Monday, July 27, 2009

Meatless Monday: White Bean Salad with Creamy Lemon-Dill Dressing

In our CSA box the past couple of weeks, we've been getting bunches of green beans. They're so fresh, they *squeak* when you bite into them, and they're so tasty. I'm much more excited to be getting these on a regular basis than those blasted carrots and Easter radishes. (Seriously, I think I hit my yearly allowance for beta carotene in just two months.)

One of our go-to salad recipes for green beans is one I've shared on here before. We were tempted, of course, to make that again (because it's insanely good!), but falling back on favorites too often just deprives you of the opportunity to find new favorites. Sure, sometimes you try something new and it's awful, but "no risk, no reward." That said, I still wanted to mitigate my risk.

Since I'm a sucker for the dill in the recipe I mention above, I was drawn to this next recipe because it's dressing also contains dill - even though no green beans are called for. The green beans would just have to keep another day.

White Bean Salad with Creamy Lemon-Dill Dressing

As I discussed in last week's post, not following a recipe exactly doesn't always have to end in disaster. Last week, by accident, I didn't follow the recipe. This week, I couldn't follow the recipe exactly . . . because I hadn't planned ahead well enough.

I hadn't looked at the recipe for a couple of days, but I still thought I remembered all the ingredients. So, I just headed off to the grocery store and picked up the couple of things I thought I needed. I thought I was good to go. Turns out . . . not so much. I obviously planned on skipping the shrimp, but how did I miss the red onion, watercress, and fennel bulb??

It was too late to go back to the grocery store (we were starving!). So, it was time to improvise! Watercress became arugula fresh from Matt's garden (which lent a similar tangy, peppery flavor). Red onion became Texas sweet onion from our CSA box (I'm thinking, probably an improvement on the recipe!). And kohlrabi provided the crunch that the fennel would have . . . without the icky fennel taste (icky to me anyway). The verdict? Criminally good! And the best part? The creamy lemon-dill dressing. And we didn't have to feel bad about eating it because it's made with fat-free yogurt - a non-guilty pleasure!

Not interested in this salad but hankering for a simple summer salad? Check out this article posted last week by the New York Times. 101 recipes!

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

Monday, July 20, 2009

Meatless Monday: Pan-Roasted Corn-and-Cumin Corn Bread

Over the past month, I've been reading Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma, which discusses the "politics, perils, and pleasures of eating." I'm about 2/3 of the way in now and have learned a lot (despite Pollan's clunky writing style) about industrial vs. self-sustained farming and the ubiquitous of corn in our American diet. I started the book on a flight to the Midwest, which was interesting timing because we spent 4 days of our trip on my inlaws' farm. Their type of farming falls in line with what Pollan would consider industrial farming - i.e., bad for the environment and for consumers' health. It was awkward to be reading about crop chemical run-off getting into the water reserves as my father-in-law tried to downplay officials' warnings about high algae counts in the nearby lake. (He wanted to take us out on his boat.) Part of me wanted to recommend the book to him (I mean, why not? He suggested The Dawkins Delusion to us!), but I thought better of it because there are parts of the book I find offensive and am sure he would too - e.g., this quote from a farmer who practices self-sustaining farming:
"Part of the problem is, you've got a lot of D students left on the farm today. . . . The guidance counselors encouraged all the A students to leave home and go to college. There's a tremendous brain drain in rural America. Of course that suits Wall Street just fine; Wall Street is always trying to extract brainpower and capital from the countryside. First they take the brightest bulbs off the farm and put them to work in Dilbert's cubicle, and then they go after the capital of the dimmer ones who stayed behind, by selling them a bunch of gee-whiz solutions to their problems."
I don't think my father-in-law would take kindly to being referred to as "dim." He and my (college-educated) brother-in-law are very smart people and farm their land intelligently and responsibly. My mother-in-law is one in a line of farmers (or farmer's wives) who also happened to be valedictorians of their classes, and she and her husband produced two PhD sons. These people should not have to defend their intelligence and Pollan should be ashamed for perpetuating the stereotype of the "country bumpkin."

. . .

In any event, it was also funny to be in the Midwest reading about the evil's of industrial corn farming at the same time that the first few ears were ripe enough to pick and eat. People, there is nothing better than eating such fresh, sweet corn. And, when we returned to California, we found more fresh corn in our CSA box. How could I bring myself to eat corn without feeling guilty after everything I'd just read? Easy. The corn at my in-laws' house and from my CSA box wasn't the industrial type of corn that travels hundreds of miles or goes through a mirade of processes to turn it into different chemical compounds. I was eating it directly:
"To eat corn directly (as Mexicans and many Africans do) is to consume all the energy in that corn, but when you feed that corn to a steer or a chicken, 90 percent of its energy is lost - to bones or feathers or fur, to living and metabolizing as a steer or chicken. This is why vegetarians advocate eating 'low on the food chain'; every step up the chain reduces the amount of food energy by a factor of ten, which is why in any ecosystem there are only a fraction as many predators as there are prey."
This is what I decided to make from some of the corn we got in our CSA box - a great side for any Mexican dish or chili:

Pan-Roasted Corn-and-Cumin Corn Bread

As can sometimes happen, I made a big blunder when putting the ingredients of this recipe together and somehow managed to forget to add a key ingredient - flour! Yikes! I also didn't have an 8-inch pan that was safe to go from the stove to the oven, so I was spreading the corn bread mixture out a little more thinly in an 11-inch pan. The result was something less like bread and more like . . . well, I don't know really. It was thinner, certainly, and a little crispy. And, you know what? I REALLY LIKED IT! Oftentimes, messing up a recipe can lead to disastrous results (like the time I mistook the powdered sugar for the flour when making turkey gravy for Thanksgiving - Ooh Nelly, yes, it was as bad as it sounds), but every so often, you get lucky. Yay for happy accidents!

So, feel free to make your own corn bread as the recipe suggests or to skip the flour as I did. If you cook it like I did, though, you'll just want to leave it in the oven for less time. I think I took mine out at the 15-minute mark. Whichever way you choose to make it, I think you'll like the results. The roasted corn and cumin work well together to create a different flavor than you experience in your typical corn bread - not drastically different, but just different enough to be refreshing, I think. Yum.

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Free FOOD INC. Screenings

Chipotle is sponsoring free screenings of Food Inc. Check out their website to find theaters/times near you!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Meatless Monday: Arugula Salad with Zucchini Carpaccio & Parmesan

My husband and I just got back from being on vacation in the Midwest for almost 3 weeks. Being away for that long was fun, but it left us missing many of the comforts of home. We were happy to return to our own bed, our mentally challenged but ever-sweet cat, . . . and our CSA box.

During many parts of our trip, we found ourselves on long stretches of highway that offered precious little in the way of civilization between destinations. Not a good situation for hungry travelers to find themselves in. This, of course, meant we ended up eating fast food on more occasions than I'd care to admit (or care to remind myself).

I know I've complained on a few occasions about our CSA box (like - What on earth am I going to do with yet ANOTHER bunch of Easter radishes? . . . No, seriously, any ideas??), but this trip left me jonesing for Underwood Family Farms' fresh lettuces, succulent strawberries, crisp green beans, and so much more. (The green beans I got with my dinner one night . . . were floating in water and BACON BITS. The menu made no mention of meat being included in this side dish; silly me for not assuming!).

We had just started getting zucchini and summer squash in our CSA box when we had to cancel pick-ups for the duration of our trip. (What a tease!) We were eager to get back and have more, and this next recipe is one good reason why.

Arugula Salad with Zucchini Carpaccio & Parmesan
  • Arugula
  • Zucchini
  • Parmesan
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice
  • Extra virgin olive oil

This salad is kind of an amalgam of a few different recipes we've tried before, so I don't have real measurements or quantities to share with you, so you'll have to rely on your own culinary judgment and personal preferences to come out with the right proportion of ingredients for you. But that should be easy because this is a really simple recipe.

I'm borrowing the steps for preparing the zucchini from an old 2006 L.A. Times article (written by Russ Parsons), the link to which I just can't seem to locate right now:

"1. Rinse and cut the ends from the zucchini. Cut the zucchini in lengthwise quarters and then crosswise into one-third-to one-half-inch slices. Do not slice thinner or the zucchini will turn mushy during salting.

2. In a mixing bowl, toss the zucchini slices with the salt to coat well. Turn the zucchini into a strainer and position it over the bowl to catch the liquid that drains. Set aside for 30 minutes. You'll see when the zucchini is ready because the sharp cut corners will soften.

3. After 30 minutes, discard the liquid that has collected in the bowl and wipe the bowl dry. Rinse the zucchini well under cold running water until it tastes only slightly salty. Pat the zucchini dry in a kitchen towel and return it to the mixing bowl."

4. Arrange a bed of arugula in each of the salad bowls you're serving. Distribute the zucchini slices evenly over the top of the arugula. Shave pieces of Parmesan on the top (as much as you'd like).

5. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil and squeeze lemon juice over salad. (I suggest using a light hand with both.)

6. Eat!

The zucchini preparation may seem like a bit much, but it's so worth it. It really brings out the nutty flavor in zucchini and complements the Parmesan and spicy arugula really well. (I know - nutty? Zucchini? Trust me, you'll see [or, rather, taste] what I mean, and you'll LOVE it.)

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts

Monday, July 6, 2009

Meatless Monday: Jilted Eggs

Sorry for the lapse last week. It was one of those days when I decided that vacation meant vacation and couldn't be bothered with anything other than leisure activities with some of my favorite people. But that doesn't mean that Meatless Monday wasn't on my mind.

While visiting with relatives, my husband and I thought it would be nice to make brunch for everyone one morning, and it didn't take much debating before we decided on this next dish.

Jilted Eggs

You can think of this dish as a more sophisticated and tastier version of a McMuffin. I love it because I don't have to worry too much about breaking eggs while trying to flip them. Once they're in the baking dish, you don't really have to manipulate them. And the other ingredients can be chopped up lickety-split. You can just pop it in the oven and turn your attention to preparing other things like a nice fruit salad and the perfect pot of coffee.

We made the recipe just as it is written, but you should feel free to experiment because this sort of recipe leaves you lots of room to play. After the egg and milk are in the dish, you can pretty much substitute or add whatever you like. For instance, next time I make this, I'm thinking I might try some mushrooms and/or spinach instead of the basil and tomato.

If you try this and make substitutions, please feel free to post a message in the comments to let us know what your results were like!

Got any favorite vegetarian or vegan recipes?? Please share!

Other Meatless Monday posts