Sunday, May 12, 2013

Super Green Pasta

This super green pasta dish needs no witty introduction. All you need to know is that it's tasty and good for you!

Even the spinach pesto has ZERO oil in it.

Just make it. You'll be happy you did.

Super Green Pasta

It's a leafy green explosion:  spinach two ways, collard greens, and basil (which I am counting as a leafy green).  Comes together super quickly and is way tasty!

16 oz whole wheat penne
4 cups spinach, divided
1 cup pine nuts
3 cloves garlic
4 oz. fresh basil
1 Tbl tahini
1/3 cup water
juice of 1 lemon
1 onion, chopped
1 bunch of collard greens, stemmed
2 cups frozen peas (defrosted)
2 tsp olive oil
crushed red pepper

In a large saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat and get those onions in there.  Season with salt and crushed red pepper, and saute for about five minutes.

Remove stems from collards and lay leaves on top of each other.  Roll into a cigar and slice into thin strips.  They should stay rolled up, so slice them in half again just to make them a bit more bite size.  Add to the onions, toss, and season with a pinch of salt.  Add 2 Tbl water and allow greens to wilt, about five to seven minutes, stirring frequently.  Once greens are cooked, add peas and heat through.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in heavily salted water until just under al dente (about half the recommended cooking time).  Drain pasta and reserve 1 cup of pasta water.

In a food processor, combine pine nuts, garlic, tahini, and lemon juice and pulse until a smooth paste forms.  Scrape the sides, season with salt, and add 2 cups spinach, basil, and 1/3 cup water.  Pulse until smooth.

Add cooked pasta to the pan.  Add remaining two cups of spinach, the pesto, and slowly add water until you have reached to desired consistency.  Delish!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Gorilla Wraps

Gorilla wraps.  Those little vegan, burrito-like treats wrapped in a collard leaf seem to be popping up everywhere lately.

Drew Barrymore swears by them, crediting their fibery, leafy goodness for helping her shed her baby weight.  Personally, I think the weight loss is due to half of the wrap falling out onto her plate.  These suckers can be messy!

Kidding aside, these little babies are a tasty way to get your veggies and feel totally satisfied.  The trick is using larger leaves and not over stuffing them.  The ingredients stay in the wrap, and you can eat more of them that way!

I've been drawn towards Asian flavors lately, so I thought I would play around with the wrap idea.  Soy, wasabi, and ginger spice up mushrooms and walnuts, while carrots, daikon, and cucumber provide some delicious crunch. 

Just don't over stuff!

Asian Inspired Gorilla Wraps

This recipe is pretty much "method cooking" and can be adapted to suit whatever mood you palate is in.  Play around with different regional flavors with the mushroom and walnut mixture (Tex-Mex, curry, Mediterranean) and additional fixin's!

8 oz mushrooms
1/2 yellow onion
1 cup walnuts
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 cup long grain or wild rice, cooked
8 large collard leaves
1 Tbl soy sauce
1" fresh ginger, grated
2 Tbl hoisin sauce
as much wasabi paste as you can stand
2 tsp rice vinegar
2 tsp olive oil

wrap fixin's
daikon radish
carrots, grated or julienned
cucumbers, chopped
onion, red or green

In a food processor, combine mushrooms, onion, walnuts and garlic, and pulse until it forms a chunky paste. 

In a large saute pan, heat oil and cook the mushroom mixture with soy sauce, ginger, and wasabi until veggies are cooked through, about five to seven minutes.  Deglaze pan with the vinegar and cook an additional minute.  Set aside to cool.

Remove stems from collards.  Hold the stem and fold the leaf.  Gently pull the stem about 3/4 of the way.  You want to leave a large enough area to place the stuffing.  Now, start layering!  Rice, then mushroom mixture, and veggies.  Fold sides over, then gently roll collard into a burrito shape.  Enjoy!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Corn and Avocado Salad

Warm weather is coming to Chicago.

I swear it is. 

This week, flowers started to bloom.  A giant glowing thing in the sky made an appearance.  And, little green things started to appear on tree branches.  If memory serves me, I believe they are called "leaves."  I'm in the mood for something fresh, fast, and uncomplicated.  And super tasty.

I love guacamole, so I played around with the idea of a chunky guac salad.  Here's what I came up with...

Corn and Avocado Salad

This salad comes together in a flash and utilizes one of the few veggies I buy from the freezer section:  corn.  As the season progresses and fresh corn appears in your market, try grilling the corn right on the cob for an extra boost of flavor!  Bulk this salad up with black beans and quinoa and serve it over spinach.

2 cups frozen corn, thawed
2 large avocados, cubed
1 sweet onion (preferably Vidalia), chopped
1 red pepper, ribs removed and chopped
10 oz cherry tomatoes, halved
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1/2 cup cilantro
2 limes, zest and juice
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
2 tsp olive oil

Combine first seven ingredients in a bowl.  To make the vinaigrette, combine lime zest, juice, cumin, and salt in a bowl.  Slowly whisk in oil.  Pour over veggies and toss to combine.  Easy, peasy, cool breezy.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Moroccan Inspiration

I love playing around in the kitchen.  Perhaps it is the act of creation, but I derive so much pleasure spending time dancing around a soup pot making an point of inspiration a culinary reality.  I particularly love trying to recreate restaurant dishes at home and putting my own spin on them.

Imitation is the highest form of flattery, no?

I recently had a simply divine Moroccan Spiced Eggplant, which was served over jasmine rice.  The warm, earthy spices (like cumin, turmeric, ginger, and a hint of rosemary) balance the unique flavor of the eggplant, which can be slightly bitter at times. I'm a huge eggplant lover so I thought I should try to figure out how to make it at home.

Here's what I came up with

Moroccan Spiced Eggplant with Kale

The vinegar soaked raisins add a delightful sweet and sour note to the dish.  I serve this over quinoa instead of rice

1 eggplant, cut into 3/4" cubes
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock
4 cups kale, stemmed and chopped (1 bunch)
herb bundle of 1 sprig rosemary and 5 sprigs thyme
2 tsp olive oil
salt to taste

In a large pan over medium heat, heat oil until it shimmers and saute onions until golden, about five minutes.  Add cumin, turmeric, paprika, and garlic.  Bloom spices for one minute.  Add eggplant and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add tomatoes, herb bundle, and water.  Stir to combine thoroughly.  Cover pan (or place a piece of parchment paper over it) and simmer for 20 minutes.

While the eggplant simmers, soak raisins in the vinegar.  Once the eggplant mixture has thickened slightly, remove herb bundle and add the raisins, vinegar, and kale.  Cook, stirring frequently, until kale has just barley wilted.  Season with salt to taste.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Mom's Taco Salad 2.0

One of my favorite dishes growing up was my mom's taco salad.

And, being a woman of Swedish decent from upstate New York, you know her recipe was muy auténtico.  Ground beef became delicioso taco meat thanks to the chemists at Old El Paso and their rust colored taco seasoning packet.  Iceberg lettuce, kidney beans, tomatoes, and onion were tossed together with almost an entire bottle of Thousand Island dressing (for a true south of the border taste) then topped with a pound of cheddar cheese and half a bag of crushed taco flavored Doritos.  Mmmm...yummy and olé.

Of course I would love this as a kid.  In fact, there are several adults I know now who would eagerly devour this concoction.  And need a side of defibrillator in between bites.

Challenge:  take a delicious taco salad and figure out how to make it healthier.

Replace ground beef with a flavorful combination of mushrooms, walnuts, onions, and garlic.  A combination of spinach, arugula, and Romaine replaces the bland iceberg lettuce now dressed with a fresh pico de gallo.  And, top off with shredded carrots instead of cheese.


Meatless Taco Salad

16 oz crimini mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 cup onion (about 1/2 an onion), roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 cup walnuts
2 tsp olive oil
1 Tbl groun cumin
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp chipotle powder
a pinch of cinnamon
2 tsp Kosher salt
6 cups greens (Romaine, spinach, arugula, shredded cabbage if you like)
1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
2 avocados, sliced
4 oz. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
2 carrots, grated

For the pico de gallo

4 oz cherry or grape tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup red onion, roughly chopped
1 jalapeño, diced (ribs and seeds removed)
3 Tbl cilantro
1 lime, zest and juice
splash of red wine vinegar 
pinch of salt

In a food processor, combine mushrooms, walnuts, onion, and garlic and pulse until mixture is a chunky paste.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and add mushroom mixture.  Season with cumin, coriander, chipotle powder, and salt, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Cook until slightly browned, about 5 minutes.  Set aside and cool slightly.

To prepare the pico de gallo, combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until combined. This should be slightly chunky.

In a large bowl, toss greens, black beans, and 2/3 of the carrots with enough pico de gallo to coat.  Divide evenly on four plates.  Top greens with mushroom mixture, halved tomatoes, avocado slices, and remaining carrots.  Add more pico de gallo if you wish!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

No Cheese Mac & Cheese

I am a mac and cheese connoisseur.

My love affair began when I was first introduced to that little blue box filled with elbow shaped pasta and a crazy looking orange powder.  Kraft Macaroni and Cheese was one of the first things my mom taught me how to "cook." It was better cheesy living through chemistry.  Later on, in my college years, I discovered the beauty that was Velveeta Shells and Cheese.  What's not to love about gooey cheese-like sauce squeezed out of a foil packet that didn't need to be refrigerated?  It was creamy goodness.

As an adult, I was introduced to a variety of new cheesy pasta love, mac and cheeses of all varieties:  truffled, Stilton, smoked cheddar with bacon.  You name it, I ate it.

And then I realized how so not good for you it is. 

So in the spirit of healthier eating, I thought I would play around with the ultimate comfort food to see what I could come up with.  Granted, nothing takes the place of real cheese (or even real fake cheese food like Velveeta), but its a delicious substitute that will satisfy the mac and cheese craving.

No Cheese Mac & Cheese

Nutritional yeast and earthy cauliflower combined with a puree of almonds provide a tasty alternative to real cheese. I add the tender outside leaves of Brussels sprouts for a little bit of color and texture.

1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
6 cups butternut squash (approximately one medium sized squash)
1 cup almonds, blanched
2 cloves garlic
1 cup water
1 Tbl Dijon mustard
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp fresh nutmeg
thyme bundle
1 lb whole wheat pasta (shells, macaroni, penne)
1 lb Brussels sprouts, outer leaves only (optional)

Place cauliflower, squash, garlic, garlic, and thyme in a large stock pot.  Cover with water, salt liberally, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until a fork slides easily into the vegetables, about 15 minutes.  Drain thoroughly and discard thyme bundle. 

In a food processor, puree blanched almonds and water until smooth, about five minutes.  Add cooked vegetables and garlic and process until smooth.  Add mustard, nutritional yeast, paprika, and nutmeg.  Pulse to combine.

Cook pasta according to the directions on the box, taking off a couple of minutes so the pasta is just under al dente.  Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid and drain pasta.  Return pasta to pot.  Add squash puree to pasta and stir to combine.  Thin sauce by slowly adding the pasta water until you have achieved the desired consistency.  Stir is blanched Brussels sprout leaves, if using.  Serve with a sprinkle of nooch.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Unleash Your Inner Bobby Flay

So there I was, standing in the produce section of Devon Market, just soaking in the huge variety of the bounty before me.  Dandelion greens, purple kohlrabi, parsley root, mountains of herbs, chiles or all shapes and sizes and potency, tomatillos...

Tomatillos?  I don't think I have ever made anything with tomatillos.  I mean, I know I have purchased them before, but I don't think they ever made an appearance in a dish.  They simply met an untimely end, wasting away in the veggie drawer of my fridge.

I know that they are a relative of the gooseberry and are a staple in Latin American cuisine.  After taking stock of what I had at home and going through my rolodex of south of the border falvors, I Unleashed my inner Bobby Flay, grabbed a couple tomatillos, some limes, fresh cilantro, and some chiles and ran back to my kitchen.

Here is what I came up with.

Fast and delicious!
Spicy Black Bean and Red Cabbage Salad with Tomatillo Salsa

This fiber rich salad is tangy, sweet, and spicy, and it comes together in minutes.  You can control the heat level by removing the seeds from the jalapeño for a more mild flavor.

1 28 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/4 head of red cabbage (about 1 1/2 cups), sliced into thin strips
1/2 red onion, minced
1 jalapeño, minced
1 medium shallot, minced
2 tomatillos, husks removed and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp red wine vinegar
juice of 1 lime
2 tsp honey (or more to taste)
2 Tbl fresh cilantro, chopped
3 cups arugula
salt n' pepper

Combine tomatillos, jalapeño, shallot, garlic, cumin, vinegar, lime juice, honey and cilantro in a food processor.  Pulse until everything is incorporated but still a little chunky.  Season with salt and pepper.

Combine beans, corn, and cabbage in a large bowl.  Pour half of the salsa over and toss to combine.  Allow to sit for about 10 minutes so the dressing can be absorbed a bit.

In another bowl, toss arugula in remaining salsa (or enough to coat the greens).  Divide greens onto four plates.  Top each plate with the beans, cabbage, and corn.  Garnish with cilantro leaves.