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Thursday
Feb042010

DECONSTRUCTED BEET STACK 

BEETSTACK_01It was really only a handful of years ago when I learned beets don't come from a can in that lovely shade of neon purple. You've seen them at salad bars, shredded and soggy next to the baby corns and greasy croutons. I discovered that this rooted vegetable was easy to roast, and it felt so 'pioneer' of me to figure my way to the tender sweetness through the mass of tangled greens and nubby, hairy exterior. If you can bake a potato, you can roast a beet.

I know that people either love or hate beets. Same goes for horseradish, so I am not expecting this recipe to appeal to the masses. I find that with whole milk yogurt, the horseradish is not too strong amongst all the other vegetables. The layers are attractively bitter, spicy and there is the expected earthiness that beets bring. When I actually host the dinner parties that I dream of, this will be on the menu. I think colorful, fresh food plated vertically, looks beautiful. If my guests don't like it, please push your plate my way thank you very much. BEETSTACK_02

DECONSTRUCTED BEET STACK // Serves 4 as a side
I think this would make a wonderful complete meal with some thin slices of lox or smoked tofu between the layers, or maybe a poached egg on top. Note that our pictures show a regular navel orange, though I highly recommend the color contrast of a blood orange here. I didn't want to go back to the store.

3 Golden Beets (larger ones, as close to the same size possible)
1 Blood Orange
1 Cup Watercress
1/2 Cup Thin Slices of Red Onion

Dressing //
1 Cup Whole/Lowfat Plain Yogurt
1 1/2 Tbsp. Prepared Horseradish*
2 Tbsp. Champagne/Cider Vinegar
1 tsp. Agave Nectar
2 Tbsp. Fresh Chives
Pinch of Salt

*Prepared horseradish is different that 'horseradish cream' at the grocery store. If you don't like the taste of horseradish, an alternative suggestion would be to mince a shallot and add some extra white pepper for a bit of spice.BEETSTACK_03

Oven to 425'
1. Cut off the beet greens close to the actual beet part. Give the beets a few pokes with a fork and wrap completely in foil. Bake for an hour, depending on the size of the beet. It feels similar to a baked potato when done.
2. In the meantime, prepare the sauce. In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, horseradish, vinegar, agave and pinch of salt. Add the chives and set aside.
3. Cut the skin and pith from the orange, and slice into max 1/4'' thick coins.
4. When the beets are done, set aside until they are cool enough to handle. With a paring knife, peel off the skin gently as they can get slippery. Slice the beets into max 1/4'' thick coins, just like the orange.
5. To assemble, put a dollop of sauce on the bottom of the plate, then a beet with another dollop of sauce, then a few leaves of watercress and a slice of orange and a dollop on top of that. Repeat: beet, dollop, watercress, orange, watercress, dollop to however high you'd like your stack to go. Scatter the slices of red onion and if you'd like, maybe some toasted walnuts around the plate. Top the stack with a dollop of sauce and a grind of fresh pepper. Note that the pretty presentation is quickly demolished once you start cutting into it :)BEETSTACK_04

Friday
Jan292010

THE COOKIE PERSON.

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At some point in my life, after I master the art of self control, I would like to perfect an incredible cookie of my own. By that, I mean the kind of cookie where when you go to a picnic or potluck, they request that you bring 'your' famous cookies. I imagine that would be the ultimate compliment. Now, I am always the 'salad person', which seems fitting. I have been craving a cookie with the ideal personality; slight crunch of the crust, soft center, studded with chocolate and/or oats. The ladies below seem to have one of those famous cookie recipes I speak of, and when I trust that I would not eat all two dozen of them myself, I will make each of these. That may be a ways off from now, but I wanted to pass on the links to you, who I assume has less of a cookie binging complex.

** The reputation for these Chocolate Chip cookies have made their way through blogs, twitter and what not. This lovely lady is hosting baking classes of her own in Seattle now, so if you live anywhere near there, I suggest you hone your skills in one of Ashley's classes. She clearly knows what she's doing.

** When I saw Tara's Dark Chocolate Oatmeal Cherry Chip cookies, I sent this link to every sweets lover I've ever known, as I had never seen such a tempting cookie picture. Seriously, look at that and tell me you don't want a glass of milk and one of those beauties. I must mention, her poetic writing is reason enough to read through every single entry.

** Because I always have my gluten free people in mind, Joy's Peanut Butter Cookies look decadent with that little chocolate goodness on top. Or, if you are a friend of gluten, I trust Dana's stamp of approval on this version as well (and appreciate that she halved the sugar!).

** Lastly, because this recipe restored my personal baking confidence, you should probably try these Oat'Nana Pucks and then bring me some.

As much as I encourage these as written, remember to use unbleached flours, aluminum free baking powder, and natural cane sugars when you can. Happy weekend. Stay warm, hug people and eat well. In that order, specifically.

Tuesday
Jan262010

MEDITERRANEAN QUINOA BOWL

QUINOA_01

We needed something straight forward. Last week's attempt for a post of braised leeks and romesco sauce ended up looking overcooked and sloppy. We tried to plate it nicely, and Hugh dug around trying to find the perfect dish to distract from the mooshness, but it wasn't happening. We stared at it, eating the finished product while deliberating a nice presentation. Call it coincidence, but we'd eaten 'our post' just as we decided the mooshness did not have a place in the blogsphere. I was left no other option but to make something that would undoubtedly be nice and clean.

Simple as this is, I know there is a need for recipes that come together quickly, are nutritionally well rounded and require no fuss. This salad of sorts is gluten free, high in plant protiens and is just as good, if not better, the next day for lunch over some salad greens with another little squeeze of lemon. All these ingredients are pretty well received, so I think it would be a great make ahead dish for a luncheon, bridal shower or what not with all the pretty colors. There are circumstances where you don't want to take a risk, and this bowl is as reliable as they come.QUINOA_02QUINOA_03

MEDITERRANEAN QUINOA BOWL // Serves 2 big eaters, maybe 3 medium eaters

1 Cup Quinoa, dry
4 Broccolinis
4 to 6 oz. Block of Feta Cheese, cut in cubes
1 Cup Roasted Red Peppers, cut in slivers (I use jarred in the off season)
1/4 Cup Capers, rinsed and drained
1 Cup Chickpeas, cooked
3 Tbsp. Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp. Dried Oregano
Generous pinch of Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
1 Meyer Lemon
1 Tbsp. Good Quality Olive OilQUINOA_04QUINOA_05

1. For the quinoa, typically, bring two cups water and one cup dry quinoa to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Place the broccolini right on top after ten minutes (who wants to dirty another pot?) and cover to finish the quinoa and the broccolini will steam on top. Remove the broccolini to a cutting board, and transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.
2. Toss the red pepper slivers, chickpeas, capers, dried oregano and salt and pepper to the quinoa and stir. Give the broccolini a rough chop and toss it in the bowl. Squeeze the juice of the entire meyer lemon (avoiding seeds) and the olive oil, stir again.
3. Lastly, cut the feta into small cubes (easiest if done straight from the fridge or even let it sit in the freezer for a few minutes). Add the cubes and the parsley to the quinoa and give it a gentle fold. At this point, it is probably a tad warmer than room temperature, which is great. If you'd rather it cold, let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes to cool down.QUINOA_06

Thursday
Jan142010

MULTIGRAIN MAPLE MINI MUFFINS

MUFFINS_01

I could have sworn up and down that I hated maple, until I met these mini muffins. I find that maple is one of those particular flavors that people love or hate. Like black licorice, grape candy, the consistency of cottage cheese or fennel. The fact that it's a natural sweetener, makes me feel like I should like it, but it's just not for me. Hugh is pro-maple so I figured if we made these and I hated them, at least someone would eat them. I hoarded a majority of them.

There is an entire cup of real maple syrup in the recipe, which sounds like a lot, but with all the dense flours, the strength of it dissipates. I used a pretty lengthy list of ingredients, but if you don't think you'll ever use a whole bag of buckwheat flour, try to find a store that sells flours/grains in bulk and you can buy just what you need by weight. Or, as I've suggested before, make extra and give some away. I mean, they taste pretty healthy for a muffin, but it's January, people are into that sort of thing. MUFFINS_02MUFFINS_03

MULTIGRAIN MAPLE MINI MUFFINS// Makes 12 or 24 Minis

1/2 Cup Buckwheat Flour
1/2 Cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Wheat Bran
1/2 Cup Oatmeal (plus extra for garnish)
1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
1 Tsp. Fresh Grated Nutmeg (if you have it)
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Fresh Grated Ginger
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda
2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Real Maple Syrup
1 Cup Buttermilk
2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Lowfat Cottage Cheese (I blended mine up a tad, but this is optional)
1 Cup Pecan Pieces, divided MUFFINS_04

Oven at 350'
1. In a large mixing bowl, sift all flours, the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together. Grate the ginger right on top. Spray or butter your muffin tins and set aside.
2. In two other bowls, seperate the egg yolks from the whites. In the bowl with the yolks, add the maple, vanilla and buttermilk and whisk to combine. Beat or use an electric mixer to whip up the egg whites until they just start to hold shape.
3. Mix the wet into the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the cottage cheese and 1/2 cup of the pecan pieces and gently fold in. Lastly, just before you're ready to put batter into the tins, fold in the whipped egg whites. Because the dough is somewhat heavy, try to fold from the outside of the bowl in, to not deflate the egg whites.
4. The mini tins hold about two spoonfuls of mix, if using larger tins, fill them about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the top with a few chopped pecans and a few oat flakes. Bake on the middle rack for 20-23 minutes (cooking times may vary depending on tin). Remove and cool. I recommend a little spread of plain greek yogurt. MUFFINS_05

Thursday
Jan072010

WALNUT CRUSTED WILD SALMON & EDAMAME MASH

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I don't want to forget how I felt on my beach walk a few days ago. The tide was unusually low, making a good stretch of hard sand for optimum speed walking conditions. Apparently, I missed the memo that there was going to be a gorgeous sunset, because so many people were out. Most of which were just watching; standing alone, saluting the sun and being still. It wasn't necessarily a moment of quiet, but there was no room for wanting, rushing or worrying. It even seemed that the dolphins, which is a site I am jaded to at this point, were just bobbing in the water, watching the sky with everyone else. With this view, there is no way you couldn't believe in something bigger than yourself, than all of us. Pictures of sunsets don't do them justice, you need to be there and live them as they make you feel at rest. I wish you were there, because feeling rest, even if it's for a brief moment, is quite gratifying.

All the holiday weeks have passed, and I am ready to sit down and have a nice healthy dinner. It's time for a complete meal composed of more than one food group and a pretty plate. There were too many moments where I was eating trail mix or baggies of cereal from my glove compartment these past two weeks (yes, I keep emergency snacks in my car and no, I don't have children). This meal is packed with 'superfood' ingredients, lots of protien and is unique enough to feel like a special dinner. At least for me, but maybe I'm the only one who eats from their glove compartment.WALNUTSALMON_02

WALNUT CRUSTED WILD SALMON & EDAMAME MASH // Serves 4

Atlantic Salmon is far more likely to be farmed than Pacific salmon. You want to choose a wild variety, more often found at a fish market or Whole Foods than your local grocery store. There are a number of varieties, all quite rich, so you only need a small portion. If Salmon isn't your thing, you actually could crust any fish, but vary the cooking time for thinner or less fatty varieties. Also, I suggest reading through the entire recipe before you start. It's pretty easy if you get the jist of the entire process first.

Four 4 oz. Wild Pacific Salmon Filets
1 Cup Walnuts, Very Finely Chopped
1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour (or any gluten free option will work too)
1 Egg White
1 Tbsp. Water
1 Tsp. Dried Basil
1 Tbsp. Oil (anything neutral tasting)


3 1/2 Cups Edamame Beans (organic very important with soy. I used frozen, shelled beans)
2 Tbsp. Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
3 Tbsp. Fresh Chives, Chopped
3 Tbsp. Fresh Mint, Chopped
Fresh Ginger, optional

Fresh Basil for Garnish
Salt and Pepper to TasteWALNUTSALMON_03WALNUTSALMON_04

Oven to 400'
1. Steam or boil edamame beans for about 8 minutes (longer if you're using fresh). Transfer drained beans to a blender or food processor. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, rice vinegar, lemon juice and sesame oil. Pulse to puree the beans.Pulse until chunky, you want a smooth but slightly chunky consistency, add broth or water if you need to loosen it. Tranfer to a mixing bowl, add the fresh mint and chives and stir. Salt and pepper to taste, add ground ginger or red pepper if you want a kick.
2. Put the egg white and water in a bowl and give it a whisk. Use three seperate shallow plates, put the flour on one, the egg whites mixture in the second, and the crushed walnuts, pinch of salt and herbs in the last bowl.
3. Heat pan over medium heat with 1 Tbsp. of a neutral oil. With one salmon filet at a time and working with ONE side, dip on the flour, then the egg, then the walnuts (which should be pulverized enough to adhere). Add nut side down gently into the pan and sear for about 3 minutes, flip and sear the other side. Tranfer fish onto a baking dish large enough to hold all four filets, walnut side up. Repeat the searing with all four filets, then pop them in the oven to cook through to desired doneness, about 5-8 minutes depending on thickness. I like to keep it just barely rare on the inside.
4. Warm the edamame mash. On each place, put a generous dollop of mash and the warm salmon on top. Garnish with some fresh basil.WALNUTSALMON_05