Farro Salad with Walnuts and Cilantro

When I walked into the kitchen to make lunch, I thought I was going in to make some penne with a cilantro and walnut pesto. But then I got lazy, and what I ended up with is actually way better than that pasta dish would’ve been. Quicker than making pasta, I just pulled out some leftover cooked farro that was hanging out in the fridge. Instead of hauling out the Cuisinart to make pesto, then cleaning the Cuisinart (those of you with small kitchens and no dishwashers feel me), I pounded the walnuts roughly with the mortar and pestle, chopped up the cilantro with a knife, and made up a simple dressing with oil and lemon. Oh, and there were also some greens that were about to go bad, so I threw those in too. Bada-bing bada-boom, there was lunch.

As you can see in the recipe below, making your own salad dressing is sooo easy, and so much healthier than store bought. I encourage you to double the amount in the recipe, and use it on your other salads. Try adding finely chopped herbs or ground spices, a drizzle of honey, or a little yogurt to customize it to your liking. And I love the fresh, grassy taste that the flax oil brings, as well as all those much needed omega-3′s. Make sure you’re buying your flax oil fresh, from the refrigerator section, and always keep it in the fridge. This is one oil that’s very delicate and can go rancid quickly. Also, you could sub another oil (walnut comes to mind) or just use more olive oil.

This salad would be great for traveling, or making ahead. Just prepare each ingredient and store them all separately until it’s eating time. You can also turn it into a full meal by adding some browned tofu or chickpeas. Goat cheese or feta would be a great substitute for the mozzarella. And for you vegans out there – just leave out the cheese, it’ll still be great. 

Farro Salad with Walnuts and Cilantro

1/2 c. raw walnuts
3 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp. sea salt (or more to taste)
2 T. olive oil
1 T. flax seed oil (or other oil) 
a few big handfuls of salad greens 
2 c. cooked farro*, room temperature
1/2 c. cilantro, chopped
1/2 c. fresh mozzarella, torn into small pieces

Toast the walnuts by spreading them evenly into a dry skillet, and heating them on medium heat until brown and fragrant. Stir or toss a few times for even browning. Transfer to a mortar and pestle and pound them into small pieces (or you could just chop them).  Set aside.

Combine lemon juice and salt in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the oils. Or you could put all the dressing ingredients into a jar (I use an old salsa jar) and shake vigorously until emulsified. Taste and add more salt if needed.

Place the salad greens in a large bowl. Pour a few tablespoons of the dressing in and toss to coat. Transfer to a serving dish. Using the same bowl, combine the farro and most of the pounded walnuts, cilantro and cheese. Add a few more tablespoons of dressing and mix well. I ended up having a little dressing left over, but use however much you like. 

Place farro mixture on top of greens, and garnish with the rest of the walnuts, cilantro and mozzarella.

serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a side

* To make 2 c. cooked farro combine 2 c. water, 1 c. dry farro and a pinch of salt in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn to low, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Drain any excess water.

Spicy Tomato & Arugula Pizza

I have this fantasy (don’t worry, it’s not dirty) of mixing together flour and water, letting it sit out on the counter, feeding it every day, watching it grow… and creating a homemade sourdough starter. I then bake up a few beautiful, warm, crusty loaves of bread every week, nourishing my family and friends, and never relying on store bought bread ever again.

Yea, I haven’t gotten there yet. My reality is more like; buy dried sourdough starter on the internet (Cultures for Health has a bunch of options), reconstitute it, then feel guilty that I don’t use it more often. I am, however, finding more uses that I originally thought, one of which is – wait for it – pizza!

Not only is sourdough amazingly delicious, it’s also better for you than any other bread out there. The enzymes created by the wild yeast “predigest” part of the bread for you, plus the fermentation lowers the carbohydrates and increases the nutrient profile. Read more about it here.

Of course, if you’re really itching for pizza right this second and don’t have a week to order, feed and activate a new starter, you can always use your favorite pizza dough recipe (there’s good ones here or here) or stop by your favorite grocer’s bakery or pizzeria and ask to buy some dough.

Spicy Tomato and Arugula Pizza

The Dough:
1 1/2 c. sourdough starter

1 1/2 T. olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1 -1 1/2 c. flour (I used half white bread flour from Cayuga Organics)
1-2 T. water or whey (if needed)

Start the dough in the morning for crust that will be ready that night. Mix starter, oil and salt in a bowl, then add 1 c. flour. Mix well. If it doesn’t come together easily, add a little water or whey. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead for a minute or two, until you have a soft, smooth ball of dough. If it’s sticky, add a little more flour, and if it’s dry, add more water/whey.

Lightly oil a bowl. Place dough in bowl and turn to coat in the oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set in a warm spot to rise.

The Pizza:
1 T. olive oil

1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you like super spicy)
1 plump garlic clove, minced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
a large handful of baby arugula, finely chopped
dough from above – or your own dough
4-6 oz. fresh mozzarella (the kind that comes in a ball), sliced

Preheat the oven, and a pizza stone or upturned baking sheet, to 450.

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. When hot add salt, red pepper, garlic and tomatoes. Stir to coat tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes have just collapsed, about 7-8 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the arugula.

While the tomatoes are cooking, get the dough ready. Lay out a piece of parchment paper and coat with flour. Coat hands and rolling pin in flour, then turn the dough out onto the parchment. Roll the dough into your desired shape. I like mine fairly thin. Top the crust with the tomato/arugula mixture and spread evenly. Lay slices of mozzarella on top.

Take stone or baking sheet out of oven (careful, it’s hot!) and transfer pizza, parchment and all, onto the stone. Bake for 20 minutes, or until very lightly browned. The thinner the crust, the less time it will take to cook.

When done, transfer pizza to cutting board (you won’t need the parchment any more) and cut into pieces.

serves 3-4, or two VERY hungry people.

Sourdough pizza dough recipe from Sourdough Home.

Whole Grains

When most people think of whole grains their mind goes to whole wheat pasta, or checking the bread label for the “whole grain” seal of approval. That is all well and good, but the whole grains I’m talking about today are the actual whole grain, before cutting, rolling or grinding into flour. Whole grains offer us a wealth of vitamins, including lots of happy B-complex vitamins, and minerals like magnesium, selenium and iron. Most of the nutrients are contained in the bran and the germ, and will stay there forever, as long as properly stored. However, as soon as we crack into that grain, the nutrient profile starts to go down. In one day, your whole wheat flour has lost 80% of it’s vitamins! Not only that, but if we’re eating foods made with white flour, the bran and germ are removed, along with the vitamins and minerals, and we’re left with only starch.

If you’re not already convinced to start working more of these little puppies into your diet, you will be. Not only will they make you happier when you eat them every day (B vitamins and complex carbohydrates increase serotonin), but the variety and deliciousness will make your taste buds happy. Pictured above are 12 grains that I found in my kitchen. And there are way more that I don’t happen to have right now, including millet, teff, freekah, red wehani rice, and more. Whole oats and popcorn are also whole grains.

If you have problems digesting grains, try soaking them overnight, or at least a few hours. Make sure to rinse and add fresh water to cook. Or you can try chewing every bite very well.

For inspiration, here are the twelve whole grains that are most popular in my kitchen.

Short Grain Brown Rice

This is the king of the whole grains. Serve it with your stir-fry. Throw a handful into your soup.  Use it anywhere you would normally use white rice. To cook, bring 2 cups of water to boil in a heavy bottomed pot. Add 1 cup rice and a pinch of sea salt. Turn the heat as low as it will go, cover and simmer for 45 minutes – DO NOT LIFT THE LID! Check it after 45 minutes, though it might need up to an hour for all the water to absorb. Let it sit, covered, for 5 minutes, to unstick from the bottom of the pot.

 

Brown Basmati Rice

I like to use basmati with curries, or anything Indian-inspired. It’s a little lighter than short grain rice, so I prefer it in the warmer months. Cook it the same way as short grain brown rice.

.

.

 

Sweet Brown Rice

Yes,  it really is sweet. It’s also quite sticky. Use it in your sushi rolls, or eat when you are feeling a little down in the dumps. Chew it well and you’ll be smiley in the morning! Again, use the same cooking method as short grain brown rice.

.

.

Quinoa

This little grain is actually a seed, pronounced keen-wa. It’s light, delicious and quick cooking. It may come with a bitter coating called saponin, so be sure to rinse. To cook, bring 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil, stir in 1 cup quinoa and a pinch of sea salt. Cover, turn as low as possible, and simmer for 20 minutes. Again, don’t life the lid until it’s done. Let it sit for 5 minutes to unstick from the pot before serving.
.

.

   .

    Red Quinoa

This is exactly the same as the regular quinoa, but red. It adds a dramatic look to everything you add to it. It’s great as a base for a grain salad, or sweetened to eat for breakfast.

.

.

Buckwheat

Another quick cooking grain, buckwheat is also known as kasha when roasted. Use two cups of water for every 1 cup of kasha, and simmer for 15-20 minutes (raw buckwheat groats may need up to 30 minutes). Taste for doneness. It will have a chewy bite, but should not be hard. You may need to drain the extra water when it is done cooking.

.
.

Pearled Barley

Barley, in it’s whole, unhulled state, takes about an hour to cook. So I keep pearled barley around instead. Some of the bran is sanded off, which reduces the cooking time quite a bit, and also makes it creamy. I like to use it in risotto. Cook the same way as traditional risotto, adding hot water or broth (up to 4 cups for 1 cup of barley) gradually, stirring constantly, until soft and chewy.

.
.

Farro

Farro also comes pearled or semi-pearled, but here I have whole farro. I love it in a grain salad, or used in a risotto. To make risotto, follow the directions under pearled barley, but know that it will take longer if you are using the whole grain. It can also be cooked like rice, but may need to be drained. Farro has a delicious chewy texture that pops in your mouth.

.
.

Wheat Berries

A few different types of wheat berries can be found at most health food stores. Red and white, hard and soft. For eating whole I prefer hard red winter wheat. It has a texture similar to farro, and cooks up the same way. I love it dressed in pesto as a side dish.

.

.

 

Amaranth

This tiny little grain is actually a seed. Try cooking it up as a porridge, 3 parts water to 1 part amaranth. Or pop it like popcorn!

.

.


Wild Rice

This dramatic black “rice” is actually a grass. It’s a little on the pricey side, so I save it for special occasions.  It’s great as a salad, or in a soup, or in anything you are using to impress people. Cook it like you would brown rice, but know that once the grains have split, it is done, even it there is still water left in the pot. Just drain and go.

.

.

Whole Grain Purple Sticky Rice

I’ve saved the best for last. This is just to show you how cool rice can be. It’s purple! I also have red jasmine rice, and have had green and even black rice before. Just keep your eyes peeled for special heirloom grains. Make sure they say whole grain, and check the package for directions.

.

.

And this is what happens when you let cats on your photo shoot!

Oats with Apricot Butter

I was 8 the first time I fainted. Totally unconscious, lips turned blue. It happened a few more times that year, for seemingly no reason. I was dragged from test to specialist to test to figure out what was wrong with me, and at the end of it all, we found out the answer was nothing. Just a little low blood pressure. In fact, I still have really low blood pressure (poor me!) and there’s nothing I can do about it. The only advice my doctors gave was to eat breakfast.

Fast forward 10 (cough) or so years, and I’m still eating a hearty breakfast every morning before I leave the house. My current incarnation is a bowl of steel cut oats, topped with a dollop of yogurt, a few toasted sliced almonds, homemade apricot butter, and a drizzle of honey (or a little bee pollen, pictured above). I know it sounds like a lot, but with a little planning, the whole thing comes together in about 3 minutes in the morning.

Now, I know some of you aren’t really breakfast people. You’re just not hungry in the morning. Or maybe you pick up a muffin on the way to work because you don’t don’t have time to cook and eat at home. And that’s really too bad, because there are a lot of advantages to eating a good breakfast, only one of which is not fainting. You see, our bodies are programmed to crave a similar amount of calories from day to day.  Yes, it might change a little if you go from a desk job to being a construction worker, but for the most part we’re all gonna eat the same, whether we eat most of our food in the mornings, or wait until later in the day.  So, it makes sense to eat a good healthy breakfast, because we’ll be able to nourish our bodies with what they need when we eat some fruit, nuts, yogurt and/or oatmeal. Eating just lunch and dinner can lead to the after dinner munchies, where we tend to eat more empty calories with chips, chocolate and ice cream. Another thing, eating more calories earlier in the day means you have more energy, and more time to burn off those calories.

As you can see, this meal has a few different components. Feel free to mix and match and switch it up to your liking. A little cream or soymilk for the yogurt, different nuts or seeds, use your favorite jam or preserves (check the label for added sugar), or use fresh in season fruit. If you’re not keen on making the oats the night before, but lack the 45 minutes in the morning, use rolled oats instead, they’ll only take about 10 minutes to cook. A note on the apricot butter: please, don’t leave out the whey. You need it for the lacto-fermentation. This fermentation, which happens when you leave it out on the counter for a few days, is the heart of the butter. It adds a great depth of flavor, probiotics that help with digestion, and it makes the nutrients more available to your body. This is one of the ways traditional people preserved the harvest before refrigeration. To make the whey, just strain your yogurt a bit – through a strainer lined with cheesecloth set on top of a bowl. It will only take 5-10 minutes to drain the 2 tablespoons you need for the recipe. You could also make labneh or homemade ricotta  and use the whey from that.

The oat recipe makes enough for me for a week, and the apricot butter makes enough for a month. If you’re feeding a crowd, go ahead and double everything. You can heat the leftover oats in a covered saucepan with a little water for a few minutes, then transfer to a bowl and add the rest of the ingredients.

Oats with Apricot Butter

2 c. dried, unsulphured apricots
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
2 T. whey 
2 T. raw honey

1 1/2 c. steel cut oats
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
3 c. water

whole fat, plain yogurt, preferably from grass-fed cows
sliced almonds, toasted
honey or bee pollen

You’ll have to start the butter a few days ahead of time. Place apricots in a saucepan, cover with water, and cook over medium heat for 5-15 minutes, or until soft. Drain and transfer to the food processor. Add 1 1/2 tsp. salt, whey and 2 T. honey and process until smooth. Scoop into a jar, close tightly, and set on the counter for 2 days. After that, it can be stored in the refrigerator.

The night before the butter is done, bring 3 c. water to boil in a large, heavy bottomed pot. Stir in salt and oats, turn off heat and cover. Let it sit overnight, and in the morning it will be done. If you’d rather do it the day of, instead of turning off the heat, turn it to low and simmer for 45 minutes.

To assemble, scoop about 1/2 c. (or however much you’re hungry for) oats into a bowl. Top with a tablespoon or two of yogurt, apricot butter and almonds. Drizzle with a little honey, or sprinkle about 1 tsp. bee pollen and serve.

(Apricot Butter recipe from Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon)

 

A New Blog

This blog will soon have lots of video. About a month ago, we had a video shoot, and are now in the process of editing this video into seven, yes seven, different videos. Each video is a short tutorial based on one category of whole foods. Some of the video titles: whole grains, hearty greens, fresh herbs. What you see here is a compilation of a few of the shots, in random order. The music is by  fantastic Brooklyn-based band Pearl and the Beard. Enjoy!

 

Potato and Tempeh Curry

Last week New York City exploded into Springtime. About a month too early. The look on everyone’s faces was “Is this for real?” No one knew if this sunny, 70 degree weather would be over in a few days, or if Spring had really come early this year. Yesterday, we all found out. The forecast was cold and rainy.  Just like New York to change it’s mind.

During the “heatwave” I picked up a ton of Spring veggies, and was wolfing down salads like it was my job. I was not prepared for the sudden cold rain that followed. My belly ached for a warm bowl of soup, yet the only thing in the fridge was baby spinach. Good thing I had a few ingredients stashed away for a rainy day. The thing I love most about this dish is that it is a one pot meal, and most of the ingredients can be stowed in the pantry. The only things I pulled from the refrigerator were the potatoes and cilantro.

For those of you who are new to tempeh, here’s the rundown. Tempeh is originally from Indonesia, and is made from crushed, fermented soybeans. Some compare it to tofu, but since it is made from the whole bean, not soymilk, it is much heartier and more flavorful. Don’t be afraid of the fermentation part. It actually makes tempeh easier to digest, and makes the nutrients more available to your body. If you can, go for the raw, unpasteurized stuff in the freezer section (here in NYC I found Barry’s Tempeh – locally made from NY state beans and grains), but if you can’t find it, the tempeh in the refrigerator section of your health food store will do the trick.

The inspiration for this dish comes from Heidi Swanson’s Tempeh Curry, and I believe she got the recipe from this cookbook. I switched out the cream for coconut milk, and adjusted the cooking times a bit to turn it into a lazy day stew. Since I wanted it to be pretty, I decided to puree the curry this time. But if you’re not feeling it, just skip that part and you’ll end up with a delicious, rustic stew.

Potato and Tempeh Curry

1 T ghee, butter or coconut oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1 tsp. curry powder
scant 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes (I like the fire-roasted ones)
1 c. water
3/4 c. coconut milk (preferably full fat)
1-1 1/2 lbs. waxy potatoes (I used 6 small yukon golds), cut into 1″ dice
8 oz. tempeh, cut into 1″ dice
a handful of chopped cilantro

Heat the ghee, butter or oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the salt, cumin, curry, red pepper and turmeric and stir to combine. When it smells amazing, tip in the tomatoes and water.  Let it come to just barely a boil, then turn it down and add the coconut milk.

If you want a smooth sauce, turn off the heat and purée with a hand blender.

Add the potatoes, bring to a boil then turn down to low. Simmer, covered for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes start to soften. Add the tempeh to the pot and cook for another 10-15 minutes until both the potatoes and tempeh are tender. Transfer to serving bowl and top with cilantro.

serves 4