Tag Archives: kale

So Ya Wanna Make Perfect Asparagus? Recipe: Asparagus with Spring Garlic and Sherry Dijon Vinaigrette

3 May

Working at the H St. NE farmers market has taught me one thing (among others): Spring opening days bring an ABUNDANCE of delicious asparagus. When I was younger, asparagus was on my worst-hated foods list (along with canned frosting). I, like so many other people, tried it overcooked once and never wished to relive the horror. Luckily, I stalked down asparagus perfection and now I am here to allay your fears of the stringy, mushy, fibrous myths that surround these blades of glory. (Canned frosting is still hated.)

You’ll want to be sure to get asparagus in season that seems stiff and snappable. If you bent it in half it would snap rather than bend into submission. Toss your limp stalks in the soup or to the dogs…or maybe the compost pile. The supplies you will need are a large pot, a skillet (non-stick or seasoned cast iron), and a large bowl filled with ice water.

First, you’ll need to rinse your asparagus in cold water and cut of the woody ends. If you have ever bitten into a stalk of asparagus only to find that your chewing is getting you nowhere and it is stringy and inedible — chances are that it is either OLD or the woody end was not properly cut.

In this picture, you can see approximately what I cut off to ensure that the woody part is removed. The top is asparagus that are cut and the left bunch still has the woody ends.

Next, I like to cut my asparagus into bite-sized pieces. You can opt to keep your stalks long or cut them smaller but just be sure that they fit comfortably into your pot of water.

Fill a pot with cold water and put in 3 large pinches of salt. I would guess that I use about 2-3 tbsp of kosher salt. Salting the cooking water helps to flavor the asparagus so that it is perfectly seasoned when it’s time to eat. Bring water to a boil and add the cut asparagus and stir frequently for about 4 minutes. I would start testing it at 3 minutes if you have cut smaller pieces and leave it in no more that 5 minutes. The asparagus should be perfectly tender and to the tooth.

Once your asparagus has reached its al dente point, immediately use tongs to place the asparagus into a bowl of ice water. This will shock in the bright green color and also stop it from cooking to preserve the perfect texture. 

Next, cut up the bottoms of four sprigs of spring garlic and a quarter of a large shallot.

spring garlic has a milder garlic flavor combined with green onion flavor

In a large skillet, heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic.

Drain the asparagus from the cold water in a colander and pour it into the hot pan with shallot and garlic infused olive oil. Sprinkle with a pinch more of salt and turn it in the pan for a minute or until glossy with the oil.

 

Pour the finished asparagus onto a plate and now it’s time to make the sauce. In a bowl, whisk together a tsp of dijon mustard and 1.5 tbsp. of sherry vinegar. Drizzle in about 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and whisk together until emulsified. Pour over the asparagus and enjoy!

As you can see, I served mine with a piece of baked salmon and a kale and red pepper stir fry and some left over Bhutanese red rice that I’d had in the freezer. An easily delicious Wednesday evening.

And for dessert, I made banana “ice cream” with a little bit of cherry jam, chocolate chips, and peanut butter mixed in.

xoxo,
the happenstance gourmande

Recipes: Kale and Roasted Beet Salad with Vegan Pistachio Pesto AND Chia Pudding Dessert

4 Apr

So after my amazing dinner at Barbuzzo, which I devoted a whole post to, I decided that I needed to recreate this delicious salad that I had. The salad was Roasted Beets with Kale, Grapefruit, and Goat Cheese with a Pistachio Pesto. The combination of the flavors was so incredibly different that I just had to veganize it and make it immediately. I would like to report that my first attempt to make the salad was a SUCCESS! Thankfully the cleanse left my taste buds in prime working order so that I could mentally take notes to plan what I might need to make this at home.

A typical pesto includes basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and lots of parmesan cheese. Not very vegan friendly. I swapped in a little bit of nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor and extra nutrients (like B-12), and used some arugula for a peppery bite. Here is what I came up with and man…it is delicious.

Vegan Roasted Beet Salad with Kale Chiffonade, Ruby Red Grapefruit, and Pistachio Pesto (serves 3 with lots of extra pesto leftover for spaghetti squash or pasta)

  • 2 handfuls of basil (about 1.5 cups packed)
  • 1 handful of arugula
  • 3/4 cup of roasted, salted pistachios (shelled — that means no shell)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp. of nutritional yeast powder (I found this in bulk at my local organic market)
  • 3 large pinches of kosher salt
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of good extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 lbs of small/medium beets (I found great ones at the Penn Quarter farmers market)
  • 10 leaves of kale
  • large ruby red grapefruit

Preheat oven to 425. Rinse beets, making sure to remove any excess dirt. (They live underground so fresh beets are dirrrty — like Christina Aguilera.) Pat dry with a paper towel, place on a foil-lined cookie sheet, sprinkle with salt, and drizzle with EVOO. Fold the aluminum foil around the beets to create a pouch. Roast in oven for 30-45 minutes, or until a fork slides easily into the beets. Once cool, the skin of the beets will easily slip off.

Add basil, arugula, garlic, pistachios, salt, nutritional yeast, and lemon juice to a food processor. Blend together until mixed into a puree and slowly stream in the EVOO while the food processor is running. When the mixture is thick and dense, but well-emulsified, scoop into a bowl and set aside.

Line up kale leaves and roll into a cigar shape. Slice even sections of the “cigar” which will leave you with a chiffonade cut. Here is a great tutorial if you need help with your knife skills. Place in a medium bowl, drizzle with vinegar, squeeze lemon juice, and sprinkle with salt. Set kale aside.

Slice wedges of grapefruit and remove the peel, seeds, and outer white pith. Squeeze the excess juice over the kale and cut the wedges of grapefruit into smaller segments.

Place a heaping teaspoon dollop of pesto atop the kale and mix together making sure to coat all of the greens. The pesto will be pliable with the addition of the vinegar and grapefruit juice, however if you find the pesto to be too sticky to coat the greens, add more grapefruit juice.

Place the kale on a plate and top with sliced beets and grapefruit and a small dollop of pesto. Enjoy. As you can see, I served my salad with crispy tofu nuggets. I’ll write up the recipe for that after I do some more tweaking.

Here’s a picture of a perfect bite. And you can see that lovely chiffonade of the kale. Trust me, the cut of your vegetables makes a HUGE difference in the way that your taste buds register them.

Not to toot my own horn..or Barbuzzo’s but, this salad is amazing — the sweet earthiness of the beets and the dark green flavor the kale is contrasted by the rich creamy and garlicy pesto and the sweet citrusy grapefruit.

Obviously I needed a sweet to go with this meal, and after my boss turned me on to chia seeds, I’ve been dying to use them. Chia seeds are a miracle food that originated in South America with the Aztecs and Mayans. They are known to give energy, provide sustenance, but most importantly they are a SUPER food. They are a complete source of protein and contain tons of fiber and are a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids (which is something that vegans can have a hard time getting).

One of the most important things about chia seeds is that they are extremely hydrophilic, which means that when they are exposed to a liquid, they soak it all up and balloon in size. This makes them perfect for a pudding. I found some great looking recipes for Chia Seed Puddings, and obviously put my own spin on it to create something fabulous.

Vanilla Chia Seed Pudding with Cinnamon, Cardamom, and Fresh Berries (makes 3 servings)

  • 1/2 cup of chia seeds
  • 2 cups of plain soymilk
  • 1 tsp. good vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of raw coconut, toasted (sprinkle on baking sheet and roast in 325 degree oven for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until browned and fragrant)
  • 1 tbsp. sucanat
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of fresh berries
  • cardamom pod to grate over the top

Stir the chia seeds and soymilk together, and refrigerate for an hour until gelled and set. This is what it looks like when set.

When set, stir in sucanat and vanilla extract. Spoon into individual bowls and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon, toasted coconut, berries, and a couple grates of cardamom. Enjoy.

xoxo,
the happenstance gourmande

Hoagies & Pickles & Amish…Oh My: Tummy Full-adelphia

2 Apr

This weekend my friend and I drove up to visit another dear friend in Philly. I hadn’t been to the City of Brotherly Love in ages, and had heard about all of the gastronomical delights that lurked just a couple of hours north. I did the math on Friday, and I hadn’t eaten anything processed, refined, (and aside from a sushi dinner), nothing that I hadn’t created with my own two hands in over 35 days! I knew that it was time to really give my taste buds a workout and Philly was the perfect place to re-acquaint those little suckers with meat and dairy and sugar.

After discovering the French bakery, Paul, on day 3 of my juice cleanse, I had been dreaming of their macarons. I picked up a couple of the almond-meringue-ganache treasures for the road trip. They were incredible. Not only were they the perfect texture: chewy and crispy, moist and creamy, but I was able to enjoy the flavors in a completely new way. Just as my body has been reset after my juice cleanse and vegan diet, my TASTE BUDS were working at maximum power. This was the theme of my entire weekend in Philly.

Of course we ate hoagies (incredible), and Amish hot, fresh-baked cinnamon rolls (my friend said they tasted like Barefoot Contessa had just pulled something out of the oven for us), and amazing pickles, but NOTHING compares to the meal we had at Barbuzzo. This Mediterranean, farm-to-table, small plates restaurant was the perfect place to eat my first meat and dairy.

We started off with a cured meat board, with a great spicy mustard, cornichons, and olive tapenade with sliced baguette. As my first meat, I chewed very slowly, and enjoyed every morsel of the salty, spiced, salami and seranno.

Next, we had the Sheeps Milk Ricotta. Oh my God. This cheese was like nothing I had ever experienced. It had a slightly sheepy flavor (which I love) and was as creamy as sour cream. It was drizzled with a sweet red-wine reduction and some very fragrant EVOO, and served with slices of incredible thick, grilled bread.

Next we had the roasted beet and goat cheese salad. Now, I know that every restaurant puts a beet and goat cheese salad on their menu — it’s definitely the rage — and usually it’s quite good but nothing very new and different. Not at Barbuzzo. The roasted beet and goat cheese salad was served over a bed of kale chiffonade tossed in a pistachio pesto with a sherry vinaigrette. What really set this dish over the edge for me was the inclusion of the sweet and citrusy ruby red grapefruit segments. (I obviously bought ingredients at Whole Foods yesterday for my attempt to replicate this wonder.) The cool creamy bites of cheese mixed with the robust greens drizzled with that sweet and nutty vinaigrette coupled with the tangy, juicy grapefruit — sheer bliss.

After this triple punch of KNOCKOUT flavors, we tried the Tufoli Calabrese (Tufoli is a type of pasta noodle — similar to Rigatoni), which had a slow-cooked smoky pork ragu, with buffala mozzarella, brocollini, and some breadcrumbs on top. I thought this dish was good, but not as mind-blowing as our first few dishes.

After the pasta (you can see that we really went to town on the menu ordering everything — but I promise the plates were small 🙂 ), we had the Uovo pizza. I swear birds started chirping when I bit into this pizza. Aside from the crust being perfectly amazing, it was topped with a garlicy light creamy white sauce, brussel sprout leaves, guanciale (pork cheek that tastes like non-smoked bacon), mozzarella, and drum roll…a truffled farm-fresh egg. If you haven’t had a fresh egg (that is still orange in color before it turns yellow with age), this was the PERFECT way to have it.

Perfectly satisfied with our incredible meal, we decided to try dessert. As a person who doesn’t love sweets and was grappling with what I thought would be an evening of gastric distress, I had read so much about the Budino dessert and I knew we had try it. We decided to order the apple and raisin bread pudding and the caramel Budino. The bread pudding was great, had nice big chunks of multicolored bread and was creamy and topped with apple cider gelato. I have to rush through that dessert because when I dipped my spoon into the Budino and tasted it, I swear bells starting chiming. I can’t really explain to you why PUDDING was in my friend’s top 3 desserts of all time, but it was in mine too.

The pudding came out in a mason jar and didn’t look like much. Tasting is believing. It was light and creamy, but still somewhat dense and had an almost satin-like texture, with the most insane caramel flavor. It wasn’t overly sweet but had a good bit of salt running through which really brought out the caramel notes. The pudding was layered on top of dark chocolate cookie crumbs that tasted like Oreos, and on top was a whipped creme fraiche that felt like whipped cream but tasted like sour cream so the combination was sweet heaven. Perfection in a jelly jar.

After our dinner the next evening, we contemplated returning to Barbuzzo just to get the Budino again for dessert. But we didn’t. With Michelin-starred restaurants in Napa and Italy, as well as amazing restaurants in France, N.Y.C., and New Orleans under my foodie belt, I still would consider this meal to be in my top-5 dining experiences ever. 

The next evening we tried one of Philly top chef, Iron Chef extraordinaire, Jose Garces’ restaurants. It was good…but after the bar that Barbuzzo set, I don’t even think Thomas Keller could have surpassed it. Well, yeah he probably could have. We ended our trip with an incredible brunch at a cute little place called Sabrina’s  (where I had scrambled eggs with a cornmeal-green onion-sour cream biscuit) and had the perfect ricotta cannoli from Isgro Pasticceria to carry home to D.C.

This weekend, I discovered another benefit of juice-cleansing to add to my growing list: the cleanse awakened my palate. I was able to discover food and flavors in a completely different way. The manner in which I could identify subtle nuanced flavors might rival a Top Chef discerning palate quick-fire challenge. All in all, I definitely cannot wait to return to this city of culinary wonder and keep my taste buds working at optimum power.

xoxo,
the happenstance gourmande

Recipe: Kale & White Bean Stir-Fry with Moroccan Spiced Tofu

22 Mar

Toward the end of my juicing cleanse, the idea hit me to take the leftover kale (of which there was SO much) and make a stir-fry with cannellini beans. I pretty much love all beans and figured that on day 2 of post-cleanse eating, I’d be able to introduce some of my favorite legumes back to my belly. In addition to my reintroduction to the mighty bean, last night was my first meal of non-raw ingredients. It had been a looooong time since I’d had something cooked and boy was it nice.

In the spirit of frugality and clean eating, here is an awesome poster that I came across of American World War I propaganda. Looks like eating clean and buying local is nothing new. How did we get so off course…

Just by using up some of my random leftover ingredients (and the addition of a few new others), I created a recipe that I thought was amazing and I think you’ll agree. I used sprouted tofu instead of regular as it is easier to digest than regular tofu AND more nutritious. I strongly suggest giving it (and anything else sprouted — including my favorite sprouted wheat multigrain Alvarado Street bread) a try! Also, if you get a chance to visit the Spice and Tea Exchange in Georgetown, they have an amazing selection of spices and spice blends, including the Moroccan Spice blend that I used.

Kale & White Bean Stir-Fry with Moroccan Spiced Tofu

  • 8 oz. extra-firm organic sprouted tofu, pressed and dried and cut into cubes (make sure to use organic tofu because most non-organic tofu contains ICKY genetically modified soy)
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 3-4 cups of kale, chopped or torn
  • 1 can of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp. Moroccan Spice blend (or a blend of chili powder, turmeric, garlic, olive salt, cumin, black pepper, chili flakes, oregano, onion, coriander)
  • 1-2 tbsp. Braggs Amino Acids
  • EVOO
  • handful of raw cashews

Sprinkle both sides of tofu cubes with spice blend. Pour a bit of olive oil into a heated frying plan and place tofu cubes in a single layer.

Saute tofu for 3-4 minutes. Once tofu is browned on the bottom, flip each piece over and cook for another 2-3 minutes.

Remove sautéed tofu from frying pan and place aside. In a wok, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and cook onion and garlic until translucent and fragrant. Turn to medium-low heat and add tomatoes to the wok. Stir and let cook for a minute. Add the kale to the wok.

Add in the Braggs Amino Acids. Stir the mixture as the kale releases its water and wilts. Add the white beans and stir until they become warm. Add the tofu to the wok and stir and let simmer for 2 minutes. Top each plated serving with a sprinkle of raw cashews for added texture. Done.

I promise that this tastes good…and it’s not out of desperation since I had previously been sans solids for 10 days. If I can keep cranking out recipes like these, being vegan for at least 5 days a week will be no problem at all.

I will leave you with the perfect bite.

xoxo,
the happenstance gourmande