Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chickpea Meatballs

There are a seemingly infinite number of vegetarian "meat"ball recipes out there.  What I like about this one is, it is made with mostly pantry staples (which makes it cheap!), it has lots of flavor, and it's quick and easy to put together.  The extra bonus?  They're good for you!  I made a quick and simple tomato sauce by caramelizing a few sliced shallots in some butter and pureeing it together with a can of diced San Marzano tomatoes and a little salt and tossed it with some whole wheat penne pasta. 

I always have a lot of dried beans on hand, so I used my pressure cooker to cook dried chickpeas (1 cup yields about 2 cups cooked), but canned ones would work just as well.  For those of you who don't have a pressure cooker, especially those who are frequent legume consumers, I would highly recommend the investment.  Not only will it eventually save you money (dried beans in the bulk section of any supermarket are way cheaper than canned beans and even packaged dried beans) but it also makes quick work out of any traditionally slow-cooked dish.

Chickpea Meatballs
makes about 16 balls

1 cup oats
1 roasted red pepper
3 shallots, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 T dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp cumin
3 T olive oil
2 cups cooked chickpeas
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Add oats to a food processor and pulse until ground into a coarse flour.  Add remaining ingredients and pulse to combine into a slightly chunky puree. 

Place breadcrumbs on a medium-sized plate.  Form chickpea mixture into two-inch balls and then roll the balls in the breadcrumbs.  Arrange on a baking sheet and bake, flipping once, for about 30 minutes or until golden in color and firm.  Serve with pasta and tomato sauce or atop a simple salad.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Apple-Pear and Pinenut Crisp

Those who know me well know that I'm a real sucker for dessert.  In fact, the first thing I ever remember cooking was, as my Dad called it when I was little (and sometimes still does) peach "crips," otherwise known as crisp.  What I love about fruit crisps is that they are simple, sweet, and they really allow seasonal fruit to take center stage.

This crisp is as easy to make as any ol' crisp, but it has some unusual ingredients to give this very traditional dessert a unique twist.  I used almond flour, pine nuts and almond extract to give the topping a wonderful marzipan-like flavor, with the wintry spices of apple cider to enhance the Fall fruits.  The ratio of pears to apples is just what I happened to have in the fridge at the time - you can do half and half or even make an all-apple or all-pear crisp if you like.  I used Jonathan apples because their tart flavor pairs nicely with the rich sweetness of the pears and honey.  You can use any variety of apple you like and there's no need to peel the fruit - the skin gives the dessert a lovely color. 

Apple-Pear and Pinenut Crisp
6 small or 4 large servings

1 cup sliced Barlett pears (about 1 medium pear)
5 cups sliced Jonathan apples (about 3-4 medium apples)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 T honey
1 tsp cornstarch
2/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup almond flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
5 T butter, cold and cut into squares
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a 9-inch square pan, combine sliced fruit, lemon juice, honey and cornstarch and toss well to combine. 

Add remaining ingredients to a food processor and pulse until mixture is coarse and crumbly.  Spread topping evenly across the apples and pat down.  Bake until golden brown on top, about 35 to 40 minutes.  Allow to cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Colorado Kabocha Curry

It's another squash recipe!  Hooray!

Sadly, we have reached the end of the season with our CSA from Red Wagon Organic Farms.  The good news is that they had "winter keeper" boxes available for purchase, so we are now the proud owners of over 35 lbs of squash (not to mention a whole lotta potatoes, onions and shallots)!

So, needless to say, there will be a plethora of squash recipes posted in the coming months.  I think this one is a pleasant change of pace - an unusual way to utilize Colorado's Fall bounty, but surprisingly wonderful-tasting and a nice departure from the sage-spiced butternut soups we see all too often.  The curry is definitely not what I would call "authentic" (I'm not sure there are any traditional Indian recipes with Kabocha squash and leeks!) but for lovers of Indian food and locally-grown produce, it will not disappoint.  Make sure you use the best curry powder you can get your hands on for the best-tasting results.

Colorado Kabocha Curry
serves 4-6

1 medium Kabocha Squash (around 4 lbs - yields 2 1/2 cups cooked squash)
1 T peanut oil
1 T ghee (or butter)
1 large leek, sliced
1 shallot, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
2 medium red potatoes, diced
1 1/2 T curry powder
1 pinch ginger powder
2 pinches cayenne powder
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cups water
3 cups chopped, fresh spinach
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Cut Kabocha in half and scrape out the pulp and seeds with a spoon.  Fill a shallow pan with about 2 inches of water and place Kabocha halves cut-side down in the pan.  Roast until very soft, about 30 to 40 minutes.  Reduce heat to 375.  Toast the shredded coconut on a sheet pan until golden, about 5 minutes.  Set aside.

While Kabocha is roasting, heat a large pot to medium and add oil and butter.  Saute the leek until soft and lightly caramelized, about 7 minutes.  Add shallot, carrots and potatoes and saute an additional minute.  Add curry powder and liquids and stir well to combine.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover.

Once Kabocha is cooked and cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh and add to the curry mixture.  Mix well and continue to simmer until liquid thickens and potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes or more. 

Once curry is thick and vegetables are cooked, add chopped spinach and cook for two minutes until wilted but still bright green in color.  Season curry with salt and pepper and serve hot, over cooked brown basmati rice, and sprinkle toasted coconut on top. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Delicata Squash and Pinto Stew

Whether you shop at the grocery store, the farmer's market, or the farm stand, (or all three!) you can't go anywhere without running into squash right now!  The best markets will already have a rather diverse selection, which might include kabocha, acorn, buttercup, delicata, butternut, spaghetti, and carnival squash.  All are wonderfully flavorful and nutritious, and each has it's own unique characteristics that make it special. 

The delicata squash may look rather unassuming next to the cute and colorful carnival squashes or the rustic, brightly-colored sunshine kabocha, but it is actually a wonderful little gourd!  Delicatas are small and yellow with green striping and are one of the easiest squashes to prepare raw because of their small, easy-to-manage size and their thinner skin.  Their flavor is rather mild and "delicate" compared to other varieties of winter squash.  The delicata blends well with other ingredients because of it's unassuming flavor but still lends that signature nutty-sweet flavor of squash to any dish.

This stew is a nice, easy weekday meal with a lot of the cooking time being inactive.  It is healthy yet hearty and quite inexpensive to put together, and makes great use of a lot of kitchen and pantry staples.  Since it has some distinctly mexican characteristics to it, I had a couple tortillas on the side (and for dipping!) to make it a nice, filling meal. 

Delicata Squash and Pinto Stew
Serves 6

2 T olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 celery rib, diced
1 Delicata squash, peeled, seeded and diced
1 large green pepper, seeded and diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1 1/2 cups dried pinto beans, cooked
about 6 cups vegetable stock
1 1/2 T ground cumin
1-2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp Mexican oregano
salt and pepper to taste
Tortillas, to eat alongside the stew (optional)

In a large soup pot over medium heat, add olive oil.  Add onions and celery and cook until onions are soft and lightly browned, about 6 minutes.  Add squash and peppers and cook another five minutes.  Add garlic in the last minute.  Deglaze pan with white wine and allow liquid to reduce for about two minutes.  Add pinto beans, stir well, then add enough vegetable stock to just cover all the vegetables.  Bring liquid to a boil, then add spices.  Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer until fragrant and slightly thickened, at least 20 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with warmed tortillas on the side.

Optional step:  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup for about a minute so that there are still lots of diced vegetables

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spicy Chipotle-Kabocha Soup

Here in Colorado, Fall is in full swing!  The aspen trees are the most vibrant yellow, the mountain air is barely crisp, and the markets are abundant with local squash of seemingly endless varieties!  Admittedly, this is my favorite time of year for food.  As a full-fledged food lover I try not to play favorites, but there's something about the flavors of Fall that I can't help but favor. 

If you've never tried Kabocha squash, you are really in for a treat.  Also known as the Japanese Pumpkin, the Kabocha is more intense, sweet, and vibrant-colored than the American varieties.  The skin of this squash is edible when cooked, but since this soup is pureed it is best to remove it and use for making pumpkin stock. 

What you'll love about this soup is the wonderful flavor contrasts of spicy and sweet.  If you remove the seeds from the chipotles before adding to the soup, you will get a milder, smoky heat.  If you want some sinus-clearing spice (that's Obe's favorite heat level!), leave the seeds in.  It might just be the tastiest cold medicine you've ever sipped!

Spicy Chipotle-Kabocha Soup
serves 8

1 Kabocha Squash (any color)
1 large yellow onion, halved and sliced
3 T butter or olive oil
1/4 cup brandy
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 oz (1/4 of a can) Chipotles in adobo sauce
2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
1 cup water
about 6 cups of vegetable stock (or homemade Kabocha stock)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Prep the squash:  Halve the squash and scrape out the pulp and seeds (set aside for stock).  Fill a large, shallow pan with about 2 inches of water.  Place squash halves cut-side down in the pan and place in the oven.  Roast until squash is very soft, about 30 minutes.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt butter.  Add onions and cook until golden-brown and caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Deglaze pan with brandy and add chipotles, potatoes and water.  Bring liquid to a boil, then add stock.  Bring to a boil again, then lower the heat to allow the soup to simmer.

Once squash is cool enough to handle, peel away the skin, scraping any stubborn bits off with a spoon.  Set the skin aside for stock.  Stir the kabocha flesh into the soup and continue to simmer until potatoes are completely soft and the liquid thickens, about 30 minutes.  Using an immersian blender, puree soup until smooth.  Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Mostly Raw Asian Salad

Yesterday was the 4th of July and in traditional American fashion we celebrated with some grilled meat and brownie sundaes (OK I don't know how traditional brownie sundaes are for the 4th, but we basically just felt like indulging!).  Needless to say, we needed a bit of a "detox" from that incredibly heavy meal, so I made this light, cleansing, and mostly raw salad! 

The dish is made with a light, tangy peanut dressing which provides lots of flavor to cling to the raw veggies.  I added the cut vegetables to the dressing and let them sit for an hour to tenderize a little bit, but this step isn't really necessary.  If you are planning on having leftovers, keep the dressed veggies separate from the lettuce until ready to serve - that way the lettuce won't wilt!

Mostly Raw Asian Salad
serves 4

Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp honey
1 T rice vinegar
1 T soy sauce
1 tsp toasted seasame oil
3 T peanut butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 T fresh mint, chopped
2 T fresh chives, chopped

2 carrots, cut into matchsticks
1 large red pepper, cut into matchsticks
2 cups of broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
8 cups mixed greens

In a large bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients until smooth.  Add the carrots, pepper and broccoli and toss well to combine.  Just before serving, add 1/4 of the dressed veggies to 2 cups of mixed greens and toss well.  Sprinkle seasame seeds on top and serve.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not Your Ordinary Potato Salad with Herbed Yoghurt and Lemon Dressing

How do I know that Summer has finally arrived?  It isn't by looking at the calendar, but by peeking out into my Urban Jungle on the porch!  The sun is so warm and the days so long that my herbs suddenly seem to be bursting out of their window boxes and the tomatoes are up to the balcony ceiling!  I decided to celebrate by making the herbs the center of attention in this Not-Your-Ordinary Potato Salad recipe. 

I enjoy this recipe for a number of reasons.  Not only does it give me a chance to enjoy all the "fruits" or my labor, but I also think there's just nothing that says "Summer" quite like potato salad.  If that isn't cause for celebration enough, this recipe happens to be a dramatic departure from the unappealing, over-dressed and mayonaisse-laden potato salad that comes in giant tubs at the supermarket.  This version is fresh, low in fat, super tangy and wonderfully flavorful.  I add a generous helping of greens and some farm-fresh eggs to make it a meal, but in smaller portions it also makes a wonderful accompaniment to any sort of grilled protein or meat!

So here is a hearty and healthy salad made with lots of love, from garden to plate.  Really, I think that is what this time of year is all about.  Happy Summer, everybody!  :)

Not Your Ordinary Potato Salad with Herbed Yoghurt and Lemon Dressing
serves 4 as an entree

Juice of 2 lemons
1 cup Nonfat Greek-style yoghurt (I used Fage)
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup fresh chives, very finely chopped
1 garlic scape, very finely chopped (or 1 clove garlic, minced)
1/4 cup fresh mint, very finely sliced
salt and pepper to taste

2 lbs red potatoes or fingerling potatoes, large-diced
6 cup fresh mixed salad greens, torn into bite-sized pieces
4 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

First, bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add the potatoes and a little salt and cook until just tender, about 7 minutes.  Drain and set aside. 

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl.  Add potatoes and sliced eggs and toss until completely coated.  Allow to cool in the refrigerator until potatoes are no longer warm (so as not to wilt the lettuce).  Once cool, add salad greens and toss lightly to combine.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Polenta with Red Pepper and Walking Onion Pesto

Those who know me well know that I love making things from scratch - especially things that are often available in convenience forms!  Not only does it bring me a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, but it also tastes infinitely better when you make something yourself.  You also have the added benefit of controlling exactly what is going into your dish (versus premade convenience food that often has preservatives and other junk). 

Polenta is one of those ridiculously simple but wonderfully flavorful Italian staples.  While it is time-consuming to prepare from scratch, once you try your own you will never go back to that nasty stuff in a tube!  The coarse texture, complex nuttiness, and comforting warmth of scratch-made polenta straight from your stove is miles away from the over-processed and flavorless stuff you find at the store.  When making this recipe, be sure to start with the best grain you can find!  I used Anson Mills' Red Trentino Flint Polenta Integrale, but the varieties are endless.  Just make sure you look for a coarse corn meal.  The label might say anything from "corn grits" to "corn meal" to straight "polenta" but they are all pretty much the exact same thing.  Just make sure you do not buy any "instant" polenta as it will not apply well to a slow-cooked recipe (but hey... if it is all you have time for, at least it will be better than the tubed stuff!).

My favorite way to eat this polenta is to have leftovers for breakfast with a poached egg on top.  It also makes an excellent dinner alongside a fresh, green salad. 

Polenta with Red Pepper and Walking Onion Pesto
1 cup toasted walnuts
3-4 walking onions, chopped (about 1 cup - may substitute green onions)
3 large roasted red peppers
2 lemons, zested and juiced
2 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil

7 cups water
1 T salt
1 3/4 cups coarse cornmeal (red polenta integrale works well)

Start the polenta.  In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, bring the water to a boil.  Add salt and pour polenta in a thin stream, whisking constantly.  Switch to a wooden spoon and stir constantly for two minutes.  Reduce heat to medium-low (so that you still get a vigorous bubble but not a full boil) and cover.  Check every five to ten minutes and stir vigorously for a minute or so each time.  The polenta is done when most of the moisture is absorbed and the mixture clings to the spoon, anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes. 

Meanwhile, make the pesto.  In a food processor, pulse the walnuts, onions, red peppers, lemon juice and zest, and salt until evenly chopped.  In a slow stream with the processor running, add the olive oil.  Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and process again until pesto is evenly blended.

When polenta is cooked, add 1 cup of the pesto to the pot and mix well.  You can serve immediately at this point or continue to the next step for polenta squares (this can also just be done with whatever you have left-over).  Grease a 9x9 square baking dish with a little olive oil and pour the polenta into the dish while it is still hot.  Use a spatula to flatten the top, then allow to cool in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours or overnight before cutting into squares.  To serve polenta squares, fry in a little olive oil until lightly browned on each side, or just gently warm them up in the oven or microwave.  Serve with a poached egg or a green salad (tossed with a little leftover pesto) for a light meal.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Grilled Artichokes and Asparagus with Walking Onion and Basil Aioli

Wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, is there anything more awesome than the almighty egg?  The uses for this culinary golden child are seemingly endless!  There is, perhaps, no better example of the wondrous feats that an egg can achieve than aioli.  You start with eggs, lemon juice, and oil and somehow end up with a velvety, creamy, ultra-rich concoction that will make you swear off store-bought mayonnaise forever.

Admittedly, it isn't something I make often.  Aioli is not exactly what I would call "health food," but when you make it with locally-sourced, farm-fresh eggs, heart-healthy olive oil and enjoy it in moderation, there's nothing to feel guilty about!  There is also something very satisfying about making this flavorful condiment from scratch.  It is so simple and classic, yet always an elegant addition to any dish.

This recipe is full of Colorado's Spring harvest, including local walking onions from Red Wagon Farms (you can use green onions as a substitute), Penny's Eggs from Nunn, local asparagus, and some fresh basil from my porch garden.  Add a simple green salad and you've got yourself a meal (and a perfect way to celebrate a beautiful Spring day!). 

Walking Onion and Basil Aioli
makes about 1 1/2 cups

2 walking onions, roughly chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup fresh basil leaves and stems
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp coarse salt
2 fresh egg yolks
1 cup olive oil

In a food processor, add onions, basil, lemon juice and salt and pulse until combined.  Add egg yolks and pulse again to combine.  Scrape the sides of the processor bowl to make sure the mixture is evenly distributed at the bottom (so the blades catch as much as possible).  Switch the machine on and with the blade running continuously, very slowly drizzle in the olive oil, stopping periodically (about every 1/4 cup or so) to, again, scrape the sides of the bowl so that the aioli blends evenly.  Turn the machine off as soon as all the oil has been added.  Adjust seasoning, if necessary.  Transfer aioli to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. 

Grilled Artichokes and Asparagus
Serves 4

2 large artichokes
1 bunch asparagus
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper

Prep artichokes by removing the first outer layer of leaves and trimming the pointed edges off the remaining leaves.  Cut the stem to about 1 inch in length.  In a large pot, add about 2 inches of water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer, then stand the artichokes on their stems in the pot and cover.  Steam until they are just barely tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool the artichokes off by running them under cold water for about 30 seconds, then slice each one in half.

Turn the grill on about medium-high and allow to preheat.  Brush the artichokes and asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Start grilling the artichokes first (they take longer) by placing them on the grill cut-side down.  After 8 minutes, turn the artichokes 90 degrees to create a cross-hatch pattern and grill for another 8 minutes.  In the last 5 minutes, place the asparagus on the grill and cook each side for about 2 to three minutes.  Remove vegetables from the grill and serve hot or at room temperature with aioli on the side.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spring Greens and White Bean Salad with Mint-Walnut Dressing

This year, my parents wisely opted into a CSA and they are thankfully sharing the harvest with Obe and me!  We are so excited to have a share of Red Wagon Organic Farm's CSA.  This week's share was the inspiration for this pungent, flavorful and lively salad which highlights Red Wagon's beautiful mixed greens, sweet and tender pea greens, pungent walking onion and spicy radishes.  A true taste of the flavorful bounty Colorado has to offer!

Some of the ingredients are a bit unusual, but they will surely all be available at the Farmer's Market this month.  If you can't make the trip (although it is truly worth the effort!) you can substitute the pea greens for regular mixed greens and the walking onion for regular green onions.  It won't be quite as special, but the salad will still taste wonderful.  The pungent onion and spicy radishes are gently balanced out by the mellow white beans and toasted walnuts.  The bright, minty dressing gives it a nice tang. 

Spring Greens and White Bean Salad with Mint-Walnut Dressing
serves 3-4

4 cups mixed greens
2 cups pea greens
2 radishes, thinly sliced
1 walking onion, thinly sliced (about 1/3 cup)
1 1/2 cups cooked white beans, seasoned with salt
1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted

1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 cup mint leaves
1 tsp. honey
2 T walnut oil
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Assemble dressing.  Add vinegar, mint leaves and honey to a blender and pulse until the mint is chopped.  Slowly drizzle in the oils while blender is on.  Add salt and pepper and blend. 

In a large bowl, combine all the salad ingredients.  Drizzle 1/4 cup of the dressing (or more, if desired) over the salad and toss well.  Serve immediately.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Zucchini & Feta Fritters with Mint Yoghurt

Here is a slightly naughty but oh-so-delicious addition to the recipe archives:  Zucchini & Feta Fritters with Mint Yoghurt! 

'Tis the season for zucchini!  It's everywhere and in abundance, and I know few people who aren't trying to come up with ways to use all theirs up!  These fritters are not only a clever use for zucchini, but they also taste wonderful.  The addition of rice flour gives them an extra crispy texture, but you can substitute wheat flour if you don't have any on hand.  These make a delicious accompaniment to Tabouleh salad (or any other type of Middle Eastern-style salad) and eaten with any other type of vegetable or mezze dish, they are filling enough to make a meal. 

This recipe was adapted from Greg and Lucy Malouf's cookbook, Saha.  My version is a little more heavy on the batter (maybe it's an American thing, but I like a truly crispy pancake rather than a just-enough-flour-to-barely-hold-things-together kind of recipe.  It makes them far less fussy to work with!).  Their version also calls for plenty of fresh and dried mint, but I felt that the mint flavor was really hard to taste in the final result, so I made a lovely minted yoghurt to spread liberally on top of each fritter.  The results are just marvelous!   

Zucchini & Feta Fritters with Mint Yoghurt
Serves 4

2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2-3 medium zucchini)
2 fresh eggs
1 small yellow onion, grated
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup white flour
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 T fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup peanut oil, for frying

1 cup strained yoghurt (I used 0% Fage brand)
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste

First, place the grated zucchini in a strainer or colander, sprinkle with salt, and drain for about 30 minutes.  Using a dish towel or paper towels, gently squeeze the zucchini as dry as you can get it. 

Meanwhile, make your yoghurt.  Mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl (reserving a sprig of mint for garnish, if desired).  Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Get your frying pan ready.  Add the peanut oil and heat over medium (you want to be able to fry the fritters as soon as the batter is assembled.  Otherwise, the zucchini will begin to seep liquid and the batter will become runny).  Add the eggs to a medium-sized bowl and whisk to combine.  Add zucchini, onion and garlic and continue to beat until eggs increase in volume, slightly (just a minute or so).  Add flours, feta and dill and stir well with a wooden spoon.

Wet your hands with cool water and form fritters.  Take about 1/4 cup of batter and shape into a patty in your hand.  Carefully drop into the hot oil and pat down the center so the fritter is flat (use a spatula to do this if you are nervous about spattering oil).  Fry each side until golden-brown, about 2 minutes per side.  Allow to drain on paper towels and sprinkle with a little finishing salt while still hot.  Serve immediately with yoghurt on the side.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Tabouleh Salad

In honor of Obe's 33rd birthday this Monday, I decided to put together a Lebanese-style ensemble of mezze dishes.  Mezze are a little bit like Spanish tapas in style.  They are a collection of small-plate dishes served for either lunch or dinner, and the variety is almost endless!

Middle Eastern cuisine has always been a favorite in this house, especially since Obe is half Lebanese.  He is particularly fond of anything with a lot of garlic and lemon juice, and I love all the wonderful spices.  Most of my inspiration came from my new favorite cookbook, Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf.  Not only is it filled with beautiful pictures and delicious recipes but they also include detailed stories of their travels through Lebanon.  It is a marvelous cookbook and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wishes to explore authentic Lebanese cuisine.

This recipe is a playful twist on Tabouleh.  It has all the main elements of Tabouleh but with some feta to add richness and romaine lettuce to add bulk and crunch.  It can be served as a mezze dish or in larger servings as a lighter-than-air but incredibly flavorful entree.  Enjoy it right away and you get lots of heat from the pungent raw garlic.  Allow it to sit overnight and the garlic flavor mellows and the parsley and lemon juice have a chance to infuse the bulgar to make for a more complex taste.  Either way, this salad is absolutely delicious! 

Tabouleh Salad
serves 4 as a main course

1/2 cup bulgar
juice of 1 large lemon
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1-2 ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 large cucumber, seeded and diced
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (about 1 cup)

First, soak the bulgar.  In a small bowl, add dry bulgar and enough cold water to just barely cover.  Allow to soak until the water is absorbed and the bulgar has expanded to about 1 1/2 cups (at least 30 minutes). 

Meanwhile, assemble the dressing.  In a medium bowl, add lemon juice with a pinch of salt and pepper to start.  Using a microplane, grate the clove of garlic into a paste and whisk into the lemon juice.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly.  Add feta and whisk to break up the larger crumbles and incorporate the cheese into the dressing.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, add the bulgar, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and parsley and toss to combine.  Pour dressing over the mixture and toss well.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve with warm flatbread or naan, if desired. 

*Storage note:  If you wish to make this salad ahead of time (or are planning on having leftovers) keep the lettuce and tomatoes separate and combine dressing with remaining ingredients.  When ready to serve, add lettuce and tomatoes and toss to combine. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Cabbage and Bean Chili with Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings

It has been "April Showers" all day long here in Colorado.  I do love the Spring rain and it puts me in the mood for something warm and comforting.  Hence:  Chili and Dumplings! 

When you eat "vegetarian-ish" for as long as I have, you come across about a million different chili recipes.  I, myself, rarely make the same chili twice because it is such a great way to clear out the pantry and the crisper!  Especially when the grocery budget is tight, I love to challenge myself to make dinner with whatever is on hand.  It often makes you combine things you wouldn't normally have thought to put together and it forces you to get creative with a limited number of ingredients. 

So, inspired by the rain and the contents of my pantry and fridge, I give you this chili.  This dish is deliciously warming and full of flavor!  The cabbage gives it lots of texture and crunch, while the beans and dumplings make it homey and filling without being heavy.  Not to mention the beautiful color pallete of bright purple cabbage, green onions, a rosy-red broth and pale, golden-yellow dumplings.  In the words of Ina Garten, "What's not to like?!?" 

Cabbage and Bean Chili with Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings
serves 8-10

1 cup dried black beans, cooked
1 cup dried kidney beans, cooked
2 T olive oil
1 T peanut oil
1 green pepper, diced
1 red onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups red cabbage (about 1/2 a small head), sliced and washed
1 28 oz. can diced San Marzano tomatoes
6 cups vegetable stock
1/8 cup maple syrup
1 T cumin
1-3 tsp cayenne, to taste
salt and pepper
Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings, recipe to follow

In a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil and peanut oil.  Add pepper, onions and celery and saute until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add cabbage and stir well.  Cook until volume of cabbage is reduced by almost half, about 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and stir in maple syrup, cumin, cayenne and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook, covered, about 15 minutes.

Gently drop the dumplings onto the surface of the chili and cover again.  Cook until dumplings have puffed up and are firm, about 25 more minutes.  Serve.

Herbed Cornmeal Dumplings
makes 14 dumplings
adapted from a recipe posted by Bon Appetit's website in January of 2011:

3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1 T sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp coarse salt
3/4 cup almond milk or other milk substitute (or regular milk)
1 1/2 T peanut oil
1 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 T fresh rosemary, finely chopped

In a medium bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Add the wet ingredients and stir to combine.  Add chopped herbs and stir once more to combine.  Allow mixture to sit for at least 1 hour and up to 2 hours.

Wetting your hands periodically with cold water, roll dough into golf ball-sized pieces.  Drop into hot liquid, cover, and cook for 25 to 30 minutes.

Spring Has Sprung Pasta and Pesto

Nothing says "Spring" quite like fiddlehead ferns!  They look a bit like they belong in a fairytale (which is one of the things I love about them) but they also taste wonderful.  If you've never tried them, fiddleheads are a little bit like asparagus only more mild and sweet.  Asparagus is also at it's peak right now, which is the only way I like to eat it.  Although it is available shipped from South America year-round, you can often find locally-grown asparagus this time of year and it is much tastier!  Look for slender-looking stems with tight, green buds at the tip.

The pasta I used is Maestri Pastai's Foglie di Carciofo (meaning "artichoke leaflets").  It is a bit of a specialty item (you can, of course, find it at Marczyk's if you are lucky enough to live in Denver) but it is also one of my favorite pastas ever.  It is an Italian import made with semolina and dehydrated artichoke and looks like pale green petals.  Not only is it rather pretty but it's also wonderfully toothsome and delicious.  If you can't find this particular product, though, you can certainly substitute for just about any good pesto-grabbing pasta shape you can think of such as orecchiete or penne. 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, is the pesto.  I absolutely adore pesto, not only because it makes everything taste amazing but also because it is so quick to put together!  This one calls for equal amounts of mint and basil for a brighter, "springier" flavor.  Other than that, and the welcome addition of fresh lemon juice, it is a pretty typical pesto.  Make sure to set aside a few leaf clusters for a pretty garnish.

Spring Has Sprung Pasta and Pesto
serves 4 as an entree, 6 as a first course

1/3 cup pine nuts
2/3 oz basil leaves (one small clamshell container's worth)
2/3 oz mint leaves
3 small cloves garlic, roughly chopped
zest and juice of one lime
generous tsp kosher salt, or to taste
generous tsp freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup parmiggiano reggiano, freshly grated

Pasta and Vegetables:
1 package (17.66 oz) Maestri Pastai Foglie Di Carciofo
1 T olive oil
1 bunch asparagus
1 cup fiddlehead ferns
juice of 1 lemon

Begin by cooking the pasta.  Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil and add pasta.  Boil, stirring occasionally, until al dente.

In a food processor, pulse the pine nuts, herbs, garlic, lemon, salt and pepper until evenly chopped.  With the blade running, slowly stream in the olive oil.  Turn power off and remove blade, then mix in the parmiggiano reggiano with a spatula to combine.

Prep your asparagus by cutting the woody part of the stem (the bottom half, usually) and setting aside for use in stock or soup.  Cut the asparagus ends into 1-inch pieces.  In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium-high for about a minute or two, until just barely smoking.  Reduce heat to medium and add asparagus and fiddleheads.  Stir-fry until just heated through, about three short minutes.  Remove pan from heat immediately.

In a large serving bowl, toss pasta, vegetables, pesto, and lemon juice together until combined.  Adjust salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve immediately.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spring has sprung!

The first tomatoes have made an appearance!  These are of the Sun Gold variety, which are little grape-sized, sweet, yellow tomatoes. 

Also making an appearance are the first of my Sweet Millions, another grape-sized variety.  The great thing about the small tomato varieties is that they grow up fast, and the yield is usually high.  This makes them perfect varieties for container gardening, when space is limited and getting the most out of your soil can be difficult.  I used organic potting soil and fertilized with organic buffalo compost (they sell it at Whole Foods).  So far, so good!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Black Bean Mocha Soup

Here at the Ariss household, we are major coffee drinkers!  Obe makes it every morning, drinks a cup while he gets ready and then gets one to go.  I usually only have one cup, which leaves us with leftover coffee almost every day.  In the spirit of minimalizing waste, lately I've been pouring the extra coffee into a glass milk bottle and sticking it in the fridge to enjoy later. 

But tonight I decided to put it to a different use - making my pot of beans a LOT more interesting!  Some leftover coffee and a little espresso powder, layered with luscious dark cocoa, and we've got a complex, bittersweet blend of flavors that is sure to cure your black bean boredom. 

Black Bean Mocha Soup
serves 4

1 yellow onion, chopped
1 T olive oil
4 cups cooked black beans
2 cups brewed coffee
1 cup vegetable broth
2 tsp dark cocoa powder
1 tsp espresso powder
pinch of cayenne
pinch of cinnamon
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp honey
salt to taste

In a large pot, add olive oil and heat over medium-high.  Add onions and saute until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add beans and stir to combine.  Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer.  Using a hand blender, puree soup until it becomes smooth and creamy.  Adjust salt and spices, if necessary.  Serve with rice seasoned with a little lemon juice or a poached egg, if desired.

An Ode to the Tomatoes

There's really nothing like waking up on a Spring morning such as this, when the skies are grey and the weather is cool and crisp and you can almost smell the impending rain.  In the middle of the city, streets are busy with construction noise, the screech of trains stopping short on the tracks, and so many hundreds of cars passing by, but up here on the third floor, surrounded by new life, it feels calm and peaceful. 

I woke up to see that the first blossoms on my Sun Gold tomato plant have opened.  Like the promise of rain on a cloudy day, these little flowers are the promise of a million possibilities of culinary delight!  Each day I wake up to find the tomato vine a little bit taller, or with a few more flower buds than it had before, and I can't stop imagining all the wonderful things I want to make with my tomatoes!  I can't quite express the happiness I feel about it for fear of over-romanticizing or sounding ridiculous, but I must admit that my little container garden project has brought me much joy. 

For now, I continue to excitedly wait for my plants to yield fruit and fantasize about all the ways I can prepare and enjoy them. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Herbed Colcannon Salad

As I was trying to imagine what I wanted to have for dinner this evening, I was suddenly inspired by an odd combination of ingredients:  a few leftover groceries from a Seder that I cooked for last night!  I had a Spring medley of herbs leftover from my Herbed Matzoh Ball Soup (that recipe I'll post a little later...), some Ba'tampte mustard, brussels sprouts from a lovely shaved salad from one of my favorite food websites, Food52 (here's the recipe for that one:, and potatoes from, well, I just always have potatoes!

This recipe is also inspired by the beloved Irish dish, colcannon.  Although it is a major departure from the traditional colcannon, made with buttery mashed potatoes, this version is pleasantly reminiscent of the comforting dish with a much lighter, tangier taste.  The brightness of the vinegar and mustard, sweetness of the honey and crunchiness of the crispy brussels sprouts makes it a flavorful, textural delight.  Serve this alongside any protein you like, or have a bigger helping and call it a meal.  At about 270 calories per serving, you can afford to have seconds!

Herbed Colcannon Salad
serves 4

2 Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and diced
4 cups brussels sprouts leaves
2 tsp olive oil
generous pinch of kosher salt

2 T honey
2 T Ba'Tampte Mustard, or any good deli-style whole grain mustard
2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
4 T olive oil
2 T fresh dill, chopped
2 T fresh chives, chopped
2 T fresh mint, chopped
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 425.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.  Add diced potatoes and cook until just barely tender, about 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, toss brussels sprouts leaves with olive oil and salt.  Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until browned and crispy, 7 minutes or more. 

Make dressing:  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt honey and mustard together.  Add balsamic vinegar and whisk to combine.  While whisking rapidly, slowly drizzle olive oil into the mixture to emulsify.  Remove from heat and pour into a large bowl.  Add potatoes, brussels sprouts, chopped herbs and salt and toss well to combine.  Serve warm or room temperature. 

Truffled Mushroom and Leek Shepherds Pie

April in Colorado is an ever-surprising time of year.  Tulips are peeking through the soil, the Farmers Market springs to life, the weather is crisp and bright, and suddenly... it's snowing.  You never know quite what to expect!  So, in the spirit of the mercurial month of April, I give you this Shepherds Pie.  It's a little bit winter and a little bit Spring, with a couple surprises along the way! 

This recipe is truly a celebration of the almighty mushroom.  Hazel Del Farms is selling their glorious mixed-bag of mushrooms both at the Farmer's Market and in a number of stores across the state, but you can use any combination of mushrooms you like.  Hazel Del's mix is a beautiful medly of trumpet, oyster, lion's head, and shiitake mushrooms. 

One of the things I like best about a vegan version of shepherds pie is that it tastes like an indulgence without actually being one.  Each warm, cozy serving is rich with exotic, complex and decadent truffle flavor but only has about 550 calories (that's for three servings per recipe - which is a nice, heaping helping!) and, of course, no cholesterol.  If vegan isn't your thing, you can easily substitute regular milk and butter in the mashed potatoes, but do give hazelnut milk a try.  It is a mild, creamy substitute for dairy that does not impart that rather unpleasant "beany" taste that soy milk tends to have.

Truffled Mushroom and Leek Shepherds Pie
serves 3-4 (can easily be doubled)

Potato Topping:
1 1/2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled (about 5 large potatoes)
1 cup hazelnut milk
1 tsp white truffle oil
1 T butter-flavored olive oil or butter substitute
1 generous pinch of onion powder
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 T olive oil
1 large leek, sliced and rinsed
1/2 lb mushrooms, mixed variety
1 large carrot, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 cup frozen peas
2 T flour
1 cup hazelnut milk
1 tsp vegetable broth powder
1 T rosemary, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of water to boil on high heat.  Peel potatoes and add to water.  Boil until potatoes are fork-tender, about 40 minutes.  Reserve 1 cup of cooking liquid for gravy.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add 2 T olive oil.  When oil is hot, add leeks and cook until slightly caramelized, about 6 minutes.  Add mushrooms, carrots and peas and saute for an additional 5 minutes, adding a little more olive oil if necessary.  Remove vegetables from pan and set aside. 

Return pan to medium-high heat and add 2 T of olive oil.  Add flour and whisk until combined.  Switch to a wooden spoon and scrape the caramelized vegetable bits off the bottom of the pan.  Lower the heat to medium and carefully drizzle 1 cup of potato cooking liquid into the pan, stirring constantly.  Slowly add 1 cup hazelnut milk and stir well.  Add vegetable broth powder, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until desired thickness is achieved, about 5 minutes.  Add vegetables to gravy and stir well to combine.

Assemble mashed potatoes.  Drain cooked potatoes and press through a ricer into a medium-sized bowl.  Add the rest of the ingredients and lightly fold in with a spatula.  Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat oven to 375.  In a small casserole dish (I used a 1 3/4 quart dish that measured 8 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches), add a little olive oil and rub with a paper towel to coat the inside.  Add the vegetables and gravy first, then layer the mashed potatoes on top.  Bake shepherds pie until the potatoes turn lightly golden, about 30 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Creamy Strawberry Farro Porridge

If you haven't yet jumped on the farro bandwagon, here's a great recipe to start with!  Farro is an ancient grain which was, perhaps, among the first cultivated crops in the fertile crescent.  Its relatively low yield (compared with wheat and other grains) caused it to fall out of favor over time, but farro remains popular in Italy and has received a lot of attention lately in food-nerd and health-nut circles across the country.  It has a soft, chewy texture and a richly complex and nutty flavor.

Although farro usually plays a role in savory dishes, I am just crazy about having it for a sweet and tangy breakfast!  This recipe uses a little coconut milk to make the porridge rich and creamy (although whole milk would work well, too).  The strawberries fall apart in the heat to give the dish a gorgeous pink hue and a sweet tanginess.  To round out the flavors, I like to drizzle a little balsamic cream over the top.  It may sound a little weird, but trust me...  strawberries and balsamic vinegar go together like peanut butter and chocolate.  If you don't have balsamic cream you can either make a homemade balsamic reduction (just lightly simmer balsamic vinegar with a little bit of cornstarch until it thickens) or just use some good, thick balsamic all by itself. 

Creamy Strawberry Farro Porridge
serves 4

1 cup farro
2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1 cup coconut milk
1 10 oz package frozen strawberries (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup brown sugar
balsamic cream (optional)

In a medium saucepan over high heat, add farro, water and salt and bring to a boil.  Cook, uncovered, until about 1/2 the water is absorbed (about 10 minutes) then add the coconut milk and strawberries and stir well.  Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low and cover.  Cook for about 15 to 20 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until the farro is tender and chewy and the porridge reaches a creamy consistency.  Add brown sugar and mix with a wooden spoon.  Use the spoon to smash any remaining whole strawberries into smaller pieces.

Remove from heat.  Drizzle each serving with the balsamic cream (or some good balsamic vinegar) and serve immediately.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Curried Red Rice

This Indian-inspired recipe is what I would consider a food-geek's pantry meal.  It consists almost entirely of things that I routinely stock in my kitchen, such as frozen peas, coconut milk, and red rice.  Bhutanese red rice is available at specialty markets and is definitely worth a try if you are feeling bored with your usual whole grains.  It is an heirloom rice grown in the Himalayas with a gorgeous rosy tint and a nutty flavor.  Another advantage to red rice is that it cooks much faster than brown because, let's face it, sometimes you just don't want to spend an hour on dinner! 

If you don't stock red rice in your pantry, any ol' rice will do (you might have to adjust the cooking time).  We turned this side-dish into a meal by toasting some home-made chickpea patties, chopping them into bite-sized pieces and mixing them in just before serving.  This rice will compliment just about any protein, so use what you have or just throw in a can of chickpeas!

Curried Red Rice
Serves 4

3/4 cup red rice
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 cup water
1 T curry powder (salt-free)
2 tsp salt
1 10-oz package frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup raisins
fresh cilantro leaves

In a medium saucepan, add rice, coconut milk and water and bring to a boil over high heat.  Add curry powder and salt and stir to combine.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until rice absorbs most of the liquid, about 15 to 20 minutes.  Some of the coconut milk solids will have risen to the top.

Stir mixture to incorporate milk solids.  Add peas and raisins, mix to combine, and cover pan again.  Heat mixture until raisins plump and peas are heated, about 10 more minutes.  Serve with plenty of fresh cilantro leaves on top.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Brand New Garden!

Today was the first day of the Boulder Farmer's Market!  The weather couldn't possibly have been better, there were lots of new stands to enjoy and best of all... seedlings!   

This is the year we are starting our very first organic container garden and, if you can't tell, I'm super excited about it!  So far, I've got some organic sage, mint, rosemary, and tarragon, and six different varieties of heirloom and organic tomatoes.  Over the next few weeks, I hope to add some more herbs including a variety of basil, cucumbers, and whatever else looks good. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Banana-Almond Breakfast Barley

Barley for breakfast might seem like an odd concept for some, but whole grains make truly excellent morning fare.  They have lots of fiber and even some protein, two things a good breakfast should definitely contain.  They also end up being far less expensive than packaged cereal (though you always want to try and find whole grains in bulk, as packaged grains tend to be marked up significantly).   Make it ahead of time and you'll have a hot breakfast in less than two minutes the next morning and throughout the week! 

This recipe is also a really wonderful way to use overripe bananas.  How many of us have thrown out brown bananas because we knew we'd never get around to making banana bread?  Instead, remove the fruit from its peel, throw it in a container or plastic bag and freeze it.  Frozen bananas are great to have around if you like to make smoothies, or you can think of other creative ways to use them up!

Banana-Almond Breakfast Barley
makes 6 to 8 servings

2 T butter (or non-dairy substitute)
5 overripe bananas (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups pearled barley
3-4 cups milk (or substitute - almond or coconut milk work best)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp herbs de provence (optional)
1/2 cup sliced almonds

Add butter to a large saucepan and melt over medium-high heat.  Add bananas and allow to lightly caramelize in the butter for about 5 minutes.  Add barley and stir.  Reduce heat to medium and add 2 cups of milk, salt and herbs de provence.  Allow barley to simmer, uncovered, reducing heat to medium-low once liquid starts to bubble.  Stir frequently until barley has absorbed most of the liquid.  Add another cup of milk and repeat the cooking process.  Barley will take at least 30 minutes to cook.  It should be chewy but not at all chalky in the center (if after 3 cups it still doesn't taste done, add one more cup and repeat cooking process).  Once the barley is cooked, add sliced almonds.  Taste and adjust salt if necessary.  Mix well and serve.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Asian Cole Slaw with Ginger-Peanut Dressing

I'll just say it right now:  I love this recipe!  The dressing is super-flavorful, tangy, garlicky and rich tasting and the vegetables are fresh and crunchy.  It is the perfect balance of healthful, wholesome food with enough good fat to make you feel satisfied.  

Asian Cole Slaw with Ginger-Peanut Dressing
serves 4

1 lb firm tofu
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup peanut oil
6 cups shredded cabbage (mixture of green and red varieties)
2 carrots, shredded
1 yellow pepper, sliced very thin
1 red pepper, sliced very thin
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin

Juice of 2 limes (about 1/8 of a cup)
4 garlic cloves
2 T rice vinegar
3 T soy sauce
2 T fresh ginger, minced
1 T agave syrup (or honey)
1 T sriracha chili sauce
1 T toasted seasame oil
1/4 cup peanut butter

Slice tofu into four 1/2 inch thick rectangles and drain between two cutting boards lined with dish towels (or paper towels).  Allow tofu to press for at least 30 minutes for best results.

Meanwhile, make the dressing.  Add all the dressing ingredients in a small blender and puree until it reaches a creamy, thick consistency.  Thin with a little water, if desired.

Place the flour in a small plate and lightly dredge each piece of tofu.  In a large, flat-bottomed pan, heat peanut oil over medium-high and fry the tofu pieces until browned and crispy, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove tofu from oil and drain on a paper towel.  Season with just a little pinch of salt.

In a large bowl, combine vegetables and all but 1/8 cup of dressing (enough to spread over the tofu pieces) and toss well to combine.  Spread the remaining dressing over the tofu pieces and cut into triangles.  Serve cole slaw with tofu triangles arranged on top.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vegetable Burritos

It seems to me that one of the most common misconceptions about healthy eating is that it costs more.  In my experience, this is not so!  In fact, when I was a perpetually broke college student a whole decade ago, I ate very well on a minuscule food budget.  Lots of beans and rice, lentils, yoghurt, applesauce and other simple, wholesome foods were the staples of my diet back then.   

This burrito recipe is a perfect example of how to eat well without spending a lot of money.  All the ingredients are widely available, beans are about the cheapest source of protein there is, and the veggies can be just about anything you have in the fridge.  You can make a huge diversity of variations depending on what you have, what's on sale, or what's in season, including zucchini, asparagus, leeks, eggplant, potatoes, and just about anything else you can think of!  Choose what you like and make the recipe in big batches, because these burritos are great for freezing. 

Vegetable Burritos
makes about 6 burritos

1 pound dried pinto beans
3 T olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

1 T olive oil
2 red bell peppers, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
1/2 yellow onion, sliced
1/2 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
6 whole wheat tortillas

First, make the beans.  Pick through beans and remove any rocks.  In a pressure cooker, add dried beans and enough water to fill half the pot.  Cook at high pressure for 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to de-pressurize at room temp.  When beans have cooled, slightly, remove from pressure cooker and strain in a colander.  Rinse well.

In a large pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil.  Once hot, add onions and saute until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Add beans, cumin, cayenne, salt and pepper and stir to combine.  Use a wooden spoon to mash the beans as you cook and stir them for about 10 minutes.  If you like a smoother consistency, add about 1/2 cup vegetable stock and puree with a hand blender.  Remove from heat and set aside.

Meanwhile, in a large flat-bottomed pan over medium-high heat, add olive oil.  Add peppers and onion and fry until onions darken and peppers are soft.  Add kale and season with salt.  Remove from heat and stir frequently until kale is softened by the heat of the other vegetables.

Add a large spoonful (about 2/3 a cup) of beans to each tortilla and spread around, leaving about 1 inch of room around the edge.  Top with a large spoonful of veggies and roll into a burrito.  Serve with salsa, hot sauce, fresh cilantro, avocado slices, or guacamole, if desired.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spaghetti Squash with Beans & Greens

Truth be told, I have never been all that impressed with the Spaghetti Squash.  The somewhat trendy tendency to treat it as a replacement for pasta is, for me, utterly unsatisfying.  There's something about a pile of squash with spaghetti sauce that leaves me feeling cheated.  However, if you start treating this vegetable as a vegetable, rather than spaghetti in disguise, it becomes something else entirely!  The light, delicate sweetness and interesting texture of spaghetti squash make it an excellent home for bright, zingy flavors and crispy textures. 

This recipe is simple, cleansing and light.  It makes an excellent post-over-indulgence type of meal (I often like to have something like that on Mondays to give the week a refreshing start).  You can also make this as a side dish to go alongside any protein with bright flavors like lemon and white balsamic vinegar. 

Spaghetti Squash with Beans & Greens

1 Spaghetti Squash
2 cups kale, stems removed and torn into bite-sized pieces
2 cups brussels sprouts, leaves separated and core removed
2 cups broccoli florets, roughly chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
zest of two lemons, juice reserved
2 cups white beans, cooked (canellini or navy work well)
1 tsp cumin
salt and pepper
1 T olive oil
2 tsp walnut oil
1 tsp peanut oil
1 T white balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup sliced almonds (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Half the spaghetti squash length-wise and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet, cut side-down.  Roast squash until soft, about 30 minutes. 

Meanwhile, toss the kale, brussels, and broccoli with garlic, lemon zest, olive oil and salt to taste and place on a large baking sheet.  Bake, tossing mixture occasionally, until some of the leaves are crispy, about 10 minutes.

Once squash has cooled a little, use a large spoon to scrape the stringy flesh into a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk the cumin, lemon juice, balsamic, peanut and walnut oils, and salt and pepper to taste until combined.  Add to squash and toss well.  Add greens, white beans and almonds and toss just before serving (so the greens stay a little crispy).

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Peanut Noodles with Crispy Tofu

I discovered the wonderful world of Asian-style peanut sauces during my first job as a line cook.  Since then, I have made it with lots of variations and enjoyed them all - you almost can't go wrong!  Peanut butter adds a wholesome richness to the sauce, while soy sauce gives it that signature salty, umami taste. 

For all of you out there who insist that tofu sucks, don't be scared away!  Tofu, in fact, does suck when you don't prepare it right.  Some people are perfectly happy with some plain-tasting, soggy bits of un-prepared tofu thrown into any old stir fry but, well, that's just not the way we do things here!  Pressing the tofu allows it to acheive a more chewy, toothsome texture so for best results, do this step well-ahead of time.  The better you press it, the tastier the tofu will be!

Happy Peanut Noodles with Crispy Tofu
makes 2 large or 3 regular-sized servings

1/2 a package dried Udon noodles (about 5 ounces)
peanut oil, for frying
1/2 lb. extra firm tofu
1/4 cup flour
1 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1 large red pepper, cut into matchsticks
3 cups baby bok choy, sliced
1 bunch scallions, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup peanut butter (unsweetened)
2 T rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
1-3 T sriracha chili sauce (to taste)

Slice the tofu into 4 thin squares and very gently squeeze to remove excess water.  Place a towel (or a couple of paper towels) on a cutting board, then top with tofu squares.  Add another towel and another cutting board on top of the tofu.  Place a large pot, or any other heavy item, on top of the cutting board and allow tofu to squeeze dry.  If using paper towels, you may have to change them out once or twice until most of the water is absorbed (at least an hour or more if you have time).

Once tofu is ready, fill a large, shallow, flat-bottomed pan with about 1/4 inch of peanut oil and place on medium heat.  Once oil is heated, gently place the tofu squares in the pan.  Fry each side until nice and golden, about 4-6 minutes per side.  Remove tofu from pan and drain on a paper towel.  Dump all but a couple of teaspoons of the oil from the pan and set aside. 

Meanwhile, cook udon noodles according to package directions and drain in a colander.  Set aside.

Make peanut sauce.  In a blender, add garlic, soy sauce, peanut butter, vinegar, and chili sauce and puree until smooth.  Add a little water to thin the sauce to desired consistency.  Set aside.

Return the tofu pan to medium heat and add the pepper and carrot.  Stir fry until just a little tender, about 3 minutes.  Add bok choy and remove from heat.  In a large bowl, combine noodles, vegetables, scallions and half the peanut sauce and toss well to combine.  Cut tofu squares in half diagonally.  Place them on top of the noodles and drizzle some or all of the remaining sauce directly on the tofu. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Waste not... How to get the most out of your produce

I was inspired, today, by a couple of wrinkly, sad-looking red peppers sitting in my fridge.  Being an impulsive pepper-purchaser, I had just brought two new ones home from the store, but I didn't want to see the not-so-fresh ones go to waste!  Statistics show that about 40% of all food grown and produced in the United States is thrown away.  As in, wasted.  Surprising?  Next time you clean out your refrigerator to make room for new groceries, take a good look at how much you end up throwing out and you will be surprised no more.  We are, all of us, guilty of either buying too much at one time or another.

The good news is, when you start paying attention to creating a minimal-waste environment in your home, you might find that you'll save a lot of money!  No matter who you are or how much time you have, there are most certainly ways for you to cut down on your waste, and here are a few I'd like to share:


Lately, I've been buying Meyer Lemons like they're going out of style!  Meyers are one of my favorite winter fruits because they are incredibly useful and have the most delightful flavor.  However, if you use lemons in a recipe you might find that often times, you tend not to use the whole fruit.  Sometimes you just need the zest, sometimes just the juice, or sometimes only half a fruit.  Here are some things I like to do with the remnants:

1.  Leftover Juice:

- Store it:  Once you've grated all the zest you need off the lemon, squeeze the juice (straining the seeds, of course) into a tupperware or glass jar and keep it in the fridge.  If you won't be using lemon juice that week (although I can't imagine going a week without using lemon juice...) stick it in the freezer and keep it as long as you like!
- Slice it up:  After zesting the fruit, slice the rest of the lemon into thin rounds and put in a small tupperware.  Throw a slice in while you are brewing tea, or squeeze it in a glass of water.  Delicious!

2.  Leftover Rind or Zest:

- Store it:  I have been trying to drink more mate and tea (as opposed to coffee) lately, and I love throwing a little leftover lemon rind in the cup as it brews, adding a hint of lemony goodness to each sip.

- Dry it out:  if you ever have a recipe that just calls for fresh lemon juice, always zest the lemon first.  Not only does this make it easier to squeeze, but you can air-dry the zest and keep it in a closed container to use the next time you need it.


How many of us have bought peppers, only to subject them to a slow, shriveling death in the fridge?  I tend to buy peppers impulsively and with reckless abandon, so this has happened to me before.  Luckily there are a few ways to make your peppers last if they are about to go bad!  Use these tips when you see those wrinkles start to form:

1.  Roast 'em!  There are a number of ways to do this, most of which are entirely acceptable.  The goal is to get the skin a little blackened, allow to cool, then peel away the skin to reveal that marvelous-tasting pepper flesh.  You can blacken them by grilling, roasting, pan-roasting, foil-roasting, or even scorching them over an open flame (if you have a gas stove, that is).  Just make sure you use high heat to acheive the blackened effect, otherwise they will be very difficult to peel and won't have the same lovely flavor.

2.  Freeze:  Once you've roasted the peppers, add a little vegetable stock (or water) and puree in a blender or food processor.  You can use pureed peppers for a million different things, including dressing, soup, hummus, pepper pesto, and tomato sauce.  Once frozen, pepper puree will stay good for quite a while.

3.  Preserve them:  Roasted peppers will basically last forever if you have the equipment necessary to jar and preserve them.  I also found a fantastic article from UC Davis that will give you more information on preserving and storing peppers than you could possibly need to know!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Winter Vegetable Risotto

The wonderful thing about risotto is that you can take a few humble vegetables, stock, and arborio rice and you end up with an elegant, one-pot meal.  True, if you are not a well-practiced cook it might take a few tries to get it right, but once you know the basics you can make it a thousand different ways with excellent results.

There are a few things worth noting before you get started.  First, the dish needs a lot of supervising, so I like to have other projects going in the kitchen to keep myself busy, while having to constantly stir the pot.  For instance, you can clean and put away the dishes, bake something, or read a good book.  Just don't forget to keep stirring!  Second, keep an eye on the pot.  It is OK to walk away for a minute or two when you have liquid protecting the rice, but once you get to the stage when most of the stock is absorbed, that's when it is very important to keep stirring.  Otherwise, the ingredients will stick to the pot and make an unpleasant mess to clean up.  Lastly, once the risotto is ready you want to serve it right away.  I usually turn the heat off as soon as the rice is on the chalky side of al dente (soft enough to chew, but still a little "raw" in the center).  As I take a few minutes to get the table set, the rice has a chance to reach al dente perfection! 

This dish, in particular, is a more wholesome take on the traditional Italian risotto.  I use olive oil instead of butter and there is no wine or cheese (although, a grating of parmiggiano reggiano on top would be a lovely addition).  I find that when the butternut squash starts to dissolve it adds a body and creaminess that replace the need for cheese, and this dish has so much flavor you won't miss the wine at all.  I also like to add a handful of crispy kale on top, for some color and crunch (not to mention nutrients!).  Either way, it is a very comforting and satisfying dish that will help keep you warm through all those cold winter evenings. 

Winter Vegetable Risotto
serves 6

4-6 cups of vegetable stock
2 T olive oil
1 large leek, sliced and washed
4 cups butternut squash (about 1/2 a small squash), peeled and large-diced
1 cup arborio rice
2 cups crimini mushrooms (about 8 oz), chopped
2 T fresh sage, chopped
Crispy kale (optional)

Add stock to a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce to low heat and keep warm on the stove.  In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add leeks and squash and saute until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.  Add rice and stir to combine.

Add a ladle of stock (or about 1/3 a cup) to the rice and stir well.  Continue to stir as the liquid is absorbed and when most of the liquid is gone, add another ladle.  Repeat this process of adding liquid and stirring until most of the stock is gone, or the rice is al dente (20 minutes or more).  Add mushrooms and sage in the last couple of minutes, stirring well to combine.  Serve immediately with crispy kale on top, if desired.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Spaghetti with White Bean Sauce and Crispy Kale

This recipe was inspired by a recipe in Robin Robertson's "Vegan Planet" (an excellent cookbook for Vegans and Veggie lovers alike).  I make it with whole wheat spaghetti (though any wholesome pasta variety will do) and throw in lots of luscious, green kale for good measure.  The pureed beans have a slightly creamy texture which makes the sauce taste rich without adding any cream, cheese or butter. 

The other marvelous thing about this recipe is, it's cheap to make!  I buy dried white beans in bulk.  They are less convenient to use, but you save a lot of money versus buying cooked beans in a can (not to mention there's far less packaging involved, so it is better for the environment).  I also think dried beans taste a little better since canned beans tend to have that slightly "tinny" flavor.  Don't bother soaking beans overnight, especially if you have a pressure cooker.  Many people might tell you otherwise, but I literally never pre-soak my beans (and, BTW, Rick Bayless also recommends skipping this step!) because I try to eliminate uneccessarily time-consuming steps whenever possible.  If you don't have a pressure cooker, I would strongly recommend buying one.  It will be your new favorite cooking instrument!

Spaghetti with White Bean Sauce and Crispy Kale
Serves 6

3 T olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked white beans
2 T chopped sage
1/2 tsp white pepper
4 cups vegetable stock or water
2 T white balsamic vinegar (optional)
1 lb. whole wheat spaghetti
6 cups chopped kale, stems removed

Preheat oven to 350.  Toss kale with 1 T olive oil and a sprinkling of salt.  Arrange on a large baking sheet in a single layer, then bake until crispy, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil.  In a large saucepan, heat the rest of the olive oil on medium.  Add onions and garlic and saute until soft, about 7 minutes.  Add beans and sage and stir to combine.  Add stock, turn up heat to high and bring mixture to a boil for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces slightly.  Reduce heat and puree with a hand blender until smooth.  Keep heat on low and allow to thicken until it reaches desired consistency, at least 10 minutes.

Cook spaghetti in pot of boiling water according to package instructions.  Drain in a colander and add to pot of bean sauce.  Add balsamic vinegar and toss well.  Serve spaghetti with a handful or crispy kale on top.