Sides and Snacks

Farro with Mushrooms and Spinach

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Here 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.

Summer Vegetable Succotash

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More 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 Vegetable 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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Curry Roasted Cauliflower with Golden Raisins, Almonds and Cilantro

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We 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.

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Root Vegetables

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carrots, red beets, white potatoes and parsley

When winter sets in, the best of the local farms, even those with extended growing seasons, will have a predominance of root vegetables to offer. No late tomatoes from the hoop house, no summer squash. In California, all of those crops have gone south to Mexico for the winter. Now we see these earthy, winter jewels in the farmer’s markets and CSA boxes: mature carrots and potatoes, beets of every color, sweet potatoes, parsnips, celery root.  Late winter can be monotonous, after you’ve received box after box of root vegetables, and options for cooking them seem to run out, but truthfully, there is one tried-and-true way to prepare the earth’s tubers: roast them.

Once you get started, the options become endless. The easy part is paring the skin with a vegetable peeler (though that combined with chopping them can be not-so-easy on wrists, power through, they are worth it), then cutting them into chunks of equal size. Douse them in sufficient olive oil and enough salt and pepper to appeal to the eye, then tuck them into a 350 degree oven, turning every 10 minutes or so. For the most part, they will tell you when they are done, with a slight brown edge and a pucker of flesh, but you can also pierce them with a fork or paring knife, or better yet, eat a chunk. Most vegetables take 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of the cut.

Then come the options: Chopped herbs? Thick sliced shallots and garlic? A finish of vinaigrette at the end of cooking? A pesto rub before roasting? How about a honey or sugar glaze?

Use your imagination, go without a recipe, take some time to experiment with roasting, and enjoy the cozy comfort of these earthy winter gifts.

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chioggia beets, turnips and carrots with thyme

Cauliflower and Potatoes

Cauliflower Mashed PotatoesSubbing mashed cauliflower for mashed potatoes is a novel trend, and for all of the right reasons: it has fewer carbohydrates, more fiber and is rich with vitamins C and K. But have you tried the swap on your kids? Not so popular at my dinner table, where I heard a hilarious conversation between my daughter and friend: “These mashed potatoes taste terrible!” “I think they’re that thing that parents do with the cauliflower instead of potatoes to make us eat cauliflower.” I was called out, a little ashamed that I was trying to pull one over, but the truth was, I liked it. In an attempt to meet in the middle, I made a half and half compromise, which won the whole family over. This mash is very light, using olive oil and chicken stock, but if you prefer a richer flavor, you can substitute butter and milk.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Serves 4

1 head cauliflower, stem removed, broken into florets

2 bay leaves

1 large russet potato, peeled and cut into equally-sized chunks

1/2 cup of homemade chicken stock, or a good quality, low sodium boxed broth

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Fill a large stock pot with water and a generous pinch of salt. Add the cauliflower and bay leaves, and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook the cauliflower until slightly tender, then add the potatoes in with the cauliflower, and cook until the potatoes are tender to the probe of a fork. Drain the cauliflower and potatoes in a colander, shaking off the excess water.

Pass the cauliflower potato mixture through a ricer or food mill, squeezing the mixture back into the hot stock pot to help steam away any excess moisture. Discard the bay leaves. Add the chicken stock and olive oil, then season with salt and pepper, tasting to adjust the seasoning.

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Zucchini, Maui Onion and Carrot

zucchini a scapeceFresh, zesty and deeply flavored, this side dish is your perfect summer side dish to meat, chicken and fish pulled off the grill.

Zucchini, Maui Onion and Carrot a Scapece
Serves 4

1/3 cup olive oil
1 large Maui onion, peeled and cut into wedges
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
10 medium carrots (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch rounds
5 large zucchini (about 2 pounds), cut into 1/2″ rounds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Heat 1/3 cup oil in a heavy large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until golden. Using a slotted spoon, remove the onions and garlic, then add the carrots, cooking until golden. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, then add the onions and garlic back in, along with the basil and mint leaves over. Drizzle the vinegar over the vegetable mixture and toss gently to coat, cooking for an addtional 3-5 minutes to glaze the vegetables. Serve immediately or chill overnight in the refridgerator, serving at room tempurature. Serve with grilled bread, meat, fish or chicken.

Caulilflower and Cilantro

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I’d been roasting, roasting and roasting cauliflower, it was time for a change. So I made this Spanish “rice” with black beans, and created a new favorite.

Spanish “Rice” with Black Beans

Serves 4

Olive oil

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed, cut into a small dice

1 cup diced onion

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 head of  cauliflower, approximately 1 pound, stem, outer leaves and core removed, grated in a cheese grater or passed through the grating blade of a food processor

1 15-ounce can organic diced tomatoes (or use fire-roasted tomatoes)

1/2 cup homemade or good quality prepared chicken stock

1 15-ounce can organic black beans, rinsed and drained

Salt & pepper

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped

 

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and add garlic, chile and onion. Cook until softened, stirring occasionally. Add the cumin and coriander, cooking for 30 seconds to toast, then add the cauliflower, stirring to incorporate the ingredients. Season with salt and pepper, then cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes with juices, chicken stock and beans, then season again to taste. Cover with a slightly cracked lid and cook for about 2-4 minutes, until cauliflower is slightly tender. Fold in the cilantro and serve.