28 April 2015

Wash away your sins with Heidi Swanson

Faithful readers of this blog know that I have a bit of a food crush on Heidi Swanson, author of Super Natural Everyday, among others, and curator of fabulous recipes and food photography at 101 Cookbooks.   Her food often falls into what we affectionately call "California hippie food" around here.  She utilizes lots of whole grains, various exotic beans and spices, and avocado makes regular appearances in her recipes.  I find myself referring to her when the weather turns warm and I feel inspired to be healthier (pity that doesn't happen all the time), and especially when the grumbling in my belly is partly from hunger and partly from the dehydration that comes with drinking too much gin the night before.  I don't have the willpower--or the desire--to starve myself on a "cleanse", so this is it for me: cutting out the meat and grease and just eating pure, unprocessed foods that are delicious and fill me up.  Here's one of my current favorites from her blog, and if you keep some cooked grains and beans in the freezer for these times, it's a cinch to make on a groggy Saturday morning.  I have made some substantial modifications, so if you want to compare this to the original, go here.

Heidi Swanson's Mung Yoga Bowl Recipe 2.0

Serves 4-6

For the sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 tablespoon minced ginger
1/2 small serrano chile, seeded
1/2 cup cilantro, plus more for serving
1/4 cup green onions
1/2 cup spinach
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

5-6 cups cooked mung (or other) beans (black beans or lentils work very well, too)
1 cup cooked grains (quinoa, farro, barley, or brown rice are my favorites)
1/3 cup toasted almonds and/or pepitas
3 tablespoons warmed olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
lots of freshly squeezed lime juice

In a medium frying pan, warm 1 teaspoon of oil. Add the serrano, spinach, 1/2 cup cilantro, and green onion and cook, stirring constantly, until spinach is completely wilted, about 3 minutes. Place this mixture along with the ginger, yogurt, ans salt, in a blender.Blend until smooth, taste and adjust, if needed.

Just before serving, combine the beans and grains in a large bowl, and sprinkle with the nuts. Dollop generously with the yogurt sauce, and then whisk together the olive oil and paprika. Drizzle this across the bowl. Finish with a good amount of lime juice, and more salt, if needed.

24 April 2015

How do I love thee? Let me blah blah blah...

Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks fame

I love sharing brilliant blog posts from all over in the hopes that you will be as inspired as I am by some of the creative, intelligent ideas in food floating around out there.  Some blogs have become staple references for me because their writers just seem to hit the bullseye repeatedly. Today, I'd like to give a shout-out to one of the blogs I've been reading for years, 101 Cookbooks. Food photographer and excellent cook Heidi Swanson blogs from San Francisco about healthy vegetarian meals, often creatively adapted from others' recipes, accompanied by her ethereal, absolutely beautiful photos. I think of her as the Sophia Coppola of food blogs.  She's one of the first places I go when I come home from the store (or inside from the garden) with a piece of produce and no plan for preparing it.  Witness my two latest quandaries, the lacinato kale I brought home and then decided I could not stand one more raw kale salad with pecans and raisins, and the head of cauliflower I always have to dress up in order to get it eaten in my house:


Kale Rice Bowl It's like a beautiful ramen bowl but with rice, and Middle Eastern sauce and seasonings! This is what Swanson does best, I think: mixes and matches different international traditions with ease.  And you can prepare most of the ingredients ahead of time and just build the thing when you come home starving and read to give in to to the Doritos in the pantry. Note to self: stop buying Doritos.

Kale Market Salad OK, it's a salad again, but this dressing is a real keeper for any kind of salad, and the addition of the farro makes this a worthy meal instead of merely another mouthful of raw, scratchy greens.


Spicy Cauliflower with Sesame This works well as a side dish, but it's also delicious tossed some some slippery, still-hot udon and an extra splash of rice vinegar for a lovely lunch.

Black Pepper Cauliflower Salad  I could mention here that I am now too old to digest raw cauliflower.  Go ahead and make a horrified face, you Millennials, you'll get there someday, too.  This recipe is the best of both worlds: a vibrantly flavored salad, cooked enough that I am not doubled over in pain all night.  And with that bit of too much information, I bid you adieu for the weekend...

21 April 2015

You say pizza, I say flatbread...

Call this whatever you want.  It's some stuff spread out on a thin bread-like crust with cheese on top. If you always have some homemade pizza dough on hand  (it freezes--and thaws--very well) and keep some little baby potatoes boiled in the fridge to make salads more interesting (seriously, you should consider this), then this is a pretty quick put-together for surprise guests or just when you feel like an elevated pizza.  Yeah, I said that. My pizza is elevated.  Also, it's a pizza.

Potato, Rosemary, and Kale Flatbread

Serves 4-6

1 homemade whole wheat pizza crust
About ½ pound small red potatoes, boiled and then thinly sliced
1 cup chopped kale
¼ cup sliced kalamata olives
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
½ cup shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Roll out the pizza dough, stab it with some fork holes, and preheat that baby for about 10 minutes, or until the top of it starts to feel firm and not sticky.

Meanwhile, make the paste: in a mortar and pestle (or a food processor), grind the garlic, salt, and olive oil into a smooth paste.  Add the red pepper flakes and rosemary leaves and grind a little more.  Stir in the lemon juice.

When the pizza dough is ready, smear the paste evenly over the top, leaving a ring of naked dough al around to serve as a handle.  Whatever, you know what a pizza looks like.  Next, sprinkle the kale evenly across the top, do the same with the onion slices, and then lay the potato slices on top of that in a single layer.  Scatter the olives on top, then sprinkle with the cheeses evenly over the whole thing.  Bake until the exposed potato slices and the cheese start to turn brown, about 25 minutes.


fresh out of the oven

ah, just right!

17 April 2015

Simple toppings to make your tacos pop

I don't want to post this on Cinco de Mayo, as the whitest person on the planet, and be a total douchebag.  And I eat tacos (well, things piled on top of small tortillas) like, A LOT, so why wait, anyway?

Fillings: any combination of seasoned ground meat or sausage, scrambled eggs, bacon, seasoned beans or lentils, or grilled vegetables or fish work perfectly well as taco filling.  Then comes the fun stuff, which can make every taco taste different:

Pickles: quick lime-pickled radishes or onions (see master recipe below), a jar of pickled jalapenos or other peppers, or this corn relish will fit the bill.

Cheeses: Of course, crumbled queso is all milky and mild and perfect with anything, but did you know manchego is actually great with chorizo? Pepper jack is nice with pulled pork, and feta often adds a great bite of salt, especially if you're going heavy on the sour-sweet relishes (above).

Herbs: you've got to have some fresh chopped herbs on top of all that.  Try cilantro, parsley, arugula (finely chopped so it's not so clumsy to eat) or dill, and don't go with the most obvious choice for your filling.

Don't forget the lime wedges, hot sauce (I love Tapatio), and chopped red onion, of course.  What are we, wild animals?!

Quick lime-pickled vegetables

Freshly squeezed lime juice
1 Red onion, peeled, halved and thinly sliced or bunch thinly sliced radishes, or anything else your heart deisres

1. Whisk together lime juice, some water, sugar and salt until the sugar and salt dissolve. Use approximately 1/2 cup of lime juice, 1/2 cup of water (or up to 1/2 cup more to help submerge onions), 1 tablespoon of sugar and 1 teaspoon of salt for every onion. This amount will also work well for a full bunch of radishes from the grocery store.

2. Add red onion to a bowl and cover with lime juice mixture. Allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour. Stir occasionally.

Keeps in the fridge up to two months. 

14 April 2015

Mediterranean Green Bean and Farro Salad with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp

I decided to make these two recipes together the other day, and it was a greatmeal.  But you can keep both of these in your back pocket to mix and match (or not) with other things; the shrimp is my standard recipe for adding to pasta with sauteed vegetables, adding to Hoppin' John, or just eating with crusty bread.  And this green bean and farro salad is great by itself, as a side with any other kind of protein, and a perfect salad to bring to work.  

Fast Lemon-Garlic Shrimp

Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon sugar
½  teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons butter
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
Juice and zest from one small lemon, divided
Handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Make the flavored butter: in a small dish, combine the butter, garlic, red pepper, lemon zest, and fresh parley.  Set aside.

Place the raw shrimp in a small bowl and sprinkle with the sugar and one teaspoon of salt; stir to coat and let sit while you begin the cooking process.  Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium-high heat.  When it smokes, add the shrimp, carefully making sure each is laying on its side, making full contact with the pan.  Allow to cook without disturbing for 1 minute, then quickly turn each shrimp onto its other side and repeat the process.  The result should be a nice bit of browning on each side of the shrimp without making the inside flesh too rubbery.

Lower the heat and add the lemon juice, scraping the brown bits of the bottom of the pan and stirring them into the juice. Add the flavored butter and stir until melted.  Serve immediately with more lemon wedges on the side.

Mediterranean Green Bean and Farro Salad 

Serves 6

1 cup farro
2 cups water
Zest from ½ lemon
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 (15 oz.) can diced tomatoes, drained
2 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ cup dry red wine
Salt and black pepper to taste

Combine the farro and water, along with plenty of salt, in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a boil, then lower to simmer and cover.  Cook until tender, about 30 minutes.  Drain, stir in the lemon zest, and set aside.

In another pot or frying pan, heat the oil. Add the garlic and fry it until is becomes fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the green beans, olives, tomatoes, oregano, and about a teaspoon of salt.  Cover and simmer until beans are crisp-tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir in the red wine and season with more salt and black pepper. Turn off the heat and allow the wine to absorb into the sauce, about 30 minutes.

In a large serving dish, combine the farro and tomato sauce.  Can be eaten warm, at room temperature, or cold.

10 April 2015

A poignant essay against the selfie stick

Is the Selfie Stick already over? Perhaps when Walmart is selling them, the trend is dying.  Then again, maybe the next wave of annoying tourist is merely upon us.

This beautifully worded essay from New York Times, although slightly dated, is about more than just the ridiculousness of the selfie stick.  It's about how we capture memories, and why we embark upon the adventures that create them in the first place.  Are weirdly angled snaps of us photobombing national monuments the best way to remember what it felt like to be there, or just good fodder for showing off in our created Facebook lives?  Does a blog (like this one) do a better job of capturing the temporary community you make with the people around you, the sights, the smells, the zeitgeist of a place, or are you just "living" out loud for an audience?


07 April 2015

A soupy version of korma

I love korma sauce--that mild, comforting Indian staple that's filled with pureed cashews and heavy cream, which is super fatty and kind of expensive to make. This soup uses pureed cauliflower to add the creaminess (though it also keeps the cashews), and works as a canvas for any vegetables and meat you care to throw in. (This version, however, is vegan.) And it also freezes perfectly--just whisk it back together it after defrosting.

Korma Soup

Serves 6-8

1 head cauliflower, bottom leaves removed
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, halved
1 medium apple (any kind), cored, peeled, and chopped
½ cup cashews
1 tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoons cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup plain unsweetened almond milk
1-2 cups frozen or fresh peas

Optional garnishes for serving:

  • Chopped cashews
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Lemon wedges
  • Hot sauce
  • Pickled vegetables
  • Cooked basmati rice

Chop the cauliflower, including the stem, into large pieces.  In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients except the almond milk and peas.  Add enough water to almost cover vegetables and bring to a boil.  Cover and lower to simmer; cook until cauliflower is very tender, about 30 minutes.

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Pour back into the pot and add the almond milk.  Rewarm over moderate heat, seasoning with more salt if necessary, and adding water if it’s too thick.  Stir in the peas and cook until warm but firm.  Serve with garnishes.

03 April 2015

Links about noodles!

This post is in no way seasonal , and it probably isn't that hip (though perhaps I can up the cool factor by linking to my most popular post of all time, my review of Uncle in Denver). But as you know, I love noodles of any kind, and I am always inspired by others' creativity when working with my favorite carb.  So this weekend (and for several to come), I'll be pigging out on some of these delicious inventions, and you should, too!


Fake some traditional Szechuan pork noodles with these  Spicy Garlic Noodles with Crumbled Tofu and Cucumber Salad

These Smoked Tea Black Bean Noodles have a lot going on, and you can easily leave out the pork (or trade it for the tofu, above).

Umami Cold Noodles uses one of my favorite ingredients, black vinegar!


Bacon and Beer Carbonara--whaaat?!?!?!

Thanks, Oh My Veggies!, for the reminder of how beautiful some simple Zucchini and Lemon Spaghetti can be.



Vegetarian Kasha Varnishkes (above) from--who else ?--Chicago Tribune.  This is a really great, really easy recipe.

This Hungarian Mushroom Pasta is basically stroghanoff without the cheap red meat.  Yum.

Mustard Spaetzle with Chives may sound insane, but I promise you they are delish.