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Appetizer, Side, Fall, Gluten Free, Salad

BUTTER LETTUCE SALAD WITH TAHINI-HONEY DRESSING

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This seems to be the season of new cookbooks because I have quite a few I want to share with all of you. This recipe hails from the soon to be released cookbook Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp. It arrived on my doorstep shortly after I had a passionate conversation (on my part, of course) over breakfast with Hugh about how important it is for cookbooks to be practical. In a generation where a lot of people lean more towards convenience food, I find it so important to encourage the actual cooking of real foods, which seems most successful when offering approachable, healthful recipes. Of course I love when there are lots of pictures and the design is attractive, (duh) but I really appreciate when the recipes featured are ones you would make for a weeknight dinner, something special when guests come over or a new idea for a sweet treat to have on hand for coffee breaks. Aida's book reminds me of a modern day Joy of Cooking. It's equally, if not more so, a resource as it is a book of recipes. She goes through tools, cuts of meat, pantry staples, ingredient substitutions, quick dinners, and any other question that a cook may come cross in the kitchen. I think it would make a wonderful gift for someone just learning how to cook, or wanting to get the basics down. It is definently text focused, but I find that to be a strength and consistent with the book's title.

I made this salad because I adore tahini dressings. I upped the lemon a bit, added some sunflower seeds as Aida suggested and it was the perfect accompaniment to some grilled albacore tuna. So simple and clean with that "healthy" flavor profile (I may be one of the few who enjoy eating at the cafes in health food stores, but their house salads always seem to have carrots, sunflower seeds and a tahini dressing, yes?). The book comes out on October 24th, but is available for preorder now. Congratulations Aida, it's a gem and a true testament to your hard work. 

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BUTTER LETTUCE SALAD WITH TAHINI-HONEY DRESSING // Serves 2-4

Adapted from Keys to the Kitchen by Aida Mollenkamp

This made about twice the amount of dressing I needed but that's ideal for me. It's so nice to have a great dressing on hand for next time I make a salad. I get the ribbons on the carrots and cucumbers with a veggie peeler but I'm sure a mandoline would do a great job as well. 

  • // tahini-honey dressing //
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. honey or agave
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • big pinch of parsley or chives
  • 2/3 cup water
  • salt and fresh ground pepper
  • 1 large head (7 oz.) butter lettuce, cleaned and dried
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 persian cucumber, halved and thinly sliced or shaved
  • 1 carrot, grated or shaved
  • 1 cup sprouted (broccoli, pea, sunflower, radish etc)
  • sunflower seeds, optional
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Blend all the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Rip the lettuce into large pieces and combine it in a large bowl with the avocado, cucumber, carrot and half of the sprouts (saving half for garnish). Toss the salad ingredients with desired amount of dressing. You'll likely have more than you need. Garnish the top with remaining sprouts and sunflower seeds.

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Side, Snack, Gluten Free

PANTRY PEANUT SAUCE

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This is the peanut sauce that was intended to be easy, quick, every day sauce and then things just kept getting thrown into the blender. Lots of finger dipping, tasting...more ginger! dip. add coconut! dip. more spice! What I have below is a general recipe, but you'll need to taste and adjust as you wish. I may have lost track of a half teaspoon here or there. We didn't want it so peanuty that it resembled more of a spread for toast than an asian sauce, so the coconut milk and bit of toasted sesame oil help rein that in (see note). We like lots of ginger, always citrus, just enough spice to warm your throat and poof, a great sauce that will be used for a number or quick dishes this weekend. The photo here shows it on a simple asian sandwich with seared tofu, cucumber, carrots and scallions but I also plan on using it as a dressing for a quinoa and kale salad or making some spring rolls packed with veggies with this on the side for dipping. However you wish, meals seem to come together quite quickly with a good sauce on hand.

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PANTRY PEANUT SAUCE // Makes about 1.5 cups

I imagine this would last a good two weeks in the fridge without comprimising too much on flavor. Don't quote me, I don't see it lasting long enough to tell, but it's an educated guess.

  • 1 cup creamy, unsalted peanut butter
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger
  • zest and juice of one large lime
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 tsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2-4 Tbsp. light coconut milk or water, as needed*
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, optional
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Add all of the ingredients besides cilantro to a powerful blender or food processor and run until smooth. Taste and adjust as preferred. Add the cilantro, give it another few pulses and keep in an airtight jar in the fridge.

* I used coconut milk for thinning because I had some open. It also helped cut the peanut butter flavor and made it a bit more savory. Water will work fine to thin, just expect the peanut flavor to be more forward. It will firm up a bit in the fridge, so keep that in mind while choosing your consistency.

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Appetizer, Entrée, Fall, Gluten Free, Spring, Winter

SWEET POTATO CAKES

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I am inspired by cookbooks. I appreciate the beautiful pictures; most make me want to cook and they can remind me of the vegetables I haven't picked up in awhile. I still like to play around with recipes a bit (I have a strange aversion to following directions). The neat thing about the book that I pulled this recipe from (which is actually a marriage of two of Ottelenghi's recipes with a bit of Sara thrown in), is the random act of kindness of how this book ended up on my bookshelf. I had admired the book in a bookstore months ago, and filled my phone with photos of some of the recipes. I didn't buy the book then, but I couldn't stop thinking about it. Lo and behold, the book ended up on my doorstep a few days later from a dear friend who had picked up on a twitter comment. A kind note and a high five for finishing a big step in the book process. That sort of thoughtfulness is the inspiration I am after. Not just thinking how I can help someone or noting a quiet compliment, but DOING something to pass on compassion and encouragement. I can't look at the book without thinking of Kelsey's gesture, so I figured it was worth mentioning how loudly one single act of kindness can speak.

I really liked how these turned out, especially the sauce, but I won't tell you they are the most attractive meal you'll ever make. My first mistake is that I was too shy with the coconut oil/butter when cooking the patties, and they stuck to my cast iron pan. I'm not much for frying in general, but I suggest you be generous with the oil in the pan to get a good clean crust. You can serve them with some dressed greens, with black beans or poached eggs on top. Just finish them with a good douse of yogurt sauce on top and it won't matter what they look like underneath. Sauce is always the answer...and kindness. Sauce and kindness.

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SWEET POTATO CAKES // Serves 4

Potato cakes adapted from Yotam Ottelenghi's Plenty

1 3/4 lbs peeled sweet potatoes, cut in large chunks

2 tsp. butter or coconut oil, plus more for cooking

1 leek, halved and thinly sliced

2 tsp. tamari or soy sauce

1 clove garlic, minced

3/4 tsp. salt

pinch of red pepper flakes

1/2 cup oat flour or unbleached all purpose flour

1 egg, well whisked

yogurt sauce

1/2 cup greek yogurt

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. chopped cilantro or basil

2 Tbsp. finely chopped lemongrass*

pinch of salt and pepper

* I know it's unlikely that most people just have lemongrass lying around, and while it adds a ton of flavor here, don't bust your buns if it's not easy to get a hold of. You could also substitute in chopped shallot.

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Steam the potatoes until tender throughout. Set aside to cool.

While the potatoes cook, warm the butter or oil in a cast iron pan. Saute the leeks until softened, about 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, blend all of the yogurt sauce ingredients, besides the cilantro or basil, together in a mini blender or food processor. Lastly, add the herbs and give it one or two more whirls just to blend in the herbs. Set aside.

When the potatoes have released most of their moisture (steam), transfer them to a bowl and mix them with the tamari/soy sauce, garlic, salt, red pepper flakes and flour to combine. You want the mix to be tacky not wet, add more flour if it seems too moist to hold shape. Add the leeks and egg and mix to combine.

Add enough coconut oil, butter or a mix of the two (which i prefer), to your nonstick/cast iron pan to generously coat the bottom, and warm over medium high heat. Dont be shy. Make small, two tablespoons patties and drop them into the hot pan, pressing down to flatten. Cook until well browned on each side, about 7-8 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary if they start to burn. Remove to a paper toweled lined plate to absorb excess fat while you cook another batch.

Serve with some lightly dressed greens and a generous portion of the sauce. These would be so wonderful with a poached egg on top or other protein of your choice.

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