Thursday, April 09, 2009

Cooking for One Can Be Fun

Most days, breakfast is a thick, rich, green smoothie and lunch will be a big tossed salad or raw veggies with dip, often veggie sushi. Dinner time is when I indulge in cooked vegetables, grains and occasionally cheese. I limit dairy and gluten but a little now and then can be very satisfying.

I enjoy trying different ways to prepare good old stand-bys like various dark leafy greens, broccoli and asparagus. The image above was inspired by Chef Clifford Pleau at Seasons 52. The monthly newsletters from the restaurant chain include a video with Chef Pleau showing how to prepare the featured recipe or treatment. In March, the highlight was grilled broccoli with caramelized lemon.
The dinner above included a helping of caponata (eggplant relish), slices of whole wheat baguette with lemon infused olive oil and crushed mixed nuts for dipping and a mellow glass of an Argentinian Malbec.

Sesame Topped Broccoli and Soba Noodles
Broccoli sautéed with garlic and ginger, a bit of tamari and a dash of mirin, a few drops of toasted sesame oil, then topped with sesame seeds makes a wonderful sauce for soba noodles.
This was simply a quick sauté of sliced shallots, minced garlic, minced ginger and broccoli. Peel the stem, then slice and start with the aromatics. Add the florets at the end to keep them green and crisp.
Cooking the soba noodles (organic buckwheat) is as simple as boiling water. Bring water to a boil, add noodles being careful pot does not boil over, time for 3 - 4 minutes, drain and rinse with cool water. Once the broccoli reaches the desired tenderness, add a tablespoon of mirin (rice wine) and a splash of tamari, and a few drops of toasted sesame oil. Toss it all and plate it over the soba noodles, then give the dish a sprinkle of sesame seeds.

Asparagus Melt

On an evening when the taste buds were crying for something ooey-gooey and salty, I made an open-faced roasted red pepper and asparagus sandwich. Using two slices of toasted artisan bread filled with pumpkin, sunflower and flax seeds, I steamed/sautéed the asparagus and a couple of large pieces of red cubanella pepper in a little olive oil and a little water.

Steam/sauté is a favorite one pot way to quickly prepare most vegetables. A little oil, a little water, a few crisp vegetables in a pot with a lid. Add everything including seasonings to the pot, bring to a boil, cover and turn down heat to medium. Steam for 4-5 minutes depending on the hardness of the vegetable. Pierce with the tip of a paring knife to determine doneness. Remove lid and let the water evaporate, tossing the vegetables in the remaining oil and letting it all sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Don't overcook. The desired result is a bright green glistening crisp/tender vegetable.

Heat oven to 350° while preparing the asparagus and red pepper. Toast bread, place on baking sheet. Spread each slice with a bit of spicy dark mustard, then cover with a piece of red pepper, then place asparagus on top. Grate a bit of cheese for the topping. I used Monterrey/Jack as that's what I had on hand. Gruyere or Swiss would be a nice choice, too. Slide baking sheet into hot oven for 5-6 minutes or until cheese has melted and is a bit brown in places.

Here are three simple, inexpensive, healthy alternatives to a trip through the drive-in lane at a fast food place. And above all else, each is a real taste treat.

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