Sunday, March 31, 2013

Braised Carrots with Cumin Seed and Lemon

Cumin seeds and lemon zest combine to make these carrots anything but ordinary.
Born to go with this, but heavenly on their own as well.

Olive oil
1 bunch carrots, sliced at an angle
Cumin seeds
Pinch salt
About 1/4 cup chicken or veggie broth
Pinch or three Meyer lemon zest

Heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. When hot, add a drizzle of olive oil. Add the cumin seeds and stir once, then add the carrots and stir to coat. Let cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring once (if they brown a bit, that's great).

Add a pinch or two of salt and a slosh of broth, cover, and let steam for 2-3 minutes more or until carrots are just tender. Uncover to let any excess liquid evaporate. Turn off the heat, sprinkle with a pinch or two of lemon zest (just enough to get a hint of lemon), and serve hot.

Serves 2-3.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Plants for Dessert: Strawberries and Limoncello

I have heard, through the grapevine, that certain readers have been clamoring for more desserts. Because I am, at heart, a selfless individual, I have virtuously set aside my dinner plate and subjected myself to rigorous taste-testing of the following recipe. Results so far are promising, and yet as a scientist, I must insist on 10-20 more trials before coming to any definite conclusions.

If you need me, I'll be over there in the corner with a bowl full of strawberries.

Fresh, fragrant strawberries, sliced crosswise into thirds or quarters
2-4 fresh mint leaves per person, chiffonade
1/2 shot limoncello per person
Bar of good-quality dark chocolate, for shaving

Toss the strawberries with the limoncello and mint. Spoon into serving bowls or glasses, and shave a little dark chocolate over the top using a microplane or carrot peeler.

Serves you and anyone you've decided you really, really love that day.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Cannellini Spread with Garlic and Cilantro

Quick, easy, delightful, and tastes like springtime on a plate.

1 shallot, sliced
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Handful fresh cilantro
Dash or four of ground cumin
Dash or two of paprika
1/2 tsp Aleppo pepper (or sub 1 pinch cayenne pepper)
Crackers or toasts

Optional (but highly recommended):
2-3 handfuls baby arugula, very coarsely chopped
(or sub baby spinach, coarsely chopped)
Juice of 1/3 Meyer lemon

Heat 2-3 tbsp olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the shallot, garlic, and a pinch of salt, and turn the heat down to medium low. Saute for about 3 minutes or until the garlic softens, then remove from the heat.

Combine the cannellini beans, shallot-garlic mixture (with the oil), and cilantro in a Cuisinart and blend until smooth. Add a dash or four of ground cumin, a touch of paprika, and the Aleppo pepper, and blend again. Taste and adjust salt, cumin, paprika, and cilantro as needed (you want the cilantro taste prominent but not overpowering, and the cumin and paprika as more of a background note. If you like the balance of flavors but want to bring them out more, add a little salt).

Toss the baby arugula with a light drizzle of olive oil and Meyer lemon juice, if desired, and arrange in a ring on a plate or soup bowl. Add the spread to the middle, and serve with stone ground whole wheat crackers.

Serves 2 for a light lunch or 4-6 for appetizers.

Wine pairing: Tapiz Torront├ęs

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Moroccan Chickpea Stew

You know how sometimes people who aren't vegetarians will say to people who are vegetarians, "Oh, I couldn't imagine not eating meat...vegetarian food is so bland," and the vegetarian person will cast about for a suitable retort?

This. This is the retort.*


Make this as a meal in itself, or pair with lemon-mint couscous and carrots braised with toasted cumin seeds and lemon zest.

(Inspired by the soup here and the recipes here and here.)

Olive oil
3/4 tsp ground cumin
1 small onion, chopped
1 shallot, chopped
5 cloves garlic, pressed
Scant 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp paprika
3/4 tsp Aleppo pepper (or sub 2 pinches cayenne)
1 cup chopped canned tomatoes
2 cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or sub 3-4 cups homegrown and precooked)
2 3/4 cups chicken and/or veggie broth
Salt, to taste
2-3 handfuls chopped mild greens (like chard or spinach; or sub 3/4 cup frozen spinach)
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Heat a soup pot over medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil and allow to heat through. Add the cumin to the oil and let it sizzle for 10 seconds to toast. Stir in the onion, shallot, and another drizzle of olive oil, and saute until the onions soften slightly. Next, add the garlic and a pinch of salt and saute for a minute or two more, turning the heat down a little to keep it from browning.

Add the cinnamon, paprika, and Aleppo pepper, and then stir in the chickpeas. Saute, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes, then add the tomato and saute for a minute more. Pour in the broth, cover the pot, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and simmer gently for 40 minutes.

Adjust salt to taste. Add the greens and simmer for another couple minutes, then turn off the heat. Use an immersion blender to blend just a bit of the soup to thicken it (or ladle one quarter of the soup into a blender, blend till smooth, and return to the pot).

If you have time, let the soup sit, covered, for another 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Serve warm (not boiling hot) and garnish with cilantro.

Serves 3-4.

Pairs in a heavenly way with an Amador County F8 Tempranillo.

*Dear bacon: Don't worry, I still love you.