It’s about that time…

Spring is in the air, and summer is around the corner!  That means, it’s time to get the grill out!  I absolutely love grilled veggies.  If you’re looking for a great summer pasta, that is loaded with grilled vegetables, try this:  Gemelli & Grilled Vegetables with Pesto Sauce.

Gemelli is a single “s” shaped twisted pasta, derived from the Italian word for twins. It’s not difficult to find.  Barilla makes a nice Gemelli pasta.

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So, let’s get cooking, shall we?

Gemelli & Grilled Vegetables with Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

2 large red and yellow bell peppers

12 stalks asparagus

1 med red onion, sliced

3 tablespoons, plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil (divided)

2 tablespoons pine nuts

6 ounces (2/14 cups) gemelli or rotini pasta

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 cup basil leaves

1/4 cup fresh, grated Romano cheese

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon crushed black pepper

dash of cayenne pepper (optional)

1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes

Here we go!

Get the grill fired up!  Cut the bell peppers in half; remove the seeds.  Place asparagus and onion on a large plate, and coat with 1 teaspoon olive oil.

Grill the peppers, skin side dow on a covered grill, over medium heat for 10-12 minutes, or until the skins are blackened.  Place peppers in a plastic baggie or paper bag, and let stand for 15 minutes.  The skin should be soft enough to peel off.  Cut peppers into chunks and set aside.

Next, cook the pasta according to package directions; drain and return to the pan.  While the pasta is cooking, grill the asparagus and onion on  the covered grill over medium heat for approximately 8-10 minutes, or until tender, turning as needed.  Cut the asparagus into 2-inch pieces and cut the onion into small pieces.  Add the vegetables to the pasta.

Place the pine nuts and garlic in a food processor.  Process until coarsely chopped.  Add basil and process until finely chopped.  While the processor is running add remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil until the mixture is fully blended.  Stir in cheese, salt and pepper.  Add the basil mixture and tomatoes to the pasta and toss until the pasta is fully coated.  Serve immediately!

Buon Appetito!

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Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: Portobello Mushrooms in Wine Sauce

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Seared Salmon with Cumin Roasted Acorn Squash and Candied Pumpkin Seeds

For the most part, I eat vegan/vegetarian, however on occasion, I do have a little bit of fish.  This is a great recipe for those who enjoy less seasoning and the yummy flavor of salmon.  The acorn squash is delicious, and the combination of salmon with the squash and roasted pumpkin seeds is just incredible!

SEARED SALMON WITH CUMIN ROASTED ACORN SQUASH & CANDIED PUMPKIN SEEDS

INGREDIENTS:

1 acorn squash, cut in half and seeded

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp olive oil

1/4 tsp sea salt

fresh ground pepper to taste

1/4 cup dried organic pumpkin seeds

pinch sea salt

1 tsp organic maple syrup

olive oil spray OR rub olive oil in a non-stick skillet

2 (4 ounce) salmon filets (avoid farm raised)

LET’S GET COOKING!

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the squash halves in a large pan cut side down and place the pan in the preheated oven. Roast for about 40 minutes until tender. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly.  Leave the oven on and place a medium skillet inside.

Carefully scoop the insides of the squash out, and discard the skins.  Put the roasted squash in a bowl with the olive oil, cumin, 1/4 tsp. salt and pepper. Mash in the same way you would mash potato’s.  Set aside.
Place the pumpkin seeds in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Watch them closely and as they begin to brown reduce the heat to medium.  Add the pinch (1/16 tsp.) of salt. Cook for about one minute more until the pumpkin seeds are browned.  Add the maple syrup and let it bubble for about ten seconds shaking the pan vigorously to coat the pumpkin seeds well. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the pumpkin seeds. Turn them out of the pan onto the wax paper to cool. Separate them from each other just after placing on the wax paper so that they won’t stick together.

Spray the pan lightly with oil  or use a paper towel and oil a non-stick pan with olive oil.  Place the salmon in the pan skin side down. Cook on med-high heat, for about 5 minutes (the skin will be getting darkened and crisp), then turn over and sear the top.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cover so that the inside of the fish cooks.  Check after about 4 minutes and cook until done.  Remove the fish and serve it on top of the pureed acorn squash.  To with the candied pumpkin seeds.

Couple this with a nice watercress and butter lettuce salad and a good white wine.—FABULOUS!

Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: 

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Tacos In The Fall?

I realize it’s fall in most parts of the country, but in Santa Barbara, we are still sporting 75 plus degree days!  So, while pumpkin pie, hearty stews and soups are on many people’s minds, I am still eating tacos!  Besides, I live in  a place where fresh tortillas are readily available–I know, I am spoiled… There’s nothing like a homemade, just-out-of-the-oven tortilla!  We also have avocado trees growing all over town, so those are plentiful as well.

Here’s my taco rendition, vegetarian style!  I’ve also included a recipe for my FRESH HABANERO HOT SALSA!  You will love it!

Let’s get started!

INGREDIENTS FOR TACOS:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup of roughly chopped zucchini or summer squash (1-2 zucchini or squash, depending on the size)
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped
  • 1 large fresh mild green chile (Anaheim or Hatch), seeds and stem discarded, chopped
  • 1/2 fresh jalapeño chile pepper, seeds and stem discarded, minced (or more, if you desire more heat)
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced or chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro  (save some sprigs to chop up for the tacos)
  • 1 can organic black beans (heated)
  • Finely sliced romaine lettuce or finely shredded green cabbage
  • Package corn tortillas (if you’re frying these use canola oil, not olive oil–coconut oil is a great substitute too)
  • 1/2 cup Mexican cheddar cheese or Mexican four cheeses
  • 1/4 cup crumbled Mexican cotija cheese (a salty, crumbly cheese, you can substitute feta)
  • 1 – 2 chopped (uncooked) tomatoes

LET’S GET COOKING!

In a frying skillet, heat olive oil and quickly saute the onion and garlic, then add the bell pepper and finally the chopped zucchini and kale. Add the seasonings and the 1/4 cup cilantro. DO NOT OVERCOOK.  The veggies should be a little crunchy, unless, of course, you like them softer.

For the taco shells…

You have 2 choices.  Warm them on a skillet rubbed with olive oil OR for if you want crunchy shells, you’ll need to put about 4 tablespoons of canola oil in a skillet and fry them until browned, or the consistency that you like them.  Remove the fried tortillas and place on a plate lined with a paper towel to help soak up any excess grease.  Salt the shells.  Next, take about 2 tablespoons of black beans and place them in the shell, then add the veggie mixture and the romaine lettuce.  Add the chopped cilantro, some tomatoes, the cheeses and your favorite salsa (for Vegan omit the cheese)  Garnish with a lime wedge and avocado slices and VOILA!

BUT WAIT… for those of you who LOVE HOT salsa, here’s my Habanero Salsa Recipe that is just too good for words!


FRESH HABANERO HOT SALSA
Put the following ingredients in a food processor or blender:
4 medium size ripe tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup cilantro
1 small white onion
1 fresh serrano chili pepper
1/2 fresh habanero pepper (start with a half and adjust to your liking…this pepper is HOT)
Salt & pepper
Blend until fully chopped and serve with tacos or tortilla chips!

ENJOY!

Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: 

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Mama Mia! Vegetarian Italian Mac & Cheese Time!

Growing up my mother used to make a horribly fattening Italian Mac & Cheese.  The recipe was from her grandmother in Italy.  It’s Vegetarian, but I am going to share it here with vegan substitutions in parenthesis.  It was one of those dishes that warmed our hearts and filled our bellies to the brim as kids.  It’s great for the fall and winter.  Anticipating a busy day?  Make this ahead of time and simply pop it into the oven when you’re ready for dinner.  Serve with a fresh green salad and a slice of garlic bread, and it’s wonderful!

Mama’s Italian Macaroni & Cheese

INGREDIENTS:

8 Tablespoons butter (V – Earth Balance)

2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

Pinch cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon nutmeg (freshly ground is much better)

2 cups milk (V -unsweetened almond milk)

1 pound penne pasta, cooked

1 cup ricotta cheese (V – substitution below in red)

1 pound mozzarella cheese (V – purchase at your local health food store)

2 tomatoes, diced

1 jar artichokes in oil, drained & diced (optional)

1/2 cup bread crumbs

1/2 cup Pecarino-Romano cheese, freshly grated (V – purchase at your local health food store – PARMA)

3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

LET’S GET COOKING!

Melt the butter/earth balance in a large saucepan over low heat. Whisk in the flour, salt, pepper and ground nutmeg. Cook and stir for 2 minutes, or until bubbly.  Gradually whisk in the milk/almond milk, stirring until well-blended.  Raise the heat to medium and cook until the mixture just begins to boil, stirring constantly.  Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes, until the sauce is thickened.

In a large bowl, mix together the cooked pasta, the sauce, the oilve oil, tomato, bread crumbs, basil, Pecarino-Romano cheese, mozzarella cheese, and the Ricotta cheese.  Spoon the mixture into a large casserole dish and bake at 350 F. for 30 minutes.

Note:  You can also add cooked Italian sausage (I use the vegan option).

Buon Appetito!

FOR THE TOFU RICOTTA CHEESE
1 lb firm tofu, drained and pressed
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 c nutritional yeast
10 fresh basil leaves
  fresh cracked black pepper

Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: 

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Always In The Mood For Thai!

One of my favorite foods to eat is Thai Curry.  Truthfully, Thai food is among my top 3 favorite types of foods to eat. When I’m not visiting my favorite Thai restaurant here in Santa Barbara, I make the following recipe at home.  This is not an original recipe, but one I discovered in the New York Times Dining & Wine Section last year, and it’s fabulous! The article is interesting too.  Sometimes, you’ve just got to share other people’s wonderful discoveries!

VEGAN THAI CURRY VEGETABLES

By ELAINE LOUIE

Drew Spangler Faulkner, a 54-year-old cooking teacher at L’Academie de Cuisine in Bethesda, Md., makes a Thai green curry that is a kind of Asian comfort food.

The sauce, made creamy with coconut milk, and gently spicy with the curry paste, is flavorful yet soothing. The vegetables, which are simply dropped into the sauce, and gently simmered for about 12 minutes, turn out tender, not soggy. The vegetables blend slightly, but when you bite into the eggplant, or the sweet red pepper, the vegetable — and its identity — are intact. As Ms. Faulkner has conceived this popular dish, it is startlingly simple.

It is a recipe that she distilled after traveling in Thailand in the late ‘80s, and also working with Thai chefs at the CIA Greystone campus in St. Helena, Calif, in the mid ’90s. She makes her own green curry paste, but the recipe calls for any one of three store bought pastes. Although some green curry pastes contain fish or shrimp paste, she has found three which do not: Thai Taste, Maesri, and Thai Kitchen.

INGREDIENTS

  • One 13.5-ounce can coconut milk (do not shake can)
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 4 teaspoons palm sugar or brown sugar (Stevia or Agave works well too)
  • 6 tablespoons Thai green curry paste, like Thai Taste, Maesri, and Thai Kitchen, none of which have shrimp or fish paste
  • 1/2 cup diced (1/2 inch) onion
  • 2/3 cup diced (1/2 inch) red bell pepper
  • 2/3 cup diced (1/2 inch) zucchini or other summer squash
  • 2/3 cup diced (1/2 inch) peeled sweet potato
  • 2/3 cup sliced bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2 inch lengths
  • 2/3 cup diced (1/2 inch) Asian eggplant
  • 1 lime
  • 8 large basil leaves, cut into thin chiffonade
Method
  • 1. Open the can of coconut milk without shaking it. Spoon 6 tablespoons of the coconut cream from the top of the can into a medium saucepan. Pour remaining contents of can into a medium bowl, and mix well. In a medium bowl, combine vegetable stock, soy sauce, and palm or brown sugar. Stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  • 2. Place saucepan of coconut cream over medium-high heat until it begins to bubble. Add curry paste and reduce heat to medium-low. Stir constantly until very fragrant, about 3 minutes; adjust heat as needed to prevent burning. Add onion, red pepper, zucchini, sweet potato, bamboo shoots, green beans, and eggplant. Stir until vegetables are hot, 2-3 minutes. Stir in coconut milk, bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
  • 3. Add the soy sauce mixture and a generous squeeze of fresh lime juice to taste; you may use the juice of an entire lime. Stir and mix well. Add up to 1/4 cup water if the curry seems too thick.
  • 4. To serve, place the curry in a warm serving bowl and garnish with the basil chiffonade. If desired, serve over jasmine rice.

Yield 4 servings

Time 1 hour

Enjoy!  I always do!

Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: 

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Vegan Samosa Quinoa Bowl

As I mentioned in my previous post, I made Indian cuisine at a Yoga event here in Santa Barbara over the weekend.  Samosa Quinoa was one of the dishes, and it was awesome.

If you’ve ever eaten at an Indian restaurant, you have probably tried—and fallen in love with — samosas. Usually served as an appetizer, these fried, jauntily triangular pastries may be filled with meat, vegetables, or both. The most popular version is the spicy potato and pea filling of aloo samosas (pronounced ah-LOO sah-MOH-sahs; aloo means potato).

In India, samosas are eaten as a light nibble enjoyed in tea parlors and coffee houses, or sold by street vendors from pushcarts. The recipe below is a variation of Samosas using Quinoa, minus the pastry.   Serve it with a soup or salad, and you have an incredible meal.

Vegan Samosa Quinoa Bowl

INGREDIENTS:
1 medium potato, finely diced
Coconut oil as needed
2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
¼ onion, diced
1 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to directions
2 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon ground mustard seed
Dash cayenne pepper
Sea salt to taste
1/3 cup frozen peas (thawed)
½ teaspoon turmeric (for color)
Olive oil (drizzled)

LET’S GET COOKING!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F., and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Melt the coconut oil, and coat the diced potatoes with the oil.  Spread on the baking sheet and roast until tender and lightly browned.

Next, heat a frying pan to medium-low, cook onions and garlic until onions are translucent. Cook quinoa with water according to package directions. Add more oil into onion pan, and then add the cooked potatoes.

Add in all of the spices except turmeric. Cook spices for a minute or so. Add into the pot of cooked quinoa.

Season with salt and turmeric, add in peas and put a lid over quinoa in order for the flavors to infuse. Drizzle olive oil and stir into the mix.

It’s Yummy!

Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: 

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I was simply in the mood…

We’ve had such wonderfully warm weather here in Santa Barbara the last couple of weeks, it’s a mystery why I was craving soup the other night, but I was, so I made one of my absolute favorites!  Vegan Split Pea Soup with Roasted Fennel.  The fennel adds an amazing flavor to this wonderful soup, which is the perfect comfort food.  It doesn’t require too much fuss or cooking time, and it’s filling, healthy and packed with protein and fiber, and low in calories and fat! You can’t beat that right?

Organic Vegan Split Pea Soup w/ Roasted Fennel

Ingredients:
2 cups green split peas (I often use a combination of green and yellow peas)
6 to 7 cups vegetable stock (you can use half water if you prefer)
1 medium-size yellow onion, diced
2 creamy yellow potatoes (such as Yukon gold or fingerlings), diced
2 or 3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
2 carrots, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 bulb fresh fennel, roasted in the oven and diced (1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar for roasting)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Sea Salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke, optional (this takes the place of ham, and adds that smoky flavor to the soup wonderfully!)

*OPTIONAL:  Sour dough croutons for garnish

LET’S GET STARTED!

Preheat the oven to 400.

Take one fennel bulb and cut the stalks off, cut the bulb in half and lengthwise.  Cut in 1-inch thick pieces and toss in a tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of balsamic vinegar.  Rub just enough olive oil over the fennel to coat. Sprinkle on some balsamic vinegar, also to coat. Line a baking dish with aluminum foil, and lay out the pieces of fennel and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the fennel is cooked through and beginning to caramelize.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Thoroughly rinse the peas. Set aside.  In a hot skillet wilt the onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the remaining vegetables and sauté until soft.  Place all of the ingredients in a soup pot (including the roasted fennel), and bring to a simmer. Cover loosely and cook until peas are tender.  This usually takes about an hour and a half.  Check occasionally to make sure water has not completely evaporated. Heat should be medium low.

Once everything is cooked, puree the soup. Add additional salt and pepper, if necessary.  The soup should be thick and creamy.

SERVING SUGGESTIONS:

Serve the soup hot with sour dough croutons atop.  Add a wonderful green salad and a glass of white wine, and you’re golden!

*NOTE: You don’t have to roast the fennel.  If you want to save 30 minutes, then take the bulb and dice it up, adding it to the vegetables that will be sautéed.  You’ll simply treat it like the other vegetables.

Buno Appetito!

Brittany resides in beautiful Santa Barbara, California, and may be contacted for events, private parties, weddings, cooking classes, and craft and catering services via her website: 

TASTE…and See