Cauliflower hummus (vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, legume-free)

Looking for something revolutionary to do with that head of cauliflower in your fridge?  Try making hummus, swapping in cauliflower for the usual chickpeas.  Really. There’s no way to convince you until you just do it.

Inspired by a recipe from the cookbook Brassicas: Cooking the World’s Healthiest Vegetables.

  • cauliflower, coarsely chopped
  • garlic, chopped
  • tahini
  • olive oil
  • fresh lemon juice
  • salt or green olives, chopped
  • chile powder or cayenne
  • vegetable broth, water, or a few cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
  • cilantro or parsley leaves
  • toasted sunflower seeds
  • green onions, thinly sliced
  • toasted tortillas broken into chips or store-bought tortilla chips
  • crudités (such as carrots, celery, fennel, kohlrabi, sweet peppers, cucumber, etc.)
  1. Steam or microwave the cauliflower until tender. Spread on a kitchen towel to bring to room temperature. Transfer to a food processor and whirl until finely chopped. Add the garlic, tahini, oil, lemon juice, salt or green olives, and chile powder or cayenne and whirl until thick and creamy, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl. If the hummus is too dry, add vegetable broth, water, or the tomatoes and continue processing until smooth. Add the cilantro or parsley and whirl until chopped.
  2. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl. Stir in the sunflower seeds and green onions. Serve with chips and crudités or however you serve hummus.

Herby + spicy blender green sauce (vegan, gluten-free)

Don’t know what to do with some fresh herbs lurking in the fridge or growing in your kitchen garden? Here’s a no-cook, very versatile topping to perk up a bowl of soup or a pasta or rice dish. Great also as a spread on a taco or pita pocket. For a little more substance, blend in some chickpeas or hummus.

  • slivered toasted almonds
  • toasted pine nuts
  • garlic, sliced
  • homemade vegetable broth or water
  • mixed fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley, dill, oregano, sage, thyme, mint, and rosemary), coarsely chopped
  • jalapeño chile, coarsely chopped
  • jarred capers, with or without their brine
  • lettuce leaves of choice (such as romaine, green leaf, or red leaf), coarsely chopped

In a blender, place the almonds, pine nuts, and garlic with a splash of broth. Blend until coarsely ground. Add the herbs, jalapeño, capers, and lettuce and blend together, adding more broth to make it creamy. Taste and adjust the flavor, adding more lettuce if too spicy.

Roasted sweet pepper spread with walnuts + tahini (vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free)

Although great to enhance pizza/pasta sauce, to top bowls of soup, rice, and noodles, or on its own as a dip, this spread will likely find other ways to become part of your repertoire. Look for a brand of roasted peppers that are seasoned with salt, garlic, and olive oil, such as Trader Joe’s brand; otherwise, consider adding those seasonings to the ingredients below. Inspired by a post on the Green Kitchen Stories blog.

  • jarred roasted red and/or yellow peppers, preferably Trader Joe’s brand Fire-Roasted Yellow & Red Peppers (see note)
  • walnuts
  • almond meal or almond flour
  • tahini
  • ground cumin
  • jalapeño chile, chopped (optional)
  • tomato, chopped
  • nutritional yeast (optional)
  1. In a blender, add the roasted red peppers, a handful of walnuts, some almond meal, a couple of tablespoons tahini, some ground cumin, jalapeño, tomato, and nutritional yeast. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed.
  2. Taste and adjust the seasonings to suit your palate.

Fresh herb + toasted-nut spread (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

Once you make this spread, you’ll find a ton of uses for it: on sandwiches, crackers, or rice cakes; in tacos; to flavor a bowl of soup or salad; as a pasta sauce. Use about twice as much basil as mint and oregano, and if you have any leftover mild-flavored cooked vegetables lurking in the fridge, blend them with the other ingredients.  Inspired by a recipe from Julie Piatt’s This Cheese Is Nuts!

  • fresh basil leaves
  • fresh mint leaves
  • fresh oregano leaves
  • cooked vegetables, such as greens, zucchini, or cauliflower, drained (optional)
  • toasted macadamia nuts
  • toasted pine nuts
  • nutritional yeast
  • small tomato, chopped, or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • pitted green olives, olive tapenade, or salt

In a food processor or blender, layer the fresh herbs, cooked vegetables, nuts, and nutritional yeast. Process until coarsely blended, adding tomato pieces or halves until the mixture reaches your desired consistency (if you don’t have tomato, use water). Blend in olives, olive tapenade, or your favorite salt and serve.

Creamy avocado-hummus dip or sandwich spread (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Just in time for Super Bowl 50, here’s an easy dip that uses avocados in a different way from your standard guacamole. Any extra is great stuffed in tacos, spread on sandwiches, or stirred into a bowl of soup or stew.

  • ripe avocados
  • store-bought or homemade plain or flavored hummus
  • one or more seasonings (optional)
    • thinly sliced green onion
    • dried or fresh chopped oregano
    • freshly ground black pepper
  • tortilla chips, crackers, or rice cakes
  • crudités (such as carrots, celery, sweet peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, and sugar snap peas)
  • salsa (optional)
  1. Scoop out the flesh of the avocados and put in a bowl. Mash with a fork. Stir in the hummus and any optional seasonings.
  2. Serve with chips and crudités with a bowl of salsa alongside.

Tomatoey Romano bean spread (gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, vegetarian)

Romano beans are a snap bean similar to green beans but are flat, long, very crunchy, and sweet. Beware: They are addictive, whether eaten raw, steamed, roasted, or in a spread like this one. Serve this spread to friends with the usual dipping suspects (tortilla chips, cucumber spears, sweet pepper strips, carrot sticks) and your friends will be shocked when you tell them it’s green beans!

  • unpeeled garlic cloves
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • whole cherry tomatoes or regular chopped tomatoes
  • Romano beans or other fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • chopped parsley leaves
  1. Put the unpeeled garlic cloves in a large dry pan over medium heat and cook without turning for a minute or so. Turn and cook until brown spots appear on all sides and the cloves start to soften. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool. Peel and chop.
  2. Warm some oil in the same pan. Add the tomatoes and cook, covered, over medium heat until soft and saucy. Add the beans and a pinch of salt, cover, and cook until soft. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the parsley and remove from the heat.
  3. Use an immersion or regular blender and whirl the mixture until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Creamed corn with potatoes, peppers + fresh basil (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

Savory and sweet, this recipe makes a tasty side dish, a dip for chips, or a sandwich spread on tortillas or toast.

  • extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil
  • onion, chopped
  • potatoes, chopped
  • green chiles (such as Anaheim or jalapeño) or sweet peppers
  • kosher salt
  • ears of fresh corn, unhusked
  • chile powder
  • turmeric powder
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • fresh basil leaves, slivered
  • hot sauce or Sriracha chili sauce (optional)
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and cook until just softened. Stir in the potatoes, peppers, and a sprinkle of salt and cook until vegetables are cooked through.
  2. Meanwhile, microwave the unhusked ears of corn until steaming or steam or boil the husked ear of corn, 2 to 3 minutes for either method. Let cool some, husk if needed, then using a box grater, grate the kernels into a bowl. Use the back of a knife to scrape off all of the kernels and the corn “milk” from the cobs. Compost the cobs and add the corn to the pan with the vegetables. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.
  3. Using an immersion blender, or in batches in a regular blender, blend the vegetables to the consistency you prefer, adding water or your favorite kind of unsweetened milk. Stir in the spices, pepper, fresh basil, and hot sauce. Season to taste with salt and serve warm or at room temperature.

Chickpea spread—savory and sweet

I enjoy chickpea spread with vegetables mixed in—see my post about adding steamed broccoli to hummus. This version was inspired by the fresh beets and cooked chickpeas waiting for me in the fridge. Don’t be surprised by the lovely color of this spread!

Chickpea spread with beets and olives

For a quick version, whirl the cooked beets, olives, and herbs, and mix in your favorite prepared hummus.

I prefer Chioggia or golden beets because they don’t bleed and aren’t as fibrous as red beets, but any beets will work. There’s no need to wash, scrub, or peel the beets because the skins slide off easily after the beets are cooked.

  • beets
  • cooked chickpeas
  • tahini (sesame paste)
  • lemon juice
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • pitted green olives with pickling liquid as needed or olive tapenade
  • garlic (optional)
  • fresh herbs, such as parsley, thyme, chervil, cilantro, basil, tarragon, dill, oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Cut beets in half. Put in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, covered, over medium-high heat. Cook until easily pierced with a fork. Pour off cooking water, keeping beets in the pan. Cover beets with cold water to cool beets quickly. Rub beets to remove their skins.
  2. Whirl beets, chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, oil, olives, garlic (if using), and your choice of fresh herbs. Adjust seasonings and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Briny, nutty, and spicy pesto

Big, bold bunches of basil are prominent at the farmers’ market now, so we moved pesto-making to the top of our culinary to-do list.

Here is a pesto that has briny olives instead of parmesan and pecans instead of pine nuts. The arugula (thanks, Zelda!) adds an herby-spicy, green quality, and there’s a jalapeño for a little heat.

How to use pesto? In salad dressing, on eggs, and in vegetable, bean, pasta, and rice dishes either at the stove or at the table.

Spicy pesto with arugula, olives, and pecans

  • garlic, coarsely chopped
  • raw, unsalted pecans
  • jalapeño, coarsely chopped
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • pitted green olives, such as Manzanilla
  • basil leaves
  • arugula leaves
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Whirl the garlic, pecans, jalapeño, oil, and olives along with some of their brine in a food processor until puréed.
  2. Add basil and arugula and whirl until smooth. Adjust flavors, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Really green pesto

Two bunches of spinach were calling my name from the fridge. Just last week I made a wilted spinach salad with roasted cauliflower, so I wasn’t inspired to make another salad for dinner. But I did have fresh basil and pine nuts. To make a tasty vegan pesto without garlic and parmesan cheese was a challenge I felt motivated to take. Here’s the outcome.

Pesto with spinach, parsley, and green olives

This pesto has your standard basil, pine nuts, and olive oil. What makes this version different: Spinach increases the green-vegetable flavor, parsley and green olives add tang, the tomato offers subtle depth, the sunflower seeds make it richer, and the chile produces a hint of heat. Using the pesto: with pasta, eggs, rice, leftovers, tortillas.

  • basil leaves, torn
  • fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
  • parsley, coarsely chopped
  • pitted green olives
  • fresh tomato, chopped
  • toasted pine nuts
  • toasted sunflower seeds
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sriracha chili sauce, chile powder, chopped jalapeño, or your favorite hot sauce (optional)
  • salt
  • pepper
  1. Whirl the basil, spinach, parsley, olives, and tomato in a food processor. Add water, broth, or liquid from the olive jar as needed. When fully ground, whirl in pine nuts and sunflower seeds.
  2. Add a drizzle of olive oil to help the pesto hang together and chile heat if using. Whirl to incorporate. Adjust seasonings and season to taste with salt and pepper.