Green Risotto

green-risottoLike most of us in the states, my cultural heritage is mixed. I’ve got Italian from my dad, and Irish (and a bunch of other things) from Mom. So what better way to celebrate St. Patricks day than to mix the two together.

I took risotto, a very Italian dish, made it green, and added beer. The green comes from a peppery bite of baby arugula, with a dollop of basil pesto from the freezer. If you don’t have any pesto don’t fret – some chopped fresh herbs will make a delicious substitution. Use a light colored beer, like a Blue Moon or Hoegaarten, so preserve the color of the rice. Serve hot, with the rest of the 6-pack to wash it down!

Green-Risotto-2Green Risotto

1 T. butter
2 shallots, finely minced
2-3 garlic, minced
1 c. risotto rice (like arborio or carnaroli)
1 c. light colored beer
3 or more c. water or stock
2 T. pesto, or chopped fresh herbs
a few large handfuls of arugula, finely chopped
1-2 T. creme fraiche, sour cream, or cold butter
sea salt to taste

garnish with toasted pine nuts (or almonds) and a shaving of parmesan

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed pot or skillet over medium heat. Cook the shallots for a few minutes, then add the garlic and a few pinches of salt. Once the shallots become soft, stir in the rice to coat in butter. Let this cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes, until the rice becomes translucent around the edges.

Pour in the beer, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen anything stuck to the bottom. Simmer until most of the beer is gone, and you can drag a wooden spoon through the rice and the liquid doesn’t fill in the trail. You may have to play with the heat to keep it softly simmering, but not boiling – you don’t want too much liquid to evaporate.

Once the beer is mostly gone, add water or stock, a 1/2 c. at a time, stirring frequently and waiting until the last bit has simmered away before adding the next bit. When the rice is almost done, but still firm and a tiny bit chalky when you bite into it, stir in the pesto. If you’re using fresh herbs wait – and stir them in with the arugula.

About 20 minutes and 3 – 4 cups of liquid later, your rice should be done. It should be tender, but still a little firm to the bite. Remove from heat and stir in the creme fraiche and arugula until the greens wilt. Taste and add salt if necessary, enough to make the flavors pop. This will vary depending on whether you used water or stock, and pesto or herbs. Serve topped with the parmesan and pine nuts.

serves 3-4 as a main, 6 as a side

Creamy Green Onion Pasta

This has been the week of de-cluttering. So far we have taken stacks of clothes and books to Goodwill, sold 2 celli and a bass amp (and are still waiting for takers on the drum kit), donated a futon to the skateboard shop downstairs, bought a bookshelf to organize the stuff we’re still keeping, and rearranged the entire apartment. Sometimes it feels nice to get rid of what is no longer serving you –  purging your life of what you used to be to make way for what you will become. This summer is the beginning of some big changes in my life, as well as my boy’s life. I’ll be sharing some of those changes with you later, but in the meantime let’s just make some room for some good things to happen.

So, somehow I ended up with a HUGE bunch of green onions, and little else, and had to make some room in the fridge.

So I cut them all up, sauteed with some oil and salt, and at the last minute they got blended with a bit of goat cheese for a creamy sauce for pasta. I think Heidi made a similar sauce in Super Natural Cooking.

For a garnish, some toasted pine nuts, oregano (though you could use basil or another herb) and more goat cheese.

Creamy Green Onion Pasta

12 oz. whole what pasta (I used a gobbetti shape)
1 big bunch of green onions (at least 12) roughly chopped
2 T. olive oil, divided
1/2 to 3/4 tsp. sea salt (depending on how salty your goat cheese is)
4 oz. goat cheese, divided
1/4 c. pine nuts
2-3 T. fresh oregano, or another herb

Cook pasta according to package directions. Mine said to boil for 10-12 minutes. Make sure to taste for doneness. Reserve 1/4 cup of the pasta water and drain the pasta. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Add green onions and cook for 5-6 minutes, until they turn bright green, but make sure not to let them brown. Transfer to a food processor, or use an immersion blender. Combine the onions with the remaining oil, salt, and the reserved pasta water. Process until fairly creamy, but still has a few chunks. Stir in half of the goat cheese until melted.

Heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Toast the pine nuts until just starting to turn brown. Keep a close eye out, they go from raw to burnt in an instant.

Combine the pasta and sauce in a serving bowl. Top with the pine nuts, oregano, and the rest of the goat cheese, crumbled.

serves 3-4


Curried Pea Sandwiches with Coconut-Cilantro Chutney

Dear Mr. Bittman,

Smashed peas spread between two layers of bread does not make an easy sandwich to eat.

Love, Elizabeth

This week’s Food Matters Project recipe is for Tea Sandwiches. One of the variations Bittman gives is for gingered peas. Since I’m still on my Indian food kick, I decided to curry them instead of ginger them, and whipped up a little chutney for good measure. These really made a great lunch for me – and the components can be made ahead so you’ve got lunch all week – but they come with a warning label: Eating this sandwich may cause smashed peas to land on table, lap or floor. Consume with caution.

I used a large flake dried unsweetened coconut for the chutney, but if you can only find the small flakes, decrease the amount to 1/2 cup. Sweetened coconut, unfortunately, won’t really work here.  And for the bread, what you see here is a toasted, sprouted grain bread. When grains are sprouted they digest like a vegetable, which makes it easier in the tummy, and not so starchy in the mouth. I keep mine in the freezer since I don’t eat a lot of bread, and just toast it when I need it. If you like your sandwich bread soft and squishy, you can use untoasted whole grain bread instead. This recipe makes more chutney than you will use for these sandwiches, but luckily you can stir the rest into a bowl of rice, top a fried egg, thin it out and use as a dressing, or garnish some soup.

Curried Pea Sandwiches with Coconut-Cilantro Chutney

Curried Peas:
1 lb. shell peas (~ 1 c. after shelling)
1 T. virgin coconut oil
2 tsp. curry powder
2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Coconut-Cilantro Chutney:
3/4 c. large flake dried coconut (or 1/2 c. small flake)
3/4 c. tightly packed fresh cilantro
1/4 c. raw cashews
1 green chili, de-stemmed, de-seeded and roughly chopped
1 in. knob of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tsp. sweetener of choice (honey, agave, sucanant, brown sugar, etc.)
juice of 1 lime
3/4 tsp. sea salt

8 slices of thin, whole grain sandwich bread (I used sprouted grain)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium low heat. Add the curry, a few pinches of salt and stir for 30 seconds. Add the peas, and stir to coat them in the curry oil. After a minute or two add the garlic, and cook for another few minutes until the peas are bright green. Watch that the garlic doesn’t burn. Remove from heat and smash with a potato masher or a fork. You can leave a few whole. Set aside.

Meanwhile, add all the chutney ingredients to a food processor, along with 1/4 c. water, and process. If it’s dry, add a bit more water, up to a 1/4 cup more, until the consistency is to your liking. If you want your bread toasted, now is the time.

To assemble, spread a thin layer of chutney on one side of each of the bread slices. Spoon the peas over half of the slices. Top with the rest of the slices of bread. Cut into triangles and serve.

serves 4.

Cherry Chocolate Cake & Brunch with Harriet

This weekend I had a really lovely brunch with my boy Darren, friend Betty, and cat Harriet. Harriet used be free to roam the countryside, but since we moved to Brooklyn she’s become strictly an indoor cat. So as a treat for her (and us!) we took a trip to Betty’s garden apartment and let her run wild. Meanwhile, the humans had omelets, beermosas (hoegaarden and o.j. – mmm) and this cherry chocolate brunch cake.

I was going for “healthy brunch cake” with this recipe. But don’t be scared off – it’s also really delicious. I took one of Deb’s genius cakes and subbed spelt flour for the all purpose, and sucanat (evaporated cane juice) for the sugar.  If you’ve never used sucanat you should start. It’s a tad bit more expensive than regular sugar, but it’s got a deep, caramel-y, complex flavor that you just don’t get from sugar. It’s just sweet enough, and doesn’t give you that sickly sweet stomachache. And it’s one of the few healthy sweeteners that is granulated (as opposed to liquid, like honey, maple syrup, etc.) so it behaves just like sugar in baked goods recipes. I used the spelt flour cause that’s what I had. It makes for a dark, but moist crumb. White whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour would both be great here. I don’t recommend regular whole wheat, it’ll give you a heavy, wheat-y tasting cake – not really what I was after here. Also, feel free to experiment with whatever fruit you find in season.

The cherries and chocolate combo was inspired by this weeks Food Matters Project. You can find the original recipe here.

Cherry Chocolate Brunch Cake

6 T. unsalted butter
scant 1 c. sucanat
1 large egg
1/2 c. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. hazelnut or almond extract (or more vanilla)
1 1/2 c. spelt or other whole grain flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3.5 – 4 oz. of the darkest chocolate bar you can find, cut into chunks
1 pint cherries, stemmed, hulled and halved

Preheat oven to 350. Beat butter and sucanat with an electric mixer in a large bowl until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg, milk and extracts and beat until just combined. Add the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until just smooth. Stir in the chocolate by hand.

Pour into a 9 or 10 inch cake pan (or deep dish pie pan) and spread to an even layer. Press the cherry halves into the top of the cake batter. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 325 and bake for another 50-60 minutes, until a tester comes out clean.

Let cool in pan. Cut into wedges and serve.

makes 8 wedges

Sesame 1-2-3

Today I want to share with you a recipe that has been around the block with me. It has seen many incarnations, kitchens and dinner guests. But the other night  this impromptu variation really wowed us, and I thought you’d appreciate it. It’s quick, easy, and done all in one pot. It inspires multiple add-ins. It’s what you’re making for dinner tonight (I promise you won’t be disappointed)!

I used to make this with some wilted greens and browned tofu. It was great.  If you’ve got a bunch of spinach in the fridge, I recommend going this route. The tofu adds some extra heft if you’re super hungry – but I find that in this heat I really love the crunchy raw veggies and no tofu (the miso and tahini add plenty of protein if you worry about that sort of thing).

I found these sunflower sprouts at the market over the weekend. They are bright, crunchy and sweet. So if you see some, totally pick them up. If you’re scared of sprouts, these are good “beginner” sprouts to try. But if you can’t find them, sub any sprouts you do like, or some micro greens would be divine. Really, just anything you like that’s green.

I used a julienne peeler for the carrots. It makes long thin strips that tangle up with the noodles. Other options are to make long ribbons made with your vegetable peeler, or grate them with a box grater or with the grating disc of your Cuisinart. And if you’re cooking for veggie newbies, you can throw the carrots and sprouts on the plate with the drained noodles and toss the whole thing with the sauce. The heat from the pasta wilts the veggies just a bit and takes off the raw edge.

Oh, and p.s., the name for this dish comes from the 3 kinds of sesame in it. Sesame seeds, toasted sesame oil, and tahini, which is a sesame seed paste, similar to peanut butter, and used in hummus.

p.p.s. – I’m linking to Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, who are hosting a great resource for all aspects of healthy living. Good work.

Sesame 1-2-3

2 T. unhulled sesame seeds
8 oz. soba noodles
2-3 medium carrots, grated
2 c. sunflower sprouts
1/4 c. tahini
1/4 c. light miso (like white or chickpea)
1 tsp. shoyu or tamari
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil (plus more for drizzling)

Toast the seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until fragrant and just starting to brown. Careful, sesame seeds burn very quickly, so keep an eye (and nose) out.

Bring a pot of water to boil. Scoop out about a 1/2 c. of water and set aside. Add the noodles to the water and cook for the amount of time specified on the box.

While the pasta cooks, make the sauce. Combine the tahini, miso, shoyu and oil. Add the hot water you took from the pot. I like to put it all in an old salsa jar and shake until combined. You could also whisk it in a bowl. I also grate my carrots while I’m waiting for the water to boil – just a time saving tip.

Drain the pasta when it is tender. Transfer the noodles back to the pot, or into a serving bowl. I put a handful of the veggies in too, but that’s optional, or you can put them all in, depending on how crisp or tender you like em, and pour the sauce over it all. Toss to combine and coat everything with the sauce.

Serve topped with any remaining raw veggies, the sesame seeds and a generous drizzle of the toasted sesame oil.

serves 4

Quinoa Poppy Seed Pasta with Peas

Happy Memorial Day! Instead of grilling at the park like many Brooklynites, I made pasta today. This is not one of those things you want to start when you’re already hungry. Especially the first few times you make pasta by hand, you want to give yourself a couple hours, and maybe invite a few friends to help, to laugh when someone makes a mess, and to enjoy dinner with. I don’t mean for this to sound super scary – it’s really an easy process once you get the hang of it. And you don’t need an special pasta rolling equipment either. A rolling pin (or a wine bottle), some parchment paper and a pizza cutter (or knife) do just fine.

Please don’t be discouraged. I have only made pasta a few times myself, and each time I learn a lot, so now I’m pretty good at it. And the taste of homemade pasta is really incomparable, not to mention the satisfaction of using your hands to create something amazing. However, if you’re just not ready to gild that lily yet, pick up some high quality fresh pasta and you’ve got yourself a super quick 1-pot meal.

So, away we go! To start, mix your flours, salt and poppy seeds together on a large clean surface. Make a well in the middle that’s big enough for a few eggs and some oil and water. Don’t make the mistake of making the well too small like I did – or the egg will fall out and gush liquid everywhere. This is why I don’t have a good picture of this step…sorry about that. Moving on, use a fork, then your hands, to work the egg, water and oil into the flour until you have a shaggy mass of dough. It will be dry and stiff.

Knead the dough about 10 minutes until you get a smooth ball. It will still be dry and fairly stiff.

Cover the dough with a kitchen towel and let it rest. I gave mine 30 minutes, because during that time I was shelling the peas.

Once the dough has rested, lay a sheet of parchment over your work space. Move the dough to the parchment and push down with your hands to flatten into a disc.

Take another sheet of parchment and lay it over the dough. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough as thin as you can get it. Then peel off the top sheet of parchment paper.

Fold the dough horizontally over itself a few times. Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, slice the pasta into thin noodles. I found that it was easiest to cut a few strips, then unfold them, then cut a few more. When unfolding, you can lightly pinch the folds to de-crease them and help the noodles hold together. I like my noodles thin, but the thinner I cut, the harder they are to unroll and keep in one piece. Keep that in mind when deciding what size to cut your pasta.

Now you have homemade pasta! Cook it in boiling water for 5 minutes max, until the pasta is no longer doughy. Add the peas when you have about 3 minutes left (even less if you are using frozen peas).

You can use this process to make any kind of pasta. Change up the flour (just be sure that part of the flour has gluten), knead in other seeds, herbs, spices, etc. Create different shapes. Experiment – then comment and tell us all about it.

Quinoa Poppy Seed Pasta with Peas

3/4 c. quinoa flour
3/4 c. semolina flour
1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 T. poppy seeds
2 eggs
2 T. olive oil
2 T. water

1 lb. shell peas (or 1 cup if they are already shelled)
2 T. butter
2 T. fresh, chopped herbs (I used thyme, but mint would be great)
a few pinches of salt
to serve: freshly grated parmesan and lemon wedges

Mix the flours, salt and poppy seeds together on a clean work surface. Make a well in the middle and break the eggs into it. Add the oil and water to the well and work it into a shaggy mass of dough.

Knead for 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth, dry and stiff. Let it rest for 20-30 minutes, during which time you can shell your peas if needed.

Lay the ball of dough on a sheet of parchment paper and push down on it to flatten. Lay another sheet of parchment on top, and roll as thin as you can. Peel off the top sheet of paper.

Fold the dough onto itself a few times and, using a knife or pizza cutter, cut into thin strips. Unfold the strips into noodles.

Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt the water, then add the pasta. After about 2 minutes, add the peas. Boil for 3 more minutes then drain. Transfer the pasta back into the pot, add the butter and herbs. Toss to combine and melt the butter.

Serve topped with grated cheese and a squeeze of lemon juice.

serves 4

Salad with Strawberry-Lime Tempeh

Last Saturday the Farmer’s Market was just exploding with strawberries!  I snatched up 2 quarts of the bright red, glistening berries for snacking and cooking all week. I also picked up a big bag full of fresh spring lettuces that had been all mixed together. So, a salad with strawberries was definitely in order for the week.

I took the berries, along with some lime and chili, and ground them into a marinade for tempeh – to create the protein base for this salad. The tempeh broiled in the oven, while the leftover marinade became the dressing for some lovely mixed lettuce, toasted pumpkin seeds and some cheese, if you so desire. You could also use tofu, or your protein of choice.

These days I purchase much of the produce I eat from the farmer’s market. Especially all my fruit. Fresh, local fruit that’s allowed to ripen on the “vine” (or tree, etc…) and trucked in the day it’s picked can’t even be compared to it’s grocery store counterpart. Strawberries are no exception. You’ve never even tasted a strawberry until you’ve had a small, plump, sweet berry, pink all the way through. Seriously. Try it. Sooo worth it!

Today’s Food Matters Project is “Mexican Fruit Salad with Broiled Fish”. This is my take.

Salad with Strawberry-Lime Tempeh

1 pint strawberries
juice of 1 lime
1 jalepeno, seeded
1/4 tsp. salt
2 T. olive oil
8 oz. tempeh
enough salad greens for 2 big salads
2 T. pumpkin seeds
2 oz. cheese (I used cheddar, feta or goat would be delish)

Preheat the oven to 400.

Combine most of the strawberries, lime juice, jalepeno, salt and oil in the food processor or blender, and pulse until it turns into a chunky liquid. Set aside.

Cut the tempeh in quarters. Slice each piece like a hamburger bun to make eight skinny slices. Lay them on a baking sheet and brush them on both sides with the strawberry mixture. Let them sit for 10 minutes, then brush them again with the strawberries and slide them in the oven. Bake for 25 minutes, flipping and basting once or twice. You will use about half the marinade for this.

While the tempeh bakes, toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat until they start to pop. Slice the rest of the strawberries.

To serve, combine the salad greens, seeds, sliced strawberries and cheese if you’re using. Drizzle with the leftover marinade and top with a few tempeh pieces.

serves 2 as a full meal, 4 as a side

Sweet & Savory Bruschetta + The Food Matters Project

This is my first week participating in the Food Matters Project. It is a group of food bloggers all cooking from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook. Someone picks a recipe each week, and everyone posts their own take on it. I’ve been following for a few weeks, and I love seeing the endless variations other cooks are putting together. This week is “Bruschetta…Rethought”. The idea is that you thickly slice and toast some good bread, and add whatever you can throw together from your fridge on top. You can check out the original post here.

For my bruschetta, I used some homemade sourdough bread (you’re jealous already, I know), made with half white bread flour, locally grown and ground. Eventually, when I perfect the recipe, I will post it here, but for those who want to try now, here is the recipe I’ve been using. On one half I piled what I’m calling “Truffled Cremini with Shaved Parmesan”, the other half of the bread was treated with “Raspberry-Lemon Drizzle and Goat Cheese”. Jealous and drooling? You’ll have to make it for yourself. Good thing it’s super quick and easy. Especially if you just buy a nice whole grain baguette.

This is not so much of a recipe (though you will find the recipes below), as it is an idea. Don’t like mushrooms? Swap in some sauteed greens. Vegan? Use some toasted walnuts instead of the cheese. Click the Food Matters link above for tons more ideas. These are of course great as appetizers, but I had them as a light lunch (dessert built in!). I’m also picturing a “bruschetta bar” with a few different toppings made up, a big salad and some wine out on the “deck” (or in my case, fire escape).

Sweet & Savory Bruschetta

1 baguette, thickly sliced

Truffled Cremini with Shaved Parmesan
1 T. butter
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, 1/2″ to 1″ dice
1 plump garlic clove, finely minced
a few pinches of sea salt
1/2 tsp. black truffle oil
a small hunk of Parmigiano-Reggiano

Raspberry-Lemon Drizzle and Goat Cheese
1 pint raspberries (fresh or frozen)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 small pinch of sea salt
1 T. raw honey (or to taste)
a few oz. of goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 425. Toast the bread slices on a baking sheet until very warm and slightly crisp on the outside.

Meanwhile, make the toppings. For the mushrooms, melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, stir to coat in the butter, and cook until they start to release liquid, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and salt. Saute for another minute or so to evaporate the liquid. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle on the truffle oil. Using a vegetable peeler, shave some pieces of cheese off the hunk and add to the mushrooms, or serve on the side.

For the raspberry topping, heat the raspberries in a skillet over medium heat until they break down, 10 minutes for fresh, less for frozen. When they have lost all shape, remove from heat and stir in the lemon, salt and honey. Serve with the goat cheese, preferably room temperature.

Roasted Tofu & Veggies – A One-Pan Meal

I apologize for not getting this out to you in time for Cinco de Mayo. With it’s fresh mexican flavors of lime, chili and cilantro, this dish would have been the perfect easy meal for those of you on your 3rd margarita by supper time. The whole thing roasts on one baking sheet, making for easy prep and clean up. I wish this brilliant idea was my own, but I first read about it on The First Mess. She roasts kale with the tofu, uses a different flavor profile all together, and credits Bryant Terry for her recipe. No matter where it came from, I love the idea, so plan on seeing plenty of riffs on it in the future.

The only thing you really need to pay attention to here is the timing. I suggest waiting until you see a decent amount of browning on the tofu before you even think about adding the vegetables to the pan. Otherwise, the mushrooms and asparagus will be done too soon. The mushrooms take up quite a bit of space to begin with, but will shrink down before it’s time to add the asparagus. I chopped the asparagus into smaller lengths, mostly because they are easier for me to eat and fit on the baking sheet. They would probably look better if you left them whole, so go ahead  if you are so inclined. And if you need to feed a family with this, you can use two baking sheets when you double it, which will make timing a bit easier. Or you could just make the same amount and serve it with rice, polenta, or some other grain.

I don’t want you to think me snooty when you read the need for organic limes here. See, the strongest lime flavor and fragrance comes not from the juice of the lime, but from the zest, or the outermost part of the fruit. This is the case for all citrus fruits. So, while the inside of a conventional lime (or lemon, orange, etc.) isn’t exposed to a whole lot of pesticides, the zest sure is. And on top of that, conventional citrus is waxed. Again, not a big deal if your only eating the inside, but if you are using the peel, as in this recipe, I suggest going organic. Of course you all know there are other reasons to buy organic and local produce, but from the personal safely perspective it’s extra important for certain things. For more info on this, check out The Dirty Dozen, 12 fruits and veggies with the most exposure to pesticides.

I can see this going in a million different directions. Pretty much any veggie that can be roasted would work. Try broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, sweet potato. Swap lemon juice for the lime, or brown rice vinegar. Add sunflower or sesame seeds to give it an Asian flair, pine nuts for Italian-ness. And for vegans, swap out the  creme fraiche for avocado. If you come up with any inspired ideas, please share!

Roasted Tofu & Veggies

2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. chili flakes
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 organic lime, zested and juiced
1/4 c. avocado oil (or other oil)
8 oz. firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
8 oz. shiitake (or crimini or portabella) mushrooms
1 bunch asparagus
2 T. pumpkin seeds
1/2 cilantro, roughly chopped
a dollop of creme fraiche, or grating of jack, or white cheddar, or some diced avocado, or…

Preheat oven to 400.

Combine garlic and salt in a mortar and pestle and pound into a paste. Alternatively, sprinkle the salt over the garlic on your cutting board, and smoosh into a paste with the flat side of your chef’s knife. Add the chili flakes, cumin and zest, and pound or smoosh some more. Mix in the juice and oil.

Place cubed tofu in a bowl. Pour over about 1/3 of the lime/oil mixture and toss to coat. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the mushrooms. Leave any small ones whole, medium sized get halved, and the large ones are quartered. Basically, you’re trying for similar sized, so they cook evenly. Tip these into the same bowl you just had the tofu in, and pour another 1/3 of the lime mixture in, tossing to coat.

After about 20-25 minutes, your tofu should be starting to brown. Flip it, and add the mushrooms to the pan. They  take up a lot of space, but will condense as they cook. Give them about 10 minutes in the oven.

Now slice the asparagus, or leave it whole, whatever you choose. Toss in the remaining lime mixture, in the same bowl, and when the mushrooms are up, take the sheet out of the oven, scoot everything over and make space for the asparagus, spreading it into a single layer on the pan. Leave this in the oven for 5-10 minutes, depending on the width of your asparagus.

There are two options with the pumpkin seeds. Either make space for them on the baking sheet about 3 minutes before the whole thing is ready to come out of the oven – or roast them in a dry skillet.

When it comes out of the oven, sprinkle half of the cilantro over the pan and dump the whole thing into a serving bowl. Top with the rest of the cilantro, the pumpkin seeds and creme fraiche.

serves 2

Spring Lentil Soup

Happy May Day! It finally seems like Spring has sprung. We spent the weekend in the Catskills, with sunshine, green grass and trees, in a house built into a waterfall (no joke!). It wasn’t quite warm enough to sit on the deck overlooking the old trout pond and drink a beer while the sun set (sigh…) but we did manage a hike in the surrounding forest.  And to warm up our faces after the brisk walk; a bowl of lentil and bulgur soup, loaded with spring carrots, chard and garlic, and brightened up with a punch of lemon. Topped with some pine nuts and a dusting of cheese, this is a dish that sings out springtime. Not that bitter radish in a salad to lighten up after a cold winter kind of spring, but the warm up after a rainy afternoon (or hike through the woods).

The deck we walked out onto from the door in the kitchen. Not warm enough to dine outside on the water, but good enough to sit and sing a few tunes.

Darren loved the soup. He said it tastes like a garden. My favorite part is the garlic. You leave a bunch of cloves whole and let them cook with the lentils and bulgur. After about 20 minutes the garlic is so soft that you can smoosh it against the side of the pot, and it just melts into the soup. And one more note: try to find skinny, small carrots to ensure they will be tender in the 20 minutes it takes for the lentils to cook. And it won’t hurt to slice them very thin.

We enjoyed cooking in this homey, but still waaaay bigger than ours, kitchen.

Spring Lentil Soup

1 T. butter or olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced
4-6 thin, spring carrots, bias cut (diagonal)
1 T. herbs de provence
8 cloves of garlic
1/2 green lentils
1/2 medium bulgur
2 c. vegetable stock
1/4 c. pine nuts
1 small bunch of swiss chard, de-stemmed and chopped
the zest and juice of 1 lemon
handful of basil, torn into pieces
some freshly grated parmesan (preferably parmigiano reggiano)

Melt butter in a large pot over medium low heat. Add the onions and cook until translucent, 7-8 minutes. Stir in the carrots and herbs de provence and cook for another few minutes. While it’s cooking, crush the garlic cloves with the side of your knife and peel, but leave them whole. Throw the garlic into the pot, along with the lentils and bulgur, and stir until all is coated with the butter and herbs. Pour in the stock and 3 cups of water, bring to a boil. Turn to low, cover and simmer until lentils are about tender, 20 minutes.

While the soup cooks, toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat until brown and fragrant. Keep a close eye on them, they go from raw to burned in no time.

After 20 minutes, add the chard to the soup and cook for another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the zest and juice.

Serve topped with the pine nuts, basil and cheese.

serves 4