Shredded Zucchini Calzone

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I’m heavily invested in the idea that I will one day hit the sweet spot. I’ll find the middle ground between walking to the grocery store barefoot and rocking stiletto heels. Something in between picking up furniture off the streets and buying a full-price couch. Just the right amount of this and that.

I’m  Goldilocks.

And this heat wave is just too darn hot.

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But with the middle of the summer comes a cornucopia of squash! So much squash!

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Squash that I want to shred and put into a calzone!

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Kale and zucchini are the sweet spot of this calzone.

That and I have a lot of flippin’ kale to deal with, too.

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I don’t think I can go a week without making dough. I go into withdrawals.

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You think it’s a burrito.

But it’s not a burrito.

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It’s a motherfucking calzone.

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Respect.

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In the flesh.

Shredded Zucchini Calzone.

1 medium zucchini, grated (about 2 cups)
3-4 dinosaur kale stalks, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup grated Reggiano cheese
1 large tomato
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon cornmeal

For the dough, follow my recipe for Honey Whole Wheat. In the middle of rising, cut the dough in half and shape into rounds. Let them rise for another half hour.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. (I know it’s crazy to think about when it’s so hot out, but it’s worth it. Sort of.)

In a large skillet heat the olive oil. Add the chopped onions and sautee until translucent. Remove from the pan and set aside on a large plate.  With the remaining oil, sautee the kale, garlic and zucchini. Add to the plate of onions and mix in Reggiano cheese.

Chop the tomato in half and squeeze to release the water and all of the seeds. Chop coarsely. In a medium bowl, season the tomato generously with salt and pepper. Add to the other vegetables.

Using a bread roller, roll out the dough into small circles. Evenly divvy up the vegetables on each round, keeping all of the ingredients in the center.

Wrap in any shape you want. I used a fork to close the seams because I was nervous they would explode and ooze in the oven.

Brush the top with olive oil for a nice crispy crust.

Cover a large pizza stone or baking sheet with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Place the calzones on the sheet/stone and bake for about 15-20 minutes, until the top is nice and golden.

Makes two fat calzones for two hungry gals.

Farro Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes and Romano Beans

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When I get into something, I really get into something.

I started crocheting last year and relentlessly hooked my way to coasters, headbands and half-done mittens. I watched epic YouTube how-to videos on different stitching methods. I developed calluses. Now my yarn and plastic hooks are stowed away somewhere beneath my bed.

Last summer’s thing was running. I went from never running ever ever ever to zipping around 5 miles a day. I bought super lightweight shoes because I’d read in a book that running barefoot was a good idea. My knees started hurting. Hello, stress fracture.

But more than a year ago, I had a rampant reaction to working at a summer camp for nearly two months and never once having the chance to cook for myself. So much iceberg lettuce and canned black beans. I don’t want to talk about it.

That reaction was this. And I haven’t gotten calluses or stress fractures yet. And I sure as poop haven’t stowed it away beneath my bed.

Everything’s on the kitchen counter.

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So let’s dive right into it after that brief sojourn.

I’ve never cooked with farro. It’s been a mysterious grain ever since I first learned about it, and I had thrown all of my efforts into finding it. It’s been a long journey through aisles of beans, bulky items, almond milk and the “ethnic” row. I had to answer a few riddles to get there.

I practically cried when I found the stuff. Farro has more protein than quinoa. It’s untouched grain. And there’s no controversy surrounding it just yet.

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Heirloom tomatoes are such babes I don’t even know where to begin.

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I mean, come on. Stop.

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Crispy romano beans. I used to eat this stuff by the bucketload on long hikes. So refreshing. Yum in my face.

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What’s a salad without some dressing, right? Olive oil, dijon mustard and apple cider vinegar add some zing and refreshment that might make you think it’s summer time.

Ooh, that’s a good one.

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Farro and wine. Let’s get Italian.

Farro salad with heirloom tomatoes and romano beans.

adapted from The New York Times

2 cups cooked farro
7-8 baby heirloom tomatoes, roughly sliced
1lb romano beans, trimmed and blanched

For the dressing:
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper, to taste

To cook the farro, bring about 6 cups of water to a boil and add the grain. Let it simmer for about 40-50 minutes, or until the grains look like they’ve blossomed. Drain thoroughly and douse with cold water.

While the farro is cooking, chop the tomatoes and trim the romano beans. To blanch, bring a pot of water to a boil and add the beans. Cook for about 2-3 minutes and immediately remove from heat before giving the beans a cold water bath.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.

Toss the beans, tomatoes and farro in a large salad bowl before adding the dressing. Toss everything together, adding salt and pepper as needed.

Just before serving, top with fresh parsley.

Makes about 4-6 servings, which might be just enough to alleviate at least some of the pain caused by this weekend’s Patriots game.

Sloppy Joy

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Sundays start at half past noon, when you hear the upstairs neighbors recounting last night’s shenanigans and there’s a cat frantically trying to get your attention because she’s hungry. Everyone’s craving brunch and coffee. A smoothie. Can someone just get me a glass of orange juice?

I just want a glass of orange juice so I can spend the rest of the afternoon watching football and screaming as popcorn flies off the couch. Maybe I’ll go for a run. Maybe I won’t. Okay, I’ll go for a walk.

I’ll probably, at the very least, get some face wash and deodorant during halftime and between the 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. games, I’ll throw a bunch of tempeh into a pot and sizzle some fennel.

And I’ll call it a Sloppy Joy because it’s vegan.

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You know how I love tempeh. I put it in sandwiches sometimes. It’s packed with enough fiber to last you at least three days. It’s a bunch of grains packed together. It’s a super duper food.

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It’s pretty hard to eat tempeh raw. It tastes like soft and squishy barley. Because that’s kind of what it is. But if you steam it or boil it for a little while, it softens up and resembles the consistency of ground beef. Except not really. At all.

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So so so so much garlic.

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Mince a prince!

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So many spices!

Sloppy Joys

2 8oz blocks of tempeh
1 red onion, chopped
10-12 cloves garlic, minced
2 6oz cans tomato paste
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 cups cheap beer
4 tablespoons capers, minced
4 teaspoons cumin
4 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons fennel seed
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

In a large pot, place a steam basket with the tempeh and bring about one inch of water to a boil. Steam for about 15 minutes and let the tempeh cool completely. Once it’s at room temperature, shred with a box grater and set aside.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil with the fennel seeds and chili pepper flakes in a large skillet. When the fennel begins to sizzle, add the onions and sauté until they turn translucent. Add the capers, garlic, soy sauce, beer, tomato paste and the rest of the spices and bring to a low boil before decreasing the heat to a simmer. Add the tempeh and simmer until desired consistency is reached.

Serve with warm toast or on a kaiser roll. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, or anything you so choose.

Makes about 6-8 servings.

Roasted Vegetables and Seitan

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We should probably talk.

Not about the new year, because you’ve already been cutting out sugar and bread while gliding your way toward the physique you had before, say, Halloween. Who would’ve thought that coconut macaroons could be so good? Since when has a truffle tasted like heaven in a bite? You don’t even like caramel corn.

We’re all in the same boat. So you’ve joined a gym. You’re dying during a spinning class. Your clothes are really sweaty. You got a new yoga mat. You’re drinking lemon water with cayenne pepper and maple syrup for breakfast. I get it.

But I think we should talk about something else. It’s the dreaded V-word. No, not vegetarian, because you’re probably okay with that by now.

I’m talking about veganism. Yeah. I’m about to get really real. Because…veganism means no cheese. It means no butter. No eggs. I might cry just thinking about it.

But I’m doing it.

For the next two months, I am not going to eat any animal products (except for honey because…I don’t even want to get into it.), nor am I going to drink beer.

Why? Because I’m lactose intolerant. Because six pints of PBR doesn’t feel really great. Because health is important. Because my body is important.

But most importantly, because I’m really competitive and my new job (say what?) is having a get-fit showdown, and I’m about to whoop some bootylicious booty.

So I’ve already gone grocery shopping and come back sans cheese, butter and eggs for the first time…in a while. I’ve got the cook books. I’ve got the determination.

And let me tell you.

Seitan is pretty weird.

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Right? What is that? It’s like chicken. It kind of tastes like chicken and has the consistency of…chicken. It’s dubious. It’s an indescribable color.

But it’s packed with protein – more than tofu – and has less fat than its soybean cousin. And, like chicken, it sucks up flavor like a sponge.

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The pitfall of many vegetarian and vegan diets is that participants (should I call them that?) succumb to human cravings for salty and sweet food without thinking twice about the amount of carbohydrates and sugar that go along with it.

Guys. Just because it’s vegan, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.

For this vegan experiment, I will do my darndest to not only avoid the cheese and the eggs, but also the bread and the sugar.

It’ll be hard. So, so hard.

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But worth it.

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Smothered in a ginger sauce and tossed with a splash of barbecue for added kick.

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Parsley adds color and a little pinch of refreshing flavor to any dish, roasted or raw.

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Roasted vegetables and seitan.

1lb seitan, uncooked and cubed or shredded
2 zucchinis, sliced thick
1 red bell pepper, coarsely sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely sliced
10oz crimini mushrooms, sliced in half
2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
1/8 cup ginger salad dressing (or just create your own ginger salad dressing by infusing the root with olive oil and a splash of sesame oil over night)
1/8 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the seitan, vegetables and liquids until everything is coated evenly. Pour into a baking pan and roast for about 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

Once you take it out of the oven, let it cool slightly before adding the minced parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste with each bowl.

Makes about 5-6 servings.

Giving Thanks

Today is that one day of the year when you wake up at 7 a.m. to make a pie.

It’s the day when you set a timer at least 12 times so you don’t burn the bread. It consists of at least three separate moments when you think everything is going to go wrong. The kitchen is filled with smoke. You don’t know which wine is yours. A baby keeps on opening the oven, you’ve made way too much mashed potatoes and, woops, you’ve run out of plastic wrap and the aluminum foil is running low.

“Are we out of butter?!”

“The pie has to set for at least five hours!”

“Wait, you don’t have a potato masher?”

“WHO DRANK ALL THE WINE?!”

But then you set up the dining table with the special napkins your mom brought all the way from Hawaii and somehow the stuffed acorn squash is still warm, the pickled carrots didn’t come out too spicy (despite the jalapeños) and you’re eating just in time for the sun to dip below the San Francisco horizon.

And the Patriots are demolishing the Jets.

I’m thankful for it all.

Let’s start with the quinoa stuffing. It would’ve been vegan if not for my sautéing everything in butter. Lots and lots of butter.

A touch of cranberry sweetness and spritz of nutmeg.

While the quinoa is soaking up flavors like parsley and sage in a big ol’ pot, it’s time to half roast some acorn squash.

Roast them face-down in a shallow bath of vegetable broth. The meat will soak up the juice and get super soft and yummy.

Then you flip ’em over and roast them with the stuffing inside. I put more butter on top. It was a good idea.

And then I got to thinking about a serious pie.

Pie crust starts with butter and flour. And ends with sugar.

My brother said that for Thanksgiving, the house should have at least three pounds of butter. Good thing, because there were a few moments when we thought we were out. But we weren’t. There was so much butter. There’s still so much butter.

Boston doesn’t have Okinawan sweet potatoes. And in Berkeley, California, the grocery store calls them “Hawaiian.” I just call them delicious.

So. Purple.

The filling tastes like marshmallows. Not even joking. Be careful.

Oh. Let me talk about haupia for second. It’s a Hawaii staple. It’s coconut. Coconut jell-o. Coconut custard. It’s good. That’s all that matters. And it’s going on top of this pie.

Thanksgiving just got so real.

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash.

2 cups quinoa, cooked with 2 cups water and 2 cups vegetable broth
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 cup dried cranberries, soaked in hot water and drained
2/3 cup carrot, chopped
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
4 acorn squash
1 cup vegetable stock
lots of butter

In a large and deep skillet, preferably a pot, sauté the onions and garlic in about 2 tablespoons of butter until just translucent – don’t let it brown. Add the carrots and mushrooms and sauté for another 5 minutes. Add the quinoa, cranberries, herbs, salt and pepper and cook for another 10 minutes, until the quinoa has absorbed all of the flavors.

Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Lay them face down on a baking sheet and pour about 1 cup of vegetable broth so that the entire pan has a thin layer of stock. Roast uncovered for about 15 minutes. Pour out the vegetable stock (I’d save it for some soup later on) and flip over the squash. Stuff with the quinoa mixture and top with a thin slice of butter (told you there’s a lot of butter). Cover everything tightly with tin foil and throw into the oven for another 30 minutes, until the squash is fully cooked.

Makes 8 halves.

Okinawan Sweet Potato and Haupia Pie.

For the crust:
1/2 cup butter, cold and chopped into small squares
1 1/2 cups flour
1/8 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, chop the butter with the flour until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Press into a 9-inch pie pan and bake for about 12 minutes, until just slightly browned. Set aside (you can even make this the night before you need it).

For the Okinawan sweet potato filling:
1 1/2 cups Okinawan sweet potatoes, boiled and whipped or mashed
6 tablespoons cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In an electric mixer, whip the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and mix until fully incorporated. Add half of the sweet potato and mix completely before adding the rest. Toss in the evaporated milk, vanilla extract and salt before whipping to a nice and creamy filling.

Smooth into crusted pie pan and bake for about 30 minutes.

Set aside and let cool completely before adding the haupia.

For the haupia:
1 can (13.5 ounces) full fat coconut milk
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup corn starch
1/4 cup sugar

Whisk the dry ingredients in a small bowl before adding the water.

In a saucepan, heat up the coconut milk and slowly add the sugar mixture, continually whisking until it thickens into a custard-like consistency. Pour on top of the sweet potato layer (there should be about 1/2 inch of room) and smooth over with a spatula.

Let cool completely before covering with a plate or plastic wrap and chilling in the fridge. Let the haupia set for at least five hours before serving.

Makes enough for 12 slices. Surprisingly, there are leftovers.