Sunday, August 29, 2010

vegetable salsa

The bounty I returned home with from the farmers' market today included a bunch of beautiful tomatoes. While playing in the garden in the afternoon, I realized I also had a bunch of beautiful tomatoes ready to be picked from my tomato plant.

One tomato harvest, a walk through the around the block to forage a lime from a neighbor's tree (thanks, JR!) and lots of chopping later, I have transformed my beautiful tomatoes (a mix of those from the market and my own) into a beautiful salsa.

I am planning to turn this salsa into our meal this evening by serving it on beans & rice and topping it with sliced avocado. Speaking of which, I'm getting hungry...

Vegetable Salsa
Makes about 4 cups

2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 c. onion, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded & minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
kernels from 1 ear of corn (cooked)
2-3 c. tomatoes, finely diced
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. olive oil*
1/2 tsp. cumin
sea salt & white pepper to taste
*Olive oil increases the absorption of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Mix well. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes before eating to allow flavors to meld. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

salmon spinach salad with lemon olive dressing

I have been eating a lot of salad this week. I'm currently 13 days into my 28-day cleanse and am on day 7 of the "70% raw fruits and vegetables" segment (7 more days of that to go). I'm a little surprised: it hasn't actually been very hard. Twice weekly farmers' markets and the weekly CSA delivery have certainly helped and also ensure that I'm eating a good variety of raw fruits and veggies so I don't get bored. Granted, this dietary rule has led to some interesting (JR would say "questionable") meals. For instance, the other night my dinner was comprised of a bowl of tomatoes (with basil, olive oil, and balsamic, so quite tasty), a bowl of blackberries, and a small bowl of nuts.

JR has been eating a lot of frozen burritos this past week.

One night he didn't have to reach for the freezer was the night I made this salad. I had been thinking about it ever since I happened upon tuna-sized cans of wild-caught red sockeye salmon at the grocery store. Sockeye salmon is my favorite - it's from the northern Pacific, has beautiful ruby flesh, and is especially high in Omega 3 (the good fat). The fresh version tends to be pretty expensive in this area (I've seen it as high as $18.99 per pound), so I picked up a couple of the reasonably priced cans to test them out.

What I did not anticipate was the bones and skin in the can. But if you can get past that and clean the fish as you remove it from the can, the flavor was great.

This is clearly modeled after Nicoise salad. I had actually been planning on making a Nicoise dressing, however was unable to locate Nicoise olives at the grocery store. I improvised. The result was delicious. Thinking about it now, a few days later, kind of makes me want to eat it again. Perhaps it will make another cameo during my second week of 70% raw. Here's what I did:

Salmon Spinach Salad with Lemon Olive Dressing
Serves 2

lemon olive dressing:
juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. dijon mustard
10 green olives, pitted
10 kalamata olives, pitted
1 clove garlic
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

remaining ingredients:
2 handfuls spinach
7.5 oz. can salmon (or fresh salmon, cooked and flaked)
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
a handful of green beans, trimmed
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 Tbsp. capers

Make dressing by combining all ingredients in a food processor.

Lightly steam greens beans just until bright green. Rinse under cold water.

In a large bowl, mix spinach with half of the olive dressing. Distribute onto 2 plates. Add remaining salad ingredients to plates, topping with capers. Add dallops of remaining dressing and freshly ground black pepper. Enjoy!

One year ago: honey ginger salmon

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

black-eyed pea salad

I have had a small bag of black-eyed peas in my pantry for quite some time. I picked them up on a whim from the bulk foods section at the grocery store, with no particular purpose in mind.

I think perhaps they were waiting for this salad.

I was browsing a greek cookbook this past weekend when a salad incorporating black-eyed peas caught my eye. The rest of the salad didn't sound great (potatoes with black-eyed peas?), but I found the idea of black-eyed peas in a salad to be inspiring. Inspiring enough for me to learn how to cook this legume that has been taking up precious cabinet space for the past few months.

I stuck with a mediterranean direction and included everything I had on hand that sounded like it would fit in. The result was a refreshing and tasty summer salad. Here's what I did:

Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Serves 4

1 c. dried black-eyed peas
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 lemon cucumbers, chopped
10 kalamata olives, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. flat leaf parsley, minced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Simmer black-eyed peas and 3 cups water in a medium saucepan for 30-40 minutes until tender (be careful not to overcook - they go quickly from tender to mushy). Drain and rinse with cool water.

Mix black-eyed peas with other ingredients. Allow to chill in fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.

One year ago: caramel pear crumble

Sunday, August 22, 2010


The weather in the Bay Area this summer has been less than spectacular, inspiring headlines like "coldest July on record". Though the fog bank on the peninsula does burn off on most days (unlike San Francisco, where they've been buried under 2000 feet of it pretty much since June), temperatures are feeling more like fall than summer.

Yesterday was a particularly chilly day. I returned home from my morning pilates class to a clearing sky, but increasing wind. I decided to postpone the gardening and yard-related things I'd been planning to do outside in favor of spending the afternoon in the kitchen: an afternoon making dolmas.

Dolmas, also known as dolmades, are grape-leaf wrapped parcels of rice and herbs. Wikipedia taught me that dolma is a verbal known of the Turkish verb dolmak "to be stuffed", and means simply "stuffed thing". There are many stuffing variations: the base of the filling is typically composed of onions, long grain white rice, and herbs, with common additions of minced lamb or pine nuts and raisins. I decided to keep mine simple and go in a lemony-herby direction.

How exactly to make the dolmas was a bit of a discovery process. I read through a number of recipes - some from my cookbooks, some online. I was less concerned with the ingredients, more with the technique. One recipe called for a "weighted plate" to be placed on top of the dolmas as they cooked on the stovetop. Another had them baking in the oven. Pretty much each recipe I read had a slightly different approach.

I cobbled together my planned method by taking the bits and pieces I liked from a couple different recipes that sounded the most straightforward and crossed my fingers that I'd come out of this adventure with something edible. (I did!)

I also learned that there is a good deal of strategy involved in the grape-leaf-wrapping part. One recipe said to "roll it up like an eggroll", which proved to be much easier said than done: it is not easy to make a roll with something that is shaped like a leaf. The level of difficulty increases as the size of the leaf decreases and each roll is a slightly different challenge, depending on the configuration of the given leaf. By the 10th roll or so, however, I had crafted a method that seemed to work most of the time: place the rice filling (not too much!) on the bottom 1/3 of the leaf, fold the sides in first, then roll carefully, continuing to roll the sides in as you go.

I'm glad I chose yesterday for this indoor adventure. Today, the weather gods decided to play nice. The sun was shining brightly in a cloudless sky from the time I woke up, leading to a beautiful, warm day. I'm already feeling benefits from my first full week of dietary cleanse: during my run this morning, I felt more energetic and lighter on my feet. Onward to week #2, where my raw fruit and veggie intake will increase to 70% of my daily consumption. With the bounty I brought home with me from the farmers' market this afternoon, I'm ready to tackle it!

Makes about 30

olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3/4 c. long grain white rice
3 Tbsp. fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
3 Tbsp. fresh mint, minced
the juice of 1 lemon
15 oz. jar grape leaves*
*You won't use them all, but if your jar is like mine, it will include a number of leaves that are too small or fragile to do anything with. This will allow you some room to pick and choose your dolma leaves.

Place grape leaves in a large bowl. Cover with cool water and let stand 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Saute onion until tender, about 8 minutes. Add rice. Stir and cook 1 minute. Add 1 1/2 cups water. Cover and simmer until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Add parsley, mint, and lemon juice to rice and stir to distribute. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to cool.

Drain grape leaves. Cut off stems. Lay out each leaf on work surface vein side up. Place a heaping tablespoon (vary as needed depending on size of leaf) of rice filling in each. Fold the sides of the leaf over the stuffing, then roll tightly into a package.

Line the bottom of a heavy 12-inch skillet or dutch oven with grape leaves (this will prevent sticking). Arrange dolmas seam-side down in pan (you will probably need two layers). Add water just to cover. Cover and simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, about 45 minutes. Uncover and allow to cool. Transfer to a plate, cover and chill until ready to serve.

This is my 200th post to cole's kitch. Thank you to everyone who has been reading and please keep your comments coming - they inspire me to continue cooking and writing!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

garlicky mediterranean pasta

Interestingly, eliminating a number of food groups (I'm on day 6 of a 4-week cleanse, which in a nutshell, means I've cut dairy, meat, and anything including wheat or sugar from my diet) has manifested in me eating a greater variety of food. Peculiar, right?

I think because I'm restricting my intake to primarily fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, I'm getting more creative with the combinations. Particularly at evening meals, I find I'm combining many more vegetables in a single dish than I typically would. The blooming garden and recent trips to the farmers' markets have definitely played into this. At the farmers' market, I go without a list and pick up anything that catches my eye (which is typically a lot of different things - so much is in season locally right now!). Back home in the kitchen, it becomes a sort of exciting puzzle to figure out how to put it all together. The following is one of the palate-pleasing culinary adventures I found myself on earlier this week. Here's what I did:

Garlicky Mediterranean Pasta
Serves 2

4 oz. penne pasta*
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 c. yellow onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
1 tsp. red chili flakes
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 handful cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1 handful mushrooms, quartered
1 handful spinach
1/4 c. kalamata olives, pitted & halved
1/4 c. artichoke hearts marinated in olive oil, drained
pine nuts
*I used rice pasta, since I'm avoiding gluten at the moment.

Cook pasta according to directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions and garlic; saute until just beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add oregano and chili flakes. Stir and cook 1 minute. Add pepper and cook until crisp tender. Add tomatoes and mushrooms. Cook 1 minute. Add pasta, spinach, olives, and artichoke hearts stir and cook until heated through and spinach is beginning to welt. Serve topped with pine nuts.

One year ago: veggie fajitas

Sunday, August 15, 2010

eggplant curry

I think I may have mentioned that I spent my morning run on Sunday planning the evening's meal in my head. This is where I landed.

It started with eggplant (specifically, the 3/4 of the eggplant that remained upon my return from Seattle - the missing quarter had been incorporated into a pasta dish - props to JR for being "adventurous" in his cooking!). I knew I wanted to go in a "something with rice" direction. When I started thinking through the produce in my kitchen (onions, tomatoes, mushrooms), curry seemed like the unifying force that would pull it all together. I also threw in some garbanzo beans for good measure. The result was a flavor-packed, healthy dish that came together relatively quickly and will provide sustenance for a couple of days. Here's what I did:

Eggplant Curry
Serves 4

2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
1 small eggplant (or 3/4 of medium eggplant!), chopped into 1/2" cubes
1 c. small mushrooms, halved
1 tomato, chopped
1 16-oz. can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 c. coconut milk
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
2-3 c. prepared rice

Mix garlic, ginger, curry powder, salt and cinnamon in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Cook the onion and eggplant until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and garlic mixture. Stir and cook 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add tomato, garbanzo beans, and coconut milk. Stir well. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Serve over rice topped with cilantro.

blueberry walnut wonderfuls

I arrived back in the Bay Area last night, after a couple of days of work in Seattle followed by a few days vacation in Poulsbo visiting my mom. I have not been spending much time in the kitchen lately. I also haven't been taking as much advantage of the local bounty of summer produce as I would like (either from my own garden or from local farmers' markets). Rather, recent nights out with friends added to the summer BBQs of late and working a bit too much (which seems to often lead to dinners of pizza) have left me feeling like my diet needs a bit of an overhaul. I've come to a decision: it's time for a cleanse!

My dietary cleanse of choice is a 4-week detox program. It is not one of those crazy, cayenne-lemon-juice sorts of "cleanses" aimed at weight loss. Rather, the focus is on healthy eating in order to give the body a break from processing junk so that it can instead focus on eliminating the toxins that build up over time.* I've done the full cleanse once before, and did a modified 2-week version earlier this year. The biggest benefits I felt were higher quality sleep and much more energy during the day. It also proved a good way to reset my diet and get back to eating more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, which is probably what we should all mostly be eating, anyway.
*Our lungs eliminate the acids produced during the digestive process when we breath. When more is produced than can be eliminated by our body during the day (often the case in Western diets), these acids are stored in serous fluid in the peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen) to be processed at night while we sleep. Over time, though, these acids can build up in the body's tissue as the toxins accumulate. This detox is meant to give the body a chance to process these toxins that build up over time. Source: The Complete Guide to Nutritional Health

The first week of the cleanse, which I am beginning today, calls for 1) the elimination of dairy, wheat, meat, caffeine, sugar, and alcohol and 2) the addition of mineral water with low mineral content, herbal tea, and cooking with more fresh herbs. I'm pretty excited to get started. I spent my morning run thinking about a vegetable curry that I plan to make for dinner. I came away from today's farmers' market with some beautiful fruit and veggies, and harvested the last of the Swiss chard and first of the tomatoes from my garden.

But before I start posting my cleanse-friendly recipes over the coming weeks, I'll share a slightly sweeter (albeit quite healthy) one: cookies I made at my mother's house. The recipe is heavily adapted from a carrot cookie recipe on 101cookbooks. I love the flavor of oat flour and the not-so-sweet sweetening of maple syrup. The combination of oat flour and coconut oil makes for some pretty dense cookies (almost more energy-bar-like than traditional-cookie-like). The dough seemed a little wet, so I added more flour - a bit too much - so I've reduced the amount in the recipe below accordingly. Enjoy!

Blueberry Walnut Wonderfuls
Makes 2 1/2 dozen cookies

1 1/4 c. oat flour
1 1/4 c. rolled oats
1 c. dried blueberries
2/3 c. walnuts, chopped
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. pure maple syrup
1/2 c. coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Position top oven rack to top 1/3 of oven. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine maple syrup, coconut oil, and vanilla. Add this to dry mixture and stir to combine.

Drop rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with the back of a fork, if desired. Bake 12-15 minutes, until edges are golden.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

plums to prunes

A large box arrived at our house last week, sent by my mother. It contained a large spaceship-resembling appliance: a food dehydrator. The American Harvest Snackmaster 2400, to be exact.

The impetus for the ownership transition of the Snackmaster is the fruit tree in my backyard, which is currently producing more plums than anyone can eat or give away in a few short weeks.

A Recipes & Instructions booklet was included with the Snackmaster. It was written by "dehydration expert" Deanna DeLong (author of How to Dry Foods, published in 1979). The booklet is full of gem phrases, such as: Fruit roll-ups, also known as fruit leathers, are a favorite snack for young and old alike, as well as interesting advice, like: After fruits have been prepared for drying, garnish with spices, Jell-O powders or coconut to give fruits a snappy flavor. Jell-O powder? Hmmm.

From the notes in the fruit drying guidelines section, it appears the Snackmaster got a lot of use in the early 90's. That was when I was growing up and we had two Italian Prune trees and a gigantic Macintosh Apple tree. There are notes on drying times for plums dated September 1994.

Sixteen years later and a couple of states down the coast, the Snackmaster is drying plums again. I've started experimenting with some other fruits as well: grapefruit (left the peel on and sliced it very thin; next time I'll try sprinkling some salt and sugar on it before it dries for some flavorful fruit chips) and I learned that dried cantaloupe is as sweet as candy. I have a feeling that I'll be having some fun with this new toy!

Here is the pictorial progression from plums to prunes:

One year ago: polenta stacks
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