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Posts from the ‘salads’ Category

tahini cauliflower with lemon and smoked paprika

After over a year of blogging, I’ve hit a snag: I can’t seem to remember to photograph my food.

The situation has gotten desperate. I’ll identify a recipe, test it a few times, write the post, then plan the photo shoot. Unfortunately, plan the photo shoot roughly translates to “grab a smudge-free bowl and make sure the camera’s in the vicinity.” At dinnertime my artistic attempts are derailed by the fading light, and at lunch I’m just too hungry. I need to shoot this, I’ll think, regarding my plate with twitching fingers. In the battle of the wills, hunger beats out creative vision almost every time.

My family, while supportive in theory, is no help at all. Arranging roasted cauliflower florets in a bowl is the work of a minute, and I manage to snap a few photos before returning to the kitchen to rummage for props. When I return the bowl is empty, resting on the arm of my mother’s deck chair. I try to be upset about the missed photo opportunity, but am far more saddened that she polished off the dish before I could.

Which brings me to the one advantage of being a lazy food photographer: it makes the recipes better. I’ve been making this cauliflower for months (since early June, to be precise), each time growing more anxious to photograph it and each time devouring it warm from the bowl. Granted, it’s a simple dish. But when I made it for the sixth time I realized a longer roasting time was preferable, and somewhere around the eleventh version I stumbled on the “South African Smoke” seasoning my parents picked up at Trader Joe’s. I can now post the recipe with confidence and something close to addiction, albeit after a significant delay. I blame it on the photos.

Tahini Cauliflower with Lemon and Smoked Paprika

If you can find “South African Smoke” seasoning at TJ’s I highly recommend it, but any smoky pepper flakes will do nicely.

1 large head of cauliflower

olive oil, salt and pepper

1/3 cup tahini

juice of 1/2 lemon

smoky pepper flakes or smoked parika

Heat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the cauliflower into small florets and toss with a generous amount of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until florets are nicely-browned on the edges.
Meanwhile, whisk together the tahini and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the cauliflower straight from the oven and toss to coat, adding a tiny bit of water or more juice if the dressing is too thick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and finish with the smoked paprika.

sautéed zucchini with cinnamon and currants

Eating seasonally is a fraught issue. Even as someone who lives within spitting distance of California’s fields and worked on a farm in one of the biggest agricultural communities in the US, I still find myself standing in a supermarket aisle realizing seasonal eating can easily fall in the “it-sounds-so-nice-but-what-does-it-mean” category.

But the last two weeks brought fresh insights, most of them born from the sweat of my mother and grandparents’ brows and my own tendency towards frugality. It’s not that I don’t love grocery shopping—one of life’s true joys–but with the rest of my family out of town (and an accidental purchase of a $17 bag of cherries from Whole Foods) I decided I was going to embark on several weeks of eating close to home.

I admit—I held off on this post for a while because the things I was eating just seemed so simple. I should get more creative, I thought, come up with something special tonight. My resolve held firm through the morning, but come 11:30 a.m. I’d be standing at the stove sautéing the same slices of zucchini, and by dinnertime I’d be wandering beer-in-hand through the garden snapping off leaves of kale to make my favorite kale slaw with our ripe avocados.

My conclusion? Eating seasonally, healthfully and startlingly cheaply really just requires three things: a bulk supply of a bountiful fruit or vegetable from your garden or nearby market, a great simple recipe (think six ingredients or less), and the willingness to enjoy (many) variations on the same meal. It may sound silly, but the prospect of dozens of zucchinis per week for the duration of the summer actually excites me to no end—I love crispy slices of spiced sautéed zucchini hot from the pan, and I’ll eat them daily much in the same way that I ate roasted cauliflower with lemon and tahini in the spring, or will eat grilled cherry tomatoes tossed with grains and salads next month. And yes, when I desperately crave cherries I won’t berate myself for indulging in a bag from the store. I’ll just check the per pound price first.

Sautéed Zucchini with Cinnamon and Currants

This recipe is endlessly adaptable – once you’ve sauteed the zucchini with the cinnamon and currants, feel free to get creative with your favorite grain. If you have good cheese like ricotta salata on hand add that in as well for a tasty lunch or summery side.

2 medium zucchinis

olive oil

cinnamon

handful currants

1 cup cooked Israeli couscous

Heat your pan over medium heat and add a good glug of olive oil. Slice the zucchini into thin ribbons and add to the hot pan, doing your best to arrange the strips so they don’t overlap. Sprinkle with salt and cinnamon.

When the first side is browned flip the zucchini piece by piece (or, if you’re lazy, just give the pan a big shake) and sprinkle with a bit more cinnamon. Cook until the other side is done, then add the currants and cooked Israeli couscous and stir fry with the zucchini for a few more minutes. Enjoy hot from the pan or cooled to room temperature.

farro, eggplant and roasted cherry tomato salad with almond pesto

It’s been a mighty month of adventuring. Eating crunchy chopped salads and crispy samosas with friends new and old in DC, gorging on cupcakes (from an ATM!) and thin crust pizza in LA… in all the whirl of work and travel the one year anniversary of Girl Farm Kitchen gently floated by.

I’m all for making the most of a moment (just ask the girl whose eye I nearly knocked out dancing to Mayer Hawthorne last night) so I felt I had to somehow mark the passing. But rather than subjecting you to a reflection of my year’s path from farm to home to inspiring new job (bonus: still living at home!), I’d like to offer something more substantial: a yearly list of favorite recipes. I’ve made all the meals below too many times to count, and for what it’s worth they have my official seal of approval. To ring in the new year, they’re followed by a summery recipe I made with fresh basil and on-hand veggies this past week.

Here’s to writing, food and favorites—old and new.

Grilled eggplant slices rolled around spicy herbed feta (warning: there are never enough).

A velvety cauliflower soup that’s healthy and simple—if you don’t count the olive oil and spices it’s just two ingredients.

A creamy, crunchy kale salad that’s on the table for every dinner party.

A hearty Tuscan stew with tomato, kale, olives and—surprise!—day-old bread.

Fresh, crusty, steaming bread with practically no effort at all. I make a loaf every two days.

I confess: humble bread pudding is my favorite dessert (substitute nectarines in this one and you have a real winner).

Farro, Eggplant and Roasted Cherry Tomato Salad with Almond Pesto

2 large handfuls basil

1 handful slivered almonds

3 cloves garlic

a generous glug of olive oil

1 1/2 cups farro

2 cups cherry tomatoes

3 japanese eggplants

2 handfuls green beans

To make the pesto, put the basil, almonds, garlic and olive oil in a blender and whir until combined but not quite pureed. The mixture should be a little bit chunky and looser than traditional pesto.

Boil a pot of salted water and cook the farro until al dente. Drain and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and toss the cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until soft, oozy and browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Slice the eggplant into rounds and saute in a heated skillet until browned. Set aside. Chop the green beans into 1-inch pieces, add more olive oil to the pan, and saute until browned as well.

Toss the cooked farro with the roasted tomatoes and the sauteed eggplant and beans. Scoop the pesto on top and toss to combine, adding a bit more olive oil if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature (or, for round two, straight from the refrigerated tupperware).

spring salad with asparagus, feta, and soft-boiled eggs

There are days when, despite all your efforts, someone else just says it better. Today happens to be one of those, and so I give you… a poem and a recipe.

Black Oaks

Okay, not one can write a symphony, or a dictionary,
or even a letter to an old friend, full of remembrance
and comfort.

Not one can manage a single sound, though the blue jays
carp and whistle all day in the branches, without
the push of the wind.

But to tell the truth after a while I’m pale with longing
for their thick bodies ruckled with lichen

and you can’t keep me from the woods, from the tonnage
of their shoulders, and their shining green hair.

Today is a day like any other: twenty-four hours, a
little sunshine, a little rain.

Listen, says ambition, nervously shifting her weight from
one boot to another—why don’t you get going?

For there I am, in the mossy shadows, under the trees.

And to tell the truth I don’t want to let go of the wrists
of idleness, I don’t want to sell my life for money,
I don’t even want to come in out of the rain.

Mary Oliver

Spring Salad with Asparagus, Feta and Soft-Boiled Egg

I made this for myself as a satisfying spring lunch, but feel free to double the ingredients to serve as a colorful salad with dinner.

1 egg

1 small head of tender green lettuce

5 stalks of asparagus

1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 squeeze lemon juice

1 Tbsp. honey

1 small handful fresh parsley or cilantro leaves, finely chopped

olive oil

1 2-inch cube of feta, crumbled

salt & pepper

To soft-boil the egg, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and gently lower in the egg. Simmer for 6-8 minutes (depending on whether your egg is smallish or rather large) then remove and place immediately in a small bowl of ice water. Peel underwater and carefully slice into quarters.

Arrange the leaves from your head of lettuce to make a nice nest on your plate. Cut your raw asparagus stalks into one-inch pieces and scatter over the lettuce. Whisk together the balsamic, lemon juice, honey and fresh herbs, then slowly add olive oil, whisking and adding until the dressing reaches your desired thickness. Sprinkle the dressing over the salad, then crumble feta on top and nestle in your egg quarters. Finish with a sprinkling of salt and pepper.

kale slaw with avocado and almonds

The battle with our raccoons rages on.

I call them “our raccoons” because while I rarely see them staging their attacks, I know their faces from the grainy images my grandparents captured a few months ago with a borrowed night vision camera. There they sat on the back porch, happily munching pellets of dog food after dipping them to soften in Bella the Great Dane’s water bowl. Their most recent offense hit closer to home: having discovered our vegetable garden, they quickly made their mark with paw prints trampling through the onions and mounds of freshly dug earth burying the baby chard I planted just last week. Complaining of their furry wiles to friends from the East Coast, I quickly discovered that my relationship with raccoons was analogous to theirs with deer: one girl’s cuddly critter is another girl’s nemesis.

I’d been warned about their cleverness, but our resident bandits are far craftier than I imagined. The most memorable transgression took place years ago, when my parents purchased a dozen goldfish for a shallow stone pond in the garden. Our vision of a serene little ecosystem complete with lilies was thwarted a few mornings after, when we discovered all the fish had mysteriously disappeared. Not to be deterred, my grandfather constructed a preventative mesh covering, screwing it into the sides of the pond just beneath the water to protect our fish from prying paws. I’d like to end the story there, but several mornings later we surveyed the wreckage of our new system, the mesh skillfully pushed to the bottom of the pond in an attempt to squeeze the fish through. A few days later the lilies were gone.

Since I left the farm in December I haven’t been the most consistent gardener, but I like to consider myself a stalwart defender of the kale. Up to now all this has entailed is rubbing aphids off leaves and harvesting responsibly, but should it be called for I’ll be out there in the dead of night, clanging my pots at raccoons on the rampage and hoping for that one elusive victory.

Kale Slaw with Avocado and Almonds

1 bunch kale (Toscano kale or the young, tender leaves of almost any variety work best)

half a green cabbage

2 Tbsp. lemon juice

1 Tbsp. honey

1 tsp. mustard

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

olive oil

1 avocado

handful roasted almonds, roughly chopped

Stack the kale leaves in a tight bunch and slice into thin shreds, starting with the tops. Slice the half cabbage into shreds and toss bit by bit with the kale, adding until the amounts of kale and cabbage are roughly equal.

To make the dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, mustard and balsamic vinegar. Taste and adjust to your preference, adding more honey for sweetness or more mustard for increased zing. Add oil bit by bit as you whisk until the dressing thickens. Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine.

Pit and cut the avocado into quarters, then slice into small pieces and toss with the salad (the avocado should blend with the dressing, making the slaw creamy). Top salad with chopped almonds and serve.

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