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10 Ways To Make Your Salad More Satisfying

by | Jul 18, 2012
Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

One of my favorite things about the arrival of summer is all the beautiful, crisp salad greens at the farmers market. I absolutely love to eat salads, but how can you turn a salad into a full meal that is truly satisfying?

The trick is to make sure you add enough protein, fat and carbohydrates to your salad so it is still a perfectly balanced meal.

There are dozens of healthy additions you can use to make your salad more filling and delicious. Here are 10 of my favorites.

10 Ways To Make Your Salad More Satisfying

  • Warm ingredients Grilled or sauteed onions, peppers, mushrooms and meats wilt salad greens and make them slightly warm, adding depth and character to an otherwise boring salad.
  • Brown rice Adding 1/2 cup of warm rice to a salad makes it more satisfying to eat and keeps you full for longer. Use single serving rice balls and this simple addition will add less than 2 minutes to your salad prep time.
  • Nuts Walnuts and sliced almonds are my favorite, but feel free to try pecans, cashews, peanuts, pumpkin seeds or anything else that sounds interesting.
  • Beans Chickpeas, black beans, edamame and other legumes are inexpensive and delicious sources of protein and fiber to add some substance to a salad.
  • Avocado Half an avocado is sometimes exactly what a salad needs to take it to the next level.
  • Smoked salmon For a slightly more upscale salad experience top your greens with a few slices of smoked salmon.
  • Quinoa Mix in a small amount of quinoa as an accent or make it the base of a salad by adding cooked or raw veggies and greens. See my Mexican-style quinoa salad recipe.
  • Grilled meats Your salad is a great place for summertime BBQ leftovers.
  • Egg Boiled, fried or poached, an egg is a wonderful way to make your salad more substantial. See my Summer salad with poached egg recipe.
  • Sardines Canned fish is one of the easiest ways to get extra protein and omega-3 oils in your salad. Here are 6 reasons to eat more sardines.

How do you make your salads more hearty?

This article was originally published June 8, 2009.

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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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5-Minute Lunch: The Tastiest, Easiest, Healthiest Bean Salad on the Planet

by | Feb 22, 2012
Heirloom Bean Salad

Heirloom Bean Salad

This is a recipe that I rely on often, particularly when I’m short on time but don’t want to eat something unhealthy. As I’ve mentioned like a zillion times during my show, I think beans are one of the absolute best go-to foods when you want something tasty and satisfying.

Don’t worry, this is not one of those nasty 3 bean salads your well-meaning aunt brings to barbecues. When you start with good quality, dry beans they bring an amazingly creamy texture to a dish and are absolutely delicious. And if you prepare them properly by soaking them for a few hours beforehand, you also won’t get any of the digestive issues most of us associate with canned beans.

On that note, the title isn’t quite accurate. It assumes that, like me, you’ve spent a bit of time early in the week making a big batch of beans to add to the meals you make through Friday. That said, preparing the beans only takes 2-3 extra minutes of prep time, but there are a couple hours of waiting between the essential steps. If you use a pressure cooker it is even faster.

In a pinch, feel free to substitute lentils, which can be used similarly but cook up in only 20-30 minutes, depending on the size.

Today I made this recipe using only ingredients I already had in my fridge. I did this intentionally to show you how easy and versatile it is. But feel free to substitute any of the vegetables with ones you have or like better. It doesn’t matter which beans you use either, a simple black bean is also very lovely if you can’t find fancy heirloom beans.

This dish turns out different every time I make it, depending on what I have in the house, my mood and, of course, the season. In the summer, for example, I tend to use cucumber, French radish and a handful of arugula. Also feel free to experiment with different oils, vinegars, citrus, herbs, salts and spices (smoked paprika is a great addition).

I use this dish most often for a light lunch or substantial snack. It can be served warm or cold, or can be made into a full meal by adding a fried egg on top (or other protein) with a side of greens. This recipe is for a single serving, but it scales easily.

Heirloom Bean Salad With Winter Vegetables

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup cooked Rancho Gordo Pinquito beans
  • 2 small carrots or 1 medium carrot, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup sliced lo bok or daikon
  • 1/2 green onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp freshly diced parsley
  • 1 tbsp olive oil or nut oil
  • 2 tsp rice or red wine vinegar
  • salt
  • pepper

If your beans aren’t already cooked, soak them overnight or at least 6 hours. Discard the soaking liquid, rinse several times then cook in beef, mushroom or vegetable stock until tender.

Place appropriate amount of beans in a bowl and add sliced vegetables, green onion and parsley. I tend to go heavy handed on the herbs because they add such a wonderful freshness, but feel free to experiment with the amount you like.

You’re welcome to mix the vinaigrette beforehand, but if you’re lazy like me feel free to just add oil and vinegar directly to the bowl, along with some salt and pepper and any other spices you choose.

Gently stir with a spoon, taking care not to damage the beans. Adjust salt and pepper and enjoy.

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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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Swiss Chard With Pistachios And Mint Recipe

by | Apr 5, 2010
Rainbow Chard

Rainbow Chard

I realized I left many of you hanging this weekend after talking so much about chard without giving you my favorite recipe. Chard is a regular in my weekly meals because it is delicious, inexpensive and usually available year round. But this time of year, it shouldn’t be missed.

This recipe is a true crowd pleaser–I’ve won over more than a few self-proclaimed chard haters with it.

When older and larger, chard can sometimes take on a slightly bitter quality (not a problem this time of year). In this recipe I cut the bitterness with fresh mint, which brightens the dish in a subtle yet surprising way. I also add pistachio nuts to give the dish a pleasant crunch.

I love this dish with eggs or as an accompaniment to beans or lentils.

Swiss Chard With Pistachios And Mint

Makes 2-3 side dishes

Ingredients:

  • One bunch Swiss chard, any color
  • One shallot or leek
  • 1/4 cup pistachio nut meats
  • About 12 fresh mint leaves
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil

To start, dice a small mild onion such as a shallot, leek or ciopollini. If you use a leek be sure to clean it well and remove all the trapped dirt between the leaves.

Next slice a large handful of mint leaves. 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. Set the mint aside.

Clean your chard. If the stems are very thick (which they often are) you may want to remove them from the leaves. After removing the stems, cut the chard leaves into 1 inch squares. If you want to include some stem in your dish for color and texture, cut them in half and add them to the pan a few minutes before the leaves so they soften and are easier to eat.

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat until it swirls easily in the pan. Add onion, pistachio nuts and chard stems and sauté until the onion is soft and starts to brown slightly.

Add chard leaves and stir to coat in oil. Gently sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover for 1-2 minutes, allowing the chard to wilt. Uncover, stir and continue to cook until chard is dark green and the stems are tender, about 8 minutes.

Sprinkle mint over the chard and stir. Continue cooking another 1-2 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

Have you ever tried chard with mint?

Recipe was originally published August 17, 2008, but has been much improved.

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How (And Why) To Cook And Freeze Large Batches Of Lentils

by | Mar 17, 2010
Collards, Carrots and Lentils Recipe

Collards, Carrots and Lentils Recipe

Healthy eating is important, but for most people (myself included) there are two factors that will almost always trump your best intentions to eat well: taste and time.

In the long run you will not win a battle of wills against your taste buds, and if you think about it you probably don’t even want to. If you hope to build long-term healthy eating habits I suggest focusing your efforts on making the food you cook at home taste as good or better than your default, less healthy alternatives.

Convenience is also a big factor in our daily food decisions. Time is one of our most precious resources, and although I recommend eating slowly I am a big advocate of cooking simply and quickly. In fact, one of the reasons I most often decide to cook at home is that making my own food is much quicker than visiting even the closest taqueria. It is also healthier and cheaper.

On a typical weeknight, I sit down to dinner 15-20 minutes after walking in the door. Granted, I usually cook for just myself, but doubling my recipes is fairly easily and doesn’t cost much in time.

This kind of efficiency does require a bit of planning, however. My meals are typically composed of a big pile of vegetables and either beans, lentils, eggs, fish, intact whole grains, or some combination of these. Half the battle is being sure these things are in your home when you need them.

My fridge is always stocked with fresh vegetables and herbs from my weekly farmers market trip. I also usually set aside a little time each week to cook a large batch of either beans or lentils, which are among my absolute favorite foods for adding substance, texture and a world of flavor to dishes.

I’ve written before about how I make beans using a pressure cooker, but today I want to focus on lentils. Lentils are smaller and more delicate than most beans. As a result, they cook faster and don’t require as much culinary foresight (beans require an overnight soak, while lentils do not).

There are many varieties of lentils. Some are more firm and keep their shape after cooking, making them ideal for adding to stir fries and salads. They can also be used as a substitute for or addition to grain dishes. Examples of firm lentils are French green, black beluga and the most common Spanish brown varieties.

Yellow, red and orange lentils are even smaller and more delicate, which causes them to fall apart and turn to liquid during cooking. These lentils are common ingredients in soups, stews and Indian food.

Because I frequently use lentils as a last minute addition to vegetable dishes to make them more substantial, I have worked to optimize the cooking and storage for a few of the firm varieties. My preference is for the French green and black beluga, but since black lentils are harder to find I performed my experiments exclusively on the green and brown varieties.

My goal was to find the optimal cooking time and the best freezing methods for lentils. Specifically I was hoping to find a convenient method of freezing individual servings that could be stored indefinitely and used within minutes at any time, similar to my method of freezing brown rice.

Traditionally I cook lentils on the stove top in a regular covered sauce pan, but this time I also tried the pressure cooker to see if it could reduce cooking time. In each of my experiments I used 1 cup of dry lentils and 6 cups of water with salt. I added the lentils to a pot of cold water and started my timer when the pot hit the flame.

When preparing lentils, always be sure to rinse them and check for small pebbles before cooking. I do this by slowly pouring my dry lentils into a fine mesh strainer (while checking for pebbles), then rinsing them under the faucet for 30 seconds or so.

A few things surprised me during my experiments. The first is that French green lentils have a much more robust, complex flavor than brown lentils, which have a more subtle flavor and creamier texture. Brown lentils also retained more water and didn’t hold their shape quite as well as the green lentils, and took substantially longer to cook. For these reasons, I strongly preferred the green lentils in my experiments, though I would happily use brown lentils in a hearty stew or as a bed for meat or poultry.

Additionally, because brown lentils didn’t hold their shape as well, I was unable to freeze them in individual plastic wrapped servings like rice. However this method worked wonderfully for green lentils.

As you might expect, my success at freezing lentils in plastic wrap depended on how much liquid I could remove from them before freezing.

For best results, strain lentils very well using a fine meshed strainer before wrapping in individual servings. Carefully place 1/2 cup of lentils in the center of a square of plastic. Fold two opposite edges over the lentils, twist the ends and tie them in a half knot at the top, trying to avoid folding plastic into the lentil ball. To use, run the frozen ball under warm (not hot) water until you can untie the knot. Place lentils in a bowl and microwave 2-3 minutes. Stir with a fork and use.

Both brown and green lentils also froze well in plastic tupper containers. If you know you will be using lentils regularly, you can split a batch you prepare into two or more containers, keep one in the fridge for use and freeze the others. When you are ready, transfer your frozen lentils from the freezer to the fridge the day before you want to use them. Alternatively you could freeze them in Pyrex or glass containers and simply microwave when you want to use them.

I was also curious if a pressure cooker could reduce the time necessary to prepare lentils. For beans a pressure cooker provides an obvious advantage, since on a stove top they can take hours to cook thoroughly. But lentils take only 30-40 min and do not require pre-soaking as beans do. Boiling lentils requires very little attention (make the rest of your food while they cook) and cleanup is easier, so I was curious if there would still be a time advantage using a pressure cooker.

I got different results for the different varieties. For green lentils the pressure cooker did not provide much of an advantage over regular boiling. I found the optimal pressure cooker time for green lentils to be 5-6 minutes, but it takes about 15 minutes for it to pressurize (could maybe be reduced with less water) and another 5 for depressurizing after cooking. Given the extra cleanup/hassle of using the pressure cooker over a sauce pan, the 35 minutes it took to boil the same amount of lentils feels like a better deal.

Another advantage of not using the pressure cooker for green lentils is it’s possible to check the texture as they cook. With the pressure cooker I found it was easy to undercook or overcook the lentils, and the time window was very narrow. This is not ideal if you want the lentils to keep their shape for freezing.

On the other hand, the time advantage gained by using a pressure cooker for the bigger brown lentils was substantial. Brown lentils cooked completely in 7-8 minutes in the pressure cooker, bringing the total cook time to under 30 minutes. However it took well over 45 minutes for them to soften up with boiling alone.

Though I didn’t test them in these experiments, my experience with red and yellow lentils is that they cook in a pressure cooker in about 4 minutes, much faster than simply boiling. This substantially cuts the amount of time it takes to cook with them.

Summary

French green lentils were my favorite for flavor, ease of cooking and storage. They are easiest to prepare by boiling with salt in a regular covered sauce pan for approximately 35 minutes. If well strained, they freeze beautifully in either individually wrapped balls or in a tupper. They can be kept 4-5 days in a sealed container in the refrigerator.

Brown lentils take longer to cook and time is saved by using a pressure cooker. These lentils can be frozen, but do better in a large solid container than in individually wrapped servings.

Either variety stores well in the freezer and has the potential to substantially cut down on daily cooking times when prepared in large batches and used repeatedly.

Do you freeze lentils? Do you prefer to use a pressure cooker?

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Quick Fix: Super Easy Kale With Pecans Recipe

by | Feb 8, 2010
Easy Kale With Pecans Recipe

Easy Kale With Pecans Recipe

It has been forever since I’ve posted a recipe, and I apologize. The thing is, I’ve been really busy. And when I’m busy my meals don’t tend to be super interesting or fancy.

But they are definitely delicious.

Kale has been my favorite instant meal lately. I can usually find three different kinds–curly, Tuscan (aka dinosaur), and red Russian–and they all work with this recipe. You can also substitute chard or any other sturdy greens to mix things up. If you want to make your life even easier look for kale with smaller, young leaves so the stems are tender enough to leave in while cooking.

The key to making a plain green vegetable worthy of an entire meal is adding something with protein or fat (preferably both). Nuts work perfectly, as do any kind of beans or lentils. This recipe calls for pecans, which are wonderful, but I usually use roasted pistachio nuts since they don’t need to be chopped. I was out of pistachios today since I ate so much kale last week (these things happen).

For me this meal is a perfect lunch. Alternatively you can serve it as a side dish and it can serve a few people. If you would like a little more substance serve it with lentils and brown rice or quinoa. I will sometimes have sardines or smoked mackerel or trout on the side.

Super Easy Kale With Pecans Recipe

Serves 1-3 people. 10 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale or chard
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans or pistachios
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Sea salt to taste

Start by mincing your garlic, just to make it a tiny bit healthier. Rinse your greens and place them all on a cutting board oriented in the same direction. If the leaves have very thick stems you may want to remove them as explained here. Personally I buy greens that are fresh and tender enough that I rarely bother removing stems.

Pile the greens on top of each other. Starting at the tip of the leaves, cut 1 inch strips until you have cut the entire bunch. If you are using Tuscan or red Russian kale, a lot less chopping is necessary because the leaves are thin and only need be cut in one direction. If your leaves are wide, cut them into 1-2 inch squares. It’s okay if your greens are still wet, the water will help them steam.

Using a pan with tall sides and a lid, add the nuts and turn it on medium heat. Lightly toast the nuts, stirring regularly with tongs. After 2-3 minutes, add olive oil to the pan and allow it to heat up. Add your chopped greens to the pan, sprinkle generously with sea salt and toss with tongs. Cover.

Stir the greens occasionally so they don’t burn, always replacing the lid after stirring. Continue cooking the greens as they wilt and turn dark green. If they start to burn lower the heat, add 1-2 tbsp of water and cover again to steam.

Kale is done cooking when it is dark green and the stems are tender. Unlike spinach, it is very difficult to over-cook kale because it retains its crispness very well.  Before turning off the heat, use tongs to clear a space in the center of the pan and add your minced garlic in a single layer. Allow the garlic to cook until it becomes fragrant, about 30 seconds, then mix it up with the kale and nuts. Add half cup of beans or lentils at this point if desired.

Continue to cook greens uncovered for another minute or two. Taste test a leaf for saltiness and adjust to taste (be careful if you are using chard, it is naturally salty and easy to over-season).

Serve immediately.

Who loves kale as much as I do?

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Quick Fix: Summer Squash, Peppers & Zürsun Heirloom Beans Recipe

by | Oct 21, 2009
Squash, Peppers and Beans

Squash, Peppers and Beans

A few weeks ago I was contacted by someone from Zürsun Idaho Heirloom Beans and was immediately intrigued. I’m regularly approached with requests to review (aka endorse) products and my answer is almost always the same,

“Thanks, but no thanks.”

Companies that contact health bloggers like me are usually selling energy bars, supplements or some other kind of “functional food”–the exact same junk I’m always reminding you not to bother with. Not only do I think this stuff is useless, I actually consider it dangerous and contrary to your health goals.

If it has a health claim on it, you probably shouldn’t be eating it.

But heirloom beans and lentils are not junk food, and I jumped at the opportunity to sample what Zürsun had to offer. A few days later I received a shipment of assorted beans and lentils and have been thoroughly enjoying them ever since.

Heirloom beans are special, and if you’ve never tried them I highly recommend you do. The flavor and texture of high-quality beans does not compare to the cans you get at the grocery store.

To prepare, I soak my beans overnight then cook them 10-12 minutes in the pressure cooker (this is the one I use) with a bouillon cube–preferably beef flavored, but any will do. A big batch of beans can last weeks if you freeze it in 2 or 3 portions.

What has been the most surprising to me is how fantastic I’ve felt since I’ve started eating legumes nearly everyday. Though beans are famous for causing digestive problems, I have not had even the slightest issue with dried heirloom beans. I’ve read that this is probably due to the overnight soak, but I haven’t seen the science to back this claim.

My energy levels have been especially high (even for me!) and the past few weeks have been some of the best times I’ve ever spent in the gym. Oddly, I also weigh less than I have in my adult life (I was so surprised I double checked the calibration on the scale at the gym).

I don’t know if I can attribute all this amazingness to the beans, but I can tell you they have made for some tasty and satisfying meals.

I’m happy 🙂

My favorite bean so far has been the fawn bean. Zürsun calls these “rice beans,” probably because they are long and slender. Fawn beans are very versatile and I used them in salads, stir fries and on their own.

For me the simplest way to eat beans is to toss them in a pan at the last minute when cooking my usual vegetables. This makes for a simple, delicious, one-pan meal perfect for a busy week night.

In this recipe I used some of the season’s last zephyr squash and some Basque frying peppers. It might have been better with cilantro, but I only had basil so that’s what I used. It turned out delicious.

Summer Squash, Peppers & Zürsun Heirloom Beans

Serves 1 main course or 2 sides. Total time ~15 minutes.

Ingredients:

Zursun Beans & Lentils

Zürsun Beans & Lentils

  • 1 cup cooked Zürsun fawn beans
  • 2 medium zephyr squash or zucchini, cut in half and into 1/2 in. slices
  • 1-2 Basque frying peppers or 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cippolini onion or shallot, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Chopped basil or cilantro

Heat a pan on medium flame and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Add onions and peppers and cook until starting to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add squash, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the squash turns bright colored, has stopped sweating and is starting to gently brown on the edges, 4-5 minutes.

When the squash is nearly done, clear space in the center of the pan and add the garlic in a single layer. When it becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds), mix it in with the rest of the vegetables.

Add the beans to the pan and mix. Continue to cook until the beans are heated through. Do not allow the beans to sit long enough to stick to the bottom of the pan.

Toss in herbs and serve immediately.

This dish is great on its own or as an accompaniment to fish or light protein. You can also use also use this same basic recipe to cook any standard vegetables with beans or lentils. I made it one day with beet greens and it was awesome.

Do you ever cook beans together with vegetables?

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Quick Fix: Collards, Carrots and French Green Lentils

by | Apr 24, 2009
Collards, Carrots and Lentils

Collards, Carrots and Lentils

Last week I wrote about the perfect balanced meal and featured a picture of my dinner the previous night: collard greens, carrots and French green lentils. Since then I have had more than a few requests for the recipe and am happy to provide an encore to the How To Get Started Eating Healthy book.

Lentils are incredibly nutritious and easier to cook than dried beans. They also have the third highest protein content of any plant. A single serving of lentils contains 18 g of protein, 63% of your daily fiber and 37% of your iron in only 230 calories!

That’s more iron than 1,123 calories of prime rib. Remember when I said every plant could be considered a superfood? Well, lentils are no exception.

Lentils and other legumes are also great for weight loss and are a fabulous alternative to grains for individuals who are insulin resistant or diabetic, since they have minimal impact on blood sugar.

For a pan cooked dish, you want lentils that are fairly robust and maintain their shape after cooking. I prefer French green lentils, but standard brown lentils also hold up pretty well. Simply boil them in excess water with a pinch of salt for 20 minutes or so until tender (do not overcook). Strain, then toss them in with your vegetables at the end of cooking just to coat with flavor and heat through. Lentils freeze well, but can be kept fresh in the refrigerator 3-5 days.

In this recipe, kale or chard can easily substitute for the collards. If you want to use spinach, add it last after the lentils. Fold it in and allow it to wilt into the dish.

Collards, Carrots and French Green Lentils

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 collard leaves
  • 4-5 medium carrots
  • 1/2 cup French green lentils, cooked
  • 1 small leek
  • 1 clove garlic
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • lemon juice (optional)
  • chopped parsley (optional)

If you are making your lentils from scratch, quickly pick through them for pebbles, give them a rinse then boil them in excess water with a pinch of salt for 20-30 minutes, until tender. Even though I rarely consume more than half cup (cooked) in one sitting, I usually like to cook up at least one cup dry (at least 4 servings) and save the rest for later. Start them boiling as soon as you step into the kitchen and start cooking your vegetables at least 15 minutes after you turn them on.

In the mean time clean and chop your leek and mince your garlic. Peel and slice your carrots at a sharp angle to maximize the surface area for cooking. Clean your collard leafs, chop off the stems then stack them on top of each other in a pile. Cut into one inch squares, removing any sections that have thick pieces of stem.

Heat a pan on medium heat, then add olive oil. When the oil swirls easily in the pan, add the leeks and allow to cook for 1-2 minutes, until the pieces break up and become tender and translucent. Add carrots and stir. Cook 2 minutes, then add collards. Sprinkle with sea salt and continue to cook, stirring occasionally.

Be careful with your heat when pan frying collard greens–don’t let it get too high. The leaves easily trap steam from cooking, and I had a few jump out of my pan onto the floor. They make a loud popping sound too, which is very exciting. If it makes you feel safer, you can cover the greens for the first minute or two while they soften.

Shortly after the collards turn bright green from cooking (4-5 minutes), clear a space in the center of the pan and add your minced garlic in a single layer (you can add a touch more oil if necessary). Let garlic cook 30 seconds or so until fragrant, then add the lentils and mix with the other vegetables. A squeeze of lemon juice, zest or a dash of vinegar is a good addition here, if you like. A sprinkle of your favorite herb, e.g. Italian parsley, basil or thyme, adds depth and complexity if you have them around.

Continue cooking 3-4 more minutes, stirring every 30 seconds. If you are using cold lentils, cook until warm. Adjust salt and serve.

This dish is wonderful as a main course, by itself or with brown rice. It can easily be scaled to accommodate a large crowd if you have a big enough pan.

What flavors do you love to pair with lentils?

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Pea Greens With Carrots And Scrambled Eggs

by | Feb 25, 2009

peas and carrotsThis is exactly why I encourage you all to go to the farmers market. Last weekend I picked up these beautiful pea greens and carrots from Capay Organics and turned them into this magnificent Sunday brunch with scrambled eggs.

I would not necessarily have chosen to put carrots in this mix, but I had them in my fridge and they were so deliciously sweet I couldn’t resist. Besides, having peas and carrots together gave the whole dish a quaint, Forrest Gump-like feel that made me all cozy on this rainy weekend.

If you do not have pea greens, you can easily substitute spinach or any other green. Since the greens are the bulk of this dish, I would recommend you use the bunch, big-leafed spinach rather than bagged baby spinach to get the closest approximation. If you choose a thicker green like chard or kale, you will need to increase the cooking time for the greens. See these recipes for details: chard, kale.


Pea Greens With Carrots And Scrambled Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of pea greens or spinach
  • 2 sweet, fresh carrots
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 baby leek
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp water
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Crack 2 eggs in a large bowl and add 1 tbsp cool water (tap okay). Use a whisk or fork to beat the eggs until they are frothy. Don’t be lazy, do a good job!

Rinse your greens carefully, making sure no loose dirt is hidden between the leaves. Coarsely chop the leaves and remove the thickest parts of the stems. In my experience, the tendril part of the peas were quite woody, even though they looked thin and delicate. You probably want to remove the larger ones of these as well. If there are flowers in your pea greens, you can keep them to add color to the dish.

Mince
your garlic. Clean your leek and cut it into 0.5 inch pieces.

Peel your carrots and slice them into angled 0.25 inch slices. The angled cut increases the surface area for cooking.

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in large skillet until it swirls easily in the pan. Add carrots and cook 2 minutes, turning occasionally. Add pea greens, sprinkle on sea salt and turn. Allow greens to cook and wilt for about 3 minutes until bright green, stirring occasionally.

Clear a space in the center of the pan and add garlic in single layer. Allow garlic to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then stir in with the greens. Allow vegetables to cook another 2-3 minutes and remove from heat.

While vegetables are cooking, begin heating another pan on medium-high heat. When the vegetables are finished cooking, add 2-3 tbsp olive oil to the pan and swirl immediately. Add leeks and cook them until they begin to become translucent and just start to brown, about 90 seconds.

Distribute leeks evenly throughout the pan and gently pour eggs on top of them. Sprinkle sea salt and freshly ground pepper onto the eggs. After the eggs have sat in the pan 20-30 seconds, use an egg turner to slowly scrape the eggs away from the sides of the pan, tracing a circle around the edge (where it cooks faster) then into the center. Be sure that no part of the eggs are in contact with the pan for too long. You do not want the eggs to brown at all.

Be patient and move your hand slowly, but do not stop pushing around the eggs until they begin piling onto one side of the pan. Turn off heat immediately when this happens. The eggs will still be runny, but will continue cooking while the heat is off.

Even with heat off, do not allow one part of the eggs to stay in contact with the pan for too long. Move them to a plate as soon as possible.

Transfer vegetables to the plate and serve with a warmed chunk of baguette.

If you would like this to serve 2 instead of 1 person, increase the number of eggs to 4 or 5 and maybe add one more carrot. There will be enough greens to go around.

Have you ever cooked pea greens?

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