Easy Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

  • 4 cucumbers
  • 1/2 or 1 whole white or sweet onion
  • 1.5 cups white vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill (or more, to taste)
  • kosher salt

1. Prep the cucumbers and onion: Wash and peel the cucumbers (I like to be lazy and leave strips of cucumber skin, also because I think it’s prettier at the end). Slice thinly, using a mandolin if you want to be a perfectionist about it (just watch your fingers!). Ditto the onion. Set the cucumbers and onion in a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt, toss, add more salt, toss, etc. Put the colander in a bowl and set that in the fridge for about an hour to take some of the water out of the cucumbers and reduce the bite of the onion.

Wait one hour.

2. Prep the pickling. In a pot on the stove, combine the white vinegar, water, and sugar. Bring to a bowl and stir to ensure all the sugar has dissolved. Dump the cucumber and onions into a pyrex bowl (or similar — I like to discard the cucumber water run off and just use that same bowl for this next step) and pour the boiling pickling mixture on top of it. Add dill and stir to combine.

3. Let sit at least 3 (and up to 24 hours). Serve.

In summary: Easy, plus very refreshing and light — a nice thing to bring to a potluck or party where there will be a lot of heavy food. Theoretically you could even quarter the cucumber slices to make it even easier to eat, but that doesn’t bother me!

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Banana Avocado Dip

We were hosting a banana-themed dinner party recently, and I was in search of an appetizer. (What, doesn’t everyone host banana-themed parties? No? Well, that does explain some of the looks I got at the grocery store checkout line!)

For the meal itself, we were contributing an Indian plantain curry and banana-stuffed french toast. However, I’d recently acquired some banana chips, and I was sure that with the right banana-based dip, they would be a big hit.

Martha, of course, had the answer. A banana-avocado dip. (Of course, she assumes that one would make one’s own plantain chips. Naturally. Because who doesn’t have a deep-fry thermometer? And obviously everyone loves that great, post-fry feeling of oil all over everything.)

Right, so I had the chips already. What complex, insane thing could Martha make me do for the dip?

Ripe avocado + ripe banana + fresh juice of a lemon + dash of salt. Mash everything together and serve.

It sounds weird, but I kid you not, this dip (which I literally made as guests were arriving) was a huge hit. Kids would love it. Tastes kind of like something that’s bad for you. Sweet, light, and perfect with the chips.

ps. Oh and hey look, it’s vegan, too. How about that!

Energy Balls (Vegan Hiking Snack)

I have been reading the blog Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon for a while now. She showcases vegan recipes that are tasty, nutritious, and show that vegan food does not consist solely of salads. I’m always fascinated by her recipes—I’m not vegan, but I like thinking about cooking vegan.

To me, any food/dietary restriction is like a challenge, whether it is being kosher, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, etc (and it’s especially challenging if it is more than one of those!). When I was in college, I lived in an 18-person co-op that had several vegans, many vegetarians, and many meat lovers. We all took turns cooking meals, and while we could make almost anything we wanted, the rules were that it had to be food everyone could eat. So we became experts at making side-by-side foods, like spaghetti with meat sauce and a vegan sauce. Or easily convertible foods, like mashed potatoes (vegan margarine instead of butter/milk—it’s nearly impossible to tell the difference).

I also like that vegan foods often challenge me to eat healthier, by focusing a lot on fruits/veggies/grains. (Don’t get me wrong, though, there are a lot of unhealthy vegan recipes out there! Chocolate chip cookies are still dessert, even if you make them with Earth Balance instead of butter.) So periodically I try out a vegan recipe to see if it will work in my life. Today I tried a great one!

This morning, in preparation for a hike in the Blue Hills, I whipped up a modified version of Angela’s recipe for dark chocolate energy bites. It took around ten minutes total, used ingredients I had on hand, and involved no baking or cooking. The combination of fruit and nuts and chocolate was perfect for the midpoint of our hike—there was sugar to jump start our engines, and protein to keep us going until our late, very non-vegan lunch at Miami Restaurant.

Recipe: The real beauty of this recipe is that you can vary the basic ingredients based on what you have on hand. The essential elements are sticky dried fruits, nuts, and chocolate. If you don’t get the consistency right, just add more of whatever you need until you do! I put one cup of almonds into a hand-held food processor and finely ground them. Setting aside 1/4th of a cup of the almonds, I put the rest in a bowl. Then I blended a generous handful of apricots with about a third of a cup of dried cranberries and a quarter of a bar of dark chocolate. Once that was all finely chopped, I threw it into the bowl with the almonds and stirred until it was well-mixed. It was a little dry (probably because my apricots weren’t as moist as they could’ve been), so I added some non-vegan moisture with a bit of honey. You could also use agave syrup or maple syrup. Then I picked up about a tablespoon or so of the mix in my hand and squeezed and rolled it into a ball. My balls were about the size of Lindt truffle balls. (This is a well-known comparative measurement in my life!) I rolled each one in the reserved ground almonds, and then set aside.

You can freeze or refrigerate the balls if you’re not going to eat them right away. I found that after a few hours in the freezer, they became much more like a solid mass rather than a bunch of ingredients stuck together. But either way they were delicious! This batch made about 14 balls—two per person on the hike was a great little snack. (Honestly, I would’ve had a third if I’d brought more!) I will definitely be making them again.

Tabbouleh

a108946_0051 The secret to good tabbouleh is very simple: don’t cook the bulgar. What’s the catch? You have to make it 24 hours in advance. The bulgar marinates in the juices of everything else, making for an especially flavorful dish.

Every time I make this recipe, I’m convinced it will fail: the bulgar won’t open up, I won’t have this dish, tragedy will ensue, etc. Every time, it is absolutely delicious.

Credit to my mom for teaching me this one.

Recipe for Tabbouleh Continue reading

Quick & Easy Chickpea Salad

(Amounts are equal to three gallons (feeds about 40-50); adjust to your party’s size!)

6 cucumbers, peeled & chopped

4 cans black olives, sliced

4 large cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 large container of crumbled feta (optional)

Mix all ingredients together, add salt and pepper, then drizzle olive oil & balsamic vinegar to taste. If preparing in advance, chop everything but keep it separate until just before the event.

Soyjoy = Soysad

The commercials for this soy-based nutrition bar are catchy, quirky, and artistically reminiscent of The Yellow Submarine.  I was so sure that the product was targeted to people like me– young, on-the-go, eco-savvy, etc –that when I received one as SWAG recently, I was almost sure it would taste good.

Cautiously nibbling at the raisin almond bar, though, I was incredibly disappointed. It was dry and powdery-tasting, and broke off into flavorless chunks that were hard to get down.

A friend near me saw me make a face. “Lemmie try that,” he said.

Without saying a word, I handed it over and watched as he took a big bite. His eyes went wide.

“Uhmgh! This is terrible!” He choked his bite down and quickly handed the bar back over to me. “Why they heck do they taste so bad?”

I turned the package over:

Ingredients: Whole Soybean Powder, Raisin, Butter (from milk), Sugar, Almond, Egg, Maltodextrin (natural fiber source), Dried Papaya, Dried Pineapple, Dried Cranberry, Cacao, Salt, Parmesan Cheese (from skim milk), Natural Flavors.

Not sure why they tasted so bad, but what shocks me is that the bar wasn’t vegan. Butter? Egg? Cheese? I mean, if I had to come up with a target population for a soy-based nutrition bar, vegans would definitely be it!

At least these bars have the advantage of being gluten-free, but then again, so do the Larabars, and they has the advantage of actually tasting like food.