Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Tiny Baked Potatoes with Spiced Chickpeas

I feel like I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: It’s always worthwhile to read a cookbook all the way to the end. I tend to find fascinating tidbits in those last pages. When the final chapter is about sauces or toppings or stocks, there’s always something interesting there that makes me like the book even more than I already did from reading the main sections. That just happened once again with The Way to Eat Now: Modern Vegetarian Food by Alice Hart of which I received a review copy. This new book is a paperback release of what was titled Good Veg as a hardcover in 2016, and it’s full of great ideas for vegetarian dishes for any time of day. Along with the recipes and photos, there are also added ideas and variations sprinkled throughout the chapter introductions and recipe head notes. For example, something I can’t wait to try isn’t written as a recipe but was just mentioned in the Mornings chapter intro. It’s a suggestion to make savory French toast by adding garlic or paprika to the custard and serving it with roasted tomatoes or wilted spinach and goat cheese. Some of the dishes include dairy or eggs, and some are vegan, and substitutions are offered. There’s also acknowledgement of time and cost, and when a step may take too long or an ingredient might be too pricey other options are suggested. Several dishes have southeast Asian influences, and vegetarian “fish” sauce is listed among the ingredients. You’ll find the recipe for the sauce in that last chapter I was praising, and I was delighted to see it’s not too time-consuming to make. You’ll also find a recipe for Vegetarian Nuoc Cham, Pickled Sour Cherries, Sweet Pepper and Chile Jam, and a Thai-Style Roasted Chile Paste. That last one sent me backwards in the book to revisit the recipe for Brown Rice Bibimbap Bowls with Smoky Peppers where it’s used, and that made me happy to have read all the way to the end. Back at the front of the book, I got a bit distracted by the Chia Jams. I’d seen this method before of using chia seeds to thicken a jam rather than adding as much sugar as usual. When I saw it here, I finally gave it a try and loved chia-thickened peach jam with a little honey. I also tried the Shaved Beets with Sprouts, Kefir and Dukkah but made a couple of changes by using vegan yogurt for the dressing rather than kefir and mixing the beets with arugula instead of sprouts. I have the page marked for the Chubby Polenta Fries with Almond Za’atar Salt, and I know I’ll love the Roasted Pineapple, Coconut and Makrut Lime Sorbet. But, I want to tell you all about the Tiny Baked Potatoes with Spiced Chickpeas. 

New potatoes are available from our local farms right now, but they’ll be gone for the season soon. They were simply roasted whole with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. At the same time, canned chickpeas that had been rinsed, drained, and left on a towel to dry were roasted with cumin, nigella, hot smoked paprika, and salt. I love crispy, roasted chickpeas, but there was a twist here in that before they were done lemon zest was added for the last 10 minutes or so. It smelled amazing and added great flavor. A little honey was to be added with the lemon zest, but I skipped it. A sauce was made with sour cream and finely chopped green onion. When the potatoes were cooked through and tender and then allowed to cool a bit, I cut each in half. Each half was topped with some sauce, crispy chickpeas, more finely chopped green onion, and more nigella seeds. 

These little potatoes would be great for a party. They’re just the right size to pick up with your fingers. The sauce works perfectly to keep the chickpeas in place on top of each potato, and the spices on the chickpeas give each bite a nice boost. There’s so much variety and so many ideas in this book, I suspect I’ll be spending a lot of time with it in the kitchen.

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Meatless Meatballs with Quick Tomato Sauce on Zucchini Noodles

That famous line from Michael Pollan, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants” is as simple as nutrition and sustainability advice gets. And now, there’s a new cookbook to help put that advice into practice, and I recently received a review copy. Mostly Plants: 101 Delicious Flexitarian Recipes from the Pollan Family is the second book created by Michael Pollan’s three sisters and his mother, and it includes each of their styles of cooking. That means, some dishes are vegetarian or vegan, and some include meat but with a focus on the vegetables. He described the book as not “dourly anti-meat; rather it is ecstatically pro-plant.” There’s a nice introduction to each member of the family and her preferred way of eating before getting into the recipes that cover dishes from Meze and Salads to Burgers, Vegetable Mains, Seafood, Meat, Sides, and Sweets. Along the way, there are tips for making vegetarian recipes vegan, ideas for replacing meat with a vegetarian protein, and Food for Thought with nutrition information. Overall, these recipes feel like comfort food made fresher. The Mediterranean Crunch Salad has bright bell peppers, cucumbers, tomato, and herbs piled on endive and topped with crumbled feta and crispy, baked chickpeas. The soups all look so good, and I can’t wait to try the Udon Noodle Soup with Miso-Glazed Vegetables and Chicken. In the burgers chapter, you’ll mostly find veggie burgers, but there is a chicken and a tuna option. Among the vegetable mains, there are some pasta dishes that caught my eye like the Penne with Roasted Vegetables and Mozzarella and the Vegan Lentil and Roasted Tomato Pasta. I tried the Golden Roasted Quinoa and fell for the lovely texture. I have the page marked so I can soon try the Salmon Farro Bowl full of crunchy vegetables and Vietnamese flavors. And, the Pina Colada Crumble with pineapple, banana, and coconut is tempting me for dessert. As I was mulling over those pasta options, a few pages later I came upon the Meatless Meatballs with Quick Tomato Sauce and decided to serve them on zucchini noodles to make it very pro-plant. 

To begin the meatballs, Puy lentils were cooked with a bay leaf until tender. At the same time, onion, carrots, celery, and garlic were sauteed, tomato paste was added along with chopped mushrooms, and the mixture was cooked through. The vegetable mixture, the lentils, and rinsed and drained canned chickpeas along with oats, parsley, basil, and salt and pepper were pulsed in the food processor. That mixture was transferred to a mixing bowl, and beaten eggs and wheat germ were added. Bread crumbs and grated parmesan were supposed to be used, but I opted for some wheat germ instead. The meatballs were formed and placed on a baking sheet. I had drizzled the baking sheet with olive oil and I rolled each meatless ball through the oil to coat all sides before placing it on the sheet. The meatless balls baked for about 30 minutes while I spiralized some zucchini. The sauce was a quick simmer of canned crushed tomatoes, garlic, and red pepper flakes. I did serve the meatless balls with a little shredded parmesan and lots of basil. 

This wasn’t my first attempt at meatless meatballs. Previous recipes have also involved mushrooms and lentils and usually some nuts. This was my favorite of any I’ve tried. The consistency was perfect. Past efforts ended in meatless balls that fell apart when served or didn’t maintain their shape while baking. These performed perfectly and had great flavor. There are a lot of great-looking ideas in this book, and it’s going to be easy to keep eating mostly plants.

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program. 

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