The Real Food Journal
I have big news! I finally bought a new grill. Yup, just a run of the mill, under $200 number. No bells, no whistles, no LED lights or motorized spit.
Because, really, I don’t need anything fancy. Just heavy grates and consistent heat.
It took me some time, after years in the vegetarian wilderness, to get into grilling. Like most people, I grew up with a family that grilled burgers, steaks, and baked potatoes wrapped in foil. We camped, and meals were cooked over campfires, all by my Mom. That trope in which all Dads grill wasn’t happening in our backyard.
But when I got out on my own, I had no interest in burgers and steaks. We bought grills over the years, and I found charcoal exhausting. Why mess with lighting it, waiting for the right moment, just to grill some tofu and vegetables?
It was a personal chef job that kind of forced me to start grilling. They wanted me to grill, so I did some reading, and I grilled their burgers and steaks and every other meat on a gas grill. I started to get the groove of grilling. It is so easy.
But what really changed everything was when I got into smoker chips. Suddenly, it wasn’t just about heat. Having smoke made the gas grill the best of both worlds, with the convenience of instant lighting, and the flavor of a smoky wood fire. For the last several years, that has been my thing. Smoke adds umami, and smoking your veggies gives them a real depth of flavor. Like these smoked oyster mushrooms. Or this smoked tomato pasta sauce.
I make pizzas, and even a crusty bread on the grill. And that old grill, well, it just kind of petered out. It never really worked right, and when the lines got frayed and looked dangerously leaky, we just wheeled it to the alley. We got a Char Broil and Put it together on the patio. And I got really busy and didn’t have a ton of time.
So the new grill was just sitting there, all shiny and ready to go. I was tired, I was hungry, and I hadn’t soaked the wood chips. But there it was, ready to deliver instant fire, so I cranked it up. I had a bunch of curly red kale, some nice local yellow and red tomatoes, and a zucchini. The Dumpling and Strand Durum Wheat Pasta that I picked up at the Mill City Market sealed the deal. It cooks in two minutes.
I was excited to try the new pasta, made with a softer wheat that uses fewer resources to grow. Somehow, the magicians and D & S managed to make a pasta from soft wheat, which has less gluten, and they didn’t need to use eggs to hold it together. Wow.
So, I chopped a few vegetables while the grill got hot. I simply tore the kale in bite sized pieces andnd mixed in lemon zest and chopped garlic. And to the fire it went.
Just a few minutes, turning the greens, then closing the lid for a minute, then turning again, and they were crisp in spots, chewy in others. I salted them off the heat.
While the kale cooked, I seared some zucchini slabs. I cut them this way to keep them from falling through. Then I cut them up later.
And within minutes, I had a lovely dinner. Because I didn’t bother with the smoker, I threw some smoked almonds on top, and I cooked the excellent pasta and tossed everything in a generous amount of good olive oil.
The crispy grilled kale is a winner, you can use that in all kinds of dishes, or you can keep it on the heat until you have kale chips.
The new grill will get lots of use this summer!
Grilled Kale and Smoked Almond Pasta
Fire up the grill for a veggie rich pasta meal. Kale cooks quickly on a grill mat or wok, and zucchini is at its best, seared on a hot grate.
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice for finishing pasta
- 1 clove garlic sliced
- extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medi zucchini cut in planks
- 4 small yellow tomatoes chopped
- 2 small red tomatoes chopped
- 9 ounces fresh fettucine whole wheat
- 1 handful smoked almonds coarsely chopped
- espelette pepper or red chili flakes
- fresh violets
Pre-heat the grill. Put on a pot of water to boil for the pasta, and salt it generously.Tear the kale into bite-sized pieces and put in a bowl, then add lemon zest and garlic. Drizzle generously with olive oil and toss to coat. Coat the zucchini planks with oil and tuck them in the side of the bowl.
Put the grill mat or wok on the grill and add the kale, use tongs to turn. Place the zucchini on the grill and let sear. Close the grill for a minute, then open and turn the kale. Do this a few times until the kale is crispy but not burned.Check the zucchini, when it is browned, turn the pieces and let it sear again.
When the kale is crisped in spots, transfer back to the bowl. When the zucchini is tender and browned, transfer to the bowl. Turn off the grill. Put the zucchini on the cutting board and slice in bite-sized pieces. Salt the kale and toss.
Cook the pasta and drain. In the pasta pot, combine the tomatoes and a good shot of olive oil, salt and the lemon juice. Add the drained pasta and toss to mix. Serve topped with chopped almonds, Espelette pepper or chilis, and fresh violets, with the crispy kale all around.
When the season brightens and the asparagus is suddenly really good, it starts showing up in everything at my house. Creamy soup, stir-fries, pizzas, you name it. But it is easy to run out of fun ways to serve it, and start to get sick of your usual soups and stir-fries. You need a new way to use asparagus.
So, for a real treat, may I suggest wrapping each asparagus spear in filo dough, liberally sprinkled with Indian spices and toasted coconut? And serving it with a gingery Mango Chutney? I’m betting that this will be a fresh take, and one that your friends and family will fall upon like a pack of hungry wolves.
At least mine did.View Recipe
Chalk it up to the charisma of filo dough, or that bright orange mango chutney. It’s a vegetable dish that stands out from the pack. Paper-thin filo slathered with coconut oil will do that for a veggie. Just look at Spanakopita, in which spinach is wrapped in filo, and is featured on Greek restaurant menus everywhere. Filo just gives veggies curb appeal.
Asparagus is perfect for a marriage with filo. The spears are easy to wrap, and cook in the same amount of time that it takes to bake the filo. You want a medium or thick spear for this, and the number of spears in a bunch of asparagus varies widely, from 12 very thick to 30 very thin spears. Count the number in your bunch, and figure 1 sheet of dough for four spears.
If you haven’t worked with filo before, don’t be intimidated. Filo is paper thin dough, made of flour and water. The key is to prevent the amount of moisture in the dough from changing. That means thawing it slowly overnight in the refrigerator, to keep it from sweating out any moisture. Thawing the filo at room temperature can make the sheets a tiny bit damp, and they will stick together.
Once you open the package, the sheets will start to dry out when exposed to air. That is why the instructions tell you how to remove what you need, keep them covered, and re-wrap and refreeze the remaining dough. If you do this, you can save the rest of that pound of dough for another use, and often thaw and refreeze it once or twice before the sheets become brittle.
I’ve even got a recipe for Cauliflower Biryani, for those cutting back on carbs.
Happy Asparagus Season!
Coconut-Filo Asparagus with Mango Chutney
Surprise your guests with lightly spiced, crispy filo wrapped asparagus spears, ready to dip in a fruity chutney. Switching coconut oil for butter makes a crunchy, light filo wrapper that everyone can enjoy. Count the number of spears in your bunch- they vary widely. I used very thin spears, which came 30 to a bunch.
- 8 sheets filo dough thawed
- 3/4 cup chopped mango 1 Champagne mango
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger chopped
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh turmeric or 1/4 tsp dried
- 1 large orange zested and juiced
- 2 tablespoons light brown sugar to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspooon garam masala
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup finely shredded coconut
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 bunch asparagus about 30 spears
- 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
1.Thaw phyllo in the refrigerator overnight. Oil a sheet pan and reserve. Preheat the oven to 350F.
Make the chutney: combine the mango, ginger, turmeric, orange juice and zest, brown sugar, paprika, garam masala and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring. Reduce the heat to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Transfer the chutney to a blender and puree, if desired. Let cool to room temperature.
In a small bowl, mix the coconut, cumin seeds and brown mustard seeds. Spread on a dry sheet pan and toast in the oven for 5-7 minutes. When golden brown, take out and scrape back into the bowl to cool. Stir in the salt. Raise the heat of the oven to 400F.
To assemble: Trim the bases of the asparagus and save for compost. Open filo package and remove 6-8 sheets (one for every four spears), tightly re-wrap and freeze remaining. Place the sheets on a counter and cover with plastic wrap, then cover that with a barely damp towel.
Lightly brush each sheet of phyllo with oil, then sprinkle half with 2 teaspoons of the coconut mixture. Fold in half and cut into four four inch wide pieces. Place each asparagus spear diagonally, with the tip pointing to the lower left hand corner, and fold that corner over the tip. Roll the lower right corner over the spear and keep rolling to wrap completely, and place seam side down on the sheet pan. You can tightly wrap the pan and chill for up to 24 hours before baking.
Bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes, until crisp and golden.
These days, I think often about gratitude. It’s so easy to slip into focusing on what you want and don’t get, and to forget how incredibly lucky you are. One of the things that I am consciously grateful for on a daily basis is good food. A visit to the farmer’s market, or my Coop, or a unique restaurant puts my good fortune right there, on display. I hope I never get so jaded that I stop being excited about my absurd good luck.
So I try to pay attention, eat mindfully, and think about where my food comes from. With gratitude.
Which brings me to some of my favorite artisans, the folks at Dumpling and Strand, Noodlers at Large. There were fresh pastas around, before they came into my life. Dumpling and Strand is better. But more than that, when I am enjoying this particular noodle, there are faces behind the food. I’m connected to a larger thing. Because I buy my pasta directly from Jeff Casper and Kelly McManus, the pasta has more meaning. And through that connection, I can see the farmers who grow the grain, and the fields of grain, rippling in the wind.
It’s bigger than just me, a plate of pasta, and a fork.
I may have put in on the plate, but a whole team of people worked on getting it there. It wouldn’t be this good without each of them taking an extra step to make sure everything was done right.
Gratitude. I owe it to all those people to pay attention and be present when I eat this food.
This particular noodle, called Wild Rice “Minnesoba,” is a perfect example. Made from wild rice grown on the Red Lake Reservation, this noodle is not something you can find anywhere. The Red Lake Band Of Chippewa grew this, and take pride in providing a high quality, delicious wild rice. It’s got history. You don’t just douse it in a jar of red sauce, either.
Soba is an ancient Japanese tradition, and it’s usually made with buckwheat. But the creative locavore minds at D & S found a parallel in wild rice. Dark, earthy, nutty wild rice is the flavor of Minnesota, in my book. The grassy, slightly smoky flavor is like no other food. Putting the wild rice in a soba noodle allows you to really appreciate the flavor, with the element of texture removed.
So, to play it all up, I went with meaty, seared shiitakes, and toasty hazelnuts. The shiitakes are grown locally, so they are nice and fresh. Dark sesame oil gives it an Asian feel, as well as more meaty, umami oomph. A carrot for color and sweetness, and some anise-y Thai Basil adds more spark to the dish.
The fact that it all comes together in as long as it takes to chop some mushrooms and boil a pot of water is another thing to celebrate. Wild rice flavor, in a noodle that cooks in two minutes?
For that alone, a standing ovation, to everybody who made this meal possible!
Wild Rice "Minnesoba" with Seared Shiitakes and Hazelnuts
When you have a fantastically flavorful noodle, you hardly need to add much. To play up the nutty, grassy flavors of the wild rice, I opted for meaty shiitakes, toasty hazelnuts, and a sprinkling of Thai basil.
- 1 package Dumpling and Strand Minnesoba
- 5 ounces fresh shiitakes stemmed and sliced
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 1 large carrot julienned
- 2 teaspoons tamari
- 2 teaspoons dark sesame oil
- 1/2 cup fresh Thai Basil slivered
- 1/4 cup hazelnuts toasted and coarsely chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh Thai Basil for garnish
- Sriracha Sauce
Put on a big pot of water for the soba. Prep all the veggies and have them ready.
In a large saute pan, heat the canola oil over medium high heat. Add the shiitakes to the hot pan, and stir. Cook, stirring, until browned and shrunken, about 4 minutes. Take off the heat.
Drop the soba into the boiling water for 2 minutes, throw the carrots in, too. Stir well, and drain when just cooked.
Add the soba to the pan with the shiitakes, and drizzle with tamari and sesame oil. Toss to mix. Serve sprinkled with hazelnuts and basil, and garnished with a sprig of basil. Drizzle with Sriracha and serve.
Is Fusion Wrong?
Fusion cooking had a heyday, back in the 90’s. It was all good until it went too far, until monstrous hybrid experiments roamed the land. We all tried to walk the line between cool-fusion and con-fusion food. Strange combos became all too common. Soon it became almost a pejorative to call something “fusion cuisine.”
In our current quest for cultural authenticity, it’s become even more of a sensitive topic. But dammit, sometimes joyfully, lawlessly mashing up things that taste good together is, well, fun. Take this example. Sushi is all understated rice and smooth fillings, wrapped in seaweed. Burritos are spicy, loud flavors wrapped in flour tortillas. Fuse the two into a “sushi-rito” and you have a bunch of tastes that really work together, in one crazy package. The Sushirito is the best kind of cultural combo.
So Arrest Me
It’s all in good fun, isn’t it? Nobody is claiming that this is an ancient dish, created by Japanese peasants, or handed down from a pre-Columbian grandma. Nope, This is just stuff I like, wrapped in a glorious sheet of carbs. Whole grain rice, whole grain tortillas, and vegetables, nothing to get upset about. Just because I put wasabi mayo and Tapatio hot sauce on the same dish doesn’t make my Sushirito a crime against cultural authenticity.
For this bad boy, I cooked up some medium grain brown rice and seasoned it with a little rice vinegar and sugar, and I quick pickled some julienned watermelon radish. Some asparagus spears, steamed until crisp-tender, were perfectly in season. Wasabi mayo is always good, and some kraut and pickled ginger gave it some fermented goodness.
The Burrito Part
But then I veered over into burrito territory, by spreading it on a whole wheat tortilla and serving it with hot sauce. So there. I must say, my husband, who kind of politely goes along with sushi, ate this with no reservations. We both dug in like college kids at Chipotle.
So if you are craving both sushi and burritos, you are in luck. Maybe you can put on your favorite 90’s dance mix to complete the nostalgic feeling.
Try the Sushirito and enjoy a little honest fusion food.
Asparagus and Avocado Sushiritos
We love sushi, and we love burritos. Skip the sushi rolling and simply twist up a burrito with seasonal vegetables. Then you can douse it in your favorite hot sauce and dip in soy sauce, for a fun and easy meal.
- 1 cup medium grain brown rice
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar divided
- 1 small watermelon radish slivered
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise your favorite brand
- 1 teaspoon wasabi paste to taste
- 8 stalks asparagus
- 1/2 large hass avocado
- pickled ginger
- 4 10 inch whole wheat tortillas
- Hot sauce and soy sauce
Cook the rice: In a small pot, combine the rice and water and place over high heat. When it boils, cover tightly and reduce the heat to low. Cook for about 40 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Take off the heat and let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir together sugar and 1 tablespoon of vinegar, drizzle over rice and fold in.
In a small bowl, combine the radish and remaining rice vinegar and toss to mix. Let stand to marinate for 15 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine the mayo and wasabi and stir. If you really like wasabi, add more to taste. Trim the avocado to the length of the nori, then steam just until crisp-tender. Cool.
Slice the avocado in half, then remove the pit. Slice the avocado fruit in the shell lengthwise to make 8 slices. Scoop out carefully with a spoon.
Lay out four tortillas, then spread 1/4 of the rice on one side of each tortilla. Smear 1/4 of the mayo mixture across the rice, then place the asparagus, avocado slices, pickled ginger, and kraut in rows alongside. Roll up like sushi, starting at the side closest to you. Slice in half and use toothpicks to hold the roll closed. Serve or wrap and refrigerate.
Happy Earth Day?
These days, the fight to protect the environment has had some setbacks. To put it mildly. But rather than throw your hands up in despair, I believe it is time to double down. Keep doing whatever you can to reduce your carbon footprint, because it matters. Going meatless is a powerful action that helps reduce the toll our lifestyle takes on the environment. For Earth Day, try the Meatless Monday approach.
While you’re at it, you can try my recipe to help reduce food waste. We can all help with saving the Earth just by eating everything we buy (which is harder than it sounds!)
Rather than quoting a bunch of numbers for you here, I’ll just give you a link to the Meatless Monday website, where you can dig deeper into the statistics. Suffice to say, we need to make some changes to how we live on the Earth.
For my part, may I suggest that you explore the delicious world of plant-based cuisine? It’s been my life’s work to create recipes that entice even die-hard meat lovers to have a bite. Then another, then another. Why stop?
Here’s me on TV, making meatless monday dishes.This episode was all about the Year of Pulses, and featured two delicious bean soups with breads to pair them with!
Cut Back on Food Waste for Earth Day
So, to show you just how easy it can be, I’m going to drag out the funky, wilted, embarrassing veggies in the back of my vegetable drawer. Yes, like you, I buy produce, cook parts of it, and then end up with perfectly good veggies languishing in the darkness. So, to prevent food waste, we all need a few strategies for using these precious resources up before they go to the landfill.
Here is my sad little pile of vegetables that have seen better days:
And here are the trimmed veggies, chopped for a quick stir-fry:
The trimmings go into the compost bin. I’ve been using compostable bags to stash my trims so that I can donate them to our city-side compost pick up, because my compost bin is full and I’m giving it time to finish rotting for this summer’s garden.
Millet, Edamame, and Tahini
For a low-impact stir fry, I dug out some frozen, American grown edamame. Then, I cooked some millet. Millet is an ancient grain, one that grows with little water, on poor soil, with very little need for any application of fertilizers. It’s grown in the USA, and if we all ate more of it, it would be grown somewhere near you, so let’s get into it.
Then, I made a super simple tahini sauce, just because you probably have a jar of tahini in the fridge, and it is a tasty way to make some leftover veggies appealing. I spiked it with turmeric for a lively color and because my brain needs all the help it can get.
A few minutes in a hot pan, and suddenly these funky, nearly spent vegetables became a delicious, colorful meal.
So, go meatless for Earth Day, and while you are at it, clear out that veggie drawer before you add more stuff to the landfill. I feel better knowing that all the energy that went into growing that wilted celery and slightly wrinkly jalapeno didn’t go to waste.
Happy Earth Day.
Use-It-Up Veggie Stir Fry with Edamame over Spiced Millet
You can use whatever veggies you have on hand to make this easy stir-fry. Just chop 'til you have 4 cups or so. The sauce is versatile and easy to make, just stir and drizzle.
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1/2 cup chopped onion, shallot or other allium
- 1 large garlic clove chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1 cup millet
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 3/4 cups water
Tahini Stir-fry Sauce
- 1/4 cup tahini
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons tamari
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar or honey
- 2-3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 4 cups chopped vegetables
- 1 cup edamame shelled, thawed
- 1 pinch salt
- Sriracha as needed
For millet: In a 1 quart pot, heat the oil over medium heat, and add the onion or shallot and stir. When softened, add the garlic and stir for a minute, then add the paprika and millet and stir until the millet is hot and fragrant. Add the salt and water and raise the heat to bring to a boil. Cover tightly, and cook for 25 minutes. When all the water is absorbed, take off the heat and let stand for at least 5 minutes.
For the sauce, combine the ingredients and stir, adding enough water to make a pourable sauce.
For the stir-fry, heat a wok or saute pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil and tilt the pan to coat the bottom. Add the vegetables and edamame and stir constantly until the veggies are crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Add a pinch of salt and stir.
Serve over millet, drizzled with tahini sauce. Alternatively, you can toss the veggies with sauce before serving. Drizzle with Sriracha or other hot sauce as desired.
My Halvah Surprise
The last thing that I thought I would rediscover in Amsterdam would have to be halvah. On my recent trip to the city of Canals and VanGogh, I was wandering from shop to shop, just checking things out, when I happened into a place called Sum Sum. There, loaves of smooth, velvety halvah were beautifully displayed, and the staff shaved off sample bites upon request. The place was packed with enthusiastic samplers. Suddenly I was all-in on halvah, sampling creative flavor combinations, all of which melted in my mouth. Cinnamon Orchid, Whisky, or Matcha Halvah sound appealing? Yes, please.
Stop Forgetting Halvah!
I have to admit, I had kind of forgotten about halvah. Joyva halvah appears in the Kosher section of the store every year for the holidays, and I think, maybe I will get that again, some time. Years ago, one of the vegetarian places I worked in made a version of halvah that wasn’t cooked, just honey and sesame stirred up and chilled, and it was pretty gooey.
I figured it was something you had to grow up eating to really crave. Let’s face it, there are so many options in the sweets department, why would you opt for something dry and crumbly?
Until I walked into this little shop in Amsterdam. And I knew I had to start making halvah.
Since Easter is upon us, I decided to make my halvah into the shape of eggs. I based the recipe on one by Michael Solomonov, but I made my own tahini, and as long as I was at it, decided to make it half pistachio. The green of the pistachios would amp up the green of the matcha, and taste delicious, too. Dipping it in chocolate would give it Easter candy appeal, and a sprinkle of pistachio or sesame covers up the fact that I didn’t temper the chocolate.
If they last long enough for anyone to care.
It’s Not Hard to Make Your Own
If you don’t want to make your own tahini, buy an organic one, not the thin, smooth kind. I love Joyva and the other Middle Eastern brands because they are smooth and runny enough to drizzle, but for this, you want the thicker kinds.
Cooking the syrup requires a candy thermometer, so make sure you have one before you start.
Halvah is a fantastic treat, and meets my standard of having some real food in it as well as sugar. Sesame and pistachios are nutritious food. These eggs could probably qualify as energy bars, if you compare their stats.
We eat peanut butter and chocolate together all the time, why not try a sesame and chocolate treat? These cute little bites will convince you to get into halvah. If you can’t make the trip to Sum Sum, make your own.
Matcha and Pistachio Halvah Easter Eggs
These easy to make candies combine sesame seeds and pistachios with matcha tea for a bright green version of halvah. Instead of the usual loaf of halvah, these can be scooped and shaped while the dough is warm, then dipped in chocolate for an Easter candy. If you don't want to make the sesame-pistachio butter, use 1 1/2 cups of thick tahini.
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 cup sesame seeds
- 1 cup raw pistachios
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 tablespoon matcha powder
- 2 cups organic sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 8 ounces semisweet chocolate melted
- pistachios for garnish
In a Vitamix or other blender or food processor, place the oil. In a small saute pan, spread the sesame seeds and place over medium heat. Swirl for about 5 minutes, until the seeds are fragrant and toasty. Transfer to a bowl and let cool for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with parchment for the finished eggs.
Add the cooled sesame seeds, pistachios and pinch of salt to the blender. Secure the lids and use the tamper to press the ingredients into the blades as you start at Speed 1 and increase slowly to 5, then up to high, as the mixture starts to become nut butter. Keep pressing until a smooth paste is produced.
Scrape the nut butter into a stand mixer fitted with a batter paddle and add the matcha powder. Set the speed on low and mix, then turn off.
In a 1 quart pot, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pan and swirl the mixture as it cooks, lowering the heat so it boils but doesn't boil over.
When the syrup reaches 240 F, take off the heat. Turn on the stand mixer to medium speed, and slowly drizzle the hot syrup into the bowl. Beat in all the syrup, then raise the speed to beat for about 20 seconds.
Use a small (1 tablespoon-sized) scoop to scoop the warm dough onto the parchment lined pan. Dip your hands in cool water and use your palms to roll each portion into an egg shape, then place back on the pan. Chill for an hour or overnight.
Melt the chocolate and dip the eggs, and garnish with chopped pistachios and a sprinkle of matcha, if desired. Chill until set. Store, refrigerated, for up to 2 months.
You'll need a blender to make the butter, a stand mixer, a small scoop for forming the dough, and a parchment lined pan.
Some Days You Need Comfort Food
Sometimes the World is a hard place. There’s nothing like a trying day to send me to the refuge of my kitchen, looking for something that will make me feel better. And if you ask me, comfort food is a bowl of noodles with ever so comforting peanut butter all over them.
Slightly chewy, slippery noodles, studded with tender tofu and barely cooked vegetables become ever so easy to eat with a gloss of peanut sauce. Unlike everything else that happened in your day, you kind of can’t mess this sauce up, just stir the peanut butter sauce in a cup. It’s dependable, it has your back.
All you need to do when you walk in that door is put on a pot of water for the noodles and crank up the oven for the tofu. Then go change into your relaxing clothes while everything gets warmed up. If you are really crunched for time, you can always use a can of mock duck, or even some pre-baked tofu. But making it yourself is very low labor, it just takes a while in the oven.
I find that baking tofu instead of frying it is so much easier, uses less oil, and doesn’t lead to an oil spattered stove top the way that frying does. I am hooked on Wildwood extra firm or sprouted tofu, because they are so firm that you couldn’t press any water out of them if you wanted to. Just blot, cube, toss with oil and seasoning, and into the oven. As long as the oven is on, roast the broccoli to give it a little char and intensify the flavor.
While the tofu and broccoli roast, you can blanch the radishes and carrots, and stir up the simple sauce. Peanut butter always makes me feel happy, like I’m a kid again, curled up with a spoonful of peanut butter and a good book. I’m sure that the definition of comfort food is unique to every individual, and set in childhood. That may be so, but noodles have to be high on everyone’s list.
Peanut butter is such a staple in my kitchen, I can hardly go a week without making a new batch in the Vitamix. I keep roasted unsalted peanuts in the freezer so I can stay ahead of my peanut butter needs. It’s an inexpensive source of protein, fiber, and good fats, and can go savory or sweet without missing a beat.
Of course I’m all over a whole wheat noodle, too, to get the goodness of whole grains on the plate in minutes. Flat linguine and fettucine are easy to find in whole wheat or even GF whole grain varieties, and they do a pretty good stand-in for an Asian udon or other wide noodle.
So go ahead, comfort yourself with noodles. These will make you feel good from the inside out.
Whole Wheat Peanut Noodles with Turmeric Tofu
- 8 ounces extra firm tofu cubed
- 1 teaspoon grated fresh turmeric
- dark sesame oil
- 1 bunch broccoli cut in florets
- 1/4 large black radish julienned
- 1 large carrot julienned
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup brewed tea
- 2 tablespoons honey or sugar
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
- 3/4 cup toasted peanuts chopped
- 12 ounces whole wheat fettucine
- Sriracha sauce
Boil a large pot of water for cooking the vegetables and noodles. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Spread a drizzle of sesame oil on a sheet pan and place the tofu on it, sprinkle with turmeric and tamari and toss to coat. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring halfway. Spread the broccoli on a pan and drizzle with sesame oil, toss to coat. Roast for 20 minutes, until browned.
In a medium bowl, combine the peanut butter, vinegar, honey, soy sauce, green tea or water, red pepper and fresh ginger. Whisk until smooth.
Blanch the remaining vegetables in the boiling water: drop in the carrots and radish for one minute, then scoop out with a slotted spoon or small strainer and let cool. Cook the pasta in the same water according to package directions, about 9 minutes. drain the pasta, shaking it to drain well.
In the pasta pot, place the noodles and drizzle the peanut sauce over them. Toss to coat. Serve topped with tofu, broccoli, and carrots and radish. Sprinkle with peanuts and cilantro. Drizzle Sriracha on the carrots and radish.
If you follow me on instagram, twitter or facebook (and why wouldn’t you be?), you know that I’ve been traveling. But before I left, I made sure I had packable snacks for that looooong flight to Amsterdam.
Travel Should Be Fun
Aah, travel. Getting there should be half the fun, but often, it’s kind of a drag. Whether you are taking a road trip, or heading to the airport, you need to be prepared. Reading material, an ipod, a good neck supporting pillow, and packable snacks are essential.Jump To Recipe
Foraging in an Airport, Hungry and Tired
There’s no food-lovers dilemma quite as awful as being at the mercy of the food court at the airport. Some of them have gotten better, but unless you know for sure, you can’t bank on it. My hometown hub here in Minneapolis does a pretty good job, and I’ve found a few nice things to eat in places like Portland and San Francisco. And yes, Schipol has a lovely bakery with sandwiches and smoothies, among other things. But I’ve been stuck in a few airports where I had hours to kill because of a delay. To fill the time and get some exercise, I dragged my bag with me to every single food source in the place, scouting for edibles. In a big airport, this can mean covering some territory, using my dormant hunter-gatherer skills. It came down to a choice between a sit down meal of hot, greasy food, or making due with a bag of nuts and some popcorn.
Plan Ahead With Packable Snacks
It was that kind of experience that trained me to plan ahead. Sure, there should be some granola bar or something in the newspaper shop, but even those are questionable. I want something all whole grain, naturally sweetened, organic, and packed with real nuts and seeds.
So I make Airplane Cookies.
Make Your Snacks Meal-Worthy
Since I like to grind fresh flours and nut butters in my Vitamix, I put fresh Kamut flour and almond butter in these cookies. You can, of course, use pre-ground Kamut or whole wheat pastry flour, and almond butter from a jar, and they will still be fantastic.
I chose to put them in muffin cups, instead of a classic cookie format, so that they would have more soft middles than crunchy exteriors. They stay fresh longer this way, and don’t break in your bag.
Big, chunky hunks of almonds and walnuts, dark chocolate chips, and hemp seeds provide some delectable protein and good fat to keep you nourished and happy. Chocolate is a health food, and eating a few ounces per day is like taking a delicious, energizing dose of antioxidants.
One Tip to Make it Neater in the Heat
If you are traveling in a hot car, you might want to skip the drizzle of chocolate on top- hard experience has taught me that liquid chocolate on my hands while driving is a little too messy. Just stick with the chips inside and you will be fine. They will melt and give you a really sensuous chocolate experience.
With these easy, packable little treats, you can sit back and wait for the attendant to bring the beverage cart, then enjoy your homemade goodies while everyone else makes do with dry pretzels and junk food assortment packs.
You’ll be glad you made real food packable snacks, I promise.
When you travel, you need some good snacks, to avoid falling into the trap of eating airport food. These whole grain, nut and seed filled cookies are just the kind of whole foods treat that will energize you, nourish you, and delight you!
- 1 cup whole almonds
- 1 cup whole Kamut or kamut flour
- 1/4 cup coconut oil melted
- 1/2 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
- 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups rolled oats
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup walnuts coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup chocolate chips
- 1/4 cup hemp seeds
- 2 ounces very dark chocolate for drizzling
If you are grinding fresh flour, do that first- place a scant cup of whole kamut in the Vitamix container, secure the lid and select Variable Speed 1. Turn on the machine and gradually increase the speed to 10, then high, and grind for 1 minute, then pour the flour out on a plate and let cool.
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Spread the almonds on a sheet pan and toast for 10 minutes, let cool.
Lightly oil a 12 cup muffin pan and reserve.
If making nut butter, grind that by putting half a cup of almonds in the Vitamix and securing the lid, then inserting the tamper. Select Variable Speed 1 and star on low, then gradually increase only as long as the nuts are engaged with the blades, tamping. Grind until smooth. Chop the remaining almonds and reserve.
Place 1/2 cup almond butter in the Vitamix and add the coconut oil, maple syrup, non-diary milk, flax, vanilla and almond extract. Secure the lid, select Variable Speed 1 and turn ont he machine, gradually increase the speed, using the tamper if necessary, and blend well. Reserve.
In a large bowl, combine the kamut flour, oats, baking soda and salt. Stir until well mixed. Scrape the contents of the blender into the bowl and stir to mix. Fold in the reserved toasted almonds, walnuts, chocolate chips, and hemp.
Measure 1/4 cup portions of dough into the muffin cups- it's easier if you oil the measuring cup. With damp fingers, press the dough down evenly.
Bake for about 25 minutes, until there is light brown around the edges, but the centers are still very soft. Cool on racks. Melt the remaining chocolate and drizzle on the tops of the cookies, let cool. Pack in heavy zip-top bags or wrap in waxed paper. Freeze for up to two months.
In this recipe I used the Vitamix to grind the fresh kamut flour, and to make almond butter. Then I mixed the wet ingredients in the blender, since I was already using it. Of course, you can make this with pre-ground flour and almond butter, and mix it by hand. Just blend the wet mix in a medium bowl with a wooden spoon.
If you are hungry and tired, and just want a quick and delicious meal, look no further. All you need is a bag of edamame in the freezer and a few other fresh ingredients. This creamy, sprightly spread takes only a few minutes to make, and once you have it, you have a meal, or two, ready to go.
I know that you probably have a favorite hummus, a go-to when you are shopping in a hurry. But you don’t want to get hummus fatigue. You need to mix it up. This Edamame and Lime Hummus is just the thing, with just enough of a twist to keep it interesting. But it still embodies the nutty, tangy truth of hummus.
There is a myth floating around, that edamame is just an immature soybean, picked before it turns into the yellow soybean that we use to make tofu and soymilk. If you’ve ever had whole yellow soybeans, or even soy nuts, you know that they are very different from edamame, smaller, firmer, and much beanier tasting. They are also hard to digest, and that is why you usually eat them as tofu, tempeh, or soymilk, which have been cooked and prepared in such a way as to be easy to assimilate.
In truth, edamame is a very different variety of soybean, bred for centuries in Japan to create a bean that is tasty enough to eat as a snack. That’s why it’s served at sushi bars, boiled in the pod. The texture of edamame is quite a bit firmer than a typical bean, giving it an appealing crunch.
Edamame is a good food to add to your rotation. For complete nutrition info, click here. Like all beans, edamame is a fiber-rich, high protein plant food, rich in all sorts of beneficial vitamins and minerals. But above all, it is really a tasty little bean. I find that people who find tofu a little too foreign will embrace edamame much more readily, especially in this hummus.
I used the Vitamix to make mine, but you can also use a food processor. Just grind the edamame and garlic together in the food processor bowl until very smooth, then add the tahini, process, then add the remaining ingredients. It won’t be as velvety smooth as it is in the blender, but it will still be nutty and tangy and incredibly satisfying.
So schmear, slather and spread your hummus on some hearty whole grain bread, crackers, or chips, and make sure to sprinkle on some veggies. Knowing it’s good for you only makes it more delicious.
Edamame and Lime Hummus
Take a break from your usual hummus and try this creamy green one, made with protein-rich edamame and a sparkle of lime.
- 1/4 cup water
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh lime zest
- 10 ounces shelled edamame thawed
- 1 clove garlic smashed
- 1/2 cup tahini
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- olive oil, paprika, parsley for garnish
- 6 slices rustic whole wheat bread
- 1 cup grape tomatoes sliced
In a Vitamix, combine the water, olive oil, lime juice and zest, then add garlic and edamame. Secure the lid and start on low, then gradually increase the speed. Use the tamper and Add the tahini and salt and process again to mix, adding water if needed to puree smoothly. If the mixture seems too thick, drizzle in water with the machine running. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with paprika and parsley.
For tartines, toast 6 large slices of whole wheat bread. Spread with hummus and top with sliced tomatoes and parsley.