Asparagus Pesto

Apparently, it’s spring, though you wouldn’t know it from the 90 degree heat these past few days. I don’t know if this heat wave is a nationwide thing, but here in New York, it’s sweltering. It’s sweaty. And uncomfortable. So it’s a bit disorienting to go to the market and see asparagus, not tomatoes or zucchini at the stands. But it is still spring, and this is one very spring-inspired dish.

This pesto is so creamy and rich, but so good. You can use it as a pasta sauce, or as a spread or dip. I was inspired by Mark Bittman’s Asparagus Pesto Recipe, and this is a vegan take on his recipe. I like to toss it with 1 part gluten-free pasta and 1 part zucchini noodles.

Asparagus Pesto:

1 bunch asparagus, sauteed for ~10 minutes, chopped

1/4 cup toasted almonds

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

2-3 tablespoons good olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon lemon zest

salt to taste

Directions:

Puree in a food processor until creamy and smooth. Add olive oil to reach desired consistency and salt to taste.

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Vegan Pad Thai

Lately I’ve been really enjoying shopping at the local Asian convenience store down the street. I sort of spend more time than one normally spends at grocery stores (even someone like me, who enjoys spending time at markets) perusing the aisles of bean pastes, chili oils, rice wrappers and seaweed. I’m sort of in awe at all the possible ingredients and flavors that can go into a particular dish. One ingredient I’ve always enjoyed in dishes when I’m eating out — but which hasn’t quite made its way into my pantry (until tonight, that is) — is tamarind. I would be happy with a spoon and a bowl of that brown, tamarind dipping sauce that comes with the pappadum at Indian restaurants. So I decided to bring some home with me the other day. This Pad Thai happened as a result.

To veganize: I used tofu to sort of mimic the texture of egg. No fish sauce? No problem. I didn’t find myself missing it at all. Also, I tend to like a lot of spice — so much so that I fear my taste buds might be impervious to heat these days. Alright, not really. I did almost rip my tongue out of my mouth a few weeks ago when I bit into a hot pepper, not knowing a large piece had fallen into my salad. But generally speaking, I like my meals (especially those of the Asian variety) to have some heat. If you don’t fall under that category, I would say omit the chili peppers before omitting the garlic chili paste, since the paste adds flavor and color as well as heat.

Serves: about 4

Vegan Pad Thai:

3 tbsp tamarind concentrate (found in Asian aisle or Asian grocery stores)

1/4 cup wheat-free tamari sauce

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 tablespoon agave nectar

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 Thai chili peppers, sliced (optional)

2 scallions, sliced

1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon dried mustard powder

1 block firm or extra firm tofu, drained and patted dry

1 tablespoon olive oil

~ 8 oz. flat rice noodles, reconstituted in hot water (according to package directions), drained and chopped

1 1/2 cups mung bean sprouts

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Lan Chi garlic chili paste

salt to taste

fresh cilantro, chopped peanuts and lime wedges for serving

Directions:

1. In a small bowl, whisk together tamarind, tamari, lime juice, sesame oil, scallions, ginger, agave, garlic, chilis, coriander and mustard. Set aside.

2. Crumble tofu into a large skillet or wok. Add olive oil, heat skillet to high and toss. Let tofu cook until browned and not watery, about ten minutes, stirring pretty consistently. Reduce heat to low. Add perpared sauce and rice noodles. Toss until noodles are coated. If the noodles seem a bit dry, you can add a bit of water (maybe a few tablespoons) to loosen them up. Add chili garlic paste and bean sprouts. Stir until chili garlic paste has coated all the noodles. Taste to adjust salt.

3. To serve, top noodles with crushed or chopped peanuts, cilantro leaves. Squeeze with lime wedges before eating.

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Mole Black Bean Tostadas

mole black bean tostadasI make black beans often. They make a great, cheap dinner and are quite versatile. I recently saw a recipe for black bean tostasas in Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking. The recipe looked quite intriguing, but it called for beer. I decided to make a version of it tonight, and in the spirit of a true budget-conscious meal, I decided to use what I had on hand rather than go out and buy ingredients for the recipe. While a recipe that calls for chocolate, peanut butter, black beans, green chiles and wine might sound a little strange  — scary, even — it all comes together quite nicely for this robust, mole-inspired bean dish.

One of my favorite bloggers, Karina Allrich, has a great page on her site about going gluten free. In it, she talks about gluten-free wines. It might be a good reference point for those concerned about buying wine that is safe for their diet.

The green sauce on top of the tostadas is my aunt’s  jalapeno salsa, which I’ve been making incessantly ever since she shared the recipe with me. It is the perfect, fresh accompaniment to the more earthy beans. In keeping with the healthiness of the beans, I used sprouted corn tortillas and baked them in the oven. They still get nice and crisp. You can also slice the tortillas and use the same method for making homemade, baked tortilla chips. I do this often and they are great. Just sprinkle with a little pinch of salt right when they come out of the oven.

I’m watching the Oscars as I write this. Is it just me, or are they dragging a bit this year? Maybe it’s just because while last year I made a point to see all the nominated films, I was a little too busy (and broke) to make my rounds this year. I guess I am just out of the loop. And, as a former musical theatre geek, I don’t think anything will top Hugh Jackman’s opening number from last year’s show — for me, at least.

Mole Black Beans:

1 lb. dry black beans

8 cups water, divided plus more for quick soaking

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1 medium yellow onion, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons dry white wine

1 4-oz. can mild green chiles

1 plum tomato, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1 tablespoon chile powder

2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons creamy, roasted peanut butter

1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Baked, Crisp Tortillas:

6-8 corn tortillas

2 tablespoons olive oil

Directions:

1. To quick soak black beans: in a large soup pot or Dutch Oven, cover black beans completely with water and bring to a rolling boil. Turn off heat and let sit, covered for an hour and a half to two hours. Drain and rinse.

2. Add black beans back to pot, along with 5 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt, onion and garlic. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer, covered, until beans absorb water, about 30-40 minutes, stirring occassionally. When water has been absorbed, add another 2 cups water, and 1/2 cup wine. Cover and simmer until the beans absorb the water again, stirring occassionally (about 20 minutes).

3. Taste beans to make sure they’re soft. If they need to be cooked a little more, add a bit more water and cook, covered, for 10-15 more minutes, watching to make sure they don’t burn to the bottom of the pot. When beans are soft, removed from heat. While still hot, add green chiles, tomato, cumin, chile powder, peanut butter, unsweetened cocoa, smoked paprika and 2 tablespoons white wine. Adjust salt to taste.

4. Serve beans over toasted tortillas: preheat oven to 400. Brush a large, flat baking sheet with olive oil. Lay tortillas flat on baking sheet and brush the tops of each tortilla. Bake in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes, rotating baking sheet once, until edges are golden brown. Let cool slightly on a wire rack that’s covered in paper towel to absorb extra oil.

5. To serve, top crisp tortillas with about 1/4 cup black beans, jalapeno salsa, and whatever else you think you might enjoy: chopped tomato, avocado, lettuce, olives or peppers.

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Garlic Fried Rice

Ever since enjoying an unassuming yet delicious side of garlic rice at Kuma Inn about a month ago, I’ve been trying — rather unsuccessfully — to recreate it at home. The garlic was at that perfect brink of not-yet-burned but perfectly browned. Its deep, toasty flavor was infused into every grain of rice. Following my recreation attempts, I’ve discovered that it takes a lot of garlic to reach that level of flavor — or else there’s some trick that I haven’t yet discovered.

At any rate, I’ve compromised. I love Thai fried rice, so I threw in some basil leaves for a boost of flavor. Less garlic, more basil, and a little Thai chile for heat — the perfect combination for a tasty, inexpensive vegan dinner. Perhaps I’ll never figure out how to get the intense garlic flavor of Kuma Inn’s garlic rice. But for now I’m perfectly happy enjoying this subtly garlicy rice dish. I enjoyed mine as a main course with tofu and a side of veggies, but you can omit the tofu and serve as a tasty side for an Asian-inspired meal.

Garlic Fried Rice:

1/2 block diced tofu (about 1 1/2 cups diced) (optional)

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

2 teaspoons sesame oil

6 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups cooked long-grain brown rice

2 Thai chili peppers, sliced

2 green onions, sliced, greens topped off (use for garnish)

1 tablespoon wheat-free tamari

1/4 teaspoon salt (plus more to taste)

20 fresh basil leaves

Directions:

1. If using tofu: in a large saute pan, heat 1 teaspoon olive oil over medium heat. Add diced tofu and saute until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove tofu to a plate.

2. In the same pan, add the rest of the olive oil, sesame oil and minced garlic. Saute garlic over medium-high heat until just browned, about 1 minute. Add cooked rice, scallion, chilies, wheat-free tamari, cooked tofu and salt. Increase heat to high and saute, stirring constantly, for about 3-4 minutes, or until rice starts to brown on the bottom of the pan.

3. Remove pan from heat and add in basil leaves. Stir to incorporate basil. Add salt to taste. Garnish rice with green scallion tops.

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Caramelized Onion and Shiitake Pizza

It happens. You think you’re doing great, happily enjoying your new gluten-free life. You feel better. You might even look better. You start even saying things like “I don’t even miss pizza.” And then it happens. You see someone walking past you on the street, or walking into work from lunch, holding a big, fat, cheesy slice of pizza. And just like that, you start to feel alone, left out, dejected.

Don’t worry, though, because when that moment comes, you can go online, look up this savory gluten free pizza recipe, and make it. Right away (it’s really simple to make, I promise).

Sure, this pizza is a little different than the ones we were all used to once upon a time. But that doesn’t make it any less delicious. First of all, the crust is basically a socca. If you’ve had socca before, you know how delicious it can be. I’ve been really obsessed with this socca-as-pizza idea lately. Last time I attempted it, though, I went with a buckwheat flour batter and more traditional pizza toppings. It was good. It hit the spot. But after making this tonight, I can tell you one thing. There’s a reason the French use chickpea (garbanzo) flour to make socca. There’s also a reason that French cuisine (even of the non-Parisian variety) is emulated around the world. They simply know what they’re doing.

This “socca pizza” is crisp on the edges, ever-so-slightly chewy in the middle, and perfectly savory on top. I used Follow Your Heart vegan mozarella and a little sprinkling of nutritional yeast for some nuttiness to top it all off. It’s the perfect treat to ward off those gluten-free (or perhaps vegan) blues and to remind you that you don’t have to choose between feeling better and eating well (or alternately, eating well and helping the planet).

A few notes: You will need a cast-iron (or otherwise oven-proof) skillet for this recipe. The “dough” is not really going to look like dough. It’s more of a batter, like a crepe batter. You can feel free to experiment with different toppings, but I would stay away from “wet” toppings or sauces unless you cook the crust for longer from the start, or else you might end up with a soggier middle.

Yield: 1 9″ cast-iron skillet-sized pizza

Socca (crust) batter:

1 cup garbanzo bean flour

1 cup water

3 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for drizzling)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Toppings:

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced

3 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast (optional)

~ 4 ounces (a little less than half a block) Follow Your Heart vegan mozzarella cheese, grated with a microplane grater

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450. Place a well-oiled 9″ cast-iron skillet in the oven while it preheats.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together ingredients for socca batter until frothy (about 2 minutes). When skillet is hot, pour in batter and place back in preheated oven. Bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until edges are browned and middle is firm to the touch.

3. While crust bakes, make topping by heating a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil and onions and stir to coat with oil. Saute onions until dark brown, about 7 minutes. Add shitakes and cook for another 3 minutes, or until mushrooms are soft and transluscent.

4. When crust is cooked, spread onion and mushroom mixture over top and sprinkle with nutritional yeast (optional) and “cheese.” Bake until cheese has melted. Serve immediately.

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Creamy, Vegan Mac and Cheese

vegan mac and cheese

If there were a Family Feud category for “comfort foods” (and I’m sure there was at some point), how many people would go with mac and cheese as their first pick? I don’t think I’m alone on this one; mac and cheese is the ultimate in comfort food. In this spirit, I created a mac and cheese that could be made in your slow cooker for those inevitable lazy nights. Only one pot needed — and you don’t even have to cook the pasta!

I know there are many nights that I get home from class and want to take Woodley for a run or run some errands, but looming in the back of my mind is making dinner when I get home. I dread working late into the night just to enjoy a home cooked meal (my college days of cereal and granola bars for dinner, I’m happy to say, are over). With this recipe, you can throw everything into the slow cooker, run some errands, and come back to a warm meal. I must warn, however, that some intermittent stirring is a must with this dish — so make the errands quick. Or even use the time to watch Oprah(ok, so not everyone is the fan I am, but you can feel free to sub in your favorite show here) or take a cat nap. This is supposed to be comfort food, after all. Why not make the rest of your evening comfortable and lazy as well?

Serves: 4-5

Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese:

1 8-oz. box gluten-free quinoa elbow pasta (uncooked)

florets from 1 head of broccoli, washed and chopped

2/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes, plus more for serving

2 tablespoons sesame tahini

1/2 cup Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet cream cheese

1 cup unsweetened soy milk

3 tablespoons Earth Balance buttery spread

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon dry mustard powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1 1/2 cups plus 1/2 cup water, divided

Directions:

1. Add all above ingredients (only 1 1/2 cups water) to your slow cooker. Stir and cover. Set on a low setting for 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.

2. After 1 hour has elapsed, add another 1/2 cup water. Stir. After 1 1/2 hours has elapsed, test macaroni for doneness before serving. If needed, you may add an additional 15 minutes to cooking time. Watch closely, though, to make sure pasta does not overcook.

3. If desired, to serve, toast 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes in a saute pan for a few minutes until lightly browned. Sprinkle over individual servings.

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Pan Glazed Ginger Tofu

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of eating at Kuma Inn, a small, intimate, reasonably priced Filipino-Thai tapas restaurant (bonus: it’s also BYO). All of the dishes were quite good, but Gennaro and I both particularly liked a really delicious tofu with Thai basil in a soy-mirin broth. It reminded me of how good tofu can be. So, if you live in New York or are in for a visit, be sure to check out Kuma Inn for good food, a fun atmosphere, and good music to boot (Chef King Phojanakong doubles as DJ as well).

Inspired by Chef King’s flavorful dish, I came up with this simple yet flavorful dish, and in doing so broke out of my plain, baked tofu rut. This tofu was lick-the-plate good, with a sweet and spicy sauce that goes great with some plain rice and vegetables to round out the meal. If you like a firmer tofu, you can bake the slices before adding it to the sauce, or sear it on each side before slicing. If you’re in a tofu rut like I was, this recipe is a must-try.

Pan Glazed Tofu:

1 block extra firm tofu, halved lengthwise then cut into square slices 1/4″ thick

1 teaspoon olive oil (plus more for baking)

1/4 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons reduced sodium wheat-free tamari

3 tablespoons agave nectar

3 green onions, sliced, greens topped off (save for garnish)

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

1-2 Thai chile peppers, sliced (optional)

1 teaspoon arrowroot

fresh cilantro (optional) for garnish

Directions:

1. If baking tofu first, preheat oven to 350. Lay tofu slices flat on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, turn, and bake for another 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, whisk together remaining ingredients in a bowl for the sauce. Heat a large skillet on medium-high and add sauce. Heat until bubbly, then add tofu. Toss to coat and simmer until sauce has reduced to desired amount. Sprinkle with cilantro and green onion tops (optional). Serve immediately.

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Kale Pesto Lasagna

kale pestoMy friend Christian came up with the idea of doing a green lasagna and asked if I could execute it. He gave me liberty with the “green” description — green tomatoes, green pesto, whatever worked. I went into full Top Chef mode thinking about all of the possible “green lasagnas” I could make. After two weeks of deliberation, taken Christian’s request perhaps a bit too seriously (hey, I live for this stuff, what can I say?), I decided to make a lasagna using a kale pesto. The kale is steamed to a bright green color and blended with roasted garlic, lemon zest, a little olive oil and some of the pine nuts lets over from the “ricotta.”

This kale pesto can also be used in a number of other dishes. I’m thinking over chicken or fish, tossed with pasta, or even as a dressing for salad. This lasagna was also created in hopes that people would take some creative liberties with the recipe. For example, I used the same pine nut ricotta that I made for my gluten free, vegan lasagna recipe. But a regular ricotta could easily be used here. I also used some vegan mozarella from Follow Your Heart, but I think a regular, part-skim mozarella would be very delicious here for those who eat dairy. Want some meat? Add an extra layer of cooked ground turkey to the mix. I also added the option of parmesan cheese in the pesto. I didn’t use any and didn’t miss it, but I could imagine some parmesan being really good in there.

kale pesto lasagnaThis dish may require a few steps (fewer if you take the shortcut of using store-bought ricotta), but it’s well worth the effort and healthy to boot! Thanks for the inspiration, Christian!

Kale Pesto:

1 bunch kale, steamed to a bright green

green tops from 2 scallions, roughly chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

zest of one lemon

3 cloves garlic, roasted (baked whole in a ramekin, drizzled with olive oil for 15 minutes, cool, then peel)

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more if needed)

1 tablespoon pine nut ricotta or pine nuts

(2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese)

Other Components:

1 recipe pine nut ricotta or 1 cup ricotta cheese

1 box gluten free lasagna noodles

1 cup (or more) mozarella cheese or vegan mozarella, shredded

(1 lb. cooked ground turkey)

Directions:

1. Prepare pine nut ricotta and set aside.

2. Prepare pesto in same blender (don’t have to clean it out). Add some more olive oil if necessary to blend. Set aside.

3. Prepare lasagna noodles.

4. Preheat oven to 350.

5. Assemble lasagna: place a layer of noodles on the bottom of casserole dish. Spread with 1/3 cup ricotta and about the same amount of pesto. Sprinkle with a thin layer of mozarella cheese. Repeat 2x and top with final layer of noodles and sprinkle top with parmesan. Cover dish with aluminum foil and bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 5 minutes, or until cheese on top begins to bubble.

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Mango-Papaya Salsa

salsa

Mango-Papaya Salsa:

1/2 cup diced mango

1/3 cup diced papaya

1/4 cup minced red onion

1 tablespoon minced fresh mint

1 jalapeno, minced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

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Crispy, Skillet Flatbread Pizza

A while back I posted on my discovery of socca, the crisp, French flatbread made from chickpea flour. I made the batter into crepes and added rosemary and olives for flavor. I promised myself I would make a true socca one day; in the oven, in a cast iron skillet. But when I finally decided that last night would be the night to make real socca, my imagination took off from there. You see, I had also recently been trying to master a good pizza crust — a seemginly unsurmountable task if you’re looking to make it gluten-free, yeast-free and vegan. That’s where my original intent to make socca turned into an I wonder if I can make this into pizza thought. Three tries later, there it was: a crisp, flavorful, satisfying thin crust pizza — sans gluten, dairy or yeast. My favorite part about this particular method is that the crust does not require a multitude of flours, gums or starches. No rolling or kneading. No rising. It’s simple! Just pour the batter into a hot skillet, bake, add topings, and half hour later you’ll have a tasty gluten free pizza that’s lite and healthy as well. I mixed buckwheat flour with chickpea flour for a nutty flavor in this batter, but you could use a variety of flours here — brown rice flour and cornmeal come to mind.

Gluten Free Crust:

2/3 cup buckwheat flour

1/3 cup chickpea flour

1 and 1/4 cup water

1/4 cup olive oil (plus a tad more for greasing skillet)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

My Toppings:

prepared, organic pizza sauce

sliced kalamata olives

sliced jalapeno

Follow Your Heart mozzarella “cheese,” grated with a microplane grater

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450.

2. Place lightly greased 9″ cast iron skillet in preheating oven. Let it get really hot in there.

3. Meanwhile, whisk together buckwheat and chickpea flours and salt. Make a well in the middle and add water and olive oil. Whisk ingredients vigrorously until incorporated and bubbly.

4. When skillet is really hot, pour batter into skillet (it should sizzle!). Bake in preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. Add desired toppings and bake or pass through broiler to melt cheese (carefully watch if broiling to make sure crusts don’t get too dark). Enjoy!

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