Category Archives: Sauces

Shredded zucchini salad

Zucchini noodles. Soooo two thousand…well, something. Back whenever zucchini noodles first burst onto the scene, I was pretty excited about the concept. However, there was a drawback: I didn’t own a spiralizer. Still don’t. Fortunately, I do own a food processor. Enter my take on the zoodle, shredded zucchini, which can be easily made using the grater blade, and is a perfect base for showing off a delicious homemade pesto sauce. Just toss the shredded zucchini in sauce, then add cherry tomatoes and a bit of fresh basil for garnish. Every bit is pure summer. Enjoy as a starter or side, or bulk it up into a meal for one with the addition of one of my favorite (perhaps to the point of near overuse?) add-ins, chickpeas.

Shredded zucchini salad
serves 1-2

Ingredients
2 small zucchini, ends trimmed and shredded using a box grater or the grater blade on a food processor
2 tbsp classic pesto sauce
3 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
1 c. chickpeas (optional)
3-4 fresh basil leaves, finely sliced, plus additional leaves for garnish
salt, to taste

Method

Mix together the shredded zucchini and pesto until thoroughly combined. Add cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and chickpeas (if using). Garnish with additional basil leaves.

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Two pestos

Do you remember how I was growing tomatoes on my patio last year? Probably not. No problem, just know that there were tomatoes, and that they were wonderful, but a little crowded in their pots. This year, M. and I decided that we wanted to do tomatoes again, but that a pot upgrade would be needed. Which left me with four formerly tomato-ed pots to put to good use. I decided it was high time to start an herb garden:

Just a small one. Some arugula (not an herb, I know), and two kinds of basil. One a standard sweet basil, the other a fragrant and purple tinged Thai variety. Both plants have been going crazy since I transplanted them into the pots (which I filled with my first batch of finished compost!). I’ve been plucking off a few leaves here and there for salads, omelets, or garnishes, but recently I realized that my plants were in need of a serious harvest. So I got picking:

Then I got down to the business of making pesto. Since I had two kinds of basil, two kinds of pesto! The first is a classic Italian style, made with sweet basil and walnuts (in lieu of pine nuts, which have gotten way too pricey in recent years. Sorry, pine nuts). The second is a bit of a sacrilege: I took the concept of pesto, but gave it an Asian twist, using Thai basil, peanuts, sesame oil, and a touch of tamari.

Right now my favorite way of using pesto is to dollop a spoonful onto one of the vegetable+legume+grain bowls I’ve been eating for dinner most nights. I’ve also been using the classic pesto as a dressing for sauteed green beans and tomatoes, and either recipe is an easy way to upgrade most grilled or sauteed vegetables to a stellar side dish. And if you need more ideas, I’ll be sharing a few recipes that make use of these pestos later this week.

Two pestos
Each recipe makes between 1/2 and 3/4 c.

Classic Pesto
1 oz sweet basil leaves (about 1.5 oz with stems)
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 c. walnut pieces
1 clove garlic, peeled
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Thai peanut pesto
1 oz thai basil leaves (about 1.5 oz with stems)
1/4 c. sesame oil
1/4 c. roasted salted peanuts
1 clove garlic, peeled
1 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

Method

Place all ingredients in a food processor fitted with the metal S-blade. Process for 30 seconds, scrape down the sides, and process for another 10 seconds or so. If a thinner pesto is desired, add more oil, 1-2 tbsp at a time.

Pesto can be frozen, or will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Tahini lemon dressing

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There’s something about having a 4lb jar of tahini in your fridge. You just start wanting to add it to everything. Hummus (no surprise there), cookies (a little less typical), and today, salad dressing.

Normally I’m not a huge salads-in-winter person, but when the produce market keeps putting 3lbs for $3 bags of salad greens front and center at the entrance, well…habits can change.

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This dressing is a riff on a recipe that I first saw in my old standby, Vegan with A Vengeance, but I’ve played around with the preparation and simplified things by using the microwave rather than the stovetop to “cook” the garlic. All you purists out there, use the stovetop, but I like the speed and ease that the microwave provides.

Tahini lemon dressing
makes ~1/2c. of dressing

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed or finely minced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
juice of 1 lemon (~2 tbsp)
3 tbsp tahini
1/4 c. water

Method
1. In a small microwave safe bowl, heat the oil on high power for 30 seconds. Add the garlic (be careful handling the bowl, it may get very hot), and microwave for 20 seconds more. Allow to cool for at least 1 minute.

2. Add the balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, and tahini to the oil and garlic. Stir together, the tahini will initially seize up and become stiff, continue stirring until the mixture is smooth. Add 2 tbsp of water and stir until smooth again. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of water if needed (this will depend upon your preferred dressing consistency).

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Add to salad and enjoy!

This dressing will keep in the fridge for several days, you may need to thin it out with a little more water or olive oil if it stiffens up after refrigeration.

Middle eastern dip trio

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One of my errands last Friday (in addition to rummaging around the thrift store) was to the Persian grocery store. I don’t go to this place too often (it’s just a little bit out of the way, and only really useful to us for a few specialty items), so every time I go I seem to get sucked into wandering around staring at things. The store basically has: a huge selection of bread (pita, lavash, and the like), a huge selection of bagged teas, a huge selection of faux-British cookies (chocolate digestive biscuits, etc., but with Arabic text on the wrappers), an awful lot of olive and grapeseed oils. Filling out the offerings are things like pomegranate molasses (multiple varieties, natch), dried beans, yogurt and kefir, and, of course, tahini:

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This 4lb jar is actually not the largest size on offer, there is an 8lb iteration as well. I go back and forth as to whether or not it’s worth the extra savings to size up but keep going with the 4lb jar. Something about buying 8lbs of tahini for a two-person household just seems like it would be crossing a line. Still, even at 4 lbs, buying in bulk is definitely worth it: this jar is $17, or $4.25/lb. It’s been a while since I shelled out for a 1lb jar of tahini at Whole Foods or the health food store, but I’m pretty sure they cost at least $6 or $7. Bulk purchasing for the win, again.

So what am I going to actually do with all that tahini I hauled home? I have lots of uses for it, but a favorite means of disposal is in hummus, or blended with eggplant to make baba ghanoush:

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Saturday evening we had a party to go to, and I put together this little dip trio to bring, along with a plate of raw veggies for dipping. I’ve been trotting variations of this dip platter out for quite some time, check out this vintage 2009 batch (with toasted pita wedges, also yum) as proof of its enduring nature:

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Really, I’m still amazed at how impressive people find a nicely arranged platter of something really, really, almost embarrassingly easy to make.

While hummus and baba ghanoush are traditionally served as dips or spreads, I find they also make a great dressing for salad or even (in the case of hummus especially) roasted vegetables like peppers or zucchini. Just thin out with a little water or extra lemon juice.

And, it should go without saying, but just because all three of these recipes are presented in one post, doesn’t mean you have to make them all at once. But if you’re going to a party, you really should.

Hummus times two, plus baba ghanoush

Ingredients
For plain hummus
2 c. cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 c. tahini
1/4 c. olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
2-4 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt

For red pepper variation
same ingredients as for regular hummus, plus two red peppers

For baba ghanoush
2 medium eggplants (about 2.5 lbs)
1/3 c. tahini
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 tsp cumin
pinch of chile powder
2-4 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt

Method

1. If making red pepper hummus or baba ghanoush, you’ll first need to roast your pepper or eggplant. To do this, I like to place the vegetable in question under the broiler in the oven, then turn every 5 minutes or so until the exteriors are charred and the flesh is soft. For peppers, the time in my oven is typically 15-20 minutes. Eggplants are closer to 30 minutes. Once the pepper or eggplant is roasted, allow to cool, then peel off the skin. If you are using red peppers, slice them open and discard the seeds and white ribs (also discard the stems, for either peppers or hummus). Chop into coarse pieces.

2. For any of the dips: Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust lemon juice, salt, or tahini as needed.

Other variations:

Try using roasted garlic instead of raw for a more subtle and slightly sweet flavor (you may want to use more garlic in this case as the flavor is mellowed by roasting).

Add a spoonful or two of yogurt for an extra creamy texture and tanginess

“Mediterranean Hummus” (a la Trader Joe’s): top with finely chopped fresh basil, sundried tomatoes, olive oil, and toasted pine nuts

Roasted tomato hummus: Roast 1-2 tomatoes in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Peel and blend into plain hummus.

Add 1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper for an extra spicy dip

Thai-spired peanut sauce

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My mother used to make chicken satay skewers for “special” barbecue events when I was little. I was always excited about chicken satay because a) food on sticks and b) the peanut sauce that went along with it. When I got older and moved to a city with an abundance of Thai restaurants, I realized that it wasn’t just my mother and the collection of Australian cookbooks foisted upon us by my (paternal) grandmother who were onto the potential of peanuts beyond the ubiquitous PB&J. As M. and I both love Thai food, trying to recreate some of the more common (and delicious) flavors at home was inevitable.
Continue reading Thai-spired peanut sauce

Recipe: Chile Garlic Ginger Lime Sauce

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As you may have noticed, much of our batch cooking technique relies not so much on making complete meals as making things like sauces and broths that we can then use as the basis for several different meals later on. I’ll be talking more about that in another post later this week, so today I’m just going to share a recipes for one of our favorites, Chile Garlic Ginger Lime sauce, so imaginatively named because I couldn’t think of anything creative and those are the four components that I most associate with it. Continue reading Recipe: Chile Garlic Ginger Lime Sauce