No matter where you’re reading this and no matter which holidays you celebrate, I think we can all agree: ‘tis the season for comfort food! The air is getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and we’re all busy in preparation for turning over a new year.
Americans know, of course, that Thanksgiving is right around the corner… and by now, everyone else in the world probably knows too, because America can be loud about its favorite holidays and the deluge of holiday-themed emails has already begun. Lord have mercy on all our inboxes. 🙏
I don’t think we need more of that, so I’ll save the Thanksgiving pontifications for another year and just share 10 of my favorite blue-zone recipes for the end of a year. Some of them are overtly seasonal and festive while others are just vaguely autumnal, but all of them are delicious and most of them are nutritious (though the exceptions really swing for the fences by blue-zone standards).
This set of recipes covers the courses pretty well—it includes salads, soups, main dishes, sides, and desserts—and they’re listed in roughly that order.
Without further ado, let’s start at the top:
Chickpea Caesar Salad
1 sweet potato
½ cup no-salt canned cannellini beans
1 can no-salt canned garbanzo beans
½ tsp olive oil
1 tsp + 1 pinch cayenne pepper
6 cups kale
9 cups romaine lettuce
1 organic granny smith apple
2 cloves garlic
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp white miso paste
¼ cup tahini
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup water
3 tbsps apple cider vinegar
1 tsp onion powder
Salt & pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C. Rinse the sweet potato. Cut it into small pieces. Lay the pieces flat in one layer in an oven-safe pan.
- Rinse and drain the canned garbanzo beans. Once dry, place them onto a large rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the oil over the beans. Mix to coat. (For oil-free option, omit the oil.) Sprinkle on cayenne pepper and salt, and mix to coat.
- Roast the beans and sweet potato for 20 minutes at 400F. After 20 minutes, roll the chickpeas around in the baking sheet, and roast for another 15 minutes, until lightly golden. Expect them to firm up as they cool. The sweet potatoes are done when a fork can pierce them.
- Prepare the fresh produce: De-stem the kale and then finely chop the leaves. Wash and dry in a salad spinner or towel. Place into extra large bowl. Finely chop the romaine lettuce. Rinse and then spin or towel dry. Place into bowl along with kale and set aside. Rinse and dice the organic granny smith apple. Rinse and drain the canned cannellini beans. Peel the garlic.
- Prepare the dressing: Blend all the dressing ingredients (canned cannellini beans, 3/4 of the nutritional yeast measurement, white miso paste, tahini, lemon juice, water, apple cider vinegar, salt, onion powder, and garlic) in a high-powered blender and set aside.
- Assemble: Add dressing onto romaine lettuce and mix until fully coated. Now sprinkle on the roasted chickpea croutons and remaining nutritional yeast. Add additional add-ons. Celebrate this delicious, gluten-friendly, plant-based caesar salad!
Ikarian Tabouli Salad
1/3 cup bulgur wheat, rinsed
5 bunches parsley, finely chopped
5 medium tomatoes, diced small
1/2 cup chopped green onions
3 lemons, freshly squeezed
1/4 cup mint
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tbsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp pepper, or to taste
Mix everything together and enjoy!
Potato Leek Soup
2 medium leeks, cut into ¼” slices
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium potatoes (Yukon gold work best), cubed
2 cups veggie chicken-flavor broth or vegetable broth*
1 cup unflavored soy milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped scallions or chives for garnish (optional)
- In a large pot, sauté leeks and garlic in oil, until fragrant, about 8 minutes.
- Add potatoes and broth, and bring to a simmer for 30 minutes.
- In batches, very briefly process in blender (no more than half full) with milk.
- Return soup to pot and heat until hot.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve with chives or scallions, if using.
Ikarian Longevity Stew
1 cup dried black-eyed peas (or 8-ounce can, drained) > 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 large red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 large, firm ripe tomato, finely chopped
2 teaspoons tomato paste, diluted in 1⁄4 cup water
2 bay leaves
1 bunch dill, finely chopped
- If using dried black-eyed peas: Cover with water and bring to a boil for 1minute. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for an hour. Drain and rinse. (If using canned black-eyed peas, skip this step.)
- In a large pot, heat half the olive oil over medium heat and cook the onion, garlic, and fennel, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 12 minutes.
- Add the black-eyed peas and toss to coat with oil. Add the tomato, tomato paste, and enough water to cover the beans by about an inch. Add the bay leaves.
- Bring pot to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the black-eyed peas are about halfway cooked (if using dried peas). Check after 40 minutes, but it may take over an hour. If using canned, skip to the next step after 10 minutes.
- Add the chopped dill and season with salt to taste. Continue cooking until the black-eyed peas are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and pick out and discard the bay leaves. Pour in remaining olive oil, stir, and serve.
Baked Rosemary Chickpeas
1 pound dried chickpeas soaked in water and salt overnight with skins on (or four 15-ounce cans, drained)
1 bulb garlic, core removed
1⁄2 cup fresh rosemary leaves, stems removed
5 small red onions, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1⁄4 cup grape syrup (see note)
Juice of 2 lemons, plus zest
Salt and pepper (optional)
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- If using dried chickpeas: Drain chickpeas from soaking water; boil in new water for about 20 minutes until soft. Drain and then transfer chickpeas to a clay pot or heavy baking dish.
- If using canned chickpeas, start here: Bring 6 cups water to a boil. Pour boiling water over chickpeas so the beans are just covered.
- Add garlic and rosemary leaves; stir to distribute.
- Using your hands, massage onions with extra-virgin olive oil until slightly softened.
- Add onions and grape syrup to the chickpeas; mix to combine.
- Cover the pot with foil and bake for one hour; remove cover and bake for another 30 minutes uncovered. Stir from time to time if onions are burning.
- When finished, top with drizzle of olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice, and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Note: Grape syrup is a condiment made from grapes cooked down into a thick syrup. It is common in Greece and other Mediterranean countries. Thick and sweet without added sugar, it’s used on pancakes and bread, as well as in baking. It’s often available in Italian or gourmet markets, or at online retailers; if you can’t find it, substitute with 2 tablespoons brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey.
1 (16-ounce) loaf French bread
2 cups vegetable broth (or equivalent amount of vegetable bouillon and water)
1 tablespoon ground flaxseed meal
½ cup vegan butter, plus additional for greasing the dish
3 medium ribs celery, diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored and finely diced
⅓ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
- Cut the bread loaf into small (bite-sized) cubes, spread the bread cubes across a large baking sheet, and leave them out overnight or for at least 12 hours. The next day, preheat the oven to 250 degrees F and bake for 30 minutes to fully dry out the bread. Grease a 9 × 13-inch baking dish with vegan butter. Transfer the dried bread cubes to the prepared baking dish and set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the broth and flaxseed meal. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a medium pan over medium-high heat, melt the vegan butter. Add the celery, onion, and apple and sauté, mixing occasionally, for 5 minutes or until tender.
- Pour the sautéed veggie mixture and the vegetable broth mixture evenly over the bread in the baking dish, and sprinkle evenly with the parsley and poultry seasoning. Using your hands, mix to evenly coat.
- Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 40 minutes. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.
Mashed Potatoes and Creamy Golden Gravy
10 medium potatoes, peeled, in water to cover
For The Gravy:
2 cups vegetable broth
3 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons tahini
¼ cup brown rice flour
Freshly ground black pepper
Dash or two of Sriracha, if desired
The Method (Potatoes)
- Cut potatoes in half and place in a large pot with the water. Cover and cook over low heat until potatoes are very tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Drain potatoes, reserving the cooking liquid. Beat the potatoes with an electric mixer, adding small amounts of the cooking liquid to the potatoes while mashing. Beat until smooth and creamy. Season with a small amount of salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
Hint: To make the potatoes more creamy, replace the reserved cooking liquid with soy or rice milk. Add the milk to the potatoes while mashing as above.
Success Tip: Peel potatoes in the morning and store in water to cover until cooking time. Drain off all cooking water. Use a handheld electric mixer and add warmed soymilk while beating. Place mashed potatoes into a warmed bowl before serving.
The Method (Gravy)
- Place the broth into a saucepan. Add the soy sauce and tahini to the saucepan.
- Stir in the brown rice flour and whisk until liquid is smooth.
- Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until sauce becomes thickened and smooth. Season with freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add a dash or two of any hot sauce for more flavor, if desired. Serve at once.
Hints: This may be made ahead and refrigerated. It will thicken slightly more when refrigerated. To reheat, place in a saucepan, add a small amount of water, whisk to combine and then heat slowly, stirring occasionally, until hot.
3 lbs asparagus, trimmed
1/2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Less than 1/4 tsp salt & freshly ground pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Toss asparagus with oil on a baking sheet with sides or in a large roasting pan.
- Spread in a single layer and season with salt and pepper.
- Roast asparagus, uncovered, for 15-25 minutes, or until tender. Serve hot or at room temperature.
½ cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight or for at least 4 hours, drained, and rinsed
1 cup water
1 cup full-fat coconut cream
1 cup unsweetened, plain soy milk
2½ tablespoons granulated sugar
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
- In a high-powered blender, combine the soaked cashews, water, coconut cream, soy milk, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom and purée until smooth.
- Place the nog in the refrigerator and chill for 2 to 3 hours. Stir the nog and serve cold.
8 dried dates
2 (12.3-ounce) packages of Mori-Nu Silken Firm Organic Tofu (see note)
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
½ cup cacao powder
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 tablespoon triple sec (optional)
1 tablespoon crème de cacao (optional)
- Cover the dates with ½ cup of hot water and let sit for an hour or overnight.
- Steam the tofu over boiling water (use a steam rack as you would for vegetables) for 10 minutes. Let cool.
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until creamy.
- Pour into individual dessert cups and chill for several hours before serving.
Optional: Top with strawberries, raspberries, cacao nibs, whipped tofu cream or whipped coconut cream.
Note: The secret to making desserts or cream sauces using tofu is to cook the tofu first. This extracts any beany taste, and you’d never know that there is tofu in this recipe. Simply place blocks of tofu in a steam basket in a pan on the stove and steam them for about 10 minutes. This recipe also makes a fine chocolate mousse pie—just pour the mousse as prepared above into a prepared pie shell and chill.
I hope you find one or more of these recipes useful and tasty and delightful… they’ve certainly kept me warm on many November and December nights over the past couple of decades. 😊
Our regular newsletter programming will resume next time in Edition 32. In the meantime, I’m sending my best wishes your way for a good start to the holiday season. Cheers and enjoy!