Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Curried Lentil and Apple Salad with Chicken

I always have pre-soaked and cooked lentils kicking around the fridge, waiting to be thrown into salads and stews. Getting into this routine - cooking off lentils/chickpeas/rice/etc on weekends and storing it in the fridge - makes preparing week night meals really darn easy. In a medium skillet, heat a few spoons of olive oil, turmeric, curry powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, nutmeg, and some sugar or stevia. Fry onions until they lose their sharpness, but still have a crunch. Take off the heat and let cool as you make the rest. (Some recipes don't ask you to toast the spices, but this way requires just 8 minutes and is undiscriminating over the quality of spices you use. Uncooked heavy spiced dressings have a tendency to become powdery or gritty. This way you cook everything into a fail-proof oil-paste).

Beets with Yogurt and Dill

The inspiration for this came from a big pile of dill I collected at my weekly CSA. I love creamy dill sauces, but wanted to pair it with something other than salmon. I was weary to use beets because they have a tendancy to stain everything, especially white dairy. However, if you mix everything and serve it right away, you're golden! On that note... using golden or candycane beets might be a beter option.

In a bowl combine: 2 big dollops of plain full-fat yogurt, the juice and zest of 1/2 lemon, a few tablespoons of good-quality creamy blue cheese, a small handfull of chopped dill, salt and pepper. It's the easiest dressing in the world! Mix those ingredients together and then toss in cooked, peeled, and sliced beets, and a bunch of peppery arugula. Serve flat on a big platter to maximize the blue cheese crumbles you will sprinkle over now. Usually it's fun to stack things high for presentation, but beets are thin and lovely and anything disc-shaped does best to lie flat.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mason-Jar Teas

I've been making these for a few years now and enjoy how every time they taste different. You can try to replicate your best batch of green/strawberry/mint iced tea, for example, but it will never hit the mark the way you remember a few weeks previous. Therfore, your best bet is to just keep on re-inventing the wheel and surprising yourself. My best concoctions were made when I wasn't a sissy about it - nettle tea, lemon juice, and dill for example, or apple tea/nutmeg/dulche de leche. If you can't replicate something, just 180deg turn and create something new all together! And this is where today's food/life philosophy comes in. In addition to putting transparent liquids and hunks of fruit in a jar (which I strangly think is an exciting way to spend one's afternoon), the same 180 approach works for almost every situation in life. Trying to re-create a memory will never do... you've built it up in your head and altered its pieces. Just do something new altogether and create better ones. Be bold! Then again, I'm 20 and know nothing. Just make the damn tea.

Three easy steps: 
Pour into a big ol' mason jar the following: a pot of tea you didn't finish drinking, any type of fruit, spice, seed, or whatever you care for, and the sweetener of your choice (I most often use stevia drops or raw honey). Let it sit in your fridge overnight, and up to a few days.

Autumn Eggplant and Pumpkin Dip

The finished result is very pretty. The oil will collect at the edges of the bowl and there will be three things going on: creamy dip, nutty pesto, silky oil. Serve with fresh, hard-crust bread, crudites, or your favourite crackers. Bonus points if you make this with a glass of wine in your hand.

This didn't have a recipe, so I'll do my best to recall what exactly was chucked into the blender and scooped into which bowls...

Two parts to this dip:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Blueberry and Orange Scones with Nutmeg

These scones were the bomb! I brought them to one of my mother's community functions and they vanished in minutes. Thanks to Nimmi for the nutmeg she sent me from her grandfather's farm in India! I'll copy below the recipe I used from the Food Network Test Kitchen. *Note: I used dried blueberries instead of currents, more orange zest, a little orange juice, and lots of fresh grated nutmeg! This recipe is easy to double-batch and freeze for fresh scones at a moment's notice. Just take a few out of the freezer and pop into a 350deg oven for 8 minutes until they're "fresh outta' the oven" again. Shhhh.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stuffed Spaghetti Squash *Vegan

1. Slice a spaghetti squash in half and smother with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss into the oven on a parchment lined baking pan and cook for 40 minutes at 425F degrees.
2. While that's going, make whatever type of "red" sauce you like. I used onions, garlic, pureed roasted red peppers, tomato paste, and iItaliandried herbs. Once that's simmering on the stove and the squash is doing its thing, you can take off. (I went for a run...)
3. Pull out squash from oven and, using a large fork, scrape the long strands from the outer squash rind. You'll accumulate a large pile of what looks like spaghetti in your squash bowl. Pour in enough sauce to fill the bowl and mix it with the strands. Add salt and pepper too.
4. Top with whatever you like as a garnish. I used paper-thin slices of red bell pepper, a few dollops of hummus I made the day before, and some chopped parsley. If you're not worried about dairy, a sharp Italian cheese would be great. Broil in the oven until the top is golden and bubbly. (Ideal time for a post-run shower).
5. Serve with some fennel frawns strewn over the top, and a big salad on the side. Serves 2 hungry people. This takes about an hour and fifteen minutes from start to finish, but the actual hands-on time is twenty minutes tops!

Decadent Sauce for Chicken

1. Fry off lardons of bacon in a deep saute pan and reserve the fat
2. Add olive oil to prevent bacon fat from smoking and sear chicken breasts to seal in juices
3. Remove chicken from pan and cover with tinfoil as you make the sauce. Chicken should have a golden crust on the outside and still be raw on the inside
4. Add crimini, king oyster, enoki, or another rich type of mushroom slices to pan. Also add garlic, chopped up olives, sun dried tomatoes, tomato paste, and a glug of good balsamic vinegar.
5. Let the liquid volume reduce and become more concentrated as the chunky ingredients cook and soften.
6. After a few minutes of this, return chicken to pan to finish cooking. It will bathe in the rich sauce as it does.
7. Monitor the meat so that it doesn't overcook! Right at the end, add in a handful of fresh chopped parsley, as well as the bacon lardons. Once those are heated through, serve with rice or polenta. Spoon the chunky mixture piled high on the chicken. Drizzle the sauce around the plate and on the grains. Voila!

Spicy Rice Noodles and Salmon

Ingredients: Rice noodles, Chinese cabbage (cut into long strands to mimic noodles), bean sprouts, lime zest, lime juice, cilantro, homemade chili paste, ground peanuts, peanut oil, grilled salmon, and Siracha if that floats your boat... my boat swims in the stuff.