Creamy Avocado Basil Sauce (think: vegan pesto-fredo)

April 18, 2012 § 3 Comments

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This is a straightforward, easy-peasy recipe that has four ingredients and comes together in a minute flat.  Thanks to the avocado, I like to think of this creamy, vegan shmear as a hybrid pesto and alfredo sauce.

A note about the above photo: South Tucson greenhouses are teaming with ripe, cherry tomatoes and zucchinis.  As the bounty of winter brassicas and greens wanes, I’ve started loading my canvas bags with these (Sonoran) spring fruits and vegetables.  My latest kick?  Zucchini pasta.  That’s right.  I’ve been cranking one of these suckers.  I’ve dabbled with many different “noodle” preparations, but here’s my favorite method that yields flavorful, al dente “noodles”: Saute a half-cup early onion/scallion with a lot of garlic and a generous pinch of salt in a wide-brimmed sauce pan.  Saute until wilted and fragrant (just a minute or two) and add zucchini “noodles.”  Toss until heated through and coated with oil, garlic and onion.  Remove from heat; add sauce; serve warm.

Ingredients:
2 avocado
2 cloves garlic
2 cups basil
juice of a lemon (about 1/4 cup)

Method: 

Pulse all ingredients in a food processor until combined.  Add additional lemon juice to thin, if necessary.  Toss with zucchini or grain-pasta and serve immediately.  Leftovers keep two days.

Diet Notes: SCD-safe, vegan, gluten-free, nut-free

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A Really Good Shmear: Roasted Eggplant, Pepper and Onion

July 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

I’m big on shmears.  I like whizzing black beans around in a food processor and adding cumin and cilantro, or pulverizing garbanzos with the predictable hit of lemon and garlic, or, come wintertime, blending-up roasted butternut squash and lentils or — one of my favs — mashing a couple cups of freshly-shelled green peas, roasted garlic scapes (garlic cloves work too), basil and a little olive oil and Parmesan cheese.

As versatile as shmears are on sandwiches, scooped up in lettuce wraps and so on, they can also stand alone and do so marvelously.  The aforementioned pea spread was my favorite dip of 2009; this sucker is my favorite of 2011.  It ushers summer into the kitchen with roasted bell peppers and eggplants and a little bite of lemon.  I like eating it plain, scooped on pitas and raw veggies.

Ingredients:
1 eggplant, peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)
1 bell pepper
1 medium red onion
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt, pepper

1.5 tablespoons tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice (approx. 1 lemon)

Method:

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Cut bell pepper, red onion and eggplant into large, 1″ cubes.  Cover with olive oil, chopped garlic, sea salt and pepper to taste and toss.  Bake in oven until soft in the middle and slightly browned around the edges, stirring half way through.  (Approximately 30-40 minutes.)

2. When vegetables are cooked, remove from oven and cool for a few minutes.  Add to food processor with tahini and lemon juice and blend until smooth.  (Be careful; veggies are still hot!)  Taste and adjust seasoning; I often add a few teaspoons of additional lemon juice and a dash of extra salt.

Diet Notes: SCD-safe, gluten-free, nut-free, vegan

Make It Yourself: Coconut Butter

March 4, 2011 § 1 Comment

Before you throw up your hands and say, “Coconut Butter!?  Doesn’t that stuff knock years off your life!?” please read Melissa Clark’s kick-tush Good Appetite article this week titled, “Coconut Oil — From Villain to Health Food.”  Then buy a huge tub of unsweeteend coconut flakes.

For years I thought I hated coconut.  I’d nibble around the edges of holiday macaroons, white shards jetting out around the edges, inevitably giving the germed-up cookie to my obliging dad.  Turns out, there are two types of coconut: real coconut and sweetened grass clippings.

Folks, if you think you’re a fellow coconut-hater, let me make a hearty recommendation: Zip out to your grocery store this afternoon, pick up a cheap-cheap tub of unsweetened coconut flakes (found in stores with good bulk bins), and give them a try.  Better yet, stick them in a blender/food processor for about seven minutes (make the time pass quickly by watching my favorite YouTube video twice) and taste the drippy coconut butter with a long spoon.  You may be a convert.

Coconut butter can be used in a multitude of ways:  Try it as an oil replacer (ie. roast butternut squash/sweet potatoes with a coconut oil coating).  Drizzle it over smoothies with granola on top and it makes a hardened topping that is out-of-this-world-good.  Better yet, make these cookies and tell me if that doesn’t win you over.

Coconut butter hardens at room temperature, but don’t let that deter you.  I love Faith’s way of tackling this problem: After she makes coconut butter, she takes a spoonful of the liquid butter and lets it harden into individual mini (reusable) muffin cups.  The end result is a single-serving coconut butter disc.  Try putting a coconut butter disc on top of your hot oatmeal and let it melt into the oats — it’s positively killer.  If you don’t do the mini-muffin method, fill up a glass mason jar (or other durable glass jar that can withstand heat).  To remove the hardened butter from a large container I do one of two things: Hack away at the dry coconut butter and stick a big blob in a pan on low heat until it melts (be watchful; it can brown (delicious!) or burn (yuck!) quickly).  Alternatively, create a water bath to melt the butter.  Check out how Kath does that at her blog, KathEats.com.

Ingredients:
3 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut flakes
1 glass mason jar

Methods:

Place coconut flakes in a food processor and blend for 7-8 minutes.  The coconut flakes will break down, turning into a fine powder.  Then, as the oil is released, it will start to clump together. Keep whizzing.  It may look like it’s never going to turn into a liquidy butter — I promise, it will.  After five minutes, scrape down the edges every minute or so.  Don’t stop until it drips!

Diet Notes: Gluten-free, SCD-safe, vegan, nut-free

Ditch the Store-Bought: Honey-Chunk Peanut Butter (you’re only 3 minutes away!)

February 25, 2011 § 1 Comment

There are few foods that I prefer to buy rather than make; generally, homemade stuff takes the cake, right?  (A few exceptions: hard cheeses, chocolate.)  Until last week, peanut butter was at the top of my “to buy” list.  I’ve sung the praises of peanut butter before.  Like my pops and his pops, peanut butter is my midnight snack of choice, coaxing me to sleep when I can’t turn off my brainwaves.  But while I’ve made peanut butter (and other nut butters) loads of times, I’m hard-pressed to find a peanut butter — out of my kitchen or store-bought — that trumps Trader Joe’s chunky, all-natural, salted peanut butter.  It’s like hot out-of-the-oven brownies: I simply can’t get enough.

But last week, as I was admiring Kath’s blog (of KathEats.com), I started ogling over her homemade crunchy, honey roasted peanut butter.  It reminded me of one of my best spring breaks in college when I flew up to Alaska to cook, “ski” (in my case “skid”) and make homemade snow cones (right off the patio!) with my cousin.  One afternoon my aunt blended honey-roasted peanuts to make sweet ‘n’ salty peanut butter.  Not only did we devour the whole batch before I left (a mere four days later!) but we also made peanut butter milk shakes  — the very best way to clean out a sticky blender, no question.

Harking back to those snowy days, I had to try it again.  I scoured my supermarkets for honey-roasted peanuts with the fewest ingredients: peanuts, honey, salt.  When I found the sweet ‘n’ salty legumes (technically not nuts!) that fit the bill, I bought three-and-a-half cups and drove over to my parents’ house to use their food processor.  Three minutes later I had warm, gooey, chunky bliss.  Three days later, I’m scraping the dregs of the jar.  Peanut butter’s off the shopping list; after this, there’s no going back to store-bought.

Ingredients:
3.5 cups honey roasted peanuts

Methods:
Reserve 1/2 to 2/3 cups of peanuts and set aside (this will be the “crunch”).  Pour the remaining peanuts in a food-processor/blender and blend for approximately 3-4 minutes until smooth.  First the nuts will break down into little pieces; then, as the oils are released, the nut pieces will clump together in a big, wobbly ball.  Keep pureeing.  The ball will grow smaller and smaller until the peanuts are liquefied around the edges of the food processor.  Scrape down the edges a few times and continue blending until totally smooth.  When liquefied and drippy, add the reserved peanuts and pulse 8-10 times until slightly broken down, but still chunky.  Try a scoop of PB warm, out of the food processor; I promise you won’t be able to keep a smile off your face.

Cilantro-y Pea Spread with Almond & Garlic Scapes

May 8, 2010 § 1 Comment

Consider this dip a tweaked version of my favorite summer recipe of 2009.  This time, instead of blending a couple handfuls of blanched peas with olive oil, basil, Parmesan cheese and roasted garlic skapes, I tossed out the cheese, replaced it with almond butter and added a generous handful of a different, biting taste: cilantro.  Thankfully, I’m not one of those unfortunate cilantro-haters, genetically predisposed to hate this pungent, green herb.  I adore the stuff.  But if you think it tastes like soap, this dip would be equally delicious and just as addictive with a smattering of different herbs: try a big handful of basil and a bit of sage, or a bunch of parsley and a little oregano (pretty strong stuff in the raw), or roasted ramps or chives.  How about some mint?

I was inspired to whip up this recipe and tweak my old fav after I read about Clotilde’s favorite pea spread on her smile-inducing blog, “Chocolate and Zucchini.” My spread veers a little from Clotilde’s, but the inspiration is from her – especially her thumbs-up inclusion of almond butter into the shmear.

One note about the ingredient list: It’s garlic scape season and I’ve been buying gigantic, curly-q’d bundles from Forever Young Farm in Amado, AZ each Thursday.  If you don’t have these spindly green stems, tasting of sweeter, mild garlic, that’s a bummer, but not a recipe-nixer.  Instead, try roughly chopping 4-5 garlic cloves and sauteing them until golden in olive oil (keep a close eye – it takes only a minute or two and burns quickly), to take the edge off.

Ingredients:
2 cups shelled peas (fresh or frozen & defrosted)
1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons almond butter, unsalted
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon sea salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
10 garlic scapes, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1-2 teaspoons olive oil, for sauteing
water, for thinning

Methods:

1. Shell peas or remove from freezer.  Cook peas until al dente and bright green – a matter of minutes.   (If frozen & thawed, 1-2 minutes; if fresh, 2-4 minutes.)  Once cooked, drain and toss peas in a blender or Cuisinart.  (If they’re still a little wet that’s fine – it’ll aid the ease of blending.)

2.  Meanwhile, heat 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil on the stove and cook garlic scapes until softened and slightly browned, about 4-5 minutes.  Add to blender/Cuisinart.

3.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse.  If necessary, add a teaspoon of water at a time to thin.  Serve warm or cold on flat breads, crackers or dip with crunchy veggies.  The shelf life for this dip isn’t long – two to three days, tops – so eat it up while it’s fresh.  I enjoy it best warm, straight out of the Cuisinart.

Diet Notes: SCD-safe, vegan, gluten-free

Roasted Squash and Lentil Spread (Hummus-style)

March 2, 2010 § 2 Comments

This dish nods to traditional hummus with an ingredient list toting tahini, lemon juice and garlic.  But there are some significant changes from the usual shmear: instead of garbanzo beans, I blended a less-creamy green lentil.  But to amp-up the creaminess and add a sweet kick, I tossed in 3 cups of roasted butternut squash.  I also sprinkled in a slew of savory spices.  This contrast between the sweet and savory is terrifically addictive.  I’ve scooped this dip on raw veggies and smeared it on sandwich bread, but my favorite combo is dolloping this “hummus” a-top thick wedges of warm, doughy naan.

Feel free to dabble with the spice list and beans.  The original recipe called for red lentils which would lower the cooking time (and is undeniably a lot prettier!).  Check out have cake, will travel‘s original recipe and drool-worthy photograph!

Ingredients:
3 cups butternut squash, chopped in 1″ cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil

1 cup dry green lentils, picked over and rinsed*

1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon chile powder
1 teaspoon paprika
sea salt, to taste
1/4 cup tahini
1 garlic clove
juice 1 lemon (approx. 1/4 cup)
water, to thin

*For those following the SCD, include lentils in diet after 1 symptom-free month.  Soak for 24 hours before cooking to remove excess starch.

Methods:

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Peel and chop butternut squash.  Tumble cubes in olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.  Bake for 30-35 minutes until squash is soft and slightly crispy around the edges.

2.  Meanwhile, cook lentils: rinse and pick out any stones.  Fill a pot with water several inches above lentils. Bring to a boil, lower to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes, or until tender.  Drain when cooked.

3.  Blend all ingredients in a Cuisinart or blender and thin with water until smooth and easily spreadable.  Taste and adjust spices.  If flat, an extra squirt of lemon juice and pinch of salt goes a long way.  Serve warm, at room temperature or cold.

Diet Notes: Gluten-free, vegan, nut-free, SCD-safe (see asterisk)

Tzatziki (an homage to Brooklyn)

October 8, 2009 § 2 Comments

tzazkiki2

During my dwindling summer days in the City, my work friends showered me with food suggestions.  They’d even calculate how many remaining meals I had left to prioritize their recommendations.  They’d tell me where to find “the best” anythings – pickles, cupcakes, muffins, falafel, hamburgers, baguettes, madelines, buttery egg breads, cheap sushi and baby artichokes.  I faithfully jotted down every suggestion in a small, disheveled notebook (which I organized by neighborhood and subway lines!) and made plans to seek out everything, making muffins my top priority.  I figured, I was in the food capitol of America and by golly, I was going to “eat the most” out of my final few weeks!

But somehow, as early August steamrolled into late-August, I’d glance at that little booklet, sadly flip-flipping through all the uncharted, vendrified streets.  Each evening as I walked home I’d say, “Now, just drop your stuff off.  Don’t sit!  Don’t open the fridge!  Get your purse!  Go to the subway!”  I’d say, “Tonight will be different!  Tonight I’ll go to the artichoke man!  Tonight I’ll eat a bag of madelines!”

You can see where this is going.  Looking back, it was inevitable. I’m sorry to say it, but I’m a creature of habit.  It’s not unusual for me to  rewatch the same movie twice, even three times in the same evening.  I bobby-pin my hair in the identical do-up each day.  I also floss religiously.  And so, back in Brooklyn, each night I’d shuffle up five flights of stairs.  I’d open up the door to my cozy studio, plop down my backpack, splash my face under the faucet (still with the best intentions to leave just moments later!), drink two giant mason jars of refrigerated water (daily brain freeze) and then, as just as the fridge door nearly shut, I’d cast a sideways glance at two, unassuming plastic tubs: the hummus and tzatziki.  I was doomed.  I’d wrench the fridge back open with gusto!  I’d actually giggle out loud.  I’d shmear hummus onto warm, homemade pitas, blobbing globs of tzatziki on top and folks – I was in tastebud heaven.

aug15_sahadi'ssupper

These shmearox gems came recommended by  Sheila, my friend from work, who clued me in on her Brooklyn Heights hot spots: around the corner from Trader Joe’s, another Starbucks, another Dunkin’ Donuts and a teeny movie theatre are two little shops — Sahadi’s and Damascus — home of warm pitas, pistachio halvah (absolutely killer, in both shops), mujeddara (better at Damascus), the creamiest hummus (very different at both places but equally good) and tzatziki that I ate like gazpacho.

There are some parts of New York City I’ll never miss (ie. subway screech; tourist mobs; weirdos at 42nd street) but there are other parts I miss already.  I’ve been making hummus on a bi-weekly basis and it just doesn’t come close.  The tzatziki, on the other hand – well, I’m almost giddy to say – the moment I blobbed this batch on top of my pita and took a bite, I knew it: I tasted NYC once again.

Ingredients:
6 – 8 oz. plain whole-milk goat yogurt *
1/3 cup cucumber, seeded & chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon dill, chopped
2-3 tablespoons mint, roughly ripped

*If following the SCD diet, swap out with SCD-yogurt that has incubated for 24 hours.

Methods:

Slice cucumber in half, lengthwise and scoop out seeds with a narrow spoon.  Chop into smaller-than-bite-sized pieces.  Mince garlic cloves.  Chop dill and mint.  Squeeze lemon juice.  Mix all ingredients with plain, full-fat goat yogurt.  Serve cool or cold on top of everything.

Diet Notes: SCD-safe (see asterisk), gluten-free, nut-free

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