Spring Grain Salad with Asparagus and Snap Peas

Aah, spring. New vegetables at the farmer’s market call for light, fresh-tasting (but still substantial) meals. Enter the grain bowl.

Pearled barley, spring veggies, mint, feta and a healthy dose of lemon combine to produce this tasty grain salad. Delicious warm or at room temperature, it’s the perfect meal-prep meal to satisfy no matter what the weather decides to do that day.

Makes 5-6 generous portions. So invite some friends over for dinner or enjoy it for lunch all week!

Ingredients

2 cups pearled barley 

4 cups water

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper (fresh-ground)

2 large bunches of young asparagus (with slender stems) 

1 lb snap peas

1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, loosely packed 

2 Meyer lemons

3 tbsp olive oil 

8 oz feta cheese

Directions

Rinse the barley under cold running water. Add to a pot with the water and salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender but still chewy, about 30 minutes.

Remove the tough ends of the asparagus, then slice into 1-inch long pieces. De-string the snap peas, slice in half. Set aside. 

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Steam the asparagus until crisp-tender, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Steam the snap peas until crisp-tender, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. 

Thinly slice the mint leaves into ribbons. 

Once the barley is done, add it to a large bowl. Zest and juice the lemons, then add to the barley with the olive oil and stir to incorporate. Crumble the feta, then add with the veggies and pepper to the bowl. Stir to combine. 

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Potato Soup with Roasted Garlic

Cool, foggy days in Monterey just call for soup. And this is a great one for using up the extra random leftover ingredients you’ve got lying around. Potatoes from the Costco-sized bag you bought to make scalloped potatoes for Christmas dinner, celery and carrots leftover from making King City Pink Bean soup, arugula from the salads you made for lunch last week. It all goes in, and it’s pretty darn tasty.

Ingredients

3 medium russet potatoes

1 1/2 heads garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

1 celery heart

2 carrots

1 onion

1/4 cup butter

2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1 1/2 cups white wine

3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions

Preheat oven to 375. Cut the top off the whole head of garlic. Place garlic on a piece of aluminum foil, then drizzle olive oil over the cut portion. Wrap in the foil, place on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes. Once the garlic is done, open the foil packet and set aside to cool.

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Peel the potatoes, then cut into large chunks. Boil in well-salted water until tender, about 15-20 minutes.

Chop the celery, carrots, onion, and remaining 1/2 head of garlic.

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Add butter to a Dutch oven or soup pot; let melt over low heat. Add in the onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Stir several times to coat the vegetables in the butter, then let cook until aromatic (about 5 minutes), stirring occasionally.

Carefully pop the roasted garlic cloves out of the papery shell and set aside.

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Add the broth, wine and heavy cream. Bring the soup to a boil, then remove from heat. Add the garlic cloves, potatoes, and cheese; stir to combine. Let cool slightly.

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Using an immersion blender (or, after transferring to a blender), purée until mostly smooth. Return to pot and put on low heat.

IMG_2365One handful at a time, stir in the arugula until wilted.

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Simmer for 30 minutes, until the bitterness has faded. Serve hot.

King City Pink Bean Soup

Last year’s Christmas ham was delicious, to be sure. (And from local artisanal meat production company California Kurobuta). But for me, the best part of cooking a ham is the ham hock that’s leftover, because it’s time to make some King City Pink Bean Soup.

Slow cooked beans, tasty bits of ham – what more do you need to create a satisfying winter soup?

The quantities below make 2-3 generous servings – just enough to have a friend or two over for dinner. You can easily double or triple the recipe though!

Ingredients

4 celery stalks

4 medium carrots

4 garlic cloves

1/2 large onion

2 1/4 cup dry King City pink beans (can substitute pinto)

2 tbsp olive oil

1 ham hock

8 cups water

Directions

Soak beans overnight (or at least 8 hours), then drain and set aside.

Dice onion, garlic, carrots, celery. Add to large soup pot with olive oil; sauté 5-10 min until aromatic.

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Add the beans, ham hock, and water.

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Bring mixture to a boil, then simmer until the beans are just tender (2-2.5 hours). The total cooking time will depend on how fresh the beans are and how long you soaked them.

Let cool, then scrape the meat from the ham bone and stir to incorporate and serve warm.

Holiday Cookies Part 2: Biscochos

New Mexican style shortbread rolled in a spiced sugar mixture . . . these are definitely my favorite holiday cookie! This year we got a little more ambitious than usual and rendered some California Kurobuta leaf lard at home, but you can definitely buy lard from the grocery store.

The trick with these cookies is to roll them in the sugar mixture RIGHT after pulling them out of the oven. If they aren’t hot enough to burn your fingers, the sugar won’t stick to the cookie. After many, many years of singed fingers, I finally decided to try coating the cookies while wearing my mandolin gloves and it made a huge difference. If you have a pair, I definitely recommend giving it a try.

These cookies are much better 5-7 days after you make them, and keep for several weeks as long as they are stored in an airtight container away from any sources of moisture. So, make them well ahead of your holiday festivities to enjoy them at their best!

Ingredients

1.25 cups white sugar

1 lb lard

2 eggs

7 cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

1.5 tsp cloves

4 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

Directions

Cream sugar and lard together in a large bowl. Add eggs, mix until fully combined.

Add 2 cups of flour, baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and 1/2 tsp cloves to a medium bowl. Stir well.

Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Mix until fully combined, then add the third cup of flour and mix until combined.

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Starting with the fourth cup of flour, mix by hand with a wooden spoon. Stir until fully combined, then add the next cup of flour until all 7 cups have been incorporated. It will get harder as you keep going!

Put one quarter of the dough on a well-floured cutting board.

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Roll until 1/2 inch thick, then use a cookie cutter to cut the dough into 2-inch diameter circles.

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Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 25-30 min. The bottom of the cookie should just be starting to brown.

While the cookies are baking, mix 3/4 cup sugar with 1 tbsp cinnamon and 1 tsp each ground nutmeg and cloves in a small bowl. Set aside.

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Once the cookies have just started to brown on the bottom, remove them from the oven and start placing them in the sugar mixture. They need to be very hot for the sugar to adhere properly. Place them rounded side down in the bowl, then rotate a few times before placing them sugar side up on a wire rack to cool.

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Wipe down the cookie sheet with a paper towel and repeat until you’ve used all the dough.

Holiday Cookies Part 1: Persimmon Cookies

Oh, holiday baking. In the last couple weeks of December, it seemed every other day someone at my office was bringing in cookies or quick breads or caramels or fudge. Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to doing my baking until the weekend before Christmas (sorry office-mates), and didn’t get around to posting the recipes until the New Year!

When I was growing up, we made several types of cookies every holiday season and distributed them to friends, family, teachers and coworkers. This year, we stuck to two of our classic recipes, one from each side of the family. First up is persimmon cookies!

These are almost cake-like, and by varying the amount of frosting on top you can make them more or less indulgent. Without the frosting, they make a reasonably healthy morning snack (but who doesn’t want frosting on their cookies?!).

Ingredients

1 cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup persimmon pulp

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup shortening

1 egg

2 cups flour

1.5 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

1 lb (about 3 3/4 cups) powdered sugar

3-4 tbsp milk

1 tsp artificial rum extract

Directions

In a small bowl mix the persimmon pulp and baking soda, set aside. Let rest for 10 minutes, until pulp mixture has firmed up.

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Chop the walnuts, set aside.

Add the sugars, 1/4 cup butter and shortening to a large mixing bowl.

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Using an electric mixer, blend until a smooth paste forms. Mix in the egg. Add in the persimmon.

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Mix until persimmon is fully incorporated.

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Combine the flour, spices and salt in a medium mixing bowl.

Add the dry ingredients to the persimmon mix, combine until smooth. Stir in the walnuts and raisins.

Without touching the dough, scoop spoonfuls out into a cookie sheet, leaving an inch of space between each cookie.

Bake at 350 for 13-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Place on a wire rack and let cool completely.

After the cookies have cooled, mix together the powdered sugar, remaining butter, milk and rum extract. Adding more milk if needed, blend until the frosting has a smooth, spreadable consistency. Frost the cookies, then let the frosting set until almost hard to the touch.

Autumn Vegetable Soup with Barley

It was too good to be true when an enormous quantity of carrots and a substantial butternut squash showed up in my CSA box. The warm September weather has finally begun to transition to cool, misty evenings, and I’ve been craving soup. And what better soup for October than an orange soup?

The original recipe from The Kitchn (one of my favorite sources for culinary inspiration) called for sweet potatoes and sorghum (rather than butternut squash and barley), but the warming spices still do the trick. The next time I give this a whirl, I think I’ll add some smoked paprika to give it a bit of a kick, but the flavors as is are still nicely balanced.

Make a batch of this over the weekend, and enjoy the benefits all week long.

Ingredients
1 cup pearled barley
1 medium butternut squash
2 bunches carrots (about 15 medium)
1 onion
3 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 cups vegetable broth
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground coriander

Directions
Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add barley, cover and reduce heat. Simmer 30-40 minutes or until tender. Set aside.

While the barley is cooking, peel and cube the butternut squash. Rinse and chop the carrots. Peel and dice the onion.

Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a Dutch oven or soup pot, heat, then add the onion. Cook on medium heat until the onion is soft and translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add the fennel and cumin seeds, cook until fragrant (1-2 minutes).  Add the squash, carrots and remaining olive oil. Stir until well mixed, then cook for 5 minutes.

IMG_2018Add the broth, bay leaf and coriander; bring to a low boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook until vegetables are tender (about 30 minutes).

Purée the soup until mostly smooth, in batches if necessary. Stir in the barley and serve hot!

 

Vegan Winter Squash Chili

It may seem silly to crave warm, hearty dishes in the middle of August, but it’s been pretty grey and foggy in Monterey for the last couple weeks, and I’ve been increasingly turning into foods I normally wouldn’t start making until October or November. Last week it was soup; this week it was chili.

And, of course, I had some lovely vaquero beans from Rancho Gordo just begging to be used. Paired with the buttercup squash I got in my CSA box, it was hard to resist making a winter squash-heavy chili.

Note: This recipe produces a reasonably spicy chile. Due to that, and to the fact that I feel all chili is better with a side of cornbread, I made some Jiffy mini-cornbread muffins to nosh on alongside. If it’s still too spicy, you could stir in some sour cream or Greek yogurt.

Whether it’s cool enough where you are to enjoy this now, or you put it in your back pocket for fall, give this a try!

Ingredients

1.25 cups dry Rancho Gordo vaquero beans (you could also use black or pinto beans)

1 tbsp olive oi

1 yellow onion

1/2 head garlic (about 6 cloves)

1 tbsp New Mexican red chile powder

1 tbsp smoked paprika

2 tsp oregano

1 tsp salt

12 oz lager or light IPA

24 oz vegetable stock or water

2 small buttercup squash (or other slightly sweet squash)

Directions

Soak beans for 2-4 hours.

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Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Dice and add the onion, then cook over medium-high heat until onion is translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Mince the garlic and add with the spices. Cook for 2 -3 minutes, or until the spices are aromatic.

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Add the beer and 18 oz of vegetable stock. Cook for 5 minutes until liquid is partially reduced, occasionally scraping the onion/garlic/spices mixture from the bottom of the pot.

Strain the beans, then add with the tomatoes.

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Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until beans are almost tender, checking after 1 hour and then every 30 minutes. Depending on how long you soaked the beans (and how fresh they are), plan on cooking them for 2 – 3 hours.

While the beans are cooking, cut the squash in half, remove seeds, and dice into bite-sized pieces. Buttercup squash has an edible skin; if using a different type of squash, you may need to peel it before dicing.

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Once the beans are almost finished cooking, add the squash and remaining vegetable broth and cook for another 30-45 minutes until the beans and squash are both fork tender.

Serve warm (with cornbread!).

Lemon Zucchini Quick Bread

When I was growing up, summer always meant a bounty of vegetables from the garden; corn, beans, tomatoes, summer squash . . . the list goes on. And while I’ve been living the apartment life for the last several years, summertime farmer’s markets and CSA boxes can result in a similar produce overload.

Enter the zucchini. Toss it with pasta, make it into succatash, add it to a summer gallete – there are so many ways to turn this tasty, healthy vegetable into a satisfying summer meal. But, I’ve been on a bit of a baking kick recently, so when I started at the last two zucchini in my fridge, I decided to turn to an old classic: zucchini bread.

I knew I didn’t want a dense, autumnal-spiced bread, so I was thrilled when I found this recipe from Lemon Tree Dwelling.

As always, I made a few tweaks. I was going for a not-so-indulgent-you-feel-bad-having-it-for-breakfast feeling, so I skipped the lemon glaze (although I’m sure it would be fabulous)! I also wanted to try a bit of the bread and still have most of it as an intact loaf to serve at a gathering tonight, so I doubled the recipe and put 2/3 of it in an oversized loaf pan and the remaining portion in a much smaller pan. But, you could easily make two equal size loaves, or simply cut the recipe in half. And I reduced the lemon flavor a bit, wanting to highlight the zucchini.

A perfect treat for your next summer potluck, or simply a lovely mid-morning weekend nosh with a cup of tea. Give it a try!

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose (or white whole wheat) flour

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

2 medium-large zucchini

1/2 cup sunflower oil (or other neutral cooking oil)

2 eggs

1 lemon

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

Finely grate the zucchini. One handful at a time, squeeze out most of the moisture over the sink or into a bowl. You want to take the zucchini from a very wet consistency (left side of the photo below) to the point where it just sticks together and you can form a pancake with it (right side of the photo below). The zucchini should still be slightly damp. You should have about 2 cups of zucchini (I ended up with 2 1/4 cups).

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Add the zucchini to a large bowl with the sugar, sunflower oil, and egg. Zest and juice the lemon, add to the bowl.

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Stir until combined, then add the dry mixture. Stir until combined, then set aside.

Butter and flour your loaf pans.

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Add the batter, filling each loaf pan about 2/3 of the way full.

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Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the loaf comes out clean.

Let cool on a trivet or wire rack for 10 minutes, then run a knife around the edge of the loaf. Invert the loaf pan, release the loaf, then set right-side-up on a wire rack to cool.

I strongly recommend enjoying a slice fresh out of the oven with a pat of butter!

 

Roasted Carrots with Couscous and Yogurt Sauce

The normal foggy weather in Monterey has been interrupted by several days of warm, bright sunshine. This time last year I was in full on soup/stew/braise mode, but all these blue skies call for something a little lighter.

So, when two beautiful bunches of organic carrots showed up in my CSA box, I racked my brain for a summer-weather recipe. I decided to tweak a side-dish we served last year at Thanksgiving (the original recipe is from The Almond Eater). I swapped out the farro for whole wheat couscous (I already had some at home, plus it makes the dish feel a little lighter), and used fennel rather than tarragon. Mint would also work well.

Give it a try! A nutritious meal that’s plates well and tastes good – what more can you ask for?

Ingredients

1.5 lbs carrots

1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt

1 lemon

2 tbsp fresh fennel fronds

1 can chickpeas

1 tbsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp each of salt, pepper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325.

Trim the tops off the carrots, scrub, pat dry and set aside.

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Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Toss with half of the olive oil and the smoked paprika in a medium bowl, then place in a single layer on an ungreased baking sheet. Place on the lower rack of the oven.

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Place the carrots in a single layer on a baking sheet, brush with the remaining olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper.

After the chickpeas have been in for 15 minutes, add the carrots to the upper rack of the oven. Roast for another 35 minutes, or until carrots are tender and chickpeas are crispy.

While the carrots and chickpeas are roasting, cook the couscous according to the package directions, then prepare the yogurt sauce. Mince the fennel. Add to a small bowl with the yogurt. Zest and juice the lemon, then add both to the yogurt mixture. Whisk until smooth and set aside.

 

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Plate carrots on top of a layer of couscous, then top with yogurt sauce and chickpeas. Enjoy!

Brown Rice Bowl with Greens, Chorizo and Romesco Sauce

First off, apologies to our (small but loyal) readership for the lack of new posts over the last few months. What can I say – life got a little busy.

However, what’s the New Year if not an opportunity to make a fresh start? So, back in the saddle we go.

It’s been cold and misty in Monterey for the last several weeks, and I’ve been craving warm, filling meals. During my most recent how-can-I-use-up-the-random-odds-and-ends-in-my-pantry rummage, I was drawn to a small can of chipotle chiles in adobo sauce. When a large bunch of chard showed up in my CSA box this week, I knew it was time to revisit this recipe.

Pulling inspiration from this recipe from The Kitchn, with a few tweaks, produced a week’s worth of brown rice bowls topped with greens and a just-spicy-enough tomato sauce. With the extra body from the chorizo, this concoction will keep you going as you settle back into the post-holiday work routine.

Ingredients

2 cups brown rice

1 tsp salt

1 lb chorizo sausage

1 large onion

1/2 head garlic

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp each salt, pepper

1 28 oz can chopped plum tomatoes

3 chipotle chiles in adobo (if you want to crank up the spice, add a few more)

1 tbsp smoked paprika

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup almonds, peeled*

1/4 cup pine nuts

1 medium bunch parsley (about 2 cups once chopped)

3-inch piece sourdough baguette

1 large bunch chard (about 12 large leaves)

4 handfuls baby spinach (or other greens)

Directions

Bring 4.5 cups of water to a boil, then reduce the heat and add the rice and salt. Simmer covered for 45 – 55 minutes, or until rice is tender. Remove from heat, fluff rice with a fork, then let sit covered for 5 minutes.

Crumble chorizo into a large skillet. Stirring frequently, cook over high heat until browned, around 5 minutes. Set aside.

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Coarsely chop the onions and garlic, then add to skillet with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to soften and turns translucent. Add the tomatoes (including the juices) and the chipotle chiles. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

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Add the smoked paprika, balsamic vinegar, almonds, pine nuts and parsley.

img_0787Add the sauce to a blender and blend until smooth. Tear the baguette into 1/2 inch pieces and add to the blender; blend again until the sauce is smooth.

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Slice the chard into thin ribbons, then add back into the skillet with the spinach, sauce, and chorizo. Stir over medium heat until the chard and spinach have wilted, then remove from heat.

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To serve, top the brown rice with the sauce and enjoy!

*Note: if you can’t find (or don’t want to spend more to purchase) peeled almonds, you can use raw almonds instead. Place the almonds in a small bowl and bring 1 cup of water to a boil. Pour the water over the almonds, then let sit 10 minutes, until the skins begin to soften. Rub the almonds between your fingers to remove the skins. Voila!