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Monthly Archives: May 2011

Signs of Spring in Susan's Front Yard

I have a few new favorite blogs, and there is a common thread among them: finding the beauty in life. Whether it’s having dessert for breakfast, finding a remarkable subway station in Paris, or finding oneself by interacting with the world, these blogs all share with their readers the beautiful things in life.

Seeing the beauty of the world through others eyes, helps me recognize beauty in my own small circle of the world.

Check these blogs out, if you have a chance.  And, while you are doing it, I think I’ll make some popsicles for tomorrow’s Memorial Day Block Party Brunch (which is beautiful in its own right).

Desserts for Breakfast

Parisian Fields

Designer Wife

Colorful spring veggies

Beet greens and turnip tops are among the most underrated edible foliage in the garden. Susan recently forwarded an email to me from Saveur magazine that contained a mouthwatering recipe for saag paneer. The savory Indian spinach dish is seasoned with fragrant garam masala and uses cubes of homemade cheese that are pan fried before serving. Excuse me while I wipe the drool off my keyboard. I salivate just thinking about the dish.

One week later, strolling through the Capitol City Farmer’s Market I spotted beautiful spring beets with their big leaves still attached. Susan and I included them, along with bunches of young bok choy, in our weekly market basket and I immediately thought of making saag paneer with the beet tops. Then I sang my turnip happy song when I spotted young white turnips with their tops still on, too. Roasted turnips make me swoon, but I’ll write poetry about them another time.

Ha! Who needs spinach? Although the traditional recipe for saag paneer is based on spinach, I am not afraid to modify. In place of the one leafy green I used two others: beet tops and turnip greens, plus sliced bok choy and chopped asparagus, to form my fresh green base.

Also, being short on time, I did not spend three hours making cheese from scratch but substituted halloumi style Golden Greek cheese from Ballard Family Dairy in Gooding. I bought it at Boise Co-op.

The heady, exotic fragrance of the ginger, garlic and garam masala that season this dish turns the simple act of cooking into mouthwatering kitchen therapy. Be prepared to drool.

Bok Choy

Modified Saag Paneer

Adapted from recipe at Saveur.com

Serves 4

½ pound halloumi style Golden Greek cheese

6 TBL ghee or vegetable oil

1-inch piece ginger, peeled and chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 jalapeno chile, stemmed and chopped

1 bunch beet greens, washed, trimmed and chopped

1 bunch turnip tops, washed, trimmed and chopped

1 bunch baby bok choy, washed and chopped

½ bunch asparagus, washed, snapped and chopped

Salt

½ tsp garam masala

1-2 pinches cayenne

6 TBL heavy cream

Cut the cheese into 1-inch by ½ -inch pieces. Heat ghee in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add cheese and fry until golden brown all over, 4-6 minutes. Transfer cheese with a slotted spatula to a plate and set aside. Set aside skillet with ghee.

Put ginger, garlic, jalapeno and ¼ cup water into a blender and puree to a smooth paste. Return skillet with ghee to stove and heat over medium-high heat. Add ginger-garlic paste and cook, stirring with a wooden spoon, for 30 seconds. Add beet greens, turnip tops, bok choy and asparagus; season lightly with salt and cook, stirring often, until greens wilt, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring often, until greens are very soft, 10-15 minutes. Stir in garam masala, cayenne to taste, and cream.

Add fried cheese to skillet, cover, and continue cooking until liquid thickens and greens are silky soft, about 15 minutes more.

Crunchy vegetables, hummus and modified saag paneer

The Farmer’s Market usually inspires me to try new recipes or spend a little extra time in the kitchen. But some nights, I need a meal that is fast, easy, healthy and inexpensive. It’s nice to know that I can find the ingredients for those types of meals at the Farmer’s Market.

I added 2 Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon fillets (from Costco’s 3lb bag) and one lemon to my “market basket” and ended up with all the ingredients needed for a quick meal. The meal took 35 minutes to prepare, cost $4.25 per serving  for 4 nice size dinner portions, and resulted in very few dirty dishes. Now that’s a perfect quick meal.

Weeknight Pasta

2 Salmon fillets

1 lemon

1 lb fresh pasta

4 large handfuls spinach

8oz delicious sauce

+ salt, pepper, and olive oil

1) Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place a few spinach leaves on a large piece of aluminum foil, then top with salmon fillets in a single layer. Generously season with salt and pepper, add thin slices of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil . Fully enclose salmon in foil and bake 18-20 minutes in oven, until cooked through. This technique  is “en papillote”. To read more about en papillotte, and to get really hungry, read this article from the NY Times. The nice thing about en papillote is that it keeps the fish moist and flavorful AND there is no messy pan. What more could a busy gal want?

2) Heat pasta  water to a boil

3) Cut the spinach in to long shreds

4) When the salmon is just out of the oven, add the pasta to the boiling water. Fresh pasta cooks in 2-3 minutes. 

5) Drain pasta and immediately return to the pot. Add sauce and spinach. The sauce and spinach will warm and wilt slightly from the heat of the pasta.

6) Divide pasta in to 4 bowls, flake salmon on top. Serve.

“They make the best pasta,” I overheard the tall, middle aged man say convincingly as we casually wandered toward the Ferranti pasta stall at the Capitol City Farmer’s Market. The bearded shopper’s earnest words invisibly tugged my ear and led me to a table where samples of plump ravioli and spirals of green and white pasta were displayed.

Soon we were chatting amiably with the proprietress, who makes her pasta from scratch every Friday night for the Saturday morning market. “I could talk for hours about flour,” she said as she talked about the three different grades of semolina. Made from the endosperm of durum wheat, the first milling is the coarsest and contains the most nutrients. This first grade semolina flour is used to make Ferranti’s fresh pasta.

Also for sale were eight-ounce tubs of chunky tomato-basil sauce, so I bought one along with a one-pound bag of Plain and Spinach Radiatori. At home I noted the brief list of ingredients on the pasta package: 100% durum semolina, fresh eggs, water, and dehydrated spinach.

Susan and I also selected freshly picked, spray-less spinach from AC&D Farms in New Plymouth for our weekly market basket.

Ingredients from the farmer's market

To the pasta, tomato sauce and spinach I added a small slab of Idaho Jersey Dream Feta Style Farmstead Cheese from Ballard Family Dairy in Gooding, a handful of salty Sicilian style green olives from Winco, and half a bunch of farm-fresh asparagus in order to make a simple, wholesome pasta salad for dinner. It took about 25 minutes to put together, and I barely had time to take photos before the entire dish was devoured by my husband and two grown sons.

Farmer’s Market Pasta Salad

Devoured in minutes

Serves 4

1/2 cup Sicilian style olives

1/3 pound feta cheese

16 oz. fresh pasta

3 big handfuls of spinach leaves

8 leaves fresh basil, cut chiffonade

8 oz. tomato sauce

Bring a large pot of water to boil.

While the water is heating, chop the olives and cut the feta into small cubes. Place them in a large, shallow pasta serving bowl. Wash the spinach; drain. Slice spinach leaves into strips and add to serving bowl. Wash and snap asparagus; cut into ½-inch long pieces.

When the water boils, add pasta and asparagus to the pot. Cook 3-4 minutes or until pasta is al dente. Drain; pour hot pasta and asparagus over feta, olives and spinach. Top with tomato sauce and toss. Garnish with basil chiffonade.

 

Most people acknowledge physical health and emotional health is important. Is it possible there is a third element of equal importance?

I had lunch today with a former colleague of mine, Ron Gambassi, who has a financial consulting business. I shared with him that many times I feel overwhelmed when working on my personal finances and planning…am I doing enough, what should I investigate, what should I do? Ron told me many of his clients feel anxiety, and sometimes even paralysis, especially the educated, career-oriented women. This, of course, made me feel a little better (Thanks, Ron). He then mentioned he thinks of it as a 3-legged stool: one leg is physical health, one leg is emotional health and the third leg is financial health. Ultimately, a person needs all 3 legs to have balanced health.

Now that was thought-provoking, and sure made sense to me.

Is it easier to have a healthy body if one has financial health — access to good healthcare (not trying to start a political discussion here), fresh food, clean water, and a safe environment for exercise?

Is it easier to have strong emotional health when one does not feel financial stress?

This definitely has me pondering, and I’m curious…what do you think? Do you think financial health is an essential part of balanced health?

© Toberl77 | Dreamstime.com

 

Please share, as I’d like to explore this further.

  • Kohlrabi (copyright tatiana.mirlin/dreamstime.com)

So, I bought a Kohlrabi …simply because it looked weird.

When I asked what to do with this strange-looking vegetable, the woman next to me said she slices it and adds it to salads; the farmer behind the table tells me it tastes great in slaw; some claim it tastes like brocoli stalks, others say a potato or an artichoke.

Now I’m intrigued.

I experiment with my kohlrabi bulb on Sunday, a rainy and windy day. And although the salad and slaw options were interesting, I was jonesing for something warm and comforting. A quick online recipe search surfaced the ideal rainy day recipe.

Baked Kohlrabi with Parmesan

Modified from Allrecipes.com Roasted Kohlrabi

Ingredients:

1 Kohlrabi bulb

2 tsp olive oil

salt and pepper

Handful of shredded parmesan (good quality)

  • Peel the bulb (apparently the greens are also edible..mine didn’t come with greens)
  • Slice bulb in 1/4″ thick slices
  • Mix the olive oil, salt and pepper in a small oven-proof dish; add the kohlrabi slices and toss
  • Bake in a 400 degree oven for apx. 25 minutes
  • Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, bake 5 minutes

Serves 2 as a side dish

So, what did we think? Delicious…nice change of pace, tasted like brocoli stems with a slightly different texture.

If you are looking for a new vegetable to add to your basket, Kohlrabi is certainly worth a try (and, it’s high in Vitamin C and dietary fiber, and low in calories!)

My daughter and I were at the Boise Co-op today, and she became intrigued by the Himalayan Pink Sea Salt. It reminder her of the salt Alton Brown used on one of his episodes, and she said it looked like “salt from a cave”. Of course, loving that she is a 10-year-old foodie, I returned home with some gorgeous pink salt in its own ceramic grinder.

I also had an assortment of salts in my pantry which my friend, Sharon, sent me as a birthday present. Thus, we were ready for a salt taste test.

pink, white sea, porcini, black, table salt

The Salts: pink, white sea, porcini, black, table

First we tasted the Himalayan Sea Salt…salty, delicious, and of course, the best part…it’s PINK!

Then, sea salt from the Provence region of France (Fleur de Sel)..fresh, clean, salty.

Next, we tried the Porcini Mushroom Fusion Salt…the name says it all–a combination of dried mushroom powder and salt. Totally delicious. Perfect for flavored dipping oil or on any dish where an earthy flavor is desired.

Cyprus Black Sea Salt was next….we decided it tasted like the ocean. And, it looks awesome.

Lastly…to round things out…I brought out the Morton’s salt. We both took a little taste, expecting a normal salty flavor. What a horrible shock! It tasted processed, chemical-y, not like salt at all! We were both pretty disgusted.

I quickly dumped all the Morton’s and replaced my standard salt shakers with some fine ground sea salt.

My favorite shakers

“Salt is born of the purest of parents: the sun and the sea.” – Pythagoras (580 BC – 500 BC)

When life hands you lemons – break out the tequila and salt” – Unknown