Perfect Panzanella 

After a very hectic two months of life upheaval, we are officially suburbanites now – and I absolutely love it! Never thought I would. I guess you never know where you’re headed in life until the opportunity practically hits you in the face and suddenly you’ve found it.

Well, to celebrate the family getting settled we hosted our first gathering for Father’s Day and I made one of my all time favorite dishes – Panzanella. I always forget how versatile and easy this dish really is. It’s perfect as a side dish for dinner or a main dish for lunch, and works for all seasons. It’s also easy to prep and have ready for a big crowd. The secret is the fresh herbs paired with those rich, juicy vine ripe tomatoes that balance with the acidity from a vinaigrette that gets soaked up by … wait for it, that highly addictive chunky, crusty, toasty bread. OMG!! This ones based on the Ina Garten recipe, except I used red wine vinegar instead of champagne vinegar and I also added a tad of parsley:


Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 small French bread, cut into 1-inch cubes 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick moon shapes
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 1/2 red onion, cut in 1/2 and thinly sliced
  • 15 large basil leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons capers, drained

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup good olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan on medium heat, then add the bread and salt; tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed. For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil, and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. 


Suburban deer… 

Rustic Provençal Vegetable Stew

 This simple stew draws on the characteristic flavors of Provence: tomatoes, basil, olives, olive oil, and garlic. An inexpensive meat variation was traditionally prepared by French peasants in an earthenware casserole dating back centuries ago, but it’s delicate, easily adaptable flavors have remained popular today. This hearty stew pairs well with some grilled bread or can be poured over your choice of pasta. It works very well with almost any vegetable, making it a popular vegan dish in my house!
RUSTIC PROVENCIAL VEGETABLE STEW
4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil 
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbs 
1 large red onion, sliced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and sliced
1 lb vine-ripened tomatoes, roughly diced
1 1/2 cup vegetable stock
2/3 cup pitted nicoise olives
2 Tbs parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
Hear the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, garlic, coriander, and thyme and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the fennel and pepper and cook an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the tomatoes, olives, vegetable stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer gently for 30 minutes. Top with fresh parsley and serve warm! 

Indian Baked Veggie Squares



Anybody that knows how to make great Indian food is a hero of mine. I recently had the pleasure of meeting renowned cookbook author and journalist Anupy Singla at a book signing, and I’m ashamed at what I thought was “traditional” Indian food. I vow to never think that naan or curry powder are considered part of the Indian home cook’s repertoire again! I also vow to share with the world that there are a plethora of traditional recipes that can be made without cream or meat that will satisfy the mind, body and soul. I admit the recipes featured in her cookbook Vegan Indian Cooking require some advance planning – soaking fresh beans overnight, using a slow cooker or food processor, or prepping your spice blends. But these recipes pack a punch, are unbelievably cheap, and can be made in batches so they are perfect to keep in the fridge all week!

This week’s dish for Baked Veggie Squares is a baked vegan version of the traditional fried snack Tukri Pakora. It features an unconventional combination of ingredients and may seem daunting at first, but I am so thrilled with the outcome it has already been established as a remake in our house. I made my version without the Thai chiles, but if you opt to try the original spicy version you will need to remove the stems and simply add them to your vegetable mix in the food processor.

BAKED VEGGIE SQUARES

2 cups white cabbage, grated (1/2 small head)
1 cup zucchini, grated
1/2 potato, peeled and grated
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1-inch piece ginger root, diced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
3 cups chickpea flour
12-ounce package silken tofu
1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon turmeric powder 
1 teaspoon red chili powder
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil a 10-inch square baking pan. Using the grater attachment on your food processor, grate all your vegetable ingredients. In a deep bowl, combine the cabbage, cauliflower, zucchini, potato, onion, ginger, and cilantro. Add the flour and mix slowly until well combined using your hands. Using the large blade on your food processor, purée the silken tofu. Then add the tofu, salt, turmeric, red chili powder, baking powder, and oil to the vegetable mixture. Mix well. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle. Cool for 10 minutes and cut into squares. Serve with your favorite chutney.





Moroccan Butternut Squash and Creamy Coconut Soup

IMG_3286-0Another week of freezing temperatures in Chicago sent me scouring for new soup recipes this week. I was looking for bold flavor but creamy in texture, the kind of soup you might savor in a steamy oversized mug and feel inspired by. My search led me to this unexpected butternut squash recipe posted on www.halfbakedharvest.com. Enveloped in the deep Moroccan flavors of cinnamon, ginger, and curry, then swirled with creamy coconut milk, this impressive recipe did not fail to impress and was easily adapted to a soul-satisfying one-pot vegan wonder.

MOROCCAN BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CREAMY COCONUT SOUP
1 head garlic, for roasting (or you may sub 2 cloves garlic, not roasted)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 red bell pepper, chopped
4 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 teaspoon spicy curry powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tablespoons freshly chopped ginger
2 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
2 cups veggie broth
salt and pepper, to taste
roughly chopped cilantro and pistachios, for topping

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Chop off the top portion of the garlic head to reveal cloves, pour one teaspoon of olive oil on top of the garlic cloves and cover with foil then roast for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool five minutes. Squeeze garlic out of the paper skin. Meanwhile, add the coconut oil to a large soup pot set over medium heat, then add the red pepper and cook for 3-5 minutes or until soft. Add the cubed butternut squash, spicy curry powder, smoked paprika, cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, ginger and thyme. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes then pour in the coconut milk and veggie broth, reserving just a few spoonfuls of coconut milk. Bring the soup to boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the butternut squash is fork tender. Once the butternut squash is tender, then add the roasted garlic. Use a hand blender to puree the soup, then let simmer for additional 5 minutes. Top with freshly chopped cilantro and pistachio, and drizzle with a splash of coconut milk.

Peanut Udon Lettuce Wrap

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My children are very different animals. Everett, the 2-year old early riser, consumes most of his calories between the hours of 5:00am and 8:00am. The rest of the day he loves irrational hard labor. Like picking up chairs, pushing tables, and gathering armfuls of heavy toy supplies. He would volunteer for decathlon training if he could. He’s disciplined, dedicated, and mild-tempered, and demands to”GOOOOOOOO!” pretty much all the time, which is frustrating at 6:00am when the rest of the house is still asleep and school isn’t even open yet. Oddly, he also prefers a largely vegan diet. He eats fruit, nuts, more fruit, pasta, fruit again, and sometimes beans.

Asher, the 4-year old late riser, consumes most of his calories between the hours of 5:00pm – 8:00pm. He happily sits on the couch reading Lego manuals all day and relatively sedentary. But where Asher lacks in physical interest, he is very cerebral and a true master negotiator. I lose every time. In fact he’s been speaking full sentences since he was 1 and we had to use words to explain to him HOW TO WALK. Yup. Unlike Everett, Asher loves second dinner, and is usually the last kid up from the table at birthday parties. But Legos is Asher’s one true passion and ALL he thinks about. He has amassed a collection large enough to make any grown nerd jealous.

Anyway, what I’m saying is one child is always happy while the other one is always crying. I know this is the universal story of having two kids. So my sanity break is to escape to the kitchen and cook up something wonderful. This week it was Peanut Udon Lettuce Wraps.

PEANUT UDON LETTUCE WRAPS
1 package udon noodles
1 bunch green onions, trimmed and chopped
1/2 bunch cilantro, diced
1 red pepper, julienned
1 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
1 head butter lettuce

PEANUT SAUCE
3 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 Tablespoons soy sauce
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely diced
1 garlic clove, finely diced

Mix peanut sauce ingredients until smooth and creamy. Set aside. Boil udon noodles 5 minutes. Remove and rinse under cool water in colander to immediately cool. Combine peanut sauce with noodles thoroughly. Fold in the peppers, cilantro and green onions. Serve in one butter leaf as a tasty lettuce wrap! Or, chop lettuce with ranch dressing and hand to 4-year old as seen below.

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Creamy Peanut Slaw

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Why is Chili’s at an airport so exciting? The steady flow of travelers, pilots mingling in the coffee line, those airport golf carts whizzing by. The 5-minute meal served in a red plastic basket – out in the real world this is known as “fast food” but in an airport it is simply “efficient”. In an airport it is forgivable that you pay $18 for a sandwich and soda because $18 is STEAL to not be sitting at your gate.

I have been traveling a lot for work lately, which makes my meals at home with the family all the more enjoyable. I am especially thrilled with my new cookbook Thug Kitchen, based on the popular vegan blog. If you don’t know this blog or cookbook, please indulge yourself. This week I made a super Creamy Peanut Slaw which I paired with soba noodles and tofu. My boys adore cold soba noodles more than spaghetti and marinara, more than pizza even. It’s like crack to them. So this recipe worked well for all of us.

CREAMY PEANUT SLAW
3 cups shredded red cabbage
3 cups shredded green cabbage
3 carrots, shredded
3 green onions, chopped

PEANUT SAUCE
5 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
5 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Sriracha
1/2 inch ginger, peeled and finely diced

Shred your slaw ingredients in a food processor with a grater setting, or with a knife for larger chunks. Mix the peanut sauce ingredients in a small bowl until you get a thick, creamy consistency. Combine sauce with slaw in a large bowl. I recommend serving on top of buckwheat soba noodles, which only take 3 minutes to cook. One package of soba noodles can be tossed with one tablespoon sesame oil, one tablespoon of soy sauce, and one tablespoon of sesame seeds for a flavorful, hearty noodle dish that pairs well with any asian stir fry or cold salad dish. My photo may not be award-winning this week, but I can tell you this made a damn good work lunch.

Spaghetti with Lemon and Toasted Walnuts

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My worst nightmare? The kids going to bed happy and early. Why? Because it’s too good to be true. Zonking out dazed and speaking tongues inevitably means that someone will be jarred awake with night terrors in two hours. And that they’ll be up at 4:00am ready to start the day. Let’s go! But I guess I’m willing to take that risk tonight because my husband and I would like one hour together. Without children. One wondrous hour watching Star Trek Deep Space Nine so we can mock the overacting and the spectacularly absurd plot twists. Like Major Kira having O’Brien’s baby because it got zapped from Keiko’s body in some interstellar battle. Whatever.

Tonight we enjoyed this cold zesty zippy pasta dish with whole wheat spaghetti, spicy fresh chopped garlic and a fresh lemon, parsley olive oil marinade. It comes from Vegetarian Times and could easily be made vegan without the Parmesan cheese. This dish paired with a side salad will last us the work week and only cost about $10 – not bad for a healthy dish that even my 4 year old enjoyed!

SPAGHETTI WITH LEMON AND TOASTED WALNUTS
1 cup walnut halves
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
2 tsp. grated organic lemon zest
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
¾ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. spaghetti
1 cup Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toast walnuts on baking sheet 10 minutes. Cool, and coarsely chop. Whisk together cheese, oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and pepper in large bowl. Cook pasta according to package directions. Add drained pasta to cheese mixture, and toss to combine. Stir in parsley and walnuts, and season with salt and more pepper.