Category: Super Healthy

Crushing on Salad

January 24, 2013

I have always liked boys.  When I was in first grade, I was head of the “kisser girls”, the club whose duty it was to run after boys on the playground, catch them, and kiss them.  With all the boys to choose from, some of whom slowed down noticeably so we could catch them, it was hard to settle on one for a “boyfriend”.  Once I started second grade, I fell for a sweet boy who was taller than me and lived in a blue house with an eagle over the door.  He was my crush in third grade too and again in sixth grade after I spent fourth and fifth pining over a boy who wouldn’t give me the time of day.  I had my first serious boyfriend in seventh grade and from there things got a little more complicated. But throughout my single life, I always had crushes.  Some of them turned into relationships, others didn’t.

These days, I am happily married and crushes on guys are a thing of the past. So now I crush on salads. Sometimes the crushes turn into full blown love affairs as in the case of this salad (my spring stand-by) and this one (my fall stand-by).

Meet my new crush. Or, seeing as I have made it countless times in the past month, my new love. There are so many things to fall for here. Even though the dressing has vaguely Asian flavors, it goes with any meal you want to serve from soba noodles to linguine. I should know because I’ve served it with just about everything. It is the rare salad that can actually be dressed ahead of time and does not get wilty. The core ingredients are things that keep well in your refrigerator so you could theoretically make it at a moment’s notice. The dressing keeps well too. You can scale it up easily to feed a crowd, it is crunchy and light but satisfying with lots of umami (thank you miso paste) and all in all, it would make a great boyfriend if it was, you know, a person.

As written, this is a terrific recipe. I’ve changed a few things in the way I make it to reflect personal taste. (I’ll give you the recipe the way Deb wrote it.) I prefer to make it with raw snap peas rather than blanched. It saves a step and I like the crunch and intense sweetness of those pods when they are raw. Blanching gives them a bit of a funky flavor in my opinion. Also, I cut back on the amount of scallions because I don’t enjoy the taste of raw onion, especially in salad. For the dressing, I do use the sesame oil but not the vegetable oil. Instead, I use water for the liquid, 2 – 4 tablespoons depending on how it is coming together. I’ve made the dressing in both my mini food processor and my blender and it came out great both ways. I would recommend doubling it.

One Year Ago:  Celery Root Soup, Apple Cheddar Quick Bread
Two Years Ago:  Roasted Tomato Salad with Croutons, Meyer Lemon Risotto Cakes
Three Years Ago:  Peanut Butter Cookies with Milk Chocolate Chunks, Chickpea , Chard, and Couscous Soup, Soba Noodles with Crispy Tofu
Four Years Ago:  Sliced Eggplant Spread with Crostini, Lemon Bars

Snap Pea Salad with Miso Dressing
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Serves 4-6

I made this dressing with peanut butter when I was out of tahini and it tasted great.  Please don’t skip the step of toasting the sesame seeds.  Like most nuts and seeds, their flavor really comes out when they are given some heat.  Just keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn.

Table salt for the pot
½ pound sugar snap peas, untrimmed
½ pound Napa cabbage, in thin ribbons (about 3 cups)
4 ounces radishes (4 medium-large) julienned, or quartered and thinly sliced
3 large scallions (about ½ bundle), white and green parts only, thinly sliced on bias
3 tbsp. sesame seeds, well toasted (300-degree oven for 5 to 8 minutes)

Sesame-Miso Dressing
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp. mild yellow or white miso, plus up to 1 tbsp. more
2 tbsp. sesame seed paste or tahini
1 tbsp. honey
¼ cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil

Blanch sugar snap peas:
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and prepare a small ice-water bath.  Boil the sugar snaps for about 2 minutes, or until just barely cooked but still crisp.  Scoop them out with a large slotted spoon, and drop them in the ice-water bath.  Once they’re cool, drain and pat dry.  Tim ends and cut sugar snaps on bias into thin slices.  Toss in large bowl with cabbage radishes, scallions, and 1 tablespoon sesame seeds.

Make the dressing:
Whirl all ingredients, using the smaller amount of miso, in a blender until smooth.  Taste and adjust the ingredients – use the extra tablespoon of miso if desired.  Don’t fret if it is a tad salty, and try to resist the urge to compensate with extra honey.  The sugar snaps have a mellow sweetness to them that balances well with a saltier-than-normal dressign.

Assemble the salad:
Toss salad with half of dressing, and taste.  Use more if you desire.  Sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds.



Rethinking January

January 17, 2013

As an almost lifelong resident of Seattle, January was always my least favorite month.  I always felt a huge let down after the holidays and facing 31 days of rain and cold always put me in a bad mood.  The fact that the sun set around 4pm didn’t help and it certainly didn’t help that we couldn’t actually see the sun when it did set.  I always have had the perspective that it was so much worse in other parts of the country, places where you could actually freeze if you went outside, or you couldn’t go outside at all.  But usually those frosty places had this thing called spring that you could look forward to.  Thawing, sunshine, warmer temperatures.  Seattle often didn’t have that thing called spring.  Winter would just go on and on and it would get light later but it would still be cold and rainy.  Finally in July, or maybe August, summer would start.  So you can see why January could be particularly cruel.  With no guarantee of spring, 31 days can feel a lot longer.

Things have changed.  We live in Oakland now.  I don’t think it has rained once in January.  I wake up everyday to sunshine.  I’m not quite sure what to do with that.  I find myself worrying that something is wrong, why is the sun shining again??  It has been cool, crisp, and beautiful.  We are going to creep up into the mid-60′s this weekend and that, my friends, is practically like summer to this Seattle girl.  I haven’t been wearing my multiple pairs of boots and I’ve only worn my down jacket, the one I lived in from October to May last year, a handful of times.  It’s weird.  And wonderful.

Why all this talk about the weather?  Well, food is so connected to how you feel.  I’ve always listened to what I crave, beyond french fries and brownies, and tried to cook according to what sounds good.  Salads and light pastas are what I want in summer, green! green! green! in spring, roasted root vegetables and hearty soups sound best in winter.  What do you do when you no longer feel the need to roast everything?  When you don’t turn on your oven to bake but also to warm up your kitchen?  When soup sounds good but isn’t a full-on I-need-something-warm-in-my-belly-this-instant?

Well, you still make soup.  As a card-carrying member of the Soup Lovers Society, soup always sounds good to me.  I even like it in summer, either a cold one or a hot one served barely warm.  This lovely addition to my repertoire is the type that can be served year round.  It is hearty enough to serve as a main course with a delicious salad, and pretty enough to serve in small bowls as the start to an elegant dinner.  I love the smooth texture of perfectly blended soup but if it is going to be dinner, I need to chew.  Here we have a silky smooth spiced cauliflower base with bits of millet and bright green peas to keep it texturally interesting.  It has a wonderful creamy mouth feel without any cream.

Finally, I have become completely obsessed with these super spicy chiles that my friend Allison introduced me to.  Sicilian Pepperoncinis.  Eating dinner at her house, we sprinkled them over a delicious homemade lasagne and as we did so, she warned us, “Those are super spicy!”  Randy and I nodded our heads because we like super spicy and then WHOA! those are super spicy!  I had to have some!  So Allison, Denise, and I make a pilgrimage to Boulette’s Larder in the Ferry Building in the big city and ate really expensive soup (not as good as the one this post is about) and bought chiles.  Which I am grinding in a mortar and pestle and sprinkling on everything.  I think this soup tastes amazing with some spice but you can easily leave it off.

One Year Ago:  Pizza with Leeks, Smoked Mozzarella, and Eggs, Gingerbread-White Chocolate Blondies
Two Years Ago:  Gingerbread with Maple Cream Cheese Frosting, Baked Tofu with Peppers and Olives
Three Years Ago:  Oatmeal Carmelitas, Chunky Vegetable Pot Pie
Four Years Ago:  Milk Chocolate Frosted Layer Cake

Curried Cauliflower Soup
Adapted from Food and Wine
Serves 4

I have puréed this soup in a blender and also with an immersion blender.  The blender will give you that silky smooth texture but the millet breaks that up, so save on mess and use an immersion blender if you have one.  You might find that you don’t want to add all the millet to the soup pot. 

½ cup millet
1 cup water
Kosher or sea salt
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. turmeric
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
One 2-pound head of cauliflower, cut into florets
6 cups vegetable stock
2 cups peas, fresh or frozen
Crushed red pepper flakes, for sprinkling (optional)

In a medium saucepan, combine the millet with the water and a pinch of salt.   Bring to a boil.  Cover and simmer over moderately low heat until the millet is tender, about 20 minutes.  Set aside.

Place a large saucepan, or a Dutch oven, over medium heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add the onions with a large pinch of salt.  Cook over moderate heat until softened and browning in places,  stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.  Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, tumeric, cayenne, and another pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add the cauliflower and the stock.  Bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce the heat to moderately low, and simmer the soup until the cauliflower is very tender, about 15 minutes.

Working in batches, carefully purée the soup in a food processor or a blender.  (Or use an immersion blender directly in the pot.)  Return the soup to the pot and add the cooked millet and the peas.  Rewarm gently over moderate heat.  Season with salt, if needed.  Sprinkle with red pepper flakes (if using) and serve.

(This soup, like most, is great the next day.  It gets pretty thick with the millet absorbing the liquid but I didn’t not mind that at all.  If you want a soupier consistency, just add some water or broth when you reheat it.)



A Slice of My Life – Week 2

January 14, 2013

Last week was one of guests, lots of eating, and some house construction and stress.  Let’s start with token cute boy pictures, shall we?

Randy found a box in the garage that should not have been there because it contained Things That Should Never Be Given away.  Like Spencer’s sweater which a great-aunt knit for my brother and Graham also wore.  I think we missed the fitting window, but he loves it anyway and so do I.  See also: my ever-amazing view.

We have embarked on some remodeling projects.  Our house is in the part of Oakland that was destroyed in the terrible fire of 1991.  Almost every single house in this area burned, so they are almost all relatively new construction.  Ours was built in 1994 and the owners wanted to keep it as close to their original house as they could.  Therefore it had very dated finishing.  Another couple bought the house in 2004 and did an extensive remodel that updated most of the rooms.  Then they ran out of money and left the laundry room and two bathrooms.  We knew that eventually we would need to fix those rooms but we decided to just go ahead and start because we want to be able to take advantage of the changes right away.  We are going to leave the boys’ bathroom as is however, mauve toilet and all.  Graham’s room was a storage room and therefore had no heating vent and no closet.  It also had ugly carpeting and was very small.  We are working with a great contractor who has tremendous vision and he realized that we could bust into the crawl space in his room and almost double the size of it.  Then he suggested popping out a dormer and building him a great window/skylight.

So we have had a big hole in our roof for over a week.  Something that would be unthinkable in Seattle.  Almost as soon as this project started, our neighbors to one side starting taking pictures of what was going on.  Randy had several conversations with them, allowing them to voice their concerns.  It turns out that we happen to live next door to the only people in Oakland who would rather look up until the hills that are crammed full of houses, rather than out to the Bay, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge.  Or so they say.  We think they are just a bit crotchety and would complain about anything we decided to do.

I baked them some muffins as a peace offering.  It didn’t work but they enjoyed the muffins.  And so did we.

Speaking of baking – Apple Crostada.  Amazing.  One of the best things I have made in a while.

I made this soup a couple of weeks ago and have been wanting to write about it.  The problem was I did not have a good photo of it.  So I made it again and will share this week.

This was a week full of visits from friends.  Some of our best friends came down and stayed three nights with us.  I got an afternoon with all of the kids so of course we had to visit our local candy store.  I love this sweet place.  They have Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the original version) playing on a loop.  The kids were riveted.

We had two good dinners out in a row.  The first was at Pizzaiolo, a great pizza joint in Oakland.  People have been telling me to go there since we moved and we just haven’t had a chance.  We all loved it.  The salads, pizzas, and pasta were terrific.  Can’t wait to go back.  The next night the grown-ups went to A16, another place I have wanted to try for a long time.  We had another great dinner.  The salads were terribly underdressed, but everything else we tried was tasty and fresh.  I am very excited that they are opening a location in Rockridge, my neighborhood.

Sunday we drove our friends to the Oakland airport and then drove across the Bay Bridge to have dinner with my dear friend Julie.  I’ve been wanting to try Aziza ever since meeting Mourad at a Book Larder event last year, so we agreed to meet there.  It is the only Moroccan restaurant in the world with a Michelin star.

The place was beautiful and the food was beautiful.  It just wasn’t that satisfying.  It was very fancy and stylized.  Tasty too but I can’t say it fed my soul.  We all felt this way.  Nice to be able to cross that one off my list!

 



So Good, I Made It Twice

December 13, 2012

Common sense would say that the second time you make something, it is better than the first.  Right?  The second time you know your way around the recipe, or the ingredients if you are creating it yourself, and the tinkering makes it better.  You are committed to that dish, having enjoyed it enough once to make it again, and it tastes even better.

Not always so.  At least in my kitchen.  I rarely make things twice because I have a deep need for variety in my diet.  Occasionally I make something I really like and find myself craving it soon after the leftovers are gone.  So I make it again and 89% of the time (scientific figure) I like it better the first time.  Is it because I tinker too much?  The old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” idea?  Who knows.  When that happens, I either don’t write about the dish, or I do with the first run haunting me as I type.

Recently I had one of those weeks where I didn’t want to cook from recipes.  I wanted to just have fresh or freshly cooked ingredients at my disposal and figure it out as I went along.  I am not really that kind of cook.  I am a recipe cook but the years of cooking experience and finding treasures at farmers’ markets have mellowed me, and cut my reliance on hard and fast recipes.  So I spent an afternoon stocking my refrigerator with things I like and decided to just figure it all out as the week progressed.  Dinner one night was bowls filled with sautéed kale, quinoa, topped with bits of roasted squash and a fried egg.  There were more bowls filled with rice noodles, baked tofu, and bok choy.  There was a Niçoise salad or two.  At the end of the week, I made a soup whose base was a bunch of leeks I had not used and a lonely potato that was sitting on my counter.  I added what I had leftover and like most soups that are born from ingredients that you like, it was terrific.  I even ate the leftovers for lunch a couple of days later.  Me.  The leftover hater.  The next week, I still had some quinoa, so I roasted more squash, sautéed more kale, and made the soup again, assuming that it wouldn’t be as good the second time.  But it was.  So I had to post about it.

Now, I’m not going to suppose that you have cooked quinoa, roasted squash, and already sautéed kale in your refrigerator.  I would imagine that you could probably make this soup without doing any up front work.  You could add the squash along with the leeks and potatoes, allowing it to get nice and soft.  You could pour in the quinoa after the broth is boiling and I assume it would cook all right.  You could add the kale near the end, cooking it enough that it gets tender but still stays nice and green.  You could do all that and it would be good soup.  But I don’t think it would be that good.

Here is why.  Quinoa cooked properly, not in too much liquid, retains a nice texture and crunch.  Roasted squash gets nice and caramelized making it much sweeter than just cooking it in liquid.  And kale.  Well.  I don’t think I’ve ever admitted this before here but I’m not a huge fan of kale.  I cook it and I eat it because sometimes there is a need for big dark leafy greens and I like it better than chard.  But you will not find a love letter to kale here.  And yes, I have made kale chips and no, not a single member of my family thought they were anywhere near as good as potato chips, and I may have actually just dumped them in the compost bin.  Ahem.  What I have learned about kale is that I need a bit of garlic cooked along with it and a healthy pinch of red pepper flakes.  It needs to be cut in small pieces and it needs to cook long and slow until it is really tender.  It also needs to be Tuscan or lacinato kale, which is much more tender than its cousins.  So precooked kale, made just the way I like it, worked really well for me in this soup.

Can I call this a chowder?  Does chowder mean that there is cream involved?  Chowder means chunky to me so I’m going to call it that.  And as for the extra squash and kale that will be left after the soup is gone?  Use them in risotto, pasta, on top of pizza, stuffed in a sweet potato, or shoved into an omelet.

One Year Ago:  Posole Verde, Chocolate Chip Cookies
Two years Ago:  Brown Rice Bowl with Marinated Tofu, Snickerdoodle Cupcakes, Healthier Mac and Cheese
Three Years Ago:  Holly B’s Stollen, Spicy Tomato Jam, Sweet and Salty Cake (I’m making this next weekend)
Four Years Ago:  Breton Apple Pie, Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, Lemon Rice Rolls with Lemon Tahini Sauce

Potato and Quinoa Chowder with Winter Squash and Kale
Dana Treat Original
Serves 4

I used red quinoa here because I had some I like the color better than the regular stuff.  The regular stuff will work just fine here, your soup will just be a bit more monochromatic.  Delicata squash is my squash of choice because you don’t have to peel it and they tend to be smaller than butternuts.

Olive oil
3 leeks, white and pale green part only, cut in half, washed, then thinly sliced
1 large baking (russet) potato, cut into ¾-inch cubes
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
Leaves from 4 lemon thyme branches (or regular thyme)
6 cups vegetable broth
1 cup cooked quinoa (recipe follows)
½ delicata squash, cut into 1-inch pieces (recipes follows)
½ bunch sautéed kale (recipe follows)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place a large-ish soup pot over medium-low heat.  Drizzle in enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot, then add the leeks along with a large pinch of salt.  Stir frequently until they start to soften, about 4 minutes.  Be careful with them as they can burn easily.  Add the potato and carrots and allow to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the lemon thyme, cook for another minute, then pour in the broth.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a lively simmer and cook until the potato and carrot are very tender, about 20 minutes.

Add the quinoa, squash, and kale to the soup pot and bring the heat up so the soup really simmers.  Allow to cook for 10 minutes so that the added ingredients warm up and the flavors of the soup really meld together.  (Soup can be made up to 3 days ahead.  It will thicken considerably, so add broth or water to it as you reheat it.)

To make quinoa:
Bring 1½ cups water to a boil.  Add quinoa, then lower heat to simmer and cover the pot.  Cook for 15 minutes, then remove lid.  (This will make a bit more than you need for the soup.  You might even want to increase the amount so you have some extra hanging around.  Just use 1½ the amount of water to the amount of quinoa.)

To make roasted squash:
Preheat oven to 425ºF.  Split squash down the middle and scrape out the seeds.  Slice each half into half moons about ½-inch thick and lay them out on a rimmed baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove and turn all the slices over.  Roast for another 7 minutes.  Remove and allow to cool.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

To make the sautéed kale:
Wash a large bunch of kale.  Strip the leaves off the stem, you can do this just using your hands or you can slice them off with a knife.  Chop the leaves into 2-inch pieces.  Heat a large sauté pan over medium-low heat.  Drizzle in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, then add two minced garlic cloves.  Immediately add a large pinch of red pepper flakes.  Just as the garlic is starting to turn light brown, add all the kale leaves.  It will look like a lot but, like all greens, it will cook down.  Stir frequently and add a bit of water if the kale is sticking.  Taste to make sure the kale is really soft, it can take up to half an hour for me to get it where I want it, then remove from the heat.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.



Black Bean Soup with Avocado Salsa

October 3, 2012

To say we have been eating a lot of Mexican food in our new city would be an understatement.  We ate a lot of Mexican food in Seattle but most of it was coming out of my kitchen.  All four of us love it and it is a very veg friendly cuisine.  We knew a move to Northern California would greatly improve our Mexican dining choices and we have not been disappointed.  Mostly we have stuck to kid friendly and quick places, not the fancier ones, but every place we’ve tried has been terrific.

This bounty has not stopped me from continuing to make Mexican food at home.  Actually, I’m not sure this soup can really be called Mexican food because it comes from a British cookbook.  But there are beans and there is a salsa you put on top.  Close enough, right?

There is a time and a place for canned beans which, in my kitchen, is much of the time.  This is not one of those times.  If you wake up on the morning you plan to make this soup and realized you forgot to soak the dried beans overnight, do not despair!  Dried beans benefit from a soak of any length, even if it is just a few hours.  I have never needed to cook any bean more than an hour maybealittlemore, despite what packaging and recipes will tell you.  I will say that buying good beans from a reputable place means that they will be fresher and will take less time to cook.   I will also say be sure to taste your beans to make sure they are cooked through because no one likes a chalky bean.  I will also say (it’s public service announcement day – did you know?) that “don’t salt your beans until they are cooked through otherwise they turn out tough” is an old wives’ tale.  Like most things, beans need salt.

Oh, but how about that soup?  Warm, nourishing, a bit spicy, super good for you.  That is all well and good.  The salsa and garnishes make it into a meal so make sure you have something to put on top.  If you don’t want to take the extra step to make the salsa, just serve it with store-bought salsa, chopped avocados, and plenty of lime and cilantro.  Cheese is nice too.

One Year Ago:  Mexican Chocolate Cake, Pizza with Corn, Chantarelles, and Cilantro
Two Years Ago:  Braised Purple Cabbage with Apples, Pecan Molasses Bundt Cake with Bourbon Glaze
Three Years Ago:  Carrot Soup with Ginger and Lemon, Buckwheat Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms, Holly B’s Peanut Butter Brownies
Four Years Ago:  Dimply Plum Cake

Black Bean Soup with Avocado Salsa
Adapted from Plenty (not Ottolenghi’s book)
Serves 4-6

The cilantro stems is not a misprint.  Cilantro stems have a lot of flavor and are sturdy enough to stand up to a long cook.  You will be blending the soup, so they will disappear.  Save the leaves and use them to garnish the soup.

1½ cups dried black beans
Olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
Stems from ½ a bunch of cilantro
1 small red or green chile, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp. ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock (you can use water)
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lime, plus additional slices for serving

Cover the beans with cold water and leave to soak overnight (or for as long as you can).  Drain and rinse.

Place a soup pot over medium heat.  Pour in just enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot, then add the onion, carrot, celery, cilantro stems, and chile.  Also sprinkle in a pinch of salt.  Sauté until the onions browns a bit and the other vegetables are softening, about 10 minutes.  Stir in the cumin, and the garlic and cook for another two minutes.  Stir in the beans, then pour in the stock or water.  Bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer for about an hour, or until the beans are tender.  Taste one to make sure.  Add lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper.

Carefully purée the soup either using an immersion blender or a regular one.  You can also use a food processor.  The soup should still have a lot of texture but make sure the cilantro stems are puréed.  Serve garnished with the avocado salsa, crumbles of cheese (Cotija is nice), cilantro leaves, and limes slices on the side.  Sour cream too, if you roll that way.

Avocado Salsa

1 garlic clove
½ tsp. kosher salt
8 ounces fresh tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 avocados, diced
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 scallions, sliced
1 fresh chile, minced
Juice of 1 lime
½ cup chopped cilantro leaves
Tabasco to taste

Place the garlic clove on a cutting board and chop it coarsely.  Sprinkle with the kosher salt.  Using the flat side of a knife, grind the salt into the garlic, using back and forth motions, until you have a paste.  Scrape this paste off the board and put in a bowl.  Add the rest of the salsa ingredients and stir to combine.  Allow to sit for at least half an hour so the flavors can meld.

 



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