Go Green

We read about it everywhere. We hear about it on the radio and on TV.  “Go green”, become environmentally-responsible. Drive a hybrid car. Install solar panels. Sure those are good ways to “go green”, but not all of us can afford to take those steps. Especially right now. But, there are some simple things you can do right now. Tomorrow, when you head to the Farmers’ Market or to your local grocery store, maybe you could carpool with a neighbor, or ride your bike, or take transit. If you are lucky enough to live close by, you could just walk. You could bring your own reusable produce bags and a basket, canvas bag, or even a wagon to carry your purchases. All of these are  steps toward environmental responsibility that you can do immediately.

In celebration of our movement towards “going green” I offer this wonderful recipe, from Cooking Light, for Winter Potage which incorporates six “green” vegetables; leeks, celery, broccoli, spinach, edamame and green peas. I love this recipe. First it uses lots of fresh veggies. Second, it’s easy to make and last, it tastes great. Add a loaf of fresh Artisan bread from the Farmers’ Market and you’ve got the perfect light dinner for a wintry evening. Enjoy!

WINTER POTAGE

4 servings (serving size: 1 ½ cups)

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 teaspoon butter

1 cup thinly sliced leek (about 1 large)

½ cup sliced celery

1 garlic cloves, minced

1 cups chopped broccoli florets

1 cups baby spinach leaves

1 cup shelled edamame

1 cup petite green peas (I used frozen)

1 tablespoon rice

1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

3 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

1 ½ cups water

1 ½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

Heat oil and butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leek and celery; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute. Add broccoli, spinach, edamame, peas, rice, and red pepper. Stir in broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.

Place one-third of vegetable mixture in a food processor or blender; process until smooth. Pour pureed mixture into a large bowl; repeat procedure with remaining vegetable mixture. Stir in juice, salt, and black pepper.

Note: If you are not familiar with edamame, it is a preparation of baby soybeans in the pod.  The pods are boiled in water together with condiments such as salt, and served whole. You can also buy them already shelled at many markets. They can be found in the refrigerated produce section. You might also find them in the freezer section.

What to buy at the Farmers’ Market:

Leeks

Celery

Broccoli

Garlic

Spinach

Lemons

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The Squash Soup Throwdown!

After climbing into my car the other night after a meeting I checked my phone for messages. There was just one message; I received a voice mail from a friend asking me over for for dinner. She had cooked up a nice squash soup and wanted to share. Unfortunately, I had eaten dinner before the meeting and I had too had cooked up squash soup that very day. So, when I called her back she said, “then how about a squash soup throwdown lunch”. Great idea, I said, I’ll be there. For those of you not familiar with the phrase “throwdown” it comes from the cooking show Throwdown! with Bobby Flay, in which celebrity chef Bobby Flay challenges cooks renowned for a specific dish or type of cooking to a cook-off of their signature dish. In this case my friend, Tammi, was challenging me to bring my soup and compare it with the one she had made. I love a challenge and I love Tammi’s cooking. The throwdown was on.

The day of the throwdown arrived. I packed up my soup, the premixed dry ingredients for the Cheddar Scallion Drop Biscuits and some buttermilk and headed out into the drizzle, and over to Tammi’s place. As soon as she opened the door I could smell the wonderful scent of her soup and the cornbread she was baking. She poured us a glass of a very nice White Riesling. We toasted and then I busied myself heating up my soup, adding the buttermilk to the biscuit dry mix and dropping spoonfuls of the batter onto the baking sheet. Tammi’s cornbread was ready so we pulled it out of the oven then popped my biscuits in. Then we waited.

The soup I brought was from the Squash Bisque recipe I highlighted on a previous post. A creamy mixture of acorn squash, onion, carrots and potatoes simmered in chicken broth, then blended with some half and half. I also brought along some Cajun Style Andouille sausage that I diced and placed in the bottom of our soup bowls. The soup would be hot enough to heat the sausage eliminating the need to dirty up another pan. The Cheddar Scallion Drop Biscuits are from an Epicurious recipe I recently found that I wanted to try. I halved the recipe, but doubled the cheese and scallions on the advice of several readers’ comments. These little gems were the perfect accompaniment to my soup. They were crisp on the outside and moist and flavorful on the inside. The only thing I would change next time would be to use an extra sharp cheddar cheese instead of just sharp. They might also taste great substituting chopped green chilies for the scallions.

Tammi’s soup was a thick, earthy combination of roasted ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­butternut squash, sweet potato, apple, onion and garlic all spiced up with a little curry and Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce, all simmered to perfection in coconut milk, sherry and chicken stock. When it was all tender it was blended. It was marvelous, as was the cornbread that was made with blue corn meal. I had just been reading the January issue of Sunset Magazine the day before and remembered reading an article that listed blue corn as one of the Top 10 Feel Good Foods. The article said that blue corn contains protein, iron and zinc in higher ratios than white corn and the corn’s blue anthocyanin is an antioxidant. After eating Tammi’s blue cornbread I would certainly agree that it was definitely a delicious, feel good food.

The throwdown was over.  Winner? I would like to think there were two very happy tummies at the competition that day and that they were both winners. And so I headed back to my place with a container of Tammi’s soup, some cornbread and the rest of my leftovers. Yesterday I mixed Tammi’s leftover soup with my own and feasted on the most marvelous soup I have had in a while. Sometimes teamwork is the best solution.  The leftover cornbread and biscuits weren’t bad either.

Pick up some winter squash this weekend at the Farmers’ Market then call a friend and throwdown a challenge. It’s great fun.

How I Learned to Love Brussels Sprouts.

To a lot of folks just the mention of the words Brussels sprouts may bring about memories of being served soggy, mushy, strong tasting little cabbages. Not pleasant memories. Well, you can strike those awful memories from your mind. I’m here to tell you that if you give them another chance you might learn, just as I have, that they can be delicious. There three keys to a successful Brussels sprouts experience. First, buy them fresh; second select sprouts that are small in size; and last don’t over cook them. Brussels sprouts taste best cooked quickly. Here are four ways to enjoy Brussels sprouts.

My favorite way to fix them is to toss about 1 pound trimmed Brussels sprouts that have been cut in half lengthwise into a large Ziplock bag with one onion, that has been quartered, then cut into 1/16’s, about ½ pound Crimini mushrooms, quartered, some olive oil and a little sea salt and cracked black pepper. Toss to mix all the ingredients.  Next, I preheat my little BBQ and put my stir-fry basket on the grill. When the grill and the basket are nice and hot I dump in the Brussels sprout mix and close the BBQ lid. I check back every 5 min or so and toss the mixture so it can cook evenly. It’s done when the mixture is browned and the sprouts are crisp tender. Another nice addition to this mix is to toss in some chopped crisp cooked bacon just before serving. You can also roast this mixture in a 450° F oven for about 45 minutes. For me, this recipe seems to come out much better when I use the BBQ.

They can also be pan browned. Trim ½ pound Brussels sprouts and halve lengthwise. Cut 2 large garlic cloves into very thin slices. In a heavy 10-inch skillet melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil over moderate heat and cook garlic, stirring, until pale golden. Transfer garlic with a slotted spoon to a small bowl. Reduce heat to low and arrange sprouts in skillet, cut sides down, in one layer. Sprinkle sprouts with 2 tablespoons pine nuts and salt to taste. Cook sprouts with turning, until crisp-tender and undersides are golden brown. About 15 minutes. Transfer sprouts to a plate, browned sides up. Add garlic and ½ tablespoon butter to skillet and cook over moderate heat, stirring until pine nuts are more evenly pale golden brown, about 1 minute. Spoon mixtures over sprouts and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

They are also delicious in what I call a stir-fry style. First separate the sprouts into just the leaves and set aside. Next, in a little olive oil, saute some diced onion and pancetta or bacon until softened. Add the sprout leaves and stir-fry until just tender.

For the simplist version try this; Steam 2 lbs of trimmed Brussels sprouts until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Toss with butter and salt and pepper to taste. For this version use the very tiniest sprouts, less than three quarters of an inch in diameter. It the sprouts are larger cut them in half.

The season will be ending soon. At some markets you can buy the entire dramatic-looking stalk and pluck the sprouts off when you get home. Look for stalks that have small sprouts; they will be sweeter than the larger ones. Choose those that feel firm and heavy. Avoid any that have any wilting or yellowing leaves, or that do nor form a tight head. If you haven’t tried Brussels sprouts in a while why not give them another chance? You just might find out how really delicious they can be.

Comfort on a Rainy Evening

Tonight for dinner I wanted something comforting. To me, that usually means mac and cheese. But, I remembered I had this beautiful little head of cauliflower that I got at the Farmers’ Market and said to myself, “This will do just fine.” The head, really no bigger than my fist, was the perfect size for dinner for one. I steamed it and made a simple cheese sauce from cheddar cheese and soy milk, since that’s the only milk I had. Simple, yet deliciously comforting.

If you haven’t tried cauliflower lately, you should. It’s in season now and can be prepared in many ways. It’s also high in vitamin C, which we all need plenty of during the winter months. Check out the orange, green and purple varieties too. Many Farmers’ Markets have them.

Here are a few interesting facts that I found on Wikipedia. The nutritional facts were especially enlightening.

Cauliflower is one of several vegetables in the species Brassica oleracea, in the family Brassicaceae. It is an annual plant that reproduces by seed. Typically, only the head (the white curd) is eaten while the stalk and surrounding thick, green leaves are used in vegetable broth or discarded. Cauliflower is nutritious, and may be eaten cooked, raw or pickled.

Cauliflower and broccoli are the same species and have very similar structures, though cauliflower replaces the green flower buds with white inflorescence meristem.

Cauliflower is low in fat, high in dietary fiber, folate, water and vitamin C, possessing a very high nutritional density. As a member of the brassica family, cauliflower shares with broccoli and cabbage several phytochemicals which are beneficial to human health, including sulforaphane, an anti-cancer compound released when cauliflower is chopped or chewed. In addition, the compound indole-3-carbinol, which appears to work as an anti-estrogen, appears to slow or prevent the growth of tumors of the breast and prostate. Cauliflower also contains other glucosinolates besides sulfurophane, substances that may improve the liver’s ability to detoxify carcinogenic substances.  A high intake of cauliflower has been found to reduce the risk of aggressive prostate cancer.

Cauliflower can be roasted, boiled, fried, steamed or eaten raw.

Mandarin Orange + Grapefruit or Pomelo = Tangelo

This weekend at the Farmers’ Market I picked up some beautiful Tangelos. Tangelos are hybrids of Mandarin orange and grapefruit or Pomelo that were first developed in Florida in 1897. The ones I bought are the size of a standard sweet orange, although I have read they can grow to the size of a grapefruit. This might be more common in Florida as the ones I have seen that are locally grown tend to be the orange size. I love Tangelos because the peel is fairly loose and easily removed. The pulp is colorful, subacid, has a great flavor and is very juicy. A ripe tangelo is filled with much more juice than pulp and tastes much like a tangerine. They’re low in calories, a good source of dietary fiber, an excellent source of Folate and Vitamin C and are very low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. So they taste great and are good for you too.

While my favorite way to eat Tangelos is to just peel them and pop the segments into my mouth, I thought it would be fun to come up with another way to try them. How does Tangelo-Buttermilk Scones sound?

Here’s a yummy little recipe from Martha Stewart Living that would be fun to try next Sunday morning

Minneola Tangelo-Buttermilk Scones

Soft, biscuitlike scones get their sprightly flavor from the zest, juice, and flesh of tangelos.

Ingredients

Makes 20 scones.

  • 4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 8 1/2 ounces (2 sticks plus 1 tablespoon) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 1/4 cups buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Minneola tangelo zest
  • 6 medium Minneola tangelos, peeled, segmented, seeded, and chopped
  • Heavy cream, for brushing
  • Fine sanding sugar, for sprinkling

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line 3 rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and granulated sugar in a bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add buttermilk, zest, and chopped tangelos, stirring just until dough comes together (some butter should be visible).
  2. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and knead a few times to bring together. Gently pat it into a 6-by-15-inch rectangle, 1 inch thick. Using a paring knife, cut dough into 20 triangles (3 inches each). Flip each triangle over onto a baking sheet, spacing each 2 inches apart. Cover, and refrigerate until cold and firm, at least 2 hours (or overnight). Brush tops with cream, then sprinkle with sanding sugar.

Bake scones until tops are golden brown, 22 to 25 minutes. (If bottoms are browning too quickly, place another baking sheet underneath the first.) Transfer scones to a wire rack, and let cool

recipe © 2010 Martha Steward Living

Sunshine on a Dreary Day

Off to the Farmers’ Market last Sunday in the cold grey fog. It’s been foggy like this for days. No sun, just grey skies. Ever hear the phrase, grey skies bringing me down? Well I’m so there.  So I’m thinking, what will perk me up? What can I find at the Farmers’ Market that looks and tastes like sunshine?  Something big and yellow with a taste that is crisp and sweet.  I know, a pomelo.

I know the picture looks like a grapefruit, but it’s so much more. A pomelo is an exotic citrus fruit that is an ancient ancestor of the common grapefruit. It may also be called Chinese grapefruit, shaddock, pommelo, or pompelmous. It is the largest of the citrus and has a very thick, soft rind. Think of it as a grapefruit on steroids. It is sweeter than a grapefruit and can be eaten fresh, although membranes around the segments should be peeled because they tend to be bitter.

A history check says it’s grown in many eastern countries including China, Japan, India, Fiji, Malaysia, and Thailand. It is also now grown in the Caribbean and in the United States, in California and Florida. They’re in season November through March, so right now.

Pomelos are especially popular for Chinese New Year. The Chinese believe the delectable pomelo is a sign of prosperity and good fortune – good things will happen if you eat it. A good thing to keep in mind since Chinese New Year, The Year of the Tiger, is just around the corner.

They are a good source of Vitamin C and potassium.

I’m one of those funny people who eat grapefruit like most people eat oranges. And so it is with the mighty pomelo, I just peel em and eat em. But in my research I came across quite a few interesting recipes that might just be worth a try.

Pomelo and Crab Salad

½ cup crabmeat

1/2 cup julienned carrot

½ cup cubed cooked chicken breast

1/4 cup sliced cucumber

1 medium pomelo fruit

1/4 cup fish sauce (dipping sauce)

1 tablespoon finely chopped mint leaf

2 tablespoons coarsely ground peanuts

1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

1 tablespoon fried shallot (optional)

Peel pomelo, extract the segments as intact as you can, separate into small 3/4″ pieces.

Combine all ingredients except cilantro and peanuts.

Toss gently in a mixing bowl.

Serve lightly chilled with cilantro and fried shallots if desired.

Serves 4 – 6

Pomelo Mojito

4 peeled sections of pomelo chopped

6 mint leaves

2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate or orange sorbet

1 1/2 ounces white rum

Ice

Club soda

1 lime wedge

In a cocktail shaker, muddle the pomelo with the mint and orange juice concentrate. Add the rum and ice and shake well. Pour into a highball glass. Top with club soda and garnish with the lime wedge.

What to buy at the Farmers’ Market:

Pomelo

Carrots

Cucumber

Mint leaves

Cilantro

Shallots