Mediterranean Pasta with Greens

I am really loving the warm weather, spring vegetables, and my Clean Food (vegan) cookbook! I was carb craving so decided to try out the recipe “Mediterranean Pasta with Greens” from the Spring section. My bad luck continues with my car being towed and ticketed today (I forgot it was Tuesday…street cleaning day on my block 😦 ) and my computer stopped working for 12 hours…so a nice comforting pasta dish was in store.  This absolutely hit the spot! It was quick, light, and tasty! Next time I would double the vegetables (a heavy on the pasta veggie ratio) and maybe try out , but overall the recipe was a success. I still don’t have my phone back yet (or a camera) so the pictures are not the same quality as usual, but I tried to capture the deliciousness! Enjoy!

Ingredients

1 pound penne or fusilli
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 small onion, chopped
1 tablespoon dried basil *may have to add more spices if going to double the veggies…just keep the basil to oregano ratio
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas *I used 1 can of chickpeas
2 cups canned diced tomatoes with their liquid *I used 1 28 oz can of organic diced tomatoes. I would double this next time
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup mirin
1 small bunch kale, chopped (I used purple kind fun 😉 )*I would double this
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

Cook pasta according to directions on package. Rinse, drain and return to pot. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and set aside.

In large Dutch oven over medium heat, sauté garlic and onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until soft (about 3 mins). Add basil, oregano, chickpeas, tomatoes, tomato paste and mirin. Sauté 5 minutes longer. Add kale, then cover and cook 3 minutes or until soft. Uncover and stir to combine all ingredients. Season with salt and lots of pepper and toss with pasta. (I had to add a little vegetable stock here because a little dry with all the pasta). Cook to heat through and serve.

Advertisements

Ma-Po Tofu with Tomatoes

I absolutely love Mapo Tofu, a classic Sichuan dish of simmered tofu and pork. My mother makes it every time I come home (from a nifty mix she gets from the Asian store 😉 ) My mother’s good friend and neighbor, Lily, who owns our favorite Chinese Restaurant (in Ohio), similarly makes it for me every time I stop in. I guess everyone back home knows my true loves…bacon and Mapo Tofu *winks*. So, imagine my delight while I am flipping through Mark Bittman’s “Food Matters Cookbook” and stumble upon a recipe for Mapo Tofu. While logic dictates that one can make it at home without the snazzy mix my mother uses, I had never tried it before. The result…deliciousness. I did use much more meat and red pepper flakes than the recipe called for but to each their own. Make it to your specifications and likes! Enjoy this Asian treat packed with lots of flavor and spice!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil(could use less especially if using more meat)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes, or to taste (I use 1-2 teaspoons depending on how hot I want it…*sizzle*)
  • 4 oz ground pork (I used a full pound)
  • 1/2 cup chopped scallions (can substitute chives/shallots if don’t have scallions/green onions)
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (canned are fine but DRAIN off juice)
  • 1/2 cup stock or water
  • 12 oz firm silken tofu, cut into small cubes
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Salt
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Instructions:

1. Put the oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add the garlic, ginger, and chile flakes and cook just until they begin to sizzle, less than a minutes. Add the pork and stir to break it up; cook, stirring occasionally, until it loses most of its pink color and beings to crisp, 3 to 5 minutes.

2. Add the scallions, tomatoes, and stock. Cook for a minute or two, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits of meat. Add the tofu and cook, stirring once or twice, until the tofu is heated through, about 2 minutes.

3. Stir in the soy sauce, taste and season with salt and more red chili flakes (if you want more heat). Garnish with cilantro and serve

**I serve it over brown rice but it can just as easily be tossed with brown rice noodles or whole wheat spaghetti. The whole dish only takes about 20 minutes to prepare and cook so start the rice or noodles first thing!

**A Variation from Bittman: Ma-Po Edamame – Substitute 3 cups fresh or frozen shelled edamame for the tofu. It will take 5 to 7 minutes of cooking at a gentle simmer for fresh edamame to become tender.

more veggies please…in season this April!

For maximum nutrition, we’re better off eating closer to the source and relying on Mother Nature for seasonal produce to keep us in balance
~Terry Walter, “Clean Food”

There are thousands of different approaches to eating out there, eating seasonally is just one of them. I like seasonal eating for many reasons, including how it allows me to connect with my community better…through farmer’s markets/farm stands, and I to support the local economy 🙂 I think that everyone should simply find which approach works best for you and parallels how you view yourself, food, the environment, and sustainability. That being said, knowledge is power, so here is a list of veggies and fruits that are in season this April. Enjoy!

Vegetables: zucchini, rhubarb,artichokes,asparagus,spring peas,broccoli,lettuce, arugula, dandelion greens, fava beans, fiddlehead
fern, leeks (end of season), morel mushrooms

Fruits: pineapples,mangoes, limes, oranges

“The seasons are what a symphony ought to be: four perfect movements in harmony with each other” – Arthur Rubenstein

Sweet Potato, Corn and Kale Chowder

I made this dish (from Clean Food) during a “Girl’s Night In” dinner last week (with slight modifications from the original recipe). It was a huge hit and fantastic for left overs to keep the deliciousness going 🙂 A very colorful and comforting dish. Definitely a new favorite of mine (doesn’t hurt that it has kale *smiles*). Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 stalks celery, diced
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups corn, fresh or frozen
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 cups rice milk, plus more if needed
  • 2 tablespoons cashew butter, dissolved in 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Instructions

In a large pot or Dutch oven, saute onion in oil over medium heat until soft (~3 mins). Add celery, carrots, sweet potatoes and corn. Cook for a couple of minutes. Add thyme and stock, simmer for 5 minutes. Add enough rice milk to cover the vegetables. Bring pot to boil, reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are soft (15-20 minutes). Remove from heat and add dissolved cashew butter. Partially puree using a handheld blender. (I do not have a handheld blender, so I took about 1/3 of the soup, pureed it in my food processor and added it back to the pot). Add kale, return to heat, thin to desired consistency with water, stock, or rice milk(I thinned mine with vegetable stock).Cook until kale is tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste!

Bison Bolognese

As a follow up to my post touting the advantages of bison, I thought I would post a recipe that uses it. Bolognese is a traditional Italian red meat sauce, with a heavy emphasis on the meat component (originated from Bologna, Italy). While I love meat and bolognese, changing ratios of traditional dishes to increase the vegetable content is always a goal of mine. Most of the time I end up liking the veggie heavy version better (or at least just as well!). I added red bell pepper, zucchini, and mushrooms this time around because they were fresh and calling to me at the grocery store. Experiment with different vegetables if those don’t tickle your fancy.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 lb ground bison
  • 5 medium carrots, diced
  • 4 stalks of celery, finely diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 medium zucchini, halved and sliced
  • 8 oz cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 can diced tomatoes (28 oz) (or fresh if you have them)
  • 1/2 cup red wine**
  • Fresh oregano, parsley, and basil, rough chop
  • salt & black pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp crushed red pepper (optional or use less if you don’t want too much heat)
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional topping)

Directions

In a stock pot or Dutch oven, sauté the carrots, bell pepper, celery and onion in olive oil. When vegetables begin to soften – push to the sides of pot. Add bison to middle of pot to brown. After the bison is browned and the carrots are somewhat soft add garlic, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste. Cook for an addition minute or two. Add in the rest of the vegetables, cooking for another 5 – 8 minutes until begin to soften. Add tomatoes and red wine, reduce heat to medium low and cover for 20-40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add fresh herbs 10 minutes before finish. Serve over pasta (I love linguini) and top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

**Note: A great tip that a great chef once told me: “Cook with the wine you want to drink. Why skimp on flavor in your meals with bad alcohol…that’s just cooking blasphemy.” 🙂

Bison … a tasty alternative to cow *smiles*

I love bison. I think it is one of those under-appreciated meats. Most people have only heard of bison used to make an alternative-to-beef-burger (in my opinion they are only okay). I think there is more to bison than burger. Bison has more flavor and protein and less fat than beef. Bison is also extremely nutrient dense, with good amounts of iron, zinc and the antioxidant selenium. Below I have a nutrition comparison between not only bison and beef but pork, chicken, duck, venison and halibut.

As I have said before I get my meat from Whole Foods and their bison has no antibiotics,no added growth hormones, no animal byproducts in feed, and the buffalo are raised on pasture or range for at least 2/3 of the animal’s life. Even outside of Whole Foods, buffalo are generally treated and fed better than cows. This week I made my veggie heavy version of Bison Bolognese (I will post the recipe tomorrow). It was a easy, satisfying meal with more focus on the veggies with a good amount of meat spread throughout the dish. Yummy!

Recently, I have been decreasing my meat consumption, but increasing the quality of my meat (It is amazing how tastier it is as well!! 🙂 ) This change has been sparked by many things but Michael Pollan’s Rule 27 from “Food Rules” sums it up well:

“Rule 27: Eat animals that have themselves eaten well…

The diet of the animals we eat strongly influences the nutritional quality, and healtfulness of the food we get form them, whether it is meat or milk or eggs. This should be self-evident, yet it is a truth routinely overlooked b the industrial food chain in its quest to produce vast quantities of cheap animal protein. That quest has changed the diet of most of out food animals in ways that have often damaged their their and healthfulness. We feed animals a high energy diet of grain to make them grow quickly,even in the case of ruminants that have evolved to eat grass. But even food animals that can tolerate grain are much healthier when they have access to green plants – so, it turns out, are their meat and eggs. The good from these animals will contain much healthier types of fat (more omega-3s, less omega-6s) as well as appreciably higher levels of vitamins and antioxidants. (For the same reasons, meat form wild animals is particularly nutritious) It’s worth looking for pastured animal foods in the market – and paying the premium prices they typically command if you can”

If you are on a strict budget like myself (medical school does not leave a lot of room for extravagant expenditures), you can try to stick with the motto: quality over quantity. This goes against so much of how our society functions anymore, but I don’t think that having more is necessarily better. I will pay more for better quality which forces me to eat less of certain things but increases the overall quality of the food I put in my body. Eating healthier now can potentially save you money down the road, by saving you from a lot of future medical bills incurred from eating unhealthy foods (and living unhealthy lifestyles). Our choices today will affect the future of our tomorrow.

I bought a vegan cookbook…and didn’t even know it *smiles*

Sometimes the best way to get over the middle of the week is to do something outside your everyday routine. My friends and I try to do a weekly dinner night round-robin style (different host and cook each week) usually around mid-week. The company and the food is always great and breaks up the monotony eat.sleep.work. This past Wednesday night, it was my turn to host! I thought I would try my hand out at the my roommate’s German style Gruenkol and Sausage recipe and something from my new cookbook: Terry Walter’s “Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source”. This cookbook is not in your face anything, but is great in its approach and simplicity. I didn’t even realize it was vegan until my friend Emily teased me about meat recipes…

Emily: Have you seen any meat recipes in this book?

Me: What do you mean?

Emily: I think the cookbook is vegan…

Me: No, it couldn’t be! *grabs books and flips to index* Let me check for chicken. *searches…searches…searches again* Dang. There is no chicken, beef, lamb, pork, or any other meat in here. How did I buy this and not even realize it was vegan?!? You know I like balance of both meat and green!

Emily: *laughter* and the carnivore falls *continues laughter*

Me: *sigh* It’s an awesome cookbook…

I own over 50 cookbooks, but it hasn’t been until the last 6 months that I have consistently used one. I bought them for the pretty pictures that made my mouth water instead of looking at what kind of recipes the cookbook offered…more importantly I didn’t look at the philosophy behind the collection of recipes. The result: shelves full of pretty cookbooks that collect a lot of dust. This changed for me with Mark Bittman’s “The Food Matters Cookbook”. A recommendation by a friend that really started my journey towards reevaluating how I look at food, what I cook, and subsequently what I put in my body. Bittman’s book had a great philosophy behind it and fantastic recipes (I have cooked more than a dozen already…and some more than once!) One thing it doesn’t have is food pictures. Same idea with Walter’s “Clean Food”. Great introduction and philosophy to how we approach food and recipes reflect that. “Clean Foods” organizes itself by seasons, which is something that I have really started to enjoy. Seasonal cooking plays directly into sustainable eating. Our society is a global one that continues to grow wider every day. This makes it easy to get imported ham from Spain, olive oil from Italy, figs from Turkey, etc etc. But, these options aren’t always the most sustainable. By purchasing in season and local foods, you can  decrease the environmental effects of shipping foods thousands of miles and into your kitchen. This also allows you to support the local economy (farmer’s markets are great!) Seasonal food is the freshest you can buy and thus tends to be more nutritious…and tastier! Buying seasonal produce also provides an exciting opportunity to try new foods and to experiment with seasonal recipes…and cookbooks :-).

New cookbooks always come with their staple pantry ingredients that keep popping up throughout. This cookbook was no different and had a few items I had never bought before or cooked with before. So I did some research and wanted to share my spoils of three ingredients heavily featured in “Clean Food”: mirin, grape seed oil, and cashew butter.

  • Mirin is a sweet Japanese condiment with up to 14% alcohol. This sweet cooking wine is made from glutinous wine. Mirin can soften the strong smells of fish and seafood. It is one of the main ingredients of teriyaki sauce.
  • Cashew butter is more often than not unprocessed food in contrast to the ever popular peanut butter (often mixed with salt, hydrogenated vegetable oils, sweeteners, and dextrose).  Furthermore unlike sweetened peanut butter, cashew butter rarely contains any added sugar. Cashew butter has a rich creamy flavor, that is perfect as a spread or an addition to soups, dips, and sauces. Cashew butter is also easy to make yourself (here is an example recipe).
  • Grape seed oil (technically a fruit oil not a vegetable oil) has a moderately high smoke point at about 216 °C (421 °F). This makes this oil ideal for high temperature cooking and also be used for stir-frying, sauteing or deep frying. Because of their insolubility in lipids, the cold-pressed grape seed oil contains negligible amounts of the antioxidants and other biologically active compounds associated with the increased health benefits of grape seeds. However, grape seed oil has a clean, neutral taste that allows the food to stand out not the oil.

Here is a preview of the dish I made from “Clean Food” on Wednesday. I will post the recipe in the next few days. Sweet Potato, Corn, and Kale Chowder: