January 27, 2015 By This Vegan Girl
I do my best to support local family-owned restaurants. However, most of the restaurants I go to are vegan; therefore, when it comes to eating out with omnivorous family and friends, sometimes the easiest decision is to go to a chain restaurant. I have been impressed the past few times I’ve been to Carrabba’s Italian Grill.
For those of you who have been to Carrabba’s, have you ever had to consciously tell yourself to put down the bread and step away from the dipping oil full of herbs? I swear I could make that dipping oil my entire meal.
This pasta is inspired by the dipping oil at Carrabba’s. I basically made my own dipping oil with tons of herbs, added some tomatoes, olives, spinach, and homemade cream cheese, and mixed in some pasta. It’s so, so good and has lots of health benefits:
- Oregano – has both antibacterial and anti fungal properties that make it effective against some forms of food-borne illnesses and even some antibiotic resistant infections
- Thyme – full of antioxidants, which prevent cellular damage that can boost overall health and help prevent cancer, inflammation, signs of aging and more
- Parsley – contains chlorophyll, myricetin, and vitamin K, which can help prevent cancer and diabetes, as well as improve bone health
- Basil – reduces inflammation and swelling, contains anti-aging properties, and is rich in antioxidants
- Garlic chives – helps prevent prostate, esophageal, and stomach cancer, as well as regulating sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory; folate, found in chives, also helps prevent excess homocysteine, which helps with depression and production of feel-good hormones, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine.
Carrabba’s Dipping Oil Pasta
Prep Time: 15-20 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 3-4 servings
For the dressing:
- 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, minced
- 3 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced
- 3 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
- 2 tablespoons fresh garlic chives, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1 pound of pasta (I used GF Ancient Harvest quinoa rotelle)
Optional add-ins (all highly recommended!):
- 1 cup grape tomatoes, cut into thirds
- 1 cup fresh spinach, chopped
- 1/4 cup green onions, chopped
- 1/2 cup Castelvetrano olives, cut into thirds
- 2 tablespoons of 5-minute cream cheese (recipe here)
Step 1: Chop the dressing ingredients.
I picked all the herbs straight from my herb garden. Here in Florida, all these herbs are easy to maintain as long as they are watered a few times per week.
Place all the herbs, and other dressing ingredients, in a large boil with the olive oil, mix, and let it sit and relax in there. The idea is to mildly infuse the flavors into the oil.
Step 2: Start boiling the noodles.
Boil your noodles of choice according to packaged directions. When the pasta is finished boiling and it’s time for straining, I like to spray cold water on the noodles for a lukewarm pasta salad experience.
Step 3: Chop/add optional ingredients.
While the noodles are boiling, chop/add the optional ingredients you would like to add to your dish. This might be the perfect time to make your 5-minute homemade cream cheese. I love adding this stuff to pasta!
Step 4: Mix and serve!
Once all ingredients are in finished, add all ingredients to the large bowl, mix, and serve!
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August 24, 2014 By This Vegan Girl
I’ve been wanting to make a pizza with a pesto base for quite some time now. However, I just couldn’t seem to come up with ideal toppings for the pizza. I had found myself in a rut, using the same ingredients as toppings over and over. I decided to put off posting the recipe until I came up with the answer.
A week ago, we went to Clearwater, FL to celebrate Matt’s birthday with his parents. Matt’s mom, Gail, loves to cook, and she made him a spectacular dinner for his birthday. On the menu was this to-die-for fennel, red onion, and olive salad. The rest of the family had their salad topped with sea scallops, but even without, mine was incredible.
I kept thinking about that salad. I thought about it for the next week. I’m not a fan of fennel, or olives for that matter. Nonetheless, I kept thinking about how perfect it was.
It suddenly clicked that this winning salad combination might be my answer to my pesto base pizza woes. I acquired the recipe from Gail, put it on top of the pizza, and the result was out of this world. I always say this, but this time, I mean it; this is my new favorite pizza. Shh… don’t tell the others.
Fennel Salad Pizza with Pesto Base
Prep Time: 30-45 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: One pizza pie
For the Gluten-Free Crust: (see recipe here) (optional)
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 3/4 cup Water (warm)
- 1 tbs flax seed mixed with 3 tbs warm water
- 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 1-1/2 cups GF all-purpose baking flour
- 2 tsp xanthan gum
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
For the Fennel Salad:
- 5-6 fennel stalks OR 1 head of fennel, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup red onion, rinsed with cold water to reduce raw harshness
- 1 cup Castelvetrano olives, crushed and pitted
- 2 tbs fresh or dried tarragon
- 2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
For the Pesto Base:
- 1-2 handfuls of fresh basil, rinsed
- 1 handful of raw cashews
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, freshly squeezed
- 3 garlic cloves
- salt and pepper to taste
Step 1: Make the fennel salad.
The fennel salad needs to marinate for 20 minutes, so I think this should be numero uno.
I bought my olives at Whole Foods at their olive bar. Start by placing the olives in between sheets of parchment paper. Mash the olives with the palms of your hand. If it hurts your hand too much, a potato masher will probably do the trick. Once all the olives are mashed, remove the pits, separate the olives into smaller bits with your hands, and place in a bowl.
Next, chop up the red onion. Once chopped, place the red onion in a strainer, rinse off with cold water, and add it to the bowl of olives. Raw red onion is extremely harsh and has quite a bite to it, so we don’t need that type of drama here.
My knives are an embarrassment to the world of cooking, as I am a starving artist. Therefore, I had to pulse my fennel in the food processor to chop it properly. Hopefully, you don’t have these problems and can cut your fennel like a normal human being. Nevertheless, feel free to use my method.
Place the rest of the salad ingredients into the bowl. Mix and set aside. Let it marinate for at least 20 minutes.
Step 2: Prepare the gluten-free pizza crust. (optional)
Not everyone needs to make a gluten-free pizza crust. Not everyone wants to make a gluten-free pizza crust. However, if you do, I’ve found that Bob’s Red Mill’s website has provided the best recipe. View it here. (Substitute 1 tbs flax seed meal & 3 tbs warm water (mixed) for the egg to make it vegan.)
Your pizza crust should look like this when complete:
Gluten-free crust needs to be pre-cooked before adding any base or toppings to it. At 425º, cook the pizza crust for 7 minutes. Set aside.
Step 3: Food process the pesto base.
This is the easy part, and it’s the perfect thing to do while you’re waiting for your gluten-free crust to precook. Place all ingredients in a food processor and mix until creamy. Garlic bits are graciously accepted.
Step 4: Spread pesto base on pizza crust and bake.
Scoop the pesto with a spoon, then use the back of the spoon to smooth out the pesto throughout the crust.
Bake in the oven at 425º for another 5-7 minutes, until crust is golden brown.
Why bake the pesto, you ask? I think it gives the garlic a roast-y taste, which I like.
Step 5: Strain the marinade and scoop contents on top of pizza.
Straining the marinade is crucial. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck with the most greasy pizza of all time, and that’s not what we’re about here. Just stick it in a colander, let the oil drip out for a few minutes, and scoop the remaining salad on top of the pizza.
I’d be surprised if you’ve had anything like this pizza before. It tastes so fresh. One thing I really like about this pizza is that the need for tons of salt is minimal, as the parsley and lemon take care of that. It throws so many flavors at you at once, but they all seem to complement each other so nicely. These flavors really have seemed to taken a liking to each other and get along so well. I think they’ll be friends for a long time to come, and my mouth isn’t complaining.
If you’re interested on trying any of my other pizzas, take a look at the following:
- the tomato base, Easy Ricotta Pizza
- the refried bean base, Mexican Pizza
- the hummus base, Hummus Pizza with Cucumber Cream Sauce
- the creamy garlic base, Creamy Dreamy Garlic Pizza
If you happen to try making this pizza and are on Instagram, take a picture of it and use the hashtag #thisvegangirl so I can take a peek. I’d love to see how it worked out for you. Don’t forget to add me on Facebook, too, as I post all my blog updates on there.