30 July 2009

Curried Coconut Lentils with Chopped Baby Spinach

A little disclaimer: Sorry about the blurry pics; I don't own a tripod and I still have no idea what I'm doing with a digital camera. I don't even have cable so I probably won't be figuring it out anytime soon...

Ian isn't a big fan of spinach or kale, two of my very favorite greens, so I often have to find creative ways to sneak the ingredients into dishes without him knowing. At times he doesn't even know he's eating kale (the puree is my best friend) but with spinach, I've found a better way of getting him to eat his greens: chop it into tiny, unavoidable pieces. That's right folks, back the haters into a corner and force them to down the very ingredient they despise.

And then watch in surprise as they eat it without complaint.

I make a couple of vegetarian items a week, and this particular meal is one of my favorites. There's something comforting and hearty about lentils, and in this heat, the no-fuss prep for this meal is hard for me to pass up. I could call this a dal since it's close to many recipes I've seen, but I can't really vouch for its authenticity since I really just slap it together at the last minute and then return to sitting in front of the fans with an ice pack.

The particular lentils I used are from the local Pacific Northwest Farmers Cooperative in Genesee, Idaho. I was happy to see that the lentils were great quality and didn't have any grit or grime all over them as is so often the case.

Curried Coconut Lentils with Chopped Baby Spinach

1 1/2 c. lentils
2 3/4 c. vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1 tbsp. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 Walla Walla sweet onion, minced finely
1 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. cumin
2 cups finely chopped baby spinach
1/2 cup light coconut milk

1. Soak lentils in cold water for 20 minutes. Rinse.
2. In a dutch oven or heavy skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, and spices to the pan and cook until fragrant. Pour in vegetable broth and lentils, and bring to a boil.
3. Turn heat down to simmer and cook until lentils are soft and broth is reduced (anywhere from 20-35 minutes).
4. Stir in spinach and coconut milk and heat for about a minute. Serve with rice or naan bread.

27 July 2009

Garden Update: Flowers and Ornamental Plants

The yucca is back (well, now there's three of them!)

A variety of zinnia, caladium and other various bulbs that started their own little jungle in the side garden

My newest hen has not only more than a few chicks, but a big, juicy bloom too!

New Zealand begonias and blue marina

Coleus and begonias
(excuse the mess--it was plant care day...)

My beautiful vine, trailing this year to another hanging pot in the garden

Voodoo stonecrop

Beeler's Natural Pork, Fontina and Mizuna Panini and Arugula Salad with Grilled Peaches

It may be quite pricey, but this past Sunday shopping trip, Ian and I couldn't resist buying half a ham of Beeler's All Natural Pork from the Moscow Co-Op. They don't have a deli slicer in the meat area, so we used Ian's trusty work slicer to slice up some of the best deli meat I've had in a long time. Sometimes I forget that deli meat actually tastes like meat, and without all the preservatives that make deli slices slimy (shudder) I couldn't resist taking tiny bits from the fridge all night.

The Co-Op also sells a wonderful salted French bread that I just knew would be perfect for panini. With the help of a little Fontina, some of the very fresh mizuna I picked up the farmer's market, caramelized local Walla Walla sweet onions, a dab of Veganase and stone ground mustard, I had a serious monster of a sandwich on my hands.

I also picked up some very juicy local peaches at the farmer's market and decided to grill them up and serve them on a bed of arugula, along with chopped fresh almonds, cherry tomatoes, and a mixture of balsamic vinegar, honey and olive oil (which I basted the peaches with after grilling).

This was one fantastic, almost entirely local meal on a beautiful summer day!

24 July 2009

Chicken, Cherry Tomato and Baby Spinach Whole Wheat Penne Pasta Salad with Creamy Parmesan Basil Dressing

This is one of those true clean out the fridge and pantry recipes that only happen by accident. With a little leftover buttermilk, a ton of fresh garden basil, a container of leftover shredded chicken, and a handful of dried whole wheat penne, I decided to make one of those perennial American salads that so often grace the tables at outdoor BBQs and potluck soirees.

I don't really like to admit it, but I love pasta salads, even those swimming in fake "Italian" dressing or covered with bits of salami and cheddar cheese cubes. There's something comforting and familiar about them, even if I would never make them myself. This recipe is an ode to the great American side dish often found next to the potato salad or good old apple pie.

Creamy Parmesan Basil Dressing

2 tbsp. buttermilk
2 tbsp. nonfat Greek yogurt (Chobani, Fage, etc.)
1 tbsp. finely chopped basil
1 tsp. lemon juice (I also added a tiny pinch of zest)
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl or food processor.
2. Chill before tossing with pasta salad ingredients. Yields about 1/2 cup.

Chicken, Cherry Tomato and Baby Spinach Whole Wheat Penne Pasta Salad

3/4 cup dried whole wheat penne pasta (farfalle or rotini also works)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes (I used mixed variety heirlooms)
1/2 cup torn baby spinach leaves
3/4 cup leftover shredded chicken
1 batch Creamy Parmesan Basil dressing

1. Cook the pasta according to package specifications and let cool before tossing with rest of ingredients.
2. Combine remaining ingredients (except dressing) with pasta.
3. Pour dressing over pasta mixture and toss to combine. Chill before serving.

23 July 2009

Peach and Raspberry Galette

I love making pies, but I'm not very good at making them. In fact, unless someone helps me make the dough, it turns into a miserable mess. I've always loved making galette because it's easy, it's elegant.....and no one knows you can't bake to save your life.

With a million pounds of fresh fruit on hand, I decided the peaches and raspberries would be the first to spoil. The finished product turned out lovely; sweet but not too sweet, a bit tart but not too tart, and the dough didn't overpower the fresh, local fruits. If you aren't a baker, you might try this recipe, from Use Real Butter's archives. The only changes I made were to very light dot the fruit with butter (I think I only used about a tablespoon, shaved thinly) and then a very light sprinkle of organic raw sugar over both the fruit and the dough (I'm talking less than two teaspoons--just the right amount of sweetness for me). Seriously, try it: it's easy as pie.

Peach and Raspberry Galette Recipe from Use Real Butter

22 July 2009

Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Hummus

I love homemade hummus, but every now and then I get a little sick of the plain old Jane recipe and I just have to start playing. While still pretty traditional, a roasted head of garlic and fresh roasted red peppers really a go a long way to jazz up a simple snack.

I don't have a gas stove, so roasting red peppers is a little tricky but if I slice and arrange pepper slices on a baking sheet and then broil them in my electric oven for around 30-35 minutes, they blacken just the same as fire roasted peppers. Even though it takes significantly more time, I usually just pop them in the oven whilst performing other tasks around the house. If you also share my electric stove problem, this might be the solution for you.

As for roasted garlic, I almost always roast the garlic before adding it to the hummus as I'm not always a fan of fresh garlic in a snack. I mean, I just don't think I'd like to be around students with garlic breath. I may not mind, but I would rather not end up with an eccentric nickname amongst a group of 18 year olds.

Roasted Garlic and Red Pepper Hummus

1 fresh roasted red pepper, sliced
1/2 head garlic, roasted
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 tbl. tahini
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper

1. Place all ingredients up until olive oil in a food processor and pulse until mostly broken up. Add olive oil and pulse until mixture is smooth. Season with salt and pepper, then refrigerate and serve.

21 July 2009

Southwest Chicken Salad with Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

I've never been a big fan of bottled ranch dressing, or really any dressing for that matter. There's something really fake about it...well, that's because it is fake and full of preservatives that make it taste like the salad condiment version of Twinkies. Bleck. When forced to order salad dressing or purchase it, I generally opt for blue cheese, but I don't keep salad dressing on hand.

With store bought salad dressings seriously disappointing me, I threw out all hope a long time ago and began making my own. I adopted my mom's light rice wine sprinkle or I add a little balsamic, olive oil and pepper in a pinch, and while pureed roasted red pepper and olive oil with fresh basil is fantastic, but what to do when I crave the mother of all American salad dressings?

I've adapted Elise's wonderful recipe for Buttermilk Ranch dressing below, and after arranging leftover grilled chicken, corn, black beans, a hardboiled egg, and an assortment of fresh vegetables, this recipe was just what the grad student ordered. This, my bloggy friends, is comfort in a food processor.

Ingredients ready for a quick whirl around to a certain absent valley


Buttermilk Ranch Dressing
Adapted from Simply Recipes

1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup Veganaise or light mayo
1/4 cup non-fat Greek yogurt (such as Chobani or Fage)
1 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. mustard powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
2 tbsp. fresh chopped flat leaf parsley
1 tbsp. fresh chopped chives
1 1/2 tsp. fresh chopped dill

1. Place all ingredients into food processor and pulse a few times until smooth.
2. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to one week.

Egg-less Egg Salad Sandwiches

I adore egg salad sandwiches. If it weren't so bad for me, I would eat them every single day. I would even happily eat them twice a day, although I'm sure too much of a good thing might not be as appealing as it is in my mind.

Nonetheless, a long time ago I started experimenting with mock egg salad and was excited to find so many different recipes and tips online. After gathering advice from all over and trying out a few dozen recipes (and with some serious tweaking) I settled on a recipe that I can't really credit to any one source.

If you're like me and really enjoy a good egg salad but are concerned for nutrition, give this recipe a shot. Silken firm tofu perfectly replicates the texture of hard boiled egg whites, and to be honest, I don't even miss real eggs anymore. Another plus is that when made with Veganaise, the sandwich is a nice filling vegan snack.

Egg-less Egg Salad

1 package silken firm tofu, carefully diced
1 1/2 tsp. mustard powder or 2 tsp. whole grain mustard
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 tbl. pickle relish
4 tbl. Veganaise or Extra Virgin Olive Oil mayo
1 tsp. minced fresh dill
1 tsp. lemon juice

1. Combine all ingredients carefully in a medium size bowl, gently folding with a spatula so as not to break tofu pieces.
2. Cover with plastic wrap or move to container storage, and refrigerate for at least one hour before eating.

20 July 2009

Summer Watermelon Refreshment

So let's say you buy an awesome organic watermelon and you have an overgrowing basil plant that needs to be used up. What's the next logical step. A salad? A salsa?

If you don't have central air conditioning and it's nice and hot out, your answer is a smoothie. A washer and dryer to the person who guessed. Okay, not really.

The smoothie is a result of the above conditions and Ian's sweet tooth, which meant we sweetened it with honey. Sugar or blue agave would work just fine in this concoction. I've seen some people strain this concoction so it's like water, but really, what's the point? It's blended fruit, what can be better? You can adjust the honey to whatever sweetness suits you, but we ended up with just a dab.

Watermelon Basil Fruit Puree

1/2 organic watermelon, seeded
1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil (dried just won't do the trick, so don't bother)
1 1/2 tsp. honey (adjust as needed)

1. Remove watermelon from rind and place in blender along with basil and honey
2. Add ice if you want to dilute, or pour into container for refrigeration.

Pork and Chinese Chive Wonton Bites

When I was in college, I was a potsticker junkie. I used to buy those giant, bulky bags of pork dumplings and fry them up while pulling all-nighters, and at times I still get nostalgic for them. Even though I generally don't eat a lot of fried food (or sweet food for that matter--notice that I don't blog about cakes or cookies very often?) every now and then a little indulgence can't be a sin, now can it? Quiet, cardiologists in the corner.

So what do you do when the time comes to indulge a little?

First, make your husband fry up 3/4 lb. of natural pork. Make sure he makes the cutest silly faces whilst in the process. Once it's almost cooked through, make husband add about 1/2 a head of finely diced bok choy, 1/4 cup finely chopped Chinese chives, 2 tsp. grated ginger, 3 tbsp. finely minced onion, and 2 finely minced garlic cloves.

Next, instruct husband to remove the pork mixture from heat and let cool.

Once cool, make your husband assist you in placing about a tsp. (no more than 1 1/2 tsp.) of filling in the middle of each wonton wrapper.

When closing the wrappers, take the opposite corners of the square and squeeze together so the wonton is sealed, and then do the same with the opposite corners. This is just how I do it; if you want alternative wrapping methods or photo tutorials, I would recommend this site. I'm not too good at the wrapping technique, but go ahead and hone your chops.

If you won't be pan frying these babies for awhile, place a damp paper towel over them so they won't dry out.

Next, heat about 4 tbsp. vegetable oil in a large skillet. If you're like me, you'll use grapeseed oil instead because you like its high smoke point and because you just plain felt like it. Once good and hot, add your wontons in batches (or, go ahead and crowd the pan. I did, and I won't tell if you don't) and let cook until the bottoms of the wontons appear golden. Flip them on their sides if you like to continue cooking, or simply add about a 1/2 inch of water so the wontons steam for a few minutes. Remove from heat and enter college nostalgic moment.

Serve with a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil and chopped green onions for dipping.

Then, eat!!

11 July 2009

Garlic Scape Pesto

Have you ever used garlic scapes? Garlic scapes are the flower stalks that emerge from the ground near the end of May and into June. Since the scapes flower and drag the energy from the garlic bulb into the seed head, it is crucial to redirect the energy from producing a flower back into the bulb. The scapes are edible, but many gardeners erroneously cut off and discard this tasty part of the plant that can be used in stir fry, pasta sauces, and anything that would benefit from its mild garlicky flavor. I prefer to make pesto with my scapes and then freeze portions of it for a summer long treat and as an alternative to all of that Pesto alla genovese I tend to consume when my basil matures.

In preparing the scapes, a good washing is crucial since dirt really likes all of those crevices near the seed head. I know many people who prefer to cut off the flowering seed, but it is actually edible, so I leave it on. I do snap off the very end of the scape, opposite the seed head, since just like asparagus they tend to be tougher and more fibrous. Just snap it off as you would asparagus and swirl it in a food processor with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, parmesan cheese and if you prefer, walnuts. I've seen recipes that call for Italian parsley before, but honestly, it isn't really necessary. I prefer to sprinkle parsley over pasta dishes once plated, and since garlic scapes are pretty flavorful on their own, you could definitely leave it out.

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 bunch garlic scapes, washed and chopped
2 tbsp crushed walnuts
1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
dash of kosher salt
generous sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper

1. Toss all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Add more oil slowly if ingredients aren't wet enough.

So what did I do with my garlic scape pesto booty? Why, pasta of course! While in Chicago, I stocked up on some imported pastas at Angelo Caputo's (aka mecca for me) and chose orrechiette, a Puglian dome-shaped pasta with a little bite to it. It mirrors the bite of the garlic scape pesto and counters the soft cannellini beans and sausages I bought a couple weeks ago at C & L Meat Locker in Moscow.


08 July 2009

High Country Wild Root Kombucha Tea

A few weeks ago, I bought a bottle of High Country Wild Root Kombucha Tea after having a very pleasant experience with a few of their other products. The label boasted a blend of sarsaparilla root, licorice root, star anise, yellow dock root, burdock root, dandelion root, yellow dock root, vanilla bean and wintergreen extract, and the flavor claimed to imitate a near root beer of sorts.

I was a little apprehensive about its claims after pouring a bit into a glass for tasting and the smell was more reminiscent of mead than tea, but after a swig, it really did taste like an earthy, almost smoky root beer. While the wintergreen was barely there, the vanilla bean and sarsaparilla root were strong yet delicate, and I've decided to add the tea to my short list of luxuries that I buy every so often.

02 July 2009

Sardines? Hell yes.

I know, I know. Ewww! Canned fish? Well, yes. My mom and I used to eat sardines on saltine crackers when I was a kid, and for some reason, the taste has always been tantalizing to me. It's like an unflaky tuna, and when packed in olive oil, it makes a wonderful impromptu bruschetta.

Whenever I have leftover cooked cannellini beans, I mash them up with some sardines, a trace of the olive oil the sardines are packed in, fresh squeezed lemon juice and chopped Italian parsley, and then I snack on it for a few days. At times it means I get up in the middle of the night to sneak bites before brushing my teeth, lest I go back to bed with sardine breath and receive unwelcome attention from my sleeping cat.

Sounds gross? Don't knock it 'til you've tried it!

Tofu and Shrimp Pad Thai

I probably could have left the shrimp out of this batch of pad thai, but I had leftover cooked shrimp that needed a culinary destination so really, what began as tofu pad thai became tofu pad thai with a bit of shrimp.

Pad thai is one of those dishes that just plain misses the mark in many restaurants. Either there's too much flavor, too little flavor, or the whole pile is a mess of overcooked, rubbery noodles (or some combination of these factors: inexplicably I once had takeout that was both tasteless and overseasoned, and I still can't figure out what went wrong there).

Two weeks after catching an episode of Throwdown with Bobby Flay in our hotel room, I finally got around to making pad thai, and it turned out better than ever, most likely because I had been *dying* to get back into my kitchen after ten days on the road.

Pad Thai Sauce
4 tbl. tamarind concentrate
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup fish sauce
1 cup water

1. Mix all ingredients together over medium low heat, carefully stirring to remove any brown sugar clumps and to discourage sticking. Allow sauce to thicken (about forty minutes) and then remove from heat.

If you've never made your own sauce before, the result is a fresher, more flavorful taste (not to mention more economical) than the store-bought packets I see a lot of people purchasing at the grocery store, and unlike in a restaurant setting, you control the ingredients that make it tart, sweet, etc.

I like to round up my ingredients for the stir fry portion of the meal beforehand, since once you get going the steps move at a rapid rate.

Tofu and Shrimp

Scallions, chopped dried red chilies, cilantro, garlic and lime wedges

Pad Thai

6 oz. flat rice noodles
2 tbsp. olive oil (or vegetable oil), divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tsp. chopped dried red chilies
2 tsp. scallions (white parts only)
2 eggs, scrambled
8 oz. tofu, pressed to release water
Handful of cooked or leftover shrimp, cut into bite size pieces
1 recipe Pad Thai Sauce (above)
Handful of bean sprouts
Handful of chopped peanuts
3 tbl. cilantro, chopped
2 lime wedges
1-2 tbl. scallions (green parts only)

1. Soak rice noodles in lukewarm water for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. In a wok or heavy skillet, heat 1 tsp. oil over medium heat and add garlic, red chilies and scallions. Stir until aromatic.
2a. Heat another tbsp. oil in a small skillet and add eggs, scrambling until set. NOTE: I have labeled this step 2a because sometimes I throw the eggs directly into the pan, right before the pad thai sauce. You're call.
3. Add shrimp and tofu. Cook for one minute.
4. Add pad thai sauce and stir to combine. Fold in scrambled eggs.
5. Add the noodles to the pan and heat through.
6. Serve immediately and garnish with peanuts, cilantro, bean sprouts, green scallion tops and a lime wedge.

Ian's portion (generously delivered to him for his work dinner break)

01 July 2009

Road Trip Detox Part Two: Miso-Ginger Soup with Shitake Mushrooms, Tofu and Baby Bok Choi

After such a long drive in a cramped space, my entire body was screaming for nourishing food and a little TLC. Whenever I get sick I make miso soup, but I also had a serious craving for mushrooms, so I ended up making a pretty hefty (but nonetheless delicious) batch.

Ian and I have been buying a protein-rich tofu lately that has a very pleasant texture to it. Not all tofus are created equal, so I think I might stock up on quite a few of these blocks from Wildwood.

Using the same basic miso recipe as always, I simply added the shitakes to the soup right before the miso, along with sliced baby bok choi, a handful of julienned carrots, and sliced scallions.

Detox complete!!

***I completely forgot to mention this when I wrote up this post earlier, but I also shredded about two tablespoons of ginger and steamed it with six cups of water before adding all the ingredients. After straining the ginger out, it made a wonderful ginger broth to which I added the miso paste.