Monday, May 31, 2010


I sometimes wonder whether this blog should be called "Vegetables & Dessert" or something along those lines, given that the majority of what I make falls into one of those categories (perhaps "Kale & Cookies"???).

My post today falls squarely into the latter category.

Oftentimes, I try to make my desserts "healthy" (or at least, healthier) by substituting whole wheat flours, alternative sweeteners, and the like. But sometimes, only the original recipe will do. That was the case yesterday, when I was trying to figure out something sweet to make for our weekend BBQ. Alan, Chris, and 1-year-old baby Paarl trekked over from the East Bay to spend a sunny afternoon with us. I had a busy morning and was trying to think of something that would come together quickly.

Enter snickerdoodles. The recipe is from my grandma Francis' cookbook. I've made snickerdoodles according to this recipe many (many) times and they always seem to turn out perfectly. I had all of the ingredients on hand, so was able to make the dough in the morning and let it chill while I ran to the grocery store and knocked out a couple of other errands. Here's how it goes:

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

1 c. shortening
1 1/2 c. sugar + 2 Tbsp. for rolling
2 eggs
2 3/4 c. flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon

Cream shortening. Add sugar and eggs; beat until light and fluffy. Stir in dry ingredients (except additional sugar and cinnamon). Chill dough 2 hours.

Combine 2 Tbsp. sugar with 2 tsp. cinnamon in a small bowl. Roll dough into balls the size of walnuts. Roll each ball in the sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place two inches apart on baking sheet. Bake 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Monday, May 17, 2010

meyer lemon risotto

"Do you want to take some? They are Meyer lemons, not everyone likes those."

Or words similar to those left Carrie's mouth on Friday afternoon. We had just returned from a multi-hour car ride and shopping extravaganza on our way back from a work conference. We (Carrie, Stephanie, and myself) were standing in front of Carrie's house - a beautiful victorian (complete with turret!) with a yard packed with blooming flowers and fruit trees. The tree in question was the Meyer lemon tree. And she was offering us fruit.

Perhaps it's still because I'm relatively new to California (what? fruit grows on trees?), but when someone offers me fruit from their tree/yard/garden, I'm going to accept it. Produce simply doesn't get any fresher! So I left with a bag of lemons in tow, thinking about what they could turn into...

Which led me to question - why doesn't everybody like Meyer lemons? I honestly didn't realize that they were that different from other types of lemons. So I set out to learn about them. A quick Wikipedia scan later, and I now know that Meyer lemons are a citrus fruit native to China that is thought to be a cross between a "true" lemon and a mandarin orange. Who knew? While primarily ornamental in China, the fruit became a popular food item during the California cuisine revolution when made mainstream by chefs like Alice Waters.

I actually have a Meyer lemon tree growing in my yard. Or rather, in a pot in my yard. You may recall its purchase last summer. Since then, I've had what might be the slowest growing lemon ever, due (I believe) to the limited sunlight in its former location and the smallish pot in which it currently resides. The largest lemon is golf-ball sized and about the color of a putting green. I've fixed the sunshine issue (full sun from 9am to 3pm in the new yard!), but still need to remedy the latter issue by giving its roots a permanent home in the ground.

Eventually I'll have my own Meyer lemons to experiment with. For now, here's a recount of how I used some of the ones from Carrie's yard. This was inspired by a version I found on 101 cookbooks, which I played with a bit. It was a good reminder of how tasty risotto can be. It's a little time/labor intensive with all of the stirring, but not difficult (I actually did a decent job of multitasking and made a batch of cookies in between the stirring!). I found the flavor and texture profiles to be both interesting and delicious. We enjoyed our risotto along with roasted salmon. Here's what I did:

Meyer Lemon Risotto
Serves 2-3

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. aborio rice
1/2 c. dry white whine
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
grated zest of 2 Meyer lemons (about 4 Tbsp.)
1/2 c. parmesan plus additional to serve
1 small bunch red chard, center rims removed and leaves thinly sliced
handful of toasted pine nuts, to garnish

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy saucepan. Add onions, shallots, and garlic. Cook until they begin to soften. Add rice. Stir until covered with a nice sheen. Add wine. Simmer 3-4 minutes, until wine is mostly absorbed. Adjust heat to maintain a gentle simmer.

Add stock 1/2 c. at a time, letting rice absorb the majority of the liquid between each addition and stirring regularly.

Once rice is tender (if you run out of stock before this happens, begin adding water 1/2 c. at a time until rice is tender), remove pot from heat. Stir in lemon zest, thyme, parmesan, and chard. Garnish with toasted pine nuts and additional parmesan.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

zucchini enchiladas

It is officially zucchini season in Northern California. I know this because zucchini has become a staple in our weekly CSA box. Zucchini is perhaps the best known of the various types of summer squash (part of the Cucurbitaceae family - relatives of melons and cucumbers), with its tender, creamy white flesh.

I'm impressed by the versatility of this vegetable. Over the course of the past couple of weeks, I've roasted it (roasted vegetable rice & beans), sauteed it with onions, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and lots of garlic to mix with whole wheat pasta, and most recently, stuffed it along with black beans and pepper jack cheese into enchiladas. While all have been good, this latest combo is my favorite so far. Here's what I did:

Zucchini Enchiladas
Serves 4

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 zucchini (about 2 cups), chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp. cumin
15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed and drained
6 oz. pepper jack cheese, grated
2 c. enchilada sauce
12 6" tortillas
1 avocado, sliced, to garnish
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped, to garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion and saute until it begins to soften. Add zucchini, cumin, and lime juice. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until zucchini begins to soften. Mix in black beans.

Spread 1/2 c. sauce in the bottom of a 13x9" baking dish. Spoon zucchini mixture down the center of a tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese. Roll and place, seam side down, in baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Top enchiladas with remaining sauce and cheese.

Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake 10 minutes longer. Serve topped with avocado slices and cilantro.

One year ago: peanut spinach & tofu

Sunday, May 9, 2010

asparagus & smoked salmon frittata

JR hates asparagus. It's honestly not one of my favorite vegetables either. While I will tolerate it as the "side vegetable" that sometimes accompanies my salmon when my mom and I dine at the seafood restaurant near her house, it's not something I would typically seek out. But when I was at my mom's a few weeks ago, we made pasta with fresh spring asparagus that was, well, pretty good. So when some showed up in our CSA box last week, I decided I'd give making something tasty out of it a go. Perhaps I could even get JR to like it...

I was thinking a pairing with eggs might work well. Initially, I was visioning something eggs benedict-like. Then I came across some delicious-looking smoked salmon at the farmers' market. Hmmm... asparagus + smoked salmon + eggs = quiche? some sort of scramble? When my mind landed on frittata, I knew that was the direction I wanted to go in.

It worked out really well. The combination of the sweet asparagus, tangy lemon and salty salmon and capers made for a very flavorful dish. My opinion of asparagus might be changing. Even JR went back for seconds. Here's what I did:

Asparagus & Smoked Salmon Frittata

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into 1" diagonal pieces
6 large eggs
6 oz. smoked salmon, crumbled
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. mozzarella, grated
1/4 c. parmesan, grated
capers for garnish

Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions. Cook until soft. Add thyme and asparagus. Cook until asparagus is crisp tender. Remove from heat.

Turn broiler on high. Whisk eggs in a medium bowl. Add smoked salmon, lemon juice and peel, salt, and pepper. Add asparagus and onion mixture, stirring to combine.

Put same skillet back on burner on medium. Add egg mixture. Go around the edge of the skillet with a spatula, slicing the egg mixture away from the pan and tilting it at an angle so the raw eggs run underneath to cook.

Once the eggs are mostly set, sprinkle cheese on top. Transfer to oven to finish cooking under the broiler for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese begins to brown. Remove from oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

roasted vegetable rice & beans

I've been eating too much sugar lately. I've fallen into one of those patterns where cookies are a must-have after dinner. I've said yes to every cupcake that has crossed my path at work (which has been nearly daily as of late!). I'm a strong believer in indulging in moderation. But my indulgences have been more than moderate lately.

Enter vegetables.

This dish came together in my mind as I was driving home from work. We had zucchini from the weekly CSA box that needed to be consumed. I paired it with some other veggies, brown rice, black beans and a spicy cilantro-lime dressing for a flavor-packed, healthy dinner. A few days of eating like this, and my sugar cravings will be a thing of the past. Here's what I did:

Roasted Vegetable Rice & Beans
Serves 2

2 c. brown rice
3 small zucchini, sliced then quartered
3 spring onions, peeled and quartered
a small bunch of carrots, chopped into 1/2" pieces
2 Tbsp. olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
the juice of 1 lime, divided
1 pint cherry tomatoes
15 oz. black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 c. cilantro, roughly chopped

Cook rice according to directions.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put zucchini, onions, and carrots into a glass baking dish. In a small bowl, mix olive oil, spices, and half of the lime juice. Add mixture to vegetables. Toss well to coat. Cook for 15 minutes.

Remove pan from oven. Add tomatoes. Return to oven for 15 minutes, until tomatoes begin to soften.

Mix rice, beans, and roasted veggies with cilantro and remaining lime juice. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

spring vegetable pasta

Asparagus pasta is what my mom and I landed on last weekend when we were deciding what to eat. With peas. And parmesan. It turns out that the folks at Bon Appetit were on the same wavelength: the cover of the May issue depicts a green veggie-packed pasta, with parmesan cleverly sprinkled from above. The Bon Appetit version is a bit richer, with cream and pancetta over linguini. Ours omits the heaviness but takes inspiration from the inclusion of lemon, which worked well to brighten the flavor of the asparagus and peas.

One word of warning - be careful not to overcook the vegetables. It's a remarkably short time period between the bright, beautiful crisp-tender green desired and the floppy, yellow signs of overcooking. Our initial plates were perfect, but by the time we went back for seconds (yes, it was that good!) the covered pasta had continued to cook the veggies slightly past their prime - still yummy, but better to err on the side of slightly underdone vs. over.

Here's what we did:

Spring Vegetable Pasta
Serves 3-4

8 oz. pasta (we used farfalle)
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1" pieces
1 c. frozen peas, cooked for half the time indicated
3 green onions, sliced with white and pale green parts separated from dark green
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. lemon peel, finely grated
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
a handful of fresh basil, thinly sliced
1/2 c. parmesan cheese, finely grated

Cook the pasta as directed. Drain and set aside.

Add olive oil to a large pan over medium heat. Add asparagus and saute for 3 minutes. Add peas, white and light green parts of green onions, and garlic. Saute until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat.

Add pasta, lemon peel and juice, basil, and half of the parmesan to the vegetable mixture, stirring to combine. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve sprinkled with remaining parmesan.

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