29 May 2015

Chickpea, heart of palm, & roasted red pepper salad

Chickpea, heart of palm, & roasted red pepper salad

One thing you do when you're going out of town -- especially if an abundant CSA box is on the way -- is to eat down as much of the food in your kitchen as you can.

Salad was definitely on the list, because we had romaine already, and we're going to get an influx of even more greens before we leave. So I went through the cabinets and pulled out everything I thought would make a great full-meal salad. That meant chickpeas, hearts of palm, and jarred roasted red pepper. Together, they make an excellent, highly flavored, and multitextural salad. Over plenty of crispy greens, this mix made a very satisfying lunch.

This salad is very reminiscent of one of my favorite restaurant salads ever: the heart of palm salad at Osteria in Palo Alto, CA. I'm super excited to have made something similar at home. And if any of you want good Italian food -- especially salads -- in Palo Alto, this is where you should go, hands down. Even their basic green salad is astoundingly good.

This recipe will make three meal-sized servings or 4-6 smaller servings. It's therefore pretty great to make on Sunday and bring to work for several days during the week, as long as you keep the salad greens separate from the marinated veg mixture.

Chickpea, heart of palm, & roasted red pepper salad

Chickpea, heart of palm, & roasted red pepper salad

1 15-oz can or 2 cups cooked chickpeas
1 14-15-oz can hearts of palm
3-4 roasted red bell peppers
several big handfuls of chopped parsley
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 clove crushed garlic
4+ tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
up to 1 head romaine or other salad greens

If you need to roast your peppers, do that first. You can either roast them directly over the gas flame or halve them and stick them under the broiler. In either case, you want to blacken and blister the peppers on all sides. Then put them in a bag or sealable container for about ten minutes; this will trap the steam inside and loosen the skins. Then you can just brush the skin away with your fingers. Voila! Roasted red peppers!

Drain and rinse your chickpeas and deposit them in a large mixing bowl. Drain and rinse your hearts of palm, cut them into bite-sized pieces, and add them to the bowl. My hearts of palm were supposedly salad-cut, but they were still pretty large, so I cut them down a bit more. Chop your roasted and skinned peppers into similar bite-sized pieces and add them to the bowl. Add a couple big handfuls of chopped parsley, and the base of your salad is ready.

To make the dressing, mix together a tablespoon of champagne vinegar and a clove of crushed garlic, along with some salt and pepper. Whisk in about 4 tablespoons of good olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasonings to your liking. Then pour your dressing over your salad and stir well to coat and mix. You can sub about 5 tbsp of the vinaigrette of your choice if you prefer.

It's a good idea to let this salad rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving, so the flavors have a chance to mix together nicely. I absolutely did not do this, however.

When you're ready to serve, wash, dry, and chop your salad greens into appropriate pieces. Spread a few handfuls of leaves over each plate. Top with a generous amount of your chickpea mixture. Sprinkle a little more pepper on top and go to town.

What are some of your favorite salads?

25 May 2015

Scrambled eggs with tarragon, parsley, potato, and onion

Scrambled eggs with tarragon, parsley, potato, and onion

Wait, it's the holiday weekend? It's practically summer! What happened?

A lot of things happened. My ankle is still sprained, which means I've been hobbling around instead of standing up in the kitchen. I've been taking programming and computer history classes, which require a lot of brain and leave me wanting to sit around reading trashy novels in my spare time. And we're semi-suddenly going to London at the end of this week, due to someone having a required work trip. This gives us an excellent opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and take some vacation time. I intend to drink lots of coffee, eat British Indian food, and go to all the museums.

SO. That's my life right now. Anyway. Let's talk about food.

The other day I had some leftover potatoes and onions to use up, along with a bunch of fresh tarragon, so I made these delightful eggs.

Nigel Slater says that eggs and tarragon work well together, and I am happy to report that this is indeed the case. I'm especially happy because I don't really know what else to do with a package of tarragon. I think some further experimentation may be in order. But in the meantime, eggs work.

Scrambled eggs with tarragon, parsley, potato, and onion

1/2 small onion
1 small cooked potato
2 eggs
leaves of 2 sprigs fresh tarragon
leaves of 2-3 sprigs fresh parsley
salt & pepper
toast to serve

Melt a pat of butter in an appropriate egg pan. Dice your onion, add it to the pan, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until it starts to soften. (If you're using leftover cooked onion, you can just heat it up with the potato.)

Dice your potato and add that to the pan. Stir and continue to cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until hot through.

Crack your eggs into a small bowl. Chop your herbs and add them to the eggs, along with a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Mix well with a fork.

If you want toast, now is the time to put it on.

Turn the heat down under your pan and add your egg mixture. Cook, stirring frequently with a spatula, until scrambled to your liking. I like to scramble on low heat; the residual heat in the pan will still keep things going fairly quickly.

Serve your finished eggs with nicely buttered toast. Have some coffee. Yay!

What do you make with tarragon? Seriously, I need some suggestions.

Also, did I mention that our first CSA box of the season is coming right before we fly across the world? There may be some hasty cooking and freezing happening.

14 May 2015

Strawberry banana chia smoothie

Strawberry banana chia smoothie
Strawberry banana: perhaps not the most creative smoothie combination of all time. But hey! It's still tasty and easy, and it's certainly strawberry season right now. Why not?

Besides, the chia seeds make up for it.

I've been experimenting with chia seeds for a few months. They're excellent as a simple oatmeal topping or made into a pudding such as Gena's basic chia pudding. But I think my favorite way to eat chia seeds is to soak them and use them to thicken smoothies.

It's easy to adjust the amounts of seeds and liquid to make a thicker or thinner smoothie. This time, since I was using the classic smoothie thickener, banana, I kept the amount of chia seeds fairly low -- 1 tbsp of seeds for 1/2 cup total of milk and yogurt. It would definitely be possible to double the amount of seeds, eliminate the banana, and add in a bunch of different fruits and vegetables, though. Experiment and see what you like!

I strongly prefer smoothies made with fresh banana to those made with frozen. However! If you happen to have a freezer full of smoothie-destined bananas, you could absolutely use them here. You may need to add some extra liquid or switch out the yogurt for milk to adjust for your desired texture, but otherwise, you should be good to go.

If you make this in a regular-mouth mason jar, you can screw it onto a standard blender base and blend in the jar itself. Fewer dishes = yes please. This also means you can always put a lid on your jar and save the leftovers for later. Super easy.

Strawberry banana chia smoothie

1/4 cup milk or non-dairy milk of choice
1 tbsp chia seeds
1/4 cup plain yogurt or non-dairy sub of choice (or more milk)
4-5 strawberries, chunked
1 fresh banana, sliced
1 tsp flaxseed meal, optional

At least two hours before you want your smoothie, mix your milk and chia seeds together in your jar of choice. Refrigerate. Stir to mix twice at rough 10-minute intervals. This will keep your seeds from sticking together in one big lump at the bottom of your jar. Then just leave the jar in the fridge for 2 hours or more. I leave mine overnight.

In the morning, your chia seeds will be ready to go. Add your yogurt, strawberries, banana, and flaxseed meal to the jar (or put everything in a standard blender). Blend until fully pureed.

Drink it! Breakfast!

Do you eat chia seeds? What's your favorite thing to make with them?

PS: I have a sprained ankle. WHY. (It's because the moles dug a hole right in front of the back door. Jerks.)

08 May 2015

Carrot pinto bean chipotle soup

Carrot pinto bean chipotle soup

Because there's no reason to stop eating soup just because it's May.

I am doing nineteen things at once lately, so soup is actually one of the better choices I could make. It's super easy to make, delicious, cheap, and stores well in the freezer for future nights when I don't want to do anything but collapse into bed. Put some soup in a bowl, throw some lettuce on a plate (or into the soup), and you have a full dinner.

This particular soup is lovely and spicy and delightful. I will eat plenty.

Carrot pinto bean chipotle soup

olive oil or butter
1 onion
6 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 cloves garlic
1 boiling potato
2 cups cooked pinto beans
4 cups veg or bean broth
salt, pepper, bay leaf, cumin, oregano
1-2+ chipotles in adobo & sauce
optional garnish: green onion, cilantro, yogurt, etc.

Warm your oil or butter in a large soup pot while you peel (or scrub) and dice your onion, carrots, and celery. Add the vegetables and a pinch of salt to the pot, stir, and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, or until softened and beginning to brown.

Mince your garlic and dice your potato. Add these to the pot and continue to cook for another minute or two. Then add your beans and broth, season to taste with salt, pepper, cumin, and oregano, throw in a bay leaf, and bring the whole business to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until all your vegetables are cooked through.

At this point you'll want to pull the pot off the heat, remove the bay leaf, and puree the soup to your desired texture with an immersion blender. I like a completely smooth soup, but it's fine to leave yours a bit chunky if you prefer.

Check out the texture of your soup. If it's too thick, add some water or broth. If it's too thin, put it back on the heat and simmer to reduce to your desired texture.

When you're happy with your soup's texture, taste and correct any seasonings. Then, off the heat, stir in as much finely chopped chipotle pepper in adobo as you desire. The amount can vary quite a bit depending on your spice tolerance, so it's a good idea to start off slowly and taste as you go. We like spice, so I used about 2 tablespoons of chopped chipotle and sauce.

Serve your soup with your choice of garnish. Chopped green onion works exceptionally well here, as does cilantro or fresh oregano. If you happen to be making this at the height of corn season, a handful of kernels fresh off the cob would be an excellent idea. You may also want to have some toasted corn tortillas or chips available for dipping.

What's your favorite thing to eat after a busy day?