Polenta with a little extra herbs and salty parmesan, a tomato sauce with lentils and sweet, soft garlic are the backbone of this dinner idea. These recipes are loose guides. Simply use what you have on hand for the sauce and follow your instincts, but add lentils for an easy, affordable meaty flavor. Then pair the leftover red sauce with another batch of garlic flatbreads, hummus, tahini sprinkled with za'atar, olives, raw fennel, radishes, or whatever crudités you have on hand, for a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern inspired Mezze.
Crepe meets Omelette, get it? This savory, vegetarian pancake is perfect for small kitchen cooking, especially on weeknights, as it comes together quickly. Double the olive fennel salad, whip up some extra yogurt sauce, wilt some more greens, and throw it all on a lentil pasta the following night to stretch your weeknight meal planning.
When we escaped to the cabin in the woods, my goal was to cook for the sake of cooking, to enjoy the process and to revel in slow meals. Since the cabin kitchen was on the smaller side, and since our plan was to sequester ourselves in coziness, I had to be more intentional, more prudent. Each ingredient needed to flow from one meal to the next. Tacos are a great decoy for leftovers.
In honor of Black History Month, this is my own humble nod of gratitude for the history the black community built and enriched. This is my own nod of gratitude toward the immigrants, who like my grandmother's family came to America and worked harder than anyone, planting their traditions into American soils. It's a nod to those who were here long before any of us, who valued the many resources this beautiful chunk of land had to offer.
The creeping vine has begun to reveal a bright, blazing red. The blankets linger on the couch in the darkness of the mornings, tossed aside after cuddling in the evening’s chill. Soups and ciders have begun to be appealing again, and the bed has doubled with the thickness of comforters and quilts. It’s fall, but my mind keeps wandering back to the day I played hooky and soaked up the last bit of summer.
When I think back to that day of lounging aimlessly on the shores of Lake Erie, my skin feels warmer. The intense sunlight renders my skin golden, and I brace myself for the stark contrast of the water, an instant chill surmounted only by a quick submersion.
They say “when it rains, it pours,” but in my freelance world lately, “when it rains, it tsunamis” feels more accurate. The beginning of September was the equivalent of hiking to a cliff and seeing a vast, new territory of hurdles and challenges in the distance. As I stared into an overwhelming work load, I did a rare thing- I retreated. I took a day off, and I’ve been trying to channel a bit of that blessed hooky day ever since.
Lake Erie had shamefully been unchecked on my summer bucket list for more than one season. Finally, with fall and work looming, I recruited my partner in bucket list adventures for a day of soft sand, intense sun, a picnic lunch, sneaky whiskey and the type of water antics that leave you coughing and snorting and feeling like a child who just plunged off the diving board.
The picnic menu, like the day itself, was another attempt to soak up the end of summer and put a dent in the pile of harvested zucchinis.
When I finally returned to that precipice, to face the looming projects and more intense work load on the horizon, I tried to embrace the work with gratitude. Though not always successful and definitely guilty of an ugly meltdown, I tried to enjoy the pouring rain of projects. In case I forgot and let my mind slip into stress/frenzy mode, I attached a sticky note reminder near my desk. “Commit to creating joyfully, not stressfully,” wise words from the ever strategic Marie Forleo.
It’d be great if my life included A LOT more beachy days with best friends and wholesome picnics, and part of me will strive for more of those, but more importantly, I’m striving to take that beach day’s in-the-moment-happy vibe with me in my work. I like what I do, and even if I’d like a little more space between projects, I’m still grateful for the spike.
Here’s to sharing summer recipes well into fall, to holding on tightly to hooky days, to picnics with friends and to creating joyfully because it really could be so much worse.
Vietnamese Zoodle Salad with Fragrant Herbs & Peanuts & Zucchini Bánh Mì
About These Recipes: Ideal for that end of summer zucchini pile, these recipes are loose and easily adaptable. Omit the fish sauce in the Zoodle Salad and a vegan mayo in the sandwich for a vegan picnic spread.
What this recipe is not:
- A tool for teaching an ESL student the culinary significance and the translation of the word “pizza.” It is not that.
- A pizza to offer to someone who is *legitimately gluten free but who has tasted pizza at its most glutinous, doughiest, finest. It is not that. (*legitimately gluten free, not one of those, “oh, I”m off the gluten now” types who clearly still has muffin crumbs on his or her lips from breakfast. You can offer this as pizza to them).
- A new contender to go into the ring with Chicago and New York. It is not that.
What this recipe is:
- An interesting way to eat more cauliflower. It is that.
- Practically a corn-free polenta. It is that.
- A recipe you can make on a weeknight and feel really proud of the effort you invested in your dinnertime. It is that.
- Good. It is really good. But it’s hardly a pizza.
- A vehicle for bacon. It is that. Unless you’re gluten free and vegan. Then, don’t even get me started.
So if you’re still on board with this cauliflower [non]pizza, proceed. The recipe awaits!
Cauliflower Crust Pizza with Bacon, Mushrooms and Kale
About This Recipe: Though closer in consistency to a thicker polenta, this cauliflower “crust” is a good way to eat your favorite pizza toppings while eating more cauliflower. It’s gluten free, so it’s a safe bet for feeding a crowd. By changing the slice size or shape, you could alter this to be a crowd-pleasing appetizer.
Inspired by a sandwich I ate at Burgh'ers (www.burgherspgh.com), this fried chicken has a crunchy, whole grain batter and a pickle flavor in every bite! As a way to conserve more, I used leftover liquid from a jar of store-bought, organic pickles, but you can also experiment making your own brine.