A true “spring” salad would, for me, involve highly seasonal produce: peas, asparagus, baby artichokes, fava beans, etc. Most of which is not so available by late summer, when we’re more likely to find other excellent salad ingredients like tomatoes and corn. Those…those are not very spring-y. So you can see my dilemma.
What ARE springtime ingredients still good now? Herbs, spinach, lettuce, radish, and carrots. Among other things. So I made a simple salad with greens, roots, scallions, toasted pepitas, and a lemon vinaigrette. Earth-shattering? No. But delicious and great on a hot summer day.
DOWN WITH SOGGY BOTTOMS! Okay, so the thing is, I don’t do pie crusts often, and I generally prefer the simplicity of a crumbled tofu frittata, but for this, that simply won’t do.
Remember the galette from pastry day? Well, I made a double crust recipe, so conveniently, I had an extra just for this. But this time, I got to do a BLIND BAKE. Which does not feel like a very apt description for what it does–you get to see how it’s baking up before you fill it; it’s more information than you get when making something where you need to fill an unbaked shell! But I digress. I rolled it, I put it in a pie plate, I forked the edges, I blind baked it, and I filled it with a blended tofu/sauteed spinach filling.
Before making this, I went through a lot of vegan quiche recipes. Some use chickpea flour; some use tofu (usually soft or silken). This was tofu (firm), blended with oat milk and some flavoring elements (nooch, mustard, nutmeg, red pepper flakes) until creamy, then folded with sauteed spinach, onion, and garlic. Pretty basic.
You wouldn’t fool any egg eaters, but it had a pretty good texture and a nice finish. I might’ve bothered with fancy vegan cheese if I had any lying around, but I didn’t, and nooch is perfectly good for my purposes.
Um, also, it’s summer and tomatoes are awesome.
How about that crust? Well… I served mine too soon after it came out of the oven, so it didn’t release cleanly, but even later slices would not likely pass Paul Hollywood muster. They weren’t soggy, per se, but they weren’t golden and crisp, either.
For today’s “unconventional” grains prompt, I wanted to make a freekeh salad from Vegan for Everybody, but freekeh was no longer available in my local Whole Foods’ bulk section. So I picked up some wheat berries instead.
The last time I attempted to experiment with this grain, they turned out very dry and firm and just generally not tasty. But America’s Test Kitchen has a good track record of explaining how to make this kind of thing right, so I followed their advice and made the wheat berry salad with spinach and oranges (+ red onion, chickpeas, mint, and a zesty sherry vinaigrette). It turns out the secret has something to do with precisely how well-salted the cooking water is: they say it’s 1½ teaspoons of salt, no more, no less, to a full 4-quart kettle of water.
Though the resulting grain is not soft enough to substitute the usual rice and quinoa, it was tender and chewy enough to make up the base of a tasty entree-type salad. And while the recipe didn’t suggest doing so, I opted to combine the dressing, spinach, and wheat berries (which I’d made ahead and refrigerated) in a warm metal bowl over boiling water to heat these components and–most importantly–gently wilt the spinach.
It’s a simple recipe and, once you’ve cooked the grains, it comes together in a snap. Chalk it up to another win for that cookbook.
A.K.A. I Am Not A Nutritionist, But I Know How to Google
Listen, if you’re here, you probably already know that getting your protein as a vegan, like, ain’t a problem. That shit’s in everything. It’s B12 you gotta look out for, but let’s not get into that. But I went ahead and looked up some allegedly high-protein ingredients and picked a few to invent a meal out of. It’s like Chopped! But without the egos and arbitrary time limits and referring to dead animal parts as “proteins” (noun)!
Tofu – 10g protein / ½ cup
Quinoa – 4g protein / ½ cup
Spinach – 5g protein / 1 cup cooked
Sun-dried tomatoes – 6g protein / 1 cup
Lentils – 18g protein / cup
Pepitas – 9g protein / 1 oz.
From this, I propose: Baked tofu with a sun-dried tomato and pepita pesto, garlicky sauteed spinach, and a quinoa-lentil pilaf. Oooh. That sounds pretty good. Pantry ingredients include: garlic, onion, lemon, parsley, olive oil. I WILL NOT BE UNDERSEASONED. DON’T BORE NINA. (Wait. That last one is a different show.)
Pesto: Throw all of this in a food processor and make a paste.
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, patted dry
⅔ cup pepitas, toasted
3 cloves of garlic
Small handful of parsley, torn
Zest of 1 lemon
Olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste
Smear half the pesto in the bottom of a baking dish, spray with olive oil, add tofu slices to fit, then spray with more olive oil and cover with the rest of the pesto. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes on each side (I used my toaster oven).
Pilaf: Saute the onion in olive oil, add bouillon, then add washed lentils and quinoa until a bit toasty. Transfer to multicooker, add 3 cups of water, and cook for about an hour. (I used the brown rice setting on my VitaClay.)
1 medium yellow onion, minced
~1 Tbsp. vegetable bouillon
¾ cup French green lentils
1 cup quinoa
3 cups water
Salt to taste
Spinach: Wilt spinach in a big pan with a little olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and minced or microplaned garlic to your heart’s content. Splash with a good vinegar of your choosing. Serve.
2 bags baby spinach (12 oz. total)
At least 4 cloves garlic, minced or microplaned
Olive oil, salt, and your favorite vinegar (I used balsamic)
The result is not the most photogenic dish I’ve made, but it’s pretty tasty. It could use a sauce, though. Why didn’t I make my usual tahini sauce?!
So, like. I bought this dill last Sunday. Today it’s rotten enough that I can’t pick out a few good stalks with which to make Isa’s chickpea scramble. So I made it with spinach instead (+ shallots and green garlic, ‘cause yum).
Another attempt at a Thrive Foods dish: millet with mixed greens (chard and spinach), scallions, green garlic, lemon juice, salt and red pepper, and a dash of toasted sunflower seeds. I felt it needed a little something extra, so there’s some spicy baked tofu on the side. The lemon juice and green garlic offer a nice punch.