5/25/2015

grilled zucchini + pesto flatbread

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A good standby pizza dough recipe can be great for a lot of things. Pizza, of course, being the main one, but the possibilities only go on from there. This time I didn't venture too far off course (what is, I wonder, the main difference between pizza and flatbread, at least in this scenario), but the flavors help take us further away from pizza (not a tomato in sight) and welcome in warm weather with a bounty of fresh, summer squash.


For this recipe you'll need:

For the dough (makes 2 medium flatbreads):

1 1/4 cups bread flour
1 cup semolina flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 packet active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm (but not hot) water
1 teaspoon olive oil

For the topping:

2 large cloves of garlic
1/2 cup almonds, toasted
2 packed cups kale
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper


A note on dough: if you double this recipe, you can always freeze half for dinner in a pinch later in the week. Just move from the freezer to the fridge in the morning and you should have defrosted, pliable dough in time for dinner. 

In a large, wide bowl, add both your flours and salt and make well in the center. In a small bowl, add your yeast to the lukewarm water and gently whisk together. Set this aside for about five minutes (or when the mixture starts to look foamy) then pour into the well along with your olive oil.

Using a fork and a circular movement, slowly bring in the flour from the inner edge of the well and mix into the water. When this gets difficult, transfer the dough to a clean, well-floured countertop and knead for about 10 minutes or until your dough comes together.

Once you've got it kneaded to correct consistency (think springy), place is a lightly greased bowl (olive oil works for this, too) and cover with a damp kitchen towel. Place in a warm spot (perhaps even the turned-off oven) and let rise for about 45 minutes, or doubled in size.


Once your dough is rising, preheat a grill pan. In a large bowl, toss your zucchini slices (the thinner the better) with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on the now-hot grill for about 3-4 minutes per side, or until you get those nice grill marks. Set aside to let cool for later use.

When your dough is just about done rising, preheat your oven to 500 degrees (if you've been letting it rise in there, be sure to take it out first - been there). Roll out your dough on a well floured surface then transfer your ready dough onto your pizza peel. (It's best to sprinkle your peel with a bit of cornmeal in order to make the transfer easier; insider trick if you find yourself cornmeal-less, a bit of dry quinoa will also work in a pinch.) Spread a generous amount of pesto on your ready dough, but work quickly: the super elastic dough is perfect for pizza but quickly absorbs any liquid making it sticky and harder to work with/transfer into the oven. Top with some zucchini slices (I also added a little last-minute caramelized onion and red pepper) and quickly transfer to your oven/stone in one swift movement.

After 10 minutes, peer in quickly to see if the crust has started to brown around the edges. If so, great. Open the oven further and give the edge of the crust a quick tap. Does it feel firm? Does it bounce back? If so, remove from the oven because this pizza is DONE. If it looks a little too pale or feels a little too soft or doesn't bounce back right away, keep waiting in 1-minute intervals or until the desired consistency is achieved.


And there you have it: pizza dough masquerading as a flatbread that has tons of flavor without too much effort because that's what happens when you stick to the seasonal stuff: better tasting food.

5/20/2015

olive-cauliflower farro bowls with green pesto

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Weekday dinners shouldn't take hours to prep. It's just not fair or realistic. Having a job that allows me to work from home allows me a little extra wiggle room (you know, preheating an oven while you finish up the day's emails) but it's still asking a lot to prepare a full-blown meal on a Wednesday. Wednesdays can be tough, y'all.


Enter farro, a hearty grain that stands in well to dishes that call for rice or couscous. It's got a great al dente texture and it's unique enough that paired with some expertly roasted vegetables (hello, cauliflower) and salty olives. If you can handle that, dinner is served in about 35 minutes (give or take).


For this recipe, you will need:

1 1/2 cups farro, dry (Trader Joe's makes a good fast-cooking option, though for regular-cooking farro, try Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 head of a large cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 teaspoon dried turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt & pepper
1/4 cup olives (any color), sliced
Heaping 1/2 cup of pesto
1/4 cup cherry (or other small variety) tomatoes, sliced (optional)

For the pesto, I went with my vegan standby: about 4 cups kale, 1/2 cup toasted almonds, 3 cloves garlic, a pinch of salt and a generous glug of olive oil. How official, right? But it pays to make pesto by the batch because it freezes up great (save it as meal-sized portions for easy defrosting) and makes the next busy weeknight dinner a breeze with a little extra zip.



Begin by preheating your oven to 400 degrees. On a large baking sheet, toss together your cauliflower with your turmeric, paprika, cumin, fennel, lemon juice, olive oil and pinches of both salt and pepper. Get your hands in there to make sure everything is well coated. And then rinse your hands right away, because turmeric tends to stain.


Roast the cauliflower for 30-35 minutes, or until tender, rotating the pan halfway through cook time.

When you're about 15 minutes away from the cauliflower being ready, bring about 4 cups of water to a rolling boil. (Note: if you're not using the fast-cook farro, start this process right after the cauliflower goes in the oven.) Cook your farro according to the instructions, which will be to keep at a boil for about ten minutes or until tender. Drain and then return to the same pot. Stir in your pesto immediately.



Serve in bowls with cauliflower on top, a scoop of salty olives (YES) and tomato halves, if using. It's simple, sure, but it hit the spot like a weekday dinner should: easy and yet still completely satisfying.

What's for dinner tonight?

5/18/2015

coconut quinoa-oat porridge with mangoes

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Most days, breakfast is the reason why I get up in the morning. That, and the smell of freshly ground coffee. Don't worry, you don't have to feel sad for me: food is not my only motivator. But it is a big one, for lots of reasons, one of the main ones being I love discovering new ways to eat healthy foods that I also genuinely enjoy. And crave, even! Not that I have to be too swayed, as I tend to enjoy healthy fare. But some things can feel like you're eating them because you know you should, not because you exactly want to.

Well, this, I want to. And you will, too. It's a tropical paradise in a pretty, pretty bowl. And the mystery ingredient is: quinoa!


Quinoa isn't typically consumed in the morning, or as a sweet food, but this recipe seriously makes me question why not. It's just as versatile as steel cut outs (which also make an appearance here) and adapts well to added flavors. It could be the next oatmeal, I'll say it. I already did. Proclamation made.


For this recipe, you'll need:

1/2 cup steel cut oats (my favorite is Bob's Red Mill)
1/2 cup white quinoa (aesthetically it makes the most sense, but any variety will work)
1 cup almond-coconut milk 
1 cup water
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 medium mango, cubed
1/4 cup coconut flakes (if you can't find them in the bulk section of your grocery store, try Dang)

Start by combining your oats, quinoa, milk and water into a small saucepan. Bring to a full boil and then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes or until fully thickened. 

Still on the stovetop, stir in your maple syrup to sweeten (you could also go with your classic brown sugar or agave, if you want to keep it light). Note: Having now made this a second and third time, my suggestion would be to halve the addition of whatever sweetener you choose, as a full 1/4 cup really started to feel like too much. But too each their own!



Serve with a generous scoop of mango and coconut flakes (and, as I did, a sprinkle of cinnamon).

SO good! As I was adding the maple syrup I thought, geez, this might be pretty sweet, but the tartness of the mango really helped balance that out. A completely unexpected but super tasty combo. I think this could also work great with other sweet-and-sour fruits like pineapple or even kiwi.

Craving more coconut?



5/14/2015

vegan double chocolate cookies

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Well, guys, today is National Chocolate Chip Day. I think that's a pretty big deal. It's not National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day or National Chocolate Chip Waffle Day, though you could definitely use either of those avenues to celebrate.

No, today is just about the chip. Because think about it, what can a chocolate chip not improve? Granola bars? Sure. Cookies, brownies, quick breads? Done. The humble cookie? Hats off to you, Miss Wakefield.

Yep, the chip changes everything, including this way-too-decadent-for-a-weekday double chocolate cookies. Which, surprise, are vegan and just as easy as your traditional cookie doughs.


For this recipe, you'll need:

1/2 cup coconut oil (softened but not melted)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup almond milk (or whatever nondairy milk you like)
1 tablespoon ground flax meal
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup high-quality cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (Equal Exchange is a good choice)
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Begin by beating together your coconut oil (which should be softened to the texture of butter, so room temperature but not liquified) and sugars. Add your almond milk and flaxseed and continue to combine for one minute more. Once things look pretty well mixed, add your vanilla.


Add you flours, folding in after each 1/2 cup addition. Add your cocoa powder, salt and baking soda and continue to fold. Finally, the reason we're all here, chocolate chip time! Fold those bad boys in, too. And if you're going to use them (which you should, because in a cookie this chocolate-y, balance is key), the walnuts.


Now, depending on how soft your coconut oil was when you started, we're looking at two possibilities here: your dough is perfect, just as cookie dough is and should be. And hey, you should take a swipe of it because it's vegan and there isn't any weird raw egg to make you think twice about it. Or, if you're also in the middle of a feels-like-summer spring, you might notice that your dough looks a little too soft. No big deal: just pop it in the fridge for about ten minutes before you bake. 

Let's get to the oven! On lightly greased cookie sheets, place your dough about two inches apart, using about 1 1/2 tablespoons per cookie. Bake for 10 minutes then rotate the pan and bake for another 5 minutes. With chocolate cookies, it's hard to tell when you've achieved that golden-look that you go for in a cookie. So just peek under the bottom of one if you aren't sure. Is it slight darker than the top? Does it not fall apart when you move it? If the answer to both of these is yes, you're safe to remove from the oven. Let cool on the pans for about 5 minutes and then transfer to wire racks.



You should absolutely 100% eat these while they're still warm. I wouldn't coin myself a typical chocolate-chocolate person, but a national-named day is for going big. They are super-duper rich, which is not something you'd expect of a vegan dessert, but it's true. Happy celebrating!

Looking for other ways to exalt the chocolate chip?

5/11/2015

roasted potatoes with rapini and preserved lemon

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You guys. I'm here in defense of the humble potato. I feel like we've pigeonholed the potato. Somehow it's gotten a bad reputation for being a caloric no-no in the food world. I feel like the potato is ashamed to show its face in public, mostly for the ways we've misrepresented it as a strictly bad, never-good-for-you food.


Sure, the potato has a lot of potential to go bad. It takes well to deep-frying, it's easily and happily covered in a layer of cheese. Sure. It's starchy, it's carb-y. But unless you're on a strictly no-carb diet (and this is where I gently tell you to scoot along, nothing to see here), potatoes are your friend. They're affordable, available nearly year round, last a pretty long time in a dark, cool place (not as cool as the fridge, but you get it). And as far as their nutritional value goes, potatoes are packed with potassium (more than a banana), vitamin C (not just for citrus fruits), fiber, B6 and iron. They're hearty, they're versatile, they're relatively easy to prepare. You see where I'm going with this?

So, it's okay, potatoes, you can come out now: I've totally cleared your name and then some.


For this recipe, good enough for dinner on its own or as a healthy side, you'll need:

About 4-5 medium potatoes, cut into wedges
1 large bunch rapini
2-3 slices of preserved lemon, rinsed well and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup red onion, cut in a very fine dice
1/2 fresh lemon, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 teaspoon salt-free spice blend
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt & pepper
1/2 cup green peas, fresh or frozen (optional)

A note on preserved lemons: A staple for many Middle Eastern and African dishes, preserved lemons are basically whole lemons (typically Meyer, a naturally sweeter variety) cured in salt. Lots and lots of salt, hence the suggestion to rinse thoroughly before use. What you get with these little gems is a highly concentrated lemon flavor, and no, just a dash of regular fresh lemon is not the same. Becoming a little easier to access, you can snag ready-made off the shelf of some grocery stores (try Trader Joe's, though I'm not sure why you can also buy TJ's offering on Amazon) or make them yourself -- if you go the DIY route, be sure to look for organic lemons, since the rind is included in the preservation/consumption! 



Start by letting your (cut) potatoes soak in a bowl of cool water for 20-30 minutes. This helps eliminate some of their natural starchiness, promotes a faster cooking time and allows the edges to crisp up like a good potato should. About halfway into the soaking time, preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

After soaking, drain your potatoes and place in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Toss together with 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, fresh lemon wedges (squeeze the juice out onto the potatoes first, then toss the whole rinds into the mix), garlic cloves, salt-free spice blend, oregano, salt and pepper. Place the potatoes side down on the sheet. Roast for about 40 minutes, flipping the potatoes and rotating the pan halfway through.


When your potatoes are just about done, heat the remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Add almost all of your onion, setting about one tablespoon aside, and cook until they start to go soft--this should only take about a minute since they're chopped so teeny-tiny. Add your rapini and cook down until fully wilted, about 5 minutes. In the last minute and if you're using, toss in your peas--whether fresh or frozen, this is all it will take to heat them through.


Toss your potatoes in with the greens and serve with a generous sprinkling of preserved lemon pieces and some of the remaining chopped red onion.

They're not the French fries that you know potatoes to be, but they are damn good.

Hungry for more?

5/04/2015

vegan beet + lentil burgers

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I'm going to put this out there right away: these are one of my favorite foods. We've had Isa Chandra's take on beet burgers several times in our tiny kitchen and they. never. disappoint. What I love most (I think) about them is her obvious decision to cook these on a stovetop grill or in a cast iron. Of course! As a burger, vegetarian or otherwise, is meant to be cooked!


After these black bean burgers entered a steady rotation in our weekly dinners and since I have pretty-much-mostly distanced myself from the veggie burgers you can find in the freezer section (not all, technically, but most of the ones I've ventured towards have way too much unnecessary stuff), I am now most in love with these, whose only binders include some whole wheat bread crumbs and, ahem, almond butter.

Don't worry! It's not weird! It makes so much sense!


For this recipe, you will need:

1 1/4 cups cooked brown rice
1 cup cooked brown lentils, drained
1 cup shredded beets (about one bigass beet, maybe two mediums)
1/2 cup fine whole wheat bread crumbs
3 tablespoons very finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons almond butter (Isa suggest creamy, I only had chunky: chunky won)
1 teaspoon finely crushed (or chopped) fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil



You can also add burger buns, lettuce, pickles, tomatoes and whatever else you like to top your burgers with to this list of ingredients. To each their own - to me, they're perfect as is with only a little extra onion on top.

What's also great about this recipe is that you can have most of your main ingredients prepared in advance, whether earlier that day or using leftover rice from last night's dinner.

For making your own bread crumbs, just take some day old bread and allow to dry out on the countertop (or quickly in the broiler or toaster). Allow to fully cool and harden further and then pulse in a food processor until you've achieved the right crumb consistency, about 10-20 pulses. About two regular slices of bread will make enough crumbs for these patties, but making extra also works if you want to keep some on hand for other recipes (refrigerate for up to one week).

In the bowl of a food processor, add your brown rice, lentils, shredded beets and garlic. Pulse about 20 times or until it all starts to blend together (leaving a little texture is key, though).


Add this mixture to a large bowl and add in your bread crumbs, onion, almond butter, fennel seed, salt and pepper. Isa suggests using your hands to mix well (as you would with, well, meat), but my chime-in is that if you have some disposable gloves handy and aren't looking to have a permanently purple hand, that may help. Not using your hands is also an option, but it might take you a little longer to get everything evenly combined and, let's face it, it's also just not as fun.


Tightly cover your bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for thirty minutes or long enough for the mixture to set. (It should already be pretty close, but the chilling just makes forming the patties a little easier.)

When the time has come, preheat a cast iron or stovetop grill over medium heat. Lightly coat with your olive oil and quickly form the patties -- also a hands-on job and if you've already ditched your gloves from before, oh well. Mine came out less than uniform, but the burger-forming police were busy that night so I got away with it. This time.


Place the patties in the pan and cook for 5-10 minutes per side, depending on how much char and crunch you want. My personal preference is a decent amount of char without being fully blackened. Obviously you're not worried about how "cooked" they are so much as how warm they are. You get it. This isn't your first time.

As mentioned previously, these stand up to buns and do just as well alone - what do you think?

Looking for more?