an Arabic feast

During cooking class last month I shared recipes for my favorite Arabic-inspired dishes. The recipes we enjoyed were a roasted vegetable Hummus, an earthy-tangy Baba Gannoush, and a simple Fattoush Salad with Pita Wedges. And while the idea for this class was inspired by the baskets of pita and plates of hummus shared between my high school girlfriends in surburban Detroit, the recipes are all inspired by great bloggers listed below in the intro to each recipe.

Baba Gannoush (Smokey Eggplant Dip)

This delicious and creamy dip can be thought of as the cousin to hummus- made with creamy eggplants and a little smoke and spice. Recipe adapted from David Ledbovitz. He roasts the eggplants over an open flame, which completely terrifies me. I sneak in some liquid smoke instead! 

3 medium-sized eggplants
3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
½ cup tahini (roasted sesame paste)
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
pinch chile powder or cayenne
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ teaspoon liquid smoke
½ cup packed flat-leaf parsley

  1. Preheat oven to 450º.
  2. Split eggplants lengthwise and lay flat on baking sheet. Add garlic to baking sheet and bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until eggplants are soft. Check by using a sharp knife through the middle. Remove from oven and let cool.
  3. Scrape out the pulp from eggplants (which just might be the wackiest food goo EVER), and add to processor with garlic and all other ingredients. Blend until very smooth, scraping the sides if needed.
  4. Taste, and season with additional salt and lemon juice, if necessary. Chill for a few hours before serving.

Yield: about 4 cups dip

Roasted Vegetable Hummus

Traditional hummus is lightened up with fresh vegetables and some hempseeds. This was inspired by Gena of Choosing Raw, and her raw zucchini hummus.

2 zucchini, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 (fifteen ounce) can chickpeas, drained (or two cups home-cooked)
¼ cup lemon juice
1 tsp cumin
½ cup tahini
2-4 Tablespoons olive oil
½ cup hempseeds

  1. Add chopped zucchini and peppers to a 9×13 baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 450º, stirring after 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool.
  2. Blend vegetables and all remaining ingredients in a food processor until very smooth. Add water if necessary.
  3. Serve with pita or fresh vegetables.

Yield: 3 cups hummus

Fattoush Salad and Crispy Pita Wedges

A light salad dressed with simple vinaigrette and toasted pita chips- which go perfectly with the two fabulous dips above! This recipe was adapted from A Taste of Beirut. Her version features sumac, which I couldn’t find here, so I skipped it… hopefully she will forgive me! Don’t skimp on the pita chippies, these are the best part of this salad!

4 slices pita bread
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon each dried basil and black pepper
½ teaspoon ground coriander
salt to taste
1 head romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
½ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
½ cup roughly chopped fresh mint
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 cucumber, sliced
½ cup shredded carrots

  1. Preheat oven to 400º.
  2. Slice pita bread into strips and line on a baking sheet. Set aside.
  3. Add oil, juice, zest and spices to a small jar. Shake until emulsified.
  4. Brush pita bread generously with olive oil dressing, and bake for 15 minutes, or until very browned and crispy.
  5. When bread is finished baking, break each strip into dime-sized pieces.
  6. Meanwhile, add lettuce, vegetables, and herbs to a large mixing bowl and toss gently. Add remaining dressing and toss to coat.
  7. Toss in cooled pita chips, and then serve immediately.

Yield: 4-6 servings

 

 

 

 

 

quick meals: carrot quinoa fritters

Sad but true: I’ve been significantly less inspired to cook creatively now that I am living alone. This doesn’t mean that I am eating poorly- I am actually eating quite well- but I eat the same things all the time now! Tight scheduling and an even tighter budget means that I am making the most of all my foods, recycling staple grains and veggies into two or three similar meals throughout the week (sometimes even twice in the same day- kale is so very versatile!). This makes food blogging nearly impossible– I’ve already written multiple times about my favorite single girl meals like cozy comfort foods and just-for-one noodle dishes. But inspiration does strike, and this past weekend it came in the form of Carrot-Quinoa Fritters.

The inspiration for these hearty little treats came from a few places: last week my coworker made some deliciously whole-grain (vegan) Vegetable & Quinoa Patties for her cooking class (recipe will be posted soon!), which reminded me about Smitten Kitchen’s Zucchini Fritters that I had made a few months ago. Both patties/fritters were so easy and amazingly addictive! I’ve also been totally addicted to different versions of this crazy good yogurt-tahini sauce after making it last week to impress a handsome dinner guest.

For my cozy (solo) Saturday night dinner I cooked up some brown rice, steamed some kale, mixed in some black beans, and served them alongside these yummy fritters and an adapted version of the tahini-yogurt dip. I really want to do a vegan version of these fritters, so do stay tuned, my egg-free friends!

DSCN3294

I love the combination of soft quinoa and slightly crunchy carrots!

Carrot-Quinoa Fritters

1 organic egg
a few generous pinches of salt and pepper
1 tsp caraway seeds
1½- 2 cups shredded carrots
½ cup cooked quinoa
½ cup whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose)

  1. Whisk the egg in a large bowl. Toss in salt, pepper, caraway, and whisk again to combine. Add carrots and quinoa and stir to coat. Sprinkle in flour (you may need less than 1/2 cup) until mixture will stick together in 2-inch patties, though there may be a few loose carrot shreds. Make all patties before proceeding.
  2. Heat up a few tablespoons of oil in a cast iron pan (my favorite oil is Rice Bran Oil, which can stand the high heat of cast iron on gas stoves). Add a few patties to the pan, and flatten slightly with the spatula. Do not crowd pan. Cook until both sides are nicely browned, then layer on a plate with paper towel to absorb some of the oil.
  3. Serve alongside the dipping sauce, or just eat them straight off the plate. These will keep for a few days in the fridge.

Yield: about 10-12 fritters, or 2-3 servings

Zesty Yogurt & Tahini Sauce

(inspired by 101 Cookbooks; her version with cumin and coriander is fabulous too!)

a few tablespoons plain yogurt
a few tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 heaping tablespoon lemon zest
2 tsp fresh or dried dill
a few drops of honey
pinch each salt and pepper
water to taste

  1. Whisk all ingredients together until sauce is smooth and creamy, adding water to achieve the perfect texture. Taste for sweet/sour/salty flavors, adding more of any ingredient until it’s perfect!
  2. I’ve also used this sauce on kale salad, noodles, and on rice! Make a quadruple batch and love it all week long.

    fritters

    yogurt sauce with zucchini fritters

quick meals: three-grain polenta

If you have not tried the teeny-tiny super-grain Teff yet, now might be the time. Teff is the smallest grain in the world, but a serious little powerhouse of nutrition. This brown grain has a grassy flavor similar to millet and amaranth, and it’s full of iron, fiber, protein, and calcium. It also falls  into the category of ancient grains, which generally means that the grains available now are essentially the same food that folks ate thousands of years ago- in contrast to over-hybridized corn and wheat strains. Teff grains, which range in color from ivory to brown, can also be ground into a flour and used for muffins and breads. It is most commonly used in Ethopian foods, specifically injera bread, which I have yet to sample. Teff is also gluten-free, and so is this recipe.

served with roasted Kabocha pumpkin!

This is a great recipe to begin cooking with Teff, which has a seedy, grassy flavor that might require some time to appreciate. I find that mixing new grains into more-common foods (in this case, brown rice and corn) makes it more palatable. And whether or not you graduate onto eating Teff plain is besides the point: teff adds nutrition and flavor to this dish or others, even in small amounts. Try cooking up this Three-Grain Polenta, which is an extra whole-grainy version of my Brown Rice Polenta; you could even go crazy and add quinoa for a four-grain version! The vegan version of this recipe is also delicious, but do add some Earth Balance or olive oil to replace the creaminess of the cheese. Serve alongside greens, roasted veggies, or smothered with a hearty black bean stew for a seriously quick, warm, and filling winter meal.

whole grain goodness

Three-Grain Polenta

1/4 cup teff
1/2 cup polenta (course-ground cornmeal)
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1/2 cup cubed sharp cheddar or Paremesan cheese
1/2 cup soymilk (more to taste)
salt & pepper to taste

  1. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Lower heat to lowest setting, and add teff and polenta. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until all liquid is absorbed.
  2. Remove cover, add brown rice, soymilk, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, and add extra liquid (water or soymilk) if necessary- the polenta should be very creamy and a bit runny. Taste to ensure that polenta is soft and not at all crunchy. Add cheese (or olive oil) and stir until melted. Serve warm; but know that this also makes great leftovers!

For more Teff inspiration, check out 101 cookbooks; Heidi’s recipe for Polenta-style Teff Squares was the inspiration for my Teff purchases. She has many recipes for Teff in her books, and one online for a corn quiche with teff crust (with eggs) that looks gorgeous. Also, the Gluten-Free Girl wrote a great post about Teff, and included a recipe for chocolate banana bread with Teff flour (with eggs). Check out Bob’s Red Mill if you cannot find teff locally.

Enjoy the whole grain goodness!

who needs a main? thanksgiving side dishes worth sharing!

For most Americans, the focus of this coming holiday will be on the dead bird at the center of the table. But, many of us (vegetarian or otherwise) also spend a lot of time on the supporting side dishes- hopefully everyone will be able to celebrate the bounty available to us by enjoying mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, that infamous green bean thing, and a host of other dishes. If you are looking for some inspiration to change up your side dish rotation, here are some of my favorite dishes for your holiday table, whether there is a birdie in the center or not (hopefully not!). These dishes are great for just a few family members around a table, but they also work well for big potlucks and ‘family-style’ meals. Blessings for your holiday, whomever you might share it with!

Best Vegetable & Protein Based Dishes:

Curried Quinoa Salad
The Best Baked Tofu
Southwest Baked Beans
Wheat Berry & Carrot Salad
Pumpkin & Cauliflower Gratin

Best Soups:

Curried Cauliflower Soup
Pumpkin Miso Soup
Black Bean Cocoa Soup
Red Pepper Pumpkin Soup

Best desserts:

Caramalized Banana Creme Pie
Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie
Mixed Fruit Mochi
Vegan Coconut Carrot Cake
Spicy Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

curried cauliflower soup

This is a homey and comforting soup for chilly nights. It’s almost entirely vegetable based too, so it’s quite virtuous as well! This recipe was vaguely inspired by the cauliflower soup recipe found in Supernatural Everyday and by one found in Appetite for Reduction (which both rely on a pesto flavor). But quite honestly, everything I cook is inspired by Heidi and Isa anyway, so I should just give those ladies credit for everything I cook!

Anyway, this soup is great. I’ve eaten it with brown rice, lentils, and greens, alongside a grilled goat-cheese sandwich, and just today with some udon noodles, kale, and tempeh bacon. Because the flavor is really simple, you can use it in a variety of meals. Or just slurp it alone, because the potato makes it really filling. Overall, a delicious, easy little soup.

homemade goodness, in a jar

Curried Cauliflower Soup

 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (or earth balance)
1½ cups chopped yellow onion
2 cups peeled and cubed potato (about 1 large)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
4 cups chopped cauliflower (half a head)
2 Tablespoons honey (or agave)
2 Tablespoons tahini
2 Tablespoon Coconut Aminos (optional)
1 Tablespoon curry powder (more to taste)
pinch smoked sea salt (optional)

  1. In a large skillet heat butter over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions become translucent.
  2. Add potato and cauliflower and sauté for five minutes to brown slightly.
  3. Reduce heat to low and add 2 cups of broth. Cover and simmer until vegetables are very soft, about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add remaining broth and honey, tahini, Aminos and curry powder to blender. Add vegetables and broth in batches, being careful not to overfill.
  5. Return soup to saucepan and heat over low if necessary. Garnish with a swirl of honey and a pinch of smoked sea salt, if you would like.

soup with udon noodles, greens, and tempeh bacon