Friday, June 29, 2012

Tortellini Pasta Salad

When I was in graduate school, I made everything from scratch, because it was cheaper. That included expensive items like ravioli and tortellini because flour and eggs and cheese or spinach were so much more economical to buy than pre-made ravioli or tortellini. Don't be misled into believing this was a daily occurrence, it was definitely party food or special occasions. And one of my favorite times to make tortellini was for this summer pasta salad, perfect for 4th of July BBQs or lazy afternoon picnics!

Ripe tomatoes, crunchy celery and bell peppers tossed in a creamy garlic sauce spiked with succulent black olives, this salad was a hit with everyone who sampled it, and always received demands for the recipe. Luckily it's a breeze to toss together once you've chopped the veggies. Boil water for the tortellini and make the dressing as it cooks, and presto, you have a gorgeous salad that is both fun and filling and not your usual pasta salad.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Raw Spinach and Artichoke Dip - Vegan

Summer is officially here! While the East Coast is sweltering away in a heat wave, June Gloom has officially bid adieu to the West Coast and we are also getting our first full blast of summer heat. So when the heat is on (and you're tired of salad for dinner to avoid the heat of the kitchen) blend up this fabulous dip/spread/spoonable deliciousness and save yourself from the heat.

Fresh spinach, marinated artichokes, and that magical ingredient, soaked cashews, creates a tangy, cheesy dip that is great on crackers or with cut up vegetables. Today's presentation is my vegan riff on this version of Spinach and Artichoke Dip, and both are equally delicious.

Be forewarned that this is super addictive, and you will be shocked at how fast you and your diners finish off what seems like a large bowl of this divine dip. Thankfully it is nearly sin-free, with the exception of the mayonnaise!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Rice Paper Spring Rolls

The great thing about reading other food blogs is the new and exciting things they bring into my cooking life.  101 Cookbooks is a perfect example. Heidi is always introducing me to wonderful new food ideas like Egyptian Dukkah or her Magic Sauce or her take on rice paper rolls. In her version, a wintery one as she deemed them, there is seasoned tofu, mushrooms and an onion paste sauce. Since I made mine on the summer solstice, my version were a bit more, well, summery!

Remembering my love of carrot ginger miso dressing, I used that as the flavoring base and added avocado and marinated fried tofu. Simple but delicious!

If you have never worked with rice papers, never fear, they are really simple to use if you remember the golden rule; do not let them soak in water more than the time it takes to say "One Mississippi." Really. You will think that they are too stiff and will not soften up and will be tempted to allow them to soak longer, but it is a trick. The sheets will continue to soften long after you pull them out of the bowl of water and then they will refuse to cooperate when you assemble all of your ingredients on top of them. So, repeat after me, "One Mississippi." Good. Now you are ready to assemble this fun food!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Yogurt Parfait with Blueberry Citrus Preserves

Rye toast - with caraway seeds - was my staple breakfast for the first 25 years of my life. Then I discovered homemade granola with yogurt and life has never been the same since! Sure, I still make my No Knead Rye bread but yogurt, granola and homemade fruit preserves are more often than not my food of choice in the early hours of the day.

As the stone fruit and berry season are getting into full swing, now is the time to indulge in those delicious fruits. Whether you make them into preserves like the Blueberry Citrus used here, or just toss them into your yogurt and granola, they compliment the creaminess of the yogurt and temper the crunch of the granola. Best of all, it's a well-balanced meal, all in the same dish!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Blueberry Citrus Preserves - DIY Pantry

I am a berry fanatic - place a bowl of berries of any sort in front of me and witness the most impolite behavior imaginable. Mothers will keel over in shame, Fathers will shield their children's eyes, teachers will tsk tsk tsk at me. But nothing can deter me from gorging on berries. Maybe it is because they are truly seasonal, if you want to eat berries with flavor, which I prefer. There are only certain magical times of the year when blueberries are in season or strawberries lure you with their ripe scent. Limited windows of opportunity call for drastic action. Or maybe it because berries turn us all into little children again, savoring the perfection that is a berry - sweet juices popping out of the berry as you crush them in your mouth, with or without the additional fun of playing with the seeds as they get stuck in your teeth and roll around your tongue!

Of course the second best thing to fresh berries is making your own berry preserves with said fresh berries. There is nothing as satisfying as making something from scratch with the ingredients that you have personally selected. Preserves are the easiest way to extend the berry season, mainly because they do not involve pectin or gel points, terms that often send novice preservers running for cover. Preserves are simply fruit and some sugar cooked up with other flavorings if you so choose. Jar it, refrigerate it, and you're done!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Tempeh Hot Wings

Two and a half years ago I bookmarked this recipe from The Ordinary Vegetarian, and it was in my list of posts to make, oh, probably three to four times, but got booted for various reasons, at least that's what I told myself. The truth was tempeh has never appealed to me and I just couldn't wrap my taste buds around the idea of it. But as always, I overcame my stubborn food aversions and tried them out. And yes, they were spectacular! So much so that I ate more than half of them in one sitting (maybe two thirds, but who's counting when you live alone!)

Hot Wings have always been a favorite of mine as this post from more than a year ago attests (can't believe how similar the photo is, down to the same dish for the dipping sauce!) Loving the flavors of this dish was no surprise, but the heartiness of the tempeh was, and pleasant at that. As always, my belly was way to full because one wing (or 10!) is never enough!

I whipped up a super quick ranch dressing - mayo, cider vinegar, dried thyme and dill, and salt and it was the perfect accompaniment to my spiced up version. The recipe below makes 16 triangles, but if you're making this for a group of folks be kind and triple or quadruple it because you will have disappointed guests who will want more. Next time I will probably cut my tempeh in smaller strips to have more to share.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Lime and Chile Red Cabbage Salad

I was a picky eater as a child - no pasta, no eggs, no condiments of any sort, no food touching each other on my plate. It made my mother insane, which she never fails to remind me and I never fail to apologize for. What I did eat, by the bowlful, was salad, lots and lots and lots of salad.

Salad was a nightly ritual in our house when I was growing up. It was the 1970s so salad was mainly composed of iceberg lettuce, with the addition of romaine since my father loved it. Lettuce was all fine and good but as the self-proclaimed rabbit of the family, I was always gnawing on raw vegetables - celery, carrots, bell peppers, cabbage - and when I could get away with it, dipping said veggies into my mother's homemade vinaigrette and not even bothering to toss them together in a semblance of a salad. Even in high school at an all girls' high school I braved ridicule and scorn from the lunch table for my rabbit food. Flash forward to living on my own and salad rarely includes lettuce on my table. Give me crunchy, hearty salads full of color, crunch and zippy dressings and eating satisfaction is guaranteed.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Savory Ricotta Pie with Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Reenie of Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice is the master at taking comfort food to the next level, using fresh and homemade ingredients. And there are plenty of vegetables and vegetarian options contained in her definition of revamped comfort food. Here are just a few examples I randomly found in her recipe index:

Cauliflower Bites with Cheddar Mustard Dipping Sauce
Mediterranean Vegetable Stromboli
Gourmet Almond Dill Tuna Salad

Those ALL sound so good to me! I have to actually ration out how many of her recipes I try and post so that I don't seem like a paid advertiser for her (which I'm not) but her stuff is so amazing! She really is the mistress of creating dishes with even more flavor than you thought possible. Thank god she's on the other side of the country from me, because I would shamelessly be camping outside her door offering any service she desired to be a guest at her table!  And if you love dessert, allocate a couple of hours to explore her recipe index, because it is overflowing and extensive.

This savory ricotta pie seems too simple to be true, but it is another superb example of her genius - eggs, ricotta cheese, sour cream and roasted tomatoes create heaven in your mouth. This may sound like hyperbole, but trust me in this one. I dare you to try any of her recipes and come away wanting. That's a bet I will always win!