Veggie Lover’s Pizza with a Crispy Thin Crust and Homemade Sauce

crispy-pizza

In my opinion, no matter what your favorite pizza toppings are, the crust and the sauce will always be a crucial common denominator. The sauce should be made, at least in part, with fresh tomatoes, with plenty of garlic and herbs. The dough should be thin, crispy, and yet tender. (Sorry we are not taking any counter-arguments against these two rules for PROPER pizza at this time, you gluttonous deep-dish freaks.)

After a lot of experimentation, and many hits and misses, I was so pleased by how these turned out. And especially pleased that they were created without the need for special equipment like the stand mixer or a pizza stone. I used a 12″ oven-safe cast iron pan. As for toppings, I’m sure that is something you’ll want to personalize, as you can see from the photos, I made EVERYTHING pizzas. This included mushrooms, eggplants, kabocha squash, olives, peppers, corn, jalapeños, tomatoes, and fresh basil. If you are looking for ideas, here are some other combos I really like:

  • sliced shallots, sage, and thinly sliced mushrooms tossed in balsamic and black pepper
  • BBQ sauce, cilantro, roasted sweet potato, and red onions
  • Pesto and sliced tomatoes
  • jalapeño, caramelized onions and pineapple

Also pictured here, I used my cashew alfredo sauce and dropped blobs of it over the sauce, then spread them out a bit with the back of a spoon. It does add a little creaminess but I think the pizza is just as good without it!

Homemade Veggie Lover’s Pizza

Makes two 12″ pizzas

sauce*: 

4 big ripe beefsteak tomatoes

1/2 cup tomato paste

1 shallot, finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

4 cloves of garlic, pressed or minced

5 sprigs basil

5 sprigs oregano

5 sprigs Italian parsley

some fresh ground pepper

You can always go the traditional route of dropping your tomatoes into boiling water for a few minutes and then plunging them into ice water to remove the peel. However, I prefer a different method. Chop each tomato in half and scoop out the seeds. Then, holding a cheese grater over a medium sized sauce pan, simply grate the pulp of the tomato right into, the pan, using it’s skin to protect your fingers until there is no pulp left. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes and by the end you have a tidy little pile of perfectly shredded tomato in your pan. Turn the heat on to medium and add the tomato paste, shallot, and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring every couple minutes.

During this time is a great opportunity to chop or prepare any toppings you may want to use and have them standing by.

*Note, this sauce recipe makes enough sauce for 4 pizzas, if I’m going to the trouble of making sauce from scratch, I like to make extra to use for pasta, lasagnas, whatever you might want it for the rest of the week! If you want to cut the recipe in half, just make sure to use a smaller sauce pan so it doesn’t burn from too much surface area.

Pizza Dough

1 package rapid rise yeast

1 cup warm water (110 degrees)

2 tsp sugar

2.5 cups of flour, plus one more cup for rolling

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 cup olive oil, plus 1/2 cup for drizzling and oiling the pan

1/4 cup corn meal

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Put your 10″-12″ cast iron pan that you plan to use into the oven as it heats. In a large bowl, combine the yeast, water, and sugar, and set aside for about 10 minutes to foam up. After ten minutes stir in the 2.5 cups of flour, salt, and 1/3 cup olive oil. Stir with a big spoon or fork until really well combined and pulling away from the sides of the bowl.

Sprinkle a generous amount of flour onto your work surface, knead the dough until it becomes smooth and doesn’t stick to your fingers as easily, adding more flour as needed. Just a couple of minutes. Using your fingers, start to press the dough into a disc shape.

This is basically what I considered war with my dough, it took forever to get right and only my fingers seemed to do the trick, not a rolling pin. Once it finally starts to obey and lay flat to approximately 10″-12″, carefully pull the cast iron pan out of the oven and drizzle it with some oil. Sprinkle the cornmeal over that. From here you should try to work relatively fast and try to get it into the oven as quickly as possible. Ever-so-carefully, lift your dough up and plop it into the pan, gently pressing it into place so that it retains it’s shape. Some have suggested folding it in half, then in half again, then unfolding it in the pan. I have found that to be a disaster. So just gently slide your hands under it and lay it down gingerly, like an expensive beaded dress.

From here, the crispiness is achieved by lightly drizzling olive oil around the edges of the crust and using the back of a spoon to gently smear it all over. You by no means have to use this much oil, it just depends on a waistline:crispiness internal dialogue that only you can have with yourself!

After that, spoon a few tablespoons of the tomato sauce over the dough and use a spoon to spread it evenly and thinly. Arrange your toppings on top of the sauce and then pop the pan in the oven. Bake for 10-15 minutes, keeping an eye for that perfect golden color on the edges.

When you pull it out of the oven, use a spatula to lift and slide the whole pizza onto a big plate. Wait a minute or two to cool then slice and enjoy!!!!

crispy-edge-pizza

pizza

Before going in the oven

pizza-party

Advertisements

Chinese Chick’n Salad: A Flavor Explosion

image.jpeg

Sometimes you get a very serious craving and nothing else can get done until it’s satisfied. That happened to me with this Chinese Chick’n salad. Whether you chose to use faux chicken, some sesame baked tofu, or no protein at all, the salad itself also shines bright all on its own. I just love Gardein crispy tenders. They are like crack. Trader Joe’s makes a version of them as well. What can I say, I’m a sucker for vegan junk food.

I swapped out the traditional romaine for lacinato kale to give it some richer color and a formidable CRUNCH! The great thing about this salad as well, is that it holds up in the fridge, even if it’s already been dressed. This makes it a great leftovers-for-lunch-the-next-day meal. It’s also quick to throw together. And since we already have the faux chicken strips, this salad needed some healthy upgrades to off-set the greasy breaded tenders. This updated version of the salad gets a lot of added pizazz with a generous amount of fresh herbs. Gone are the canned syrup-soaked mandarin oranges and deep fried wonton strips. In their place we have fresh tangerine segments and crushed peanuts. Spicy, cool, nutty, crunchy, tangy, sweet, and refreshing, try the flavor explosion for yourself!

Chinese Chick’n Salad: A Flavor Explosion

Makes about 4 servings

1/2 head of green cabbage, finely shredded

10 leaves of lacinato kale, stems removed and finely shredded

1 cup shredded carrots

1 bunch cilantro, stems removed and leaves chopped (about 12 sprigs)

1 bunch mint, stems removed and leaves chopped (about 12 sprigs)

1/2 bell, finely chopped

1/2 cup peanuts, crushed

12 gardein crispy tenders, or protein of your choice

1-2 tangerines, peeled and sectioned

Chinese Chick’n Salad Dressing:

1/3 cup rice vinegar

2.5 tbs peanut butter

2 tsp hot sesame oil

2.5 tb agave

1 tb coconut oil

Cook the Gardein strips according to the package. I put mine on a foil lined pan in the toaster oven at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Toss all of the salad ingredients together in a large bowl.

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small mixing bowl and whisk to combine thoroughly. Taste it and adjust any flavors as needed. Pour the sauce over the salad and toss really well. The salad will shrink a bit in size as you toss so don’t worry if it seems like a huge amount of veggies when you start!

Once cooked, slice up the chicken strips.

To serve, put a big heap of salad on each plate. Top with chicken strips and tangerine segments. Sprinkle the crushed peanuts on top. DIG IN!

img_9275

Zucchini Spaghetti with Marinara Sauce Plus a Bonus Vegan Alfredo Sauce Recipe

spaghetti with marinara (1)

What is a life without pasta, am I right? It would be a sad thing indeed. And a bowl of pasta with a good marinara sauce is such a simple and happy food. The only downside? I personally gain five pounds when I so much as see the word pasta on a menu. Others of you I know have issues with gluten, or rightfully hate the cardboard taste of whole wheat pasta. Yes, it’s a cruel, cruel world we live in. So what is a person to do who dreams of eating pasta everyday while proudly squeezing into a tiny bikini? The answer is Zoodles. Zucchini noodles that is.

I was skeptical of zucchini noodles at first because I don’t particularly like the taste of cooked zucchini, (it tastes like fishy rotten garbage to me.) I also am not a huge fan of spaghetti squash, (soggy) and all those lovely pastas made with grain alternatives like quinoa and brown rice still have that high-carb weight gain effect on me as regular pasta. But then I got a spiralizer and discovered zucchini anew! This tool costs like $13 and works great on zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, etc to make beautiful angel hair-like tendrils. I mean, come on, here is one for $8, just get one. They are the most fun kitchen tool ever! (By the way, I have no affiliation to any brand, I just did a quick google search and found this one, buy any spiralizer you like!)

I have been making zoodles almost every single day for lunch and just tossing them in different kinds of sauces to change it up. (If you scroll to the bottom of this page, you will find a ‘Category’ drop down menu. Select the category of “Sauces, Dressings, and Marinades” and you will find 20 other sauce recipes!) Zucchinis are the perfect weight-loss food. They have a high water content and only 33 calories each, plus tons of vitamin C. Eating a big bowl of zucchini noodles is a great way to feel full and satisfied while burning fat. I am definitely seeing the difference on the scale.

There are two ways you can eat zoodles- raw or cooked. Because I live in the 100 degree weather of Los Angeles and I love raw food, I tend to just eat them raw. They have a little crunch and the high content of water makes me feel full. However, you can also heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat and toss them with tongs till they are hot and softened. This is where they REALLY take on the roll of pasta as the texture transforms in the pan

The same thing goes for my marinara sauce. This sauce is geared toward those who strive to eat a largely raw food diet, because we all know how good for you raw veggies are! However, this sauce heats up beautifully and works great on pizza or in lasagna too.

Maybe you’re thinking to yourself, zucchini noodles and marinara? Sounds boring. So you want to take it to the next level? You really wanna go for that red, white, and green, monster bowl of Italian deliciousness?  Try adding some vegan alfredo and pesto sauce to  your marinara zoodles for an incredibly creamy and satisfying meal.

Zucchini Spaghetti with Marinara 

Makes 2 servings

6 medium zucchinis, peeled and spiralized

Marinara:

makes about 1.5 cups

6 roma tomatoes, with tough stem ends removed

1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, soaked in warm water for 15 minutes and then drained

6 cloves of garlic

1 tsp salt

1 sprig each of parsley, basil, and oregano

1 medjool date, pitted

After spiralizing the zucchinis, sprinkle a little salt on them and set them aside in a colander over a bowl or in the sink. They release a lot of water, which can dilute the sauce, so I like to let them drain for a bit, and right before serving a give them a little squeeze to release the moisture.

Combine all the marinara ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. So easy!

Ready to take it to the next level?

Vegan Alfredo Sauce

makes a little over 1.5 cups

1 cups raw cashews, soaked for a few hours in a bowl of water to soften. Rinsed and drained

1 tbs nutritional yeast

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/4-1/2 tsp salt depending on your preference

1/4 tsp pepper

1 tbs olive oil

a pinch of nutmeg

1/2 cup water

optional: 1 clove garlic

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until very, very smooth.  If it’s not smooth enough, add another tablespoon or two of water until you get a perfectly smooth consistency.

And finally, the pesto recipe can be found right here!

Enjoy!

Italian flag pasta

zucchini pasta

Creamy Mac n’ Cheese

mac n' cheez

Oh Kraft Mac n’ Cheese. The mystery of its Day-Glo orange color, the flood of nostalgia from its delicious orange powder, the squelching sound of the sauce filling the hollows of the noodles as you stir– it’s all disgustingly good. Except, of course, the fact that it’s basically processed poison. From the shit storm of chemicals and food dyes, to the controversial palm oil (goodbye orangutan habitats and rainforests), the outrageous amount of salt and fat, and of course, the dehydrated bodily fluids from mistreated animals. Way to kill my mac n’ cheese reverie Kraft! Jeez…

Oh well, there are other cruelty-free options out there on the shelves like those from Daiya or Earth Balance, but to be honest, they are gross. Fake cheese in general still has a long way to go. In my opinion the best thing you can do is not try to make ‘fake’ cheese sauce, but use real, whole ingredients to make a WHOLESOME cheesy sauce. Sure, it’s still aiming to be that flavor that you know and love, but it’s taking the whole food route, instead of the chemical one. The result is much more palatable and WAYYYYYY healthier. I think this recipe tastes way more like the mac n’cheese I grew up on than those store-bought fake cheese alternatives.

There was one sure-fire test that I knew this sauce had to pass before I could post this recipe. It had to pass muster with the only person I know who had consumed as much poundage of Kraft Mac n’Cheese growing up as I did myself– that is, my brother.

I’m proud to say that after tasting a spoonful of sauce I got an enthusiastic, “This is what I’m having for dinner, make me a bowl now!” In other words, two thumbs up. I have to humbly agree, it’s delicious. It doesn’t taste ‘fake’. Also, it just so happens to have 28 grams of protein in the whole recipe of sauce. That means that if you compare it to a serving size of Kraft’s, you get 10 grams of protein per serving compared to Kraft’s 7 grams. And let’s face it, you are going to eat 2 servings right!? The other great thing is that this recipe doesn’t use any fake butter or added oil, so it’s very low in fat! One more bonus, nutritional yeast is full of B vitamins, (what up B12) folic acid, and other lovelies. Throw in some quinoa pasta to the equation and you have yourself an actual, whole food, healthy and delicious dinner. It’s a mac n’ cheezy miracle.

Creamy Mac n’ Cheese

Makes 6 servings

3 cups of dry macaroni (or pasta shape of your choice)

1 small peeled sweet potato (hello orange color!) peeled and diced

1 small yellow onion, roughly chopped

1/2 cup of raw cashews (soaked in water for an hour, then rinsed and drained)

1/4 cup soy milk (or whatever non-dairy milk you like best)

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (found at any health food store or online, this ingredient is KEY)

1/4-1/2 cup reserved cooking liquid

1-2 tsp yellow mustard

1-2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1 pinch of paprika

1 pinch of cayenne

Garnish: a few tablespoons of minced chives

Optional Bread Crumb Topping:

1 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2 tbs olive oil (disclaimer: this partially negates those low-fat claims above)

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp black pepper

 

First off, cook pasta according to its package, which generally entails throwing it into a pot of boiling water for about 8 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, fill another small pot with about 3 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the chopped sweet potato and onion and boil until fork tender, mine took about 15 minutes. When done, drain them from the water, while making sure to catch about a cup of the cooking liquid.

In a blender, combine the sweet potatoes, onions, cashews, soy milk, the nutritional yeast, 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid, 1 tsp of mustard, and 1 tsp of salt. Add the garlic, paprika, and cayenne. Blend it until very smooth. Give it a little taste, you might want to add another teaspoon of mustard to make it tangier, and another 1/2 tsp of salt, depending on your own taste. You might want to add another 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. (I always liked a super thick sauce while my husband likes a thinner sauce, so it’s up to your own tastes!)

Get out a 9″x 13″ baking dish and pour in the cooked pasta. Pour the sauce over the pasta and toss them together until thoroughly combined. You can either consider yourself done here or go for the topping!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine all the topping ingredients in a bowl and stir well. Sprinkle the topping over the mac n’ cheese and put in the oven. Keep a close eye and take out when the bread crumbs have turned a nice golden brown.

Sprinkle with minced chives and enjoy!

P.S. This cheese sauce can be used on more than just pasta, pour it over broccoli or throw in some minced jalapeños and red bell peppers, maybe even some vegan butter and chili powder and pour it over tortilla chips for some epic vegan nachos!!!!!

 

vegan mac n'cheese

 

 

Spicy Basil Mango Dressing

IMG_4271Happy Earth Day! This seemed like a good day to end my 6 month blog hiatus. I had been working very long hours on a TV show that took all of my time and creative energy, and now that the season has ended, I am finding so much joy in coming back to my happy place- the kitchen! Now I can resume experimenting with and sharing all the yummy food with you guys that I can. Today I even planted an herb garden in my kitchen window box, so I am ready to jump back in.

I’ve seen a lot of mango dressings floating around Instagram and could never really imagine if it would be good or not, I always thought it sounded too sweet or odd on a salad. Yet now I can say that this is my new all time favorite dressing. Better than my beloved pesto or curry sauce even. The flavor is HUGE, bringing your salad to life with sweet, spicy, garlicky goodness. Not only is it delicious but this dressing is like a magic health elixir- with all raw ingredients, turmeric, lemon, garlic, the digestive enzymes of the mango- it’s incredibly good for your body! I poured this mango dressing over a big rainbow salad of arugula, diced tomatoes, shredded carrot, diced yellow bell pepper, micro-greens, and avocado with crushed almonds. Amazing!

Spicy Basil Mango Dressing

Makes about 4 servings

1 whole peeled and seeded mango, cut into chunks

4 tbs tahini

juice from 1/2 lemon

1 tb minced jalapeno

6 big basil leaves

1 tb fresh raw ginger

1 tb fresh raw turmeric

1 tb fresh raw garlic (about 2 cloves)

3 tbs of balsamic vinegar

pinch of salt

Throw everything in a blender and process until smooth! You don’t really need to pre-chop anything, just peel and break off knobs of the turmeric and ginger and toss them right in. Keeps in the fridge for about 5 days.

IMG_4305

 

Rainbow Crunch Asian Slaw

rainbow crunch raw slaw

As the weather heats up, I always start to crave raw food. Something light, crunchy, and flavorful that comes together easily without bustling around in a hot kitchen. This slaw has it all, protein, fiber, anti-oxidants, sweet and spicy flavors, and a nice big crunch. It’s also mayo-free so it’s less fattening and can survive a cook out a bit longer than most cole slaws. It’s great to make ahead of time and have ready for lunch everyday, or bring it to your next barbecue to add some color to the table.

Rainbow Crunch Asian Slaw

Makes 8 servings

2 cups purple cabbage, shredded

1 cup shredded carrots

1 cup shelled edamame (optional)

1 bunch chives, minced

1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1 serrano pepper, minced

1 fresh organic ear of corn, shucked and cut off the cob

Dressing:

1/2 cup white rice vinegar

1/4 cup raw agave

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 tbs chili sesame oil

2 tbs soy sauce or nama shoyu or coconut aminos

1 tsp sesame seeds

optional: add some crushed peanuts on top

Note: A mandolin helps shred the cabbage and carrots in seconds. Combine all the slaw ingredients in one big mixing bowl. Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Then mix them together to thoroughly coat. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

This goes well with a big teriyaki grilled tofu steak! You can also use the dressing ingredients for any asian salad or even as a marinade!

Mung Bean Falafels with Cucumber Tahini Sauce

IMG_4735Have you ever had mung beans? They don’t SOUND like they would be good, but they are now my new favorite bean! They are so yummy— almost sweet like peas, but still very firm and savory. They have insanely high protein and iron content compared to other legumes. This recipe is based on the Ayurvedic Falafels from One Green Planet, but they are a little more punched up with herbs and spices! They say that Ayurveda considers mung the king of beans! Now I know why. Four falafels have 240 calories, about 12 grams of protein, 17% of your daily required iron, 4 grams of fat, and 6.5 grams of fiber, and 39 grams of carbs. They are gluten free and full of anti-inflammatory ingredients like garlic and turmeric. 

You would never guess how healthy these falafels are because they are so tasty. I tried a round of deep frying them, which was delicious, but then I tried baking them and they really were just as good (if not better, less greasy) so that’s the way I would recommend. Whenever I have tried falafels at restaurants, they are like rock hard balls of dry salt, so I wanted to create falafels with a crispy exterior and a multi-dimensional flavor. I had never used potato flour, but I think it really helps with their lighter texture. However, you can use regular flour if you can’t find potato flour. 

Mung Bean Falafels with Cucumber Tahini Sauce

Makes 15 falafels

2 shallots

8 cloves garlic

1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley

1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro

2 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp salt

1 tsp turmeric

A couple sprinkles of nutmeg

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp black pepper

Juice of half a lemon

3/4 cups dried mung beans

3 tb potato flour

1 tsp baking powder

1tb olive oil

Sauce

3 tbs tahini  

3 tbs coconut yogurt 

Juice of half a lemon

1/2 persian cucumber (or a quarter of a regular cucumber) peeled and minced

A dash of paprika

To cook mung beans, just bring them to a boil with 1 part mung beans, 2 parts water, then cover and lower heat to simmer for 30 minutes. They should be ‘al dente’, not mushy.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor, combine all falafel ingredients except the mung beans and blend into a chunky puree. You don’t want it to be perfectly smooth but you don’t want big hunks of garlic either.

Then add the mung beans and pulse until they are just broken down. Don’t puree.

Add the potato flour and baking soda and mix in with a spoon or your hands.

Form the dough into little patties, about 2 big tablespoons per patty. They should basically be a ball, but a little flattened. 

Line a baking pan with a layer of parchment paper and brush both sides of the falafels with the olive oil.

Bake the falafels for about 20 minutes, then flip them and bake another 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them, you want them to be golden brown on both sides. Cooking time may vary.

To make the sauce, just combine all ingredients.

Serve your falafels on pita, lavash bread, or on a bed of lettuce. Wrapped up as a sandwich with lettuce, diced tomato, diced onions, olives, hummus, garlic fluff, and some Sriracha! They freeze well too, so you can whip up a big batch and have a falafel feast anytime, just heat in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes or so. 

falafel

Eggplants Around the World: Eggplant Tempura with Dengaku Sauce

IMG_4173

The final installment of ‘Eggplants Around the World’ is this crispy Japanese Eggplant Tempura. In Japanese cuisine, Dengaku refers to anything glazed in miso and grilled. Usually tempura dipping sauce is very thin and light, but I think a thick Dengaku miso glaze goes perfectly with the mellow eggplant. Tradition be damned!

The key to a light tempura batter is to use a lower gluten flour, (like cake flour, or specific tempura flour) use ice cold water, and stir the batter as little as possible with a chop stick. Because of these efforts to make such an incredibly light batter, you barely even noticed you are eating a deep fried food. But you are. And it is totally worth the smell in your kitchen for the next 24 hours.

Eggplant Tempura with Dengaku Sauce

serves 2

enough oil to fill a medium frying pan about 3/4″ deep (peanut oil works well)

1 japanese or chinese eggplant, sliced into 1/4″ rounds

1 1/4 cup sparkling ice water

1 cup tempura flour or cake flour

Dengaku Sauce

2 tsp miso paste

2 tbs soy sauce

2 tbs coconut sugar or brown sugar

2-4 drops sesame oil (I like the chili-infused kind)

2 tsp mirin

Makes the sauce first. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and stir well until the sugar and miso are dissolved. Set aside.

Heat the oil over medium heat. The goal is to get it to about 360 degrees but if you don’t have a thermometer, you can drop a tiny bit of batter into the oil, if it sinks it’s not hot enough, it should hover just under the surface and float up as it cooks.

I kept my sparkling water cold in a mixing bowl by adding a couple ice cubes. Gently sprinkle the 1 cup of flour over the bowl of water. Using a chopstick, stir the mixture gently until JUST combined. There will be very big lumps left, that’s what you want. Just get all the flour ‘wetted’ and then stop stirring.

Have a plate lined with paper towel near by. Add the sliced eggplant to the bowl of batter and submerge them so they are thoroughly coated.

In small batches, use a fork to carefully lower the eggplant slices into the hot oil. Mine were ready to flip in about 20 seconds, but make sure you can see the batter around the edges just starting to turn gold, then flip them and fry for about 10- 15 more seconds. Carefully lift them out with a fork and put them on the paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Continue in small batches until all the eggplant is fried.

Serve immediately with Dengaku sauce.

And that concludes our ‘Eggplants Around the World’ series. We covered Morocco, India, and Japan. For even more eggplant recipes from around the world (or at least my vegan American renditions of them) check out the following:

Ratatouille from France

Sticky Szechwan Eggplant from Southwest China

Baba Ganoush from Mediterranean

Spaghetti with Eggplant Mushroom Meatballs from ItalyIMG_4177

French Lentil, Arugula, and Avocado Salad with Pecan Pesto

IMG_4025

It’s Earth Day tomorrow! Well, really everyday is Earth Day am I right? Eh? But tomorrow’s the official one. My friends and I did a beach clean up this weekend, and tomorrow, I’m going to plant some herbs and vegetables in the yard. One of the easiest ways you can honor Earth Day is to try a plant-based diet, even if it’s just for the day.(Actually did you know that it’a also Earth Month? Just throwing that out there!)  Especially if you are in the drought-stricken state of California like me, it’s so important for us all to actively find solutions and make little sacrifices to better our environment. A salad is the perfect place to start.

To be honest, I stole this salad recipe from the Le Pain Quotidien menu, because I really loved the combination of ingredients, but I can make it at home for a whole lot less money. The thing I like about this salad is that it contains a couple things that I’m not generally fond of (radishes, fennel, yuck) but somehow when it’s all mixed together the flavors are fantastic! This salad has more than 12 different vegetables and herbs, so it’s a nutrient powerhouse. Plus the lentils contribute tons of protein, fiber, and iron.

I used a mandolin to slice the radishes, fennel, and cucumber into paper thin shavings, and I’d like to take a moment to remind you that cooking is dangerous! There’s fire, sharp objects, scalding oil– you have to be very careful. Or else, you end up like me and slice your finger open on the mandolin and have to prepare the rest of your meal with one hand. And type with one hand. And where a rubber glove to wash your hair. So yeah, don’t cut your fingers open like I do, it hurts a lot.

French Lentil, Arugula, and Avocado Salad

Makes 2 entree salads or 4 small salads

4 cups arugula

6 grape tomatoes, diced

4 tbs finely diced red bell pepper

3 green onions, sliced

1 sprig dill, finely chopped

1/3 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced

1 radish, thinly sliced

1/3 cucumber, thinly sliced

1 carrot, grated with a fine cheese grater

1 cup cooked French green lentils

1 avocado, sliced

Pecan Pesto Dressing:

1/3 cup raw pecans

1/2 cup first cold pressed olive oil

juice of 1 lemon

5 cloves garlic

a generous sprinkling of salt

1 bunch basil leaves

Combine all salad ingredients in a big bowl. Put all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. I sometimes replace half the oil with water, just to make it a little lighter, but the oil tastes richer, naturally. Poor the dressing on and toss. This would also be great with some toasted sunflower seeds on top. Happy Earth Day!

IMG_4007

 

Cannellini Beans with Seven Herbs and Lemon Zest

Lemony 7-Herb White Beans

I had a ton of fresh herbs laying around, and I hate having to throw away food that I wasn’t able to use in time. So I decided to just use all of them in one dish. This accidental savory dish is bursting with flavor! I even took it one step further and took about 1.5 cups of the finished beans and put them in the food processor with some water to make a thick and creamy white bean dip. Add a bit more water and you have yourself a lemony, herby cream sauce that you can pour over pasta, roasted veggies or a green salad. Three dishes in one! A half cup serving has 175 calories, 8 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber, and 10% of the required calcium and iron. I served these beans over a bowl of quinoa and baby kale, with some sliced yellow tomatoes. A quick and comforting lunch. It’s good hot or cold- an inexpensive and easy side dish to make for 2 or 200 people.

Cannellini Beans with Seven Herbs and Lemon Zest

makes 7 servings

1 bunch of fresh basil

4 sprigs fresh parsley

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 sprig fresh thyme

2 sprigs oregano

3 green onions

the zest and juice from 1 lemon

8 cloves garlic

1 tsp red pepper flakes

generous salt and pepper

3 tbs first cold pressed olive oil

32 ounces cooked, rinsed, and drained cannellini beans (I used 2x 16 ounce cans)

Remove all stems from the herbs. Combine all the ingredients except the oil and beans in a food processor and pulse until well broken down. (You can also just chop all the garlic and herbs by hand, it’ll just take longer.)

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the herb mixture and cook till it is bubbling and aromatic.

Add the beans and gently toss. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, till the beans are heated through. Serve hot or cold.

White Bean Dip: blend 1.5 cup of the bean mixture with 1/4 cup of water and 3 tbs tahini. Chill before serving with crudités.

White Bean Cream Sauce/Dressing: blend 1 cup bean mixture with 1/3 cup water.