Recipes

‘Creamy’ vegan pesto with edamame & roasted zucchini

This recipe is inspired by one of my favorite vegan chefs, Chloe Coscarelli of Cupcake Wars fame. I made it my own by adding sauteed soybeans and mini zucchini, and by using lime juice in the pesto. Yum!


Ingredients

  • 1 lb. pasta (I love Trader Joe’s garlic-basil linguine, but I’ve also made this with egg noodles!)
  • 1 package frozen edamame (soybeans), cooked and shelled
  • 1 zucchini, chopped, or 1 package baby zucchini, chopped
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive Oil
  • salt & pepper

Directions

Set a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. (I never salt water for pasta, but you certainly can.)

Meanwhile, chop the zucchini and set aside, and boil the frozen edamame according to package directions, either on the stove top or in the microwave. Set aside.

While waiting for the pasta to boil, make the pesto! In a blender or large food processor, combine 2 pitted & peeled avocados, juice of 1 lime, most of the basil (reserve some for garnish), garlic cloves, half a cup of olive oil, and a generous dash of salt and pepper. Process until smooth.

While the pasta is boiling, sautee the shelled soybeans and chopped zucchini in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until browned and fragrant. Salt lightly. Remove from heat.

Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup of the pasta water, and toss with the pesto in a large stainless steel bowl. Add a bit of the reserved pasta water to loosen the pesto and help it grip to the linguine. (Note: If you use the Trader Joe’s Garlic Basil Linguine, you’ll need two packages).

Serve the pasta topped with the zucchini and edamame. Garnish with fresh basil. Voila!

You’d never know by the taste of this creamy dish that there’s no dairy in the sauce. It tastes rich, silky and indulgent.

Side note: If you do have leftovers, don’t be alarmed that the sauce will turn darker because of the avocados.

Avocado makes an amazing substitute for heavy cream and other thickening dairy products like sour cream or cream cheese. I use them in smoothies, pasta sauces, muffins and more. They’re not only a great vegan option for baking, they are packed with dozens of essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium and folic acid, as well as the kind of heart-healthy “good” fats you want to boost in your diet. They also provide a concentrated source of energy for the body, so if you’re a distance cyclist like me, or any other type of endurance athlete, avocados are excellent fuel.

Need more evidence in favor of avocados? Check out this great recipe for an Avocado Lime Cheesecake Tart.

Recipe & Photo: FragrantVanillaCake.blogspot.com
Recipes

Lingonberry-Goat Cheese Dip

This spread couldn’t be simpler. Just combine lingonberry preserves with goat cheese (ideally, Chevre with honey, which you can find at Trader Joe’s), stir until chunky and blended, and serve with whole wheat crackers. It’s a combination you might not think to create, but it makes the perfect complement to a plate of savory crackers and dips. Try it out! Your guests won’t be disappointed.

Lingonberries are traditional Swedish fare. You can find lingonberry jam at any specialty grocery store, as well as Ikea!

This would also make a great filling for stuffed French toast. You could also pre-plate this spread on toasted baguette slices for a sweet twist on bruschetta; or, you could serve it atop apple slices (with chopped walnuts?) as another fun finger food.

Booze & Beverages

Spiked cinnamon-apple cider

Every new home deserves a housewarming celebration, and what open house party would be complete without a signature cocktail? For us, that meant serving 50+ people a hot apple cider infused with oranges, cloves, cinnamon sticks & ginger, and spiked with dark rum and cinnamon schnapps.

Ingredients

  • 1 gallon apple cider
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) dark rum
  • 1 bottle (750 ml) cinnamon schnapps
  • 1 large orange, sliced (unpeeled)
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • healthy pinch of ground ginger (about a teaspoon)
  • healthy dash of whole cloves (about a dozen)

Directions

In a large stock pot, combine the entire gallon of cider with half to 2/3 of the rum and half to 2/3 of the bottle of schnapps. Add the orange slices, cloves, ginger and cinnamon sticks.

Bring all ingredients to a boil, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat to low. Simmer continuously and serve hot. I kept mine on low throughout the whole party and we just ladled it out into Irish coffee mugs!

You can easily make a larger quantity to serve a bigger crowd by pouring in the entire 750-ml. bottle of rum (same with the Schnapps) and adding a half gallon or more of cider.

Adjust the quantity (and therefore the strength) of the alcohol to your preference.

Cheers!

***

CSA 2011 · Recipes

‘Ribollita al Pomodoro’ soup

Looking for a way to use up leftover crusty bread? Throw it in this hearty soup with vegetables, beans and seasonings, and you’ve got major comfort food. My main reason for making this: to use up the remainder of a good-quality French loaf I’d bought to serve alongside my slow cooker beef stew. Also, I had lots of leeks from my CSA, so I used those where otherwise I might have included onions. I combined two well known Italian recipes, one for Ribollita (a thick Tuscan soup) and pappa al’pomodoro (a sweet tomato-based soup), into one mash-up with apples and curry that came out unexpectedly fabulous. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese!

Ingredients

  • Day-old French bread
  • 1 can Cannellini beans, with their liquid
  • Parmesan cheese

Vegetables

  • Leeks (2, chopped)
  • Celery (2-3 stalks, chopped)
  • Carrots (1 or 2, chopped)
  • I can diced tomatoes (use fresh if available)
  • I large granny smith apple, cubed (unpeeled)

Seasonings

  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • Kosher Salt
  • Curry powder
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Red pepper flakes or cayenne

Wet ingredients

  • Almond milk (eyeball to achieve desired consistency of soup)
  • Veggie broth (1 can)
  • Olive oil & Butter (eyeball it to sautee the garlic)

Directions

Melt the butter with the olive oil and saute the garlic, celery and leeks until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes over medium heat. You don’t need onion with all that flavor from the garlic and leeks!

Add the carrots, tomatoes and bay leaves and stir to combine well for a few minutes. Add the veggie broth, apple and other seasonings.

Cover and simmer for at least 20 minutes (the house will start to smell awesome). Add the cannellini beans and bread and continue simmering, stirring occasionally, for another 5-10 minutes.

Add the almond milk to taste at the end, when the soup is on low. You don’t really want to let the almond milk boil up. If the soup looks too thick, add a teeny bit more almond milk or water; don’t forget it’ll thicken even more as it cools. Test to make sure the carrots are cooked through; add seasonings to taste, and you’re done.

Top it with freshly-grated Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Approval from a very discerning nose.

A few tips:

  • The flavors blend together even better as leftovers. Eaten the next day, I think this soup actually improves.
  • If you have it, a drizzle of good-quality olive oil will make an excellent topping here with the cheese. As for cheese, try parmesan, pecorino, or both. They’re each just salty enough.
  • If you don’t care for chunky soups, you can puree this to a smooth consistency using an immersion blender.
  • Increase the heat by upping your quantity of red pepper flakes/cayenne, or even by throwing in some good hot sauce.
  • The quantity of bread is very flexible. Tailor it to your liking and whatever you have on hand!
CSA 2011 · Recipes · Tips and Tricks

HOW-TO: Roast pumpkin & make pumpkin bread from scratch

Maybe, like me, you still have a few pumpkins left from a CSA that ended at Thanksgiving. Intimidated by cooking them? Don’t be. I’ll show you step-by-step how to cut and cook pumpkins, preserve the puree, toast the seeds, and make fresh pumpkin bread that blows away anything you’ve made using canned pumpkin pie filling.

Frozen puree will last several months, so it should get you through the winter packed into freezer-safe containers or even Ziploc bags with the air pressed out.

You can also put up pumpkin puree for long-term storage, but it requires a pressure canner, not a hot water bath for safety reasons. The same goes for winter squash. Both MUST be cubed & cooked before being canned. Here are some great instructions.

But first things first. Before you can make pumpkin bread, you need to make pumpkin puree … and to do that, you need to learn how to cut & hull a pumpkin.

The easiest way to slice a pumpkin is to make sure you have a sharp knife and a sturdy surface to work on. A serrated knife, like this one, works best — if you use a very sharp knife and slip, you could really hurt yourself. Cut the pumpkin in half using a sawing motion, then set aside the two halves.

Using a melon baller, scoop out the seeds into a small bowl. Save these, because you’re going to use them later to make savory roasted pumpkin seeds.

I used to think that cooking pumpkins always involved the oven, but turns out that’s not true at all — in fact, it uses less energy to fire up your microwave. (I also used to think you had to peel pumpkins and winter squash to cook them, but thankfully, you DON’T!) Place the pumpkin halves face up in a glass dish and fill with a couple inches of water. Cover and heat on high for 10 minutes; repeat until soft and mushy, usually two or three times depending on the strength of your microwave. You can usually get a good couple of cups of puree out of a small pumpkin.

Once the pumpkins are done, let cool briefly and then simply use a spoon to scoop the flesh away from the soft skins. You can either discard the skins or — like I do — eat them right off the bat!

If you are freezing your pumpkin, just scoop it into freezer-safe containers (you don’t need to mash it), then label and store. Whenever you want to use it, simply defrost in the fridge or warm in the microwave.

Note: If you prefer not to use a microwave or don’t have one, you can cook pumpkin on the stove top or in the oven. Just cook the pumpkin halves in a steamer on the stove top for about 10 minutes, or bake in the oven (this takes the longest) by placing the pumpkin plus several cups of water in a covered oven-proof dish. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 350, until a fork-poke shows they’re soft. With both of these methods, the skins should fall right away when they’re done.

***

SAVORY ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

Now that your pumpkin is cooked and stored, it’s time to turn those seeds into a healthful snack. Pumpkins (and their seeds) are considered super foods, packed with antioxidants and high in fiber and protein, making them a powerhouse for vegetarians especially.

First, wash the seeds well, separating the stringy material and guck from the seeds. I used my hands at first and then gave them a thorough final rinse in a colander before setting them out on paper towels to dry (you can speed this along with a hair dryer if you want!) It’s critical that they’re not soggy when they go into the oven.

Preheat the oven to 275 and spread the seeds out on a cookie sheet. To season, toss with vegetable oil or butter and any combination of seasonings you like: classic sea salt, something spicy like cayenne & thyme, or sweet such as cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice, or ginger for a kick, or garlic powder & Worcestershire sauce … or my favorite, good old Trader Joe’s 21-Seasoning Salute, which is a salt-free spice blend.

Heat for 10 to 20 minutes, watching them, and stirring here and there. You can eat them hot or cold and they’ll make a great snack on the go for a few days.

***

Pumpkin Bread Recipe

Dry Ingredients

  • 3 1/2 cups of flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda

Wet Ingredients

  • 1 cup oil
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups pumpkin (or 1 can pumpkin pie filling)

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Sift flour and mix in remaining dry ingredients.
  • Combine wet ingredients.
  • Add dry mixture to wet mixture.
  • Grease/spray loaf pans.
  • Bake for 1 hour; it may need an hour and 15.
  • Loaves are done when a toothpick into the center comes out clean.
Courtesy: Simply Recipes. I literally forgot to take a picture of mine before it was gone. Oops!

Other fun uses for pureed pumpkin:

  • Stir 1/2 cup of into pancake batter; add walnuts for pumpkin-nut pancakes
  • Using the recipe above, turn pumpkin batter into waffles instead; or, use the finished bread to make pumpkin french toast
  • Blend 1/4 cup pumpkin puree with cream cheese and cinnamon; spread on a bagel
  • Stir pumpkin puree into your morning oatmeal; top with brown sugar
  • Make homemade pumpkin gnocchi
  • Make vegan pumpkin tiramisu a la Chef Chloe
  • Stir pumpkin puree into risotto just before it’s done cooking
  • Freeze the puree in an ice tray to make cubes ready for smoothies, like this one

Do you have other ideas? Send them my way in the comments!

Restaurant Reviews

Restaurant Review: Muqueca in Cambridge

Oi! As some of you who are friends with me on Facebook know, I recently took a Portuguese Class at the Boston Center for Adult Education with a group of co-workers. We were interested in learning how to speak this language that’s becoming so prevalent in our region, both to make us better at our jobs and to be able to interact with the many people moving to Boston from Brazil, Portugal, the Azores, Cape Verde and beyond. It was a great class and I’m eager to keep learning.

To cap off our last class together, we hit Muqueca Restaurant in Cambridge’s Inman Square (where my roommates and I used to live just before I got married). I never made it to any of the Brazilian or Portuguese restaurants in the square, if you can believe it, because there are SO many amazing restaurants to try on and around Cambridge Street! If you’re in the area, even as an out-of-town visitor, Muqueca should be on your list.


So what did we eat? We did what I suspect most groups do — they split a slew of appetizers, moquecas (their signature dish) & mariscadas topped off by drinks and desserts (because they’re inexpensive and really good).

Appetizers

For starters: calamari in passion fruit sauce.
Coconut shrimp.
Brazilian crab cake.

Drinks

Brazilian cocktail; brandy and fruit in a snifter. Delicious.
And the price is right.

Entrees

Feijoada completa, the Brazilian national dish. I didn't eat this and you'll see why: it's a black bean stew with fresh & dried meat, including pork, sausage & bacon. It is served with a side of collard greens, fried plantain, farofa & orange (I did eat that stuff).

Since everyone shares, the foundation of your plate is the rice, which sops up the juices from the moqueca and mariscada.
The Mariscada! Shrimp, crabmeat, mussels & squid with cilantro, tomato, onion & coconut milk. Served with rice, farofa & plantain moqueca.
Plantain moqueca. YUM.

Dessert

Mango Mousse -- light and just sweet enough. You could also get passion fruit flavor (next time!)
Flan (delicious).

Muqueca has authentic Brazilian fare in a festive yet relaxing atmosphere. Great for groups, it would make an excellent choice for your next birthday celebration or any other special occasion.

THE DETAILS

Muqueca Brazilian Restaurant: 1008 Cambridge Street, Inman Square, Cambridge.

  • Phone: 617-354-3296
  • Hours: 11 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tues-Fri, Noon to 9:30 Sundays (closed Mondays)
  • Ordering online: Yes, at mixmenu.com
  • Accepts reservations: Yes, by phone
  • Accepts credit cards: Yes
  • Parking: Yes, on street (metered) and in nearby municipal lots at night
  • Transit accessible: Yes, via the Red and Green lines, as well as bus
  • Kids Menu: Yes
  • Veg Friendly: Not really; more like pescatarian-friendly

Browse the menu here. Connect with Muqueca on Facebook, Yelp and Orkut.

 ***

If you’re visiting Cambridge, Inman Square is the place to be. It’s a little less crowded than Harvard and Porter squares, but it still boasts plenty of cute stores, coffee shops, ice cream places and restaurants, along with more parking options (and just as many hipsters as the rest of Cambridge). It’s a 10 minute walk north from Central Square, or a 15-minute walk from Lechmere Station on the Green Line in East Cambridge.

Going to Inman? Don’t miss:

  • Muqueca, of course, as well as Midwest Grille for authentic Brazilian BBQ.
  • Ryles Jazz Club (they do a mean brunch with live music on Sundays)
  • 1369 Coffee House (located, very helpfully, at 1369 Cambridge St.)
  • Ole Mexican Grill (this place is UNREAL — guacamole made fresh at your table-side and sangria to die for).
  • The S&S Restaurant & Deli — this place has been around forever, and for a good reason. It is one of my favorite places to meet for breakfast or lunch, and the desserts are not to be missed.
  • East Coast Grill — Consistently rated one of the best places for fresh seafood and BBQ. Don’t miss “hell night!”
  • Bukowski Taverngreat beer selection, awesome burgers & snacks, super hipster vibe.
  • All-Star Sandwich Barhands down the best sandwich shop around.
  • Christina’s Ice Cream (& spice store next door) — this is my favorite ice cream place in the entire Boston area, with Toscanini’s in Central a VERY close favorite (and I know my ice cream). 50 flavors, including fresh rose, honey lavender, coconut butterfinger, ginger molasses, pumpkin, adzuki bean, lychee sorbet…I could go on and on.

There’s something for everyone!

Recipes

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Cinnamon-Sage Brown Butter

My mom and I made this recipe to celebrate Little Christmas last weekend. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, our family celebrates Little Christmas, or Ephiphany — commemorating the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem — with small gifts every January 6. It’s a nice way to end the holiday season each year and we always wait to take down our Christmas Tree and holiday decorations until after this day.

We bought gnocchi at an indoor farmer’s market near my mother’s house, but you could easily make your own.

Ingredients

  • 1 package of fresh sweet potato gnocchi
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
  • 20 fresh sage leaves, stems removed
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 TBSP maple syrup
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • Assorted root vegetables for roasting (optional)

Directions

First, if you are going to serve this with roasted vegetables like we did, preheat your oven to 400 and toss your sliced veggies (no need to peel if they’re organic and/or from the farmer’s market like ours were) in a dollop of olive oil on the cooking sheet. These will go in for about 20 minutes or until brown but not burnt, and in the meantime you can whip up the brown butter sauce and quickly cook the gnocchi in a pot of boiling water.

If you aren’t making the veggies, just start by putting a small pot of water on to boil. Gnocchi cook notoriously fast, so I’d get the bulk of your brown butter made before you throw the gnocchi in the boiling water. If you cook and drain them and set them aside for even 5 minutes, gnocchi will stubbornly stick together and turn into a huge block of glue. So don’t do that!

Start the sauce by melting the stick of butter of medium-high heat. Once the butter has melted, add the 20 sage leaves.

Continue cooking, swirling here and there, until the foam subsides and the mixture begins to brown. Turn heat to low.

Stir in the maple syrup, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Stir gently. (The mixture will bubble up, so be careful!)

Once the bubbles simmer down, stir the cooked gnocchi into the brown butter. Transfer to a serving dish and VOILA!

We served this with a roast pork loin for the carnivores (read: everyone but me) and some roasted root vegetables. It made for a satisfying meal to fill meat-eaters and veggies alike! Sweet potatoes and sage are a can’t-miss pairing, and this dish was no exception.

Looking for even more gnocchi recipes? Check out my last post about these delectable Italian dumplings!

This recipe was inspired by Food Network Favorite Giada De Laurteniis.