Crostini Trio

I’ve always loved sandwiches–one of my favorite memories is going to visit my Grandparents and Aunt and cousins for a couple weeks every summer, and the first thing we did after tumbling out of the hot and sticky East Coast summer car was run into my Grandparent’s kitchen and pull out all the sandwich fixings.  Rye and pumpernickel breads, crispy, cool lettuce, lunch meats and cheeses, mustard and mayonnaise.  I’ve always regarded the sandwich as a comfort food and associated it with happy times.

Oh, Sandwich!  Such melodrama!

I decided to make a trio of crostini one Saturday–little pan-fried bread slices topped with three different toppings.  Maybe it was due to my having just run a 12-mile trail run, and my husband cycling 40 miles around a mountain, but this meal was a smashing success!  One crostini {crostino?} topped with a cannellini bean spread with fresh cucumber slices; one topped with creamy guacamole with olive oil tomatoes; one topped with pistachio basil pesto with fried potato rounds.  These toppings are simple enough for a family gathering, or sophisticated enough for a dinner party.

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This was a perfect meal for the two of us {although I admit we ate as much as a dinner party would have}.  We treated the pan-fried breads like tortilla chips and dipped away!  I have to warn you–if you ever come over for chips and dip, or crostini, for that matter–we liberally and unabashedly double dip.

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CANNELLINI BEAN SPREAD WITH CUCUMBER SLICES

  • Servings: makes 1 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 15oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 3 mini sweet cucumbers, finely sliced
  • 1 baguette, if serving as crostini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Smash the Cannellini beans with a fork or a potato smasher to a rough paste.  Add the lemon zest and juice and parsley, salt and pepper to taste, and a swirl or two of olive oil.  Stir together and serve with breadsticks, crackers, or crostini.
  2. To make crostini, slice a baguette on the bias.  Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400F oven until browned on each side, or pan fry in a skillet with olive oil, turning until each side is golden.

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CREAMY GUACAMOLE WITH OLIVE OIL TOMATOES

  • Servings: makes 1 1/2 cups
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1 avocado, peeled and pit removed
  • 1/4 cup red onion, very finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, green ends finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes
  • 1 baguette, if serving as crostini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Smash the avocado with a fork or potato smasher to a rough paste.  Add the red onion through the lime zest and juice and gently stir together.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  2. For the olive oil tomatoes, slice the grape tomatoes in half or in quarters, if they are larger in size, and place in a small bowl.  Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, and stir.
  3. To serve with crostini, slice a baguette on the bias.  Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400F oven until browned on each side, or pan fry in a skillet with olive oil, turning until each side is golden.

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PISTACHIO BASIL PESTO WITH FRIED POTATO ROUNDS

  • Servings: makes 1 cup pesto
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pistachios
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 2-3 small red, white, or yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 baguette, if serving as crostini

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender, add salt and pepper to taste and start with 3 tablespoons of olive oil.  Pulse the blender until slightly mixed, clean the sides of the blender with a spatula, and blend again, adding more olive oil while blending until the pesto comes together in a smooth consistency.
  2. Slice the potatoes very thinly.  Coat a large skillet with olive oil and heat to medium-high.  Place the potato slices in a single layer in the skillet, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and pan fry until golden on each side.
  3. To serve with crostini, slice the baguette on the bias.  Brush with olive oil and bake in a 400F oven until browned on each side, or pan fry in a skillet with olive oil, turning until each side is golden.

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Balance and Oodles of Noodles

Sometimes life just takes over, doesn’t it?  For the past three months I have felt like I need an extra 5 hours in a day, at the very least, to accomplish my To-Do List.  In some ways it feels whittled down, and in other ways it’s only grown.  One of my first college roommates was a powerhouse of activity, attention to detail, and living life with such clear direction.  She lives this way still–a woman with such purpose!  She recently shared a quote from a book I’ve never read, but was struck enough by the quote to feel like I need to figure out a bit more focus and purpose.

“We fool ourselves if we think balance means giving equal attention to everything in our lives.  Balance only happens in dynamic tension.  Balance is giving not equal but appropriate attention to each of the various categories of your life.”  {-Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy in “Living Forward”}

Children seem to naturally give not equal but appropriate attention to the various categories of their life, and let all else go.  Before Mile-Long To-Do Lists and Adult-Sized Responsibilities you only had a clear Hope of the What-Could-Be.  And What Could Be was huge.  It could be anything.  How bright and how simple.

My mom once made us Oodles of Noodles, served in our very fine china with painted red, white, and yellow flowers and gold around the rim of the bowls.  {Was Top Ramen once called Oodles of Noodles?}  I cradled the tiny tea bowl in my hands and felt like I’d just been served the dinner of a king.  All those noodles!  In such a fancy bowl!  Just for me!

This bowl of Coconut Lime Soup with Forbidden Rice and Sweet Potato Noodles won’t make your To-Do List magically disappear, but with nutty forbidden rice, sweet potato noodles, hot peppers and chile sauce, zippy lime juice, cool cilantro, and creamy coconut milk, it will make you feel like a giddy kid with a What-Could-Be possibility.

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Here’s your super quick view of ingredients.  10 items.  No, 11 items, including vegetable stock.  That’s all you need to feel like a king!

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And a noodler.  My brother was nice enough to send this to me and I’ve LOVED making oodles of noodles of all sorts!  First peel the sweet potato, slice off the ends, use the petite-est noodle blades, and noodle away.

sweet potato noodles 2

sweet potato noodles 3

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COCONUT LIME SOUP WITH FORBIDDEN RICE AND SWEET POTATO NOODLES

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
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INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 cup forbidden rice
  • 1 medium to large sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper
  • 1-2 diced red jalapeño pepper (seeds and ribs may be used or discarded, depending on how much heat you like)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1-3 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (depending on how much heat you like)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 15oz can of coconut milk
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3 green onions, sliced on the diagonal

DIRECTIONS

  1. Prepare the rice according to package directions.
  2. Prepare the sweet potato.  Peel it and slice off the ends to get flat surfaces.  Attach to the noodler and using the finest setting, turn the whole sweet potato into fine noodles.
  3. Coat the bottom of a large stockpot with olive oil and heat to medium.  Sauté the peppers, garlic, ginger, and Sambal Oelek quickly, until you can smell the garlic and chiles.  Add the vegetable stock and coconut milk,  and let come to a gentle boil.  Add the sweet potato noodles and let simmer until the noodles are tender, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the lime juice, cilantro, and green onions.
  5. To serve, evenly divide the noodles and broth between four bowls, divide the rice in fourths and scoop one fourth into each bowl.  Garnish with extra fresh cilantro, green onions, and fresh lime slices.

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