Bidding a Fond Farewell to Winter

Despite the temperature, we've had gorgeous sunrises this month.

Despite the temperature, we’ve had gorgeous sunrises this month. #nofilter

This past weekend, the first weekend of spring, I decided to say goodbye to the winter of 2015, that dark, cold, icy, snowy, did I say COLD, winter. In my kitchen, this means saying goodbye to some of my favorite root veggies: turnips, rutabaga, parsnips, and Brussels sprouts, and hello to spring asparagus, radishes, and peas. So I decided to make one last Brussels sprouts recipe before I closed the door on the season.

Now, I’ve purchased one bottle of fish sauce in my life and it’s still sitting in the refrigerator. Used in that rare Asian dish, it lasts forever so it just sits in the door of the fridge waiting for that next recipe. But when I spotted a page of fish sauce recipes in the April issue of Cooking Light, I knew I could kill two birds with one stone, bid adieu to winter and use up a little of the sauce!

It is definitely time to make a season switch; the sprouts I bought, normally bright green and round like a golf ball, were small and oval with just a tinge of green. This is a simple recipe, you measure everything and place into a bowl and just pan roast the sprouts. I added a bit more crushed red pepper, so on a blustery 14-degree day, it was a welcome warm side dish to roasted chicken, but I thought it could be equally tasty on a bed of rice or quinoa. (Vegetarians, you can still make this, just leave out the fish sauce, it will still be delicious!) So, goodbye winter! Hopefully Mother Nature will take a look at the calendar and realize we need to warm up!

brussels
Sweet and Savory Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts

This recipe originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 1/2 cup)

2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon lower-sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
1 pound trimmed Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise

Combine water, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl, stirring until sugar dissolves. Let stand at least 20 minutes. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sesame oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add Brussels sprouts to pan in a single layer, cut side down. Cook, without stirring, 5 minutes or until cut sides are evenly browned. Turn sprouts, and reduce heat to medium; cook 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Increase heat to medium-high. Add fish sauce mixture to pan, tossing to coat sprouts. Cook 1 minute or until liquid evaporates.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Mark Bittman in Berkeley          

berkeley

(Photo by Jim Wilson/New York Times)

One of my favorite food writers hands down is Mark Bittman. He can take three ingredients and make a dish fit for a king; his creativity in the kitchen is simple yet elegant. This lifelong New Yorker recently moved to Berkeley (which I take is a temporary move) and he writes elegantly about the winters farmer’s market in California’s Bay Area. Sigh. It honestly does sound like heaven to those of us in the snowbound states. You can read about his adventures by clicking here.

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A Very Veggie Salad

New Year's Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

New Year’s Eve, 2014. Looking west to the Adirondack Mountains.

Am I the only one who feels the need to detox after the holidays? Despite my best efforts, four weeks of rich, sweet foods, alcohol, plus bad weather so I can’t get out and walk has given me tummy trauma. Since they are finally over, I’m looking to healthy and delicious meals at lunch and dinner which are comprised of mostly vegetables with light protein or legumes. This will help your waistline, ward off germs, and are nutritious, too!

This is the usual salad I make for my lunches. Lots of veggies with a little bit of protein and cheese, with a big glass of water, it’s perfect and keeps me full all afternoon. Add some heart healthy avocado or nuts and seeds if you like. I know not everyone loves radishes, so I added them as an option; they add a bit of heat and crunch plus they’re incredibly inexpensive!

One of the drawbacks of making a salad for lunch is finding the time to make it in the morning. So here are two tips:

  1. When you get home from the grocery store, or when you have time some evening when you’re making dinner, slice and chop all your veggies and put them into containers. I find if I pre-cut all my vegetables, making a salad is ten times easier and less time consuming. Plus, it keeps me from being lazy; if I have to slice up cucumber and peppers early in the morning before work, I might think twice about making a salad. This way, most of the work is done!
  2. Pack up the salad veggies the night before and just add the protein and cheese in the morning, so it’s basically made and it won’t be soggy.

This is my current salad these days. Of course, add whatever veggies you like in your salad, be it carrots, cabbage, leftover grains or veggies, whatever you have on hand. I’m on a cider vinegar kick lately, but of course, rice, sherry, balsamic, white or red wine, or other flavored vinegars will be just as tasty.

salad2Very Veggie Salad
Greens (baby spinach, romaine, or a lettuce mix)
Cucumbers, peeled, sliced in half vertically, seeded, and cut into half moons
Peppers-orange, red, or yellow
Grape tomatoes
Scallions or red onion
½ cup beans or other protein: chicken, fish (tuna or salmon), shrimp, hard-boiled egg
Optional: radishes, avocado, nuts, seeds
Sprinkle with feta cheese (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil and cider vinegar
Salt and pepper

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: More Healthy Lunch Tips

I introduced TheKitchn.com to you a while back and they always have lots of great tips and recipes. Although this article is from last fall for back to school suggestions, its tips are useful for those of us who pack our lunches year-round! Here is one that gives you 16 tips on packing a healthy lunch! Salad isn’t the only healthy option out there for lunch!

Mediterranean Kebabs

lilacs

The lilacs are finally in bloom! I could bury my nose in their wonderful scent all day long!

This week’s dish can’t even be defined as a recipe, it’s more like a set of instructions!

A few weeks ago I was going to book club and instead of a green salad, I wanted to do something that was a little bit out of the box, was delicious, and the most important thing, I had about 15 minutes to put it together! So I created these vegetable kebabs, which can be used as an appetizer or in place of salad for dinner. Veggies, a little bit of cheese, and the flavor of fresh basil, they even make for a wonderful for lunch! Once you have everything chopped and ready to go, it really is done in 15 minutes!

I made mine with chunks of European cucumber, a baby mozzarella ball, a piece of fresh basil, and grape tomato sliced in half. I topped with some salt and pepper and a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. I thought a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar could be a good addition, too. I kept the order the same and made two rounds on the skewer. The skewers I have are six-inches long, just the right size, since these aren’t going on the grill.

You can make these with pieces of meat (think salami, spicy ham), different veggies (red, yellow, and orange peppers would be great!), with or without cheese, even fruit. Think about what flavors will go with what vegetables. Basil is the perfect herb since it is flat. I can’t think of another herb that would work quite as well, can you?

I have a potluck dinner to attend later on this week and will be toting these along. I think the kebabs are going to be made a lot in the coming months—a no-cook meal, they are perfect for those evenings when it’s too hot to turn on the stove!

 

Photo-skewers

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week
As I sat down wondering what I would endorse this week, my mind wandered to my adventures this past weekend. It’s garage sale season, and you will never know what kind of cookbooks you will find!

photo-coookbookI found this cookbook by local food writer, Andrea Chesman. I have a couple of her books and the recipes are always great. The book was in perfect condition and I paid $1 for it! (The price was .50, but since it was for the historical society, I said they could keep the change, big spender that I am!) So now that it is warmer weather, get out and check out some book sales! You may never know what gems you will find!

 

Vegetarian Summer Rolls

Mmm...dinner!

Happy Friday!

Here is my first summertime recipe! I call these “summer” rolls as opposed to “spring” rolls, because I make these on evenings when I want nothing to do with turning on the stove! I made them for the first time this season the other night, 80-plus degrees with a faint breeze. Too hot to cook!

I taught myself how to make these a few years ago when a rather upscale supermarket was selling packages of four tiny rolls for nearly $5! I loved eating them, but not spending the money, and decided I could make my own much more cheaply!

My prep station!

The chopping of the veggies is what takes up most of the time, so I find having a nice cool glass of wine or sparkling water and something fun to listen to on the stereo bides the time away. Be sure to have everything chopped and ready to go; the rice paper is pretty unforgiving if you leave it either in water or outside of it for any length of time. Once you get the hang of the rice paper, the process goes fairly quickly.

This is the rice paper I use for making rolls. I find them in the ethnic section of my co-op.

You can do any number of combinations of veggies and I also like to use tofu for a nice creamy/crunchy roll. You could use zucchini, summer squash, spinach, lettuce, the list is endless for any veggie you can eat uncooked. I like to have everything somewhat the same length so they lay nicely in the roll; everything is sliced, as opposed to diced.

This is what was in this week’s rolls:

• Avocado, sliced
• Carrots, cut in matchstick pieces
• Orange pepper strips
• Cilantro leaves (mint is also a really good addition–or by itself!)
• Tofu, cut into strips
• Cucumber, seeded and cut into thin strips
• Scallions
• Cabbage, sliced

To soak the rice paper: This is my method that I discovered through trial and error. Take a large mixing bowl and fill it with hot tap water. I place one rice paper in the bowl, and move it around until it is soft, yet still pliable and not mushy. This takes about 5 seconds or so. (When I take the rice paper out of the water, I replace it with another, so it is ready to go when I come back.) Place the rice paper on a cutting board, load up the veggies. Bring in the sides of the paper, then roll in jelly roll fashion, and place on a serving platter. Once you start doing a few of these, you’ll become accustomed to how much filling to use and you’ll become a well-oiled roll making machine!

For sauces, I have an easy standby, but this time I made an extra one. I’ve had an old jar of peanut butter in the cupboard that I was saving to make a peanut sauce to accompany the summer rolls.

Peanut Sauce
About a 1/2 cup of peanut butter
Warm water
A couple dashes of rice wine vinegar
A couple dashes of soy sauce or tamari
Chili garlic sauce (sambal oelek sauce) to taste, if desired

Place the peanut butter in a small bowl and add hot water, enough to make a paste. Start off with a little bit, mix and repeat until you achieve the desired consistency for the sauce. Add the vinegar, soy sauce, and then add enough chili garlic sauce to give it a kick, if you’re using. I’m thinking this also would go well on noodles, with a little bit of chicken or tofu, and scallions.

Summer Roll Sauce
Hoisin sauce
Rice wine vinegar
Chili garlic sauce (sambal oelek sauce), to taste

Place about 1/3 of a cup of hoisin sauce in a bowl, add the vinegar and chili garlic sauce to taste.

A couple of tips:
• Leftover rolls are the best for lunch the next day! Just be sure to lay them side by side in a container as opposed to stacking otherwise they will stick to one another; trust me, I learned this the hard way!
• If you find you have too many veggies, I throw everything into a container that I can use for salads, or your next night’s dinner is ready to go! I sometimes make rolls two nights in a row, and the second night everything is prepped for you!