Lentil Sorghum Salad with Meyer Lemon & Thyme

It’s been a minute, dear readers.  I hadn’t planned on waiting until February to post my first recipe of 2017, but despite my best intentions (and chocolatey experiments) (which will most definitely be revisited), here we are.

January was certainly eventful.  On the 21st I rode the bus with my sister Xan and her fourteen year old daughter down to Washington D.C. for the Women’s March.  Being surrounded by hundreds of thousands of people standing up to the new POTUS and his agenda of hate was amazing and empowering; I felt hopeful. Meanwhile, back in NY, my family had a good scare when my mom suffered a medical emergency.  She’d become very ill due to complications from surgery, then even more ill when she went to the ER and was met with total incompetence.  Thankfully she got the care she needed just in time (at another facility; shout out to the wonderful doctors and nurses at Good Samaritan Hospital) and is okay now.

Of course the now daily barrage of crazy news is enough to drive anyone mad.  Still, it’s imperative that we stay informed, and never become desensitized or complacent.  We need to stay strong and focused, figure out our next steps.  And while I’m way too much of a realist to ever look at the world through rose tinted glasses, I’ll gladly fuel my fight with a rose tinted salad.  This one is nourishing and bright, with textural variety, tons of flavor, and a pinkish hue thanks to roasted beets.  Meyer lemon and hazelnuts make it feel like a treat, while lentils and sorghum help to sustain us through these exhausting times.

  

*Optional: Before cooking lentils, soak them in hot water with a bit of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.  This makes them more easily digestible and also reduces their cooking time.  I soaked mine overnight.

1 cup sorghum, rinsed
3 cups water or vegetable stock (I used water + ½ bouillon cube)
¾ cup black lentils, rinsed and sorted, soaked if desired (see note above)
2 tsp of vinegar (I used apple cider)
a few small beets, scrubbed
1/3 cup hazelnuts
1/3 cup meyer lemon juice (from ~2 meyer lemons)
2 tsp meyer lemon zest
1/3 cup olive oil (plus a tiny bit more for sorghum)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
optional: salad greens for serving

  • Place sorghum, water/stock, and a drop of olive oil in a saucepan and cook over high heat until boiling.  Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for about 50-60 minutes (mine took 60) or until tender but still a little chewy.  Drain and let cool.
  • Meanwhile, make the lentils.  Place lentils in a pot and cover with about 2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until done (but not falling apart).  Cooking time for the lentils will vary, depending on freshness and whether or not they’ve been soaked.  My previously soaked lentils were done in 15 minutes; lentils that haven’t been soaked will take longer, closer to 25 minutes.  So be sure to keep an eye on them and check regularly for doneness.  Once cooked, drain, then toss with 2 tsp of vinegar and season with salt and pepper.  Let cool.
  • Meanwhile, make the beets.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Wrap beets in foil, place in an oven safe dish, and roast for about an hour, or until they can be easily pierced with a fork.  Let cool, then peel and dice small.
  • Turn oven down to 350 degrees F.  Place hazelnuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, keeping a close watch, until browned and fragrant.  Remove from pan and wrap in a dishtowel.  Let sit for a minute (this will trap in the steam), then rub through the towel to remove the loose skins. Don’t worry about getting all the skins off– you only want get rid of the excess bits that would come off in your mouth (not pleasant).  Roughly chop.
  • To make the dressing, place the meyer lemon juice, olive oil, chopped thyme, and a dash of salt and pepper in a jar.  Seal tightly and shake vigorously to combine.
  • Mix together the lentils, sorghum, beets, and most of the dressing, setting aside some for leftovers (the sorghum will soak it up!).  Season with salt and pepper, and top with hazelnuts and zest.  Serve as is or with salad greens.

Yield: About 6 servings

Pasta with Cauliflower, Olives, & Oregano

For better or worse, 2016 is coming to an end.  I know I’ve been feeling all the feels lately, but I’ll keep things nice and cozy here with some pasta featuring the year’s most popular vegetable, cauliflower– which has been everywhere and everything.  I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I haven’t tried cauliflower in any of its more trendy, experimental forms, but plan to remedy that soon with these buffalo wings, this pizza, and these steaks with romesco sauce.  Yep, cauliflower is one intriguing, can-do brassica oleracea.  Here, its mellow sweetness is complemented by garlic, kalamata olives, toasted almonds, and aromatic fresh oregano.
*I’ve been so excited that my local nataural foods store started carrying gluten free farfalle.  If you buy/eat gluten free pasta with any frequency you know that gluten free bowties are something of a unicorn. Jovial also makes gluten free casarecce and manicotti (!).  Get it.

12 oz pasta (farfalle, penne, fusilli, etc.)
olive oil
4-5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 head of cauliflower, trimmed, cored, and cut into bite size chunks
1 cup vegetable broth
2-3 sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves only, chopped
¼ cup pitted kalamata olives, quartered lengthwise
¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted
salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes, to taste

  • Cook pasta in salted water according to package directions.
  • Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a large pan/wok.  Add garlic and a pinch of red pepper and cook over medium heat, agitating frequently, for 2-3 minutes or until fragrant.
  • Stir in cauliflower and then the broth.  Cover, turn up heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or until “crips tender.”  Stir in oregano and olives.
  • Add pasta to the pan, season with salt and pepper and, if desired, drizzle with a bit more olive oil.  Sprinkle on toasted almonds and serve.

Yield: About 5 servings

Spicy Cabbage & Tofu with Peanuts

spicy cabbage and tofu with peanuts

Fresh cabbage is not something I typically buy.  For me, it usually conjures images of sad plops of diner coleslaw and The Kids in the Hall.  When shopping I pass right by those pale green heads (and even the purple ones) in favor of darker leafy things like kale and chard, or more exciting things like tatsoi and romanesco.  Still, the beautiful varieties at the farmer’s market piqued my interest and made me reconsider.  Stir-fried with ginger, garlic, peanuts, tofu, and hot sesame oil, cabbage is totally delicious– and not at all reminiscent of coleslaw.  I’m craving some right now.
*I thought this was spicy!  Not too spicy with rice, though.  And perfect if your head gets extra stuffy this time of year like mine does.  Of course Philip added hot sauce anyway. If you prefer a less spicy dish, reduce the amount of hot sesame oil or cut with some toasted sesame oil.  For a totally mild dish, replace completely with toasted sesame oil.

cone cabbage  shredded cabbagetofu

For tofu:
1 block extra-firm tofu
½ tbsp grapeseed or other hot cooking oil (peanut, canola, refined coconut, etc.)
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp coconut sugar
½ tbsp tamari

For everything else:
1-1½ tsp grapeseed or other hot cooking oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbsp minced ginger
1 medium head of cabbage, trimmed of outer leaves and core, cut into thin shreds
1 tbsp tamari
½ tbsp rice wine vinegar
½ tsp hot sesame oil
¼ cup peanuts (I used roasted and salted)
Rice, for serving

  • Pat tofu with a clean tea towel or paper towel. Cut into 1” cubes, then pat again to soak up extra moisture.
  • Heat ½ tbsp grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Add tofu cubes, sprinkle with garlic powder and coconut sugar, and stir gently to distribute seasonings. Then let cook—without touching– for about 3-4 minutes, or until golden and a bit crispy. Carefully flip over (turn down the heat while you do this) and splash with ½ tbsp tamari. Cook for 3-4 minutes more. Turn off burner and transfer tofu to another dish. Let the pan cool a bit and then give it a wipe to remove any blackened bits.
  • Heat 1-1½ tsp grapeseed (or other) oil in pan over medium heat, and add the garlic and ginger. Cook for about 2 minutes, stirring frequently, until fragrant.
  • Stir in cabbage. Splash with a tiny bit of water and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring as needed. Add tamari and rice wine vinegar and cook for a couple minutes more.
  • Add the tofu, peanuts, and hot sesame oil, and cook for another minute or two. Taste for seasonings and serve with rice.

Yield: About 3-4 servings

cabbage

Black-Eyed Pea Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing

Black-eyed pea salad with ginger miso dressing

It’s been a helluva week, to say the least.  Salad might not exactly be the most obvious comfort food, but having a big batch in the fridge certainly helps make lunchtime easier (and healthier).  This one is earthy, crunchy, full of spice and umami warmth, with bright herbal notes.  Black-eyed peas are often eaten on New Year’s Day as a good luck food; I say we take all the good luck we can get.

black eyed pea salad ingredients

Obviously we can’t rely on luck alone. I don’t care if I’m bringing politics into a place where it doesn’t belong because A) it’s my blog and I do what I want, and B) what’s happening goes way beyond liberal and conservative and into the realm of right and very, very, very wrong.  None of this is normal or okay, and we must remain vigilant. We need to seek out reliable news sources and stay informed.  We need to be active.  We need to stand up to bigotry and hold our leaders accountable.  We need to help out where we can and support organizations that do good work (Jezebel posted a pretty comprehensive list, to which I would add NRDC).  Stay strong, friends.

Black-eyed peas

3 cups cooked black-eyed peas, if canned then rinsed & drained
1-2 radishes, sliced into thin half-moons
1 cucumber, sliced into thin half-moons
1 scallion (white and light green parts), thinly sliced
3 tbsp mellow white miso
1 tbsp grated ginger
1½ tbsp olive oil
1½ tbsp water
handful of parsley, chopped
salt (if needed; miso is salty) & black pepper, to taste

  • To make the dressing, whisk together the miso, ginger, olive oil, and water.
  • Toss the black-eyed peas, radish, cucumber, and scallion together with most of the dressing, setting some aside for left-overs (the black eyed peas really soak it up!), and stir to coat evenly.  Gently mix in most of the parsley, saving a little bit for sprinkling on the top, and season to taste.  Garnish with remaining parsley.

Yield: About 6 servings

Black-eyed pea salad with ginger miso dressing

Vanilla Maple Tahini Truffles

vanilla maple tahini truffles

Recently I went out west.  It had been a really (reallllly) long time since I had been on a real trip anywhere, and I relished every moment.  First Philip and I went back to 95 degree summer weather in Austin, TX.  We wandered through an enchanted park, explored a cavern full of stalactites and stalagmites and tiny sleeping bats, ate delicious breakfast tacos from a food trailer (check!), visited the flagship Whole Foods (I know… but it is actually really cool), hung out on a rooftop with a friend from home, visited the capitol building, marveled at grackles, drank delicious coffee and juice, and interacted with friendly locals who would not seem at all out of place in a Linklater movie.  Then it was on to Los Angeles, a city which had long been on my list of places to visit.  Ever since I was Weetzie Bat books loving kid, I dreamed of LA’s hills and canyons, its punks and starlets, its purple jacaranda trees and old Shangri-LA magic.  Now that my friend Charles was getting married at the Malibu West Beach Club, I had an excuse to go.  And while I wasn’t crazy about all the driving and big box/chain stores everywhere, I was indeed enamored with pretty much everything else: the dessert hills juxtaposed with the blue Pacific, the coyote we saw one night casually trotting across the street, colorful flowers and equally colorful homes, teetering palm trees, winding roads, charming plant-enveloped alleys, the incredible architecture and landscaping of the Getty Center, dreamy Mulholland Drive, the PCH… I want to go back!  Best of all I got to spend time with dear friends at a truly lovely celebration.  The day after the wedding, we checked out of our hotel, got some iced coffees, and went back to Malibu Beach.  After soaking the bottoms of our jeans (despite our best cuffing efforts), we decided it was warm enough to go all the way in the water and besides, when was the next time we’d get to go swimming in the Pacific?  We changed into our bathing suits in the car and took turns holding the car keys while the other went in the water.  Then it was fries from In-N-Out, a quick drive through Echo Park, and finally LAX, where we returned the car and waited around for our after midnight flight home.  Naturally it took us some time to get back into the groove of things.  (I literally did not know where I was when I woke up in my own bed the next day.)  And the erratic weather– 80 something degrees and sunny followed by total blustery cold dreariness and full on fall– certainly didn’t help.  Still, home is where the cat is.  And the seasons, too.

tahini ballschopped dark chocolate

These vanilla maple tahini truffles are perfectly autumnal and so tasty.  They’re easy to make, too, unless you count the waiting parts.  I’m pretty crazy for tahini and maple syrup (see my recipe for vanilla maple tahini spread)– so much so that sometimes I’ll skip the mixing and simply heap the two ingredients precariously onto a spoon and then shovel it directly into my mouth while standing over the sink.  Because you know, dishes.  Anyway, it was only a matter of time until chocolate entered the mix.  These truffles are sweet and salty and feel just indulgent enough, the kind of treat I think we could all use right about now, wherever we are.

½ cup tahini
heaped 1½ tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla extract
1½ tbsp refined coconut oil, melted, plus another scant 1/8 tsp
1/16 tsp fine sea salt
one 3.2 oz bar of dark chocolate, chopped
bit of flaky sea salt

  • Use a food processor to mix tahini, maple syrup, vanilla, and fine sea salt until well combined, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. With the machine running, slowly pour in the melted 1½ tbsp coconut oil and process until smooth. Transfer to a dish and freeze, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, or until firm but not totally frozen.
  • Line a plate with parchment paper. Use your hands to roll tahini mixture into balls, approximately 1” in diameter, and set on the lined plate. Freeze for 25 minutes.
  • Melt chocolate with scant 1/8 tsp coconut oil in a double boiler over low heat, stirring frequently. Alternatively, melt in the microwave in short increments. Once melted, remove chocolate from heat. One at a time, drop each tahini ball into the chocolate and use a fork to roll it around, then gently lift and let excess chocolate drip back down through the fork tines. Place back on parchment lined plate and sprinkle with a little flaky salt. Freeze for 10 minutes, then transfer to a container and store in the refrigerator.

Yield: About 15 truffles

vanilla maple tahini truffles