Tag Archives: basil

Shutdown Survival Foods

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Just in time for Halloween, reports of disease-infested meats are starting to come in. Goody! Unfortunately this is no trick-or-treat – USDA food inspections have been suspended due to the Congressionally-induced government shutdown. (I saw a poll today that showed that Americans prefer dog poop, head lice and colonoscopies to Congress – seems about right!) If you’d like to avoid salmonella and survive the impending zombie apocalypse (have I been watching too much cable news?), it’s a great time to go vegan! Since salmonella is most commonly found in food products that come from animals, it’s easy to steer clear of it: just don’t eat meat or animal products. Simple as that!

Here are two super quick, extremely tasty animal-free snacks that will put a smile back on your face: tomato-basil hummus and pan-roasted shishito peppers. Both take just minutes to prepare, and extra bonus, one of them has a built-in handle for easy hurling at your TV, a member of Congress, or whatever…

Oh, and if you have any old, potentially E. coli-laden meats in your fridge, no need to let them go to waste – just send them to Congress as a special “gift” for their excellent service.  Trick or treat! 😉

Tomato basil hummus

Tomato-Basil Hummus
Serves: 4
From fridge to table: 5 minutes

2 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp salt
1 can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
3 tbsp fresh basil leaves
½ cup sundried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for a few minutes to soften
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (if you’ve got basil-infused olive oil, now is the time to use it! My favorite is from 11Olives.com – deeelish!)
A little water, 1 tbsp at a time, to taste

Toss everything except oil and water into a food processor and grind until smooth. Drizzle in the oil, then drizzle in water – one tablespoon at a time – until you reach desired consistency. Personally, I like this hummus a little thinner than a typical hummus, but it’s totally up to you!

Pan-roasted shishito peppers - yum!

Pan-Roasted Shishito Peppers
Serves: 4
From fridge to table: 10 minutes

Grab a basket of these beautiful little peppers from your local farmer’s market, then heat up your wok to super-hot. Pour in a little high-temperature oil (like grape seed oil), then slide in the peppers. I like to slide them down the sides of the pan to avoid oil-splatter. Stir vigorously until they’re a little deflated and thoroughly charred. Turn off heat and toss in some smoked sea salt and freshly ground pepper, then serve (or huck at the TV – your choice).

Enjoy!

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World Famous Bruschetta

Oh thank God, summer-fresh tomatoes are ripe on the vine on my tomato plants, and they’re all over the farmer’s market! There’s no better way to celebrate the flavor of fresh tomatoes than with this delicious bruschetta, which is the perfect marriage of flavors. It’s bright, slightly sweet, a little savory, earthy, tangy and delicious. Plus it’s got the fabulous crunch of crostini with the sink-your-teeth-into-it texture of fresh tomatoes. Yum! This is one of my secret weapons to help convert my carnivore husband into a vegan. It’s all about creating ultra flavorful, incredibly delicious dishes and this is definitely one of them. And it doesn’t hurt that this helps me put my tomatoes to good use. Since I planted 18 heirloom tomatoes this year (does anyone need that many tomatoes?!), I have realized two things: 1. it’s time that I face the fact that I have a tomato plant addiction, and 2. I’d better find a lot of awesome uses for tomatoes.

The only reason why I call this my “world famous” bruschetta is because wherever John and I travel in the world, I always make this appetizer for the new friends we make along the way. And it always inspires moans of joy…in every accent! Most bruschetta recipes call for you to make the crostini and put the tomato mixture on top, but since people pretty much inhale it, I’ve taken to serving the topping in a separate bowl to force people to make their own (which slows them down a tiny bit). Yes, there have been nights when this is all that John and I eat – we start with every intention to eat a complete dinner but we just can’t stop ourselves since it’s so tasty. The best part is that when I make this, it satisfies my carnivore husband so much that he stops fantasizing about having meat for the night. That’s an impressive feat for a dish! Hmm, I think I should rename this “Magic Bruschetta.”

Cimeron’s Magic Bruschetta

Serves: 6-8

From fridge to table: a little over an hour

2 cups chopped cherry tomatoes, tossed in a strainer to drain off extra juice

4 tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

2/3 – 3/4 cup yellow onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed

1 tsp dried oregano

freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 baguette, sliced into thin coins

Heat oven to 350. Arrange baguette slices in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Spray with olive oil and sprinkle with a little bit of garlic powder, or rub each one down with a half-sliced clove of garlic. Bake the bread coins until they’re golden and crispy, which can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes depending on your oven. Then voila – you have crostini! Celebrate your awesomeness, then remove crostini from oven and put it in a serving bowl.

In a large mixing bowl, mix the bruschetta ingredients well and refrigerate for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so if you can. Do not cheat and skip the refrigeration step – the flavors only come alive and set after an hour of refrigeration. Trust me on this one!

Serve the crostini in a bowl and the bruschetta in a separate bowl, then watch your friends and family vacuum it up! Or screw your friends and save it all for yourself… because it’s THAT good. 🙂

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!

Crazy for Thai Red Curry (vegan-style!)

Is it unhealthy to be head-over-heals in love with a meal? Before you call for an emergency psych consult and fit me for a tight fitting jacket with extra long arms, let me explain my infatuation with Thai red curry. See, it’s the meal that has it all! First of all, it only takes *15 minutes* to prepare, start to finish! The silky smooth sauce has luscious savory-sweet flavors with just the right amount of spicy heat. It’s rich enough to satisfy the most hardened carnivore. The flavors of the sauce blossom in your mouth, and since it’s thick, it’s easy to hide lots of healthy vegetables in it. And the addition of pineapple also adds a surprising, sweet burst of flavor to keep your palate interested with every bite.

Thanks to jarred Thai red curry paste, this is my go-to dish when I’m feeling really lazy but we still want to eat a delectable, flavorful meal. When I want to mix it up a bit, I sub in Thai green curry paste for the red curry, which has a mellower, earthier and equally alluring flavor that’s a little less spicy. And yes, it’s carnivore tested and carnivore approved: John loves Thai curry! He likes it so much that sometimes I can sneak in a handful of tofu cubes without him noticing, which is cause for much rejoicing. So can you blame me for being crazy about Thai red curry?!

(Well, you might still want to have me committed when you read the story about my attempt to make red curry paste from scratch, which is below the recipe).

Cimeron’s Vegan Version of Thai Red Curry

From prep to plate: 15 minutes!

Serves: 3 big eaters, or 4 people who have had an appetizer

1 – 14 oz. can coconut milk (note: do NOT use light coconut milk as it’s too watery for this dish)
1/2 tbsp – 1 tbsp “Thai Kitchen” Thai red curry paste (which you can find at most Safeways, and even at some Targets – see photo at bottom of post. Adjust the amount of curry paste based on your taste and how much heat you want in the dish)
3/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable broth
7 shitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped into 1-2″ pieces
1/2 cup pineapple, cubed
1/2 cup baby corn (if you think they’re freaky, feel free to sub in sugar snap peas or another veg)
1/2 cup asparagus, chopped into 2-3″ pieces
3/4 cup fresh basil, torn
small handful of tofu, cubed (optional)

Cooked rice (I prefer basmati since it’s so fragrant and has a lovely hint of nuttiness)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, blend the coconut milk and red curry paste until the paste is fully integrated and the coconut milk turns pinkish red. Once it’s heated through, add the salt, brown sugar and broth. Stir and bring to gentle boil. Add the mushrooms, red bell pepper, tofu and pineapple, stir well and cook for a few minutes. Test the mushrooms – when they’re soft, add the baby corn, asparagus and basil. Cook just until the asparagus is tender but still crisp in the middle. In a bowl, serve atop rice and prepare yourself for a loud chorus of “omm nom nom nom!”

Note: The pineapple and shitake mushrooms really add a lot of flavor, depth and a unique flavor to this dish, so I think those are pretty essential. However, you can swap out some of the other veggies for your favorites, like broccoli and sugar snap peas.  Get crazy!

When I was in Thailand a couple of years ago, I sampled Thai red curry at 16 different restaurants in all parts of the country and it tasted just a little different each time. At a tiny restaurant tucked behind a Buddhist temple in Chiang Mai, I asked an ancient, nearly toothless cook to teach me how to make her version of it. She grinned so wide that her two teeth sparkled in the light of her cooking fire as she gleefully handed me smoked chilis, fragrant galangal (a relative of ginger), lemongrass stalks, kaffir lime leaves, and a stone bowl in which to grind the ingredients for her curry paste. With a playful, friendly monkey watching over me from a nearby rain tree, I started off strong, but after 20 minutes, my arms felt like they’d caught fire. After 40 minutes, my hand was blistered and I’m pretty sure the monkey was laughing at me. After 60 minutes, the monkey was openly mocking me and I declared this to be an insane and potentially crippling endeavor. After 61 minutes, I decided that Thai red curry paste out of a jar is one of the best inventions of our time and I thanked my lucky stars that I could buy it at just about any Safeway in the U.S. And after you try this Thai red curry recipe and see how easy, delicious and fast it is, you’ll be doing the same!