look in his eyes, he described the dish: "It was delicious and vegetarian. It had garbanzos, spinach, cod...". "Wait a minute! Cod? That's not a vegetable!", I replied. Obviously, my father knows that cod doesn't grow in the ground. I think the source of my his confusion was that, although still eat fish very rarely, he still considers me a vegetarian. That's why anything I would eat can, in his mind, be labeled as vegetarian.

    The inclusion of cod (a fish I've never liked) wasn't the only reason I was less than thrilled by my father's mention of potaje. It was one of those dishes that my school's lunches ruined for me. I thought this damage to be irreversible, but just in case it wasn't I decided to make a truly vegetarian (vegan even!) version of this stew. I'm happy to report that there is such a thing as the right potaje for me and this is it.

    Potaje de Garbanzos (Spanish Chickpea Stew)
    Makes about 5 servings
    • 1 1/2 tablespoon olive oil 
    • 1 medium onion, diced
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 green bell pepper, diced (you can definitely substitute a different colored bell pepper)
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
    • 1 tomato, diced
    • About 1 lb potatoes (I used about 3 smallish red ones)
    • 5-6 cups vegetable stock (I wanted my potaje more soupy, so I used 6)
    • 2 bay leaves
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 3 cups loosely packed spinach, chopped
    • 1 15 oz / 425 g can chickpeas
    • Optional: 1 nori sheet, julienned
    1.  In a pot with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Toss in the onions and saute them for about 5 minutes, or until tender but not brown. Add the garlic and cook for about another 3 minutes. Mix in the peppers and saute for approximately 4 minutes. Stir in the paprika, cumin, salt and pepper, toasting the spices for about a minute.
    2.  Deglaze the pan by adding the tomatoes, broth, potatoes, and bay leaves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce it to a simmer. Cook the soup covered for 15-18 minutes or until the potatoes are just shy of done.
    3.  Add the spinach, nori and chickpeas and simmer the stew for about 5 minutes or until the potatoes are done. Fish out the bay leaves and serve.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    The Easiest Granola

    My grandma Ollie loved granola more than anyone I know. She wasn't happy with any old store bought granola, no, she had to make her own in practically industrial quantities. One massive batch would have to get her through every single breakfast for months. When I say she ate it every day, I mean it. She would even bring baggies of it to Disney World, Spain, and anywhere else she would travel. Why would someone be so militant about eating the exact same granola for over 20 years? Well, because it was damn good, the best I've ever had.

    When I decided to make granola I didn't think it was going to be as good as my grandma's. I mean, she had 20 years to perfect her granola-making craft. I set out to make something that was relatively healthy and cheaper than the stuff you buy at the store. Most importantly, I wanted it to be easy and this recipe certainly is. (Ok, maybe all granola recipes are a cake walk, I'm willing to admit that.) This granola only takes about 30-35 minutes from start to finish, which in my mind makes it only marginally more labor intensive than picking up a box at the store.

    I've been enjoying this tasty granola mixed with some local strawberries and almond milk for breakfast all week. I like that it's got only a a tad sweet, but if you would like it sweeter just add a bit more maple syrup at a time until the raw granola taste is to your liking. I used cinnamon, cardamom and vanilla to flavor it but you could use your own mix of spices and extracts. You could also swap out the nuts and seeds I used for others and even alter the oats to nuts ratio. Really, this is just a method. Experiment, have fun with it and let me know how it goes.

    The Easiest Granola
    Makes about 4 cups
    • 2 1/2 cups rolled oats (I used the quick cooking kind)
    • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
    • 1/2 cup peanuts (I used dry roasted and slightly salted peanuts)
    • 1/2 cup raw almonds
    • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
    • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    • 1/3 cup maple syrup
    • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
    • Optional: 1/2 cup raisins, craisins or any other dried fruit of your choice. 
    1.  Preheat the oven to 325 F / 162 C. In a medium bowl, toss all dry ingredients together. Pour the maple syrup and vanilla into a small bowl and give them a stir. Pour the maple syrup over the dry ingredients, tossing to make sure the granola is evenly coated with sweet goodness. 
    2.  Spread the granola onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and transfer it to the oven. Cook it for about 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. You'll want to toss it at least a couple times during the cooking process so that it browns evenly. You should probably start watching it closely after about 18 minutes because there's a fine line between crunchy, toasty granola and nasty, burnt granola. Once it's cooked, let it cool to to room temperature. If you'd like to add dry fruit, mix it in with the cool granola. Store in a mason jar or in a another container with a lid.

    Sunday, May 1, 2011

    Spiralized Zucchini with Raw Sun-Dried Tomato Marinara

    One of my favorite things about Duke is their weekly summer Farmers Market. It's about a two minute walk from my office and provides the perfect excuse for a walk on sunny Fridays. This week, I was eager to pick up some summer produce, since my CSA seems to still be stuck in the winter greens and root veggies rut (honestly, I'm getting kind of tired of it). Browsing stands, I found some lovely looking zucchini and tomatoes which I thought would make a tasty raw pasta dish.

    I understand that raw pasta may not be for everyone, especially if you expect spiralized zucchini to taste exactly like spaghetti. Thinking of this dish as a light and summery way to satisfy a pasta craving, may help the raw pasta love flow. I also like to think of it as fun alternative to a lunch salad. If you really need real pasta in this dish or if you'd just like to bulk it up, fear not, there's an option for you. Just add some cooked pasta and other spiralized veggies to the zucchini for an interesting take on pasta salad. 

    Spiralized Zucchini with Raw Sun Dried Tomato Marinara
    Makes 2-3 servings
    Adapted from Ani Phyo's Raw Food Kitchen
    • 3 medium zucchini or summer squash, scrubbed well or peeled 
    • 2 1/2 cups nice and ripe tomatoes
    • 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, either just rehydrated or packed in oil
    • 1 garlic clove
    • 1/4 cup olive oil, preferably extra virgin
    • Juice of 1/2 medium lemon
    • 1 large pitted date or about 1 tablespoon of agave or maple syrup
    • 1 teaspoon dried basil or 1/2 cup fresh basil
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • Optional: Almesan for garnish
    1.  If you have a spiralizer (I expressed my love for mine in this post) use it to cut the zucchini into thin spaghetti-like strands. If you don't have a spiralizer, use a vegetable peeler to cut your zucchini into veggie noodles.
    2.  Throw the rest of the ingredients, except for the almesan, into a blender and whiz until the marinara is smooth. Taste it and adjust the seasoning to your liking. Pour the sauce over the noodles, garnish with some almesan, and dig in. If you have leftovers, make sure to store the sauce and noodles separately. They should keep for about 3-4 days.