Monday, July 9, 2018

Moroccan Summer Vegetable Stew


  Whenever my schedule becomes a little bit hectic, I find myself falling into that all too familiar trap of ordering a lot of take out food. Pizza, Chinese food, and of course, Wawa hoagies. Yes, of course, it's very convenient to just stop and pick something up on my way home from whatever show I'm rehearsing, but after a while, I CRAVE something fresh. So, inevitably, I wind up going to the produce market, seeing which veggies look the best, and then making something a little more colorful and a little less fried.
 Since I happen to live in the Garden State, I have access to an entire rainbow of fresh produce, and Summer always brings some of my very favorite veggies. All it took was a quick google search which brought me to the perfect recipe for all of my fabulous faves.
 It's from a blog called Veganosity and it's absolutely delish! One of the things I like about it (just like the website says) is that it just happens to be Vegan. In other words, there aren't a whole lot of Vegan versions of non Vegan ingredients. That always seems to be a better choice, in my book. For instance, if I were choosing a low carb menu, I would prefer to have foods that were naturally low in carbs, instead of, say, a low carb "pasta" or low carb "bread", know what I mean? It just tastes better! So, in this case, you just have vegetables, broth, aromatics, herbs, and spices. I wasn't necessarily looking for something Vegan, but it just so happens that it is! This is DEFINITELY the welcome change I had been craving. It's also really quick to throw together, so you don't have to worry about slaving over a hot stove. Usually, my go to summer veggie recipe is the Avocado Gazpacho recipe that I got from my school pal, Kathleen. I think this recipe needs to be added to the rotation!



1 tbs vegetable oil
1 red onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch coins
1 bell pepper, any color, seeded and diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
1 yellow summer squash, diced
1 tbs ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable broth
1 can coconut milk
1 tbs (or more to taste) garam masala spice blend
1 tsp coarse salt
2 medium tomatoes, diced

fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
couscous or rice for serving



 Heat the oil in a large pan on medium heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and carrots. Cook until the onion becomes translucent. Add the zucchini and cook until it begins to brown around the edges. Add the yellow squash, ginger, and garlic and cook for two minutes. Add the vegetable broth (if you want a stronger coconut taste, only add three cups of broth instead of four), coconut milk, garam masala, and salt and stir well to combine. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to simmer for five minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook for another five minutes.
Cook the couscous or rice according to package directions. Fluff with fork. Place on a plate, pour stew over. Top with chopped cilantro.



Tips:
I've often heard that some people find cilantro to have a soapy taste. If you fall into this category, just use fresh parsley!  And btw, instead of sprinkling it just over the top, I added the cilantro right into the stew at the end.
The stew will thicken just slightly as it simmers. If you would like a thicker stew, make a quick slurry of a couple tbs of flour with an equal amount of cold water or broth, then stir it into the stew. Bring it up to a boil until it thickens.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Blueberry BBQ Baked Beans


 Ok, ok, I know you're probably thinking "Wait... baked beans with BLUEBERRIES???"
And the answer is absolutely YES!!! Just hear me out!!
 I've always loved to do something unexpected with your usual classic something, and this time I decided to do a new riff on baked beans. I've already done pineapple baked beans, maple bacon baked beans, and my regular classic baked beans, so why not do something with blueberries?
 At first I just figured I'd start out with your basic cans of pork and beans, and then embellish them with blueberry-ish ingredients, but then I found this recipe from the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council and decided to give it a try. I figure, well, blueberries are their thing, they wouldn't post this recipe if it wasn't good, right? And I was right!!!
 The first thing I noticed is that it's not tomato or ketchup based. And it uses regular white beans instead of cans of pork and beans. Also it uses molasses and balsamic vinegar. Sounds good to me! So I went for it. OMG it's so delicious!!! No, it doesn't taste like pie filling, and yes, it tastes like BBQ, even though there's no BBQ sauce in it!
 So you should DEFINITELY give this one a try. Make it for your family and friends or bring it to a potluck. I guarantee it'll be the talk of the party!



2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small white onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cans (15 ounces each) white beans, such as cannellini or navy, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup unsulfured molasses ­
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-1/4 teaspoons mustard powder
1 cup blueberries
4 drops liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 to 2 teaspoons minced jalapeno
1 tablespoon chopped basil
1 teaspoon lime zest



 Over medium heat, in a medium saucepan, add olive oil and white onion. Cook until onion is translucent; add garlic. Cook until garlic becomes fragrant; add beans, molasses, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, mustard powder and ginger. Stir and let thicken for 5­-8 minutes. Toss in half of the blueberries and macerate with beans; add liquid smoke. Stir and let cook an additional 5­-8 minutes. Remove from heat and add in the remaining blueberries, jalapeƱo, lime zest and salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with basil.


Tips:
 I must admit that I didn't do it EXACTLY as written. I didn't have mustard powder, so I just added a heaping tsp of Dijon mustard. The original recipe called for frozen blueberries, but I used fresh, and I used twice as many. And I added chopped cherry peppers instead of a jalapeno.
 For me, the key ingredients are the liquid smoke and the fresh basil. Be sure to include them!!
I think maybe the next time I make it, I'm gonna add bacon, because everything is better with bacon!! I would probably just brown the bacon with the onions and omit the oil. Works for me!