Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cilantro, Bulgur, and Black Bean Salad

Yes, it's another summer salad! This one happened when I went to buy parsley for a batch of tabbouleh, but became distracted by a big, fragrant bunch of cilantro instead. What ensued was the impulsive creation of a sort of quasi-Mexican tabbouleh, via the substitution of chili seasonings for the usual dill and mint, and the addition of a whole lot of vegetables. As its name implies, this packs a serious cilantro punch, so haters might want to look away right now. But for those of us who appreciate this oft-maligned herb's unique yumminess, this recipe makes a nice change from the more usual, Mediterranean-themed grain salads found on summertime tables. (NB that if you'd like to make it gluten free - or just want to shake things up - you can substitute quinoa for the bulgur!)

Cilantro, Bulgur, and Black Bean Salad
~ 1.5 cups bulgur
~ 3 cups vegetable broth
~ 8 scallions, thinly sliced
~ 1.5 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
~ 1 small cucumber, diced
~ 1 large carrot, grated
~ 1 small yellow squash, diced
~ 1 small red bell pepper, diced
~ 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
~ 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed (2 cups)
~ 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (about 3 cups)
~ Juice of 2-3 limes (about 1/4 cup)
~ 1 tbsp. garlic, minced
~ 1 tbsp. hot sauce (more or less to taste)
~ 2 tsp. each: cumin, chili powder
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, thyme
~ A few grinds fresh black pepper

~ Bring the vegetable broth to a boil and add the bulgur; stir briefly, cover, and remove from heat. Allow to stand for 10-15 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed.
~ In a large bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, then add the cooked bulgur. (Pro tip: if you share my intolerance for uncooked oniony things, put the sliced scallions in a dish with a few tablespoons of water and microwave for two minutes to - as I like to think of it - "take the curse off." Drain and proceed.)
~ Mix everything until thoroughly combined, then cover and refrigerate; the longer it sits, the more completely the flavors will blend.
~ Serve cold or at room temperature, alone, as a side dish, or on a bed of leafy greens.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sesame Roasted Summer Vegetables

If produce be the food of love, cook on;
Give me excess of it, and, surfeiting,
The veggies will be roasted, and not fry.

It's that time of year when the farmer's markets are bursting with fruits and veggies, and yours truly can occasionally get a little carried away with the excitement of it all. When this happens, it becomes necessary to find a cooking method that will use up a lot of produce in an appetizing way. Enter roasting! Provided you don't overdo it, roasting vegetables brings out their toasty, sugary goodness like nothing else, and you can season them pretty much anyway you like. This preparation is so simple and easy that it hardly deserves to be called a "recipe," but was such a good use of some of the day's haul that I wanted to share. You can obviously apply this to whatever veggies you have on hand - even potatoes! - just adjust the time accordingly, and keep an eye on them so they don't overcook!

Sesame Roasted Summer Vegetables
~ 4-5 Japanese eggplants, cut into 2" chunks
~ 1 lb. green beans, cleaned and snapped in half
~ 1 lb. yellow summer squash, cut into 2" chunks
~ 1 tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
~ 1 tbsp. minced garlic
~ 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
~ 1 tbsp. ginger chili sauce (I used this stuff, but regular hot sauce and a tsp. of grated ginger would do)
~ A few grinds of salt and black pepper

~ Preheat the oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit and coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.
~ In a small dish, combine everything from the soy sauce through the hot sauce.
~ Arrange the vegetables on the baking sheet, pour the soy sauce mixture over, and massage the whole business until the veggies are coated, then grind some salt and black pepper over the top. (NB don't worry if the coating seems a bit sparse; we're not going for saucy here, you naughty minx!)
~ Roast at 450 for 15 minutes, then stir everything around roast for another 15, or until the vegetables are tender and ever so slightly charred, but not dried out.
~ Remove from the oven and allow to rest for a few minutes. This makes a side dish on its won, or can be added to a green salad for a little extra excitement. We had ours with grilled romaine hearts and lentil salad, for a summertime supper par excellence.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Braised Portobello Mushroom Caps

This is another PDX-inspired dish, this time an homage to the delicious and eponymous "steak" I had at Portobello, Portland's Italian vegan restaurant (we also ordered a Caesar salad, some sort of boozy parfait, and the most amazing gnocchi with summer vegetables and mint, the last of which I may attempt at some future date). Their portobellos are served grilled, and artfully presented atop a round of crispy polenta with a side of sautéed greens and a drizzle of balsamic. For my own, more homespun version, I first marinated the bejesus out of the mushroom caps, then opted for an approach more like braising, which reduced the marinade into a nice glaze/sauce. On the whole, I have to admit that these turned out really well - the only downside being that they were gobbled up so quickly that there were hardly any leftovers! (Note to self: next time double the recipe.)

Braised Portobello Mushroom Caps
~ 6 large portobello mushroom caps, stems removed
~ 2 cups vegetable broth
~ 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
~ 1 tbsp. each: agave syrup, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ 1 tsp. each: Liquid Smoke, Marmite, prepared mustard
~ 1 tsp. each: marjoram, thyme, smoked paprika, garlic powder
~ 1 tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 small red onion, diced fine
~ 2 tbsp. minced garlic

~ In a bowl or beaker, whisk together everything from the broth through the garlic powder.
~ Arrange the mushroom caps in a large, shallow casserole, gill side up. Pour the marinade over them, then spoon as much of it as possible into the mushroom cavities. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate for as long as possible (I put mine in at noon to cook for that night's dinner).
~ Turn the oven to 350 fahrenheit, coat a rimmed baking dish with cooking spray, and place the dish in the oven.
~ In a skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and sauté the onions and garlic for about 3 minutes; until just fragrant.
~ Add 3 of the portobello caps and half of the marinade; cover the skillet and cook 5-7 minutes.
~ Raise the heat to medium-high, uncover the skillet, and turn the caps over. Continue to cook uncovered for another 5-7 minutes, basting frequently with the marinade, which should reduce a bit during this process.
~ Transfer the cooked mushroom caps and any remaining liquid to the (eagerly waiting) baking dish, and repeat with the remaining mushrooms and marinade.
~ Serve hot over mashed potatoes, pasta, rice, or - best of all! - soft or crispy polenta, drizzled with the marinade/sauce, with some garlicky greens and a beautiful salad on the side.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Magical Lentil Salad

The humble legume has a long association with super-powers: from their protein-and-folate-filled goodness to their capacity to sprout ginormous beanstalks that enable feckless sons of poor widows to score enough treasure to banish poverty (albeit things didn't work out so well for the giant in the latter example), beans are naturally packed with awesomeness. To further illustrate this point, I present my adaptation of the life-changing lentil salad we enjoyed on a recent trip to Portland, prepared and served by our lovely and gracious friend Michelle at an al fresco dinner hosted by herself, Josh, Ruby, Sassy, and Ace on their beautiful back deck. That salad was so damn good that I was on fire to eat it again ASAP, so how happy was I to receive an invitation to the housewarming of some other cool vegan friends within a week of our return from PDX? 

The lady of the house to be warmed suffers from a nightshade allergy, so the original recipe (which calls for black and cayenne peppers) needed to be tweaked, and since I had just scored some za'atar from our amazing local Mediterranean grocery, I decided to switch things up a little. I basically increased the existing seasoning quantities, added a few extra to replace the pepper, and threw in whatever non-nightshade veggies were on hand, including a craptonne of leafy greens from a generous friend's garden. The beauty of this salad is you can use whatever fresh produce you like (lightly steamed asparagus and/or grilled eggplant or peppers come to mind), and you are guaranteed to be met with appreciative yummy noises and requests for the recipe - of course, it goes without saying that if a shot of cayenne or hot sauce floats your boat and causes no discomfort to you or yours, go for it!

Magical Lentil Salad
~ 2 ¼ cups Du Puy (or small green) lentils
~ 4 cups vegetable broth
~ 1 large red onion, diced
~ 1 cup dried currants
~ 1/3 cup capers
~ 3 carrots, grated
~ 3 stalks celery, diced
~ 2 cups chopped, fresh parsley
~ 4-6 cups chopped leafy greens (I used spinach, chard, kale, and arugula)

~ 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
~ 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
~ Juice of one lemon
~ 1 tbsp. each: maple syrup, prepared mustard, pomegranate molasses
~ 1 tbsp. za’atar
~ 2 tsp. ground cumin
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, marjoram, dill, garlic powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: turmeric, cinnamon, coriander, cardamom
~ 1/4 tsp. each: ground cloves, nutmeg

~ Rinse the lentils and drain. Place in a pot with the vegetable broth, cover, and, bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes; they should be fully cooked but slightly al dente. During the last two minutes of cooking, add the red onion; this will take away that raw sharpness. Drain the lentils and onions into a large colander, rinse with cold water to stop any further cooking, and set aside.
~ In a large bowl, mix the dressing ingredients. Add the currants, capers, and chopped vegetables, followed by the drained lentils. Mix thoroughly to make sure that everything is coated.
~ Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least a few hours; the longer it sits, the better it will be (I made this a day in advance of the party for which it was destined). Serve cold or at room temperature, alone or on a bed of leafy greens, sprinkled with a little extra za'atar.