I love sauce (not to be confused with a love for hitting the sauce). I love the taste-as-you-go nature of making one, re-working classics, coming up with wild new versions, and smothering my food with it, always. Most importantly, I like that I can make a jar-full and have some on hand. I think we’ve been over this before, but I tend to make large runs of basic elements (quinoa, rice, lentils, chickpeas) for combining throughout the week with whatever greens we have, maybe a steamed or raw vegetable, and a healthy swipe of whatever sauce/dressing we’re going on at the moment. I think a lot of you might also eat this way, if Instagram is any indication. Those little anticipatory movements are ingrained at this point and our bodies seem grateful so far. Bowl life livin’ pals. Eating well is 95 percent preparation and just making an effort to buy only the good stuff when you’re at the store. Tasty whole foods in the house = a healthy life that comes naturally.
I’ve been trying to make a delicious and velvety goji berry-based sauce for a while now. The idea of that shocking colour on some cold weather veg was too tempting. One version I tried with vinegar soaked shallots was too tart, burying the sweetness of the dried fruit. Another version with dijon didn’t really mesh with the sweet-sour taste of goji berries at all. And yet another one that was carefully calculated with rosemary and blood orange tasted mostly like goji berries pureed with room temperature water and twigs. So frustrating! The other night it came to me out of nowhere–tahini, ginger and lemon. It would be creamy, a bit bitter, fresh and spicy–all good compliments to the slightly herbal finish of gojis (sauce-centered thoughts popping into my head around bedtime aren’t terribly unusual lately). I like using dried fruit in blended concoctions because they add their own sweetness, of course, but they also make for a creamy consistency surprisingly enough.
This goji cream is really well balanced and works for the hearty vegetables that are currently everywhere. I think it would be excellent on a kale salad though. I wanted to roast some of my celery root in the garden for this, but it was so muddy out. I knew it would be like quicksand once I reached for the shovel to dig one. I always have carrots around, but especially now because my dad grew some mighty fine ones this year, so I used those instead. So sweet and lovely! I can never resist a romanesco when I see one, but you know some cauliflower would be just the same. I used black lentils as the base because I had just enough left in my storage jar and thought it would look all contrast-y and good. The texture of the darker lentils tends to be more my pace because of the bite. There’s za’atar and sesames too. Anyway! Not too much to say today, just some inspired, easy and healthy eats with hot orange saucy splashes. Eating all the colours never gets old for me :)
fall veg + lentil bowl w/ goji ginger tahini cream
notes: I cook lentils sort of like how I cook pasta–tons of water and then I just drain when they’re done. Also, any fall vegetables you like would be fine here. After I finished these photos, I added a scoop of cooked quinoa to my bowl and it was extra nice. If you’re a dairy eater, I don’t think a handful of crumbled sheep feta would be out of bounds either :)
veg bowl ingredients:
3/4 cup french or black lentils, rinsed
salt and pepper
2 cups romanesco florets
6 small carrots, scrubbed + cut in half
1 tbsp olive oil
fat pinch of za’atar spice
1 leek, dark green part removed + hairy end trimmed
1 small beet, peeled + sliced paper thin
1 small apple, cored + sliced paper thin
1/2 ripe avocado
toasted sesame seeds
handful of flat parsley leaves
goji ginger tahini cream ingredients:
1/4 cup dried goji berries
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
juice of half a lemon
salt + pepper
1 tbsp tahini
1 inch fresh ginger, peeled + rough dice
1 tsp maple syrup
2-3 tbsp olive oil
big splash of filtered water (2-3 tablespoons)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Add the lentils to the water and simmer until just tender, about 25-30 minutes. Drain the lentils and then scrape them into a bowl. Drizzle them with a bit of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Toss to mix and set aside.
Place romanesco florets, carrots, the tablespoon of olive oil, za’atar, salt + pepper on the lined baking sheet. Toss it all to coat and slide into the oven. Roast until you start to see brown edges on the romanesco, about 15 minutes. Slice the leek down the middle lengthwise and then slice the halves into half moons. Remove the tray of veg from the oven and carefully toss the leeks in the mix. Slide the tray back into the oven for 5 more minutes.
While the veg is cooking, make the goji cream. Place the goji berries in a medium bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let them sit a couple minutes to soften. Then, drain the gojis and toss them into a blender. To this, add the apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt + pepper, tahini, ginger, maple syrup, olive oil, and filtered water. Blend until you have a creamy mixture. Taste it and see if you need more sweetness, acidity or salt. Adjust and set aside.
Divide the lentils and roasted vegetables between two bowls. Place the thin slices of beet and apple on top. Cut the avocado into wedges or dices and place on top of both bowls. Drizzle the bowls with the goji ginger cream, and garnish with some toasted sesame seeds and parsley leaves. I like an extra wedge of lemon on the side of mine too.
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I have a big moleskine notebook where I messily jot down things I want to create in the kitchen: ideas I have for combining whole foods to get a certain effect, flavour combinations, sticky notes with ambiguous notation, restaurant dishes I want to have at home, simple techniques with big results that I want to share with you, and the like. Some of it is blog fuel in the form of (vegan, grain + legume-based faux) chicken scratch, but most of it I’ve filed away for future use. I’ve always, always had plans and strategies for an intentional career in food hidden away, and then I shy away from it all, thinking it’s too big, too much right now. What if I had to quit my job to really do it right? What if things don’t go according to plan? What if there are very real financial repercussions? What if my life changes course?
I think if something has you asking “What if?” with excited/nervous/scared shitless undertones, and with increased frequency as well, the timing may be just right. Another step towards focusing up and unlearning the fear that it can’t be done: the new cookbook from the Green Kitchen Stories crew arrived at my door about a month ago. Just looking at the cover of Green Kitchen Travels stirred up inspiration on the visceral level for me. There are beautiful photographs of food, yes, but also captures of the worldly places that inspired each dish. I always say that a good cookbook should take you somewhere, whether it’s a new frame of awareness with food, or the photographs and voice have the ability to transport you in as much as possible. This one accomplishes both handily. There’s nothing about it that I don’t love.
I was deciding what recipe I would share with you all here when I realized I had cleared out almost all of my vegetable garden, save for two slowly yellowing eggplant stalks and some greens. I flipped to the “Street Food & Snacks” section of the book and knew I had to have these crispy eggplant bites with honey and lime. Addictive is the only adjective you need to know, but here are some others: crunchy, salty, sweet, tender, and fresh. Everything I’ve ever wanted in a snack and they couldn’t have been simpler to throw together. I used some rather coarse polenta and the degree of crunch was so crazy satisfying. Drizzles of honey and fresh lime juice right out of the oven are just too good. They taste convincingly deep fried. ‘Nuff said.
Other things from the book I’m excited to try: vegetarian pho, halloumi veggie burgers, ribollita, lemongrass and coconut summer rolls, no-noodle pad thai, almond butter blueberry cookies, the green yoga smoothie, and the chermoula baked cauliflower. Lots of things to turn the wheels no matter what level you’re at with whole food + vegetarian adventures. You can buy it here (and you should seriously). One little quick note before I go too: I made some soft-baked style pumpkin cookies with tangy cream-cheesy glaze for BAKED this week. You can check that out by clicking here. Weeee!
crispy eggplant polenta bites with honey + lime
from Green Kitchen Travels
notes: I think these would be equally good with a fat pinch of nutritional yeast stirred into the polenta mixture and a little warm marinara for dippin’, just an idea though! ;););)
1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch batons/wedges
3-4 cups unsweetened plant-based milk
1-2 cups organic, non-GMO corn grits/polenta (I used this one)
a fat pinch of fine sea salt
zest of 1 lime (once you have the zest, cut the lime into wedges)
flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
runny honey or agave nectar if you’d like to keep these vegan
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and smear a bit of olive oil on it. Set aside.
Place the eggplant pieces in a large bowl and sprinkle with a bit of salt. Cover the pieces with the plant-based milk. Let the eggplant sit for an hour so that the bitterness can draw out.
Pour the corn grits/polenta into a shallow dish. Stir a good pinch of salt into the polenta. Arrange the soaked eggplant, dish of polenta, and lined baking sheet beside each other. Shake off excess milk from eggplant pieces and roll/press them in the polenta. Transfer coated pieces to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining eggplant. Drizzle the coated pieces with olive oil and slide the sheet into the oven.
Bake eggplant bites for 15-25 minutes, flipping them over once. Mine took the full 25 minutes, but I think this varies greatly on the actual eggplant and hotspots in your oven. Once done, remove from the oven and sprinkle bites with lemon zest, flaky sea salt, honey and lime juice. Serve hot!
So I spent the last weekend at my first ever blogger conference-type thingy in Pennsylvania with some funny, passionate, smart, and encouraging people. Lots of hugs, smiles, introductions, inspirational messages, and totally delicious things to eat. I think it’s possible (and totally normal) to be an introverted extrovert, and being in that environment of brand new, but also strikingly familiar instances brought out that personal conundrum all the more for me. I like to be loud and make crude jokes with lots of swears. But I also like to step into my fortress of solitude and parse out some of the bigger messages when I’m in the thick of it. Or just wander off into nature a bit. I think we all have a little bit of that duality.
After the conference, my road trip partner and I took a drive to Philadelphia to meet and stay with a friend of ours. We had less than 24 hours, but that didn’t stop us from having three sit-down meals (most notably here), two drink outings, and one bangin’ almond milk latte before we left. It was the perfect, quietly familiar ending to a high-energy, ecstatically social weekend. Some blog-related topics like sponsorship came up with the three of us, and before I even realized it, I was saying things like “Why not me?” + “I wish I could be doing stuff like that.” The comparison thing finds its way in sometimes, even when you’re hopelessly aloof on most days. And then my racing mind couldn’t sleep that night. I was a bit distracted on the long drive home, thinking about what I’ve been doing wrong.
The upshot of this inner back-and-forth is that I’m not doing anything wrong. The whole weekend was glaring proof of how mistaken I was, however briefly. The heart of the blogging adventure for me has always been connection and a slow refinement of my own skill set. I get to connect with so many interesting people every week here, and we talk about natural foods, new techniques, flavour combinations that excite us, intuitions and feelings we’ve all had, and some of the more trying bits in life.
When I got home and noticed that the hood of my ever-problematic car was smoking after a drive around the block, and that the only fresh food we had in the fridge was a sad-sack head of cauliflower, I stopped caring about the “Why not me?” question. I had dinner to make and real-life problems to solve. I know that all of you can relate to that on some level, which is a potent reminder of some of my business here. We get to connect over the abundantly good and the endlessly frustrating spaces of life. Sometimes it’s just a legitimate recipe and sometimes it’s a real-life revelation disguised as a list of ingredients and step-by-step instructions. Either way, that connection is at the heart.
And this one-pot number? This is what I made for dinner that night with the smoking car and the limp-y cauliflower. Deep-nourishing and relatively quick comfort. It’s a pantry-raid effort that I recreate in some form almost weekly. There’s lots of vegetables, spice, stew-y tomato richness, tender greens, and the heft of chickpeas to fill it out. I know I’ve featured a couple stews/soups similar to this in the past, but with the frequency that I make this on my mind, it just felt right to share. Stay cozy out there, all. xo
cauliflower, kale + chickpea curry pot recipe
notes: The amount of vegetable stock depends on how thick/thinned out you want this. I went for something in between :)
1-2 tbsp unscented coconut oil
1 cooking onion, small dice
1 tbsp curry powder
2 fresh bay laves (or 1 dried)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp minced fresh ginger (optional!)
small jalapeno or cayenne pepper, seeded + minced
1 cup 1/2 inch diced waxy potatoes
2-3 cups small cauliflower florets
28 oz can crushed tomatoes (fire roasted is my fave)
1-2 cups vegetable stock, depending
1 cup cooked chickpeas
1 bunch lacinato/Tuscan kale, stems removed and chopped
salt + pepper
chopped leafy herbs to finish (parsley, cilantro etc)
Heat the coconut oil in a heavy + large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook slowly, lowering heat if necessary. Cook until very soft, translucent and almost breaking down, about 6-7 minutes. Add the curry powder and bay leaves, and cook, stirring often, for 3 more minutes. Add the garlic, ginger (if using), and jalapeno to the pot. Stir and cook until fragrant, constantly stirring to avoid burning the garlic.
Add the potatoes and cauliflower to the pot and stir. Season with lots of salt and pepper. Add the crushed tomatoes to the pot and stir once more. At this point, add 1 cup of vegetable stock (you may want to add more later). Stir the pot, place a lid on top, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat on the stove to a simmer and remove the lid. Cook until the potatoes are just-tender, about 40 minutes. Add the chickpeas and diced kale,, and simmer for 5 more minutes or until greens have wilted.
Check the curry pot for seasoning, adjust, and serve hot with bread, naan, cooked brown rice, quinoa, millet etc. Garnish with chopped leafy herbs.