Thursday, June 21, 2012

Herb Yogurt Salad Dressing

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go.  It's that wonderful time of year once again where I spend two blissful weeks on a pristine central Minnesota lake, surrounded by friends and family.  And this year during my sojourn north, I have the added two benefits of attending my fifteen year high school reunion (gulp!), and the wedding of a close family friend.  I am so stinkin' excited!  Oh yeah, and OLD.

Perhaps you would be filled with dread with the thought of attending a high school reunion, but not me.  I attended a teeny tiny school and graduated with 19 classmates.  Yes, it was small.  And yes, I loved it.  A good fraction of our class is fairly tight knit and although I keep in touch with them on a pretty regular basis, it's still great to gather for the sole purpose of catching up and remembering the good old days.

But before I sign off for a fortnight, I couldn't leave you without posting this delicious salad dressing recipe.  It's light and zippy and the perfect thing to top all the big salads you're making with all those farmer's market vegetables.  I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm actually starting to tire of my balsamic vinaigrette.  This is a great alternative salad dressing that delivers a big herbal bouquet of flavor.

I found that Herb Yogurt Salad Dressing pairs especially well with a BLT salad consisting of local mixed lettuce, local cherry tomatoes, avocado, toasted pine nuts, and Coconut Bacon.

Herb Yogurt Salad Dressing, adapted from Food on Paper
Serves 2

1/4 cup full fat plain yogurt (I used homemade)
1 Tbsp mayo
1 large bunch basil (about 15-20 leaves)
1 big handful flat leaf parsley
2 green onions (or any kind of onion or shallot)
2 garlic scapes (or 1 clove)
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt and pepper
olive oil

Use a food processor (or sharp knife) to chop the herbs and mix with the yogurt and mayo and vinegar.  While whisking (or leaving food processor running), stream in olive oil until it creates a nice emulsion and dressing consistency (approx 1/4 cup or so).

ONE YEAR AGO:  Raspberry Vinegar
TWO YEARS AGO:  Asian Noodle Salad
THREE YEARS AGO:  Garlic Scape Pesto

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Coconut Bacon

I sometimes get overwhelmed at big farmer's markets because there are tables after tables of the same things and I never know which vendor I should buy my lettuce from.  At Kingfield, there's not a lot of choice, since there are only a couple dozen vendors total, and they're all very high quality so I don't stress.  

I've gone to Kingfield the last three Sundays in a row.  It's a nice little bike ride from my house and I've gotten lettuce, radishes, strawberries, eggs, zucchini, goat cheese, and snap peas.  Needless to say, I have had some outstanding salads for lunch the last few weeks.  I was even able to snag some cherry tomatoes (in early June!) and immediately wanted a BLT sandwich.

I've made BLT's many times before with fake bacon (Morningstar Farms and tempeh bacon) but it's been a few years since I've had any of those processed fake meat products, and I'm now trying to cut back on my soy product consumption as well.  What to do, what to do...

I saw an episode of Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives once that featured a vegetarian restaurant that made a BLT with bacon flavored roasted coconut flakes.  It must have stuck with me because I decided I needed to try it this week.  I did a bit of google sleuthing to find a recipe, and it was so easy!  And, while I thought the finished product tasted like maple tamari flavored coconut (not at all what I remember bacon tasting like), I really liked it.  I wasn't looking for this to taste like bacon.  Hell, if I wanted bacon, I'd eat some!

Coconut bacon is crunchy, salty, savory, and has all the umami you need to complement ripe tomatoes and crisp lettuce in a BLT sandwich.  I had it on a BLT salad with tomatoes, avocado, and pine nuts.  It also goes great sprinkled over a fried egg on top of a big pile of sauteed kale.

Coconut Bacon, adapted from Vegan Brew

1 cup coconut flakes (I have found these at high end grocery stores like Kowalski's and Byerly's in MN)
2 Tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp maple syrup (the pure stuff)
1/4 tsp or less smoked paprika (you could skip this)
a dash (1/2 tsp?) vinegar such as apple cider or balsamic

Mix coconut well with all ingredients.  Optional to marinate for 30 minutes to overnight (I didn't do this).

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Spread flavored coconut on a baking sheet (optional to cover with parchment) and bake.  Stir every 5 minutes.   It's done when it's dark brown (NOT burnt).  Mine was done in 16 minutes, but I have a very hot oven.  "Bacon" will crisp up after cooling for about 2-3 minutes.

Let cool completely and store any leftovers in an airtight container.

TWO YEARS AGO:  Grilled Pizza
THREE YEARS AGO:  Homemade Yogurt

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Strawberry Icebox Cake

Do you have air conditioning?  I don't have my window A/C units installed yet this year so when it gets hot, I make do.  That means NO extra heat creating activities, especially firing up the gas oven.  It was supposed to be hot today so I made an icebox cake to serve at my cocktail party.

I'm pretty sure icebox cakes were invented in the deep South to combat those horrific hot summers when baking wasn't possible.  Someone created the idea of making "cake" from softening cookies with layers of whipped cream in the refrigerator overnight.  Genius!  It's especially delicious if you add the extra antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals from whatever fruit is at the peak of ripeness at your local Farmer's Market (strawberries for me right now!).

For a healthy food blog, I sure post a lot of dessert recipes.  Right?  But, that's because I think healthy living includes good dessert in moderation.  It drives me crazy when people try to make desserts with low fat this and low cal that to make something worth zero weight watchers points.  It's probably also worth zero taste points.  I found this recipe on the awesome Kitchn blog (it's a daily read for me), and some of the comments are about using fat free Cool Whip and fat free Hershey's syrup to make it a "diet" dessert.  Grody!

I went full out heavy whipping cream and regular honey graham crackers, plus decadent dark chocolate (local BT McElrath!) for the ganache drizzle.  It was worth it!  My guests tonight cleaned their plates and didn't refuse doggie bags of leftover dessert.

Seriously - whipped cream, fresh local strawberries, and chocolate.  Can it possibly be anything but awesome?

Strawberry Icebox Cake, from The Kitchn
Serves 8

1 box graham crackers (you may or may not use them all)
3 cups heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 Farmer's Market bins of fruit (probably about 4 cups sliced fruit)
2 oz good quality dark chocolate (about 1/3 cup), chopped
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Slice all your fruit.  Whip your cream and sugar until you can swipe your finger through the cream and leave a path that doesn't disappear.

Decide the shape of your dessert.  I played around with making a square dessert on a big round platter, but ended up fitting graham crackers into a small 9x11 pan.  Be creative and don't be afraid to break up your graham crackers to make it fit (remember, they'll all soften eventually anyways).  Or make it free-form.  Be creative!

Start with a small swipe of whipped cream to anchor your crackers, then arrange the first layer of graham crackers.  Top with a thick (half inch) layer of whipped cream and then arrange sliced fruit on top of cream.

Repeat layers until it's tall enough to suit you, or you run out of ingredients.  I had 4 layers of graham crackers.  Make sure fruit is the last layer.

Heat 1/4 cup cream until it bubbles at the edges.  Pour over chopped chocolate and let rest for 30 seconds.  Stir until you get a nice chocolate glaze.  Drizzle over cake.

Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Strawberry Crostata
TWO YEARS AGO:  Pan Bagnat
THREE YEARS AGO:  Chickpea Salad

Monday, June 11, 2012

Barbecue Chickpea Sandwiches

Hello, Summertime!  Boy, am I glad to see you again.  Now that you're here, you have me craving grilled and barbecued food.  Or at a minimum, food with good barbecue sauce.  I know I'm not the only one, lots of people love barbecue sauce.

I know this because my second most viewed/googled post of all time is for Vegetarian BBQ Pulled "Pork" Sandwiches, which is kind of embarrassing since there's not even a recipe in that post - just sauce and canned mock duck.  (If you were wondering, my #1 most viewed post is for Crockpot Shredded Chicken Tacos, which makes me nauseous to even think about since I ate this right before the flu bug that I and several others contracted at a New Year's Eve party manifested itself.)

If you like barbecue sauce and sandwiches as much as I do, you'll love this idea for a very healthy, animal-free, and lightning FAST bbq sandwich.  In the time it takes you to open a can or a jar, you'll have your sandwich guts ready.  Don't skip the onion or pickles, they add a great acidity and crunch to the mix that helps keep the sandwich from becoming just a mushy bbq-flavored hummus.

How many picnics have you had so far this year?  I hope at least one!  My goal is to have lots of picnics this summer - there's nothing better than sharing a portable meal on a carpet of soft green grass (or a sandy beach, or sturdy park bench), a bright blue sky overhead, and a bottle of chilled wine in your cooler.  These sandwiches would be a great picnic food with a crunchy slaw or kale salad, watermelon, and some chocolate or ice cream for dessert.

Barbecue Chickpea Sandwiches
Serves 2

1 can or pint chickpeas, drained
1/4 medium red onion (or 1 shallot), diced fine
2 Tbsp pickled jalapenos (or pickles), diced fine
1/2 - 3/4 cup barbecue sauce (homemade, or a store bought if you can find one without high fructose corn syrup - it's not easy)
4 slices good bread
several slices leaf lettuce
cheese, optional

Using a fork or potato masher, smash your chickpeas.  Leave some texture so it's not too hummussy.  Mix in your onion, pickled jalapenos, and barbecue sauce.  It should be a good sandwich consistency so start with 1/2 cup sauce and add more if needed.

Scoop the bbq chickpea mixture onto slices of bread and top with lettuce and cheese (optional).

ONE YEAR AGO:  Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
TWO YEARS AGO:  Mini Frittatas
THREE YEARS AGO:  Green Bean Tuna Salad

Friday, June 8, 2012

Carrot Ginger Dressing

Oh Dragon Bowl, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways...

You are full of color, texture, nutrition, and you are versatile.  But I get bored with the same ingredients and the same dressing, so it's time to try something different.  Yes, I am a fickle bitch.

I have made this carrot dressing before (and loved it, can't figure out why I didn't blog about it), and I originally discovered it, of course, from Smitten Kitchen who learned about it, surprisingly, from Gwenyth Paltrow's GOOP website.  Not to mention, I'm pretty sure Cassandra had talked about this same "carrot gravy" before so it rang a bell when I came across the recipes.

I want you to know this dressing is shockingly full-flavored.  Each bite reawakens your taste buds and you realize it's summertime so you can eat nothing but vegetables for days and be completely satisfied.  In fact, I ate a Dragon Bowl for lunch every day this week (and several dinners also), rotating the Tahini Dressing and this Carrot Ginger Dressing.  Every morning prepping my lunch I'd think "this is too healthy, I won't want to eat this at lunchtime."  But then lunchtime rolled around, and I scarfed down this big Dragon Bowl like nobody's business.  So, there's proof that Dragon Bowls with either tahini dressing or carrot ginger dressing are portable, delicious, work-friendly.

In this dressing, the ginger and the shallot have a significant bite, but not enough that you want to eliminate either from the recipe.  And the carrot lends a sweetness that complements the miso and vinegar perfectly.  It is fantastic.  The best part is the simple blending of all ingredients in the food processor so your dressing is done in less than a few minutes.

I served my carrot ginger dressing on top of a Dragon Bowl that consisted of a bed of fresh lettuce, a mound in the middle of cooked millet, edamame beans, avocado, cucumber, radishes, sprouts, and red bell peppers.  The garnish was toasted sesame seeds.

Carrot Ginger Dressing, from Smitten Kitchen
Serves 4

1 large carrot, roughly chopped
1/2 large shallot, roughly chopped
2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh ginger (do not use dried, not the same)
1 Tbsp sweet white miso (up it to 2 Tbsp if you love miso, I thought the flavor was a bit overpronounced)
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup neutral oil (grapeseed, peanut, canola, etc.  NOT olive oil, although I've used evoo in a pinch and it works, just gives a different flavor)
2-4 Tbsp vegetable stock or water

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until pourable.  Add more or less vegetable stock to create dressing consistency.  Serve atop salads or dragon bowls.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Creamed Leeks
TWO YEARS AGO:  Tofu McNuggets
THREE YEARS AGO:  Rhubarb Crumble

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Dragon Bowl with Tahini Dressing

"What's a Dragon Bowl?" I ask as I am sitting on the floor of Cassandra and Ben's beautiful light-drenched and art-dappled apartment in New York City.  We've just rehashed one of the most exquisite (and also screamingly FUN) wedding weekends I've ever experienced, and now the newly wed Cassandra and Ben are hosting us for one last night of New York camaraderie.

"A Dragon Bowl is a life-changing discovery," my friend Ben V. tells me in all seriousness.  The others in the room nod their heads.  I sit up a bit straighter, my full attention has now been captured since I am always up for life-changing discoveries, especially if they involve good food.  The nagging thoughts of my blistered toes (from all the dancing), pink nose (from all the sunshine), and pounding head (from all the champagne) are banished as I try to picture what this Dragon Bowl must be like.

My question had interrupted Ben V. and his wife Angela telling us about their lunch at Angelica Kitchen, where they ordered the Dragon Bowl.  They described it as a mix-n-match bowl of grains, greens, and protein topped with a dressing or sauce of your choice.  It sounded heavenly after several days of reckless overindulgence in the Big Apple.

As soon as I had a free night back home in Minneapolis, I stocked up on veggies that I was craving, specifically:  beets, carrots, red bell pepper, snap peas, and sprouts.  This Dragon Bowl was going to be customized especially for me!

I was also on a mission to try a new whole grain.  After a futile hunt for amaranth, I came across millet and decided to give it a shot.  Simply boiled in vegetable stock until all liquid is absorbed into the grain, it tasted like couscous or rice - very fluffy and light.

Then I needed to figure out what kind of sauce to put on my Dragon Bowl.  Google helped me find a great recipe for a tahini sauce that had the double bonus of not only using up the smidge of great co-op tahini from my fridge, but also called for the exact amount of of nutritional yeast I had on hand.

Nutritional yeast (aka "nooch") is a new-to-me ingredient (pictured above).  Apparently, nooch is a great darling of vegans for it's cheesy and nutty flavors and tastes great on popcorn, potatoes, and vegetables.  The cheesiness is what prompted me to buy it awhile ago, but I hadn't had the motivation to use it until now.  It looks like a yellow powder, and you find it in the refrigerated bulk section of your specialty health-food store or co-op.

The sauce was lovely.  Lovely to taste, that is.  I know it's horrifically ugly looking, hence the pretty peonies from my backyard in the photo to distract you.  It tastes tremendously like the peanut sauce you'd find on cold peanut noodles, only much better, I think.  The only change I made from the original recipe is to swap the water for vegetable stock, and to add more of it to get the right consistency of the sauce.

It wasn't until after all the vegetable prep, millet boiling, sesame seed toasting, and sauce blending...after the arrangement of the salad on the plate...the drizzling of the sauce...the garnishing of the sesame seeds....that I realized a Dragon Bowl is the same damn thing as Hippie Chow, which I discovered nearly 3 years ago right here on this very blog.  The main difference is in the presentation since Hippie Chow is messily thrown together and a Dragon Bowl is very beautifully composed.

Whatever!  Dragon Bowl or Hippie Chow, I don't really care what you call it.  It's healthy, colorful, satisfying, and most of all incredibly delicious!

Dragon Bowl with Tahini Dressing, adapted from G Living
Serves 4 (at least!)

2 cups cooked whole grain of your choice (rice, quinoa, wheatberries, millet, amaranth, oat groats, etc)
2 cups chopped greens (I used a raw baby kale and spinach mix, but sauteed kale would be great)
1 cup each of your favorite chopped veggies (I used red pepper, carrot, beet, sprouts, snap peas, avocado)
1 cup each protein of choice (I used chickpeas and edamame)
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds for garnish

For the Tahini Dressing:
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup tahini (or any nut butter of your choice)
1/4 cup vegetable stock (And add more as needed to get runny consistency)
1 clove garlic
1 big pinch crushed red pepper flakes

First, blend all sauce ingredients together.  Taste and adjust to your liking.

On each plate, arrange cooked grain.  Top with greens.  Then arrange all your veggies in a way that's pleasing to the eye (I like every other thing to be green).

Drizzle sauce over everything and garnish with sesame seeds.

ONE YEAR AGO:  Peanummus
TWO YEARS AGO:  Tofu Caesar Salad Dressing
THREE YEARS AGO:  Roasted Mushroom and Tomato Sandwich w/ Goat Cheese