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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Skinny jeans and a recalibration

A couple weeks ago, I made a discovery. I'd forgotten how to eat. 

I know, it sounds silly. I am a food writer, for crying out loud. But recently, as I attempted (in vain) to pull up my "skinny" jeans, I noticed that my body didn't look like it used to. I also realized that over the past couple months, I didn't have the same energy that I once did. So I stopped to think: what changed? 

First let me say, I try not to focus on weight. I did enough of that in college, and I am happy to say that discovering vegetarianism and a love for whole, local foods helped me establish a healthier relationship with food. It used to be an enemy, and today, it is fuel for my body, a hobby, and even a way to relate to people. 

That said, when I realized the pants weren't going to make it up, it was time to think about what I was doing differently than I had been doing for the past couple years. As I sat (sans pants) and thought, I had to admit my diet, over time, had changed. I used to eat mostly vegetables, tofu/beans/fish, and whole grains. Of course, I did occasionally splurge on some good cheese or chocolate when I wanted to, but most of my diet consisted of the good stuff. It made me feel good, and it also made me look better. I realized that overtime, I have been eating more bread, refined grains, snacks, and generally unhealthy things. And cheese. Far too much cheese. 

I also used to have a "no drinking on weekdays" rule that slowly turned into a "no drinking a lot on weekdays" rule. Those two things are not the same. 

As a result, my body was no longer in balance, and it showed. I was slow, less nimble, and lets face it - squishy.

So the week before Thanksgiving, I decided to put my body and my taste buds though boot-camp and detox my system. For one week - I ate only only vegetables, fruits, nuts, and brown rice, with a little wild fish thrown in there so I didn't pass out. No caffeine, no sugar, no alcohol. Lots of herbal tea. Fruit/veggie smoothies for breakfast. As hardcore as I was willing to go. 

I am not going to lie. It was TOUGH, and there are certain things I decided were not worth the pain halfway through. For the first two days, I was exhaused, nauseous, and had a constant headache. I fell asleep at 9pm both night. After that, I did decide that giving up coffee during a week when I had a schedule that included 3:30am wake-up times and a huge project at work to launch was not wise, so I added 1/4 cup of coffee a day. Don't judge. 

After the initial hump, I felt freaking GREAT. I mean, really great. I had more energy, more enthusiasm, and my skin began to glow. After only 6 days, I dropped 3 pounds, and started to look like the strong, healthy girl I used to be. 

But flattening my belly was not the only goal of the detox. Another important goal was to recalibrate my body to eating for health, and not for comfort or convenience. I am finally back to the point where a bowl of brown rice with olive oil and lemon is completley satisying, and I am happy to be here. 

Of course, I am a food writer and enthusiast, so it won't be steamed kale and boiled potatoes all the time. I still love making new things and exploring new tastes, and I have a true appreciation for delicious cheese (see previous blog post), artisan breads, etc. But when I'm not developing a recipe for a magazine spread, or coming up with a new tasty party dish, I will revert back to the clean, simple food that keeps me in balance and nourishes my body.

Anyway, for those of you feeling the effects of Thanksgiving, and dreading the cakes an candies of Christmas, take a week to reintroduce your body to the foods close to the ground. It will leave you feeling renewed, refreshed, and basically awesome. 

I will leave you my favorite smoothie (and new preferred breakfast).

BANANA PEAR GREEN SMOOTHIE
Serves 2

2 very ripe bananas, frozen*
2 ripe pears, cut into chunks
1 ripe plum, pit removed
1/2 cup plain almond milk
1 large handful fresh spinach/swiss chard

Blend all ingredients until smooth. 

*When you end up with over-ripe bananas, peel them and freeze them individually in ziploc bags and keep them on-hand for smoothies. Alternatively, you can use two fresh ripe bananas and a couple cubes of ice. 

Goats! And my friends at Spring Mill Farm.

My latest Burg article was a feature on a local Lynchburg farm I love - Spring Mill Farm. Not only do they make delicious fresch chevre in a variety of flavors, they also make some killer goat's milk feta and even chocolate/goat cheese truffles. Anyway, read the full article here to find out just how awesome they are, and to read about cooking with goat cheese.

For now, I will leave you with one of the recipes from the article - Cremini Tartlets with Chevre. Enjoy!


























CREMINI TARTLETS WITH FRESH CHEVRE
Ingredients:
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
½ onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ pound cremini (baby portabello) mushrooms, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
¼ cup dry white wine
Spring Mill Farms Bare Naked (plain) Chèvre

Instructions:
1. Unroll puff pasty sheet on lightly floured surface. Cut in thirds, and then thirds again, until you have nine squares. Place squares on greased cookie sheet. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In a large skillet, heat butter over medium high. Sauté onions until translucent. Add garlic, mushrooms, salt and pepper. Cook until mushrooms begin to brown.

3. Add wine and herbs to mushroom mixture and cook until liquid evaporates. Remove from heat.

4. Spread about two tablespoons chèvre on each puff pastry square, leaving space around the edges. Top with the same amount of mushroom mixture.

5. Bake tartlets until the edges are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Makes 5-6 Tartlets

**This recipe was originally published in The Burg on November 15. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Garlic 2012 - I came, I cooked, I conquered (ok I got second place)

What a weekend! This morning, I am slowly recovering from the 22nd annual Virginia Wine and Garlic Festival at Rebec Vineyards. One of our favorite events of the season, this year did not disappoint. We worked, we participated, we partook, and now we are pooped.

This year, I covered the festival for the burg, and decided to focus on the Garlic Cook-Off. As you will read in the article, I also decided to enter the contest, and I am happy to say that I took second place! More importantly, the contest was a blast. My fellow contestants were friendly, Gary Jaketic was a perfect host, and the supportive crowd made it all a real event. Read the article and get my recipe for Leek, Potato, and Garlic Soup here.



Big thanks to all who came out to cheer me on. I am already coming up with some ideas for next year. 1st place in 2013 or bust!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Livin' in LynchVegas

I have lived in a lot of places - ten states to be exact.  I have resided in the Midwest, in the South, up North, at the beach, in the mountains, and on the plains. I have liked some more than others, but what I learned from moving around so much is that a city is what you make of it.

My new home, Lynchburg, may not be the most exciting city in the US, but it does have some great stuff going on. Just this weekend, my husband and I had dinner outside downtown, saw Paula Poundstone perform, met new and interesting people at our favorite bar, found lots of local goods at the farmers market, and went to a garage festival featuring local art/food/music - all within a walkable distance. My husband also climbed a waterfall, but he was on his own there. Next weekend we will hit a two day garlic and wine festival and see a musical cabaret. All in a city that some say is "boring."

I have always found that if you make an effort to investigate, you can discover new and exciting things to do and places to visit in your own community.

So when I came across the website www.lynchvegas.com, I was stoked.The guys at LynchVegas created the site to help spread the word about all great local businesses and events here, and they do it simply as a service to the community.

In an effort to support what they do, I have become a contributor to their site. Check out my articles below, and if have not yet discovered LynchVegas, make sure to poke around on the site. You many discover something new about your own city.

Hot and Cold Cafe 

 

Lynchburg Grows


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Quick Recipe: Basil Tarragon Dressing

As summer comes to an end, I find myself snatching up all the late summer produce I can find. It's like there is a little voice inside me that screams "Quick! Grab that because it might not be here next week! Ooooooo, tomatoes! You must buy them all and eat them every day because you won't get them in January."

So here is a late summer recipe for you. This bright, creamy dressing can be used on summer salads, but my favorite way to eat it is in a tomato sandwich on multigrain bread.

This can be made vegan by simply using vegan mayo. Enjoy!


BASIL TARRAGON DRESSING
Ingredients
3/4 cups mayo
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh basil (packed)
1/4 cup fresh tarragon
1/4 cup fresh flat-leafed parsley
5 green onions
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
Blend all ingredients in blender until smooth. Refrigerate for at least an hour. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Autumn Inspiration

It's fall! It's fall!!! Ok maybe not officially, but I feel it. There is a nip in the air in the morning, and a cool breeze all day. I am always amazed at what the change in seasons can do to me. I feel more awake, more alive, and more excited about everything. You feel it too, right?

This new weather also awakens in me an excitement about the new fruits and vegetables that come with it.

Although I plan to take advantage of the last of the summer produce, I've been spending some time this week on some of my favorite food blogs and websites, gathering inspiration and ideas. My good friends at Peas in a Blog had the same idea this week, so I thought I would take a cue from them and share with you some of the food photos and recipes that have sparked my interest this week. I look forward to trying them all and taking a little from each to create new and fun recipes of my own!

Enjoy!

Brussels Sprout Salad with Sour Cherries, Hazelnuts and Manchego Cheese

 

Honey-Whiskey Carrots

 

Lentil & Pepper Salad

 

Southwest Stuffed Acorn Squash with Goat Cheese 

 

Curried Coconut Pumpkin Soup w/ Chicken and Jasmine Rice

 

 Roasted Summer Squash Tart

 

Orange & Cardamom Spiced / Honey'd Fig / Olive Oil Tea Cake

Monday, September 10, 2012

Burg Article - Sans Soucy Shrimp & Wine Festival

Sometimes, my job as a food writer is SO HARD. Sweet shrimp, local wine, and outdoor entertainment. It's just exhausting.

My latest Burg article featured the Sans Soucy Shrimp and Wine Festival in Brookneal, VA. It's too late to visit the festival this year, but the article features some tips on cooking with shrimp along with three delicious shrimp recipes.

Big thanks to Paul and Cameron Anctil for their innovative recipes and beautiful photography on this one!

So I leave you with my favorite shrimp recipe. Savory, decadent, and comforting.

SPICY SHIMP & COLLARD GREENS OVER POLENTA
Ingredients 
1 cup polenta
3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 bay leaf
4 cups shredded fresh collard greens or spinach
1/4 cup olive oil
1 pound medium/large wild shrimp, peeled and deveined
4-5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 cayenne or jalapeño peppers, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons butter
handful chopped fresh flat-leafed parsley
3 ounces goat cheese
sea salt & pepper

Instructions
1. In a saucepan, bring broth to boil. Slowly whisk in polenta (whisking prevents clumping), add bay leaf and a couple pinches of salt. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. In another saucepan, bring 1qt water to boil and salt heavily. Boil greens for 5-7 minutes, or until just tender. Drain.

3. While polenta and greens are cooking, heat olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add garlic and peppers, sauté for 2-3 minutes. When the garlic begins to brown, add wine and tomato paste, whisk and cook for another 3-5 minutes.

4. Add shrimp, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2-4 minutes on each side, until just cooked through

5. Add lemon juice, 1 tablespoon butter, and parsley, and remove from heat.

6. Whisk goat cheese and 1 tablespoon butter into polenta, taste for seasoning, and add salt if necessary. In a shallow bowl, spoon polenta in the bottom, Place a mound of greens on top, and, then pour shrimp and pan sauce over top.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Little. Baby. Tomatoes.

As stated in my previous blog post, my new proximity to the local farmer's market has been both awesome and problematic. I simply cannot pass up beautiful summer produce, and this is especially true when it comes to tomatoes. I have written before about my undying devotion to the summer tomato, and now that the only thing between me and a ripe 'mater is a short walk, I find myself with an excessive abundance of colorful tomatoes.



Now, not just any tomato will stop me in my tracks. Plain ole' beefsteaks or romas don't do a whole lot for me. I am sure it is possible to grow a delicious roma tomato, but I can't shake the many experiences I have had trying to make my grocery store-bought tomato taste like something. Anything. So when it comes to picking them out locally, I stick to one rule: the more colorful (and in some cases, ugly) the better.



But today's recipe makes use of the most beautiful varieties I have found lately - tiny, adorable, perfect little globes in all shades. Growers have been bringing red/green, purple, bright orange, yellow and green striped. They have delightful names like chocolate cherry, orange blossom, and banana gold, and they also happen to be intensely sweet. They pop in your mouth and taste like a burst of summer. How can I pass them by?



I have been bringing these beautiful little treats home by the bagful, and figuring out the best way to enjoy them (other than eating them right from said bag). Because they are so incredibly delicious on their own, I like to do put them in dishes that allow their flavor to shine.



I have also been coming home with a lot of bread from Lorraine's, so my go-to dish these days is Panzanella - Tuscan bread salad. I cannot get enough of this dish. I have made it 4 times in the last week, and yet my mouth waters just thinking about making it again. The juxtaposition of the super sweet tomatoes with the salty olives, rich olive oil, and acid from the vinegar is a pretty amazing combo. Throw some fresh basil on that and you got a slice of summer heaven.



My recipe is not traditional, but I make it how I like it. It is usually made with larger tomatoes, but the baby heirlooms work perfectly here, preventing the soupyness you might get from lots of seeds.  I also like to toast my bread so it doesn't get soggy. The measurements are rough because this is one of those "throw some stuff in a bowl and eat it" dishes. Play with it and see what you like. Feel free to also add garlic, cucumbers, or even feta to yours. Enjoy, then make it again, and enjoy again.


BABY HEIRLOOM PANZANELLA
Ingredients
1/2 loaf rustic white or whole wheat bread, cut into bite-sizes pieces
2 pints local baby tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup green olives
1/4 red onion, sliced thin
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
sea salt
black pepper
large handful fresh basil (about 15-20 leaves), roughly chopped
small handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 400. Toss bread pieces with 1 tablespoon olive oil and toast until golden brown, about 10 minutes.

2. In large bowl, carefully combine tomatoes, olives, onion, olive oil and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Cool toasted bread and add to tomato mixture. Add basil and parsley, stirring to combine. Taste for seasoning and adjust. Throw in a splash of olive oil or vinegar if needed as bread soaks up dressing. Devour.



Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm a Burg girl now....(and why I have 5lbs of okra in my fridge)

Hello fellow foodies. Thank you visiting my blog after a long summer hiatus. It was a busy one, but I am happy to say that since my last post, I have become an official Lynchburg, VA resident. This move has been a long time coming, and I am excited by the possibilities it brings to my life, my family, and my cooking.

When Geoff (husband) and I were looking for a place to live, we decided we wanted to be close to the downtown area. We were lucky enough to find a house in a beautiful historic district just a couple blocks from downtown restaurants, bars, and most importantly, the Lynchburg Community Market.

This means, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, I am merely 3 block from local produce - which is both awesome and potentially dangerous. For the 2-3 weeks we have been in our home, I have been obsessing over the summer produce, bringing home multiple tote bags overflowing with tomatoes, basil, fresh corn, okra, parsley, dill, summer squash and zucchini. Because it is late in the season, I feel this irrational sense of urgency to scoop up everything I can before it is too late - nevermind my budget or carrying capacity. Sure, I may drop most of my grocery money in one morning, and it may take me half an hour to haul my vegetables three blocks, but summer is almost over, and I am going to soak up every last bite!

This past trip, I came across some tiny young zucchini and squash. I have cooked baby zuchhini before with the blossoms attached, and I remembered them being so sweet and tender that they needed very little else to create a delicious summer side dish. When I cooked the blossoms, I stuffed them with goat cheese and herbs, so I decided to use these baby squashed to make a deconstructed version of that dish.



This Young Zuchhini With Chevre & Basil is so simple, yet it tastes of summer in the way I want all my dinners to taste in August. Fresh. Herby. Light. Sweet. Serve with fish or meat from the grill, corn on the cob, and a tomato salad for a truly summerific spread. Enjoy.

YOUNG ZUCCHINI W/CHEVRE & BASIL
Ingredients
1lb young zucchini/squash
olive oil
sea salt
black pepper
2 oz crumbled goat cheese*
handful fresh basil

Instructions 
1. Preheat oven to broil.
2. Chiffonade the basil by stacking the leaves, rolling them tightly and then slicing thin with a sharp knife to get little ribbons.



3. Remove stems from zucchini, slice in half lengthwise (and again for larger ones). Toss in good amount of olive oil and spread onto large baking dish. Season with salt and pepper.



4. Broil for 7-10 minutes until edges are brown.
 

5. Transfer to a serving dish, top with crumbled goat cheese and basil and drizzle with additional olive oil. Devour.


*A note about goat cheese. When I say "crumbled" I do not necessarily mean that you should buy it that way. Although store-bought crumbled goat cheese exists, it is usually incredibly over-priced. Next time you shop, compare the prices between the block or roll of goat cheese and the crumbled variety by looking at the ounces. Chances are, you will pay the same amount for 8oz of solid cheese as you will 4oz of crumbled. So buy the regular kind, and crumble it with your hands. It's an expensive ingredient, so don't get tricked my packaging. Or just buy local and you won't have a problem. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Summer.

Hi friends. Just checking in with you to let you know that I will be taking a short break to move, put up a summer festival, and settle into our new home in Lynchburg, VA. I am so excited to finally be a permanent member of the community, and I can't wait to meet new growers and make new delicious food. Hopefully I will find some moments to myself during the summer to post once or twice, then I will be back in fall with a hunger for some veggies and the unexplainable need to photograph them.

Be back soon. :)


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

It's Asparagus Season - AHHHHH.

Spring is here, people! And when I say "here," I mean everywhere. In the past few weeks, I have checked out produce in Florida, North Carolina, New York, and Virginia - and I can say with certainty, Spring has sprung!

Why is this a big deal? Tank tops? NO! Spring vegetables! Asparagus! Peas! Leeks! Peppers! Avocados! Fennel! Bah!!!!! My enthusiasm is insane, but I can't help it. For the next few weeks, farmer's markets across the country are going to be filled with one delicious surprise after another. After the consistent kale and acorn squash of winter, everything will be new and exciting. So I urge you to get out there and see what your farmers have to offer.


 If you have not stopped reading this blog post due to the excessive use of exclamation points, you would enjoy my latest article about asparagus in The Burg. What a delicious writing process this was.


The article includes a few recipes from early blogging days, but what is new is my Roasted Asparagus with Poached Egg & Parmesan. I am not even sure you can call this a recipe. I did a quick Google search, and confirmed the fact that thousands of people have made this before. But I chose to share it with you on the off chance you have not encountered this miracle combination because it is SO FREAKING DELICIOUS. I can brag on it because I did not invent it, but I certainly did eat it 4-5 times this week and take a pretty picture of it. The salty, lemony flavor of the asparagus dressed in the rich creamy egg and nutty parmesan is a winner. I give it a 10.


ROASTED ASPARAGUS W/POACHED EGG & PARMESAN
Ingredients
1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
sea salt & pepper
1/2 lemon
2 eggs (preferably local)
parmigiano reggiano

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 450. On large baking sheet, toss asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast asparagus is tender but not mushy, and edges are brown. Remove and dress with lemon juice.
2. Poach eggs, keeping the yolk runny.
3. Plate asparagus, and carefully top with poached eggs. Season with a little salt and pepper. Grate some fresh parmesan on the top. Break yolk directly before eating every single bite.

Enjoy and Happy Spring!
Ashley

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Video Post - Red Bell Pepper Prep

Hi friends! Today is an exciting day. I just made my FIRST EVER video blog and am so excited to share it with you. In anticipation of a recipe I will post later this week that includes diced red bell pepper, I made this technique video showing how I cut peppers.

Big thanks to my husband, Geoffrey, for his camera work, and my dog, Tommy, for keeping quiet long enough to make this happen.

I hope you guys enjoy it. Click on the YouTube link to see the video in full screen. More to come in the future. Anything you want to see?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

St. Paddy's Day. Skip the corned beef - hit the cabbage hard.

In honor of today's holiday, I am reposting a recipe I originally developed for The Burg. Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage - how much more satisfying can you get? My version is a bit different, using Savoy cabbage that is browned for a more meaty flavor.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

COLCANNON
Ingredients:
1 ½ pounds red potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
Sea salt
½ head Savoy cabbage, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons butter
½ onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup dry white wine
½ cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon olive oil
Flat-leaf parsley to garnish (optional)

Directions:
1. Put your potatoes in large pot and cover with water. Salt heavily. As Mario Batali says, your cooking water should taste “of the sea.” Heat to boiling, and cook until potatoes are fork-tender. Drain and mash to desired texture.

2. While potatoes are boiling, heat butter over medium-high in large, high-sided skillet. Cook onions for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Add cabbage and black pepper; sauté until edges are brown and a little crispy, stirring occasionally. Add wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.

3. Add mashed potatoes, vegetable stock and olive oil to cabbage mixture. Combine thoroughly, taste for seasoning, and add salt if needed. Garnish with parsley and serve hot.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Swiss Chard Paninis, A New Book, and Why You Should Boil Stuff.

I have been reading the book Everlasting Grace: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler. Adler trained under Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. Those of you that are not familiar with Alice Waters, she sort of pioneered the whole farm-to-table movement. She did it before it was cool, and since then has been helping to promote local, sustainable cuisine with a number of different projects. Most notabley, her Edible Schoolyard project brings agrictultural education into the classroom, and I think it's fantastic.

One of her many prodigies, Adler writes about vegetables in a way I can only aspire to. In her book, she promotes simplicity and quality ingredients over all. One of her favorite ways to prepare many foods is to simply boil it to its perfect point. Boiling? I haven't boiled a vegetable since I was served mushy, tasteless broccoli in my youth. Why would I do that when I can roast? Saute? She notes that it had become a bit out of fashion to do so, but explains that when done correctly, boiling can enhance the natural flavor and texture of the vegetable yet allow it to be itself.

So while reading this book, I have started to boil all my vegetables. I have enjoyed the simplicity of this, and most of all, I have enjoyed using one pot to do a day's worth of cooking. I don't even change the water. As she suggests, I just make sure I cook the starchiest last, and in doing so, I flavor the cooking water itself.

I have found most success with this cooking method in the use of greens. I boil them in salted water for about 1 minute and then drain thoroughly to prevent overcooking. Then, I drizzle them lightly (or heavily depending on my mood) in good olive oil, salt and pepper. If I want something more naughty, I grate some Parmesan over top. Then I am done. I love this on toast as significant snack or even a light lunch. I don't have a source for local, free range eggs, but if I did, I might be tempted to poach an egg over this concoction for a complete meal.

I encourage you to do two things. First, read this book. It is beautiful, and written in a way that few cookbooks are: as a narrative. The stories, recipes, and techniques are intertwined to weave a tail of taste and texture.

Second, revisit the saucepan and dare to boil your food. You may be surprised, as I have been, what you can create.

Below is my recipe for a quick weeknight dinner: Swiss Chard Paninis. Again, I am satisfied with the greens themselves on some toast, but if you are looking for something with a little more delicious goodness, this is a great use of those lightly cooked vegetables. I have a panini press, but if you don't, just throw your sandwich in a skillet on medium and place something heavy on top of it (a cast iron skillet works) until golden brown, then flip. Enjoy!


SWISS CHARD PANINI
Serves 2

Ingredients
1 large baguette (Publix's Italian 5-grain is ideal)
3-4 oz goat cheese
1 lb Swiss Chard, boiled and drained
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
olive oil
salt & pepper

Instructions
1. Cut baguette into two equal halves. Slice each in half horizontally to create a top and bottom for your sandwich.
2. Spread the bottom half of the bread with goat cheese. On top of that, place a thick layer of boiled swiss chard, then sliced tomato. Season tomatoes liberally with salt and pepper.
3. Drizzle olive oil on the inside of the top half of the baguette and put sandwich together. Press slightly.
4. Grill in panini maker or skillet for 4-6 minutes. Serve hot.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quick Winter Salad

Looking for something light and fresh, and determined not to hit the grocery store, I threw together this mostly raw salad for lunch today. A delicious combination of local butter lettuce and broccoli stems along with shaved fennel, blanched asparagus tips dressed in a whole lot of fruity olive oil and shaved parmesan - it was just what I needed. A splash of lemon juice, salt and pepper,  and some chopped parsley made it complete. Try it when you want something super healthy yet still satisfying.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Broccoli - Give it a makeover

My new Burg article on Broccoli talks about some ways to makeover that familiar green vegetable. It also spends 3 entire paragraphs discussing roasting, because roasted broccoli is god's gift to our dinner table.

Check out my recipes for Roasted Broccoli with Garlic, Lemon & Feta as well as a great way to use those stalks - Broccoli Stems with Pecorino Romano!

Broccoli – Rethinking an old standby (originally printed in The Burg)

Broccoli is one of the most ubiquitous green vegetables on the American table. It has been there since we were kids, alongside mashed potatoes and a piece of grilled chicken. In my experience, it also tends to be one of the few vegetables that kids are willing to eat – simply because of its familiarity.

And yet, even though this veggie is an old standby, I find that sometimes we don’t use it to it’s full potential. When I was young, my mother would serve me boiled broccoli with little flavor that completely disintegrated when I put it in my mouth. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t exactly ask for seconds.

And then, when I became interested in cooking, I discovered something that made broccoli a vegetable that I now crave, as opposed to tolerate: roasting.

What’s so special about roasted broccoli? I have no idea. All I can say is that by giving the broccoli crispy brown edges, and keeping some of the firm texture of the vegetable, a whole new flavor is created. It reminds me of popcorn. And as proof of its power, I once made simple roasted broccoli for my father-in-law, a former broccoli nonbeliever, and I am told he know requests it for dinner. That is evidence enough for me.

To create your perfectly roasted broccoli, simply remove the florets from the stems, cut into somewhat equal size, toss in olive oil (about 2 tablespoons for each head), salt and pepper, and roast on 425 for 12-14 minutes. It can be eaten as-is, or tossed with any number of different ingredients for a delicious side dish. My recipe for Spicy Roasted Broccoli with Garlic, Lemon, & Feta is quick, easy, and completely satisfying.

Of course, there are many other ways to cook broccoli florets. Boiling is not the enemy to this vegetable, but what is important is to do it briefly to allow the texture and the flavor to remain intact. It can also be fried, sautéed, stir-fried, steamed, or eaten raw.

But what about the stems, do we just throw them away? Heck no! Although they may seem tough and fibrous, their insides are tender and tasty. After peeling the thick skin from the stems with a pairing knife, slice or shred the tender stalk and use it much like cabbage or zucchini. Or, you can cook the stems to make broccoli stock for the classic cheddar broccoli soup. My recipe for Broccoli Stems with Pecorino Romano is not really a recipe at all – just a way to eat the stems that allow their bright flavor to shine though.

Broccoli in all its forms goes well with a number of flavors & ingredients, including butter, almonds, pasta, cauliflowers, mustard, garlic, lemon, chiles, capers, red pepper flakes, cheese, anchovies, olive oil, rice, scallions, soy sauce, ginger, and more. It is a staple in Italian cuisine as well as many Asian foods.

Broccoli is a vegetable that certainly deserves a second look. I hope these recipes help you transform this familiar vegetable into something new and exciting for your dinner table this week.

SPICY ROASTED BROCCOLI WITH GARLIC, LEMON, & FETA
Ingredients1 Head Broccoli, stems removed and florets evenly cut
6-8 cloves garlic, thoroughly smashed and peeled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
1/2 lemon, zested
2 oz Feta cheese

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. Toss broccoli florets, garlic cloves, olive oil, red pepper flakes & sea salt in large mixing bowl. Spread out onto large baking sheet evenly.

3. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until edges are brown and crispy.

4. Meanwhile, in the same mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, & anchovy paste.

5. Once broccoli is cooked, transfer to mixing bowl and toss briefly with anchovy mixture, lemon zest and feta.

BROCCOLI STEMS WITH PECORINOIngredients
2 heads broccoli stems
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, grated
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
1. Peel fibrous layer from broccoli stems and slice into thin rounds.
2. Toss with remaining ingredients and serve.


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Vegan Super Bowl #1

It's time for the Super Bowl, an annual event that I anticipate about as much as Flag Day. I know, what kind of American am I? Well, as someone who doesn't really get into football, and with the halftime shows of the past few years turning out to be giant, multi-million dollar train wrecks, there is not much to look forward to.

But this year, I am excited. As I do with most holidays and events, I am using this as an excuse to make delicious vegan food.

I polled many of you to determine what you like to eat on Super Bowl Sunday, and the answers were as follows: wings, chili, nachos, WINGS, bean dip, buffalo dip, Mexican dip, onion dip, rotel dip, and some WINGS to wash it all down. Now, I'm not hatin' on this food. In my pre-veggie days, I took down some rotel dip like it was my job. But now, I would rather make some vegan alternatives to these, so I feel less like a linebacker at the end of the day, and more like a running back. See how I made a football analogy there?

So, what kind of vegan goodies can you make? Well the good news is, some of the classic staples are already vegan. Salsa, guac, hummus - these dips are actually some of the healthiest super bowl snacks you can throw on your table. OK yes, if you eat an entire bowl of guacamole yourself, that may not be the best thing for you. But i am talking normal human portions here.

My favorite Super Bowl food is chili. Who doesn't love it? It is super easy to make, cheap, healthy, and can feed a whole crowd. Plus, your guests can customize theirs with a bunch of yummy toppings. If chili is your plan for tomorrow, try my Spicy Vegetarian Chili.

What I did today was a little less than healthy, but I needed to respond to all the calls for WINGS WINGS WINGS. I was actually not that big of a wing fan even before I went veg, but did always love a good buffalo chicken sandwich. So today, I went for the whole wing experience in a slider. These Buffalo Tofu Sliders will satisfy that buffalo wing craving, no problem. They are also super messy, and will end up all over your face, hands, and clothes, just like wings.

What I like about sliders is that they are manageable. They are gone in 4 bites, which allows you to enjoy it without committing to an entire burger. I don't like to commit to just one thing at a party, when there is so much good food to be had.

Although it would undoubtedly be easier to use store-bought chicken nuggets as the base for this sandwich as opposed to tofu, I have this rule. If a veggie food is over $4, I don't buy it. Ok so I do buy things like nutritional yeast, and maple syrup, which are both expensive - but those are ingredients. I will not buy a $5 box of "chicken" nuggets. I also patently refuse to buy a $6 bag of Daiya cheese. Yes it tastes good. But not $6 good. The vegan sour cream I use in the creamy dressing - $3. This "rule" is obviously subjective, but it works for me and my budget.

The good news is that freezing and then thawing tofu gives it a chewy texture that makes this sandwich much more like the real thing. It is an optional step, and I know it takes some planning. But it really does make the difference between "yeah this is yummy tofu" and "holy shit what IS THIS." I am going for the latter.

I know this recipe takes a bit of work, but if you want a vegan sandwich that will blow your friends out of the water, or you just want something all for your vegan self tomorrow, make it. You will be so happy that you did.

This sandwich is also fantastic as a wrap, so through it in a tortilla if you are feeling frisky. Also, if you want to make this sandwich without going full vegan, replace the creamy dressing with your favorite blue cheese dressing. 

Enjoy!


Buffalo Tofu Sliders
Makes 6-8

Sandwich Ingredients
1 block extra firm tofu
3/4 cup mild hot sauce (like texas pete or crystal)
2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
1/2 cup corn starch
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
canola oil for frying

8 white or whole wheat dinner rolls split in half

2 carrots, shredded
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1/4 head iceburg lettuce, finely shredded

Dressing Ingredients
1/4 cup vegan sour cream
1/4 cup vegan mayo
2 scallions, finely diced
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Instructions
1. Drain tofu, squeezing out any excess water. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze overnight.
2. Remove tofu from freezer and let thaw for at least 5 hours. (this is best to do first thing in the morning).
3. In small bowl, mix dressing ingredients thoroughly. Refrigerate until use.
4. When tofu is completely thawed, squeeze out as much water as possible. Tofu should have a spongy consistency now. Cut into small cubes.
4. Add canola oil to high-sided skillet and heat over medium high. There should be enough to liberally cover the bottom.
5. In a shallow bowl, mix corn starch, garlic powder, and salt. Dredge tofu in the mixture, shake off the excess breading, then place in hot skillet. Fry until golden brown and crispy on all sides, turning with tongs occasionally.
6. Meanwhile, in small bowl, heat butter and hot sauce in microwave until hot.
7. When tofu is done, toss in hot sauce mixture. Let sit for only 1 minute. You want the tofu to soak up the sauce, but you also want to retain its crispiness.
8. On each dinner roll, place some buffalo tofu, celery, carrots, and lettuce. Top with a spoonful of creamy dressing and serve!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

KALE salad

Hello friends.

Last summer, I had this amazing grilled kale salad at Candle 79 in New York. It had beluga lentils, green beans, sunflower seeds, avocado, and a bunch of other things I don't remember. It was so very awesome, in the way that salads rarely are.

I stopped by Whole Foods in Jacksonville the other day and saw some beautiful black kale, and decided that I should try to recreate that delicious meal. Black kale, much like dinosaur or lacinato kale, is much more tender than the curly kale sold at most supermarkets. It can be eaten raw, and if cooked, needs only to be heated for 1-2 minutes for optimal texture.

When I got home, I discovered some green beans from my CSA so I figured I would use what I already had at home to do the best I could. The result is pretty damn tasty, although I will not even try to say it lives up to the Candle version. Maybe if I grilled the kale, used some lentils, and then remembered the rest of the ingredients, I would have been closer.

Regardless, this is mighty good. And vegan. Enjoy.

(oh yeah I and I forgot to measure so just go with it and see what you get)

RECIPE
Blanch a handful diced green beans in boiling water for 2 minutes. Add a handful of shredded black kale and cook for one more minutes. Drain thoroughly. Toss in large bowl with diced avocado, sunflower seeds, minced garlic, dijon mustard, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, agave or honey, salt and pepper. Serve (or eat, in my case) immediately. 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Greek Coleslaw is so 2012

Happy New Year! I hope you have all had a lovely, productive, positive start to 2012. I just recently got back to Florida and have been settling back into our home as well as my kitchen. It is always great to cook in my own kitchen after some time away. Even though it is tiny and I sometimes wonder if it was made for a child, it is still nice to get back. Actually, not having to move to reach any single tool in my kitchen does have its perks.

This week, I have been working on a new Burg article about Savoy cabbage, and ended up loving it so much that I had too many recipes to fit into the article. Although I have always been a cabbage fan (coleslaw, sauteed red cabbage, cabbage soup), I had never really worked with Savoy, which had now mad my list of top 10 winter vegetables. That might not sound like a prominent place to be, but that list includes parsnips, brussels sprouts, celery root, butternut squash - vegetables that I love with an unnatural passion. For those of you who equate cabbage to "bunny food" and "blah," I challenge you to try some Savoy.  Just saute with a little onion, salt and pepper with olive oil until brown on the edges. That is all that needs to be done to make it taste completely delicious.

The article comes our next week, but until then, I give you Greek Coleslaw. A couple years ago, my mother-in-law made something like this and I thought it was awesome. It's bright, crunchy, and keeps for up to a week which I love. It is the kind of think I made on a Sunday and keep in my fridge all year long.

The recipe below uses feta, but feel free to omit the feta to keep it vegan. You can also add a tablespoon of vegan mayo to keep the richness.

Enjoy!



Greek Coleslaw
Serves 4-6 

Ingredients
1/2 Savoy cabbage, finely shredded
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 small handful chopped fresh oregano
1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives
2 oz good feta cheese
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine or cider vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon black pepper
pinch sugar

Instructions
Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl thoroughly. Let sit in refrigerator for at least an hour. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary. Serve cold.