Monday, January 14, 2019

Meyer Lemon-Almond Meringue Tartlets and Holiday Roundup

Happy New Year! I hope your holiday season was delightful. I have a few sweet treats from my holidays to share today. For a Christmas dessert, I wanted to make use of my homegrown Meyer lemons but of course couldn’t decide what to make. I mulled it over for days and flipped through several books while considering various cakes, tarts, and frozen desserts. Then, I pulled Baked: New Frontiers in Baking off the shelf, found the little lemon-almond meringue tartlets, and wondered how I’d ever forgotten this recipe from this book. It was just what I wanted to make. They’re cute, individual-sized tartlets with a tangy lemon filling, and the pastry for the tartlet shells was made with an interesting twist. Amaretti cookies were ground and added to the flour in the dough. Amaretto liqueur is also suggested, but I used almond extract instead. Some years are better than others for my lemon trees, but I had plenty of lemons for the curd. I was amazed by the dark yellow color the Meyer lemons gave it, and the flavor was divine. For the fluffy meringue topping, I remembered from recently reading BraveTart: Iconic American Desserts a recipe guaranteed to not weep or collapse over time. I planned to make several tartlets and serve them over the course of a few days. So, I followed the instructions for that magical Marshmallow Meringue which involves heating the egg whites and sugar to 175 degrees F before whipping. Some almond extract was added to the meringue as well. I piled the meringue high on each tartlet and toasted it with a kitchen torch. I can report the meringue performed perfectly and did not weep at all even after leftover tartlets had been refrigerated for three days. The combined result was everything I hoped it would be. 

As usual, I baked possibly as many cookies as Mrs. Claus this year. I returned to a couple of favorite recipes and also tried two new ones. I made my favorite sugar cookie dough for rolled and cut cookies. I decorated them with royal icing and crushed candy canes. I used half of the sugar cookie dough to revisit the Hawaiian Snowballs recipe. This is a favorite cookie of mine with the chopped, dried pineapple and macadamia nuts in the dough. I also made white chocolate-covered Chocolate Peppermint Cookies again. As a big fan of white chocolate and mint, I think these are even better than thin mints. One of the new recipes I tried this year was Chai Snowballs from Martha Stewart Living, and they will definitely be making a repeat appearance. The other new recipe was Cranberry-Oat-Almond Shortbread topped with white chocolate from Sweet: Desserts from London's Ottolenghi. Rather than rolling out the dough and cutting these as suggested in the book, I made two logs of dough and sliced and baked. This recipe was also a keeper. I try to give away as many cookies as possible, but I do have to taste to make sure everything turns out ok, right? After all of that delicious sugar, I’ll be skipping dessert for a bit, but I don’t regret one bite.

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Sunday, December 23, 2018

Mini Salmon Burgers

I love all kinds of cookbooks. I love technical ones with very specific ingredient lists and complicated, precise instructions. I also love ones that are straightforward and give you the simplest path to creating dishes. And, lately I’ve found I really love cookbooks that tell you how the author really cooks at home. That glimpse into how cooking decisions are made differently from one day to the next and how recipes get changed depending on the season or what’s in the refrigerator gives you options and ideas for your approach to each dish. The latest from Dorie Greenspan, Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook, is in this category, and I received a review copy. Throughout the book, the head notes tell you how the recipe idea originated, various versions that she’s made over the years, and ideas for substitutions or tweaks. The chapters cover starters through dessert as well as basics. I got a little distracted in the Soup chapter and wanted to make everything. There’s a Potato Chowder Lots of Ways that offers several great options for every time of year. Then, there’s Clam Chowder My Way that’s made with lemongrass, ginger, and coconut milk. I also want to try the Morrocan-Spiced Chickpea and Noodle Soup and the Bean and Tortilla Soup. The Chicken chapter has Sweet Chili Chicken Thighs, Chicken-Chili Tamale Pie, and Roast Chicken with Pan-Sauce Vinaigrette among others. The Sweet and Smoky Carrots look delicious and are made with a spice syrup that combines cider vinegar, smoked paprika, cumin, and cayenne. And, there are suggestions for more ways to use this syrup like mixed into mayonnaise for slaw or as a vinaigrette with kale or arugula. Of course, all the desserts look amazing, and I keep stopping to look again at the Tangerine-Topped Cheesecake. But, don’t stop reading there. Do read all the way through the Basics and Transformers chapter. There’s a Chocolate Crunch recipe in that last chapter that’s suggested as a topping for the Dark Chocolate Pudding dessert. This would also be fantastic as a crumble topping on lots of other things, and why had I never thought to make a chocolate crumb topping when crumb toppings are on my list of favorite things? To start cooking from this book, I tried the Salmon Burgers because adding yogurt to keep the mixture from becoming dry sounded like such a good idea. I made the burgers as minis and thought they would be great as party food. 

Skinless salmon was pulsed in the food processor while yogurt, minced green onion, parsley and cilantro in my case, Dijon mustard, grainy mustard, and capers were mixed to combine. Lemon zest was grated into the mixture before stirring in the salmon and seasoning with salt. I also squeezed in some lemon juice. The mixture was refrigerated for a bit before proceeding. Then, I made it into mini burgers that were cooked in oil in a skillet. They only need a couple of minutes on each side. I served them on little, toasted challah buns with arugula and avocado. I had some Meyer lemons on hand and remembered a lemon salsa from the The AOC Cookbook by Suzanne Goin and used that as an additional topping.

The flavors from the lemon, mustards, and herbs was so good in the salmon burgers, but the texture made them incredible. I will now always add yogurt to salmon burgers. The mini size was fun too, but these would have been just as good in a bigger size. I’ll be cooking more from this book during the holidays, and I’ll be re-reading all the tips and options for lots of inspiration. I hope you’re having a fantastic holiday season! 

Salmon Burgers 
Excerpted from Everyday Dorie: The Way I Cook © 2018 by Dorie Greenspan. Photography © 2018 by Ellen Silverman. Reproduced by permission of Rux Martin Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved. 

Makes 6 burgers 

When we were shooting the photos for my last book, Dorie’s Cookies, lunch was a highlight of the day, as each of us took turns cooking. One morning, Claudia Ficca, the food stylist, announced that she’d bought some salmon and had an idea for lunch: salmon burgers. Like everything Claudia does, these are special. They get a supersized helping of zip from lemons, capers, two kinds of mustard, scallions, lots of dill and Greek yogurt, which adds tang and, most important, moisture. You can serve these juicy burgers on buns — I usually put them between Martin’s Potato Rolls, topping them with slices of tomato and avocado, relish or even Quick Pickled Onions (page 320) — and offer them up with coleslaw, cucumber salad or my favorite go-along, Basta Pasta Potato Salad. You can also switch up the herbs — parsley or cilantro can stand in for the dill or be mixed with it — and you can swap the capers for chopped pickles. The blend for the burgers is so packed with flavor that you could even skip the pan-grilling and serve it raw, as tartare. It makes a great starter or, with a green salad and slices of toasted baguette, a main course. 

A word on the salmon: My favorite for these burgers is wild Alaskan salmon; sockeye and Chinook are good choices. Because wild salmon is seasonal, I often use frozen fillets. 

1 1/2 pounds (680 grams) skinless salmon fillets (see headnote), cut into chunks and patted dry 
1/2 cup (120 ml) plain Greek yogurt 
1/2 cup (42 grams) finely chopped scallions (white and light green parts only)
1/2 cup (20 grams) chopped fresh dill 
2 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard (preferably French) 
1 tablespoon grainy mustard (preferably French) 
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed, patted dry and coarsely chopped if large 
1 lemon 
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste 
Canola or olive oil, for cooking 
6 buns (see headnote) 
Toppings (see headnote) 

WORKING AHEAD: You can keep the burger mix in the refrigerator for up to 8 hours before cooking. 

1. Put the salmon in a food processor and pulse about 6 times, just until it is finely chopped. Stop before you have a paste! 
2. Put the yogurt, scallions, dill, both mustards and the capers in a large bowl and stir to blend. Finely grate the zest of the lemon into the bowl. Stir in the salmon — use a flexible spatula and a light touch — and season with the salt. Taste and decide if you’d like more salt or want to squeeze some lemon juice into the mix. Cover the bowl, pressing a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the mix, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (The burger mix can be refrigerated for up to 8 hours.) 
3. When you’re ready to make the burgers, divide the salmon into 6 portions and shape each one into a patty. Lightly coat a grill pan or skillet, preferably nonstick, with a small amount of oil or spray and place it over medium-high heat. Cook the burgers in two batches (don’t crowd the pan) for about 2 minutes on each side — you want to crisp the exterior and just warm the insides. 
4. Serve immediately, sandwiching the burgers between the buns and topping them with whatever you choose. 

STORING: If you have leftover burgers, wrap and refrigerate them for up to 1 day; serve cold on top of a salad or reheat in a microwave.

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Monday, December 10, 2018

Lentil Soup with Cauliflower and Cheese

Today is Terra Madre Day. It’s a day for celebrating good, clean, and fair food. This is a Slow Food celebration that focuses on protecting our environment and on the link between food and climate change. It’s a day to cook Food for Change. And, that can be one delicious way to work toward solving climate change. Full disclosure: I volunteer as the president of the Slow Food Austin chapter. Slow Food partnered with Camellia Beans and Meatless Monday to bring attention to vegetarian cooking for this occasion. After bringing home locally-grown cauliflower, onion, leeks, carrots, and thyme, a hearty soup with those ingredients plus lentils sounded perfect for a chilly night. I found this Lentil Soup with Cauliflower and Cheese on the Martha Stewart website. The broiled and browned parmesan on top made it comfort food in a bowl. I hope you’ll consider enjoying some Food for Change and Meatless Mondays or more days! 



Here’s a list of some of my other favorite lentil dishes: 
Lentil Croquettes with Yogurt Sauce 
Braised Root Vegetables with du Puy Lentils and Red Wine Sauce 
Lentils with Tomatoes and Gorgonzola 
Watermelon Curry on Black Lentil Cakes 
Bulgur and Green Lentil Salad with Chickpeas and Preserved Lemon 
Lentil and Pickled Shallot Salad with Berbere Croutons 
Mushroom and Lentil Pot Pies with Gouda Biscuit Topping 

If you have a favorite lentil dish, please share a link in the comments.



Thursday, December 6, 2018

Broiled Black Cod, Muffaletta Style

How do you cook when you’re cooking just for yourself? Do you really cook a whole meal from scratch when it’s just for you? I actually do. One of the reasons I like cooking is because I’m picky. For me, getting to cook just what I want, exactly the way I want, is fun. So, I was already completely on board with the premise of Anita Lo’s latest book Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One of which I received a review copy. This book is devoted to cooking, and cooking really well, for one. It’s about taking care of yourself and making a great meal to enjoy on your own. And, the dishes have signature Anita Lo flavors with lots of Asian and French influences. There’s a nice focus on not wasting any part of the ingredients you use, and none of the dishes take too long to prepare. Of course, they all scale up easily and can be used to cook for more than one. The Shaved Root Vegetable Salad with Smoked Salmon, Capers, and an Egg sounds delicious and would be bright and colorful with a variety of vegetables jumbled together on the plate. For Fresh Pasta with Anchovies, Charred Lemons and Radish, you’ll spend a bit more time if you make homemade pasta, but the dish is made from pantry ingredients and could be whipped up without much planning. The Thai White Curry with Chicken is an adaptable dish that can be made with other proteins and whatever vegetables are in season. And, there’s a note with this recipe about using the remaining amount of coconut milk in Caramelized Banana with Coconut for dessert. Another waste-reducing dish is the Broccoli Stem Slaw that sounds delicious with an avocado and anchovy paste. I kept marking pages for salads, and one more that I want to try is the Kale Salad with Dates and Tahini Dressing. The complete instructions for this salad are: “Mix everything together. That’s it. Then eat it.” Love that. But, when I saw the Broiled Bluefish, Muffaletta Style recipe, I had to start there. I’m a sucker for a briny olive salad. 

For this dish, I cooked for two. Luckily, Kurt likes most of the things I like, and this was as easy to make for two as for one. We don’t get bluefish here, so I used black cod instead. The fish was simply broiled, after being brushed with oil and seasoned, skin side up. The olive salad was made with a mix of olives including Kalamata and pimento-stuffed, giardinera, garlic, minced anchovy or anchovy paste, capers, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and fresh oregano. I added some chopped artichoke hearts and skipped the cubed bread. I was happy to use some homegrown oregano since it’s still going strong and threatening to take over my herb garden. Chopped Calabrian chiles are suggested, and I wish I could have found some. I added crushed red chiles instead. The olive salad was mixed and placed in the center of the plate. The broiled fish fillets were placed on top. 

All the assertive flavors in the olive salad paired so well with the flaky fish. I regretted not making extra olive salad to leave in the refrigerator for snacking with crackers or layering into sandwiches. This book offers a lot of great ideas for putting delicious food on the table in smart ways. Whether you’re cooking for one or several, you’ll be treating yourself and others well, cooking your own balanced meals, and keeping waste to a minimum. 

Broiled Bluefish Muffaletta Style 
Excerpted from Solo: A Modern Cookbook for a Party of One by Anita Lo. Copyright © 2018 by Anita Lo. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher

for the bluefish 
One 5- ounce filet bluefish, skin on 
1 teaspoon olive oil 
Salt and black pepper 

for the olive salad 
Scant 1/4 cup pitted Niçoise or Kalamata olives 
Scant 1/4 cup pimiento- stuffed queen olives 
Scant 1/4 cup giardiniera (Italian jarred pickled vegetables), drained and roughly chopped 
1/2 clove garlic, chopped 
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste 
1 tablespoon drained capers 
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar 
2 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil 
1/2 teaspoon chopped Calabrian chili condiment (optional) 
3 leaves fresh oregano, chopped (substitute a small pinch of dried oregano if you don’t have fresh) 
6 cubes day- old plain baguette (optional) 
Salt and black pepper to taste 

Preheat your oven or toaster oven to broil. Rub the bluefish with the teaspoon of olive oil on both sides and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place skin side up on an ovenproof tray, close to the heat source, and cook until skin is lightly browned and crisp and the fish is just cooked through, about 5 minutes, depending on thickness. Use a cake tester or thin knife to test doneness—insert it into the thickest part of the filet, hold there for a solid 3 seconds, then test immediately on your lip. If it is warm the touch, the fish is done.

To make the olive salad, mix the ingredients together, taste, and adjust seasonings. To serve, make a bed of the olive salad and place the fish on top.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tofu and Yellow Wax Beans with Chraimeh Sauce

What does cooking simple mean to you? It might mean something different to me depending on the day. Right now, I’m trying to make my Thanksgiving Day cooking as simple as possible this year, and that means getting as much done in advance as I can. I’m still making everything from scratch and shopping multiple times to make use of as many local ingredients as possible, but my goal is to pull it all together with less effort on the day of the feast. I was delighted to read the introduction in the new book Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook, of which I received a review copy, and learn of the intent to cover the bases for several different views of “simple.” The categories include recipes that work well if you’re short on time, if you prefer to use fewer ingredients, if you like to make things ahead, if you’d rather use pantry ingredients than shop, if you enjoy dishes that cook themselves with less hands-on time, and some that surprise with how easy they are to make. There’s even a code system to mark which category each recipe fits into, and most fit into more than one. It is an Ottolenghi book, and the style of cooking and flavors are just what we’ve come to expect. Here though, the ingredient lists are shorter, and there’s a bit less fuss with each recipe. The chapters cover brunch, raw dishes, cooked vegetables, grains, pasta, meat, seafood, and dessert. For brunch, I want to try the Scrambled Harissa Tofu and the Beet Caraway and Goat Cheese Bread. And, I’d love to sit down to a lunch spread of several of the vegetable dishes. Just because they’re simple, it doesn’t mean they lack big flavors. The recipe for Gary’s Stir-Fried Cabbage with Garlic and Chile sounds delicious with big, torn leaves of Napa cabbage, spicy chiles, green onions, and a squeeze of lime. Dishes with lentils kept catching my eye as well. There’s the Curried Lentil Tomato and Coconut Soup that I’ve made a couple of times, Roasted Butternut Squash with Lentils and Dolcelatte, and Puy Lentils with Eggplant Tomatoes and Yogurt. I could also happily work my way through the pasta recipes with Gigli with Chickpeas and Za’atar, Pappardelle with Rose Harissa Black Olives and Capers, and the Pasta with Pecorino and Pistachios. I got intrigued by a new-to-me sauce from Libya called Chraimeh and had to try the green bean and tofu dish in which it’s used. 

Clearly, making this dish was meant to be on the day I decided to make it. I was hoping I would get lucky and find some green beans at the Boggy Creek Farm stand. Instead of green beans, they had perfect, just-picked yellow wax beans, and I was thrilled to rush home with them and get cooking. To start, those fabulous beans were blanched, drained, and set aside. Next, the drained and cubed tofu was to be fried. I have an aversion to the mess that results from frying tofu on the stovetop, and I always use the broiler instead. I press the tofu to remove as much liquid as possible. Then, I cut it into cubes or whatever shape is needed. I toss the cubes with some oil on a sheet pan, and I place the pan under the broiler. Every few minutes, I turn the tofu to the next side and repeat until it’s browned and crisped all over. To make the sauce, minced fresh garlic, paprika, crushed caraway seeds, ground cumin, and cinnamon were combined. The spice mixture was fried in oil just briefly before tomato paste, lime juice, and salt were added. Water was added next to thin the sauce, and it was stirred until bubbling. The cooked beans were added to the sauce and warmed. Off the heat, the crisp tofu cubes and cilantro leaves were gently stirred into the mixture. 

I served the beans and tofu with brown rice to round out the meal. I also loved the suggestion in the head note to serve this sauce as a dip with bread. It was full of flavor but not too spicy. Now that I flip back through pages of the book, I see that this recipe has one of the longer ingredient lists. Still, it was quick enough to pull everything together, and the process was definitely simple. There will be lots more simple cooking like this in my near future. 

Tofu and haricots verts with chraimeh sauce 
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook.

This is a lovely veggie main, served as it is or with some rice. Chraimeh is a piquant sauce from Libya. It keeps well in the fridge for at least 1 week (or can also be frozen and kept for 1 month), so make double or triple the quantities. It also works as a sauce for chicken or fish or just as a dip with bread before supper.  

Serves four  
1 lb/455g haricots verts, trimmed  
1 tbsp sunflower oil  
14 oz/400g firm tofu, cut into 1-inch/2 1/2 cm cubes and patted dry  
Salt  
3/4 cup/15g cilantro, roughly chopped  
CHRAIMEH SAUCE  
6 garlic cloves, crushed  
2 tsp hot paprika  
1 tbsp caraway seeds, lightly toasted and crushed in a pestle and mortar  
2 tsp ground cumin  
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon  
3 tbsp sunflower oil  
3 tbsp tomato paste 
2 tsp sugar  
2 limes: juice 1 to get 1 tbsp and cut the other into 4 wedges, to serve  
Salt  
1 cup plus 1 tbsp/ 250ml water  

1. Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and place over high heat. Once boiling, add the green beans and boil for 5–6 minutes, until they are cooked but still retain a slight bite. Drain, refresh with cold water, drain again, and set aside.  
2. Put the oil into a large sauté pan and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the tofu and a rounded ¼ tsp of salt and fry for 4–5 minutes, turning throughout so that all sides are golden brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.  
3. To make the chraimeh sauce, mix the garlic, paprika, caraway, cumin, cinnamon, and oil in a small bowl. Return the large sauté pan to medium-high heat and, once hot, add the garlic and spice mix. Fry for about 1 minute, then add the tomato paste, sugar, lime juice, and 3/4 tsp of salt. Stir to combine, then pour in the water to make a thin sauce. Once bubbling, stir frequently for about 2 minutes, until the sauce begins to thicken. Return the green beans to the pan and continue to cook for another 1 minute, until the sauce is thick and the beans are hot.  
4. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the tofu and cilantro. Divide among four shallow bowls and serve, with a wedge of lime alongside. 

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Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Zucchini Noodle Bowl with Green Onion and Miso

Cooking with lots of different types of seasonal produce is exactly what interests me. So, when a book comes along that’s all about encouraging home cooking with healthful whole foods, there’s a very good chance I’ll like it. The Whole Foods Cookbook: 120 Delicious and Healthy Plant-Centered Recipes, of which I received a review copy, inspires nutritious cooking with unprocessed plant foods. The recipes here are created in collaboration with Chad and Derek Sarno who also wrote The Wicked Healthy Cookbook. There are tips for cooking big batches of beans and grains, suggestions for creating layers of flavor without added oils or too much additional salt, and overviews for steaming, sauteeing without oil, and grilling. The book gives you all the information you need for a fresh approach to cooking and stocking your pantry. For instance, I’m looking forward to trying the risotto. There are two different recipes in the book, one for spring and one with butternut squash for fall and winter. But, the approach for both is the same, and other variations are suggested. For these risottos rather than sauteeing rice and aromatics in butter or oil, the steps have been altered to result in a processed-oil free dish. Here, leeks or onion or other aromatics are sauteed in a dry pan, and vegetable broth is added to deglaze when the vegetables begin to brown and stick. Cooked rice is added and mixed with the vegetables, and the richness comes from a pureed cashew cream. Other interesting recipes include whole, roasted vegetables that look delicious like the Whole Roasted Spiced Cauliflower with a pureed tomato and red pepper coating and the Classic Celeriac Pot Roast that’s slow-cooked with potatoes and herbs. The guide to bowls includes options like a Citrus-Sesame-Glazed Tofu Bun Cha and a Chickpea-Nut and Broccoli Satay. There are also soups, sauces, salad dressings, dips, and sweets. I have some pears in my refrigerator that are now destined to become Riesling and Orange Poached Pears sweetened with orange juice and apricot paste instead of refined sugar. But first, I set out to make the Zucchini Noodle Bowl with Green Onion and Miso. My first instinct would normally have been to begin by adding oil to a pan to cook the vegetables, but here everything was cooked in vegetable broth with no added oil. 

To start, the big flavor of dried mushrooms was included to boost this dish. Dried shitakes were soaked in hot water while everything else was prepped. Grated fresh ginger was warmed in vegetable broth in a Dutch oven, and then miso, soy sauce, and rice vinegar were added and kept at a bare simmer. Chopped summer squash and zucchini were added to the simmering broth. Meanwhile, zucchini noodles were made with a spiralizer, green onions were chopped, and I had a pretty orange sweet pepper that I decided to add. The zucchini noodles were divided among the bowls, the rehydrated and drained shitakes were placed next to the noodles, and I added the sliced sweet pepper. The cooked squash was spooned into the bowls, and the broth was ladled over everything. Green onion, sesame seeds, and sliced hot chile garnished each serving. 

I’m delighted to report I didn’t miss the oil in this dish at all. The fresh flavors of the vegetables, the mushrooms, and the miso broth were fantastic just as they were. There are a lot of great ideas in this book that can be applied to other dishes. I love learning these little things to change up recipes I’ve been cooking the same way for years especially when the changes bring about a more healthful result.


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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Loaded Black Bean Dogs

I’ll start with a disclaimer: I’ve always been a tree hugger. I stopped eating red meat because of information I learned at an Earth Day event decades ago. I reduce, reuse, recycle, and compost. And, I’m worried about what could happen to our planet as soon as 12 years from now. Have you seen the latest climate change news? We’re currently at 1 degree Celsius warmer than Earth was during the pre-industrial era. The latest report warns that we’ll be at 1.5 C above that level in only 12 years. The article points out that a change of “both 1.5C and 2C would take humanity into uncharted and dangerous territory because they were both well above the Holocene-era range in which human civilization developed.” But the difference is “1.5C gives young people and the next generation a fighting chance of getting back to the Holocene or close to it. That is probably necessary if we want to keep shorelines where they are and preserve our coastal cities.” So, we need to act quickly to slow the warming trend. I just read an article listing five things to do now for positive change. The fifth on that list includes some lifestyle changes. And, that brings me to the book I want to tell you about today: Food Is the Solution: What to Eat to Save the World--80+ Recipes for a Greener Planet and a Healthier You of which I received a review copy. The introductory sections of the book explain in length the problems with concentrated animal feeding operations and encourage plant-based eating for the health of the planet and the individual. But, the message is to “do what works for you – what tastes good and is attainable and sustainable in your daily life.” Giving up some meat and going plant-based even occasionally is helpful. It also gives everyone an opportunity to explore a more varied diet and discover some new and different dishes you maybe hadn’t tried in the past. Following the pages of information about air, soil, and water pollution with handy charts showing water use and emissions caused by the production of different foods, comes the fun part—recipes. Rice Pudding with Coconut and Cranberries sounds perfect for fall weather, and it’s made with coconut milk, cinnamon, and vanilla. I soak and puree cashews for lots of things lately, and that’s my current preferred way to make a Caesar dressing with no egg or cheese. But, I’ve never gone that route for mac and cheese. The Cashew Cream Mac ‘N’ Cheese recipe is about to change that. I also love the idea of Creamy Basil-Chickpea Lettuce Cups with capers and cucumber. Since I jumped on the carrot dog bandwagon over the summer, I’ve had plant-based hot dogs on my mind. I couldn’t pass up the chance to try the Loaded Black Bean Dogs. 

Making the hot dogs themselves is the focus of the recipe. They’re made by pureeing cooked black beans with cilantro, olive oil, tomato paste, onion and garlic powder, smoked paprika, and nutritional yeast. Vital wheat gluten is added to bind the mixture. This was my first time using vital wheat gluten, and I had no idea how good of a job of binding it does. It’s very sticky once it becomes wet. The mixture held together perfectly. It was divided into four portions, and each was shaped into a hot dog. The dogs were wrapped in small pieces of parchment paper and then rolled in foil. The foil-wrapped dogs went into a steamer basket over simmering water and steamed for 40 minutes. After cooling, they were unwrapped and browned in olive oil in a skillet. Browning them on a grill pan would be great too. In the book, tomato and corn salsa is recommended for topping the dogs. I used some sauteed sliced sweet peppers, sliced jalapenos, avocado chunks, sprouts, and cilantro. 

Knowing that beans require a fraction of the amount of water used to produce meat and cause far less pollution from emissions made these hot dogs even more delicious. Of course, the toppings here made the hot dogs amazing, but the texture and flavor of the dogs themselves were great too. I have a lot of fun experimenting with new-to-me plant-based recipes, and the reduced environmental impact of avoiding meat is a bonus.

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