Warming Up

10 Jun

DSC01071We have had a bounty of scrumptious cauliflower for months, and my recipe roster has been diverse: Cumin and Fennel Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes, Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower with Parsley Pesto, Cauliflower and Gruyere Souffle, and Ginger Turmeric Cauliflower and Sweet Potatoes. But best of all, I’ve loved this Roasted Curry Cauliflower with Golden Raisins, Almonds and Cilantro.

The goal of curry dishes is not to punch with heat, but create a warm glow. The key to that is balance. Sweet raisins, toasted crunchy nuts, piquant cilantro all mellow the heat to a low simmer, and wed perfectly with the char of well-roasted cauliflower. Curry can be made in all different manners, but using a good-quality curry powder with coriander, turmeric, fenugreek, cumin, mustard seed, black pepper and cayenne makes this a quick dish with packed with flavor and warmth. It also gives a nutritional boost, with the benefits of fiber and vitamin C from the cauliflower, turmeric’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities and the healing properties of fenugreek.

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 Curry Roasted Cauliflower with Golden Raisins, Almonds and Cilantro

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets

1 tablespoon good-quality prepared curry powder

Olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Heat an oven to 375 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and pile cauliflower on it, seasoning with curry powder and generous olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss it all together, then roast in the oven, turning occasionally, until the cauliflower caramelizes and turns deep brown. Remove from oven when cauliflower is cooked through, tender and a rich golden brown. Toss with the almonds and raisins, then top with cilantro to serve.

 

 

Soup Season

28 Jan

dsc01039I received the highest compliment today: “The lentil soup is so so good. I was shocked that even Hudson ate it! He is the pickiest eater ever. I would love the recipe for the soup.” You see, Hudson is 4 years old, and if I can help get a few bites of whole, nutritious goodness into a young man that age, and maybe even change how he feels about vegetables, then I have done my job. Here’s that recipe, Mom!

Green Lentil Soup with Spinach, Cilantro and Lemon

Serves 6-8

1 onion (yellow, white or brown), diced

4 stalks of celery, sliced

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 bunch of fresh thyme

2 bay leaves

1 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes with their juices

2 cups of green lentils

8 cups of chicken or vegetable stock or broth

4 cups of baby spinach

1 bunch of cilantro, stems removed, chopped

Juice of 1 or two fresh lemons

Olive oil, kosher or sea salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large stock pot, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to cooking temperature. Add the onions and cook for a bit, stirring, then the celery and carrots, seasoning with a bit of salt and pepper. Stir and cook the vegetables until they start to sweat, and then add the garlic. Stir frequently to keep the garlic from burning, and continue to cook until the vegetables soften a bit. Add the thyme, bay leaves and tomatoes, season with a bit more salt and pepper, and stir, cooking the tomatoes for about 3 minutes.

Add the lentils, a bit more salt and pepper, and the stock and stir it all together. Bring heat up to high, and bring the soup to a boil. When it boils, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook the soup until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. When the lentils are done (you can tell by tasting them, they should be tender with a slight firm bite), season with additional salt and pepper to taste, stir in the spinach, cilantro and lemon. Taste again, adjusting any seasoning or lemon juice. Add additional olive oil if desired and serve or store in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Fall at Last

29 Oct

dsc00547Here in the beach cities, fall is late to show itself. We shake off the summer morning gloom for freakish, still, clear-skied heat. Sometimes we call it earthquake weather, sometimes we call it heaven. My apricot tree gets so confused it goes into bloom, as bare as its branches are. But I get my produce from a local farm that has thought ahead to what we would like to see on our plates for fall. Squash, Brussels sprouts, woody herbs, apples. Mushrooms, ((swoon)), mushrooms.

Suppose you were at a cocktail party, and you had to answer an ice-breaker question about what vegetable would be your boyfriend? Mine would be a mushroom. So down to earth, exotic, sensual…but back to topic:

Have you noticed all of this talk about vitamin D deficiency? It seems as though everyone is being prescribed a supplement, but when I had a conversation with my physician about it, I told her I get plenty of sunshine, no supplement, thank you. I learned an interesting thing: you have to have vitamin D in your body to for the sunshine to wake it up, your body doesn’t just naturally produce it. Good news is that mushrooms are one of the only items on the produce aisle rich in vitamin D. Great news for me and long walks on the sunny fall beach with my vegetable boyfriend.

Farro with Mushrooms and Spinach

Serves 4

Ingredients

8 ounces quick cooking farro

2 dried bay leaves

olive oil, salt & pepper

8 ounces brown cremini mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed, sliced

1 shallot, sliced

2 cloves garlic

2 ounces of baby spinach

2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

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Method

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Pour the farro and bay leaves into the boiling water, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. When farro is cooked to al dente, drain in a colander. Place farro in a large mixing bowl, remove bay leaf, and put aside to cool.

Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and drizzle enough olive oil to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Add the mushrooms and cook, undisturbed, for about 3 minutes, until golden, then stir to turn and continue to cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, until juices release and mushrooms are completely brown. Season with salt and pepper and add to the farro. Drizzle a bit more olive oil in the pan and add the shallots and garlic. Cook for another few minutes, then add in the spinach and parsley, cooking just to wilt. Season with the vegetables with salt and pepper, then add the vegetables to the farro mixture. Stir everything together and taste for seasoning,  adding additional olive oil, salt and pepper if needed.

Serve farro warm, at room temperature or cold.

Kale, Summer Squash, Corn and Red Peppers

18 Aug

DSC00045More summer in a pan. This succotash can be tweaked in so many ways, using whatever you have ready to pick from the garden, from the farmers market, or your CSA box. I like to serve it with roasted chicken, and for an even more effortless summer meal, why not just pick up one from the market? Or serve it up as a one dish Meatless Monday Main, adding edamame or lima beans to pump up the protein.

Summer Succotash

Serves 6

Ingredients:

olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup diced bell pepper

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

2 cups summer squash, such as yellow crookneck, zucchini, or pattypan

1 bunch of kale, washed and dried, ribs removed, chopped

1 cup of fresh corn kernels

1 cup frozen edamame or Lima beans (optional)

1/2 cup good quality chicken stock or broth

Kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

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In a large skillet, heat the olive oil until shimmering over medium high heat. Add the onions and peppers to the pan, stirring, until the vegetables soften, about 1 minute. Add the garlic, thyme leaves and summer squash, stirring to incorporate, and cook until the squash starts to soften and the vegetables brown. Add the kale, corn and edamame or Lima beans, if desired, and stir together. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the kale wilts slightly, about 1 minute. Add the stock or broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until slightly reduced and vegetables are tender but crisp, about 3 minutes. Stir in the basil, season with additional salt and pepper if desired and serve.

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Cherry Tomatoes and Basil

4 Aug

DSC00443Ahh, summer parties. White tents, breezy dresses, a lemon drop or rose in a frosted glass. Tapas, simple to nibble on, just one or two perfect bites. What sings summer? Garden fresh tomatoes and basil.

Tomato & Basil Mini Tarts with Mozzarella and Pinenuts

Makes about 24 miniature tarts

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Ingredients:

1 portion of prepared pie dough

4 ounces of mozzarella cheese, cut into small cubes

1 pint of cherry tomatoes, cut in half

6 basil leaves, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 tablespoons toasted pinenuts

Olive oil, salt & pepper

Instructions: Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Coat two mini muffin pans with olive oil or vegetable spray. Roll the prepared pie dough into a flat round, about 9-inches in diameter. Using a 2-3 inch round cookie cutter, cut the dough into 24 small disks, re-rolling the pie dough if necessary to cut more rounds. Place the dough rounds in each cup of the mini muffin pan. They don’t need to be perfect:

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In each pastry cup place a few cubes of mozzarella and two or three cherry tomato halves. Mix together the basil, garlic and pinenuts with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, then put a portion of the mixture on each tomato tart.

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Drizzle each tart with a bit more olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until the pastry dough is browned and the tomatoes are soft and bubbly. Serve immediately, or at room temperature.

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Broccoli, Peppers, Summer Squash

3 Jul

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I was impressed with a friend’s choice for a “cleanse.” She wanted to get back on track with better eating choices, and started a program that, when it came down to the details, was just sensible eating: lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and no dairy. She asked for help with weekly food prep, so we whipped up a big batch of Turkey Chile with Sweet Potatoes and Black Beans that sings with bright notes of cilantro and brims with good fiber. Then we made a veggie-centric tomato sauce to serve over quinoa and brown rice fusilli. Last, we put together one of my favorite grain and vegetable dishes that can utilize whatever is in season and transform into a whole meal with the addition of grilled chicken or a humble can of white organic beans. It’s a getting-back-to-basics formula: whole food=whole body=healthy happy lifestyle.

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Whole Grain Blend with Summer Vegetables and White Beans

Serves about 8 as a side dish, 4 as an entree

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 cup of broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 cup of diced red bell peppers

1 cup of diced zucchini

Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced celery

1 cup diced onion

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 cups of brown rice blend (with quinoa, barley, millet, etc.)

4 cups of water or vegetable stock

 

1/2 cup of chopped basil

1 can organic white beans, rinsed and well drained

Method: Heat a large Dutch oven or skillet with fitted lid over medium high heat until warm, then add half of the olive oil to the pan. Continue to heat the oil until it is warm, about 30 seconds, then add the broccoli, red peppers and zucchini to the pan. Season with salt and pepper, then cook until slightly browned and softened,  stirring occasionally. Remove the vegetables from the pan when they are cooked through but still crisp-tender and set aside.

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Sautee the mirepox and rice together until they are toasty and tasty.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan, allowing it to heat, then add the carrots, celery and onions. Brown and soften the vegetables, stirring occasionally, then add the garlic and the rice blend, continuing to stir to toast the garlic and rice, about 30 seconds. Pour the water or stock over the rice mixture, season with salt and pepper, give one final stir, and bring to a boil. Once the rice mixture has come to a boil, cover the pan with the lid, placing slightly ajar to allow a bit of steam to release. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice mixture is tender but still firm. When rice is cooked, allow a resting time of 10 minutes with lid fully fitted, then remove the lid and fluff with a fork.

Fold the broccoli, red peppers, zucchini, basil and white beans into the rice blend. Taste for seasoning and serve.

Recipe notes: This is fantastic as a side dish to roasted or grilled chicken, with or without the white beans! It can be updated with whatever fresh, seasonal vegetables that you have on hand. In the winter, it is delicious with browned mushrooms, butternut squash, sauteed kale. The key is to cook the seasonal vegetables through, then remove them from the pan, and add the mirepox (carrots, celery, onion, garlic) and rice, then the fully cooked vegetables. That way, nothing gets overcooked and soggy!

 

 

 

Valencia Oranges and Thyme

31 Mar

 

Flank SteakWe are a grill-loving family. Whatever the season, the ingredient, the occasion, we love to torch up the gas and load up the grate. Everything tastes better when it’s cooked outdoors over fire, it’s quick as a snap and clean up is no problem.

My friend Stephanie makes this flank steak, marinated in a plastic bag with tons of garlic, huge sprigs of herbs (how amazing is that? no chopping, just fragrance and flavor) and sliced red onions. If you’re the one to put it on the grill, she shouts, “Don’t shake anything off!” She’s vehement, and will repeat the order incessantly until you understand: Every stick of thyme and hunk of aromatic must stay on the roast while it grills. What happens is that a gorgeous, charred, pungent crust forms on the meat, and burnt little bits of flavor intensify what is already succulent and divine. It’s pretty smart, so I borrowed it, added some orange peel and juice from my farm box to make it my own, and practiced my “no shaking” growl. If you serve this up with chimichurri sauce you’ll double the flavor magic.

Grilled Flank Steak with Oranges, Thyme and Garlic

Serves 4

1 flank steak, trimmed

1 Valencia orange

1 bunch of thyme

1 head of garlic, cloves separated, skin removed, pressed flat with the side of a chef’s knife

Olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper

Place the flank steak in a gallon bag with a seal. Using a vegetable peeler, peel the skin off of the orange, avoiding going too deep and reaching the bitter pith. Cut the orange in half and squeeze the juice, adding to the bag along with the orange peel. Add the garlic cloves and a good drizzle of olive oil to the bag. Generously season the steak with salt and pepper.

Seal the bag and refrigerate for 2 hours or as long as 24. Remove the bag from the refrigerator a half hour before preparing the grill. Heat a gas or charcoal grill, or grill pan, to medium high heat (about 400 degrees.) Place the steak on the grill, retaining as much of the herbs and garlic in the marinade on the surface of the steak. Cook until char marks form, about 5 minutes, then turn and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Steak will be cooked to rare to barely medium rare. Move the steak to the cooler side of the grill, pour remaining marinade over the steak, and cover and cook to desired temperature, about 5-7 minutes for medium rare, 10 minutes for medium. Remove from the grill and rest for 10 minutes, then slice into very thin slices across the grain to serve.