Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What's cooking this week

We're in the midst of a semi-heat wave here at Well on Wheels headquarters.  Even though temperatures haven't crossed the 90 degree threshold to make it official, now that Memorial Day is history, it really feels like summer already.   So this week I've been trying to keep cool in the kitchen with a less heat intensive menu.

The first entree was inspired by the seasonal theme of outdoor cooking:  Barbecue Tofu with Mashed Potatoes and Dijon Green Beans.  Even though I baked the tofu, it got nicely charred in the oven and the sauce slathered all over it reminded me of the best barbecue restaurants in Oakland, CA, minus the  animal bones.  

The second entree was a light meal of Black Bean and Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini Boats with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.  There are some deep flavors in this dish with cumin and chili powder in the pilaf and paprika in the sauce.

The final entree was an Asparagus and Leek Risotto with Sauteed Escarole, Tomatoes and White Beans with Toasted Pine Nuts.  Even though it feels like summer, since it's technically still spring, these veggies are perfect for the transition.  It's amazing how rich and creamy the risotto gets just with rice milk and nutritional yeast and a drizzle of olive oil at the end.  Pure comfort food.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

On Mother's Day, I experimented with a recipe for a gluten-free strawberry rhubarb crisp.  I had made a crisp previously with apples but wanted to do something seasonal for this occasion, and when I found fresh red rhubarb at my local market, I decided this would be the perfect filling.

I cut up a quart of fresh strawberries and mixed them with the rhubarb and maple syrup, lemon juice, cinnamon, corn starch, and a pinch of sea salt.  

While the strawberries and rhubarb were macerating, I mixed up the crumble topping in the food processor.  I started by pulsing 1/2 cup of almonds into finely ground almond meal, then added 1/2 cup quinoa flakes, 1/3 cup organic sugar, 1/3 cup coconut oil, 1 tsp cinnamon, and a pinch of sea salt.

Then I sprinkled the crumbly topping over the strawberry rhubarb mixture.

I spread the topping evenly over the surface and patted it lightly into place.

Then I baked it at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the topping was crisp and browned and the strawberries were bubbling.  I really wanted to dive into it as soon as I pulled it out of the oven, but I waited until it cooled and had set up a bit.

Although the fruit got a little mushier than I'd like, the crumble topping more than made up for it.  This was delicious served with a scoop of So Delicious Turtle Trails coconut ice cream.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Say hello to turnips

Next to okra, turnips are probably my second least favorite vegetable.  I once attended a Thanksgiving dinner where food was served family style and I reached for the bowl with the big pile of what I thought was mashed potatoes and scooped out several heaping ladles onto my plate (can't get enough of those mashed potatoes!).  When I took the first forkful loaded with melted butter and gravy (these were my pre-vegan years), I nearly choked from the unexpected bitterness.  What evil mind would concoct such cruel deception?  And for Thanksgiving no less!  No Thank You.

It took me awhile to get that dreadful taste out of my mouth.  Many years, in fact.  I now find myself surprised to be trying turnips again.  Perhaps my tastes have changed, somewhat, as I've developed an affinity for bitter foods such as broccoli rabe and dandelion greens.  And I've also learned how to mellow flavors by combining them with their opposites.  In the case of bitter turnips, I thought, why not try mixing them with sweet potatoes?  Not the orange yams, but the Japanese sweet potato with purple skin and white flesh that tastes almost marshmallowy when cooked.  So this was my experiment for this week's menu.

The first entree features pan-seared tempeh with a silky piccata sauce accompanied by steamed asparagus and mashed sweet potato, turnip, and yukon gold potato.  Turnips are high in Vitamins B and C, they have more fiber than potatoes, and are lower in calorie, so adding them to the mash is a nice way to reduce carbs and get some health benefits at the same time.  Plus, as I mentioned, the bitterness is mellowed when combined with the other root vegetables.  Success!

Since it's been a rainy week here in Well on Wheels land, I made two entrees that are perfect for curling up with.  I love curry, so the spices in the Spinach and Chickpea Coconut Curry were warming and soothing.

The last entree was Fire-Roasted Tomato Black Bean Chili with Adobo.  I'm really loving the new Muir Glen adobo fire-roasted tomatoes which I've been using in chilis and soups.  It adds a rich depth of flavor and really boosts the firey kick.  Again, another great rainy day meal.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mother's Day Menu

I treated my mom to a home cooked dinner for Mother's Day this weekend, and I think she was happy to not have to lift a finger for a change.  For all that she has done for me over the years, for her love and support, this was just a small token of appreciation.  Thank you, mom, for everything you do!

It was a lovely spring afternoon, the garden was blooming with flowers, and the kitchen was bubbling with delicious flavors.  The plan was for Pasta Primavera as the main course, and when I found a basket of fiddleheads at my local market, I excitedly grabbed a bunch to go into the mix along with asparagus, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, and snap peas.  What a perfect combination!

The colors, tastes, and textures contrasted nicely on the plate.  The pasta was tossed with a creamy basil and arugula pesto, then topped with arugula blossoms.

Dessert featured another seasonal favorite:  rhubarb.  I decided to make a Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp topped with So Delicious Turtle Trails coconut milk ice cream.  Talk about decadent!

As if this wasn't the best part, the highlight came later when we went to see The Beach Boys' 50th reunion concert at the Mohegan Sun Arena.  That was a once in a lifetime experience, and the perfect ending to a fabulous day.

Friday, May 11, 2012

This week's menu

Baked Tofu with Shiitake "Bacon" Baby Bok Choy, and Rice Noodles
Rows of Tofu
Stack of Black Bean and Quinoa Patties waiting to be pan-fried 
Black Bean and Quinoa Patties with Sauteed Onions, Red & Green Peppers 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wild Chive, Arugula, and Garlic Scape Pesto Pasta

Tonight's dinner came courtesy of Mother Nature and was almost entirely free, except for the pasta, slivered almonds, sea salt, and olive oil.

This time of year wild edibles in the allium family (chives, ramps, garlic) and greens (dandelion) are in abundance, and they make the perfect ingredients for a quick meal.

Last year's crop of collard and kale are putting on a blazing show of yellow flowers in my garden (making the bees happy!), and they're still producing tender green leaves.  The arugula is also flowering, and the leaves are sharp and spicy, making a nice base for pesto.

I added some garlic scapes, chives, slivered almonds, olive oil, and sea salt to the food processor and whisked up a batch of pesto to toss with penne pasta.

After blanching a generous handful of collards, kale, and dandelion greens, I tossed everything together.  This lovely meal came together in 15 minutes and it was ideal for a spring cleanse.