The Changing of the Guard

Its funny how the seasons can seem to just change overnight. I have noticed (and appreciated) the edge of spring that has been slipping in between the seams of the day: a warming sun, a hint of blossoms on the wind, glistening afternoon sky. I've felt it too in my taste and appetite. Where the last few months have been all about warming foods and dense grains, seemingly my appetite has switch to lighter fare. Instead of wanting cereal and nut butter in the morning, I want smoothies and fruit. For lunch, I want salads and wraps instead of cooked foods. Even for dinner, my vegetable preparation has changed. Instead of wanting roasted vegetables, I have moved on to wanting lightly steamed vegetables. I actually realized that there is a distinctive cooking style that correlates to each season for me. In the winter, roasting. In the spring, steaming. In the summer, raw. In the fall, sauteing.

Chickpeas Romesco and Saffron Garlic Rice
Needlesstosay, what better reason than the changing of the seasons than to try new foods! With that in mind yesterday (and after a conversation with a group of ladies about different ways to make beans and rice), I looked through several cookbooks and finally settled on Chickpeas Romesco and Saffron Garlic Rice, from (you guessed it) Veganomicon. I also prepared a steamed vegetable medley with Earth Balance Vegan Spread. As sad as I am to see Brussel Sprouts on their way out, I am quite pleased to see Organic Asparagus available and finally having some great flavor. So I threw in some Brussel Sprouts, Asparagus, Purple Carrots, and Broccoli, steamed it for several minutes until tender crunchy, drained and then topped with Earth Balance. Earth Balance has a great buttery flavor and is very heart healthy. A bit of salt and pepper and I was set!

The Chickpeas Romesco and Saffron Garlic Rice were excellent. The Chickpeas Romesco takes the more classic flavors of Romesco Sauce (such as the sauce I used to top fish and asparagus with) and uses it in an unusual way. The sauce incorporates fire roasted tomatoes, peppers, almonds, onions, serrano pepper, chickpeas and garlic, slow simmered. The Saffron Garlic Rice was creamy and smooth. Saffron is an excellent spice, but definitely not something you can use on a regular basis as it is quite expensive. The garlic in this recipe also stands out and offers a boldness not usual in rice. The Chickpeas offer a nice meaty texture that is complemented by the Romesco sauce. The combination of the Chickpeas and Rice have so many layers of flavor, it will absolutely delight you!
Chickpeas Romesco with Saffron Garlic Rice & Roast Portabello Mushrooms

Steamed Vegetables with Earth Balance

Steamed Vegetables with Earth Balance

Saffron Garlic Rice

1 3/4 cup water
1 vegan vegetable bouillon cube
Pinch of saffron threads (5-6)
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
1 small yellow onion, diced finely
1 cup long-grain brown rice, such as jasmine, rinsed and drained
Pinch of ground coriander
Salt and ground pepper
extra mushroom broth

In a medium-size saucepan boil the water, add the bouillon cube, and stir until the cube has dissolved. Turn off the heat, add the saffron threads, and stir. Cover and set aside until ready to use.

Preheat a medium-size pot over medium heat. Saute the garlic in oil until it has softened and is just starting to turn golden, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion and continue to saute until the onion turns translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the rice and stir to combine. Saute the rice for about 1 minute. Pour in the warm vegetable broth and stir in the coriander. Cover and bring to a boil, stir the rice just once and lower the heat to low. Cover and let the rice simmer for 40 to 45 minutes, adding more broth if it gets to dry and not yet cooked. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove from the heat and allow the rice to stand for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork, season with salt and ground pepper if desired.

Chickpeas Romesco

1/3 cup slice almonds
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes (fire roasted are especially good here)
2 roasted red bell peppers, homemade or store bought
3 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced finely
2 shallots, minced finely
1 red serrano chili, seeded and minced
1/4 cup white wine or vegetable broth
2 tsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp evaporated cane juice
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 tsp salt, to taste

Using a food processor grind the almonds into a very fine, almost powdery crumbs. Empty into a small bowl and set aside.

Working in two or more batches, puree the tomatoes and roast peppers together until smooth. Pour the tomato mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

Preheat a medium size heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Saute the garlic, shallots and chiles in oil until the shallots are turning golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour in the white wine (I used broth) and stir to dissolve any browned bits of garlic from the bottom of the pot; simmer for 1 minute. Add the tomato puree, vinegar, sugar, thyme and rosemary. Turn the heat to medium high and bring to a near boil. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Add the ground almonds and stir the mixture until they are completely combined. Fold in the chickpeas and simmer, uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes, until the sauce is slightly reduced and the chickpeas are very tender. Remove from the heat, season with salt and pepper and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.


A lunchy bite

For some reason for the last week plus, there has been an absolute absence of gluten free tortillas in every grocery and co-op. It has been strange. I could have gone for a corn tortilla, but try to stay away from them, especially when I want to make a wrap. Finally, today there were Rice Tortillas at PCC. I grabbed two packs and headed home. Gluten free tortillas are generally disappointing because they don't hold together when wrapped, but I have to do what I can. Once home, I made a egg, avocado and roast pepper wrap with garlic sauce as well as a light salad with mixed greens, sprouts, tomato, green onion and a homemade balsamic Dijon dressing. Once I cooked the eggs up, I put everything in the wrap and then pressed/toasted it with my cast iron panini press. It fell apart a little bit, but was just delicious! The salad was light but filling all the same.