You know those places you go for inspiration because everything you cooked turned out amazingly? It might be a cookbook, or a blog, or a friend even?
I have a few of these go-to sources that I turn to time and time again when I need inspiration, and one of them recently released a cookbook which meant that all of her gorgeous recipes were in the one, convenient spot!
That person is Rita Serano, who I first befriended on Instagram (you can find her there @ritaserano) and fell in love with her friendly demeanour, generous spirit, and recipes which were simple in process but complex in flavours – the perfect kind of food! So it came as no surprise when I learnt Rita was releasing a cookbook that it would be based around vegan dishes with only 7 ingredients.
If you ask me to limit my dishes to seven ingredients I would usually be quite stumped. I often go to the fridge or cupboard before eating a dish to see what I can add to it – a spoonful of fermented or pickled veggies, some freshly chopped herbs, a sprinkle of seeds for added crunch, a swirl of pesto or chimichiri.
But Rita manages to do it in a way that keeps the dish interesting, while still keeping within the seven ingredient limit.
Only of the things I love about this book is how simple yet beautiful it is. The layout has quite a minimalist feel to it – fitting in nicely with the book’s theme – yet still looks incredibly chic and feels timeless. The recipe introductions are brief, but informative. And the photography is just lovely – simple settings that draw you in, feeling like you could be right there with Rita helping her halve apricots for her “profiteroles” or roll out the sweet potato gnocchi.
And all of that is before you get to the recipes which are carefully thought out to create dishes which are both delicious and interesting, yet stick with the premise of seven ingredients or less. Recipes such as Smoked Carrot Lax Bites, where carrot is ‘smoked’ and used in place of the more traditional lox/lax (smoked salmon); a pan of French-style Shitake “Snails”; Salt-baked Beets & Potatoes with Safron Aoili and Carob Cake with Strawberries and Black Pepper. It also includes a comprehensive section on simple pantry staples from homemade vegan dairy alternatives to pickles and condiments.
One of the dishes we have been eating a lot of is the pasta with oil-free pistou. Rita’s version is perfectly simple, and tastes amazing as is, but because I can’t help myself, I’ve been playing around with additional add-ins to suit my mood and what I have on hand. I’ve put Rita’s version below, but also added suggestions of ways that I make it my own in case you want to experiment a little.
– MAKE IT YOUR OWN –
- As you can see from the photos, my favorite way to add a simple touch is by serving with some capers and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast. You can go further and include these ingredients in the pistou as well for a slightly different flavour.
- For an even greener dish, toss through some baby spinach before serving
- Fresh herbs work lovely with this dish – try basil, oregano or marojam
- For a creamy vegan touch, serve with a swirl of vegan cashew cream
- If not vegan, try some crumbled feta stirred through
- 400g short pasta
- 300g french beans, cut in half or into thirds
- 1 head of broccoli, cut into small florets
- 2 large bunches of basil (each 75g), roughly chopped
- ¼ avocado
- 4–6 garlic cloves, chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp salt
- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions in plenty of boiling water. Bring another pan of water to the boil and add the french beans for 7–8 minutes, and put the lid on. Add the broccoli after 3–4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, make the pistou. Put the basil, avocado, garlic, lemon juice and 1 tsp salt in a blender or food processor and add about 60ml of water. Process until smooth. Add some more water, 1 tbsp at a time, if needed.
- Drain the pasta and reserve 2 tbsp of the cooking water. Combine the pasta with the vegetables, pistou and reserved cooking water (to make the pasta creamier) and mix to evenly coat. Serve immediately.