Roasted Tofu & Veggies – A One-Pan Meal

I apologize for not getting this out to you in time for Cinco de Mayo. With it’s fresh mexican flavors of lime, chili and cilantro, this dish would have been the perfect easy meal for those of you on your 3rd margarita by supper time. The whole thing roasts on one baking sheet, making for easy prep and clean up. I wish this brilliant idea was my own, but I first read about it on The First Mess. She roasts kale with the tofu, uses a different flavor profile all together, and credits Bryant Terry for her recipe. No matter where it came from, I love the idea, so plan on seeing plenty of riffs on it in the future.

The only thing you really need to pay attention to here is the timing. I suggest waiting until you see a decent amount of browning on the tofu before you even think about adding the vegetables to the pan. Otherwise, the mushrooms and asparagus will be done too soon. The mushrooms take up quite a bit of space to begin with, but will shrink down before it’s time to add the asparagus. I chopped the asparagus into smaller lengths, mostly because they are easier for me to eat and fit on the baking sheet. They would probably look better if you left them whole, so go ahead  if you are so inclined. And if you need to feed a family with this, you can use two baking sheets when you double it, which will make timing a bit easier. Or you could just make the same amount and serve it with rice, polenta, or some other grain.

I don’t want you to think me snooty when you read the need for organic limes here. See, the strongest lime flavor and fragrance comes not from the juice of the lime, but from the zest, or the outermost part of the fruit. This is the case for all citrus fruits. So, while the inside of a conventional lime (or lemon, orange, etc.) isn’t exposed to a whole lot of pesticides, the zest sure is. And on top of that, conventional citrus is waxed. Again, not a big deal if your only eating the inside, but if you are using the peel, as in this recipe, I suggest going organic. Of course you all know there are other reasons to buy organic and local produce, but from the personal safely perspective it’s extra important for certain things. For more info on this, check out The Dirty Dozen, 12 fruits and veggies with the most exposure to pesticides.

I can see this going in a million different directions. Pretty much any veggie that can be roasted would work. Try broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, sweet potato. Swap lemon juice for the lime, or brown rice vinegar. Add sunflower or sesame seeds to give it an Asian flair, pine nuts for Italian-ness. And for vegans, swap out the  creme fraiche for avocado. If you come up with any inspired ideas, please share!

Roasted Tofu & Veggies

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. chili flakes
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 organic lime, zested and juiced
1/4 c. avocado oil (or other oil)
8 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
8 oz. shiitake (or crimini or portabella) mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus
2 T. pumpkin seeds
1/2 cilantro, roughly chopped
a dollop of creme fraiche, or grating of jack, or white cheddar, or some diced avocado, or…

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle and pound into a paste. Alternatively, sprinkle the salt over the garlic on your cutting board, and smoosh into a paste with the flat side of your chef’s knife. Add the chili flakes, cumin and zest, and pound or smoosh some more. Mix in the juice and oil.

Place cubed tofu in a bowl. Pour over about 1/3 of the lime/oil mixture and toss to coat. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms. Leave any small ones whole, medium sized get halved, and the large ones are quartered. Basically, you’re trying for similar sized, so they cook evenly. Tip these into the same bowl you just had the tofu in, and pour another 1/3 of the lime mixture in, tossing to coat.

After about 20-25 minutes, your tofu should be starting to brown. Flip it, and add the mushrooms to the pan. They  take up a lot of space, but will condense as they cook. Give them about 10 minutes in the oven.

Now slice the asparagus, or leave it whole, whatever you choose. Toss in the remaining lime mixture, in the same bowl, and when the mushrooms are up, take the sheet out of the oven, scoot everything over and make space for the asparagus, spreading it into a single layer on the pan. Leave this in the oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on the width of your asparagus.

There are two options with the pumpkin seeds. Either make space for them on the baking sheet about 3 minutes before the whole thing is ready to come out of the oven – or roast them in a dry skillet.

When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle half of the cilantro over the pan and dump the whole thing into a serving bowl. Top with the rest of the cilantro, the pumpkin seeds and creme fraiche.

serves 2

Spring Lentil Soup

Happy May Day! It finally seems like Spring has sprung. We spent the weekend in the Catskills, with sunshine, green grass and trees, in a house built into a waterfall (no joke!). It wasn’t quite warm enough to sit on the deck overlooking the old trout pond and drink a beer while the sun set (sigh…) but we did manage a hike in the surrounding forest.  And to warm up our faces after the brisk walk; a bowl of lentil and bulgur soup, loaded with spring carrots, chard and garlic, and brightened up with a punch of lemon. Topped with some pine nuts and a dusting of cheese, this is a dish that sings out springtime. Not that bitter radish in a salad to lighten up after a cold winter kind of spring, but the warm up after a rainy afternoon (or hike through the woods).

The deck we walked out onto from the door in the kitchen. Not warm enough to dine outside on the water, but good enough to sit and sing a few tunes.

Darren loved the soup. He said it tastes like a garden. My favorite part is the garlic. You leave a bunch of cloves whole and let them cook with the lentils and bulgur. After about 20 minutes the garlic is so soft that you can smoosh it against the side of the pot, and it just melts into the soup. And one more note: try to find skinny, small carrots to ensure they will be tender in the 20 minutes it takes for the lentils to cook. And it won’t hurt to slice them very thin.

We enjoyed cooking in this homey, but still waaaay bigger than ours, kitchen.

Spring Lentil Soup

1 T. butter or olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced
4-6 thin, spring carrots, bias cut (diagonal)
1 T. herbs de provence
8 cloves of garlic
1/2 green lentils
1/2 medium bulgur
2 c. vegetable stock
1/4 c. pine nuts
1 small bunch of swiss chard, de-stemmed and chopped
the zest and juice of 1 lemon
handful of basil, torn into pieces
some freshly grated parmesan (preferably parmigiano reggiano)

Melt butter in a large pot over medium low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, 7-8 minutes. Stir in the carrots and herbs de provence and cook for another few minutes. While it’s cooking, crush the garlic cloves with the side of your knife and peel, but leave them whole. Throw the garlic into the pot, along with the lentils and bulgur, and stir until all is coated with the butter and herbs. Pour in the stock and 3 cups of water, bring to a boil. Turn to low, cover and simmer until lentils are about tender, 20 minutes.

While the soup cooks, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until brown and fragrant. Keep a close eye on them, they go from raw to burned in no time.

After 20 minutes, add the chard to the soup and cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the zest and juice.

Serve topped with the pine nuts, basil and cheese.

serves 4

Seitan & Sweet Potato Stir Fry

I was supposed to have an ordinary Saturday. Yoga, Farmer’s Market, some reading on the couch. I love Saturdays. In fact, there is only one thing that could deter me from my lovely weekend plans – sisters. Well, sisters and brunch. There’s really nothing better. And so I spent my entire Saturday with Sis. We started out at our favorite brunch spot, then moved on to a table outside a cafe on 5th avenue. There was the 75 degree sun, wine, a few friends walking by, and a car accident to entertain us (a car ran into a cabbie’s open door – crunch).

Once we have one of these wonderful Spring days that ushers in the new season, I tend to think that it’s going to stay warm for a while. Oops! Is that ever the case in April? A late night thunderstorm cooled down the place, and now we’re back to cold rain.  Back to a hearty, warming dinner. It sure is a good thing I had a few sweet potatoes leftover from the previous cold spell. I sliced them into long, thin strips to roast, stir fried up some seitan. Added it all to a thick, tomato-y, beer-y sauce. As much as I would like to take credit for this gem, it’s actually a riff on Adrianna’s Lomo Saltdado over at A Cozy Kitchen. Her version is a Peruvian stir fry with sirloin and double-fried french fries. But when I looked at the picture I thought it was sweet potatoes, so that’s the direction I went. Plus, me and beef don’t get along, so I veggie-fied it. I hope this helps warm you up through this (hopefully) last cold spell of the season.

Seitan & Sweet Potato Stir Fry

1 c. brown basmati rice
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into long, thin slices
4 T. olive oil, divided
1/2 tsp. sea salt
8 oz. seitan, cut into thin strips
1 red onion (or other color) thinly sliced
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1-2 jalapeno peppers, de-seeded and minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 T. shoyu
1 T. tomato paste
1/4-1/2 c. beer
handful of cilantro, chopped

Preheat the oven to 425.

Pour the rice into a heavy bottomed pot. Cover with 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Cover, bring to a boil, then turn down to low and simmer for 45 minutes or until all the liquid is gone.

Meanwhile, combine the sweet potatoes, salt and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a bowl and toss. Spread onto a baking sheet in a single layer and bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping a few times along the way, until you get some browning.

Heat the rest of the oil in a skillet over medium high. Saute the seitan until brown, 7-8 minutes. Set aside. Using the same skillet (and a little more oil if necessary) cook the onions and tomatoes until the onions turn slightly translucent, 2-3 minutes. Add the peppers, garlic, cumin, tomato paste and shoyu and stir until it starts to smell amazing, 30 seconds or so. Pour the beer into the pan and scrape up anything that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook out the alcohol, simmering for 2-3 minutes, then add the seitan and sweet potatoes and stir to combine.

Serve the stir fry on a bed of the rice with a sprinkle of cilantro on top.

serves 4

Carrot & Quinoa Pilaf

Last Saturday I headed to the farmer’s market with visions of fresh peas and garlic scapes dancing in my head. For weeks now it’s been April, and foodies all over the blogosphere have been posting delectable spring treasures. Apparently they haven’t been shopping at the Brooklyn markets because here they are still selling bags of parsnips. Bunches of hearty collard greens and thick winter carrots. The only thing remotely Spring-y was a bunch of chives which I snatched up quick.

The chives ended up on everything I’ve made so far this week, including this quinoa. I took those dense carrots and grated them fine, throwing them in raw to lighten the dish up. Along with the toasty almonds and lemon-y dressing, I did a fair job of creating a dish reminiscent of Spring without the asparagus and ramps. Feel free to use any color of quinoa you’ve got hanging around – I used half white and half red for the prettiness factor. Also, if you can find other Spring produce, by all means throw it in, either raw or lightly cooked.

I served this alongside the Chermoula Tempeh for a full and delicious meal that we gobbled right up.

So, what Spring produce have you been able to find at the markets so far this year?

Carrot & Quinoa Pilaf

2 T. olive oil, divided
1 shallot, sliced thin
1 c. quinoa (I used 1/2 white and 1/2 red)
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/3 c. sliced almonds
2 large carrots
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 c. lightly packed chives, chopped fine

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a pot over medium heat. Saute the shallots for a few minutes until soft and translucent, 4-5 minutes. Pour in the quinoa and salt, stir to combine, then add 1 1/2 c of water. Cover, bring to a boil, turn to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until quinoa is tender and the water is gone. Let sit, covered for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork.

While the quinoa is cooking, toast the almonds. Place them in a dry skillet over medium heat and toast until brown and fragrant, stirring a few times along the way. Set aside.

Grate or finely slice the carrots. I use a julienne peeler to make long thin shreds, but a box grater is fine. Or a mandoline if you want to get fancy. If you have great knife skills you could also slice them thinly.

To serve, toss most of the almonds, carrots and chives with the quinoa. Pour in the remaining tablespoon of oil and the lemon juice and toss to combine. Turn out onto a serving bowl and top with the rest of the almonds, carrots and chives.

serves 4

FDN with Indian Spiced Tomato Soup

When I first moved to New York City 5 years ago, I was amazed to see that no one had kitchen tables. People here eat at their computer desks, on the couch in front of the TV, or in restaurants, but never around the dining room table. Roommates and even couples and families eat different things at different times, scattered all over the apartment.

When I was growing up, things were much different. I enjoyed (usually) dinner at the dining room table, with family almost every night. It was the one time everyone living under the same roof could come together and connect with each other. When I got to the Big Apple, I was determined not to lose this, so I created what is now lovingly known as “Family Dinner Night” – or FDN. It started out as my sister and me inviting our friends over for a home cooked meal every Tuesday night. We had a rotating cast of old friends, new acquaintances and family members around the table, enjoying simple food, wine and good conversation. 

Unfortunately, we all got busy and FDN now happens much less frequently. Last Saturday night was the first Family Dinner of the year 2012. My sister, boyfriend and a few good friends (toting along some new friends) were in attendance. They hauled in the wine and bread, and I provided the soup. I love that this soup is so simple to prepare, but the spice mix really brings it to the next level. When I’m hosting a party, the last thing I want is to be stuck in the kitchen all night while all my friends are giggling in the next room. Also, this recipe makes a huge pot of soup for a party, so feel free to halve it to feed a smaller family.

How often do all of you eat dinner at the dining room table?

Indian Spiced Tomato Soup

1 c. short grain brown rice
2 T. butter or olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 tsp. sea salt
3 tsp. curry powder
1 tsp. coriander seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 28 oz. cans of crushed tomatoes 
1 14 oz. can of coconut milk 
1/2 c. sliced almonds
1/2 c. tightly packed cilantro leaves, chopped

Place the rice in a medium sized heavy bottomed pot (set aside your biggest pot for the soup). Pour in 2 cups of water, cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat as low as it will go and simmer, covered for 45 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated. 

Meanwhile, melt the butter in the big pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cool until translucent, 8-10 minutes. Add the spices, stir to coat the onions, and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and 6 cups of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn to medium low and simmer, covered, until everything is cooked down. I just cooked it until the rice was almost done. Puree with a hand blender, then stir in the coconut milk.

While the rice is cooking, place the almonds in a dry skillet and heat on medium until browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally.

Serve soup with a scoop of rice, some toasted almonds and a sprinkling of cilantro.

serves 8 

Inspired by Heidi Swanson’s adaptation of Melissa Clark’s Curried Tomato Soup from Cook This Now

Chermoula Tempeh

I spent all day cleaning the house in preparation for a very special night (which I hope to share with you soon).  And while I clean, I always turn on some peppy, get your bum in gear music. Today I listened to Hall and Oates. Go ahead, shake your head and glance down at the floor, embarrassed for me. I know. It’s ok though, because as a musician, I used to be a huge music snob. For years the only music I let willingly pass my ears had to be unique, inspired and well-performed. No silly love song pop ditties for me! Somewhere along the line, though, I loosened up. These days, I’ll listen to pretty much anything that’s not death metal or hard core punk. As it turns out, the universe only lets us be snobby about a certain number of things, and I’ve moved on.  I am now a food snob!

 I really don’t mean to be. And, don’t get me wrong, I still find myself happily munching down cheap diner food about once a month, and I’ve even been known to whip up a quick bowl of pasta with - gasp! – jarred tomato sauce. However, I really have found that good, quality home cooked food tastes SO much better. When I make that tomato sauce at home I use great olive oil, ripe tomatoes and fresh basil. And when I use quality ingredients, I feel so much better. When things get hairy around here, and I fall back on quick prepared foods and take-out, I’m not as well-equipt to handle all that extra stress. I get tired easily, yet have a harder time falling asleep. My digestion goes all wonky, and I always come down with a cold. Needless to say, making dinner from scratch has become a top priority round here.

Now, on to the tempeh. For a more in depth look at the benefits of tempeh, check out this post. This recipe is adapted from Peter Berley’s in Fresh Food Fast.  Chermoula is a Moroccan marinade usually used on fish or seafood. All the spices used makes it extremely flavorful. When I’m making someone tempeh for the first time, I head straight for this dish. I’ve even converted die-hard carnivorous tempeh haters into lovers with this recipe. It’s that good.

Chermoula Tempeh

1 8 oz. package of tempeh, cubed
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 c. olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp. sea salt
a handful of chopped fresh herbs (I used chives, but cilantro or parsley are both great here) 

Preheat oven to 400.

Place tempeh in a single layer in a baking dish. Set aside.

Combine paprika, cumin, coriander and pepper flakes in a mortar and pestle and pound until most of the seeds are split open.

Whisk together oil, lemon and 1/2 of water. Add the garlic, salt, crushed spices, and stir well.

Pour this mixture over the tempeh, making sure all sides are coated.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes; until most of the marinade is gone.

Serve sprinkled with the herbs.

serves 2-4

Fingerling Frittata

I used to think that fingerling potatoes were just small, overpriced, cute potatoes. I refused to pay so much more money for a potato, just because it was small. But when I found them in bulk at the farmers market, I decided to pick up just a few, so I could see what all the fuss was about. Well, I am here today to tell you that fingerlings are no small potatoes! (well, technically they are small potatoes – but just go with it) They are so smooth and creamy; I would go so far as to say they are buttery. I highly recommend you pick some up the next time you see them. However, if you can’t find them, you can sub any waxy potato (red and yukon gold would both be good).  Slice them thin enough and you can skip the steaming step. Just sauté them until they are soft. Likewise, feel free to throw in any other vegetables that inspire you. 

A frittata is kinda like a crustless quiche, a baked omelet, or a spanish tortilla. But it’s a frittata! Cook the fillings in an ovenproof skillet, pour in the beaten eggs and finish in the oven. Frittatas are pretty versatile. I made this for my favorite nostalgic treat, “Breakfast for Dinner”, but you can have it for actual breakfast. These guys also travel well, just wrap a chunk in parchment and have it for lunch or a snack.

Fingerling Frittata

1 lb. fingerling potatoes, halved (or other waxy potato, sliced thin)
1 T. unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
1 bunch of spinach or other greens, finely chopped
6 large eggs
1/4 c. whole milk
3/4 tsp. sea salt
2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
handful of chives, sliced thin

Preheat the oven to 425.

Set up a steamer, pour in about 1/2 inch of water and bring to a boil. Steam the potatoes, covered, until tender, 10-15 minutes.

Melt the butter in an ovenproof skillet (cast iron or stainless steel work well), over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook until just starting to turn translucent, 3 minutes. Add the steamed potatoes and cook until everything has turned the slightest brown. Stir in the spinach.

While the onions and potatoes are cooking, prepare the royale (fancy chef speak for mixture of eggs and dairy). Combine the eggs, milk and salt in a large bowl and beat well. About 30 seconds after adding the spinach to the skillet, pour the egg mixture.

Swirl the eggs around in the pan to distribute evenly, then pop into the oven for 5 minutes, or until the eggs are just starting to set. Scatter the goat cheese across the surface of the frittata, and slide it back into the oven for another 5 minutes. Finally, to get a great brown on top, turn the oven to broil, and stick the skillet under the broiler for about 30 seconds or so. Keep an eye on it, it can go from yellow to black in the blink of an eye.

Remove from oven, sprinkle chives on top and serve. I like to cut it into wedges and lift them out with a thin spatula.

 serves 2-3

Thai Peanut Noodles

I don’t know what it is about noodles that always makes me happy. I mean, they’re hard to eat – especially when there’s other stuff tangled up with them – and I always eat too much. But, my boy Darren just loves ‘em, and I can’t seem to resist myself. And because I can’t resist so often, I’ve come up with lots of variations. This great Thai peanut sauce version is inspired by Heidi Swanson’s Almond Soba Noodles

Soba noodles are different from spaghetti. They are usually made with buckwheat which gives them a heartier texture.  In a pinch you could use the Italian noodles that are hanging out in your pantry, but this dish is really better with Asian style noodles like soba or udon. Soba are the skinny ones, and udon are wider and usually made of wheat. There’s also somen, which are super thin. Pick your poison.

This recipe uses tofu as the protein. I struggled for years to brown tofu in a skillet and have it come out looking (and tasting) nice. So if you have a preferred way of browning tofu go ahead and do it, but if not, here are a few tips:
1. Get the firmest tofu you can find, I like Wildwood Sprouted Tofu (the sprouting also helps with digestibility).
2. Sprinkle a little salt on the skillet before laying the tofu down, then a bit more on top.
3. Put the tofu down in a cold skillet and slowly heat it up.
4. Don’t move it for a few minutes so that it can form a crust and won’t stick.
Of course, feel free to sub your protein of choice, or just add lots of veggies (the peanut butter is surely enough protein in itself). You can use any greens you’d like here, or whatever else you’ve got hanging around. I bet broccoli would be good. If you do use a vegetable that takes a little longer to cook, remove the tofu from the pan, add a little more oil and cook the veggies separately. 

Thai Peanut Noodles

8 oz. soba noodles
1 T. peanut or sesame oil
8 oz. firm tofu
a few pinches of sea salt
a small bunch of greens, I used kale
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 T. red curry paste
1 t. shoyu
1/4 c. toasted peanuts, roughly chopped 

Bring a pot of water to boil on high heat. Add soba noodles and cook for the time directed on the package (usually about 5 minutes). Drain and set aside, reserving 1/2 c. of cooking water.

Cut the tofu lengthwise into 4 slabs. Wrap the slabs in a clean dish towel and gently press for a few minutes to remove excess water. Stack the slabs and slice into thin strips, about as wide as a pencil.

Pour the oil into a large skillet, and sprinkle a little salt over it. Lay the tofu into the pan in a single layer, making sure they are coated with oil on the bottom. Turn the heat to medium and let cook for 3-4 minutes at least, or until they have formed a crust. Resist the urge to stir or flip, even if it sounds like it’s cooking like crazy. If you move them too soon they will stick. After a few minutes use a thin spatula to get underneath the tofu and flip. Sprinkle a little more salt and let cook until 2 sides are browned, another 4-5 minutes. In the last minute, add the greens to the pan and cook until they are bright green, stirring a few times.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Add the peanut butter, curry paste and shoyu to a jar and pour in a little of the hot pasta water. Shake well. Keep adding hot water, a little at a time, until you have a thin sauce. It will thicken as it sits, so be sure to make it thin enough. I used the whole 1/2 c.

Transfer the noodles to a serving platter and combine with half the sauce. Add the tofu and greens and carefully stir again. Pour in the rest of the sauce and sprinkle with the peanuts before serving.

serves 4

New World Risotto

The risotto lovers of the world fall into two camps, the traditionalists, who won’t call anything a risotto unless it uses exclusively carnaroli rice, just barely simmering chicken stock and is always stirred in a clockwise direction, and everybody else. Falling squarely on the “everybody else” side, this risotto incorporates foods indigenous to the Americas, including peppers, pumpkin seeds and quinoa. Obviously, I prefer to be a bit loose with my risotto, and let those creative juices flow. 

The original intent of this recipe was to come up with a risotto that is high in protein so that I could eat it as a main course and not feel guilty. Quinoa, being the highest in protein of any grain, was my solution. But quinoa on it’s own would not make a creamy, rice-y base for my toppings, so it’s a good thing it cooks in the same amount of time as arborio rice, because I just mixed them together. Voila!  Creamy risotto with a protein punch. 

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is an ancient grain originally grown in South America. It’s actually a seed, but it’s grouped in the grain category because of how it is cooked. Quinoa is small, round, and has a little curly-que on the inside that can be seen when it cooks up and becomes translucent. I love it because it has the nutritional profile of a whole grain (read more about that in my Whole Grains post) and it cooks in about half the time of brown rice. It’s also much lighter, and feels great in the tummy in the spring and summer.

Aside from the quinoa, there are more reasons for the traditional risotto-ists to scowl at me. For one, I don’t use onions, shallots or garlic in the rice. I found that the sauce is so amazing and flavorful that it doesn’t need it. Speaking of the sauce, it does call for 1 small clove of garlic. Please fight the urge to add more in this recipe because it is raw and very strong. But go ahead and double the sauce recipe, because it makes everything taste better.

You could definitely roast your own peppers for this, especially in the summer when bell peppers are plentiful and inexpensive, but to make this a super quick weeknight meal, I usually just open a jar. It’s one of the few jarred things I keep around – mostly because I haven’t yet perfected the art of peeling a roasted pepper. 

New World Risotto

1 T. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt, divided
3/4 c. quinoa, rinsed and drained
3/4 c. arborio (or other risotto rice) NOT rinsed
4-6 c. vegetable broth, chicken stock or water (I used water)
1/4 c. creme fraiche
2/3 c. pumpkin seeds
4 roasted red peppers (either from a jar or roast them yourself)
1 small garlic clove, chopped
juice of half a lemon

Heat the oil in a large saute pan or sauce pan over medium heat. Add the quinoa, rice and 1/2 tsp. of the salt (if using water), and stir to coat. Stir around for a few minutes until the grains start to turn a bit translucent around the edges. Ladle in about a 1/2 c. of liquid, bring to a simmer, and stir until almost gone, then add another ladle of liquid. Keep stirring, adding liquid and letting it absorb and cook off, until the rice is tender, with just a tiny bit of bite in the very center. Stir in the creme fraiche.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. Toast the seeds by adding them to a dry skillet over medium heat. Toss and stir occasionally until they get a bit brown. Set aside 1/4 cup for garnish and toss the rest in a blender or food processor with the peppers, garlic, lemon juice, and the other 1/2 tsp. of salt. Blend until smooth, though the seeds will still make the sauce a bit grainy.

Serve the sauce over the rice, sprinkled with a few pumpkin seeds.

serves 4

Seitan Chili

I’ve made a lot of chili in my day. Something about the spicy mix of ingredients can always put me in a better mood. Chilies, tomatoes, beans, spices and whatever else you got in the fridge all stew in a pot and become something magical.

If you’re looking for a quick, one pot meal, this probably isn’t your best option. However the extra steps are totally worth it. This recipe has you making up a tomato and chili paste from scratch, and throws in cinnamon and cocoa, and even some beer for flavor. My favorite part, though, is the meaty texture of the seitan. Yea, I know, I’m not a huge fan of meat, and to you carnivores out there seitan probably don’t taste much like it…but, I dig it anyways.

Seitan, if you’re unfamiliar, is also known as “wheat meat”. You can make it from scratch by kneading a wheat gluten dough then simmering it in broth and seasonings. Or so I’m told. I’ve never actually made seitan before. It’s on my list. Maybe a future post? But for right now I’m just buying it at the store.

Seitan Chili

5 sun-dried tomatoes, not the oil packed kind
2 dried chilis de arbol (or something bigger and milder if you don’t like the heat)
2 T. olive oil, divided
8 oz. seitan, cubed
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cocoa
1/2 beer (preferably an ale or stout, but really anything will work)
1 bell pepper, diced
1 medium sweet potato, diced
1 14 oz. can crushed tomatoes – fire roasted if you can find ‘em
1 1/2 c. vegetable broth
2/3 c. black lentils (or green, brown, french – just not red)
handful of cilantro, chopped, for garnish
creme fraiche, or avocado, for garnish

Place sun dried tomatoes and chilies in a small saucepan and cover with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and turn off heat, letting it sit, covered, until soft, about 15-20 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid, and puree with a bit of the liquid to make a paste. Set aside.

Heat 1 T. of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add seitan, stir to coat in the oil, and cook until it gets nice and brown. Remove from pot and set aside.

Heat the other tablespoon of oil in the same pot, don’t worry about wiping it out. Add the onions and cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. It’s ok if they get a little brown and start to stick – you’re going to deglaze it and get all that yummy stuff to pop up off the pot later. Just don’t add salt or they won’t brown. Now add the garlic, cumin, cinnamon and cocoa and stir to combine.

After a minute, when it’s smelling amazing, add the tomato/chili paste you just made. Stir it all together so everything is coated in the paste, and cook for another minute or two.

Pour in the beer, and run a wooden spoon along the bottom of the pot to loosen anything that’s sticking. Let it boil on medium high heat until the alcohol cooks out, 3-4 minutes. Add the peppers and sweet potato and coat them in the onion/paste mixture. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, reserved tomato/chili liquid and the lentils and bring to a boil. Turn to low, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes, until the potatoes and lentils are tender. Add the seitan about halfway through. When lentils are done, taste for salt and add if needed.

Serve, garnished with the cilantro and a dollop of creme fraiche, or some diced avocado.

serves 4-6