Monday, June 25, 2012

Tropical Hot

This week has been HOT in Chicago.

And I'm talkin' tropical hot, except without the beaches, palm trees, and monkey butlers bringing you fancy umbrella clad drinks in coconut shells.

Actually...I do see palm trees.  But they are electric and, for some unknown reason, stand guard at a car wash near my home.

When it's this hot, the only thing you can do is try to stay hydrated and muscle through.  Since I have turned over a new leaf, I chose to stick with the tropical theme and rehydrate with coconut water, in lieu of those corn syrup laden sports drinks.

So I drank my coconut wee liter fulls.  And had a terrible allergic reaction.

As I fight through a Benedryl induced haze, I reflect upon the important lessons learned:

1)  Coconut water isn't all it's cracked up to be.
2)  Everything in moderation.
3)  The next time I want to feel like I'm in the tropics, I will whip up some of these Caribbean Inspired Black Beans instead.

 Caribbean Inspired Black Beans

Beans, beans they're good for your heart...
The ginger and allspice provide a delicious, warm spicy twist!  This is a fantastic main dish served over rice with Mango Salsa, as a side, or as the basis for bean burritos. 

1 large sweet yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbl olive oil
1 1/2 Tbl grated ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cumin
4 cups drained cooked black beans (about three 16 oz cans)
2 navel oranges
2 bay leaves
thyme bundle
salt 'n pepper

In a large saute pan, sweat the onions in the oil until they soften, about five minutes.  Add garlic, ginger, allspice, cumin, thyme bundle, bay leaves, and a pinch of salt and saute for an additional three minutes. Stir in beans, the zest of one orange, and the juice of both, and cook over medium/low heat for about ten minutes or until it thickens, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.  Mash some of the beans with the back of a spoon if you would like a thicker consistency.  Remove thyme and bay.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

You really should try this with the Mango Salsa...

Just sayin'...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Kohlrabi, Couscous, and You

I fancy myself an adventurer.

True, I've never jumped out of an airplane, and I have not appeared on stage nude; neither have I held a snake, driven over 100 m.p.h., nor have I bungie jumped face first off a building.

But, I will eat just about anything.

This week, as I was strolling through my local farmers market, I was hoping to find something that I had never before consumed.  Some exotic find that has eluded my culinary experience thus far.  And there it was.  A strange, bulbous, green root-looking thing with leaves sprouting out the top...kohlrabi.  I immediately bought a bunch and ran home to do a little research.

Turns out that kohlrabi, also known as the German turnip, is akin to cabbage, broccoli, and kale.  It has the consistency of a turnip but is much sweeter in taste.  AND it's chock full of thiamin, folate, magnesium and phosphorus, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C (140%), vitamin B6, potassium, copper and manganese.  Who knew?

After checking it out in its raw form (I made a delicious slaw of kohlrabi, apples, radishes, and green onion) and got a good idea of the taste (a bright, crunchy, earthy experience), I thought I would play around with it in a warm dish.  Here is what I came up with:

Curried Israeli Couscous with Chick Peas, Asparagus, and Kohlrabi

Waiting for the last minute to add the kohlrabi allows it to retain its sweetness and crunch providing a great contrast to the dish!  Try adding 1/4 cup golden raisins into the mix for a little extra sweetness. (My Valentine is not a big fan so I left them out...still way tasty.)

2 cups vegetable stock plus 1/4 cup
2 cups Israeli couscous
1 Tbl curry powder
2 tsp lemon juice
2 bulbs kholrabi and leaves
1 bunch asparagus (trimmed and sliced into 1" pieces)
1 1/2 cups chick peas (drained and rinsed)
1/3 cup shallots, sliced (about 2 small ones)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 Tbl olive oil
1 Tbl rice viengar

For the couscous, bring 2 cups vegetable stock, curry powder, and lemon juice to a boil.  Add couscous, cover, and reduce to simmer stirring occasionally until cooked (approximately eight minutes).  Season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

To trim the kohlrabi, slice off stalks and leaves.  Using a sharp knife, remove the outer layer of the bulb as if slicing the skin off an orange.  Cut kohlrabi into 1" cubes and set aside.  Remove the leaves from the stalks.  Hold stalks in one hand and fold leaves over with the other hand.  Gently pull the leaves free.  Stack leaves in a pile and roll into a cigar shape.  Slice leaves into 1/2" strips.  You have just julienned your leaves.  Good for you!

In a large saute pan, heat oil over medium heat and saute shallots until tender, about five minutes.  Add garlic and cook for one minute.  Add asparagus and kohlrabi leaves and continue to cook for about three minutes.  Add the chick peas, raisins (if using), rice vinegar, and the remaining 1/4 cup of stock to the pan.  Cook until most of the liquid evaporate and leaves are tender.  Stir in kohlrabi cubes, couscous, and toss to combine.

Serve warm.  It's also pretty darn tasty cold!