If, like me, Mother's Day is suddenly only days away and you haven't figured out what to serve your friends and family, Anna Thomas, author of Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore* is here to help. Thomas' book takes the modern day dilemma of what to feed a group of people who are all eating--or not eating--different things and offers simple recipe solutions to keep everyone happy. The recipes below are versatile (I love the idea of a Mother's Day picnic!) and I can see myself making them not only this weekend but all summer long.
*Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore was an editors' pick for one of the Best Cookbooks of April
Start with a Spring Market Salad With Farro (p. 114 and below) — robust, lovely, full of seasonal freshness. Make it ahead, serve it for brunch, lunch or dinner. If the weather is nice, take it outside for a picnic. Add a side of some easy smoked salmon from the local fish market, or if you’re feeling ambitious make Gently Baked Salmon with a Parsley Pesto coat (p. 344 and below) for a perfect pairing. Happy Mother’s Day, and happy day after when you get to take the leftovers to work in a fabulous brown bag lunch. -- Anna Thomas
Spring Market Salad with Farro
Serves 8 as a main dish, 10 to 12 in a menu with other foods
This is the centerpiece of my Easter brunch, full of bright spring flavors and satisfying texture. I wanted to use all the new vegetables that called to me at the farmers’ market—asparagus, golden beets, and tender sweet peas—so I did. I tossed in fresh dill, mint, and a good squeeze of lemon for zing, and pecans for a touch of crunch.
Bonus points: This salad can be made a day in advance; it keeps well in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. It’s a big batch because I designed it as a party dish, but leftovers travel easily for a springtime lunch at the office.
1 lb. golden beets (trimmed weight)
4 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3/4 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
1 large fennel bulb (8 oz. trimmed), diced
6 cups cooked farro, from 2 cups semipearled farro (p. 211)
1 1/2 lbs. green asparagus
1 cup shelled sweet peas
1 cup (3 1/2 oz.) chopped toasted pecans or pistachios
1 oz. fresh dill weed, coarsely chopped (1/3 cup)
2 Tbs. slivered fresh mint leaves
3 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs. agave nectar or honey
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375°. Scrub the beets, trim off the stems to 1 inch, and wrap the damp beets in heavy-duty aluminum foil, crimping the foil together to make a packet. Roast the beets for an hour, or longer if needed, depending on the size of the beets. They should be tender enough to be pierced through easily with a fork. Allow the beets to cool, then slip off their skins and cut them into 1/2-inch dice or slender wedges.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick pan and sauté the onion with a pinch of salt over medium heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes. Add the diced fennel, cover the pan, and stir occasionally for 20 to 25 minutes longer, until both the onion and the fennel are tender and light gold in color. Remove from the heat, stir in the cooked farro, and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Snap off the tough ends of the asparagus and cut them on a slant in pieces about 1 inch in length. Steam the asparagus for 2 to 3 minutes, until just barely tender. Steam the peas for about 45 seconds, then refresh with cold water.
Add the beets, asparagus, peas, chopped pecans or pistachios, and herbs to the farro mixture and toss until everything is well combined.
Whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice, agave nectar or honey, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and drizzle over the farro mixture. Grind in as much black pepper as you like, then immediately toss again to distribute the dressing throughout. Serve the salad at cool room temperature.
Gently Baked Salmon with a Parsley Pesto coat
- Serves 4 to 6 as a substantial dish, more if served as an accompaniment to a hearty grain salad or pilaf or a garlicky pasta
This is an easy way to cook salmon and gives excellent results. The fish is baked at a low temperature, and the coat of pesto, that essential smear of something wet, keeps it from drying out. The result is an herb-infused fish that remains moist and tender, similar in texture to a poached salmon. And did I say easy? Serve it as an accompaniment to a grain- or vegetable-based meal, like any tabbouleh variation (pp. 116–17), or Summer Chop Salad with Corn and Pepper Salsa (p. 102)
1–1 1/2 lbs. salmon fillet
extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1/2–3/4 cup Parsley Pesto (p. 56), plus more for the table
Preheat the oven to 325°. Cut the salmon into 4-ounce pieces, or smaller ones as needed—or leave the fillet whole for a dramatic presentation. Pat the salmon dry with paper towels, rub it with a little olive oil, and season it with sea salt and black pepper. Arrange the salmon pieces in an oiled baking dish, skin side down, so they are not touching.
Spread each piece of salmon with a thick, even coat of fresh pesto, about 2 tablespoons per slice. Let the fish rest on the counter for about 20 minutes; this allows the pesto to infuse the fish with its flavor and lets the fish come to room temperature.
Bake the fish for 15 to 20 minutes, until it separates when a sharp knife or fork is inserted into the thickest part. Exact time will depend on the thickness of the fish and its temperature when it goes into the oven.
You can serve the fish on its skin, or slip a spatula between the fish and the skin and easily lift each piece off—a matter of taste. Drop a spoonful of pesto next to each serving, or pass a small bowl of pesto at the table.
Spicy Cilantro and Mint Pesto
Makes about 1 cup
This refreshing pesto has the sting of fresh green serrano chile underlining lively cilantro and mint. You can moderate the level of heat from delicate to chile-head hot by adding more or less of the chile. Use this, or any variation, as a spread for crostini or a happy addition to a sandwich. I also like to smear a generous spoonful of the parsley pesto variation on a piece of salmon before I put it in the oven, then serve more of the pesto at the table.
1–2 cloves garlic
1/2–3/4 tsp. flaky sea salt, less if using fine salt
1/2 cup (3 oz.) whole raw almonds
1/2 cup (2 1/2 oz.) pine nuts
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped (1 1/4 cups, lightly packed; 1 1/4 oz.)
leaves from 1 small bunch fresh mint, chopped (about 1/2 cup, lightly packed; 1/2 oz.)
6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to taste
1–2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2–1 fresh serrano chile, minced
Put the garlic cloves in the food processor and pulse them briefly to mince, then add 1/2 teaspoon salt, the almonds, and the pine nuts and pulse again. When the nuts are pretty well chopped, add the cilantro, mint, and olive oil and pulse until you have a coarse but even mixture.
Add some of the lemon juice and just a little bit of the minced chile. Pulse briefly and taste the pesto, then keep adding more lemon juice, salt, and chile, a bit at a time, pulsing briefly after each addition, until you have the balance you like. A hot chile must be respected—it can be nirvana or it can kill. And remember that sometimes a drop more lemon juice or another pinch of salt brings all the flavors into focus.
Other Ways . . .
For a deep-flavored winter pesto that still carries the sparkle of chile, mint, and cilantro, make a Parsley Pesto: add 2 cups packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves (about 3 ounces) to the herbs, and instead of almonds and pine nuts, use 1/4 cup (1 ounce) walnuts, or more if you want a richer pesto.
And if you have fresh basil and a food processor, it is the work of a moment to make a Basil Pesto, and the fresh flavor is unbeatable. Instead of cilantro and mint, use 2 ounces clean, dry fresh basil leaves and skip the almonds, lemon juice, and chile. Pine nuts to taste.
**Recipes and images from Vegan Vegetarian Omnivore by Anna Thomas. Copyright © 2016 by Independent Productions, Inc. With permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
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