Roasted Tomato-Basil Pasta Toss

First, let me start by saying that I have been an absolutely horrendous blogger of late. I’ve neglected my inbox, let comments go unnoticed for days — heck, weeks. And I haven’t posted since, I don’t know, 6 weeks ago?

Second, let me explain. As I alluded to in previous posts, the year of 2011 marks an exciting yet stressful transition in my life. I got a job in Michigan, and a job that I love at that (hence, the excitement). When the position became permanent in February, my husband was still working in New York and in limbo, waiting to see what would come of my temporary status. Long story short, from February until now, we have put our New York apartment on the market, sold our apartment, my husband has moved out to Michigan, and we are now living with my parents, using my parents cars and basically freeloading until we can find a place and get settled here. Therein lies the whole “stress” part of the equation.

Now here’s the kicker. Remember my stress and anxiety over taking the New York bar exam last year — the exam I vowed I would never, ever take again under any circumstances? Remember my excitement upon finding out I had passed last November? Well, I have to do it all over again. Alas, a little thing called “reciprocity” (or lack thereof) stands in the way of my New York scores being relevant here in Michigan. So, in the midst of a new job, no home, and closing our apartment sale in New York, I am now studying for the bar exam (again).

I hope, given the circumstances, I will be excused for my horrid blog upkeep of late.

Anyways, in other news…My parents recently returned from the 2011 Vegetarian Summerfest and they were absolutely blown away by the amazing experience. Armed with t-shirts, books and other propaganda from their trip , my mom declared herself a reformed woman upon their return. (To think that just a year ago they were just flirting with the idea of vegetarianism). From the eye-opening talk of S.A.E.N.’s Michael Budkie on animal research labs, to Woodstock Animal Sanctuary‘s Co-Founder Jenny Brown, to Dr. Neal Barnard and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn‘s informed presentations on the effects of a plant-based diet on heart disease and health, the trip was truly life-changing and educational for my parents. I’m especially jealous that they got a sneak-peak at my girl Marisa’s upcoming documentary Vegucated, which I’m told was every bit amazing as I expected it would be (and my parents are not known to hold back their opinion on such things).

Among the trinkets of knowledge my parents brought back to Michigan with them were the health implications of a high-fat, high-oil diet. I’m much too busy and tired to veer too far into a debate on the virtues of a high-fat/low-fat diet, but it was interesting to me that multiple renowned heart doctors echoed the theory that “good” fats such as olive oil and nuts are really not that good after all. True or not, I’ve always been open-minded about different dietary protocols, because it just means more of a challenge for me. I love a culinary challenge, and taking fat and oil out of a roasted tomato pasta sauce seemed like the perfect place to start. The end result, with sweet basil and tomatoes in peak season this time of year, was a rich and flavorful sauce that didn’t miss the oil or fat (or gluten! or meat!) at all.

Roasted Tomato-Basil Toss:

1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes

1 cup vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons vegetable broth

1 tablespoon white wine

2 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced

small pinch of salt

fresh ground black pepper (to taste)

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped

1 lb. gluten-free spaghetti

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. In a shallow baking dish, toss tomatoes with wine, broth, salt, pepper and garlic. Bake in preheat oven for 20 minutes, toss, then return to oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Let cool.

3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, drain and rinse if required. Immediately return pasta to pot and toss with roasted tomatoes and basil. Add additional salt to taste and serve.

 

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Fusilli with Broccoli and Cheese Sauce

Well, I’m back in New York for the week to visit my husband (if this last sentence confuses you, see: coconut macaroons — the post, not the actual recipe). I brought some work with me to do during the day while Gennaro is at work. Otherwise, I had a chance to catch up on some of my favorite T.V. shows (my parents don’t have DVR. Enough said).

Bravo was nice enough to provide a gratuitous Bethenny Ever After marathon on Monday. I have to say, maybe it’s the name (I’m a Bethany), or the fact that there’s a cute baby on the show pretty much all the time now (Gennaro would probably have a field day with this one. He knows how I feel about cute babies. I can’t say he’s not a little worried about it, actually), or maybe it’s the whole New York aspect (there’s something fascinating about watching others navigate the city you live in/lived in for four years). Whatever it is, though, I find that show to be the ultimate in my guilty pleasures. And now I’m caught up. Vacation: successful.

Then yesterday Oprah replayed her “going vegan” episode, where 300+ Oprah staffers signed up to go vegan for a week. Of course, as a vegetarian/vegan who has been known to try to gently convince others of the merits of a vegan diet from time to time, (and who says this doesn’t work? My parents went from reluctant to full-throttle — they’re actually signed up to go on a vegan retreat this summer. By their own free will) it made me giddy with excitement to see that some Oprah staffers not only felt better after a week of going vegan, but that they were going to stick with the plan indefinitely.

Then again, it made me sad to see that some folks were less than enthused about their new food options. As someone who does not eat gluten or animal products on a regular basis (if at all), I am used to the questions and cringing from others over what my diet consists of. In those moments, I feel some sense of duty to channel my inner salesperson and convince others that not only am I not deprived, but that I’ve actually never been more satisfied with my diet (and that is really the truth). But I have to say, I felt for Kathy Freston when it was on her shoulders, alone, to do that with hundreds of Oprah staffers at one time. Sometimes, defending your food can be exhausting.

As a blogger, things get even more complicated. I’m putting myself — and my food — out there, so it’s much more likely to be analyzed (Whoah, that girl eats wayy too much Daiya cheese! Probably true.) On the one hand, I would like to be able to say, “It’s my blog, so I can do what I want.” Still, on the other other hand, I feel a sense of duty to those who might be curious about or just starting a gluten-free or vegan or sugar-free diet. I truly want to show people how satisfying these diets can be, which is why I started this blog in the first place. Plus, I want to provide a variety, so everyone can enjoy at least something on this site.

This dish was inspired by that mindset. I am always asking myself, if I could make one meal to convince someone that “gluten-free, vegan” doesn’t mean lettuce and sunflower seeds for eternity, what would it be? My lasagna? My tempeh tacos? I tend to think comfort foods are the most longed-for when we’re overhauling our diets. I already have a macaroni and cheese recipe on this site, but this really easy, somewhat sophisticated version is the ultimate in comfort fare. It’s rich and creamy, but ultimately full of fiber (brown rice pasta) and healthy veggies (a full head of broccoli).*

So, next time Oprah and her staffers need convincing, I would send Kathy Freston this recipe to make for them.

Fusilli with Broccoli and Cheese Sauce:

1 lb. brown rice fusilli pasta

1 head of broccoli florets, chopped

salt to taste

Cheese Sauce:

1 1/2 tablespoons Earth Balance Buttery Spread

1 1/4 cups unsweetened soy milk

1 1/2 cups Daiya cheddar-style shreds

Directions:

1. Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot of salted water. Add broccoli during lasting minute to two minutes of cooking. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, while pasta cooks, melt buttery spread in a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in soy milk, then Daiya and stir until cheese is completely melted, about 5 minutes. Add drained pasta and broccoli back to pot and pour in cheese sauce. Stir to coat completely. Add salt to taste. Serve immediately.

It’s worth explaining that I view carb-laden recipes as wasted calories if they’re not infiltrated with something healthy like broccoli or other veggies, which might explain my broccoli with mac-and-cheese streak on this site.

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Spaghetti Puttanesca

I’ve heard that a full moon can make people crazy, but what about tired? Despite catching up on my sleep over the weekend, drinking  a few cups of coffee today and not doing anything particularly grueling, I’m sort of physically and mentally exhausted. Maybe there’s some emotional exhaustion at play as well.  Has the stress from all of the changes going on in my life perhaps taken its toll? It doesn’t help that I haven’t seen my husband in over a month. He’s usually my go-to when I’ve reached my emotional limit and need a hug/a laugh/some perspective/a pick-me-up.

Without Mr. Delectably Free by my side, I’ve channeled my emotional energy into cooking. This weekend, alone, I’ve made two types of cookies, a mousse, two types of soup and a noodle-broccoli-kale-miso salad. Hm. Maybe that’s why I’m so tired. At any rate, I’ve reached my limit and don’t even feel like loading this weekend’s photos onto my computer, which means I’m sharing a recipe that’s been sitting in my personal archives for far too long. It’s a fitting meal for those who’ve reached their emotional limit as well, since this one is both comforting and super easy.

I often forget how pasta — even gluten-free pasta — can make such an easy and fuss-free meal.  This recipe was heavily based a spaghetti puttanesca recipe featured in Everyday Food last month. I absolutely love grape tomatoes and was so excited to find a recipe that featured them in a unique way.

Spaghetti Puttanesca:

Adapted from Everyday Food

1 lb. gluten-free spaghetti of choice, cooked according to package directions

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved if large

1/4 cup olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

1 cup canned tomato sauce, plus more as needed

1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives, drained and patted dry

2 tablespoons capers, drained

Directions:

1. Heat oil over medium-high heat and add grape tomatoes. Toss and heat until tomatoes begin to pop and break down, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and toss for another 20 seconds.

2. Add tomato sauce and heat through. Toss with pasta, capers and olives until pasta is coated. Add additional tomato sauce if necessary. Serve immediately.

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Mediterranean Millet Risotto

I got the idea for a millet risotto recipe from this site for “clean” recipes, which I discovered through GOOP. I pretty much wanted to try every recipe on there (or a vegetarian version of those that had meat), but was particularly intrigued by the sound of a millet risotto.

Risotto is one of my weaknesses. It’s the carb-lover in me that can’t get enough of the often creamy, rich and delicate rice dish. On the other hand, a good rice risotto often requires arborio or another starchy, white rice. As a result, I try to limit my intake as much as possible. I like even my favorite guilty pleasures to have at least some nutritional value (thanks, guacamole, for coming in handy in that department).

Whole Grain Millet, on the other hand, is a good source of fiber and protien. I bought some awhile ago and was stumped with what to do with it (I was thinking a sweet pudding-type dish) until I saw a recipe for artichoke risotto in the clean, elimation diet recipe guide. I tried to vary the flavors a bit with some nutritional yeast, kalamata olives and parsley. If you’re so inclined, you might even want to add some white wine from the start as well. Like risotto, this dish does require a bit of stirring and attention. Still, the preparation is otherwise quite simple. Great for a week night when you’re tired but don’t want to give up on the hope of a nice, healthy and luxurious dinner (story of my life these days).

Makes: 4 servings

Mediterranean Millet Risotto:

1/2 red onion, finely diced

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced or thinly sliced

1 cup millet

1 cup water

4 cups vegetable broth

1 can or jar artichoke hearts, drained (look for ones that are oil and additive free) and roughly chopped

20 kalamata olives, drained and chopped

1/3 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. In a large pot over medium-high heat, add oil, onion and garlic. Saute until onion is transluscent, about 5 minutes. Add millet and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, in a separate, small pot, heat vegetable broth. Add 1/2 cup heated broth to millet once millet has absorbed most, but not all, of the water. Stir until liquid is again mostly absorbed, then add another 1/2 cup of broth. Keep repeating this process until there is no more broth, about 25 minutes.

3. After you have added your last 1/2 cup of broth and risotto is still somewhat soupy, add remaining ingredients. Stir until risotto is desired texture. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Butternut Squash Lasagna

This will be my first Thanksgiving sans turkey. And while I’m not exactly sad about it, it did get me thinking about ideas for how to create a delicious vegetarian Thanksgiving. My family has always taken a pretty traditional approach to Thanksgiving. We’ve never been a sage-in-the stuffing, skin-on “smashed” potatoes kind of crew. But I’ve always appreciated a good Thanksgiving-inspired recipe that colors outside the lines a little.

I also recently noticed that the ubiquitous fall ingredient — butternut squash — has been noticeably absent around these parts. My friend Liz sent me a great recipe for butternut squash soup with a curried apple chutney. But every time I had the squash, I didn’t have apples. When I had apples, I had no squash. When I had vegetable stock, I had neither squash nor apples. Then today, I found myself with squash, lasagna noodles, some Daiya cheese (I know, it’s about time I seek help for my affinity for fake cheese), and all the ingredients I needed for my pine nut ricotta. I’m sure you can figure out where this is leading. And while my family will likely be celebrating Thanksgiving with the expected mashed potatoes and stuffing, I’m thinking this will make a great vegan side for a large, adventurous group, or even a main course for a small family.

This Thanksgiving, I will be SO THANKFUL for passing the NY Bar Exam!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I figure it’s only fair to share my joy here, where I’ve also lamented for months about my stress, anxiety, sleepless nights and endless studying. Thanks, all, for your support and well-wishes during a trying but ultimately rewarding time.

Butternut Squash Lasagna:

3/4 cup raw pinenuts, soaked for 4 hours, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon water

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 box Tinkyada gluten-free brown rice noodles

4 cups butternut squash, peeled and diced (about 18 oz.)

3 tablespoons sage leaves, roughly chopped

1 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella, plus more for top

Directions:

1. Prepare filling: in a blender or food processor, add soaked pine nuts, lemon juice, water and salt. Blend until smooth. Set aside (keep in food processor).

2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of hot water to a boil. Add butternut squash and boil for about 4 minutes. Remove from pot (leave hot water for noodles) and drain. Add lasagna noodles and cook according to package directions, undercooking by a few minutes. Drain and rinse.

3. Preheat oven to 350. Rinse squash with cold water and add squash to food processor. Process until squash pieces are small and mixture is relatively smooth. Stir in sage leaves.

4. Assemble lasagna: add a layer of 3 noodles flat to the bottom of a baking dish. Spread about 3/4 of the squash-ricotta mixture evenly over the noodles and sprinkle 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup cheese over the squash mixture. Repeat 2x. Place remaining noodles on top and sprinkle with additional cheese.

5. Cover baking dish with aluminum foil and bake, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake, uncovered for an additional 10 minutes.

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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.

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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.

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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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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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