Monday, June 29, 2009

Corporate Challenge and More CSA

On Thursday I participated in the JP Morgan Corporate Challenge here in Boston. Its a 3.5 mile race that starts in Boston Common, runs down Commonwealth Ave to Kenmore Square, and then back up Comm Ave to the Common. Lots of big companies participate and pay for their employees to run - proceeds this year went to Camp Haborview. We had a big group from my office. The race was huge - over 12,000 people ran! At the starting line we were told to line up according to our pace - there was a section for 5 minute milers, 6 minute, etc. My friends all wanted to get in the 6 minute mile section and I expected to totally get trampled - I'm closer to a 9! But it ended up being a good idea to start in the front because there were some serious bottlenecks in the back!

You can see the back of my head in the picture below.  I'm so glad I didn't get stuck in the group on the left!

Derek got some great shots from the Mass Ave bridge, including this video.

It actually didn't feel as crowded in the race as it looks in these pictures, but it was still pretty mobbed. I had fun and was happy with my time - according to the clocks at the finish line I ran the 3.5 miles 31:47, but I think it was actually a little faster than that!

This weekend we got another great supply of produce from our CSA! I spent Sunday afternoon making a huge batch of granola.

This time I used cashews, walnuts, and dried gogi berries, blueberries, cherries, apples and bananas. I couldn't stop munching on it while I let the sheets cool!

I tried to use as much of the CSA loot as possible in our dinner. I've found that I've been making a lot of savory tarts, quiches, and casseroles lately. These one dish meals are so easy, and I think they're a great way to turn a vegetable that would normally be a side dish into the main event.

Last night I made this goat cheese, beet, and walnut tart based on this recipe from Gordon Hamersley, whose amazing restaurant is right down the street from us. I wanted to lighten it a little bit, and didn't feel like making a tart crust, so I used a few layers on phyllo dough brushed with EVOO.

I used a mixture or red and golden beets and sprinkled chives from my herb garden over the top.

Delicious! And the best part is there's leftovers for the rest of the week.

On the side I made a salad with CSA arugula, Boston lettuce and strawberries tossed in a hazelnut vinaigrette made with chopped hazelnuts, champagne vinegar, lemon juice and EVOO.

A colorful meal made with practically all local food. I even picked up some local pasture fed eggs for the tart!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Eat yer Greens

Last night's dinner were full of CSA greens! Its fun to find new ways to incorporate them into meals. I started with one of Derek's favorites - a classic beet salad made with golden beets, soft butter lettuce, arugula, Great Hill blue cheese, and pecans.

For the main course I sauteed more greens and baked them with Manchego between layers of polenta.

I used the hearty Bob's Red Mill polenta - not the wimpy quick cooking kind. For the greens I chose purple kale and tossed in the leftover swiss chard that happened to have golden raisins and sliced almonds mixed in. It still worked!

Baked Polenta and Greens Casserole
1 cup polenta
3 cups water
4 cups chopped greens (such as kale, chard, spinach, or collards)
1 clove chopped garlic
1/2 cup white wine
3/4 cup shredded cheese (such as Manchego, cheddar, parmesan, or gruyere)
  • Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in medium saucepan.  Stir in polenta and reduce to a low simmer.  Simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring frequently, until polenta is cooked.  Set aside
  • Heat 1 Tbs EVOO in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute 30 seconds.  Add greens and cook for a few minutes until wilted.  Add white wine and cook until greens are just soft
  • Preheat oven to 400º
  • Brush a 1.5 - 2 quart baking dish with EVOO.  Pour half the polenta into bottom of dish.  Top with greens.  Top greens with 1/2 cup shredded cheese.  Pour over remainder of the polenta.  Top with remaining 1/4 cup cheese
  • Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until golden on top.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Zucchini Time

In the next few weeks, zucchini will become abundant in this part of the world. For anyone who has ever grown this and any other kind of summer squash, you will know that its abundance can be a bit daunting. In the fabulous book I just finished, Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Vegetable Miracle, she says that the only time folks lock their doors in her rural area of Kentucky is during zucchini season. If you don't, neighbors will drop by and leave zucchini in your house, your car - anywhere they can find a spot. They have so many of these guys they can't give them away!

So in preparation for this wonderful time of year, when our CSA offers us as many zucchini as we can fit in our Envirosax, I decided to make a recipe that showcases this little (or big) green show stopper.

Zucchini Pancakes with Shrimp and Herbed Cream Sauce
serves 2
2 medium zucchini, grated over largest holes of box grater
1/2 small white onion, grated
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
8 - 10 large, wild American shrimp
2 Tbs yogurt
1 Tbs sour cream
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp assorted chopped fresh herbs (I used chives and mint)
Salt & Pepper
  • Put grated zucchini in a colander and toss with 1 Tbs salt.  Let drain for 20 - 30 minutes
  • In batches, wrap zucchini in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out excess moisture
  • Transfer zucchini to large bowl.  Toss with onions, beaten egg, and salt and pepper.  Stir in flour and baking powder until fully combined in a sticky batter
  • Heat griddle over medium heat, then brush with EVOO
  • Pour batter on hot griddle in half cup measures, and press each pancake down with a spatula.  You should have 4 medium sized pancakes
  • Cook pancakes until golden and browned on the bottom, about 5 minutes.  Flip with spatula and cook an additional 4 minutes, until browned on both sides and just cooked through
  • Transfer to plate and keep warm in oven
  • Heat 1 Tbs EVOO in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Add shrimp and saute about 2 - 3 minutes until just cooked.  Transfer to cutting board and chop into bite sized pieces
  • Whisk together yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice, and herbs in a small bowl.  Season to taste with salt and pepper
  • Plate 2 pancakes per person, top with cream sauce, then top with sauteed shrimp
I served these babies with some beautiful CSA rainbow chard sauteed with golden raisins and toasted almonds. The raisins added a nice sweet contrast to the earthy, bitter chard.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Father's Feast and lots of greens!

I hope everyone got to spend some quality time with their dads this weekend! My dad is so special, he didn't just get a day, he got a whole weekend. Its obvious where I get my love of food from. We had quite a feast in my dad's honor. Saturday morning before heading out to my parent's house we had our regular Saturday pancakes.

These contained strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, along with toasted wheat germ and ground flax seeds. I also had a big yogurt bowl for lunch.

I swear there's yogurt under there. On top is a chopped peach, blueberries, dried cherries, coconut, slivered almonds, and banana chips.

For my dad's dinner I decided to make cod in hazelnut romesco sauce. This recipe called for halibut, but I substituted cod. Romesco is sort of like a tomato based pesto. It traditionally uses almonds, but this one had hazelnuts that I toasted and rubbed off their skins.

The hazelnuts are then pulsed with a broiled tomato, roasted red peppers, smoked paprika and cayenne. This is the base of the sauce to cook the fish in. Its smoky, slightly spicy, warm and earthy.

I served the fish with roasted garlic smashed potatoes and a green bean salad made with radishes, manchego, and prosciutto. Had to get some meat in there for my dad!

Dessert just had to be chocolate.

I used lots of chopped Green & Black's to make Martha Stewart's chocolate bread pudding. The chocolate was melted in milk and cream, whisked with egg yolks and a little sugar, and poured over pieces of challah bread.

It came out warm and gooey with a nice cinnamon flavor.

I served it with sweetened vanilla flavored whipped creme fraiche.

What could be better, really?

We woke up Sunday morning to do more eating! I came downstairs to find my mother whipping up a batch of homemade english muffins. And now you see where I get my affinity for making everything from scratch. Who else makes their own english muffins? These were also a Martha Stewart recipe. They came out great, but were a little on the salty side. We both agreed she should cut down on the salt on the next batch.

My dad made some greek omelettes to accompany them.

After moving some furniture (my dad's father's day request) we had yet another meal. I made this big salad with spinach, sliced nectarines, radishes, fennel, goat cheese, and pecans.

I also had half a grilled cheese sandwich and maybe a little more bread pudding...

So while we were spending quality time with my dad, we actually missed opening day of our CSA from Stillman's Farm. For those of you who don't know, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. Basically, you buy a share in a local farm, and you get fresh, local fruits and vegetables all season. We did it last year from Stillman's and just loved it. It runs from now until October, and every Sunday we go pick up a huge bunch of produce that lasts us the week. Its amazing how much better fresh local produce tastes than the pale imitations you get at the grocery store.  And it really cuts down on our grocery bills, too.  We pay $350 for the season and usually I just end up supplementing our weekly supply with some fish and grains.

Because we couldn't pick up yesterday, our wonderful friend Seth got our loot from us. And what a loot it was! This early in the season, its mostly greens that are up - and strawberries!

We also got red and golden beets - our favorite! Derek and I are both huge beet fans.

To highlight this special product, I made a beet risotto using wheatberries in place of rice. And I used the whole beet plant - root to greens!  I added some creme fraiche to the dish to bump up the creaminess, mainly because I had some on hand, and also sprinkled parmesan on top for a salty kick.  But both are totally optional and omitting them will give you a delicious vegan dinner.

Wheatberry Risotto with Beets and Greens
1 large bunch of red or golden beets with greens
1 cup wheatberries
4 cups vegetable broth
1/2 vidalia onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs EVOO
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup creme fraiche (optional)
grated parmesan for serving (optional)
  • Preheat oven to 425º
  • Chop the greens off on the beet roots and set aside.  Wrap each beet in foil and set in roasting pan.  Roast in oven until tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on size of beats.
  • Meanwhile, chop beet greens and stems and rinse well with cold water.  Set aside.
  • In a medium saucepan, heat vegetable broth over low heat.
  • In a large saute pan, heat EVOO over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until tender.  Add garlic and saute another 30 seconds.
  • Crank up heat to medium-high and add wheatberries to saute pan.  Cook for several minutes until slightly toasted.  
  • Pour wine into saute pan and cook until wine is absorbed.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low.  Pour 2 ladles of vegetable broth in wheatberries.  Cook until broth is absorbed, stirring frequently.
  • Continue adding broth until wheatberries are almost cooked and still slightly chewy.
  • Add beet greens and stems and cook until all liquid is absorbed and greens are wilted.
  • Remove beet roots from the oven and cool until cool enough to handle.  Remove skins by running beets under cold water.  Chop beets into 1 inch chunks.
  • Add beets to risotto, and stir until warmed through
  • Remove from heat and stir in creme fraiche, if using.
  • Serve with grated parmesan sprinkled on top, if using.
For lunch today I'll be eating the leftover cold risotto...with some spicy arugula!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Green Again

I'm back on the Green Monsters this week! I haven't had them in a few weeks and I'm so glad to have them back in my life. I feel so good starting my day with a big pile of nutritious greens. It makes me feel better about any dirty food choices I may make during the rest of the day - like ice cream filled cupcakes! But if those are wrong, I don't want to be right.

Dinner last night was yet another vegan meal. I've always made a lot of vegetarian dishes - not surprising when you don't eat meat - but I seem to be on a vegan kick lately. Maybe its the Spring and fresh produce that's making me want to make lighter dishes that really show off the fresh veggies.

Last night's meal was centered around some organic Vermont Soy artisan tofu. Usually when I cook with tofu, I freeze it and defrost it before using it. Freezing gives tofu a heartier texture, and helps it keep its shape better when its sauteed or roasted.

Orzo with Tofu and Spring Vegetables
serves 2
14 oz. firm organic tofu, pressed and chopped into 1" cubes
5 Tbs EVOO, divided
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs pure maple syrup
2 large cloves chopped garlic, divided
4 oz orzo
1/2 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
1/2 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbs sesame tahini
1/8 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • Whisk together 2 Tbs EVOO, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, and 1 clove garlic.
  • Toss mixture with tofu in a medium bowl and let marinade about 30 minutes.
  • Heat a large wok over medium-high heat.  Add 1 Tbs EVOO.
  • Remove tofu from marinade and saute in 2 batches until browned on all sides.  Set aside on a plate.
  • Meanwhile, cook orzo in medium pot of salted water until al dente.
  • Add 2nd clove chopped garlic to pan and saute 30 seconds.  Add asparagus to pan a saute until tender, about 4 minutes.  Add peas a cook and additional 1 - 2 minutes.
  • Toss cooked orzo in pan and remove from heat.
  • Whisk together 2 Tbs EVOO, lemon juice and tahini.  Toss with pasta mixture.
  • Serve and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Noodling Around

This evening I made a tasty Asian noodle stir fry to accompany a nice piece of wild salmon. I'm so glad salmon is in season! I refuse to buy the farm raised stuff they sell the rest of the year, that's pumped with antibiotics and actually fed red dye because its not really pink. Tonight I made my standby salmon recipe - roasted and with soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. To go with it I made a flavorful stir fry. I still had some fresh lemon pepper fettuccine from Russo's, which was perfect in this dish.

In a hot wok, I stir fried 1 sliced portabella mushroom, sugar snap peas, and junior bok choy. Then I tossed in garlic, ginger, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and red pepper flakes. I let this cook for a few minutes then squeezed over the juice of 1 lime and tossed in the cooked fettuccine. The finished product was tossed with fresh chopped cilantro.

Very tasty and fresh! I don't usually add lime juice to stir fry, but it was a nice tangy compliment to the lemon pepper noodles. You could make this dish with just about any vegetables you have on hand and it would be delicious.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cupcakes and Pride

The last few days have been filled with some yummy food - and lots of pride!

Friday night I tired to pull another vegan meal over on Derek - this one didn't go as well. I thought it was delicious, but he wasn't crazy about the portabella and bulgar salad sandwiches. The portabellas replaced the bread, and they were filled with a salad made of bulgar, roasted vegetables, and a tomato vinaigrette. I served them open faced topped with avocado and arugula.
What's not to like about that?

Saturday morning I made a batch of blueberry, almond, and coconut whole wheat pancakes after a 4 mile run.

Then I walked down the street to check out the gay pride parade. It goes through the South End every year and its always quite an event. The atmosphere of the crowd is great - so fun and friendly.

I spent the afternoon working on my newest baking creation - ice cream filled cupcakes. I've been brainstorming flavor ideas and gave Derek a list to pick his favorites from. For my first batch he chose Strawberry Rhubarb. I used a strawberry cupcake recipe from Martha Stewart, and filled those with this amazing rhubarb ice cream I made from Sugarlaws. I topped them with a strawberry whipped cream made from 1 cup of heavy cream, 1/2 cup creme fraiche, and 1/2 cup of strained strawberry puree.

Delicious! The flavors were subtle and very natural. The only problem now is that I want to eat them all!

For dinner Saturday night I made fish tacos, breading the fish in panko mixed with cumin and baking the the fish instead of frying it. For toppings I made guacamole, chipotle cream, and a slaw made with chopped cabbage, cilantro, and lime juice.

Sunday brunch was more found bread. this time in the form of a Croque Madame. I made a sandwich with gruyere cheese and sliced tomato on rosemary garlic bread, the soaked it in custard and grilled the whole thing like a grilled cheese. Then I topped it with a fried egg.

Not a light Sunday morning meal but so good! I served it with half a sliced nectarine and blueberries and raspberries on the side.

For Sunday dinner I made a Jamie Oliver (my secret boyfriend) recipe- a tart made with creamy, cheesy mashed potatoes and asparagus in phyllo dough.

I'm back on the green monsters this morning! I won't have much to show for food today because tonight is my company's anniversary party. I've been helping crank out multiple videos for the presentation, so hopefully all goes well!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Found Bread

I haven't been talking much about my breakfasts and lunch this week. But really, how many bowls of oatmeal do you need to look at? But I have been eating pretty god lunches. My salads everyday have featured a new ingredient to me - wheatberries. The wheatberry is the entire kernel of the wheat - a true whole grain. They're cooked simmered in water for about an hour, and have a chewy texture. And they make my mid-day salads much more substantial.

This week, I mixed wheatberries with roasted golden beets, grape tomatoes, arugula, and ricotta salata.

Dinner tonight was simple and delicious. I made a savory Pain Perdu - which literally translates to "found bread." This is the real French version of french toast. Its called "found bread" because it is a way of taking old, stale pieces of bread and making them soft and appetizing.

I found this recipe in Gourmet magazine. The bread is cooked in a savory custard, and topped with a poached egg. I love a runny yolk on just about anything. I decided to serve the dish with roasted asparagus because that is also perfect dipped into a runny yolk.

Savory Parmesan Pain Perdu with Poached Eggs
adapted from Gourmet magazine
6 1" slices baguette
1 cup whole milk
pinch of nutmeg
3 large eggs, divided
1/2 cup grated parmesan
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • Preheat oven to 400º
  • Butter a shallow 1 quart baking dish 
  • Arrange bread in single layer in dish
  • Whisk together 1 egg, milk, nutmeg, and salt and pepper
  • Pour custard over bread, then sprinkle with grated cheese
  • Let stand until absorbed, 15 - 30 minutes
  • Dot with butter and bake until puffed and golden, 20 -25 minutes
  • Meanwhile, poach eggs to desired doneness (I like firm whites and runny yolks)
  • Divide pain perdu into 2 portions, and top with poached eggs
  • Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper