Thursday, July 26, 2012

Easy Rice and Beans

Rice and beans. Dispelling the myth that fast food, healthy food, and delicious food are non-overlapping categories, one bowl at a time.

Serve this over brown rice, and make extra—it's even better reheated the next day (just hold off on slicing the avocado until you're ready to eat).

2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can black beans, halfway drained
1 can navy beans, mostly drained
Pinch salt
A spoonful of Aleppo pepper (optional)
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped (about 1 tbsp)
2 avocados, quartered and sliced just before serving

Heat the olive oil in a wide saute pan or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until it softens. Stir in the garlic, turn the heat down to medium-low, and saute for 2 minutes more.

Add the beans, salt, and Aleppo pepper and stir to combine. Cover, bring to a simmer, and cook for 5-10 minutes (depending on how long until your rice is ready). Add the cilantro, stir, and turn off the heat. Replace the cover and let sit for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Serve over rice and top with avocado.

Serves 4.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Tomatoes

English, I'm afraid, is not something that happens after you eat this salad.

Foodie coma of happiness, yes. Just not the writing thing. Please excuse. Make this. Tastebud zingy whatnot blissful mm. You'll see.

1 lb small globe or cherry tomatoes, cut in half crosswise
Kosher salt
1 cup red and/or white quinoa, soaked for 10-20 minutes in cold water and drained well
4 oz baby arugula 
Handful purslane (optional—a good use for it if you've planted some to have on hand)
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar, simmered until volume is reduced by half
Freshly ground black pepper
10-20 fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

For cherry tomatoes: Preheat oven to 300°. Toss tomatoes gently in a bowl with a little olive oil and a pinch or two of salt. Pour onto a nonstick baking sheet, spread into a single layer, and turn face up. Roast for 30-35 minutes.

For small globe tomatoes:  Preheat oven to 325°. Turn tomatoes face up on a nonstick baking sheet, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Roast for 30 minutes, then sprinkle with salt and turn the oven down to 300°. Cook for another 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the quinoa with a little less than 1 1/4 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 15 minutes. If there is a little extra liquid at the bottom at the end, simply uncover the pan, turn the heat up to medium, and simmer for another minute or two until liquid evaporates. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.

Drizzle the greens lightly with olive oil, toss, and sprinkle with a pinch or two of salt. Add the quinoa and toss gently (the heat of the quinoa will wilt the greens very slightly). Serve onto plates. Top with roasted tomatoes (warm or room temperature), drizzle with balsamic reduction, and sprinkle with basil and black pepper.


Serves 2-4. Pair with a small plate of crackers and good cheese and a glass of your favorite wine for an absolutely mouthwatering picnic. And note that while the tomatoes take awhile to roast, this is a surprisingly easy meal to assemble.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Baby Arugula Salad with Grilled Peaches and Strawberries

If you're making this pizza, this salad almost makes itself. If you're not making a grilled peach pizza, you need to (a) think carefully and deeply about why you would deny yourself such indescribable happiness and (b) decide to make one after all. But let's say your flour has been abducted by muffin-obsessed aliens and it's a national holiday and your neighbors have locked their doors and shuttered their windows in a selfish strategy to hoard all their own flour for their own grilled pizzas and they've removed the ladder that used to go up to your Plan B secret entrance on their second floor so you really, really, really can't make any pizza. None at all.

In that case, you are allowed to make this salad without its grilled pizza accompaniment. Note that you can use just peaches or just strawberries or both, depending on what the aliens have left you. And sorry about the aliens. And the paranoid flour-hoarding neighbors. Especially if I'm one of them.

2-3 handfuls baby arugula
Olive oil
1 handful of strawberries, halved lengthwise and sliced
Half a peach, or two halves, grilled and sliced
A couple slices of prosciutto, torn or cut into pieces or strips (optional)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pinches chopped fresh rosemary, or more to taste
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar, simmered until volume reduces by half

Toss the arugula in enough olive oil to coat very lightly, sprinkle in a pinch of rosemary, then arrange on salad plates. Top with the fruit and add prosciutto here and there if desired. Sprinkle with another pinch of rosemary, a pinch of salt, and some freshly ground pepper, and drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Serves 2.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Grilled Pizza with Peaches and Prosciutto

I am, at present, approximately 37 parts ecstatic to 2 parts distraught. C'est la vie, you will say, if you are prone to saying things in French while browsing online—it's happiness and sadness, the yin and the yang, the pot and the kettle—you can't have one without the other. But I maintain that, had someone informed me earlier that you can grill pizza, the two parts distraught could have been entirely avoided.

As it is, I am left to bask happily in the warm grilled glow of warm grilled pizza, smiling dazedly in delight, planning future multitudes of grilled pizza evenings...while heroically trying to overcome the terrible knowledge of the lost opportunities of ungrilled pizzas past.

If you'd care to join me, I'll be jubilantly drowning my sorrows in a slice of grilled pizza. Did I mention? It's possibly probably the most amazing thing on earth.

Bonus: For almost no additional work, you can throw together a mouthwatering side salad using some of the leftover pizza ingredients if you set aside a bit extra. (Just grill two peaches instead of one, set aside a couple extra handfuls of baby arugula and a little extra chopped rosemary, and reduce 4 tbsp of balsamic vinegar rather than 3—then follow the recipe here).

1 tsp dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
1/4 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp stone-ground whole wheat bread flour
3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp plus one pinch salt
3 pinches chopped fresh rosemary leaves (2-3 sprigs)
2 pinches lemon zest (grated on a microplane, else very finely minced)
Coarsely-ground cornmeal
Olive oil for brushing

1 small clove garlic, pressed
4 oz grated Monterey jack cheese
A little grated parmesan
2 oz prosciutto
1 peach, halved along the seam, cut side dipped lightly in granulated sugar, and grilled
2 handfuls baby arugula, divided
Pinch chopped rosemary
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Black pepper to top (optional)

Follow the instructions in this recipe to prepare the pizza dough (or use store-bought dough if you must, but making your own is easier than you think, way healthier, and deeply delectable).

After you grill the peaches, leave your grill set on high. Let the peach halves cool for a few minutes, then slice fairly thinly.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar in a small pot over medium-low heat. Simmer until volume is reduced by half, then remove from the heat and set aside. Make sure the rest of the toppings are prepared and ready to go, so that you can top the pizza quickly (the cheese needs to melt from the heat of the grilled crust).

Sprinkle a wooden cutting board with cornmeal. Take the pizza dough out of the bowl and gently form a ball, then place on the cutting board and begin gently pressing and stretching it outward to form a flat pancake. You want to end up with a flat disc that's about 12" in diameter.

Lightly flour a rimless cookie sheet, pizza peel, or one of those flexible plastic cutting boards. Flip the disk of pizza dough onto it so the cornmeal side is facing up.

Ball up a paper towel tightly, dip it in olive oil, and use tongs to wipe it across the grill.* Slide the pizza (cornmeal side up) onto the oiled grill and close the lid. Grill for 2-3 minutes, until the crust bubbles on the top. When it starts to bubble, lift up one side of the crust to check underneath for grill marks; when the grill marks are dark brown or starting to blacken, slide back onto the cookie sheet or pizza peel or a wooden cutting board (don’t use the plastic one now that the pizza is hot).

Working quickly, flip the pizza cornmeal side down (so that the grilled side is face up). Brush lightly with olive oil and rub with the garlic. Sprinkle with cheese, then layer with prosciutto and peaches. Scatter a handful of arugula over the top, and sprinkle with a pinch of chopped rosemary.

Turn the heat down slightly and return the pizza to the grill for 3-4 minutes, covered, until the prosciutto just starts to curl and the bottom of the pizza looks toasty and brown (it will start to blacken in a few spots as well).

Remove with the pizza peel or cookie sheet, slide onto a wooden cutting board, slice with a pizza slicer, and drizzle with balsamic reduction. Scatter another handful of arugula over the top, sprinkle lightly with freshly ground black pepper, and serve hot.

Serves 2.

*This trick and most of the know-how for pizza grilling courtesy of the instructions here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summertime Salad with Yellow Squash and Purslane

Crunchy, cool, and light, with a hint of citrus—this summertime salad is chock full of heart-protecting Omega-3 fatty acids. Meanwhile, it will boost your immune system with Vitamin C, load you up with Vitamin A and Potassium, and satisfy your taste buds to boot.

Can't find purslane in your local store? Track some down at a nursery and stick it in a pot or in your garden—it's technically a weed and will thrive just about anywhere, which gives you easy access to this nutritional powerhouse all summer long.

3-4 handfuls (about 6 oz) purslane
1 small yellow squash, thinly sliced into ribbons
(use a mandoline or carrot peeler to cut thin, lengthwise slices)

3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
Pinch salt
1 to 1 1/2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

Pinch or cut the purslane into bite-size pieces, wash, and dry in a salad spinner.

Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients in a small bowl. Toss the purslane and squash slices gently with enough dressing to coat lightly, and serve.

Serves 2 as a (half your plate) side salad.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Mostly Plants in a Hurry: White Beans with Tomatoes and Cilantro

This isn't the flashiest dish, looks-wise, but they say it's what's on the inside that counts. And oh, my, its insides are delicious.

Good for when you're low on time and happen to have some tomatoes and fresh cilantro on hand. It reheats well, so consider doubling the recipe and saving some leftovers for lunches. Serve over brown, black, or white rice.

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp Aleppo pepper (or sub a small pinch of cayenne)
1 1/2 cups chopped ripe, fragrant tomatoes (or halved cherry tomatoes)
Small handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated pepper jack cheese (optional)

Sprinkle the tomatoes with a couple pinches of salt, toss, and let sit while you begin to cook (the salt draws the flavor out of the tomato and makes it taste more tomatoey—a particularly handy trick if you're using supermarket tomatoes or tomatoes that have been in the fridge).

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. When hot, add a generous glug of olive oil. Add the onion and saute, stirring occasionally, until it softens and smells sweet. Add the garlic and a pinch of salt and continue to saute, turning the heat down to medium-low and adding a little more olive oil if necessary, until the onion begins to turn golden in a few places.

Add the beans and turn the heat back up to medium. Saute, stirring from time to time, for 3-4 minutes more. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper to taste, and turn off the heat. Cover and let sit 5-15 more minutes to let the flavor blend while the rice finishes cooking.

Toss the tomatoes with the cilantro and a little drizzle of olive oil. Serve in layers: rice (sprinkled with a little cheese if desired), beans, then tomatoes on the top.

Serves 2-3.