Thursday, April 28, 2011

Plants for Breakfast: Prosciutto-Wrapped Pears

Who says whole food breakfasts can't be quick and easy?

2 ripe D'Anjou pears, wedged
(they're ripe when they yield easily to a firm press)
3-4 slices prosciutto, cut into strips

Wrap a strip of prosciutto around some or all of the pear wedges. Pop in mouth. Or, if feeling generous and patient, arrange on a plate to share.*

Serves 2-3 for breakfast, a light appetizer, or dessert.

*Sharing can also be useful if someone else is holding your morning coffee hostage until you reciprocate with edibles.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spring Salad with Beet and Black Radish

Last weekend, my culinary experiences were forcibly broadened when a black radish was foisted upon me by my very own mother.

I had, until that moment, considered my mother to be a rather mild-mannered and gentle purveyor of food-related provisions, offering the occasional overabundance of Meyer lemons or pears or sweet potatoes to take back with us to Sacramento, or a spare pair of turnips leftover from their CSA box. Such gifts were suggested casually, and could be accepted or declined with no particular emotional consequence.

Not so with the black radish (or radishes, to be precise), which were prepackaged and waiting on the dining room table when I walked in the door of my parents' house last Saturday. The radishes were offered to me with a period at the end of the sentence, rather than a question mark, that stated an incontrovertible transition of ownership rather than a query about the radishes' future abode.
I was taking them with me.

I asked (I had not fully grasped, at this point, the severity of the situation) whether this black radish was the same kind of black radish I had heard certain negative things about several weeks before (namely "usually I love our CSA box, but eughgrh, that black radish...I don't know why anyone would plant those").

It was the same black radish. More alarmingly, I became aware that this revelation in no way changed the fact that I was taking the black radishes with me, and that this fact was as immune to future argumentation as my failed attempts as a child to acquire a kitten or (as I recall, my second choice) a baby sister. My mom looked at me. I could tell she felt a touch of compassion -- after all, she too had once owned a black radish. She tried to look encouraging, in an I-hope-you-don't-suffer-too-greatly-while-eating-your-black-radish kind of way. "Anyway," she said. "You're always taking new ingredients and figuring out recipes for them on your blog. So consider this a new ingredient."

In other words, I was issued a Black Radish Challenge. Here are the results. The bite of the radish offset the sweetness of the beets, and made for a perfect springtime lunch. Thanks, mom. :)

Several big handfuls of mixed baby greens
1 medium beet, peeled and grated
1 black radish, halved, thinly sliced, then cut crosswise into matchsticks (about 1/2 cup, or sub red radishes)
6 quail eggs, boiled for just under 3 minutes, peeled, and halved (or sub 1-2 hardboiled chicken eggs)

A couple generous glugs of olive oil
1 smallish spoonful grainy mustard
2 spoonfuls sherry vinegar
1/4 tsp minced fresh rosemary
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Whisk the olive oil, mustard, and vinegar together in a large bowl to form an emulsion (it should be thick but not sludgy -- adjust the amount of olive oil as needed). Stir in the rosemary, salt, and pepper. Next, fold in the beets and toss to coat evenly, then add in the salad greens and toss until the beets are evenly distributed and the greens are lightly coated with vinaigrette. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed (there should be just a hint of rosemary, without it being overpowering).

Arrange the greens on plates, sprinkle with radish, and top with the egg and a bit of extra black pepper.

Serves 2 for a light lunch or side salad.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sauteed Turnips and Carrots

Turnips again. But so very good that they deserve their own post, even though this is similar to at least two other recipes already on here. So in case you have these ingredients on hand and need something quicker than roasting, the combination of sauteing and then steaming works beautifully, allowing the veggies to caramelize and cook through in just a few minutes.

Plus, this is the sort of dish that gets even better if you accidentally forget about it for a couple of minutes and almost burn the bottom. Which is basically my favorite sort of dish (the "of course I meant to do that" kind).

1 stalk green garlic, chopped (or sub 1 clove garlic, pressed)
3-4 yellow turnips, peeled, halved (or quartered if large) and sliced about 1/8" thick
4-5 red carrots, scrubbed and sliced
Olive oil
Freshly ground white pepper
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat a glug of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the turnip and carrot slices, and toss to coat with oil. Continue sauteing for a minute or two, then add the green garlic and stir. Cover the pan and allow to steam as it browns on the bottoms (about 2-3 minutes). Stir, cover, and repeat. The vegetables should release some juices that allow them to steam, but if and when they start to look a little dry, add a pinch or two of salt to coax some liquid out.

Add a tbsp or two of water, cover, turn heat to low, and steam until nicely browned and very tender. Toss with white pepper and parsley to taste, and serve hot.

Serves 2.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Roasted Kale with Balsamic Reduction

Warning: If you're already addicted to this recipe, this variation is not going to help, although it does allow you to preserve an illusion of variety in your cooking while secretly fulfilling your deep-seated roasted kale obsession.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then clearly you haven't had roasted kale before.

This also works well with baby kale, which you might come across at a farmers' market or in your CSA box -- simply adjust the cooking times down a little bit if the leaves are very small.

1 bunch Red Russian or German flat kale (or any sweeter variety)
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice kale crosswise into wide strips, then rinse very thoroughly to remove any grit and dry in a salad spinner. Toss kale with olive oil and spread out on a baking sheet a couple layers deep. Roast for 6-8 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces and how many layers you have on your baking sheet, until the edges of the leaves are lightly toasted on the bottom. Turn the leaves over with tongs, and continue cooking another 3-5 minutes until edges start to crisp.

Meanwhile, heat 2-3 tbsp balsamic vinegar in a small pot over medium-low heat. Simmer gently, adjusting heat as necessary, until volume is reduced by half (and try not to breathe deeply right over the pot...evaporating vinegar is not fun to inhale).

Sprinkle the kale lightly with salt, drizzle with balsamic reduction, and serve.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roasted Squash and Fava Green Risotto with Lemon

This was kind of like having pumpkin pie and lemon bars for dinner. The Sibley Squash from our CSA box this week was particularly amazing, but I think the recipe would still be very good with a plain old butternut squash instead. After halving lengthwise and scraping out the seeds, slice the squash crosswise into 1/2" slices, then toss with a little olive oil and roast in the oven at 400 degrees, turning every 15 minutes or so, until browned and tender (about 45 minutes -- sometimes I start with the slices still pushed together in the shape of a halved squash for the first 15 minutes, to keep them from drying out too much, and then spread them out for faster cooking). Let cool for a few minutes, slice the skin off, and dice. If there's extra, you can serve the risotto over the slices.

2-3 cups diced roasted squash (heirloom or butternut)
4 cups broth (chicken and/or vegetable)
Olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 medium shallot, sliced
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 generously rounded cup Arborio rice
White cooking wine
Four big handfuls of fava greens (or sub spinach and/or baby arugula)
Large handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Zest of 1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat broth in a covered pot until it boils, then set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add a generous glug of olive oil. Add the onion and saute, stirring, until it begins to soften. Add the shallot, stir a few times, then add the garlic. Continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes until soft and fragrant.

Add the rice, and stir to coat the grains. Toast, stirring, for about 2 more minutes, then add 1-2 ladlefuls of wine. Cook, stirring, until liquid is absorbed, then begin adding broth by the ladleful, stirring until each one is absorbed before adding the next.

When you have a couple of ladlefuls of broth left and rice is just tender, stir in the squash. Add another ladleful of broth, and stir. When is has been absorbed, add the fava greens and the remaining broth. Cook, stirring, until the greens are wilted. Stir in some of the lemon zest and parsley, cook for a minute more, then turn off the heat. Add the parmesan, then salt, pepper, and additional lemon zest and parsley to taste.

Spoon into bowls, then allow to cool a minute and sprinkle with a little extra parsley before serving.

Serves 3.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Plants for Dessert: Strawberry Kumquat Salad

I can't quite get over how good kumquats are. I think last time I tried them I was under the impression that you had to peel them before eating, which meant a lot of work for a very sour bit of fruit. The skin provides a zesty sweetness to complement the sour when you pop them into your mouth whole and unpeeled...but in case you're not a fan of the burst of tartness in the midst of the sweet, here's a way to enjoy kumquats that balances out the sour with strawberries and limoncello.

Fresh, fragrant strawberries, sliced crosswise
Kumquats, thinly sliced crosswise (about 1 kumquat for every 3 strawberries)

Lightly drizzle the strawberry and kumquat slices with a bit of limoncello (about half a shot per small bowl of fruit salad) and toss to combine. Serve immediately, or let marinate in the fridge for 10-15 minutes first.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Black Beans and Rice with Cilantro and Lime

I'm not sure it's possible to go wrong with rice and beans, but this version turned out to be particularly addictive. I suspect adding some avocado on top would do delightful things, as well.

Olive oil
1 medium shallot, chopped
1 1/2 cups black forbidden rice (or sub brown and adjust water and cooking time)
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
Spoonful Aleppo pepper (or sub a hot pepper, minced)
2 cans black beans, drained just slightly (or sub home-cooked beans and some of their cooking liquid)
1-2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup grated extra sharp white cheddar
Salt & black pepper to taste
Lime wedges for garnish

Heat a glug of olive oil in a smallish pot over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute for 2-3 minutes until soft, then add the black rice and saute for a minute more. Stir in 1 3/4 cups water, bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat another glug of olive oil in a larger pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, then add the garlic, peppers, and a pinch of salt and continue to cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes more. Stir in the black beans with their cooking liquid, bring to a simmer, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer for about 10 minutes, with lid either on or off to evaporate some of the liquid, depending on how much cooking liquid is in the pot (you want just enough at the beginning so that the beans can simmer in it, and to have some left at the end without it being very soupy).

Add the cilantro, simmer another minute, then turn off the heat. Adjust cilantro, salt, and pepper to taste. (This is a dish that will do fine if you have to let it sit for a little while before serving -- in fact, it will allow the flavors to blend even more).

Serve the beans layered over the rice, sprinkled with just a little cheese and garnished with a wedge of lime.

Serves 3-4, and does well reheated the next day for lunch.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Pan-Fried Turnips

For some bizarre reason, I used to not particularly like turnips. Now I seem to be addicted. I blame this recipe, and others like it that involve browning the turnips with garlic somewhere nearby.  

2-4 turnips, peeled, halved if large, and sliced into 1/4" pieces
Olive oil
1 large clove garlic, smashed
Splash chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Balsamic vinegar (optional)

Heat a glug of olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic clove and simmer until lightly golden on both sides. Next, add the turnip slices, spreading them so they're a single layer against the pan. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then turn and again spread out. Sprinkle with a very small pinch of salt, cover, and continue to cook for 3-4 minutes, turning halfway through, until at least one side is golden brown.

Add a splash or two of chicken broth and cover the pan again. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let steam for another 4-5 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar in a small pot over medium heat until it simmers. Turn heat down and simmer gently until the volume is reduced by half, then remove from heat. Try not to take a big deep breath over the pot as you do this (i.e., turn on your exhaust fan if you have one).

When the turnips are golden and tender, sprinkle with a little more salt and some white pepper, and serve drizzled with a little balsamic reduction if desired.

Serves 2.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Orzo with Chickpeas and Broccoli

This recipe involves...are you sitting down? It involves white, processed, supermarket variety pasta. You can go ahead and kick me out of the whole food club now.

The thing is, we have these small, random pockets of processed in our cupboards still, from before our kitchen's whole food makeover. And sometimes, when you're teaching two two-hour lectures back to back and wading through hours upon hours of meetings, you just want something easy to make for dinner. Besides, there are chickpeas in this. And green stuff. So it's really quite decent, in the grand scheme of things, and totally delicious.

You could make this with whole wheat orzo, and adjust the liquid and cooking times accordingly, and feel up to 11% less skeptical about the foodiness of its contents.

Olive oil
1 medium to large shallot, quartered lengthwise and sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 scant cup orzo pasta
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 bunch broccolini or broccoli, sliced at an angle
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
Liberal sprinkling of Parmesan cheese
Lemon wedges (optional)

Heat a glug of olive oil in a pot over medium heat. When hot, add the shallot and one of the garlic cloves, and saute for a few minutes until the shallot is soft and the garlic is lightly browned. Add the orzo and stir to coat evenly. After about a minute, add the broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low and cook 9-10 minutes, or according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat a wide saute pan over medium heat. Add a generous glug of olive oil and the other clove of garlic, and simmer in the oil until both sides are golden. Add the broccoli and saute, stirring, for a couple of minutes, then add the chickpeas and saute for a moment more. Add the salt and pepper, and cover the pan, turning the heat down slightly. Steam for a couple minutes until the broccoli is just tender, then add the parsley.

When the orzo is al dente, add the broccoli mixture. Stir, add a splash more broth if needed, and cook for a minute more. Turn off the heat, stir in the cheese, and serve hot, garnished with a lemon wedge if desired.

Serves 2.