Monday, August 22, 2011

Menu: A Seasonal Veggie Extravaganza

Last night we hosted a Sister Somalia dinner party to raise funds and awareness for victims of gender-based violence in Somalia.  You can (and I hope you will) read more about Sister Somalia here, and more about why we felt it was so important to focus on local food sources here.  Almost everything that we put on the table was from our gardens, BUG Farms in Salt Lake, or the local farmers market.

But this is a recipe blog, so let me focus in on that part!  There are so many recipes here that I think I will just link to the other places you can find similar recipes online, rather than typing or cutting/pasting them all out.

Here's the menu that we came up with, and prepared with lots of help from family and friends:


Tomato-basil-kalamata bruschetta
Crostinis with carrot butter and radish microgreens
Crostinis with garlicky beet greens and crispy lentils
Watermelon-mint agua fresca (no sugar necessary!)

Main course:

Scarlet barley with beets, lemon and dill
Roasted potato salad with fresh corn, heirloom cherry tomatoes, lemon and basil
Grilled kale, red peppers, crookneck squash, baby bok choy, pattypan squash, eggplant, and zucchini (grilled simply with olive oil and salt)
Garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette

And for dessert we made coconut-lemon cupcakes with lemon zest glaze, but they all got eaten before we had a chance to take a photo!


You'll notice I didn't put a link on the crostinis with beet greens and crispy lentils... that's because we made that one up entirely.  Here's how you do it.

Wash beet greens thoroughly and chop the stems and leaves.  Put a couple teaspoons of oil in a big saucepan, then sautee lots of garlic in the oil.  (I used about 6 cloves of garlic.)  Put the beet greens in with a little bit of water and a tablespoon of soy sauce.  Cook them until they are soft and silky.  Taste for seasoning; you will probably want to add salt and pepper, and maybe a squeeze of lime for some extra kick.

For the lentils, soak green lentils in water for 4-6 hours. Then take them out of the water and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Put a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and add the lentils.  Cook them in the hot oil (avoid stirring too much), until they become brown and crispy.

To assemble, just put a spoonful of beet greens onto the thinly-sliced crostini, then put a few lentils on top.


This is another recipe from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson: her "otsu noodles" (served here with a salad of romaine lettuce, red bell peppers, and grated jicama).  I love this recipe, and so does everyone else in my family.  The recipe calls for soba noodles, but I usually just use whole-wheat linguine because it is cheaper and easier to find.  Oh, and I leave out the cayenne because I am a wuss about spicy food.  I think if you use the full 3/4 t. of cayenne, this will be really spicy... just a warning.



~Grated zest of 1 lemon
~Fresh ginger, cut into a 1-inch cube, peeled, and grated
1Tbsp. honey
¾tsp. cayenne
¾tsp. fine-grain sea salt
1Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
¼cup unseasoned brown-rice vinegar
cup shoyu sauce (wheat-free soy sauce)
2Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2Tbsp. toasted sesame oil


12oz. dried soba noodles
12oz. extra-firm nigari tofu
¼cup chopped fresh cilantro
3green onions, thinly sliced
½cucumber, peeled, cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and thinly sliced
1small handful of cilantro sprigs, for garnish
¼cup toasted sesame seeds, for garnish


  1. Make the dressing by combining the zest, ginger, honey, cayenne, and salt in a food processor (or use a hand blender) and process until smooth. Add the lemon juice, rice vinegar, and shoyu, and pulse to combine. With the machine running, drizzle in the oils.
  2. Cook the soba in plenty of rapidly boiling salted water just until tender, then drain and rinse under cold running water.
  3. While the pasta is cooking, drain the tofu, pat it dry, and cut it into rectangles roughly the size of your thumb (½ inch thick and 1 inch long). Cook the tofu in a dry nonstick (or well-seasoned) skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes, until the pieces are browned on one side. Toss gently once or twice, then continue cooking for another minute or so, until the tofu is firm, golden, and bouncy.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the soba, the ¼ cup cilantro, the green onions, cucumber, and about ⅔ cup of the dressing. Toss until well combined. Add the tofu and toss again gently. Serve on a platter, garnished with the cilantro sprigs and the toasted sesame seeds.

Kale Chips

This is like the gateway kale recipe.  Everyone I've ever served it to has liked it, even people who were uncertain about kale.  When you roast the leaves, they become light and crispy like potato chips.  Except good for you.

  • 1 head kale, washed and thoroughly dried
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper (or seasoning salt) for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Remove the thick stems from the kale and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces. Lay on a baking sheet and toss with the olive oil and salt. Bake until crisp, turning the leaves halfway through, about 20 minutes. Serve as finger food.

Detox Salad

Things like caffeine and sugar make me feel sluggish.  Things like this salad make me feel better.  I eat salads like this whenever I'm feeling a little off.  For this particular one, I shredded and grated:

1/4 head green cabbage
2 small beets
2 carrots
1 apple

Then I diced:

1 cucumber
1/2 avocado

Then I poured on:

1 T. fresh lemon juice
2 T. apple cider vinegar
A handful of sunflower seeds

You can use any healthy, detoxifying vegetables you have on hand.  The lemon juice and apple cider vinegar give it so much flavor that you don't even need to add oil or salt.  Trust me: you'll feel better after eating this.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Vegan Pancit Bihon

Pancit is a noodle dish that is very popular in the Philippines (where I lived for a few months in my early 20s).  It usually has at least one, often several, kinds of meat in it, but earlier this year I had a hankering for pancit so I devised a vegan version packed full of vegetables.  It's not extremely authentic, but it's tasty!

Vegan Pancit Bihon

1 tsp - 1 Tbsp oil, for frying
3 cloves garlic
1/2 head green cabbage, sliced thin  
1 carrot, sliced or julienned
1 celery stalk, sliced or julienned

1 tsp grated ginger
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
salt and pepper
1 package rice stick noodles
1 package tofu, seasoned and baked according to the tofu recipe on this blog

Prepare the rice stick noodles according to the instructions on the package.  (Usually you just put the noodles in very hot water for 15 minutes or so; it's easy.)

Heat a wok or large pan over medium-high heat. Add oil.  Add garlic and saute for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.  Add fresh ginger and saute for 15-30 seconds more.  Add carrots and celery, and saute until carrots are tender, about 2 minutes.  Add cabbage and saute about 5 minutes more until all the vegetables are cooked and wilted.  As the vegetables are cooking, add the soy sauce and rice vinegar.
Once the vegetables are thoroughly cooked, toss them with the rice noodles and add salt and pepper to taste.  Top the noodles with the tofu.
I like mine with tons of lime juice squeezed on top.  You could also top them with cilantro or green onions, if you're in the mood.

The Best Tofu

This is the way I cook tofu for people who are scared of tofu: I bake it.

I started doing it this way after reading Mark Bittman's "tofu croutons" recipe.  If you follow the recipe exactly, you will come out with super-crisp little squares of tofu that can function as croutons on salads.  If you bake it for less time, you will come out with a firm-textured tofu treat, which is good for people who haven't eaten much tofu and are nervous about the texture. 

Also, this really is one of the easiest ways to cook tofu.  The recipe calls for firm tofu, but I like to use extra-firm.

Tofu Croutons (adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

14 ounces firm tofu
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400F.
2. Cut the block of tofu in half lengthwise (so from a rectangle into two flatter rectangles). Use a kitchen towel to press the tofu dry (or dry-ish – you don’t need to put tons of effort into this).
3. Cut the slices into ½-inch cubes. Put the cubes on a parchment-lined baking mat and sprinkle with the salt and drizzle with the oil. Toss gently to coat.
4. Bake at 400F for about an hour, until evenly browned. There’s no need to rotate them; they’ll brown evenly. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before using.

Note: When I make it, I usually add more spices and flavor it up.  My favorite combination is soy sauce, seasoning salt, cumin, garlic powder, and turmeric.  (The turmeric makes the tofu a really nice shade of yellow.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Barley with Green Onion Sauce

I looove the recipe for Farro with Green Onion sauce in Heidi Swanson's cookbook Super Natural Cooking.  Actually, I don't know for sure if I love it because I've never made it with farro.  I always substitute barley and it turns out great.  Last time I made it (according to the picture) I used barley instead of farro, and arugula and peas instead of asparagus.

The secret to this recipe is the green onion sauce.  When you saute the green onions in a little olive oil they take on an unusual oniony sweetness that, when pureed, makes a completely delicious sauce.  And the walnuts add a toasty crunch that goes perfectly with the other textures.  So even if you don't have farro and asparagus on hand, substitute any grain and vegetables you like and give this sauce a try.

Farro with Green Onion Sauce, Toasted Walnuts, and Asparagus

2 cups farro, picked over and rinsed
5 cups vegetable stock or water 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or clarified butter
12 green onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt, plus more as needed
1 bunch asparagus spears (about 1 lb.), trimmed and cut on a sharp diagonal into 1-inch pieces
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
Thinly sliced green onions, for garnish

Combine the farro and stock in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat.  Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender, 45 minutes to an hour, or about half the time if you are using semi-pearled farro.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat, then add the chopped green onions and saute for 5 minutes, or until the onions start to soften.  Stir in a couple pinches of salt.  If you have a hand blender, transfer to a small bowl and lightly puree them, but don't go overboard.  Alternatively, puree them in a food processor.  After a pulse or two, they will start to get nice and creamy, but you want to maintain some nice big chinks of green in there as well.

When the farro is nearly cooked, stir in the asparagus.  Let the pot simmer for another couple of minutes, until the asparagus is a vibrant green.  Some stock will still be visible in the pot.  This is fine; the farro will continue to absorb the liquid once removed from the heat.  Stir in the lemon zest, walnuts, and  the 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Add more salt to taste if needed.