Wednesday, February 29, 2012

(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday: California Citrus

Cast of Characters
The Pomelo: A giant, yellow, grapefruit-like citrus that is all sweet and no bitter.
(Unlike a grapefruit, you don't have to convince yourself to eat it because it's
good for you—it's entirely delicious.)
Perfect for a light breakfast.

 The Kumquat: Pop into your mouth whole for a burst of sweet and sour, or slice and toss with apples and limoncello for dessert, or saute for just a minute with a pat of butter and a liberal sprinkling of sugar to serve over buttered toast for breakfast. 



The Cara Cara Orange: Rosy-hued, juicy, and sweet (not to mention completely addictive).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

French Toast with Cinnamon Apple Compote

For mornings when all you want for breakfast is a plate of dessert, extra flavor, hold the guilt.

2-4 slices fresh bakery bread, cut 1/2 to 3/4" thick (enough for two; whole grain works well)
3 pastured eggs*
1-2 oz pastured whole milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
Pastured butter
1 apple, peeled and flat-diced (or zanziputted, if you will, which I would and did)
Brown sugar
Maple syrup

Beat the eggs in a casserole dish, then stir in the milk. Sprinkle with cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg. Dunk the bread into the egg mixture, then flip and let soak for 3-5 minutes (note that whole grain bread takes longer to soak up the egg, so give it the full five minutes).

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a small pat of butter—just enough to very lightly brush over the bottom of the pan. Add the bread and cook several minutes until golden brown on the bottom, then flip. (Note that if your slices are on the thicker side, you may want to turn the heat down a bit at this point to give the bread enough time to cook all the way through.) Continue cooking until both sides are golden brown, then set aside on a heated plate to keep warm if there's another batch to cook (or use a piece of aluminum foil loosely folded in half, which tends to keep the heat in well).

Meanwhile, heat a small pan over medium heat. Add a pat of butter (about 1/2 tbsp) and let melt, then add 1-2 tsp brown sugar and stir. Simmer for about 20 seconds, then add the apples and stir to coat. Saute for a minute, sprinkle with cinnamon, then turn the heat to low and cover the pan. Let cook gently for another couple of minutes until the apples start to release their juices (I like leaving them a little crunchy, but you could cook them for longer if you prefer). Turn off the heat.

Serve the french toast topped with apple compote, with maple syrup on the side.

Serves 2.

*In addition to being lower in cholesterol and better tasting, eggs from pastured chickens also make a lovely, brilliantly yellow french toast because the yolks are so bright.

(And yes, they're more expensive than industrial or faux-healthy eggs. But that's kind of like pointing out that fresh fruit is more expensive than a fruit may be true, but if someone suggested filling up your cart with processed fruit-flavored snacks rather than strawberries to save a couple dollars on groceries, you would presumably sit them down and give them a lecture on comparing apples to plastic oranges.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Mostly Plants in a Hurry: Quinoa Salad

Let's face it. Quinoa, when eaten plain, gets a little too quinoa-y about halfway through the plate. Salad, meanwhile, just goes on and on, leaf after increasingly boring leaf. But when you put the two together...

...there's no other word for it. Magic.

1/2 cup quinoa (white and/or red), rinsed well* (or sub 1 1/2 cups leftover cooked quinoa)
2/3 cups broth
1 or 2 medium or hardboiled eggs, sliced (or sub 6 quail eggs, boiled for just under 3 minutes)
2 handfuls chopped mizuna (or sub spinach or mixed baby greens)
2 handfuls baby arugula (or sub chopped arugula)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 1/2 tsp whole grain mustard
1 1/2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little grated carrot or beet (optional)

Drain the quinoa well. Combine with the broth in a pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff and decant into a dish to cool (stick it in the fridge to cool faster, or make it a little bit ahead of just want it to be warm or room temperature rather than hot).

Meanwhile, boil the egg(s), if you're not using leftovers from some earlier egg-cooking extravaganza.

Whisk the olive oil and vinegar together in a bowl, then stir in the mustard, parsley, a couple pinches of salt, and pepper to taste. 

Pour half the dressing over the mixed greens and toss to coat evenly. Add the quinoa, drizzle the rest of the dressing over it, and toss well. (If it seems a little dry, you can add a bit more olive oil.) Arrange on plates, garnish with egg and a little grated carrot and/or beet if desired, and serve.

Serves 2 for a light lunch, or pair with fresh bread and some chickpea spread or cheese for a complete dinner.

*If you have time, soak in cold water for 15 minutes to remove any lingering saponins (they're what make quinoa bitter). Supposedly, nowadays quinoa already has the saponins mostly removed, which makes soaking unnecessary, but I still tend to do it if I have a few extra minutes -- it seems to make the quinoa a little sweeter and more tender. If you do this, you can reduce the liquid slightly to 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sesame Crusted Albacore with Asparagus and Ginger

It's 8pm. A well-intentioned husband goes hunting at the local co-op and brings back sustainably fished albacore tuna, which you are pretty sure you don't like, but have resolved not to mention aloud. You have on hand some rice, assorted condiments, a head of garlic. And asparagus, because apparently Sacramento is convinced that it's spring. Really, life could be worse. But what do you do with the tuna?

Answer: This.*

*This, it turns out, is DELICIOUS.**
**Which means I was completely wrong about not liking tuna.***
***Unless you consider the fact that no restaurant at which I had tried tuna (and I had tried it numerous times) ever did anything like this to it.****
****But then you have to wonder: Why wouldn't you do this to tuna?*****
*****Have I mentioned before my inordinate fondness for footnotes?

Black Forbidden rice, cooked with a little sauteed onion (or sub brown rice)
10-11 oz. (about .6 lbs) thick-cut, sushi-grade albacore tuna
Olive oil
1/2 bunch thin asparagus or a little more, tough ends trimmed, cut at a diagonal into 1" pieces (or sub young green beans)
1 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
Black sesame seeds
Kosher salt
Freshy ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tsp julienned fresh ginger

Take the tuna out of the fridge to temper. Sprinkle with salt, grind black pepper liberally over the top, and cover densely with sesame seeds.

Combine the soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil in a small dish. Heat a glug of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium to medium-high heat. When hot, add the asparagus and toss to coat lightly with the oil. Cook for several minutes, tossing or stirring every 2 minutes or so, until lightly browned on at least one side and al dente (a fork should insert smoothly, without it feeling either crunchy and raw or mushy and overly soft). Add the soy sauce mixture, stir immediately, and then turn the heat off as it simmers and begins to evaporate. Let simmer for another 10 seconds or so, then decant the asparagus and sauce into a bowl and set aside. Wipe the pan out lightly (and carefully) with a paper towel if there are drops of soy sauce remaining.

Add a glug of olive oil to the pan and turn the heat back on to medium. Add the smashed garlic clove and cook for a minute or so, pressing it into the pan, until it just begins to soften. Add the ginger, stir once or twice, then add the tuna. Cook for a couple minutes per side or until it browns, then flip. As the ginger begins to turn golden, you can fish it out of the pan and either put it on top of the fish or add it to the bowl of asparagus.

When the tuna is browned on the outside but still completely rare in the middle (or about two minutes away from being however cooked you want it), remove from the pan and place on a cutting board. Let sit for a minute. Meanwhile, add the asparagus to the pan to reheat for a minute, stirring, then turn the heat off.

Slice the albacore into half-inch pieces. Serve over a bed of rice (it will warm through from the heat of the rice, which is why you want to stop cooking it a bit early) and spoon the asparagus and sauce over the top. Serve immediately.

Serves 2. Pairs well with an ice cold cup of Onigoroshi sake, available at the Tokyo Fish Market in Berkeley, among other places.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mostly Plants in a Hurry: Orzotto Meets the Complete Beet

What's that you say? More beets, please? I do believe we've got you covered.

This is the perfect quick-and-easy way to use up your leftovers from this recipe, which you have either already made or must immediately swear to make tonight.

[Insert pause for beet swearing purposes. If you still think you don't like beets, you may swear at rather than about beets at this juncture, but you must also grapple with the heart-wrenching possibility that underneath your staunch and steadfast beetophobia may lurk a fellow beetophile just waiting to spring forth. It's possible. Admit it. End pause.]

This also involves both beet tops and beet bottoms, making it a Complete Beet sort of dish. The Complete Beet rhymes, and this makes me inordinately happy. So does the fact that you can whip up something that tastes this good in only 15 minutes.

About one cup leftover roasted beets
1 rounded cup whole grain orzo
1 1/4 cups chicken broth
Olive oil
1 medium to large clove garlic, sliced
1 bunch beet greens, sliced crosswise into ribbons
A handful of arugula (optional)
1 oz. soft goat cheese, crumbled
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper

Heat the broth in a covered pot over medium heat until it boils, then stir in the orzo. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 8-9 minutes or until al dente.

Meanwhile, heat a saute pan over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil, then add the garlic and saute for about a minute until it softens. Add the beet greens and stir to combine. Saute for a minute, stirring occasionally, and then cover the pan and let steam for 2-3 minutes more until wilted and tender, uncovering and stirring every minute or so. Toss in the arugula, sprinkle with salt and white pepper to taste, and stir to combine. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

Zap the beets in the microwave on high for about a minute or until just heated through.

When the orzo is done, add it to the greens and stir to combine. Crumble in about half the goat cheese. Spoon into soup plates, top with the leftover beets, and sprinkle with the rest of the crumbled goat cheese. Serve hot.

Serves 2 for an easy lunch or light dinner.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Roasted Beets and Turnips with Fresh Rosemary and Balsamic Reduction

Okay, yes, I'll admit it. I don't have anything to hide. I love beets. Love them. And no, I don't even recognize myself when I look in the mirror anymore. I'm a beet-loving shadow of my former self. But really...why look in the mirror when you could be eating roasted beets??

Here's a variation on a previous theme that incorporates turnips, if you happen to have them, and somehow tastes even more amazing.

5 medium beets, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into chunks or wedges
1-2 medium turnips (ideally golden turnips), peeled and cut into chunks
Olive oil
2 cloves garlic, slivered
1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Several handfuls arugula
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 oz. goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Toss the beets and turnips with the olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and a liberal sprinkling of salt. Pour into a nonstick baking pan (sized so that the beets are 1-2 layers thick). Roast for 25 minutes, then stir. If the beets are dry, crowd them together in the pan; if there's liquid at the bottom, spread them out more thinly. Return to the oven and roast for an additional 35-40 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

Meanwhile, reduce the balsamic vinegar by gently simmering in small pan over medium-low heat until the volume is reduced by half. Coarsely chop the arugula and arrange it as a bed on the plates.

Just before serving, zap the arugula in the microwave for 10-15 seconds until it just starts to wilt (this takes the bite off the greens and reduces the volume a bit). Sprinkle with a little olive oil and balsamic reduction. Arrange the beets over the top, drizzle with balsamic reduction, and sprinkle with freshly ground white pepper and crumbled goat cheese.

Serve hot. Works as a complete meal with a little fresh bread and some roasted kale, or serve as a side dish. Pairs well with a good zinfandel.

Serves 2-4 (depending on whether it's a main dish or side dish).