Picnic Perfection Broccoli, and Grated Carrots Ooh La La

This is it. The Super Bowl of summer gatherings is here. The sun is hot, the timing is loose, the fridge is likely full and the setting is outdoors. What we have here is a picnic situation, and I’ve got you covered with some no-fuss potluck faves.

I could also call these McFaves, because they both came into my life from my favorite foodie McFamily. You know who you are!

Each of these are a little miraculous in the way they transform a humble vegetable and a few basic ingredients into something addictive. Both recipes originated from the New York Times, which means they come with lots of commentary. I have distilled the extensive kvetching to the finer points.

These sides are easy to make, healthy, great at room temp and smashing as leftovers. They also travel like champs. There is no downside here people!

Make them. Share them, or not. They will bring you joy and serious roughage. Happy 4th to all!

In the lunch rotation. Every….darned….day

French Grated Carrot Salad
By Martha Rose Shulman and the NY Times

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil or canola oil (or a mix of the two), or use 2 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt or buttermilk and 4 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or white-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1 pound carrots, peeled and grated
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Preparation

  1. Whisk together the oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and mustard in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add the carrots and parsley and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Refrigerate before serving (I recommend making this 30 minutes to 1 hour ahead, then tossing again).

Notes: Not a one. This is straight up perfection.

Picnic Perfect Broccoli
by Melissa Clark and the NY Times

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ teaspoons red wine vinegar (I say 1 Tbsp)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste (kosher is key…science, man)
  • 2 heads broccoli, 1 pound each, cut into bite-size florets
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds (ground cumin works in a pinch)
  • 2 teaspoons roasted (Asian) sesame oil
  • Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes.

Preparation

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.
  2. In a large skillet, heat olive oil until hot, but not smoking. Add garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and up to 48 (chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours). Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt) and serve.

Notes:

2 lbs of broccoli— deconstructed into florets — is a LOT of broccoli. You can easily scale it down, but don’t skimp on the vinegar. I boost up the vinegar to 1 Tbsp for the full recipe because it seems like the right thing to do.

There is much hand-wringing about all the oil, but remember, it’s a lot of broccoli. I’ve used 2/3 cup oil and that worked just fine. Some say 1/3 cup is enough. That said, don’t fly too close to the sun like the guy who brought it down to 2 Tbsp, and definitely don’t EVER put him on dessert duty.  

Finally, pay attention to the timing and make it far enough ahead so the broccoli has a chance to soften and take on the flavors.

Weekday Smoothie

I was going to post this on the weekend, but I’m your friend and friends don’t do that. Weekends are about pancakes and muffins and doughnuts and bacon and omelets and cinnamon rolls and maple syrup. Always maple syrup. So, posting a smoothie with vegetables and beans on a weekend just feels wrong. But on a Monday? The gloves are off baby—this is what you get.

I have a friend who is gorgeous (I have quite a few of those) and she once explained to me her diet philosophy of being “all about oatmeal” during the week, and then loosening up on the weekends. Clearly it works for her, and it leaves ample room for both discipline and fun.

On to this smoothie, which firmly belongs in the weekday repertoire. I’ll never lie to you. I’ll never tell you “this tastes just like a milkshake” or “you’d never know this was healthy” or that your loved ones will beg you to make this or that you will not be mocked when you open a can of beans for breakfast. But I will tell you I am mildly addicted to this because sometimes the cold goodness of a very healthy smoothie that is packed with nutrition from real ingredients is really comforting. And sometimes, well, I just need to get beyond the oatmeal.

If this intrigues you, I hope you try it and enjoy it. If the concept of this grosses you out, I hope you have a nice week and I will see you with something more fun very soon. Happy Monday!

A Breakfast Double Date…. get it?

Weekday Smoothie

Makes 1 huge or 2 small smoothies (as pictured above)

From Hey Nutrition Lady

Ingredients

  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 cup frozen cauliflower (the riced stuff in the freezer section is best)
  • ½ cup black beans
  • 1-2 medjool dates pitted (2! or more if they are deglet)
  • 1 cup oat milk or milk of choice (use what you’ve got)
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Method

  • Place all ingredients into a blender. Blend until smooth. (really smooth!)
  • Pour into a glass and sprinkle hemp seeds over the top if desired. Serve immediately.

NOTES: You need an aggressive blender — or a lot of blending in an ok one — to really get this smooth, which is key. Gooey Medjool dates are ideal here, and I say live a little and add another if you need to ease into this. If you only have deglet, or if your medjools are a little dry, cut them up and rehydrate them with some boiling water (or a bit of your morning coffee supply) for a few minutes. You can also use an unfrozen banana and add some ice cubes, which also helps with the crappy blender situation.

Party Time Smashed Potatoes

Let’s just say, hypothetically….you’re heading into Memorial Day without a real plan for what to bring to the various cookouts; or, that you knew your house was filling up but hadn’t really planned out how to feed everyone; or, you cannot face going into the fancy grocery store looking for obscure ingredients ONE MORE TIME. I’ve got you covered!

Memorial Day weekend is no time for being fussy or experimental. It is about the basics and the classics, things that taste even better when you’re eating them outdoors in flip flops. Enter, the potato. Specifically, the smashed potato.

I’ve seen these many times but finally made them and am now a little but addicted.

Cutting to the chase: You are boiling whole small potatoes (those small ones in the mesh bags are perfect for this), then smashing them into disks/pucks, then salting them, slicking them up with oil and baking them at a high temp until they are crispy. You flip them halfway through because you know that crispy is everything.

Honestly, no need to follow the recipe if you do these things, because this is more method than recipe, more arts ‘n crafts than science. Which is to say, you can do this! And I hate being bossy but I really think you should. You can also make these in stages as you have time (and without taking up fridge space), making them perfect for the weekend.

There are a bazillion recipes for these on the interwebs, but I am running with this one from Cook the Vineyard because they had some pro tips (like using a high smoke point oil vs olive oil) That said, I included my own comments (in italics) that cut down on labor and laundry.

But that’s not all! As a bonus I’ve included the simple limey dipping sauce which is perfect on these and remarkably versatile at snazzing up leftovers, sandwiches, tacos, bowls and veggies, whatever. Any sauce that strikes your fancy will do here, and there’s never any shame in straight up ketchup.

And should you need tried and true ideas for the rest of the feast you can’t go wrong with the OG hits: Funitella, Hero Slaw, Oven fried chicken, Watermelon Tomato Salad, Panzanella…you know.

Crispy Smashed Potatoes

Recipe mostly from Cook the Vineyard

Serves 4, or more as an appetizer

Ingredients

  • 16 baby red potatoes, consistently sized (the little bagged ones, red or yellow, are perfect)
  • Kosher salt (lots, and other seasonings as you like)
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil or other vegetable oil I don’t think I’ve ever used that much oil. See recipe note.
  • Limey Drizzling Sauce (optional)

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 475°F. Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Put a piece of parchment paper on top. You can also go this with just parchment paper or straight on a baking sheet. Arrange a double-layer of dishtowels on a large cutting board or your kitchen counter. (No need for dishtowels I’ve found. Just mind any wandering taters)
  • Put the potatoes in a Dutch oven or other medium-large pot and cover with at least 1 1/2 inches of water. Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt, cover loosely, bring the water to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Uncover and cook until the potatoes are tender all the way through, but not falling apart, about 18 to 22 minutes. (Check with a paring knife.)
  • Drain and transfer the potatoes to the dishtowels. (I bag the dishtowels, pour out most of the water then use tongs or a slotted spoon to lift the potatoes out of the water onto the parchment. You’re just trying to get the water off and smash them) Arrange the potatoes a few inches apart, and let them cool for a few minutes. Using another folded dishtowel (or piece of parchment or just a big spatula), gently press down on each potato to flatten it into a patty about 1/2 inch thick (or up to 3/4-inch). Let the patties cool for a few minutes more, transfer them to the baking sheet, and let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes longer. (Or, at this point, you can hold the potatoes in the fridge for up to 24 hours and on the counter for hours, covered with plastic or that top piece of parchment. Bring to room temp before roasting.)
  • Season the top of the potatoes with salt and pour the oil over them. Carefully flip the potatoes over and gently rub them in the oil so they are well coated. Season the top side with more salt. Roast for about 15 minutes, carefully slip the potatoes over with a spatula, and continue roasting another 10 to 15 minutes (a total of about 28 to 30 minutes) or until they turn a deep orange brown color and are crisp around the edges.
  • Serve warm (seasoned with more salt if necessary) with Limey Drizzling Sauce (optional) or with salad greens.

All smashed up and ready to party

Bringing It:

These are ideal warm from the oven, but I have yet to meet the person who turns one down at room temp. For extra credit you can bring them on their baking sheet, pop them in the oven for a few minutes and transfer them to a serving platter. If you are besties with the host bring them over pre-smashed and bake them up on site.

Limey Dipping Sauce

Also from Cook the Vineyard\

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lime zest
  • Kosher salt

Method:

Whisk together all the ingredients, including a pinch of salt, until well-mixed. Refrigerate until serving time.

 

Save your A$$ Chicken Peanut Ramen

Who knew soup season would butt right up to Cinco de Mayo season and Kentucky Derby season? It’s been one of those springs in New Hampshire. The upside is that there is still time to post the recipe from Half Baked Harvest that I made more than any other (including spicy margaritas) this past winter.

It first came to my attention in November, when Pat the Great in Colorado had it ready to serve us upon arrival. Conservatively, I’ve made this 20 times since then. It was an extraordinary winter of feeding people, and without this recipe many of them would have gone hungry. Each time I thought I’d made it for the last time, there would be another chilly day with no meal plan, and out from the cupboard the stained hard copy of this recipe would come.

The recipe is classic Pat, because she only passes things along that are truly great in some way. That could mean interesting, informative, funny or delicious. In this case it means both delicious and easy.

My minor obsession with it was recently reconfirmed by Suzi the Great, who posted it on Instagram after making it an embarrassing number of times in succession. Suzi also gave me the cookbook that first introduced me to Tieghan Gerard’s Half Baked Harvest, not to mention the picture for this post, so, triple points to Suzi.

My goal at Bring It is to only share the recipes you will come back to time and again. They have to be great, not “Just OK,” and in the binary judgement by which many things can be simply appraised, absolutely “Worth It.”  Admittedly, a few times I’ve wavered, passing on a so-so recipe because it had a great story, but I’ve recommitted to the “Worth It” standard so please trust me on this one. If you like these flavors you will make this again and again, and never have to worry about how to feed hungry people in a hurry.  

Save You’re A$$ Thai Ramen

(AKA Half Baked Harvest’s 30 minute Thai Peanut Ramen)

One pot, quick and easy healthy, meal that’s creamy, spicy and delicious.

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins

Ingredients

  • 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (14 ounce) coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup Thai red curry paste
  • 3/4 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or protein of choice)
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 red bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or grated
  • 2-4 squares ramen noodles
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil or cilantro, roughly chopped, plus more for serving
  • chopped peanuts and toasted sesame oil, for serving

Ingredient notes:

  • You can riff on veggies here, adding more of whatever you like or whatever you have. I typically cook up the mushrooms in a skillet first with some onions because my people are not into mushrooms and that helps disguise them.  
  • I have also on occasion added a ton of thinly shredded cabbage instead of or in addition to the ramen.
  •  For “ramen” I have used fancy organic gluten free rice ramen, clear rice noodles, straight up spaghetti, 25 cent college student ramen, fresh and dried soba and udon noodles, etc. Anything goes so use what you have and what you like.
  • Pat and I both prefer to cook up the chicken before adding it to the pot (use the skillet you used for the mushrooms after you cook them up, if you go that route). It’s also a great use for leftover cooked chicken.

Method

Stove Top

  1. In a large soup pot, combine the chicken broth, coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, honey, peanut butter, and curry paste. Add the chicken, cremini mushrooms, red peppers, ginger, and garlic. Set over medium heat on the stove and bring to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and shreds easily.
  2. Once done cooking, shred the chicken.
  3. Bring the soup to a boil over high heat. Stir in the noodles, lime juice, spinach, and cilantro. Let sit 5 minutes or until the noodles are soft.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with peanuts and toasted sesame oil. Enjoy!

 

Instant Pot*

  1. In the bowl of the instant pot, combine the chicken broth, coconut milk, soy sauce, fish sauce, honey, peanut butter, and curry paste. Add the chicken, cremini mushrooms, red peppers, ginger, and garlic. Cover and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes.
  2. Once done cooking, use the natural or quick release and release the steam. 
  3. Set the Instant pot to sauté. Shred the chicken, it should fall apart. Stir in the noodles, lime juice, spinach, and cilantro. Let sit 5 minutes or until the noodles are soft.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and top with peanuts and toasted sesame oil. Enjoy!

*(I know nothing of Instant Pots, so this is taken on faith)

Notes

Half baked harvest recommends storing the soup and noodles separately, then adding the noodles just before serving because otherwise the noodles will soak up all the broth and become very mushy. Here at Bring It Central we hoover down the leftovers that have been stored altogether for days noooooo problem.

 

When Life Gives You Lemons, Say Thank You!

It’s a dreary Sunday here in the east, with the promise of rain to take what’s left of our precious snow. As if in anticipation of this day, a heavy Priority Mail box from California recently arrived. Cousin D, in a race to save her California hillside of citrus from a cold snap, did a mass harvest and shared some of it with me. As a former Vermonter, D knows the mixed blessing of March in New England–winter’s easing its grip, but…the mud!–and the curative power of Meyer lemons. On top of that, she’s just darned thoughtful!

Rather than reinvent the citrus wheel, I’m going to revisit some favorites from Lemonpalooza 1, (Lemon simple syrup, and roasted lemon shallot vinaigrette for an off the hook chicken bread salad) and from the sequel, Lemonpalooza 2 (lemon pudding cake, preserved lemons and the lemon blueberry sunshine loaf that I discovered the last time Cousin D bestowed her citrus bounty on me.)

For breakie, squeeze some on top of the classic Dutch Bunny to put a big smiley face on your day, orrrr nothing says “I love you” and also “Don’t mess with me” like Sassy Sansa Lemon Ginger scones. If you really want to jumpstart summer, make up a Lemon Beach Pie.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with plowing through your lemons as straight up lemon juice in and on everything. Tea? Smoothies? Sprtizers? Cocktails? Yes please!

If you’ve already embarked on spring training, squeeze them up for some minty snap pea salad, lemony shrimp and bulgur salad, lemon cauliflower couscous or pretty much anything that could use some fresh zip.

Wherever you are on this spring day I hope you find some brightness and warmth.

PS. We’re taking votes for your favorite lemon recipes. First vote is by Aunt D for lemon posset, in Lemonpalooza 1. Solid choice!

 

 

Maple Creemee Pie

The saddest day of the year for me is the day they stop serving maple creemees in my hood. That was on the last weekend of October, when Mac’s Maple closed. It wasn’t a real ice cream day, but to honor the occasion I secured two of their maple creemee pies. I figured they would be my step-down program, and perhaps inspiration for my own recipe for the same. Rigorous testing ensued.

The first test was between the purchased version—the control pie— and my own creation, a riff of Nina’s Margarita Pie. Scouring the Internet for ingredients of legit maple creemees had confirmed that this was a good master recipe to use as a starting point. Immediately, my group of testers confirmed that the control pie’s waffle cone crust was, as one tester indelicately put it “f’ed up.” It was indeed far inferior to the pretzel crust of Margarita Pie.

Still, it needed some tweaks. My first creation tasted good but, as another tactless tester (this one related to me) noted, “you need an axe to get through it.” Here’s where the science came in. I realized that margarita pie contains alcohol, which keeps it from freezing up like a brick. Adding more whipped cream could also help the pie retain a softer, more utensil-friendly, consistency.

I’ll spare you the details to the entire process, but a stalwart tester, when confronted with the two latest versions, said he felt a bit like Chuck Yeager. He was not far off. When Thanksgiving is this close, every pie matters! We needed something as good as Joni Mitchell Apple Pie, Knock Out Vegan Pumpkin Pie and Pilgrim Pie. And, this being a new player amongst traditional faves, we needed perfection.

Friends, my testers unanimously confirm, we now have it. I offer here maple creemee pie perfection, the clear winner, and a non-alcoholic version as well which is a worthy silver medalist. The use of alcohol, I assure you, is not gratuitous—it’s where good science meets good taste. That said, you can save yourself a trip to the liquor store, use a little more maple syrup and a touch of vanilla, and still have yourself a darned good maple creemee pie.

The constants in both versions: The crust is the bomb! It is equally excellent with regular and gluten-free pretzels. The cream is your structural integrity, so whip it good, until it has very stiff (even jagged) peaks, yet hasn’t turned the corner to butter.

Finally, to my Vegan friends. I failed you on this round. I tried two oat milk fillings, this one with nut butter and this one with cashews. I know there are pros out there who can work their sweet magic with such ingredients (looking at you, Sister A), but not me, not yet. I have not given up, but I need a rest. Sometimes, a girl’s gotta not eat.

One happy side note, is that after all this testing, and knowing that I can get my fix anytime, I really am ok with waiting six plus months for my next maple creemee. But you out there? You’ve got a lot more creemee pie capacity in you. I hope you enjoy this and every other deliciousness on your Thanksgiving table. Holidays, here we come!

Maple Creemee Pie

Prep time: 15mins, plus at least 4 hours freezing time.

Makes 1 yummy pie

Ingredients

  • 12 cup margarine or butter
  • 14 cup sugar
  • 3 cups pretzels (to equal about 1 14 cups crushed)
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 Tbsp maple syrup*
  • ¼ cup maple liqueur* (mine was 30% alc/60 proof)
  • 1 ½ cups heavy cream.
  • Optional: Maple sugar candies crumbled on as topping**

*For non alcoholic version, omit liqueur, and adjust to use 1/3 cup maple syrup plus 1 tsp vanilla (optional-Chuck Yeager opts out of it).

** These are way optional. Veteran testers say leave it alone as is, but one rogue tester notes that the pro pies featured these, and he was enamored by the flourish.

Method

Make Pie Crust:
Melt margarine or butter and combine with sugar and pretzel pieces. Press into buttered 9” pie pan. Refrigerate or freeze to cool while you make the filling.

Filling: Combine condensed milk, maple syrup and maple liqueur and whisk until it is well incorporated.

Whip the cream until it is very thick and stiff. Fold in the whipped cream as gently as you can until it is fully incorporated. Pour into pie crust and freeze for at least four hours, more to be safe.

Bringing it:

Warm weather travel with this is not recommended, but if you are celebrating away from home, and have the time and space for it to freeze, it is easily assembled on site. Just prep the pretzels first and put them in a Ziploc bag. Portion out the booze and syrup, grab a pie plate and fill a bag with the rest of the ingredients— cream, a stick of butter and that can of sweetened condensed milk that expires sometime this decade. Make the pie right away so it has max time to freeze, and you have max time to put your feet up and prepare to be worshipped.

We can’t all be winners

 

Mushroom (It’s Not About the Meatballs) Meatballs

This is my second post ever about meatballs. And like the first one, it really isn’t about meatballs. This time, it doesn’t even involve meat.

This post does include a delicious recipe that I have been meaning to share for a long time, but it’s more about friends and family and remembering and gathering. It is a loving shout-out to my Aunt Judith, who we honored last weekend. Judith was one of the most colorful people on the planet, quite literally. You’d be hard pressed to find any picture of her dressed in earth tones. It was her colorful personality, however, that shone through: the conspiratorial belly laugh that, together with the twinkling eyes, invited you into the underlying mischief of the moment. As my mother’s younger sister, she took it as her duty to show us that it was ok—even preferable—to color outside the lines.  

Judith would have appreciated the happy gathering orchestrated by her daughter, the fabulous  Pamina, resplendent in chartreuse and fire-engine red. The tribe came together, decked out in a full spectrum of colors on a brilliant November day, where the strangely persistent yellow foliage boldly defied the bleakness of stick season; and where Cousin Danielle’s Rolling Stones  tribute cheerfully defied church convention. It was perfect.

In addition to the colors, laughter, music and stories, it also seems fitting to remember Judith with food, of which she was a fan. Some of her favorite dishes were comfort food classics, like Italian fare and meatloaf. She also strove towards healthy eating, though the striving and the reality didn’t always match. These meatless meatballs seem like a fitting compromise between her desires and her aspirations.

They are mushroom-based and, like Judith, can accommodate all guests. As written, they include eggs and a small amount of cheese, but for Vegans making the appropriate substitutions is child’s play. These also involve some planning to accommodate chill time, forming and baking, but once you’ve done the drill they are quite easy. Crank up “That’s Amore” and get into it. They are delicious, which is all that really matters.

The only real downside is that color—Judith’s hallmark—is not well-represented here. Aside from that, these have everything you need for a tasty meal, and with enough sauce you’ve got color too. So, here’s to you Aunt Judith. You got us all together once more, in full color, and we love you to la luna and back.

Lots of taste, not so much color

Chef John’s Meatless Meatballs (of Internet fame)

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 1 lb. fresh white mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 1 pinch, and 1 tsp. pink salt
  • 1 Tbs. Butter
  • ½ C. finely chopped onion
  • 4 cloves, garlic, minced
  • ½ C. quick-cooking oats
  • 1 oz. very finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
  • ½ C. Breadcrumbs
  • ¼ C. Flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped, packed
  • 2 Eggs, divided
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 pinch dried oregano
  • 3 C. Pasta Sauce
  • 1 Tbs. finely chopped flat-leaf Italian Parsley
  • 1 Tbs. very finely shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese

Method:

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms to the hot oil, sprinkle with salt, and cook and stir until liquid from mushrooms has evaporated. Stir butter into mushrooms, reduce heat to medium, and cook and stir mushrooms until golden brown, about 5 minutes.

Stir onion into mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until onion is translucent, 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and stir garlic into mushroom mixture until fragrant, about 1 minute. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl.

Mix oats into mushroom mixture until thoroughly combined. Gently stir 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese into the mixture. Add breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup parsley, and 1 egg, season with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and oregano. Mix with a fork until crumbly. Stir in the remaining 1 egg. The mixture should hold together when pressed.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. For best flavor and texture, refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.

Form mixture into small meatballs using a 2-tablespoon scoop. Roll meatballs lightly between your hands until smooth, if desired; arrange meatballs on a prepared baking sheet.

Bake in the preheated oven until meatballs are lightly golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Bring pasta sauce to a boil in a large saucepan; reduce heat to low. Gently stir meatballs into sauce until coated. Simmer meatballs in the sauce until cooked through, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with 1 tablespoon Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and 1 tablespoon parsley.

Cousins Pamina and Beatie, in color

Sisters Judith and Nina, smiling as they did.

 

 

Pumpkin Soup, hold the spice

Alternative title: Miso over pumpkin spice. It may really be just me, but I am sick to death of pumpkin spice. I love pumpkin and all its winter squash cousins but the pumpkin spice conspiracy to assault your senses all fall is just too much. And so, while I want to want to savor pumpkin muffins and PSL’s, I really don’t want to, because they make me feel like I am eating or sipping a horribly misappropriated Yankee Candle.

Enough already. I prefer pumpkins and their cousins to taste like, well, the pumpkin family. If you don’t believe me, check out these pumpkin all stars. (There’s even a mighty fine pumpkin muffin in there that tastes nothing like a Yankee candle.) ‘Tis the season for orange goodness, and, unlike me, my family can only take so much Sugar and Spice Squash Soup. I needed another comfort soup in the repertoire and I think I’ve found it. This comes from My New Roots, home of the ever brilliant “Dirt Bread” that is the stuff of lusty Hippie dreams.

The original version of this soup uses red pumpkin also known as Kuri or red kabocha. I used cooked kabocha (AKA buttercup) squash because I had it at the ready and because it is mighty dense and creamy. I did not use the gnarly green peel. Butternut squash would also be fab. Or, hey, even an actual pie pumpkin would work (though they are more watery and less sweet and the skin is not for prime time).

This soup is also a fine way to work through the vat of miso that seemed like a good idea when I bought it, which was a while back. Miso adds the funk, or umami if you must, and the variety of toppings lets you totally riff in whatever direction you please. I used some fried shallots (that I bought at the same store where I made my excessive miso purchase), toasted pepitas and chopped pistachios to be X-tra klassy. We had this as just a soup, without the noodles, and it was tremendous, though noodles would be bulk it up into a fab fall dinner. If you want a similar recipe, with mushrooms right in the soup, check out this similar, though non-pureed one here.

Get your pumpkin on, and hold the spice. If you feel cheated you can always light a candle.

Pumpkin Miso Broth with Soba
From My New Roots. Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil (olive oil is fine too)
  • 2 medium yellow onion
  • ¾ tsp. fine grain sea salt
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium, 2 lb / 1kg Hokkaido pumpkin (or other favorite hard winter squash)
  • 3 – 4 cups / 750ml – 1 liter water
  • 3 – 4 Tbsp. white or light miso (3 was way plenty and I am a salt fiend)
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 175g / 6oz. soba noodles (100% buckwheat)

Toppings:

  • spring onion
  • sesame seeds
  • sautéed shiitake mushrooms
  • seaweed (optional)
  • Other options: fried shallots, chile crisp, diced avocado, toasted pepitas, and so much more

Directions:

1. Roughly chop onions, mince garlic. Wash the pumpkin well (as you’ll be eating the skin), and chop into chunks. (I used kabocha without the peel. Look at your squash, know your audience and use your judgement here)

2. In a large stockpot, melt the coconut oil. Add the onions and salt, stir to coat and cook for about 10 minutes until the onions are just starting to caramelize. Add garlic and cook for about a minute until fragrant.

3. Add the pumpkin and stir to coat. Add 3 cups / 750ml of water, cover, bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the pumpkin is tender.

4. While the soup is cooking, prepare the toppings: Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Cook soba noodles according to package directions, drain and lightly rinse. Slice spring onion, lightly toast sesame seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, about 2-3 minutes. Sauté mushrooms in a lightly oiled skillet over high heat for 5-7 minutes.

5.Transfer the soup to a blender and blend on high until completely smooth. Add more water if necessary – you’re looking for a creamy consistency, but it should not be thick like a paste. I like the soup to be on the thinner side for this dish. Add the miso, ginger and blend again until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Transfer soup back to the pot and keep warm (reheat if necessary, but try not to boil–miso does not appreciate that).

6. Ladle soup into bowls, top with soba, spring onion, sesame seeds, mushrooms and crumble the seaweed over top. Serve immediately and enjoy.

Many thanks to cousin D for this sign of the season

 

Hot Chicks: Let’s get the party started!

Got your attention right? If so, we’re halfway there to you having an excellent, healthy go to appetizer to add to your arsenal of fall food and tailgate all-stars (looking at you, Funitella Bruschetta). Furthermore, we have surmounted the hurdle that has, until now, prevented this deliciousness from breaching the confines of the Vegan recipe domain.

Elsewhere on the Internet, this recipe (technically chickpea panisse) is known as “chickpea fries.” As one who deeply resents food impostering, I get why calling these fries is a turnoff. Those two words do not belong together. So, rather than calling this creation fries, think of it as a snackified polenta—comfort food goodness that you can pick up and eat with your hands. It’s sounding better already.

The magic here, however, is not cornmeal. It’s chickpea flour, or besan, which is now one of my kitchen staples. In case you missed it, there is actually a cookbook out called, “Chickpea Flour Does It All.” (Christmas is coming people). This I learned from “Hey Nutrition Lady” who is a big fan of it, and featured this recipe on her site as proof.

The process here is very easy to do and to remember once you’ve done it. Bring a pot ofwater to a boil, and gradually whisk in the chickpea flour (using a 2:1 ratio of water to flour). Once the mixture is thickened, add some olive oil, fresh chopped herbs, salt and pepper. Pour that into a baking dish and let it chill in the fridge. Later (even days later), you can cut your slab into whatever shapes you like and call them whatever you like: “Fries” “Burgers” “Sliders” etc…or ditch the air quotes and just call them hot chicks. Spray or brush them with olive oil, bake ‘em up, give a shake of salt and you’re good to go.

Creamy on the inside, crispy and salty on the outside and eminently dippable…what’s not to love? I have served these many times now, to a variety of company, ranging from full Vegan to righteously carnivorous, and everyone in between. All have come back for more. Leftovers also make an excellent component of the next day’s lunch. 

For a full expose on the bennies of chickpea flour and very thorough coverage of chickpea panisse, check out the full post here.

In the meantime get on out there for a bag of besan and you’ll never be stumped for an appetizer again.

Ingredients

  • 6 cups water
  • 3 cups chickpea flour
  • 1 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon parsley finely minced
  • 2 tablespoon oregano finely minced (rosemary and/or thyme are excellent as well)

Method:

Make the Chicks

  1. Generously butter or oil a 9 x 11 baking sheet and set aside.
  2. In a large pot, bring the water to the boil over medium-high heat.
  3. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and whisk in the chickpea flour a little bit at a time.
  4. Continue whisking for about 10 minutes, until the mixture is thick and smooth (I find that a few lumps are unavoidable, but you won’t notice them later).
  5. Stir in the olive oil, herbs, and a bit of salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Pour the chickpea mixture into the greased baking sheet and spread out into an even layer. Once it has cooled slightly, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight (slackers, this can be a few days as well).

Bake the Chicks

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400°F / 200°C (this is a good place for your convection fan, if you’ve got one).
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Slice the firm batter into sticks for chickpea fries, or rounds for burgers, etc.
  3. Line them up on the baking sheet, and brush or spray with a bit of olive oil.
  4. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn to the other side, brush again, and replace in the oven to bake for another 10 minutes. They should be slightly golden and crispy on the outside.
  5. Remove from the oven, salt generously, and serve with dip* of choice (think anything that goes with burgers and fries, or perhaps some liquid gold) and a glass of whatever makes you happy.

*Extra credit for serving Hot Chicks with this homemade version of “Bitchin’ Sauce”  Vegan dip Nirvana that makes a fine accompaniment to Hot Chicks. We’ll make it here later, I promise. And my spicy friends, let’s not forget to invite chile crisp to this party!)

 

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

And, an entire summer later, we’re back in the blogosphere. Long story short, there has been plenty of cooking and feeding going on, but not a ton of uploading and chronicling. Thanks to some kind friends I’ve gotten back to using real, hard copy cookbooks, and the Internet has been as relentless as ever serving up delicious wins and epic fails. Now, it’s time to revisit these favorite recipes so I, a: remember where they are, and b: can share them with my peeps!

We’re going to start back nice and easy. Then we’re going to get a little weird. I promise it’s all good stuff, but weird nonetheless. For now, we have Blueberry Breakfast Cake that I made more times than I can remember last summer. It’s like a delicious collision of a Dutch Bunny a blueberry muffin and a cheesecake.

This comes straight from King Arthur Flour, and it is foolproof. My only additional note is to use a cookie sheet on the rack below if you are using a springform pan, so you don’t bake any blueberry goodness onto your oven floor. Yes, I learned that the hard way.

Other than that, this is bombproof, and perfect for those late harvest blueberries or the ones in your freezer. I hope you love it!

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (124g) granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (85g) melted unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (227g) ricotta cheese
  • 1 cup (227g) sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (120g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups (255g) blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • cinnamon or confectioners’ sugar, for serving (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease an 8″ round cake or springform pan that’s at least 2″ deep. 
  2. In a large mixing bowl, using a whisk attachment (or by hand Laura Ingalls Wilder style), beat together the eggs and sugar until thick and lighter in color. Add the butter, ricotta, sour cream, and vanilla.
  3. Add the flour, salt, and baking powder, mixing until combined.
  4. Pour the batter into the pan and scatter the berries evenly over the top.
  5. Bake the cake for 45 to 50 minutes if using fresh berries (55 to 65 minutes for frozen), until the edges of the cake are lightly browned. The cake should be set throughout, although it will still jiggle when gently shaken.
  6. Remove from the oven and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to firm up. Serve warm with cinnamon or confectioners’ sugar (if desired).
  7. Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 5 days.