Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Beets Rule!

While this is a dish made up of Jasmine rice, rappini and beets, the vibrant, bleeding red from the beets takes over without a bit of effort. Pink rice happens very quickly!

Summer produce finds are fabulous. A trip to the produce market provided freshly picked beets and a big, crisp bunch of bright green rappini.

I washed the beets and tucked them into a little foil packet with olive oil, salt and pepper and let them roast off in the oven while I was cooking something else. (Don't waste energy). They were tucked in the fridge patiently waiting for me to use them.

Driving home from my volunteer shift at the library bookstore this afternoon, I was a half mile ahead of our daily thunderstorm. I'd been in the house but a few minutes, when the skies opened up with booming thunder and flashes of lightning letting us know Mother Nature was alive and well. While the temperatures still hovered at 'very warm', the gray skies and ominous light lent itself to visions of warm comfort food.

The raw, green salad I'd planned with avocado and vidalia onions, took a quick raincheck (no pun intended). Instead, I quickly measured out a 1/2 cup of Jasmine rice and put it on to cook with enough water to cover it by about an inch. While that came to a boil, uncovered, I washed and cut the rappini leaves into a chiffonade.

Next, I started a generous tablespoon of olive oil in a 10" saute pan and tossed in half a chopped vidalia onion and a couple of minced garlic cloves.

As the onions and garlic became fragrant, I added the ribbons of rappini greens. Then, when the water in the rice was level with the top of the rice, I removed the pan from the heat, covered the pot with a linen towel, added the cover, and set the timer for 12 minutes.

Toss the rappini with the onions and garlic over medium heat, keep an eye on them, add a cover to the pan so they steam a bit. While the rice is resting and the greens are wilting, dress a couple of beets. It's easy to rinse off the skins, use a paring knife on any stubborn pieces. Then slice the beets onto a plate, salt and pepper and drizzle with red wine vinegar.

When the timer rings, announcing the rice is ready, drizzle a few drops of Pickappepa sauce over the rappini, toss to mix and then combine with the rice. Dice up the dressed beet slices and add them to the rice mixture. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

This is a simple bowl of fine food. Quick and easy to prepare. Whole foods, filled with nutrients, easy on the budget, and pleasant on the palate.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mostly Raw

Here's my idea of 'the best of both worlds'.

A great transition meal, mostly raw with a bit of cooked accompaniment. Black beans mixed with succulently sautéed slices of Vidalia onion with big hunks of sweet orange bell pepper and slivers of seeded and deveined jalepeño pepper topping organic Romaine lettuce. Then a little pseudo guac (chopped tomato, garlic and avocado with lime juice) graces the top. Optionally, a few dollops of salsa and a bit of sour cream gives the dish a nice Mexican nuance.

The combination could fill a whole wheat wrap or tortilla to make a fabulous burrito, too.
Simple, quick, nutritious. A can of beans, rinsed well, an onion, a pepper, some lettuce. The guacamole topping is just a small tomato, half a Hass avocado, a clove of garlic and the juice of half a lime. All sitting nicely on torn hearts of Romaine.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Buerre Noisette

Ha, and you thought those green things were called asparagus! Well, they are and those little brown bits you see in between the very generous sprinkling of freshly ground pepper are the results of browning butter (buerre noisette). The French words for brown butter are so much more interesting, don't you think? Noisette is hazelnut and that shade of brown is what we are attempting to achieve with this simple sauce preparation.

As I was trying to indulge only one (moi) with a slightly decadent Sunday lunch, I used a mere two tablespoons of full cream butter. The recipe or technique can be increased proportionately to serve more. Heat the butter gently in a small skillet set over medium low heat. Let the butter melt through stages. While this is a simple preparation it does require a bit of watching once the butter starts to separate and the bits start to brown. It's amazing how quickly beautiful brown butter can become black, burned butter! The goal here is to allow the butter to acquire a lovely hazelnut-brown shade. As the butter reaches this point of perfection, add the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of sea salt, swirling as you go. Then remove the pan immediately from the heat and pour over the intended food.

Buerre noisette is fabulous over a piece of mild white fish or splendid to grace a lightly steamed green veggie as I did with this young asparagus. A few, rich calories for Sunday lunch is a mild indulgence, considering the plate of greens graced in butter was my entire lunch, accompanied by a crisp, cold glass of Riesling.
Just following the healthful admonition to "eat more greens"! Try it, it's swell.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Raw, Fresh and Fabulous

Requiring only a few minutes for washing and dicing, ripe, juicy summer veggies turn into a dish bursting with flavor, ready to be an appetizer or fill in as a main meal. You could call it Gazpacho without the liquid, guacamole/salsa, Pico de Gallo with a twist, call it any of these, but make it and enjoy this fine, fresh, palate pleaser.

After dicing tomatoes, sweet onion, jalepeño, mince some fresh cilantro, then add a diced avocado.

Gently fold all together with the juice of a fragrant, ripe lime. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Enjoy this as a luncheon salad mixed with fresh Romaine, scoop it up with torn pieces of fresh whole wheat tortillas or corn chips. Enjoy as a side or topping for refried beans or a burrito. I've oven toasted triangles of corn tortillas, brushed with olive oil and dusted with kosher salt, then used them to scoop up this wonderful, fresh salad with a Mexican twist. Homemade corn chips are quick, easy and impressive!

Raw foodies will enjoy this salad as is. Vegetarians might like to include the grain products. Everyone will enjoy the fresh from the garden flavors. This simple mix is a constant in my kitchen, providing a quick lunch or a great accompaniment to dinner. Juicy, sun-ripened tomatoes are probably my favorite vegetable. I can't imagine a day without one.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Alfalfa Sprouts
Day four of my first sprout growing experience. Imagine, here's a jar filled with fresh, crunchy energy, packing its own digestive enzymes along with a myriad of nutrients. Back in the '70's we joked about the hippies eating veggies, growing sprouts, living a lifestyle hard to fathom if you were on that upwardly mobile track, where having the butcher cut two-inch thick Porterhouse steaks to grill on a Saturday night was deriguere.

Memory can still savor the mouth-watering aroma of those steaks on the grill. But better judgement keeps them just a memory. And not simply better judgement. I suspect to have a 2" thick Porterhouse steak cut from grass fed, free roaming livestock, devoid of growth hormones and antibiotics would be a pretty pricey proposition today.

Back to the sprouts. Armed with a small package of organic alfalfa seeds from the local health food store, and the purchase of a dozen wide mouth, quart Mason jars and a package containing three yards of cheesecloth, I was ready to join the ranks of millions of folks who regularly produce fresh sprouts in their kitchens.

Simple instructions gleaned from the web, actually I was motivated to try my hand at this from a recent post on Apartment Therapy. There are a host of websites waiting to lend a hand. Sproutman or Sproutpeople are good places to start for instruction, advice and supplies.

Two tablespoons of seeds, soaked overnight, then rinsed and drained twice a day produced this wonderful jar of crunchy, sweet, nutritious sprouts. In the past, I've either included sprouts in a veggie wrap or topped off a big salad with a generous handful of store-bought sprouts. Knowing they "were good for me" but not all together happy with the musty aftertaste.

These fresh little guys, with no preservatives added, are sweet and flavorful and make a wonderful side salad on their own. I filled a small dish with sprouts, drizzled them with heavenly imported Tuscan olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and some freshly ground pepper. The fresh lemon juice was a good match for the fresh taste of the newly grown sprouts.

I tried the sprouts as a stand alone salad again, but this time with a drizzle of the award winning Pasolivo lemon flavored olive oil that I picked up at the olive grove in Paso Robles last month. The softness of the Meyer lemons with the Tuscan olive oil was a better match for the young sprouts, not as astringent as straight lemon juice. This will be my new favorite snack and side salad.

Buoyed up with confidence at the ease of growing this first batch of sprouts, I'm eager to try sprouting other seeds and beans. I bought a dozen Mason jars, so I have no excuse for not soaking something else soon.