Tofu Curry with Bok Choy and Peanuts

All day long it looked like it was dusk. Low gray clouds straddled the mountain tops and the fields virtually disappeared in fog. It had been a long week, I was tired, and I wanted a home-cooked meal, but one that didn’t take a lot of effort. A vegetarian meal with a spicy sauce that uses mostly kitchen pantry staples was the perfect recipe!

I love Thai food and always order red curry sauce as opposed to green curry, but now I’m not sure why. I’m a convert! While comparing the bottles of red and green curry paste I have in the fridge (I buy Thai Kitchen brand), the only difference between the two is red and green chilis, everything else is the same. Though I think the green curry is a bit milder (note to non chili heads!), I found it gave just the right amount of warmth I wanted. Paired with coconut milk, the blend of lemongrass and tangy lime made a flavorful sauce. I don’t know how to cut a baby bok choy into a “wedge,” so I just chopped them. And no need to fry the tofu in advance, put everything in a Dutch oven and stir. That’s all the effort you’ll have to do.

I made a pot of brown rice, and had thought about making it fancier, adding some coconut milk, flaked coconut, and chopped fresh ginger, but decided against the extra effort, but that would be a great addition. And this received a rousing thumb’s up from The Eater of the House; upon his second helping, he declared this the BEST dish I’ve EVER made! “You better write about this!” he said. And so I am.

This warm, bright emerald-green sauce took the day’s gray color away and was the perfect end to the week and start of the weekend!

green curry

Tofu Curry with Bok Choy and Peanuts

This recipe first appeared in the September 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.
Yield: Serves 4 (serving size: 3/4 cup rice and 1 1/2 cups curry)

1 1/4 cups packed fresh cilantro leaves, divided
3 tablespoons green curry paste
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk
1 (14-ounce) package firm water-packed tofu, drained and cubed
12 ounces baby bok choy, cut into wedges
1 (8-ounce) can sliced bamboo shoots, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce, divided (use tamari for gluten-free)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
2 (8.8-ounce) packages precooked brown rice (such as Uncle Ben’s)
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped

1. Combine 1 cup cilantro and next 4 ingredients (through coconut milk) in a blender; process until smooth.

2. Bring curry mixture and tofu to a boil in a large Dutch oven over high heat; stir gently. Add bok choy, bamboo shoots, 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce, and salt to pan. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 4 minutes.

3. Heat rice according to package directions. Divide rice among 4 bowls. Top evenly with curry mixture; sprinkle evenly with peanuts and remaining 1/4 cup cilantro. Drizzle servings evenly with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce.

MVK’s Like of the Week: The Doughnut Project, West Village, New York City
doughnuts 2 I had made plans way back in June, and the time had finally come to meet my girlfriends in New York City on Halloween. We didn’t have much on our itinerary, lots of walking, bookstores, and doughnuts were at the top of the list; Jana’s friend, Troy Neal, recently opened The Doughnut Project in the West Village and we were going to check it out!

Now, anyone who knows me well knows that doughnuts and pie are my weaknesses; offered a nice fluffy glazed doughnut I have a hard time saying no. But walking around the city for the day allowed me to feel a little bit better about having a late afternoon indulgence!

I admit I was skeptical having my first test bite of an Olive Oil and Pepper doughnut. Who would have thought it would be delicious, but it was! We decided to sample three: Beet Stuffed with Ricotta, a Maple-Bacon Bar, and Salted Chocolate.

doughnuts 1I love beets and wondered what those who don’t like these ruby reds thought, but they seem to be their most popular doughnut. I can see why; the rich ricotta with a bright red sweet topping was my favorite. The dough itself is very nutmeggy so it actually has flavor as opposed to other bakery sweets. Do you know what a maple bar is? I didn’t, but I do now as I was educated on Seattle’s maple bars, which is a doughnut shaped like a bar. We don’t have anything like that on the East Coast (it’s not a cruller), but The Doughnut Project has them! A thin layer of a maple frosting with a piece of bacon, it was decadent! And the chocolate doughnut was out of this world. And it was real chocolate glaze, not like a cake frosting you find on some other doughnuts. Paired with the nutmeg dough it was SO good.

Coffee is the only hot drink sold, but they have a non-compete clause with the tea shop next door, so I was able to buy a cup to have with my sweet snack. You can find them on online in all the usual places, http://www.thedoughnutproject.com/, on Facebook, Twitter (#TDP_NYC), and on Instagram. I have plans to go back to New York in the spring and I know I’m going to take a long walk so I can stop off for another visit!

The Doughnut Project
10 Morton Street
New York City

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili Plus MVK’s *Like* of the Week

I couldn't resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light was just perfect reflecting off the orange leaves!

I couldn’t resist stopping and taking photos of the foliage on my way home. The light on the orange and red leaves made the colors pop out!

Chili is one of those meals that is so easy to make that you can fix it on a weeknight without a recipe and it can be ready to eat in well under an hour. A little bit of beef with some small beans, onions, garlic, and spices, you can throw everything in a pot and it will always be delicious. But my veggie chilis in the past have been less than mediocre, lacking in flavor and texture. Besides some beans and vegetables, I’ve never been able to make a decent pot. But this is one veggie chili I can believe in! Seasoned with lots of spices, with beans and wheat berries as a “meat replacement,” this chili is one for the books and has convinced me that you can make a good veggie chili at home!

Although the ingredient list is long, you definitely can make this on a weeknight, just don’t do like I did and postpone cooking by 30 minutes because you forgot a critical ingredient and had to run out to the store! The veggies can be prepped in advance and the wheat berries can be cooked early, too. The only change was I substituted one tablespoon of tamari in place of the amino acids, since I didn’t have a bottle on hand.

I noticed the “(Meat) Eater of the House” had seconds so I take that as a resounding thumbs up! Topped with a little bit of cheddar, avocado, red onion, and sour cream, it made excellent leftovers for lunch, and enough to pop in the freezer for another meal!

chili

Can’t-Believe-It’s-Veggie Chili
This recipe first appeared in the October 2015 issue of Cooking Light magazine.

Serves 6 (serving size: about 1 1/4 cups chili, 2 1/2 tablespoons cheese, 4 teaspoons onion, and 2 1/2 teaspoons sour cream)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced peeled carrot
1 tablespoon minced jalapeno pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons unsalted tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, undrained
2 cups water
1 cup lower-sodium vegetable juice
1/2 cup uncooked wheat berries
1 cup water
1 cup lager beer (such as Budweiser)
2 tablespoons liquid aminos (such as Bragg)
1 (14.5-ounce) can unsalted kidney beans, rinsed and drained
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream

1. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add onion and next 6 ingredients (through garlic); sauté 10 minutes or until liquid evaporates and vegetables begin to brown. Add tomato paste and next 5 ingredients (through red pepper); cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Using kitchen scissors, cut tomatoes in the can into bite-sized pieces. Add 2 cups water, vegetable juice, and tomatoes to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 30 minutes.

2. Combine wheat berries and 1 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add wheat berries, beer, aminos, and beans to chili; cook 20 minutes. Serve with cheese, red onion, and sour cream.

MVK’s *Like* of the Week: Candy Corn Cookies
I thought with Halloween just a few days away, I would bring to you one of the most popular recipes I ever posted on my blog for any new readers: candy corn cookies! These tiny sugar cookies are about an inch high in height and are adorable and make lots to share!

Aren't these adorable? And this was cookie sheet #1, so my batch definitely made more than 5 dozen cookies!Candy Corn Cookies
From PBS Food’s Fresh Taste blog, recipe by Jenna Weber

2 sticks of butter, softened
½ cups powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 cups flour
Red food coloring
Yellow food coloring

1. Cream together the sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and continue to beat until incorporated.

2. In another bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to the butter sugar mixture and mix until a soft dough just forms. Remove dough from mixer bowl and separate into three equal pieces (use a food scale to weigh each piece if you want to be exact!). Mix together a little bit of red and yellow food coloring to make orange and then add the orange coloring to one of the dough pieces. Make another dough piece yellow and leave the third plain.

3. Place a piece of plastic wrap or tin foil inside a loaf pan and pat down the white dough inside. Place the orange dough on top (pat down firmly) followed by the yellow dough. Remove dough from pan, wrap up in either tin foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours.

4. When you are ready to bake your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Cut 1/4th inch slices down the width of the dough. Continue cutting each slice into small triangles.

5. Place triangles on a lined baking sheet (line with parchment paper) and bake for 6-8 minutes until tops are puffy and bottoms are golden.

Yield: 5 dozen tiny cookies

Homemade Salsa

apple orchard

The apple orchards are in full bloom!

I came to the conclusion recently that after writing this blog for four-plus years, I really need a recipe index for everything I’ve written and cooked. Because after searching, I discovered I’ve never passed along my favorite recipe for salsa! Guacamole, artichoke dip, hummus yes, but never salsa. After recently making a big batch, I figured I would right that wrong!

I know I’ve told you about the now defunct Horn of the Moon, a vegetarian restaurant in Montpelier, Vermont. As a teenager, I would take my babysitting money to enjoy pizza night on Tuesdays and sometimes would stop in for a sweet and hot carob (note, not hot chocolate!) after school. A definitive ’70s Vermont restaurant, there were spider plants hanging (in macramé plant holders) in the large windows that overlooked the Winooski River. Questionable décor, but the food was delicious. I even spent a day cooking in the kitchen in the hopes of landing a summer job. I can’t remember if they decided it wasn’t a good fit or if I did, but no matter, owner Ginny Callan has a beloved cookbook that I frequently turn to when l am looking to cook Vermont produce: rhubarb, fiddleheads, asparagus, and zucchini.

This recipe fits winter or summer; winter use a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes, summertime six medium-sized. I like it really spicy, so I’m liberal with the cayenne and sometimes I’ll add a jalapeno with the green pepper. A lot of chopping and measuring, but in the end you’ll know it was worth the effort. And it makes 3 cups, so there will be lots!

salsaSalsa
This recipe is from the Horn of the Moon Cookbook, by Ginny Callan, Harper & Row, 1987.

One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in tomato juice (In season, 6 finely diced medium-sized fresh garden tomatoes are a wonderful option!)
1 TBS. minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
2 tsp. sunflower oil (MVK’s Note: I use canola or another light oil)
2 tsp, lemon juice
2 tsp. ground cumin
½ cup very finely chopped onion (1 onion)
¾ cup very finely chopped green pepper (1 large pepper)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
¼ to ½ tsp. cayenne pepper (to taste)
1 or 2 fresh hot chili peppers, minced (optional)

Crush tomatoes; chip or run lightly through food processor. Combine with rest of ingredients. Chill until ready to serve. Makes 3 cups.

MVK’s Endorsement of the Week: Food, Wine, and Books!

nh22Last weekend I attended the second “Food, Wine, and Books” fundraiser for the New Haven Community Library. Held at Lincoln Peak Vineyard, we had drank wine and ate samples of recipes cooked from a variety of books in support of this local library. The evening brought together my three favorite things: books, wine, and food!

nh21It was picture-perfect, the temperature was just right and no bugs yet. We sat on the porch with friends we hadn’t seen in months (we are all coming out of our winter hibernation!), and chatted about books and politics while sipping the delicious wine and food. A cucumber dip from the book, Life from Scratch (a food memoir that is on my radar, but I haven’t read yet), was so good, there was a pasta/salmon salad out of Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and I think my favorite was the chicken paté from my idol Ruth Reichl’s wonderful memoir, Tender at the Bone. (I’m always a sucker for paté.) It was a wonderful way to enjoy the springtime weather, support a good cause, and try out some new dishes!  

 

 

Chris’s Chi-Chi Beans

Once upon a time, there was an Italian man who loved to cook for me. This was long before I caught the cooking bug, so the idea that someone who wasn’t a family member cooking for me was new and I loved it. One dish we often ate was a peasant stew that didn’t really have a name, we just called it Nana’s Chi-Chi Beans. His grandmother came from Italy and he would sometimes return from a visit with a large Tupperware container. I’d turn on the stove and just melt when I opened up the container and sniffed the melding of the onions and garlic. The creaminess of the beans with the just-right crunch of the carrot, I’d be in heaven at the table.

Alas, the man is long gone and the name has changed, but the dish is still part of my repertoire. When I am feeling poor in the pocket, I reach for this dish. It costs probably $3 at the most to make, and could serve up to four at dinner. For some variety, you could serve this over rice or pasta, and sometimes I sprinkle some cheese on top, feta and parmesan are terrific. For another twist, you could substitute sweet potato for the carrots or add a splash of white wine. Add a little bit of crushed red pepper if you want some spice. Or, just eating it as its written is also good, as I can attest from my lunch the other day! I find it’s a perfect autumn meal.

If you’re interested, there’s a slow food movement online, $5 Challenge, where you pledge to share a fresh, healthy meal that costs less than $5. This one definitely fits the bill!

Chris’s Chi-Chi Beans
• 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
• 2 cloves of garlic (or more if you prefer), minced
• 1 medium onion, diced
• 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
• 1 can chi-chi (garbanzo, chickpeas), rinsed
• 1 can stewed tomatoes

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the garlic and onion and cook until translucent. Add the carrots and cook for a couple of minutes until soft. Add the can of beans and stewed tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook throughly. I’ve never timed making this, once I turn down the heat, I just let it cook until dinner is ready. If you find the liquid is evaporating, you can add a little bit of water or wine.

Dinner For One

When I find myself home alone for dinner, which is normally at least once a week, I tend to gravitate toward meals I love and that are easy to make, which nine times out of ten ends up being a big salad. Loads of greens, some veggies, maybe some meat or cheese, and just a little bit of olive oil and vinegar and dinner is ready. I’ve never been one to order take out even when I lived alone; for whatever reason, I find it even more work than actually making something, probably because I live in the country and food doesn’t come to me, so unless I’m out, I have to leave the house to get takeout. Kind of defeats the purpose. But please don’t take this that I’m cooking a full dinner for myself on these evenings; I’ve been known to have a dinner of cheese and crackers or nachos with a glass of wine on more than one occasion!

I’m cooking for one for a couple of weeks this month and last Friday couldn’t come quick enough. After a lousy week I was yearning for comfort which, although I love them, a salad just doesn’t provide the warm, creaminess of a plate of pasta. Driving home and thinking about what I had available in the cupboard and fridge, I knew I had all the fixings for one of my favorites, Creamy Orzo With Spinach. This takes 30 minutes at the most from beginning to end with little cooking aside from chopping some garlic. I add loads of spinach, so you’re off the hook of providing another vegetable! (You have to get your greens, as my grandmother always says!) It’s getting cooler out, so it was a perfect meal that evening, and I went to bed comforted and satisfied.

Full disclosure, this is loosely based on one of the first Cooking Light recipes I ever made, so it harkens back to 1991 or so. It is perfect as your dinner or as a side dish for two.

Creamy Orzo with Spinach
1 teaspoon butter or olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
3/4 cup orzo
1 3/4 cup water
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
2-3 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach (or chopped fresh spinach)
2-3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (optional)

In a saucepan, heat the butter or oil until warm and add the garlic. Cook just a couple of minutes until soft. Add the orzo and stir. Add the water, bring to a boil, then turn to low, stirring occasionally. When the orzo is done cooking, mix in the cheese. Add one handful of spinach at a time, stirring it into the pasta until it warms and softens. Add salt and pepper and serve.

* * * * *
Just an addendum to last week’s post. I admitted a baker I am not, and it has now been proven to be the truth! A reader (Mom) pointed out you never make a pie crust with two cups of flour, it’s always three. I usually refer to The Joy of Cooking, but when I started on my quest for the perfect apple pie, I don’t believe I went back to it. Hence, the incorrect measurements. THIS is why there are recipe testers and test cooks!

I’ve made a change to the recipe (make your own pie crust, don’t listen to me!) if you decide to make it. I guess the cup of butter in the crust was why it was so delicious! Thought I would post another picture, just because I’m so proud of its beauty, despite its full-fat content!

Chinese Five Spice Tofu with Black Bean Noodles

A few weeks ago, following a couple of nights away from home with the girls, my sweetie took me out to dinner. We went to our usual, The Bobcat Cafe, a mere seven miles from home, where they brew their own beer and have a rotating menu based on what’s in the garden that season. I hadn’t been in a while so one menu item popped out at me, Chinese Five Spice Seared Tofu served on a bed of black bean noodles with sesame cabbage slaw and cashews. I was imaging noodles made of black beans, but when it arrived it was even better. Crispy triangles of spicy tofu atop a bed of noodles doused in just the right amount of black bean sauce and spice. I studied it carefully and I knew I had to make this at home. And the other evening I did!

I admit, my version wasn’t as good as the Bobcat’s, probably for the mere reason I didn’t use as much oil as they did. The noodles (which got really sticky and probably needed some oil or water before adding the dressing) got a thumb’s up from my audience; the tofu, not so much. Chinese Five Spice resembles more of a cookie spice than one you’d find in an entrée; it has a variety of compositions, but some of its main ingredients are star anise, cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, and ground fennel seeds. It worked for the Bobcat, maybe next time I’ll use even less of a dusting. If you’re interested in trying the spice, get a little bit at your coop, that’s where I buy all my spices; bought in smaller amounts, your spices will stay fresher–and you’re saving money than buying a whole container of a spice you’ll use for one dish. At $16 a pound, I paid 65 cents, and I have a little bit leftover for another dish.

I liked this dish, and will probably make this again with some tweaks, like adding a tiny bit of oil and cooking water to the noodles. It was easy to put together on a work night, took about 30 minutes from beginning to end, and served with a quick saute of summer vegetables, dinner is ready!

Chinese Five Spice Tofu with Black Bean Noodles
• 2 cubes, fresh tofu, cut horizontally, so you have four pieces
• Chinese Five Spice (found in an ethnic grocer or your coop)
• About four cups cooked noodles (I had leftover lo mein noodles in my cupboard, but any mild, thin noodle will do)

Black Bean Dressing
• 2 teaspoons black bean sauce
• Rice vinegar to thin the sauce
• 1 large teaspoon sambal oelek (fresh chili paste), or to taste (if you don’t have that on hand, chili flakes can be substituted)

Heat some mild oil in a skillet and when hot, add the tofu, turning from side to side until crispy. Place on a plate when they are done and when they are cool, add a sprinkle of the Chinese Five Spice on each side. Cut into triangles and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the dressing together. Add more sambal oelek if you like things spicy! Set aside.

Cook the noodles in a large pot according to directions. Drain and place in a large bowl. (**Add a little bit of mild oil and/or cooking water if you don’t want the noodles sticky!**) Add the dressing and mix until all the noodles are covered with sauce. On a plate, add about a cup of noodles and two tofu triangles. Eat! Serves four.

* * * *
I listened to Alice Waters of Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, California, on a podcast to and from work the other day. The restaurant is celebrating its 40th anniversary this week! Listening to her talk about food, the flavor of how eating in season is best, and her vision of having a restaurant where people ate good food around a table together was wonderful and inspiring. You can listen to it here, http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ or pick it up on iTunes.

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!

Spring Cleaning #3: Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

Hello, dear readers! This is the easiest of recipes, and is great if you want a shot of summer in the middle of the winter. I don’t even know if I can call it a recipe, basically put everything together in a bowl and mix! Cooking the quinoa is what takes the longest, once that’s cooked throw some beans, shallots, corn, spices, and lime in a bowl and you’re ready! I cooked the quinoa in the morning and created this when I got home from work one evening. In five minutes, dinner was served! I served it over greens as a vegetarian dinner, but it would make a nice side salad with a piece of chicken or pork, too.

Quinoa and Black Bean Salad
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup black beans
1/2 cup or so, frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup or so, frozen edamame, thawed
2 tablespoons minced shallots or sliced scallions
Juice of 1 lime, or to taste
1 teaspoon cumin, coriander, or a combination of the two

1. Bring two cups of water to a boil. Add 1 cup quinoa and gently cook for about 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed. If the quinoa is done cooking and there is extra water, be sure to drain it.
2. In a mixing bowl, add quinoa, black beans, corn, shallots or scallions. Mix. Add lime juice to taste and spices. Mix and serve.

Springtime Challenge 2: Greek Lentil Salad

Another pantry-cleaning recipe. This is loosely based on a Cooking Light recipe from the early 1990s. I have no recollection if this is even close to the original, but this in my take on it. If you wanted to serve warm with watercress, it’s delicious, but it’s also tasty without. I discovered as I was mixing this together I was out of red wine vinegar. Horrors! Then I realized I had only a couple of teaspoons of sherry vinegar left! I figured apple cider would add too much flavor, so I ended up using rice vinegar. It was an decent substitute, but I wouldn’t use it again. This served over greens makes for a great lunch or as a side salad or main dish for supper.

Greek Lentil Salad

Again, apologies for the approximations. I make this by eyeballing the ingredients with frequent tastings.

 

1 cup dried lentils
3-4 garlic cloves, finely minced
Oregano, preferably Greek
Red wine vinegar
Crumbled feta cheese

1. Bring 2-3 cups of water to a boil. Add lentils, and cook in a gentle simmer until cooked, 25-30 minutes or so. While lentils are cooking, mince the garlic.

2. When the lentils are finished cooking, drain off any excess water, and transfer to a bowl. Add garlic and mix. Add 2-3 tablespoons of the vinegar, or to taste. Add a dash or two of the oregano. Be careful, you don’t want the herb to overpower the salad. Add 1/4 cup of feta, or more if desired.

3. Serve warm or cold!

Spring Cleaning 1: Asparagus Barley Risotto

Don't forget the freshly ground pepper and shaved cheese!

Not sure why, but I have a bee in my bonnet these days. Perhaps it’s the interminably long winter we’ve had here, but I want to clean. Not just clean the house, open the windows, and let the fresh air in, but really hoe things out, including the fridge, freezer, and cupboards. So, in this quest to start anew, I’ve started to look in the larder and create recipes from the grains I have waiting to be used. Staring at me in their glass jars are wheat berries, quinoa, barley, black beans, lentils, and whole wheat couscous.  What to do, what to do?

Last Sunday, I had a craving for a risotto I make each spring when I see the first young asparagus in the store, but is made with the usual Italian short grain rice. Instead of rice, I substituted barley. It was delicious and heated up well for lunches during the week. With this recipe, I was able to use some barley and a jar of homemade chicken broth I defrosted from the freezer. This takes some kitchen time, you have to constantly stir the barley, or if you’re like me, try to constantly stir the barley, sometimes my attention wanders elsewhere! There’s still one more cup of barley left for tomorrow night’s dinner, but I’m making headway. Stay tuned, recipes will be coming!

Asparagus Barley Risotto

1 cup pearled barley
1 cup finely diced onion
3 cups-plus chicken broth
Young asparagus
A couple of dashes of white wine or dry vermouth
Freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

1. In a sauce pan, heat the chicken broth and add some chopped asparagus (a cup or more, depending on how much you’d like). Once heated through, turn to low and keep it warm. (Note: I didn’t cook the asparagus before putting it in the stock, it cooked while in the broth. If you find they aren’t soft, you might have to bring the broth to a short boil, then turn down to low.)

2. In a stock pot, heat 2 tsp. of olive oil. Add onion and cook until translucent. With a large ladle, add some of the stock. Stir the barley until the liquid is almost gone, and continue, one ladle at a time adding stock until the barley is cooked. During this time, add a couple dashes of white wine, continuing to stir. Make sure you leave just a touch of moisture in the dish, you don’t want the barley to be completely dry.

3. When ready to serve, top with freshly ground black pepper and a few grates of Parmesan or Romano cheese and serve warm.