All posts by Mervin

Za’atar Roasted Tomato Salad with Black Lentils

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

Post sponsored by See below for more details.

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.

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Weeknight Ponzu Pasta

This one is for semi-lazy nights when you still want to get something vibrant and seasonal on the table. All things green in a quick, weeknight pasta option. It’s feel-good food that won’t weigh you down. The ponzu dressing comes together in a flash, boosted with a good dose of garlic and a thread of toasted sesame oil. The broccoli and green beans are cooked in the same water as the pasta, and everything gets tossed together in one big bowl to serve family style. The recipe is incredibly versatile – it is vegan as written, you can use GF pasta if that is a consideration, and there is very little added oil, if you’re keeping an eye on that. It can adapt through the seasons – swap in asparagus/favas in spring, roasted cubes of winter squash or sweet potatoes later in the year. Enjoy! -h

Weeknight Ponzu Pasta Recipe

Weeknight Ponzu Pasta Recipe

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Pesto Zucchini Lasagna

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.

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Pear Guide for Shopping Locally

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 being apart of the food community in a 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. |

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Pecan Tomatillo Soup

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.

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Podcast: What Exactly Is Plant-Based? w/ Sharon Palmer

Hey everyone, on today’s episode we’ll be talking all about plant-based living- what that means, why it’s important, and practical ways to get more plant foods in your life. This episode is sponsored by the US Highbush Blueberry Council, which Jess and I are both spokespeople for. In case you missed it on the socials, this […]

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Olive Tapenade | Cooking Component

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.

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Lentil Polenta Casserole

More times than not you’ll find some sort of leftover soup in my refrigerator. And, despite stovetop polenta being exponentially better, there is usually one of those ubiquitous tubes of polenta in the pantry as well. If you’ve got those two components, and you have five minutes, you can get a dinner like this in the oven. It’s for those nights when an absolute minimum effort to get dinner on the table is where it’s at. I like to use lentil soups (this one works particularly well), but the general idea is incredibly flexible.

Lentil Polenta Casserole Recipe

Lentil Polenta Casserole Recipe

Lentil Polenta Casserole Recipe

I suspect some of you might ask about the stoneware casseroles pictured here. Love them! I picked mine up at SHED, but you can also find them at Herriott Grace, made by Workaday. Enjoy! -h

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Oat Crisp with Burst Tomato Arugula Salad

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.

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