Za’atar Roasted Tomato Salad with Black Lentils | Naturally Ella

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I have a fairly simple equation to my salad making that I follow most of the time. It is typically along the lines of greens + vegetable + legumes+ nuts/seeds. That’s it, that forms the base for salads. From there I’ll switch flavors, dressings, and add cheese. This particular tomato salad is no different. I like kale salads during the summer because the heat makes most other greens bitter. Roasted tomatoes are eaten every day, the za’atar is technically the seed portion, and black lentils are one of my favorite salad add-ins. The black lentils hold up well when cooked and also add a beautiful color to the overall dish.

This is the second recipe in my series with about a hard to find ingredient: black lentils. As I mentioned in my last recipe, black lentils are a bit hit and miss at stores but a necessity for me to have on hand for salads, tacos, and stews. Luckily, they sourced the perfect ingredient so that it’s easy to find and order! Read more and see the recipe.

Pesto Zucchini Lasagna | Naturally Ella

I’ve found one of the best things about having a toddler is the random things they say. More often than not, Mack is making up something silly or playing pretend. One of his more recent pretend play has involved food. He pretends to ‘pick’ food and it’s anything from broccoli to chocolate ice cream. I’ve decided that when I can, I’m going to turn his ideas into recipes.

Enter this zucchini lasagna. He picked ‘green lasagna’ and I took it upon myself to create a delicious, green lasagna. I’m not a big fan of using zucchini as noodles and would rather have it as a vegetable. However, you could replace the noodles for slices of zucchini- it’s up to you. There’s a lot of goodness packed into this zucchini lasagna!

Read more and see the recipe.

Pears |

Post sponsored by California Pears. See below for more details.

Whenever someone finds out that I’m a California transplant because of my husband’s job, I always seem to field the same question: do I like it here? My answer is always the same. I love it and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to land. There is something invigorating about being apart of the food community in a place that grows so much of the food we consume. This is part of the reason I’m excited to team up with the Pear Advisory Board for a few posts about California pears.

I really love to learn about all the different varieties and uses for produce. I find it’s a great way to connect with the produce and create delicious recipes. Best of all, I know that the pears I’m using for the recipes had a short journey from the farms and I’m supporting my local farmers. I’m good at surface information about pears but I’ve learned so much recently that I’m excited to share. The first part in this series is all about how to buy locally, whether you live in California or happen to be here for a visit (which I would highly recommend!)

The Varieties

There is quite a variety among California pears. Some are sweet and soft while others stay more firm and are perfect for eating as a snack. Some pears change in color when ripening while others soften a bit. Also, I always think of pears as a fall fruit but in California, the season kicks off in July! Here’s what to look for when buying fresh pear varieties and you can get more information/images of each variety on the California Pear site.

  • Bartlett: These pears start with a bright green color and as they ripen at room temperature, will shift to yellow. These pears are in season from July through November.
  • Bosc: One of my favorite pears, Bosc pears do not change color but will show signs of ripeness when end of the stem shrivels a bit. Bosc pears are in season from the end of July through November.
  • Seckel: With a shorter season compared to other pears, Seckel pears stay their same, beautiful color when ripe. However, you can tell if the pear is ripe when it is slightly soft around the stem. These pears are in season from August through October.
  • Comice: This variety is similar to the seckel pears. The color doesn’t change much but the pears will soften around the stem. I find the seckels and comice pears to look similar but the comice variety is a bit more round and has more green color. This pear season starts around the beginning of August and runs through November.
  • Red: My favorite pear for salads, the pear is red across the entire fruit. The red pear (Starkcrimson) is harvested starting mid-Julyand the season continues through October.
  • Forelle: A smaller pear, the forelle pear is ripe when the color has changed from green to yellow and is dusted with a crimson speckle. Harvest for the Forelle starts in early August and runs through October.
  • French Butter: This pear looks like a cross between a bosc (color) and anjou pear (shape) and has a shorter season, roughly a month and half from August through September. Test for the ripeness by pressing near the stem.

Pears - Explore an Ingredient - Naturally Ella

What to look For When Shopping

Since pears ripen as they sit at room temperature, whether or not they are ripe when buying isn’t a huge deal. However, you want to look for pears that don’t have large bruises or cuts. The pears should also be firm when pressed. How do you know they’re from California? Farmers use the family or ranch name to identify their fruit in California. Other producing regions in America just use “USA Pears.” California wants you to feel a real connection to the farm — most are third generation family farms. California pears can be found at your local store starting in July all the way through October

Recipe Inspiration

Amaranth Porridge with Roasted Pears, Maple Pecans, and Yogurt
Sorghum Oven Pear Pancake from Alternative Baker Cookbook | @naturallyella
Pear Chutney Cheese Toast
Ginger Pear and Goat Cheese Endive Appetizer | Naturally Ella

Disclosure: This recipe was created in partnership with California Pears.. All thoughts and opinions are my own. It’s content like this that helps me keep this site running to provide the vegetarian recipes you see every week. |

Pecan Tomatillo Soup | Naturally ELla

Hang tight with me on this recipe. This is one of those recipes that I push flavors just slightly and it won’t be for everyone. I love tomatillos. They have a punchy, tart flavor that I’ve tried to balance with the sweet, warm flavor of pecans. I really love making nut and seed creams for soups. It’s an easy way to add a layer of flavor, bulk up the nutrition, and keep a recipe vegan. I turn to almond and cashew for mellow flavors but when I need something with a stronger presence, I use pecans.

I will say, however, the overall flavor of this tomatillo soup is still tart. Roasting helps pull some of that tartness but it’s still there. I found myself occasionally adding just a hint of sweetener. Of course, this is completely optional!

Read more and see the recipe.

Olive Tapenade | Cooking Component | Naturally Ella

My first experience with tapenade was on a cheese sandwich from a local shop in my small hometown. My mother was the first one to discover this sandwich and I was still new to enjoying olives. However, the salty flavor from the olives with the creamy cheese quickly became a favorite of mine. From there, I started making my own tapenade only to realize just how versatile this mixture can be.

One note: this is not a traditional tapenade in that I don’t use anchovies and I also don’t use capers. The former for obvious reasons, the latter for the fact I just never have them on hand. You could easily add a tablespoon or two to the mixture.

Read more and see the recipe.

Oat Crisp with Burst Tomato Arugula Salad | Naturally Ella

Post sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill. See below for more details.

Every summer, I have a familiar pattern. I think the summer is going to be slow, with lots of reading and beach time but by early June, I realize summer is going to fly. I schedule jobs, trips, and BBQs. Before I know it, every week and most weekends are booked. I don’t mind this but it always changes the way we eat. I like easy meals that are still packed with freshness. Enter this oat crisp.

I’m the type of person who loves croutons in her salad but I only make them if I have some solid, leftover bread. This easy oat crisp was born out of a desire to have a crisp bite to a salad with help from something I always have on hand: rolled oats. We eat oatmeal for breakfast nearly every morning and granola is a staple snack. Having a large container of rolled oats on hand is a must! This crunchy cracker-like bread uses a favorite trick of mine for homemade flour. All you need is a solid blender or food processor and you can make your own flour from rolled oats! Read more and see the recipe.

Romesco Toast with Fried Egg and Avocado | Naturally Ella

For years, my breakfast routine consisted of two items: coffee and oatmeal. I ate oatmeal nearly every day and after time, I became bored. I like routine but I also crave a bit of change. I found my cravings tended towards savory. And so, toast became my norm. This romesco toast is about as close to an avocado toast recipe as I’ll get on the site (which is to say, not super close). I’m obsessed with romesco sauce and I don’t use the word obsessed lightly. The perfect balance of smoked paprika, vinegar, nuts, and roasted red pepper has me using romesco on everything.

This particular toast is a hybrid of a few things I make. It’s a bit open-face grilled cheese sandwich meets fried egg. Occasionally I’ll add greens but for the most part I make it as written. Add a cup of coffee and this is my ideal breakfast!

Read more and see the recipe.

Za’atar Spiced Pecans and Quinoa Breakfast Bowl | Naturally Ella

Post sponsored by The American Pecan Council. See below for more details.

I am a morning person. I think there is nothing better than getting up early, making a cup of coffee, and enjoying the cool morning air. It’s my best time of day. It stands to reason, then, that I also love breakfast. This breakfast bowl my idea of a perfect start. It’s packed full of protein and good fats along with one of my favorite summer treats: roasted tomatoes!

However, I think the best part of this recipe is the za’atar pecans. I love using pecans in a savory way because they lend a natural sweet and buttery flavor to the overall recipe- a perfect compliment for the sumac and thyme in the za’atar! Best of all, the pecans add the right amount of crunchy texture to this breakfast bowl. I love keeping a stash of roasted nuts on hand and pecans are packed full of good monounsaturated fat and dietary fiber. A perfect afternoon snack or happy hour addition!

One quick note: watch your pecan storage! All that good oil means pecans are a bit more susceptible to spoiling when stored at room temperature. I keep a stash in my freezer and thaw only what I need. You can store pecans in the refrigerator for up to nine months or up to two years in the freezer (granted, mine are usually gone within a month!) Read more and see the recipe.

Wild Rice Veggie Sliders with Herbed Ricotta | Vegetarian Heartland

I am a midwesterner through and through. I love my adopted home state of California but a piece of me will always be in Illinois. I still occasionally long for those slow summer days at my parent’s house on a the lake or those mornings waking up to snow on the ground. I miss the feeling of the first day that feels like spring and there are still times that the feeling of having so much fresh produce year-round feels odd. We’ve chatted about moving back but for now, I’m a transplant living in the golden state. All of this made me so excited to see Shelly’s beautiful new book, Vegetarian Heartland.

These wild rice veggie sliders are a recipe from her book. Shelly’s book is filled with photographs that capture the Midwest in all the most wonderful ways with recipes that do the same. The recipes are the perfect mix of traditional fare with the fresh flavors one expects from vegetarian recipes. I’m excited to have this book of my shelf for all those times I long for home. Read more and see the recipe.

Za'atar Tomatoes with Sweet Corn Bread | Naturally Ella

I love cornbread. I’ve stated this before and it’s fairly apparent in that I’ve used cornbread in salads and in pancake/waffle form. Cornmeal is always in my pantry and during chili making months, there’s usually a piece with a slab of butter near by. This recipe is a bit of a mash-up with summer flavors. Cornbread is wonderful with fresh sweet corn and I can never get enough tomatoes during the month of July.

This sweet corn bread also features another pantry staple of mine: za’atar. I use this blend quite a bit and it is also amazing with the summer flavors. I’m so obsessed that this is just one of three recipes I’ll be sharing in the next month that uses za’atar. But really, I’m just trying to convince you to keep a small stash of sumac on hand. Read more and see the recipe.

Chilled Cucumber and California Avocado Soup | Naturally Ella

Post sponsored by California Avocado. See below for more details.

Until I moved to California, summer months focused on two ingredients: sweet corn and tomatoes. When I moved to California, I learned that July is peak season for California avocados. I had no idea because in Illinois, avocados are not a local crop! Creamy, fresh avocados are the perfect summer treat and a great way to make a meal without heating up your house.

This avocado soup is the ultimate summer meal. It’s fresh, cooling, and requires very little effort. The most time-intensive part is peeling and de-seeding the cucumbers! Plus, this soup is easily adaptable for whatever herbs and spices you might have on hand. I like to make this soup for get-togethers because it keeps well and doesn’t require heat! Read more and see the recipe.

Multi-grain Pilaf with Quinoa, Millet, and Teff | Cooking Component | Naturally Ella

Have you ever watched a toddler try to eat whole grains? Or better put, cleaned 90% of those grains from the floor? This is, essentially, how I came to this component. I typically toss my son’s grains with a bit of sauce to make them stick together but I wanted a mixture that was the perfect amount clump, with or without sauce. This multigrain pilaf has quickly become a favorite in our house. It uses three quick cooking gluten-free grains and the end result is a wonder pilaf perfect for grain bowls, salads, and curries. Teff has creamy properties but when used in smaller proportions, helps other grains stick together.

A note about sourcing these grains: If you’ve followed the news in the past years, you know that grains like quinoa and teff are important sources of nutrition for the countries that grow these grains. As these grains become more popular, the price is going up and causing these staple grains to become unaffordable for those who rely on them. Because of this, I like to try and source grains grown in the United States. I like this teff or this brown teff, this quinoa , and this millet. Read more and see the recipe.

Kohlrabi Fritters with Garlic Herb Cashew Cream Sauce from Dishing Up the Dirt

I have a weakness for vegetable cakes and fritters. I’ve always loved a little fried cauliflower when I’m out having a drink but obviously, it’s an occasional treat. However, fritters are a great in-between. The vegetable are still front and center but the light pan fry provides a perfectly crisp outside. I could eat almost any vegetable in fritter form.

These kohlrabi fritters are from Andrea’s blog-titled book, Dishing Up the Dirt. If you’ve not checked out Andrea’s site before, it’s a wonderful ode to fresh, produce-driven recipes. She and her husband run a CSA and you can see the influence in her cooking style. Andrea’s book is full of wonderful stories and recipes. While it’s not all vegetarian, you feel inspired no matter.

As for these fritters, the balance of kohlrabi and potato is spot on and if you don’t make her cashew cream sauce, you’re missing out. I think I want to spoon it on everything. Also, I made these for my toddler and he ate every last bit of the kohlrabi fitters and the cashew sauce! Read more and see the recipe.

Coconut Turmeric Quinoa | Naturally Ella

When I make a recipe, I try hard to limit the amount of pots and pans I use. I am not a fan of doing dishes and any recipe that uses more than two, I’m usually out (unless I really want the meal!) This is why I love risotto and risotto-like meals so much and this turmeric quinoa is the perfect example. It’s in one pan, the recipe is ready in about 25 minutes with minimal prep, and it is packed full of goodness.

This recipe is inspired by the quinoa risotto I posted from the cookbook, The First Mess. It’s about as far as you can get from traditional risotto but with help from the coconut milk, it’s creamy and filling. I’m also a bit in love with the turmeric/ginger/coconut flavor combination. It’s the perfect fit for a hearty dinner, especially when greens are involved! Read more and see the recipe.