Puttanesca Pomodoro – Ode to the Olive

I’m still catching up on posting but I assure you the cooking hasn’t slowed. This week’s post is a delayed review of Isa Does It Puttanesca Pomodoro. One of the simplest dishes I’ve made from the cookbook but also an immediate favorite. I’ve made this dish, or an inspired version, a number of times since I first tried it in August. August had busy weekends of weddings and baby showers that kept me from my usual marathon weekend meal prep and left me having to prepare dinners after work {gasp}. Flipping through Isa Does It for an easy, yet different, pasta dish led to Puttanesca Pomodoro.

This quick pasta sauce is a tomato based sauce with olives, capers, garlic, and spices.
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Olives are one of my favorite things. Growing up Mom would put olives on the holiday table to snack on while we waited for the Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner to be ready, and my brother and I would make them disappear in record time. Back then they seemed to be something we only had on special occasions. Since I became plant based I find myself craving healthy fats like olives and avocados more than ever. Wegman’s Mediterranean Bar has also spoiled me with their fancy olive selection (sorry Mom, Mt. Olive just isn’t the same).
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I’ll often buy an assortment and throw together a quick pizza or pasta when I find myself unprepared and too busy for a big cooking day. Before trying Isa’s recipe I would simply heat an assortment of olives, peppers, roasted garlic and spices with some lemon juice, starchy pasta water and nutritional yeast for a quick dinner.

For Isa’s recipe, you cook down some fresh tomatoes with garlic before adding the olives, capers, and spices.
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Toss in the pasta and top with fresh basil and you’re done! A quick dinner that is so flavorful you’d think the sauce had been going all day.
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Isa Does It Recipe #22

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Ranch Salad with Red Potatoes & Smoky Chickpeas

It was bound to happen.  I would eventually have to happen upon a recipe in Isa Does It that just didn’t work out for me.  The 21st recipe I’ve made since acquiring this amazing and beautiful cookbook will probably not be made again in my kitchen but it does have some awesomeness that I’ll steal for future use.

You may be wondering how a salad could be problematic.  The salad itself is quite straightforward with limited ingredients.  Hearty romain, boiled red potatoes (I used a medley of baby purple, red, and yellow potatoes because their adorableness was calling to me at the grocery), and thinly sliced red onions were the main ingredients; I added grape tomatoes for color and sweetness.  It was the avocado ranch dressing that sounded so scrumptious but never quite came together.  Of course, it was the beautifully photographed bright green avocado dressing that made me want to make this salad in the first place.

IMG_6417The dressing is a simple blend of avocado, vegetable broth, lemon, garlic, and herbs.  My avocado was ripe and a lovely green, until I made the dressing.  It turned a not so appetizing brown color as soon as I started to blend.  Is my broth too dark, my paprika??  I have no idea.  I decided to give it a taste and it wasn’t terrible but it wasn’t great either.

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The awesomeness I promised at the beginning of this post comes from the smoky chickpeas.  The simplest thing in the world – sauté cooked chickpeas with tamari and liquid smoke – results in the most delicious chickpea that is perfect for salads.  They are smoky and salty, reminiscent of bacon.  Those little nuggets of goodness will be made again for sure.

IMG_6401I envision roasted potatoes (boiled have never been my favorite), and smoky chickpeas in future salads.   I’ll probably stick with Briny Caesar Dressing unless others have suggestions to make this dressing work out.

Isa Does It Recipes: 21

 

 

Variety is the Spice of Life

There were no new recipes this week but I was a food prep master last weekend cooking up some old favorites with a twist so I thought I’d share some of the variations.

For breakfasts I went with what may be my favorite recipe from Isa Does It, scrambled chickpeas.  The recipe itself is one of the most simplistic in the cookbook, but as someone who can’t seem to like tofu the realization that smashed chickpeas make for an awesome breakfast has gotten me one step closer to letting go of eggs – the one cheat that has been difficult for me to find a suitable replacement.  I made a potato hash with a Southwest flavor profile to accompany the scramble.  For the hash, I used sweet potatoes that had been tossed in cajun seasoning and roasted, onion, a variety of bell peppers, and jalapeño for spice.  I changed up the scramble by substituting lime and cilantro for the lemon and dill in the recipe.   Topped with scallion, cilantro, and some chipotle hot sauce and this made for a very satisfying breakfast.  The components also work well in breakfast burritos.

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I could not decide between potato leek soup and corn chowder for lunches so I had both by adding corn to potato leek soup.  I made Isa Does It potato leek soup and modified it quite simply by adding a jalapeño (seeds and all) early in the cooking process, and corn (I used frozen that I had on hand) at the very end of the cooking process.  The additions made for an excellent variation of the original; the jalapeño added subtle spice that didn’t overpower the rich soup, while the corn added texture and sweetness.

To go with my soup I made a Citrus Kale Salad.  Perhaps I was dreaming of my favorite season last weekend as Tuscan kale, red onion, grape tomatoes, dried cranberries, walnuts, and orange slices may be more of a Fall salad.  I prepared a citrus dressing by juicing an orange, lemon, and lime, adding a touch of agave, red wine vinegar and chili powder.  The salad was a nice variation of my usual side salads and the hearty kale held up well leftover.

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Dinner was Roasted Red Pepper Mac, also from Isa Does It.  I’ve made this dish a few times already.  I had fresh broccoli to use up so I roasted the broccoli in the oven and stirred it into the mac before serving.  This is a variation that will likely become the standard.  I love the added flavor and texture that the roasted broccoli adds to the pasta dish.  I served with a salad dressed with briny Caesar dressing.

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These old favorites with a twist made for a delicious week!

Dragon Noodle Salad

The salads chapter of Isa Does It has been neglected, but I’ve become bored with lunches of late and went back to Chapter 2 for some ideas to get me through the summer slump.  As I am writing this review of my 20th Isa Does It recipe of 2014 I realize there is something I’ve neglected to mention about this spectacular cookbook, Isa!  This is a cookbook that is actually entertaining to read, not to mention beautifully designed.  Isa’s style of writing is unique and conversational; you can check out her style on her Post Punk Kitchen blog.

The Salads Chapter of Isa Does It has an intro that declares don’t roll your eyes at salad and let’s make this the salad-for-dinner decade!  I’ve already proclaimed my love of Briny Caesar Dressing, but rarely have salad as dinner unless it’s a hearty burrito bowl.  That said, the Dragon Noodle Salad is a satisfying salad that doesn’t leave you wanting anything except maybe more salad.

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It’s also a simple dish with limited need to chop or prep.  The recipe calls for rice noodles with cucumbers and radishes in a peanut dressing served over a bed of greens.  I added some peppers because the Thai flavors seemed to beg for them; I also added chopped peanuts and scallions for garnish.  The peanut butter is the immediate flavor of the dressing, but garlic, rice vinegar, sesame oil and sriracha provide balance as you continue to eat the dish.  I found it not overly spicy (I love a good spicy dish), and added more sriracha to leftovers.  I also topped with spiralized zucchini because it’s summer and there are local zucchini to be eaten (and it’s pretty).

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This was a great dish to break the summer slump.  I had some issues with the noodles sticking together in the leftovers but I may have overcooked them.  There is a similar recipe on Isa’s blog; Zucchini Noodles with Peanut Sauce (seems to sub ginger for garlic – I say just use both!).

Isa Does It Recipes: 20

Whole Food Plant Based Creamy Chipotle Dressing & Sauce

Today’s post has two dressing recipes and three meal ideas, woo-hoo!  I thought of splitting it up but nah.  This post is a good example of how I cook.  I like to cook mainly on the weekend and either reheat my dishes, or at least have the more time consuming components ready for repurposing.

As the 4th of July holiday weekend was coming to a close I didn’t really feel like facing the reality of meal planning for a work week; That said, I also didn’t want to have to deal with underwhelming lunches and crickets at the thought of dinner (chirping, not to eat).  I decided to make a Mexican Chopped Salad that was quite satisfying, and a hit when I’d brought it along to a family function.

IMG_6375The salad is based on a recipe I’d discovered on Pinterest.  I tend to go rogue when it comes to salad components.  This time I used red, yellow, and orange bell peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, red onion, grilled corn, black beans, and cilantro tossed in the dressing.  I’ve played with the original dressing recipe a bit and think I finally got it where I want it.  The modifications I’ve made were to omit the oil, and make it less sweet and more tangy.

For the Chopped Salad:
zest and juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons of juice from jarred pickled jalapeño slices
1 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

 

This is a light, refreshing summer salad.  To turn my salad into a dinner, I made brown rice (adding salt, and the zest and juice of one lime at the start of the cooking process) to accompany the salad.  Add to a tortilla with some fresh avocado, green onion, and pickled jalapeños and this makes a great burrito.

As good as this was, I found myself craving something more indulgent and thought a creamy chipotle dressing would do the trick.  I took some inspiration from the Briny Caesar Dressing recipe in Isa Does It and thought what if I follow the same basic principle of a cashew base but swap the caesar dressing’s lemon, garlic and capers with lime, chipotles in adobo and pickled jalapeño…Just like that awesome was born.

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Creamy Chipotle Dressing

1/2 cup  raw cashews, soaked for at least two hours
2 cloves garlic
zest and juice of one lime
1/4 cup picked jalapeños with some pickling liquid
2 chipotle peppers
2 tablespoons adobo sauce
1 teaspoon cumin
3/4 cup water
dash of salt

Drain the cashews and place all ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth, approximately 3-5 minutes scraping the side of the bowl as needed.

IMG_6380To put together my salad I chopped some romaine lettuce, and tossed it with fresh squeezed lime juice and ground pepper.  I layered on some of the leftover rice from my burritos and topped with the Mexican chopped salad.  Add avocado, green onion, and pickled jalapeños; dress with a few drizzles of the chipotle dressing and finish off with a crushed tortilla chip or two.  The simple salad is amped up to a delicious burrito bowl.

IMG_6384The dressing was better than I could have hoped with the smokiness of the chipotles with some tang from the lime and pickled jalapeños.  It also has a great texture with no added oil.  As soon as I tasted the chipotle dressing I immediately thought chipotle pasta.  Once upon a time I loved the Cheesecake Factory Chipotle Chicken Pasta; a whole food plant based version hadn’t occurred to me until I had this dressing.  It’s a simple reinvention of leftovers.

Chipotle Pasta

Cook 4 oz of whole wheat penne until just under done.  Reserve 1/3 cup of cooking liquid before draining the pasta, and set the pasta aside.  Return the pot to the stove and add 2 cups of the Mexican chopped salad and the reserved cooking liquid.  I cooked on medium-high heat for about 2-3 minutes just to warm through.  Add 1 cup of the creamy chipotle dressing and stir.  Heat another minute or so before adding the pasta back to the pot, and stir to coat the pasta in the sauce and mix all ingredients.  Continue to heat until the pasta is fully done and the sauce thickens a bit, another minute or so.  I topped with fresh basil and sliced green onion.  This makes two generous servings.

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I really enjoyed this dish.  You still get the spice of the chipotle without overpowering the tang of the pickled jalapeño and lime. The vegetables add texture and sweetness, while the fresh basil brightens the dish with freshness.

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There you have it!  With the one big batch of Mexican Chopped Salad I was able to have dinner salads, burritos, and chipotle pasta without too much thought or effort after work.

 

Carrot Cake Pancakes

The 4th of July holiday weekend is sadly coming to a close, but it was a beautiful, relaxing long weekend and I’ll enjoy the last few hours of it for sure.  Carrot Cake may not be the image you conjure when thinking 4th of July, but I’d been eyeing this Isa Does It recipe for Carrot Cake Pancakes for quite some time and finally managed to treat myself to a special breakfast for the holiday.  This recipe is more involved than I typically partake before coffee, and breakfast for dinner is more of a fall/winter craving for me so I’ve just drooled over the pretty picture since acquiring the cookbook.  Really, it’s not involved at all.  Beyond your typical pancake recipe all you have to do is grate carrots…I should probably not admit that I have a food processor to do this extra step for me.  Nor should I acknowledge that I grated the carrots the night before so the only machine I had to work in the morning was the coffee pot.

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But I digress.  Pancakes are remarkably easy to make dairy-free with limited fuss and without sacrificing flavor or texture.  This recipe is a pretty basic pancake batter made special by the addition of the grated carrot, a little extra sweetness from maple syrup, and a bit of spice from cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and allspice.  They cook up nicely and simply (which is good for my disoriented morning self).

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I added pecans to the batter for a textural element and loved the addition.  This is a substantial breakfast; the pancakes are a bit dense, almost reminiscent of a quick bread, and sweet.  The sweetness is balanced by the warm spices, which do leave you thinking fondly of carrot cake.  I think I will prefer these as a fall dinner personally, but they’ll definitely be made again.

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Isa Does It Recipes: 19

 

Roasted (Grilled) Vegetable Romesco Sandwiches

Olive-Lentil Burgers weren’t the only thing I made last week.  I was looking for a simple lunch to last the work-week and decided to grill a batch of veggies for sandwiches and salads.  While flipping through the handheld section of Isa Does It for a burger to try I saw the Roasted Vegetable Romesco Sandwiches.  The recipe called for zucchini and cauliflower roasted in the oven, but I chose to grill rather than roast and picked an assortment of zucchini, squash, eggplant, asparagus, red onion and bell peppers.

IMG_6164My grill is on the small side so I work in batches.

IMG_6165The veggies only take about four minutes per side so you can prepare quite a large quantity of food fairly quickly.

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I prepared the romesco spread between grill runs.  Romesco is a nut and roasted red pepper based sauce.  In this version toasted sliced almonds, garlic and roasted red peppers are processed with paprika.  The spread, along with a hefty handful of fresh basil, amped up the flavor of my grilled vegetable sandwich.

IMG_6168It also paired wonderfully with my Olive-Lentil Burgers!

Isa Does It Recipes: 18