Rice bowls are starting to be a big thing these days, and there's a good reason. Take something a little saucy, something with some great texture, something with protein or some bite to it, arrange on top of rice, add the condiments of your choice, and enjoy your healthy, delicious, and filling meal! And you can keep all the components in the fridge for easy assembly whenever you like.
Here we have a burrito/fish taco hybrid. Start with healthy brown rice, top with some black beans that are simmered with aromatics that really bring out their great flavor and texture, toss in some beautifully-spiced roasted butternut squash cubes, place a piece of crispy, pan-seared tilapia seasoned with Vanns Organic Taco Seasoning on top, then add not one but two kinds of fresh homemade salsa.
This recipe is ridiculously simple, but also completely unexpected. A savory pasta dish with cinnamon, parsley, and brown butter? Don’t knock it til you try it. It’s complex, refreshing, and completely delicious, a great side dish to serve warm or at room temperature. The cinnamon is barely noticeable, just deepening the warm, toasty flavor of the beautiful brown butter. Try it with Middle Eastern and Greek flavors, cuisines that are skilled at incorporated a variety of spices we tend to think of as “sweet” into savory dishes. This pasta, a piece of marinated, grilled meat, and some roasted vegetables or a green salad are all you need for an easy yet sophisticated meal.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the orzo and stir -- it tends to clump while cooking, so you will want to stir every few minutes. Cook according to package directions to get a tender but not mushy pasta.
While the orzo cooks, brown the butter. Heat a small, heavy skillet over low heat and add butter when skillet is warm. Simmer the butter, stirring occasionally, until it is a golden brown and starts to fill your kitchen with the most beautiful nutty aroma.
Remove the butter from heat, and stir in the oil, cinnamon, and pepper.
Drain orzo, return to its pot, and add the brown butter-spice mixture, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the skillet -- those are the tastiest ones! Add the chopped parsley and a good grind of sea salt. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: Bring leftovers to room temperature or gently reheat in a pot before re-serving -- the butter will congeal in the fridge to a less-than-ideal texture, but allowing the dish to warm will return it to its delicious state.
Serves 4 as a side and can easily be doubled for a crowd. Adapted from Gourmet Magazine.
Thanksgiving may be the #1 food holiday that we celebrate in America, but Super Bowl Sunday isn't far behind it. If you're still looking for the perfect dish to bring to the Super Bowl potluck party, this grown-up version of French Onion Dip, using low-fat sour cream and Greek yogurt mixed Vanns Onion Powder, topped with beautifully caramelized onions, could be it. It's reminiscent of that wonderful French Onion Dip flavor, but with an added sophistication and a lot less fat. The onions may take some time to caramelize, but the rest of the recipe is the same as the classic -- mix some things together in a bowl, make sure the flavor is right, and dig in!
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions, finely diced, about 3 cups worth
First, whisk together the sour cream, yogurt, Onion Powder, and Kosher Salt. The 3 Tbs. Onion Powder will give the dip a nice onion-y flavor, but you can add more or less to taste. You will be stirring some caramelized onions in later, so keep that in mind when seasoning. Refrigerate until onions are done.
Heat a thick-bottomed medium skillet over medium heat. I love using cast iron to caramelize onions. When the pan is warmed, add the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the onions and salt and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are well browned, about 15 minutes. When onions really begin to sizzle and are starting to look dry, add 1 Tbs. water to the skillet and stir. Continue cooking the onions until they start to sizzle and appear dry again. Add another tablespoon of water and repeat the cooking down and adding water process until onions are super soft and a dark brown color, 3-4 times total.
Allow the onions to cool to room temperature, then stir ⅔ of them into the dip. Scoop the dip into your serving bowl of choice and top with the remaining onions. Serve with crackers, crudités, or whatever you like. The caramelized onions in the dip will have the best texture and flavor at room temperature, so take the dip out of the fridge for around 30 minutes before serving.
This soup falls into the category of “Total Classic” and deservedly so. The silky bean and vegetable soup and the woody aroma of rosemary make for perfect complements to each other, the starch of the beans standing up to rosemary’s strong flavor, and the flavor of the rosemary bringing out depths of flavor in the beans that otherwise might remain hidden. I always like to make these kinds of soups with dried beans — it’s more economical and the careful cooking of the dried beans with various aromatics ensures that they come into the soup as flavorful as possible. It only takes a little bit more time and forethought to put together a soup with dried beans, and the reward is worth it.
I’ve topped this soup with a classic gremolata for a burst of freshness against the winter flavors of the soup — feel free to omit it, or top the soup with something else of your choosing.
1 lb. dried white beans, such as cannellini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
4 medium cloves garlic, peeled and smashed with the blade of a knife
Place the beans in a medium bowl with 1 Tbs. of kosher salt and cover with water by at least 1 inch. Allow to soak at room temperature overnight.
About 2 hours before you want to serve the soup, drain the beans. In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat, then sauté the onions until translucent, about 10-15 minutes. Add the carrots, celery, and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 more minutes. Add the dried rosemary and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the drained white beans, bay leaf, 2 quarts of water, and a good pinch of kosher salt. Bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Partially cover and maintain a very gentle simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until the beans are very soft and smooth. The best way to tell when they’re ready is by taste — try a bean and see if it offers some crunch or any other kind of rough texture. If they’re silky smooth all the way through, you’re done!
Allow the soup to cool for about 15 minutes to avoid any risk of burning yourself. While you’re waiting, you can go ahead and make the gremolata if you like — directions are below.
When beans have cooled slightly, use a hand blender or regular blender to puree the beans in batches until silky smooth. Return the bean puree to the pot and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot, sprinkled with gremolata and a drizzle of good olive oil, with some crusty toasted bread for dipping.
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
Grate the lemon zest into a small bowl using a microplane or other fine grater. Add chopped parsley and minced garlic. Can be made up to 6 hours ahead of time — store covered in the refrigerator.
It’s going to be a cold one on the East Coast this weekend — time for a warming breakfast that gives you the power and energy to get through the day. Here’s one amazing option — Shakshuka! Not only is it fun to say, it’s a delicious, savory, healthy egg dish that makes for an exciting and comforting meal.
We’re back in the Middle East again, using a combination of onions, hot chiles, garlic, sweet paprika, and ground cumin to make a perfectly spicy, hearty tomato sauce, in which eggs are poached to make the perfect savory breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. This is an extremely versatile dish.
The base recipe is fairly traditional. Variations on the theme can be found in Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, and Libya, among others, but I’ve added an extra component that really takes it to the next level -- a smoky, spicy yogurt sauce that’s dolloped on top for an extra layer of flavor and a cooling creaminess that complements the spiced tartness of the tomatoes.
And here’s a pro tip: if you don’t want to make all six servings at once, poach however many eggs you want at a time, and save the remaining tomato sauce for another round of Shakshuka, your new favorite word.
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (pickled jalapeños work well here, too)
1 Tbs. chopped cilantro, flat-leaf parsley, or a mixture of both
Smoky Spicy Yogurt Sauce (recipe below) and warm pita bread, for serving
Heat olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Be sure to use a pan that has a lid, as you’ll be covering it to properly cook the eggs later on. When oil is hot, add the chiles and onions with a pinch of kosher salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown. The salt helps to extract moisture from the onions and brown them more efficiently. In general, it’s a good practice to season with a bit of salt throughout the different steps of the recipe rather than trying to add it all in at the end. Seasoning along with way incorporates the salt more fully into the different ingredients as they go into the pot.
Anyway, once the onions are soft and golden brown, add the garlic and Vanns spices and cook, stirring frequently, until the garlic is soft and the spices are fragrant, about two minutes more.
Pour the can of tomatoes and their liquid into the skillet. Use a potato masher to break the tomatoes up into manageable chunks -- think about what size of tomato chunks you’d like to eat with your eggs and aim for that. Add 1/2 cup water, bring to a simmer, and then reduce the heat until the tomato mixture is bubbling gently. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 15 minutes. Mash the tomatoes up a little bit more along the way if you like. Taste for seasoning and add salt as needed. Remember that the feta cheese sprinkled on top at the end will add some extra salt as well.
Add the eggs. If you’re going for efficiency, crack them directly into the simmering tomato sauce so that they’re distributed evenly across its surface. If you’re a little unsure of your egg-cracking skills or are a perfectionist, you can use the same method as you would with poaching eggs, cracking them first into small cups and then pouring them one by one onto the sauce. This ensures that you won’t get any broken yolks or pieces of shell in the pan. But make sure to get them in fairly quickly, so they all cook for the same amount of time.
When the eggs are in the sauce, cover the pan and simmer gently until the yolks are just set, about five minutes. Uncover the pot and use a spoon to baste the egg whites with the tomato sauce, being careful not to disturb the yolk. When whites are set, serve! I prefer to do individual bowls, scooping some tomato sauce into the bottom of each before topping with an egg, a sprinkle of feta and fresh herbs, and a dollop of Smoky, Spicy Yogurt Sauce.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen.
SMOKY SPICY YOGURT SAUCE
1/2 cup full-fat plain yogurt (Greek yogurt works, too)
Stir Vanns spices into yogurt until fully incorporated. Spanish paprika can sometimes clump together when added to a liquid, so be sure to catch all the pockets of spices that may be hiding in there.
Stir in olive oil until fully incorporated. Salt to taste, starting with 1/2 tsp. of kosher salt and going from there.
For best results, refrigerate the sauce for at least an hour before serving to allow the flavors to fully mix into the yogurt. For hungriest results, serving right away is just fine.
This sauce has other uses, too! Use as a healthy dip for crudités, stir into tuna, chicken, or egg salads as a replacement for some or all of the mayonnaise, spread on sandwiches for a smoky kick, or dollop on top of roasted vegetables for some extra flavor. Anywhere you want to add some savory creamy coolness to a dish, this sauce will work.
Are you sick of pumpkin-flavored things yet? Yes? No? Either way, this tea cake is for you. Rather than the standard mix of spices that linger in the background and provide a general warmth to a pumpkin-flavored treat, this tea cake goes big and bold with the spices, incorporating a whopping 5 teaspoons of Vanns Ground Cinnamon, 2 tsp. of Vanns Ground Nutmeg, and a pinch of Vanns Ground Cloves. Though it may seem excessive on paper, once you taste this perfectly balanced mixture of spices, you’ll never go back.
The cake is lightly and moist, with a beautiful topping of raw sugar and pepitas that add the perfect amount of crunch to every bite. It’s the perfect addition to brunch, a great make-ahead dessert for a winter dinner, or just a way to treat yourself at any time of day.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 325°F. Butter or oil and 9”x5” loaf pan and set aside. If you’ve had issues getting breads and cakes out of loaf pans in the past, you can also line it with parchment paper for extra help.
In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In a larger bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, granulated sugar, kosher salt, and vegetable oil until well-combined and silky smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, whisking after each addition until the mixture is uniform.
Using a sifter or fine mesh strainer, sift the dry ingredients into the pumpkin puree mixture. The ground or grated nutmeg may not make it through the sifter — just pour the rougher bits into the mixture once everything else has been sifted through. Whisk the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just combined — over-mixing will make for a tough texture once baked. If you’ve sifted the flour and see what look like lumps in the final mixture, they are likely just air bubbles.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a silicone spatula. Sprinkle 1 Tbs. of the raw cane sugar evenly over the top of the entire loaf, then sprinkle 2 Tbs. pumpkin seeds evenly over the top of the entire load. Finish with the last Tbs. of raw cane sugar, again sprinkled evenly over the top of the entire loaf.
Bake for around 65 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes. To remove, gently run a knife around the perimeter of the pan and then carefully invert the cake onto a cutting board or large plate, being careful not to damage the beautifully crunchy crust on top. Tap the bottom of the pan until the cake comes out. Let cool completely before cutting and serving.
Yields 1 loaf. The loaf will keep well-wrapped at room temperature for two or three days. It also freezes well — pre-slice the loaf and store in a freezer bag. Reheat slices at 350°F. Adapted from Tartine.
Come visit us at the 2016 Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco at the Moscone Center, Jan. 17-19, 2016 -- say hello to Mick Whitlock, President of Vanns Spices, and Meg Whitlock, VP of sales, at booth number 760.
What do you call something that’s a sauce, a paste, a flavor-adder, a spark of heat and a touch of earth, a zing to be stirred into soups and pilafs, mixed with yogurt and hummus, spread on sandwiches and mixed into marinades?
Why, harissa, of course!
Perhaps you’ve seen it popping up in restaurant menus more and more these days, or working its way into the recipes you look up online. Perhaps you are already familiar with this wonderful sauce, but you haven’t quite taken the step of making it at home. Perhaps you already make it at home all the time, but are looking for a new recipe.
Originating in Tunisia, harissa is a blend of many spices in a base of a few different kinds of peppers — usually one to create a smooth, sweet base, and another to add a pop of heat. In Tunisia, and the other parts of the Middle East to which it has spread, it’s used as an ingredient in stews and couscous, though with its increasing popularity has come a variety of new uses.
Harissa is traditionally made in a mortar and pestle, which provides a chunky, slick texture as the ingredients combine with the olive oil that’s used to bind it together. We have been known to throw it in a blender when pressed for time or lacking arm strength. A food processor isn’t a great idea, as it won’t do very well with the dried chiles in this recipe.
The amount of chiles de arbol is variable in this recipe, as is how you handle them. 1 oz. with seeds included will produce a fiery paste with a significant amount of heat.
To reduce the heat, remove the stems and seeds before soaking, reduce the amount of chiles, or both. 1/2 oz. of de-seeded chiles will still give you a nice, gentle heat.
Also, using the whole spices here really is worth it. The toasting and grinding brings out the best of their flavors. But if you’re in a pinch, use the same amount of pre-ground spices without toasting them, and you’ll still be pretty happy with the taste.
This is our go-to cake. It looks humble -- just one layer, no icing, the fruit on top kind of burst open and starting to get jammy -- but once people take a bite, they’re hooked. The key is the buttery, dense cake itself, and the sprinkle of sugar and cinnamon that goes on top of the fruit before baking to form a wonderfully crisp top crust that contrasts beautifully with the soft fruit.
The cake itself is made with a variety of spices that come together to create something warm and a little bit surprising for something that looks so simple.
Tart cranberries are used in this recipe to create a nice balance between sweet and sour, but any fruit that can stand up to baking will work nicely in this recipe, with an adjustment to the spices to ensure maximum deliciousness! When in doubt, go with cinnamon and a little vanilla extract.