Summertime Vegetables For Vegetarians, Or Vegetable Lovers

So good. Toasted Quinoa, Corn and Avocado Salad teams nutty quinoa with fresh summer vegetables and a lime-cilantro-jalapeno spiked dressing.

Think vegetarian cooking requires too much time and effort? Have a look at award-winning cookbook author Marie Simmons newest book , “Fresh & Fast Vegetarian” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.95). She has come up with ways to nuance flavors without fiddling around.

Fresh tomatoes, fresh corn kernels, green onions, avocado …

The quinoa is pan-toasted in a smidgen of olive oil, giving it deep flavor and appealing color. The only thing difficult about quinoa is its pronunciation. Quinoa, KEEN-wah, cooks up fast and easy.

Watch the video that Marie and I shot in my  kitchen. Some things to look for – see how she browns the quinoa – see how she takes the kernels off the cobs – see how she toasts the cumin for the dressing. Oh mama, she how she tastes the raw jalapeno, then adds the seeds!

There’s nothing bland or boring about these flavor marriages. How about toothsome buckwheat noodles awash in fresh ginger, tamari and sesame seeds?

“My book is as much for vegetarians as for people who love vegetables,” she says. “Half of the recipes don’t contain cheese or dairy, so they are appropriate for vegan diets.” Simmons is one of the growing numbers of folks who are part-time vegetarians.  For her, the conversion to “mostly vegetarian” has been a gradual slide that happened because those meals taste better. The extra benefit, Simmons says, is that they make her feel better too.

Marie’s tips for saving time and building flavor:
Soak Them: Vegetables that are higher in moisture cook more quickly because their moisture converts to steam, cooking them from the inside out. Place carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, greens, bell peppers or celery in a large bowl, cover with cold water and a handful of ice cubes, and soak for 10 to 20 minutes while you prep the other ingredients.
For onions, thin and lengthwise saves time: The fastest, easiest way to cut an onion is to halve it from stem to blossom end, then peel it. Place it cut side down and cut lengthwise into thin slices. They will separate into crescent-moon-shaped pieces.
Try pan-searing for fast, flavorful results: Heat a cast-iron skillet or other heavy skillet (not nonstick) until it is hot enough to evaporate a drop of water; drizzle with a little olive oil and add the vegetable. Cherry tomatoes and mini bell peppers blister in a couple of minutes and the cooking time is cut in half. Pan-searing at a slightly lower temperature also works well with slices of beet, carrot and winter squash.
Crank it up for high-heat roasting: Preheat oven and a heavy rimmed baking sheet to 450 degrees. Spread oiled, seasoned vegetables on the (heated) pan without crowding them. This technique cuts about 20 minutes from most vegetable roasting times.
Cut vegetables into smaller pieces: Sliced and diced potatoes, for example, cook faster than large pieces.

Toasted Quinoa, Corn and Avocado Salad
Yield: 4 as a main dish or 8 as a side dish
1 1/2 cups white quinoa
1 tablespoon mild-flavored olive oil or other vegetable oil
Jalapeno Dressing:
2 teaspoons ground cumin
5 tablespoons mild-flavored olive oil or other vegetable oil
1/2 cup fresh lime juice, plus more to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped seeded jalapeno chili, plus more to taste
1 garlic clove, grated
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup fresh corn kernels (from about 2 ears)
1 cup diced (1/2 inch) firm, ripe Roma tomatoes
1/2 cup thin-sliced (1/4 inch) green onions (white and green parts)
1 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and diced (1/2 inch)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
Cook’s notes: Use caution when working with fresh chilies; upon completion wash hands and work surface thoroughly and do NOT touch eyes or face.
1. Rinse quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer under cold running water for at least 45 seconds. Shake the strainer to remove as much water as possible.
2. Heat oil in large skillet. Add rinsed quinoa and cook, stirring, over medium heat until it is a light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Cook, covered, over medium-low heat until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is translucent and appears to be uncoiling, 18 to 20 minutes. Let stand, covered, until cool, about 10 minutes.
3. To make dressing: Sprinkle cumin in a small skillet and toast over medium-low heat, until fragrant and a shade darker in color, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. When skillet is cool to the touch, add the oil, lime juice, jalapeno, garlic and salt. Transfer to a large bowl and whisk to blend.
4. Add the cooled quinoa, corn, tomatoes and green onions to the dressing and toss to blend. Spoon the salad onto a large platter and sprinkle the avocado and cilantro on top.
Nutrition information (per serving): 160 calories, 45 percent of calories from fat, 8 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 20 mg cholesterol, 17 g carbohydrates, 4 g protein, 310 mg sodium, 4.8 g fiber
Source: “Fresh & Fast Vegetarian” by Marie Simmons (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.95)

Soba Noodle Salad with Snow Peas
Yield: 4 servings
6 ounces snow peas, cut into 1/4-inch diagonals, about 1 1/2 cups
1 teaspoon coarse salt
12 ounces dry soba noodles, see cook’s notes
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
Dressing:
1/3 cup unseasoned Japanese rice vinegar
1/4 cup mild-flavored extra-virgin olive oil or other vegetable oil
3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, grated
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
4 green onions (white and green parts) cut into thin (1/8 inch) diagonals (about 1/2 cup)
1 medium carrot, finely shredded (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 cup thin matchsticks (1/8- by-1-inch) crisp, seedless cucumber
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, divided use
Cook’s notes Soba are Japanese buckwheat noodles. The dry noodles are available in the Asian specialty section of many supermarkets, packaged in boxes or plastic bags.
1. Bring a medium saucepan three-fourths full of water to a boil. Add snow peas and salt; simmer until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Remove snow peas with slotted spoon or skimmer and place in a bowl of ice water. Add noodles to boiling water and cook until tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Drain noodles in strainer. Rinse with cold water. Transfer noodles to bowl and toss with the sesame oil. Refrigerate until ready to mix with other ingredients.
2. To make the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk rice vinegar, oil, tamari, ginger, garlic and salt until blended.
3. Drain snow peas and pat dry. Add snow peas, green onions, carrot, cucumber, and half of the sesame seeds to soba noodles; toss. Add dressing and toss with your hands to thoroughly blend. Top with remaining sesame seeds. Serve cold.
Nutrition information (per serving): 108 calories, 51 percent of calories from fat, 6 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 47 mg cholesterol, 13 g carbohydrates, 2g protein, 550 mg sodium, 2 g fiber
Source: “Fresh & Fast Vegetarian” by Marie Simmons (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.95)

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