Monday, July 30, 2012

Zucchini cakes

Watching my garden grow this summer has really been quite the treat. It doesn't get any better than knowing that I am pampering these plants, and that they, in turn, are producing for me delicious organic produce mere steps from my kitchen (seriously, my desire to take care of people/animals/things is out of control). As expected, my zucchini has been the forerunner in production for far, but once my tomatoes start ripening, they will blow the rest of the garden out of the water... eerrr dirt ... The current count is at 60 something just between my 2 plants.

In preparing the zucchini that my garden has so graciously gifted to me, I am trying to do my best to showcase them in different ways. No hiding them in zucchini bread for me! First I had the zucchini pasta, and then I made a grilled zucchini salad (which you will see... the pictures just weren't the best)... and now we are on to zucchini cakes (Oh, so you won't hide them in bread... but you will hide them in cake. No silly, it is much more like a crab cake or a fritter. Do you even know why crab cakes taste like? No.)

In order to make these zucchini cakes an entrée, I added some quinoa to the mix, served them with a side salad... and then, ya know, just whipped up an aioli, of the garlic-herb variety, to go on top. I seriously enjoyed these immensely. The quinoa gave them a nice crunch, but the flavor was totally zucchini. And honestly? I didn't use old bay so that they would be reminiscent of crab cakes, for I am not a fan of making veg food that pretends to be non-veg food. I used old bay because a) I was trying something different and b) it has a really nice mix of celery salt, mustard, and paprika that I thought would be yummy... and I was correct! The garlic and herb aioli gives it a nice kick, and the smooth lettuce underneath cushioned all of it so gently. I will totally be making this again.

Zucchini Cakes
For the Zucchini Cakes
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 teaspoon old bay seasoning
  • 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon flax meal + 3 tablespoons water)
  • 1 tablespoon vegan mayonaise 
  • salt and pepper
For the Herbed Aioli
  • 1/4 cup vegan mayonaise
  • 1 clove garlic
  • juice from 1 half lemon
  • small handful of fresh herbs of choice
  • salt and pepper
For the Zucchini Cakes
  1. Shred the zucchini using a cheese grater, sprinkle the shreds with salt and let sit in colander in sink for 30 minutes.
  2. Squeeze out all of the extra moisture from the zucchini and blot dry with paper towels.
  3. Mix the zucchini with all of the remaining ingredients.
  4. Form mixture into patties of about 2 tablespoons each... recipe makes about 10 cakes.
    • Be careful: they will come together... but they will be delicate.
  5. Place patties in refrigerator for at least 15 minutes.
  6. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in nonstick skillet over medium heat.
  7. Pan fry in two batches, for roughly 3 minutes on either side, or until nicely browned.
    • Once browned, move to paper towel lined plate.
  8. Enjoy!
    • Serve warm and topped with herbed aioli (recipe below).
    • These are great atop a fresh salad or served inside lettuce wraps.
For the Herb Aioli
  1. Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Frozen Friday: Roasted Banana with Peanut Butter Swirl Ice Cream

Hello and the happiest of Fridays to you! I have had an interesting week filled with highs and lows, and I am still trying to make heads or tails of some of it. But at this moment, none of that matters because I am here to share ice cream with you. And I could think of no better way to end my week (unless, of course, I could convince you to come to my house to share delicious vegan ice cream on my balcony overlooking SF... just saying).

My list of ice creams to try for the summer is growing, and I am learning a bunch about ice cream making with every batch I make. For now I am sticking to simple and obvious[ly delicious] flavor combinations... but I look forward to playing with fun flavors and textures. An upcoming flavor that I am particularly excited about is going to be a spicy marg[arita] ice cream. Ya, that is happening.

Now, since I am starting with classic flavor combinations, the only logical next step from chocolate-coconut was banana-peanut butter. Oh, but how about I roast the bananas first and then use freshly ground peanut butter from Berkeley Bowl. Oh, no she didn't! Or in the words of Ridiculous R, "who did that?!"

Seriously though, this ice cream was the And I would even go so far as to say it is good for you. And I am not talking "good for you as far as ice cream goes" (huge pet peeve of mine when people eat low fat ice cream and say things like "look, I am being somewhat healthy!")... I am talking about this is a great afternoon pick me up snack type good for you. The only ingredients are coconut milk, banana, and peanut butter. In fact, I totally plan on having a bowl of this when I get home from work. And it is going to be awesome. So please, go make this ice cream, and then share it with as many friends as possible :-).

Yes that is my reflection in the spoon. And yes I am wearing an argyle sweater with lululemon yoga pants.
Roasted Banana and Peanut Butter Ice Cream

  • 1 can coconut milk (full fat)
  • 2 bananas, sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter


  1. Preheat the oven to 400.
  2. Toss banana slices with olive oil and maple syrup.
  3. Roast banana slices in oven for 30 minutes, stirring once half way through.
  4. Place bananas (and the syrup in the baking dish) with coconut milk in blender and blend thoroughly.
    • Taste at this point in time, if you want it a little sweeter than add a little bit of your sweetener of choice.
  5. Allow mixture to cool in refrigerator.
  6. Place mixture in ice cream maker and churn for 15 minutes.
  7. Add peanut butter to the ice cream maker and churn for additional 5 minutes.
  8. Transfer to freezer and allow to set up in freezer for about an hour.
  9. Enjoy!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Frozen Friday: Chocolate Coconut Graham Cracker

Have I told you lately how awesome my roommates are? If not, they are seriously awesome.

They are so strong. And handsome.
There, now you know.

One more awesome thing about the East Bay is our wonderful ice cream shops, specifically Ici and Tara's. They are constantly thinking up wonderful combinations and putting things in ice cream that no one else would dare to. That being said, i'm not sure why inventive ice cream hasn't taken off elsewhere... it's so good! I have enjoyed flavors from avocado-lime, to sweet potato, to green chili and they have all been nothing short of amazing.

Which brings me back to my wonderful roommates. I have been talking lately about how fun it would be to make our own ice cream, and how I was thinking of buying an ice cream maker. WELL, they listened (must be a first for the male population)... and got me the most perfect ice cream maker for my birthday!!! They are the best. Period. End of story. So what if they now expect me to make them ice cream all the freaking time... that is ok, I do it with a smile because I love them so.

So without further ado, I bring to you... Frozen Fridays! I will post a fun new ice cream recipe every Friday. I think it would be really fun if I could get some feedback on this... so if you have any quirky ice cream ideas, please comment with them!

We are going to kick off this series with some chocolate-coconut-graham cracker ice cream that was
seriously the bomb diggity. This ice cream was birthed via a texting conversation that went something like this:

me: Also, gonna make chocolate ice cream tonight
me: Game time decision: just put graham crackers in my cart for the ice cream
me: It's happening. Some coconut flakes may end up in it as well...
R: Omg. Best roommate ever!

I would describe to you the scene that took place when R and I first brought those chilled spoons to our mouths... but i'm not sure that is appropriate for the internets. Oh, I haven't mentioned this yet... but all of my ice cream will be 100% vegan and coconut milk based. And wow, this last batch was so unbelievably decadent... I really have no idea why anyone would want to make this laden with dairy and refined sugar. I used high quality cacao power and creamy coconut milk. And it was amazing, simply put.

Chocolate-Coconut-Graham Cracker Iced Cream
Adapted from The Nourishing Gourmet
  • 1 14 oz can coconut milk (full fat)
  • 1/3 cup cacao power (I used the good stuff)
  • 3 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup sweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup crushed graham crackers
  1. Combine the coconut milk, cacao power, and maple syrup in a blender and blend until mixed thoroughly.
  2. Freeze according to ice cream maker's instructions.
    • Mine calls for pouring the mixture into the already churning frozen barrel and churning for 20 minutes, when it will take on a soft serve consistency. 
    • 15 minutes into freezing, add in the coconut flakes and the graham crackers. 
  3. Let set in freezer for an additional hour or two to firm up.
  4. Enjoy!
    • Pleasurable noises are impossible to avoid, so just enjoy completely and let it happen. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

BBQ Eggplant Tacos

Who doesn't love BBQ and tacos? And who doesn't love even more when those things are put together? After a bit of change in my plans on Sunday, I was left to fend for myself for dinner. I hemmed and hawed about what to make. I flipped through saved recipes and some cookbooks. Nothing was really jumping out to me. I wanted to crump, but didn't want to push it. I had the time to make something that was a little more elaborate, but didn't feel like dirtying my freshly scrubbed kitchen too much. I also really wanted to put BBQ sauce on something/everything.

Ok, a little backstory here. R and I were out running errands on Saturday, when we stumbled into Williams Sonoma. Well, the culinary Gods were smiling upon me that day, for Williams Sonoma had a BBQ sauce tasting bar set up. WHAT?! It had a bowl of tiny spoons next to a line of artisan BBQ sauces. There was a cherry chipotle, smoked vidalia onion, jalapeño-peach... all in squirt bottles just begging to be squirt into my mouth. R said I was embarrassing him as I made us lap back to this magical place multiple times (he is just lucky I was being civil enough to actually use the little spoons and not just squirt it directly into my mouth/all over my body). Whatever. Oh, they also had a bowl of chili-lime corn nuts. I am a sucker for corn nuts. And by the third lap I had the stroke of genius to start squirting the BBQ sauce on the corn nuts. It was truly magical. I want to go to there now.

But I digress. I didn't feel like doing the standard BBQ tofu (but I will admit, while I am typing this and am woefully out of the BBQ eggplant... I plan on supplementing the leftovers with some BBQ tofu), so I was thinking that the meaty texture of eggplant would hold up nicely to some thick and tasty BBQ sauce. Also, the one thing that had popped out to me from my Millennium cookbook was this peach-lime chutney, which I thought would pair nicely with the BBQ sauce and replace the standard salsa. And instead of a traditional slaw, I topped these bad larries with a super simple fennel slaw.

These tacos were, for lack of a better phrase, stupid good. I will be honest, while I may not make the chutney again, it worked here. But I can't wait to make the BBQ eggplant again and build some more fun entrees around it!

BBQ Eggplant Tacos
Adapted from The Chubby Vegetarian and The Millennium Cookbook

  • Tortillas of choice (I like La Tortilla Factory)
  • 2 eggplants (I used 1 and it was just enough for me)
  • olive oil
  • your favorite BBQ sauce
For the Peach-Lime Chutney
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lime, with peel, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly minced ginger
  • 1 jalapeño, de-seeded and finely diced
  • 2 peaches, peeled and diced
  • 1 red pepper, finely diced
For the Fennel Slaw
  • 1 head fennel, shaved on mandoline
  • 2 tablespoons vegan mayo
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • salt
  • pepper
To make the BBQ eggplant
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Slice eggplant in half lengthwise.
  3. Generously oil a rimmed baking sheet and place eggplants cut side down in olive oil.
  4. Roast in oven for 45 minutes.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  6. Remove skin from eggplant and squeeze out the excess moisture.
  7. Lightly tear apart the flesh and then smother it with BBQ sauce, massaging in the BBQ sauce so every bit of eggplant is covered.
    • Lick your hands clean.
  8. Place back in oven for 20 additional minutes.
To make the Peach-Lime Chutney
  1. Bring water to a boil in a small sauce pan.
  2. Add the lime and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
  3. Drain the lime and set aside (you may want to give it some more chopping action at this time).
  4. Heat up the vinegar and sugar in a medium skillet until the sugar has dissolved and it takes on a bit of a syrupy consistency. 
  5. Add the ginger and jalapeño and sauté until fragrant.
  6. Add the peaches, pepper, and lime.
  7. Saute for additional ~7 minutes.
  8. Transfer to bowl and allow to cool.
To make the fennel slaw
  1. Toss the fennel with the remaining ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste.
To assemble
  1. Warm up your tortillas either in a skillet or quickly in the microwave.
  2. Spoon in the BBQ eggplant and top with the chutney and slaw.
  3. Enjoy!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Elote Salad

I will admit, my obsession with corn is getting a little out of control. But what can I say, corn is delicious! A fresh ear of sweet corn in the summer? Doesn't get any better. Bianca and Gus also really love corn. Like, REALLY love it. So they are happy with this recent obsession.

I've had elote on the brain lately, and have been dreaming of making a vegan version of it. I have had this elote recipe flagged for a while now and was building my arsenal to bang this out for dinner one night. The night that I decided to make it, I popped the corn in the oven to roast when I said to myself, "hmm, how can I make this into a main dish?" When alas, I decided to turn this into an elote salad! I had some lettuce and spinach in my garden that I had yet to harvest and some squash left from our last CSA... all of that together with extra of the crumbled tofu topping and we have ourselves a well-balanced winner of a summer dinner. I should note that my meat eating roommate was passing through the kitchen as I was making this... and I told him the tofu was cheese, so he sprinkled some on his sandwich and proclaimed how delicious this "cheese" was.

The dish had a bit of a sweetness to it from the corn, some crazy flavor action from the garlicy squash, a bit of spice from the overkill amount of hot sauce I accidentally poured in, but luckily cooled down by the tofu... and all of this was over some super crispy and fresh lettuce and baby spinach from my garden. Each of these components alone were delicious, but when you put them all together... we are talking something out of this world.

Elote Salad
Inspired by Munchin with Munchkin

  • 2 ears corn (still in husks)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup cashew cream
  • 1/4 cup nayonnaise (vegan mayo)
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • olive oil
  • 2 medium size summer squash, sliced into rounds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • lettuce of choice
  • hot sauce
  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place ears of corn in the husks in the oven for 30 minutes.
  3. While the corn is roasting:
    1. Combine the tofu, salt, vinegar, lime juice, and nutritional yeast and set aside.
    2. Heat up a swirl of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat and sauté the garlic and summer squash for about 3 minutes. 
  4. Remove the corn from the oven, let cool, remove the kernels from the cob, and sprinkle with juice from 1 lime.
  5. Toss the corn with the cashew cream and nayonnaise.
  6. To assemble the salad: lay down the greens, top with the zucchini, then the corn, then the tofu, and finally top off with a dash of your favorite hot sauce.
  7. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Weeknight fancy: Herbed zucchini and blossom pasta

Beautiful flowers from my beautiful bestie, Awesome A :-D!
Wow. I am going to jump right into it with this post: this dish is one of my favorite things I have made/eaten in a while. Sure, some of my pleasure from this dish is derived from the fact that many of the ingredients came straight from my garden (my first harvest!), but it was also straight up delicious. Delicious to the point where even Reasonable R kept talking about it... almost as much as he talked about the jalapeño beer cornbread.

Now, what is this magical dish I speak of? Let me break it down. First, I harvested a few baby zucchini... nay, adolescent zucchini and their attached blossoms this week (in addition to a few childless male blossoms). They were delicate and beautiful and perfect and I loved them. Next, I took a few steps over to my herb garden and snipped off some of each... parsley, pineapple sage, mint, basil, and lemon thyme. Finally, I strolled on to my CSA box to complete the dish with a large juicy tomato (since I probably still have a few weeks before my dozens of tomatoes turn red). The only pantry items that supported this dish were some quinoa pasta and some tofu. Wait, did I say tofu? I meant homemade tofu ricotta that fooled Realistic R. SO. DELICIOUS. I am definitely making that more often.

The zucchini blossoms add such an awesome floral note to it, the tofu gives the dish a nice silkiness, and the herbs just give it so much flavor. The star of the dish though? The zucchini. They were so tender and were an absolute pleasure to have in my mouth. My zucchini plant is going to be producing prolifically this summer, and I couldn't be more excited.

I steamed up a side of broccoli and sat down with my gorgeous meal to catch up on the last couple episodes of the Bachelorette. Don't judge, please... especially when I am here to share with you such a delicious, nutritious, and easy weekday meal! Oh, and did I mention the whole thing took maybe 20 minutes to prepare?

Herbed Zucchini and Blossom Pasta with Tofu Ricotta 

Tofu Ricotta
  • 8 oz extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
Remaining Ingredients
  • 1 lb your favorite pasta
  • olive oil
  • 3 small zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup assorted fresh herbs, minced
  • 3 or 4 zucchini blossoms (or a few more if you have them), chiffonaded 
  • salt 
  • pepper
For the Tofu Ricotta
  1. Mash the block of tofu with your hands in a mixing bowl until is has sufficiently crumbled.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to mash with your hands until is resembles ricotta cheese.
  3. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the dish. 
For the Pasta
  1. Cook pasta accordingly.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil in skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add the garlic and zucchini and sauté for about 2 minutes, just until the zucchini is barely softened.
  4. Gently toss together the cooked pasta, lightly sautéed zucchini, tomato, herbs, zucchini blossoms, and tofu ricotta with a light drizzle of olive oil and a shake of salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Enjoy immensely! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

More corn and more salad

Ok, the time has come. I have no flight reservations coming up, no trips, no big school events, etc. And I couldn't be more excited! I had a few weeks of travel that all culminated with my birthday weekend this past weekend (Happy Birthday to me!). I had an amazing birthday where I felt immensely loved and taken care of, which is the best way to spend your birthday. From a new (zoom) lens from my amazing parents and a family reunion at some old stomping grounds in Michigan to a surprise birthday dinner at Chez Panisse and homemade birthday cakes in Berkeley from my amazing friends... it truly was a treat and I feel very blessed!

But alas, time to get down to business around here, especially as summer produce is flooding our farmers markets and our gardens. When vegetables are grown organically and picked fresh and ripe, they are at their most nutritious. When farmed organically (without the use of pesticides, etc), the plants must rely on their natural defenses to stay alive. This means that they produce more protective compounds, which are then passed on to you when you eat it. Also, when they are at their ripest, it is when the plant is saying, "ok, i'm ready for my seeds to be spread, in return I will give you a nutrient packed treat!" So, I encourage you to take advantage of the produce that is out right now!

Which brings me to this salad. I was in Michigan, which for anyone who has visited there, has lots of corn... and a 100 degree day on the 5th of July was a perfect day for this corn salad that my mom has been waiting to try out. It is the perfect refreshing dish for a summer barbecue. We added some chickpeas to it to make it a filling main dish and served it at a little get together and it was enjoyed by all! I jazzed it up a bit with extra basil and some mint and it was incredibly palate pleasing and a great way to cool down on a hot day. Also, a big shout out to Elaine for providing the adorable star plate and the other props for this dish :-).

Fresh Corn Salad
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens

  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 ears fresh corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cucumber, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 bell pepper (I used orange), finely diced
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 2 cups arugula
  1. Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper, and set aside to allow the sugar to dissolve while preparing the rest of the salad.
  2. Toss together the fresh corn kernels with the fresh of the finely diced vegetables and dressing.
  3. At serving, gently fold in the arugula.
  4. Enjoy!
    • Preferably with family and friends at a summer BBQ :-).