November 25th, 2013

Grateful for Autumn Greens

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Light. This is the challenge, this time of year.

Daily, my work alternates from the kitchen to my home office perch; each space has walls of windows to keep me in tune with the rhythm of the day. Lately I’ve been caught off guard, absorbed by testing recipes, cooking meals, or writing articles, only to look up and find myself shrouded in darkness. The hours move so rapidly, yet I think I’m keeping up.

Suddenly, the curtain drops. Night is here. At 4:45!

Some days I fret at my missed opportunities of sunlight, the better photographs, the lifted spirits. I tell myself–tomorrow, tomorrow—although we know, headed into winter, that each tomorrow means even less.

Moving deeper into the season, I have to capture that light in other ways.

Some mornings Bill and I rise very early, drive to Warner Park, and hike the 2 1/2 mile trail that loops around the wooded hills. Wearing headlamps, we begin in pre-dawn darkness, and find our way along the craggy path. Sometimes I’ll hear the who-who of owls call, or the rustle of a wild turkey flock on its own forest trek. Sometimes I’ll see a set of headlamps on the trail ahead of me, only to realize that it is a set of glowing eyes. A deer!

After thirty minutes of so, we turn off our headlamps. The world is dim, almost colorless, but visible. And then, sunrise.
Ah! Surrounded by hickory and beech trees, their leaves already yellow, we become enveloped in shimmering gold light.

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Light and Balance. We need these in the food we eat too.

Today I am sharing two light and leafy recipes–one is a salad, the other cooked greens. Both autumn dishes help to balance out the heavy, hearty fare that defines the approaching holiday season.

I have been relishing fennel, its crunch and lively anise flavor enmeshed in a salad of Honeycrisp apples and clementines. My new favorite! This is a salad of fresh contrasts, melding sweet, peppery, citric, licorice and pungent tastes, with no cooking required. Just skilled prep—apples cut into thin batons, clementines peeled, sectioned and sliced, fennel and red onion almost shaved. Liberally season with salt and black pepper, which will help each element release its juices. Add salted Marcona almonds and your choice of a salty blue (gorgonzola, maytag, danish…)

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The dressing is basic. Use a good olive oil—this beauty is from my friends’ biodynamic farm in Tuscany near the Tyrrhennian Sea—and a shake of white balsamic vinegar. As I have learned from Rachel in measuring this, use the Italian sensibility: “q.b.” quanto basto-–what is enough—in other words, use your good judgment.

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A member of the chicory family, escarole is a beautiful and mildly bitter green that resembles leafy lettuce. Its core leaves, small and delicate, are ideal in a salad. But the whole head, sliced into ribbons, yields to heat readily, collapsing into a great delectable sopping mound. It makes a sumptuous side dish on its own, or can be spooned over rice or pasta. Served with beans or cornbread, it becomes an Italian dish that has migrated to the South.

In this pot, reds complement the greens. Red onion, red wine vinegar, and a handful of currants to bring pops of sweetness to the dish. You may use golden raisins in place of the currants; either dried fruit will gain a jewel-like glisten in the saute.

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HAPPY THANKSGIVING.

I could tell you, “Be grateful for your greens!”–because I am really reminding myself of the same.
Enjoy them chilled crisp in the salad bowl, or braised supple in the Dutch oven.
Enjoy your time with loved ones.
In this season of indulgence, enjoy some time of light and balance.

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HONEYCRISP APPLE-CLEMENTINE-FENNEL SALAD
1 Honeycrisp apple, cut into small batons
3-4 clementines, peeled, sectioned, and cut into pieces
1 fennel bulb , shaved or sliced thinly
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1/2 cup Marcona almonds
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/2 pound mixed leaf lettuces

Place the prepared apples, clementines, fennel, and red onion into a large chilled bowl. Add the almonds and blue cheese crumbles.
Sprinkle the salt and black pepper over the salad ingredients, followed by the olive oil and white balsamic vinegar. Top with mixed lettuces.

Toss the salad gently but thoroughly, so that the myriad ingredients are well-dispersed and the lightly coated with the oil and vinegar. Taste and adjust for seasonings.

Makes 8-10 servings

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WILTED ESCAROLE WITH RED ONION, GARLIC, AND CURRANTS
adapted from Cooking Light
5-6 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sliced red onion
3 cloves minced garlic
2-3 dried red chiles
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3-1/2 cup dried currants
1 large head of escarole, leaves washed and sliced into 1/2 ” thick ribbons
2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Place a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the olive oil. Stir in the red onion, garlic, and dried red peppers. Season with salt and saute the mixture for 2 minutes. The red onion will become translucent. Add the dried currants and saute for another minute.

Add the escarole ribbons. Stir and fold them in the red onion mixture. The heat will cause the escarole leaves to collapse and wilt. Add the red wine vinegar. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Allow the escarole to braise for 5 minutes.

Makes 8 servings

Posted in Gluten Free, Recipes, Salads, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian Dishes | 20 Comments »




November 1st, 2010

Farro, for Spring or Fall

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This week I have been testing some recipes for an article for RELISH Magazine. It’s for a story that I’m writing about our Third Thursday Community Pot Luck that will run in May of next year (!)

With the many months that separate article submission and publish dates, it can tricky to test recipes, especially with peak of summer produce in the dreary heart of winter.

But, as luck would have it, this is a springtime story. And many of the vegetables that come to market in early spring also make a brief wondrous appearance in early fall.

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Like this gorgeous selection that I bought from Arugula’s Star of Neal Family Farms. Wide, crinkly leaves of Red Russian Kale, plump, oh-so-sweet sugar snap peas, and, without question, the prettiest-tastiest bundle of carrots I have eaten in a long time—if ever!

All of these lush veggies are the precise ingredients needed for one of our featured recipes, as created by Third-Thursday Potlucker Rhonda.

Rhonda is a self-effacing cook, loathe to recognize her talents in the kitchen. But she knows good food, and can craft some mighty tasty dishes.
It’s one of the benefits of being a part of the potluck: I get to sample so many good things, prepared with flavor profiles outside of my typical use.

I liked her dish so much, that I want to share it with you now, while you might have access to some of those early spring/early fall Cool Weather Crops. You won’t have to wait for next May to enjoy!

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Rhonda’s Farro Salad with Toasted Sesame-Sweet Garlic Dressing has a couple of those “outside-my-usual” elements: that nutty whole grain known best to the Italians, Farro, and a Far East flavor: toasted sesame oil.

That sesame oil is powerful stuff–a thimbleful imparts a rich roasted color and flavor to a dressing. Rhonda’s vinaigrette uses a tetch more than that, mixed with a neutral canola oil. She also sweats sliced garlic in gentle heat, to sweeten it, while toasting mustard seeds.

This results in a kind of sweet-sour dressing, garlicky, with a hint of the East.

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Farro is an ancient whole grain of the wheat family, long cultivated in Italy, and prized for its distinct nutlike flavor and soft but chewy texture. Some think it tastes like a combination of wheat berries and barley. I would agree, and say that both its texture and taste are superior.

If you can find Italian Pearled Farro, as I did at Whole Foods, I recommend it. You won’t have to soak it in advance, and it will cook easily in less than half an hour.

One cup dry will yield 2 cups cooked.

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The vegetable preparation is really a simple stir fry. Start with the sturdy kale on medium heat for a few minutes before adding the carrots. If you can find these burgundy colored carrots—deep red skins covering bright orange interior–buy them! They have a really earthy-sweet spiciness that is so delicious. Plus, their color just knocks me out.

Sugar snaps take no time to cook, so add them at the very last. Stir them around for thirty seconds–just long enough to brighten that green.

Combine all the elements—farro, veggies, dressing, by folding. This dish is terrific served warm, room temperature, or chilled. It tastes fantastic the next day. It travels well. And, with its vegan ways, it can satisfy a wide range of people. Like our Third Thursday Community Pot Luck friends.

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RHONDA’S FARRO WITH SPRING/FALL VEGGIES
and TOASTED SESAME SWEET GARLIC DRESSING

Farro and Vegetables
1 c. Farro, rinsed
6 c. Water, lightly salted
1 T. Canola Oil
8 leaves of Kale, stemmed and chopped
½ lb. Sugar Snap Peas, strung, and cut on the bias into threes
½ lb. Carrots, cut on the bias
Salt
Pinch Red Pepper Flakes

bed of Arugula, for serving

Add farro to a pot of boiling water and cook for approximately 25 minutes.

In a skillet on medium heat, sauté the kale until collapsed, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and red pepper flakes. Add carrots, and continue to cook—stir fry style—for another couple of minutes, then add the yellow pepper strips, and finally, the sugar snaps. The kale will be tender, and the other vegetables will be tender-crisp.

Fold into the cooked farro, along with the toasted sesame-sweet garlic dressing. Reserve a little dressing to enliven the salad later, or dollop on top when you serve it.

Delicious warm, room temp, or chilled over a bed of fresh greens, like arugula.

Toasted Sesame-Sweet Garlic Dressing
3 cloves fresh Garlic, sliced thin
1 T. Canola Oil
½ t. Mustard Seed
4 T. Cider Vinegar
1 T. Sugar
¼ t. Salt
1 Green Onion, coarsely chopped
10 T. Canola Oil
1 T. Toasted Sesame Oil

Gently heat a skillet and add 1 T. canola oil. Add sliced garlic and mustard seeds. Cook just enough to “sweat” the garlic—it will become softened, and sweeter. Remove from heat. In a food processor fitted with the swivel blade, place cider vinegar, sugar, salt, green onion, and cooked garlic-mustard seed mix. Pulse these together, then process, pouring in the canola oil, a little at a time. Finish with the toasted sesame oil. The dressing will emulsify nicely. Taste for seasonings and adjust. If you want peppery heat, add a pinch of red pepper flakes here too.

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Posted in Recipes, Rice/Other Grains/Legumes, Salads, Vegan | 23 Comments »