Summer Crunch Salad with Creamy Avocado and Herb Dressing

Once upon a time, there was cream, or sour cream, or at least plain yogurt. But in recent months, as we started eating more plant-based meals and those ingredients grew sparser in my fridge, I wistfully said goodbye to creamy, luscious sauces.20130510-185010.jpgI was a fool! As you probably know, and I have now learned, it turns out that creamy vegan sauces require only selecting the right ingredients–like in this walnut sauce, this creamy sweet corn sauce, this tahini sauce–and I haven’t even tried the cashew cream trick yet.

Today’s herb-packed, lemony avocado dressing takes five minutes to make, and tastes like an indulgence of a much greater magnitude. Pour it over a crisp summer salad, and you’ll never miss buttermilk dressing again.20130510-185308.jpgHelp me out, readers: What other tricks am I missing for creating decadent, creamy, whole-foods, plant-based deliciousness?

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Pesto Pasta with Beans and Greens

The lifestyle indulgences I go in for might seem quirky, I admit.  In some ways I’m frugal: our cars are old, I usually upgrade my wardrobe only when actual holes in my clothing require it, and we’ll probably never update our very-1980’s kitchen.  But other times, I splurge indiscriminately: finding myself in a new grocery bulk section last week, I bought a bag of every unfamiliar dried bean there.

Yellow beans!  Pink beans!  Speckled beans!  Tiny beans!  And more, many more.  I have only one source to blame for this new obsession: Rancho Gordo.   A local shop carries their beans, which have opened my eyes to the wide world beyond black and white beans, familiar pintos and chickpeas.  I have fallen down the dried-bean rabbit hole and I like it here.Pasta with Beans and GreensThat charmer pictured above is Rancho Gordo’s Ojo de Cabra, a meaty beauty of a bean so succulent that I kept plucking them from the bubbling pot despite the peril to my fingertips.  Like all beans, they’re even better the next day, and that’s when I suggest that you make this pasta.

This dish is fine and dandy with drained canned white beans (maybe add a little chopped fresh rosemary in that case), but it is even better as a showcase for an excellent bean if you cook it yourself and use a few scoops of the bean broth to finish cooking your pasta.

Do you have a favorite bean, or an unusual recommendation that I should seek out?  Please tell me! Continue reading

One-Ingredient Oven Baked Apple Chips

Each summer, I fill my freezer and pantry shelves with jam and pickles and applesauce and roasted tomatoes and pesto and all the tastes of summer that I think I’ll need to make it through the Seattle winter.  And each year, right about this time, I either start wondering where it all went or wondering how we’re ever going to get through it all.  This year it’s the latter.

So here we are: the chickens are laying again, green rows are peeking up in the garden, and although even the rhubarb is a few weeks off, all signs indicate that spring will come again.  Which means that it’s time to be working through our winter stores.One-Ingredient Baked Apple ChipsIt was in that spirit that I hauled the last of our apple harvest out from the back of the fridge today.  Last fall we borrowed two dehydrators from a friend and dried a few gallons of apples that lasted, oh, right until whenever the girls found them.  They loved them.  So today when the counter was piled high with apples and I started talking sauce, an intense lobbying campaign was launched from around the height of my bellybutton.  Who could resist?

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Winter Salad with Oranges and Oil-Cured Olives

I always find a brightly-colored salad to be uplifting in wintertime.  Lettuce may not be not a winter crop, but I like to overlook that fact and focus instead on salad as an opportunity to let winter citrus shine.  And at this time of year fresh herbs are starting to peek up in the garden, which is a perfect excuse to supplement your salad greens with generous handfuls of parsley.  The play of flavors and textures here—sweet, salty, bitter, crisp—will brighten any winter day.Green Salad with Oranges and Olives Continue reading

The Best Tomato Sauce

I like my friend Knox for lots of reasons, one of which is that everything he cooks (and bakes, and preserves) is divine and he always shares his recipes.  He always has good ideas, and several projects up his sleeve at once, so you won’t be surprised to learn that among his many accomplishments, Knox is the granddaddy of Soup Swap.  (What, you haven’t held a soup swap yet this year?  It’s not too late!  The rules are here.)

And I think it was at Knox’s first soup swap, more than a decade ago, that he made us The Best Tomato Sauce for the first time.  There were lots of us, and lots of frozen soup, packed into Knox’s tiny house, and in characteristic fashion he breezily served steaming bowls of pasta to all of us crowded onto the couch and floor and standing in every corner and doorway.  The sauce was incredible.  I squeezed after him into the arms-width kitchen and wrote down his instructions on a now-battered-and-stained recipe card.The Best Tomato Sauce Continue reading

Citrus Sugar

It’s unfortunate that we’re not supposed to eat sugar anymore, because at this time of year I’m zesting citrus like mad and there’s nothing like a little (or a lot of) sugar to tame the delectable bitterness of orange and lemon peels.  Think marmalade, think lemon-olive oil cake, think whole wheat quick bread with orange zest and brown sugar.  Need more ideas?  I loved this recent post from Food In Jars.Orange Zest Sugar from emmycooks.comThis isn’t a recipe so much as a good idea: before the next time you peel or juice a (washed, organic) lemon or orange, scrub off the zest with a microplane first.  Zest the fruit directly into a bowl to catch every drop of oil and essence from the peel.  Add sugar.  For this batch I added 1/2 c. granulated sugar to the zest of one orange and half a lemon.  Mash it around to help the sugar absorb the flavor of the zest, then leave the bowl uncovered at room temperature for a day or two, stirring occasionally, until the zest is completely dry.  Transfer to a sealed jar for storage. Continue reading

Black Bean Enfrijoladas

Today I’m here to offer you another version of my favorite black bean chilaquiles.  The original recipe gives you a riot of textures and bright flavors: the salty crunch of tortilla chips, lime, feta, chunky salsa, cilantro, a drizzle of crema, maybe even a few crisp radishes, all supported by a spicy puree of black beans, smoky chipotles, and garlic.  A bowl of those chilaquiles is one of my favorite foods.

But some days call for something a little simpler, a little healthier, and a heck of a lot less work.  On those days, lately, I’ve been making this version of the recipe instead.  The backbone of the dish, the spicy black bean puree, is unchanged from the earlier recipe.  But once the beans are ready, I don’t fuss with the little bowls of assorted toppings or with baking or frying the tortillas into chips.  Instead, I just dunk warm corn tortillas into the beans and then fold them into quarters right on our plates, topping them with a scoop of salsa, avocado, a handful of toasted pine nuts, and a dusting of cilantro.  With a salad alongside, dinner is served.Black Bean Enfrijoladas Continue reading