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Thanksgiving 2014

29 Nov

I hope your holiday was delicious and special. My friend Natasha and I co-hosted and cooked most of the food together. Our friends brought extra sides (sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, green bean casserole), desserts (mascarpone tart with berries), and drinks (wine, beers, cider), all of which were amazing!

The menu:

Castelvetrano olives

Kale salad with apples and walnuts

Extra-buttery mashed potatoes

Mashed sweet potatoes

Kale stuffing with dates

Brussels sprouts with bacon

Green bean casserole

Spatchcocked turkey with gravy

Roasted garlic

Cranberry sauce (homemade and jellied)

Dessert:

Upside-down cranberry cake

Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Praline Topping

Peanut Butter Pie

Mascarpone tart with berry sauce

Hand-whipped cream

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Clockwise from left: stuffing a la Samin (and Charlie!), with dates instead of prunes and no sausage; spatchcocked and carved turkey from the Serious Eats recipe and video; cranberry sauce (can be made one week before TG) Continue reading

Cauliflower “Rice” Sauté: Food For the Summer-Fall Transition

25 Sep

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Making Cauliflower Pesto a few weeks ago turned me on to a whole world of cauliflower possibilities.

My post-pesto experiment? Rice! Or couscous, or whatever you want to call the small, fluffy tufts of pulsed, grated cauliflower.

The below links provided me with some background and technique on making grain-like cauliflower salads:

The Kitchn provides an easy how-to tutorial on cauliflower couscous

Food52 makes an easy spiced couscous with cumin, za’atar, and lemon

Joy the Baker turns colorful cauliflower  into a rice burrito bowl

The First Mess knows how to make a mean “rice and peas” with all of the best crunchy elements

Clearly, I wanted to be among those in the use-cauliflower-like-a-grain club. So, I picked out the biggest head of cauliflower at the farmer’s market and set to work.

An efficient person would likely use a food processor or blender to pulse the cauliflower into tiny pieces. I, on the other hand, used my box grater, justifying the mess I made all over the counter and the floor as a yearning for the old-fashioned and an excuse to exercise my arm and core muscles. To make less of a mess when grating my hand, try setting the box grater in a large bowl to catch fly-away cauliflower bits.

The cauliflower “rice” can be eaten raw, but I prefer it lightly sautéed.

Use the “rice” plain as a bed for a curry, or stir the “rice” into some seasonal vegetables and add-ins to create a full meal.

I cooked up some onion with zucchini, corn, and tomato, and mixed in the cauliflower “rice” with some chili powder, paprika, and my friend Amy’s uncle’s special Maryland spice blend (you can use something like Old Bay). Shave some Parmesan on top if you want. I took this for lunch every day this week, sometimes adding a little avocado or hummus on top to make things interesting.

Cauliflower is hot, hot, hot right now, as it should be. Jump on board.

Cauliflower “Rice” Sauté: Food For the Summer-Fall Transition

1/2 very large or 1 regular size head of cauliflower

1 tablespoon oil, olive or canola

1 small onion, chopped

1 small zucchini, chopped small

1/2 cup small tomatoes, sliced in half or quartered

1 ear corn, sliced off the cob

1 teaspoon each: chili powder, paprika, Old Bay

salt and pepper, to taste

optional: fresh grated Parmesan cheese and/or hot sauce

Wash the cauliflower and take off the stalk and leaves. Cut or tear the cauliflower into large florets. In batches, pulse the cauliflower florets until finely chopped and they look approximately the size of rice or couscous. **You can also use a box grater to grate the florets by hand. You should get about 4 cups, more or less. Set the “rice” aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini, corn, and tomatoes and sauté for another 5 minutes.

Slowly toss the cauliflower “rice” into the skillet with the spices. Continue cooking everything for another few minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed. Finish with Parmesan and/or hot sauce.

Bon Appetit’s Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad

17 Jul

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My pantry is filled with grains. Grains in various packages–bags, quart containers, boxes, tupperware, and random bulk-bin bags. Grains in various amounts–a nearly full container, half empty, one or two servings left, and a serving that requires more math to calculate liquid-to-grain ratios than I would like to think about.

In my pantry I have: amaranth (I’ve been checking this post out for how to use my amaranth. I want to try popping it), bulgur (that one is in the fridge for some reason), three different kinds of oats, about two servings-worth of farina, polenta, grits, barley, a cupful of arborio rice, couscous, short grain brown rice, jasmine rice, farro, roasted buckwheat grouts (aka kasha), a handful of egg noodles, angel hair, and spaghetti. I recently polished off the quinoa and the millet, and I am exercising serious restraint not to buy more before I finish off some of my other grain odds and ends. Those darn odds and ends. At least grains have a long shelf life.

Looks like Amanda Hesser and I are on the same wavelength, though. She recently prepared lunch for her kids by using up the “various inconvenient amounts” of grains lying around. She boiled them one at a time in the same pot and, like magic, lunch was packed and pantry space was created and only one pot was dirty.

The upshot of all of this pantry overload is that overtime I built myself a arsenal of healthy, quick (and not-so-quick) pantry grains for that perfect throw-together meal. I just need a better system for storing, organizing, and keeping track of all the grains.

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One of the many grains in my pantry is barley. I bought the barley in the winter when I made this creamy chicken soup, and it’s about time that I use it again. Let’s take barley’s “heft and chew” from winter stew to summer salad.

I enjoyed a big bowl of Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad for dinner with a little sautéed pesto zucchini and a cold cherry balsamic shrub with a squeeze of lemon juice. Hit. The. Spot.

Leftover grain salads make a great lunch the next day, too.

Barley tip: I soaked the pearled barley in water overnight to speed up the cooking time. Soaking is also thought to enhance the nutrient absorption of the grain by decreasing phytic acid. Nutrition Stripped has a handy guide on soaking and sprouting as a quick reference.

Soaking changes the color of the barley to a slightly gray-color vs. a toasty beige, but the taste is essentially the same. Check out this Serious Eats post about soaking. Up to you if you want to soak, but I recommend it, if anything to save you some time.

Don’t have barely on hand? Feel free to use brown rice, quinoa, farro, wheatberries, pasta, or really any other grain you have in your pantry!

Chickpea, Barley, and Feta Salad

adapted from Bon Appetit

makes about 4 servings

NOTE: I didn’t use all of the barley that I cooked. That was my personal preference. Using all of the barley for this recipe seemed like A LOT of barley, and I liked having more even amounts of grains, beans, and veggies in my salad. I saved some of my leftover barley in the fridge and ate it later in the week with different accoutrement. You can also eat leftover barley as a sweet or savory breakfast. 

8 oz. green beans, halved crosswise

1 cup pearled barley, soaked overnight and drained

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/4 cup pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)

1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

4 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

handful of fresh spinach, leaves torn

juice of half a lemon

optional: fresh ground pepper, pinch of salt, a few sprigs of fresh herbs (thyme, oregano…), a pinch of your favorite spices 

  • Cook green beans in a large pot of boiling water until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a sieve or a slotted spoon, transfer to a bowl of ice water.
  • Return water to a boil, add barley, and simmer until tender (refer to packaging for timing, mine only took about 10 minutes since I soaked it overnight); drain. Let cool slightly.
  • Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Cook pumpkin seeds, tossing occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes; let cool.
  • Toss green beans, barley, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas, feta, spinach, lemon juice, and optional herbs and spices in a large bowl. Enjoy!

Spring Quinoa Salad with edible flowers

25 May

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Spring has sprung in New York City, and there is so much to eat!

Yesterday was my last “composting and healthy snacks” session for seniors with mild memory loss, in conjunction with The Memory Tree Program, Teachers College, and the Morningside Gardens Co-op. Read more about our first session and our Earl Grey Spiced Fruit Compote here.

The Memory Tree is New York City’s first program devoted to people with mild memory loss, and their family and caregivers.

This was the end (for now!) of a series of “Going Greener” workshops, continuing a previous project about nutrition, cooking, and farmer’s markets. The “Going Greener” project came about as a way to learn how to keep the world healthy, focusing specifically on composting and easy snacks. 

The series comprised 5 sessions, with each session consisting of a compost component, a media workshop, and a healthy snack and drink. Each week, we gave the seniors digital cameras to use so that they could document the colorful snacks and activities. We also made little youtube videos with the photographs. Check out some of the fun videos on our channel.

My main role was to find and/or develop our recipes, purchase the ingredients, and gather the necessary kitchen tools and gadgets . In other words, I was the official “Recipe Consultant.”

These were the 5 snacks and drinks:

1. Earl Grey Spiced Fruit Compote with Lemony Water

2. Carrot and Hummus “Sushi Sandwiches” with Cucumber “Spa Water”

3. Peanut Butter Oat Snack Bites with Minted Ice Cubes and Earl Grey Ice Tea

4. Mud Pudding aka Chocolate Tofu Pudding with Strawberries and Seltzer

5. Spring Quinoa Salad with Edible Flowers, Hummus Feta Toasts with Pansies, Blueberry Frozen Yogurt Bites, and Sparkling Cider

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Edible flowers are fun to eat and beautiful to photograph, so we planted nasturtium seeds with the intention of eating them at the final session. I took a few seeds home to plant, too! If you have never tasted an edible flower, the flavor and texture are similar to a slightly peppery lettuce leaf.

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The final snack (it was more of a meal this time) was a Spring Quinoa Salad. All of the veggies were from the greenmarket: radishes (did you know radishes have about as much or more potassium as a banana?!), ramps, asparagus, and baby lettuces. We also found an assortment of edible flowers: broccoli rabe flowers, radish flowers, and arugula flowers.

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We chopped the radishes and ramps, and shaved the asparagus into ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Then we tossed everything together with the quinoa, added crumbled feta cheese, lemon zest, and lemon juice. We scooped the quinoa onto a nice bed of lettuces and delicately topped everything with nasturtium.

We also sliced into a baguette, spread the bread rounds with hummus, and sprinkled feta and edible pansies over the top. The pansies were from a plant we bought at the greenmarket.Who knew you could eat pansies?

Before every snack or meal, we all would set the table and clink our glasses together, toasting to good food and good company. Cheers! And don’t forget to compost the food scraps.

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I didn’t get a picture of our blueberry frozen yogurt bites, but they were so easy and so good. I got inspired after seeing this recipe.

Also, if you are looking for more fun, spring veggie talk, check out this episode of one of my favorite podcasts, Spilled Milk Podcast. They talk about ramps, fiddleheads, pea shoots, and nettles.

And for more spring quinoa inspiration, check out Megan’s post on Elevating Lunch.

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Spring Salad with Edible Flowers

Quinoa is full of good-for-you protein and fiber, and it cooks in just minutes. Throw in some seasonal veggies and creamy cheese, and delicately dot with fresh herbs and nasturtium for a picture perfect spring salad! 

*This recipe is very much to your own taste. Once you have your quinoa base, throw in the suggested add-ins as you like! 

serves 4

1 cup quinoa

Seasonal veggies i.e. asparagus (shaved into ribbons), ramps or spring onions, radishes, baby lettuces…

Feta or soft goat cheese (about 2 oz. or so)

Edible flowers i.e. nasturtium, pansies, or broccoli rabe flowers/arugula flowers/radish flowers

Lemon, zest and juice

  • Rinse the quinoa and drain it. Cook the quinoa in a saucepan (2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa) for about 15 minutes or until cooked and fluffy. Put aside.
  • Chop the seasonal veggies into small pieces. If using, shave asparagus with a vegetable peeler (that way you can enjoy it raw).
  • Crumble the cheese.
  • Zest the lemon.
  • In a bowl, combine the cooked and cooled quinoa, the chopped veggies, the crumbled cheese, and the lemon zest. Squeeze lemon juice over the top and toss to combine.
  • Delicately place the edible flowers on top and serve!

Ellie Krieger’s Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta

3 Feb

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Even though I enjoy cooking, life is busy and sometimes, I just want a big (healthy!) plate of food in front me me without having to work too hard for it.

I’ve talked about grain-based salads before, but I always come back to them because they are an everything-in-one meal. More on them later…

Last week, I went to a book talk for Ellie Krieger’s latest cookbook, Weeknight Wonders: Delicious, Healthy Dinners in 30 Minutes or Less. Krieger, who is very much a pragmatist, focuses on quick meals that can be prepared from chopping to eating in less than 30 minutes. During the recipe development process for the book, she even purposefully cut the onion slowly to be sure that the recipes would be within her time limit.

In the book, instead of listing “1 onion, chopped” in the ingredient list, she lists “1 onion,” and then later in the methods section, she gives directions to chop the onion. Things get prepared in the little pockets of time during the course of the recipes because that is how most people cook.

Krieger is a nutrition educator at heart, and that is what drives her personally and professionally. She sees a recipe as the perfect nutrition education tool. People want food that tastes good, and tasty food is a powerful motivator. Recipes can also bridge cultural gaps because everyone eats, and often times many cultures have similar foods prepared only slightly different (i.e. we all have some kind of taco-like dish…). Furthermore, recipes can create self-efficacy, or confidence in people when they try the recipe, they feel they can do it and they share it with friends.

It’s true! Sometimes, I am afraid to try a new recipe because it looks intimidating on the surface or I fear the new. Once I try it, though, I often like it, and then I share it with all of YOU.

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Besides being full of ideas and knowledge, Krieger is so down-to-earth and personable, and she truly loves food.

After the way she described this Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta at the book talk, I knew I had to make it right away. The warm grain delicately wilts the spinach, and the burst of sweet grapes complement the slightly melted and salty feta cheese. What a lovely, simple salad.

Bulgur is a quick-cooking whole wheat that is often the basis for a Middle Eastern tabbouleh salad. Did you know that bulgur has twice the fiber of brown rice?! We reap different benefits and flavor profiles from different grains, so keep mixing it up! But as I always say, if you want to use another grain that you have on-hand, go for it.

Note that you can buy pre-washed spinach for this recipe. I used to think that I needed to do most of the work in the kitchen from scratch (which is I nice ideal), but sometimes “healthy shortcuts” like pre-washed greens, quick-cooking whole grains, and frozen fruits and vegetables, can make the difference between preparing dinner at home versus ordering in.

Krieger says, combining grain and vegetable in this dish does double duty as a side that pairs well with simply grilled or roasted meat or poultry. Or tossed with some walnuts, this would be a great vegetarian entree.

I know what I’m eating for lunch the next few days!

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Warm Bulgur Salad with Grapes and Feta

recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Weeknight Wonders

makes 6 servings

1 cup quick-cooking or fine bulgur wheat

2 cups lightly packed baby spinach leaves

1 shallot (or 1/4 large red onion)

a few sprigs of fennel fronds or dill fronds (I used fresh fennel fronds and dried dill)

1 cup seedless red grapes

3 ounces feta cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 large lemon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook the bulgur according to the directions on the package.

While the bulgur is cooking, chop the spinach, finely dice the shallot, and chop the fennel fronds. Place them into a large bowl. Cut the grapes into quarters, and crumble the feta cheese.

When the bulgur is done, fluff it with a fork, then add it to the bowl with the spinach and herbs. Toss well until combined, then let sit until the spinach is slightly wilted and the grain is no longer steaming, about 3 minutes. Add the oil, lemon juice, and the salt and pepper and toss until well coated. Add the grapes and feta and toss to combine.