Posts Tagged ‘italian vegetarian recipes’

Pesto Farro with Eggplant & Zucchini

Hello! I am so excited to be posting my first recipe for 2018.


Sharing recipes with my readers brings me tons of joy, but sadly my blog has been taking a back seat to work, school, travel, etc.

 

Setting goals is something that I do for myself all year long. 

When the calendar goes from one year to the next, it is popular to say “New Year, new me.” While that can feel lofty or dramatic, I find value in that January feeling to take some inventory of life and see where there is room for positive change and improvement. Usually, the list is health related, like, “OK, I’m going to take my vitamins and supplements EVERY DAY” (instead of for two weeks straight and then forgetting about them for the next two months).


Connecting with you guys and sharing my plant-based recipes was also on my list. So, to kick off my 2018 blog posts, I thought I would share this amazing dish that I created out of food that was in my fridge that had to be used ASAP.

 

Some of my favorite recipes come from those moments.

My friends say that those are sometimes my best meals. Maybe it’s because I hear Ted Allen, the host of Chopped, in my head as I figure out how to plate something delicious out of the random basket that is my refrigerator, or maybe it’s because it allows me to be more creative than usual, but it also feels good to make something tasty out of what I can find.

 

If you know me but at all, you know that I think pesto is the besto.

The recipe for this sauce that I share with you guys on my website is the one that I grew up on and was created by my momma.  People have told her that she should jar it up and sell it because it’s so good. Making it from scratch with impress yours and your loved ones taste buds.

 

Usually, I have batches of this green gold in my fridge that I made over the summer with fresh basil from my dad’s garden. I am running really low though, so I decided to use the rest of the basil in my fridge that felt like a ticking time bomb- ready to turn black at any given moment. I HATE when that happens! Whenever I am stomping and yelling “NO!” in front of my open refrigerator, the hubster figures it’s most likely because the basil turned bad on a dime.

 

 

I love this dish.

It’s warm, fresh, loaded with plants, and answers the question that I so often get which is “how do I cook with farro?” This is a perfect weeknight meal. I can’t wait to hear what you think!
5.0 from 1 reviews
Pesto Farro with Eggplant & Zucchini
Pesto Farro with Eggplant & Zucchini Author: Michele Wolfson Prep time: 20 mins Cook time: 30 mins Total time: 50 mins Serves: 4 Nutritious and quick weeknight meal
Author:
Ingredients
  • 6 TBS extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 2 zucchini, thinly sliced half moons
  • 1 smallish Italian eggplant (about 6 inches), diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 cups farro, uncooked
  • ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Recipe for pesto sauce: http://www.thedirtonvegetables.com/2014/07/basil-pesto-sauce/
Instructions
  1. Cook farro according to package (see notes) and then prepare your pesto sauce.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat 2 TBS olive oil over medium/high heat. Then add diced onion and saute until translucent (3-5 minutes). Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add the eggplant and 3 TBS of olive oil and toss around, making sure it is covered with oil, and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Put zucchini in the pan with eggplant mixture, add the last tablespoon of olive oil, and saute until eggplant is slightly browning and zucchini is soft. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. When finished cooking, drain farro and add to a large mixing bowl.
  6. Put your vegetables in the mixing bowl with farro and toss well.
  7. Add your pesto to the mixing bowl and continue to toss well until all of your vegetables are covered.
Notes
1. If there is just no time in your week to make pesto (it's pretty easy to make, but stuff happens, so don't beat yourself up over it too much), I have heard that Whole Foods makes a good fresh pesto.
2. If you can't find pine nuts that are toasted, I toast my pine nuts on parchment paper in the oven for 375 for 5 to 10 minutes, tossing often. OR, I toast them in a dry skillet for 3 minutes over medium heat, tossing often.
3. Whole Foods and Trader Joes have bags of 10-minute farro if you are looking to make this a quick weeknight dinner.
4. I buy the "Italian Eggplant" as they tend to be smaller and firmer.
3.2.2925

Heirloom Tomato Sauce with Linguine*

Summer pasta dreams do come true… this recipe is proof.

Ripe tomatoes lined my windowsill this morning and they looked like summer’s precious jewels. Either raw or cooked, heirlooms tomatoes have the most incredible burst of sweet flavor. After coming up with about 20 different ideas for my ‘maters, I landed on making this perfect summer garden linguine dish since I was really keen on twirling pasta around my fork in that moment. If you are Italian, you can especially understand what it means to be in a particular mood to twirl your past. A sentence my mother has often uttered in her true Brooklyn form, “No, I don’t feel like rigatoni today, I am really in the mood to twirl.”

My future self six months from now in the dead of winter will look back on this meal and try to remember a time when we could eat tomatoes that looked and tasted this good every single night. I’ll wonder, “Did I eat this outside?”  “In a tank top and shorts?” I will be so jealous of the lucky bitch duck that I am today. But for now, I am obsessed with myself for whipping up such a SIMPLE and incredibly DELICIOUS recipe that I can now share with my readers.

 

Banza makes linguine out of chickpeas and I think if I blindfolded you and put a bowl of regular linguine and a bowl of chickpea linguine in front of you– it would be hard to tell the difference. I can just feel my skeptical brother rolling his eyes at this last sentence, as he tends to do towards me more than anyone I know… but I will keep you guys posted on his reaction when I serve him a bowl with chickpea spaghetti. Spoiler alert: He’s gonna love it.

Channeling my inner “Barefoot Contessa” as I was making dinner this evening, I put up a large pot of boiling water and added “lots of salt”. She also always advises her viewers to use “good olive oil.” She is my goddess.

The pasta took 10 minutes to cook and I find that the trickiest part about getting chickpea pasta to taste amazing is making sure that it gets cooked the right amount. Too short or too long of cook time can make it go from “YUM” to “MEH” and that’s just not acceptable.

The creation of this dish was actually inspired by a tomato pasta dish I usually make in the WINTER by Giada DeLaurentiis. Canned cherry tomatoes are what make it more of a winter meal.

Can this dish be made vegan?

Yes.

 

Can you use regular pasta instead of chickpea?

Of course.

 

Either version will be delish, but this version was what my heart was calling for on the day of creation. I even had burrata in the house that I put right on top, but if you don’t have that, you can alternatively add cubed mozzarella, ricotta, or omit the soft cheese all together.

One day soon, hopefully, I will have videos of these recipes in my very own kitchen!

Tips for this dish:

1. I used kosher salt because it really draws out the juices of the tomatoes.

2. I save my Parmesan rinds in the freezer and then whip them out and add them into sauces, but you can always buy parmesan rinds at a reasonable price at many grocery stores. I know Whole Foods has them since I am there pretty much every day.

3. If you want this to be vegan, my advice is to blend half of the sauce so that it isn’t too dry.

4. I have made this kind of dish with macaroni (like penne rigate and rigatoni) as well and it is fantastic.

How beautiful is this pasta dish?

 

It just looks like summer. Mangia! Let me know what you think of this tomato recipe and please enjoy these precious days of summer.

 

Heirloom Tomato Sauce with Linguine*
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Recipe type: Entree
Serves: 6
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 nice pinches of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 8 medium to large heirloom tomatoes, chopped
  • the rinds of 2-3 parmesan wedges
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt (plus more for pasta water)
  • 1 pound Banza chickpea linguine pasta (Can use regular pasta as well, even penne)
  • 1 cup fresh basil, ribboned (leave a little extra for the end).
  • ½ cup parmesan, grated
  • 2 tablespoons room temperature butter
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese or 4 oz mozzarella, cubed or burrata (optional)
  • black pepper
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot set over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté on medium, high hear for 5-7 minutes until soft. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the garlic is lightly caramelized, golden, and fragrant. Slowly add the tomatoes and any juices left on your cutting board. Add the parmesan rind. Adjust the heat to medium to keep the sauce at a simmer. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Stir often to avoid sticking. Stir in the salt.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Boil the pasta until al dente. Reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain.
  3. Once the sauce has thickened, you can either puree the sauce in a blender or leave it in this chunky form. Remove from the heat, remove the parmesan rinds from the sauce. Stir in the pasta, basil, parmesan cheese and butter. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt, and pepper. If needed, thin the sauce with pasta cooking water.
  4. Divide the pasta among bowls and top with ricotta cheese (or mozzarella or burrata, black pepper, cherry tomatoes and basil. EAT!

 

Uova al Piatto (Baked Eggs in a Tomato Sauce)

It feels like 2017 is the year of the egg. We are living in an egg-topped age, people. So my question is, how do you like yours? I can’t say that I am able to pick a favorite way, but one of my favorite dishes combines all of my general favorite ingredients.

Tomato sauce + Basil +Eggs = Heaven on the plate.

This healthy recipe is perfect any time of the day, but I first discovered it at one of my go-to neighborhood restaurants called Felice. It was during one of those epic meals with my girlfriends where we stayed for over three hours catching up while laughing hysterically over freshly baked breads, Bellini’s, and more… so much more.

Do you have a go-to person that you split everything with when you go out to eat? If you don’t, I highly recommend that you recruit one immediately. It’s a real game-changer. I saddled myself up with my split-buddy over 25 years ago, so you can imagine that we sort of have down a system at this point.

My wife for life… aka my splitsy buddy who has been doubling my menu options for so many years.

Been splitting meals since 1991.

When it comes to any breakfast-type options, I always order the savory dish and she orders the sweet and then we swap. It’s a tradition I love so much that I hope we will continue it well into our denture days when we have to tuck our boobs into our trousers, (wow, I am really painting you a picture there).

Aaaaanyway, we split “Uova al Piatto” on that fine Manhattan Sunday morning and we were blown away. It’s just a quick little tomato sauce with eggs cooked right in it, but I could not believe I hadn’t tried making baked eggs at home. Especially since it’s so ridiculously simple.

This recipe is sort of a hodgepodge of different ingredients in one oven-proof pan, so I suggest playing around with it and adding or swapping items based on your preference. Want to add spinach and garlic? Go for it! Thinking smoked or buffalo mozzarella would be a nice little addition? How could it NOT be?!

My version is simple, healthy, and I think it’s pretty perfect. I dip toasted Sprouted Grain Ezekiel English Muffins into this dish, but any kind of crusty bread will suffice!

 

Uova al Piatto (Baked Eggs in a Tomato Sauce)
Uova al Piatto Cuisine: Eggs, Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Brunch Author: Michele Wolfson Serves: 3 Inspired by Felice Restaurant and food.com
Author:
Ingredients
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 6 eggs
  • salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a shallow flameproof dish.
  2. Add the onion, and cook until soft and golden.
  3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  4. Add the tomatoes to the onions, and cook for 5-10 mins., or until the tomatoes are very soft.
  5. Stir in the chopped basil.
  6. Break the eggs, one at a time, and slip them into the dish in one layer on top of the tomatoes.
  7. Season with salt and pepper. Dot with butter.
  8. Cover the dish, and bake in the oven for 7-10 minutes or until the egg whites have just set, but the yolks are still soft.
  9. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parmesan cheese if you wish. Serve!

 

Baked Eggplant Parmesan: The Easy and Healthier Version

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I am thirty years old.

I officially start my Master’s in Nutrition program this month at the University of Bridgeport.

Also this month, my brother turns twenty-six, which makes me feel like I am ancient since he is still a baby in my head.

Summer is my favorite time of year and it’s not even close.

There are more days than I would like to admit when I don’t make my bed in the morning.

I love living in New York City, but it leaves me having a love/hate relationship with owning a car. I often spend at least 3+ hours dealing with it on a weekly basis.

Life is still good. I pinch myself every day over how fortunate I am to live in our apartment.

My husband is the best. 

I wish I can be in my gardens every day. I also wish I can see my parents every day.

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The recipe I am posting today is the bees knees. It is a total game-changer. Why, you ask? I make this dish on the reg because this version saves so much time and cuts a lot of calories from the typical recipe. I have a strong feeling that you will love this dish.

FullSizeRender-4 Every time I make a tray of classic Eggplant Parmesan, it is so labor intensive that when all is said and done, I usually wind up calling my mother or one of my aunts and I say, “As delicious as this meal is, I am not making this again for a LONG time!” They are the ones who originally taught me how to make this recipe, so they can completely relate.

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It makes me sad though because I really love eggplant parmesan. That is why I created this recipe: It is not intimating. It reduces a hefty amount of oil. There is no egg, bread, and frying the eggplant. Best of all… It is still so. freaking. delicious. NO FRYING. Music to my ears.

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This recipe is vegetarian, but can easily be adapted to becoming vegan by omitting the cheeses and using vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast instead.

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There are less than 10 ingredients in this recipe. Sometimes when I am having company, I make a pound of linguine and extra tomato sauce to serve with this entree. Linguine is my favorite with eggplant parm, but any kind of pasta works. When it’s just me and the hubster though, we usually skip the pasta and opt for something like a shaved brussels sprout salad or sautéed mushrooms and kale on the side.

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Baked Eggplant Parmesan: The Easy Version
Adapted from Mario Batali: Baked Eggplant Parmesan
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large eggplant, about 2 pounds
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cups basic tomato sauce, recipe follows
  • 2 handfuls fresh basil leaves, chiffonade
  • ¾ pound fresh mozzarella, sliced ⅛-inch thick
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ cup fresh bread crumbs, lightly toasted under broiler
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Using some extra-virgin olive oil, oil a baking sheet. Slice each eggplant about 1 to 1½ inches thick.Place on the oiled sheet. Bake the eggplant until the slices begin turning deep brown on top, about 15 minutes. Remove the eggplants from the oven. Remove the slices from the baking sheet and place them on a plate to cool.
  3. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F. In an 8 by 12-inch brownie pan, spread ¼ cup sauce on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Then, place the largest eggplant slice evenly spaced apart. Over each slice, spread 3 TBS of tomato sauce and sprinkle with a teaspoon of basil. Place one slice of mozzarella over each and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon grated Parmigiano. Place the smaller slices of eggplant over each of the disks and repeat with tomato sauce, basil, and the 2 cheeses. Repeat the layering again until all the ingredients are used.
  5. Sprinkle the toasted bread crumbs over the top of the eggplant dish, and bake uncovered until the cheese is melts and the tops turn light brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

Basic Tomato Sauce
Author:
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled whole tomatoes, crushed by hand and juices reserved
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. In a 3-quart saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until soft and light golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes and juice and bring to a boil, stirring often.
  3. Lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until as thick.
  4. Season with salt and serve.
  5. This sauce holds 1 week in the refrigerator or up to 6 months in the freezer.

 

 

Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches: In Loving Memory of my Uncle Phil

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This recipe is dedicated to my late uncle Phil who loved ice cream. He had practically no body fat on him in spite of the fact that he indulged in a late-night dessert binge nearly every single evening. Philip Wolfson was warm, kind, quirky, loving, hilarious (without even trying to be), caring, selfless, a great listener, honest, hard-working, brilliant, compassionate and one of the best humans that you could ever meet. He was remarkable, but he was incredibly humble and he had a unique way of making people feel that they were remarkable.

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He loved jogging and cycling. He was a pediatric surgeon who was completely dedicated to his patients and he loved teaching medicine to prospective doctors. Most of all, he loved his family. He was infatuated with his wife and two daughters. He was a real man. He was a real man because he was never threatened by letting his wonderful wife be all that she can be and he encouraged his daughters by letting them know they could do anything that they put their minds towards. He would go to the ends of the earth for the people he loved most as well as complete strangers.

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When I was in 11th grade I had to write a paper on who my hero was and I wrote about my uncle Phil. Nine years ago today, my uncle left this earth and those of us who loved him, loved him so deeply. Our lives are richer for knowing him, but they will never be the same after his passing. My husband never got to meet my uncle and that makes me sad every single day.

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On my wedding day, my father made a toast and said that I possess many qualities that remind him a lot of my uncle and my late grandfather. That has probably been the best compliment that I have ever received.

Photo Credit: Lindsay Madden Photography

Photo Credit: Lindsay Madden Photography

Photo Credit: Lindsay Madden Photography

Photo Credit: Lindsay Madden Photography

Usually this blog is dedicated to posting plant-based recipes that are nutritious and also delicious, but today I am posting my ice cream cookie sandwich recipe because that’s what I would want to eat with my uncle right now if he could be with me here today.

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When you make these treats, remember how fortunate you are to spend time with the ones you love. Live in the moment and appreciate those belly laughs among good friends and family. On a day like today, when I am especially sad, I try to keep my chin up and I remember to treat people with gratitude and respect. I remember to love life because that was the Philip J. Wolfson way and it is what he would have wanted. He will be missed every day. His laugh, his hugs and his amazing kindness to all will forever live on in my heart.

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Ice Cream Sandwich Cookies
Recipe adapted AllRecipes.com
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 18
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
  3. In a medium bowl, beat together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until combined well.
  4. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon.
  5. Drop cookie dough ¼ cup (for a ridiculously large cookie, one or two tablespoons for more standard-sized cookies) at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
  6. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes (bake for about 12 minutes for non-1/4 cup scoop cookies) or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks or plate to cool completely.

 
5.0 from 1 reviews
Simple Chocolate Ice Cream
Recipe adapted from cuisinart.com
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1.5 cups cold half-and-half
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp madagascar bourbon vanilla extract
Instructions
  1. Whisk together milk, cocoa powder, and sugar to combine. The sugar and cocoa should close to completely dissolved.
  2. Stir in heavy cream and vanilla extract.
  3. Refrigerate the chocolate ice cream base for at least 30 minutes before putting it in your freezer, so it is completely cold. This will help it freeze faster, improving the texture, and allow the cocoa powder to become fully hydrated by the milk and cream.
  4. When ready to use, turn machine on; pour mixture into freezer bowl, and let mix until thickened, about 25 to 35 minutes. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture. If a firmer consistency is desired (which for ice cream cookies is good), transfer the ice cream to an airtight container and place in freezer for about 2 hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches
Adapted from http://www.thekitchn.com/the-absolutely-positively-best-way-to-make-a-perfect-ice-cream-sandwich-84140
Author:
Ingredients
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Ice cream, any kind but today we are making chocolate
Instructions
  1. Bake cookies.
  2. Cool the cookies for no more than 5 minutes. Let them cool for 3 to 4 minutes; they should still be quite hot but just firm enough to handle.
  3. Take your ice cream out of the freezer. Do not remove your ice cream from the freezer until this moment. It should still be quite hard.
  4. Shave the ice cream in strips, not balls. Here's an important part of the process: Scoop or shave your ice cream in long strips — not in big round balls. You want chunky, thin blocks or strips.
  5. Construct the sandwich. Don't spread or scrape the ice cream onto the cookie. Gently lay your thin strips in layers. Press another cookie on top.
  6. Eat your sandwich! Don't delay. Eat immediately.
  7. Storage: These aren't made for storage. But if you must store them, you can wrap them individually in wax-paper bags or plastic wrap and put them in a box in the freezer. If you underbake the cookies, they should stay chewy and soft — even when frozen.

 

 

 

 

Tomato Series, Part 2: Lentil Caprese Salad

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Mozzarella and tomatoes arguably make for the most perfect food pairing of all time. I am sure when people think of two items that go best together, the first things that come to mind are pairings like peanut butter and jelly or ketchup on fries. Both are excellent food pairings, but a forkful of pillowy chunks of fresh mozzarella mixed with a ruby red tomato, especially on a hot summer day, cannot be beat. One bite and you’ll get a sweet blast followed by a wonderful tomato flavor.

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My recipe is not a typical caprese because I have added things like lentils and vinegar. Truth be told, I like it even better this way because the lentils turn a classic appetizer into a main dish. Sometimes I even add in a dollop of pesto and mix that in if I have some sauce sitting in my fridge (as homemade pesto tends to be a main staple in my house). If I REALLY want to make it an entree, I add farro, barley, sorghum, or another health supportive grain and my work is done! I typically make it the way that I am posting below, but if you have any other ideas to make it delicious, let me know!

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The tomato crop from my dad’s garden this summer has been the best in years! I hope all of you fellow green thumbs are having a great tomato season as well. We have picked HUNDREDS of tomatoes this August, which was the inspiration for my tomato series. I have bags of tomatoes covering all of my countertops and a freezer filled with jars of tomato sauce that we will delve into with delight on a cold wintery night many months from now.

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This salad holds up well in the fridge for several days and makes a great lunch to pack for work!

 

Lentil Caprese Salad
Author:
Ingredients
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup red cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 3 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • ¾ cup fresh mozzarella, cubed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse the lentils well, discarding any rocks or discolored lentils.
  2. Place lentils and 2 cups salted water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Turn to low heat and cover the pot. Cook until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. Add more water if they are drying out.
  3. Drain cooked lentils of any leftover water and let cool in a large bowl. Gently stir in the olive oil and vinegar.
  4. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Pea Soup

 

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Recently, I realized that some of my favorite recipes have very few ingredients. I keep gravitating towards the whole “less is more” concept. Plus, this whole “peasant food” kick that I’ve been on has been good on my waistline and my credit card statement. I just looked at the percentage of my hard-earned money that goes towards my groceries and it ain’t pretty. I guess I am just the kind of girl who would rather buy morels and oyster mushrooms than a pair of Jimmy Choo’s. Here’s to hoping that recipes like this one will help my grocery store overspending issues.

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Spring started on Friday and the fresh peas that I have been lusting for are on their way. But, for now, I will be using frozen peas that were plucked off the vine during the peak of their season and I recommend for you to do the same if you are a mid-westerner or northeasterner. You people in nicer climates where the warm sun might be beaming on your face at this very moment, can go take a walk, and pick up some fresh peas while you’re at it.

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I’m not going to lie- I’m getting very sick of this weather. My love for my native land, New York, runs deep, but it’s getting harder and harder to picture myself here for all of my days when the winter drags on in this fashion. I guess it could be worse… I could have been living in Boston, and after this winter, that would have been my straight up nightmare.

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Anyway, this soup with keep you warm and skinny, which are two of my favorite things. I made it recently when I was having a girl’s night in with a bunch of my favorite gal pals and they all thought it was a hit. In fact, one of my friends who is a CrossFit junkie threatened me if I didn’t post this recipe ASAP. She’s a tough cookie now with her no-nonsense muscles, so I figured that I better listen to her and post my pea soup.

If you feel the early signs of a cold, you should make this soup tonight!

Health benefits of….

Onion: Onions improves blood circulation, disperse cold, damp, and mucus from the system, and help detoxify. Onions have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and anti viral properties. When buying, select firm onions that have a papery, dry skin with little or no neck and no soot. Avoid onions that are light for their weight or are beginning to sprout.

Olive Oil: Nearly three quarters of olive oil’s fat content is monosaturated fat, which lowers your LDL (bad cholesterol). Extra virgin olive oil is highly regarded for its ability to support the liver and gallbladder functions.

Peas: Green peas are high in vitamin A and B-complex and are a good source of calcium and potassium. While shopping, look for peas that have small, crisp, shiny pods that squeak when rubbed together. Refrigerate and use immediately.

Crushed Red Pepper: Crushed red pepper is a great addition to a meal and can help reduce inflammation. If you want more flavor in your food plus health benefits like weight loss and pain relief, try adding crushed red pepper to your meals. In traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, a traditional form of Indian medicine, red peppers have been used to treat digestive problems, circulatory problems, infections and arthritis. Most crushed red pepper mixtures contain a variety of different peppers such as bell, jalapeno, ancho and cayenne peppers, which range from mild and peppery to hot and spicy. If you have pain or inflammation in your body, eating more crushed red pepper may help. Capsaicin is a compound in peppers that gives them a hot and spicy flavor and is also responsible for reducing pain.

 

Pea Soup
Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 5 cups freshly shelled peas or 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the vegetable stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the peas are tender. (Frozen peas will take only 3 minutes.) Off the heat, add the salt, and pepper.
  2. Puree the soup in batches: place 1 cup of soup in a blender, place the lid on top, and puree on low speed. With the blender still running, open the venthole in the lid and slowly add more soup until the blender is three-quarters full. Pour the soup into a large bowl and repeat until all the soup is pureed. Serve hot and top with crushed red pepper.

 

Eggplant Balls: FOUR WAYS!

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One of the recipes that I have been fiddling around with is eggplant parmesan. My goal was to make an eggplant parm-type of dish without the tedious and unhealthy frying step of the process. Eggplant parmesan is DELISH, but if you’ve ever made it before, you know that it can be a bit labor intensive—hence, the birth of the eggplant balls. This dish is much easier to make because they are baked instead of fried, making it a healthier version of the classic dish.

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I have made four different versions of eggplant balls because I was obsessed with the original Italian version, but wanted to put an Indian-flavored spin on it one night when creating an Indian feast for four. I added spices like cumin, paprika, and garam masala to the eggplant balls and topped them with a homemade tikka masala sauce.  No shock here—they were a HUGE success. I mean, what’s not to like?

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A few days later, I had a vegan client and I wanted to make her the eggplant balls, but then realized “Oh shoot, there are eggs and cheese in this recipe.” My discouragement was fleeting when I decided to make the eggplant balls vegan by eliminating the egg and cheese and adding brown rice for the binder and miso for the cheesy flavor. The balls held together and still tasted fantastic!

photo taken by William Meng
The fourth version are Greek and they came into existence mainly because I had to use the rest of my feta in the fridge and I was in the process of doing research on honeymooning in the Greek Islands. I was fresh off scouring a site that featured luxurious hotel surrounded by the classic blue and white views, so I decided that night we would eat Greek and since the eggplant balls are always a hit, why not turn them into a Greek dish by adding feta and mint and dipping them in a tzatziki sauce?
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These eggplant balls are perfect as an appetizer or as a main dish. One day I was really craving a sandwich, so I bought fresh Italian bread and made an eggplant ball sub topped with homemade marinara sauce and fresh mozzarella. It tasted heavenly. If you use any of these recipes, I think you’ll agree.

Eggplant Balls
Recipe adapted from Aunt Mary's Eggplant Balls Serve with tomato sauce if serving with sauce.
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: Makes about 16
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups cubed eggplant, with peel
  • 1½ tablespoons water
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup dried bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.
  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Pour in olive oil and saute garlic just until lightly browned. Mix in eggplant and water. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Allow eggplant to steam until soft, about 20 minutes. Place eggplant in a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Mix cheese, parsley, eggs, and bread crumbs into eggplant. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture can be rolled into balls. Add more bread crumbs as needed to make mixture workable. Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then roll into balls or form into patties.
  4. Place eggplant balls on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

 
Vegan Eggplant Balls
Recipe adapted from Aunt Mary's Eggplant Balls Can serve with tomato sauce, tikka masala, or tzatiki sauce.
Author:
Serves: Makes about 16
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups cubed eggplant, with peel
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon miso + 2 tablespoon warm water, mixed
  • ¾ cup dried bread crumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.
  2. Cook brown rice according to package directions.
  3. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Pour in olive oil and saute garlic just until lightly browned. Mix in eggplant and water. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Allow eggplant to steam until soft, about 20 minutes. Place eggplant in a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Mix miso mixture, parsley, brown rice, and bread crumbs into eggplant. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture can be rolled into balls. Add more bread crumbs as needed to make mixture workable. Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then roll into balls or form into patties.
  5. Place eggplant balls on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

 
Indian-Style Eggplant Balls
Recipe adapted from Aunt Mary's Eggplant Balls If serving with sauce, I use a tikka masala
Author:
Serves: About 16
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons curry
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon tumeric
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 4 cups cubed eggplant, with peel
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ cup grated aged goat cheese cheese
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ⅔ cup dried bread crumbs
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.
  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Dry heat spices for 1 minute over medium heat while stirring. Then pour in olive oil and saute garlic just until lightly browned. Mix in eggplant and water. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Allow eggplant to steam until soft, about 20 minutes. Place eggplant in a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Mix cheese, goat cheese, eggs, and bread crumbs into eggplant. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture can be rolled into balls. Add more bread crumbs as needed to make mixture workable. Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then roll into balls or form into patties.
  4. Place eggplant balls on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

 
Greek-Style Eggplant Balls
Recipe adapted from Aunt Mary's Eggplant Balls Serve with either tomato or tzatiki sauce if serving with a sauce.
Author:
Serves: about 16
Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups cubed eggplant, with peel
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • ½ cup grated feta cheese
  • 1 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh mint
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ¾ cup dried bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a baking sheet.
  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. Pour in olive oil and saute garlic just until lightly browned. Mix in eggplant and water. Reduce heat to low and cover skillet. Allow eggplant to steam until soft, about 20 minutes. Place eggplant in a large bowl and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Mix feta, parsley, mint, eggs, and bread crumbs into eggplant. Stir with a wooden spoon or your hands until ingredients are thoroughly combined and mixture can be rolled into balls. Add more bread crumbs as needed to make mixture workable. Refrigerate mixture for 15 minutes, then roll into balls or form into patties.
  4. Place eggplant balls on prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Carbonara

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Thanks to meat-free bacon and other replacements, classic meat recipe favorites can come back to the table with a veggie vengeance. Lots of my readers are trying to eat less meat but still want to enjoy some of their favorite dishes, like a great carbonara sauce. This recipe lets you do just that and it will satisfy anyone of the vegetarian or omnivorous persuasion. The MorningStar brand veggie bacon strips are a great substitute for meat. Other than the bacon replacement, this recipe contains all of the usual ingredients of a great carbonara dish such as fresh herbs, garlic, and egg yolks. Also, the aromatic smell of rosemary-garlic oil that will take over your kitchen is quite a bonus.

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I made this dish on Christmas day on the good old isle of Staten amongst skeptical family members who consider French fries to be a vegetable and make my vegetarianism the butt of a joke that never gets old. I am a good sport though, but mainly because I want to convince my loved ones that maintaining a plant-based diet is health supportive AND delicious. This meal is not one of my healthiest, but I throw in some lacinato kale because I love to have some greens in my dishes. My family ended up loving my version of carbonara and they already requested that I make it again the next time we all see each other!

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This dish really takes no time to make and I even ate it for breakfast the next morning because it’s actually like eating breakfast since it has “bacon” and eggs! I throw some tiny chopped up pieces of the veggie bacon in with the olive oil to start this dish, along with the garlic and rosemary, all while my pasta is cooking in the boiling pot of water. Carbonara is a Roman dish, so I usually use a blend of Pecorino Romano & Parmesan cheeses at the end. I also add nice grassy parsley at the end because it breaks up the salt a little bit, so I throw in a generous handful. The eggs in this dish are also very important.

Tip: This dish calls for egg yolks, so I put the egg whites into a little plastic baggy and eat them for breakfast the next morning so that they don’t go to waste!

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The most important trick to make a carbonara is to temper the egg yolks. This is why I reserve some of my magic cooking liquid, around 1/2-1 cup of the starchy pasta water, and I take it over to my egg bowl. While I am whisking or stirring the eggs with a fork or a whisk, I slowly add the pasta water into the eggs and I keep mixing. If you don’t take the time to do this, all you will end up with is scrambled eggs… with spaghetti… and little bits of chopped up veggie bacon.

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For the brightest color, I use farm-fresh eggs, which are widely available at Whole Foods and farmers markets. The hens that lay them are often fed marigolds which make the egg yolks intensely bright yellow-orange. Many recipes for carbonara include cream—I never add cream. The creamy quality of the sauce should come from the tempered eggs emulsifying with the cheeses and pasta.

Another important tip for carbonara is that you want to cook your spaghetti al dente… you want it to be a minute away from being perfect because you have to drain it and then add all of the pasta to the pan with the sauce so that it will continue to cook. That process is called “carry-over cooking.” Then, you add all of the sauce to the pan and mix that up so that it turns into a slippery system for the garlic, olive oil, rosemary and bacon to combine all together. Let me tell you, the smell at that point is pretty heavenly!

IMPORTANT NOTE: Make the sauce while the pasta is cooking to ensure that the spaghetti will be hot and ready when the sauce is finished; it is very important that the pasta is hot when adding the egg mixture so that the heat of the pasta cooks the raw eggs in the sauce.

Vegetarian Spaghetti Carbonara
Author:
Cuisine: Italian
Ingredients
  • 2 TBS olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 6 strips soy bacon, cut into "bits"
  • 1 TBS fresh rosemary, chopped
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup lacinato kale, stemmed and chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 3 egg yolks
  • ½ cup parmesan or pecorino cheese
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 lb pasta
Instructions
  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil for pasta.
  2. Heat olive oil, 3 turns of the pan, in a large, deep skillet over medium heat. Add veggie bacon, garlic, rosemary and some red pepper, and stir 2 minutes more. Next, add the kale and cook that down for 1 minute.
  3. Add wine and reduce heat to low. In a separate bowl, whisk up egg yolks and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add pasta to salted boiling water and cook to al dente.
  5. Whisk ½ cup of starchy cooking water to egg yolks in a slow stream to temper them. Reserve an extra half-cup starchy water in case the pasta gets too tight when you toss it. Drain pasta and add to pan with veggie bacon and garlic.
  6. Remove from heat and toss with egg yolks and grated cheeses as well as parsley, adjust salt and pepper to taste.

 

Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms

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Holiday festivities are upon us and it’s time to whip out the best appetizer and party snack recipes. I attended an ugly Christmas sweater party this weekend (who knew Christmas sweaters would become hip someday) and later on this week I will be making edible gifts for many of the people in my life who make it so much sweeter. I just love this time of year. It’s what makes the harsh, cold weather actually bearable because many of us are feeling festive and jolly.

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Last year I posted 4 Perfect Christmas Hors D’oeuvres that were vegan, but they are actually great 365 days of the year. The recipe I am posting today is no exception. I grew up on stuffed mushrooms and I bet anyone who I was good friends with in high school would say that they grew up on stuffed mushrooms at the Wolfson house as well. They are one of the dishes that I hardly ever order out at a restaurant because they usually aren’t as good as the way that my family makes them (bragging, I know… but c’mon, I bet you have family recipes that you feel snobby about as well). To be honest, I also rarely order stuffed mushrooms at an establishment because many times they are not vegetarian and are stuffed with ingredients like bacon.

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I have mentioned previously that I am trying to be more vegan-ish and have been cutting down on my cheese intake. I can say with certainty that there is no one in the world that loves cheese more than I do- I’ve never met a cheese that I didn’t like… but it’s time for me to cut down. That’s why I tweaked my beloved family stuffed mushroom recipe from vegetarian to VEGAN. Guess what? They are just as delicious as they were before and I’ll tell you why in two words: nutritional yeast.

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If you don’t know what nutritional yeast is then you’ve been missing out, and it’s time that you become informed about this excellent vegan cheesy tasting substitute. Nutritional yeast is much tastier than the name makes it sound. It is made from a single-celled organism, Saccharomyces Cerevisiae, which is grown on molasses and then harvested, washed, and dried with heat to kill or “deactivate.” Since it’s inactive, it doesn’t froth or grow like baking yeast does so it has no leavening ability.

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Not only is it tasty, but it also lives up to its name because it’s loaded with nutrition, particularly B-vitamins, folic acid, selenium, zinc, and protein. It’s low in fat, is gluten-free, and contains no added sugars or preservatives. Because vitamin B12 is absent from plant foods unless it’s added as a supplement, look for nutritional yeast brands that contain B12.

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I have performed several taste tests to see if critics can differentiate between my vegetarian & vegan stuffed mushrooms (the only difference being that one has parmesan cheese and one has nutritional yeast), and no one knew which was which! YAY! A win for veganism where no one feels like they are sacrificing. If you are a stuffed mushroom fan, you’ll love this recipe. They are SO easy to make while maintaining an impressiveness that your guests will appreciate.

Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms
Author:
Ingredients
  • Ingredients
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 28 large (2½-inch-diameter) cremini mushrooms, stemmed
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Stir the bread crumbs, nutritional yeast, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper, to taste, and 3 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl to blend.
  3. Spoon the filling into the mushroom cavities and arrange on the baking sheet, cavity side up. Drizzle remaining oil over the filling in each mushroom. Bake until the mushrooms are tender and the filling is heated through and golden on top, about 20 minutes. Serve.

 

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