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

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

 

 

Making It Work

I’ve unintentionally continued last week’s theme of variations to not-so-old favorites with this dish of Millet and Spinach Stuffed Shells.  The plan had been to make the Forks Over Knives Eggplant Rollatini, which I’ve made a number of times now since first trying it last year for Week 2 of the 2013 Plant Strong Recipe Challenge.  However, laziness got the best of me and it just seemed easier to use up the shells leftover in the pantry from my whole food plant based stuffed shells recipe rather than process the eggplant for rollatini.

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Add some beet balls and dinner is served!

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The millet mixture is also wonderful and flavorful on it’s own if you’re looking for a new side dish to try.

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

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

 

Grilled Vegetables Over Creamy Polenta

Not every meal or week has a lot of prep or thought put into it.  Some weeks, it’s a quick stop to the grocery for a random assortment of vegetables and I figure it out later.  When I first became plant based this wasn’t a good idea; I needed to sit down and plan out my meals if I wanted to be successful and avoid unhealthy old habits.  Over time, it’s become much easier to quickly throw something together that is healthy, fast and delicious.

This weekend it was a quick stop to the produce aisle – zucchini, squash, bell pepper, red onion, portobello, and eggplant.  I only marinate the portobello (my usual soy, garlic, ginger) and leave the rest just as they are.  Grill up the bounty.   Quick cooking polenta is hiding under all the veggies.  It cooks in less than five minutes; I tossed in a grilled jalapeño to add some interest.  Dinner is served.

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