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Archive for the ‘Fruits and Vegetables’ Category

Nothing smells more like autumn than the smell of roasting squash in the oven, especially when it’s basted in olive oil, pressed garlic and herbs. I picked up a beautiful organic 2-pound butternut squash at the market, peeled and de-seeded it, and diced it into 3/4 inch cubes.  Then I tossed in in a mix of olive oil, fresh marjoram, garlic, corriander, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper and salt before roasting for an hour at 350 degrees.

The scent alone is to die for, but the flavors are aromatic and complex, amplified by a half-a-lemon’s worth of juice a little extra olive oil and toasted pecans.  Then toss with some fresh arugula, drizzle with a little aged balsamic and top off with some shavings of peppery pecorino cheese.  Amazing. … Or, just eat the roasted squash alone!

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I haven’t been able to hit the park for a picnic with friends this summer because of the non-stop, scorching heat. But these two jazzed up picnic sides have made great lunch items, evoking the essence of dining al fresco without stepping foot outside.

I tossed local baby potatoes I fetched at the farmers market with olive oil, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard and freshly cracked pepper and sea salt to taste.  Tossed in a bundle of chopped Italian parsley for color and bright flavor — three crisped, diced  three strips of smoked bacon. Awesome.

These baked beans are to die for:  not sweet and tangy like their classic barbeque counterparts, but light and smoky and incredibly flavorful.  The salty diced ham stews with the onion, celery, carrot and garlic — simmers with diced tomatoes and wilted chard.  The blend of white navy beans and tan pinto is delicious.  (h/t Food Network Mag)

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‘Tis the season for soups and chilis! I’ve been experimenting with a bunch of new recipes this winter, and this one turned out great.  Lots of hearty “stuff” in here to make a big bowl a satisfying meal for lunch or light weeknight dinner. And, it’s super healthy.  The red pepper flakes give this a bit of a kick, so be sure to sprinkle those in to your taste.

Minestrone Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 onion minced

2 cloves garlic minced

2 celery stalks, plus celery leaves, chopped

1 large carrot diced

1 cup each, diced yellow squash/diced zucchini

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon marjoram

dried red pepper flakes to taste

1 10-oz package frozen mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, green beans)

4 cups chicken broth

1 can diced tomatoes

2 oz whole-wheat linguini broken into small pieces

1 can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

(1) Saute onion, garlic, celery, carrot in the olive oil over medium heat  for 3-5 minutes; then, add zucchini and squash and cook until slightly softened.

(2) Add basil and marjoram plus the frozen mixed vegetables and cook until thawed, about 3 minutes.  Then add broth and bring to simmer.

(3) After 20 minutes, toss in linguine and beans and cook until al dente.

 

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When it comes to breakfast treats – pastries, breads, cakes, rolls – I’ve never been a fan of the ultra-sweet. Partly this is because I don’t like the cloying, sugary taste and inevitable energy crash that follows. But I also like to feel like I’m getting at least some nutritional value — maybe some oatmeal or bran baked in, or healthy nuts on top.

This blueberry cornmeal cake is a perfect balance of what I like in a morning coffee accompaniment. It’s hearty and super-moist with slightly sweet cake – almost like a cornbread, except made more flavorful by ricotta cheese, yogurt and honey baked in! — and bursts of tangy, fresh blueberries throughout.

The recipe, adapted by Bon Appetit from the Huckleberry Bakery & Cafe in Santa Monica, is like a sister to the to-die-for Orange Polenta Cake I wrote about last year and is one of my top five favorite desserts.

Blueberry Cornmeal Cake

1 1/3 cups flour

2/3 cups yellow cornmeal

2 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

6 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 large eggs

1 tablespoon vanilla

1 teaspoon honey

1 1/4 sticks butter at room temp

3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided

1 cup ricotta cheese

1/3 cup plain yogurt

3 cups fresh blueberries

(1) Preheat oven to 325 and butter/flour 10-inch diameter springform pan.

(2) Whisk flour, cornmeal and baking powder/soda in small bowl.  Whisk oil, eggs, vanilla, and honey in another.

(3) Use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar (reserve one tablespoon) until creamy. Then slowly add wet mixture and blend. Followed by dry mixture to blend. Add ricotta and yogurt and beat on low speed just to blend.

(4) Pour half the batter into pan. Scatter 1 1/2 cups blueberries over to cover.  Then pour remaining batter over and sprinkle remaining blueberries on top.  Sprinkle with reserved sugar.

(5) Bake until golden brown — about 1 hour 15 minutes, depending on oven. Cool completely before cutting.

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When it comes to summer side salads, I’m a big fan of the tangy vinegar-based dressings over their creamy mayonnaise-based counterparts.  The bite and bitterness of the vinegar offers a great counterpoint to homemade grilled pork sausages or hamburgers, salty fried chicken, or sweet barbecue ribs.  You also don’t have to worry about the mayo spoiling easily in the heat at your outdoor picnic.

For the cuke salad, thinly slice a seedless English hothouse cucumber and half a dozen medium-sized red radishes. Then, in a small bowl, mix together a fourth cup of rice wine vinegar, two teaspoons of sugar, teaspoon each of onion powder and garlic powder, fresh cracked black pepper, and sea salt to taste.  Mix the dressing and sliced veggies together and let stand in the fridge for an hour before serving cold.

And, here’s my twist on classic German potato salad using pickled okra:

German Potato Salad

1 1/2 pounds red baby potatoes

5 slices of bacon

1/4 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup chopped celery

1/4 cup chopped picked okra

1/4 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

salt/pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley

(1) Cut the baby potatoes in halves or quarters and boil in salted water. Meanwhile, fry the 5 slices of bacon until crispy and dice.

(2) Saute the onion, garlic and celery in some olive oil until tender. Set aside.

(3) Combine the broth, vinegar and spices in a small pan and bring to a boil.

(4) Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl, tossing the potatoes with the bacon, onion mixture, diced pickled okra and vinegar dressing.  Add salt/pepper to taste, topping with fresh parsley.

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In the wonderful world of breakfast bread baking, rarely have I strayed so far into unfamiliar territory as the amalgamation of ingredients in this recipe.  Grated zucchini, sweet potato, carrots, banana, nuts, raisins, olive oil…. What on earth was all-star New York Front Runner Chris Stoia thinking when he first folded the entire kitchen garden into a sweet bread batter?!

The result, ladies and gentlemen, is an incredible — and healthy — treat packed with moist, hearty flavor.  Slices of the warm “morning glory” goodness are irresistible!

Chris tells me you can tweak the fruit and veggie ingredients as long as you keep the ratio to around 2 cups.  With the 3 cups of flour, feel free to swap in a cup of oats or flaxseed meal or whole wheat flour.

Stoia “Morning Glory” Bread

2 cups sugar — I used 1 cup white, 1 cup brown sugar in the raw

3 eggs

3/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 teaspoons cinnamon

2 cups grated zucchini, sweet potato, carrot, bananas, etc.

3 cups flour — I used 1 cup flaxseed meal

1 cup chopped nuts

1 cup raisins or dried fruit

(1) Cream together eggs, sugar, vanilla and oil in a large bowl.  Add grated veggies and fruits.

(2) In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients.  Gradually stir into the wet mixture to create a batter.

(3) Add nuts and dried fruit and combine lightly.

(4) Divide the batter between two greased, floured loaf pans.

(5) Bake at 350 for one hour, or until a knife comes out clean and top is golden brown.

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RhubarbCake

Strawberry and rhubarb season has come and gone, but that doesn’t mean we can’t reminisce about this Peanutbuttermilk favorite combination! This quick and easy dessert (Gourmet, April 2007) is a cross between a cobbler and a cake: The gooey, sweet and tart fruit mixture is topped with a buttery, moist vanilla cake. Scooped up warm and into your bowl, it’s perfect with a dollop of whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.  Takes about 15 minutes to prep and 30 minutes to bake.

Even though the fresh rhubarb is long gone, you can usually find frozen rhubarb in your grocer’s freezer.  Strawberries are the easier ingredient to find (although a bit pricier in the off season), with most produce aisles stocking the fresh, red berries year-round. Fresh or frozen fruit, this cake is a crowd pleaser!

RhubarbCake2

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