basil

Appetizer, Salad, Gluten Free, Summer

A SIMPLE TOMATO + BURRATA SALAD

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We don't have cable, and I don't do a whole lot of internet searching that is not food related, so a lot of news passes me by. It may lead me to be a bit out of touch, naive concerning political matters, and over reliant on my twitter feed to update me on breaking headlines, but it has worked for us. I want to believe that we are capable of being good to each other, and too much news convinces me otherwise. From world wide issues over politics, money and religion, to the tragic shooting in Colorado, or something right under your nose like a stranger stealing your stuff, I am completely dismayed that people want to harm other people... people they don't even know. Hugh and I chatted in circles, not understanding this motivation. It can be overwhelming, fear-inducing really, to think of the sadness and hurt, all the "bad things that happen to good people," and how I feel the only way to encourage other's to be good to people, is to be good to them yourself. Ironic how that conversation led me in to the topic of today's post about treatment and wages on our tomato fields in America. Tomato fields in Florida have been quoted as being "ground zero" for modern day slavery. It all starts somewhere doesn't it? Today we are making noise for change and standing up for

slave free tomatoes

This summer, International Justice Mission has partnered with The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and The Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC) to create Recipe for Change, a campaign to raise awareness about injustices in U.S. tomato fields. The goal is to create a zero tolerance policy for slavery, child labor and sexual abuse. Through both of these organizations and consumers like us, we want to ask the CEOs of major supermarket chains to endorse the Fair Food Program, ensuring the tomatoes you buy are slave-free

Corporations that join the Fair Food Program agree to pay a small price increase for fairly harvested tomatoes (1.5cents per pound) and promise to shift purchases to the Florida tomato growers who abide by these standards and away from those who don't. The locations that support slave-free tomatoes are Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Farmers Markets and CSA programs. 

Spreading the word is the first step to educating people about this problem. If you feel called to action, you can send a letter using this link to contribute to the voice that is trying to make a change. Support the cause by purchasing tomatoes from the slave-free locations mentioned above. 

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A SIMPLE TOMATO + BURRATA SALAD // Serves 4-6

Inspired by Big Sur Bakery Cookbook

Take note of the size of your burrata balls, you may need two. I assume about 4 oz. per person. This salad is very free form, don't pay too close attention to measurements. It's a summertime salad, it's meant to be easy going. 

1 cup torn bread (preferably from a baguette or fresh loaf)

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 sea salt

fresh ground pepper

1 1/2 lbs/ 4-ish heirloom tomatoes

sea salt + fresh ground pepper

2 cups soft lettuce of choice (arugula, spring greens, butter lettuce)

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1 shallot, finely chopped

8 oz. burrata cheese, room temperature

good quality extra virgin olive oil

balsamic vinegar

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Preheat the oven (ideally toaster oven) to 400'. Spread the torn bread on a baking tray, drizzle with the olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat. Bake for 10 minutes or until the edges are crisp and brown. Set aside. 

Slice the tomatoes into 1/4'' slices and arrange them on your serving tray in concentric circles. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and the chopped shallots. Chop the soft greens and basil together, toss them gently with 1 tsp. each olive oil and balsamic vinegar and then mound it in the center of the tomatoes. Distribute the croutons on top and then place the burrata in the center of the lettuce pile, breaking open the creamy center if you'd like. 

Drizzle the burrata with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar to taste and finish with a sprinkle of salt and fresh ground pepper. 

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Entrée, Fall, Gluten Free, Spring

SHITAKE MUSHROOM + LENTIL ASIAN TACOS

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I know. The title already has you confused and curious about what on earth I was thinking when I shoved all this stuff into a corn tortilla. I'm going mexican-asian fusion without apology. I fell in to a baking habit recently and realized I hadn't really been experimenting with any savory foods. The only way to shake a tunnel visioned baking habit is to get crazy with produce and legumes. For now, at least. 

In defense of the asian taco, you could very well use any type of tortilla. I find the white corn tortillas to be slightly more mild tasting, so you could try that if you prefer to calm down the corn flavor, but I have seen small whole wheat ones at well stocked health food stores. Yes, there are a number of ingredients going on here, but I think you'll find most to be pantry staples. If anything, just make the sauce. We've made a few batches recently and it's just nice to have a jar in the fridge when you need a bit of extra flavor on a rice bowl or some steamed greens etc.

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SHITAKE MUSHROOM + LENTIL ASIAN TACOS // Serves 2 (about 6 tacos)

As I always say, let this recipe serve as more of a base than a set of rules. If you don't like mushrooms, triple the amount of lentils, or try tofu or Hugh also suggested some steak if you're into that sort of thing ;) Shitakes are not a beginner mushroom, I find them very "mushroomy", so use any type you like really. The same things can be put in rice paper for a great spring roll too.

// miso herb sauce //

3 garlic cloves

2 Tbsp. white or yellow miso

1 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. soy sauce

pinch of red pepper flakes

3 Tbsp. orange juice

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 packed cups basil leaves

1 packed cup cilantro

3 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil

1 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil, divided

half of a yellow onion, diced

6 oz. shitake mushrooms (halve any large ones)

3/4 cup cooked lentils (I used de puy)

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

sea salt + pepper

small tortillas

1-2 super ripe avocados

3/4 cup fresh grated carrots

micro greens, for garnish

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For the sauce, pulse the garlic cloves through the rice vinegar in a food processor to blend. Once mixed, add in the herbs and give a few more pulses to chop. You want it slightly textured. With the motor going, drizzle in the oil. Taste and adjust as you prefer. Cover and set aside.

Heat 1/2 Tbsp. of the coconut oil in a large saute pan. Add the diced onion and saute until just translucent. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt and just leave them to heat up and start to release moisture*. Once they have reduced in size, about 4 minutes, add the remaining coconut oil and saute to mix. Add the lentils and another pinch of salt and pepper and saute to warm through. Lastly, add the vinegar and stir to scrape up any brown bits in the pan.

For the assembly line of the tacos, heat the tortillas over a stove flame until a bit charred. Smash about a quarter of an avocado down the center. Top it with a few pinches of grated carrots, a portion of the mushroom mixture, a generous dose of the sauce (don't be shy, it's all the gusto here) and top with the micro greens. Enjoy warm.

* So, I read this hint about mushrooms that you don't immediately cook them in a bunch of fat. If you cook them in just a teeny bit and some salt, they release a lot of their own water and concentrate the flavor and THEN you add some fat (oil, butter or what not) and it finishes off the flavor and texture instead. Maybe this is not news to you nor explained scientifically, but I'm into it.

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Entrée, Fall, Spring, Summer, Winter

LENTIL "MEATBALLS" IN LEMON PESTO

I cleaned up all the holiday remnants on Monday. I made piles of what needs to be returned, boxed up the decorations, and dumped our brittle wreath and miniature tree. No offense to you Christmas cheerleaders, but it all becomes a bit much for me - the lists, the toffee, the spending and the formalities. It honestly was a wonderful day, but I think this year, more than ever, we saw most clearly what we wanted from the celebration, or rather what we wanted to contribute to it, and I think next year will look different.

My haste to clean up is a personality trait (a vice sometimes). I like things to be moving forward, to be improving and growing, and the New Year's holiday commemorates that. I made a date with Hugh last year to discuss our resolutions for the sake of accountability and it may be one of the highlights of my marriage to date. You can have a list of three or thirty things that you'd like to take note of as we dance right into 2012, but having some accountability - a person who loves you to listen - makes the list worth making. Last year I scribbled down intentions to master roasting a whole chicken, get certified to teach pilates, save a bit of money for a down payment and have chisled arm muscles. The answers are yes, not yet, yes and errr, working on it? But the point is that I wrote them down, shared and revisited the list and I think it's an exercise worth doing (It may not give you chisled arm muscles but it's good for the spirit).

I really love writing letters. I couldn't write a scholarly essay in college worth reading but I LOVE personal letters. An item on my list this year is to communicate compliments or positive thoughts to people as they cross my mind. I want to send letters of affirmation to friends, or post cards to acquaintences just to say, "I really enjoy your blog" or, "You are super easy to talk to and I like it." Same goes for my husband, to remind him how I appreciate how he always make me laugh, or a note to my family. We'll call them love letters, and I plan on roping Hugh into this because I think men are even more hesitant to compliment each other. I started by writing a letter to Jennie, a woman in the food blogging world who lost her husband suddenly earlier this year (you may remember or participated in "A Pie for Mikey"). I thought of her recently and wanted to write her a letter. Maybe it's weird, because we don't know each other, but I am another woman who can't imagine coping with that kind of loss, so I figured I'd say hi.

The recipe below is one from her site that I've tweaked around a bit for my taste. It's nice to have the little nuggets in the fridge to dip in the pesto sauce for an afternoon snack. I haven't had them with marinara yet, but I imagine that'd be nice as well.

There will be celebrating with close friends this weekend and hopefully another date to discuss resolutions with my beloved.

May the new year exceed your expectations and challenge you.

LENTIL "MEATBALLS" // Serves 4, Makes 18 small balls

Meatball recipe adapted from In Jennie's Kitchen

The sauce I made is less a pesto and more a dressing, as the lemon juice adds quite a bit of acid to it. I thin mine with a bit of water, but if you like it thicker, simply don't add it. Adjust to your personal taste.

In honor of lightening up post-holiday, I like them as is, maybe on some sauteed greens. I don't feel that their "meatball" title necessitates noodles. Anyway, those are decisions I'll leave up to you.

2 Cups Cooked Lentils

2 Eggs, lightly beaten

3/4 Cup Ricotta

1/4 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese

1 Large Clove Garlic, minced

1/2 tsp. Fennel Seed, crushed

2 Tbsp. Finely Chopped Fresh Parsley

Hefty Pinch of Dried or Fresh Thyme

1 tsp. Each Sea Salt and Pepper

2/3 Cup Breadcrumbs (fresh or panko, preferably)

Lemon Pesto Sauce

1 Clove Garlic

1/4 Cup Pinenuts

Zest and Juice of one Meyer Lemon

1/2 tsp. Sea Salt

1 Cup Packed Basil Leaves

1/4 - 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 Tbsp. Grated Parmesan

2 Tbsp. Water to thin

In a food processor, pulverize the lentils into mush. Put them in a large mixing bowl.

Add the beaten eggs, ricotta, parmesan, garlic, fennel seed, parlsey, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to mix well. Stir in the breadcrumbs and let the mix sit for 20 minutes.

For the pesto sauce, put the garlic, nuts, lemon zest and juice and salt in a food processor or blender and run until smooth. Add in the basil leaves and olive oil until you get a smooth, sauce-like consistency. Add water, oil or lemon juice to thin as desired. Stir in the parmesan and set aside. The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for about a week.

Preheat the oven to 400'. Check the lentil mix by rolling a 1'' round ball between your palms, it should hold together fairly well. If it seems pretty wet and it falling apart, stir in another Tbsp. or two of breadcrumbs until the ball with stay together.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the mix into balls and line them up on a baking sheet (they don't need lots of space between, they won't spread). If you like a bit more of a crust, brush them with olive oil.

Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown, gently turning the balls over halfway through baking. Remove to cool slightly.

Serve with your favorite noodles, on a bed of sauteed greens, or simply on their own with a nice drizzle of the pesto sauce.

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