Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Quinoa Salad with Peas, Carrots & Kale

I developed this simple quinoa salad with vegetables to add protein, nutrition and interest to my teenage daughter's vegetarian lunchbox. It seems like quinoa is everywhere, so I was surprised that none of her friends knew what it was.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a seed that, when cooked, softens and fluffs while maintaining a slightly crunchy texture.  It contains a lot of protein and other nutrients, and is gluten-free. If you follow the package directions and cook it in water, it has a slightly nutty taste, but is pretty bland.  The secret for any savory use of quinoa is to cook it in vegetable broth, instead of water, which adds all the flavor you'll need. Be sure to rinse the seeds off before cooking (they can have a bitter-tasting coating) and "fluff" the cooked seeds when all the liquid has simmered away.

The above salad was made with tricolored quinoa and I simply boiled the vegetables separately in salty water. Once cooked, I cooled the vegetables under cold water and added them to the cooked quinoa with a little citrus-champagne vinegar. No need to add any oil to cooked quinoa.

For a quick and simple dish, this salad is surprisingly filling!  Don't hesitate to mix the vegetables up or add some chopped tofu, nuts, or herbs. Enjoy!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lentil & Asparagus Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts

When you tell a non-vegetarian, you're a vegetarian or vegan, a common question is "But how do you get your protein?"  I'm switching gyms, and just started working with a great trainer (it's already a love-hate relationship), who asked me to keep a food diary for a few days.  She returned my food diary with the word "PROTEIN?" written at the top.  "You need more protein," she said "and cut out all the carbs and sugar." Yikes!  Having gone gluten-free 6 months ago, I've already cut out most of my carbs.  And, heck,  I only had the tootsie rolls and mini-peanut butter cups because it was Halloween!  But I love a culinary challenge and was inspired to make this delicious lentil salad with roasted asparagus, creamy goat cheese, and chopped walnuts.

I'm quite fond of Trader Joe's pre-cooked steamed lentils (in the refrigerator section), as they are a great time-saver (and 1/2 cup has 9 grams of protein).  If you decide to use dried lentils for this, I recommend you simmer them in a 50/50 blend of water and vegetable broth to add some flavor to the lentils (about 35 minutes for green or brown lentils). I roasted the asparagus with Meyer Lemon olive oil, but you could also use a lemon olive oil or plain. If you are vegan or not a goat cheese fan, leave the cheese out and add a few more chopped walnuts.

Lentil & Asparagus Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts:

1 bunch asparagus
Lemon olive oil (or plain)
pinch of salt
lemon juice
1 cup cooked lentils (I used Trader Joe's steamed)
1/8 tsp citrus champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 TBS crumbled goat cheese
1 TBS chopped walnuts
salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400. Remove the woody ends of the asparagus by breaking them where they naturally break.  Place in an ovenproof dish and drizzle with the lemon olive oil and a pinch of salt. (Use tongs to make sure the asparagus is evenly coated.)  Roast in the over for about 20 minutes, tossing the asparagus with tongs after 10 minutes, until the thick ends of the asparagus are easily pierced with the tip of a sharp knife (resist over-cooking - you don't want it to be mushy). Allow the asparagus to cool.

Cut the asparagus into 1 inch rounds and squeeze some fresh lemon juice over it. Add the lentils, vinegar, goat cheese (if using) and chopped walnuts.  Taste, and add salt and pepper, as desired.  Enjoy!

Monday, November 04, 2013

Clotilde Dusoulier: The French Market Cookbook Event at Omnivore Books

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of attending a book event featuring the charming Clotilde Dusoulier, the much-loved French blogger of Chocolate and Zucchini, at Omnivore Books, a bookstore dedicated to food and cooking books in San Francisco.  Clotilde spoke about her latest book, French Market Cookbook:Vegetarian Recipes from My Parisian Kitchen, and told us that she has always based her menus around the best seasonably available produce.  A flexitarian, she has now adopted a predominantly vegetarian diet and wanted her third book to reflect this direction.

Rather than focusing on heavy cream-based dishes, Clotilde's book draws its inspiration from the  regional peasant traditions of France's diverse geographical provinces. The recipes, which reflect her interest in both produce and baked goods, are organized by season and each recipe is briefly introduced, providing a warm personal and educational context for what follows. Clotilde's writing style is open and friendly and frequently references childhood memories, favorite restaurant meals, French cooking traditions, and taste secrets that come from a wide experience of cooking for friends.  The recipes are thoughtful and considered, without being overly time-consuming and complex, making this a great cookbook for both seasoned and beginner cooks.

When asked which of her recipes in the book were her favorites, Clotilde chose "Poor Man's Bouillabaise", a vegetarian version of the seafood stew from Marseille  (I'm planning a Fall vegan and gluten-free version of the bouillabaise, so stay tuned!) and "Pear and Chestnut Cake",  made with chestnut flour from Corsica (a French island in Mediteranean sea).  I have to say, additional standouts to me include the "Seaweed Tartare", "Cauliflower Gratin with Tumeric & Hazelnuts", and the cardamon-scented "Lebanese Coffee Dessert Jars" looks too delicious to resist!

If you love cookbooks with inspirational and straightforward recipes, great food writing, and beautiful photographs, you'll love this book. And, if you're a Francophile vegetarian like me, this one's a given.

If you're interested, here's a link to my write-up regarding Clotilde's book event at Cody's in 2007.