Category Archives: Sides

Rainbow shredded salad with thai pesto dressing

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am a pretty devoted user of the food processor. Mine is absolutely my most used electrical appliance, and I suspect the third most used tool in my kitchen overall (tools # 1 and 2 being a vegetable knife and a cast iron skillet, respectively). And my latest food processor obsession is definitely the shredded salad.

One of my finicky salad turn-offs are pieces that are too large. They’re awkward to eat and they never really feel like a “dish” so much as a jumbled crudite plate with lettuce. A grated salad is perfect for my aversion to large pieces, and by using the food processor to do the work, it’s also faster to prepare. You can keep things simple and use just a few ingredients (as with my shredded zucchini salad), or add a little of everything and create a dish with a bold, vibrant blend of colors and flavors. Today’s salad tends more towards the “little of everything” end of the spectrum and features a wide array of vegetables. A tangy, salty dressing based around my thai pesto holds it all together, and a bit of papaya provides a slightly sweet counterpoint to all the savory.

To make more of a one-bowl meal, this salad would also be wonderful bulked up with a hearty grain like farro or wheatberries. You could also add a legume like chickpeas, or some cubes of fried tofu if you prefer.

Rainbow shredded salad with thai pesto dressing
serves 4-6 as a side or starter

Ingredients
10 oz zucchini
4 oz red cabbage
1 large carrot
2-3 radishes
5 oz papaya (1/6 to 1/4 of a full fruit)
2-3 leaves curly green kale, stems removed, sliced into thin strips
1/4 c. thai pesto, thinned out with 1-2 tsp tamari and 2-4 tbsp rice vinegar
1/4 c. roasted salted peanuts, roughly chopped
2-3 scallions, sliced

Using a food processor fitted with the grating attachement, grate the zucchini, cabbage, carrot, radishes, and papaya. Transfer to a large bowl and mix with the kale and pesto dressing. You’ll want to apply some force when mixing in the dressing so that it has a chance to work into the firmer vegetables. Garnish with scallions and peanuts and serve. For a make-ahead lunch, prep the salad, minus the dressing, the night before, then mix in dressing immediately before eating.

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.

Cucumber salad with lemon feta dressing

Yes, another salad post. It’s funny, last year I remember having to make an effort to remember to make salads for lunch, but this summer they’re my default. I credit (or blame?) the weather. Last July I was wearing wool tights to work, this morning I dared myself to go bare-legged and I did not regret it. Not exactly Mark Twain’s San Francisco.

This week’s salad is a fairly classic Greek-inspired combination, with a few twists. I’ve recently become hooked on sun-dried olives and have been picking up a small container whenever I happen to drop by the Persian grocery. These olives are pungent and salty, with a softer texture than their fresh cousins. They’re also a little messy–make this salad too far in advance and you’ll find your cucumbers stained a deep brown!

The feta based dressing is what really makes the salad. Mixing the feta with olive oil, mustard and dill makes for a creamy and tangy blend, which works well with the cool crispness of the cucumber (how’s that for alliteration?). Although I’m also a fan of simply adding chunks or crumbles of feta to salad, I do like the guarantee of feta in every mouthful that you get with this dressing.

Some notes about ingredient volumes/servings. As written, I would consider this salad more of a “side” than a main dish, but I have been enjoying it as my main meal at lunch as well by tweaking the proportions a little. If I’m doing this salad as a main dish for one, I’ll increase the chickpeas, and often add a chopped boiled egg as well. Recently I packed this salad for the office and tried mashing the egg yolk into a spoonful of dressing. Delicious!

Cucumber salad with lemon feta dressing
Serves 4

Ingredients

For the dressing
2 oz feta cheese
3 tbsp olive oil
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp dried dill

For the salad
2 large cucumbers, peeled, cut in quarters lengthwise, seeds removed and cut into ~1/2″ slices
2 c. chickpeas
1/2 c. sundried black olives, pitted and sliced into quarters

Method

1. In a food processor fitted with the metal s-blade, combine all dressing ingredients and blend thoroughly.

2. Mix together cucumber and chickpeas. Just before serving, add the olives and dressing. Toss together to ensure and even coating of dressing throughout the salad.

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.

Pan-fried Brussels sprouts with cheddar

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For those of you in the US and living near a Trader Joe’s, you’re probably familiar with the cycle of “seasonal” goodies they rotate through, which seems to reach a peak around the Christmas season. Ever since I discovered that they are one of M.’s favorite vegetables, I’ve always kept a sharp eye out for the appearance of the TJ’s Brussels sprout stalk:

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This year, the stalks first popped up in our local TJ’s in October, but the sprouts looked puny and the stalks were sparsely populated. You pay by the stalk and the price is constant throughout the season, so you want to make sure you wait until the stalks are sporting a decent volume of sproutage. This past weekend, I finally sprang for one.

Before I cooked the sprouts, I also decided to do a little weighing of my sprouts, because I wanted to see how the price per pound for the sprouts compares to some of our other commonly consumed vegetables. Results? My $2.99 stalk of sprouts yielded just over 2 lbs of sprouts, so we paid a little under $1.50/lb.

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I have a rule of thumb of liking to keep our average produce expenditures under $1/lb, so these are a little pricey, but they aren’t terrible. Kale is definitely worse (we pay by the bunch, but I’ve estimated our cost per pound is about $3. You see why it always gets mixed with that ultra-cheap cabbage, and we chose to try growing kale on the patio this fall!). Anyway. Enough of that little side-track into our kitchen economics. After I’d finished scrutinizing the Brussels sprouts, it was time to get cooking with them.

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My two favorite methods for Brussels sprouts preparation are roasting or, as in today’s recipe, pan-frying. A few nicely browned exterior leaves, a slightly sweet and still firm interior. I find that halving the sprouts is the trick to getting the right balance between interior/exterior cooking. While you can get good results from whole sprouts, I just haven’t had the same success rate. Halving seems to elevate this cooking method to foolproof, so it’s well worth the small investment of extra time. And while a pan of sprouts on their own, with lashings of salt and pepper, is a perfectly satisfactory dish to place on your dinner table, the addition of a bit of extra sharp cheddar, melting and turning crisp against the bottom of the pan? It’s a pretty nice direction to take things in occasionally also.

Pan-fried Brussels sprouts with cheddar
makes 4 servings

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 lb. Brussels sprouts,trimmed and sliced in half
2 oz extra sharp cheddar, grated
Black pepper, to taste
salt, to taste

Method
1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and Brussels sprouts to the pan and stir to coat thoroughly with oil. Cover pan and cook sprouts for 10-12 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes. Sprouts will turn bright green and begin to brown.

2. Uncover pan and cook sprouts for approximately 2 more minutes, just long for any accumulated liquid to cook off the pan. Add the cheddar cheese, stir to coat the sprouts. If using a cast-iron or other heavy pan that retains heat, turn off burner and remove pan from heat as soon as the cheddar is mostly melted. The heat retained by the pan will do the rest of the work. If using a less heat retentive pan, allow the cheddar to completely melt and form a few crisp brown pieces on the bottom of the pan, then remove from heat.

3. Top generously with cracked black pepper, a few dashes of salt if you think it’s necessary (be sure to taste first as the cheese adds quite a bit of salt), and serve hot.

Spanish cauliflower rice

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“Spanish rice” was one of those foods that I had a bit of a fascination with growing up. My mother rarely (if ever) made it, but I always made a beeline for it at potlucks. At some point in my adult life I discovered it’s actually pretty easy to make. In the most basic form, just add salsa to rice as it’s cooking. Go more elaborate from there as you see fit.

Recently, I got a craving for Spanish rice and decided to see how a cauliflower version would work out. A friend had gifted us with some serrano chiles so I made this particular iteration extra spicy (M. did not require his usual topping of Tabasco sauce. Ha.) I don’t really like to buy jars of salsa anymore because of all the packaging involved, so instead I just put in various salsa components. Finally, although this recipe calls for canned tomatoes, you can also use fresh (as we were up until a month or so ago, but the tomatoes aren’t coming quite so fast now), and add some additional water or broth to make up the liquid (I’d suggest starting with 2/3 cup and then adding more if it seems to be drying out). I’ve been eating the batch pictured here as a base for bowls full of chocolate chili (which also got a heavy dose of those serrano peppers, so I’ve been needing a generous topping of cheese to counteract the heat).

Spanish cauliflower rice
Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, cut into 1/4″ dice
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2″ dice (optional)
1 serrano chile pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1 head cauliflower (approximately 2 lbs), grated or finely chopped
1 3/4 c (or 1 14-oz can) diced canned tomatoes
1/4 c. chopped cilantro (optional)

Method

1. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, until soft and slightly translucent.

2. Add garlic and, if using, red bell pepper. Cook for 2 more minutes. Add serrano chile, chili powder, cumin, and salt. Stir together, then add cauliflower. Stir cauliflower until onion/spice mixture is evenly distributed.

3. Add tomatoes (including their juice). Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomato juice has cooked off. Stir in cilantro (if using) and remove from heat.

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Serving suggestion: with chocolate chili and a side of kale+cabbage.

Braised cauliflower with three seed sauce (Vegan With A Vengeance)

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I’ve mentioned the Vegan with a Vengeance cookbook at least once or twice already on this blog. VWAV is one of the first (I think the absolute first) cookbook by the now ridiculously well-known Isa Chandra Moskowitz, who’s name has become practically synonomous with tasty, approachable, and slightly irreverant vegan cooking and baking. While this is not the first vegan cookbook I ever owned, it was the first one that I really seriously used. I also liked it enough that I went on to acquire copies of Moskowitz’s later books: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Veganomicon, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, and Vegan Brunch. And even though I’m no longer vegan, I still enjoy looking through these books and taking inspiration from their pages.

This three-seed cauliflower braise is an example of the great balance Moskowitz strikes in her best recipes: simple enough for a beginner cook, but still beautifully flavorful and with a few twists to make it stand out. I was initially thinking of being a bit lazy and using powdered versions of the cumin and mustard for this recipe, but when I realized I was getting low on a few other items, I decided it was worth making a trip over to the crunchy food co-op with the extensive spice collection after all.

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Although I’m sure the dish still would have been delicious made the lazy way, there was something about having the whole seeds included that really added to the effect of the dish. I especially liked the inclusion of fennel seeds, not an ingredient I would usually think to add to a curry dish (though it is sometimes included in garam masala blends). It adds a sweet undertone, not to mention helping to distiguish the cauliflower from the chickpea curry I initially paired it with for Monday evening’s dinner.
Later in the week, I skipped the extra curry and just added some plain chickpeas to the cauliflower to make an easy hot lunch. Good stuff.

Braised cauliflower with three-seed sauce (adapted from Vegan with a Vengeance
Serves 4-6

Ingredients
28 oz. diced canned tomatoes
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 bay leaf
1 head cauliflower (about 2 lbs), cut into florets
pinch of sugar

1. Drain tomatoes, reserving 1 c. of the juice.

2. In a large pot or skillet, heat the olive oil to medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft and slightly translucent, 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper, salt, cumin, mustard, fennel, turmeric, and bay leaf. Stir and saute for another 1-2 minutes.

3. Add the cauliflower, stir, and cook for another two minutes. Add the tomatoes, cook for 5 more minutes. Finally, add the reserved tomato juice and sugar. Cover for 3-5 minutes, until sauce is bubbling. Turn heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes or so, until the sauce has cooked down and thickened a bit (there will still be a fair amount of liquid, don’t try to cook it totally dry!). Remove from heat and serve.

Method