Friday, December 18, 2015

How Green Was My Salad? (With Creamy Basil & Avocado Dressing)

A green salad? In December? Heresy!

I realize that today's post might seem incongruous during this festive winter season, but giant piles of raw veggies - which my sister hilariously refers to as "mast" - feature on our table year round. More to the point, the bizarrely fine weather we've been enjoying makes leafy greens at least as appealing a vision as sugar plums and gingerbread.

And so I present my recreation of/improvement upon one of my standard restaurant favorites: the "pea diddy" salad at Somerville's Five Horses Tavern, minus the ubiquitous cheese found in the original, and with the addition of a few more vegetables. One of the things I love about this dish is that it is entirely, completely, and unapologetically green: light, dark, and bright greens, all mixed together in a fragrant, beautifully green dressing. Indeed, with nary a tomato, carrot, or beet in sight, this salad would be right at home at a banquet in the Emerald City, and as we approach the solstice and the return of the sun, this optimistic sentiment seems especially appropriate.

The Salad
~ Mixed greens (a mix of baby kale, romaine, and arugula is nice)
~ 1 cup broccoli florets
~ 1 cup asparagus spears, cut into 1" pieces
~ ¾ cup fresh or frozen peas
~ ¾ cup shelled edamame
~ 1.5 cups pea shoots

~ In a vegetable steamer (or a pot of boiling water), cook the broccoli, asparagus, and peas very briefly, until just bright green; this should only take 2-3 minutes, tops. Drain, rinse immediately with cold water to stop further cooking, and turn out onto a clean tea towel to dry.
~ In a large bowl, toss the broccoli, asparagus, peas, pea shoots, and edamame with the leafy greens. Cover the salad and chill in the refrigerator while you make the dressing.

The Dressing
~ 1 perfectly ripe Haas avocado
~ 2 cloves garlic
~ 1 generously packed cup fresh basil, rough chop
~ ¼ cup fresh lime juice
~ ½ cup each: water, unsweetened plain soy milk
~ ¼ cup nutritional yeast
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, prepared mustard, vegan Worcestershire sauce
~ A few grinds black pepper

~ Place the avocado, garlic, basil, and lime juice in a food processor or blender and puree for about a minute.
~ With the machine running, gradually add the remaining ingredients and puree until you have a smooth, vibrantly green mixture. If the dressing seems too thick, add a little more water to get the consistency you want.
~ Drizzle the desired amount of dressing over the chilled salad, toss, and serve. Alternatively, you can plate the salad and dress servings individually. Either way, you'll likely have some dressing left over, which should be stored in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Apples & Currants

Yes, it's another muffin recipe, and a really good one at that. In fact, I've made three batches of these babies in the past two weeks alone, because they A. disappear so quickly, B. taste like the distillation of late autumn/early winter, and C. make the house smell absolutely wonderful. And with pumpkin, apples, currants, and relatively small quantities of fat and sugar, they're not only delicious but pretty healthy, too!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Apples & Currants
~ 1 cup plain, unsweetened non-dairy milk (I used cashew)
~ 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
~ 1 tbsp. ground flaxseed
~ 1 14 oz. can pumpkin puree (scant 2 cups)
~ ¼ cup each: canola oil, maple syrup
~ 1 tbsp. blackstrap molasses
~ 1 tsp. each: vanilla extract, rum extract
~ 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
~ 1 tbsp. baking powder
~ ½ tsp. each: baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon
~ ¼ tsp. each: nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cardamom, black pepper
~ 1 medium-size apple, small dice
~ ½ cup dried currants
~ 1-2 tsp. brown sugar mixed with ¼ tsp. nutmeg (optional)

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit and coat a muffin tin with cooking spray.
~ In a beaker, combine the soy milk with the vinegar and set aside for a few minutes. Add the flaxseed, and whisk vigorously for about a minute.
~ Stir in the pumpkin, oil, maple syrup, molasses, and vanilla and rum extracts.
~ In a large mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour through black pepper). Sprinkle in the currants and diced apple, and toss to coat; this will give the fruit some "grip" in the batter.
~ Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, stir in the wet mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until thoroughly combined.
~ Spoon the batter evenly into your prepared muffin tin, and sprinkle the brown sugar and nutmeg (if using) on top.
~ Bake in the center of the oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
~ Remove from oven and allow the muffins to rest in the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. These are equally good warm or at room temperature, and are so moist they really don't need anything; that said, adding a schmear of almond or peanut butter makes a substantial mid-afternoon snack.