Lunch

Vegetarian, Alabama-style Jackfruit BBQ

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I highly recommend trying this BBQ recipe, even if you are normally a meat-eater. Using jackfruit in lieu of pulled pork is nothing new in Asian cuisines, but we are bringing it down to the Deep South! We pair a braised jackfruit BBQ with traditional Alabama white sauce, and it is absolutely delicious!

This is a vegetarian spin on an old and classic BBQ sandwich. You can even make it vegan by leaving off the white sauce (or making vegan white sauce)!

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Jackfruit is a stringy, Asian fruit that can be eaten sweetened or in a brine. It can be bought fresh at supermarkets during certain times of the year- however it is difficult to find and doesn’t quite match the texture of BBQ, when cooked from the fresh fruit.

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That being said, you should try to look for canned jackfruit. Be very careful when you are looking for this product canned. Be sure that you find jackfruit in brine, NOT in syrup. You cannot use the syrup jackfruit for this recipe, so it’s a waste of your money (and personally, I think the syrupy jackfruit tastes awful). If you insist on finding it in a store- check an Asian supermarket. When my mom prepared this BBQ in Alabama, she was able to find it with ease at Birmingham’s Asian supermarket. Here in California, though we have multiple Asian markets, none of them carry canned jackfruit. All of that is simply to say: my recommendation is actually to just buy canned jackfruit from Amazon. You can be sure you are getting the right kind, it is reliable in terms of delivery dates, and you don’t have to drive anywhere!

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William and I had planned on making this months before we ever got around to it because we had the hardest time finding the right jackfruit. However, all of our efforts ended up being worth it because it is so yummy! It is also super easy!

Enjoy!

Alabama-Style Jackfruit BBQ

(makes 4-5 sandwiches)

Ingredients
1/2 Anaheim pepper
1 serrano pepper
1/2 large, yellow onion
3 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 20 ounce cans jackfruit in brine
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons liquid smoke
1 cup vegetable broth
1/2 cup traditional, red BBQ sauce (make sure this is vegetarian friendly!)
salt and pepper to taste

traditional buns and any fixin’s including Alabama white BBQ sauce (a recipe for this unique and amazing vinegar-based sauce can be found here)

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First, clean and mince the peppers. Make sure you clear out all those seeds, and I’d recommend rubbing your fingers with a bit of olive oil beforehand to prevent that burning from occurring afterwards.

Chop the onion finely- you can dice it if you like, it can be in pieces a bit bigger than the peppers!

Mince the garlic.

Combine the peppers, onion, and garlic in a large, shallow pan with the olive oil. Let these cook on very low heat for about 5 minutes.

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Next, tackle this jackfruit! You will need to rinse it in water to clean off the brine. Then, carefully cut out any pieces of the core that you can see. It is the whitest, most solid, and almost spongy part of the fruit. This part of the jackfruit isn’t bad to the taste, but it will mess with the texture of your BBQ, and we don’t want that! Once you have your jackfruit cleaned and de-cored, you can set it aside.

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Turn back to your pot and turn the heat up just a bit to get a simmer. Stir your onion mixture. Add in the cumin, paprika, and liquid smoke.

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If you are using a pre-made vegetable broth, add it into your pot. We use a bouillon base and added that with water. Stir everything together and turn up the heat to a good simmer.

Let this mixture simmer for a few minutes before adding in the jackfruit and BBQ sauce.

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After adding in the BBQ sauce and jackfruit, let the mixture cook on lower heat for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point you can season with salt and pepper. Do a taste test after 15 minutes and if it’s tender enough for you- you’re ready to build your sandwich! Let your own BBQ preferences be your guide to how long you should keep this on the stove!

Build a traditional sandwich using buttered, sesame seed buns, pickles, and Alabama white sauce!

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Make a mess and enjoy!

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Vegan Spring Rolls

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Felice Pasqua a tutti! The Daniel Fast is coming to an end! One of the last recipes I will be posting as explicitly fast-friendly is for a delicious veggie spring roll! However, there will be more vegan recipes coming up in the future, because we have discovered several wonderful and healthy staples during our fast!

For this spring roll, we wanted something asian-inspired, but vegan. Sometimes that can be difficult to find! However, we put together a few recipes we found around the internet, and switched out the typical egg roll wrapper for the fast-friendly spring roll wrapper.

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The result is a savory (yet still fresh) filling that lends itself to being dipped in soy sauce. I am obsessed with soy sauce- on everything, even though I know that usually you should have your spring rolls with the sweet and sour sauce, I always have mine with soy sauce!

 

That being said- if you do not like soy sauce you should definitely increase the salt in the filling a bit. We purposefully decreased the salt levels because we knew we wanted to dip in soy sauce and that would bring the salty flavor that we wanted. If you are planning to use a different dipping sauce, adjust the recipe accordingly (from effectively no salt to about 1/2 tsp would be my suggestion).

If you are also opposed to frying anything, you can easily eat these in the wrapper, without cooking them (as a more traditional spring roll). It’s delicious either fried or not, but we wanted the extra crunch that comes with sautéing them in a bit of olive oil!

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A final note before we begin- this recipe makes around 20 spring rolls! I say ‘about’ because my fiancé and I try to keep an accurate count but these are so delicious that we always munch on them as we are cooking, so I can’t promise exactly 20. Suffice to say, this recipe makes a large number of spring rolls! They are super healthy though, so you can eat tons of them and not feel bad! If you are absolutely positive you do not want to end up with twenty of these, you can cut the recipe in half easily, and it should cause no problems!

Vegan Spring Rolls

makes about 20 (but they can serve as few as two, because they are that yummy!)

Ingredients

3 1/2 cups spinach
2 cups de-stemmed cilantro
2 garlic cloves
1 medium yellow onion
2 green onions
2 cups silken tofu (1, 16 oz package)

spring roll wrappers (we were able to find these at our local safeway, I am assuming they are not too rare based off of that)

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First, sauté the spinach in olive oil with a bit of salt and pepper. We usually do about two tablespoons of olive oil, a few dashes of salt, and one crack of pepper!

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The spinach will turn bright green and then slowly begin getting darker. Ideally, you want to cook it until it is completely wilted but has not yet lost its color. This is sometimes a difficult balance to strike, but if you cook it a bit to long, it’s not a huge deal. If you’re really into it- you can set up a bath of ice water to blanche them! Drain the spinach really well and then place it in a large bowl.

Next, wash and de-stem two cups of cilantro. This part is a tedious task- I won’t lie. Picking all of the leaves off until you have two full cups takes some time, but it is so worth it for that deliciously fresh flavor that cilantro adds.

Mince the garlic and chop the onion and green onion.

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Mix the spinach, cilantro, garlic, onion, green onion, and tofu into a large bowl. With silken tofu, it will mash up very easily, but you don’t want to use any of the excess water that comes in the container.

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After everything has been mixed well, sauté the filling in a large pan.

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Cook the filling down over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until the moisture evaporates from the mixture and the onions are tender.  Place it back in the bowl to cool off.

To prepare your spring roll wrappers, you will need to arrange two plates- one filled with water, and one dry. The process of filling these will be done one a time. I wouldn’t recommend trying to do more than that, as the wrappers get hopelessly stuck together after they have been rehydrated.

First, soak a wrapper in the water, letting it sit for about 30 seconds, or until it becomes malleable and sticky.

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Next, spread the rehydrated wrapper onto the dry plate. Spoon a small amount (at most 1 tablespoon) of filling onto the top of the wrapper.

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Then, begin wrapping the filling by bringing the top of the wrapper over it and completely covering it once. Fold in the sides, almost as if you’re swaddling a baby.

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From this point you can roll all the way down.

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Now, you have the option to eat these as they are! The filling will still be relatively warm and they are yummy, but, as I said, we decided to cook them in some olive oil to add a crunch. Olive oil, with its low smoking point, might not be the best for this process, and we did have some issues with smoke. I would recommend trying out a higher temp oil, like vegetable oil or canola oil.

 

To ‘fry’ these, we use only about 1-2 tablespoons of oil in the pan. Over medium-high heat, these will crisp up in about 10 minutes, but you want to flip them to get each side as crispy as possible!

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These spring rolls also stick together in the pan, so try to keep them separated as you’re cooking! We chose spring roll wrappers, because they are fast-friendly and vegan, but egg roll wrappers or won ton wrappers could work better for this!

 

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The wrapping and cooking process does take some time, so you will probably be munching on them while you cook! They make great snacks, and they save very well in the fridge. I have even eaten them cold, dipped in soy sauce, and they’re still delicious!

Enjoy!

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Vegan Pesto

 

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Pesto is an incredibly delicious, versatile, and easy thing to make! It’s based off of four, wonderful ingredients- basil, garlic, pine nuts, and olive oil.  You can use pesto in a variety of dishes such as: pizza, sandwiches, pasta, flatbread, and more!

One thing to note: pesto typically calls for parmesan cheese, but we decided to make a vegan pesto, so we took it out. However, if you want to add the cheese back in, you should consider reducing the amount of salt you use.

 

Vegan Pesto
makes 4-5 cups

Ingredients
3 cups compressed basil (about 4 bunches)
3/4 cup pine nuts
3/4 cup good olive oil
3 cloves garlic (sliced)
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (flexible based on taste)

 

To start, wash all of your basil leaves and set them out to dry (usually for about 2-3 hours).

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While they’re drying you can take the time to assemble your other ingredients. Note: If you have a small food processor, as we do, I recommend dividing the ingredients by 3 (1 cup basil, 1/4 cup pine nuts, etc.). Processing the pesto in batches can help avoid overrunning the food processor.

Once your basil has dried, place the basil, garlic, and pine nuts into your food processor and pulse. In between pulses you will want to scrape the inside of the processor to make sure it gets minced evenly.

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Then, add the olive oil, pepper, and salt.  Continue to pulse the food processor and scrape down the sides.  Once the mixture has reached the consistency of a puree, you’re done!

At this point, you’ll want to either add it to whatever you intend to use it on, or place it in a container.

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If you plan on saving this for later, be sure to add a thin layer of olive oil to the top. This will keep it fresh tasting for longer.  Also, this can be frozen for around 3 months!

Pesto is great just spread over pasta as a sauce or over bread. It is nice to keep some in the freezer for a quick and healthy weekday meal!

 

The Meatiest Veggie Burger

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This veggie burger is the bomb. That’s all you need to know.

 

Really- it isn’t the easiest thing to make. You do need a food processor. BUT this is the veggie burger to rule all veggie burgers. It is the most meaty, savory, filling alternative I have ever encountered in my 18 years as a vegetarian.

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It is absolutely incredible, fairly low in fat, obviously low in cholesterol, but not your average brown rice-health-nut-veggie option. I use cheese in this, I use lots of seasonings, and I use white rice. Yes, I am a vegetarian, but as a Southerner and a Sicilian I refuse to eat anything I don’t think is delicious just because dietary fads tell me to.

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Brown rice tastes like cardboard- kinda like brown breads and…tree bark. Lots of brown things are not yummy (with the exception of Coca-Cola)…. but I digress. I used white rice because it’s soft and buttery, and I want my burger to taste soft and buttery, not tough and cardboard-y.

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I used porcini mushrooms along with the crimini because porcini have this amazingly indescribable flavor that is strong and brings tons of meatiness to the burger. (I would say umami, but let’s face it, who really knows what that means?) That being said, if you don’t like porcini, or find them too expensive (they’re not cheap), feel free to use a different type of mushroom.

As always, I use Duke’s mayonnaise and veggie friendly Worcestershire sauce. I am not sure that this recipe would be easy to adapt for vegans, but if anybody has any suggestions for how to replace the eggs and cheese, I’m all ears!

Enjoy!


veggie burger

 

Ingredients

(Makes: about 8 burgers)

1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (4 ounces, rehydrated)
4 ounces crimini mushrooms
7 ounces extra firm tofu
8 ounces frozen or fresh edamame
olive oil
kosher salt, pepper
¾ cup almonds
⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
½ cup queso fresco
2 tablespoons mayo
2 scallions
3 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon hot paprika
¼ cup uncooked white rice (½ cup cooked)
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
2 eggs


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First, prepare two baking sheets. Cover them with tin foil, and preheat the oven to 425°F. Begin rehydrating the dried porcini in a bowl of hot water (let it sit for about 10 minutes).

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Wash and slice the crimini mushrooms.

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Drain the rehydrated porcini. (You can save the liquid and use it as a rich, meaty, vegetarian friendly stock or broth!) Add the crimini mushrooms to the porcini bowl and bathe them in olive oil, salt and pepper. Place them on a baking sheet.

 

Drain and cut the tofu into slices. Pat the slices dry with a towel and place them on the baking sheet.  Rub them in olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper.

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Microwave-cook the edamame, and then use the porcini bowl to lightly mix them with olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. Place the edamame on the second baking sheet along with any extra mushrooms that wouldn’t fit on the first one!

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Bake the mushrooms, tofu, and edamame in the oven for 30 minutes. At this point, if you are using uncooked rice, you should cook the rice (¼ rice, ½ cup water).

 

While everything else is baking, pulverize the almonds in a large food processor.

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Chop the queso fresco, and add that into a large bowl. Add the mayo. Chop the scallions and the garlic. Add them into the bowl with everything else. Add the paprika.

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Finally, add in the cooked rice and Worcestershire. Stir everything together very well with a rubber spatula.

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After the mushrooms, tofu, and edamame are done cooking, let them cool for at least ten minutes. You do not want them to cook the eggs!

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Put the baked ingredients into your food processor with the eggs and blend it all together very well. You may need to stir everything a few times.

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Add the rice mixture in and blend everything together. You may need to do this part in batches!

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Add in the panko and mix that in.

 

 

 

 

 

Form the patties and wrap them. Freeze them for an hour or two before grilling.

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They keep very well in the freezer, and make for a delicious and hearty vegetarian meal!

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We use a grill pan, because I live in an apartment complex with a public grill. Public grills are no bueno for vegetarians, and a grill pan is a great alternative that still gives the burger nice grill marks. If you’re looking for a good deal, you can check out Comparaboo’s list of the best grill pans here (I’d recommend the Lodge cast iron, it’s what we use and it works like a charm).

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Dress your burger like you would any meat burger, and enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I find that grilling the buns and melting the cheese onto the patty is the best!

 

 

 

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Enjoy!

Eggs Benedict

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To go with every great homemade English muffin, it’s always good to make a classic eggs Benedict. In this post I’m not going to explain the details for making the hollandaise sauce, but you can find it in this earlier post.

Eggs Benedict
makes 1 serving

Ingredients
2 eggs
4 slices of Serrano ham
4 cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons shaved, Paremsan-Reggiano cheese
kosher salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

 

To start you need to prepare the various layers of the eggs Benedict.

First, slice the cherry tomatoes in half and then place them skin side up in a hot frying pan.  Let them sit for about 3 minutes or until they’re slightly blackened.

Once the tomatoes have been cooked, place the ham in the same frying pan with a little olive oil for about 6 minutes or until it is somewhat crispy.

When that part is done you can start to assemble your creation. Start with half of an English muffin, then add the ham.

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Then add the blackened tomatoes to the top

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Next, add the Parmesan-Reggiano
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After the base of your eggs Benedict has been set up, it’s time for star of the dish – the poached egg. When you poach an egg, it is definitely easiest to use an egg poacher. These guys create beautiful, less messier poached eggs and are really useful if you like eggs Benedict or really anything with poached eggs! If you’re looking for the best and most affordable egg poaching mechanisms, you can find a great list here on Comparaboo.

 

In my kitchen, until I get a chance to buy an egg poacher, I do it the old-school way. Boiling vinegar and water together in a deep pot creates a liquid that will poach the egg without the yolk turning green. The idea is also that the whites stay together. However, the water temperature must be perfect. The water needs to have been boiling, but with the heat reduced enough that there are no bubbles running rampant through it that would make a mess of the whites, which will take longer to cook. When the water and vinegar mixture reaches this state, you can crack an egg and drop it in, immediately using a spoon to keep the whites close to the yolk. It might be messy, and the first time around you might lose an egg or two (which is why I recommend an egg poacher). If you get the whites together, just slightly cooked, you can then cover the pot and let the egg poach for a few minutes, or until it is your desired consistency.  Next, lift it out with a draining spoon and place it on your stacked Benedict construction!

Poached Egg

To top it off, pour your hollandaise sauce on, dress it with cilantro, and sprinkle it with kosher salt and pepper!

Finished Dish

 

Enjoy!

-William

The Best, Homemade Guacamole

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Guacamole is one of those things that I will never ever buy from any restaurant or any grocery ever again. I have found how I like it, and I will forever be biased towards this guacamole. It’s not a strange, green paste. It’s chunky, it is very clearly avocado with fresh veggies. I love diced onions and tomatoes. Nothing is macerated or processed. In addition, I add in garlic, which I think makes everything better! However, the most important ingredient in this guacamole is cilantro. Cilantro is the pulse of guacamole, the dip just comes alive with a brightness and a freshness after cilantro is added! I advocate very very generous use of cilantro, but I understand that many people do not like the taste of cilantro. I would encourage any naysayers to at least try a little bit in this dish. It really does complete the flavor profile and add depth to the dip.

I also love to add a little lime and a nice heaping serving of kosher salt! These two flavors are incredible with the fatty, smoothness of the avocado. The acid of the lime is great because there isn’t really another fresh, acidic flavor represented here! The lime also keeps the avocado from turning brown so quickly.

Overall, the idea behind this guac recipe is to create a brighter, chunkier version of typical guacamole. Originally, when I came up with this recipe, I just thought: what do I want with my avocado? I decided not to look at any other guacamole recipes, and just to wing it. What resulted (and was perfected after a few tries),  turns out to be something that is reminiscent of traditional guacamole, but with hopefully fresher flavors than you are used to!

The recipe is so easy to make too! It is great with chips but I will even eat spoonfuls of this by itself, because it is that delicious!

 

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The Best, Homemade Guacamole

 

Ingredients
(makes about 2-3 large servings)

2 medium-sized, ripe avocados (I used one regular and two miniature avocados)
2 roma tomatoes
1/2 small clove of garlic
1/3 yellow onion
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/2 lime
kosher salt and black pepper to taste

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First, I scoop out the avocado into a bowl. I used miniature avocados because I just found out that they exist and I think they are the cutest things, so I had to include them!

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At this point, you shouldn’t even worry about trying to mash them.

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Next, dice the tomato, and mince the garlic. Then add both of those into the bowl.

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Dice the onion and add that in!

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Next, chop up the cilantro, and add it in. Then, squeeze out the juice from the lime on top of everything in the bowl.

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You can chop the cilantro more finely if you’re not sure about liking the big chunks, but I think it is just amazing this way! Also, the end result resembles all of the ingredients more closely instead of looking like green mush!

 

Mix everything together really well, but not too much! You want it to stay very chunky!

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Add in the kosher salt and pepper (I usually do about a teaspoon of salt).

 

Enjoy it with chips or by itself!

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Vegetarian Jambalaya

 

Jambalaya

 

Readers,

For this recipe, I have asked my wonderful boyfriend, William, to write a guest post. He is the author of this vegetarian jambalaya. Always considerate of my dietary restrictions, he is constantly trying to find ways to adapt new dishes to a vegetarian diet. I am so incredibly grateful for his ability to allow my meatless lifestyle to rule our eating habits so often with such grace and selflessness. I hope you enjoy his healthier and much, much spicier take on this traditional, Cajun dish!

-Katie

 

This is my take on a southern classic- Jambalaya.  If you were to search ‘how to cook Jambalaya’, it is typically started with a sautee of meat and vegetables in a pan. Next, the rest of the dish is built around those ingredients (effectively making it meat centered). This recipe makes rice the star component of the dish and focuses on infusing the spices and flavors into each grain.  More importantly, I wanted to make it vegetarian friendly.  With that in mind, real meat can easily be added to this dish (be it shrimp, chicken, or sausage).

Two quick things before we get into the recipe and the ‘how to’. One: this dish is fairly simple, with most of your time being spent stirring the pot; and two: I made mine very spicy. So, if heat is a problem, tone down some of the ingredients, such as the cayenne pepper.

 

Vegetarian Jambalaya
1 whole, green bell pepper
1 cup white rice
8oz box Zatarain’s jambalaya mix
28oz can San Marzano tomatoes
32oz box vegetable broth
1/3 – 1/2  large sweet yellow onion
3 – 4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence
1 tablespoon cajun spice
Up to 3 teaspoons cayenne pepper (taste before adding, then add it 1 tsp at a time)
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
2 – 3 Tofurky andouille sausage links (or real meat if you want)

Jambalaya

 

The first step is to chop up your onion, pepper, and garlic cloves.

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Next, you’ll want to add them to a frying pan in the following order: onions, peppers, garlic. Give each addition roughly 2 – 3 minutes before the next (onions, 3 min; peppers, 3 min; garlic, 3 min).

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While the vegetable mixture is cooking, put your tomatoes in a large pot and then crush them by hand.

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When they are good and mashed, add in your rice, Zatarain’s mix, spices, and your vegetable mix. Let it cook for about 10 minutes with intermittent stirring.

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After the rice has stewed for about 10 minutes, then add in your milk and butter. This will tone down the heat a bit and give the jambalaya a creamier texture. Continue to cook this for another 15 – 20 minutes, again intermittently stirring.

JambalayaWhile the rice mixture is stewing, slice the sausage and cook it in the same pan that the vegetables were in, with some olive oil. This will infuse some of the flavors and give your sausage a nice, browned edge.

Jambalaya

After your rice is done stewing and your sausage is done cooking, mix them together for a delicious spicy, Cajun bite! If you like, you can sprinkle cilantro on top; it adds color and is a refreshing contrast to the spiciness of the jambalaya!

Watermelon-Cucumber Gazpacho

Watermelon Gazpacho

 

Gazpacho is, in very simple terms, cold soup. It sounds weird and gross, but it is so delicious when it’s made with the right kinds of ingredients!

This is the perfect appetizer for summer, and that is exactly the time of year that it is traditionally eaten. The dish hails from Spain and Portugal, and typically features a tomato-water base. While it is both healthy and refreshing, I wouldn’t recommend this watermelon-cucumber gazpacho as an entree. Whenever I have eaten it as an entree, I always end up feeling hungry soon afterwards, and it functions much more appropriately as an appetizer.

While I can image a ladies luncheon with tea sandwiches and this soup, properly eaten with pinkies raised, it can also be “dressed down” for casual meals, and stored in tupperware for a week or two.

As for the flavors, if you can find a nice and ripe watermelon, that summery sweetness will come through the most! Be warned though, the cucumber is a force to be reckoned with and if you are planning to store this in your refrigerator I would definitely make sure you’ve got baking soda in there as well! I was drinking cucumber-infused water for about a week after making this!

On another note, I found that this recipe makes a ton of soup! I mean, probably 8-10 cups! If you’ve got hearty eaters in your household or lots of mouths to feed, this soup is amazing, because the ingredients are fairly cheep and it makes so much! However, for a couple’s dinner it is a little excessive and I would recommend you split it in half. As we all know, whole watermelon makes a delicious snack, so there’s definitely no need to turn all of it into soup!

 

Watermelon-Cucumber Gazpacho
serves 8-10 (appetizer portions)

Ingredients
1 cucumber
1 small, seedless watermelon
1/2 cup cilantro
1 green onion (I love onion, if you don’t, I’d recommend only using 1/2 of an onion)
8 grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons lime juice (about 1 lime)

optional: mint and basil

 

Watermelon Gazpacho

Most recipes like this call for a food processor. However, I (like many people) am operating in a small kitchen without many gadgets, so I opted to use the small end of a food grater for the “juicing”. Honestly, the result is so much better than what you’d get with a food processor anyway. I mean, I want my gazpacho to at least kind of resemble the foods that it came from! Using the small end of a food grater gives you a chunkier consistency and makes the soup a bit heartier. As an added bonus, these ingredients are soft and super easy to grate so it takes no time at all!

First, grate the cucumber into a large bowl. This shouldn’t take too long, especially if you have softer cucumbers.

 

Watermelon Gazpacho

Next, slice up the watermelon and grate it piece-by-piece. This is a little tedious, only because watermelons (even small ones) are fairly large, and you will need to cut them into smaller slices to fit them on the grater.

However, the watermelon is even easier than the cucumber to grate. But I will say that ‘seedless’ usually means no giant, black, inedible seeds. It does not however mean that there are no seeds at all. If you are really really anti-seed-in-soup, you will need to grate your watermelon into a separate bowl and then pour it into the larger bowl over a strainer. I do not mind having little seeds in the soup, so I didn’t opt for this. As much as possible, I’ve kept to the techniques that will result in the most natural-looking gazpacho.

 

Watermelon Gazpacho

We got very lucky with a beautiful, ripe watermelon that had tons of juice!

Next, wash and mince the cilantro. You can also mince mint and basil if you love the herby flavors, but I opted for plain cilantro and just decorate the soup with a leaf or two of mint. Add the cilantro to the large bowl and stir everything together.

Wash the tomatoes, and mince them as well.

 

Watermelon Gazpacho

You want to try to get them as small as possible, so that they blend in with the rest of the soup. But you can’t really grate them because the peel just ends up separating from the meat and then you just have a ton of wasted tomato!

 

Watermelon Gazpacho

Add the tomatoes in, and then mix in the fresh lime juice!

Finally, chop up the green onion and stir it in there with the rest of the ingredients.

 

Watermelon Gazpacho

Right after everything is grated, the soup will look a little bubbly and foamy. This is normal, and it will settle down as the soup is chilled or spooned into a bowl.

If you want, feel free to add salt and pepper to taste. You can also garnish the bowl, as I did, with whole ingredients (slice of watermelon, tomato slices, mint leaves, and green onion slices). Of course, the soup is still delicious without these additions!

You can serve the soup immediately, or chill it in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

 

Watermelon Gazpacho

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Warm Pear and Arugula Salad

Pear Salad

I just recently started liking pears, so I really have no idea how people normally eat them or what they might be eaten with. For this salad, I warmed them with brown sugar simple syrup in the oven. I had half a box of pine nuts left over and they definitely add a wonderful substance to this salad, which would otherwise be very very light. A potential substitution for the pine nuts could be chick peas, and that would make this salad much more appropriate for an entree.

 

Pear Salad

 

Originally, I was inclined to use a raspberry vinaigrette, but the simple syrup turned out to be just enough! The brown sugar simple syrup dressing was not planned, but it ended up being the perfect consistency and flavor. It is so delicate and it coats everything without seeming oily or overly sweet!

On a final note, my trick whenever I am making small amounts of salad is to go to Whole Foods and use their salad bar. I pick whatever I need from the bar and just arrange it separately in the little box. It usually ends up being cheaper and you get new ideas for interesting salads!

 

Warm Pear and Arugula Salad
serves 4 appetizer portions

Ingredients
2 cups baby arugula
5 heads raw broccoli
1/2 cup raw pine nuts
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 cup water
1/8 cup brown sugar (Veggie and vegan readers, remember to use vegetarian friendly sugar!)
1 pear, plump and juicy!
vinaigrette of choice (optional, as I said, I ended up not using this)

Pear Salad

 

First, wash the arugula and broccoli. Toss them together in a bowl.

 

Pear Salad

Next, toast the pine nuts. In a small skillet over low heat, cook the pine nuts in the olive oil. Make sure you pay close attention because these things cook in a matter of minutes and they are really very easy to burn!

 

Pear Salad

To make the simple syrup “dressing,” boil the water and sugar together in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Preheat the oven to 350°F, and line a baking dish with tin foil. (If you do not have a bowl-like baking dish or small casserole dish, you can just make a little pocket out of the tin foil.)

Slice the pear  and arrange the slices in your tin foil basket. Pour the simple syrup over them and coat them with it!

 

Pear Salad

Heat them in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until they are warmed. You could probably heat them for longer  or even marinate and grill them if you like, and I am sure it would be just as delicious on this salad!

 

Pear Salad

Finally, toss the pine nuts and the pears + simple syrup together with the greens!

 

Pear Salad

Enjoy!

 

Pear Salad

 

Mesclun Greens with Toasted Pine Nuts

mesclun greensMesclun is a special mixture of baby greens, originating from Provence. I enjoy them because they are dark green and leafy (not crunchy). Darker, leafier greens are much healthier for you, and accordingly, most people don’t find them very appetizing. But mesclun greens are delicious! Usually this mixture involves some baby arugula, chervil, frisée, or mustard greens. Honestly, you can also buy spring mixes and herb mixes prepackaged at the store, and those work great in this salad as well. You definitely want something with a little spice, a lettuce mix that has its own flavors to contribute.

As for the pine nuts, I’ve added them to this salad because pine nuts are not used nearly enough. They are fairly expensive, but when toasted they are divine! Pine nuts are a melt-in-your-mouth treat. They have a high caloric content and contain lots of heart-healthy fats. As a vegetarian, I also love pine nuts because they contain a great range of the B-vitamins which are not easy for me to get elsewhere.

This salad is super easy to make, but it doesn’t save well. The recipe is very easy to halve and quarter, and I would definitely recommend doing so if you think you may not be able to finish what you make.

As an added plus, if you use olive oil instead of butter to toast the pine nuts, the salad is completely vegan friendly!

Mesclun Greens with Toasted Pine Nuts
Serves two as an entree, four as an appetizer

Ingredients
5 ounce box of spring mix/herb mix/mesclun greens
1/2 cup raw pine nuts
Cayenne pepper and kosher salt to taste
1/4 tablespoon salted butter (or olive oil for vegans)
1/4 cup craisins
1 green apple, diced
1/4 cup raspberry vinaigrette

mesclun greensFirst, wash the greens thoroughly and place them in a large bowl, big enough to toss everything together well.

mesclun greensNext, toast the pine nuts. In a skillet over low heat, melt the butter and toss in the seeds (pine nuts are actually not nuts, but the seeds of pine trees!). It is very important that you watch them carefully and constantly stir them, sprinkling them with a few dashes of cayenne pepper and kosher salt. Pine nuts take no time at all to cook, and it is incredibly easy to burn them! You want them to be slightly browned, but not black. I cooked mine for only a minute or so and they were pretty well done!

mesclun greensOnce the pine nuts have been toasted, toss them in with the mixed greens. Add in the craisins and the diced apple.

mesclun greensFinally, measure out the dressing and drizzle it lightly over the top of the mixture and toss everything together. I know that 1/4 cup of dressing seems like a meager amount for so much salad, but it spreads so well!

mesclun greensEnjoy!