Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quinoa Kitchen Sink Salad

This salad is a great way to use up leftover veggies that might be going bad. It's incredibly healthy — quinoa, a small grain about the same size as couscous, is a complete protein and packed with fiber, and it contains essential amino acids. It is very fast to make, involving only chopping and 15 minutes inactive cooking time for the quinoa. And, obviously, being a kitchen sink salad, this recipe invites you to use whatever you may have on hand and like! 
Serves 4-8

1 c. quinoa
2 c. water
3 T olive oil
2 t. vinegar (white or red wine, or balsamic)
1 T orange juice (optional)
2 t. lemon or lime juice (optional)
salt and pepper

Whatever vegetables you have/like. I used:
½ bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
1 c. snow peas
½ red onion
½ bunch scallions
1 carrot
½ c. craisins

Any herbs you have/like. I used:
½ c. fennel tops
½ c. basil
½ c. mint

1. Combine quinoa and water in a small saucepan. Bring to boil, cover, turn heat down to low, and let cook for 15 minutes until water is absorbed.
2. Chop veggies. Since this is a salad, you want everything in small, bite-sized pieces. I thinly sliced the asparagus, carrots, and scallions. I chopped snow peas into ½-inch pieces and red onion a bit smaller.
3. Roughly chop herbs. 
4. Combine everything (veggies, craisins, herbs, quinoa, and olive oil, vinegar and citrus juice(s)) in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir to combine. Tastes even better the next day!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Balsamic Strawberries with Mascarpone Cheese and Mint

This is seriously one of my favorite desserts ever. So simple to make, yet so delicious, the flavors in this dish unite wonderfully and taste fabulous together. It makes a terrific and elegant spring or summer dessert! Very highly recommended!
Serves 4

1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
2 pints fresh strawberries (1 regular sized plastic container found in groceries)
1 T sugar (or vanilla sugar if you have it)
½ c. mascarpone cheese (4 oz.)
2 T sugar (or vanilla sugar if you have it)
1 T milk or cream
1/4 c. mint 

1. Put balsamic vinegar in your smallest saucepan, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to medium to make a balsamic reduction. Let simmer for 20-30 minutes until thickened. (Remember that it will thicken more once it cools off.) This will evaporate some of the water in the vinegar and "reduce" it, making it thick, concentrated and wonderfully sweet. 

2. Meanwhile, wash strawberries, remove stems and cut into quarters. In a small bowl, sprinkle strawberries with 1 T (vanilla) sugar and let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes to macerate

3. Combine mascarpone, remaining sugar to taste, and milk or cream. The consistency should be like yogurt or sour cream. 

4. Chop mint. 
5. Divide strawberries between the bottom of 4 preferably clear glasses (drinking glass, martini glass, wine glass, etc.). Top with mascarpone cheese, a drizzle of the balsamic reduction, and mint. Enjoy! This would be delicious with a glass of port!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pear Crisp

This dessert is very fast to prepare and tastes great. Before today I'd made many apple crisps, but never a pear crisp. This experiment turned out great though! Baking pears really highlights their natural sweetness, and the topping complements them wonderfully. A wide variety of fruits could be used here, and the spices can be altered to suit personal tastes and/or desires for experimentation! I made mine in individual ramekins but any baking dish (cupcake molds, a big or small square or rectangle pan, circular dish, etc.) will work as long as quantities are adjusted to fit your pan.
Serves 2

1 pear
2 t. cinnamon
2 t. allspice
2 T butter
1/2 c. oats (can substitute flour for some, if desired)
1/4 c. brown sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut pear in quarters, remove core, and cut into a small ~½-inch dice. Mix pear in a bowl with 1 t. each cinnamon and allspice. Spread evenly into bottom of baking dish.
2. In the same bowl, mix together the butter, oats, brown sugar and remaining spices. Use a fork or your hands to make the mixture uniform and crumbly. Spread evenly over pears.
3. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until topping is golden. Ripe pears are naturally soft so you don't need to worry about cooking them through; you just want the topping to cook and turn golden brown.
fresh out of the oven
close up for texture's sake

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pineapple Cilantro Salsa

This fruit salsa is a great use for leftover cilantro; that's why I made it! Lightning fast to make, this salsa is a sure-to-please appetizer but would also make a good topping for meat or fish. If it's too sweet for you, add more onion and/or cilantro or some cayenne or hot sauce.
Serves 4-8

1 can crushed pineapple (20-oz, or smaller or larger)
~½ bunch fresh cilantro
½ red onion

1. Pick the cilantro leaves off the stem. Wash if dirty, and then chop.
2. Chop red onion into a small dice.
3. Combine pineapple (drained a bit so it's not too liquidy), cilantro and red onion in a bowl. Add salt and/or pepper if desired and serve with chips!

You can liberally adjust quantities of ingredients and make any changes according to your personal taste and what you have in stock!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Asparagus Mushroom Salad

This light, delectable salad tastes so fresh and just like springtime! It's perfect at this time of year when asparagus is at its peak and involves no cooking at all--just chopping! It keeps well, too, and makes great leftovers! 
Serves 4

1 bunch asparagus
~7 mushrooms
1 lemon
3 T olive oil
1 t. dijon mustard, optional
salt and pepper

1. Rinse the asparagus, leaving it in the bunch. Remove one spear, break it with one hand at each end. Where it breaks is where you should trim the rest of them. Line it back up with the other spears and trim the ends where the previous end broke off. Discard these ends.

2. Use a damp paper towel to clean the mushrooms. Cut the stems mostly off.

3.Cut the asparagus on a very big angle as thinly as you can, as shown below. Put in serving bowl.
4.Thinly slice the mushrooms and add to sliced asparagus. 

5. Juice the lemon into a small bowl, remove any seeds and add olive oil, salt, pepper and mustard (if using). Mix well. Pour dressing over asparagus and mushrooms and toss and enjoy!

Notes: This is, as always, very versatile, and you can add/substitute pretty much any raw vegetable. Any type of greens, radish, leek, fennel, or artichoke would all be interesting. Mix it up and experiment and enjoy!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Dandelion Salad

Don't be turned off by the name! This salad is crazy healthy and truly tastes quite wonderful. Inspired by a salad my host mother in France made (salade de pissenlit in French), this is a fabulous change from typical salads and has great, unique flavors. It features a very neat, interesting way of taming dandelion's often bitter flavor. Dandelion greens are available at many farmers markets and at larger, "greener" and "healthier" groceries. 
Serves 4

1 T olive oil
1 onion
2 eggs
1 big bunch or bag dandelion greens
1/4 c. cream or olive oil
1 T vinegar (balsamic, red wine, white wine, etc.)
salt and pepper

1. Heat 1 T olive oil over medium heat. Slice onion into rings or half moons and add to oil. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to avoid burning, for about 30 minutes. (The longer the better though!)

2. Meanwhile, hard boil the eggs: put eggs in a small sauce pan, cover with cold water, and put over medium-high heat. When water boils, remove pot from heat and let sit, covered for 10 minutes. Then immediately submerse eggs in cold water to stop the cooking. Peel off shell.

3. Wash the dandelion very well. (It tends to be quite dirty since it's not usually produced industrially or in large-scale.) Trim off the ends and put in a salad bowl.

4. Cut hard boiled egg into small cubes. Add egg and caramelized onions to dandelion.
Dandelion and onions patiently awaiting the egg and their dressing

5. Heat cream or olive oil over med-high heat until very hot and nearly boiling or smoking. Pour over the dandelion. This flash-cooks the dandelion and softens its bitter flavor. Add vinegar and salt and pepper and toss well. Bon App Y'all!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Peanut Butter Date Milkshake

This drink was created to use some of the plethora of fresh dates I received from a friend from California. Very delicious, healthy and filling, it can be significantly altered to suit any all tastes and preferences! 
Serves 4

1-2 c. dates, pitted and roughly chopped
2 c. plain or vanilla yogurt
1/8 - 1/2 c. peanut butter
1 banana (optional)
1/2 c. milk
if using plain yogurt, add 2 T something sweet (sugar, vanilla sugar, or honey would all be good)
1-2 c. ice, depending on how icy you like it

1. Combine all ingredients except ice in a blender and blend.

2. Add ice and blend more to desired consistency.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Roasted Winter Veggies

For those of us who haven't yet seen the plenitude of springtime produce, these roasted winter veggies are a comforting and tasty way to seek some solace while our friends in warmer climates enjoy spring's asparagus and artichokes. Simple, nutritious and delicious, these vegetables are a piece of cake to make and taste great! You can use whatever vegetables you like in whatever proportions you desire! Potatoes, sweet potatoes, butternut or any other winter squash would all be wonderful here.
Serves 4

1/2 head cauliflower
1-2 turnips
2-4 carrots
1-3 beets
any other veggies you have/like!
2 T olive oil
salt and pepper
any combination of herbs and/or spices (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut and trim vegetables into bite sized pieces. 1/2-in. to an inch sized chunks for carrots, turnips and beets. Bite-sized florets of cauliflower. The smaller you chop it, the less time it takes to cook.
2. Pour olive oil onto a large baking pan with sides (I used a 9x13x2, though bigger wouldn't have hurt). Put veggies in pan and salt and pepper them. 
3. Bake in oven and stir every 15 or so minutes. Total cooking time will be 45 min - 1 hr, depending on how small you chopped the veggies and your oven. Add chopped herbs and/or spices about halfway through the cooking time so they don't burn. I used herbes de provence and it tasted great!
4. Veggies are done when tender i.e. a fork or knife stuck in them goes in pretty easily. 
Note: Chop the beet last! It will turn everything, including your hands, bright purple. So chop it last and wash your hands, knife and cutting board immediately after so it doesn't stain for weeks!