And just like that, the masks are off. Am I the only one who feels like we went from zero to a thousand overnight? It’s so funny to be in a public space and see adults sheepishly looking around like, “Is this ok?” I feel like I’m living in one of my weird dreams where I show up to a party naked.
Also, summer arrived while we were asleep in our flannel pajamas. We went to the beach last week for the first dip of the season, and I am totally here for it.
While marinating on how I feel about masks, the general re-entry into society, and swimsuit season, here are a couple of veggie forward recipes to get some color back in your kitchen after the longest winter ever.
I love a good taco, spring roll, empanada… basically anything that comes in its own handy wrapper. So grab a tortilla and a sheet of rice paper and let’s get rolling…
Sweet Potato Tacos
Adapted from a recipe by the Smitten Kitchen
2 lbs. (about 4 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1-2 teaspoons chili powder (depends on your heat pref)
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1-2 canned chipotle peppers, finely chopped (note: I said 1-2 peppers, not cans!)
12 small or 6 medium corn or flour tortillas
1 15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and smashed
1 lime, cut into wedges
Sliced avocado, pickled red onions, and chopped fresh cilantro for topping
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss sweet potatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, all of the spices, the chipotle peppers and spread evenly onto a lined baking sheet. Roast potatoes for 40-45 minutes tossing once about halfway through baking to evenly crisp.
To assemble: if you have a gas stove, run your tortillas over an open gas flame to char and warm a bit. Or, if you prefer, wrap your tortillas in foil and warm in the oven for a few minutes.
Smear some of the smashed black beans on a tortilla, and then add a large spoonful or two of sweet potatoes and add any or all of the toppings you like. Repeat with all of the tortillas. If you are serving friends, I have folded the tacos a little to wedge them into a casserole dish for serving which helps keep the setup warm a little longer.
My neighbor, Donna, is one of these inherently cool people who can even make food allergies seem sexy. When we go to her house, she serves gluten and dairy free recipes, and you love every minute of it. She made these divine rice paper rolls, and I immediately had to try them too. Donna’s were prettier, so I will keep practicing my rolling technique.
Springtime Rolls with Miso Kale Pesto
Recipe by Hetty McKinnon featured in her beautiful new book: To Asia, With Love
This recipe is vegan and gluten free.
12 asparagus spears, woody ends removed
24 snow/ sugar snap peas, trimmed
8 oz. package of rice vermicelli (you will have leftovers)
Toasted sesame oil
12 rice paper rounds
12 romaine or boston lettuce leaves
1 avocado, sliced into this wedges
Handful of mint leaves
Handful of cilantro leaves
Handful of basil leaves
Miso Kale Pesto:
Half a bunch of kale leaves
1/2 cup of basil leaves
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1/3 cup toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon white (Shiro) miso paste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
Sea salt and black pepper
For the pesto, bring a saucepan of well salted water to boil. Add the kale leaves and blanche for 30-60 seconds just until they are wilted and bright green. Remove from water with tongs, and keep the water for other veggies. Rinse kale under cold water and pat dry.
Roughly chop the kale and place in a food processor or blender. Add the basil, garlic, and seeds and whiz to a paste. Add miso and slowly drizzle in olive oil and lemon juice and zest and blend until combined. Add a little water if the mixture seems thick and whiz again. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
If your asparagus spears are long, snap them in half so they are about 4″ in length. Bring your salted water back to a boil and drop in the asparagus and snow peas and cook for about 1 minute until bright green. Remove and run under cold water.
Add rice vermicelli to the boiling water and cook according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drizzle with a little sesame oil and salt and toss to coat. Set aside.
To assemble the rolls, take a plate that is slightly bigger then the rice paper rounds and add lukewarm water. Working with one wrapper at a time, dunk the rice paper into the water and allow to soften for 30-60 seconds. Don’t let it get too soft, or it will fall apart when you are rolling.
When softened, lay out flat on a cutting board and assemble your filling. Starting with the edge of the rice paper closest to you, layer a piece of lettuce, followed by a small handful of vermicelli, asparagus, snow peas, avocado and herbs. To roll, pull the edge closest to you over the filling, pull it tight to keep everything in place. Fold over once, then fold in the sides and continued to roll until you have a nice tightly bound roll, like a small burrito. Continue with the remaining wrappers and filling.
The recipe calls for you to cut the rolls in half, which would certainly be prettier. Mine fell apart when I did that, so I left them intact and served on a large plate alongside the kale pesto for dipping.
You are going to need something snappy to serve with these colorful recipes. I love a good margarita, but I wanted to try a new twist, so entrée the Paloma.
Salt for rim (I also added a little lime chile salt for an added punch)
2 oz. silver tequila
Squeeze of lime juice
Grapefriut soda, Jarritos would be ideal here, to top
Grapefruit wedge for garnish
Run a lime wedge around the edge of a highball glass. Dip the rim of glass into a plate of salt to coat. Fill glass with ice and add tequila and squeeze of lime. Top with grapefruit soda. Gently stir all ingredients together and garnish glass with grapefruit wedge. Cheers!
My friend, John, and I are currently leading a book study at Christ and Holy Episcopal Church in Westport. We are talking about this incredible book, The Gravity of Joy, by Angela Williams Gorrell. This memoir moved me more than anything I have read in a long time.
The author is a Christian theologian who was leading a course at Yale on the subject of joy when three of her close family members died separately, suddenly, and tragically. She writes about how she found her way back from immense grief to find joy again. One of the most compelling parts of the book is how the author is shown joy and sparks of hope by women she was counseling in a prison. This book addresses drug addiction, suicide, incarceration, and ultimately the power we as humans have to help each other.
This book is told from a Christian perspective, but don’t let that deter you if that’s not your jam. The message is one of love and compassion. We could all use a little of that.
If you happen to be in the area, let me know! I am serving French patisseries out of our VW bus for a book group treat.
Sending you all joyful summer vibes…
Older newsletters can be found HERE.