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FOR THE LOVE OF FOOD: Dinner is your enemy, vegetarians suffer from depression, and vitamin B supplements cause cancer

by | Sep 1, 2017

Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

This week dinner is your enemy, vegetarians suffer from depression, and vitamin B supplements cause cancer.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

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Foodist Approved: Anytime Frittata with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach

by | Feb 11, 2015
fritatta sweet potato and spinach

fritatta sweet potato and spinach

Word is out. I’m co-authoring a cookbook for runners with Shalane Flanagan, Olympic medalist, world-class marathoner and world-class friend.

I could not have envisioned a better partner in crime for my first book. Shalane has been an inspiration to me since I met her 14 years ago at our first day of cross-country practice at UNC. She’s one of the toughest women I know and also happens to have an incredible approach to eating for nourishment and enjoyment.

The ironic thing about writing a cookbook is that I too have days when I just don’t have time to cook. You’d think I’d be swimming in amazing meals, but the truth is I have weeks where I’m testing five variations of the same energy bar day after day.

On those days, I revert to dinners that can be prepped in 15 minutes max.

A frittata packed with seasonal veggies is one of my quick go-to’s. This hearty frittata, loaded with sweet potatoes and spinach, has saved me on many late nights.

I’ll admit, last week I ate it for lunch and dinner followed by polishing off the remaining slice for breakfast the next day. Hence the name Anytime Frittata. Enjoy!

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Mind-Blowing Japanese Carnitas Tacos

by | Jan 23, 2013
Japanese Carnitas

Japanese Carnitas

A few weeks ago I tweeted about this dish and got an overwhelming positive response, begging me to share the recipe. I have finally acquiesced.

While it was in fact mind-blowingly delicious, I’ve been resistant to publish it because bad lighting and my trusty iPhone camera really didn’t do the dish justice in the photos. To be honest, my dislike of food photography (the taking, not the viewing) is what prevents me from posting more recipes in general.

Lame, I know.

I used to spend a ton of time styling food, perfecting the lighting, then spend hours editing in Photoshop to get that one perfect photo. It’s a tedious process, and I can’t stand it. I like to cook and eat good food, but I don’t like to fret over it. And photography is fretful. Maybe one day I’ll have enough free time to spend my days mastering shutter speeds and lighting, but in the meantime you’ll just have to believe me that this is one worth making.

I’ve been messing around with my slow cooker lately, and have made several renditions of this Japanese version of carnitas. It’s so unbelievably good. It’s basically a pork shoulder (I got mine from Prather Ranch) braised in Japanese flavors like dashi, soy sauce, and ginger. I throw some Tokyo salad turnips or daikon in with the meat as well. I serve it in little cabbage cup “tortillas” with rice, cilantro and Sriracha hot sauce.

You’ll have a better time if you find a cabbage with leaves that are easy to separate, such as Napa cabbage. Smaller cabbages make this easier as well. I used some concentrated liquid dashi broth I found at a market in Japantown, but you can make your own or use the dehydrated kind if you prefer.

This is a great, simple dish for a group, though vegetarians might want to sit this one out.

Mind-Blowing Japanese Carnitas Tacos

Serves 6

 

Carnitas

Braised Pork Shoulder

Marinade

4 c. water

1 c. concentrated dashi

1/2 c. brown rice vinegar

1/2 c. soy sauce

1/3 c. mirin cooking wine

1/4 c. rough chopped ginger

1 cippolini onion chopped

1 c. coursely chopped daikon or Tokyo turnips

 

Meat

3.5 lbs pork butt (shoulder), trimmed of excess fat, cut into 4 large hunks

 

Garnishes

1 medium cabbage

2 c. cooked haiga rice (cook 1 hour before serving)

Fresh cilantro sprigs

Sriracha sauce

 

Preparation

In a large Dutch oven or cast iron pan, brown the meat on each side (about 20 minutes total). A splatter guard will come in handy during this step. While meat is browning, prepare marinade by adding all ingredients to crock pot.

Add cooked pork to marinade, liquid should cover 3/4 of meat. Cover and cook on high for 6-8 hours, turning half way through, or until pork pulls apart easily with a fork.

Before serving wash and dry cabbage and cut in half. Separate leaves and place on serving platter. Leaves should be approximately the size of corn tortillas, 5-6” across. Rinse cilantro sprigs, trim the ends and add to serving plate.

To serve, separate meat with fork into smaller, but still hefty chunks. Scoop some rice onto each plate, along with a portion of pork and a few daikon pieces. Place the vegetable serving platter in the center of the table, with a bottle of Sriracha. Fill some small bowls or ramekins with a small serving of cooking liquid for dipping.

To eat, scoop a small amount of rice onto a cabbage leave and top with pork. Add a few cilantro sprigs and a squirt of Sriracha to taste. Dip in sauce as desired.

Enjoy!

 

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Better Than Pasta Subtitutes: Summer Squash Noodle Recipe and Video

by | Aug 27, 2012
Squash Pasta

Squash Pasta

Recently a reader asked:

“Any tips on pasta substitutes? (I did read your post about how whole grain/whole wheat pasta isn’t really a whole lot better than regular pasta).”

Pasta and noodles can be tricky if you’re trying to lose weight and get healthy. Though some people consider Italian pasta (made from semolina flour) to be a low glycemic index food, in my experience frequent pasta consumption will start the scale moving slowly upward.

I love pasta, but eat it sparingly.

Luckily I have found a noodle substitute that I absolutely adore, and it’s even faster than boiling water.

Although I was shocked at how delicious this turned out, I was even more amazed at how easy it was to prepare. All you need is some summer squash, a vegetable peeler and a bowl (optional). Cook the noodles by quickly sautéing them with a little olive oil and Kosher salt.

You can use any sauce you like. I modified the simple tomato sauce recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.

Summer Squash Pasta & Simple Tomato Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2-4 summer squash such as zucchini
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium fresh tomato
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ~10 leaves fresh basil
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • salt

First run your garlic through a garlic press and place into a small bowl or cup. Add 1 tbsp warm water to the garlic, stir and set aside.

Next drain your tomatoes and reserve the liquid. Dice your fresh tomato into half inch cubes.

Chop your basil. Leaves such as mint and basil are easiest to cut if you chiffonade them by stacking the leaves on top of each other and rolling them lengthwise like a cigarette. From there they are easy to cut into thin strips.

In a pan heat 2 tbsp of olive oil and add the garlic. Cook until fragrant but not brown, about one minute. Add the canned tomatoes and simmer until sauce starts to thicken, about 8 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, peel squash as shown in the video. Saute the squash ribbons in olive oil on medium heat. Sprinkle with salt and sauté for no more than 2 minutes. Do not allow them to brown or soften. Noodles should be brightly colored and al dente. Remove from pan and set aside.

When sauce starts to thicken, add fresh tomatoes and basil. Add some reserved tomato liquid if it becomes too thick to work with. Cook sauce another 3 minutes or so and salt to taste.

Toss your sauce with squash noodles and serve immediately.

How else do you like to eat squash pasta?

This post and video are pretty old, but this is still one of my all-time favorite recipes. Originally published July 29, 2009.

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Finding The Courage To Roast A Chicken

by | Aug 8, 2012

Photo by Ms. Glaze

I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a foodie proclaim that roasting a chicken is the easiest thing in the world and the perfect place for new cooks to start.

Please.

I can think of at least a hundred things easier to cook than roasted chicken, with salad being the undisputed champion (and eggs being the runner up).

Buying and cooking a whole chicken requires a number of steps that can make a new cook uncomfortable. First you have to know where to get the chicken—and if you want a pasture-raised, antibiotic-free bird (as you should) this isn’t always straight forward. To make the purchase you must also be comfortable talking to the butcher even though there’s a good chance you have no idea what you’re talking about. You also have to be willing and able to deal with raw meat, which makes many people queasy in and of itself. Lastly, cooking meat requires special equipment such as a meat thermometer and roasting pan, which newbies might not have access to.

So no, roasting chicken is not the easiest thing on earth. But if you can get over all those things, it really isn’t that hard either.

Being a food writer, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I roasted my first chicken last month, and my second last night. I have a zillion excuses for why I hadn’t done it before. I think the main one is that a whole chicken just sounds so big, like too much work and too much food. But I was inspired by Ruth Reichl’s recipe in her book Garlic and Sapphires, so I finally built up the courage to make it happen.

I’m happy to report that both birds turned out amazing. The difference in flavor between a real farm fresh chicken and the massive “boneless skinless” breasts I grew up eating is truly phenomenal. That alone is reason enough to try the recipe, in my opinion.

I don’t want to poach Ruth’s entire recipe for chicken and roasted potatoes, but for the bird you basically just preheat your oven to 400 degrees, put the excess fat under the skin on top of the breast meat, put a fork-punctured lemon into the cavity, coat the skin with salt, pepper and olive oil and cook for one hour or until the temperature is 170 degrees in the thigh. I improvised a little since there wasn’t much excess fat on my first chicken and added a pad of butter on each side as well. I also chopped some fresh rosemary and rubbed it under the skin. The second time I forgot the lemon and it turned out fine.

Sure it’s simple, but I know I’m not the only one intimidated by the idea of buying and cooking an entire chicken. I was at the park last night when I decided to run to the store and pick up something for dinner. When a friend asked me what I was planning to make, her response was pure shock, “You’re going to cook a WHOLE chicken! Darya, can I please take cooking lessons from you?”

She seemed so impressed I couldn’t bring myself to admit it was only my second attempt and I had no idea if I could pull it off again. Then I realized she would probably like to know.

Thanks Elle for the reminder that even the “easy” stuff takes some courage if you’ve never done it before.

UPDATE: Since writing this post in 2011 I’ve roasted at least 50 chickens and used the bones to make stock. The first step really is the hardest.

What “simple” dish intimidates you in the kitchen?

Originally posted July 6, 2011.

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How To Make Eggs Taste As Good As Bacon

by | May 30, 2012
Fried Eggs

Fried Eggs

Something magical happened a few weeks ago. While trying to figure out what to do with the first fresh eggs I’d found at the farmers market this season, I discovered the greatest egg ingredient in the history of mankind.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little (truffles are pretty darn good on eggs), but not much.

Generally I am a big fan of adding some kind of ground red pepper (usually chipotle or ancho) to fried or scrambled eggs. But this day I tried something a bit different.

Digging through my pantry I remembered that I had a ton of smoked paprika left over from the hummus I made. I decided to do an experiment and sprinkle the smoked paprika onto my eggs.

I can’t believe I went all my life without knowing about this.

But before I explain why exactly the smoked paprika made my eggs so amazing, I want to address what I’m sure many of you are wondering:

How healthy are fried eggs?

Answer: Eggs are perfectly healthy, and frying doesn’t make them any less so.

Personally I cook my eggs in olive oil (it’s just easier), but even if you use butter it isn’t a problem since the amount you need to cook is so small.

What scares people about frying eggs is an irrational fear of dietary fat. But theoretically the amount of oil you use to fry an egg should be about the same as you need to scramble eggs, so it isn’t clear why fried eggs would pose any more of a problem. I use olive oil to scramble eggs as well.

The other issue people have with eggs is the yolk. It amazes me how often people proudly inform me that they eat eggs but “only the whites,” as if this were some unique virtue.

I understand that the public health message we’ve heard about eggs for the past few decades has been extremely negative, but eggs have since been completely exonerated from heart disease accusations. There was a time when it was assumed that dietary cholesterol (which is definitely higher than normal in eggs compared to other foods) would raise blood cholesterol, but it doesn’t for most people. In fact, the healthy fats in egg yolks are likely to positively impact your good HDL cholesterol.

Moreover, dietary fats in general have been shown to be excellent at satiating hunger, and are thus a terrific replacement for calories from refined carbohydrates. That makes egg yolks your ally in fighting heart disease and burning fat, not your enemy.

Then there’s the fact that egg yolks are incredibly rich in vitamins and minerals, since they are meant to be nourishment for a developing life.

And finally there’s the most important part, that farm fresh egg yolks are out-of-this-world delicious.

Which brings me back to how to make the best eggs in the universe.

First you must start with high-quality eggs. Two factors have the biggest impact on egg flavor. The first is the diet of the hen who laid the egg, and the second is the egg’s freshness. Thus for best results you want to find the freshest pastured eggs you can get your hands on. Pastured means the hens that lay the eggs are allowed to peck around on grass eating bugs and whatever else they find.

Your best shot at finding pastured fresh eggs is at a farmers market or direct from a farm, since if they are already on a grocery shelf they probably aren’t very fresh. Try to find eggs less than 1 week old. Their day of boxing should be clearly marked on the carton. It requires a little math, but I’m not the one who made up these rules.

Chances are good that if your eggs are very fresh then they are from pastured hens, but this is not guaranteed. Ask the farmer and try to hold out for hens that are allowed to roam free in grass during the day. If you cannot get fresh pastured eggs, “cage-free” is your next best bet for flavor (though these may still be fed a limited diet).

Without asking the farmer it is hard to tell the difference between real pastured eggs and industrial eggs labeled “cage-free” that are still fed standard or organic chicken feed. One good indication will be the price, since pastured eggs tend to run $6-10/dozen here in SF. Trust me, it’s worth it.

I do not endorse the taste or healthfulness of industrially produced eggs (even the fancy kinds), and if you do eat them you should be careful to cook them completely.

(Aside: I never worry about the safety of eggs from farms I trust, so I always eat them runny. If you think runny eggs are gross, I don’t blame you. Runny industrial eggs are gross, and before I had fresh eggs I would have completely agreed with you. But fresh egg yolk is incredible, and it is something you have to taste to really appreciate. I definitely recommend stepping out of your comfort zone on this one.)

Once you have great eggs, fry them one at a time in 1 tbsp olive oil or butter on medium low heat and sprinkle with sea salt, course ground black pepper and a pinch of smoked paprika. The paprika adds a depth and complexity above what even chipotle peppers can offer, and the smokiness is reminiscent of—I kid you not—bacon. Needless to say, it is the perfect compliment to eggs.

Fry your eggs for just two minutes or so on each side, being careful to keep the yolk intact while turning. You really don’t want to overcook eggs, which will turn them rubbery and ruin the effect.

I haven’t actually tried these eggs with bacon yet, though I certainly plan to. But bacon is no longer a requirement for making a show stopping breakfast of champions. Here I served them with some ruby chard sautéed with pistachios and garlic.

Did you guys know about smoked paprika on eggs and if so, why was I not informed?

Originally published March 3, 2010.StumbleUpon.com

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Pan Roasted Baby Artichokes With Pistachios, Lemon And Black Quinoa Recipe

by | May 7, 2012
Pan Roasted Artichokes With Pistachios And Black Quinoa Recipe

Pan Roasted Artichokes With Pistachios And Black Quinoa

Small artichokes really don’t get the love they deserve. While the large ones are delicious and great for entertaining, the smaller kind are easier to work with and much more versatile. They are tender and delicious, and usually even less expensive.

This recipe for pan roasted baby artichokes was born out of necessity. After a solid week of forgetting to buy the herbs I needed to make my usual recipe, my bag of artichokes were the last remaining vegetable in my refrigerator and I knew if I didn’t cook them they would soon go bad. So I started digging around my pantry.

Since I didn’t have parsley, I needed something else to season the artichokes. The only other fresh flavor I had was lemon, so I decided to use the zest as a primary ingredient. I also used pistachio nuts that I had left over from my Chard, Pistachios and Mint recipe, and some black quinoa (here’s my favorite brand) to make the dish more substantial.

I was completely unprepared for how delicious this turned out. I caramelized the lemon zest with some shallot, which gave the artichokes a sweet tanginess that perfectly balanced their creamy flavor. The quinoa added a beautiful contrasting color and an intriguing crunchy texture, while the nuttiness of the pistachios gave the dish a rich earthiness.

As soon as I tasted it I knew I needed to share this recipe. The second time around it turned out just as good.

Pan Roasted Baby Artichokes With Pistachios, Lemon and Black Quinoa

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb small artichokes
  • 1 half medium shallot
  • 1/4 c. shelled pistachio nuts
  • Juice and zest of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1/2 c. black quinoa cooked
  • 1/4 c. + 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper

If you haven’t cooked your quinoa, start that first. Remember that it expands to four times its original volume when cooked, so you don’t need to make a lot.

Whisk 1/4 c. olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a large mixing bowl. Clean your artichokes by cutting off the top third and the bottom, then removing all the tough leaves. You do not want the artichokes to be stringy, so it is better to remove extra leaves than too few.

Cut your clean artichoke in half then submerge it instantly in the olive oil and lemon juice mixture. Artichokes quickly oxidize and turn black when exposed to air. The acid from the lemon juice will prevent this from happening. As you’re cleaning the artichokes and adding them to the bowl, stir the mixture regularly to be sure none are exposed to air for too long.

Thinly slice your shallot. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a deep pan on medium high heat. When the oil swirls easily in the pan add the shallots and pistachio nuts. When the shallots begin to brown, add the zest and stir. Cook the mixture for another minute or two until the shallots have almost completely caramelized.

Add the artichokes and liquid to the pan and salt and pepper to taste. Turn the artichokes so their faces are touching the surface of the pan and allow them to brown and the liquid to reduce. Stir the artichokes every few minutes until the liquid is almost completely reduced and all surfaces of the artichokes start to brown. If the pan dries before the artichokes have finished cooking, add 1/8 c. of water to prevent the shallots and nuts from burning.

The artichokes are done cooking when then are tender all the way through. At the last minute, toss in the quinoa and mix well. Make sure to scrape the caramelized bits of shallot and zest into the quinoa. Adjust salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Makes one main course or 2-3 side dishes. This would pair beautifully with roasted rosemary chicken.

Originally published April 19, 2010.

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Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

by | Sep 15, 2010
Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Last weekend I bought some amazing, gnarly looking chantenay carrots from the San Francisco Ferry Plaza farmers market. When I found them at Tierra Vegetables they were just begging me to turn them into soup. I rose to the challenge, but first I had a few problems to solve.

Usually when I eat or make carrot soup it is in one of two styles. It can come either curried, warm and spicy, or gingered with hints of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. While I love these soups, they feel a little too much like fall and winter for me to get excited about them when summer in SF is just starting.

I didn’t want a soup that is warm and wintery, I wanted a carrot soup that is bright and summery.

To achieve this I started with carrot and ginger, but add a twist. Rather than spicing the soup with cinnamon and other fall flavors I added tumeric and a few Thai chili peppers to give it color, flavor and some heat. Then I brightened it up with lemon juice and preserved lemons. The soup is finished with crème fraîche, scallions, ginger flowers and lemon-scented olive oil.

To my delight this soup turned out amazing and unlike anything I had ever tasted. And it was exactly what I wanted. If you don’t have preserved lemons, I’m sure zest would produce a similar effect. Likewise, you can swap a serrano pepper for the Thai peppers and sour cream for crème fraîche. Ginger flowers and lemon oil are just bonus.

To blend the soup I used my new Cuisinart immersion blender (aka hand or stick blender), and I was very pleased with the result. I’m really happy about this because the Cuisinart is half the price of the Braun blender I used to use.

You can make the soup in a regular blender if you do not have an immersion blender.

Spicy Carrot Ginger Soup With Lemon

Ingredients:

  • 3 chantenay carrots or 5-6 regular carrots, peeled and cut into half inch slices
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 1 inch fresh ginger root, grated
  • 2-3 Thai chilies or 1 serrano chili, chopped and seeded (optional)
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 qt vegetable or chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 lemon juiced (and zest if desired)
  • 1/2 tbsp preserved lemon strips
  • Crème fraîche
  • Scallions
  • 1 tbsp butter or olive oil
  • salt to taste

Heat butter or oil in a heavy bottomed soup pot and add onions. Saute until they become translucent then add the carrots, half the ginger, peppers and tumeric and cook until carrots are tender, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. If the vegetables start to brown, lower the heat.

When the carrots are soft add broth and bring to a boil. Simmer until the carrots are very tender and can easily be cut with a fork, about 10 minutes. Remove soup from heat, add the rest of the ginger and preserved lemons and blend until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add water as needed to thin the soup. I ended up adding 2 full cups.

If you are using a regular blender, be very very careful when blending hot liquids. Only fill the blender half full and blend in batches, holding the lid down with a kitchen towel. I’ve had many steaming soups explode and burn me, and it is not fun. That’s why I love my hand blender.

At this point you can filter the soup through a fine mesh strainer if you like, but I prefer to keep all the fiber in the soup and simply blend it very well. The texture is rich and silky this way, but will be thinner if you filter it.

Whisk in lemon juice and adjust salt to taste. Ladle hot soup into a bowl and garnish with crème fraîche, scallions and lemon oil.

This makes a fairly large batch of soup. However, carrot soup freezes extraordinarily well so feel free to freeze a couple pints for later. The soup will keep 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

What is your favorite way to make carrot soup?

Originally published Sept 7, 2009.

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Summer Salad With Poached Egg

by | Jun 16, 2010
Poached Egg Salad

Poached Egg Salad

Several weeks ago I wrote about how to make your salads more satisfying by adding extra protein, fat and whole grains. In this recipe I experiment with poaching eggs, which turned out to be easier than I expected.

To me poached eggs have always seemed like an impossible delicacy best left to San Francisco’s finest brunching establishments. The few times I tried poaching eggs before turned out to be a disaster, so I erroneously assumed the skills required were beyond my grasp.

Turns out I just wasn’t doing it right and it is actually pretty easy.

As you might guess, my fear of cooking poached eggs was conquered by the wisdom of Mark Bittman in his book How To Cook Everything. For me the problem was in the temperature of the water. To keep the eggs from being torn apart by boiling bubbles, the temperature must be kept just below the boiling point.

Problem solved.

Summer Salad With Poached Egg

Ingredients:

  • Gem lettuces
  • Treviso (or radicchio)
  • Summer tomato
  • Yellow crooked neck squash
  • Mediterranean cucumber
  • Avocado
  • French green lentils (cooked)
  • Green onion
  • Basil
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Farm fresh eggs
  • White vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

For the eggs, start heating a deep skillet or shallow pot with 1 inch deep water. Add 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp white vinegar. Heat the water until it barely bubbles, around 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

For salads I recommend using your best farmers market greens, but anything colorful you can find will work (this salad is wonderful with frisée). The list above is what I used, but obviously whatever you have around is fine.

I’m a big fan of adding raw summer squash to salads, but the quality of the squash is very important if you are eating it raw. The fresher the better.

Chop your greens and vegetables while your water is heating and prepare your salad dressing. With eggs I love to use a red wine Dijon vinaigrette. Something about the mustard and egg combination is divine.

My vinaigrette recipe is as simple as it gets:

Add 1/4 cup high-quality extra virgin olive oil and just under 1/4 cup red wine vinegar. Add 1-2 tsp Dijon mustard to taste, salt and pepper to taste and whisk with a fork for a few seconds. Taste and adjust the condiments until you like it.

Personally I do not think it is necessary to add sugar to salad dressing, but some people do. You can also add 1 tsp of finely diced shallots or some minced garlic if you want extra flavor.

In a large bowl, toss your vegetables with your dressing. After this add your lentils (or brown rice or nuts), and toss again. Season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Use tongs to plate your salad and get ready to prep your eggs.

Rinse your eggs and crack them one at a time into a small bowl or large serving spoon. Gently lower each egg into the warm water and release it into the pan (use a larger pan for batches greater than 2). Allow the egg to cook until the yolk has filmed over and the white is set, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove egg with a slotted spoon, drain off water and carefully place the egg on top of your salad. Garnish with pepper and serve immediately. Poached eggs go particularly nicely with sour toast.

Do you have any tips for poaching eggs?

Originally published June 24, 2009.

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Grilled Fennel With Lemon Oil

by | May 24, 2010
Grilled Fennel

Grilled Fennel

This grilled fennel turned out absolutely amazing and was very simple to make. I got the idea from a dish I tried recently at a local restaurant, Pizzeria Delfina, but honestly did not believe my version would be anywhere near as awesome. To my surprise, it was pretty darn close. Needless to say I am super proud of myself for this one and I hope I can convince you to try it.

Fennel is a unique vegetable that looks like a cross between celery and an onion, but tastes like neither. The flavor resembles anise or black liquorish when raw (a taste I still really struggle with), but takes on a sweeter, more herbal flavor when cooked. I have always been a fan of cooked fennel, despite my aversion to raw preparations. But I had no idea how far this misunderstood vegetable could be elevated by throwing it on the grill.

Don’t have a grill, you say? Awesome, neither do I. Backyards aren’t exactly standard in city apartments. For this recipe I used an apartment-friendly alternative to an outdoor grill, the humble grill pan.

A grill pan is special because it features raised ridges that can leave those wonderful, coveted grill marks on your food. Grill marks not only give your food a lovely appearance, they also add a unique flavor because sugars and fats caramelize where they come in contact with the hot pan. This effect cannot be achieved in a standard fry pan and the grill pan is a delicious alternative for cooking meats, fish and most vegetables.

My favorite grill pan (also the favorite of Cook’s Illustrated) is only about $40, far cheaper than a traditional outdoor grill or indoor electric grill. You can buy it at Amazon.

Feel free to use which ever grilling method is easiest for you.

When picking out your fennel, I recommend using several baby fennel bulbs rather than one large one (they’re in season now). Baby fennel is more tender because it does not have a large, hard inner core like full-sized fennel. A tender center allows you to leave the bulb mostly intact on the grill, making it easier to turn and cook evenly.

I purchased Lisbon lemon olive oil from Stonehouse Olive Oil at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. You can find lemon oil at specialty grocery stores, and it is a wonderful ingredient for spring vegetable dishes. But if you prefer, you can make due with extra virgin olive oil and a meyer (or regular) lemon.

This is a side dish. I paired mine with asparagus ravioli and sorrel.

Grilled Fennel with Lemon Oil

Ingredients:

  • Fennel (~1 lb)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon olive oil (or 1/2 Meyer lemon juice and zest)
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh Italian parsley, chopped

If you are using baby fennel, cut off the green stems and the very bottom of the root (but not so much that the layers have nothing to attach to). Then cut the fennel in half lengthwise, and then again into 4-6 bite-sized wedges.

The goal is to get your fennel into manageable chunks, which means (ideally) all the layers would still be attached at the bottom. This is much more difficult if you have removed the core. In my experiment (I made the mistake of buying large fennel) I removed the core on one half before cooking and left the other half with the core in while cooking. It was easier to get the fennel to cook evenly on the half where the core was still attached. You can remove the core after cooking if it is still tough.

If you are using a large fennel bulb simply trim off the stems, slice off the bottom and cut the bulb in half lengthwise. Cut each half into even-sized wedges, about 0.5 inch thick.

For an outdoor grill, simply brush your fennel wedges with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and grill until soft and tender, turning occasionally.

For a grill pan, heat the pan on medium high heat for 3-5 minutes. Lightly coat fennel in olive oil and sea salt (use a bowl and stir). When the pan is hot, add 1-2 tbsp olive oil and gently swirl it in the pan so it coats the surface. Place fennel in a single layer on the hot grill, lower the heat to medium and cook until translucent, tender and slightly browned, turning occasionally. For me this took about 10 minutes. I recommend using tongs with nylon headsto turn your fennel in the pan.

Your fennel should have grill marks and be caramelized in places. I suggest exercising patience and allowing fennel to become extremely tender, but you can choose your desired crunchiness. Remove the fastest cooking fennel pieces from the grill when they are done and place them in a bowl.

When all the fennel is finished cooking, drizzle it lightly with lemon oil (or juice and zest) and sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley. Adjust salt and zest if necessary.

Have you tried grilling fennel?
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