Warm Fennel White Bean Dip with Kale and Parmesan

Food 2013 013 I’m not going to tell you that I’ve been too lazy to keep up the blog lately. Or that my daily routine leaves me tired and uninspired sometimes. I’m not going to tell you that I feel just a teensy bit overwhelmed with planning a wedding or that I like to give my brain a rest with an episode of Scandal most weekdays. Because you don’t wanna hear that complain-y crap!

What I am going to tell you is that I’m back to share recipes with you.

While I’ve been away from voracious for a bit, I’ve still been in the kitchen most days cooking nourishing food to keep us going. I’ve even cooked some especially good things. But I’ve mostly been falling back on dishes that are easy for me to make and aren’t deemed “blog-worthy”.

I’m making a promise to work harder to share the dishes that are coming out of my kitchen with you – because I know that we all need a little inspiration for simple healthy food that tastes good. Or at least I do.

And I’m starting out easy with a dip.

This is a new spin on the old can of white beans. Or bulb of fennel, depending on how you look at it. It’s creamy, dip-able, spreadable and great for sharing. I love the fresh rosemary in this but you could use thyme, parsley, basil or any other herb, really. I’d probably use a bit more when using leafy herbs though.

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Eggplant and Butternut Squash Bake

eggplant and butternut lasagna

I know, I know. I’m the worst.

I haven’t written. I’ve been in a hole of nine-to-five-ing. During the week I’ve been getting up to exercise at 6 am and not getting back home until almost 7 pm.

I’ve been cooking all along, but mostly after the sun is almost gone and there’s no pretty light. The food itself  hasn’t been the cutest. It’s been nourishing combinations of vegetables that don’t necessarily look that great, but it’s exactly what I need.

And eggs. There’s been a lot of eggs consumed.

On the weekends, I’ve been cooking too – and even taking a few pictures of the process. But mentally I’ve just been too lazy to put words to paper/screen. That’s real life.

I’m going to do better. I just need to find a new rhythm to my writing, cooking and photography that fits in with my real person job.

It’s a work in progress, but I’ll get there.

With the late summer and early fall weather we’ve gotten both butternut squash and eggplant in our vegetable delivery box for a few weeks in a row. I’ve cooked these two together in quite a few ways – with Moroccan spices in the slow cooker and roasted on a baking sheet. With quinoa, atop a bed of greens, with lashings of sriracha, and with a poached egg on top.

I would never necessarily think to put these two vegetables together, but they’ve been a surprising hit. They’re meaty and filling, complex and satisfying – the butternut squash brings a sweetness and the eggplant, an earthiness.

I thought about calling this a pasta-less lasagna but I landed on Vegetable Bake. The layering aspect along with the ricotta, pesto and tomato sauce is totally reminiscent of lasagna, but calling a pasta-based dish pasta-less is just straight up inconsiderate.

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Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Pasta Salad

sundried tomato pasta salad #voraciousvander

This pasta salad is summer. It’s backyard barbecues and days at the beach.

I hated summer camp as a kid. Loved summer (duh), hated summer camp. I went to one of those day camps with my best friend at the local high school. I mean, we were in a school during the summer – what’s that about?

We spent our days trying to avoid playing volleyball and kickball and sitting around in our overalls, making friendship bracelets and talking about which Now and Then character we were. The highlight of my day was getting a frozen Snickers or a Gatorade from the vending machine.

Another thing I always looked forward to was lunch (yes, some things are very much the same.) I think my mom knew I hated camp, (I may have made it painfully obvious. In fact, that may have been the summer I perfected my signature eye roll.) so she sent me off with some extra special lunches in the summer months. Ones like this one, that I still think about.

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Pea and Zucchini Farro Salad

There are some things that I really wish I was interested in. Like cricket, football or the stock market.

This is mostly because I like to have something to say about everything, but when these topics are brought up…I’ve got nothin’.

I also really wish I was into astrology. Like, actually believed in it.

I’ve tried…I started reading my Astrology Zone forecast at the beginning of the month and have managed to find some tenuous links between what was predicted for me and my fellow lionesses and what has actually happened. But my trusty internal skeptic is kind of a loud-mouthed biatch.

I am, however, beginning to fully buy this Mercury in retrograde business.

For the past few weeks I’ve been seriously struggling in the inspiration and writing departments. While this is probably due to a number of other, more earthly things, I’m going to go ahead and blame it on an astrological issue.

If you’re looking to make excuses for your poor communication skills over the past few weeks, read more about this MIR beast here or here.

Something good that’s come out of these chilly July days is my daily reinvention of the warm salad.

Healthy, satisfying and endlessly adaptable – it makes the perfect lunch or slack dinner if you’ve got access to a large skillet. I’ve been using lots of warm grains, wilt-able greens (like kale and spinach), and quick cooking vegetables (like corn, zucchini and snow peas.)

This salad was one of my favorites – a nod to the summer weather in the northern hemisphere with the zucchini and peas, but served on the warm side to keep me toasty on cool Sydney winter days. If fresh peas aren’t an option, frozen work fine too.

It’s a simple combination, but the Parmesan and a generous amount cracked pepper really give it that extra (boom boom) pow.

Put an egg on it to make it a dang fine meal.

Pea and Zucchini Farro Salad

– 1 cup cooked farro
– 1 tablespoon olive oil
– 2 medium zucchini, grated on a box grater
– 1 cup shelled peas (or frozen and thawed)
– 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
– salt, to taste
– a liberal amount of fresh ground pepper

To cook farro: place 1 cup farro in a pot with 2 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook, covered for about 15-20 minutes until tender and little chewy. Remove from heat and let stand for about 5 minutes.

If using fresh peas, blanch them first in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and run under cool water. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large pan over a medium high heat. Add grated zucchini and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring for 2 minutes until the zucchini is heated through and softened. Stir in peas and cook for 1 minutes.

Stir in farro. If the farro is room temperature or cold, cook for 1-2 minutes until warmed through.

Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan and heaps of cracked pepper. Serve warm, at room temp or cold.

Roasted Red Pepper, Chili and Cashew Dip

A fun fact about me: I am a huge klutz. Like, textbook definition of clumsy, uncoordinated, and awkward. It’s kind of unfortunate.

I’m terrible at all sports, so I generally try to stay away from those.

Other things are not so easily avoided. I knock over full cups of liquid almost daily, I carelessly cut and burn myself while cooking (we need to keep a first aid kit in the kitchen), and I knock my shin into the bedpost pretty much every time I walk past it.

Family members sarcastically call me Grace.

I’ve tripped while jogging, resulting in serious cuts on my hands and knees. Which was pretty painful and embarrassing. I did that twice. The second time, I cut and scraped the exact. same. places. WHO DOES THAT?

Gauche. So gauche.

Something I cannot manage to screw up: this dip. Pantry staples + food processor = accomplishment without injury (thanks, largely in part, to the advanced safety features on my food processor.)

The sweet and smokey peppers, the crunchy sweetness of the cashews, and the salty Parmesan are tied together perfectly by the chili. You can control the spiciness with the amount of chili paste you use. A half a tablespoon is a good place to start. I used a whole tablespoon – which gives it a definite edge without overwhelming the whole operation.

Dip it, spread it, mix it. It’s excellent with eggs, roasted veggies, toast, avocado, rice or quinoa, on crackers or pitas, with chicken or fish…you get the idea.

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper and Cashew Dip
– 3-4 large whole roasted red peppers (or 1 cup of chopped roasted red peppers)
– 1/3 cup toasted, unsalted cashews, roughly chopped
– 1 tablespoon chili paste
– 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
– sea salt, to taste

Combine ingredients in a food processor and blitz until everything is finely chopped but not completely pureed. Adjust seasoning. Store in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Cashews: You could use dry roasted or raw cashews and toast them yourself.
To toast: place cashews in a dry pan over a medium-low heat for about 5 minutes, tossing frequently, until golden. Allow to cool before using.