Sunday, June 26, 2011

Edamame Pasta Salad with Arugula Mint Pesto

It is pesto season.  The part of the year when our gardens and refridgerators are all filled with lots of greens and herbs just begging to be blended to perfection with nuts, garlic and oils.  I love that the possibilities are endless when it comes to pesto ingredients.  Afterall, there are no rules.  Although the classic basil always gets made a lot at my house, all sorts of greens find their way into my pesto.  Tonight when I decided that pesto pasta sounded delicious, I grabbed a bunch of arugula and a bunch of mint and got to work. 

I had never combined these two ingredients before in a pesto, but an experiment was in order.  I combined them with pepitas that I had in my fridge as well, because at the moment I was out of walnuts and pine nuts.  The rest of the ingredients I added to the pesto were ones I would use in a classic pesto,   but it had such a different vibrant flavor than any other pesto I have made due to the peppery arugula and fresh strong mint.  I kept it vegan this time and skipped adding any cheese since the pepitas and the olive oil had already contributed plenty of richness.  I decided that this salad needed to have lots of veggies as well in addition to the pasta, so I added edamame for protein, and radishes and carrots for color as well as crunch.  It was all quite a delicious combination!  If you are in pesto making mode as well, here is the recipe if you would like to try some for yourself! 

Edamame Pasta Salad with Arugula Mint Pesto
Serves 4

1/2 cup mint
1 cup arugula
1 cup pepitas
2 lemons
4 garlic
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

8 oz penne pasta
10 radishes, thinly sliced
3 medium carrots, cut julienne
1/2 cup pepitas
1 12 oz bag frozen edamame, thawed

Place all pesto ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.  Set aside.  Cook pasta according to package directions, rinse with water, drain and let cool.  In a large bowl, combine pasta, radishes, carrots, pepitas, and edamame.  Add pesto and toss to coat.  Serve at room temperature.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Cherry Pistachio Salad with Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette and Fresh Mint

Often times in life simple is best.  I went on a walk last night along the Mississippi river with someone special after dinner, and although it was just a walk it was so much more than that.  It It was one of the most enjoyable walks, not to mention moments I have had in quite a long time filled with lots of good conversation.  It was a beautiful night, with a light breeze and lots of people watching of course with an awesome view of the river. Although I have to admit the company was more of the enjoyment than the act of walking itself.  I guess it doesn't matter what you do as long as you do it in good company.  It was so much better than any movie we could have gone to, or something costing lots of money to do.  I have always appriciated the simple, especially when it comes to spending time with those you care about.  Afterall, without all the distractions you can just focus on each other, and that is always best!  The same goes for food sometimes as far as simplicity goes.  Tonight I made a wonderful salad with a few fresh seasonal ingredients, cherries, mint, and local greens topped off with some toasted pistachios.  It was delightful!  So simple and quick to make, and yet so good!  The perfect accompaniment to a light tofu dish I had also made.  I have included a recipe if you would like to try some!  Take some time to enjoy the simple things in life, all too often we get lost in the details. 

Cherry Pistachio Salad with Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette and Fresh Mint
Serves 2

2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp agave nectar
sea salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup pitted halved fresh cherries
2 Tbsp fresh mint, cut in chiffonade
1 large bunch of arugula or greens of your choice
1/2 cup shelled roasted salted pistachios

Whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside.  In a large bowl, combine cherries, mint, and greens.  Pour over dressing and toss to coat.  Divide salad between 2 plates, and scatter pistachios over each. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Rhubarb BBQ Tofu with Roasted Asparagus and Green Garlic Quinoa

Tis the season for BBQ!  Just because I am a vegetarian doesn't mean that I can't enjoy it as much as the people slathering it on chicken, pork and beef!  I love BBQ tofu, especially of the fruit based variety, so when I had a large amount of tofu last weekend, I knew what to do with it...make BBQ sauce for some tofu!  The rhubarb contriubuted a nice tangyness that doesn't come from other fruit or veggies I normally inculde in sauce. 

I decided to serve the BBQ tofu with roasted asparagus quinoa since I had bought some delicious tender locally grown asparagus.  I laced the salad with green garlic, and lots of lemon for a pop of flavor.  It was a nice accompaniment to the sweet and tangy tofu!  As a whole it screamed SPRING without being a salad.  I suppose it is nearly summer and the rhubarb and asparagus are nearly gone, so might as well enjoy them while they are available!  Here is the recipe if you would like to try some for yourself!

Tofu in Rhubarb BBQ Sauce
Serves 2
1 10 oz block firm tofu, diced
peanut oil

1 Tbsp peanut oil
2 cups organic rhubarb, diced
1/2 cup shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 Tbsp agave nectar
1 Tbsp tamari
2 tsp mustard of your choice
2 Tbsp mirin
sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and toss tofu with just enough peanut oil to coat.  Place on baking sheet, and bake until starting to brown at edges.  Remove from oven.  Meanwhile, Add 1 Tbsp peanut oil to a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add shallots, and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add rhubarb and garlic, and saute until fragrant, 1 minute, then add orange juice, agave nectar, tamari, mustard, and mirin, along with sea salt to taste and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes until the rhubarb is soft and starting to break up.  Remove from heat and puree until smooth.  Serve sauce over tofu! 

Roasted Asparagus and Green Garlic Quinoa
Serves 2

1 cup water
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 cup asparagus, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 Tbsp lemon zest
juice of 2 lemons
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
1 Tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 green garlic, thinly sliced
3/4 tsp sea salt or to taste
freshly ground black pepper

Place quinoa and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed about 15 minutes, or when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated. Drain, and let cool. Preheat oven to 475.  Line a baking sheet with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Toss asparagus with just enough olive oil to coat, and spread out on sheet.  Roast until starting to brown and tender, about 10-15 min.  Let cool to room temp.  When quinoa is cool, combine with asparagus, lemon juice and zest, olive oil, rosemary, thyme, green garlic, and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rosemary Gin Lemonade

If I am feeling too hot on a warm evening, honey lemonade is often my go to drink.  I make many varitations of it, herbs happen to be my favorite!  A butt kicking work day another story.  Then that drink might have to be a martini.  But today happened to be both, so it was a tough descision!  Today at work it was as if everyone came back from their labor day celebrations at the cabin hungry, and hit the deli where I work hard!  I felt like I was running around like a crazy woman, and that is just the sort of day that calls for a delicious refreshing drink while relaxing at home afterwards!  Since the refreshing gin of the martini and the tart sweetness of the lemonade both sounded good, I combined them and made honey gin lemonade.  But not just plain honey gin lemonade. 

Rosemary infused!  I had some honey syrup infused with rosemary that I thought would be a nice addition to sweeten the drink and it was!  The herby rosemary was perfect with the refreshing gin, not to mention the aroma was calming!  The lemonade was just the right tart sweetness and the floral honey paired well with the rosemary!  It was just what the doctor ordered for today.  Butt kicking day no more after savoring every last drop of it!  If you had a butt kicking day, or just wish to relax, here is the recipe for this concoction!

Rosemary Gin Lemonade
makes 1

1/3 cup lemon juice
4 oz gin
2 Tbsp honey rosemary syrup*
a few sprigs rosemary
a few lemon slices
sparkling water

In a martini shaker, combine lemon juice, gin, and honey syrup (more if a sweeter drink is desired), and shake until well blended.  Place a good amount of ice in a tall glass, along with a few sprigs of rosemary, and a few lemon slices.  Pour drink into the glass, and top off with some sparkling water...enjoy!

*To make honey rosemary syrup, combine 1/4 cup boiling water, 1/4 cup honey and 2 Tbsp fresh rosemary in a container.  Cool, cover, and place in the fridge and let sit at least a day or up to a few weeks.  Works well in lemonade to sweeten as well as drinks!