Category Archives: Veggie Delight

Liquid Gold

At a time like this, we all have questions. For the less pressing ones, I have an answer, and it involves sauce. The one, big, solvable daily question we are all facing is this: how am I going to make all these random leftovers into a meal without going to the store? This leads to satellite questions like, how much broccoli salad can one person eat in a day (answer: a shocking amount); and, when we’ve reached that point, what am I going to do with all this tahini I bought for that recipe

I’m so glad you asked. Thankfully the internet is now mobbed with tips like this on how to use the things that have been hanging in your pantry, waiting for their moment and your desperation. As mentioned in “get saucy with me,” (a darned useful collection of taste sensations), the right sauce or dressing is sometimes all you need to pull together humble ingredients and make them a feast.

Even though tahini opens up many options, you may need to wait for your next store run to make this baby that minimalist baker calls “liquid gold.” It is easy, fast and delicious, but requires some advanced pantry staples, all of which I promise we’ll use in the weeks to come. Namely, you’ll probably need to wrangle up some nutritional yeast and chickpeas* (Vegans can relax–I know you have these on auto delivery). The rest of you for sure have curry powder, right? And likely turmeric, from that time you vowed to mix up a comforting mug of golden milk to drink after your daily yoga. Or maybe because you actually are drinking golden milk after daily yoga. Namaste you! The rest is all pretty standard pantry fare.

This goes well as a dip or a dressing, and can transform rice, pasta, baked potatoes, sandwiches, quesadillas, salads, etc into something a little more exciting that “that stuff in Tupperware.” Bake up a couple loaves of easiest French bread ever, and you’ve just bought yourself a day off from lunch and snack duty.

Check out Lunch Deconstructed as a solid starting point for how to make leftovers into a feast, and stay tuned for some crock pot clinics on mass production of foundational lunch/snack fare. Does it get more exciting???

I hope you all are staying healthy, sane and well-fed!

*careful and prompt readers will note that the first version of this called out raw cashews. In my isolated state I somehow forgot that no cashews will be pulverized for this sauce. Bonus!

Liquid Gold Sauce

From Minimalist Baker

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chickpeas (rinsed and drained)
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 small cloves garlic, skin removed
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (or sub lime)
  • 1 Tbsp tahini (or cashew butter)
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp curry powder
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin (for milder sauce, omit the cumin and use only curry powder)
  • 1 dash cayenne pepper (optional // omit for less heat)
  • 2 tsp maple syrup (plus more to taste)
  • 1/3 cup water, plus more as needed

Method

  1. To a small blender or food processor (though it won’t be as creamy), add chickpeas, nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon, tahini, salt, ground turmeric, curry powder, ground cumin, cayenne (optional, but c’mon), maple syrup, and water.
  2. Blend on high until creamy and smooth. Add more water as needed until a thick, pourable sauce is achieved.
  3. Taste and adjust flavor as needed, adding more salt to taste, curry powder for spice, tahini for creaminess / nuttiness, lemon for acidity, cayenne for heat, or maple syrup for sweetness.
  4. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator up to 1 week. You can also freeze it up to 1 month and thaw before use (do not heat) although best when fresh.
  5. Perfect for use on just about anything — think roasted sweet potatoes, burrito bowls, salads, and more!

Going for the gold!

Way Bettah Broccoli Salad

Bring It is back! No need to drag you all through a long preamble, but the short story is this: For the first time since New Year’s mama’s got a kitchen again… just in time for eating in place! OK, it’s alllllmost a full kitchen, but it involves running water, a fridge and a dishwasher, so we’re good to go.

I’m going to be serving up recipes with an eye towards feeding all those bonus people —less than 10 but more than two—who may be back in your house. If you don’t have a full house, you may be cooking for someone who doesn’t feel safe getting out to the grocery store or to pick up takeout from the local restaurants. Whatever your jam, chances are it involves more cooking and more time at home.

This is a funky time for sure, and because you may not know what’s available in the grocery store even if you can get there, we’re doubling down on our Bring It ingredients credo, which is: “Love the one you’re with.” As in, modify and substitute as needed, with conviction. Also, because you may find your self needing to provide actual breakfast vs leftovers or cereal, I highly suggest revisiting these overnight sensation muffins and popovers. Minimal evening effort + pantry staples = happy morning tribe.

So, on to today’s recipe that I’ve made countless times since discovering it. It came from my quest for a healthier version of that guiltiest of picnic pleasures—the sweet and creamy bacon broccoli salad. This transcends age, gender and most dietary restrictions. It is a hit with pretty much everyone who eats vegetables. As with most salads, it’s all about the dressing, which features tahini and maple syrup. So, it’s not low fat or low sugar, but you can dial the sweetness (and the amount of dressing you use of course) up or down…or live a little and enjoy it as written.

This is how I make it, but feel free to riff on the options. There’s no wrong answer here. You’re eating raw broccoli fergawdsakes, protecting yourself from the inside out. Go you!

I hope you all stay healthy and happy and are eating well in place.

Way Bettah Broccoli Salad with Lemon-Tahini Dressing

Ingredients

For the salad:

  • 2 medium heads (3/4–1 lb) broccoli
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds (or toasted sunflower seeds)
  • 1/3 cup raisins or dried cranberries
  • 1–2 shallots, thinly-sliced (or red onion in a pinch)
  • 1–2 tsp white sesame seeds (not a dealbreaker. This slacker has never used them)
  • optional: 1/4 cup feta or ricotta salata cheese (same as above)

For the dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp tahini
  • 3–4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp fresh garlic, finely-minced
  • kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Method

Uh…WASH YOUR HANDS (as if we’d forget, but still)

Make the dressing:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini, 3 Tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, and honey until combined. Add up to another tablespoon of oil to thin as desired. Stir in the garlic, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
  2. Or, if saving for later, transfer to an air-tight jar. May be made in advance and kept refrigerated for up to two weeks.

Assemble the salad:

  1. Chop the broccoli into small bite-sized florets. Pro tip: See here how to butcher your broccoli. Basically, hold it by the stem and shave the broccoli tips with a sharp knife, like you’re giving it an all over hair cut. Save the stems for broccoli stem pesto, or soup or whatever moves you.
  2. Toss together the broccoli, shallots, and raisins or cranberries with the dressing. Refrigerate for about an hour. Just before serving, add the almonds, sesame seeds, and feta, if using. Serve chilled.

 

New Year’s Resolution Vegetables with Pomegranate Cha-Cha

Hey! You there by the last swig of eggnog. This is your year. It’s your year to be the one who brings vegetables to the party with your head held high, and your hand held up for a high five. This recipe is your first mission. 

It comes to us from Here and Now’s resident chef Kathy Gunst.  I first made it for this past Thanksgiving. Since then, it’s made a lot of appearances, thanks in large part to the pomegranate de-seeding savvy that can be yours in one quick video tutorial.

As Kathy notes this is a mix and match dish. There is no magic formula, so clean out the veggie drawer, grab the rogue pomegranate that is still hanging in the fruit bowl looking for a purpose, and prepare to impress. The main things to remember here are:

  • Roast vs steam the vegetables. As in, give them their space, and…
  • Group them by type so you can remove veggies that roast quicker and let the others get their due.

Other than that, this recipe is pretty loose, though I’d say Brussels sprouts, some kind of winter squash and red onion are kind of key. This recipe makes tons of dressing, so go ahead and overdo the vegetables if that’s your thing, or just be psyched to have extra pomegranate vinaigrette in your arsenal.

And as if this healthy, beautiful, tasty dish needed another bonus, the veggies can be roasted earlier in the day and the vinaigrette can be made a day ahead of time. Assemble it all just before serving, hot or at room temperature.

Roasted Vegetables with Pomegranate Cha-Cha

Ingredients

  • 8 new potatoes, scrubbed and left whole (if large, cut in half or into quarters)
  • 1 medium sweet potato, scrubbed, and cut into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 1 small Acorn or Carousel winter squash, peeled, cut in half, deribbed, deseeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 to 1 pound Brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and outer leaves removed, left whole
  • 1 large sweet red pepper, cut into 3/4-inch wide strips
  • 1 whole garlic, 1/4-inch sliced off top and left whole
  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and cut in quarters
  • 1 sweet white Vidalia onion, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 cup baby turnips, ends trimmed and left whole (if turnips are bigger than a golf ball, cut in half or into quarters)
  • 8 ounces carrots — about 8 small carrots or 3 to 4 larger ones — peeled, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch long pieces
  • About 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

The Pomegranate Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds and 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice (from 2 fresh pomegranates, or use 1 cups preseeded pomegranate seeds plus 1/3 cup bottled pomegranate juice)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup balsamic or white or red wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Prepare all the vegetables as described above. Place the vegetables a row at a time (keeping all the carrots together, all the onions together in row, etc.) on a large sheet pan or two pans or a shallow roasting pan. You don’t want to use a pan with high sides or it will steam the vegetables rather than let them roast and turn golden brown. Drizzle the olive oil on top and season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from oven and drizzle vinegar on Brussels sprouts. Flip vegetables over and then return the pan(s) to oven for 20 minutes. Check to see if vegetables are done by piercing with a small sharp knife. Remove any vegetables that are tender and continue cooking the others until softened, about 5 to 10 minutes. The vegetables can be roasted a day ahead of time; cover and refrigerate.
  4. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl or Mason jar, mix half the pomegranate seeds and juice (if using), salt, pepper, oil and vinegar. Taste for seasoning. The dressing can be made a day or two ahead of time.
  5. If you made the vegetables a day ahead of time, remove from the refrigerator. After you remove the turkey from the oven, place the vegetables in a 300-degree oven for about 10 minutes or until warmed through.
  6. Arrange the vegetables on a serving platter and drizzle with a few tablespoons of the vinaigrette and the remaining 1/2 cup of pomegranate seeds. Serve remaining vinaigrette on the side.

Just Peachy Caprese Salad

I figured it was over…summer, patio nights, ice cream stands—the whole thing. But when I walked in the store earlier this week I saw them—peaches. In fact, we officially have a few more days of summer. So, hold your apples and squash. We’ll get to those soon enough. For now, we have, well, not really recipes, but inspiration for how to fully exploit the last of the summer produce. I’m looking at you, peaches. And corn, you’re next.

Wayyy earlier this summer a very stylish friend introduced me to the most gorgeous take on a caprese salad, substituting ripe peaches, nectarines and plums for tomatoes. Brilliant! It was so good and so perfect (so long ago) I figured I’d missed the peach train. But she was wily that friend, and must have had some inside track on perfect pre season peaches. Flash forward to a few weeks later in California, when another friend brought massive, juicy white peaches to the party. Still later back in the northeast another friend gave me a bag of the most insanely sweet pluots. I vowed, a: to keep these friends close, and b: to buy peaches, plums and related stone fruits like it was my job until they were gone.

If they weren’t ripe I shoved them into a paper bag and waited until they were. If they were ripe they were lucky to get home before getting cut up immediately. I made peach salsa, a simple concoction of peaches and all the usual salsa suspects: jalapeno, lime, red onion, cilantro. That morphed easily into a peach bruschetta by spooning it atop toasts spread with mascarpone cheese. I even made a sugarless, no oil or fat added super virtuous peach tart which was delicious but was also the least photogenic thing on the planet. I urge you to try it, and focus on its inner beauty. Then, there was the brilliant blogger who suggested freezing leftover white wine (what’s that anyway?) and blending it up with fresh peaches for an instant Happy Hour Slurpee.

So there we have it—a few ways to enjoy your peaches and stone fruits, even though they are perfect as is. If you need an actual recipe, here is one from Real Life Delicious (which never disappoints). If you’re good with freelancing it, here is a loose guide for making Peach Caprese Salad. If you are so moved to add a sprinkling of fresh corn, you might start a trend.

Just Peachy Caprese Salad

Ingredients:

  • Greens of choice
  • Ripe peaches, nectarines, plums or pluots in any combo
  • Fresh Burrata or Mozzarella or a bit of both
  • Avocado (optional, but kind of not optional for Vegans)
  • Pesto or torn basil leaves
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic glaze or good balsamic vinegar (extra credit to mix the vinegar with some maple syrup if you don’t have the glaze)
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

Arrange greens in a layer on a platter.

Top with fruit slices.

Cover with slices or shreds of cheese, and/or slices of avocado.

Drizzle with pesto or scatter basil leaves on top.

Drizzle with just enough olive oil so all your ingredients feel a little love.

Drizzle (because you are so good at it now) with balsamic glaze, balsamic vinegar or balsamic/maple concoction.

Give the whole shebang a shake of salt and pepper.

Bringing it:

This is a total make on site thing. Bust out the fresh produce and get your friends to help, or let them drink their peach slurpees and watch you create the masterpiece. It’s all good.

 

Chile Crisp, Condiment of the Year

And now, in time for your Labor Day entertaining, I present the third of three condiments, and by far the best. I discovered this recipe way back in early summer, nestled in the margin of “The Simple Issue”  of Bon Appetit. Within a week the page was permanently folded back, stained and a little greasy, and since then my fridge has never NOT had a jar of chile crisp in residence.

The catch on this spicy, sassy, savory creation is that it takes some effort to make. You can cut yourself some slack by buying pre-peeled garlic cloves. Even with those, you’re still going to have to do a lot of thin slicing. Soooo, dig deep! It’s the last weekend of summer, people. Get yourself a sharp knife and a good playlist and get going. There’s still time to make yourself the MVP by bringing this to the party, or spicing up your own patio fare.

But first, a couple of things: I’ve now made this several times , and each time I’ve overdone it on the volume of shallots. Only once did they really crisp up—which was tremendous and worth cranking up the heat a bit and then babysitting the pot until they were evenly brown. That said, it was pretty tremendous all the other times too. Just make sure you brown the shallots and garlic without burning them. I now use a bigger pot than seems necessary, which allows the shallots to really relax in their hot oil bath.

It’s worth going to the original Bon Appetit recipe and reading the comments. I think “off the hook” is the best reader description. We’ve put it on burgers, quesadillas, sandwiches, pizza, baked sweet potatoes and eggs; into salads and on bruschetta and burratta and toast. It’s so going to get stirred into soups this fall. I may draw the line at using it as an ice cream topper, but…no promises.

Finally, there is apparently an excellent version of this at Trader Joe’s called chile onion crunch. Add that to the pain of not having a TJ’s near me. For now, I chop.

PS This one goes out to Sister B, who hates bread and butter pickles and cilantro (see quick, easy, cheap salsa), but hung in there for this. Three’s the charm, baby.

Chile Crisp

Ingredients

  • 4 small shallots, thinly sliced (I end up with 1 1/2 cups or so, which is probably wayyyy too much, but I’m greedy and my shallots are apparently jumbo)
  • 2 heads of garlic (HEADS, not cloves), separated into cloves, sliced. (Google says that’s about 24 cloves)
  • 1½ cups vegetable oil
  • 2 3″ cinnamon sticks
  • 6 star anise pods
  • 1 2″ piece ginger, peeled, very finely chopped
  • ¼ cup crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. sugar

Method:

  • Bring shallots, garlic, oil, cinnamon, and star anise to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, reducing heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer and swirling pot occasionally, until garlic and shallots are browned and crisp, 20–25 minutes.

    Shallots prepping for the spa

    (Take your time—you want to drive all the moisture out before they brown.)

  • Mix ginger, red pepper, soy sauce, and sugar in a medium bowl. Strain shallot mixture through a fine-mesh sieve set over ginger mixture. Let garlic and shallot cool in sieve (this will allow them to crisp further) before stirring back into chile oil. This is the time to take out the cinnamon and star anise too.
  • Do Ahead: Crisp can be made 1 month ahead. Cover and chill.

Bringing It:

Divide the goods into one big jar or smaller jars that you can fit a spoon into. Put the lids on tight and prepare to make a lot of friends. If you pour off a bunch of the oil you can then use it to make a sassy version of aquafaba mayo.

A shortcut worth every penny

Quick, Easy, Cheap Salsa

I know, it’s summer and we should be all about fresh tomatoes (and corn of course). That said, when it comes to salsa, you can really never have enough. So, when there is a quick, easy and cheap way to make a boatload of salsa yourself, bring on the can opener. (For further proof of canned tomato greatness, see Funitella Bruschetta.)

No need to belabor the intro here. I love a chunky fresh salsa with all kinds or weirdness in it: beans, corn, mango, etc. I also love a straight up tomato salsa with fresh jalapeno, lime and cilantro. This is that salsa, AKA Pioneer Woman’s Restaurant Salsa (she even gives you a video in case pushing buttons is a challenge). It makes a TON, so get a few jars ready, fire up your food processor and be ready for the weekend.

Coming up next: The third of three must-have condiments. Get a playlist and a sharp knife and prepare for some chopping. I promise it’s worth it!

Quick, Easy, Cheap Salsa

Ingredients

Two 10-ounce cans diced tomatoes and green chiles, such as Rotel
One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes with juice 
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves (or more to taste)
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 whole jalapeno, quartered and sliced thin, with seeds and membrane (2 is perfectly reasonable)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1/2 whole lime, juiced

Method

This is a very large batch. you’re totally safe with a 12-cup food processor, or you can process the ingredients in batches and then mix everything together in a large mixing bowl.

  • Combine the cilantro, onions, garlic and jalapeno in a blender or food processor and pulse a few times to get them in the same zone size wise, not too pulverized. (If you do this step you can be a little lazier with your chopping). Add the diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, cumin, salt, sugar and lime juice.
  • Pulse until you get the salsa to the consistency you’d like. I do about 10 to 15 pulses. Test seasonings with a tortilla chip and adjust as needed. 
  • Refrigerate the salsa for at least an hour before serving.

Bringing it:

Divide the batch into as many jars as you like and you are ready to take your show on the road. This is NOT shelf stable, so keep it in the fridge.

 

Roasted Squash, Kale and Cranberry Salad

To borrow a sentiment from Teen Angst, “what the world needs now is another kale salad like I need a hole in my head” And yet, here you have it. This came out of the Cooking Light archives—an actual print version that was hanging around my cluttered pantry of angst. It was the answer to my prayers when my garden of tomatoes died back enough to reveal a whole lot of kabocha (buttercup) and delicata squash. I’ve made this with both types of squash and it was fantastic. I suspect it’d be grand with butternut as well.

To make this meal-worthy salad you’re basically massaging up a bed of kale with a touch of olive oil. Now don’t be coy—we’re no strangers to massaging kale. Roasted squash goes on top of that, followed by thinly sliced red onion for sass and plumped up dried cranberries for a little sweet and same fall color.

It took all my will NOT add nuts to this bed of goodness, but I resisted and did not miss them a bit. Neither did my nut-weary family.

  • Bonus: This can be made ahead and hang out until dinner is served.
  • Double Bonus: It travels like a champ and is easily assembled on site.
  • Triple bonus: The leftovers are excellent, because we all know dressed kale can survive the apocalypse.

I hate to sounds bossy, but please make this now, so if you like it as much as I do you can sign up to bring it to Thanksgiving. I know…we’re not even at Halloween. But what can I say? Squash turns my crank. And now, on to pomegranates. Oh…yeah…baby! Happy Fall

Roasted Squash, Kale and Cranberry Salad

From Cooking Light

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large unpeeled green or orange kabocha squash (about 5 lb.), cut into 12 (1/2-in.-thick) wedges (or delicata squash, seeded and cut in 1/2″ rounds)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 teaspoons coarsely ground coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 6 tablespoons dried cranberries (or dried cherries to be tart and fancy)
  • 6 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly vertically sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 (7 1/2-oz.) bunch lacinato kale, stemmed and cut into 3/4-in.-wide strips (curly kale works fine too)

Method:

Preheat oven to 375°F

Combine squash, 1 tablespoon olive oil, coriander seeds, pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, tossing gently with hands to coat. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cover with foil. Bake at 375°F for 10 minutes. Remove foil; bake 15 more minutes or until pumpkin is tender and browned, turning once.

While pumpkin roasts, combine cranberries, vinegar, brown sugar, mustard seeds, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Bring to a simmer; remove from heat. Steep 15 minutes or until almost all of the liquid is absorbed.

Place onion in a bowl of ice-cold water; let stand 10 minutes. Drain

Toss lemon juice, kale, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl, massaging kale with hands to soften. Transfer kale to a large serving platter; top with pumpkin and onion. Sprinkle with cranberries.

Bringing it:  Roast the squash, prep onions and cranberries and massage the kale in the privacy of your own home. Bring them all separately and assemble on a platter when you get to your destination. It can hang out until you’re ready to eat.

Aquafaba Mayo: Magic for the Leftover Feast

Let the sandwich building begin!

Yum. The work and the stress are over. All that remains are the leftovers. Well Hallelujah to that! The Holy Grail of the Leftover Kingdom is the turkey sandwich. It can be a straight up turkey affair, a turkey salad mixture or an elaborate layering of turkey, stuffing and cranberry. Any way you slice it, however, an essential element for many of us is the dollop of mayo.

Alas, mayo can turn an otherwise healthy meal into an irresponsible feeling indulgence. That is, until you discover aquafaba mayo. We’ve dabbled in aquafaba here before, and in the sheer wackiness of using the liquid from a can of chickpeas as an egg substitute. I mean, who knew?  This iteration tastes great, and can be made even more delicious by blending in fresh herbs or by cutting it with ABC Summer Sauce

But I’m getting ahead of myself here. Baby steps…first, make this heart-healthy mayo if you’re feeling experimental or impressing the Vegans in your midst. You can roast the chickpeas or use them in party time hummus for your weekend festivities. Then, start enjoying those leftovers—even this Vegan pumpkin pie— with a little extra glow in your halo. Happy Black Friday all. I hope you’re enjoying it in whatever way makes you smile!

Aquafaba Mayonnaise

Ingredients

  • 115-ounce can of chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon fine salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • ¾ cup sunflower oil *

*Safflower and other neutral oils work also, but avoid using olive oil. It gives it a weird taste.

Method

  1. Drain the chickpeas, reserving the bean liquid. Save chickpeas for another use. Measure out 1/4 cup of the bean liquid (aquafaba) in a large glass measuring cup. Add vinegar, salt, sugar, lemon juice and dry mustard.
  2. Using an immersion blender (or a really good regular blender), mix until combined. With the blender running, very slowly drizzle in the oil in a thin stream. It should take 4 to 5 minutes to add all of the oil. The mixture will emulsify and thicken.

Okey Poke: Watermelon Poke Bowls

All the Fixin’s for a Poke Feast

At about this time, in the height of summer, we might as well throw up our hands and say, “It’s all about watermelon!” Seriously, between watermelon rosemary lemonade, watermelon salad, watermelon gazpacho and the soon-to-be shared watermelon jalapeño margaritas, I am hard pressed to get really excited about any other ingredient. But, like mama said, you must eat your veggies. And your protein. And your condiments (summer is condiment season after all).

This brings me to the poke bowl (say po-kay unless you want to horrify foodies and make Californians smirk). Poke originated as a thing in Hawaii, where fisherman needed a tasty way to use the trimmed scraps of freshly caught tuna. Bonus points for being able to serve it all out of a cooler. They did this by marinating it, putting it over sticky rice and then dressing it up with whatever condiments felt right. Intrigued by the sheer magnitude of food combining possibilities in one dish, I set out in search of my perfect poke match. I’m a huge fan of fresh raw tuna, as long as it is procured, prepared and paid for by someone else. When I saw watermelon poke taking over the Internet, I knew I’d met my destiny.

Watermelon poke, where watermelon stands in for tuna, is often made with raw watermelon which is quickly marinated. It is fine but bears little resemblance in taste or texture to tuna, and the perkiness drains right out of the watermelon after serving time. This version, adapted from Bon Appetit—in which the watermelon is marinated, cooked, then chilled until ready to be used—produces watermelon that is strangely similar in taste, texture and appearance to tuna. This not only gives you an easy, storable for days, cheap alternative to tuna, but it also makes the Vegans (not to mention the tuna) happy. Ba-da-bing! We have a winner!

As with any new type of food, the process can seem daunting at first. I promise, however, that it is low skill and effort/ high return. Here is what you’re doing:

  • Dicing the watermelon, and putting it in a simple marinade, ideally overnight.
  • Cooking that entire mixture down for 30 minutes then chilling it. At this point, or after the next step, it can chill in the fridge for up to a few days.
  • Tossing the cooked, cooled watermelon with sliced sweet and green onions, sesame seeds and soy sauce. Chill until needed (see above)
  • Cooking up a batch of sushi rice with some honey and vinegar. This can be served hot or made ahead and served cold.
  • Assembling your universe of your favorite fresh toppings, sauces and condiments.

Poke bowls are built around the upside of prep. Set up your basic elements and you can throw them together anytime, anywhere. They use what you have, what you love and what is fresh and available. They are the perfect cultural marriage of all your favorite things and a fully customizable feast.

With so many topping choices it is hard to decide what actual recipes to include here in your watermelon poke primer. For me, and for my very satisfied (and patient) extended family, the key components are the watermelon, the sushi rice and a few key condiments. The toppings are where you make this your own, and change it up based on mood, dietary constraints, availability, etc. My must haves among these are: pickled ginger for zing, avocado for creaminess, toasted peanuts or sesame seeds for crunch; scallions, chives or some such representative from the onion family to keep your taste buds honest.  

Sauces? Homemade are awesome, but sometimes enough is enough. Store bought faves can be as good or better.

And now, for the main event. Make a batch of the watermelon poke and store it in the fridge for poke bowls as needed. Bring it chilled, along with your cooked rice and an array of condiments to make a poke bowl bar for a party or picnic. This right here, my friends, will rocket you straight to the Bring It All Star Zone.

Watermelon Poke Bowl with a creamy sesame sriracha sauce.

Watermelon Poke Bowls

Mostly from justthefood.com 

  • Watermelon Poke (recipe below)
  • Sweet sushi rice (recipe below)
  • Diced cubed fresh vegetables
  • Savory sauces, crunchy toppings and condiments

The Watermelon Poke

Don’t fear cooking the watermelon. It will not disintegrate, but will assume the look and texture of raw tuna. Trust the process that will transform your watermelon from sweet to savory and into a weirdly awesome, Vegan-friendly science project.

For the marinated watermelon

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons Tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 pounds cubed red seedless watermelon (about 6 cups), cut it into small cubes no larger than ½-inch. The consistent, smallish dice is key.

Method:

Mix together marinade in a shallow dish with a lid, or a re-sealable plastic bag.
Add watermelon and refrigerate for at least one hour, but it’s even better if you can do it overnight. Transfer marinated watermelon to a pan with a lid.
Cook covered on medium high heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the lid and continue cooking for about 10 minutes more, or until deep red and translucent and most of the liquid has been absorbed. If you have a really juicy watermelon, you can drain off any excess liquid.
 Chill until ready to serve.

For the Poke

  • 1 recipe marinated watermelon
  • 1 cup julienne cut Maui Onions
  • 1 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce

Add all ingredients to a bowl and toss to coat. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

The Sweet Sticky Rice

This sweet rice makes a perfect base to serve under your Poke. Use an Ice Cream Scoop for perfectly shaped balls of rice.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups short grain arborio or sushi rice, rinsed
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons honey or agave
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Method:

Mix all ingredients together in the bowl of your rice cooker and follow the directions on your rice cooker. If you do not have a rice cooker, bring salt and water to a boil in a pot with a tight fitting lid. Stir in remaining ingredients. Return to a low simmer, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until water has been absorbed. 

The Condiments

Here’s a list of options to get you started:

  • Pickled ginger
  • Cubed avocado
  • Cubed mango
  • Cubed cucumber
  • Thinly sliced radishes
  • Thinly sliced scallions
  • Chopped chives
  • Fried shallots
  • Dry roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • sprouts and/or seeds
  • Cilantro or mint
  • Ponzu or shoyu sauce
  • Furikake (now that you’ve got it from your popcorn adventure)

Assembling the Poke Bowls

Mound a scoop of rice in a bowl (not on an plate—that’s just the way it’s got to be).

Top with a scoop of watermelon poke. Top it off with your favorite condiments, then add a drizzle of your favorite sauce(s). You know what to do!

 

Summer Perfection Watermelon Tomato Feta Salad

Cool, juicy, crunchy, sweet, savory, tangy. Oh watermelon salad you have it all!

I had a feeling that Memorial Day weekend would deliver. It did in the form of this watermelon salad. Quite simply, you need this in your summer life. I’ve seen watermelon feta salads aplenty but for some reason have never made them. Perhaps too many failed attempts at grilling watermelon “steaks” killed my ambition to bridge the sweet/salty gap with watermelon.

But thanks to Jenny—who not only brought this salad to a party, but also preemptively tracked me down to deliver the recipe because she heard from so many people that I wanted it—here it is! Thank you to Jenny for saving me so much anxiety and sticky kitchen experimentation.

Looking through the notes on the original recipe there are all kinds of variations. While I applaud the will to experiment, for me, if it ain’t broke…After all, it’s only early June. We have all summer to try it with lime juice instead of vinegar, to saute the sliced almonds in a little butter first, or maybe to add some jalapenos or spice. But then again, maybe not. It may be as close to perfection as I can bear.

This recipe does make a ton, so adjust amounts accordingly if that concerns you. A platter of this salad atop arugula looks pretty darned impressive. Made as directed, the watermelon chunks, are big, which seems a little odd. But that also makes it a knife and fork salad, which is somehow more satisfying.

Summer Perfection Watermelon Tomato Feta Salad

From Epicurious

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 cups 1 1/4-inch chunks seedless watermelon (about 6 pounds)
  • 3 pounds ripe tomatoes (preferably heirloom) in assorted colors, cored, cut into 1 1/4-inch chunks (about 6 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) fleur de sel or coarse kosher salt
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped assorted fresh herbs (such as dill, basil, and mint)
  • 6 cups fresh arugula leaves or small watercress sprigs
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 5 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, lightly toasted

Method

    1. Combine melon and tomatoes in large bowl. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon fleur de sel and toss to blend; let stand 15 minutes. Add 4 tablespoons oil, vinegar, and herbs to melon mixture. Season to taste with pepper and more salt, if desired.
    2. Toss arugula in medium bowl with remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Divide arugula among plates. Top with melon salad; sprinkle with feta cheese and toasted almonds and serve.

Bringing It:

Keep the watermelon cold as long as possible before serving, and cut up the watermelon and tomatoes as close to serving time as you can. If you need to cut them up at home, hold off on tossing them with the salt until 15 minutes before serving. This looks beautiful on a platter atop the arugula, or in a big bowl with the arugula tossed right in.