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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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Quick Fix: Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

by | Apr 25, 2012
Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

Nothing represents springtime quite like fresh asparagus. This easy recipe highlights its unique flavor by pairing it with sweet carrots and reduced balsamic vinegar. It is simple, delicious and can be prepared in under 10 minutes.

Start with the freshest, greenest asparagus you can get your hands on. These should be easy to find in California throughout the springtime.

The trick to keeping asparagus tender and not fibrous is to snap off the bottom of the spears with your hands. The asparagus will naturally break where the fibers are thinnest and most tender, leaving all the thick and chewy fibers on the end you throw out. After washing, grip each asparagus spear near the middle with one hand and use the other hand to snap off the bottom.

To make it more substantial add an egg, lentils, beans or just use it as a side dish. Here it was served on a bed of brown rice that I pulled from the freezer.

Balsamic Asparagus and Carrots

Ingredients:

  • Asparagus (1/4 – 1/2 bunch for single serving)
  • Carrots, 3-5 medium-small carrots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2-4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Sea salt

Crush and mince your garlic clove and set aside. Prepare your asparagus spears as described above and cut them into 1-2 inch bite-sized pieces. Peel your carrots with a vegetable peeler (my peeler recommendation can be found in the Shop under Kitchen Gear > Accessories) and slice at an angle into half inch pieces. Angled cuts increase the surface area of the carrot and are better for cooking.

Heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan on medium heat. Add carrots to the pan and stir to coat with oil. Add asparagus to the pan and stir again. Sprinkle sea salt onto the vegetables and allow them to cook until asparagus is bright green and starting to sweat, about 2-3 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Clear a space in the center of the pan and add garlic in a single layer. Allow to cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir to mix garlic with the vegetables. Drizzle on balsamic vinegar and stir. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally until the carrots are tender and a thin balsamic glaze begins to form on the vegetables. Remove from the pan and served immediately.

What is your favorite Quick Fix for asparagus?

Originally published April 6, 2009.

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Greek Fava Bean Stew Recipe

by | Jun 21, 2010

Favas unshelled, shelled and skinned

Favas unshelled, shelled and skinned

My friend Benjy recently pulled up to my door with 5 lbs of magnificent fava beans from his overflowing garden. And as luck would have it, along with the beans came an amazing recipe for a Greek fava bean stew.

I cooked it this past weekend and can’t recommend it enough. It is simple, elegant and insanely delicious, yet it is unlike any fava dish I’ve had in the past. This recipe is a true gem.

Since I didn’t have rice like the recipe calls for I added a bit of cooked farro to the stew. I also garnished it with a hint of crème fraiche, because I had it.

Huge thanks to Benjy for sharing this wonderful recipe.

Benjy Weinberger has been eating food for over 30 years, and has held strong opinions for almost as long.

Read his personal blog: http://jamknife.blogspot.com/
Follow him on Twitter: @benjyw

The Fabulous Fava Bean

by Benjy Weinberger

As Tennyson wrote, “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love”. In my case, it turns to love of the fava bean. This delicious legume makes an all-too-brief appearance in the late spring and early summer. Blink and you’ll miss the fava season. So don’t blink, get down to your favorite farmers market and load up.

Favas, or broad beans, are a staple in Egypt, where they are known as ‘Ful’, and are popular in Iran, Italy, Greece and elsewhere around the Mediterranean. Many recipes use dried favas, which are available  year-round, but there’s nothing quite as good as the fresh variety.

Fava bean root nodules

Fava bean root nodules

Favas are easy to grow, with a single plant growing multiple stalks up to 6 feet high and yielding several pounds of unshelled beans. Plant them in late fall for a spring crop. Like all legumes, favas are notable for fixing nitrogen in their root nodules, thus replenishing the soil throughout the winter. As a result they make a great cover crop, and can be plowed under to make way for summer plantings–after harvesting the precious pods of course.

Favas are high in protein, fiber and other nutrients, and have a strong, meaty flavor when cooked, so that you don’t need a lot of them in a dish.  But note that two pounds of unshelled pods yields just under a pound of shelled beans. Fava bean pods can be 6″-10″ in length when fully mature. After shelling, a pod yields 3-6 beans, each of which is encased in a skin. Some recipes require removal of this skin, and the best way to do this is to soak the beans in boiling water for a few minutes, after which the flesh will pop out easily.

One caution: In rare cases, people with G6PD deficiency, a hereditary disease, may have an adverse reaction to fava beans. In these severe cases the disease is known as “favism”. So make sure your dinner guests know what you are serving, which is a good practice anyway.

Pasta dishes love fava beans–try sauteing the skinned beans in olive oil with some chopped leeks, and add a little cream, black pepper and shaved parmesan on some penne. Or blend some cooked, skinned beans with parsley, lemon juice, salt and pepper and spread on crostini as an antipasti. Or of course you could follow the advice of Hannibal Lecter and serve them with liver and a nice chianti….

But my favorite Fava dish has to be the hearty breakfast stew of mashed favas, onion, garlic and lemon juice that is known in Egypt as Ful Medames. It is best eaten with hummus. The following recipe is a variant on
this stew, possibly of Greek origin.

Eti’s Fava Stew

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2.5 lbs of fava bean pods (yielding just over a pound of shelled beans)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 bunches of green onions, finely chopped
  • 2 large or 2 small bunches of fresh dill, chopped
  • Juice from 1 lemon.
  • Optional: 4 chunks of marrow bone.
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Boiling water

Directions:

  • Shell the pods. Skin 1/4 of the beans by blanching them in boiling water for a few minutes and removing the skin.
  • Nick the skin of the remaining beans carefully with a paring knife so the cooking sauces can permeate the bean.
  • In a deep saucepan, saute the onion, green onion and skinless beans in some olive oil.
  • For extra-deep flavor, add in the marrow bone chunks.
  • Add salt and pepper.
  • Add remaining fava beans, drizzle with the lemon juice and stir.
  • Sprinkle the chopped dill on top.
  • Add boiling water until the dill is covered and bring to a boil.
  • Cover the saucepan and simmer for 2-3 hours, adding water if needed.

Serve over rice.

How do you cook fava beans?

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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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A Springtime Quiche, Gluten Free

by | Apr 26, 2010
Springtime Quiche Recipe

Springtime Quiche

Today I’m excited to have one of my favorite scientists and healthy eating bloggers, Jenn Cuisine, sharing her story. Jenn is an amazing cook who has learned gluten free cooking because of her husband’s gluten intolerance.

I find Jenn particularly inspiring because despite her culinary restrictions, deliciousness is always her top priority. She cooks amazing, healthy food and takes beautiful photos. In fact, it was months before I even realized her recipes were gluten free.

Jenn Cuisine is perfect for anyone interested in delicious, healthy recipes. Follow her on Twitter @jenncuisine

A Springtime Quiche, Gluten Free

by Jenn

Hello! And thanks so much to Darya for inviting me to talk with you all. I have always been a big fan of Summer Tomato, the vast wealth of information that Darya provides about health and tasty food is just simply amazing!

The month of May, Celiac Disease Awareness month, is quickly approaching, and so I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about my family’s gluten free experience and how we get on in the kitchen.

My husband is not technically celiac, but is very intolerant to gluten and has many similar symptoms as celiac disease. Never having had any problems with gluten myself, I panicked a little bit when I found out. I learned about his condition soon after we started dating, and was completely overwhelmed at the thought of making gluten free food.

“No bread? No pasta?  No flour? OMG what in the world am I going to make for him??” This put a serious wrench in my plans to win over his heart with some fabulous home-baked goods, like my dad’s famous peach pie.

I was utterly clueless about how to prepare gluten free food, and my husband didn’t have a good handle on how to eat GF back then either. He was constantly miserable and reacting to everything, and just didn’t have the kitchen know-how to consistently create tasteful gluten free meals. Gluten free became a learning experience for the both of us. And together, by learning how to cook all over again, we fell in love.

At first, I felt that making gluten free food shouldn’t be a big deal. I wanted our lives to continue as if being gluten free were a mere afterthought–but I quickly realized this is not how this works. GF is a permanent and ever present part of his life, which needed to be acknowledged. Some foods are challenging and others are simple, but no matter what we will be gluten free. This is not some fad diet for us, this is a part of who my husband is, and therefore, who I am.

We started out simple and slow, at first relying on a number of packaged foods. However, these products really weren’t fulfilling taste-wise and were quite pricey for our grad-student budgets. Thus began my venture off into the world of gluten free cooking from scratch, learning about various alternative flours, binders and ratios.  I even managed to successfully make my dad’s peach pie.

As time went on, cooking transformed from something I used to stress over into part of our daily lives that we both can now proudly embrace. Gluten free cooking is not a handicap. If anything, GF has been liberating, because I have grown to appreciate so much about food, flavor, creativity and love.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is that GF cooking doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, most of what we cook on a daily basis needs no alterations, no substitutions. I find it’s best this way. After all, food shouldn’t be a fuss–that takes the fun out of it. Cooking should be relaxing, a time for sharing, and a time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life. We learn from each other this way, and bond over soups bubbling on the stove, chicken roasting in the oven, or pastries being rolled out.

These are the little joys that food and cooking can bring us, little ephemeral moments of bliss, which are not limited to only glutenicious dishes. Through learning how to create food gluten free, I’ve learned to enjoy cooking all over again.

There are so many tips and tricks I have learned along the way–to remove the stress and panic that can so easily overwhelm the newly GF. If you are just starting out in the realm of gluten free food, here are some helpful little bits of advice:

1. Explore!

Be adventurous and try those grains you’ve never seen before. Quinoa, amaranth, millet. Each has a new, different flavor and often contains more nutrients than plain old white rice flour.

2. Find a recipe for a GF mix that you love?

Mix a bunch of the dry ingredients together ahead of time and store the entire mix in one container. This way you aren’t always grabbing a thousand ingredients at once, making baking just as easy as if you had plain old wheat flour in your pantry.

3. Embrace the flourless

Roasts, salads, soups, stir fries, risottos, curries. All of these things are very easy to cook without any substitutions. Many dishes are decadent without ever needing flour, from a simple tapioca pudding to a sophisticated chocolate soufflé.

4. Look to Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines

Several foods from these cultures are naturally gluten free, involve lots of great fresh legumes and produce, and pop with flavor–you may find some great gluten free ingredients at ethnic food markets as well.

5. Practice

Don’t be afraid to mess up! You may not find the perfect whole grain gluten free bread recipe on the first try, but don’t give up. With all things, practice and patience will yield great results.

Today I am sharing with you one of my favorite gluten free dishes to make, a quiche. Pie crusts and the like are great for adapting to be gluten free. They need none of the elasticity or network of air pockets that gluten develops in a bread dough. You can make a decent pie crust with just about any gluten free flours, as long as you keep around 1/3 of the flour a starch, like the tapioca I’ve used here.

In this recipe I like adding the cream cheese because it makes for a great texture–cream cheese is common in several glutenicious quiche crusts as well. Fillings are also extremely versatile, and baking is generally forgiving. I chose to highlight some of my favorite springtime vegetables–spinach and asparagus–but you can add in whatever you want!

Asparagus, Spinach and Bacon Quiche, Gluten Free

Gluten free quiche

Gluten free quiche

Ingredients:

For the crust:

1/3 cup chickpea flour
1/3 cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup tapioca flour
4 oz. cream cheese
1 stick (4 oz.) butter
salt, pepper, herbs

For the filling:

5 eggs
2 shallots, peeled
2 cups fresh spinach
1 bunch asparagus, chopped
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 oz. gruyere, grated
¾ cup milk

Directions:

1. Add all of the ingredients for the crust into a food processor and pulse until it comes together into a ball of dough. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Heat up a frying pan with a little olive oil and sauté minced shallots until softened. Add in fresh spinach and continue to cook, stirring occasionally until wilted.

3. Remove dough from fridge, roll out in between 2 sheets of plastic wrap (gluten free dough tends to be a bit sticky) until ¼” thick. Peel off top sheet of plastic wrap, flip and transfer to a 9” spring form pan. Press into the bottom and sides of the pan, and then peel off the remaining layer of plastic wrap.

4. In a large bowl, beat eggs and then add vegetables, bacon and cheese, and then add in about ½ to ¾ cup milk. Pour into quiche, cover edges of the crust with foil, and bake about 45 minutes (this will be longer if you make a taller thicker quiche as I did here), or until it has set and crust has nicely browned.

5. Let cool about 10 minutes, unclamp spring form pan, slice, and top with some fresh greens to garnish.  Serve and enjoy!

What are your favorite gluten free recipes?

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Quick Fix: Mexican-style Quinoa Salad

by | May 18, 2009
Mexican-style Quinoa Salad

Mexican-style Quinoa Salad

Cinco de Mayo is one of my absolute favorite holidays. Half my family is Mexican, so I have memories of tacos and Coronas by the pool while basking in the first hints of summer sun. Good times!

Unfortunately this year I was too busy to even go out with friends for some real Mexican food (or at least San Francisco’s version of it). Instead I made a quick, healthy quinoa salad using Mexican herbs and spices to help me feel like I didn’t completely neglect my heritage.

You can find all these ingredients at your regular grocery store. I used arugula, but you can substitute spinach if you prefer. I also recommend being creative with your spices (jalepeño or cumin come to mind). If you have fresh salsa or pico de gallo around you can stir in a spoonful or two at the end to accentuate the Mexican flavor.

I recommend making extra so you have leftovers for lunch the next day!

Mexican-style Quinoa Salad

(serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • Half bag of arugula or baby spinach
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup chopped red pepper
  • 1 spring onion or shallot
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves, stems removed
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Lime
  • Tapatio or favorite Mexican hot sauce

Rinse and cook quinoa. Crush and mince your garlic. While your quinoa is boiling, halve your tomatoes and dice your onion and pepper. If using a spring onion, save some of the green onion slices for garnish. Remove the stems from your cilantro. Dice your avocado and sprinkle it with salt.

When your quinoa is finished cooking, heat a frying pan on medium high heat and add 2 tbsp olive oil. Add onions and red peppers and cook on medium high heat until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn off heat and add quinoa, stirring to mix. Fold in arugula or spinach and season with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.

Transfer quinoa mixture to a large serving bowl and add avocado, tomatoes and cilantro. Squeeze in juice of half a lime and add a few dashes of Tapatio or Tabasco to taste. Gently stir, being careful not to mash the avocado chunks.

Adjust salt and spices. Garnish with green onion slices, extra cilantro leaves and a wedge of lime.

Do you try to recreate nostalgic moments with certain spices and flavors?

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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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FAIL: The Wild Radish Rapini Challenge

by | Mar 11, 2009

Want to get people to eat more vegetables? One way NOT to accomplish it is to have them eat something that doesn’t taste good.

I tried a recipe for radish rapini (radish greens) this weekend that really let me down. The rapini itself was delicious, but overall the dish was a huge disappointment.

All is not lost, however. I’d be willing to bet just a minor tweak could transform this dish from cloying to classic!

The Challenge

You might remember that Saturday at the farmers market I was challenged by Knoll Farms to buy and prepare some of their wild radish rapini. I didn’t really accept the challenge, which would have involved giving them my name in the event that I seriously wanted my money back after trying it (I still don’t). But I did buy their greens and borrow their recipe.

Admittedly it was a mistake on my part to tell you guys I would try this recipe before really reading it (I have a tendency to skip this critical reading step before deciding to cook something–probably not the best habit). But once I made the commitment I didn’t want to mess with the recipe too much.

In retrospect I wish I had gone with my gut on this one and altered it anyway.

My Main Complaint?

Their recipe called for equal parts coconut oil, raw honey and tahini. Tahini I can understand. It has a wonderful rich, smokey flavor that I use on greens regularly. I have no experience with coconut oil, but have heard good things and was interested in trying it.

Honey is a different story.

Personally I would never put honey on greens. Raw or “healthy” or whatever, sugar is sugar. It is hard enough to avoid sweets in this food culture without adding sugar to vegetables.

My brain warned me of all these things. But for you, dear readers, I followed the recipe anyway.

Taste

From a culinary perspective, the honey was just as unsavory (um, pun intended). I freely acknowledge that there are a few dishes where a touch of honey/sweetness can add a nice element and heighten the dish. I was willing to give the Knoll folks the benefit of the doubt for 2 reasons:

  1. I have never had “raw” honey and thought maybe it would taste different than the honey I was used to. It didn’t.
  2. I thought there was a chance the sweetness would balance the smokey flavor of the tahini (I was dreaming of Hawaiian BBQ). Maybe a different ratio of honey and tahini works, but it certainly doesn’t at 1:1.

So from my perspective the dish was too sweet. Sickly sweet. The honey completely overpowered the brightness of the greens (which were wonderful!). If I had to change only one thing in this dish, I would substitute Meyer lemon juice for the honey.

I bet that would be good! It could also use some garlic.

The Recipe

When I cooked the greens I followed their recipe exactly. I blanched them for ~4 minutes until they were bright green, squeezed out the water and cut them up. The taste test I did at this point was really encouraging.

I premixed the wet ingredients. Both the coconut oil and the honey were solid at room temperature so I microwaved them for 15 seconds.

When I tasted the dressing at this point I knew it would be too sweet, so I only used about half of it. I had already halved the dressing ingredients because I had fewer greens than the recipe called for, so there is no chance that I had simply “over-dressed” the greens. The dressing was bad. Really bad.

Tempeh

To make a complete meal I cooked up some tempeh to toss with the dish. Tempeh is an Indonesian-style fermented soy product. It is an interesting ingredient that takes some getting used to, but once I figured out how to cook it I fell in love with it. For herbivores and omnivores alike, it is a great source of protein that adds both depth of flavor and nutrition to any vegetable dish.

I prepare tempeh by thinly slicing it and lightly cooking it in olive oil until golden brown. (In this recipe I thought I might try something new and cook it in the coconut oil, and it was a complete disaster. It started smoking almost instantly and I had to add olive oil to the pan to prevent excessive burning.) After it has browned slightly on both sides I toss in a few tbsp of light soy sauce, which quickly sizzles, caramelizes and coats the tempeh.

It is important to keep stirring constantly (it could be described as “frantically”) for about 30 seconds after adding the soy sauce then immediately remove the tempeh from the pan. If you try this at home, be extra careful not to burn it.

Usually I eat tempeh tossed with either kale or broccoli shoots pan fried with garlic, served on a bed of brown rice. I guess it is ironic that my favorite garnish is a drizzle of tahini.

In this case I added the tempeh to the rapini greens. The whole thing was okay, but rather unsatisfying compared to my normal dinners. I probably should have tried this recipe instead.

Conclusion

All in all, this is not the recipe I would choose if I wanted to get people to like a new vegetable. In my experience the best way to get someone to appreciate something new is to add bacon.

Maybe next week I’ll try wild radish rapini again with my own recipe, or maybe something new and exciting at the market will distract me. We’ll see.

Share your favorite recipes (or links) for great ways to cook unusual foods!

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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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What To Do With A Tasteless Tomato? Pasta Primavera!

by | Feb 11, 2009

It is no secret that I love summer tomatoes. A big, sweet brandywine in August with some olive oil and basil comes pretty close to my idea of perfect. So on Saturday I fell victim to one of the siren songs of late winter: the perfect looking, tasteless tomato.

I knew there was almost no chance of these tomatoes being good, but I told myself it was my duty to my readers to try all the produce at the market. So I bought one. But the truth is they looked beautiful and it had been months since I had a good market tomato–I wanted it so bad I couldn’t resist.

In my anticipation I sliced it open and took a bite first thing when I got home. Sure enough, it was flavorless. There was no way that I could eat this thing solo like I would have preferred, but I didn’t want to throw it away. Tasteless tomatoes aren’t any cheaper than good ones!

One great way to salvage a bad tomato is by cooking it up with a bunch of fresh vegetables, tossing it with olive oil and garlic and putting it on pasta. Voilà! Perfect late winter (early spring?) pasta primavera.

Late Winter Pasta Primavera

Ingredients:

  • Small head romanesco broccoli or cauliflower, rinsed and cut into bite-sized florets
  • 0.5 cup chickpeas
  • 1 shallot, finely diced
  • 1 medium beefsteak tomato, diced into 0.5 inch cubes
  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, minced
  • 0.25 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 0.75 cup rigatoni or 0.5 cup penne pasta
  • Zest and juice of 0.5 Meyer lemon
  • 0.25 cup room temperature water
  • Excellent cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

Boil 2 qts of water in a pot with 0.5 tsp salt and 1 tbsp olive oil. Add pasta and cook until al dente (about 12 minutes for rigatoni).

Sprinkle diced tomato with sea salt and fresh ground pepper, set aside.

While the water is heating up, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to a pan on medium heat until it swirls easily. Add shallot and cook until it becomes translucent, about 2 minutes. Add romanesco and stir. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and cover, 2 minutes. Remove lid, stir and add 0.25 cup water and cover again. Allow to steam 4-5 minutes, stirring once or twice.

When romanesco is brightly colored and becoming tender, add 1 more tbsp of olive oil and stir. Add chickpeas. After 2-3 minutes, clear a spot in the center of the pan and add garlic. When garlic becomes fragrant (about 30 seconds), mix it with the rest of the vegetables. Be careful not to damage the chickpeas.

Add raw tomatoes, chopped parsley and lemon zest (all) and juice (to taste). Mix. Turn off heat and let stand at least one minute. Tomatoes should subtly wilt.

Add strained pasta to the vegetables in your pan. Toss mixture and adjust salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Have you ever bought a horrible tomato because it looked so beautiful?

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