Vegan Chick Pea Mash

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First things first, please do not be put off by the fact that I named this Vegan Chick Pea Mash. This recipe doesn’t contain any weird, mystery ingredients posing as something else. I would never do that to you. I’m not going to take some soy based crap and try to turn it into bologna. NEVER. This is vegan simply because it doesn’t have any animal products whatsoever.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get down to how this dish came to be. I love a good challenge. One of my skill sets is solution providing. I love figuring out a better way, an easier way or simply just A Way to accomplish a task. So, when I was hired to cater a Traditional British Style Tea Party the major request was to offer gluten free and vegan options. Normally this shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, but remember the typical Tea Party food is finger sandwiches, which do not sit squarely inside the gluten free and vegan circle. But I’m so glad I was put to the test because it yielded some good finds. Like this Vegan Chick Pea Mash.

Since the event was all about finger food, I needed to devise a bite sized morsel that would fit the vegan criteria. Chick peas are a hearty protein, and versatile thus the top choice in helping me solve this dilemma. Chick peas being what they are, dense and round, make them easy candidates for rolling off the plate, onto the floor and then ultimately squashed under foot. Goal: No rolling. So, how do you keep them from falling onto the floor instead of your mouth? Smash ‘em before they hit the floor. And so I did. But you can’t just scoop up smashed chick peas with your fingers! They needed a vessel, and colorful would be nice, too. Introducing the baby bell pepper brigade to the rescue. Perfectly suited to be filled up with the robust, chunky flavor of chick peas; smashed, of course.

Since I had a good variety of other food offerings in different flavor profiles, I wanted to ensure that this protein mash could stand on its own with savor. The first thing that came to mind was garlic and onion, but then kept layering more and more flavors as I cooked it, adding cumin and turmeric, cilantro and lemon juice. Here’s how it went down.

Ingredients

1 15 oz can Chick Peas
1/2 red onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 t ground turmeric
1/4 t cumin
1 T cilantro, minced
1/4 c Aquafaba (chick pea liquid)
1 T + lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
3 T olive oil

Instructions

  1. In a large sauté pan, heat oil, add onions and cook until softened.

  2. Add garlic, cumin, turmeric, salt, pepper and cook until the aromatics are nicely toasted.

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3. Add the aquafaba and 1 T lemon juice and stir until combined.

4. Add the chick peas, let warm through and then using a fork or a potato masher begin to smash them. I like it chunky so I smashed some very well and other only lightly to give different textures.

5. Squeeze some more lemon juice to finish, then add the cilantro.

You can serve this dish warm, room temp or cold. It truly does work well at any temperature. As I mentioned, the first time I made this was a for a catered event, so making individual pieces was the goal. The baby bell peppers as the vehicle to steer them into people’s mouths was a great choice. The sweet, crunch of the peppers perfectly complemented the earthy flavor of the chick pea mash so much so that it is my preferred serving vessel.

The size of the baby bell peppers makes it an ideal cocktail party bite. And because the chick peas are smashed, no rolling off onto the floor.

You could also, place the chick pea mash in a bowl, place on a platter filled with baby bell peppers and cucumber rounds and use it as a dip. Either way, these made the perfect bite size treat. I recently decided to test drive this again at a backyard party we hosted for our neighbors using the peppers, and then two days later for a small family gathering using endive. Happy to report; it was a hit with every serving.

The tower of offerings. Chick Pea Mash,  Salmon Roll Cucumber Rounds  and  Watercress, Herb Butter Tea Sandwiches .

The tower of offerings. Chick Pea Mash, Salmon Roll Cucumber Rounds and Watercress, Herb Butter Tea Sandwiches.

Since I had some leftovers, I served them up again using endive.

Since I had some leftovers, I served them up again using endive.

Now, of course, this dish can be used in a variety of other ways. You should know me by now, everything I make has to do double, triple, well, multiple duties. I had some leftover and tossed it over warm pasta. Naturally, it was yummy. You can spread this on toast and add avocado or tomato or both. Go ahead. Start your creative engines…

Postscript: In reading some of the comments, it got me thinking about this recipe. I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me before but this can be a heartier substitute for hummus in a pita sandwich. It’s chunkier and therefore will be squish out less than traditional style hummus. Keep it vegan and add cucumbers, sprouts, olives, etc. Keep it vegetarian and add some feta cheese. Just thought I would share the ‘stuff it in a pita’ idea, which quite frankly seems like a no brainer that I’m surprised I didn’t think of before.

Tis the Season

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My guess is that when you hear this phrase you also hear sleigh bells. Sure, it’s mostly associated with winter holidays but quite frankly, ‘Tis the Season can be applied every 3 months: winter, spring, summer and fall. Each one brings about change of all types. From what we wear to what to do. And I believe this is especially true when it comes to the foods we buy and eat.

Decades ago, staying within the season was exactly how the majority of people bought their produce, prepared and ate their meals. Using only what was available at the time of harvest. Times have changed. Consumer demands. Fed EX and other shipping methods enable foods to arrive at our supermarkets all year round. Yet, I find that everything old is new again with an increase in people going back to more ‘ancient’ ways of eating. There is much value to seasonal eating. First and foremost, it provides you with what is the absolute freshest. Then, it’s about keeping in synch with what our bodies need and crave for at a particular time of the season. Think about it. How many times do you jones for a thick, hearty, hot soup in July? How often do your salivary glands thirst for watermelon in February? ‘Tis the season for reason, my friends.

I try my best to buy seasonally, and also try to provide you with recipes appropriate for the season. Full disclosure, I have been known to purchase strawberries in the dead of winter for a dessert or a smoothie. But overall, my goal is eat what’s hot of the presses. Or should I say, pull directly from the ground.

So what’s in season now? A bounty of goodness.

Peaches & Nectarines

I love stone fruits, especially peaches and nectarines. They are sweet, juicy and refreshing all on their own. But you can grill them and serve with ice cream. Or use them to top a crostini to create a wonderful appetizer that is light and clean, but does it’s part to satisfy the appetite. Or check out the salads below that combine a few other items that are also great right now.

Fresh Ricotta Crostini

Ricotta & Nectarine crostini with mint syrup.

Ricotta & Nectarine crostini with mint syrup.

Peaches or nectarines can be used.

Peaches or nectarines can be used.

Corn on the Cob
Who doesn’t love themselves a corn on the cob during a BBQ? Slathered with butter. Or just a good sprinkle of coarse salt… YUM. But I love salads, so here are two that utilize corn, and one actually using peaches, too. A double hitter.

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Corn Salad: Raw & Roasted

Crunchy by way of the 3c’s: corn, celery and cucumber. Soft bites provided by potatoes and chick peas. Zest and zing offered by red onion and lemon. Perfect.

Corn & Fruit Salad

Sweet and refreshing. This salad is ideal for any BBQ.

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Berries: Blueberries, Strawberries, Raspberries and Blackberries

Here is a fresh salad that incorporates not just berries but two of the other in season items, nectarines and corn. This salad not only gives a sweet flavor pop in your mouth but an actual physical pop of the fruit and crunchy corn. The other salad has the blueberries playing off the tartness of citrus.

Summer Salad Full of Fruits
I love all the textures in this one. There is so much, it can be a lunch all by itself.

Butter Lettuce with Orange, Blueberries & Crunch

Fruit in a salad for me is way more interesting than the usual suspects like tomatoes. I feel tomatoes have a higher purpose than salad. That’s not to say that fruit is less than. Quite the contrary.

Fresh Fruit Bark

Something sweet but naturally sweet.

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Tomatoes
Bring it on tomato time. How many seasons have you seen me buying boxes upon boxes, pounds upon pounds of these ruby jewels? So this season won’t be any different. Just a reminder of some of the things you can do with these babies.

Yes that is 100 pounds of Roma tomatoes. I was excited until I got them home and realized just how overzealous I was.

Yes that is 100 pounds of Roma tomatoes. I was excited until I got them home and realized just how overzealous I was.

Oven dried tomatoes   can made a placed in a jar in your fridge, then used for various recipes.

Oven dried tomatoes can made a placed in a jar in your fridge, then used for various recipes.

Luscious linguine with earthy notes from the spinach, salty from the olives and a sweetness that the mighty tomato brings.

Luscious linguine with earthy notes from the spinach, salty from the olives and a sweetness that the mighty tomato brings.

This tapenade is perfect as a sauce, or a dip or compliment that brings a powerful flavor addition to meats, cheeses, and more.

This tapenade is perfect as a sauce, or a dip or compliment that brings a powerful flavor addition to meats, cheeses, and more.

Oven roast tomatoes and serve as a side dish with fish and rice or any other grain.

Oven roast tomatoes and serve as a side dish with fish and rice or any other grain.

White Eggplant App - Greek Style

Here the tomatoes are in a supporting role, but an important one. I love this dish. It can be an appetizer or a side dish and has just zest and zing.

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Freshly sliced tomatoes with pesto. You can’t go wrong with simply slicing them and enhancing with salt and good olive oil or a tad of pesto, or the tapenade from above.

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I could make this post go on forever. The recipes and ideas for using what’s fresh and amazing right now are endless but I hope this jump starts your imagination and your kitchen creations.

Ready, Set, Go!

Off to your local farmer’s market. Sniff, pluck and pick the best and the freshest. ‘Tis the season… that is until the next one.

Versatile Summer Crunch Salad

I think it is safe to say that summer has finally arrived here in the Northeast. We wait long and patiently. I’ve finally put away my heavy sweaters and traded cozy fireplace nights with dreams of warm days and cool nights. I also started dreaming up dishes that cool the palate and refresh during those toasty days. Chalk it up to another one of those times when I just started pulling whatever I had to create a salad for lunch. Now remember, salad is a term that sums up any combination of food that is cut up in small pieces, and can be served cold, room temp or even warm. Think about it; a salad can be of fruit or lettuce. It can be potato or pasta. Bean or tabouleh. You get the picture. The word salad is probably one of the most versatile words I know in the culinary world. So why not create a versatile salad, one that can be used in a variety of ways.

Here goes. As you know from other salads I’ve made, I cut each ingredient in ways that combine well for that particular salad. Some items sliced, others diced. In this salad, in order to create a chunky bite- ful, cut all the veg to approximately the same size.

The line up: Fennel, red onion, scallions, mini bell  peppers, English cucumber, celery.

The line up: Fennel, red onion, scallions, mini bell peppers, English cucumber, celery.

Ingredients

1 English cucumber, seeds removed, cut in cubes
7 mini bell peppers*, seeds removed, cut in pieces
1 heaping c fennel, stalks & bulb, cut in chunks
2 scallion, sliced
1/4 c red onion, diced
3 celery stalks, cut in pieces

* If you don’t have the mini peppers, use one regular sized red pepper

Dressing
3 T fresh lemon juice
1.5 T fennel fronds, minced
1/4 c olive oil
1/2 t salt
1/4 t black pepper

I feel silly even writing the title ‘Instructions’ and giving a step by step since all this is chop and dress. Maybe I should just leave it at that. Chop. Whisk. Dress.

For some salads I leave the seeds in an English cucumber. For this one, no seeds. I use a demitasse spoon to scrap the seeds because it’s the perfect size. Then I cut down the center lengthwise and then cut cubes.

For some salads I leave the seeds in an English cucumber. For this one, no seeds. I use a demitasse spoon to scrap the seeds because it’s the perfect size. Then I cut down the center lengthwise and then cut cubes.

Chop all your vegetables and place in a bowl. As I mentioned, for this salad, the key is chopping everything into bite sized chunks. That helps to create the crunch factor.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Mini bell peppers

Mini bell peppers

Red onion

Red onion

Scallions

Scallions

I used both the fennel stalks and the bulb, chopping them in chunky rounds.

I used both the fennel stalks and the bulb, chopping them in chunky rounds.

For the dressing, just whisk together all the ingredients and pour over.

Super simple, fresh mix of lemon juice, fennel fronds, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Super simple, fresh mix of lemon juice, fennel fronds, salt, pepper and olive oil.

Pour and mix and sit and think of all the ways you will use this salad.

Pour and mix and sit and think of all the ways you will use this salad.

Chunky, crisp, refreshing with lots of flavors mixed up in every bite.

Chunky, crisp, refreshing with lots of flavors mixed up in every bite.

So why is this versatile? Because it can be the base to bigger salads or to fill out a lunch plate as I did. I grilled up some asparagus, sliced some avocado and spooned a heaping of this crunch salad for a satisfying lunch.

Then the next day I included it on a lunch plate for JuanCarlos which featured salmon, arugula as a base with the crunch salad on top alongside some store bought tabouleh. Now that is a lunch for a king. King JuanCarlos.

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But in case you need a few other ideas:

  • Add chick peas, or make it a multi bean salad adding black beans and cannellini

  • Add tuna and stuff the whole kit and kaboodle into a pita

  • Cook up some pasta shells and toss them all together

  • Use the full leaves of Boston or Romaine and fill them with this mixture

Ok, you get it. That’s a start. I trust you will come up with a few of your own. For now, start with the base and build from there. Salad: versatile no matter how you dice it.

Happy Summer!

 

Manchego Cheesy Palmiers

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Sheets upon sheets of puff pastry take up a disproportionate amount of space in my freezer. For awhile, they actually took refuge in a neighbor’s freezer while I sorted out space in my own. Why, you ask, do I have so much puff pastry when I can’t even consume it? Just because I can’t enjoy its light, buttery layers of puff doesn’t mean my catering clients and guests can’t. Plus, I do enjoy creating treats with it. It’s so versatile. It’s so light. It’s so crispy and flaky. Yet still gives you a doughy mouth feel. Yes, I have a great imagination of what it would taste like. I’m working off of memory banks deep in the recesses of my mind.

So, when I needed some of this light puffiness for a catering gig a few months back I opted to buy the larger box. As expected, I knew I would find other uses for it. If you recall, it certainly came in handy dandy when I baked it up for a not too sweet dessert. Then another cocktail party gig came a-calling. That event needed a small bite. It needed to be warm. And if it were cheesy too then let’s just call it the perfect trifecta. With all this extra puff pastry, palmiers came to mind, and thus won my little heart.

In an effort to continue to prove how incredibly easy some recipes are, this is another one that falls squarely in the ‘anyone can do this’ category. Let me show you how.

In four steps, this is how simple.

  1. Roll pastry

  2. Spread cheese

  3. Fold, fold and fold again.

  4. Cut and bake.

    Ok, there is a fifth step. EAT and ENJOY!

Here are the actual steps with a few more details.

Cheese, glorious cheese. In this case Manchego.

Cheese, glorious cheese. In this case Manchego.

ingredients

1 Puff Pastry sheet, thawed
2 c Manchego cheese*, grated
1 egg, beaten plus a splash of water

* Of course, you can use whatever hard cheese you like. But my catering gig focused on tapas from Spain, therefore, Manchego was the natural choice.

instructions

  1. Take puff pastry out of the freezer and let it defrost. Once thawed, sprinkle flour on a board and roll the pastry out to 12” x 17”.

2. Generously spread 1.5 c Manchego or your desired cheese over the entire dough. Then place parchment over top and gently roll again to press the cheese into the dough.

Cover the entire surface. You’ll want cheesy goodness in every bite.

Cover the entire surface. You’ll want cheesy goodness in every bite.

A gentle roll is all you need. It helps to secure the cheese so it doesn’t fly all over the place when you fold the edges over.

A gentle roll is all you need. It helps to secure the cheese so it doesn’t fly all over the place when you fold the edges over.

3. Fold the edges in 1/3 the way, then fold and fold again until you get to the center. The folds create more of a heart shape. You can also roll the edges into the center to create more of a rounded palmier. Your choice. I wanted hearts. Also, the more folds you have the smaller the size of each one. Fewer folds creates a larger individual palmier. (Also, note that I added more cheese after the second fold. That’s only because I wanted it to be cheesy.

First fold.

First fold.

Then add another 1/2 cup of cheese before the final fold.

More cheese, please. This is the second fold. From this point, fold one more time to close it up.

More cheese, please. This is the second fold. From this point, fold one more time to close it up.

4. Cut 1/2” slices and place them cut side down on a parchment lined baking sheet, brush tops with egg wash and bake at 420 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.

All those folds will explode open into light fluffiness in the hot oven.

All those folds will explode open into light fluffiness in the hot oven.

Lightly brush with egg wash.

Lightly brush with egg wash.

It’s just that SIMPLE, and these are as cute as a button or should I say, as a heart shaped cheesy bite.

They make the ideal bite sized snack to enjoy with afternoon tea, or anytime. I also wrapped them up in parchment paper and gave them to a neighbor as a little birthday gift. (And of course, gave some to the kind neighbor who housed my pastry for way too long, thanks Antoinette!)

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And as if those reasons aren’t enough to motivate you to make them, they are perfect for stacking up on an appetizer platter. Since I was asked to bring an appetizer to a dinner party, I added them onto a cheese and charcuterie platter. They were all gobbled up!

Those are   boquerones skewers   standing up in a glass jar. They look like lollipops. Rounding out the platter:  Manchego  and  Majorero Pimentón  cheeses, my   spiced nuts  , mortadella,  Chorizo Vela , olives, roasted red pepppers, cucumbers and cornichon and  Mary’s Gone Crackers .

Those are boquerones skewers standing up in a glass jar. They look like lollipops. Rounding out the platter: Manchego and Majorero Pimentón cheeses, my spiced nuts, mortadella, Chorizo Vela, olives, roasted red pepppers, cucumbers and cornichon and Mary’s Gone Crackers.

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Try it, and I beg you to please stop saying that it’s only easy for me. I have faith in your ability, and so should you.

Rice & Quinoa With A Crunch

As I was editing the photos for this post, I dawned on me just how much inventing I actually do when it comes to food. (Well, actually anything in my life really. More to come about votive candle holders I’ve been hand painting which will be up for sale soon.) The reason it came into light was because I had forgotten that I even came up with recipe and combo until I looked at the photos. Then I went scouring through all my little slips of paper where I jot down ingredients and amounts to find the notes for this recipe. I seriously might have forgotten about it all together had it not been for this blog which requires me to write shit down. Thank you, thank you, thank you for forcing me to photograph, catalog, measure and archive all my inventions. For decades, I had been coming up with food combinations which I made that one time only, and never or rarely repeated again. The top pretexts for no repeats; one, because when I see ingredients I don’t think about what I did last time, I see something new. Two, because apparently I don’t have as good a memory as I think. Three, without writing it down, there is no way of recouping exactly what I did. So, if I don’t have a recipe or even a hint of what I once did to go by, I might as well create something fresh.

There are some recipes that I do make over and over again. Like Boquerones Skewers, Stuffed Piquillos, or Salmon Burgers or Indian Spiced Rice. Quite frankly, it’s because I have this blog to jog my memory with images and recollections of a meal past. I now use it as my own personal recipe book. (I hope you do, too.) And so at this exact moment I’ve found another raison d'être to continue writing and creating. Not just for you all, but for me, too.

I wish I could recall exactly why I came up with this one, but it escapes me now. Maybe it was that I didn’t want to just serve rice, or just quinoa and figured why not put them together. Maybe I was riffing off my Glorious Grains - Moroccan Style. Whatever the guise, I’m glad I riffed because it was a fluffy, crunchy delight. And one I will now definitely make again. This, of course, got the two thumbs up seal of approval from my daily taste testers - JuanCarlos and Jill. or J to the second power as I like to call them.

The main line up: Basmati Rice, Quinoa, Pepitas, Slivered Almonds, Fresh MInt, Red Pepper Flakes and Chinese Chives.

The main line up: Basmati Rice, Quinoa, Pepitas, Slivered Almonds, Fresh MInt, Red Pepper Flakes and Chinese Chives.

Ingredients

1 c Basmati Rice
1 c Quinoa
1/4 c Pepitas, toasted
1/4 c Slivered Almonds, lightly toasted
1 c onions, chopped
1.5 T fresh mint, julienned
1/2 t red pepper flakes (adjust to your liking)
1/2 c Chinese chives, chopped*
3 T Olve Oil
1 t salt
1/4 black pepper

Instructions


1. Sauté onions in olive oil, add salt and pepper until softened.

Chopped onions ready to soften and give off their sweetness.

Chopped onions ready to soften and give off their sweetness.

2. Add rice and quinoa and let the grains lightly toast before adding 3.5 c water, cover and let simmer

until cooked.

The onions only need to softened, then in goes the rice, then quinoa so they can toast and absorb some of the sweet onion and oil flavor.

The onions only need to softened, then in goes the rice, then quinoa so they can toast and absorb some of the sweet onion and oil flavor.

Quinoa in the pot to get coated with oil and onions, too.

Quinoa in the pot to get coated with oil and onions, too.

3. Meanwhile, in a pan toast the pepitas and almonds separately. Be careful to only lightly toast the

almonds as these are delicate and can burn quickly and easily, which is why they need to done them separately.

Toasting the pepitas.

Toasting the pepitas.

3. Mix all the ingredients together and taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.

I know I’m known for making a vinaigrette and drizzling it over a dish, but after tasting it, it actually didn’t need a thing. I conferred with JC, and he agreed. Leave it just as it is. More evidence why it’s important to taste as you go. However, if you wanted to make this more of a salad type of dish you could add a lemon vinaigrette. It will change the texture of both the starches and the crunch factor, but I imagine it would tasty just the same. Try it my way first, then decide for yourself.

Everything ready.

Everything ready.

In go the pepitas.

In go the pepitas.

In go the almonds.

In go the almonds.

I may seem like a lot of chives, but it’s not. It’s actually the perfect amount.

I may seem like a lot of chives, but it’s not. It’s actually the perfect amount.

Mix it all up gently. I was going to add a vinaigrette but JuanCarlos tasted it and said it needed NOTHING else. So there you have it.

Mix it all up gently. I was going to add a vinaigrette but JuanCarlos tasted it and said it needed NOTHING else. So there you have it.

I guess it doesn’t matter why I came up with this combo, it only matters that it answered the call. And it definitely delivered on my hope for serving more than just rice or just quinoa. And the deciding factors were:

The red pepper flakes gave a hint of heat while the mint produced a fresh, vibrancy.

Heat

Heat

Cools the heat

Cools the heat

The Chinese chives provided that mild onion note.

Chinese chives. Longer and flatter.

Chinese chives. Longer and flatter.

It may seem like a lot but you need a lot to cut through the starch

It may seem like a lot but you need a lot to cut through the starch

And of course, the pepitas and almonds packed the crunch, which you know I love.

Crunch AKA Pepitas

Crunch AKA Pepitas

Crunch2 AKA Slivered Almonds

Crunch2 AKA Slivered Almonds

All in all, a great little side dish starch that fills the belly and the soul. I served it with lentils and sautéd grey sole.

A medley of flavors. Fluffy AND Crunchy. How great is that?

A medley of flavors. Fluffy AND Crunchy. How great is that?