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I can’t decide if I’m more behind on my book reviews or the Long Distance Kitchen recipes, but let’s go for a recipe today.  A long time ago, Bronwen assigned us two salad-ish recipes from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian – Avocado Salad with Ginger and Peanuts, and Beets with Pistachio Butter.  I needed something vegan and wheat free to bring to a girls’ brunch, so this was perfect.  Both recipes were fairly easy to make, too, which was an added bonus on a Saturday morning.

As it turned out, both recipes were delicious and got devoured at the brunch, and our plates were clean before I thought about taking pictures.  So you’ll have to imagine.

For the avocado salad, all the work is in the ginger dressing. You cook rice vinegar, sugar, salt and water in a saucepan, then add fresh ginger.  I minced it, but that was a hassle and I’d probably go the grating route next time.  Let it cook until thickened, then cool and refrigerate until cold.  It got super, super thick, so I might cook it a bit less next time, until barely syrupy.

I used spring mix greens, in a big bowl rather than artfully arranged on a platter as suggested, and sliced avocado over the top, then let everyone dress their own salad.  I had chopped cilantro and roasted peanuts handy for garnish, and they both complimented the flavors nicely.  The dressing had a sharp tang from all the ginger, but was sweet at the same time, and the avocado and peanuts made a nice contrast.

For the beets, you wrap them individually in foil and roast them until tender.  Once they’re cooked, slide off those skins, slice them up, and add a little salt and pepper.  While they’re cooking, make the pistachio butter.

Two points about pistachio butter –  1) it is AMAZING.  Do not skip it.  2) For the love of all that is sacred, scour the earth to find SHELLED pistachios.  If it is late at night and the grocery store you are at only has unshelled pistachios, do not think “oh, it only calls for a cup and I can handle shelling these.”  Drive across town to find pistachios that are ready for you, because shelling a cup of pistachios is not like casually snacking on them.  They are salty and sharp and your hands will not forgive you.

Once you have located your SHELLED pistachios, or have wept and lamented over your unshelled pistachios, heat up some oil in a skillet (I used high-heat canola), then add a generous amount of smashed garlic.  Cook for a minute, then add the pistachios and cook a few minutes more.  Let the whole thing cool off a little, then give it a spin in the food processor.  The recipe says it should be just pourable, a little thinner than peanut butter, and mine looked a little like chunky almond butter.  Add more oil if you need to.

I set out the beets at room temperature, with a dish of pistachio butter to spoon over the top.  We couldn’t keep our hands off of it.  The combination of flavors between the beets and the pistachios was amazing.  It makes for a really satisfying, flavorful vegetable dish, especially during Lent when you’re craving richer, more complex flavors.  Pistachio butter and beets will cure what ails you, I’m sure of it.

I’ll be keeping both of these dishes in mind for future meals, but I’ve really got my eye on that pistachio butter.

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