Basic Bowl

Basic BowlTo be honest, this is just a template. A tasty template, but one that is open to countless variations. This is a bowl of rice and beans with various accoutrements. It’s very satisfying, tasty, and nutritious, and we love it!

Basic rice and bean bowl ingredients.

Clockwise from top left: lettuce, crispy tofu, black bean chili, fresh tomato, yummy sauce, green salsa, avocado chunks, brown rice, and black olives in the center.

Serves 3-4

1 cup brown rice
1/2 tsp salt

2 cans black beans
1″ chipotle chilies in adobo sauce
1/4 tsp salt

14-16 oz firm tofu
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 tsp onion powder
2 tsp nutritional yeast
cooking spray

yummy sauce
salsa (home-made or commercial)
lettuce, shredded
fresh tomato, diced
black olives, halved
fresh cilantro to garnish
1 avocado

Put the rice in a saucepan with double the volume of water (2 cups) and 1/2 tsp of salt, and put to one side to soak for at least 1/2 hour.

Cover the rice, bring to a simmer, and cook until almost all the water has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, leave the rice covered to finish cooking in its own steam.

Drain the black beans into a blender. Put the beans in a medium sized saucepan, and the chipotle chilies and salt in the blender with the bean juice.
Blend the bean juice, then pour it into the saucepan with the beans and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat, and allow to steep.

Cut the tofu into 1/2″ cubes, put in a mixing bowl, and dry the surface of the tofu with a couple of paper towels. Sprinkle the salt, pepper, onion powder, and nutritional yeast over the tofu, toss to coat. Bring a grill/broiler up to high heat. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray, add the tofu, and place ~6″under the grill/broiler. Toss around on the baking sheet at intervals to encourage even browning, until the tofu is crispy on most sides.

Assemble the bowls: Put a quarter of the rice in each bowl, top with a quarter of the drained beans. Put a large splash of the salsa across one side of the beans, and a large splash of the yummy sauce on the other. Arrange the lettuce, tomato, black olives, cilantro and avocado slices on top.


SouthWestern Salad

South Western SaladSunshine! Spring is showing its face here in the Pacific NorthWest, and it is far too warm to resist the urge to make salad, today. I’ve made variations of this salad over the last year, but I’ve finally come to the conclusion that less is more when it comes to the dressing for this flag-bearer of a salad. Here we have the quintessential SouthWestern ingredients, all dressed in little more than the sharp floral flavors of fresh squeezed lime. If you love avocado the way we do, add an additional one (in cubes) to the salad before using the final one to decorate the top. I’ve not given a quantity for the chili, as different chilis have such a variation in heat, and different people have such a variation in desire for heat. You should add enough chili to just feel the heat, here, but not overpower all the other flavors. I’ve been using 1-3 tsp of minced, fresh/frozen Hatch chilis, which seems to be about right for my family.

Serves 4 as a main course salad or 8 as a side

1 cup frozen sweet corn, defrosted
2 14oz tins of black beans, drained
minced fresh chili, to taste
2 spring onions, cleaned
7-8 small red/yellow/orange bell peppers
3 salad tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
juice of 1/2 a fresh lime (or more, to taste)
1 small head cos/romaine lettuce
1 large avocado (or 2, if your budget copes with it)

Mix the corn and black beans together in a large bowl.

Stir the minced chili into the beans.

Slice the spring onions on the diagonal into 1/2″ pieces, and the bell peppers, and tomatoes into cubes.

Mix these into the corn and beans, stir in the chopped cilantro, and dress with the lime juice.

Rip the bigger leaves of the cos/romain lettuce into bite-sized pieces and form all the lettuce into a bed in a large (or individual) bowl/s.

Pile the bean mixture onto the lettuce bed, decorate with the avocado, and squeeze some additional lime over the top, if desired.

Serve as is, or with tortilla chips or in GF tortilla shells.

Kale and edamame salad

O.K., I know that this is going to sound gruelingly virtuous, but this salad is actually really rather good. The kale has a fairly astonishing nutritional profile, but it can have a rather assertive flavor, too, so I wanted a dressing that would tame it somewhat. I experimented with various dressings (including orange mayonnaise!), but in the end fell back on my old reliable vinaigrette, and really that’s all that it needed.


Kale, edamame, cranberry, and brussels sprout salad. Healthy, filling, and loaded with nutrients! A real tonic for the post-holiday season fallout.

Although the ingredients don’t look as if they make much salad, this is one of those strangely filling foods that demand time taken to eat. I munch on this and feel as if I’ve (temporarily) joined the ranks of those virtuous salad eaters that you see sitting outside cafes on a sunny lunch time, making one feel like a nutritional neanderthal with no willpower to resist <insert addictive food substance here>. However, I don’t feel unhappily virtuous when I eat it. Sliced brussels sprouts are surprisingly sweet and tasty, raw, and the cranberries give intermittent pockets of intensity against the generally green tasting background of the kale. The salad dressing moistens and brings it all together.

For a bit of variation (or if you’re a little wary of kale), substitute finely sliced white cabbage (the stuff used for making coleslaw) for half of the kale.

Serves 4 as a side salad

2 recipes of slightly sweetened vinaigrette
2 cups (16 fl oz) kale
10 brussels sprouts
8 oz edamame (fresh, shelled, soy beans)
1 cup (8 fl oz) dried cranberries

Use a sharp knife to strip the kale greenery off any stalks; discard the stalks, and finely slice the green.

Clean the sprouts, and slice.

Toss all ingredients together in a large salad bowl, and serve.

Orange, Cranberry, and Walnut Salad

California is in the clutches of a drought, even by our normal standards. Humidity levels have been down below 20% for ages, and temperatures are hovering around the 80’s (26-32C). We’ve had less than 1/3 of our normal rainy season precipitation ….. so we’re eating salads.

There’s something rather attractive about this leafy salad, speckled with gold and crimson fruit. It’s a good salad for warmer, late winter days, when oranges are fresh off the trees.

Orange, Cranberry, and Walnut Salad with black olive hummus.

Orange, Cranberry, and Walnut Salad with black olive hummus.

1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp orange muscat champagne vinegar (or this homemade version)
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 – 3 oz baby lettuce leaves
2 oranges
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts (lightly candied, if liked)

Vigorously beat together the garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and maple syrup with a fork to make an emulsion.

Wash and dry the lettuce, and put into a large bowl.

Peel the oranges, cut the flesh into dice, and mix with the cranberries and walnuts.

Add half the fruit/nuts to the lettuce with half of the dressing, and toss with hands or salad servers to combine.

Sprinkle the remainder of the fruit/nuts and dressing over the top, and serve immediately.

Mala Femmina

Autumn is hanging on by its fingernails here in California. We’re still having gloriously sunny days (with the odd showery one), and cool nights. It’s a very short season, being only about 4 – 6 weeks long, so I don’t think it will be more than another couple of weeks before I’ll be wanting to light the fire in the family room. However, as yet, it’s not too late to be eating salads. There’s nothing quite like a looming deadline for motivation!

This is a salad version of Pasta Puttanesca.


Gluten free vegan pasta salad.

4 salad tomatoes
6 – 8 oz dry GF penne pasta
2 tbsp olive oil
2-3 tbsp finely chopped onion
2 medium sized cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp capers, drained and roughly chopped
3/4 cup (~30) black olives, halved
~14 large basil leaves, torn to small shreds

Cook the pasta in plenty of  salted water according to packet instructions, until just cooked, but not fragile.

While the pasta is boiling, use a sharp knife to make a small gash in the skin of each of the tomatoes; use a slotted spoon to add the tomatoes to the boiling pasta water for about 60 seconds each, so that their skins start to peel back from the gash.

Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water with the slotted spoon, and peel off (and discard) the skins (which should pretty much slip off on their own).

Dice the tomato flesh.

When the pasta is cooked, drain it, and toss gently in a large bowl with the olive oil.

Add the remaining ingredients; stir to combine.

Check for salt, adjust if necessary. If your stomach can stand it, you can drizzle this with a little more olive oil.

Refrigerate until required (this can help the flavors develop), but no more than about an hour, as you don’t want the basil to go brown.

Tangy Broccoli and Cranberry Salad

It was a hot day, today. Humid too, so I couldn’t mess with the oven even though I’ve been working on a new bread recipe this week (my freezer is getting quite full, since I’m making the stuff faster than my diet will let me eat it). However, it was a good excuse to trot out another salad recipe, and I do need more salads. Now, I’m not so keen on raw broccoli, but anywhere from lightly steamed to soft works well with me and mine. If you happen to like raw broccoli, then feel free to skip the broccoli cooking step.

This salad is quick to make, and pretty substantial. It’s slightly tangy, slightly sweet because of the cranberries, and a nice mixture of crunchy (pinenuts and broccoli) and chewy (cranberries). The lettuce dilutes the pretty strong flavors of the other ingredients.

Serves 3 – 6

Broccoli salad

Click the picture to get a close-up!

1/2 – 1 tsp salt
12 oz (~3 cups) broccoli florets
1/2 cup cranberries
1/2 cup pine nuts or slivered almonds

1/2 cup mayonnaise (vegan if required)
1 tsp lemon juice (& zest of 1/2 lemon, optional)
1/2 tsp mustard
shake of cayenne
1 tbsp honey (omit for vegan, add 1 tsp sugar)
dash of garlic powder
1 tsp chickpea or other light cheezy miso

1 head romaine (cos) lettuce, shredded

In a large saucepan, bring 1/2” water with the salt to a boil. Add the broccoli florets, cover, and steam for 2-3 minutes until the broccoli just starts to turn bright green, but retains some bite in the stems.

Drain the broccoli very well (to stop the water from diluting the dressing – cooling for 1/2 hour in a colander works).

Combine the salad dressing ingredients in a large salad bowl. Add the steamed broccoli, dried fruit, and nuts and toss to combine.

Serve immediately on a bed of shredded lettuce.

Fingerling Potato Salad

Potato and chickpea saladI thought this mixture up while lying in bed wondering what to make my daughters for school lunch, taking into consideration that it was going to be hot today. They’d already had rice salad this week, and anything that involved using the food processor was out, because everyone else was still asleep. What I ended up with was a robust salad (man enough to stand up to the 3 or 4 hours of back pack storage), with an interesting balance of piquancy (from the olives and roasted red peppers) and mild heartiness from the potatoes and garbanzo beans / chickpeas.

If you want to make this vegan, try substituting agave nectar or maple syrup for the honey, and use a different mild flavored mustard (check for wheat at the same time as checking for honey).

1 – 1 1/2 lb fingerling potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp salad vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 – 3 tsp honey mustard
1 tbsp honey (optional)
1 green (spring) onion or equivalent red onion, finely sliced
1/2 – 1 tin garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
1/2 cup black olives, sliced in half
1/4 cup minced sun-dried tomatoes (drained).
1 large roasted red pepper, seeds removed, and diced (OR equivalent of baby tomatoes OR 1/4 cup more sun-dried tomatoes)

Wash the potatoes, then cut into halves or thirds to get even sized pieces (~1/2″ – 3/4″ across). Boil in lightly salted water until just cooked (but not so soft that they’re falling apart).

Beat together the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, honey mustard, and honey in a salad bowl.

Stir in the garbanzo beans.

As soon as the potatoes are cooked, drain them, and add to the salad dressing. Allow to cool.

Stir in the remaining ingredients; chill and serve.