Salads

Vegan Pesto

 

pesto

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.

pesto

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.

pesto

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!

 

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Paneer (Farmer’s Cheese)

 

paneer

I have grown to love all types of Indian food. For better or worse, the creamy sauces, heavy-handed seasonings, and wealth of vegetarian options have made their mark on my taste buds! I will unabashedly admit to consuming some type of Indian dish three or four times a week. Really- this should be no big deal. I know plenty of people who live solely off of regionally-based diets. However, it matters because I have yet to actually learn how to cook any of it. This means that I eat out a whole lot and spend tons of money on delicious food, instead of taking my own culinary ventures in this direction.

 

To be fair, this entire world of spices and cooking techniques is 100% unfamiliar territory. I am very comfortable cooking cajun, Italian, French, and southern cuisines. My pantry is stocked and prepared for any of those dishes. When I look at a recipe for lasagna or collards, I am comfortable enough with those staples that I feel I can mess around with the ratios a bit and tailor it to my tastes. When it comes to Indian food, however, I sometimes can’t even pronounce all of the ingredients! Honestly, I have been quite afraid to branch out into Indian food for this very reason. To me, the upfront cost of attempting even a single recipe has always seemed quite high, and honestly- it is (but it’s so worth it)!

 

I decided to start of with one of my favorite vegetarian dishes, malai kofta. To make malai kofta, potato-paneer dumplings are simmered in a creamy tomato sauce. I will address the actual preparation of the kofta in a later post (boy was that an adventure!). For now, I’m just going to focus on the paneer part of this dish!

Homemade paneer is a really great place to start for anyone who is interested in Indian cuisine. It requires no special ingredients, and it is pretty simple. Also, even though it’s a staple in Indian cooking specifically, it can function much like tofu in any dish! On its own, paneer is not very flavorful (it’s an un-aged and unsalted cheese). Typically, it is served in some sort of sauce or curry, functioning as the main protein in a vegetarian dish. So, for a beginner, paneer can be a nice and slow start. You can simply make the cheese, and then use it in any of your favorite dishes to replace a protein. As an added bonus, the process of cooking paneer is so so cool! For anyone who loves the chemistry behind cooking, or just the feeling of being more connected to foods through their ingredients and the natural processes used in their creation- this is a fun thing to make!

 

paneer

 

Paneer

(makes 3-4 cups)

Ingredients

1 gallon whole milk
2 lemons
2 yards cheese cloth

 

paneer

 

First- squeeze out all the juice of both lemons, strain it, and set it aside in a cup. You want roughly 1/2 cup of juice or more.

paneer

 

Pour the milk into a large, heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Now, you’re going to have to stand here and continually scrape the bottom of the pan (with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon) until it boils. I know what y’all are thinking a watched pot never boils…and I promise you it will feel like this milk is never, ever going to boil. Just stick with it. Pretend you’re going to get a nice, foamy cappuccino out of it! You really need to keep scraping the bottom of the pot to ensure that none of the milk burns. This is super annoying, but- I promise-  the fun part is coming up!

 

Wait until the milk gets very very foamy and does actually start to bubble a bit (milk will not boil as violently and obviously as water, so keep a good eye out for a rolling boil). Once this has happened, turn the heat down (to keep it from foaming over the lip of the pot), and set a timer for 5 minutes.

paneer

 

You might need to continue moving the foam around to prevent the milk from “boiling” over.

 

After the five minutes is up, it’s time for the fun part! Pour in your lemon juice and stir everything together. Watch the magnificent separation of the curds (the milk solids) from the whey (the liquids).

paneer

 

Now that you’re seeing this separation (and understanding the nursery rhyme Little Miss Muffett much better), it is time to begin the actual formation of your paneer!

paneer

 

Cut the cheese cloth in half and fold each sheet into a square. Place them inside of two colanders (if you have one, giant colander, you can just make one, giant slab of paneer).  Drain out the whey from the curds, so that the curds remain resting on the cheese cloth inside each colander.

paneer

 

For each bundle, you’ll need enough excess cheese cloth to tie a knot and create a little curd satchel.

paneer

 

Gather up the excess cloth around the curds and bundle them together. Then, tie the satchels to the sink so that the whey can continue to drain.

paneer

 

You will need to let them hang there for about 20 minutes, as the curds drain and slowly solidify. Afterwards, place a cutting board in the sink and (keeping the curds inclosed in the cheese cloths) slowly press them into a disc. At this point, in your sink,  you should have the cutting board and two discs of curds wrapped in cheese cloth. On top of each disc, you will need to place a pot filled with water (or any heavy weight). This needs to sit on the curds for at least two hours to ensure proper reduction and solidification. In the end, you’re still going to have a fairly soft cheese, but the longer you let the curds drain this way, the less crumbly the paneer will be.

 

After the cheese has drained with the weight on it, it is ready to be unwrapped and used in whatever way you like! Voilà!

 

paneer

 

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!

 

Tofu Caesar Salad with garlic pita croutons

caesar saladI have been looking for good salad options for so long, and although this is not the healthiest salad you’ll ever see, it is delicious! I really like eating Caesar salad in a pita pocket, but it is amazing in bowl form too.

Caesar dressing is one of those weird things that vegetarians look at with zero qualms and then read the label and go, “whyyyyy?!” I mean, are the anchovies really necessary? Do they seriously add that much flavor? Just put in more salt instead, it can’t be that different! Unfortunately, after scouring the Whole Foods aisle and even accosting an employee or two, I discovered that nobody appears to have a vegetarian Caesar dressing on the market. Now, one day I am going to come up with an amazing recipe for homemade, vegetarian Caesar dressing. However, with finals coming up next week, yesterday was just not that day.

I used Ken’s Caesar dressing. So for all you vegetarians out there: I know this recipe looks veggie friendly because of the tofu, but the dressing does have fish in it. Also, if you happen to find a vegetarian Caesar dressing, please let me know!!

Tofu Caesar Salad
Serves 2 entrée salads and 4 starters

Ingredients
1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
2 pita pockets (for the croutons)
1/2 pack extra firm tofu
3 tablespoons salted butter
kosher salt and pepper
1/4 cup capers
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 cup Ken’s Caesar dressing

caesar saladPlace the lettuce, chopped and washed, in a large bowl.

To make the croutons: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Chop the pita bread into little squares.

caesar saladPlace them in a pan with 1 tablespoon of the butter and half of the garlic, and bake for about ten minutes or until they come out really crispy!

caesar saladCook the tofu in a skillet with the rest of the butter, the kosher salt, and the pepper. After a few minutes over medium-high heat, flip the tofu (it should be browned on one side).

caesar saladA few minutes later it should be done, and ready to cool.

caesar saladWhile the tofu is cooling, fry up the capers in a skillet with the olive oil and the other half of the garlic (you can use the tofu skillet if you don’t want to make a mess). Cook the capers over low heat and stir them until the garlic is browned and the capers are a little shriveled and crispy.

caesar saladTake the pita croutons out and throw them in the bowl with the lettuce. Add in the cheese, the tofu, and capers. Pour the dressing on top and mix it all together.

caesar saladEnjoy!

caesar salad

Toasted Corn and Edamame Tomato Salad

edamame saladThis is a pretty hearty salad. It’s full of protein from the edamame, and packed with flavor from the addition of both basil and mint. The dressing and corn both add a hint of sweetness which rounds out the dish nicely. I love this salad because you can keep it in the refrigerator and it only gets better as all the flavors start to marinate together! It is super colorful and an amazing starter to any summer meal. It also differs a bit from most traditional salads, so you can surprise your guests!

As a vegetarian, I can usually eat around a cup and a half of this and it works as a meal, but for the meat eaters out there, it would go nicely with some chicken or fish! A little tip: if you don’t want to spend a ton of money and time on uncooked packages of edamame, just go to the Whole Foods salad bar and get a box of their fresh edamame!

Toasted Corn and Edamame Tomato Salad

Ingredients
1 cup edamame
5 tbs olive oil
2 1/4 cups corn kernels (about 3 ears)
2 tbs plain low-fat yogurt (I use plain Greek yogurt and it works fine!)
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp clover honey
1/2 tsp minced garlic (one small clove)
kosher salt
black pepper
1 heaping cup of quartered cherry heirloom tomatoes (here, the more multi-colored the better!)
1/4 cup chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped basil

edamame saladFirst, make the vinaigrette. In a liquid measuring cup whisk together the honey, garlic, yogurt, and lemon juice, and 1/4 tsp of salt. Add in 4tbs of olive oil, whisking together to create the dressing.

edamame saladIn a skillet, cook the corn in the remaining 1tbs of the olive oil over medium heat. Keep turning the corn until it starts to brown and become fragrant (about 8 minutes).

edamame saladIf you purchased uncooked edamame, cook it according to the package directions and let it cool. If you got edamame from the salad bar, put it into a bowl with the chopped tomatoes, and toasted corn. The best way to prepare the basil and mint is to chiffonade them, roll the leaves up and cut across to create little strips, but as long as they are chopped well into small pieces, it’ll be yummy! Either way, after the herbs have been chopped add them to the bowl.

Pour the vinaigrette into the larger bowl and mix it all together!

edamame saladEnjoy!