Thursday, March 29, 2012

Farro Salad with Cucumber Arugula and Cannellini Beans


My search for healthy, easy-to-prep-in-advance weekday lunch options continues. Protein and fiber packed farro and quinoa dishes tossed with your favorite seasonal veggies seem to be the best way to get variety while still being healthy.

This savory salad combines nutty, chewy farro with creamy cannellini beans and is sure to leave you feeling satisfied until dinner time. It is refreshing with cool crisp cucumbers, peppery arugula, and sweet basil dressed simply with lemon juice and good olive oil. It certainly feels like more of summer salad than an autumn salad, which makes it perfect for the bursts of warm, sunny days we've been experiencing in the Bay area.

These are my favorite cannellini beans- sauteed with chile de arbol, shallot, garlic and simmered in vegetable broth (until dry). I make them regularly as a side dish and like to use leftovers in a salad like this one.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Broccoli Leek Soup with Broiled cheddar


I never thought of myself as a soup person. I found most soups to be monotonous or overly salted or laden with heavy cream or worst yet, to be bland when actually vegetarian (that is, without chicken broth). I don't know whether it was the incredibly flavorful veggies in my CSA through FFTY or my unpredictable, semi-chaotic work schedule, but somehow I was transformed into a soup person sometime last year. Now I crave flavorful vegetable soups and, as shocking as it may sound, love the idea of a one pot meal that easily reheats the next day.

This broccoli soup is delicately flavored with leeks and garlic. The soup is topped with cheddar cheese and placed under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbly at the edges. I am convinced that it is perfect for the transition between the end of winter and start of spring, when your palette is so over hearty stews and soups and roasted root vegetables and pleads for the lighter flavors of spring while still craving the comfort of warmth on a chilly night.

For the soup, I used a medium sized head of broccoli from FFTY and used both the stalks and florets. Simply use a vegetable peeler to peel the tougher stalks and just be sure to dice up the stalks into relatively even sized pieces so that everything cooks evenly.

I used 2 FFTY leeks, but you could easily use a thinly sliced medium onion instead.  I didn't add any heavy cream or half and half to the soup nor did I add potatoes, and yet surprisingly the soup was creamy and silky.

I pureed the soup with a hand held immersion blender. Once I was ready to serve the soup, I reheated it to a gentle boil and ladled it into oven proof soup or gratin bowls.

Sprinkle grated cheddar cheese on top and toss the dish under the broiler for a few minutes until the cheese melts and forms a bubbly edge around the soup. The broiled cheddar is what transforms this soup from a low fat, healthy broccoli soup to a oh-my-goodness-i-can't-stop-eating-this broccoli soup.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Broccoli sabzi :: Meatless Masala Monday


Usually when I get a beautiful head of broccoli in my CSA box, I enter into autopilot mode and make our absolute favorite broccoli dish: parmesan roasted broccoli with lemon zest and garlic. Even though it is a side dish, we eat it like chips around here and sometimes even neglect the main course. 

Sometimes when I'm craving Indian flavors, I make a very simple broccoli sabzi (in Hindi) or shaak (in Gujarati).  Pictured below is bell pepper and besan (chick pea flour) subzi,  broccoli nu shaak, and roti.

My mom used to make this delicious broccoli shaak when I was growing up. As shocking as it may sound, I was one of those kids you hear about who actually asked for broccoli! Before I left for college, my mother made sure that I knew how to make this quick and easy broccoli sabzi. When I craved a home cooked meal throughout college, I would buy a bag of frozen broccoli florets from Trader Joe's, set up my hot plate in my dorm room, pull out my only pot, masala dubba, and a tasty Indian dinner would be ready in about 10 minutes. 

Now, of course, I cut beautiful fresh broccoli into florets and dinner is ready in about 15 minutes. It is quick, healthy and delicious, perfect for satisfying any cravings for Indian food during the week. Serve hot with roti or with yogurt.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Purple cauliflower smokey frittata and Romanesco Broccoli


We have been getting some exciting veggies in our CSA box lately, including Romanesco broccoli (Roman cauliflower) and purple cauliflower!

The math nerd in me loved the strangely intriguing Romanesco with it's wonderful logarithmic spiral and fractal patterns. And the cook in me was so excited about finding the perfect backdrop to bring out the purple-ness of the purple cauliflower.

For those of you who care about these things, purple cauliflower provides the same nutritional value as regular white cauliflower but it also contains anthocyanins, or antioxidant flavonoids. Anthocyanins are also found in red cabbage, blueberries, and my favorite source, red wine!

I did not want to overcook the cauliflower out of fear that it would lose it's bright purple-ness, so I opted to quickly boil the florets in salted water and then pan fry them for a frittata. To add a kick to the frittata, I whisked the eggs with dijon and some red cayenne pepper and used a wonderful smokey mozzarella, scamorza affumicata, that melts beautifully. The smokiness of the cheese adds an incredible depth and complexity.

Unfortunately the instant the cauliflower hit the boiling water it turned a purplish gray and lost it's brightness. I have been told that roasting cauliflower similarly causes it to lose its bright purple color.

In any case, the (gray) purple was a beautiful contrast set against the yellow of the intensely flavored fritatta, what a visually stunning dish! To balance the powerful smokey flavors, serve the frittata with peppery arugula or mixed greens dressed simply with lemon and olive oil and strawberries drizzled with balsamic and fresh mint.

As for the Romanesco broccoli, I wanted to honor it's Italian roots dating back to the time of Julius Cesar. I simply tossed it with olive oil, sea salt, crushed red pepper, and thinly sliced garlic and roasted it in the oven until tender. I tossed it with a lemon olive oil dressing and a snowy mountain of finely grated parmesan.

Despite the Romanesco's bizarre conical shapes and mathematical mystery, it was quite delicious and mild, similar to it's cousin the cauliflower. So the next time you see this strange looking broccoli-cauliflower at the market, I urge you to pick up a head for dinner!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Farro Salad with Roasted Rutabaga and Carrot


I am so done with rich gratins and heavy stews. It is that time of year where I fiercely crave lighter, delicate flavors and yearn for simple cooking with vegetables that taste their very best with very little cooking. But this pile of rutabagas and turnips from my CSA box keep staring me, daunting me with their hearty, winter skins and need for endless cooking. Juxtaposed with the root vegetables the bundle of bright green asparagus feels like such a tease.

Convinced that spring is indeed just around the corner, I turned to my favorite whole grain farro and  created a farro salad with roasted rutabaga and spring carrots. It was my attempt to transform a starchy root vegetable into a spring inspired salad.

You may remember from a previous post, that root vegetables like turnips and rutabaga contain nutrients like fiber, magnesium, potassium, thiamin, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. In addition, turnips are high in calcium and rutabagas are packed with vitamin A.

I don't need to tell you that carrots are good for you, but did you know carrots contain carotenoids which the liver converts to vitamin A an essential nutrient for your skin, teeth, and immune system? Carrots are also a good source of vitamins C and K, potassium, and dietary fiber. And we have all heard that carrots are good for your eyes- indeed vitamin A deficiency can cause night blindness!

You could serve nutrient-rich farro salad on a bed of arugula or with mixed greens. The recipe is vegan as it is presented, but you could add feta or ricotta salata to it if you wish.

I love this salad room temperature, cold, and warm and it makes for an excellent lunch option.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Whole Moong Dal :: Meatless Masala Monday


Hope you all had a fantastic St. Patrick's day celebration. If you are in need of something wholesome after a weekend of debauchery, I have a wonderful dal that is easy to make and leaves your body feeling good after a eating a bowl. 

I am convinced that most wonderful thing about being a vegetarian is eating Indian food. And I'm not talking about oily, restaurant indian food. I mean good, home cooked indian meals.

Take dal for example. Its really just lentils that sometimes are simmered with a few basics like onion and garlic but in other preparations nothing else is added.

You may recognize whole moong (also known as mung bean) as it is commonly used for sprouting.

This delicious wholesome dal is very easy and quick to make. It is rich in protein and low in fat. There is no need to soak the whole moong overnight before cooking, a pressure cooker is sufficient to bring out the creamy flavor of the whole moong.

Whole moong dal is best served with steaming hot basmati rice and yogurt.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Baked Eggs with Spinach in a tomato cream sauce


My CSA box has taught me how to love dark greens, from spinach and chard to collard greens and kale. Most of these greens find their way into side dishes or delicious mains, but spinach manages to make an appearance even at breakfast around the Plate and Pour kitchen.

These are the best baked eggs with spinach and savory, tangy tomato sauce. Fresh spinach makes a world of a difference in this dish and makes you feel extra good for eating vegetables for breakfast!

Don't let the messy picture fool you, baked eggs with spinach make an elegant, delicious brunch dish packed with rich, savory flavors. It would be even more beautiful if one of the egg yolks didn't break. And it is easy enough to make for two and nice enough to serve guests for brunch.

I used a mix of spinach and collard greens, but you could use all spinach if you prefer. I quickly wilted, drained and coarsely chopped the greens, and then sauteed the greens with onions, garlic, and some crushed red pepper. Then I stirred in tomato sauce and a touch of heavy cream, briefly cooking. Making four indentations in the spinach with the back of a spoon, I cracked four eggs into each hole and baked the dish for about 8 minutes. To finish, I topped the dish with finely grated parmesan. I served it with toasted bread to sop up the extra sauce.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dal Fry :: Meatless Masala Monday


In case you didn't notice, we love dal around the Plate and Pour kitchen. You can find dal fry on most Indian restaurant menus, and it is quick and easy to make at home, especially if you have a pressure cooker. 

I like to use only toor dal, yellow pigeon pea lentils, for dal fry, but you could use any combination of dal. There is no need to soak toor dal overnight, and from start to finish the dal fry can be made in 30 minutes, making it perfect for a quick wholesome meal after a long day at work.

So dal fry is wholesome, delicious, and easy, it's no wonder that it is part of our regular weeknight dinner rotation.  And for those of you looking for a meatless meal, dal is a wonderful way to make sure you are able to get enough protein.

Temper the whole spices, ginger, green chile, onion, and finally the ground spices.

Pour over dal, add a little fresh lemon juice, and serve hot with rice or roti.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Saag Aloo :: Meatless Masala Monday


On every North Indian restaurant menu you will find saag paneer, or spinach with paneer. As delicious as it is, eating paneer isn't the healthiest for a meal at home. I love saag and in this healthier alternative, I skip the paneer and use fingerling potatoes instead. Using fresh spinach instead of frozen makes a world of difference.

Here is a tip for keeping spinach bright green while cooking, avoid covering the pan while cooking and your spinach will remain bright green instead of becoming dark.

Unlike aloo gobi, this dish has a gravy. For gravy based dishes, I like to blend the onion to a paste. Sometimes I also blend the ginger and garlic to a paste.

Heat oil in a large saute pan over moderate heat. First temper the whole spices like cumin seeds, cloves,  and cinnamon in oil. Then add asofetida, ginger, and garlic and the blended onion.

Finally add all of the ground spices, except the garam masala. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until dry.

Then add the boiled potatoes, cook for a few minutes. Add water and let simmer. 

Add the spinach in batches, using tongs to turn until wilted and adding more spinach until all of the spinach is used.  

To finish, add garam masala and remove from heat. Serve hot with roti and yogurt.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Easy Carrot and cilantro soup


With a few simple, fresh ingredients, carrot soup becomes a deliciously satisfying, simple weeknight meal that is highly nutritious and healthy. But is it possible to make carrot soup impressive? Previously I made a wonderfully warming cumin and curry carrot soup that was perfect for chilly weather. With a few twists, carrot soup is transformed into something refreshing and light, appropriately so for those sun-soaked days that make you ask, "Where did winter go?"

This carrot and cilantro soup inspired by Alice Waters has some flair- it is garnished with a red onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime salsa. It is irresistibly delicious and complex and surprisingly creamy. The brightness of carrot comes through beautifully.

If you hate cilantro, this isn't the soup for you as it definitely has a strong cilantro flavor. I generally like cilantro and absolutely loved this soup. The technique is simple. Sweat onions and garlic, add carrots and potatoes in large chunks, simmer in vegetable broth until cooked. Add cilantro and puree with a hand held immersion blender. Bring to a simmer before serving, ladle into soup bowls, and garnish with a red onion, jalapeno, cilantro and lime salsa.

Resist the urge (or don't) to grab tortilla chips!

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