Sunday, March 29, 2009

ricotta, greens, & caramelized onion pasta

One day last week, I was flipping through one of my favorite cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant's Simple Suppers, hoping for inspiration. Two pasta dishes sounded good and I couldn't decide which to make, so I took bits and pieces from each recipe to come up with this concoction:

Ricotta, Greens, & Caramelized Onion Pasta
Serves 2

olive oil
1 bunch greens (collard, chard, or kale - I used yellow chard)
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz. pasta (I used fusili)
8 oz. ricotta
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

Begin to heat pasta water in a large pot. In a separate large pan, heat about 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium-low heat. Once hot, add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until caramelized (about 10 minutes). Turn the heat to low if they begin to brown too quickly. Add an additional Tbsp. of olive oil and red pepper flakes.

Once the water is hot, cook pasta according to directions. Add the greens to the onion mixture; stir and cook until the greens are bright green and just starting to wilt.

When pasta is done, drain and return to pot. Add 1/4 cup water, ricotta, and greens mixture. Mix well. Serve topped with grated parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

The combo of onions, greens, and ricotta was perfect. Yum!

Friday, March 27, 2009

anchovy caesar salad

Vegetarians, avert your eyes! In case the title of this post and anchovies draped over the salad in the picture weren't clue enough, this is definitely a non-veg version of caesar salad.

I used to hate anchovies - I remember as a child, we'd go to the local pizza place and sometimes they were hiding in the midst of the other toppings - ewwwww! (I think my maybe dad liked them?) But something about my taste buds has certainly changed since then. Putting them on pizza still sounds a little strange. But in salads? Love them.

And it turns out that it was because of a local pizza place that I realized this fact. This particular pizzeria has only ok pizza (in my opinion), but the most amazing caesar salad dressing I have ever tasted. Recently, I figured out what the magic ingredient was - anchovies. What I've read online reveals that there is general disagreement regarding whether including anchovies in the dressing makes a "traditional" caesar salad or not. I honestly don't care. I just know it tastes great!

I've played with a few different variations of ingredients and amounts. This is the combination that's been the tastiest (and closest to the pizzeria's) so far:

Anchovy Caesar Salad
Serves 3-4

1 head of romaine
2 cloves garlic, sliced
3-4 anchovies (plus more for topping, if desired)
1/3 c. mayonnaise
1/3 c. freshly grated parmesan (plus more for topping)
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
a splash of worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. milk
4-5 Tbsp. olive oil

Chop romaine and set aside.

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in a food processor (alternatively, you can whisk it; if you do so be sure to mince the garlic rather than slice it). Process until combined. Add the olive oil slowly through the top of the processor, mixing as you go, until desired consistency is reached.

In a large salad bowl, toss the romaine with the salad dressing.

Top individual servings with additional parmesan, anchovies, and freshly ground black pepper.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

caramelized carrot risotto

Risotto is one of my new favorite things. I made it the first time two weeks ago (squash risotto) and was immediately hooked. I had no idea that rice could turn into something so creamy and delicious. Last week, two beautiful bunches of carrots came in the Google CSA delivery. When I was considering what to do with them, it struck me that a roasted carrots have a texture very similar to a roasted squash, which meant that my squash risotto recipe could probably be tweaked to become a carrot risotto recipe. A quick internet search showed that I'm not the first person to think of this. 

Once I've decided what I'm going to make, I often browse my cookbooks and the internet. I take the parts that sound best to me from various recipes and mash them together. I've found that odds are, if I like the ingredients separately, I'll like them together in a dish. In this case, I started with the squash risotto recipe. Consultation of carrot risotto recipes I found online sparked the idea to caramelize the carrots and have the main herb in the dish be parsley (rather than sage as in the squash version). 

I had a lot of vegetables on hand (including a whole lot of celery - a bunch had come in each of the two CSAs we get weekly veggies from and JR had also picked up a bunch from the grocery for a green dipping item with our St. Patrick's Day tomatillo salsa verde - yes, that adds up to 3 bunches of celery!). So I decided to make the stock that would be used in the risotto. I went a little heavier on the carrots and parsley than I normally would in the stock to help reinforce the main flavors of the dish.

Here's what I did:

Caramelized Carrot Risotto
Serves 4

olive oil
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
10 medium to small fresh carrots, peeled and chopped finely and evenly
1 Tbsp. muscavado sugar (you can substitute brown sugar)
1/2 tsp. salt
5 cups hot veggie stock
1/3 cup onion, minced
1 1/4 c. aborio rice
1/2 c. white wine
1/4 c. marscapone
1/4 c. parmesan, freshly grated
1 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, chopped, plus more for garnish
1 tsp. chopped thyme
1/8 tsp. white pepper

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add carrots and stir to coat. Add 1/2 cup water, sugar, and salt. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until water is fully absorbed and carrots begin to brown. Divide carrots in half - set one half aside. Add the other half to a blender with 3/4 cups hot water and puree. Set aside.

Heat remaining oil and butter over medium heat in the same pan you used to cook the carrots. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add rice and stir to coat. Add white wine and cook, stirring until it is completely soaked in. Add the carrot puree and continue to cook, stirring until the mixture is no longer soupy.

Add a ladle of hot stock. Continue to cook, stirring often, until liquid is absorbed. Repeat this process, adding a ladle at a time and making sure each addition is completely absorbed before adding the next. Continue this process until about 1 cup of the stock remains.

Fold in reserved carrots (save 2 Tbsp. for garnish), marscapone, parmesan, parsley (save 1 Tbsp. for garnish), and thyme. Add remaining broth (1 ladle at a time). Finish with a sprinkling of salt and white pepper.

Top each serving with reserved carrots and parsley.

The next time I make this, I'm going to try roasting the carrots rather than caramelizing them on the stovetop. I think this will result in a stronger and sweeter carrot flavor (and will eliminate the need to add sugar). This risotto was also too cheesy for my taste. Next time, I will omit the parmesan and serve the marscapone on the side (as I did with the squash risotto - I liked it partially mixed in so that each bite had a different ratio of marscapone to risotto).

Let me know what you think!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

apple almond french toast

I'm going to be honest. I was working from home last Wednesday and was having a hard time concentrating on work. Then I noticed the apples in the bowl on the dining room table were looking a little past their prime. Totally distracting. I needed to do something about that. So rather than force myself to sit and type up the recommendation I had been putting off, I took a brief reprieve and slide into the kitch.

(It turns out that this was actually quite productive - after taking a little break to deal with the apples, I was able to sit down and power through my work with new found fervor. Perhaps the fact that my stomach was newly full helped as well.)

This was one of those times in the kitch when no recipe was involved. I let my taste buds and the ingredients I had on hand guide me (which helps explain why I was cooking with liqueur at 10am!).

Apple Almond French Toast
Serves 2

Apple topping: 
4-6 medium apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 c. water
3 Tbsp. muscavado sugar
1 Tbsp. almond liqueur

Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add apples and liqueur and mix to coat. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes (stirring occasionally), until apples are soft and liquid is absorbed. If you run out of liquid before the apples are soft, add a little more.

French toast:
1 Tbsp. butter
4 eggs
2 Tbsp. whipping cream
2 Tbsp. almond liqueur
4 slices bread
slivered almonds, toasted

Whisk together eggs, cream, and liqueur in medium bowl. Heat a skillet over medium heat and add half of the butter. Dredge the first slice of bread in the egg mixture, letting it sit 10-15 seconds to absorb some of the eggs. Flip to coat second side. Transfer the coated slice to the hot pan. Repeat with second slice of bread. Cook the two pieces 2-4 minutes per side, until lightly browned. Repeat process with third and fourth slices of bread (you can keep the first two pieces warm in a 300 degree preheated oven, or return them briefly to the hot pan to reheat immediately before serving).

Serve the french toast topped with warm apples and toasted almonds. (Optional: a dallop of cream whipped with a splash of almond liqueur. Yum!) 

Monday, March 16, 2009

tomatillo salsa verde

In honor of St. Patrick's Day tomorrow, I am making green salsa. I randomly picked up a can of tomatillos on my last trip to the grocery store. I wasn't sure exactly what I would do with them, but figured I find something eventually. It turned out that my need for them came sooner than I had anticipated - I used the ones I initially bought last night to accompany our fish tacos. It turned out super tasty. So I decided I'd make it again for the green potluck at Dave & Ashley's tomorrow night.

What is a tomatillo? I didn't know either, so I did a little research. Tomatillos were originally domesticated by the Aztecs in 800 BC. They are related to tomatoes (in Mexico, they are known as green tomatoes - "tomate verde") and, like tomatoes, are part of the nightshade family. They grow within a papery husk and have a tart, tangy, almost lemon-like flavor. They are the prime ingredient in many Latin American green sauces.

Speaking of green sauces, here's how this one goes:

Tomatillo Salsa Verde
Makes about 2 cups

12 oz. canned whole tomatillos
2 oz. canned diced jalepenos
1/2 c. onion, roughly chopped
1/4 c. cilantro, roughly chopped
1 large clove garlic, sliced
2 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 tsp. agave nectar (or substitute sugar)
salt to taste

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Process until finely chopped and well mixed.

Did I mention that this recipe is super easy? I hope it will be a crowd pleaser!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

fish tacos

Tonight's meal was inspired by the vegetables that are sitting in my fridge, screaming to be eaten. They are yelling at me because there are only 2 days left until the next CSA delivery, and there are quite a lot of them still cohabitating in the fridge. I think due to the combination of long lasting meals from last week (I had the final bit of the kale & potato enchiladas for lunch today) and the fact that we ate dinner at friends' last night (thanks Dave & Ashley for the fantastic homemade sushi!). So the remaining vegetables are screaming. Let's see what we can do about that.

Items that I would like to incorporate into tonight's meal include red cabbage and collard greens (the broccoli and cauliflower beckoning will have to wait until tomorrow night). This may not be an obvious leap, but my mind went straight to fish tacos.

The first time I had fish tacos was when I was a senior in college. My roommate and I discovered that a seafood restaurant in our neighborhood had a very good happy hour, with reasonably priced appetizers and drinks (on sunny days, we'd end up there for the great view of the water and half priced wine!). On one of those occasions, we decided to try the fish tacos (for $5, you can't really go wrong, right?). They were fantastic.

I think one of the reasons I'd avoided them before was that I tended to associate tacos with hard shells, ground beef, and seasoning that comes in a packet. None of those things sounded like something that would go with fish. And a taco without cheese? Now that's just silly. Or so I thought. 

It turns out that the flavor and texture mix of white, flaky fish, crunchy shredded cabbage, black beans, and the fruity salsas that are often served with fish tacos is simply not something to pass up. I learned my lesson.

Two years ago, JR took a fishing trip up the Washington coast with his dad. They caught ling cod and halibut, and JR had his portion shipped overnight to Texas, where we were living at the time. The best fish tacos I've had to date were the ones that we made with the halibut JR caught. Though now that I think about it, those particular tacos did involve seasoning that came out of a packet (the Texas period in my life predated the cooking mostly from scratch habit that I've fallen into in California). So, while the halibut we'll be having in our tacos tonight has been frozen and most certainly won't measure up to JR's, I think tonight's overall preparation will beat the Texas fish tacos. Here's what I did:

Fish Tacos
Serves 2

Fish tacos:
6 corn tortillas
1 small red cabbage, shredded
1/4 c. poppy seed salad dressing (I used this one)
1/2 pound white fish (I used halibut)
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. chili pasilla
1/4 tsp. chili cayanne

baja cream:
1/2 c. sour cream
1/4 c. mayonnaise 
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp. lime zest
pinch of salt

To make baja cream, whisk all ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

Combine cabbage with poppy seed dressing. Set aside. 

Combine lime juice, oil, and spices. This will form a paste. Rinse fish and pat dry with a paper towel. Drizzle olive oil in a shallow baking dish. Add fish and spread paste over the top. Allow to marinate in the fridge for about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake fish 15-20 minutes, until if flakes easily with a fork.

Assemble tacos - add fish, cabbage, and salsa to warmed tortillas. Top with baja cream.


We had ours with tomatillo salsa verde, guacamole, and spicy collards & black beans. It definitely beat the Texas tacos (but not your fish JR!).

Friday, March 13, 2009

squash risotto

I have never made risotto before. There, I said it. Can I be trusted as a culinary expert? Certainly not (but luckily, I never claimed I could, so really this shouldn't dent my reputation in the kitch). Rather, I should say I never made risotto before last night. But then I did. And it was SO GOOD (yes, all caps inspiring). I had no idea risotto could be that good. Makes you want to keep reading, right?

As many of my ideas for what to make do, it all started with a single ingredient. (Robyn was poking fun at me earlier in the week for the way my white button mushrooms last week somehow turned into filet mignon. What can I say? That's how it happened.) This time, it all started with the squash.

"Winter squash" is what it was called on the weekly newsletter that came in the CSA box. Hm. It looked like this:

A quick search on my new favorite squash website (what would any of us do without Google?) taught me that this is carnival squash. "The delicious yellow meat is reminiscent of sweet potatoes and butternut squash and can be baked or steamed then combined with butter and fresh herbs." Perfect! Last weekend, on my birthday trip to Monterey, JR and I ate at a fantastic restaurant. One of the items on the menu was a butternut squash risotto, which I thought sounded interesting, but I couldn't pass up the seafood entrees, which were the restaurant's specialty. Still the thought of risotto stayed with me...

This particular recipe is based on one from Vegetarian Food for Friends, which Marika gave me for my birthday (thanks, Marika!). My twist was using the carnival squash to replace the butternut squash called for in the original recipe. It totally worked. JR's comment was that we can't really eat in restaurants anymore, because nothing matches up to the food he gets at home (awwww!). The only thing I'd do differently next time would be to use a little more sage - it tastes so perfect with the squash! Here's what I did:

Squash Risotto
Serves 4

1 squash (the original recipe calls for butternut, but as mentioned, I used a carnival squash and it turned out great)
olive oil
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
a handful of fresh oregano leaves, chopped finely
10 sage leaves (if I were to do it again, I'd use maybe 15)
1 1/4 c. arborio rice
5 c. hot vegetable stock (I used mushroom stock)
3/4 c. white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
1 tsp. lemon juice
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
marscapone cheese

Roast the squash. Cut in half, scoop out the seeds, brush the cut half with oil and place cut side down in a baking dish. The carnival squash took about 40 minutes in a 400 degree oven. If you're using butternut squash, you'll probably need an hour or so. In either case, roast until it's soft and the flesh can be scooped out easily with a spoon. Once cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh into a bowl and set aside.

Put the butter, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, and garlic in a large saucepan. Cook gently for 2 minutes, then add oregano, sage, and rice. Let the rice absorb the buttery juices, then stir in a ladle of the hot stock. Wait until the stock has been absorbed, then add the wine and the rest of the stock, one ladle at a time, making sure it has been completely absorbed between each addition (you'll be stirring pretty constantly between the additions). Stir in the squash, mashing it with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste.

Top with a generous spoonful of marscapone.

Yum. Yum. Yum. That's all I have to say right now.

Squash Risotto on Foodista

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

kale & "sweet potato" enchiladas

If you've been following the adventures from my kitch, you know by now that I am in love with kale. It's tasty. It's versatile. It's healthy. I've actually been thinking about these enchiladas for a couple of weeks, but other veggies from the CSA have been keeping me busy. Not tonight. The fridge is cleared from last week's produce. This week's Google delivery includes curly kale. I have potatoes on hand (funny story on that momentarily). That settles it - tonight we're eating kale and potato enchiladas!

This recipe is from Veganomicon, one of my favorite cookbooks. Some of the recipes can be a bit intimidating (some call for uncommon ingredients and the recipes can be long, with many steps). But everything I've made out of this book has been absolutely phenomenal and totally worth the effort that it took to find the ingredients and turn them into the meal that ends up on my plate and in my belly.

Ok, ready for the potato story? I had three yellow wax potatoes in the pantry - not quite enough to fulfill the amount required for the enchilada filling. As I was wandering through the produce section of the grocery store and saw the sweet potatoes, it struck me that their inclusion would be a great twist on the recipe. I picked up two of them. Only it turns out that apparently I don't know how to pick a sweet potato from a yam, because as I was checking out, it clearly said yam on the screen after the clerk put the tubers on the scale and entered the code. Hm. Maybe the clerk doesn't know the difference? When I got home and was unpacking my purchases, I noticed that one of the roots had a prominent, purple sticker on it that read clearly 'Yam'. Whoops!

I used them anyway.

My other slight twist on the recipe was the addition of cheese. This brings the otherwise vegan dish squarely into the vegetarian world (I'm also going to top it with sour cream; I'm a rebel, I know!). When I've made this recipe in the past, I've stuck with the vegan version, which is amazing. Tonight I was just in the mood for some cheese!

This recipe is a little more involved than many of my other postings. Given that I typically have a long work day, I usually reserve recipes like this for the weekend, when I can spend some serious time in the kitch, or make it over the course of a couple of days, which is what I did in this instance. I made the sauce and boiled the potatoes & yams one night, and then prepared and baked the enchiladas the following night.

Why make enchilada sauce vs. buy it in a can? The thought may have crossed my mind as well. But if you're like me, once you make enchilada sauce from scratch, you're going to have trouble ever using the pre-made stuff again. Yes, it's that good.

Here's what I did:

Kale & Potato Enchiladas

Enchilada Sauce:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 large roasted green chiles*
3 tsp. chile powder
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. marjoram
1 28-oz. can diced tomatoes with juice
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt

1 lb. waxy potatoes (Yukon gold or red)**
1 bunch kale, washed, trimmed, and chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 c. vegetable broth or water
3 Tbsp. lime juice
1/4 c. toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds), chopped coarsely, plus additional for garnish
6 oz. monterey cheese, shredded***
1 tsp. salt
8-10 corn tortillas

*I've not perfected the art of roasting peppers and chiles, so used a can of roasted green chiles.
**I used 4 small yellow potatoes and 2 medium yams.
***The original recipe is vegan and does not include cheese, but I thought it made a nice addition.

Prepare the enchilada sauce:
Saute onions in olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, 4 to 7 minutes, until softened. Add remaining sauce ingredients, bring to a simmer, and remove from heat. Once the mixture has cooled enough, taste and add more salt if necessary. Puree with an immersion or regular blender until the mixture is smooth and even. (I used too shallow of a pan and was making a mess with the immersion blender, so the sauce this time remained a little lumpy, but still seemed to work well and tasted great.) Set aside.

Prepare the filling:
Peel and dice potatoes. Boil until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain and set aside. Cook garlic in olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until garlic is sizzling and slightly browned. Add kale, sprinkle with a little salt, raise heat to medium, stirring constantly to cover the kale with oil and garlic. Partially cover the pot to steam until the kale has wilted, 4 to 6 minutes.

Remove the lid and mix in the potatoes, vegetable stock, lime juice, pumpkin seeks, and salt. Use the back of a wooden spoon to mash some of the potatoes. Cook another 3 to 4 minutes, until the tock is absorbed. Add more salt or lime juice to taste.

Create an enchilada assembly line:
Here, the original recipe says to heat each tortilla for 30 seconds on a hot griddle to make it pliable. Putting the stack of tortillas in the microwave for 30-45 seconds seems to do the trick and cuts out a step and reduces the number of dirty pans by 1, which is what I did.

Ladle about 1/2 cup of enchilada sauce onto the bottom of a casserole dish and spread it around. Fill a plate with 3/4 cup enchilada sauce. Take a tortilla, dredge it into the enchilada sauce, flip and coat other side.

Place the tortilla in the casserole dish, add potato filling (and cheese, if using) down the middle and roll it up. Continue with the rest of the tortillas, tightly packing the enchiladas next to each other in the casserole dish.

Pour remaining sauce over the top of the enchiladas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese (if using). Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in a 375 degree oven for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the edges of tortillas poking out of the sauce look just a little browned. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

We topped ours with sour cream and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds. The yams were a success; I may even try this recipe with entirely yams (or maybe sweet potatoes?) next time.

Friday, March 6, 2009

meat and mushrooms

Tonight, I want to eat meat. Having been a vegetarian for 10 years (though not any longer), it still feels a little strange to say that. But I've been dreaming about it all day. It started when I was thinking about the produce in our fridge that we need to try to consume before we go out of town this weekend... mushrooms, kale, sweet pea greens, fennel, potatoes.... After thinking about it, I realized that I'm not going to be able to use it all in a single meal (at least not a cohesive one). But some of it will stay until Sunday when we get back.

I'm picky about mushrooms. As a child, I hated them. But as I've grown, I've learned that I like them in increasing situations. Still, I sometimes have problems being inspired by them (by which I mean, sometimes I can't figure out anything to cook with them that I want to eat). But the white button mushrooms from the CSA box this week look really beautiful. I have to do something good with them.

Then, it hit me. Driving in the car. I realized it: I wanted meat; I wanted mushrooms. Also, my bonus paycheck hit our checking account today, which made me feel like buying something extravagant. Somehow, that brought clarity: fillet mignon with mushroom sauce. Perfect. Here's what I did:

Fillet Mignon with Mushroom Sauce
Olive oil
2 fillet steaks
sea salt & cracked black pepper
1 shallot, thinly sliced
20 button mushrooms, halved
2 Tbsp. sherry
3/4 c. mushroom stock
1/4 c. cream

Brush both sides of meat with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a frying pan over high heat. Add fillet steaks. Cook for about 4 minutes per side, or until desired doneness. Place on a plate in a 300 degree oven to keep warm.

Add about 2 Tbsp. olive oil to frying pan. Add shallot and mushroom. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Set aside.

Add sherry and stock to the pan. Boil 6-8 minutes, until reduced by half. Add cream, mushrooms, and shallots. Cook until heated through. Spoon over steaks and serve.

We had our fillets with sides of roasted potatoes and garlicky kale. A perfect Friday feast!

lemon pepper fennel

Not long after we moved into our house, the neighbors dropped off a bag of produce. This was before we had started getting veggies from the CSA (before I really knew what a CSA was, in fact; this might possibly have been my first encounter with the idea). The neighbors were going out of town and hadn't had a chance to eat all of the veggies from their latest pick up. Did we want them? Of course!

I only remember one item from that bag. At the time, I had no idea what it was. So much so that I couldn't figure out how to eat it! There were some wispy leafy parts, stems, and a root. Which part was edible? I had no idea. Unfortunately, this episode was before I was being adventurous in the kitchen. After describing the item to a few friends (none of whom knew what it could be), it made its way into the yard waste bin. A few weeks later in the produce section of the grocery store, I spotted it and found out it was fennel.

Fennel has a light anise taste. It contains vitamins A, B complex, potassium, and essential oils and, according to The Complete Guide to Nutritional Health, stimulates appetite and digestion. Sounds like the perfect start to a meal! Here's what I did:

Lemon Pepper Fennel
Serves 2 as side or aperitif

1 large fennel bulb
2 Tbsp. high quality olive oil
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Slice the fennel into thin pieces. Add to bowl with remaining ingredients. Mix to coat. Allow to sit 10 minutes before serving.

The simple ingredients combined to form an amazingly flavorful and fresh taste. I'll never waste a fennel bulb again!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

coconut cilantro rice

Think rice is boring? This might change your mind. Creamy coconut, tangy lime, and crisp cilantro combine in a burst of flavor!

Coconut Cilantro Rice
Serves 3-4

1 c. brown rice
14 oz. lite coconut milk
1/3 c. water
1/2 tsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped

Heat milk and water in a medium pot until it begins to boil (keep an eye on this, once the coconut milk starts to boil, it can bubble out of the pot quickly). Add rice, stir, cover, and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer 45 minutes. Let sit 5-10 minutes. Stir in cilantro.

This can be made into a quick meal by mixing in black beans or kidney beans at the end. Or it makes a nice side dish. Tonight, we'll have ours with fried tempeh dipped in peanut sauce.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

birthday bananas

Because I try to eat mostly local produce, I don't often buy bananas. But today is my birthday, which I interpret as my day to splurge. So bananas are on the menu tonight. Birthday bananas. That's pretty much all there is to say.

Birthday Bananas
Serves 2

3 bananas
1/3 c. dark rum
1/2 c. muscavado sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground ginger

Slice bananas on the diagonal into slices about 3/4 inch thick. Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Add to skillet and simmer over medium heat until sugar is melted, about 2 minutes. 

Add banana, stirring to coat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce thickens, 3-4 minutes. Serve over vanilla ice cream (we used Whole Soy Vanilla Bean and it was brilliant).

Happy day!

Monday, March 2, 2009

tortilla soup

In the middle of winter, there is little better than a hot bowl of soup. (Ok, so it's March now, not exactly the middle of winter anymore, but it feels like it with all of this rain!)

I had my first bowl of tortilla soup about 4 years ago on a work trip to Arizona. I kicked myself for having waited so long before trying it. Now I'm kicking myself that tonight is the first time I've made it myself. It was so easy! And delicious! Here's what I did:

Tortilla Soup
Serves 4

olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
3 c. vegetable broth
14 oz. diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. chipotle peppers in adobo
1 c. tortilla chips, crushed
1 Tbsp. lime juice
1 small avocado

Cook the onion in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add cumin, oregano, and cilantro. Stir and cook 1 minute. Add broth, tomatoes, and chipotle; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.

Chop avocado. Add to a small bowl with lime juice. Mix to combine. Set aside.

Add tortilla chips. Mix and stir about 1 minute to allow the chips to soften. Use an immersion blender to bring soup to desired consistency. (If you don't have an immersion blender, you can do this step with an upright in batches.)

Ladle the soup into bowls and top with the lime marinated avocados. Enjoy!
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