Summer is an interesting season if you’re trying to be VB6. While the bounty of fresh summer produce can all-but make you forget about meat, the smell of backyard grilling makes you crave it. Striking a balance is the key. With that in mind, here are my favorite summery recipes from VB6, some with meat, most without, all delicious.
Baked Falafel with Tahini Sauce
Makes: 8 servings
Time: 45 minutes, plus up to 24 hours to soak chickpeas
Falafel is easy: just soak raw chickpeas until they’re soft enough to grind in the food processor, combine with some spices, shape, and bake. The baking makes lighter falafel, but they’re just as crunchy as deep-fried. This makes a big batch, which is fine, since you can refrigerate the leftovers for several days, or freeze them for a couple of months. To reheat, wrap them in foil and bake at 350°F until they’re hot throughout, 15 to 30 minutes depending on whether they were frozen. Here are some serving suggestions: Make a sandwich with half a whole wheat pita, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other raw vegetables, then drizzle with sauce. Or add lemon juice to the sauce and eat on top of a green salad, using the tahini for dressing.
1¾ cups dried chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 small onion, quartered
1 tablespoon cumin
Scant teaspoon cayenne, or to taste
1 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
1½ teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup tahini
1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with water by 3 or 4 inches—the beans will triple in volume as they soak. Soak for 12 to 24 hours, checking once or twice to see if you need to add more water to keep the beans submerged. (If the soaking time is inconvenient for you, just leave them in the water until they’re ready; you should be able to break them apart between your fingers.)
2. Heat the oven to 375°F. Drain the chickpeas and transfer them to a food processor with the garlic, onion, cumin, cayenne, herb, 1 teaspoon of salt, pepper, baking soda, and lemon juice. Pulse until everything is minced but not pureed, stopping the machine and scraping down the sides if necessary; add water tablespoon by tablespoon if necessary to allow the machine to do its work, but keep the mixture as dry as possible. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or cayenne as needed.
3. Grease a large rimmed baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of the oil. Roll the bean mixture into 20 balls, about 1½ inches each, then flatten them into thick patties. Put the falafel on the prepared pan and brush the tops with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Bake until golden all over, 10 to 15 minutes on each side.
4. Meanwhile, whisk the tahini and remaining salt with ½ cup water in a small bowl until smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve the falafel drizzled with the sauce.
Nutty Falafel Replace ½ cup of the beans with an equal amount of walnuts, almonds, peanuts, or hazelnuts (don’t soak the nuts). Omit the cumin and cayenne and use the cilantro instead of the parsley or try a tablespoon or so of thyme leaves. Proceed with the recipe.
Nutritional Info (with 1 whole wheat pita):
Calories: 502 • Cholesterol: 0mg • Fat: 20g • Saturated Fat: 3g • Protein: 18g • Carbohydrates: 68g • Sodium: 813mg • Fiber: 14g • Trans Fat: 0g • Sugars: 6g
Makes: 4 servings
Time: 15 minutes
Avocados are full of nutrients and good-for-you fat, but they’re also calorie dense, so I like to extend guacamole to turn it into a thick, rich snack with great crunch. Here the avocado is combined with tomato, radishes, and lettuce, but you can use thawed frozen peas or corn, chopped asparagus, jícama, even mango or peaches. Eat with oven-baked corn tortillas, whole-grain crackers, crudités (page 191), or in lettuce cups or on celery sticks.
1 ripe avocado
1 teaspoon minced garlic
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tomato, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
5 or 6 radishes, chopped
1 cup shredded romaine or iceberg lettuce
1 fresh hot chile (like jalapeño), stemmed, seeded, and minced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Black pepper to taste
Mash the avocado in a large bowl until it’s as smooth or chunky as you like. Stir in the remaining ingredients; taste and adjust the seasoning. Eat immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to a day.
(After an hour or so it will start to darken a bit, but will still be fine to eat.)
Double Green Guacamole
Puree the avocado with 4 cups chopped steamed asparagus in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper and serve as directed in the headnote.
Nutritional Info (for the guacamole alone):
Calories: 104.36 • Cholesterol: 0mg • Fat: 7.6g • Saturated Fat: 1g • Protein: 2g • Carbohydrates: 9.9g • Sodium: 497mg • Fiber: 5.6g • Trans Fat: 0g • Sugars: 2.4g
Photo credit: Daniel Meyer