26 August 2016

Trying the Trends: Zoodles!

Zoodles ("noodles" made from raw zucchini) are all over the internet this summer, because a)cheap spiralizers abound in the stores these days b)if you have even one zucchini plant in your garden, you have too much zucchini and c) (presumably) global warming. I was gifted a spiralizer back in the winter and all of these recipes on Pinterest were finally starting to get to me, so here's what I discovered:

1. I like my noodles raw. Some recipes will have you lightly cook them, but you know what? It's not pasta.  Don't pretend it is, or you'll be disappointed. Instead, enjoy the tender-yet-crunchy texture that is raw, spiralized zucchini as a unique salad item.

2. I dress them lightly. For the same reason I don't cook them, I don't want to drown my zoodles in marinara sauce or other disguise. It just makes me wish I was eating pasta.  But again, as a cold salad, these are delicious with a salad dressing of some kind (ideas below).

3. Spiralized zucchini gives off a ton of water.  If you have ever shredded zucchini to make Midwestern-style zucchini bread or muffins, you already know this.  But I was surprised that the recipes I saw didn't mention it.  No matter what you do, they're going to get more watery as you eat them, so it's important to dress and eat them right away (pretty much).  But you can keep it under some control by spiralizing them into a colander, stirring them up with a pinch of salt, and then letting them drain for 10 minutes or so. Or you can just make your dressing thick and super strong to accommodate the extra water as you eat.

4 medium-to-large zucchini should be able to make four dinner salads with extras listed below. I have settled on three simple preparations I really like for dinner when it's hot:

"GREEK": toss with fresh dill, kalamata olives, walnuts, and roasted red pepper, Lemon-Garlic Dressing. Crumbled feta on top.

"ASIAN": toss with bean sprouts, chopped fresh cilantro and peanuts, and matchstick carrots, Ginger-Miso Dressing

"ITALIAN": toss with chopped fresh basil, tomato, pine nuts, and capers, Balsamic Viniagrette. Crumbled goat cheese on top.

Lemon-Garlic Dressing
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 2 lemons
1 small garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and black pepper to taste

Ginger-Miso Dressing
1 tablespoon white or yellow miso
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 small garlic clove, minced
Pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 tablespoons peanut oil or grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt

Balsamic Vinagrette
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons grainy mustard (optional)
1 chopped garlic clove
6 tablespoons olive oil
salt and black pepper to taste

23 August 2016

Summery corn and asparagus risotto (I promise it's easy)

Whenever we have fresh asparagus, my husband wants risotto.  But the gluey texture, and the extreme earthiness of it in most circumstances, kinda makes me want to gag. This last time, I finally got it right: this recipe is as light and summery as the vegetables in it.  Making risotto is always a bit time-consuming, and you may think that my direction to steam the veggies separately is going too far, but you know what? F*** YOU, you don't know!  Just kidding. But seriously, this keeps the whole dish from feeling like pre-chewed mush in your mouth.  So if you're too lazy to chew your food, or if you are a toddler, go ahead and do it all at once.  But if you're a toddler, probably make sure a parent is around to help supervise. Good luck. 

Summer Corn and Asparagus Risotto
Serves 4
2 cups asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 ½” pieces
1 cup corn kernels (frozen is fine, just thaw it)
About 1 teaspoon butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Bunch fresh basil, chiffonaded
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ yellow onion, finely chopped
1 small serrano chile, seeded and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup any short-grain white rice
2 cups vegetable stock
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, + more for serving
Salt and pepper to taste
Roasted, salted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) for garnish (optional)

First, steam the asparagus and corn until the asparagus is bright green and crisp-tender.  Place in a bowl and stir in the butter, lemon juice, basil leaves and some salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

In a large, deep skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sauté the onion, garlic, and serrano until fragrant and soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil. Decrease the heat to low, stir in ½ cup of the broth, and cover. Allow to simmer, checking on it occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Continue to do the same, about ½ cup at a time (you could do more than this if you want to do less babysitting). When it’s a bit soupy and the rice is getting pretty soft, add the wine and cheese, cover again, and check back to make sure it’s soft enough.  If it’s not and you’re out of liquid, just add a little bit of water (maybe ¼ cup) and let is cook some more. 

When the risotto is still a little loose but the rice seems done enough, stir in your steamed vegetable mixture.  Uncover and allow the liquid to reduce to your liking, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with pepitas if you prefer. Sprinkle more cheese on top, or place it on the table for individual cheese monsters. 

19 August 2016

Grilled tofu banh mi

You know what's super delish? Grilled tofu!  But the smokiness can be a little too intense for a Thai curry.  However, it stands on its own so well, you'll never miss meat in things like this banh mi, below. You can also cut it up and put it in wraps (collard green wraps, anyone?) or a vegan Caesar salad, for that matter.  

First, you're going to have grill (or bake, it's equally good) your tofu. Keep this recipe handy, because it's about to be your new favorite protein source:

Crispy Tofu, Baked or Grilled

One block tofu, cut width-wise into two thinner steaks
Marinade, if desired
Salt and black pepper

Press and cut the tofu.  If you’re going to marinade it, do that first, for 15-30 minutes, making sure to flip once for even marination. 

Cover a dinner plate with a light sprinkling of cornstarch Season the steaks with salt and pepper on both sides (you can skip this step if you marinade) and then dredge both sides in the cornstarch, shaking off any thick clumps and spreading it around so it’s even-ish on both sides.

To grill: cook over medium heat until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes on each side.  
To bake: place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake in a 400⁰F oven until golden on both sides, about 12 minutes on each side.

Possible marinades:
·         1 tablespoon brown sugar + 1 tablespoon soy sauce + 1 tablespoon lime juice

·         1 tablespoon brown sugar + 2 tablespoons soy sauce + 1 tablespoon rice vinegar + 1 teaspoon (or more) garlic-chili sauce

Then, make your sandwich:

Grilled Tofu Banh Mi

Serves 4

1 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3 garlic cloves, crushed
3 ounces hothouse cucumber, julienned
4 ounces radish, julienned
4 ounces multicolored carrots, peeled and julienned
1 block of crispy baked or grilled tofu
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 baguette (about 20 inches long), halved lengthwise
Thinly sliced serrano or jalapeño chiles and cilantro sprigs, for garnish

In a medium bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, sugar, garlic and 1/2 cup of hot water and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Add the cucumber, radish, and carrots and mix well. Let stand for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally. Drain the pickled vegetables and pick out and discard the garlic.
Spread the mayonnaise on the top half of the split baguette, then top with the tofu and pickled vegetables. Garnish with chiles and cilantro sprigs. Close the sandwiches, cut into 4 pieces and serve. (If you have leftover pickled vegetables, they'll keep in the fridge for a week or so.)

16 August 2016

Another hearty salad to keep you away from the stove

If you're noticing a theme in my recipes lately, it's because it's still super hot here every day in Northern Colorado.  I guess we'll all look back on these posts and laugh in early December when we've got two feet of snow on the ground...

Asian Grain Slaw

Serves 6-8

Salad ingredients:
4 cups shredded cabbage
2 cups cooked small grain, like quinoa, couscous, bulgar, or short-grain brown rice
2 cups shredded carrots
2/3 cup thinly-sliced green onions
1/2 cup slivered or sliced almonds, toasted
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil
salt and black pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together until combined. Add salad ingredients and stir to coat thoroughly.  Bonus: this also works well as filling for a collard green wrap, or as a topping to fish tacos.