Sunday, March 20, 2011

Broccoli-Spinach Soup

Lunch time!  

Looking through my fridge I realized I had some steamed broccoli and a couple of cups of fresh baby spinach to use up.  Since it was cold and rainy outside I thought a nice soup would warm us up nicely.

I usually make broccoli soup which uses, you guessed it, only broccoli.  It's delicious and surprisingly filling, but I didn't have quite enough to make three servings.  Adding spinach adds a lot of nutrients and a deep green color, but not a spinachy taste.  It's a great veg to add to smoothies too, although it will alter the color.

Broccoli-Spinach Soup

2-3 cups broccoli
2-3 cups baby spinach
1 small apple
vegetable stock

Cut broccoli into medium-sized florets.  Steam for 5-7 minutes until just tender and vibrant green.  Cut apple into small chunks, keeping the skin on.  Place broccoli and apple into a medium pot and cover with baby spinach.  Cover and steam for 5 minutes to wilt the spinach.  Remove from heat and ladle contents into a blender.  Whizz it up and add enough veg stock to make a thick soup consistency.  Salt and pepper to taste.

You can top with garlic-chile oil, croutons, or fresh cherry tomatoes, and goes great with a piece of garlic toast.

Creamy Basil-Dill Dressing/Dip

Chloe loves ranch dressing.  She likes to dip veggies in it, dollop it on her salads, and dunk her pizza in it.  But, I don't know what it's made of.  I wanted to come up with a creamy dip that could be thinned out and also used as a dressing that rivals ranch.  This recipe is inspired by Jennifer Cornbleet, a raw food chef, and has a fresh herby flavor with a slight tang from the lemon, and the whole family likes it.

For this recipe you have to soak the cashews for at least 2 hours.  I usually soak them overnight.  The soaking time doesn't really matter, as long as the cashews are slightly plump and soft.  This will give the dip an ultra smooth texture.

As always, play with the ingredients.  If you like a more tangy flavor, add some more lemon juice; if you don't care for the taste of dill, substitute it with parsley or more basil.  Customize it!

Creamy Basil-Dill Dressing/Dip

1 cup soaked cashews
1 t salt
juice from 1 lemon
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t garlic powder
3 T fresh basil
3 T fresh dill

Cover the cashews by 1" in water and soak for at least 2 hours.  Add salt, lemon juice, onion and garlic powders.  Start the blender and add enough water to get it going.  You'll have to turn off the blender and push the ingredients down to prevent air pockets.  Add enough water, 2T at a time, until you get the desired consistency.  (I aim for a thicker consistency and stir in additional water to use as a salad dressing as needed.)  Now that the mixture is creamy and lump-free, add your fresh basil and dill.  Wizz it up for a couple more seconds.  You'll end up with a slightly green dip with flecks of green herbs.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Preserved Lemon and Pistachio Tapanade

I love making tapanades.  They're a great addition to veggies or just spreading on a thick piece of rustic toast. This one packs a punch and you don't need much to add flavor to your dish.  Just steam some greens or zucchini and mix in a spoonful of tapanade.  Serve over brown rice.  Super delicious!

Preserved Lemon and Pistachio Tapanade

1 cup unsalted, shelled pistachios
1 T capers
1 T preserved lemon rind
Olive oil

Rinse and remove rind from preserved lemons and chop up into 1/4" pieces.  Rinse capers under water.  Add pistachios to a mortar and smash with pestle to break up nuts.  Add capers, lemon rind and enough olive oil to grind into a chunky paste.

You can use a food processor, but I really like the consistency you get from a mortar and pestle... and it's really fun to use.

Preserved Lemons

If you have a lemon tree or get boxes of lemons from a generous neighbor, and you don't know what to do with all of them except make lemonade, this recipe is for you.  Preserved lemons are a great addition to many dishes and lend a wonderful, almost warm, mild, lemon flavor without that citrus tang.  They are used often in Moroccan cuisine, adding the rind to tagine dishes and the pulp to sauces.  I made this jar about a year ago from my next door neighbor's tree that produces the fruit twice a year.   Here's how you do it:

Preserved Lemons

lemon juice
kosher salt

I didn't put exact amounts because it all depends on many lemons you have.  Cut lemons in half, liberally coat in kosher salt.  Stuff lemons in a jar and pour in additional salt to cover.  Now add enough fresh lemon juice to cover.  Refrigerate for at least 3 weeks before using.  They will keep for a heck of long time in the fridge... I still use mine from last year!

It sounds like a ton of salt, but don't worry.  You're preserving the lemons.  All the salt gets rinsed off before you cook with them.
Mellow lemony goodness.

Mango Pistachio "Ice Cream"

I got my Vitamix!  I got my Vitamix!  March 4th was the day.  I opened up the box and there staring back at me was a beautiful, shiny, black and silver, state-of-the-art blending machine.  Come to me baby and let's see what magic we can make.

Here's one of the first things I made.  It's really fast to whip up and uses up a bunch of those frozen, over-ripe bananas we all have in the freezer.

Mango Pistachio "Ice Cream"

1/4 cup almond milk, and extra for desired consistency
1 cup frozen banana chunks
1 cup mango chunks
1 T agave nectar (optional)
2T unsalted pistachios

Although you can use any type of blender, you'll get a creamier texture with the vitamix.  Pour in the milk and then the fruit and agave.  Wizz it up.  You'll probably have to turn the blender off a few times and moosh the contents around due to air pockets.  Add more almond milk until you get the desired consistency, but not too much or you'll end up with a smoothie.  Then add the pistachios and give it a final blend until the nuts break up a bit.

To freeze bananas, peel and cut the very ripe fruit into 1" chunks.  Place bananas in a large plastic bag and arrange in a single layer.  Freeze for at least 24 hours.  I always have a bag of these going in my freezer.  When the bag gets low, I just add some more.

As far as the almond milk goes, you can substitute any non-dairy milk product.  I like almond milk because it has a thick, creamy texture.

If you don't have agave nectar, use honey, or omit it all together.  If the fruit is sweet you don't really need it.

Words escape me.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Looking forward to my Vita Mix!

At the end of this week I get to open my brand spankin new Vita Mix blender.  It's one of those fancy variable speed doo-hickies.  If you can't tell, I'm having a hard time waiting.  I've been dreaming about all the sauces, smoothies, nut butters, and soups I'll be making.  Last weekend I made a delicious vegan "nacho cheese" dip, using my trusty 20-year-old Waring blender.  (That thing is a work horse!)  It went great with black beans, and cilantro all topping a big plate of corn chips.  My only thought was that it could have been creamier and thicker if I only had that Vita Mix.  Needless to say, I'll make the dip again and post all it's deliciousness here.  (My mouth is watering already!)

Friday, March 19, 2010

Mixed Greens with Orange Vinegar, Fruit & Nuts

No arm twisting needed here!

On my latest trip to Trader Joe's I picked up a bottle of Orange
Muscat Champagne Vinegar. When I was ready to cook with it, I
realized the rest of the ingredients I chose from the pantry were
mostly from TJ's too! They have an great selection of dried fruit
and nuts and nice big bags of mixed greens. Here's what I
ended up with:

Mixed Greens with Orange Vinegar, Fruit & Nuts

2t olive oil
1 shallot, finely minced
2 garlic cloves, also finely minced
2T pine nuts, TJ's
2T golden raisins, TJ's
pinch of salt
1-2 large handfuls of mixed greens, TJ's
Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar, TJ's
a pinch of brown sugar

Heat oil on medium and saute shallots and garlic. (Be careful
not to burn the garlic so it doesn't turn bitter.) Add raisins and
nuts and a pinch of salt. Saute a few more minutes. Add greens
and cover with a lid until they wilt, another minute, or so.
Sprinkle with vinegar and brown sugar. Turn with tongs to mix
everything up. And you're done! You can serve it over a whole
grain or eat it all by itself.

Trader Joe's vinegar.

You can sprinkle with parmesan cheese or make these delicious
breadcrumbs instead.

Garlic Breadcrumbs

1-2t olive oil
1 garlic clove, finely minced
2T breadcrumbs
pinch of salt

In the same pan the greens were cooked in, heat the oil on
medium. Saute the garlic for a minute, add the breadcrumbs
and salt. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes until the
breadcrumbs are slightly brown and deliciously toasty.

*You can use store bought breadcrumbs, but why bother? Just
freeze the heals of your bread and grate or whiz up in the food
processor to make your own!