Thursday, February 20, 2014

bright food: snow pea "spaghetti", corn and creamy lemon dressing

This whole vegetable odyssey is filling the refrigerator with so many good things for meals at home or on the go.  I love the glass containers with the snap on plastic lids.  So easy to find what I need in the refrigerator and they get so clean.  So aesthetically appealing.  Costco sells a big set of them for under $25, interesting assortments are always on the shelves at Homegoods (a place I shop maybe quarterly, but I they are reliably available at discount prices).  Another little obsession is Weck canning glass jars with the clip-on flat lids.  I have lots of little single-serve sizes and a few little jars.  Love them.  They are available at Crate and Barrel and West Elm.  I have kind of a thing against plastic containers.  Wet plastic containers out of the dishwasher, specifically.  I have no idea why, but they irritate me.  I pack my lunch or dinner for work almost always and my bag is ridiculously heavy from glass containers and a shift's worth of liquids (big fan of the Love bottles for water because they stay cold, maybe my Sigg thermos with tea, maybe a Vitaminwater Zero, maybe a Zevia Ginger Ale - our water at the store is warm and tastes like poison to me, again I will admit to quirkiness).  There are a lot of little shopping links in there.  Enjoy.

Anyway, this recipe is not in the Lemonade cookbook, but they make a version with cojita cheese (not easy to find in Indy) and I was pretty sure I could make a satisfactory version with the lemon vinaigrette I made for the Israeli Couscous with Exotic Mushrooms and Lemon TruffleVinaigrette.  The truffle oil is not necessary here, so if you don't have that bottle of liquid gold you're fine.  This is another very bright tasting dish.  We had a thaw the other day and finally cleared off the grill to make burgers.  We had oven salt and pepper fries and this yummy dish instead of a salad.  Good trade.  It's kept nicely for 3 days in the refrigerator.  You could easily double it for a party or picnic (might need to warm up a bit for real first).

Snow Pea "Spaghetti", Corn, and Creamy Lemon Dressing

2 C snow pea pods, sliced lengthwise into thin "spaghetti-like" strips
1 C frozen sweet corn, thawed (summer sweet corn, cooked and cut from the cob will be awesome too)
1/4 C lemon truffle vinaigrette
1/4 C plain Greek yogurt (nonfat was fine)
1/4 C feta cheese, crumbled
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper to taste

Slice the snow pea pods into spaghetti-like strips (use a nice sharp knife and cut into the thinnest strips you can).  Thaw the sweet corn (or if it's in-season, cook your sweet corn however you like and cut it off the cob (2 ears).  Make the lemon vinaigrette.  Stir the yogurt into the vinaigrette until well blended.  Toss the snow pea strips, corn, dressing and cheese together.  Taste for seasoning.

slicing snow pea pods

nice blurry picture of the vinaigrette  and yogurt

ready to toss

almost done

feta tossed in

Monday, February 17, 2014

Back on the roll: Farro, Spaghetti Squash and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

After the brief cherry dessert interruption (hope you tried it) we will get this rolling again with amazing, not that complicated but certainly not the usual dish number 2 from Lemonade in LA.  We could just jump right into it, but what fun would that be?  None.

It's sleeting outside which has totally broken my cross-country skiing streak.  Days on days of snow and adventures over my trails, trails left by the two other skiers in my neighborhood, unplowed streets and trails I blazed through at least a foot and a half of snow.  Do you know I live in Central Indiana?  We do not get snow like this, but I wish we did.  I may be the only one.  I love to shovel.  I love to work hard outside and get all warm inside.  I love snowflakes on my face and wind-burn on my cheeks.   I love this all because it's almost all optional.  I work in the mall.  I have a nice big warm home.  I have plenty to eat.  Rio, our older cat loves to sit in the windowsills and sniff through the screens.  I love to indulge him and open the window for a few minutes.  We both stick our faces in the window to feel and smell the bracing cold air.  And then we close the window because eventually the heating bill comes and that will take all the fun out of a little open window time.

So the recipe for this dish is another one that is served room temperature or cold and right now with the sleet tapping on my windows, it seems a little out of season.  But it tastes light and bright and is nutritionally very sound.  It makes a great lunch dish.  So different.  You'll need spaghetti squash which is easy to find in the winter (and don't be a squash snob, it's delightful here).  Farro is a trendy ancient grain that looks a lot like barley crossed with wheat berries to me (similarly nutty in taste too).  Trader Joe's sells it in a nice small bag.  Unlike the giant bag of quinoa from Costco that's lasted me a year (still trying to like it more).  Dried cranberries brighten up the dish nicely.  I upped the quantity in my version.    Pomegranate juice is pricey, but you just need a little bottle.  It's super tasty and good for you, though so buy a medium bottle for cost savings and add a splash to a beverage.

The cookbook I have adapted this recipe from notes you can omit the vinaigrette and toss the warm farro and squash together with the other ingredients and a pat of butter for a warm dish.  Gonna try it and let you know.  Have a feeling there are a few more cold days left this winter.

Farro, Spaghetti Squash and Pomegranate Vinaigrette

1 spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeds removed (scoop them out with a big strong spoon)
2 T olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 C farro
1//4 C fresh Italian/flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 C dried cranberries
1/2 C Pomegranate Vinaigrette
1/4 C crumbled feta or goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Drizzle the cut side of the spaghetti squash halves with the olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  Place cut-side down on a baking sheet (I usually roast things right-side up, but this worked great).  Roast until you can pull strands easily with a fork, about 45 minutes (the skin will be nice and browned).  Pull out the squash flesh with a fork and and place in a mixing bowl to cool.

Cook the faro by brining a 2 quart pot of water (with 1 heaping tsp of kosher salt added) to a boil.  Add the farro, stir and reduce heat to medium low.  Cover the pan and simmer until the farro is tender and the grains have split open or about 20-25 minutes.  Drain and cool (in the colander is fine).

Make the vinaigrette.  Add the farro to the squash along with the parsley, dried cranberries and feta.  Drizzle with the vinaigrette and taste for salt and pepper.  Toss before serving.

Pomegranate Vinaigrette
1 C pomegranate juice
1/4 C honey or agave nectar
1/2 shallot. peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T red wine vinegar
juice of one lemon
1/4 C or more of olive oil
kosher or coarse salt
freshly ground pepper

Pour the pomegranate juice into a non-reactive saucepan and place over medium-low heat.  Add the honey or agave and gently simmer until the juice has reduced to 1/4-1/2 C and is thick and syrupy (about 10-15 minutes).  Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl or jar, combine the pomegranate syrup, shallot, garlic, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil.  Shake of whisk to blend.  Season lightly with salt and pepper to taste.  Start with 1/4 C olive oil and add more if you like the taste or appearance better.  I was fine with the smaller quantity.  Extra vinaigrette keeps in the refrigerator for about a week.

Serves 8-10


squash ready to roast

roasted and fork tender

pomegranate syrup in the making

ready to toss

now we have vinaigrette and feta in the photo


Saturday, February 15, 2014

We interrupt our previously scheduled post for: Cherry Almond Crisp

Yep, half way through my next Lemonade/California post and I decide that we need dessert for Valentine's Day, I make something with what I have on hand and it turns out to be outrageously good.  So, we'll take a detour because we do that all the time.

Greg did take me to Petit Chou for their Valentine's weekend dinner on Thursday.  It was sweet and quiet there on a cold Thursday night.  It was also delicious.  So I cooked dinner Friday night after another nice ski around the hood after a (surprise) 5-plus inches of snow fell while I was at work.  Roasted asparagus with blood orange creme balsamic vinegar (splurge from Whole Foods that was totally worth it).  Chicken piccata deglazed with a yummy Chardonnay and brightened with lots of lemon and capers.  Salad, the basic kind.  And then cherry almond crisp.

Costco sells a really terrific big bag of frozen cherries with tart and sweet whole cherries that are perfect in my morning yogurt or muesli.  I've had my eye on that bag for a dessert too.  Almonds and cherries pair perfectly so I thought I'd go all nutty and use almond meal instead of flour in the crisp topping.  Bingo!  Ha, that was an unintentional pun.  Delicious.  One note, I do not have almond extract but I do have almond emulsion from King Arthur Flour.  It's thicker, but I'm pretty sure the pure extract would work just the same.

It's Presidents' Day this coming week so make a cherry dessert in honor of our first president.

Cherry Almond Crisp

4 C frozen cherries (tart or mixed)
1/2 C sugar
2 T cornstarch
1 tsp almond emulsion/extract

1/2 C old fashioned oats
1/2 C almond meal/almond flour
1/2 C loosely measured light brown sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated is nice)
4 T unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Spray baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.  I used an 8x8x2 dish but any shape or size in the 2 quart range would work.

In a medium bowl, toss frozen cherries (do not thaw) with sugar, cornstarch and almond emulsion/extract.  Pour cherries into prepared baking dish.
In a separate bowl, stir together oats, almond meal, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.  Cut in the unsalted butter using a pastry blender, two forks or work it through with your fingers until some big crumbs form.  Distribute evenly over cherries.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes until hot and bubbly.  Loosely cover with foil if getting too brown.  Eat warm with vanilla ice cream, yogurt of whipped cream.

Serves 4-6

I'll make it again and take photos along the way.   Need to get the whole light box thing working to improve your viewing.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

treat yourself: Israeli Couscous, Exotic Mushrooms and Lemon Truffle Vinaigrette

Here's the thing, I'm just going to have to post a few recipes that might seem a little less accessible than usual.  Have to do it.  I've been trying some really interesting (if you know me, that's not really a positive term) recipes with all the trendy things going on and I've not been super happy with the results.  Like, this is good and super healthy but do I want you to try it and feed it to your loved ones?  Probably not.  I want you to like it and receive high praise when you serve it.  I told you a while back about my love for all things Lemonade in LA and I promised to post some recipes from their new cookbook.  They aren't tricky, but some are braises and they take a while.  Most use fresh herbs or some different vegetables or spices you may not just have in your house (and let's face it, that's been a problem this wintry winter because it hasn't been all that easy to get out and shop).  Most are things kids would look at and have way too many questions.  But they've all been absolutely, positively outstanding so I'm just going to have to share some with you.  

In one day I made up a batch of my very favorite not so sloppy joes using my current wine love, Cline Zinfandel.  You should cook with wine you would drink and since Cline Zin is $7.99 at Trader Joe's it's easy to follow this rule.  Then I whipped up a recipe for whole grain mac and cheese that used butternut squash in the sauce because I have an abundance of frozen butternut squash from Whole Foods and for some reason, smoked Gouda cheese.  It was delicious, but needs a little tweaking before sharing.   Neither recipe is from Lemonade, but I'm just telling a little story about the cooking frenzy I enjoyed on one of my day's off, so stick with me here.  Then I made two veggie centric salads/sides.  One I've had every time I've been to LA and one I've always wanted to try, but have never had enough room on my plate.  I've got ingredients for a third, but I have to save something for another day.  Both of these dishes would be perfect for packing for work lunch (you would be the envy of all) or for serving for a brunch or lunch or a trendy small plate kind of dinner.  Both do not taste anything at all like heavy winter food and that's a little refreshing smack dab in the middle of winter (but I do love winter food).  So open your culinary minds and do a little shopping if you'd like to try something new.  Or, if that's a total waste of your time because no one at your house will be this adventurous I will make these dishes for you someday.  But really, there's nothing wrong with taking an hour of your day and making some things you can squirrel away for yourself for the sheer happiness factor of eating them.  

In the interest of actually finishing a post (my draft file is impressive), let's start with the Iraeli couscous, exotic mushrooms and lemon truffle vinaigrette.  Israeli couscous is the big, fat, plump and soft cousin of your everyday couscous.  The little cousci look like pearls.  I've never found them in whole grain, so deal with that and just enjoy them.  Trader Joe's sells Israeli couscous in a little violet colored box.  My best source for exotic mushrooms (a blend with at least Shiitake in there) is Meijer.  Usually $2.99 for 10-ounces and almost always available.  Meyer lemons (seedless and so sweet) are in season and they are perfect for the vinaigrette.  You may be short of white truffle oil.  If your best friend does not live in Italy and bring you an insanely good bottle of white truffle oil, you can buy a small bottle (you add just 1/4 tsp) or just use really good olive oil.  Vegetable broth is handy and tastier (clearly) than water.  Whole Foods 365 brand is good.  This recipe also calls for Parmesan and my favorite comes from Whole Foods with Costco a close second.  Shaving Parmesan is easy with a good vegetable peeler and the big shavings are deliciously salty.  This is so good.  Treat yourself, or call me and I'll make you some.  

Israeli Couscous, Exotic Mushrooms and Lemon Truffle Vinaigrette

10-ounce assorted exotic mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and sliced
2 T olive oil
kosher salt
fresh ground black pepper
1 C Israeli couscous
1 C vegetable broth or water
1/4 C Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette
1/4 C shaved Parmesan
1/4 C coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf/Italian parsley

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Drizzle your baking pan with olive oil and toss the mushrooms around to coat them.  Season with kosher salt and pepper (1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper or so).  Roast, stirring or shaking the pan a couple of times until the mushrooms begin to shrink, lose their moisture and brown or about 15-20 minutes.  Place mushrooms in your mixing bowl and allow to cool.  

Place a medium saucepan over medium-low heat and toast the dry couscous, stirring frequently, until it smells nutty and is golden brown (about 5 minutes).  Pour in the broth, cover and simmer until the couscous is just tender, 10-12 minutes.  Set aside and cool.  

When ready to serve, toss together the mushrooms, couscous, vinaigrette, cheese and parsley.  Taste for salt and pepper.  

Lemon Truffle Vinaigrette

Juice of 2 lemons
3/4 C canola or other neutral vegetable oil
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp white truffle oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl or jar, whisk together the juice and oils and season with the salt and pepper.  Whisk or shake to blend.  Keep any leftovers refrigerated for up to one week.


toasting the Israeli couscous


vinaigrette whisked and emulsified