Portobello and pineapple-teriyaki burgers (4 servings)

Tell me those aren't the sexiest tan lines you've ever seen.

"The Sound of Sunshine," by Michael Franti & Spearhead, defines the auditory and visual sensations of warmer weather -- crashing ocean waves and friends chatting on the sand as the sun beats down from above. This Whole Foods recipe, on the other hand, epitomizes the tastes of summer in the candy-like sweetness of pineapple and the toasted earthiness of mushrooms made juicy by the grill. It's like a ray of sunshine for dinner. And who doesn't need that right now? This vegan, gluten-free-optional meal takes a little while to come together because of the time needed to marinate the mushrooms and pineapple, but the cooking step is a snap. Serve these burgers with a colorful bean salad and you've got a healthy, tasty preview of the coming summer!

You will need:

  • 4 portobello mushroom caps
  • 1-20 oz can pineapple rings in juice
  • 3 Tbsp low-sodium soy sauce (use tamari or coconut aminos for the GF option)
  • 2 Tbsp maple syrup or brown sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • Lettuce (optional)
  • Buns (We used toasted pretzel rolls, but you could use hamburger buns, Hawaiian sweet rolls, or gluten-free buns)

Steps:

  1. Wipe off the mushroom caps with a damp paper towel. Use a spoon to scrape out the gills; pop out the stems. Place the mushroom caps in a wide, shallow baking dish. Add the pineapple rings to the dish, reserving the juice for the next step.
  2. Next, make the marinade. Combine 3/4 cup reserved pineapple juice with the soy sauce, maple syrup, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil; whisk ingredients until smooth. (I zapped the mixture in the microwave for 15-20 seconds to make the maple syrup easier to mix in.) Pour the marinade over the mushrooms and pineapple rings; cover and set aside, turning occasionally, for 1-2 hours.
  3. After the marinating time, heat a grill, grill pan, or electric griddle to medium-high and oil the grill surface. While it's heating up, remove the mushrooms and pineapple from the marinade and set aside. Transfer the marinade liquid to a microwave-safe bowl and cook for a minute or two, checking frequently, until the liquid has reduced. Alternately, boil the liquid in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until it's thickened. (This will be your glaze.)
  4. Grill mushrooms and pineapple for 4-6 minutes, gently turning them once after basting with the glaze. The mushrooms won't get very grill-striped, but the pineapple rings will develop gorgeous caramel-colored ribbons as the sugars break down.
  5. Place mushrooms on buns, top with pineapple (and lettuce, if desired), and another coating of glaze.

Bring on the sunshine, please!

Mexican-inspired quinoa salad (~6 servings)

Often, when I'm on summer vacation, lunch is an exercise in creativity and resourcefulness, based on what I can find in the kitchen on a given day. Sometimes lunch transcends cultures (Leftover orange-ginger tofu and potato pierogis with a side of masala broccoli? Sure. Why the hell not?) and time zones (Did I make this chickpea salad Tuesday or Sunday? Hmm.) but it's always interesting, to say the least.

But while that type of lunch-foraging can be fun, it's also a good thing for lunch to be predictably nutritious and flavorful, which is why I like to make a light, easy-to-eat recipe early in the week, stash it in the fridge, and eat it whenever the "leftovers + random nutritional accessories" combination doesn't cut it.

My current favorite lunch salad is based on Whole Foods' grilled corn, quinoa, and spinach salad, which features un surtido of Mexican-inspired ingredients: black beans, jicama, corn, chipotle, and oregano. It takes a bit of time to put together, between pre-cooking the quinoa, slicing the corn off the cob (see my note and photo after the recipe), peeling and shredding the jicama, and toasting the walnuts, but it keeps well for days. It works nicely on top of a bed of salad greens or just on its own. And besides, you will LOVE it. No, really, you will. I'm not the type to say things I don't mean.

You will need: 

  • 2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
  • chipotle powder to taste
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked and chilled quinoa (from roughly 1/2 cup dry)
  • 1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup shredded jicama (you can chop it into small bits if you don't feel like putting it in the food processor)
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves and pieces, toasted
  • 2/3 cup crumbled feta
  • 1 medium roasted red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup Ranch dressing
  • fresh spinach leaves (opt.)

Steps: 

  1. Heat a medium rimmed skillet over medium-high heat and add a quick drizzle of canola or vegetable oil. Once the skillet is hot, add in the corn and allow it to cook. Shake the pan every couple of minutes to keep the kernels from sticking. It's a good (but initially alarming) sign when the kernels start to take flight with a loud pop. When the kernels are starting to get brown on the edges, sprinkle them with the oregano and chipotle powder (to your taste) and remove the skillet from the heat.
  2. Next, add the quinoa, beans, jicama, walnuts, feta, and red pepper to a large bowl, along with the corn. Drizzle about a half cup of Ranch dressing over the mixture and toss to combine. (You can always add more later if you want.)
  3. Serve cold or at room temperature, either over a salad or as is.

A couple notes:

  • Jicama is a root vegetable that reminds me of water chestnuts; it adds a nice crunch but contains so much water that it doesn't have much taste on its own. Look for a firm, dry specimen without any soft spots. It should feel heavy for its size. They're easiest to peel with the type of Y-peeler you'd use for butternut squash. (Wish I'd had one!)
  • The original recipe calls for Whole Foods' store brand Chipotle Ranch dressing, but as I didn't feel like buying a bottle of salad dressing just for one recipe, I just used regular Ranch and added chipotle powder to the corn. 
  • If you wanted your cheese to be more authentically Mexican, you could use cotija. 
  • You can easily make this recipe vegan by changing up the dressing and cheese. You could use a dairy-free Ranch (Organicville makes one) , or you could use a cilantro-lime type vinaigrette. (Ooh, this one sounds delicious.) If you take out the feta, you might miss the saltiness, but sliced black olives would make a good substitute.
  • Finally, use a bundt cake pan and a sharp knife to take the kernels off the corn cob. I learned this trick from watching Michael Chiarello's show a couple years ago, and it works wonders. Once you've shucked the corn (*giggle*), stick the cob end into the bundt pan's opening, and use your knife to slice vertically to cut off the kernels. The bundt pan will catch the kernels as they fall off! Brilliant! (Snazzy nail polish strips optional.)

Southwestern tempeh stew (4 servings)

Southwestern.JPG

I'm a relative newcomer to tempeh. Made from fermented soybeans, tempeh originated in Indonesia. It can be baked, roasted, fried, grilled, or steamed and can be found in a variety of flavors. (I used West Soy Five Grain for this recipe.) It's less spongy and moist than tofu and has a nutty taste and a chunky texture. It contains a healthy amount of protein and soaks up marinades quite well.

I found Whole Foods' Southwest tempeh stew recipe last weekend when I was looking for a one-dish meal to make at the end of this week. I knew it was going to be a rainy, cold (well, "Carolina cold") week, and the warm, sunny flavors of a Southwestern dish sounded enticing and comforting. This was a quick and easy dish to make on a Friday night after a long week of teaching, meetings, and piles and piles of grading! (Why does the grading all seem to pile up at once?)

You will need:

  • One 8-oz package of tempeh
  • 1-2 Tbsp adobo sauce from canned chipotles (Quick tip: I divide a can of chipotles into batches of two or three peppers and store them in bags in the freezer, thawing the peppers or adobo as needed.)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cumin, divided
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 white or yellow onion, diced
  • 1/4 lb mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
  • 14-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup corn kernels (thawed if frozen)
  • 4-oz can chopped green chilies (I skipped them)

Steps:

  1. Place tempeh brick in a steamer basket in a small stockpot; steam until cooked through (about 20 minutes). Place tempeh on a plate to cool a bit. Mix the adobo, soy sauce, and 3/4 tsp cumin together, making a soft paste. Rub the paste into both sides of the warm tempeh and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onions and peppers until they are soft and beginning to brown (15-20 minutes). (If you can handle them less cooked, you can use a higher temperature for a shorter amount of time.) Add the mushrooms and cook and stir for another 5 minutes.
  3. Cut tempeh into cubes and add it to the pan, along with the rest of the cumin, the tomatoes, the chili powder, and the corn (and chilies, if using). Cook and stir for another 10 minutes. Add a bit of water if it's too thick and starts to stick to the bottom of the pan.
  4. Serve over rice, polenta, or a toasted biscuit.

This recipe makes a very thick, chunky stew. There was so little broth surrounding the ingredients that I hesitate to even call it a stew. Next time, I might experiment with adding a little broth or even beer during the last 10 minutes of cooking. The flavors were lively and warming though, and the tempeh made the dish hearty and filling.