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  • Fried Summer Squash or Zucchini Pasta Salad

    First off, HAPPY SUMMER! I am so excited. I am running out of time to do my research and write my thesis, but here I am making glorius summer salads. Whatever-you live once, and I LOVE summer. It is right up there with autumn. And, I know I was on a gluten-free challenge, but I also live with an Italian. That means carbs are a reality, especially with pesto season upon us. So what was a girl to do?? Uhh...Trader Joe's to the resecue!! Have you tried their gluten-free pasta made from quinoa and brown rice? I am in love. Indeed, even my boyfriend had a hard time discerning in a side-by-side taste test the difference, and mixed in with a flavorful herby dressing with lots of summer veggies? Win! And at less than $2.50 per one pound bag, you get several servings for an affordable price. Whatever variety of pasta you do use, I think the bite-sized pasta shapes are best here, so save that bag of angel hair, linguini or spaghetti for summer tomato sauce dishes. 

    This pasta was inspired by Deb at Smitten Kitchen. Is there any recipe that she shares that isn't simple and delicious? Now, I know what you are thinking: frying zucchini or summer squash? Won't that be super greasy and heavy, on top of an oil-based herb dressing? Asnwer: no (and yes, I too was skeptical at first!). If executed properly, pan frying is actually a dry cooking method; the water in the produce steams away, and higher temperatures, thanks to the oil, produce a brown, crispy texture. The key is to keep the oil at the proper temperature, as oil that is not hot enough can seep into the food, and too hot oil can be a smokey mess. Be sure that when you add batches of the zucchini or squash, that it sizzles right away-and doesn't just sit there in a pool of oil. Yes, you're probably adding some extra calories here, but to help bulk-up the dish and dilute any frying oil that does make it into the zucchini, I added a ton (yes, a metric ton) of fresh veggies. Tomatoes, arugula, green onions, garlic...be creative with what you add in addition to the zucchini, and suit to what is in season. My additions were based on what was in my fridge/CSA box. A nice dose of lemon juice and zest really lighten this salad and make the flavors pop-so don't skip the lemon!!

    I used  olive oil for the frying step, but please feel free to substitue any oil you'd like for this (yes, I do know that it has a lower smoke point than other oils). Virgin coconut, sunflower, grapeseed, etc. would work, too. But please, please use a good quality extra virgin oil for the pesto...it is a requirement, not a suggestion, since it is the basis for the salad's dressing. Not a fan of nutritional yeast or it freaks you out? Then omit it, or add your favorite locally sourced hard italian-style cheese, such as romano, asiago, parmesan (look for a veggie rennet type if you're a true stickler about this, as traditional is made from animal rennet) or even ricotta salata. 

    p.s.: I betcha a picnic or cookout would be a great occasion to make this! And, bonus! You can make it up to a day ahead of time, and let the flavors meld in the fridge. Boom! You're awesome.



    Fried Zucchini or Summer Squash Pasta Salad // plant-based, vegan, gluten-free option, soy-free, sugar-free, nut-free option // Serves 4 as a main, 8 as a side //

    For the Zucchini/Summer Squash:

    • 3-4 small/medium zucchini or summer squash
    • 3-4 TB olive oil (enough to cover the pan bottom), or other oil for pan frying 
    • Sea Salt

    For the Pesto:

    • 2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves, or other fresh herb combination, like parsley and basil
    • 4 TB extra virgin olive oil
    • 1 or 2 large cloves garlic (2 if you like it super garlic-y)
    • 1 TB fresh lemon juice 
    • 1 TB nutritional yeast
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1/4 cup walnuts or pinenuts (use sunflower seeds or just omit entirely for nut-free), toasted

    For The Salad:

    • 2 cups gluten-free or other favorite pasta (I used Trader Joe's Quinoa and Brown Rice Rotini)
    • 1 1/2 to 2 cups tomaotes (I used small San Marzano; a similar cherry/grape tomato is perfect here)
    • 1 1/2 TB capers, rinsed (salt packed or brined will both work), OR finely chopped kalamata or other quality olive
    • 3 scallions/green onions, white and green parts
    • 1 TB red wine vinegar (or lemon juice)
    • Zest of 1 lemon
    • 4 heaping cups arugula or spinach
    • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
    • Nutritional yeast, if deisred (or favorite hard Italian cheese) for topping

    1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil, and cook pasta to al dente. Drain and set aside to cool a bit. While you wait for the pasta to cook, carry on:

    2. In a medium to large pan, bring the 1/3 cup oil up to tempertaure over medium-high heat. Slice zucchini or squash into 1/4" rounds. Fry in a few batches, to make sure the oil stays hot. The zucchini/squash should sizzle immediately when added to the oil. Cook until golden brown, then flip. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate or cooling rack to allow excess oil to drain, and sprinkle lightly with sea salt. Repeat with remaining zucchini.

    3. In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients for the pesto. If necessary, add a TB or two of water or more oil to help blend. Taste, and adjust seasoning. 

    4. Cut tomaotes into small bite-sized pieces, chop scallions into small rounds, and add to a large bowl or container. Add the remaining ingredients for the salad, fried zucchini, and the pesto. Gently toss in the cooked and slightly cooled pasta, and adjust seasoning/lemon juice and zest. Serve with freshly cracked black peper and nutritional yeast, if desired. Pasta will keep for up to 4 days, covered in the fridge.



     The zucchini and summer squash, all green and gold and glorius!

    Cut into rounds...and ready to pan fry:

    Fried and fabulous (did you know that is a food cart here in Madison??):

    Ok-we're making progress! The arugula, tomatoes, green onions, capers (I got my salt-packed capers from Fraboni's Italian market in Madison. Love that place, and spend waaay too much when I go there! Fun Fact: my boyfriend's grandfather had a butcher shop right accross the street from the Fraboni's on Regent street, back in the glory days of the Greenbush area in Madison!).

    Ok, now for the pesto! You may toast your nuts (ha!) or sunflower seeds if you are using them. Really, I included this picture because my boyfriend, as awesome as he is, got me an All-Clad Copper Core 10" fying pan for by birthday. Can I tell you how amazing nice cookware is? Such a treat after dealing with my sub-par pans for years! I will slowly have nice cookware...one piece at a time!

    Everything for the pesto into a blender or food processor:

    And there you have it-a delicious vegan pesto perfect for this recipe OR for anything you'd like to use it for.

    Now we gently toss everything together. You are done! Make sure to taste for seasonings and lemon-I usually have to spike mine with another pinch of sea salt. But do your thang!

    Enjoy now, or cover and place into the fridge. You can snack on this all week, or share it at a summer picnic or cookout. Enjoy and HAPPY SUMMER!

  • Rhubarb Crisp

    We all have dreams. We all have goals...aspirations...crazy thoughts of starting a food truck all about laminated pastry products...I may be going to a local hardware store to walk in some trailers to check them out. While inside, I will probably freak out and/or think my idea(s) are just rediculous. I guess time will tell.

    Until then, I will be a happy girl, and stroll around our awesome farmer's market on Saturday...pretending to be carefree, not stressed about school and not worry about how caffeinated the iced coffee I got is. I managed to grab two bunches of rhubarb within the first 5 minutes. Win!! I love, love, love rhubarb. The smell reminds me of my grandma's kitchen in the summer: a little sour, a little sweet. A hint of mystery-smell that to this day, I am not sure what it is. Could be the many science-worthy-experiment jars of pickled goods in her fridge...but we won't go there. 

    So naturally, it was time for rhubarb...something. My boyfriend was talking about how much he loves rhubarb pie last week, so pie was high on the list. But, from my childhood, rhubarb alone was never found in a pie. It was always paired with something-usually strawberries (strawberry-rhubarb pie always happens after strawberry picking here). For me, rhubarb alone was always found in crisp-form (or crumble). The tangy rhubarb was tossed with sugar and I suspect some lemon and flour to help thicken, then covered with a sandy, oat-y, buttery crumble to help soak up the rhubarb juices. My grandma would dish it out with Schoepp's vanilla ice cream, and we would be happy kids. And then she would have us go feed the chickens. We were living the good life...rhubarb crisp, ice cream and chickens. 

    This crisp is my version, and is adapted from Mark Bittman from the New York Times. It is, as any crisp or crumble should be, rediculously simple. The topping is a bit heartier to help absorb the rhubarb juices as it bakes, and as any leftovers sit for a few days (I actually liked the crisp better once it sat for a few hours). There is simply no excuse to not make this, as it can be made vegan and/or gluten-free if needed. The topping can be prepared with a food processor or without a food processor (pretty sure my grandma never uses on for her crisps!). For me, the topping was a bit sticky, most likely due to the high temperature of my kitchen (~75F!), as well as the fact that I use a bit of liquid sweetener in my topping. I find that using all sugar makes the topping almost too crunchy with bits sugar crystals, and when using maple syrup, agave or honey, you can use half as much due to the increased concentration of fruit sugar (fructose), which is roughly twice as sweet as sucrose. But do take note, this crisp is not overly sweet! If you prefer it sweeter, bump up the sugar in the filling. 

    Serve with whipped cream, whipped coconut cream, ice cream or (in my opionion, the best-no offense to my grandma's Schoepps vanilla) some Luna and Larry's Vanilla. Everyone, rejoice! It is almost summer, feels like an armpit outside, and now you have crisp to enjoy for a few days (note: it is wonderful for breakfast!). 



    Rhubarb Crisp // plant-based, vegan option, gluten-free option, soy-free // Makes about 6 larger servings, or 8 smaller servings //

    Crisp Topping:

    • 6 TB solid fat of choice, chilled (I used 3 T organic butter, 3 T organic virgin coconut oil); use coconut oil and/or Earth Balance for a vegan crisp
    • 1/2 cup almond meal*
    • 1/2 cup pecans, walnuts or soft nut*
    • 1/2 cup flour (spelt, whole wheat pastry, oat flour or unbleached AP flour; use a gluten-free blend for gluten-free option)
    • 3/4 cup rolled oats (use certified gluten free if needed)
    • ¼ cup maple syrup, honey or agave
    • 2 TB coconut sugar, sucanant or light brown sugar
    • 1/4 tsp sea salt
    • 1 tsp cinnamon
    • Freshly grated nutmeg

    *alternatively, you may use 1 whole cup pecans, walnuts or soft nut of choice; I used 1/2 cup almond meal simply becuase I was running low on pecans and walnuts. 

      Rhubarb Filling:

    • 5-6 cups (2 ½-3 lbs) rhubarb, trimmed, tough strings removed and cut into ~1” – 1 ½” pieces
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup, honey or agave
    • 2 TB coconut sugar, sucanant, brown sugar or organic cane sugar
    • 1 TB fresh lemon juice (orange juice would work, too)
    • zest of 1 small lemon (orange zest if using orange juice)
    • 1 TB flour or tapioca starch (to help thicken, optional if you like a looser/juicier filling)

    1. Preheat oven to 375F. In a 8”x8” or similar size dish, toss the rhubarb with all the filling ingredients.

    2. For the topping:

    If you have a food processor or choose to use one: pulse chilled fats with the flour, oats, sugar, salt, spices (and whole nuts if using) until medium-fine chunks of fat and nuts are formed.

    No Food Processor: with a fork or pastry cutter, cut the chilled fats into the flour, oats, sugar, salt and spices. Chop the nuts by hand to medium-fine texture, and proceed with the recipe.

    3. Stir in the almond meal (if using instead of nuts) and the maple syrup/honey/agave. Note: the mixture may become sticky-do not be alarmed. Simply carry on, or place the topping in the fridge to help firm to make crumbling easier.

     3. Bake for 45-55 minutes until bubbling and brown. Allow to cool slightly before serving. Serve with whipped coconut cream, whipped cream or ice cream of choice. Great for breakfast when served over yogurt of choice. Keeps for 3-4 days, well covered and refrigerated. Re-warm in a 350F oven or in the microwave, if desired. 



    The rhubarb! I love the contrasting pink-and-green:All washed and chopped:

    Tossed and ready to be topped:

    Crumble on the topping mix, and place on a baking tray, optionaly lined with parchment for any spill-overs that may occur: 

    Bake at 375 for 45-50 minutes, watching carefully as the topping could burn quickly! I caught mine *just* as it was about to go south...

    And the fun part-eating it! We enjoyed it with coconut whipped cream...but do what you like! I preferred the crisp after a few hours out of the oven. The topping got a bit moist, and everythign thickened up just slightly. Awesome. Happy Monday...make some crisp. Everything is going to be alright!

    And maybe seconds...because we can!