Chickpeas of the Sea

Since I renewed my commitment to eating vegetarian, I’ve been eating many more varied dishes – trying new recipes, inventing, experimenting with flavor combinations – but I haven’t had that urge to “makeover” old favorites into vegetarian-friendly entrees, for the most part.  There was a bit of experimenting with lentil-based “meat” loaf, which didn’t yield anything worth blogging about (yet) and I’ve been making the occasional Shepherdess Pie.  But I’m simply not really interested in turning meat dishes into vegan or vegetarian dishes.  I’m happy with the variety of foods I’m eating already, all unquestionably vegetarian.

So I was surprised even at myself when I suddenly had the urge to “makeover” tuna salad.  I have never been a big fan of canned tuna.  Sure, I liked raw tuna in sushi and tuna tartare, and even the occasional seared tuna (but I had to be in the mood) but the texture and fishiness of canned tuna salad never appealed to me.  Still, one day on a run I had a Eureka! moment – that tends to happen on runs – and I decided to make a mock tuna salad that could serve as a sandwich filling, dip, spread, or mix-in for a casserole.  And how to get that seafoody flavor without seafood?  Well, obviously, sea vegetable!  I’ve been adding sea vegetable to dishes when I want that briny ocean taste – why not use it to replicate tuna salad?  So I blended up some chickpeas, nori, tamari (for more umami) and lemon juice (for tang) and… well, I liked it better than any tuna salad I’ve ever had.  So on those blue moon occasions when I get a craving for a tuna melt, I now have a solution.  And what a delicious solution it is…

Chickpeas of the Sea

This makes a rather large batch, but it’s great stuff to have on hand.  It keeps very well (although hubby thinks it’s best on the first day).  I love to make it on Sunday and keep it in the fridge for mock tuna sandwiches… that is, if I can stop dipping carrot sticks in it long enough to make the sandwich!

2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons tamari
2-4 sheets nori
1/2 cup vegenaise (or mayonnaise for a non-vegan version)
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 celery ribs, diced

  • Tear nori sheets into large pieces (start with 2 – you can always add more if you want more briny flavor).  In food processor, combine chickpeas, lemon juice, tamari and nori.  Pulse until chickpeas are broken up into coarse crumbs and other ingredients are combined.
  • Scoop chickpea mixture into a large mixing bowl and add remaining ingredients.  Fold mixture together and remove to refrigerator.  Allow to set for 30 minutes, until flavors meld.

Source: Covered In Flour

Kale Salad with Sea Vegetable

I’ve been doing a lot of traveling lately.  Between the holidays and some work travel, I’ve been away far more than I’ve been home.  Traveling so much can be exciting, and I’m loving the opportunity to see new faces and new places and to work in a different environment.  (I do miss my friends at work, though!)  But one thing that I’ve realized is that I’m very wedded to my routine.  I like my familiar running trails and my fridge full of greenery.  Where I am now… well, it’s a city with lots of good qualities, but if I were to say the words “kale salad” they may look at me as if I’d grown another head.

Which is a shame.  Because this salad is not only healthy, it’s darn tasty as well.  I could eat kale salad every day of the week (and twice on Sundays!) but I rarely deviate from the classic combination of kale, avocado, olive oil, salt and lemon juice.  Sometimes I get a little crazy and sprinkle lime on instead.  Oooh, someone stop me!  So this time I wanted to try something different, something that still had that green, healthy flavor I love, something that felt like I was giving myself a little love before heading off on another grueling trip, but something a bit more creative as well.  Thus kale salad with sea vegetable was born.  The memory of this salad (which hubby is currently enjoying at home as I navigate hotel salad bars) is getting me through the next two weeks until I can have it again.  Now, if only I could find a nice running trail…

Kale Salad with Sea Vegetable

1 cup dried sea vegetable (dulse, armae, wakame or nori)
1 bunch curly kale
1 bunch Tuscan kale*
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt**
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
drizzle sesame or white truffle oil***
sprinkle white sesame seeds or Seaweed Gomasio

  • Place sea vegetable in a small bowl and cover with water.  Set aside to reconstitute.  (I used dulse but arame, wakame or nori would be good as well.  All are generally available in the Asian or natural foods sections of lage supermarkets, and in health food stores.)
  • Wash and dry kale leaves and tear them into large-ish bite sized pieces.  Add to mixing bowl; sprinkle on salt and drizzle olive oil and red wine vinegar.
  • With your fingers, massage kale until it has “wilted” down into a softer consistency.  Don’t be afraid to test bite pieces to find a texture that’s to your liking!
  • Drain off sea vegetable, but don’t be too enthusiastic about squeezing out all the water.  It’s okay if the sea vegetable is damp.  It lives in the water, after all!  Plus, there’s nutrients and minerals in that water – good stuff.  Add sea vegetable to kale mixture.  Drizzle over white truffle oil or sesame oil and toss well to combine.
  • Garnish with Gomasio or white sesame seeds just prior to serving.  Enjoy in good health!

*If you can’t find Tuscan kale in your supermarket, just substitute another bunch of regular curly kale.  Or, if you prefer, use two bunches of Tuscan kale!  The important thing is to keep the proportions right by using two bunches of kale – the variety of kale doesn’t matter as much.  Or cut the recipe in half.  Whatever blows your hair back!

**Start with 1 teaspoon and add more salt as needed if your kale is tough and doesn’t want to “wilt” down.  Be careful with adding salt though – this recipe can get very salty, very fast.  Err on the side of spending a couple of extra minutes massaging the kale before you add more salt.  Remember, once you add that salt, you’ve passed The Point Of No Return.  (Doesn’t that sound scary?  You have been warned.)

***I fully intended to use sesame oil in this recipe, to tie in with the sprinkle of Gomasio I was planning to finish the dish off with.  Being somewhat impatient, I didn’t read the bottle of oil before I grabbed it, and ended up drizzling on my precious white truffle oil.  As white truffle oil has the tendency to do, it made this dish FAN-FREAKING-TASTIC, so I put it in the recipe instead of lying to y’all and pretending I used sesame oil.  But sesame oil would be great in this as well.  Just remember, whether you use sesame oil or white truffle oil, go easy because it’s intense stuff.

Source: Covered In Flour

Butternut Squash and Chestnut Casserole with White Beans

Here ya go: a holiday gift from me to you.  This dish is the perfect – and I mean PERFECT – vegetarian entree for a holiday meal.  Hubs said it tasted like stuffing to him, and I can see where he got that from – the savory, roasty flavors are definitely reminiscient of stuffing, but there’s no lumps of soggy bread, which are a major turn-off for me, anyway.  This recipe starts with a base of slightly caramelized onions, so you know it’s going to be good.  The white beans add protein punch and bump this dish up from neglected side to full-on main course.  Add on top of that squash, chestnuts, thyme and bread crumbs and you’ve got the makings of a deliciously compassionate holiday feast.  Add some mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce and citrus-roasted brussels sprouts (oh yes, I went there), and I promise you won’t even miss the turkey.

Butternut Squash and Chestnut Casserole with White Beans

1 yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium butternut squash, cubed
1 15-ounce jar chestnuts, coarsely chopped
1 can white beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup vegetable broth
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper (eyeball to your preferred amount)
coarse bread crumbs (I like Ian’s brand, whole wheat, or homemade)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional)
additional olive oil for drizzling

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • In a 9×13 inch casserole dish, toss the onions and olive oil until the onions are completely coated.  Bake for 20 minutes, until onions are beginning to turn golden and caramelized.
  • Meanwhile, cube the butternut squash into approximately 3/4 to 1 inch pieces and set aside.  Coarsely chop chestnuts and toss together with butternut squash.
  • When onions have baked for 20 minutes, remove from oven and add butternut squash and chestnuts, white beans, vegetable broth, thyme, salt and pepper.  Toss all ingredients together in the baking dish (careful, it’s hot!) until well combined.
  • Cover with a generous sprinkle of bread crumbs (in the picture above I had made my own, but I made another batch with Ian’s to bring to an office party.  Either way is good!  Or you could use croutons.) and nutritional yeast, if using.  Drizzle with olive oil and return to oven for 30-35 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Source: Adapted from Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms

Ohhhhh, yes please.  This is one of those dishes that you can make all year round, but it’s particularly satisfying in fall.  The creamy white bean and the caramelized onions and savory mushrooms come together to create an earthy, heavenly, mish-mosh of flavors and textures.  Paired with some whole-grain bread (or Ezekiel English muffins, as I did here ’cause I’m lazy), it’s a perfect dish to throw together and make you feel like life is worth living even on a rainy Monday.  I promise.  And you know I don’t make promises I can’t keep.

Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms

1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large leek, sliced thin
1 package gourmet mix mushrooms (or shiitakes)
kosher salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Warm the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the chopped leeks and saute gently until soft.  Remove from pan and reserve.
  • In the same pan, saute the mushrooms until they are golden and caramelized, 10-12 minutes.  Keep them moving and add more olive oil if necessary (but only if necessary).
  • When the mushrooms are caramelized, add the leeks back and pour in the beans.  Mix well, season with the salt, pepper, and dried herbs, and warm the beans through.  Serve over whole grain bread or pasta.

Source: Adapted from Veganomicon, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

Roasted Cabbage with Balsamic Drizzle

It’s no secret around these parts that I love roasted vegetables.  Cabbage is one of my favorite vegetables and, personally, I’ve never had any problems with cabbage flavor.  But I’d actually never tried roasting cabbage, and I’ve been wanting to for quite some time.  So last weekend I picked up a nice little green cabbage at the farmers market, with the express purpose of roasting it.  I had planned to just eat it as it came out of the oven, but then as I put it in, I thought, “what about a balsamic drizzle?”  Roasted vegetables are good on their own, but pairing them with something a little acidic often takes them to a whole new level – and that was the case this time, too.  The balsamic reduction takes on a tart-yet-sweet character, perfectly complementing the soft, juicy, caramelized cabbage.  And the best part?  Cabbage is cheap and this is quick and easy enough to throw together after work for a deliciously simple dinner.  Yum!

Roasted Cabbage with Balsamic Drizzle

1 green cabbage, outer leaves removed
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
black pepper
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cut cabbage into 8 wedges of roughly equal size (just do your best).  Place them on a foil-lined baking sheet and toss gently with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper.  Roast for 15 minutes, then toss and roast for 15 minutes more.
  • During the second 15 minute roasting period, heat balsamic vinegar in a small pan, over medium heat.  Allow the vinegar to reduce by about half.  If more reduction is needed, in your judgment, turn the heat up to high and allow the vinegar to boil down during the last minute of roasting.
  • Pile cabbage wedges on a plate and drizzle the balsamic reduction over them.  Serve immediately!  They would be good over pasta, as a side dish for roasted chicken or sauteed chicken paillards, or (as I ate them) all alone, as an awesome lunch.

Source: Adapted from TheKitchn.

Curry-Roasted Carrots

By now, you all know how much I love roasted vegetables.  Carrots are no exception – just like most of their veggie cousins, when carrots are roasted they become caramelized and deeply sweet-savory.  Now, I could eat plain roasted veggies, with just olive oil, salt and pepper, and maybe a squirt of lemon juice, every day for the rest of my life and never be bored.  But I realize that not everyone is as single-mindedly obsessed with vegetables as I am, and that some of my darling readers might appreciate me changing things up once in awhile.  So here’s a little variation on plain roasted carrots (which are good just as they are) for ya: curry-roasted carrots.

Forrest Gump said many times that he and Jenny were like “peas and carrots.”  What he really should have said was that they were like curry and carrots.  There are very few things, in my opinion, that go better together than curry and carrots.  Curry just loves carrots, and I’ve combined the flavors before in my curried carrot salad.  And not only are these flavors made for each other, but both curry and carrots are great for you.  Carrots contain beta-carotene, which is such an important nutrient that I’ve been known to dream about it and wake up craving orange vegetables.  And curry is thought to possibly prevent degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia if you eat it in small quantities throughout your life.  If that goodness isn’t reason enough to make these curry-roasted carrots, I’ll give you another reason: they’re freaking delicious.  The carrots take on a resonant sweetness, which is perfectly complemented by the spicy crunch of curry powder and garam masala.  Healthy and delicious… yes!

Curry-Roasted Carrots

2 bunches baby garden carrots with greens attached
extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt and black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 to 1 teaspoon curry powder

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Trim carrots so that only a small tuft of green remains.  Wash them, but there’s no need to peel them (unless you bought them already-peeled in a bag from Whole Foods like I did, cheater that I am).
  • Lay carrots out on a foil-lined baking sheet and dress with olive oil; toss until carrots are lightly coated.  Add kosher salt (a generous amount), black pepper, garam masala and curry powder.  (I like lots of spice, so I go for the full teaspoon.  If you like less, start with 1/2 teaspoon and see how it looks to you.  You can always add more, but it’s rather hard to subtract.)
  • Roast carrots for 1 hour, tossing once, midway through.

Yield: Serves 4-6.

Source: Covered In Flour.

Lemony Avocado Halves

I really wasn’t sure what to call this post.  It’s my favorite way to eat avocado, but I can barely justify calling it a recipe… nor do I have a name for the dish, to be frank.  And I don’t even really know what this is.  Is it a side dish?  A salad?  An appetizer?  All of the above?

I know one thing: it’s delicious.  Rich, buttery avocado, enveloped in a sheen of extra-virgin olive oil and freshly-squeezed lemon juice, with the crunch of sea salt and cracked peppercorns on top… does it get better than that?  Oh, wait, it does!  Because avocado is good for you!  It’s a wonderful source of “good” heart-healthy fats – as is extra-virgin olive oil.  As Jamie Oliver would say, happy days.

Ingredients

2 ripe Hass avocados, split
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
pinch of sea salt (Maldon is nice)
cracked black pepper

Method

  • After splitting the avocados, remove the pit.  Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh into neat mounds.  Arrange on a plate.
  • Dress with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice on each avocado half.
  • Season with a scattering of sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste.
  • That’s it!

Yield: Serves 2 to 4 (depending on if you want half an avocado or a whole one… you’ll probably want a whole one)

Source: I’m not sure.  I’ve been making these for years.  I might have seen it in a Martha Stewart magazine, or it might have been in Cosmopolitan when they do one of their “make people believe you’re Martha Stewart” blurbs.  I learned to make chocolate covered pretzels from Cosmopolitan, so don’t hate… Anyway, let’s just say inspired by Martha Stewart.

Citrus Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I can practically hear you screaming now.  “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!  Mommmmmmm!!!!!  No brussels sprouts!  No, no, NOOOOOO!!!!!”

Well, save me the drama.  Sure, they’re good for you.  Cry me a river.  The fact of the matter is, brussels sprouts are good.  No, better than good – they’re delicious.  Of course, I think all vegetables are delicious (except okra… I’ve tried, but I can’t, I just can’t).  But brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables.  Carrots?  Yes, please.  Squash?  Mmmm, indeed I will.  Broccoli?  Load ’em up.  Brussels sprouts?  GIMME!  Because I love brussels sprouts so much, I have taken it upon myself to change people’s minds about them.  It’s my mission in life.  Because most people, ya know, HATE them.  They are the butt of every Thanksgiving joke.  They’ve even made an appearance on “Friends” as “Monica’s stinky brussels sprouts.”  Well, I’m sick of it.  Enough with the smelly gym socks references!  Brussels sprouts don’t deserve the reputation they seem to have acquired.  So I’m here to make the case for brussels sprouts, and this is it: Roast them.  Roast them now.  If you are one of the multitudes who hate brussels sprouts, it’s because you haven’t had them like this.  So go roast them, then eat them, then apologize to all brussels sprouts you have scorned over the years.  Your Honor, the defense rests.

Okay, I’m being a little bit quippy here, but it’s true: there are ways to screw up brussels sprouts.  In fact, it’s pretty easy to screw them up, and when you do, they’re the definition of gross.  For instance, boiling brussels sprouts, to put it mildly, does not show these vegetables off to their best advantage.  They are actually very versatile and tasty, but people insist on boiling them.  Don’t!  Put the saucepan down and back away from the stove!  Roast them like this, or shred and saute them with a tiny bit of creme fraiche and bacon, or steam them and dress them with a tart vinaigrette.  But don’t boil them.  (And if you disregard this advice, don’t come crying to me about gym socks, ‘cuz I don’t want to hear it.)  Brussels sprouts are wonderful many ways, it’s true, but I think they’re at their best when roasted.  The outer leaves caramelize and become crispy and salty and savory, and the inside leaves take on the wonderful, nutty character that you will NEVER achieve by boiling.  And then when you hit them with some lemon juice and zest, man, oh man, they are amazing.  Brussels sprouts will change your life.

Citrus Roasted Brussels Sprouts

2 cups brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, outer leaves removed
1 lemon, zested and zest reserved
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
fresh black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Clean and trim brussels sprouts: slice off the bottom of the sprout (the woody, tough part) and remove any outer leaves that have become tough and/or yellow and/or wilted.  Cut sprouts in half and rinse under running water.
  • Place brussels sprouts halves in a large bowl and dress with olive oil and a generous seasoning of kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper.  Zest a lemon, reserving half of the zest.  Add the remaining half of the zest to the brussels sprouts mixture.  Roll the lemon to distribute the juices, then slice in half.  Squeeze the juice of half the lemon over the sprouts, reserving the second half for later.
  • Roast for 45-50 minutes, tossing once or twice.  Remove from oven and transfer to serving bowl.  Squeeze the second lemon half over the sprouts, and sprinkle the remaining zest over the top.
  • Change minds, change lives.

Source: Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Roasted Fall Vegetables

DSC_0795

I absolutely love vegetables, and I’d be hard pressed to name one that I don’t like.  And roasting vegetables is my absolute favorite way to cook them.  Back in my law school days, when the only dinner I knew how to cook was chicken piccata, I’d always make roasted asparagus to go along with it.   I never got tired of those crispy asparagus tops!  Eventually, I branched out into roasting other vegetables.  Carrots, for instance, are one of my favorite veggies to roast.  And the day I first roasted brussels sprouts was the day that my husband discovered that he actually likes brussels sprouts!

Roasted vegetables are delicious because they are crispy in places, chewy in places, and have wonderful caramelized crusts – my favorite part.  And the fact that they couldn’t be easier to make, well, that doesn’t hurt either.  The secrets to perfect roasted vegetables are a high oven temperature – 400 to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on the vegetable – and plenty of salt.  And, of course, enough time.  The results are well worth your patience, though, especially when the weather starts getting cooler and the winter squashes appear at your market.  For the perfect fall side dish, toss some winter squash and sweet potatoes in a little maple syrup and watch the autumn magic happen.

Roasted Fall Vegetables

1 white sweet potato, peeled and large-diced
1 garnet yam or jewel sweet potato, peeled and large-diced
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and large-diced
2 tablespoons (approx.) extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper, a generous hand
2 tablespoons maple syrup (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Because these are very dense, fibrous root veggies and winter squashes, you need a higher temperature.
  • After you have prepared the vegetables, toss them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and maple syrup if using, on a foil-lined baking sheet.
  • Roast for 30 minutes, then remove from oven and quickly toss.  Place veggies back in oven and roast for approximately 15-20 minutes more – keep an eye on the vegetables at this point.  When they start getting a beautiful, caramelized crust and are fork-tender, they are ready.

DSC_0788

Source: Covered In Flour, roasting method from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Yield: Serves 4