Day 18: Indian Cauliflower with Black Mustard Seeds AND Orange Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette–“Cooking ‘The Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Indian Cauliflower(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.)

Today I decided to tackle two recipes. In the interest of full disclosure, my reason for this was that I had doubts about both dishes so I figured if I didn’t like the one then hopefully I would like the other.

So the first one is Indian Cauliflower with Black Mustard Seeds. Because I have put in my time at the grocery store spice displays, I had most of the spices needed…except for the elusive black mustard seed. I went to my usual stores and even went to Kroger which is out of my way, but I did it and got nothing. I even tried Target! I jokingly said that I could turn my own dang mustard seeds black – I’m a pro at burning things! So I ended up with regular mustard seeds. I followed along with the directions and while I am stirring the beautiful and now orange cauliflower (thanks to the turmeric), I was also stirring the “yellow” mustard seeds over high heat in the butter and oil.

I was feeling like a pretty accomplished cook stirring two pots at once and all of a sudden the mustard seeds started popping like popcorn – all over my arm and then all over the stove and counter tops! Who knew mustard seeds could do this?? There should have been a warning label! But seriously who tries popping mustard seeds? I quickly took it off the heat and looked in the pot and the remaining mustard seeds were, in fact, black. Well mission accomplished! There they are – black mustard seeds!

Orange Salad with Cumin VinaigretteThe recipe then said to “drizzle” the mustard seed mixture over the cauliflower – mine sorted of plopped over it in chunks but I spread them out to look like it was drizzled. While this one cooled a little I started on my next recipe – the Orange Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette. I gathered all the ingredients and discovered that the olives I had purchased especially for this from the olive bar at the grocery store were half gone. My husband admitted he just couldn’t help himself. Ok so now I am cutting the recipe in half – not a problem! (I knew they wouldn’t eat it anyway).

This recipe came together with no mishaps in about five minutes. It could not have been easier. The presentation was really pretty with the orange and green together. Now for the taste test. The cauliflower was good but it lacked the pizzazz of the other recipes according to my family. This was totally my fault for not using the correct mustard seeds and then only half the amount seeing as how the other half of the seeds were spread around my kitchen. The orange salad was really good but very intense so I decided I would add spinach leaves and make it more of a traditional salad. My guys would have nothing to do with this one (fruits have no place in their salads) so you’ll just have to take my word on it.

And…if I ever see black mustard seeds I am buying them and trying this again- as long as they are not the price of cardamon or saffron that is.

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Day 6: Panko Topped Cheesy Zucchini–“Cooking ‘The Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Panko Topped Cheesy Zucchini(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.)

It’s leftover night at our house which is the night we clear out the fridge and put it all out on the counter as a self service buffet. There was a serious lack of anything green so I quickly decided to do a recipe that caught my eye a few days ago: Panko Topped Cheesy Zucchini. I read through the recipe while hiding out in the living room so I could impress my family by whipping up something new and tasty in less than 10 minutes and without them knowing it was from the vegan cookbook.

I grated up the zucchini on a box grater and started sautéing it. My husband was grazing at the counter and watching the preparation so now I can’t refer back to the book. Just great! I remember it said something about the zucchini releasing moisture. What the heck does that mean? So we watched expectantly and suddenly there it happened! Liquid started forming. Since he was standing there, I had described the process I now vaguely remember. Next I know it said something about evaporation. This is turning into a science project. So we watched until we decided the liquid had disappeared sufficiently. That’s when I threw in a handful of real Parmesan cheese – yes I cheated…again. Sorry.
Earlier I had dumped some Panko into another small pan and started toasting it. Unfortunately I burnt them a little when I ran to sneak a look at the cookbook about how much cheese. But no matter, I put the zucchini on a serving plate and topped it with the Panko. Done!! So easy!!

We each took a bite and literally couldn’t stop. We ended up eating almost all of it while standing at the counter. We only stopped out of guilt for not leaving any for our son (who loved it too).

This recipe is definitely going to be repeated over and over in our home. Oh and as part of my dedication to this challenge, I will be trying the “cheese” that is supposed to be used in this dish – I promise!

~~Kim Howard Hastings

Kim Hastings

 

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Vegan Middle Eastern Roasted Tri-Color Carrots and Fennel with Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce

Middle Eastern Roasted Carrots with Yogurt, Chickpea, Cucumber ToppingYield: 6 servings

On Saturday, I found myself bringing home produce before I had even prepared produce from a Whole Foods run a couple of weeks ago.  Afraid that something would go bad before I could get to it, I just combined the beautiful tri-color carrots from the earlier trip with today’s fennel bulb.  I also roasted golden beets, but in a foil pouch and I’m not yet sure what I’m going to do with those little beauties.

In the meantime, enjoy this lovely dish with it’s mellow Middle Eastern flavor notes in either–or both–of two ways.  There are lots of tried and true carrot marriages, e.g. dill, mustard, orange, and maple.  But I wanted something a little different.  So, while I did include mustard and dried orange peel, I substituted tamarind syrup for maple and added several of my favorite Middle Eastern spices.  If you aren’t able to find tamarind or pomegranate syrup, maple will be tasty; and fresh lemon zest–say 1/2 teaspoon– is a fine substitution for sumac, just not quite as earthy.

As you can see below, the carrots are a beautiful side dish and I hope you’ll trust me on the taste.  However, yesterday, home form school for President’s Day, I wanted a lunch of the carrots, but with some protein.  Remembering that I had purchased a cucumber on Saturday and had some chickpeas and vegan sour cream on hand (here, no one sells unsweetened vegan yogurt), it occured to me that, combined, they would make a luscious and fresh-tasting protein-packed sauce for the carrots.  And they were.  Enjoy these beautiful roots as a side or a main dish and you’ll be blissfully content either way.

Middle Eastern Roasted Carrots

1 fennel bulb with stalks

1 pound tri-color carrots (or any carrots, really), trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea Salt

Freshly ground black peopper

1 tablespoon tamarind or pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon dried coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried orange peel

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sumac

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

4 cloves garlic, halved

Optional Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce (recipe follows)

Optional Garnish: reserved fennel fronds, whole or chopped pistachios, and smoked paprika (note, if you serve the carrots with the sauce, stir the fennel fronds into it and garnish with the pistachios and smoked paprika)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Remove fennel fronds from stalks, finely chop, and store, covered, in the refrigerator.  Trim stalks from fennel bulb and cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias.  Cut bulb in half and then slice each half into 6 to 8 wedges, about 3/4-inch thick at the widest part. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil into a large roasting pan.  Add fennel stalks and bulb wedges, carrots, and about 1/2 teaspoon sea salt adn 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Stir well to coat vegetables with oil.  Roast for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Whisk together molasses, mustard, corander, cumin, orange peel, smoked paprika, garlic powder and turmeric.  Drizzle over vegetables, add garlic, and stir to coat.  Roast another 10 to 20 minutes, stirring after 10, or until desired degree of caramelization is achieved.  (I like a lot of caramelization, so I roast them another 20, but be aware that the sugar content in the syrup means that too they will scorch more easily after it is added.)  Check for seasoning and stir in more salt and pepper if desired.  Serve warm or at room temperature garnished, if desired, with the reserved fennel fronds,  pistachios, and smoked paprika, or topped with the Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce and garnished as desired.

Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce

1/2 cup vegan unsweetened yogurt or sour cream

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1-7 to 8-inch cucumber, diced

Reserved finely chopped fennel fronds

1/8th teaspoon garlic powder

Pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, fold together all ingredients until well combined and chill in the refrigerator, covered, until serving time.

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Vegan Zucchini and Yellow Squash Torta (with simple Tomato-Cucumber Salad)

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Torta 2Yield: 4 main dish servings (2 slices each, as they are so light) or 8 side dish servings

Last Tuesday, realizing that I was leaving town in a couple of days (for my annual summer day hiking trip with my cousin Earl) and that I had a big beautiful zucchini and yellow squash from the farmer’s market in the fridge, I realized I needed to create something that would showcase them for lunch for the next couple of days.

Whatever it was, I wanted it to be light with a chilled component.  With just about a cup of tofu in the fridge, the idea of a salad-topped torta struck and I set about seeing what I could come up with.

The result was a well-behaved  one-dish meal that is as addicting as it is nutritious and low calorie.  In fact, this dish is so light, who cares if you wipe out the whole torta in one setting?  Okay, well maybe half.  I confess to devouring three slices for lunch both days.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-8 inch zucchini (about 2″ in diameter at widest section), very thinly sliced

1-8 inch yellow squash (about 2″ in diameter at widest section), very thinly sliced

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 large cloves garlic, minced

7 to 8 ounces extra firm regular tofu (half of a 14 to 16 ounce box, however your favorite brand is sold)

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos or soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (nothing beats freshly ground!)

8 to 12 fresh basil leaves

Tomato Cucumber Salad (recipe follows)

Garnish: sprigs of fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add zucchini and yellow squash slices and a pinch of sea salt and pepper.  Saute, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes or until squash begins to soften.  Add 1 clove of minced garlic and saute, stirring frequently, for another 2 to 3 minutes or until squash is perfectly tender and most of moisture is absorbed/evaporated.  Remove from heat and lightly smooth the top to create a flat surface.  In a food processor, blend all remaining ingredients, except basil, including remaining clove of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.  Add basil leaves and pulse just to chop and distribute.  Pour mixture over cooked squashes, sealing to edges.  Bake in center of oven for about 35 minutes or until set and lightly browned on top.  Cool about 15 minutes or until just warm for best flavor, texture, and easy removal from the pan.  Serve topped with Tomato Cucumber Salad and garnished with fresh basil sprigs.

Tomato Cucumber Salad

1 cup diced cucumber

1 cup quartered cherry or grape tomatoes

2 teaspoons mild vinegar like cider or malt

Pinch Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, gently combine all ingredients.  Check for seasoning and adjust to taste.

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Vegan Mashed Beets with “Butter” and “Sour Cream”–Win Over Beet Haters!

Mashed Beets with Butter and Sour CreamYield: 4 servings

Saturday night, Joe and I and two other couples celebrated not only the almost-Summer Solstice, but the inaugural dinner of our Starlight Supper Club (named after the Stardust Supper Club in the small town where I grew up).

The first dinner was hosted by Becky Bump and Reese Lusk, two inspired cooks and highly creative individuals:  Reese is an artist and designer and Becky owns a public relations firm.  I have been fantasizing about the appetizer–and the pie!–ever since and, in fact, we had not been home from the party a full 12 hours before I was roasting beets to make my version of their Beet Bruschetta–genius!  Stay tuned for this recipe on Saturday, June 27.

But I had a lot of beets and remembered that Reese had said that the only way he enjoys beets is in my Beet Muhummara which is, if I so stay so, a spectacular spread.  But I started wondering why beets couldn’t be prepared like mashed potatoes, complete with butter, sour cream, cream, salt and pepper.  And they can:  wow!

Mashed beets are beautiful and delicious and, while they still taste like the best of beets, the other ingredients mask that beet-y “whang” that some folks don’t care for.

8 “woman’s fist size” beets, trimmed, but  not peeled (the beets will shrink as they roast)

olive oil

sea salt

4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons vegan butter

4 tablespoons vegan sour cream

2 tablespoons plain soy creamer (unsweetened if you can find it)

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Optional garnish: fresh thyme sprigs

Prheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place beets on a sheet of foil on a baking sheet (to catch any overflow juices), rub with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with just a bit of sea salt.  Wrap and roast for about an hour (check for tenderness at 45 minutes).  Unwrap, allow to cool for about 10 minutes or until comfortable to handle, peel, and cut into quarters.  Put through a food ricer or puree in a food processor with remaining ingredients.  Serve warm, topped with a tiny pad butter (about 1/2 teaspoon) and a sprig of thyme if desired.

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Vegan Toasted Orzo Risotto (with Asparagus Stock or the stock of your choice)

Toasted Orzo RisottoYield: 4 side dish servings (easily doubles)

Joe and I are headed to NYC today for a dear friend’s wedding.  While, we are mostly excited about the wedding, we haven’t been to New York in far too long, so we are also amped about our POD hotel in East Midtown and the food!

Yesterday afternoon, another good friend who gets to Manhattan every year sent me her list of restaurant recommendations and I found myself starving.  Though, in truth, by 5 p.m. I am always starving.  I rise at 5:30 and teach high school all day, which I love, but which works up quite an appetite.

A handful of roasted peanuts and cashews–even with nutritional yeaste–didn’t do the trick.  So, I was casting about for something to snack on before I meet Joe at 7:30 for date night when I remembered that I had created this orzo risotto dish, but never finished it.  Yum!  Since I won’t be posting until after our weekend in the city, I thought I would go ahead and share now.

The recipe came about after making my Vegan Smokey Grilled Asparagus and White Bean Spread to take to a party.  I hated to waste–even to compost–all of the asparagus trimmings, so I made a stock.  But then I wasn’t sure what to do with it. I thought about a soup, but was craving something sort of creamy, starchy and chewy.  An opened box of orzo in the pantry provided all the inspiration I needed for this delectable Toasted Orzo Risotto that whispers spring with its oh-so-subtle hint of asparagus and bright fresh lemon zest.

 

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup dried orzo

1/8th teaspoon sea salt + more to taste, if desired (to finish the dish)

2 1/2 cups asparagus stock (asparagus trimmings and a pinch of sea salt simmered in 2 cups water for 20 minutes and steeped until cool) OR any vegetable stock, preferably low sodium

1/2 cup dry white wine (I use a pinot grigio)

1/2 cup plain coconut or soy creamer (use unsweetened if you can find it)

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste

Zest of 1/2 large lemon

Garnish: lemon zest, sprigs of fresh herbs, or the primary vegetabel from stock, if homemade.

In a large cast iron skillet over medium high, heat olive oil, add orzo, stir to coat and toast, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes or until lighly browned, avoid over-browning, especially toward the end.  Add one-third of  stock and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes.  Repeat with remaining stock, one-third at a time, followed by white wine and creamer, for a total of 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time.  To finish the dish, stir in nutritional yeast, black pepper, and lemon zest.  Check for salt and add more if desired.  Serve garnished as desired.  (I used grilled asparagus spears.)

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On the 4th Day of Christmas…Vegan Spaghetti Squash with Caramelized Onions, Greens, Cranberries and Curried Croutons

Complex in flavor but not to prepare, a mound of golden and creamy, but healthy(!), spaghetti squash is crowned with the colors and flavors of the season in the form of dried cranberries and kale in this uniquely tasty recipe.

You could stop there, but why would you want to when you could spend just a tiny bit more time and push it right over the top with a sprinkling of crusty croutons!

In this recipe, the croutons are curried, but if those flavor notes seem discordant with you meal, by all means, choose another spice, but don’t deprive your friends and family of this mound of sweet-n-savory deliciousness.

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On the 5th Day of Christmas…Vegan Stuffed Savory Sweet Potatoes

Sorry, everyone, I almost missed the 5th Day of Christmas due to flight delays in Atlanta…errr.  Tis the season!

But I am now safely at my family’s home in MS–after having to fly into a different town than originally scheduled, creating a longer drive for my family.

So, now, it’s almost midnight East Coast Time, and I have a mere 10 minutes before I turn into a pumpkin.  Or maybe a sweet potato.  This will be quick…or maybe not.  The computer here is very sloooooow.  Perhaps this is a sign that I need to slow down the pace a bit this week.  Sound familiar?

Here goes: I adore sweet potatoes, but I was never a fan of those dessert-type dishes with brown sugar and all the rest.  One Thanksgiving my sister and I came upon this recipe for Vegan Stuffed Savory Sweet Potatoes, which I easily veganized, and it quickly became a family favorite.  These handsome spuds are just as appropriate for Christmas, and you may find that those who think they don’t enjoy holiday sweet potatoes, in fact do!

 

 

 

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On the 9th Day of Christmas…Vegan “Creamed” Kale

Ruth's Chris Tempura Onion Ring Cups with Creamed KaleBeautiful bright greens deserve a special place on the holiday table.  And my “creamed” version of my favorite winter green–kale–is practically virtuous, as its creaminess comes from pureed white beans.  Rich and decadent tasting, your guests will be none the wiser.

As you can see in the photo, when I created the recipe initially, it was to stuff inside an enormous (vegan) tempura-battered onion ring from Ruth’s Chris in a “Restaurant Redux.”  When you follow the link, you will not only discover the recipe but an explanation for why I was in a steak house.  It wasn’t to eat steak, that’s for sure!  And, sadly, not long after I created this recipe, Ruth’s Chris ditched their tempura battered onion rings in favor of breaded ones, which are not vegan.  Probably just as well; those were a splurge.

But my “Creamed” Kale is just as tasty and far more healthy served in a pretty casserole dish, ramekins, or stuffed in the likes of acorn squash.  Any way you serve it, you can’t go wrong with this delicious and nutritious–not to mention super simple–embrace of one of winter’s finest gifts.

 

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