Archive | Main dish RSS feed for this archive

Tasty Thai Tacos in Ten Minutes

Yummy - Thai Soft Tacos!

Have you ever had one of those days (or months) when you’re so flipping busy that you wonder when the heck you’re going to have time to eat, and you can’t even think about cooking? That’s what life has been like ever since we got back from a long trip to Maui and Oahu (and speaking of that, sorry for my delay in posting!) Rather than eating a bowl of popcorn for dinner (as one of my cooking-impaired friends suggested, and for whom I’m now watching for signs of scurvy), or ordering take-out (as my converting carnivore has offered – he usually manages to slip in an order of something meat-based which he always thinks will go undetected, but never does), I developed a super tasty vegan dish that takes only 10 minutes to make: Thai Soft Tacos.

IMG_9171

The rich flavor of peanut satay sauce, the crunch of the fake chicken tenders and the lovely tang of Thai sweet chili sauce pair beautifully together. And the secret ingredient – finely chopped fresh lime, including little bits of the peel – adds just the right amount of sharpness, acidity and a hint of bitterness to make the flavors burst to life on your tongue. Every bite offers an intriguingly complex mix of textures and tastes. When I have time, I prefer to make meals from scratch, but when that can’t happen, this is my go-to dish.

John likes these Thai Tacos so much that now he asks for them a couple times per week, and he gives it his highest veg praise ever: “Oh my God, this is so good that it doesn’t even need meat!” (And cue Cimeron’s eyes lighting up with glee.) That testimonial, coupled with the incredibly low “f*$&ck with it factor” has earned this dish a permanent place on our rotation. Give it a try! After your first crunchy, flavor-packed bite, you’ll probably want to make these tacos every night this week, even if you have time to cook something more elaborate. Enjoy!

And while we’re taking the trip to VeganVille, you’ve got to check out this hysterical Saturday Night Live skit with Justin Timberlake extolling the virtues of the vegan diet to a sausage-waving carnivore – priceless! www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YDA9OI56y4

Cimeron’s 10-Minute Thai Soft Tacos

Serves: 4
From fridge to table: 10 minutes
“f*$&ck with it factor” (on a scale of 1-10): 2

8 soft taco tortillas
1 package Gardein Crisp Tenders (found in the veggie frozen food section of most grocery stores)
2 cups thinly sliced lettuce (I prefer butter lettuce in this dish since it has such a velvety texture with a bit of crunch)
4-6 tbsp peanut satay sauce
4-6 tbsp Thai sweet chili sauce
1/2 chopped cilantro
1/2 lime, (butt-end discarded) and super finely chopped (including the peel)
1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped

Heat oven to 450. Microwave the Gardein Crisp Tenders for 45 seconds. Then place them on a baking dish, spray with olive oil and bake for 10 minutes. (Or if you’re super tight on time, nuke them for 1.5 minutes, spray them with oil and broil them for a couple minutes per side until crispy.) When ready, slice them lengthwise into 3 pieces.

Meanwhile, chop up all the fixins and prepare the assembly line. Spread a spoonful of the peanut satay sauce down the middle of the tortilla. Lay down 2-3 of the sliced pieces of Crisp Tenders, then top with some lettuce, tomato and cilantro. Evenly sprinkle with bits of the lime. Then drizzle on some Thai sweet chili sauce to taste. Then prepare your taste buds to be very happy!

Thai Soft Tacos

Advertisements

Hearty Tomatoey Butter Bean Pot

Tomatoey Butter Bean Pot

Two years ago, John and I got the chance to experience a really special Outstanding in the Field event held on a private beach in Santa Cruz. The 100-person table was set up on the sand and wrapped around a huge beach bonfire. It wasn’t so bad watching whales spout in the background while sifting sand through our toes and sipping wine with our good friends! You’d think that would be the most memorable part of the evening, but no – since I’m an insufferable foodie douche weenie, the most mind-blowing thing about the whole dinner was being introduced to my new favorite food: the Italian butter bean.  The beans, which are large white limas, are creamy, tender and slightly nutty tasting – they’re unlike anything I’ve ever tried! They are as tasty as they are filling, making them great for entrees and side dishes alike.

The Outstanding in the Field organizers paired up local organic farmers with two top Bay Area chefs, one of which was Richard Reddington of Napa Valley’s acclaimed restaurant, Redd.  Chef Reddington created an incredible tomatoey Italian butter bean dish that left all of our jaws on the table. After dinner, Chef Reddington was kind enough to sit with me at the bonfire and give me some of his secrets for his incredibly flavorful butter bean dish. Unfortunately, I had sampled quite a few glasses of delicious local wine by then and had killed far too many brain cells to remember all the details he shared with me, but thankfully, enough key pieces of intel stayed with me so that I could create my own version of his delightful dish. I’m calling mine the Tomatoey Butter Bean Pot, which features a thick, rich sauce and deep, earthy flavors. Whenever I make this dish, it instantly transports us back to the beach and that spectacularly special evening, which might be why John and our friends request the bean pot so often. Well, it might have more to do with the fact that this dish totally rocks and the butter beans are to die for! And since it’s super easy to make, nutrient-rich and loaded with protein, it has become a staple in our house. I bet you will love it, too.

Note the wine glass in my hand: this is why I couldn't remember Chef Reddington's exact recipe!

Note the wine glass in my hand: this is why I couldn’t remember Chef Reddington’s exact recipe! But don’t worry, my version of his dish will still knock your socks off.

Cimeron’s Tomatoey Butter Bean Pot
Serves: 15 people as a side dish, or 6 as a main course
From fridge to table: about 3 hours (plus overnight soaking of the beans)
(Don’t worry – it’s one of those “let it sit on the stove for hours” kind of recipes, so it won’t require much of your time at all)

1 pound dried Italian butter beans*
1 extra humongous yellow onion, finely chopped
15 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pounds fresh tomatoes, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded, stemmed and finely chopped
1.5 tbsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped
Smoked sea salt and pepper, to taste

First, soak the beans in water overnight. To de-gas the beans, soak them with a piece of kombu (a dried seaweed you can find at Whole Foods), or change the water often within the first few hours.

Drain the soaked beans, put them in a large pot and fill with fresh water until the beans are just covered. Add all the other ingredients EXCEPT the salt and pepper. (Salt stops beans from cooking, so don’t add the salt yet). Bring to a boil and cook for 30 minutes, uncovered. Then reduce heat to simmer (on my range, I set it to 3), and cook, uncovered, for about 2 – 2 1/2 hours until the beans are tender and the cooking liquid and veggies become a thick, rich sauce. Be sure to stir every now and then to prevent scorching. If the sauce thickens but the beans aren’t soft enough yet, add some water (1/2 – 1 cup at a time) and continue cooking the beans. Once the beans are tender and creamy, add smoked sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Serve hot as a side dish or as an entree. Enjoy!

*I get dried Italian butter beans from Iacopi Farms at our local farmer’s market. Mr. Iacopi’s father immigrated to the Bay Area from Italy and brought his family’s famous butter beans with him.  If you can’t find them where you are, you can buy canned Italian butter beans in most high-end grocery stores, or buy the dried beans online. You could also substitute another large white bean, but if you can, try to find the butter beans since they are simply divine.IMG_0146

You didn't believe me when I said I am a foodie douche weenie, did you? Well, this might prove my point. Who else but a food groupie would get her photo taken with a chef-idol? Chef Reddington and his butter beans rock!

You didn’t believe me when I said I am a foodie douche weenie, did you? Well, this might prove my point. Who else but a food groupie would get her photo taken with a chef-idol? Chef Reddington and his butter beans rock!

If you have a chance, I highly recommend going to an Outstanding in the Field event. They travel around the US all spring and summer and they're quite amazing.

If you have a chance, I highly recommend going to an Outstanding in the Field event. They travel around the US all spring and summer and they’re super fun.

“Cleansing” Chipotle Black Bean Chili

IMG_8246

One single day. That’s how long I had to wait after New Year’s before I heard a friend declare: “Oh man, I need to do a cleanse!” That’s a new record – last year it took three whole days to hear that proclamation. “Cleansing” has become an annual tradition among guilty gorgers who’ve spent the past month consuming their body’s weight in butter, chocolate cake and grandma’s rum-balls. Yeah, as if drinking cayenne pepper-laced hot water and eating tree bark for a week is actually going to roto-rooter their arteries, scrape down their intestines and magically make the 952 brownies they ate disappear.  (Well, perhaps if the last one they ate was a special “Dr. Chocopotomus’ cosmic brownie,” something like that might seem downright feasible, just like tap-dancing neon salamanders wearing Viking hats. But I digress…)

I don’t mock my friends too mercilessly for wanting to do these bizarre cleanses. Because at the root of it all is the desire to be healthier, and that’s awesome! For those who have had one too many cookies, I like to suggest a solution that’s much tastier and less likely to singe your eyeballs or leave twigs in your teeth: try eating delicious vegan meals for a week.

In honor of my friends who, like clockwork, are about to ask me for some quick, easy, appetizing and “cleansing” vegan dishes, here’s one of my favorites: chipotle black bean chili. This recipe takes all of 15 minutes to make, it’s filling, and it’s scrumptious in all of its smoky, hearty glory.

Research has shown that cleanses – like the cayenne lemon-water fad or the popular juice ‘detox’ – don’t actually do our bodies any favors. In fact, in addition to making people exceedingly cranky (which dramatically increases the risk of being smacked upside the head), they can also be very damaging due to the inherent nutritional imbalances of the cleanses. But nutritious high fiber foods – like black beans – are like a pipe cleaner for your intestines. (Sorry – that was a rather unpleasant visual). The key is to eat beans year-round, not just until the holiday guilt has worn off. And lucky for all of us, this yummy chili will make you want to eat beans every day of the week. Especially when it’s followed by magic brownies. (Kidding!)

Happy New Year!

IMG_8249

Cleansing Chipotle Black Bean Chili
Serves: 4
From fridge to table: 15 minutes

Olive oil for sautéing
1 onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
3 14.5 oz cans organic black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (14.5 oz) organic crushed tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
a handful of fresh tomatoes, chopped
½ cup water
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp canned *chipotle puree *
1 tbsp rice vinegar (seasoned or unseasoned)
Smoked sea salt
Tortilla chips (for those who aren’t ‘cleansing’)

*Note – to make the chipotle puree: buy a can of “chipotle chilies in adobo sauce,” which you will find in the Hispanic food section of the grocery store. Put the entire contents of the can, including sauce, in a blender and whirl until smooth. Scrape into an ice cube tray and freeze it. Take out a cube whenever you need it.

To make chili:

Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat, add some olive oil and cook the onions and garlic until the onion is translucent and starting to brown. Add beans, tomatoes and their juices, cumin and ½ cup water; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, to blend flavors, about 10 minutes. Stir in cilantro, chipotle puree and rice vinegar. Add smoked sea salt to taste. Serve in big bowls and crumble some tortilla chips on top if you’re feeling frisky. Enjoy!

(By the way, credit for this recipe goes to a magazine I read in my dentist’s office about 10 years ago. Unfortunately I can’t remember the magazine, nor can I remember how much of the original recipe I used, but I’d still like to say thanks to that magazine for combining black beans and chipotle, which is a brilliant combo!)

Curried Coconut Carrot Soup Dupes Carnivore Into Eating Root Vegetables!

Are these carrots or "orange death twigs?"

By now you know that I am perfectly comfortable tricking my carnivore husband into eating incredibly healthy vegetarian and vegan meals. How else am I going to get him to try things he’d normally declare are strictly for “tye-dye wearing bark-eaters?” You know, like foods that are really “out there,” such as carrots.  Yeah, I said carrots. Or as John likes the call them: orange twigs of death. “But they’re so good for you! They prevent cancer and heart disease, reduce the risk of stroke and they’re great for your skin,”  I say, trying to reason with him as he picks the orange flecks out of his salad while shaking his head. Well, I’ve finally figured out a way to get him to eat carrots: Curried Coconut Carrot Soup.

In this super simple little recipe, carrots are disguised in this rich, creamy soup. The beguiling, exotic flavors of garam masala curry and coconut milk are the primary flavors you taste in this delicious soup, and maybe you’ll even pick up a hint of fresh ginger. But the taste of carrots? Nope! Even though they’re the main ingredient, you wouldn’t know it since they simply provide a platform for the other flavors. But you still get the awesome health benefits of the mighty carrot, so it’s the best of both worlds! John loves this soup and if it has the power to convert a carrot-hating carnivore into adoring it, I have a feeling you’ll like it too!

By the way, I have yet to confess to John about the fact that this is a carrot soup. Whenever he asks what it is, I mumble, “Oh it’s a curried coconut cwagha blah blah mubah soup…here, have a beer!” (Note: distraction is a perfect complement to trickery).

Curried Carrot Soup with Coconut Milk

Curried Coconut Carrot Soup

Serves: 4
From fridge to table: about 40 minutes

3/4 cup yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated/microplaned
3/4 cup green onions, chopped
1 tbsp garam masala (or regular curry powder)
4 cups carrots, thinly sliced
2 1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 can coconut  milk
1 1/4 tbsp fresh lime juice

In a soup pot, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Saute onion, ginger, green onions and garam masala until the onion is translucent. Add carrots and broth, stir well and bring to a boil. With your heat still at medium, cover the pot and cook until the carrots are soft, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat and add coconut milk and lime juice. Using a stick blender, puree the soup until creamy and smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add more lime juice to taste as well (but be careful – too much lime juice can make the soup a bit astringent). Enjoy!

The Bonk-Preventer: Quinoa Tabbouleh

John and I have been mountain biking a ton lately, so I’ve been on the hunt for “power foods” to keep us from bonking on the trails. I’ve experimented with a bunch of different ingredients and the one I keep coming back to again and again is the magical, mighty quinoa. Packed with protein – the most of any grain on the planet – I find that it digests easily and provides us with plenty of energy to sustain us through long, grinding climbs through the spectacular redwood forests near our home.

Quinoa is out of this world, and it sort of looks like it, too. When cooked, each grain has a little ring around it and resembles a tiny Saturn. So cute! But since John thinks quinoa is only eaten by stoned, dreadlocked white guys named “OneLove YogiMoonglow,” I have to disguise the cosmic grain to get him to eat it. Lucky for me, the ever-versatile quinoa has no problem being a caped crusader.

One of my new favorite ways of preparing it is in a yummy tabbouleh. The focal point of this tabbouleh isn’t the quinoa, it’s the crunch of cucumbers, the zesty tasty of tomatoes, the cool breath of fresh mint and the tang of lemon juice. In this recipe, the quinoa easily takes the place of bulgar (which is what Middle Easterners traditionally use as the base of tabbouleh) and provides a slightly crunchy platform for the rest of the ingredients to take center stage and shine. John eats this all the time, but he has yet to discover that he’s eating quinoa. When our friends joke with him about Operation Carnivore Conversion and tease him about becoming “a quinoa-eater,” he bursts out laughing and emphatically declares: “I don’t eat it! That stuff is gross!” That always makes me snicker inside…or maybe it’s more like a devious Vincent Price-like evil laugh…but I digress…

Talk about versatile – we can eat this dish for breakfast, lunch, as a side-dish and as a snack. When we’re preparing for a long day on the trails, I break out the big spoons and we shovel down our quinoa tabbouleh. I’m happy to report that it prevents the dreaded bonk while we’re on long rides!  If you don’t know what bonking is, here is a visual representation for your amusement (John would die if he knew I was posting this, so this is our little secret. 🙂

I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do!

Quinoa Tabbouleh

Serves: 6 as a side dish, or 2-3 for a main meal
From fridge to table: 15 minutes

1 ¾ cup water
1 cup quinoa
¼ tsp salt (plus some for finishing)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil (preferably meyer lemon infused olive oil for a divine flavor – I get mine from http://www.11Olives.com and it is delicious!)
1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Two Persian cucumbers or pickling cucumbers, skin on, diced
4 scallions/green onions, chopped
1/2-3/4 cup fresh flat parsley, finely chopped (really depends on your taste)
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
salt, to taste

In a medium sauce pan, bring the quinoa, water and ¼ tsp salt to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until water is fully absorbed by quinoa, about 10 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes then fluff with a fork.

While quinoa is cooking, chop all the other ingredients and squeeze the lemon juice. Once quinoa is done, transfer to a big bowl and toss with all the other ingredients. Start with 1/4 cup olive oil and add more to taste. Finish with a little bit of salt. Then go out and burn some energy!

Off-The-Vine Tomato Soup

Hello. My name is Cimeron and I’m a tomato addict. I ignored all the warning signs, like when I planted 18 tomatoes in my garden last spring. I convinced myself that it was normal and declared it would be a fun challenge to make use of all the tomatoes once harvest time rolled around. Little did I know that I’d have pounds and pounds and POUNDS of tasty, delectable tomatoes. John and I are utterly drunk on tomatoes! Perhaps it’s wrong to be addicted to garden-fresh tomatoes, but it tastes so right!

Even if it’s not raining tomatoes in your yard, you can still head to the farmer’s market and pick up some delicious tomatoes that are bursting with summer-fresh flavor. While my favorite way to eat them is raw so we can taste all their tangy, sweet, juicy goodness, this vibrant soup also highlights the bright, fresh flavor of ripe tomatoes. It’s so good that John always asks for seconds, and our friends request it frequently. There are some interesting secret ingredients that help the tomato flavor pop even more: ginger, orange zest and a hint of clove. Trust me on this: this is a mouth-wateringly good soup.

So get out to your garden and pick some fresh tomatoes, or pick up some vine-ripened flavor-bombs at your farmer’s market and prepare to feel your taste buds dance for joy!

Cimeron’s Off-the-Vine Tomato Soup

Serves: 4-6 as a meal, or 8 as a starter
From vine to table: about 30 minutes

3 tbsp olive oil
2 yellow onions, diced
18 mid-sized tomatoes (between golf ball and baseball size) or 13 big suckers, chopped up
2 tbsp grated ginger (fresh ginger, peeled)
3.5 tbsp grated orange peel
A pinch of ground cloves
A big handful of fresh basil, chopped very finely
A handful of croutons

In a big pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions until they’re see-through, which takes about 8 minutes or so. Add the orange peel, ginger and cloves, stirring/cooking for 2 minutes to release the fragrance and flavor of the additions. Then reduce heat to medium, toss in the tomatoes and cook – uncovered – until the tomatoes have broken down, which can take about 15-20 minutes. Be sure to stir them every now and then so they don’t stick to the bottom and burn. Turn off the heat and then with a stick blender, puree the soup. You could also use a blender or food processor, but since I hate to clean, I like to just put the stick blender right in the pot and go to town on it.  Season the soup with salt (preferably smoked sea salt if you have it) and pepper.  Serve the soup hot with some fresh basil on top and a couple of croutons. Enjoy!

 

Smoky Grilled Veggies With Romesco Sauce

My friend Julia, who has been getting over the vegan hump for a couple of weeks, asked what she should do about a recent dinner invitation to a French restaurant. She’s worried that there may not be any food choices sans animal products. She’s smart to be thinking ahead. Let’s face it: if it were legal for a French chef to marry a wheel of brie, a brick of butter or a slab of fillet mignon, they’d be racing to the Hall of Justice and beating each other with baguettes to be the first to wed their beloved foods.

Generally, I find that most restaurants are very accommodating about requests for vegan meals, but for restaurants with multi-course meals and price-fixed menus,  it helps to call a day in advance to notify them of your dietary needs. This gives the chef time to come up with an interesting dish for you. On rare occasions, I’ve had chefs get ornery and try to convert me into being a carnivore – yeah, like the arguments of an guy who has goose fat oozing out of his sweaty pours and is seconds away from having a heart attack could convince me to eat meat!  I’ve also seen some chefs totally cop out and basically serve me an entree-sized portion of a lame side dish, which recently happened to me – but with surprising results – at a super cool farmhouse dinner with Outstanding in the Field.

We had really high expectations at the dinner since we’d had a great Outstanding in the Field experience last year, and when we saw the table for this event set up along the banks of a peaceful stream running through the organic farm, and we heard that the chef of Michelin-starred Chez TJ was cooking for us at the farm, my mouth watered while thinking of the cool concoctions he’d surely come up with.

That’s me and my converting carnivore, John, at the Outstanding in the Field dinner

And yes, I gave ample notice that I wanted a vegan meal. Much to my dismay, my entree consisted of a large plate of grilled veggies with romesco sauce, which was the side dish to the carnivore’s entree. Seriously, that’s just phoning it in! Or so I thought… until I took my first bite. Oh my goodness, I could have eaten three plates of these divinely smoky farm-fresh vegetables and that savory, smoky, deeply flavored sauce of joy! (He also served it with a carrot-top pesto that didn’t do anything for me, so let’s just focus on the romesco, shall we?) The chef was kind enough to share some of his ingenious secrets with me, which I’ll now share with you below. This makes a surprisingly tasty and filling entree, but it’s also a great side-dish, and you could also make it into a yummy sandwich, so I hope you like it!

By the way, the funniest part about that Outstanding in the Field meal is that all the carnivores were totally jealous of my meal. The chef served them an epic fail of a main course: a super fatty cut of pork belly that was utterly devoid of flavor, that jiggled ominously when the plate moved, and that no one could eat. That helped convert several carnivores at our table into vegans! 🙂

Seriously, who could eat meat after seeing this horrifying mess of pork fat?!

Smoky Grilled Vegetables with Romesco Sauce

Serves: 8 as a side dish, 4 as a main dish

From fridge to table: 15 minutes

– A large handful of redwood tips (that is, the new growth at the end of redwood tree branches. If redwoods don’t grow near you, try using hickory or alderwood chips, which you can find in any store that sells grills)
– 3 zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slabs
– 2 red peppers, seeded and cut into large flat slabs
– 3 spring onions, cut into 1/2 inch slabs
– A large handful of flavorful mushrooms (like shitake or crimini), stemmed
– Three large carrots, chopped diagonally to create long, 1/2 inch thick coins
– Two large tomatoes, halved
– A handful of asparagus tips
– Any other vegetables that you like to grill (cauliflower, fingerling potatoes, you name it!)

For the Romesco Sauce:

– 1/3 cup skinned almond slivers
– 1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
– 1 slice of sourdough sandwich bread, crust removed (any firm white bread will work, but c’mon, we all know that sourdough is tastiest!)
– 2 cloves garlic, chopped
– 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, skinned and finely chopped (you can save time by using roasted red peppers from a jar)
– 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
– 1/4 tsp smoked sea salt
– 1/4 cup olive oil (preferably extra virgin)

Heat up your grill and spray (or brush) your veggies with olive oil. When the grill gets really hot, place your veggies on the grate and just before you close the lid, toss the redwood tips on the hot coals. Close the lid and allow the smoke to infuse the vegetables with insanely awesome flavor. Check your veggies after about 4 minutes and flip when they’ve got nice char marks. Note: some will cook faster than others. Continue cooking until the vegetables are cooked through.

Meanwhile, prepare your romesco sauce. In a food processor, blend together the almonds, red pepper flakes, chunks of torn bread and garlic. When it’s done, it should resemble a fine meal, like thick breadcrumbs. Then add the balsamic vinegar, roasted red peppers and salt then puree. Add the olive oil slowly while the processor is running. It will create a luscious, thick sauce.

Serve the veggies with romesco sauce spread on top, and be sure to pass around the extra sauce since you and your guests will want to use your veggies like a zamboni to get every bit of that delicious romesco. Enjoy!

Cimeron’s Not-So-Suffering Succotash

Hurray – the sparkling sunny days are here! And so are fabulous veggies bursting with flavor. If you love the warm seasons as much as I do, you’re going to want to try this dish: it tastes like summer! The creamy smoothness of butter beans provides a most luxurious base for the layers of luscious summer flavors in this dish: sweet, crispy white corn, tangy vine-ripened tomatoes, and the distinctively fabulous taste of sun-kissed basil. Every time I make this, it disappears instantly. Friends eat multiple helpings and John vacuums it up. (Shhh, I’m going to tell you a secret: this dish is so good that sometimes I hide it in the fridge so that I can have it all to myself.) And the best part is that it’s as good for you as it is tasty.

This is not your mother’s succotash (I still have nightmares about that frozen bag stuff my mother tried to force-feed me when I was a kid that had mealy beans and mushy corn – blehk!) This bright, sunshiny dish is truly remarkable and is hearty enough to make a meal, although it also makes a perfect side dish, especially if you’re barbequing. And it’s got lots of protein, which is a nice bonus for vegetarians and vegans. So celebrate the season and bite into summer with my Not-So-Sufferin’ Succotash!

Cimeron’s Not-So-Sufferin’ Succotash

Serves: 8 as a side-dish
From fridge to table: about 30 minutes if using canned beans (a longer if using dried beans, but it’s worth it!)

Olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ cups white corn (if using fresh corn, it’ll take about 2-3 ears of corn to get 2.5 cups of kernels)
3 cups vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped (that’s about 2 pounds of tomatoes)
2 ½ cups cooked butter beans* (I prefer making my own from dried beans, but if you want quick and easy, use canned baby butter beans. Or canelli beans if you can’t find butter beans)
½ cup fresh basil, finely chopped
smoked sea salt to taste
fresh ground pepper, to taste

* If using dried beans, see below for soaking and cooking instructions

Heat a big old high-sided pan over medium-high. Sautee the onions in some olive oil (1-2 tbsp) and sprinkle with some smoked sea salt. Once the onions become translucent, add the garlic and stir constantly for 1 minute. Toss in the corn, beans and tomatoes and stir well. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat, add the basil, and season to taste with additional smoked sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve warm (and bonus – the beans retain heat very well, so it stays warm on your plate for a long time!) When you take your first bite, close your eyes and taste summer come to life on your tongue. 🙂

* If using dried beans, cover the beans with lots of fresh water and soak for at least 5 hours, changing the water as often as possible (at least 5 times) to de-gas the beans. It also helps to soak them with a piece of “kombu,” a kind of seaweed that helps to de-gas beans. After they’ve been fully soaked, discard the water and the kombu. Put the beans in a big pot and cover fresh water so there’s at least a couple inches of water above the beans. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat to simmer, cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes. Then uncover the pot and simmer for about 2 more hours until tender, stirring occasionally. Test to see if the beans are done – they will be cooked through and creamy when they’re ready. Drain and rinse with cold water. The extra beans freeze well, by the way!

Silky Portugese Style Pasta With Toasted Almonds and Soy Chorizo

Ever been to Portugal? I recently landed a PR and Editorial Director position with the Kite Surf Pro tour and so I’m heading to the first tour stop soon: spectacular Guincho Beach in Portugal. Yes, I know you’re crying for me right now – my job is tough but I will persevere! 😉  To prepare my stomach for the trip, I started experimenting with traditional Portuguese and Spanish cooking methods and flavors, only with a meat-free twist. Oh meu deus, I found a winning combination!

I think you’re going to like this quick, simple, healthy and incredibly tasty dish: silky Portugese style pasta with toasted almonds and soy chorizo. What’s silky pasta? It’s damn good, that’s what it is! By sautéing dry pasta and then allowing it to absorb a flavored wine sauce, it creates a silky, almost creamy texture that’s rich, flavorful and melt-in-your-mouth good. Pasta normally doesn’t do anything for me, but this is spectacular and now I’m in love with it. Plus, the soy chorizo imparts a fantastic smoky flavor and the toasted almonds give the dish a surprisingly satisfying and interesting crunch. My carnivore husband also loves this dish so much that it’s going into our rotation, and I love it since it’s delicious and fast to make. Ole!

So take a trip to Portugal with me…with your taste buds. I think you’ll really like this, and I guarantee that it’ll totally change the way you look at pasta. It’s muito excelente!

Take a trip to Portugal with your taste buds.

Silky Portuguese Style Pasta with Toasted Almonds and Soy Chorizo

Serves: 4
From fridge to table: 30 minutes

1 1/2 cups water
3/4 cup white wine (a dry wine, like sauvignon blanc, is best)
1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp saffron, dissolved in a tablespoon of hot water
7 cloves garlic, sliced
3/4 cup (or about 6 oz) soy chorizo cut into small pieces (I use soyrizo and it works great in this dish)
1 yellow onion, finely diced
12 oz thin spaghetti (such as angel hair), broken into 2 to 3 inch pieces
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup whole almonds, toasted
Olive oil
* 1 cup cooked chickpeas – optional

Heat a medium pot and pour in water, wine, broth, salt and saffron. Bring to a boil then reduce to the lowest setting on your range to keep warm.

In a large pot, heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat and sauté garlic for 30 seconds. Remove the garlic and set aside. Add the soy chorizo and brown it, which should take about 3 minutes. It may break apart, which is fine. Remove from pot and set aside with the garlic. Sauté the onion until it’s translucent and golden brown, about 4 minutes, then add the broken pasta and sauté until the pasta turns golden – about 5 minutes. Add the hot wine/broth mixture, cover the pot and cook until all the liquid is absorbed, which should take about 5-6 minutes. Stir well then add the parsley, the chickpeas if you’re using them (I’d say use them only if you are in love with chickpeas – the dish doesn’t totally need them) and a little salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with toasted almonds and serve hot. Comer feliz! (Which I think is Portuguese for bon appetite…either that or ‘come here, Felix.’)

Nutty Indonesian Sweet Noodles


Knowing how much I adore Bali (who wouldn’t love that tropical paradise where you can get $4 massages?!), and probably remembering how much I talk about my favorite noodle and nut dish that I eat whenever I’m there (if allowed, I would bathe in this dish), my neighbor Martha and her daughter Jamie shared this fabulous and quick-to-prepare recipe with me. It’s from The Accidental Vegan cookbook and is an elegant vegetarian adaptation of a traditional Indonesian dish that is simply divine. Unlike my other favorite dishes that pretty much explode with flavor, this meal lightly dances on your taste buds with a slightly sweet flavor and a lovely nuttiness. It’s got loads of protein to fill your belly with joy. Plus, it’s quick, simple and delicious! Whether you’re trying to please a carnivore’s tummy, a vegan’s palate or a picky kid’s appetite, this dish delivers.

This is the sweet little Indonesian great-grandmother who taught me how to make this dish. See, I wasn't joking when I said her kitchen was blackened!

I learned how to make the traditional version of this dish in the blackened kitchen of an ancient Balinese great-grandmother who used Indonesian candlenuts to make this dish. It can be challenging to find candlenuts outside of Asia, but don’t worry – the other nuts listed below make fantastic substitutes. I’m also happy to report that you can use an actual range to cook this meal instead of the little cooking fire that the ancient great-grandma used. Although I’ll admit it was fun to cook with her, even though she didn’t speak a word of English and my mastery of the Indonesian language is restricted to massage- and surfing-related terms.  Unfortunately I didn’t remember almost anything she taught me since she bestowed on me the gift of an aromatic leaf that she indicated I should chew on while cooking. It made my lips numb. Being unable to feel my tongue, I accidentally swallowed the masticated leaf, which made the old lady’s eyes bulge in alarm – apparently you’re just supposed to chew it and spit it out. Who knows what it was – all I know is that I didn’t remember anything else that followed, except that I had monkeys sitting on my shoulder and that the flames in her cooking fire magically transformed into technicolor aliens that waved forks at me. So thank goodness for the Accidental Vegan cookbook for recreating this recipe!

I made a few changes to get the flavor to be a closer approximation to the dish I love eating in Indonesia, and I think the end result is divine. By the way, if you have sweet soy sauce, which is what is typically used in this dish, you can use that instead of the soy/molasses combo. You can find it in most Asian food stores. But I doubt your local Asian food store stocks that weird Indonesian chewing leaf with numbing and hallucinogenic properties. You never know though!
Nutty Indonesian Sweet Noodles

From fridge to table: about 10 minutes

Serves: 4

1 pound dry Asian noodles (such as udon or soba)
1/2 cup roasted cashews
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts (aka “filberts”) with the skins rubbed off
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pushed through a press
1.5 tbsp grated ginger
1 cup bean sprouts (kale is also a great substitute)
3 tbsp soy sauce
1tbsp molasses
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the noodles; cook until al dente. Drain noodles well then run under cold water so they don’t get gummy.

Meanwhile, put the nuts in a food processor and pulse a few times to coarsely chop. Heat the olive oil in a wok over medium low heat, add the onions, garlic and ginger and saute for 3-5 minutes, until onion starts to soften. Stir in the nuts, sprouts, soy sauce, molasses and sesame oil and cook for another few minutes until everything is heated through. Add noodles and toss everything with tongs until the noodles absorb the liquid. Serve hot.

Hmm, maybe I wasn't hallucinating?!