September 19, 2014

Moroccan Pickled Eggplant

The field is tilled before the seed is planted, the garden is weeded before the flower blooms, 
and the self must know stillness before it can discover its true song. 
Ralph H. Blum

The last of summer eggplant are pickled for long keeping in the Moroccan tradition. Eggplants are slit, crisscross, with stems still attached, them simmered in a savory pickling liquid infused with garlic cloves and whole coriander seeds until meltingly tender.  They are put in a jar and kept in the fridge- until ready to serve.  Before serving, drizzle with a good quality olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh  cilantro leaves. A zesty condiment to most any meal, these flavorful Moroccan eggplant pickles can be thought of as a chilled eggplant "salad",  of sorts. They are especially delicious, paired with middle eastern style meals or grilled meats like chicken shawarma.  Look for smaller varieties of eggplants, in various colors, for the best visual effect. 

September 10, 2014

Italian Style Salsa Verde Chicken

I've been loving this simple pan-roasted chicken with an Italian style Salsa Verde- which, if unfamiliar is an herby green sauce made with flat-leaf parsley, olive oil, garlic, capers...and an optional anchovy. This easy, quick weeknight meal, somehow feels special, more like Sunday supper. The Italian-style Salsa Verde, is something to add to your cooking repertoire….for its bright, briny and delicious flavor tastes amazing on pretty much everything from grilled veggies, to fish to chicken or beef. I make this often and consider it one of my "secret weapons" in the kitchen, not only because it can be made in minutes, but because I usually have all the ingredients on hand, especially now with my handy-dandy Italian parsley patch in the backyard. I particularly love this chicken, alongside a vine-ripened tomato salad. To me, the chicken, the tomatoes, the sauce….all go so well together and celebrates the last few weeks of summer, when tomatoes and herbs are at their peak, just wanting to be picked and eaten. Give it a try and see what you think.

September 5, 2014

Beet Braised Lentils

        Beets and lentils are a marriage made by the gods. In this recipe for Beet Braised Lentils, the two compliment each other so generously, it becomes obvious they belong together. Beets infuse an earthy sweetness to the lentils, while giving them such a lovely color. They are added in two ways -- peeled and diced with the mirepoix, and also juiced, added to the braising liquid for an unexpected burst of beet flavor. If you don't have a juicer, remember you can always purchase fresh beet juice from a juice bar…you'll need about one cup.

       Serve the Beet Braised Lentils with oven-roasted rosemary chicken, or underneath mushroom crusted sea bass {recipe coming soon}, or simply its own - as a vegetarian main, in a bowl, topped with a little crumbled goat cheese.

This recipe was inspired by a dish we had at a restaurant in Palm Springs, called Workshop. They topped their Beet braised lentils with a warm, crispy breaded goat cheese "cake".  It was divine. The chef, Michael Beckman, adds browned butter to the finished lentils, which brought it over the top. 

September 2, 2014

Sweet Corn Soup with Charred Jalapeño, Cilantro & Queso Fresco

When you arise in the morning, think of what a privilege it is to be alive, to think, to enjoy, to love.
 Marcus Aurelius

Happy morning to you …and hope you had a fabulous holiday weekend! We catered two weddings over the weekend both up at Bozarth Mansion. It feels a little Downton Abbey-ish with its grand house and servants quarters, sprawling grounds, courtyards and endless lawn.  The lovely old white kitchen, equipped with a large farm table, is always a joy to cook in and one of my favorite places to be in the mansion. (You can see a picture of the kitchen on our instagram feed). Anyways, we did get Labor day off, thankfully, and pretty much lounged around for most of it. I made this soup and we started watching Orange is the New Black, and just like everyone said would happen, we're hooked. 

This Sweet Corn Soup starts with four ears of corn, cut right off the cob. In general, when working with fresh corn recipes, one ear of corn usually equals one cup of cut corn. The base of this soup is flavored with onion and garlic and fresh thyme ( or sage) and chicken stock. To give the soup body add a cup of cooked diced potato, rather that cream, keeping it leaner. A jalapeno is "charred" right on the stove top to add a smokey heat. Part of the soup is blended to give it a creamy velvety consistency and then the soup is topped with a little queso fresco cheese, cilantro leaves and bits of charred jalapeno for extra heat. The sweetness from the corn and caramelized onion, with the smokey heat of the charred jalapeño pair well together.

August 28, 2014

Zucchini Hummus

Even if you are on the right track, you will still get run over if you just sit there. 
Will Rogers

Good morning! Zucchini Hummus is on the menu today, with special thanks to Linda, my massage therapist who gave me this great idea. She always tells me, in her lovely South African voice, all the delicious things she's been cooking at home and by the time the session is over, I'm salivating and all I want to do is eat. Anyways, I'm head-over-heels in love with it.  Such a great way to use up all the zucchini you've been growing in your yard.

It's basically the same idea as Baba Ganoush, the smoky Middle Eastern eggplant dip-- but made with zucchini instead. Grilled or roasted, the zucchini is pureed with fresh garlic cloves, lemon juice, herbs and tahini paste. Simple and fast, it can be served warm or cold. Use it to dip soft grilled pita bread, or spread it in a wrap with grilled meat or veggies. It makes for a delicious, gluten free, low carb, vegan side.

August 25, 2014

Picante Tuna Salad

Very little grows on jagged rock. Be ground. 
Be crumbled, so wildflowers will come up where you are. 

After pillaging through our empty fridge and bare cupboards the other night,  in a moment of complete desperation, the kind where you know if you don't eat soon, you will have a total hunger tantrum, I found a lowly can of albacore tuna on the back shelf of the pantry. I don't know how long it had been there, and I don't even remember buying it, but as I said, I was desperate. After mixing it with fresh jalapeno, cilantro, capers, celery, radish,  cucumber, and a little cayenne, I was surprised at how good it was. Crisis averted! I kept asking myself, why don't I eat this more often? A few days later,  I remade it just to see if it was purely hunger that made it taste good that night, or if it actually was good? It passed the husband test with flying colors. Served over a bed of greens, stuffed in an avocado, folded into toasted pita bread, in a tortilla, or piled on an english muffin, this makes for a tasty, healthy, protein-filled, satisfying meal, in like 5 minutes flat, if you are a fast chopper.  If I were a make- my- lunch, take-it -to-work person, I would be making this a lot.

August 21, 2014

Vegan Stuffed Poblanos with Avocado-Cilantro Sauce

Around me the trees stir in their leaves 
and call out, "Stay awhile."
The light flows from their branches. 
And they call again, "It's simple," they say,
"and you too have come 
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine."
Mary Oliver --from When I am Among the Trees

OK, I'll admit, I'm on a bit of a cleanse. Every once in a while, something inspires me to clean up my act and eat cleanly for a while, giving my body a break. With all the bountiful produce so readily available this time of year, it's been so easy. This recipe for stuffed poblano peppers is vegan and gluten free, filled with uber nutritious sweet potatoes, black beans, fresh corn and cilantro - served over the best thing ever - a flavorful Avocado-Cilantro Sauce which has no other added oils or fat. The recipe can easily be modified for cheese lovers, as you will see below, like I often do for Brian -- but if you are interested in keeping it healthy and lean, the velvety creamy avocado sauce may make you forget all about the existence of cheese, or at the very least, help you use it with a light hand.