Grain bowls are a weeknight staple around here. Steam a grain (quinoa, brown rice, barley), toss a veggie in a hot skillet (greens, broccoli, really just anything), add a protein (tofu, chickpeas, egg). Basic. Boring, until you get to the fun part—the sauce.
I’m always on the lookout for interesting-sounding sauces, especially ones that use ingredients I always have on hand. This ginger-miso dressing just about fit that bill, with a substitution or two, and I streamlined the preparation so it came together in the time the vegetables spent in the pan.
Then we tasted it.
“I’d eat this every week. It’d be really good with tempeh or tofu,” I said.
“Or as a dipping sauce for dumplings,” Austin said.
“Or spring rolls. Or even a salad dressing.”
“I’d just drink shots of it.”
“It would be good if this came out of our shower instead of water.”
Austin drew the line at my suggestion that my job pay me in this sauce instead of with money, I think because he loves saving for retirement and worried it wouldn’t keep. He did say he’d breathe it instead of oxygen if he could, so that’s saying…something. Something like, “Everyone please try this. Tonight.”
FARRO BOWLS WITH MISO-GINGER SAUCE
1 cup farro
4 bulbs green garlic, sliced thinly
8 cups greens, destemmed (I used spinach & turnip greens)
1/4 cup olive oil (plus more for cooking veggies)
1/3 cup water
3 tbsp miso
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp soy sauce
2 tbsp roughly chopped ginger
1 tsp Sriracha sauce
Cook your farro. Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a cast-iron skillet; add green garlic. Saute for a few minutes until softened. Add greens in batches and stir until wilted, but still bright green.
Make the sauce: Combine olive oil, water, miso, rice vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, and Sriracha in the vessel that belongs to the immersion blender; blend away until smooth.
Serve by layering grain, greens, and sauce in bowls. This really would be perfect with tofu; we were out.
Last night this guy & I decided to walk down to our neighborhood park for a picnic supper. (This picture of Austin & Thurston is so adorable I figured no one would notice Rosie’s distinctly unladylike behavior in the background. So I pointed it out! Obviously.)
Each of these three summery salads came together so easily, and any one of them would make a perfect take-along dish for the myriad 4th of July barbeques you’re probably invited to, you social butterfly, you. The miso-sesame grated beet salad was one I came up with during the Great Beet Salad Binge of April 2012, and the pasta salad was very compatibly tossed with this miso-tahini dressing (a great way to make a wonderfully creamy pasta salad without mayonnaise or other animal fats).
Fruit salads don’t necessarily demand dressing, I know, but this orange-juice-based ginger-basil dressing truly elevated a simple combination of diced peaches and blackberries. It was a delicious side, and would definitely hold its own as a dessert—perhaps sandwiched between a slice of pound cake and a dollop of fresh whipped cream. (And suddenly, I know what I’M bringing for the 4th.)
ROASTED VEGGIE PASTA SALAD
3 cups sliced pattypan squash
3 cups green beans (in bite-sized pieces)
Olive oil to taste
3 cups cooked pasta
1/4 cup sliced scallions (green bits only)
Heat oven to 425 degrees. Toss pattypan squash with a little oil, and roast for 10 minutes, or until just tender. Switch on the broiler, toss green beans with oil, and broil for 5 minutes. Combine squash, green beans, pasta, and scallions in a large bowl, and toss with dressing until evenly coated. Pop in the refrigerator for a few hours; serve chilled.
PEACH-BLACKBERRY SALAD WITH GINGER-BASIL DRESSING
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp champagne vinegar
1 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp chiffonaded basil
3 medium peaches, diced
1 cup blackberries
Whisk together orange juice, oil, vinegar, ginger, and basil in a large bowl. Add peaches & blackberries; toss to combine.
After I pulled this little breakfast together this morning from odds and ends around my kitchen, it occurred to me that I’ve been focused on eating locally-produced food for so long, I don’t even notice I’m doing it. I thought I’d share a little breakdown.
1 cup diced peaches from Pearson Farm, frozen
1/2 cup hulled strawberries from Scharko Farms, frozen
A few thin slices of ginger root (no one local grows ginger that I know of, but if you do, I’m listening!)
Combine in a blender and, you know, blend. I used an immersion blender.
1 slice whole-wheat bread from Your Dekalb Farmers Market
1 tbsp chevre (I used Sweet Grass Dairy’s “Lil Moo”, which is actually made with cow’s milk, but it’s a chevre-style soft cheese.)
1 tsp honey from Scharko Farms
Cracked black pepper to taste
I feel like you can figure this one out, so DO, because it was delicious.
Once you have a well-stocked kitchen, eating locally is effortless. This is what I scrounged for breakfast after a ten-day vacation and before I’d even made it to the market—everything was in the freezer or pantry, except for the cheese, which I’d picked up at the beer store. (Somehow we’d made it there. Naturally.)
Wild blackberries (referred to by all our friends as “streetberries,” as in, “Erin brought streetberry cobbler again, eat at your own risk,”) grow all over our neighborhood. The ones I usually pick all summer are only just flowering—we’re a month or more away from ripe fruit. A couple of weeks ago, though, I spotted a little patch of some other variety, with smaller leaves and, apparently, a much earlier season. Between that little find and the ones we’ve been getting from the Scharkos, my granola’s been dressed up fancy all week, plus I had enough left over to do something fun with on Saturday afternoon.
The basic frozen yogurt recipe I went with is from David Lebovitz, via 101 Cookbooks. I added in my blackberries, pureed with fresh ginger, and cut the sugar back even farther to just half a cup—I used Atlanta Fresh yogurt, which is seriously the most remarkably flavorful yogurt I’ve ever tasted, and didn’t want to cover up all that tart yogurty goodness.
BLACKBERRY-GINGER FROZEN YOGURT
1 cup blackberries
1.5x1.5” chunk ginger root
3 cups plain Greek yogurt, divided (I used full-fat)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
Puree blackberries & ginger with 1 cup yogurt, using an immersion blender. (I attempted to strain the mixture afterwards to remove the seeds, but found it was too thick and I was losing all the tasty blackberry pulp, so I decided to live with seeds. Fiber!)
Stir together blackberry mixture, remaining yogurt, sugar, and vanilla. Refrigerate mixture 1 hour, then churn in an ice cream maker & store in an airtight container in the freezer. I found that ours froze very solid in the freezer overnight, so plan to let it defrost a bit before serving!
This week’s CSA share brought Spring’s first cheery-looking bunch of little carrots. Scharko carrots taste and smell so flavorful they’re like a caricature of a carrot, an artist’s rendering of a carrot’s distinctive traits brought to an imaginary extreme, but that’s true for so many fruits & veggies when you get away from the built-to-last supermarket versions. At any rate, I felt like I’d been waiting my whole life (or anyway, since last Spring) to score the season’s first carrots and stuff them directly into the food processor to make Smitten Kitchen’s divine carrot-ginger dressing.
So that is what I did. The avocados are definitely non-negotiable, but I bulked out our salad with sliced radishes and browned tofu cubes. I replaced the shallot in the dressing with a small bulb of green garlic and one of green onion, which worked out nicely, but otherwise followed the recipe to a T, as there’s no sense messing with a perfect thing.
Once I read about a medical study asserting that people who used the language “fighting a cold” instead of “having a cold” shortened the severity and duration of said cold by some statistically significant amount. My first few years of teaching were basically one contiguous illness, usually colds but also various other small-child-borne diseases, and I would pretty much take any advice I could get.
I actually hardly get sick at all anymore, thanks to a few factors—namely borderline-obsessive hand-washing, zinc supplements*, middle schoolers (much less likely to be all up in your contagion zone, plus generally better hygiene), and probably just an immune system of steel, honed those first years to prime battle-ready status. However, alas, this weekend I succumbed. Sorry, no, I fought, and am still fighting, a cold, passed to me by Austin, who is also still fighting.
This soup was like a cold-battle nuclear warhead, dropping a load of garlic, ginger, vitamin-packed greens, probiotic-heavy miso, and steamy, spicy broth to bolster our immune systems and clear our clogged sinuses. Also, it was delicious. Pretty sure we’re both going to win this one.
MISO SOUP WITH GREENS & TOFU
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 large bunch spring onions, chopped, white & green bits separate
8 cups greens (I used beet greens & rainbow chard), stems chopped & leaves torn to bite-sized, separated
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp minced ginger
1 tsp crushed red pepper
6 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 package tofu, drained & cubed
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup cooked brown rice
1/4 cup thinly sliced radishes
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tbsp miso paste (I used mild white miso; different types of miso have different flavor profiles)
Sesame oil, for drizzling
1 lime, sliced
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a dutch oven, and add white parts of onions. Cook a few minutes, stirring occasionally, then add swiss chard stems. Allow to cook a few more minutes, then add garlic, ginger, and crushed red pepper, stirring for 30 seconds. Add broth & soy sauce and bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the tofu: heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a nonstick skillet. Add tofu, season with salt & pepper, and cook until all sides are lightly browned.
Begin adding greens in batches to the simmering broth, stirring until wilted. When all the greens are ready, stir in the cooked tofu & rice. Heat through, then remove pan from heat. Stir in cilantro, green parts of onions, and radishes. Mix miso with a few tablespoons of warm water, then add to the soup, stirring well to combine (adding miso at the end of the cooking time preserves the probiotics). Serve each bowl of soup drizzled with a little sesame oil and accompanied by a lime wedge to squeeze over top.
* About zinc, since I imagine this vegetarian blog has an audience that could perhaps benefit: I’ve found zinc supplements, taken as soon as I feel the slightest bit run-down or post-nasally, to be borderline miraculous. Zinc is largely found in red meat, so I imagine other vegetarians might see the same result.
No, those are not fish sticks.
Okay, now we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk satay! So fun, right? Sometimes I make fun of Austin for his preschoolerish love of dipping sauces, but really, he and the preschoolers are onto something. Dipping food is fun, and this particular sauce is delicious. I baked my tempeh, which unfortunately dried it out a bit (nothing peanut sauce couldn’t cure), so I advise sauteing instead, as recommended in the recipe I used (which is for tofu, but works beautifully for tempeh, too).
When I removed the tempeh from the marinade, I made sure each piece was coated well and reserved the rest of the marinade to saute radishes and a mixture of greens in for a flavorful vegetable side, served over rice to round out the meal.
The peanut sauce is more complicated than my usual one, and a little too sweet for us, I think, but very tasty. Be warned (I guess) that the recipe makes a ton—way more than we needed, but I challenge you to show me a person who’s ever been inconvenienced by too much peanut sauce. I plan to thin it with coconut milk and use it in a stir-fry tomorrow, and I basically cannot wait.
The other day, I was driving home from work thinking about how I was totally lacking dinner inspiration. I thought I would just make yellow curry. I wasn’t all that excited about it.
I also unrelatedly mused about baking tofu, and how I don’t do it very often but should.
For some reason, all this pondering didn’t coalesce into a meal idea until I was sitting at home, poking around on Facebook, putting off cooking the meal I wasn’t all that excited about, when I came across this ginger baked tofu recipe, wondered where it had been all my life, and walked into the kitchen to make it.
My changes were slight:
- I didn’t use anywhere near 1/4 cup sesame oil—I dabbed a little on each tofu slice for the initial baking, then added about a teaspoon to the sauce.
- I spooned the sauce onto each tofu slice individually, rather than drowning the pan in it, and used the excess to flavor roasted kohlrabi & sauteed kohlrabi greens (3 heads’ worth).
I made Smitten Kitchen’s recent carrot soup on Saturday, halving the recipe and replacing half the carrots with radishes (which unfortunately took away that luscious orange hue, but left me with the ability to digest it, so I decided it was a good compromise). I did accidentally add way too much miso, though, and it was almost inedibly salty—so I watered it down so it could be too salty AND too runny. MMMMM.
All seemed lost, until last night I got home way too late to make real dinner and remembered the soup. I tossed in some leftover take-out brown rice (about 1.5 cups), brought it all to a simmer, and added a bunch of greens to wilt. Suddenly, my unsalvageable soup was appropriately salty and plenty thick—practically a stew. It worked out, is what I’m saying, and it was even delicious.
(That drizzle of sesame oil atop the finished bowl is non-negotiable, folks. I added a few cilantro leaves and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, as well.)
My sweet coworkers got together and bought Austin & I a gorgeous tagine as a wedding gift, which was pretty amazingly perfect especially considering I’d only worked with them for a couple of months! We scarcely knew each other, but this handmade tagine couldn’t have been a more apt gift.
In case you’re all what is she talking about, tagine?, a brief explanation: a tagine is a traditional Moroccan ceramic cooking vessel. The conical lid collects steam and promotes circulation of air—and therefore flavor—back into the vegetables or meat simmering below. Moroccan food is richly spiced, featuring a combination of sweet and savory elements, and the tagine prevents that complex flavor from escaping into the air.
Also, it’s really, really pretty.
Most tagines can be used in the oven, or on an open gas flame, but for an electric range a heat diffuser is required. I just used a cast iron skillet (that would be what you see going on above).
Moroccan stews are traditionally served with couscous, which is fun but not terribly good for you (it’s not a grain, but actually tiny pasta. Sneaky, right?). Fortunately, it was not my first time at that particular rodeo. I cooked up half quinoa, half couscous, and it came out perfectly—the couscous texture and flavor (which always reminds me of Play-Doh, somehow, but in a nice way) were there, and so were the nutrients from the quinoa. (One last parenthetical note, and I do realize there are many—unlike the grits, I did cook the quinoa & couscous in separate pots since their cooking times and methods are so different.)
SWEET POTATO & SPINACH TAGINE
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic
3 tbsp minced ginger
2 tsp tagine spice (this was gifted along with the tagine & contained paprika, ginger, turmeric, and black pepper; after it’s gone I’ll just use some combination of those, and you can too)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cumin seed
1 very large sweet potato, or two regular ones, cubed
1 cup vegetable broth
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 cups cooked chickpeas
6 cups spinach, stemmed
Salt & pepper to taste
Heat oil in tagine (or in a dutch oven) and add onions, garlic, and ginger. Saute until onions begin to soften, then add spices. Stir for 30 seconds or so and add sweet potatoes, broth, and tomatoes. Cover & cook until sweet potatoes are soft, lifting the lid to stir once or twice but otherwise leaving it undisturbed. Add spinach in batches to wilt, then stir in chickpeas. Season with salt & pepper and serve with quinoa couscous.