Friday, March 30, 2007

Spring Vegetable Plate

This may be my prettiest dinner yet!

Steamed organic yellow carrots, snap peas, kholrabi, and red carrots, topped with roasted Chioggia Beets. Served with butter, salt, and a side of prepared horseradish.

Interestingly, the yellow carrots were sweet like a carrot, but had the texture of a parsnip. My dear father-in-law turned me on to kholrabi. He loves it peeled and raw, but I steamed it here. I hadn't quite removed all of the stringy green peel - make sure you do! The red carrots were sweet and beets were earthy and delicious.

It doesn't get much better than this!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Greek Salad Plate

The hot, sunny weather is back and I'm thinking salads!

This Greek Salad Plate included tomato and cucumber salad with feta, hummus with those addictive Trader Joe's Pita Chips, a simple bean salad with canelli beans and capers in a light tomato sauce with feta, pepperoncini, and grilled eggplant. I'm loving the plate idea: five distinct, but complimentary items with a balance of color, texture, and (of course) nutrition. Lots of flavors and tastes, without over-eating.

I'm suddenly loving this plate idea! I recently enjoyed a restaurant dessert plate of four tiny one bite desserts and it was much more satisfying than a larger portion of a single dessert.

So, I'm thinking of hosting my first food blogger round-up and I request your feedback in the comments. Would you be interested in participating in a Food Blogger "My Personal Best Plate" round-up, in which bloggers create their personal best combination of up to 5 items which fit on a single dinner plate and reflect their own specific cooking personalities? The variations could be endless: breakfast plates, chocolate plates, raw vegan plates, green plates, chili plates, cheese plates, dessert plates, English vegetarian plates and even wine bloggers could participate with 5 best things to munch on with my favorite cabernet etc.

Let me know if you think this would be fun and I'll make it happen.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Kale, Green Garlic, & Canelli Bean Soup

This was a wonderful variation of my Dinosaur Kale & Jalapeno Soup, just in time for our weather change from hot to rainy!

I replaced the jalapenos with two mild thinly sliced green garlic stalks, sauted in olive oil. I kept it souper simple with Trader Joe's Organic Vegetable Broth, some diced baby potatoes, a bunch of torn dinosaur kale (ribs removed), protein-rich canelli beans, and shake or two of crushed red pepper.

Dark, vibrant kale, of course, is a nutritional power house of Vitamins K, A, & C. So this super soup is my contribution to Sweetnick's ARF Tuesday.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Eggplant Quesadilla with Feta, Jalapeno, & Salsa

I'm really in love with Food for Life's Sprouted Corn tortillas!

Now Spring is here, I'm into lighter fare and this quesadilla with eggplant, jalapeno, and salsa topped with feta cheese hit the spot for a tasty supper!

I sauted the salted and drained eggplant rounds in olive oil with minced garlic. I'm really opening up to eggplant and this garlicy version was so good with the salsa and feta cheese. The jalapenos added a kick, but I think olives would also have been awesome here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Asparagus Frittata

Asparagus and eggs are a fabulous couple!

This Asparagus Frittata was inspired by an auspicious, and totally unplanned, meeting with a fabulous local foodie couple...well, trio actually, with the world's cutest dog, Beansprout.

Mum and I were grabbing a quick salad lunch, sitting outside at a sunny table, when suddenly I realized that, seated at the next table, was none other than cookiecrumb, Cranky, and Beansprout. Cookiecrumb is the genius behind I'm Mad and I Eat. When I think of asparagus pairings, I think of the photo from cookiecrumb's post It's Spring, Dammit of Asparagus on Toast with a Fried Egg.

Although my introduction to the frittata was as a dish to use up aging vegetables and leftover rice or noodles, this tasty version with asparagus, green garlic, and Parmesan was elegant and full with the fresh taste of Spring.

I found this wonderful recipe by Joyce Goldstein at the CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) website (CUESA manage the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in San Francisco). This is the first frittata I've baked and it worked out beautifully. A little flour helped add body and stability, but I had a little too much asparagus in relation to custard for my appetizer-sized triangles, so some fell apart. This is definitely the frittata recipe I'll be using for future variations. Easy and fabulous! The green garlic was sensational here.

Farmers' Market Bounty

Look at the lovely red and yellow organic carrots I found yesterday at the Farmers Market! They're sweet and taste just like their orange counterparts. Red carrots get their color from lycopene, the powerful antioxidant found in tomatoes and other red fruits.

And next to the carrots are Chioggia Beets, an Italian heirloom beet that has alternating white and pink rings inside. These are going to be beautiful in a salad!

I also got more green garlic, arugula, herbs, and, of course, my weekly dose of dinosaur kale.

Happy Spring!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Asparagus & Mushroom Quesadillas with Goat Cheese

Inspired by a much more complicated recipe (Quesadilla with Morel Mushrooms, Asparagus, Goat Cheese & Poblano Cream) from Dona Tomas, these quesadillas were a wonderful change of pace and a super recipe for bountiful asparagus!

I sauteed a thinly sliced shallot in canola oil for 3 minutes, with about 1/4 tsp of finely chopped jalapeno.I added a knob of butter and 3 thinly sliced white mushrooms and cooked these for 3-4minutes. I then added 4 stalks of asparagus that had been sliced in half and then on the diagonal. I cooked the asparagus until just tender.

I then heated Food for Life's Sprouted Corn Tortillas (gluten-free!) and added the cooked asparagus mix and sprinkled with crumbled goat cheese.

These quesadillas were light, fresh, and mild; good with salsa or on their own. Variations that would work: add chopped cilantro, use cheddar or feta in place of the goat cheese for more wow, add beans for a protein-packed version. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Arugula, Pear, & Arina Goat Gouda Salad

I loved this arugula salad with sliced pear, slivers of Arina Goat Gouda, and hazelnuts! The peppery bite of the arugula was balanced by a vinaigrette sweetened with honey, the creaminess of the goat gouda and the fresh nutty flavor of the hazelnuts.

The vinaigrette was simple: just olive oil, champagne vinegar, and honey. I wondered about adding chopped shallots to the vinaigrette, but I'm glad I didn't.

I'd love to hear your favorite aruguala salad/fruit combination in the comments. Thanks to Tanya for suggesting this pairing.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

St Patrick's Day Tarts

Happy St. Paddy's Day to you all!

With our unseasonally warm weather here for March, I skipped the heavy soups and stews and root vegetable mash this year, for some puff pastry tarts with traditional Irish combinations. The tart above is inspired by colcannon. The tart features a base of braised and chopped kale, mixed with chopped leeks and topped with very thinly sliced baby potatoes (lightly sauteed in butter), and topped with crumbled goat cheese.

This tart has a base of sauteed leeks with "bacon" (Morningstar Bacon Strips) and Cotswold cheese.

Based on Egg & Bacon Pie, I added sauted leeks to this delicious tart (too bad the yolk broke).

And finally, in place of soup, I made this Potato & Leek tart.

They were all really good! And so easy to make.

Prefer something sweet? Try these recipes:

Irish Chocolate Whiskey Cakes

Irish Buttermilk Scones

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Burritos with Lightlife Chick'n Strips


These burritos with poblano chili, onion, Lightlife Chick'n Strips, salsa, and guacamole on sprouted corn tortillas made a super-healthy meal. Typically, I would have used refried or black beans as the protein here, but as the Lightlife folks were kind enough to gift me a box of their vegetarian faux meat products, I decided to try the chick'n strips.

Up front, I have to say I'm not big on faux meat products. I do have some favorites: Lightlife's Gimme Lean sausage is fantastic in my English Sausage Rolls (I'm enjoying one as I write this, in fact); Gardenburger's Chick'n Grills are also favourites; and I love Morningstar's "Bacon" and "Sausage Patties". Do I like them because they taste like the real thing? Nope. I haven't had the real thing in over 20 years, so it's not about authenticity (although meat eaters can't believe those sausage rolls are vegan). Like most food, it's all about taste and texture.


Sadly, I wasn't sold on the chick'n strips. I thought they were a little bland and rubbery and something about the shape bothered me: too uniform, too shiny, too unnatural. They didn't have a layered texture , which I think is critical: Morningstar's Meal Starter Strips are much better in this regard. Also the seasoning was too mild, not hearty or salty.

That said, they are an undeniably healthy source of protein. A 6 oz package contains a mere 160 calories, 0 fat, and a whopping 30g of protein. That's really pretty amazing.

I was hoping to try these on a Thai Chick'n pizza, but I think the texture won't really work. I'm thinking these might be best added to a Korma curry near the end of the simmer time.

I was very excited to find Food for Life's Sprouted Corn Tortillas at our local Whole Foods, however. They are packed with fresh corn flavour:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sweetpea's Spring Soup II

A sweet soup of spring vegetables was the order of the day.

Poor little Sweetpea (age 6) has succombed to the nasty flu virus that is going around our school. Sweetpea is a big soup fan and soup is always comforting, even on a hot day.

I kept it mild by using a chopped leek instead of onion and skipped the garlic all together. I used Trader Joe's Organic Vegetable broth mixed with water for the broth and added some red lentils to thicken, but kept the broth pretty light. Sweetpea requested there be no bits of tomato and no green leafy things, so I used diced baby potatoes, carrots, peas, sugar snap peas, and broccoli florettes. This was a very sweet and gentle soup, full of fresh flavor. We both loved this!

Here's last year's version of Sweetpea's Spring Soup.

Stay healthy!

Monday, March 12, 2007


It was very summery in Marin yesterday. Positively hot! I can't tell you how good that sun felt. So, with the help of some giant hothouse tomatoes, I indulged in one of my favorite salads: Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Salad with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and plenty of salt and pepper. Couldn't come up with basil, but my chive plant survived the frosts and is looking healthy so I used snipped chives in this case.

I followed the salad with Trader Joe's potato gnocchi with Cirio tomato pasta sauce and fresh grated Parmesan. I've never been a gnocchi fan but, at my last "Mom's Night Out" dinner, I order Gnocchi with Butternut Squash because it was the only vegetarian main on the menu. It far exceeded my expectations, so I decided to give gnocchi another shot. The Trader Joe's potato gnocchi was a winner!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Tomato & Green Garlic Pizza

Green garlic is back! I found scallion-sized green garlic at last week's Farmers' Market and used it on this very simple pizza with sliced tomatoes and pine nuts. As you can see, some of the green garlic got burnt on top of the pizza so next time I'll either cover it with cheese or add it uncooked (I sauted the tiny slices in olive oil before adding them to the pizza).

Green garlic looks like a large scallion or a tiny leek:

It is immature garlic that has not yet formed its garlic bulb and it's taste is much milder than mature garlic. Green garlic has a short season and is typically found at Farmers' Markets.

Here's a couple of green garlic recipes from last season :

  • Green Garlic & Cheddar Scones

  • Green Garlic, Mushroom, & Spinach Pizza

  • Friday, March 09, 2007

    Strozzapreti with Arugula and Arina Goat Gouda

    Arugula (a.k.a. rocket) is a peppery green leaf with bite, commonly used in salads, that was considered an aphrodisiac back in Roman times. No promises there, but it is high in iron and Vitamin C. I recently enjoyed a pasta with arugula, tomatoes, and chilies at Il Fornaio restaurant and decided it was time to try my own version when I saw a fresh, organic bag at the Farmers' Marche. I paired it with Arina Goat Gouda, the most wonderfully creamy semi-hard goat cheese ever (if you eat cheese, you gotta try this), a little garlic, red pepper flakes, and pine nuts.

    I was quite surprised at how peppery, almost bitter, the arugula was compared to the restaurant dish I'd enjoyed. I barely cooked it with olive oil and minced garlic. I enjoyed this dry pasta dish, but next time will try it with a tomato or red pepper sauce, or some fresh chopped tomatoes. To give it a sweet note.

    Arina Goat gotta try it.

    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    Lentil Curry with Eggplant & Spinach

    And the final # 3 dish for this package of Trader Joe's steamed lentils is a lentil curry with eggplant, spinach, potatoes, and cauliflower.

    I made it very easy on myself by using Trader Joe's Korma Curry Simmer Sauce. I sauted a chopped onion in olive oil with a couple of shakes of cumin seeds. I added the diced baby potatoes, covered, and cooked for a couple of minutes, then added the cauliflower and eggplant with a little extra oil and a generous pinch of salt. Covered again and cooked 3-4 minutes. I then added the lentils and the Korma Curry Simmer Sauce. Partially covered and simmered for about 10 minutes. I added about 1/2 cup of water and simmered another 5 minutes. Added fresh baby spinach, which promptly wilted, and served in a pure white bowl.

    I have to say, I'm really warming up to eggplant. But no more lentils this week! Enjoy!

    Wednesday, March 07, 2007

    Lentil Burritos

    Of course, the downside of opening a 16 oz packet of Trader Joe's steamed lentils and only using 1/4 cup for Lentils on Garlic Toast with Greens, Beets, & Goat Cheese is reading the 'Refridgerate and consume within 2 days of opening' message on the package.

    OK, so it's a 3 day lentils-o-rama challenge. Day 2 produced this divine Lentil burrito with onions, cumin seeds, poblano chile, rice, salsa, guacamole, topped with cilantro chutney and sour cream. Wrapped in a handmade flour tortilla, the cumin seeds made this dish a standout!

    Monday, March 05, 2007

    Lentils on Garlic Toast with Greens, Beets, & Goat Cheese

    Let's face it, cooking for others is an act of love. But I've been reading a lot of Zen lately, and loving-kindness starts with oneself. This dish was an act of loving-kindness from me to me.

    Strongly inspired by a recent lentil sandwich, this salad with lentils on garlicy toast with beets and goat cheese was rather enlightening. The minced garlic-olive oil spread on the toasts and added to the lentils (pre-cooked from Trader Joe's) made this an exceptional meal.

    Wait a minute, you ask: salad? What about those winter stews and hearty soups for cold, rainy nights?

    God, it's been gorgeous here the last couple of days. Sunny, balmy, t-shirt weather, a sudden incredible eruption of blossoms. Ice cream cones for dessert. An extravaganza of optimistic spring.

    Lentils on Garlic Toast with Greens, Beets, & Goat Cheese:

    I slice of wheat bread
    1 tbsp olive oil
    1 minced garlic clove
    1/4 -1/3 cup lentils (I used Trader Joe's steamed lentils)
    1 small minced garlic clove
    dash of olive oil
    salad mix (I used Safeway's Fresh Organic Herb Salad)
    olive oil and balsamic vinegar
    cooked beets ( I used Trader Joe's precooked), sliced
    crumbled goat cheese

    Preheat broiler. Cut 3-4 small circles from a single slice of wheat bread. Mix one minced garlic clove with 1 tbsp olive oil and brush both sides of toasts. Place toasts on a baking sheet covered with foil and toast 3 minutes on each side.

    Place lentils in a small bowl. Stir in a dash of olive oil and minced garlic. Heat in the microwave at high for 30 seconds.

    Place salad mix in a bowl and toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Arrange salad on a plate with sliced beets and hazelnuts. Top with garlic toasts, topped with lentils. Sprinkle generously with crumbled goat cheese.

    Sunday, March 04, 2007

    Eggplant, Tomato, Red Onion, & Feta Pizza

    One great thing about pizza is that, no matter how distracted you may be with cares of the world, you can still whip together a decent meal on a pizza crust.

    Tonight's offering included thinly sliced eggplant, salted, and brushed with olive oil, then roasted in a hot oven for 10 minutes, sliced tomatoes, thinly sliced red onions, and lots of salty feta. Topped with sliced kalamata olives and shredded mozzarella, this pizza made a substantial and tasty meal with minimal effort.

    Friday, March 02, 2007

    Cauliflower, Potato, & Leek Gratin with Tintern Cheese Sauce

    This gratin with cauliflower, baby potatoes, and leek was exceptional, mostly due to the pungent Tintern Cheese I used in the sauce.

    Tintern is an expensive Welsh cheese, creamy and sharp, with shallots and green flecks of chives that are highlighted by it's bright green wax rind. It was rather decadent to use it in a sauce, but, heck, life is short! Usually found in high-end grocery stores and cheese stores, I was surprised to find it in our newest Safeway (Strawberry, Mill Valley). I've seen this priced as high as $27/lb, but I paid much less. Whole Foods (San Rafael) no longer carry this cheese because they found it molded quickly under the rind.

    It's really too sharp a cheese for me to eat on its own. But it was tremendous in this cream sauce and would make a fabulous topping for a baked potatoes or steamed vegetables. This dish hit the spot because it was comfort food with pizazz! Perfect for a rainy day supper. Serve with beer, ale, or cider.

    Cauliflower, Potato, & Leek Gratin with Tintern Cheese Sauce:

    2/3 head of cauliflower, cut into florettes
    5 baby potatoes, thinly sliced
    1 large leek, sliced
    1 tbsp butter

    1 tbsp butter
    1 tbsp flour
    3/4 cup milk
    3-4 oz Tintern Cheese, grated

    Preheat the oven to 400.

    Boil a med saucepan of salted water and cook the sliced potatoes and cauliflower until almost tender (approx. 5 mins).

    Melt the butter in pan and cook the leek until soft (6-8 minutes).

    In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour, stirring continuously for 2 minutes until the mixture starts to froth. Add the milk and cook until the sauce starts to thicken, stirring frequently. At desired thickness, turn off heat and stir in cheese vigorously until melted and smooth.

    Mix the cooked leek in with the sauce. Place the cauliflower and potato slices in an earthenware dish and stir in sauce. Bake for 15 minutes, until starting to brown. Finish under the broiler for 2-3 minutes.

    Thursday, March 01, 2007

    Mexican Pizza

    Talk about food porn, this Mexican pizza tasted as good as it looks.

    I used a premade San Francisco Vicolo cornmeal pizza crust and started with a layer of vegetarian refried beans. I topped the beans with salsa and grated cheddar cheese, then added jalapeno slices and sliced black olives.

    I really love, love, love this pizza! The Vicolo cornmeal crust has raised edges and keeps what might be a messy pizza tidy to eat. Definitely, use a cornmeal crust if you can with this one. It's fabulous!