Veggie and “Cream Cheese” Focaccia Pizza

So, you know how in my last post I mentioned I’ve been making an effort to pace my posts? Well, it seems my body has helped out in this cause, as I was forced to rest this week with yet another stiff neck and some pretty significant fatigue. The good news is, the latest bout of muscle spasms and stiffness has forced me to seek out an acupunturist in New York, which is something I’ve been thinking about doing for quite some time. Has anyone tried acupuncture? Thoughts? I’m very excited about it,  and — AND! — it’s covered by my new insurance! Ah, the perks of being married!

But now that I’ve had a bit of rest today — along with a healthy dose of some evening iced coffee — I can finally post this pizza recipe, which has been patiently waiting to be shared here for over a week now. I have faint recollections of a Pillsbury “pizza” recipe that made its rounds among the block parties and holiday gatherings of my childhood. Likely because I knew it was something my mom would never make at home (Pillsbury? Please. Try Moosewood, thank-you-very-much), I always indulged in this take on pizza whenever I encountered it elsewhere. And just to make sure I’m not imagining things, I located the original recipe here.

Well, if we’re using raw, fresh veggies, we can do better than white flour and processed cream cheese, can’t we? That’s what I thought. My focaccia recipe has been reincarnated several times — here into a flat, bready pizza crust, which is the perfect vehicle for a creamy cashew topping and raw, fresh vegetables. I’ve been looking to make a panini with my foccacia recipe as well, but now that I know about this pizza, I’ll be hard pressed not to choose it over anything else.

Veggie and Cream Cheese Pizza:

all ingredients for 1 recipe of foccacia, minus the rosemary

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 3 hours, drained and rinsed

3 tablespoons Grapeseed oil Vegenaise

2 scallions, white part only

6 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

raw vegetables of your choice (I used broccoli, bell pepper and carrot)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. Prepare focaccia batter according to directions. Spread thin and evenly (covering up any holes) onto a flat, pre-greased baking sheet about 11×11 inches in diameter, making a rough circle. Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes, or until edges are golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Carefully scrape under focaccia with a knife to loosen from baking sheet. Set aside.

3. Prepare cream cheese topping: Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor and blend until completely smooth and spreadable. Add additional water only if necessary.

4. Spread cream cheese mixture evenly over focaccia and sprinkle with diced vegetables — as many or as little as you would like. Enjoy!

Share

Creamy Almond Butter Noodles

So, there are days — more frequently, lately — where I have this nagging urge to just stop what I’m doing, throw my hands to the air and scream why can’t I just be normal?!?!?!?!?!?

Am I alone here?

Take, for example, today. Dishes piled high in the sink. Wedding thank you notes waiting to be written. A workout routine that’s been neglected for far too long. Friends whose calls have gone unreturned. Job applications waiting to be sent out. A doctors appointment that needs to be made. It would be a good idea to tackle one of these items on my to-do list, don’t you think? Yeah, I think so, too. So what do I do? I decide to bake a cake.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!?!

Aside from baking cakes at very inopportune moments, I have other traits that are really starting to get in the way of real life these days. Like my incessant need to tweak this site. If you haven’t noticed (and how could you not), the tweaking — of the logo, the setup, the sidebars, even the photos — has bordered on compulsive. This has made being normal quite the challenge. Weekend plans with Gennaro to catch a long-anticipated movie can be easily threatened by my sudden awareness of a glitch in the way this site appears in a certain browser. You know, because double- checking different browser shots is the kind of thing I do to pass the time before heading out to the movies. Hours later, I’ve re-vamped the entire look, only to discover, this time, that my pictures are ever-the-slightest bit bigger in this new design. And I don’t like it. By now, Gennaro is asleep on the couch, and I’m having one of those moments again.

What is wrong with me?!?

As you may have quessed, the compulsive tendencies carry over into my recipe-writing as well. I’ve even been known to make recipes after they’ve been posted and decide, this really would be better with less sweetener, and more nuts. And so I’ll change it, likely annoying several people in the process, none more so than myself. Can I pass this all off as “being a perfectionist” and call it a day? Well, luckily, I do recognize (sometimes) when enough is enough.

…Like with these noodles. I adapted the recipe for this sauce from a recipe in Delicious Meets Nutritious, the cookbook from the folks at Xagave (which is actually a pretty awesome cookbook, by the way). When I say adapt, I usually mean “overhaul,” since I am not always content to only play around with a recipe a little bit (surprise, surprise). But in this case, I made 3 very small changes. Tasted it. Loved it. Thought about it.

No, I wasn’t going to change anything else, thank-you-very-much.

It was the ultimate exercise in restraint, but the right choice. Sometimes, you have to quit while you’re ahead. This recipe was the perfect balance of creamy, spicy, sweet and salty. Over noodles, it was downright addictive. You can substitute peanut butter for the almond butter here (the original recipe calls for peanut butter). You can also use this as a dipping sauce, which is how it’s billed in the cookbook. Instead of heating this, you can also blend everything in a blender. But I like the way the flavors of the ginger and the garlic are sort of mellowed out when it’s heated through. This is such an easy, quick dinner, that it almost justifies a reckless foray into unecessary cake-baking for dessert.

Almost.  

One Year Ago Today: Turkish Shepherd’s Salad

Creamy Almond Butter Sauce:

Adapted from Delicious Meets Nutritious

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1/4 cup creamy almond butter

1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 clove garlic, grated or pressed

1/2 cup lite coconut milk

3 tablespoons wheat-free tamari soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine all ingredients except for lime juice. Whisk until almond butter is melted and the sauce is heated through, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Set aside.

Toss with:

1/2 lb. cooked gluten-free linquine (eyeball it if using a 1 lb. package)

3 scallions, chopped

This recipe serves about 3-4 but can easily be doubled.

Share

Gluten-Free, Vegan Eggplant Parmesan

My love affair with eggplant Parmesan began years ago, back when I was a precociously adventurous eater. Not that eggplant Parmesan is necessarily adventurous. But when you’re a kid and claim eggplant to be one of your favorite foods while others your age cite hot dogs and pizza, you tend to earn the title over time.  Telling someone that your all-time favorite food is “squid with black bean sauce” when you’re in kindergarten doesn’t hurt, either.

I still find this dish at the top of my list of comfort foods. It’s creamy and gooey and rich and cheesy — all recognizable comfort food attributes. It took some time to figure out a way to make this dish gluten-free and vegan, however. So when I came up with this recipe a few weeks back, I was so excited that I made it several times, even though it turned out just fine after the first attempt.

This is a relatively easy dish to pull-off, as it lends itself nicely to liberties and variations. I could imagine some shaved zucchini or roasted red pepper making an appearance in here. There’s also the possibility of using various types of pasta sauces. I would recommend, however, a relatively light pasta sauce here, as the almonds tend to let out some oil as this dish bakes. An oily pasta sauce would make this dish a bit on the heavy side. And while this recipe could comfortably feed four people, don’t hesitate to make this if you’re only feeding one or two — you’ll find the flavors even more developed the next day.

Gluten-Free, Vegan Eggplant Parmesan:

I would recommend a chunkier pasta sauce here. If you use a thinner sauce, try adjusting the amount used so the end product is not too runny. Most importantly, use a sauce you would eat alone on pasta, as the sauce really makes a difference in the dish.

15 eggplant slices, between 1/4″  and 1/3″ thick (from 1 medium eggplant)

2 tablespoons flax seed meal

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Flour

1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

3-4 teaspoons soy-free Earth Balance buttery spread, divided

1 cup jarred pasta sauce, divided

3/4 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella, divided

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350.

2. In a blender or immersion blender, add flax seed meal and water and blend until frothy. Pour mixture into a shallow dish.

3. In a separate shallow dish, mix together almond flour, nutritional yeast and salt. Individually dip eggplant slices into the flax-water mixture, turning to cover both sides. Transfer slices to the almond flour-nutritional yeast dish and press into the mixture, turning to coat both sides. Shake off any excess coating.

4. Heat 1 teaspoon buttery spread (or more as needed) over a non-stick skillet on medium-high until melted. Add eggplant slices — about 4 at a time — to the pan and fry on each side for 2-3 minutes, or until outsides are golden brown. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat as necessary with remaining slices.

5. Layer a 1-qt. baking dish or 9″ cast iron skillet with 5 eggplant slices. Top slices with 1/3 cup sauce, then 1/4 cup cheese. Repeat 2x. Bake in preheated oven for 25-30 minutes, or until pasta sauce is bubbly and eggplant is soft.

Share

Greek Salad

If you’re not new around here, you may have noticed a new addition to the site conspicuously lurking in the sidelines. Hm. What’s that link to Amazon products doing there? Well, after over a year of posting my recipes, listing my favorite, must-have ingredients and crediting those cookbooks that have inspired me along the way, I had a thought. Wouldn’t it be more efficient to provide a link to all of these gluten-free products, sugar substitutes, gadgets and books right here, so that I don’t have to worry about the fact that my mom has to drive an hour to get her hands on NuNaturals’ vanilla stevia, or the fact that I have readers who tell me that they can’t find bean flours anywhere? And, I thought, given how many people I’ve steered toward books like “Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Cooking,” wouldn’t it make sense to link to that book here, where I’m (hopefully) providing some support and advice for those with similar allergies and restrictions?

In full disclosure, whenever someone clicks on a link on the side and buys something based on it, I get, like, a nickel or something. While I may be an unemployed former law student with impending loans to pay off, and living in the most expensive city in the world (ugh), I’m not so desperate that I need the rare nickel deposited in my account. I just figured it was a good, efficient way to share those products and books that have helped me thrive as a gluten-free, (mostly) vegan, sugar-free food lover.

Ok, onto this salad. I am a Greek salad FREAK. I mean, I think a good Greek salad is heavenly. And yet, I’ve had plenty bad. So by now I’ve assembled a pretty good formula for failure and success. Success: good romaine lettuce. Failure: iceberg. Success: Fresh cooked beets. Failure: the canned stuff. Success: good, kalamata olives. Failure: bad kalamata olives (um, duh) — or worse, no olives! Success: a good, creamy-yet-not-too-thick-dressing. Failure: Too-thick-dressing. Success: good quality feta…

…and that’s where a great vegan Greek salad has eluded me until now. The feta. With a little help from the internet, I learned that some tofu drizzled with red wine vinegar and some other flavorings could be masqueraded as the real deal. Still, I was skeptical. Very skeptical. It took my own series of experiments with this idea before I considered it a satisfying — if not exact — substitute. Hey, I didn’t say that for a good Greek salad the feta portion had to actually be feta, I just said it had to be good. This savory, briney tofu creation is quite good. My secret is to use a really good, raw fermented red wine vinegar for the marinating. It’s better for you, and I think it tastes better as well. Eden makes a very good one (actually, the it’s the only raw red wine vinegar I’ve seen).

I hope you enjoy this healthy, crunchy, salty Greek salad as much as I did! I listed the recipes for the various components separately below.

Tofu Feta:

1 package firm tofu, drained (extra firm will work, though I prefer firm for this recipe)

1/3 cup raw fermented red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 tablespoons nutritional yeast, divided

Directions:

1. Crumble tofu into a medium-sized, shallow glass dish. Whisk together red wine vinegar, olive oil and salt in a separate bowl and pour over tofu. Add two tablespoons of nutritional yeast and let sit for about 15 minutes. When ready to serve, stir in the remaining nutritional yeast. Taste for salt.

Greek Dressing:

1/2 cup grapeseed oil vegenaise

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

salt to taste (about 1/2 teaspoon)

Directions:

1. Whisk all ingredients well until smooth or add to a jar and shake vigorously.

Other Salad Ingredients:

Romaine lettuce, chopped

Beets, cooked and chopped

Kirby or Persian cucumber, chopped

Red onion, thinly sliced

Kalamata Olives (pitted preferably), drained

Share

Spaghetti Squash with Spinach-Basil Pesto

For years, it seems, I’ve heard people rave about spaghetti squash being a dieter’s dream — super low calorie, high in fiber, low carbs, and a great substitution for real spaghetti. And quite frankly, I thought those people were full of it. I imagined spaghetti squash to be a sad consolation prize for those who, for whatever reason, were depriving themselves of the real thing.

Then I tried it. The verdict? Suffice it to say, I spent a good portion of my day today on a spaghetti squash scavenger hunt, frantically digging through piles of squash at various locations across the city, like an addict trying to get my fix (I guess I’m not alone in my affinity for the stuff; it was sold out just about everywhere I went). I’m not sure what it is that I love so much. It certainly isn’t an exact substitute for spaghetti; it’s crunchy and somewhat bland on its own. Yet I’m hesitant to call it a vehicle for sauce, either, because it’s worthy of some recognition of its own. Maybe I like the texture, or the child-like joy I get from using my fork to pull out perfect little transluscent strands.

And yeah, so maybe it is a great vehicle for a really great sauce. I especially like it with a pesto sauce, because it’s great served either hot or cold. The pesto here is inspired by a raw recipe from the cookbook Alive in 5, which my Aunt Pam kindly let me hang onto after I expressed an interest in a banana-date smoothie recipe from the book. I like the idea of raw sunflower seeds in the pesto, as I often try to pack as many nutrients and health benefits into a recipe when I’m working around a very healthy ingredient (here, the squash). Plus, given that Jillian Michaels hasn’t graced the presence of my T.V. screen since back when I had something to get in shape for (my wedding), and that a little thing called patatas bravas was the uncontested third wheel throughout our honeymoon, it doesn’t hurt to make a meal that can claim all-around healthy benefits and few carbs.

Pesto:

2 cups packed spinach

1 cup packed basil

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons good olive oil

1-2 tablespoons water (as needed)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to taste)

Directions:

Blend all ingredients in a high-powered blender until smooth. You may need to coax the ingredients a bit with a spoon if they’re being stubborn (I had to, as my blender is not the top-of-the-line). Toss pesto with cooked spaghetti squash until coated. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold. Taste for salt and add more to taste.

Squash:

1 spaghetti squash, stem removed, halved lengthwise, seeds and pulp scraped out

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. Lay squash flat on a parchment-line baking sheet, flesh side down. Bake in preheated oven for 4o-45 minutes for softer squash, and 35-40 for a crunchier texture (I prefer the latter). Remove from oven and let cool for about 5 minutes before using your fork to scrape out the spaghetti-like flesh.

Share

Falafel

First things first. Mom.  I know no one else who gives more of herself and asks so little in return, is able to laugh at the small things, and care deeply about the big things. The only reason I was able to turn my food allergy “lemons” into delectably free lemonade was because I had you to look up to, never complaining. Plus, without you, Gennaro and I would be eloping for lack of any idea how to plan our wedding. And you know it. I love you. Happy Mother’s Day.

Ok…on to the falafel. Not even my Trust and Estates exam could stop me from attempting to fulfill this craving by hand. The restaurant stuff, good as it may be, tends to make me sick from time to time. Given said exam, I didn’t want to risk it. But, because of my exam, this post is going to be short and sweet. It’s 2:30 a.m. and I have a long day of studying ahead of me tomorrow (today! eek).

Makes about 8-10 falafels (can double the recipe if needed)

Falafel:
Adapted from Susan O’brien’s recipe in Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Cooking

1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained

2 gloves garlic

1 shallot or 1/2 small onion

3 tablespoons sesame tahini

1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

1/4 cup quinoa flour, plus more if needed

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for frying

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. In a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except for the olive oil reserved for frying. Process until smooth and there are no large pieces remaining. Using hands, take golf-ball (or ping-pong) sized pieces and roll with hands. If mixture is too dry you may add a bit more oil; if it seems a bit wet, you may add a bit more (about a tablespoon) quinoa flour. Slightly flatten between palms. Set aside.

3. In a non-stick skillet (if not non-stick, may need a bit more oil — about 1/4 inch), heat a few tablespoons of olive oil (or enough to just cover bottom of pan) over high heat for a few minutes. Add falafels and cook until just slightly browned, about 1-2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.

4. Arrange falafel on a baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 7-10 minutes, turn, and bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until both sides are browned (as pictured — may vary depending on oven temp. and falafel size).

You can serve this falafel however you like. I enjoyed it as pictured, over romaine and topped with tahini dressing. For a quick dressing, combine equal parts tahini, lemon juice and water. Add 2 cloves of grated raw garlic, a pinch of salt, and a few dashes of hot sauce. Shake in a jar, whisk or blend. Add in more tahini as needed until you reach desired thickness.

Share

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas over Quinoa

This recipe was a bit of an accident, as I had not planned on making anything to post tonight, but was looking, rather, to make a quick dinner out of a few pantry items. I had chickpeas on hand for making Happy Herbivore’s chickpea tacos, which I tried last week and was craving again. But not feeling like dirtying up any dishes to make guacamole (which is a must with tacos in my book), I thought I’d just whip up some quinoa and throw the crispy, roasted chickpeas over that. If you’re looking for a quick and inexpensive gluten-free, vegan recipe, be sure to give this one a try (or try out Happy Herbivore’s tacos).

Tonight I also discovered a new way to prepare quinoa. That discovery happened by accident as well. Actually, it was also the result of my not wanting to dirty any additional dishes (see, laziness can pay off sometimes), so instead of cooking the quinoa in a separate saucepan before transferring it to another pan to saute, I simply sauteed a cup of rinsed quinoa on high in equal parts olive and sesame oil (about a teaspoon each, plus more as needed) until it was no longer wet in a large saute pan. Then I added a cup and a half of water, covered, and cooked until the water was absorbed (about 5 minutes). Then I grated in a large clove of garlic and added a drizzle of wheat-free tamari (I’d guess anywhere from a few teaspoons to a tablespoon). I sauteed until the quinoa was dry and crispy. Then I added a handful of baby spinach, stirred, and removed from the heat. The quinoa was crisp and light and flavorful. With the addition of crispy chickpeas, it was almost the perfect dish (and almost — just almost – as good as Charlie’s stir-fried quinoa creation).

Below is my version of the roasted chickpeas inspired by the recipe from Happy Herbivore, which is a new favorite site thanks to Twitter, which I recently joined and not sure what I did without. I used to think Twitter was the reincarnation of 8th grade AIM updates about one’s daily routine. Going to the store. Eating dinner now. So excited it’s Friday. Well, it’s that in part, but so much more. I’ve discovered so many great new food bloggers just through twittering, and it’s a great resource for a constant stream of information updates. I must admit, that after much reluctance, I’m now hooked.

Crispy Roasted Chickpeas:

1 14-oz. can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry

2 teaspoons wheat-free tamari

1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice

2 teaspoons sesame oil

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon coriander

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. Whisk together all ingredients except chickpeas in a medium-sized bowl. Add chickpeas and toss until coated. Turn out onto a flat baking sheet and bake in preheated oven until browned and slightly crisp, about 25-30 minutes, tossing once halfway through.

3. Serve chickpeas over quinoa (see above), rice or inside a crispy corn tortilla with lettuce and guacamole. Or simply let cool and eat as a snack.Yum!

Share

Zucchini Pasta

Unless you have the knife skills of a Top Chef Master, you will probably have to get a vegetable spiralizer for this recipe. I got the idea to do zucchini “noodles” from Lexie’s Kitchen, one of my favoite blogs. Of course, this meant adding yet another contraption to our jam-packed tiny kitchen, but it was worth it. I did make sure to get the smallest spiralizer I could find, even though it happened to be the most expensive (ugh). I have to say, though, that so far it’s been worth the purchase, as I’ve made this zucchini pasta every day for a week, in different variations. I’d say something like this is essential for raw, grain-free, and low carb diets.  

I have to confess, I’m not a huge zucchini lover. There’s something about its sliminess when it’s overcooked or its starchiness when it’s slightly under or raw. So I wasn’t expecting to actually enjoy raw zucchini pasta, but I figured it was something I could force down every once in awhile when I was craving pasta. You know, for the sake of my health. And my waistline. And my anti-candida diet maintenance — something I haven’t always been diligent about, though I know I should be. But I was pleasantly surprised — shocked, really — to actually enjoy zucchini this way. Which is nice, since zucchini is rich in potassium, which can lower blood pressure and decrease anxiety. You probably won’t fool yourself into thinking it’s actually pasta, but I have to admit, I came close. At the very least, I fooled myself into thinking that my zucchini wasn’t zucchini. The “parmesan cheese” might have helped.

Which brings me to another topic: vegan parmesan cheese. I have a confession. I use it now (this is a recent development in my life). I actually, um, kind of like it. Foodies everywhere should have me blacklisted from the club. At any rate, I’ll own it. If you don’t have a problem with yeast, I’ve heard great things about parma!, which is soy-free and kosher. Since I’m starting to feel like nutritional yeast doesn’t always agree with me, I’ve been using Galaxy vegan topping, which I broke down and bought after three years of doing that thing where I picked it up and put it back on the shelf, not ready to commit to it yet. Of course, if you’re not dairy-free or vegan, you could always go ahead and buy regular parmesan cheese.

Zucchini Pasta Toss:

3 zucchini, stems topped off, put through a spiralizer (I used the medium-sized spiral blade)

1/3 cup kalamata olives, drained and patted dry, halved

1/3 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, patted dry and julienned (if tomatoes are not packed in oil, you can julienne regular sun-dried tomatoes and add some oil to the final dish — about a teaspoon, maybe)

3/4 cup fresh vine tomatoes, chopped, or quartered grape tomatoes

1/4 cup parmesan or parmesan substitute

1/3 cup flat-leaf parsely, finely chopped

salt to taste

Directions:

Toss all ingredients in a bowl. Add salt to taste and maybe a little extra drizzle of oil if needed.

Share

Quinoa, Part II

quinoa risottoQuinoa week continues here with a risotto recipe from my friend Liz. Now, I was initially a little nervous about making this recipe, as Liz’s specific request was not only that I try it but that I improve on the one she’s been making. This was daunting because Liz comes from a large Italian family that knows how to cook. She used to come back to college (I lived no more than a hallway-down from her for 4 years of college, from the dorms to our very “college” off-campus housing) from weekends at home with tuperware containers-full of homemade Italian food, so I know this first-hand. I know this because I’ve been schooled by Liz (many years ago, so perhaps she doesn’t remember) on the proper pronunciation of gnocci. I also trust Liz’s palate because she introduced me to one of my favorite restaurants here in the city, Cafe Habana. So it’s one thing to try and improve on the recipe of an amateur, and quite another to improve on risotto for an Italian girl that has good cooks in the family and a great palate. Talk about pressure!

I tried my best. I think my new motto is: when in doubt, do what Ina (Garten — do we really need a last name here, though?) would do. Actually, that might have always been my motto. No, I didn’t add butter. I added lemon zest, which Ina claims to be the secret ingredient in her risotto. I also tried something I’ve never tried before: fake parmesan cheese. Sorry, Liz! I’m not sure your family would disown you if you ever bought such a thing, so I’ll give you a pass and let you use the real stuff here if you wish. But for the rest of you vegans, dairy-free or just plain adventurous folk, I’m somewhat relieved to report that it wasn’t half bad! Actually, I sort of shamefully enjoyed it. This might render me completely blacklisted from the foodie world, but I’m gonna own it anyways. Vegan parmesan is not as scary as you might think. Parma is a tasty option with only three ingredients: walnuts, nutritional yeast and celtic sea salt. I learned about that one from another one of my Vegan at Heart missions (well, with food tips nearly daily, it’s really hard not to learn a thing or two that I can pass on to all of you).

I also used wine in this recipe, which, in my opinion, is a bit obligatory in the risotto department. Wine is one of those things I innocently assumed was just grapes + a little fermentation + a bottle = wine. Like many things in life, it’s actually a bit more complicated than that. For example, yeast is used in the fermentation process. Sometimes animal products are used as well. Add barrels that might be made of oak and sealed with wheat paste. Luckily, a simple Google search informed me that most of the strains of yeast are killed off by the time wine gets to your glass — or in your risotto. I don’t know what this means if you’re sensitive to brewer’s yeast (which I am), but I find that I can tolerate wine and not beer (even the wheat-free kind, so it’s not the wheat), so I’d suggest  you let your body or your doctor be your guide on that one. I have no idea whether nutritional yeast falls under the brewer’s yeast sensitivity, either, and no Google search seems to turn up a definitive answer, unfortunately. I think I’ll stick to the “let your body be your guide” test for that, as imprecise as that test can sometimes be (i.e. I don’t necessarily recommend it for everyone. This might be where the “I am not a doctor” disclaimer might come in handy. I’m not; I was an English major in college who barely scraped by in biology). A Google search did turn up this list of vegan wine and this one for gluten-free wines.

Oh, and I lied. I said I was going to make this with asparagus, but I saw baby arugula at the market and tried that instead. I loved it, so baby arugula it is.

Serves: 2 if you live with my fiance; 3-4, I’m guessing, in any other home

Quinoa Risotto:

1 1/2 cups uncooked quinoa, well rinsed and drained

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 cups vegetable broth

3 shiitake mushrooms, sliced

zest of one lemon

1/3 cup Italian flat-leaf parsley, minced

2 tablespoons parmesan substitute or nutritional yeast

2 teaspoons wheat-free tamari or 1 teaspoon Bragg’s liquid aminos

1 cup baby arugula

Directions:

1. In a small saucepan, bring vegetable broth to a simmer over medium heat.

2. In a large pan or Dutch Oven, saute onion and garlic in oil over medium-high until soft and transluscent, about 3 minutes. Add in quinoa and stir to coat with oil. Add wine and simmer until mostly absorbed, stirring occassionally.

3. In 1/2 cup increments, add warm vegetable broth to quinoa and simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed, stirring occassionally. Repeat. After you have added 2 cups of broth, stir in shiitakes. After you have added 2 1/2 cups of broth, remove quinoa from heat and stir in remaining ingredients, including the last 1/2 cup of broth. Quinoa will absorb some of the liquid still, so stir and let absorb until desired consistency is reached. Taste for flavor and add a few more drops tamari, liquid aminos or a bit more parmesan substitute if desired.

Share

Quinoa, Part I

Last week, my good friend Liz (and by good friend, I mean she’s standing up in my wedding) asked me to improve on a quinoa risotto recipe that she had at a restaurant and has been trying to recreate at home. The recipe sounded intriguing; quinoa given the risotto treatment. A very cool idea, indeed. So I bought quinoa in bulk — large, Costo-esque packages. I made the risotto last week. Then I made it again on Sunday. And I’m going to make it one more time before posting it, next time perhaps with asparagus, since I’ve been thinking that would be a nice touch for spring.

Then Charlie, a good family friend (and by good family friend, I mean he and his wife are singing in my wedding) shared with me his “fried quinoa” creation — a quinoa dish that’s essentially given the fried rice treatment. He uses red quinoa, which I imagine would work quite nicely here, and adds it cooked to fried chickpeas and mushrooms until it’s crisped up a bit. So when I came home from class last night tired, hungry and lacking in the fresh produce department, I grabbed the quinoa I had left over from my risotto, a can of chickpeas, some mushrooms from the fridge, and some fresh basil I happened to have on hand for a pasta dish I knew wasn’t going to happen. Within minutes — maybe 15 or so — I had a delicious dinner. Charlie, you came through big for me with this one. I hope I did your dish justice here.

Then there was yesterday’s Vegan at Heart mission: to read about quinoa (see, these missions are really painlessly easy). The final send-off? “Impress someone with your knowledge of quinoa this week.” Well, I don’t know if I’m going to impress you folks with my knowledge this week, though I’m thinking I might have a chance at impressing you with Liz and Charlie’s quite impressive quinoa dishes.

Has the universe been telling me to post some quinoa recipes, or what?

This one’s simple and easy, but thouroughly delicious. Try red quinoa, as Charlie uses, a variety of mushrooms, or other vegetables. I used basil, since I had it on hand, but I imagine other herbs and spices might be just as nice — or you could use none at all. I have a feeling this is one of those dishes that could be great with a million and one variations.

Tip: cook quinoa in vegetable broth instead of water.

Fried Quinoa:

1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed and cooked according to package directions

1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed and patted dry

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

3 shiitake mushrooms, sliced thin

1 bunch fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons

Salt to taste

Directions:

1. Toss chickpeas with olive oil and cumin and add to a hot skillet or stir-fry pan. Toss for a few minutes (2-3) over high heat, or until browned on the outside. Add mushrooms and garlic and cook until most of the oil is absorbed and mushrooms are slightly soft.

2. Add cooked quinoa and toss with the other ingredients until quinoa is dry and begins to get crisp as it comes off the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and toss in fresh basil, plus enough salt to taste (I used about 1/4 teaspoon).

Share