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

Perfect Guacamole

perfect-guacamole

I usually prefer to purchase my produce from the local farmer’s market. However, avocados don’t grow in these parts, and a girl can’t live without a little avocado on occasion.

So, for a treat, I made myself some guacamole for New Year’s Eve, to go alongside a few Grapefruit Margaritas. I know you may disagree with me on this, but in my humble opinion, the perfect guacamole needs just 5 ingredients: avocado, lime, cilantro, garlic and salt. No crunchy raw onions for my tongue to stumble upon, and definitely no hard, watery greenhouse tomatoes to chew on. And even though many Latin foods are spicy – my perfect guac is a cooling refreshment, to balance the rest of the meal.

Unfortunately, I can’t give you the exact ratios of all these ingredients. Avocados are different sizes, some limes are juicier than others, and salt is definitely not just salt. So, you’ll have to taste as you go. Start with the least amount of lime, garlic and salt, then taste and add – taste and add – until the flavor just explodes in your mouth.

perfect-guacamole-2

Perfect Guacamole

2 avocados
juice of 1/2 a lime (give or take)
a small handful of cilantro, finely chopped
1 small garlic clove, or part of a big one (to start out with, then taste and add more as needed)
fine grain sea salt to taste

Cut the avocados in half, take out the seed, then scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl. Pour in some lime juice and add the cilantro. Mash it a bit with a fork, leaving plenty of big chunks.

Finely mince the garlic, then sprinkle the salt on top. Using the side of your chef’s knife, mash the garlic and salt into a paste. Add the paste to the avocado mixture and stir well. Taste. If it needs a little tang, add more lime. If it needs to bite a bit more, add some garlic. And if it just tastes watery and flat, you need more salt. Keep adding and tasting until you get the perfect guacamole.

serves 2

Roasted Carrot & Wild Rice Salad

roasted-carrot-&-wild-rice-salad

An enormous bunch of carrots called out to me last weekend at the market. I had a few in salads, made carrot soup, and somehow was still swimming in them. I like carrots as much as the next girl, but I can only eat so many. It would take quite a bit to inspire me to finish off the bunch. So I brought out the big guns.

This grain salad makes carrots (or you could use squash or sweet potato) sexy. Carrots roasted in garlic, wild rice, toasty hazelnuts, briny feta, maple dressing…whoa. Lay it out room temperature in a grand holiday spread or eat it warm for lunch.

carrot-&-wild-rice

coriander

Roasted Carrot & Wild Rice Salad

1 c. wild rice
4-5 medium carrots, sliced thinly on the diagonal
2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
olive oil
fine grain sea salt
1/2 c. hazelnuts, roughly chopped
4 oz. block of feta, cubed or crumbled

1/2 tsp. coriander seeds, or 1/4 ground coriander
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp. maple syrup
1-2 T. walnut or hazelnut oil (or more olive oil)
fine grain sea salt

Preheat oven to 425.

First start the rice by placing it in a heavy bottomed pot covered with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn down to low, and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes. When most of the grains have split open, it is done. You may have to drain off the excess water, then set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the carrots, garlic, a few glugs of oil and a little salt on a baking sheet. Roast until just starting to shrink and turn golden, 25 minutes or so. Check on them every so often and flip at least once.

On a separate baking sheet, spread the hazelnuts in a single layer and slide into the oven under the carrots. These should only take 7-8 minutes to get toasty and fragrant. Then pull them out and set ‘em aside.

Next make the dressing. If you have whole coriander seeds, crush them up. Add the lemon juice and maple syrup and whisk to combine. Whisk in the oil, then salt to taste. You want the dressing to be quite strong tasting, because it will get watered down when tossed in the grains and carrots.

Combine the cooked rice, carrots and most of the nuts and cheese in a serving dish. Pour the dressing over top and toss gently to coat. Top with the rest of the hazelnuts and feta and serve.

serves 4-6

roasted-carrot-&-wild-rice-salad-2

Creamy Soft Scrambled Eggs

Do you really need a recipe for scrambled eggs? Probably not (or maybe you do – no judgement), but hear me out. With my (everybody’s) crazy schedule in December, I’ve been cooking less big recipes and more quick, on-the-fly meals. One of my favorite standbys is eggs. Scrambled is my favorite, but I don’t normally keep milk in the house, and every good scramble requires at least a splash of milk. So I improvise. And since I’ve been doing this for quite some time – I have a few tips for making my favorite, perfect scrambled egg.

First, only buy eggs with an orange (or at least bright yellow) yolk. It really makes a big difference in flavor. Also, by cooking the eggs slowly over low heat and stirring the whole time, you get a very creamy, just barely set scramble. And finally, since I never can find a splash of milk when I need it, I substitute some creme fraiche – which I always have around.

When I have the time, I like to serve these babies with some yukon golds roasted with herbs de provence. Just cut the taters into chunks, mix with olive oil, salt and a shower of herbs, spread on a baking sheet and roast on 425 until they are soft and browned, giving them a flip on occasion. If you don’t have time for that – toast works too!

Creamy Soft Scrambled Eggs

a small knob of butter
2 good quality eggs
1-2 T. creme fraiche
pinch of salt
a few grinds on the pepper grinder
some chopped herbs for garnish (optional)

Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium low. While you’re waiting, crack the eggs into a small bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and whisk. I use a fork. It’s ok if there are still big pieces of creme fraiche in there, just make sure the egg yolks are broken up.

Pour the eggs into the skillet and let them sit for about 30 seconds or a minute, until the bottom just starts to set. Using a wooden spoon, scrape along the bottom of the skillet to loosen the cooked eggs. Keep stirring and scraping the bottom until the eggs have just a tiny bit of liquid left, then turn off the heat.

Sprinkle with herbs if using, and serve with potatoes, toast, or whatever else you like for breakfast.

serves 1

p.s. – If you’re cooking for more people, just use this amount per person and mix everything together in the same bowl. You can cook it all at the same time, just be very diligent about getting everything up from the bottom of the pan as quick as you can.

 

Thanksgiving Ideas

As a kid, my Thanksgivings consisted of a long drive to and from Grandma’s house, canned green bean and cream of mushroom soup casserole, and a large, rambunctious Italian family yelling at the Cleveland Browns on TV. And two bowls of cereal. One before we left and one after we got home at the end of the day, so that I didn’t starve.

Boy, I do love being an adult, because now I can cook some delicious meals for myself, family and friends. If your Thanksgiving meal plan hasn’t yet been set in stone, here are a few more ideas from around the web.

Kale and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes - from 101 Cookbooks

Mini Apple Galettes - from Naturally Ella

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash - from Love and Lemons

Roasted Butternut and Coconut Soup - from Green Kitchen Stories

Whole Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower – from My New Roots

Garnet Pilaf – from Sprouted Kitchen

Fall Vegetable Slaw with Hot + Sweet Ginger Dressing – from The First Mess

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad – from Happyolks

Cider Punch – from Not Without Salt

Truffled Delicata and Wheatberry Salad - from Me!

What are you making for Thanksgiving?

Coconut & Cilantro Noodles

Happy Halloween! Anyone going as Hurricane Sandy for Trick-or-Treat?

Here in Brooklyn, we survived the Frankenstorm. Spent all day Monday locked up in the apartment, listening to the wind howl and the rain beat our windows. We watched from our third story window as a few cars drove past, and people walked into the bar across the street. The power stayed on, and I made soup and apple cake. It wasn’t until Tuesday morning that we realized the extent of the damage.

In our neighborhood, trees have been uprooted:

and a crosswalk signal hangs delicately from it’s pole.

But through it all, the beer hall next door stayed open.
 I realize how lucky we are, and my heart goes out to everyone who’s lives have been effected by this storm.

Now, on to the food. My mom told me (so it MUST be true) that if you try any food ten times, by the tenth time you will like it. I’ve always been a broccoli hater, so I’ve been experimenting with her theory. Every year (sometimes even twice) I buy a little broccoli and make some fancy meal with it. I’ve discovered over the years that there are two ways to make it that really taste grand. Puree it into some kind of broccoli pesto or sauce – or roast it. Really, I can devour any vegetable that has been roasted. Especially when it has been doused in a thai-scented coconut and cilantro sauce.

I used a bright yellow cauliflower in here, but of course any cauliflower, or even brussels sprouts, will do. And I bet a homemade curry paste would be just fantastic in this, but with my only current method of transportation being walking – there was no way to get to any kind of shop that stocks lemongrass, galangal or kaffir lime leaves. Next time.

Coconut & Cilantro Noodles

1 small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
1 small head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
8 oz. tempeh, cubed
2-3 T. coconut oil
sea salt
6-8 oz. soba or udon noodles
1 bunch of cilantro
juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 c. coconut milk
1 T. green curry paste
1 tsp. agave syrup/sugar/honey
toasted large flake coconut for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 425. Place the broccoli and cauliflower either in a bowl or right onto the baking sheet and drizzle with the oil and some salt. Toss to coat. Spread onto the baking sheet in a single layer. This is where a good food blogger would tell you to roast the tempeh on a separate baking sheet so you can take them our as they are ready. However, I’m kinda lazy and I threw the tempeh cubes onto the same sheet as the broccoli. It all got done at the same time, and I had one less dish to wash. So, making sure your tempeh is also coated in oil and salted, place however many baking sheets you’ve decided to use into the oven and roast for about 30 minutes, flipping once halfway. You’re looking for browning all across the board.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to boil and add the noodles. Cook for the amount of time specified on the package (mine said 4-6 minutes) then drain. Set aside.

To make the sauce, combine most of the cilantro (reserving a little for garnish) the lime juice, coconut milk, curry, sweetener and 1/4 – 1/2 a teaspoon of salt in a food processor or blender and puree until smoothish. You’ll probably still have little bits of cilantro, and that’s quite alright.

In a serving bowl combine the noodles with the contents of your roasting pans. Pour the sauce over top and toss gently to coat everything evenly. Serve topped with the extra cilantro and coconut flakes, if you’re using them.

serves 3-4

Un-stuffed Peppers

Some days are full of new experiences. But other times it’s all about nostalgia. Today’s a nostalgia day.

When I was a junior in college I decided that I REALLY wanted to pierce my belly button. So I convinced a friend to drive down to the best piercing parlor in the area. When we got there, the nice man at the front desk informed me that I didn’t have enough fat to pierce (don’t hate me, I’ve since gained the fat…) and he was afraid he might pierce an organ. So, no belly button ring for me.

And, along the nostalgia lines, this un-stuffed pepper recipe is one of the first things I started making when I became vegetarian, all those years ago. I wish I could remember the cookbook it came out of and give credit where it’s due, but alas, the actual recipe is  long gone and all that remains is the idea: slice bell peppers in half, lay them close together and pour and sprinkle lots of yummy stuff over them. Served alongside some rice or quinoa, they employ all the ingredients of stuffed peppers, but without the hassle of actually stuffing them.

So, back to those belly buttons. For those who aren’t familiar with acupuncture, it is based on a series of meridians that run along the surface of the body. One of the meridians is called the Conception Vessel, and it runs along the middle of the abdomen and chest. And yes, it is linked to, among other things,fertility (in men and women). So, if you have any concern about fertility, or any other matters below the belt, best to take out that belly button ring!

Un-stuffed Peppers

2 large bell peppers (any color, but I obviously used red)
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 T. capers, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella, or other melty cheese
1/4 c. breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat panko)
2 T. olive oil
1 c. quinoa

Preheat the oven to 350. Slice the peppers in half, take out the stems and seeds, and lay, cut side down, in a baking dish that they just fit into in a single layer. Sprinkle the garlic, capers, thyme, pepper flakes and salt evenly over the peppers, then the cheese, then the breadcrumbs. Pour the olive oil over the whole thing. Slide the dish into the oven and cook for about 30 minutes. The cheese and breadcrumbs should be browned, and the peppers soft, but still retain some structure.

While the peppers cook, combine the quinoa and 2 cups of water in a heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is soft and the water is gone.

Spread some quinoa on a plate and top with a pepper slice or two.

serves 2-3

 

Lentil & Pepper Salad

Today I walked outside and the air smelled crisp and clean. It was still warm, and the breeze felt good on my bare arms. It’s the first day that really feels like Fall. Gone are the salads of light, crisp greens and bright lemony dressings, and in it’s place stand brightly colored harvest vegetables, hearty grains and beans, and creamy dressings.

Enter this salad. Actually, I’m not sure that it can be defined that way, as pretty much everything is cooked, and it is still warm – but it includes a dressing, so I’m sticking to my guns here. Diced sweet bell peppers, which you can use raw or cooked to your liking, peppery french lentils, some toasted nuts and seeds, all tossed with an orange-y creme fraiche dressing and topped with lots of fresh basil. I’m gonna go ahead and say you can use any type of lentil you’ve got, except for red, but I just happen to adore the grassy, peppery bite of frenchie here, especially with the sweetness of the peppers and orange, and the creaminess of the dressing.

Lentil & Pepper Salad

2/3 c. french lentils, rinsed and picked over for rocks and such
1/4 c. slivered almonds
1/4 c. sunflower seeds
3 T. olive oil, divided
2 bell peppers, diced

2 T. creme fraiche
1/4 c. fresh squeezed orange juice
salt and pepper to taste
a big handful of basil, chopped

Add the lentils to a large pot and cover with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn to low, and simmer, covered, until tender but still with a little bite, about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit for 5 minutes to finish cooking. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, place the almonds and seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat, tossing every once and a while, until toasty, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in the same skillet, and add the peppers. Cook until they are the texture you like them, 3-5 minutes for a firm, crispy pepper, up to 10 minutes for a softer, sweeter pepper.

Now make the dressing. Combine the creme fraiche, orange juice, and the rest of the oil (2 T.) in a small bowl and whisk. Add salt and pepper until you’ve got a strong tasting dressing – the flavor will disperse when it’s mixed with the salad.

Combine the lentils, peppers and half the nuts/seeds in a large bowl. Pour in the dressing and toss to combine. Garnish with basil and the rest of the almonds and sunflower seeds.

serves 4

Tomato & Coconut Rice

A number of years ago, before that big economic downturn, I took a trip to Dubai. In mid August. It was hot. Really hot. Like, 40 degrees Celsius hot. I saw a lot of pretty amazing things, but the thing that sticks out in my mind the most is a restaurant. It was an “Indian-inspired” place, like nothing I’d ever heard of before, or have seen since. They didn’t have your typical Saag Dal, or Chana Masala, or whatever it is that you always order when you get Indian. Instead, the chef took inspiration from the spice blends and flavors of India, and created a menu of unique, inspired dishes. They didn’t have many vegetarian things on the menu, and I honestly don’t even remember what I got, but the idea has stuck with me.

You’d think living in the biggest foodie city in the country I’d have stumbled upon a similar place here in the states. Unfortunately I have yet to find one. But if you know of a place, please let me know.

This is the kind of dish I imagine would be on the menu at a restaurant like this, especially if I was the one who ran it. A great mix of spices, juicy summer tomatoes, and brown basmati rice. It may not be authentic Indian food, but that’s not the point. Taking fresh, local, healthy food and giving a spicy twist – IS the point.

Tomato & Coconut Rice

1 T. ghee or coconut oil
2 cinnamon sticks
6 cardamom pods
10 whole cloves
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1″ knob of ginger, minced
1 chili pepper, minced (I used a chili d’arbol, serrano or jalepeno would be fine, too)
1 tsp. tumeric
3 big juicy red beeftsteak tomatoes, diced
scant 1 tsp. sea salt
3/4 c. coconut milk
3/4 c. water
1 c. brown basmati rice
1/2 c. large flake coconut, for garnish
chopped fresh herbs for garnish (all’s I had was basil, cilantro would have been my first choice, though – remind me to plant an herb garden next spring!)

Heat ghee or oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium low heat. Add the cinnamon, cardamom and cloves, and saute 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, ginger, and chili and give it another minute or two before adding the tumeric, salt and tomatoes and all their juices you can save. Once it is well combined and the tomatoes have started to release liquid, pour in the coconut milk, water and rice. Stir, cover and bring to a boil.

Turn it down to low and let it simmer for 50-60 minutes. While you wait you can toast the coconut flakes in a dry skillet for a few minutes, and chop up your herbs. If you’re making something else to go with the rice, now’s a good time to do that, too!

When the liquid has been absorbed, the rice is done. Serve with coconut flakes and herbs sprinkled on top.

serves 4

 

Black Bean Cakes with Roasted Tomato Coulis

I can’t believe it’s been a week since I’ve been here. It feels like no time has passed, yet it’s been so long. I spent most of that time visiting my Papa on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Clean air, hot sun and quick jaunts on the boat to visit empty island beaches. And to top it all off, I was able to cook for a few guests in a big, fancy, state-of-the-art kitchen. I cooked them this dish.

The first night, a few of Dad’s friends came over for dinner. About halfway through dicing the red pepper I diced into my finger pretty good. “How bad is it?” they asked. “Uh, got it pretty good,” I replied. I took a seat – I do have a tendency to faint in situations like this – and the damage was assessed. “Looks like we’ve got to go to the Emergency Room.”

So, after an hour and some fancy tape (no stitches!) we arrived back home – still without dinner. That night we had microwave dinners. However, we tried the whole thing again the next night, and success! Well, kinda. I actually wasn’t able to form the cakes myself, since the cut has to stay clean and dry, but I had help, and they tasted good – isn’t that what counts?

We had this with some rice on the side for dinner, but you could just as easily make smaller cakes and serve them as appetizers with the coulis as a dipping sauce. And letting the mixture sit is, unfortunately, very necessary if you want cakes not crumbles. I used these cute little heirloom tomatoes I found – but any fresh tomatoes will work.

Black Bean Cakes with Roasted Tomato Coulis

1-1 1/2 lbs. of tomatoes, quartered (or halved if small)
1 yellow onion, quartered
olive oil
1 1/2 cups cooked black beans (1 15 oz. can, drained)
1 large egg
3/4 c. cornmeal, divided
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. chipotle powder
1 tsp. sea salt, divided
1 T. maple syrup, or sweetener of choice
to garnish, chopped fresh cilantro and feta, crumbled or cubed

Preheat the oven to 400. Prepare the tomatoes and onions and spread on a baking sheet. Pour on a little oil and toss to coat. Make sure the tomatoes are sitting cut side up so the juices stay inside. Pop the sheet into the oven for 30 minutes.

Mash the black beans with a fork or potato masher. Mix in the egg, 1/4 of the cornmeal, the pepper, cumin, chipotle and 1/2 tsp. salt. Let it sit for 30 minutes to soak up the egg.

A minute or two before you’re ready to start frying the cakes, heat some oil in a skillet over medium heat. The oil should cover the bottom of the skillet in a thick layer.  Spread the rest of the cornmeal on a plate.

Take about 2 tablespoons or so of the black bean mixture and roll it between your palms. Flatten in a bit, then coat in the cornmeal. Place it in the skillet and cook about 5 minutes on each side. Repeat with the rest of the mixture, I got 8 smallish cakes out of it.

While the cakes are cooking, transfer the roasted tomatoes and onions to a food processor. Add the other 1/2 tsp. of salt, maple syrup, and a little drizzle of oil, and process for a few minutes, until you get a smooth sauce.

To serve, spread some coulis on a plate, top with a few cakes. Drizzle a little more sauce on top, and garnish with the cilantro and feta.

makes 8 cakes.