Buddha Bowls with Tahini Sauce

Buddha Bowls with Tahini Sauce

https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/buddha-bowls/

Like all the recipes on this week’s menu, this one comes from Dinner at the Zoo. This blog is one of my favorite resources for quick-and-easy dinners, but it’s pretty chicken-intensive. Which is no problem, but I’m usually not in the mood for a full week of chicken dinners, even if they’re all done in various different ways. So when I spied this simple vegetarian quinoa bowl, I figured it would be a nice healthy way to round out the menu. With an ingredients list that included tahini *and* maple syrup, I wasn’t sure it would be a home-run flavor-wise. But cashews, avocado, and sweet potatoes are all favorites of mine, and I was curious enough that I decided to give it a shot.

Fun note:  I got to try out my Black Sheep dark maple syrup, which I found at our little corner market in Hampton.  It’s locally made and is smoked, which I never knew was an option for maple syrup, but it has a really amazing, complex, deep flavor.  A little more savory than your standard grocery store syrup, but still very sweet and perfect on pancakes, as well as sauces like this one.  Canada knows what it’s doing when it comes to maple syrup.

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A couple of notes for next time: I found that the sauce was not remotely drizzly. I must have had a thicker tahini than hers to start with. I tend to add lemon juice in half-lemon increments, rather than tablespoons as recipe authors usually direct. So I added a half-lemon’s worth of juice, which I think was about 2 tablespoons (twice as much as written), and it was still paste-like. I tasted it and found it a little bitter and also a little too sweet, so I tried adding some soy sauce. That tasted better but was still pretty pasty, so I added just a tiny bit of water to thin it out. It still didn’t exactly drizzle; it was more of a gloopy consistency. (Technical term.)

Additionally, my sweet potatoes and chickpeas were not as roasted as I wanted them to be after 20 minutes at 400. I actually turned the temp up to 440 with about 10 minutes to go, and cooked them an additional 5-10 minutes for 25-30 minutes total. I think that roasting at a higher temp from the start is the way to go. Heads up: my sweet potatoes released a lot of hot steam, so when you open the oven be sure to wear an oven mitt!

I have to admit that as I was dishing this up, I was feeling skeptical. The sauce still tasted bitter to me, and with a lot of understated flavors in the dish, I was expecting it to taste… well, you know, healthy.

But my fears were totally unfounded. I took the first bite and it was loaded with amazing flavor. (Granted, the liberal splash of soy sauce I added might have had something to do with that.) The roasting brought out the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and the nuttiness of the chickpeas. I was about halfway done with my plate and thinking, “Man, this is great, but I kinda wish it had another green vegetable in it…” and then I realized I’d forgotten all about the spinach. I threw on a handful, and the rest of the plate was perfect. It might sound implausible to suddenly crave a green vegetable, but it was just a little heavy without. The extra greens brightened it up; and because I don’t actually like greens that much, I’m always happy to find an opportunity to eat them without hating my life. 😛

I had plenty of leftovers after eating one bowl of this, so I dished the quinoa, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas into three serving-sized tupperwares with the remaining sauce. They kept well in the freezer; I ate some a few days later with fresh toppings, and they tasted basically the same as when they were made. Definitely a convenient healthy lunchtime option; I would definitely make this again.

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Deliciousness score: 7
Easiness score: 7

 

Vegetarian Crispy Chickpea Tacos

Vegetarian Crispy Chickpea Tacos

https://www.macheesmo.com/crispy-chickpea-tacos/

These tacos were the hands-down star of chickpea week. I’m already a big fan of Macheesmo, and these definitely didn’t disappoint. A creative change of pace from standard taco fillings, they’re a perfect snack or entree for hot summer days. No oven required; you just sauté the chickpeas for a little while on the stove.

I was initially skeptical of the prep time for these (prep time 10 minutes, total time 25 minutes), as recipes in general (and Macheesmo recipes in particular) often take me longer than the stated time. I may be timing it differently; I start counting when I walk in the kitchen door, but I think many recipe authors assume that some of the basic prep work is out of the way first. Things like getting out your knives and cutting boards, getting the spices out of the cupboard, untying the knots on the plastic produce bags (which I assume some adorable person out there is actually doing; I just rip into them obviously) and throwing them away. My kitchen layout is pretty middle-of-the-road, neither notably efficient nor irritatingly horrible, but I do find that logistical stuff like this adds up. I’m also still learning what order works best for each recipe I make; sometimes I realize I started the wrong thing first and could have saved a lot of time by chopping one thing while something else was roasting, etc. I’m getting better at it, but with a new recipe it’s not always obvious right away.

Anyway, all that to say that I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly this came together. I mixed up the chickpeas first and started them frying while prepping the other ingredients. Since the cooking time for the chickpeas is pretty flexible, it worked out really well.

I also saved time by using a pre-chopped broccoli slaw mix in place of radicchio, since I find radicchio too bitter. I looked for sliced cabbage at my grocery store, but broccoli slaw was the closest thing they had, and it turned out great. Honestly, I think you could substitute a lot of different things and still get a great result. You’re just trying to add a little crunch; any firm, mild-tasting green veggie, cabbage, or even kale or lettuce would probably be fine.

I also couldn’t find queso fresco at my local market. (My Canadian fiance tells me that Mexican food isn’t a big thing up here, which is good news as far as he’s concerned but super disappointing for me.) I substituted bocconcini, which as far as I can tell is some kind of mozzarella relative. I knew that queso fresco was a simple cheese, not aged at all but eaten fresh, and the bocconcini seemed to fit that description. It turned out fine; I think cheddar or spicy jack or even feta would also be tasty.

It all looked so pretty laid out in taco bar form.

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The lime sour cream sauce was fantastic – so simple to throw together and super delicious. I actually used the full lime’s worth of juice with the same amount of sour cream, and the extra citrus zing was really nice.

Keeping the sauce and veggie slaw separate makes it easier to store, too. I packed everything up and enjoyed it just as much for lunch the next day. But if you were serving a crowd, you could toss the veggies with the sauce to save a little time.

All in all, a super satisfying, light, and tasty recipe that I’ll definitely be making over and over this summer.

Deliciousness Score: 9
Easiness Score: 6

2.3 pinterest

Grilled Zucchini Corn Tostadas with Spicy Hummus

Grilled Zucchini Corn Tostadas with Spicy Hummus

http://www.nomingthrulife.com/grilled-zucchini-corn-tostadas-spicy-hummus/

This is one of the best recipes I’ve come across in terms of effort-to-deliciousness ratio. It only takes a little bit of work, and the payoff is more than worth it. As long as you have all the ingredients on hand and have the time to grill or roast the veggies, the prep work is a snap, and you end up with a flavor-packed dish that seems like it must have been a lot harder than it really was.

If you have a grill, this is an easy summer staple, great for a light dinner or substantial snack. We technically do have a grill at our house, brand new this summer in fact, buuuuuuuuuut… it’s electric. I have mixed feelings about the electric grill. My fiancé, who is all about no-fuss cooking and alternative energy, was super excited about it, and has had mostly positive results so far. He cooks a lot more meat than I do, and has been very pleased with the grill’s ability to produce precisely-cooked, extra-juicy steaks and such. Personally though, grilling doesn’t do much for me if it doesn’t suffuse everything with that smoky, charred charcoal flavor. We do have some hickory chips for smoking; sometimes they make a difference? But mostly, food isn’t on the grill long enough to really absorb the smoke. I will admit that the setup and cleanup are much less hassle than with a standard charcoal grill. But with some things, the extra work is worth it, and for me summer grilling is one of these things.

That said, when I myself am already roasting from the heat of the day and just can’t deal with the idea of turning on the oven, the grill does a totally adequate job of cooking veggies.  If you’re looking to avoid heating up your kitchen, you can definitely go this route.  When the weather is cooler, I generally use the oven for this recipe.  I don’t roast the vegetables whole in this case. Instead, I dice the zucchini and cut the kernels off the corn, then spread everything in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Add some salt and pepper, toss/stir a bit to combine, and then roast at 425 for about 20 minutes. Your time & temperature may vary; sometimes I bump it up to 445 and roast for a shorter time. You do have to stay in the kitchen and keep an eye on it to avoid ending up with a blackened mess (ask me how I know), but I like to have a little bit of char on roasted vegetables, and the higher temp is great for that (as long as you pull it out in time).

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Once you have your grilled or roasted veggies, it’s just a matter of assembly; spread your hummus on tostadas or tortillas, then top with veggies. I also add feta cheese or queso fresco on top, which I highly recommend. The recipe includes a tasty basic hummus recipe, but naturally you can use any hummus you like, including storebought; if you’re not making hummus from scratch (or are using previously-prepared hummus), it cuts down the prep time even more. I do find that spicy hummus really shines in this recipe, moreso than regular hummus (and I say that as a total lightweight when it comes to spicy foods) – I never order above a 1 at Thai restaurants, but I do like a little spice in this. If you only have regular hummus on hand, you can always throw it into the food processor with a little cayenne pepper or chili powder.

Also, I find that I actually prefer regular tortillas to tostadas here. The tostadas are tricky to eat; they tend to drop toppings if you try to eat them with your hands, but they still crumble awkwardly if you go after them with knife and fork. A soft tortilla can be rolled up like a burrito, and is more convenient in my opinion. Alternatively, you could serve these like nachos, with either tortilla chips or pita chips – a unique & tasty appetizer, easy to whip up in small or large amounts.

I’m always excited to find quick, healthy vegetarian recipes that deliver strong flavors, and this one doesn’t disappoint. I come back to it every couple months and it’s solid every time. You could definitely experiment with other veggie toppings, too: roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives, or really anything you like. Hope you’ll give it a try this summer and let me know how it goes!

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 9

2.2 pinterest

Grocery List – Week 5 – Dinners That Won’t Heat Up Your Kitchen

Summer is here, and even in Canada the weather is officially hot. It’s gorgeous out and the garden is loving it, but the last thing I want to do in the evening is turn on the oven. So this week I have a list of light, refreshing entrees that are great for hot evenings, no oven required. They’re all pretty versatile:  handheld wraps, tacos, or tostadas that would also make easy lunches or tasty snacks.

You might also sense a chickpea theme; for whatever reason, chickpeas just sounded totally delicious to me this week, so if you’ve got some chickpeas hiding in the back of your pantry, now is a good time to break them out. Also note that this week is 100% vegetarian. If you need a more substantial protein, you can easily throw some grilled chicken into any of these dishes.

Note: It’s unlikely that you’ll use up all your sour cream on entrees this week. Usually I try to plan more than one Mexican recipe in a week when I’m buying sour cream, but with the chickpea theme it didn’t quite happen this week. My latest favorite way to use up extra sour cream is to whip up a batch of Sally’s master muffins:

https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2017/04/19/master-muffin-recipe/

They’re infinitely customizable; you can throw in chocolate, bananas, peanut butter, berries, nuts, whatever you like. I made some with haskap berries from our local market last week and they were totally delicious. I may or may not do a writeup on the muffins this week, but just something to keep in mind if you have extra sour cream on hand.

 


Recipes

Roasted Zucchini Corn Tostadas with Spicy Hummus from Noming Thru Life

Avocado Chickpea Lettuce Wraps from Gluten Free Vegan Pantry

Crispy Chickpea Tacos from Macheesmo


 

Shopping List

Produce

2 avocados
celery
green onions
2 lemons
Boston lettuce (or another lettuce with large leaves)
3 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers
radicchio or sliced cabbage
red onion
1 serrano pepper
cilantro
1 lime
2 large zucchini
3 ears of corn

Optional toppings for chickpea lettuce wraps:
cherry tomatoes
alfalfa sprouts
cucumbers

Shelves

3 cans chickpeas (15 oz.)
medium flour or corn tortillas
1 jar roasted red peppers
tahini

Refrigerated/Frozen

queso fresco
sour cream

Pantry Staples

garlic
salt, pepper
olive oil
cumin
chili powder
cayenne powder

Homemade Pitas & Hummus

Homemade Pitas & Hummus

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1016071-homemade-pita-bread?login=email (* See footnote.)

The first time I watched someone make pita bread from scratch, I was totally enthralled. My roommate in my early 20’s, a cafe manager and avid baker, would make huge batches of pitas like it was no big deal. I’d never seen it in person, and found it totally magical: the rounds of flatbread dough are tossed onto a very hot pan in a very hot oven, and within a minute or two they puff up into perfect little balloons. It’s quite captivating, and even now having done it a few times myself, it still hasn’t gotten old.

So, the key feature of pitas is the hollow pocket that forms inside as they bake, perfect for stuffing with your favorite sandwich fillings. Why does pita dough puff that way, you ask? The key is to put fairly moist, thinly-rolled dough into a very hot oven. When you do that, a couple of things happen. First, the intense heat quickly starts to solidify the outer surfaces of the pita. At the same time, it penetrates to the center, turning the moisture inside the dough into steam. That steam expands and pushes outward from the interior as it forms. And because the outer surfaces have already baked a little bit, they are solid enough to stay intact as the steam pushes on them, forming the hollow pocket.

With that in mind, these are the keys to perfectly-puffing pitas:

1) Don’t work too much flour into the dough as you knead. Just dust it with barely enough to keep it from being completely unmanageable. Too much flour will soak up all the moisture you need to create steam at bake time.

2) Roll the dough out pretty thin. The NYT recipe says to go for 1/8”. I find that a little bit unattainable; 1/4” is also a reasonable goal, or somewhere in between. If it’s any thicker, the heat won’t penetrate to the center quickly enough.

3) Place the dough onto a pre-heated object of some kind in your very hot oven. A baking stone or cast iron skillet would be great options. I don’t have either of those, so I use a cookie sheet turned upside-down. (Turning it upside-down was my fiance’s suggestion; he thinks it traps more heat underneath, and it does seem to produce good results.) Also, don’t put the next batch into the oven at the same time you take the previous batch out. I have better luck if I close the door and let the pan reheat for about one minute in between batches.

And arguably, I’d say the fourth key is: if it doesn’t puff, don’t sweat it. Some won’t. This batch I made today was my best batch to date, and I’d still say about a third of the pitas have incomplete puffs. Doesn’t matter at all; they’re still delicious.

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So, once you have your delicious puffy pitas, you need something to put in them! I love making hummus from scratch; the hardest part is finding out where your grocery store keeps the tahini. From there, you just whizz everything together in a food processor, adjusting proportions to your taste and adding whatever extras you want. My current favorite recipe is Tori Avey’s:

http://toriavey.com/toris-kitchen/2010/07/classic-hummus/

Tori Avey has done extensive research into the history of Middle Eastern cuisine; I definitely plan to try more recipes from her site in the near future. I’ve also used her tutorial on roasting red peppers (which, incidentally, are great to throw into this hummus if you have them on hand).

This recipe is a nice starting point with good proportions. I typically halve it, since two full cans of chickpeas make more hummus than I can eat in a reasonable amount of time. Or I should say, I halve everything except the garlic. Full disclosure: I love garlic. In the entire time I’ve been cooking, with all my numerous misadventures, I’ve yet to make a recipe that caused me to think, “Man, I put too much garlic into this.” (And I put a lot of garlic into things.)

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Looks about right.

But of course, this is the joy of making your own hummus – you can fine tune it according to your tastes. 😉

The point of making pitas & hummus this week is to have another way to enjoy your leftover chopped Greek salad. It’s a perfect pre-made sandwich filling; just add it to your pita along with some hummus and extra feta cheese for a quick & tasty dinner, lunch, or snack.

Deliciousness score: 8
Easiness score: 6

6.3 rating

* Note: This recipe from the New York Times does require a free account to view. I balked at this the first few times they hit me with it, but eventually signed up and haven’t regretted it; their cooking column is pretty interesting, if a bit aspirational. This isn’t an affiliate link or anything like that; I just like their pita recipe.

Avocado Toast with Chili Lime Corn Salad

Avocado Toast with Chili Lime Corn Salad

http://lovelylittlekitchen.com/chili-lime-sweet-corn-salad/

This is a dead simple little salad that jumped out at me when I was looking for something to do with my leftover cilantro this week. With only six ingredients, it couldn’t be easier to throw together, especially in summer when I’m always looking for excuses to buy corn on the cob. Just toss grilled, roasted, or boiled corn with some lime juice, butter, chili powder, and cilantro, then add feta cheese and salt to taste.  (The author recommends queso fresco, but I always have a hard time finding this in my grocery store; the feta works just fine.)  The recipe also says to boil the corn, which would be perfectly fine too, but it’s extra-amazing with grilled corn.  And you have the added bonus of not having to heat up your kitchen at all.

It’s not quite a complete dinner on its own, but it’s a perfect side dish or snack. My favorite way to eat it is as a topping on avocado toast.

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I just discovered avocado toast; apparently it’s been a big deal for a while now, but I am not hip and just tried it for the first time. I was a little skeptical when I heard this was a dish people were paying $19 for at brunch, but I have to admit it’s ridiculously good. I used this whole wheat bread recipe from King Arthur Flour to make a hearty bread for toasting:

http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/everyday-whole-grain-bread-recipe

This bread doesn’t rise very high, as many whole grain breads don’t, but it still has a relatively light texture. I halved the recipe, but still made two loaves as written, which came out very flat. Then I cut them in half vertically as well as horizontally, to get four large toast-size pieces from each loaf. Each piece is crust on one full side, which ordinarily isn’t my favorite, but it’s great for toast that you’re going to load up with toppings because it doesn’t fall apart or soak through.

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Anyway, if you haven’t tried avocado toast yet, I highly recommend it. For this one, I just mashed up 1/4 ripe avocado and smeared it on the toast, followed by the corn salad. There are basically infinite topping options; I’ll definitely be exploring more of them in the near future.

Deliciousness score: 7/10
Easiness score: 9/10 (slightly lower if you make bread for toast)

6.5 rating

Chopped Greek Salad

Chopped Greek Salad

https://www.dinneratthezoo.com/chopped-greek-salad/

If you’re a fan of Mediterranean flavors, this chopped salad from Dinner at the Zoo is a perfect, quick, refreshing way to enjoy lots of fresh veggies. The prep time is quite reasonable; there’s some chopping involved, but not a crazy amount. There’s a made-from-scratch Mediterranean dressing, which does turn out delicious and is fairly simple; most of the ingredients are pantry staples. I like to mix it up in the style of Jamie Oliver’s jam jar dressings; just throw everything in a small jar with a lid, then shake it vigorously for a few seconds. But if you’re short on time, you could easily substitute a pre-made salad dressing that you like.

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My only quibble with this recipe as written is that the dressing separated right away; the olive oil formed a layer on the bottom, topped with the vinegar and then the floating spices. I think the acid-to-oil ratio is a bit on the high side. The aforementioned jam jar dressings, which I always have great results with, are based on a 1-to-3 acid-to-oil ratio:

http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/recipe/jam-jar-dressings/

The Greek salad recipe calls for 2 Tbsp of vinegar and 1/4 cup (or 4 Tbsp) of olive oil, which is a 1-to-2 ratio. Next time, I’ll try leaving all the seasonings the same and adjusting this ratio. There are three teaspoons to a tablespoon, so for 4 tablespoons of olive oil, we’d want 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp of vinegar.

4 Tbsp x 3 tsp per Tbsp = 12 tsp of olive oil
12/3 = 4 tsp of vinegar
4 tsp = 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp

But of course you could just eyeball it. The goal is to have the dressing emulsify, so that all the acids are suspended in the oil and it doesn’t split itself into layers (at least not right away). But truthfully, even if your ratios are a little off, you’re going to mix everything up with the vegetables anyway and it’s going to taste just fine, which is what I did.

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Definitely a great summer dinner; no cooking required, lots of fresh & colorful veggies, and it’s cool & refreshing. And as an added bonus, this makes a great sandwich filling for hummus pita pockets. If you make this, let me know how your dressing experiments go!

Deliciousness score: 6/10
Easiness score: 8/10

6.2 rating.png