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
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.
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)
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.
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.)
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.
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!
Beautiful 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.
With its heavenly–and earthy–star anise garnish and its anise-and-sage dressing, this simple and flavorful side-dish seems made for the winter holiday table.
My Cous-Cous with Grilled Butternut Squash feeds two birds with one cracker (as opposed to killing two birds with one stone!) because it is both starch and vegetable in one. And, never fear, you won’t find me outside grilling in December (or any time for that matter), as I am an indoor grill pan devotee and that’s all you need for grilling the squash–my trustee pan is made by Lodge–though you could roast it instead.
If sumac is new to you, you should be able to find it in Mediterranean markets. It is a beautiful golden reddish color and imparts a mellow tartness. If you can’t find it, feel free to substitute just a little lemon zest, but its unique flavor makes it worth the hunt. I love nutty undertones this time of year, and the sesame provides just the right hint, and is especially compatible with the sumac and anise.
If you have the green part of your menu taken care of, this would be an excellent addition. (And, if you don’t, stay tuned, as greens are coming up!)
Ever since the year after we were married, Joe and I have enjoyed the annual privilege of hosting Thanksgiving for our respective families.
The venue has changed from our small first house to the roomier home we built 13 years ago as have the number of people gathered around the table, for family members and friends have come and gone through death, divorce, relocation, engagement, or just scheduling conflicts.
Everyone misses Joe’s now deceased parents and, this year, an engagement and a work schedule prevented one of our nieces and our nephew from coming. But, my parents and sister all joined us this year. (Impending knee surgery had kept my sister and mother home last year and my father, especially, felt guilty for coming without them, though they encouraged him.)
Both of Joe’s sister’s, one niece, and his married sister’s husband all were able to come, which made for a convivial group of 9 plus two hungry Great Danes.
I loved having my sister stay at our house, but I also loved visiting our parents at their beachfront hotel, and taking long (like 7 miles long) walks on the boardwalk with Joe’s younger sister from his families’ beachfront hotel.
There were lunches and dinners both in and out, movies, a couple of exciting football games (MS State vs. Ole Miss and Auburn vs. Alabama), dog walks, a bit of shopping with my mom and sister–we had to get Mom something pretty to wear for the holidays and she no longer drives (words I thought I would never utter)–planning for an SPCA fundraiser (more on that later), and lots of conversation, teasing and laughter.
Our tasty dinner–we usually eat around 6 p.m.–consisted of the following vegan dishes:
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Shallots
Double Corn Finger, Baby Spinach, and Caramelized Onion and Corn Dressing (see below)
Morel Mushroom Gravy (no real recipe)
Pear Chutney (not yet posted)
Everyone seemed to love it all, but the dressing was a particular favorite. I had found a recipe for Double Corn-Cornbread Dressing in the November issue of Better Homes and Gardens. I was excited that it incorporated spinach in a great enough amount that each serving included a healthy serving. So, I basically followed their recipe (substituting a vegan broth for their chicken broth). But, as a child, I loved my mom, Sallie’s, Double Corn Fingers, so I decided to use my veganized version of that recipe in place of the cornbread and it was absolutely scrumptious in this teen-to-adult-pleasing stuffing!
Vegan Double Corn Finger, Baby Spinach, and Caramelized Onion and Corn Stuffing
Serves 8-10 (with other side dishes)
1 cup vegan butter, divided
1 cup self-rising cornmeal
1 1/4 cup self-rising flour
1-15.5 ounce can creamed corn (which is vegan)
3 cups frozen corn kernels, thawed
1 large red onion, halved, and cut into thin wedges
Freshly ground black pepper
6 cups fresh baby spinach
2 to 2 3/4 cups no-chicken broth or vegetable broth (I think the no-chicken broth has a richer flavor)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place1/2 cup butter in a 9 x 13″ metal baking pan and slide into oven just until butter melts. Remove pan and set aside. Meanwhile, in a medium size mixing bowl, combine self-rising flour and cornmeal. Make a well in the center and pour in creamed corn and the melted butter. Stir together with a fork until completely combined. Dough will be a little sticky. Spread evenly into prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes or until lightly golden on top. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. (Can be made a day ahead up to this point.)
Meanwhile, melt remaining 1/2 cup butter in large cast iron skillet over medium high. Add corn, onion, and salt, and cook, stirring frequently for about 15 minutes or so, until butter begins to brown and corn and onion begin to caramelize. Stir in pepper. Adjust heat as necessary. Remove from heat.
In a very large bowl, break up cornbread into bite size pieces. Add corn and onion mixture and spinach. Toss to combine well. Drizzle with broth to moisten and lightly toss to combine. Spoon into a greased 3-1uart baking dish and bake, uncovered for 40 minutes or until dressing is heated through and lightly browned on top. Serve warm. (Alternatively, dressing may be made up to to the point of baking, covered, refrigerated for up to a day, placed in a cold oven, and then baked at 325 degrees, covered, for 25 to 30 minutes and uncovered for an additional 25 to 30 minutes. Recover if it appears to be browning too fast or drying out.)
Who knew that those pumpkins and squash at the farmers market–with their fanciful forms and all of their beautiful color, strips and spots–were not just for decoration? Many, if not most, are seriously good eats.
As I noted in the original post of this recipe, it was here that my love affair with the humble parsnip began.
And how nice it is to be able to “whip” up a simple dish for a cooking-intensive holiday!