Honestly, I don’t have a go-to here – I plan my menus around the people eating them and the food I find.
But there are some things that always sound impressive, require some effort, and come out like something made with love. Gnocchi is one of these. It’s easier than pasta (no special equipment required) but it sounds fancy and special.
I’ve found that a little goes a long way, so I made as much gnocchi as a single russet potato could produce.
To go with it, I made a lovely, chunky sauce with yellow onion, eggplant, plum tomatoes, garlic, and plenty of red pepper flakes, olive oil, and red wine vinegar. I also made a quick cashew-hemp seed-almond milk creamy sauce to mimic a bechamel or cheese topping and baked everything together like a casserole.
Since this is actually a weeknight meal, I needed some more protein (pan-fried tofu) and greens (spinach), which I cooked with a little bit of the extra creamy sauce. It was, frankly, overkill – some people like rich food; I am not often among them – and the appearance wasn’t as “ooh-la-la” as I hoped, but it was still good.
Gnocchi is always special, even if it’s not magic.
I have a hard time playing favorites. Favorite band? Favorite TV show? Favorite movie? Don’t make me choose, But food is the hardest of all. Indian food? Tacos? Thai? Vietnamese? Korean? Ethiopian? Falafel? Artisanal, creative, farm-to-table masterpieces? Bread and (cashew) cheese? Almost anything with sugar? I mean. I love food, period. Making it, eating it, thinking about it, talking about it, shopping for it, reading about it.
But if I have to choose, I choose a choice that’s trying to have it both ways–well, several ways: California-style health food. It’s a goddamn catch-all for anything involving kale, quinoa, and tofu that takes inspiration or steals liberally from all of the above. It’s my true north of home cooking. And what’s more health-foody right now than the almighty bowl? This bowl has everything: Rainbow quinoa. Braised greens and purple cabbage. Baked tofu. Roasted squash. Tahini-lemon sauce with plenty of garlic. I eat this ALL THE TIME. I will try to avoid repeating myself this month…
For the purpose of making a prettier picture, I tweaked the process a little bit. It’s usually a bit simpler.
The quinoa is just quinoa. I cook it in a VitaClay multicooker, which I love. It turns out perfect without any effort. Done.
I usually start the tofu right after I get the quinoa going because I like to bake it for 20 minutes on each side. It’s coated simply and gently in a little olive oil and soy sauce. This gives it a nice, brown, chewy skin. Typically I just cut it into four slices, which fit in a little glass baking dish in my toaster oven, so no pre-heating and easy timing, but today I cubed it and baked it in the oven since I was also cooking some squash. Cubing it, cook time was reduced to about 15 minutes on each side.
Squash isn’t a STANDARD part of this for me, but I’ll use it when I have it. Today I had the top half of a butternut squash, and for funsies, I chopped it at strange angles so it’d have interesting facets. It got a little olive oil and a pinch of salt and roasted for about 20 minutes.
Next I started on the greens. The most basic iteration of this dish is just wilted chopped kale; today I had half a red onion leftover from breakfast, a bunch of collard greens, and some nice purple cabbage, so I threw ‘em all in. The onions were thinly sliced then sauteed in olive oil, then I added a pinch of salt and a generous pour of low-sodium vegetable stock and brought it to a boil before adding the greens. I ended up having to add a little bit more broth to get it cooking (pan was pretty crowded), and also threw in a couple cloves of microplaned garlic for good measure.
Finally, the tahini sauce. I did not diverge from my usual, go-to, reliable recipe one bit: ~¼ cup of tahini (I use the Whole Foods store brand, which pours easily and doesn’t get thick and chalky if you stir it well), a few drops of our favorite hot sauce, one microplaned clove of garlic, juice of one lemon, ~2 Tbsp nutritional yeast, and water as needed. I add all this directly to an OXO dressing shaker and give it several good swings and it’s done.
The black sesame seeds I added just for looks. When you drizzle a beige sauce on your bowl, you kinda lose the colorful veggies, after all.
It’s that time again… almost-MoFo! I’ve already got my Google doc a-plannin’. Though the blog has been neglected of late – it’s been a strange, stressful couple of months, and while I’ve been cooking like mad, I haven’t had much desire to document it – I’m looking forward to thinking creatively about the challenges and prompts that await and sharing the results with you, whoever you are. Plus, it’ll cover Thanksgiving, and I’ve already started planning that, too. My favorite excuse to go all out.
White bean and sweet potato soup with kale and spices
The boyfriend is sick, and it’s finally fall, so I figured it was a soup night. Here’s what went in the pot:
1 big yellow onion, minced
1 fat green jalapeno, minced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into ½" pieces
½ red bell pepper, diced (leftover from yesterday’s stir-fried noodle dinner)
Heaping spoonful of ground coriander and cumin, half a teaspoon of paprika, and a pinch of allspice
4 cups of water – let everything cook until the sweet potato is tender
3 ladles of cooked white beans (I don’t remember the variety, it’s somewhere between pinto and cannellini)
Half a bunch of lacinato kale, roughly chopped
Nub of fresh ginger and three cloves garlic, microplaned right into the pot at the end (this is one of my favorite things to do; it often helps the garlic really pop vs. cooking it from the beginning with the onion)
Splash of tamari and pinches of salt, to taste
Several sprigs of cilantro, rough chopped
1 stripey heirloom tomato, diced
Juice of half a lime
I’m pretty pleased. It’s warm, a bit spicy (though not that much), colorful, comforting.
When I don’t have it in me to make a more complicated savory breakfast and I don’t feel like pancakes (as sacrilegious as that may sound), the Swiss chard tofu frittata from Vegan Brunch is a go-to. Comes together super fast and bakes up in 20 minutes. Also makes a good weeknight dinner in a pinch, with salad and bread.
Mushroom-cherry tomato sauce with spaghetti and wilted pea shoots
Olive oil and flour whisked together over medium low to make a roux
One big diced shallot and a pinch of salt sauteed with the roux
Then a few minced garlic cloves and a pinch of dried thyme
Add a whole bunch of sliced cremini mushrooms and keep stirring until things wilt
This also required a little more salt, a little more oil, and a splash of white wine, some more wine (hell, the rest of the bottle; there wasn’t much), and some water just trying to get the damn thing to a sauce-like consistency
Somewhere in there I threw in half a pint of cherry tomatoes, the bigger ones cut in half, and let them cook until they exploded or got squished on impact
When everything looked pretty good, a few splashes of balsamic vinegar got mixed in
After the pasta cooked, I put a bunch of nutritional yeast in there (NOOCH IS LIFE) and some pepper before mixing the pasta in with the sauce
Also threw a half pound bag of pea shoots in a pan with a little oil and a tiny bit of leftover pasta cooking water ‘til they got wilted.
This was actually pretty tasty, despite some questionable stages during the saucing process.
Late work thing where they served pizza. Pfft. I had to wait until I came home to make food. Which turned out to be somewhat overcooked broccoli with garlic and chickpeas ove brown rice. The simplest thing I could muster.
Kale salad with kabocha squash and sprouted lentils (roughly based on the one from Isa Does It) and some shells and cheesy sauce on the side. Homemade sauce of roux, garlic, leftover cashew cheese, white wine, and nooch. So much whisking.
Green tea chocolate chunk cookies with walnuts — just the basic recipe from Vegan Cookies Take Over Your Cookie Jar with matcha powder added in with the wet ingredients and a handful of walnuts with the chocolate chips is my favorite trick.
It’s late summer, and the farmers’ market is full of inspiration. There’s still berries and corn and tomatoes, but also brussels sprouts and apples and pomegranates. Some serious best-of-both-worlds stuff.
Anyway, among the things I picked up today were fresh dried black beans, dark red poblano peppers, San Marzano plum tomatoes, and squash blossoms. Some of these are not exactly weeknight-quick ingredients, so I wanted to use them today.
First I set the beans a-soaking, along with a couple handsful of cashews to make nut cheese (with a bit of white miso, one chopped scallion, nutritional yeast, and water, spun in the food processor until smooth and creamy). After a couple hours, the beans had doubled in size, so I cooked them until tender, then added a chopped onion, salt, and a little ground coriander and kept simmering until everything else was ready to eat.
Then I roasted the salsa veggies.
Once brown and beautiful, I threw it in the blender with a handful of toasted pumpkin seeds, cilantro, and a splash of white wine vinegar.
Next, it’s stuffed squash blossom time. Definitely a Sunday thing, way too much work for any other day. But worth it. I rinsed the blossoms and mixed up some flour, salt, and pepper to dredge them in. Scored the blossoms, pried them open, spooned in some cashew cheese, closed it back up, got some flour mixture on the outside of the blossom, and threw it in a hot oiled cast iron pan for a few minutes on each side.
Last, I shredded half a bunch of curly green kale and a chunk of red cabbage and green cabbage, massaged it a bit to break down the kale, and tossed it with a pinch of salt and a drizzle of white wine vinegar and olive oil.
To serve, I put the beans on the rice, the blossoms on a bed of kale, and the salsa on top of everything. Really, it all gets mixed around anyway.
Of course, Sunday dinners always become a late afternoon affair. Breakfast I enjoyed some prepared goodies: oatmeal scone and cocoa noir almond milk cold-brew coffee. Sunday mornings are when I make the ritual visit to the farmers’ market and, because it’s convenient, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods as needed. The market haul was beautiful, with everything from late season bi-color corn to brussels sprouts on the stalk stuffing three cloth bags. This is my church; I take it seriously. Carrying that much food requires energy.
Now I’ve got fresh-dried black beans and cashews soaking and a notion about making roasted ancho chile and tomato salsa. Plotting some kind of cashew cheese-stuffed squash blossoms with black beans and rice. Need to plot how to incorporate more green vegetables.
All this and so much good TV to watch: last night’s Doctor Who and Outlander; tonight’s Good Wife season premiere. Sundays are indulgent. More later.