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Archive for the ‘vegetarian’ Category

Barley Risotto

As it’s a new year, Cauli and I are trying to eat better. It’s so easy to wind up with a frozen meal on a hectic weeknight. Or worse, ordering pizza or picking up Taco Bell (our guilty pleasure).

One of the best healthy blogs out there is Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks. She uses whole grains, fresh vegetables, and lots of flavor. What I like best is that she doesn’t focus on being low fat; rather, she attempts to use fresh ingredients for a tasty and healthy meal.

Her seaweed risotto is a healthy take on a traditional risotto. In my version, I omitted the seaweed, used toasted almond slivers and creme fraiche instead of walnuts and mascarpone, and kale instead of spinach.

We were both very happy with the result. The barley was a little chewy and the Parmesan and creme fraiche gave it a light creaminess. I especially loved how the lemon zest brightened up the dish. The recipe makes quite a bit (and the barley is very filling), so there are plenty of leftovers.

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This dinner was created on the fly, which says a lot about how I’m growing more comfortable with cooking. I’m someone who needs to think recipes over for a few hours, if not days, and it’s nice to know that I can throw something together when an original plan doesn’t work.

I decided to make mushy peas again and toss them with some leftover fettuccine alfredo from dinner this weekend at my mother-in-law’s. As I was making the peas, I discovered the fettuccine was gone, so I settled on a casserole.

The outcome was good, though it’s a bit of a weird recipe: whole wheat flour for the white sauce (ran out of all purpose white) and half and half (no milk), goat cheese from Harley Farms (a great farm we visited this last weekend where we got to pet the goats), and my favorite crackers crushed for the topping. This really is nothing more than my previous posted mac and cheese recipe with a few additions. This would have been great with some chopped chives mixed in and some chive blossoms as a garnish.

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This post was supposed to be about honey chicken with preserved lemons.  Instead, it’s about something much better…a Spring discovery involving peas.

Peas! How I hated them as a child. If only I’d known what a difference fresh peas made, rather than their less flavorful (and frankly awful) relations found in a can.

I decided to make mushy peas to go with a honey lemon chicken recipe I adapted from Cooking Light.

I chopped up a shallot and sauteed it with about a tablespoon of butter until the butter browned and smelled nutty. I then added fresh-shelled peas (peas I shelled while commuting home on Caltrain, strangely enough), about two tablespoons of half and half, and two tablespoons of water. I brought it to a boil and cooked for about 12 minutes.

At this point I could have put the peas in the food processor to make them “mushy.” Or perhaps used our emersion blender. But the chicken took so long that I was rushing to get food on the table, so I beat the peas with a mallet for a while to make it look more “mush” and less “pea.” They would up looking like peas that had been beaten with a mallet.

I can’t begin to describe how good these peas are. The combination of fresh peas, with nutty brown butter, the light yet deep flavor of shallots, and cream…oh dear. I instruct you now, my 7 readers, to go out and make this. You will be amazed and delighted and convinced you can live on peas alone.
 

 

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Leeks with Creme Fraiche

I discovered leeks about a year ago with our first CSA box, and it was love at first sight. I love their aggressive green tops and their layers of oniony goodness. They are an easy vegetable to work with (taking care to slice down the middle and clean out any dirt that accumulated in its pale green folds) and adaptable to many recipes.

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For this recipe, I melted some butter in a sautee pan and added chopped leeks. (This is very much a personal recipe – meaning you should use what you have.) I had two large leeks and used them both.

 I sauteed them until they softened and added some homemade chicken stock and cooked it all down, making sure to season well with salt and pepper. After cooking the leeks and stock down for about 20 minutes, I added a pinch of dry rubbed sage, and stirred in some creme fraiche. Creme fraiche is a great addition to sauces like this – it adds a nice thick tang.

It was a great accompaniment to the grilled beef tenderloin and porcini truffle ravioli*. Adding more stock and creme fraiche would make this recipe more of a sauce  – a good topping for pastas.

*The raviolis are from the Pasta Shop in Oakland. A coworker was kind enough to share some with me and I’ve been hopelessly in love with them ever since. I recently found them at Whole Foods. Sadly, they are a seasonal item and will be gone by winter’s end.

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Parsnip Puree

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Parsnip puree is a very simple and delicious dish, and unassuming to look at (off-white, smooth – you get the idea) . We used it as a sauce over pork tenderloin and it was delicious; a nice change from apple-type sauces that usually accompany pork.

Parsnips are part of the carrot family and have a woody center that you need to cut around (a bit annoying, but easily done). They are also very bitter when raw, and sweet after they’ve been cooked. Roasting, as with most vegetable, is a great way to bring out their flavor. For this, however, I chopped them up and boiled them (about 10-15 minutes or until tender). I added a pat of butter and some shakes of cinnamon and blended to a smooth consistency. It went perfect with the pork, which was spicy from a rub that my dad gave to us.

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Buttered Turnips

Turnips are part of the radish family and a winter vegetable you should try if you haven’t already. This is a preparation that comes from Alice Waters’ book The Art of Simple Cooking.

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Cut off ends of turnips and quarter them. Place them in a pot with a pat of butter and some salt. Cover and cook on medium until soft. If they start to brown too quickly, lower the heat.

The turnips get a nice, carmelized brown color to them. I’ve even added onions in the beginning, which adds some additional sweetness as they carmelize. After they’re done cooking you can mash them, making them a good carrier for sauces.

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Cauliflower is becoming one of my favorite vegetables, with its versatility as a vegetable (a solid base to build flavors on) and the fact that it comes in white, orange, and purple! I made this recipe with cheddar cauliflower, which is why it’s a vibrant orange/yellow.

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The following is a simple recipe I got from Epicurious, modified slightly for my purposes. It calls for slicing the cauliflower thinly, but I think you can ignore that and create individual florets or a flurry of chopping motions to reduce it all down a bit.

However you decide, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and lay your cauliflower out on a baking sheet. The recipe calls for roasting at 400 for 15 mintues before adding the butter. I say it depends on your taste for cauliflower. If you like it really cooked, do so. If not, skip to the butter part.

The butter part.

Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in a sauce pan (you could use less and a microwave if you wanted). Add 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard and 2 tablespoons lemon juice and stir to combine (I squeezed a whole small lemon in and it was fine. Taste as you go along.)

Drizzle all over pre-roasted (or raw, depending in your desired cauliflower consistency) cauliflower and roast again for 10 minutes.

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