virtual vegan potluck: pasta with beet pesto and tofu ricotta

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Welcome to the fourth installment of the Virtual Vegan Potluck! I’m so excited to be a part of this fun event! I hope you have enjoyed all the amazing recipes you’ve seen so far. This is my first time participating and I am honored to take my place in the lineup. This fall’s potluck has a new twist — a featured ingredient — the glorious beet! I wanted to come up with something that was a little out of the ordinary. We’ve all seen or heard of beet salads, pickled beets, brownies with beets, beet ice cream, beet soup, and the like. I wanted something a little bit different.

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I used to despise beets. My mom would serve canned beets at dinner when I was growing up and I couldn’t stand them. I quickly learned that if I didn’t put a few on my plate, my mother would give me a huge spoonful and I would have to eat them all. It was easier to choke down a few than the giant spoonful! Once I left home for college, beets never came across my plate again until a few summers ago. My CSA boxes started arriving with bunches and bunches of beets. The first few weeks, I either gave them away to a friend, or ashamedly threw them away. It was a waste. I finally decided that I had to force myself to like them.

It turns out that fresh beets are much more flavorful than the horrible canned things. Roasted and drizzled with balsamic and maple syrup, served over greens with walnuts, dried cranberries, and avocado, I finally began to appreciate them. I found initially that I preferred golden or chiogga beets better than the standard red ones because the flavor isn’t as “beet-y” but I can now definitely eat them and actually enjoy my meal without feeling tortured!

So what to make for the potluck? I initially planned to make a recipe I stumbled across in a meal plan I subscribe to on my iPad. It was for beetroot, lentil, and brown rice patties, topped with sliced tomato, sautéed mushrooms, and smashed avocado. It looked interesting, but each time I set about to make it, I never really felt inspired and ended up making other things instead. Then all of a sudden, a few weekends ago while I was blog surfing, I happened upon a picture of a bowl of vibrant pink pasta. I knew instantly that this was the start of what I would make for the potluck.

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I turned to my trusty recipe file (i.e. Google) and finally settled upon this recipe for beet pesto, but I needed to find a substitute for the goat cheese. One of the many beet recipes I looked at mentioned topping the pasta with ricotta cheese so I decided to see if I could find a simple recipe for making tofu ricotta. I decided upon this recipe because I find the combination of miso and tahini so intriguing — it’s a flavorful collision of two vastly different world cuisines, two worlds that are both so integral in my food story. (This ricotta recipe, by the way, was so delicious on its own that I could have kept eating it by the spoonful. I’m anxious to see what other dishes I can come up with incorporating this ricotta).

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The end result? For starters, this was not a difficult dish to make at all. The ricotta takes about five minutes to measure, chop, and mash everything up. The beets need to roast for an hour, but after that, it’s the time needed to cook the pasta, and a few minutes of food processor magic. (And making sure you don’t turn your clothes and kitchen pink in the process). For something relatively simple to make, this was crazy delicious. I was actually surprised how little beet taste there was in it — I was expecting to be smacked in the face with beet flavor, but the garlic and walnuts must have mellowed it out. It is stunning to look at — I did very little to edit these photos. That really truly is the color of the dish. It is guaranteed to make your dinner guests ooh and ahh when you place this in front of them at the table! It might even make your children eat beets without realizing it — my sister’s kids love pasta with basil pesto, so if they’re already used to green garlicky pasta, I imagine they might be inclined to try bright pink pasta, too.

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pasta with beet pesto and tofu ricotta

ingredients

for the pesto

  • 3 to 4 medium-sized red beets, scrubbed clean
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup tofu ricotta (see below)

for the tofu ricotta (makes approx. 2 cups)

  • 1 block extra firm tofu (14 oz), drained and pressed
  • 1 1/2 tbsp tahini
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp miso paste
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 pound pasta of choice

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400˚F. Drizzle beets lightly with olive oil. Wrap the beets (individually) and garlic cloves (together) tightly with aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast 1 hour, or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, make the tofu ricotta. In a medium bowl, crumble the tofu with your hands. Add the remaining ricotta ingredients to the bowl and mash with a spoon. Set aside.
  3. Cook the pasta according to directions. Reserve a cup of pasta water before draining pasta. Drain pasta and drizzle lightly with olive oil to keep from sticking and set aside.
  4. After removing beets and garlic from oven, remove foil and let cool slightly. Once cool enough to touch, use a spoon to peel skin off beets and coarsely chop. Squeeze roasted garlic out of the peel.
  5. In a food processor, combine roasted beets, roasted garlic, two tablespoons olive oil, and toasted walnuts. Pulse until smooth and creamy, adding reserved pasta water as needed. Add 1/2 cup tofu ricotta and pulse until combined. Season with salt to taste.
  6. Toss pasta and beet mixture until well combined. Top with more tofu ricotta, if desired.

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I hope you have enjoyed my dish in the Virtual Vegan Potluck. Please use the image below to visit the next dish in the lineup!

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corn, edamame, peach, heirloom tomato, and pickled red onion salad

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This is a really simple salad to throw together and is great when fresh corn is in season. You could use canned or frozen corn but fresh corn off the cob is simply the best! The flavors and colors are bright, you get a mix of sweet and sour from the corn and peaches versus the lemon and pickled red onion.

corn, edamame, peach, heirloom tomato, and pickled red onion salad

ingredients

  • 2 ears of fresh corn (uncooked), removed from the cob (approximately 2 cups)
  • 1 cup cooked shelled edamame
  • 1 peach, diced
  • 2 to 3 heirloom tomatoes, diced
  • 1/4 cup pickled red onion (recipe below)
  • fresh basil, chopped
  • olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • red wine vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

  1. Add the corn through to the red onion to a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat.
  2. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the salad, and drizzle with 1-2 tbsp of red wine vinegar and toss again.
  3. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the basil and toss again lightly.

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pickled red onion

ingredients

  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly in rings or half moons
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 5 black peppercorns

directions

  1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a tea kettle or small saucepan. Place the onions in a colander over the sink and pour the boiling water over them and let them drain.
  2. In a two-cup or other container, place the onions and all other ingredients. Stir to distribute the flavors evenly.
  3. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. They will keep for several weeks in the fridge.

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fall harvest meal ii

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One of my friends recently moved to the neighborhood and last night we decided to cook a meal together. Her kitchen is teeny tiny and she also has the tiniest stovetop I’ve ever seen, so naturally we cooked at my house. When I invited her over to cook, I really had no idea what we would make. I started brainstorming based on what I had in my fridge and pantry and came up with a menu. And then I came up with a second menu that began to sound really amazing to me. Even though it was in the 90s yesterday, I just couldn’t put aside the thought of this second menu, so we decided to brave the heat and roast away in the kitchen. Here’s what we made: miso-ginger chicken thighs*, roasted asparagus, orange-balsamic glazed acorn squash, smashed crispy red potatoes, and stir fried shiitake. It was quite a sight to behold, all those trays lined up in the oven, roasting away right along with us.

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I’m still a little surprised we managed to fit everything in. The two recipes completely new to me were the miso-ginger chicken and the orange-balsamic acorn squash. They were both amazing. The chicken is quite possibly the best chicken I have ever eaten. As we were feasting away, I couldn’t help but comment over and over how amazing the chicken tasted. It was spicy and tangy, with the flavors from the miso and ginger melding together creating something quite wonderful. You really need to try this! The acorn squash was sweet and creamy and the citrus added a brightness to the flavor. I’m pretty sure I will be making everything on this menu many times again in the future. Having company over, not to mention a second set of hands in the kitchen, made all of this possible — I never would have gone to all the trouble for just myself. I need to have company more often so I can eat lots of yummy food!

*for vegan followers of my blog – everything on this menu is vegan except for the chicken. I am working on a tofu version of this recipe that I will post when I’ve perfected it.

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miso-ginger chicken thighs

from Guiding Stars

ingredients

  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 3 tablespoons miso paste
  • 2 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 1 lemon, zest and half of the juice
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red chili paste

directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425˚ Fahrenheit.
  2. In a food processor, combine everything but the chicken into a paste. Toss over the chicken to coat. (You can marinate it overnight in the fridge, or cook right away — the flavor is very intense even without marinating).
  3. Place the chicken in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping once after 15 minutes.

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orange-balsamic roasted acorn squash

from Miss Kitchen Witch

ingredients

  • 1 acorn squash, cut into 1/2-inch rings
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice from 1 orange
  • 1/2 an orange, sliced thinly
  • salt to taste

directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 425°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange the squash rings evenly.
  2. Mix together the vinegar, oil, and orange juice. Brush the squash with 3/4 of the mix and top with the orange slices. Sprinkle with a little bit of sea salt and bake for about 20 minutes.
  3. Flip the squash and pour the rest of the vinegar mix on top. Bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the squash is very tender. Allow to cool slightly, but serve hot with a little orange zest if desired.

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smashed crispy red potatoes

ingredients

  • 8-10 small red potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • optional: fresh rosemary, thyme, oregano, etc.

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F. Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook until fork tender — approximately 15-20 minutes, depending on size of potatoes.
  2. Drain potatoes into a colander. Do not rinse. Using a towel or pot holder, take each potato and smash it flat with your hand onto a baking sheet. You can use a fork or potato masher if you want, just make sure they don’t completely fall apart.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. If you choose, you can add chopped fresh herbs such as rosemary or thyme.
  4. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning them over after 10 minutes. They should be brown and crispy on the edges. Roast longer if necessary to get the desired crunch.

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roasted asparagus

ingredients

  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • olive oil
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt
  • pepper

directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425˚F.
  2. Place the asparagus in a single layer on a baking sheet.
  3. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands or tongs to coat the asparagus completely in the seasonings.
  4. Roast for approximately 5-10 minutes, depending on the thickness of your asparagus and your desired degree of doneness. I like mine to still have a bite to it and I don’t like it too charred.

stir-fried shiitake

ingredients

  • 8-10 shiitake mushrooms, cleaned and ends trimmed
  • sesame oil
  • soy sauce
  • mirin (sweet cooking rice wine)

directions

  1. In a medium-size bowl, dress the shiitake with approximately 1-2 tbsp each of the sesame oil, soy sauce, and mirin. Stir to coat evenly.
  2. Over medium heat, sauté the shiitake for 5 to 10 minutes until mushrooms begin to wilt.

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mung bean and lentil curry with eggplant and green tomato

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mung bean and lentil curry with eggplant and green tomato

ingredients

  • 1/2 cup dried mung beans
  • 1/2 cup dried green lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • half an onion, chopped roughly
  • 2 Japanese eggplant, sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
  • 1 large green tomato, chopped
  • thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
  • 2 red chilis, seeded and sliced thinly
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 cups mung bean water* (or vegetable stock or water)
  • ground cumin
  • ground coriander
  • turmeric
  • curry powder
  • ground chili
  • garam masala
  • salt
  • pepper
  • fresh squeezed lemon juice

directions

1. Rinse mung beans and bring to a boil in a pot with 3 cups of water. Cover and reduce heat to simmer for 1 hour. Rinse lentils and add to the pot after the mung beans have cooked for one hour. (If using split mung beans, cook together with the lentils from the beginning). Add a little more water if necessary. Continue to simmer for 15-30 more minutes until the water has been absorbed and the beans and lentils are tender.  After you add the lentils to the pot, you can begin chopping and slicing your other ingredients.

2. In a large pan, add 1/2 cup of mung bean water (or stock or water) and bring to a boil. Add the onions and cook until water has evaporated. Add another 1/2 cup of mung bean water to deglaze the pan. Add the eggplant and green tomato and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the mung bean and lentil mixture to the pan and stir to incorporate with the onions, eggplant, and tomato. Add the grated ginger, ground cumin, ground coriander, chili powder, turmeric, curry powder, salt and pepper. I didn’t measure my spices, just added and adjusted to taste. I would suggest starting with approximately 1/2 tsp of each and adjust according to your liking — you really can’t go wrong with these spices (except the chili powder — if you don’t like a lot of heat, start with 1/4 tsp and taste before adding more). Stir to incorporate the spices into the bean mixture and cook for a few minutes. Add 2 more cups of the mung bean water or stock and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer, continuing to cook for 15 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, in a small frying pan, add a little bit of oil and toast the coriander seeds for 30 seconds. Add the crushed garlic and red chilis and continue cooking for a few minutes, being careful not to burn them. Add the garlic, chili, and coriander mixture to the beans and lentils and stir in. Continue simmering the bean and lentil mixture until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the beans, stirring occasionally, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. Adjust the seasoning as needed throughout. Add a dash of garam masala and a squeeze of lemon juice before serving. Top with chopped cilantro and/or yogurt, if desired.

 

*What the heck is mung bean water? It’s the water I soaked my mung beans in. I’m in the process of sprouting my own mung bean sprouts (post to follow in a few days), and one of the first steps is to soak the beans in water for 8-12 hours. The website I’m following for sprouting instructions said that this water could be used for stock since it’s full of nutrients. So there you have it.

peach and ginger pie

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I’m not a baker. I rarely make desserts. The main reason for this is that most dessert/baking requires precision and measuring, things that I’m not really inclined to do when I cook. Many baked goods can go horribly wrong if you’re not exact with your measurements and it’s just not what I’m comfortable with. Tonight, my shepherding group at church was having a corn roast and everyone was asked to bring a fruit pie for an informal pie contest. (!!!!!!!) I was perturbed at first, then I thought maybe I would just buy a pie and not enter it in the contest, and finally decided I would attempt to make one. Continue reading

summer gazpacho

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Summer gazpacho inspired by this recipe. I used what I had on hand, and added a few more ingredients just because. I also cut the recipe down since I didn’t want a week’s worth of leftovers!  Continue reading

banana wheat berry breakfast

20130724-153612.jpgI like to put quinoa in salads to make it a meal, mix it into yogurt for breakfast, or use it as a side at dinner. I have been meaning to branch out into other grains like barley, farro, kasha, wheat berries, etc., but haven’t done much cooking so far this summer. When I returned from all of my summer traveling last week, my parents informed me they were starting a new eating plan: Vegan Before 6. This is more of a lifestyle change than a diet–eat vegan for breakfast and lunch, then allow yourself some meat at dinner, but think of the meat as a side, and the vegetables as your main. There are great health benefits to this plan that you can read about in Mark Bittman’s book, and it’s not that difficult to do. Rather than becoming a full time vegan, you can still have your meat, dairy, cheese, etc., but in moderation, and for one meal. And he says it’s okay to cheat once in a while, so what’s not to love? Especially if you’re a tried and true carnivore like me. Since I usually eat a few meals a week at my parents’, I thought I would give VB6 a try as well.

Continue reading

farm fresh summer pasta ii

Farm fresh grab bag, take two! The purpose of tonight’s dinner was to make use of the big yellow pear tomato harvest from my garden. I thought they would be really good over my leftover pasta, so it evolved from there.

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Ingredients from:

  • my garden – yellow pear tomatoes, Paul Robeson heirloom tomatoes, basil, and parsley
  • my CSA – green onion, white onion, corn
  • farmer’s market – garlic
  • my pantry/fridge – kalamata olives, mushrooms, anari (cheese from Cyprus), leftover pasta

Saute the garlic and white onion in olive oil, add the corn. After a few minutes, add the tomatoes, mushrooms, green onion and olives.  Add salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste, and the juice of one lemon. Saute a few more minutes until the tomatoes begin to burst from their skins. I used leftover pasta so I threw it in the pan with everything else to warm it up. If you’re using freshly cooked pasta, turn the heat off after you add the pasta. Top with grated cheese, fresh parsley and basil.

cyprus village salad, with a twist

My favorite salad used to be a Cyprus-style cabbage salad. I now tend to steer towards lettuce salads with lemon, balsamic, etc., but I still really enjoy this one. It’s very simple to make and there are endless variations. You need shredded cabbage and some other veggies of your choice–I usually use tomato, cucumber, and celery. Today I added green peppers, sweet peppers from my garden, shredded carrot, and parsley. The dressing is very basic, but bright and fresh: olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice, and salt. For a single serving salad, I’d use at least half a lemon. The more lemon, the better! Again, for variety today, I made it Ajmer-style by adding a dash of cumin. Ajmer was my favorite Indian restaurant in Japan and they’d always bring out a cabbage salad with some cumin as a starter.

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summer burger

Tonight’s dinner is once again brought to you by the farm fresh grab bag. A buffalo burger from Harvest Co-op, on top of caramelized onions and peach slices. Topped with a slice of Gouda cheese, avocado slices and cilantro. Surrounded by my homemade refrigerator pickles and fresh blackberries, drizzled with Worcestershire sauce and fresh lemon juice. Surprisingly delicious and summery!

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