Monday, January 31, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Crostini- you heard me.

This idea came to me out of desperation and curiosity. I was invited to a work potluck and we all were asked to chose a dish from another country and bring it. I failed. HAHA. I mean the dish was great, but I have no idea as to where it would 'originate' from, especially because I made it up! Oh well; I was able to scribble something down on the dish's i.d. card and didn't really answer any questions. Thank goodness!

For this, I started out with some bread I made a long time ago, but froze the dough. So all I had to do was let it raise and bake it. Then I sliced it and drizzled it with olive oil and toasted it in the oven. Easy. Standard.

For the topping you will need:

~Black beans
~Roasted red peppers
~Roasted onion, equal amount as peppers (find recipe for roasted onions in later post)
( keep separate )

~Spaghetti Squash, cooked and pulled
~Apple cider vinegar
~Italian parsley, fresh
~smoked paprika
~Freshly chopped garlic cloves
~Roasted squash seeds, recipe to follow post

As mentioned, I used bread I had made already. This was a much lamer decision than it sounds, I was lazy and didn't feel like driving to the store and really needed the extra space in my freezer! Don't hold it against me! But as those were toasting I prepared the squash and bean paste. So easy.

Drain and rinse your beans, put in your peppers and onions and all the other ingredients and smash into a paste... Right? I used my food processor, again, I'm lazy. Once you have it in a 'mushed up' state, set it aside.

So the squash is easy to cook. Cut in two, scrape out the seeds and lose fibers and KEEP. Place the squash halves, cut side down, into a glass baking dish. Splash about 1/4' water in the bottom and bake at 400d for a long time... until a knife can go through easily. The best part is that if you under cook it, you can always put it back and cook it some more! When you pull it out you should be able to take a fork and easily scrape away the squash insides. If you are working at it, bake it some more! Pull off as much of the 'spaghetti' as you can and set aside. Let this cool before you add any seasoning.

Once the 'squashetti' is cool, you can start adding in the seasoning. Throw in the vinegar, s/p, paprika and garlic, mix well. Roughly chop the parsley and mix it in as well. And, as with all my cooking, dress this to taste. You are going to be eating it so make sure you are going to like it!

Toasted Seeds:
If you roasted the onions already, hopefully you didn't do dishes yet. The pan would be perfect for roasting your squash seeds. This part gets messy, but is very worth while! Get your hands dirty and start going though the insides of the squash, separating the seeds form the slimy, fibrous innards. You can chuck the slime and rinse the seeds and pat dry with a paper towel. Then toss them onto the pan you roasted the onions on. The olive oil left, flavored with roasted onions, will add so much to the seeds. I always top them with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. And if you know me, you know I always throw in some cayenne pepper for some heat. Toss them though the oil and seasonings so they are all coated and toast them in the oven at 350d until golden brown and crunchy. So good as a snack or to top these crostini!

Now time for the bread! Spread a little bean first, pile on the 'squashetti' and top with the seeds and a little dusting of cayenne. Serve as soon after assembling as possible! Delicious!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A Vegan Dinner, balanced and beautiful

So, I have the salad and tabuli from the two previous posts and with that some beautiful steamed asparagus, toasted bread with sauteed onions and kalamatas on the pit and for a touch of light and sweet, a grapefruit, banana and coconut salad with agave.

The asparagus is pretty easy. Just cut into whatever size you want to serve it and steam it until slightly soft. I like it with a little crunch left, but if you like it dead, dead it. Goes well with some vegan butter and salt. ** A little trick with asparagus; the ends are a little stiff and to get rid of those take a sharp knife and tap the ends and work your way twords the middle. When the knife falls into the asparagus, you know that is where to cut the ends off. Less waste than guessing.

The fruit salad could not be easier. One large grapefruit, sectioned and halved. Two very ripe bananas, freshly shaved coconut meat and drizzle with agave to taste... If you like the tartness of the grapefruit and don't need the sweet balance, forgo the agave.... Simple!

For the toast, lay the bread on a baking sheet, drizzle whit olive oil, slat and pepper. A little rosemary if you are feeling feisty and broil with a watchful eye until desired color. I forgot the 'watchful eye' part and toasted my toast too much... Whoopsie. Slice an onion, of whatever kind, and sweat/sautee on low heat in a little olive oil until golden. Olives, however you like 'em. I also add in some banana peppers or sliced peperochinis as well. So delicious.

Great Dinner Salad

This is just pretty.

I used for this salad all of the random odds and ends of stuff form my kitchen. So I have a very small amount of baby spinach, a good amount of beet greens and some baby romaine and arugula. I shredded some purple cabbage and carrots and halved some grape tomatoes. I tossed it with some balsamic vinaigrette and topped it with freshly crushed peppercorns. So good...and SO pretty!

Quinoa Tabuli

I have eaten tabuli my whole life. Usually we would make it with bulgar wheat, but I didn't have enough so I used quinoa as well. It worked out beautifully! Here is a great way to get your whole grain for the day! Not only is this dish versatile, healthy and vegan, it is easy to make and gets better in your refrigerator... make it on the weekend and eat throughout the week!

You will need:
~2 cups quinoa
~ 1 cup bulgar wheat

~fresh cilantro and mint
~1 large lemon
~1 small white onion
~6+ cherry tomatoes
~high quality, extra virgin olive oil
~sea salt/ freshly cracked pepper

First you want to bring to boil your quinoa and bulgar wheat in enough water to cover it by two inches. Keep your eye on this so it doesn't boil over and you can add water if necessary. Cooking these two is very similar to rice; it cooks for a bit and absorbs the liquid when finished. Transfer from the pot into a bowl and stick in the fridge and let cool while you prep the rest.
**One trick for those who are not very confident in cooking these types of grains yet... you can always use the directions on the package and combine the two grains after they have cooked or just use one or the other. The dish will be delicious any way you choose to do it!
While the grain is cooking/ cooling you can be chopping your veggies! I, unfortunately, do NOT like the flavor of raw tomatoes, LAME-O. So, to cheat, I sliced the little guys so thinly that I couldn't focus my taste buds too firmly on them and I was able to choke them down. However, for all you normal people, I would only cut them in half so the flavor is not lost and really adds to the dish. So, half your tomatoes and put in your serving bowl. Finley chop the onion, you can use shallots as well. Then move to the herbs. With these you want to tear them as small as you can and then at the very end chop them until they are pretty fine. The point of tearing is to keep them from going brown like they would if you had used the knife blade. Put all of these and the onion in with the tomatoes and drizzle a good bit of olive oil on top, about a 1.5 Tbls. Sprinkle with the sea salt and crush some pepper and then juice the lemon over and mix it up! When the grain is cool, pour into the serving bowl with all the other ingredients and toss it all. Take a spoon full and add more oil, lemon juice, s/p to taste. Not traditional, but my favorite, I always add in a clove or two of garlic... I think garlic improves EVERYTHING!
Cover and chill for at least two hours or over night and serve chilled with whole wheat or corn tortillas or stuff some warm pita and enjoy!