broccoli pesto

Broccoli Pesto

As I’ll note in my soon-to-be published post on broccoli (part of the WTF, CSA? series), it’s one of those vegetables to which familiarity has bred some contempt. Ok, maybe not contempt, but a yawn or two. Broccoli again? Sigh. Guess we’ll steam it. Unless you have broccoli pesto. Huzzah!

Read about broccoli pesto’s benefits and uses, or jump straight to the recipe.

broccoli-pesto-ingredients

As is often the case, I came upon this recipe in my beloved Greene on Greens cookbook. Are you sick of hearing about it? Get over yourself, I’m all over that thing. Mr. Greene has a myriad of ways to have fun with broccoli—all of them quite legal, by the way. Given that Steve had come home with a haul of it PLUS a big batch of basil, I quickly seized on this creative way to deal with both.

The taste of broccoli pesto is not discernibly different from that of regular pesto. The biggest departure is the texture: slightly crumbly and chewy in a pleasant way. Where regular pesto is a simple sauce, broccoli pesto tastes and behaves more like a side dish. Naturally, the eater receives the greater benefit of eating raw broccoli, primarily increased fiber. Additionally, broccoli pesto registers slightly sweeter on the palate than its non-broc counterpart.

Broccoli Pesto: Uses

Just as with regular pesto, you can use broccoli pesto as your go-to summer pasta sauce. But don’t stop with durum/semolina/gluten-free noodles. Either pesto works quite beautifully on any grain or starch dish. I love it with gnocchi, or tossed with roasted veggies on top of polenta. Steve and I tasted a pesto-based dressing at K-Paul’s in New Orleans about 6 years ago; he still makes his version of the dressing today, mixing a dollop of pesto with olive oil and balsamic. Spread pesto on the bread of your choice and top with roasted peppers and mozzarella for a superb caprese sandwich. Or ditch the bread, and make a caprese salad. This 4th of July, I mixed broccoli pesto with mayo and Greek yogurt as the dressing for a potato salad. Mix a little into deviled eggs.

You get the idea, yes? Or, to be Italian for a moment, capiche? Well, then. Buon appetito!

broccoli-pesto

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Broccoli Pesto: The Recipe

 

creamy-protein-salad-base

The Perfect Creamy Protein Salad Base

I admit it: this title, “The Perfect Creamy Protein Salad Base,” doesn’t exactly snap, crackle, and pop with descriptive lusciousness. Then again, it perfectly describes what I’m about to show you. Add to that its handy factor and adaptability to every diet from paleo to vegan, and I do believe you may thank me (if only in your heart).

Here’s the step by step, but if you prefer, jump straight to the recipe.

It started with a recipe from one of my favorite favorite all-time cookbooks, Isa Does It, by the truly genius vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I have been meaning to try her vegan version of tuna salad, made with chickpeas, forever. But one day, I was just really craving tuna, because sometimes that happens.

Her recipe calls for a bunch of veggies minced fine in a food processor. I didn’t have carrots, but I did have radishes, and I was too lazy to get out the processor. Also, I had just written this nifty knife post and was feeling a bit choppy. So off I went.

creamy-protein-salad-base-ingredients  She then calls for a rather heavy amount of mayo (vegan, natch), as well as some sunflower seeds to mix in with the chickpeas. I like mayo, especially on French fries (which is tremendously Gallic of me). But I also really like some good sour yogurt, and I’ve been upping my probiotic game. Yogurt feels lighter to me as well. So I mixed yogurt, mustard, and mayo together….

creamy-protein-salad-base-ingredients

…then added the veggies and tuna. Voilá! A perfect creamy protein salad base just became a really yummy lunch.

creamy-protein-salad-base-tuna

Lately, btw, I’ve been very happy with Thomas’s Everything Bagel Thins, seen above. I’ve been Noom-ing (post in the works about this super cool new diet/fitness program), which, for one thing, means that I’m watching my proportions of food. Rather than dividing food into “great stuff that you don’t want to eat but have to because it’s good for you” and “all the stuff you want and can’t have,” Noom simply assigns food a green, yellow, or red designation. Green is the least calorie dense, and red is the most. Red isn’t bad, but you just need to be careful how you allot your red points, as well as your yellows. You can knock yourself out with greens, which are mostly fruits and vegetables, but also include some nice things like yogurt. Anyway, the Thomas’s Bagel Thins are just 100 calories of yellow. And I find that when I have a small amount of complex carbs with lunch, I don’t get hungry so quick. As noted, I love carbs. This is the first program in a while that hasn’t made me feel like some sort of felon for admitting that.

Today, I went ahead with Isa’s fake tuna salad, which adds some dulse flakes to the mix for a nice little hit of the sea. (I told you she’s a genius.)

But really, this would work with any cooked protein. Tuna and beans, obviously, but also leftover chicken or turkey (I don’t eat them, but you might), as well as any number of seafood items, particularly lobster if you’re really in the mood for debauchery. Quick, easy, tasty, and you really don’t need to measure. But just in case you feel like you do, well, here’s a rough and highly adaptable recipe.

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The Perfect Creamy Protein Salad Recipe

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

I am not one to go shrieking, “Carbs mean carnage!!,” as the unstable duck in the movie Babe does about Christmas. As I’ve noted before, I love carbs. So I’m mildly troubled to report that, since embarking on an ostensibly healthier and lower carb overall eating strategy, I don’t crave them. In fact, the idea of eating a pizza crust, once music to my taste buds, now strikes a less harmonious note. The thought of a full-blown pizza crust, most nights, just sounds heavy and unappealing. For those nights, I give you this cauliflower pizza crust.

Cauliflower pizza crust hosts roasted veggies.

It turned out well, even with no cheese on hand. It’s not entirely vegan; I used an egg bc I was too lazy to make a flax version. But there’s zero gluten or dairy, and the carb count is low. You can pile on vegetables like there’s no tomorrow—even as a bold, glorious, unbloated tomorrow awaits you because you’re all gluten-free and healthy.

Keep reading for step by step instructions; or just jump directly to the recipe.

Tip Number 1: Don’t buy that crumbled up cauliflower rice because it’s ridiculously expensive, and, to quote Harvey Milk, you don’t know where it’s been. Just cut up half a cauliflower in even size pieces, about an inch or two sized cubes, then throw it in your food processor and chop, chop, chop your troubles away.

Cauliflower pizza crust starts with crumbling the cauliflower in the food processor

If your food processor is like mine, i.e., old as hell, get out the noise-cancelling headphones; chopping anything, especially cauliflower, sounds like a Mad Max death rally, though blessedly, without Mel Gibson screaming about how sane he is. I just dated myself, because nobody who’s not in their Golden Years even knows who Mr. Gibson is. Meanwhile, everyone knows that the greatest Mad Max of All Time is Charlize Theron.

Charlize Theron is THE greatest Mad Max ever.

Anyway, now you have a big old bowl of cauliflower crumbles. Many a recipe, either for cauliflower rice or cauliflower pizza crust, provides the mystifying instruction to boil the rice, then squeeze out the water. People, don’t add water to food. Just don’t. I mean, I’m sure there will come a time where I’ll say, yo, add some water to those ingredients. But I can’t imagine the circumstances.

However, you gotta do something to soften up the cauliflower crumbles, and as usual, I advocate roasting. Add some olive or grapeseed oil to the bowl, just about a tablespoon, and some salt, pepper, and spices. I always like harissa (the powdered kind), but a Mexican or Italian blend will work just fine. Evenly distribute the oil and spices, spread the cauliflower out on a parchment lined baking sheet, and roast for about 20 minutes in a 400º oven.

Let the roasted crumbles cool about 10 minutes; leave the oven on. Then mix them in the bowl with an egg. A flax egg will probably work if you’re vegan, but I haven’t tested it, so proceed at your own risk. A nice handful of grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese would add crispness and savory flavor. But you might not have cheese on hand, or you might not be a dairy person, in which case you can do what I did for this version: Add a couple of heaping tablespoons of nutritional yeast. Also, some kind of bread crumb, about 1/4 cup for a medium-sized bowl of cauliflower. I used garbanzo crumbs; I’m not quite sure what they are (grated garbanzo beans? toasted garbanzo flour?), but they stood in nicely. Use panko if you want some gluten in your life, a desire for which I will never, ever scold you.

Cauliflower pizza crust, after roasting the cauliflower and adding to other ingredients

Now, scrape the mix onto the baking sheet.

Cauliflower pizza crust ready to rollThen take a piece of wax paper or parchment and press the mixture into an even circle; in a pinch, you can use gloves or your hands, but it’s kinda sticky, so if you use some type of paper, it’s easier and less messy.

Cauliflower pizza crust rolled out and ready to cookYou want it to end up about 10-12 inches in diameter. Remove what you used to push it down, then pop it in the oven about 12-15 minutes. At the bottom, you can see that one little piece of cauliflower that was all, “You can’t crumble me!” Feisty little vegetable.

Cauliflower pizza crust ready for toppings like roasted veggies.

The chickpea crumbles and nutritional yeast imparted a nice saffron-ish color that you’d normally get from cheese. But here’s something you need to be really clear on: If you expect a cauliflower pizza crust to be an adequate sub for regular pizza crust, you will be sad. You can’t rip into a cauliflower pizza crust. You don’t sink your teeth  and tear each bite in that satisfying “I’m a Pizza Pig! Oink! Oink!” way that you can with even a $5 Hot and Ready from Little Caesar’s.

But you can have a nice light alternative that’s more fun than just eating a sturdy, healthy heap o’ roasted vegetables. I piled mine high with an oddball mix of roasted fennel, radicchio, and—yes, this is eccentric—strawberries added for just a minute at the end. Roasted strawberries taste strange and wonderful, but do not overcook them, or you will have some bizarre pale red mush on your plate. Just add them to your pan at literally the last minute if you’re feeling dangerous, as Belle and Sebastian used to say. A few pistachios on top added crunch. #weirdbutgood

Cauliflower pizza crust hosts roasted veggies.

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Cauliflower Pizza Crust: The Recipe

Deviled Eggs

I’m old enough to have grown up with Easter egg hunts that were 80% dyed hard-boiled eggs. Even though I was a notoriously picky child, I liked hard-boiled eggs. But the vast quantities that resulted from Easter egg hunting daunted even me. Many a hard-boiled egg ended up in the garbage simply because, even with a family of 7, we just plain got sick of them. Mom, to her credit, would go beyond the plain version and into the magical territory of deviled eggs. But there were still masses of the little ovals to get through. Even Cool Hand Luke had a rough time downing 50 eggs. It seemed like my brother and I had raked in 50 apiece.

The candy/egg ratio has flipped; now, judging from the ready-made baskets I see in stores, you may not have any hard-boiled eggs at all. Should that be the case in your neck of the woods, I urge to boil up a batch. To my mind, deviled eggs represent the best possible way to use up the non-sugar portion of an Easter basket, particularly now that people have come to their senses and you don’t have to plow through a few dozen in a week. Additionally, deviled eggs are endlessly variable, as well as super easy. They make a great paleo lunch. Step by step instructions follow, or simply skip to the recipe if you desire exact ingredients and precise amounts.

Last year, I discovered the glorious practice of pickling the shelled eggs in a vinegar brine infused with a color-rich agent. Cooking Light provided this recipe for turmeric eggs, and Bon Appetit provided these visuals, which inspired the beet version. BA keeps the shells on, cracking them, for a beautiful effect.) Turmeric delivers a glorious acidic yellow. Beets create shocking pink to deep purple, depending how long you leave them in the brine. A little pureed spinach or carrot (separate, please) would give you, respectively, green or orange. I would have counseled to avoid a blue egg, because that’s just weird. But the BA one in the link above is quite beautiful in its marbled state. I’m thinking red cabbage might possibly produce a delicate purple. Experiment as you like. Do note that these eggs sat for day and a half in brine, and the dark color of the beet brine went deeper than the skin. Fine by me, but soak for the right amount of time for you.

deviled eggs, dyed in beet or turmeric brine and hollowed out prior to pickling

To make a brine, simply use 1 part cider vinegar to 2 parts water; then add the coloring agent of your choice. Once you’ve cooled the eggs, just gently lower them into the prepared brine, which you’ve poured into a glass mason jar. Close up the jar, refrigerate it, and there you go. Do be forewarned that the longer the eggs sit in the brine, the tarter they’ll become. You get the color you need after just 2-4 hours, if you don’t want a heavy vinegar bite.

deviled eggs, hard-boiled and pickled prior to deviling

An hour  or so before you want to eat your eggs, slice them lengthwise down the middle and scoop out the yolk into a bowl. The vinegar makes the whites sturdy, though not tough, just pleasantly toothy, and you can just pop the yolks out. If they’re stubborn, use a small spoon. As you can see, the back of the yolks on the beet eggs turned magenta…

deviled eggs, yolks removed and ready to devil

…while the turmeric brine wasn’t nearly as aggressive.

deviled eggs, yolks removed and ready to devil

For 4 yolks, use a tablespoon each of the mayo of your choice and something tart, like plain full-fat yogurt or sour cream. Or use 2 tablespoons of one or the other substance. You decide if you want a heaping tablespoon Add a spice that complements the color of the egg. For the turmeric ones, curry powder and cumin were naturals; if I’d had cilantro on head, I would have sprinkled it on top. Beets demanded that I steam one of the slices I’d used for pickling, then smash it and mix it in with eggs, adding horseradish, mustard, and dill, just like I would to a raw beet salad. Should you choose not to dye, mustard, paprika, chives, and parsley are classic additions.

deviled eggs, yolks in the deviling process

That’s it. For best egg serving, those deviled egg plates are awesome, but honestly kinda silly because who, seriously, will use such a thing enough to justify the purchase price? So if you have one, great, but if you don’t, an egg carton works just swell.

deviled eggs, pickled separately in turmeric and beet brines

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Deviled Eggs: The Recipe

 

how to make A genius Irish staple for using up leftover mashed potatoes and greens—or better yet, make them both fresh. Perfect comfort food, just in time for St. Patrick's.

Colcannon: Comfy Irish Leftovers

Whether under a filter of soft gray light provided by the clouds, in the frequent rain, or the rare and cherished sunshine, Ireland is stunningly, unforgettably green. So it’s only right that the color, in some form or other, should sparkle up that most Irish mainstay, the potato. Hello, colcannon.colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine Continue reading for the step by step without a recipe. For exact amounts, jump to recipe.

Colcannon is a homey dish, made to use up leftovers and make plain old mashed potatoes a little more interesting. Green cabbage is the classic addition, but I like it mixed with kale; more colorful, more nutritious, and just plain delish. Purists might balk at the addition, but hell with ’em.

The dish is super easy. All you need is mashed potatoes, preferably freshly made, but leftovers will do in a pinch. To make mashed potatoes, cube them, with or without the skin, while you bring water to a boil. Drop them into the boiling water with some salt, about a tablespoon is good. (Don’t use your good expensive salt for this; keep some pourable salt on hand just to add to boiling water.) Boil about 10 minutes, testing with a fork. You should be able to stab the cube without much resistance, but it should still stay on the fork. Unless, of course, you like your mashed potatoes on the mushy side.

potatoes boiled for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

Meanwhile, saute up an onion with some greens; honestly, whatever you have in the fridge is fine.

greens for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

When the potatoes are done, drain them, then put back in the pot on the warm (but turned off) stove with the lid on. This dries them out nicely. Smash them, or, my preference, run them through a ricer; it produces a great mealy texture that’s not too fine. It also removes some, but not all of the skins.

potatoes riced for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

Add in butter, sour cream, yogurt, even cream cheese. If you don’t do dairy, you’ll want a plant-based yogurt and you can do oil if you don’t want to do that fake butter for vegans.

Stir in the greens and a mess of chopped herbs—dill and parsley are favorites, chives and tarragon are also wonderful—and you’re good to go.

potatoes and greens together for colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

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Colcannon: The Recipe

This recipe says that it makes enough for 2, because the widget requires that I include that info. Let me amend that to “2 really gigantic portions” because I like to just eat these on their own. But if you’re doing sides, you’ll have a fair amount.

colcannon, creative leftovers inspired by Irish cuisine

the emerald isle bowl, a paleo gluten-free bowl perfect for st. Patrick's day

Emerald Isle Bowl

Ireland is green, green, green, and the fish is—naturally—fresh, fresh, fresh. Steve and I visited a couple of years ago, and loved every minute we were there. Beyond all the stuff we did and people we met, we ate amazingly. I invented the Emerald Isle Bowl while we were there, taking advantage of the gorgeous fresh produce and the fresh-out-of-the-Irish-Sea salmon.

Jump to recipe.

With St. Patrick’s coming up and spring trying hard to push back winter, I wanted to get this simple, relatively quick, and very colorful meal in front of you. The textures of the Emerald Isle bowl give your mouth plenty to play with.

They start with the raw. That includes juicy fruit—I used a pear but green apples are terrific as well—crispy cukes, crunchy cabbage and romaine, and chewy kale.

raw ingredients for cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

And then we have the cooked: delicate salmon, golden-outside-soft-inside cauliflower and broccoli. I also gave the pistachios a little toast for extra crunchiness.

cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

The herbs, a throw-caution-to-the-Irish-wind blend of tarragon, dill, mint, and parsley, add fresh-meadow flavor. The horseradish dressing does that thing where it kind of opens the top of your head. In Dublin, I went crazy for Graham’s, the absolute best horseradish sauce I’ve ever tasted. But any good horseradish cream sauce will work. Or just add some wasabi or minced horseradish to the yogurt and mayo you have on hand.

the sauce for cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

Optimum prep includes reusing the same bowl to do all of the following:

  • Toss the cauliflower with oil.
  • While the cauliflower cooks, toss the broccoli with oil.
  • Massage the kale with oil.
  • Toss the romaine, cabbage, herbs, and kale with the dressing before plating.
  • raw greens for cooked ingredients for the gluten free paleo-friendly emerald isle bowl from le chou fou

Above all, be sure to improvise. Use whatever herbs you have handy, though dill and parsley are highly recommended. Change up the vegetables if you like; the bowl looks just as pretty with other colors besides green. And if you want a starch, watch your email for my soon-to-appear recipe Colcannon, the classic Irish potato with whatever-greens-I-have-in-the-fridge.

the emerald isle bowl, a paleo-friendly gluten free bowl recipe from le chou fou

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Emerald Isle Bowl: The Recipe