Deconstructed Hummus Salad (and another wedding!)

I rarely find inspiration from Pintrest, preferring instead to use my own creativity to spark an idea and then seek out instructions later on. I feel like by sharing the same ideas over and over, we dilute our own ability to think creatively and out of the box, relying instead on other people’s idea of what’s attainable and interesting. Pintrest is great for those people with an abundance of time, resources, and obscure household items lying around, but I really only turn to it when in wedding-planning mode (this time, it’s not mine—I’m proud to be a bridesmaid for my best friend N!)

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This was before I added on the zucchini– but YUM!

While in bridesmaid sleuthing mode this week, a certain picture caught my eye and I just couldn’t resist. I did draw the line at simply seeing the picture and said “I can figure that out”. My version is pretty different from the actual instructions (it called for a naked salad, without dressing, and who wants that!?) but one I know I’ll be repeating quite often when I’m craving Mediterranean flavors and can’t just gorge on pita now that it’s wedding diet time (again!) The variety of textures, of flavors, and even the contract of the cold kale and warm zucchini/chickpeas (if you’re impatient and don’t wait for them to cool, like I did!) was incredible and filling, but light. There’s good balance of protein and veggies, and you could even sprinkle some pita chips on top for some carbs/crunch. There’s nothing like a big salad to satisfy a specific craving for something otherwise not as healthy! As always, adjust the seasoning to your preferences—a dash of cayenne or chili powder would kick up the sauteed zucchini or chickpeas depending on how hot you like things.

Deconstructed Hummus Salad (serves 2, but easily doubled or tripled!)

2 large handfuls of kale, washed, deveined and chopped

Juice of 1 lemon, with a tsp reserved for presentation

1 clove garlic, minced or grated

2 tsp tahini

Salt

Pepper

½ red bell pepper, roasted (or 5-6 pieces of roasted red pepper from a jar)

1 zucchini, cut lengthwise then into half moons

1 can chickpeas, drained

Garlic powder

Paprika (not smoked)

 

Mix together the lemon juice, garlic, and tahini in a small bowl or Tupperware with a lid-mix together well. In a large bowl, combine the kale and red pepper and mix in the dressing—massage to coat completely.

In a large sauté pan, cook the zucchini on medium heat in olive oil with garlic powder and paprika to taste—a few shakes of each should coat the zucchini. Cook until softened then set aside to cool. Repeat with the chickpeas, cooking at a medium-high heat until they get a coating and start to crisp. Set aside to cool, then mix cooled zucchini and chickpeas into the kale and toss to integrate dressing throughout. Top with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

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One Pot Wonder

It’s 100% summer here in the Lowcountry and that means a bounty of new ingredients and flavors to experiment with. As a nice Jewish girl from the north, cooking things like okra isn’t inherently natural to me, but I fell in love with the unique texture and flavor in college and since it’s so fresh locally, it’s hard to pass up at a roadside stand or farmer’s market. If you haven’t tried it, it almost has a green bean type flavor. However, what most people are put off by is the texture– it can be ‘slimy’ due to the mucilage that’s secreted upon slicing into it. Cooking it quickly at a high temperature combats this, but I like it low and slow — it’s a natural thickener and adds great body to this 1-pot-wonder. The okra starts to break down and melt in your mouth, and the flavors are just divine– a little bit of the south mixed with some Indian spices. Try this for a quick and easy weeknight dinner – it works well over rice/quinoa but also stands alone as a great stew.

 

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Curried Okra and Sweet Potatoes

1 medium onion, diced

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

About 30 pieces of okra

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic

Garam Masala (if you don’t have it, substitute equal parts nutmeg and cinnamon)

Curry Powder

Smoked Paprika

Salt/pepper

Vegetable stock

 

Sautee garlic and onions in olive oil in a wide, high-walled skillet for just about 3-4 minutes until they start to soften. Add in 2 teaspoons of curry powder and smoked paprika, combining until the onions take on an orangey-sunset glaze. Cook the spices down another minute or two and add in ½ tsp of garam masala and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the sweet potatoes and coat with the spices. Add in about ½ to ¾ of a box of vegetable stock- as much needed until the stock is about ½ inch higher than the potatoes- then drop in the okra. Briefly stir together then simmer (covered) for about 20 minutes. Check the seasoning and adjust as needed; add additional vegetable stock or water if the liquids have gotten low. Cook until the potatoes are soft.

 

 

I’ve Got (Vegetarian) Friends in Low Places….

Food brings people together. It’s a universal language of yumminess that is understood no matter where you come from, no matter what you grew up eating, and no matter what language you speak. And yet too often, vegetarians are isolated in dining situations and made to feel as if their personal choices (whatever they may be) can be accommodated, not praised or valued. I don’t know about you, but nothing makes me feel less valued at a restaurant than the phrase “we can accommodate your vegetarian lifestyle”.

Luckily, one of the things we value most out of our vegetarianism is the fact that our friends and family are incredibly supportive. We have been able to maintain our lifestyle while enjoying some pretty fantastic food. Our friends truly respect our choices and understand that being vegetarian doesn’t necessarily mean missing out on anything. We often dine out with non-vegetarian couples and order multiple dishes to share—there is no “this is my vegetarian entree” but rather “OUR vegetarian shared meal”. And we consider ourselves incredibly lucky to get to enjoy things like asparagus panzanella, a broccoli country captain, and green gumbo with great friends, good wine, and the amazing culinary team of Butcher&Bee at their most recent Lettuce Turnip the Beet vegan dinner.

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Spring Greens Ravioli with a Minted Pea Puree

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Spring Vegetable Succotash with peas, butterbeans, boiled peanuts, and Charleston gold rice

This weekend we also said goodbye to a close (vegetarian) friend as she heads across the Atlantic for the summer for professional and personal growth opportunities. In true Lowcountry style, an outdoor potluck was arranged and we feasted under the stars for hours on an entirely veggie-meal. We brought 2 different quinoa dishes (both vegan!) to compliment a green salad with pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds, cherry tomatoes, hearts of palm, and cucumbers, plus a baked ziti. Here’s how to be the talk of your next potluck – hopefully it inspires you with some fun summer meals. With quinoa cooked up in advance and stored in the fridge for up to a week, these are also great weeknight dinners for the nights it’s just too hot to cook!

Baked Ziti, Salad, and Quinoa 2 ways-- happy friends all around!

Baked Ziti, Salad, and Quinoa 2 ways– happy friends all around!

Cold Quinoa Salad with Jicama and Corn (farthest right in the picture)

2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled

1 medium jicama, diced finely*

¾ cup corn, either frozen or cooked kernels off the cob (depending how far in advance you’re making it, you can even throw the corn in frozen-it will thaw!)

½ jalapeno, seeded and finely diced OR2 dried jalapenos diced (soak in warm water to rehydrate)

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 TBSP apple cider vinegar

Shake of chili powder

1 tsp paprika

½ tsp garlic powder

Pinch of cayenne

1 tsp cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Mix the jalapeno, all spices, and oil in a small bowl or Tupperware container. Whisk or shake to combine. In a large bowl, combine quinoa with jicama and corn. Pour the dressing over and let sit for a few hours to absorb the flavors. Before serving, taste and re-season as needed.

*Jicama is also called a Mexican potato- it’s almost like a mix of a potato and an apple. It’s crunchy, a bit sweet, and fun to experiment with. Peel off the outer skin with a knife or vegetable peeler then cut into slices, stripes, and dice.

 

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad (center of the picture)

2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled

1 large cucumber- peeled, seeded and diced

1 red bell pepper

¼ cup tahini

Juice of 2 lemons

Olive oil

1 clove garlic

Salt and pepper

Feta cheese (optional)

Cut the bell pepper into large pieces (remove the ribbing and seeds) and rub with olive oil. Char over a gas stove or grill (alternatively roast it in the oven) until softened and the skin is lightly blistered. Remove from heat and let cool, then dice. In a small bowl, mix tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper and stream in olive oil until emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings to your taste. In a large bowl, combine quinoa with cucumber and roasted red pepper. Pour dressing over the quinoa and toss to coat. Let sit in the fridge for 2-3 hours to let the flavors marinate. Add in feta cheese if you’re not worried about being vegan—the saltiness and creaminess is a great complement!

 

Having a strong support system is one of the most essential components to enjoying a vegetarian lifestyle instead of feeling like its an uphill battle with society. With close friends who understand our dietary choices, we’ve been able to not only maintain our social lifestyle but also share our values and passions with others in a very non-confrontational, non-proselytizing way. And when there’s good food on the table, it’s hard to not enjoy the friendship of those around you!