butter bean risotto with nut-crusted okra.jpg

We can't get enough of our crusted vegetables. In addition to mushrooms, we've made onion rings, eggplant marinara, and zucchini fritters. Twice. We'll take any excuse to make this recipe, this time in the form of okra, and we found just the creamy, fluffy bed to lay it on.

After the hefty main course, we turned to the famous Shaker lemon pie for inspiration, but cut out the effort of making pie dough. Instead, we served light, flaky phyllo galettes topped with pear slices. If you've never made dessert with whole lemons, you're missing out. The macerated bitter pith and rind give complexity to the overwhelmingly sour juice and pulp. Resist the urge to reduce the sugar called for, and you'll be rewarded with a depth of flavor missing from standard canary-yellow sweet-tart treats.

Butter Bean-Spinach Risotto with Nut-Crusted Okra

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adapted from Bon Appetit, serves 3-4

For the okra:

3/4 cup raw, unsalted almonds

2 TBSP unsalted walnuts

1/2 tsp salt

black pepper, to taste

1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1/8 tsp garlic powder

30 fresh okra pods, about 3/4 lb (or use frozen [see Note])

1/4 cup chickpea flour

1 TBSP cornmeal

5 TBSP water

Preheat the oven to 425.

In a chopper or food processor, grind the almonds, walnuts, salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic powder into a coarse meal. Transfer nut mixture to a pie plate. In a medium bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour, cornmeal, and 5 TBSP water.

Dip the okra into the chickpea batter, shake off excess, and press into the nut mixture on both sides. Bake for 12 minutes, flip, and bake for 8 minutes more.

[Note: Whole okra pods are easier to use, because they're bigger, but if all you have is cut frozen okra, it should still work. Allow the okra to thaw partially--you want the pieces to remain very firm--dry it, and proceed with the recipe as written.]

For the risotto:

1 tsp olive oil

1 large handful baby spinach (or any large-leafed green, chopped)

4 cups vegetable broth, not tomato-based

1 TBSP olive oil

1/2 small onion, finely chopped

3/4 cups arborio rice

1/4 cup dry white wine

1 15-oz can butter beans, drained and rinsed

Heat the teaspoon of oil and wilt the spinach for 2-3 minutes. If you're preparing your broth from bouillon cubes, simply keep it warm after dissolving. If not, warm gently.

Meanwhile, heat the tablespoon of oil and saute the onion until it softens, a couple of minutes, then add rice and stir to coat with the oil, a couple minutes more. Add wine and cook until it has been absorbed (this should only take a minute). Add 2 ladles of broth--about a cup--and simmer until it has been absorbed, another couple of minutes. Continue adding broth one ladleful at a time until each round has been absorbed. This will take another 20 minutes or so.

When the rice is creamy and tender and the broth is gone, stir in the spinach and the beans, season to taste, and serve when warmed through.


whole lemon-pear galette.jpg

Whole Lemon-Pear Phyllo Galettes

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makes 2 small galettes, serves 4-6

1 lemon (about 4 oz in weight)

1 cup natural cane sugar

2 TBSP coconut oil, melted, plus more for brushing

1/4 tsp salt

4 oz silken tofu

8 sheets thawed phyllo dough

1 small pear, sliced

1 tsp turbinado or brown sugar

With a serrated knife, slice the lemon as thinly as you can, discarding the thick, tough ends. If you concentrate on slicing the rind as thinly as possible, you won't get nice whole, round slices--that's just fine. Some juice and pulp will leak out onto the cutting board, and you can salvage it all, so just make sure you slice the rind very thinly. Stir together the lemon and the sugar and let macerate for 24 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350. 

Blend together the melted coconut oil, salt, and tofu until very creamy. Stir the tofu mixture thoroughly into the lemon mixture.

Lay the phyllo sheets, long side toward you (portrait orientation), and cut in half. You will now have 16 rectangles. Stack 8 rectangles, brushing each layer with melted coconut oil, and alternating directions (portrait and landscape) with each layer.

Into the center, pour half of the lemon mixture (a generous half cup). The lemon mix will be quite loose, so you'll want to work quickly as you place half the pear slices on top and fold the edges of the phyllo dough in (make sure you fold the dough over so there are no holes for the filling to leak out of in the oven). Repeat with the remaining half of the dough and filling.

Sprinkle the teaspoon of turbinado over the tops of both galettes and bake, covered, for 20 minutes, then remove the cover and bake another 20 minutes, until golden and bubbly.