Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fava Bean and Avocado Crostini

I love picking up my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box each week. You never know what you are going to get and sometimes you get something you've never eaten before. Like fava beans. What do you do with fava beans? After some research, I found that fava beans are a lot of work (boo), but well worth the effort (yay!). I settled on making a fava bean, avocado, and spring mix (all items from my CSA box) salad to top crostini. This is an appetizer I'm proud to serve to guests. It's crunchy, creamy, rich, and fresh; it will not disappoint!

Fava beans are a lot of work so I recruited a friend to help me prepare them. You first have to remove the beans from their pod. Then blanch the beans in boiling water for 4 minutes and transfer to an ice bath to stop the cooking. Once cooled, the skin around each bean needs to be removed. Finally, the beans are ready for use. Trust me when I say it is worth the effort!


  • 1 cup fava beans, prepared and ready for use
  • 2 ripe avocados, cut into small cubes
  • 2 handfuls of spring lettuce
  • 1 small handful of mint, roughly chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 baguette, sliced into small circles
  1. Mix in large bowl the fava beans, avocado, lettuce, and mint. 
  2. In small bowl, whisk together the shallot, juice of 1/2 lemon, 3 tablespoons olive oil, dash of salt, and dash of pepper. Add more lemon if needed. 
  3. Add dressing to fava bean mix and toss well. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  4. Place baguette slices on baking sheet and drizzle or spray with olive oil. Place under broiler until toasted and then flip. Apply olive oil to other side and place under broiler until toasted. 
  5. Place crostini on serving tray and top with fava bean mix. 

Friday, June 29, 2012


Ribollita, translated from Italian, literally means "reboiled." But Ribollita sounds much more appetizing and appropriate for a such a delicious Tuscan soup. I just love how the name rolls off your tongue! Like most Tuscan cuisine, Ribollita has peasant origins. It has many variations as it's typically made from leftover soup reboiled the next day, but it is always vegetarian and contains cheap veggies, beans, and stale bread as a thickener.

I receive a produce box from a local farm each week. I never know what I'm going to get, but it's always fun coming up with dishes around fabulously fresh produce. Any leftovers or vegetables I don't know what to do with end up in Ribollita. This is good any time of year, but this hearty soup is especially delicious on a cold or rainy evening. 


  • olive oil
  • vegetables: fennel, onion, celery, carrot, tomatoes, kale, cabbage, cooked potatoes, chard, etc. 
  • salt
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 can cannellini beans
  • stale bread, crumbled
  • pepper
  1. In soup pot, heat olive oil over medium. Add vegetables that need to be softened such as the fennel, onion, celery, or carrot. Sprinkle generously with salt and saute until fragrant and soft. Add garlic and cook for a couple more minutes.
  2. Add vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, and add beans and other vegetables such as tomatoes, kale, cabbage, chard, or potato. Cook until vegetables are soft.
  3. Remove about half of the veggies and set aside in a bowl. Using immersion blender, slightly puree the soup remaining in the pot, but not too much. Add back in the veggies which were previously removed. 
  4. Add the bread and allow to cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Season and serve.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Dry Fried Green Beans

My husband has been obsessed with Chinese food lately, but I'm not complaining. I'm especially not complaining since I discovered the most amazing green beans which can be found on virtually any Chinese restaurant menu. These green beans come by various names: whether called dry-fried, dry-saute, Szeshuan, or Chinese green beans or string beans, you are getting something delicious. It's hard to reproduce this dish at home without a super hot wok, but this is a pretty good knock off for basically costing a buck or two. 

You might be wondering what dry-saute or dry-fried means. It does not refer to a lack of cooking fat used as I would have guessed. The food is fried in oil over moderately high heat which evaporates the moisture from the food's interior and the exterior becomes browned. It is then tossed in a sauce and the dry-fried food will soak it up like a sponge.


  • 1 cut neutral oil (canola or peanut)
  • 1 lb fresh French-style green beans, trimmed and cut into uniform size
  • 1 tablespoons garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • couple pinches of crushed red pepper flakes, depending on how spicy you want your beans
  • drizzle of soy sauce
  1. Heat oil over high heat for about 3 minutes. Carefully add green beans and cook, stirring occasionally until the beans are tender and thoroughly blistered. Transfer beans to paper towel lined plat and pat off oil.
  2. Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add garlic, ginger, and pepper flakes, and cook for 15 seconds.
  3. Add beans back to pan and coat with sauce. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds and then serve immediately.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Vegan Ranch Dressing

Ranch dressing was created right here in my hometown of Santa Barbara. Well, okay, it was just outside of Santa Barbara, at a dude ranch named Hidden Valley Ranch. Gayle and Steve Henson opened the ranch in 1954 and visitors came to enjoy horseback riding and whatever else they do at dude ranches. In the restaurant they served their house, or "the ranch", dressing. More and more people began visiting the Hidden Valley Ranch and when people started asking for batches to take home, the Hensons started bottling and selling their ranch dressing. In 1972, the Hensons sold their Hidden Valley Ranch brand to Clorox for $8 million. 

I have to admit that I'm one of those people who like ranch dressing on everything. I usually make a batch of this each week and keep it in the fridge for salads, dipping veggies, french fries, a spread on veggie burgers or whatever else. Even my husband and non-vegan friends like this. 

  • 1/2 cup plain soy milk
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • half of a lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder - OR use a handful of chopped green onion or chives instead if available.
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Place the soy milk in a food processor. Turn on and slowly add in the canola oil. Blend for 15 seconds- it should thicken up pretty well. 
  2. Add in a good squeeze or 2 of lemon and the other ingredients. Blend for another 15 seconds. 
  3. Thin out with more soy milk and blend again if needed for desired consistency. 

Butternut Squash and Tomato Fregola Stew

You are probably wondering "What the heck is fregola?!" Fregola is a type of pasta (little round balls, similar in size to Israeli couscous) that's been toasted to give it a slightly nutty flavor. It's origins are unknown, but it's popular in Sardinia, an Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea. 

I found some at a local Italian market, bought it without knowing what to do with it, and kept it 6 months in the cupboard. Then one day I was watching an episode of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef on the Food Network and a recipe featuring fregola. I made it that night and it was delicious! So here is my adapted version of Ann Burrell's recipe. This is a perfect, hardy stew-like dish for a cold winter night. 

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • salt
  • pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, drained and diced 
  • 2 cups butternut squash, diced
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups fregola
  • 1 bunch of chives, finely chopped
  1. Heat olive oil in a large pan. Add onions, season with salt, and add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Saute until the onions are translucent. Add garlic and saute for another minute. 
  2. Add tomatoes, butternut squash, and the stock. Add a cup or 2 of water if needed- you want the liquid to half way cover the onion, tomato, and squash mixture. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. 
  3. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, or until the squash is soft and most of the liquid is absorbed/evaporated.
  4. Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil. Add the fregola and cook according to package directions, but about 1-2 minutes less as you want the pasta to be al dente. 
  5. Strain and add to the pan of onion, tomato, and squash. Stir well and add more stock or water if the mixture is dry, or cook longer if it's too soupy. When done, it should be stew-like. Stir in the chives and season with more salt if needed. 
  6. Serve in bowls with a crusty bread. I like mine topped with nutritional yeast too!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Potato Pizza

Growing up, my Italian great grandmother would tell me "pizza is peasant food." True, pizza was originally food for the poor. Italian peasants would top some leavened bread with their leftovers as to not waste anything and to make it more palatable. This potato pizza is for the poor and rich alike. It may be cheap, but it's delicious.

Homemade pizza dough is always amazingly flavorful, but tonight I was feeling a little lazy and opted for some refrigerated pizza dough from Trader Joe's. This pizza is topped with olive oil, grated garlic, potato and onion. I also like to top mine with a handful of arugula. I love the textures of this pizza. The crispy crust, soft potatoes, and fresh greens make for the perfect balance. 

  • 1 lb pizza dough (even for 1 large thin crust pizza)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 potato
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, stems removed and chopped up fine
  • 4 cups arugula
  1. Roll pizza dough out thin and transfer to pizza pan. Drizzle with a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, grate the garlic over it, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
  2. Bake at 450 for 5 minutes.
  3. Remove from the oven and pop any bubbles. 
  4. Using mandolin, slice the potato and onion thin. Place potato over pizza, making about 3 layers. Then spread onion over the top. Drizzle with the other 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Then sprinkle the rosemary and a little more salt and pepper over the top. 
  5. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until crusty is golden brown and potatoes are cooked through. 
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Top with arugula and serve with a knife and fork... hands are okay too though.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Worthy Tofurkey

My vegetarian best friend introduced me to tofurkey when I was 19 and I loved it. It might even have been my first experience with tofu which was probably a good way to experience something new since it had a level of familiarity and comfort. You can even find pre-made tofurkey in the stores around the holidays and all you have to do is baste and roast them, but I prefer to make mine from scratch. I find the tofu is too tough for my preference and the stuffing is sub-par. It doesn't take that much extra work and the results are way better if you do it yourself. You will need to plan ahead and prep the tofu 24 hours ahead of time.

  • 70 oz of extra firm tofu
  • 3/4 cup soy sauce
  • 5 teaspoons dried/powdered sage
  • 5 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 5 teaspoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups of your favorite stuffing
  1. You need to prepare the tofu 24 hours in advance in order to allow the tofu to absorb the flavors and for it to drain out excess moisture. Put all of the tofu into a blender or food processor - do in 2-3 batches if necessary. Add 1/2 cup soy sauce, 4 teaspoons sage, 4 teaspoons garlic powder, and 4 teaspoons onion powder. Blend well. 
  2. Line a colander with cheesecloth. Pour all of the tofu into the colander, inside of the cheesecloth. Place something heavy over the top and gently push down. Place something under the colander (like a plate with steep sides or a sheet pan) to catch the liquid that drains and place in refrigerator overnight. 
  3.  Remove tofu from refrigerator. Scoop out whole from middle of tofu so you have a tofu bowl. Fill hole with stuffing and pack it down gently. Place the removed tofu over the hole and flatten the top. Make sure it's packed down tightly as the top is going to be the base of your tofurkey. 
  4. Rub your baking dish or pan with a tiny bit of olive oil. Place on top of the colander and flip your tofurkey upside down on to the baking dish or pan. 
  5. Preheat oven to 350. 
  6. Mix together 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sage, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, and 2 tablespoons olive oil - this is your basting liquid. 
  7. Brush basting liquid onto the tofurkey before placing into the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, basting every 30 minutes. 
  8. Allow to cool well. Slice and serve!