Mixed citrus salad with feta and mint (~4 servings)

I know I've said this before, but every damn smittenkitchen recipe I make is fabulous. Deb is some sort of culinary sorceress; each recipe comes out perfectly seasoned and intensely flavorful. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I've never been let down by any of her creations. Now if only I could replicate her photography skills...

Here in Durham, the last two days' weather has been the meteorological equivalent of a cold, soggy sponge abandoned in the kitchen sink by an inconsiderate roommate. Days like this beg for happy, invigorating recipes like this one. Its vivid colors and succulent flavors are like optimism on a fork. They'll have you longing for sunnier days, warmer temperatures, and carefree afternoons with friends.

Then, perhaps, you'll remember pollen allergies. And mosquitoes. And sunburns. And stifling Carolina humidity. And sweaty thighs singed by car vinyl. And sinus headaches just ahead of summer thunderstorms.

You decide that maybe, for now, you're content with summery recipes and can wait on the other junk.

You will need:

  • 2 scallions
  • 4 pieces of citrus (I used a ruby red grapefruit, one blood orange, a navel orange, and a tangelo)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp smooth Dijon mustard (Read the label carefully if you're going for gluten-free)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • ~3 Tbsp crumbled feta cheese
  • a handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped or slivered

Steps:

  1. Thinly slice the green parts of the scallions into the bottom of a tall bowl. (I used my herb scissors for this step and for slivering the mint later on. Thanks, Mom!) Place a strainer or colander over the bowl.
  2. Next, you want to cut the peel off each piece of fruit and then slice it horizontally into 1/4"-thick wheels. The goal is to cut the white pith off (Oh, you pith off!) to avoid any bitterness. (Honestly, the best way to explain the cutting method is to provide this video, which illustrates the process beautifully. Pluck out any seeds as you go.)
  3. Place the slices of fruit in the strainer, which is now resting over the scallion bowl. The acidity from the juice will mellow the scallions. Allow them to drain a few minutes while you clean up your cutting board and find a shallow serving dish.
  4. Spread the citrus wheels out on the dish, overlapping the pieces as necessary. Use a fork or slotted spoon to fish the scallion slices out of the bowl; scatter them on top of the fruit, leaving the citrus juice behind in the bowl.
  5. Add the lemon juice, Dijon, and olive oil to the citrus juice in the bowl. Add a bit of salt and pepper. Whisk well.
  6. Drizzle the dressing over the fruit, then sprinkle with crumbled feta and chopped mint. Serve chilled.

This is a true appetizer: one that whets the palate without weighing it down with anything fried, bloomed, or stuffed. (Not that there's anything wrong with fried, bloomed, or stuffed, but there's a time and place for everything, you know.)

Autumn farro salad with maple vinaigrette (2+ servings)

Have you tried farro? Made from hulled grains of three ancient forms of wheat, cooked farro remains chewy and soaks up flavors easily. It provides a solid dose of protein and fiber and can stand in for quinoa or rice in many dishes. Whole-grain farro requires pre-soaking and a longer cook time, but semi-pearled farro cooks up in about the same time as rice. It can be cooked in the same way as pasta -- in boiling water until al dente and then drained. Follow package directions for the best results.

This particular version was based on a recipe from The Gluten-Free Goddess, although using farro instead of quinoa took away its gluten-free status! I wanted a firm, nutty grain that could stand up to the chilly-weather flavors of the other ingredients. Here's my spin on her recipe:

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

  • 1 cup dry farro, cooked in broth and cooled
  • About a cup of baby spinach or other baby greens, roughly chopped
  • 1 large pear or apple, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • A handful of dried cranberries (If you can find the orange-flavored variety, they're especially delicious here!)
  • 1/4 cup toasted chopped pecans
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar (or something similarly mild)
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup
  • salt and pepper

Steps:

  1. Place the farro, greens, fruit, and pecans in a large serving bowl.
  2. Add the oil, vinegar, maple syrup, and salt and pepper to taste to a jar with a lid. Cover and shake to combine.
  3. Pour the dressing over the farro mixture and toss gently to combine. Serve at room temperature as a main dish or a side salad.

This goes well with pita chips, especially Trader Joe's cranberry and pumpkin seed version!

Vegetarian Thanksgiving side dishes roundup

Thanksgiving is only a week away, and if you're still looking for some tasty, meat-free side dishes, I've got you covered, friends. Below is a collection of some of my favorite side dishes, just in time for the holidays. It just so happens that all are gluten-free, unless otherwise noted!

Vegan

Vegetarian

Won't you give thanks by liking the MainlyVeggie Facebook page?

Quinoa, kale, and parsley salad with lentils, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts (4 servings)

Wait. Wait a second. Was the Vegan Month of Food (affectionately known as Vegan MoFo) always in September? I thought it was October! I swear it was always October. It doesn't matter much either way, seeing as I totally forgot about it until a couple days ago. Two out-of-state weddings plus a new job have made the last six weeks very, very busy for this humble food blogger. But it's great to be back, whether this is the vegans' month for celebrating or not!

I'm not vegan myself, but I do cook vegan meals anywhere from two to five times a week and I'm always searching for new recipes to test out. When I saw this audaciously-hued salad on Kale Me Maybe last week, I knew I had to have it. The ruby red and emerald green colors sold me first, but then I read the list of show-stopping superfoods and was absolutely convinced I had to prioritize this one. What's not to like?

I kept all of Carina's original ingredients but doubled the recipe, although I changed up some of the ingredients' proportions. I tend to like my salads dressed lightly, so I used a lot less dressing than the original recipe suggested. Of course, it's all up to personal preference! If you're a fan of tangy-sweet flavor combinations and chewy-crunchy texture pairings, you will not be disappointed by this one -- I promise!

You will need:

  • 1/2 cup dry quinoa
  • 1/2 cup dry brown lentils
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from half a lemon

Steps:

  1. In separate saucepans, cook the quinoa and lentils in broth or water, according to package directions. Be sure to not overcook either. Once they're each just tender (my quinoa took about 20 minutes and the lentils took 40), set them aside to cool.
  2. In the meantime, rinse, de-stem, and dry the kale and parsley. Measure out 2 cups of kale and 1 cup of parsley leaves and place them in a large serving bowl. Use a pair of kitchen shears to finely mince both the kale and parsley. 
  3. Once the quinoa has cooled, toss it with the kale and parsley. Then, add in the lentils, pomegranate seeds, walnuts, oil, and lemon juice, and then season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature as a main dish or side.

Moroccan four-bean salad (6-7 servings as a main dish)

Can we just  get a #Sundaysalads trend going already? I'm sure I can't be the only one who preps a make-ahead recipe on Sunday afternoon to eat throughout the week.

Today's offering comes from the May/June issue of Eating Well with a few changes to make this dish even easier. I added a pop of color by throwing in a handful of thawed green beans from the freezer, and I saved myself the hassle of chopping carrots by using shredded carrots from the grocery store's salad bar. I used garlic powder instead of fresh garlic, and rather than chopping up the fresh herbs, I blended them with the oil and lemon juice to make a velvety, viridescent-speckled vinaigrette. (Plus, doing this keeps the mint leaves from turning brown.) I also decreased the oil, as I've found most bean salad recipes too greasy for my taste. Some of the Moroccan-inspired ingredients may seem a bit strange, but they all work together to make an intriguing, exotic flavor combination that will make eaters think, "Oooh, what is that?" And I can imagine that once the flavors have a chance to get to know each other in the fridge overnight, they'll taste even better than they did just after meeting!

Click here for a printable recipe.

You will need:

Salad

  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained thoroughly 
  • 2 15-oz cans beans (I used dark red kidney beans and black eyed peas), rinsed and drained thoroughly 
  • 1 cup chopped green beans (feel free to thaw them from a freezer-aisle bag)
  • 1 cup shredded carrot

Vinaigrette 

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder (If you can find roasted garlic powder, it really pumps up the flavor)
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp cumin

Steps:

  1. Place the salad ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Starting with the parsley and mint leaves, place all vinaigrette ingredients in a wide-mouthed mason jar or the bowl of a food processor. If using a jar, use an immersion blender to blend all ingredients until smooth; otherwise, blend the vinaigrette in a food processor. Once the vinaigrette is smooth, pour it over the salad ingredients and toss gently. Taste to see if more salt is needed. (I needed more because all three cans of beans were sodium-free.) Serve cold or at room temperature.

So to sum up, this recipe doesn't require any heat for cooking, it's super quick to make, it's vegan, and it's gluten-free. I can't think of a better #Sundaysalad or potluck dish!