Garbanzo Bean Salad

Hello there. It has been a while, hasn’t it? I’m sorry it has taken a while to get back around to here. There is no excuse really. I have been doing lots of cooking, experimenting, and baking in my kitchen. With all of that I have had no time to sit with my computer and tell you all about it. The other week I was so gung ho to write you about a cake I made….and within minutes I was asleep on the couch with the computer on my lap. I had gone to a Zumba class earlier that evening, I guess you can say it took all my energy. But I will write you about the cake next time. No cake today. Today I want to tell you about a garbanzo bean salad.

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I know you are probably questioning how I went from cake to salad??? Maybe that Zumba class is to blame? Something healthy verses sugar and sweetness!?! Healthy or not this salad is delicious and that is what counts in my book. A garbanzo bean salad is great to whip up on these warm spring days. Tossed together without much fuss, devoured in minutes, and satisfying to your taste buds. The beauty of a salad like this one is that it can be made ahead of time. It develops more flavor as it sits together, and it is one of those things that can be doubled easily and be brought to a BBQ or picnic and holds up to warmer temperatures.

I have been making a salad similar to this since I was in my teens. I use to have a subscription to a teen magazine when I was young. I cannot remember if it was YM or Seventeen; either way, and not surprisingly, my favorite part of the magazine were the recipes they sometimes featured in the back of it. There was a recipe for a garbanzo bean salad that I showed to my mom and we made it. My family loved it and it became a family staple in the warmer months. Over time, like most recipes, I have tweaked it a bit. What can I say? Time, like taste buds, change. Below is the way I enjoy it the best. The different textures, favors, and light dressing will compliment just about any meal. I hope you give it a try. In the meantime I will get back into a grove of writing…I promise, that cake recipe will be up next time.

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Garbanzo Bean Salad (feeds 4-6)

1 (15oz) can of Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 red bell pepper, chopped small (seeds and core removed)

1/2 cup red onion, chopped small

1 ball fresh mozzarella, cubed small

1 1/2 cup chopped romaine lettuce

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

First, place your garbanzos, bell pepper, red onion, and mozzarella in your serving dish. Sprinkle your olive oil and red wine vinegar over it all and toss it well. Sprinkle it all with a bit of sea salt and black pepper and toss again. Cover with some plastic wrap and chill at least and hour. You are looking for the flavors to mingle and marinate a bit together.

Next, remove your salad from the refrigerator about 20 minutes before eating. Sprinkle the lettuce over it all. Toss again and set aside until ready to eat.

Finally, before eating, season it again with sea salt and fresh black pepper if needed.

Harissa Roasted Carrots & Onions, with Lemony Yogurt and Pomegranates

The holidays were here — I feel as though, they came and I conquered! Gifts all arrived to their destination on time! When all your family is on the east cost and we live on the west cost, this is a big deal. I will admit, I made Brian do the wrapping, shipping, and card addressing this year. I needed a break as I have been responsible for all of this the past 17 years give or take. But besides that there were cookies made & decorated, pies baked, holiday parties attended, cocktails consumed, entertaining executed, and a christmas dinner devoured with leftovers to spare. We also worked our jobs and snuck in a few naps; but the holidays were here and they were crushed in a triumph. IMG_0261

Time for the new year to roll in. Time to sit back and enjoy what is left of the 2015. Time to nibble and savor. Time to reminisce at all that went right! Wrong? Made us laugh! And even want to dismiss from the mind. Recently we were reminiscing of a dessert we tried on one of our travels. The texture was weird, it was somewhat rubbery, and not very sweet. The look on Brian’s face when he tried it was priceless as he politely chewed on it. Did it make us laugh? Yes, but the taste and experience left a lot to be desired. We can forget that one.

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I do remember harissa roasted carrots and onions - this is one recipe worthy of reminiscing. The carrots and onions were coated in olive oil, dusted with harissa, roasted until tender, served over a layer of lemony thick greek yogurt, and sprinkled on top with pomegranate seeds. Paring this with some warm pita and bright green leafy salad is perfection. Time to make this to bring in the new year…it is slightly spicy, smoky, earthy, and deeply robust. Depending on the spice variety you use, the flavor can vary. Although the one that I use is a nice balance of chilies, paprikas, fennel seeds, along with a variety of other spices. The spices pair nicely with the lemony yogurt, it mellows out the spice while leaving just the right amount that is needed. The pomegranets are bright and burst with flavor amongst the sweet roasted veggies. Over all, this simple dish is one of the more perfect things I ate this year. A dish to remember, a dish...holiday worthy!

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Harissa Roasted Carrots & Onions, with Lemony Yogurt and Pomegranates (serves 4 - 6 as a side dish)

**Notes: If you are looking for a Harissa Spice, you can always order it. I personally like this blend and the company here: https://www.worldspice.com/blends/harissa

6 - 8 large carrots; peeled, trimmed and cut into 3 inch pieces

1 onion; trimmed and cut into 1 inch strips

1/4 - 1/3 cup olive oil

1 tbsp harissa spice

sea salt to taste

3/4 cup Greek yogurt

1 tbsp + 1 tsp lemon juice

1/4 cup pomegranate seeds

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the carrots into thick sticks, about 1/4 - 1/6 of their whole. Place the carrot sticks and onion pieces in a bowl. Mix the olive oil and harissa together and toss it with your carrots and onions until coated.

Next, on a lined baking sheet place your dressed carrots and onions. Sprinkle it to taste with sea salt, and place it in your prepared oven for about 40 minutes (or until they start to caramelize). You will rotate the pan and stir the veggies half way though roasting.

Then, in a bowl mix together your Greek yogurt and lemon juice. Sprinkle it with a couple pinches of sea salt and layer it on the bottom of your serving platter. Chill until ready to serve.

Finally, when the carrots and onions are roasted place them over the lemon yogurt mixture and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds. Serve while still warm. Scoop onto plates; being sure you get the harissa roasted veggies, pomegranates, and a bit of the yogurt. Eat and enjoy.

 

Stuffed Japanese Sweet Potatoes

The holiday season is here. As always we are now in what I like to consider the mad dash to the end of the year! The fun filled, non stop weeks of festivities. Festivities with friends catching up, families celebrating, joy being spread, parties to attend, presents to be purchased, presents to be wrapped, traditions to be served, and food - so much food. In between the craziness of it all, I find I need a simple meal. I do not know about you, but after the Thanksgiving feast we had and what lies ahead I really want to eat something that keeps me going. Something nursing and satisfying to balance out the intensity of it all. Something without the richness and heaviness, but tasty. It must be tasty!

Japanese Sweet Potatoes.

When I am in search of an item like this I tend to experiment a bit. I look to other cultures and flavor profiles. By combining and crossing borders with my food the result is usually something gratifying in taste, along with texture.  I was thinking of these things when I was in the market the other day and caught a glimpse of Japanese sweet potatoes (I love theses little treasures). You see they are more of a golden, mellow yellow fleshed potato. The interior tends to be flavorful, lightly sweet, fluffy, and not as moist as a traditional American sweet potato or yam. My though was to bake them and stuff them with some asian influences.

Once I baked the potatoes, I made a compound butter with white miso. If you are not familiar with miso you should defiantly start to get acquainted. It possesses a deep umami flavor profile and lends a bunch of flavor in small amounts. I combined this with some stir fried chopped kale; seasoning it with coconut aminos, garlic, and chili flakes. To top it all off, I sprinkled roasted and chopped cashews over it. All together this stuffed potato was perfection. The flavors mingled on my tongue and satisfied my belly. I enjoyed the leftovers; and to be honest I might make it again this week as I marathon this holiday mad dash.

Stuffed Japanese Sweet Potato, miso butter, and spicy kale --Yummy!

Stuffed Japanese Sweet Potatoes (serves 4)

4 Japanese sweet potatoes, no bigger than your fist

1 bunch of kale, washed well and finely sliced

2 oz of unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 tbsp white miso paste

2 - 3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

2 cloves of garlic, chopped small

3-4 tbsp coconut aminos (or soy sauce)

1/2 - 3/4 cup of cashews, toasted and chopped

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash your sweet potatoes and pierce them with a knife in a few spots. When oven is at temperature place the potatoes on a lined baking sheet. Put them in the center of the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. I like to rotate them and check them at around 30 minutes, to gauge how much longer they will need to cook.

Next, heat a large frying pan or salute pan over medium heat. Once pan is warmed though add the olive oil. Then add the kale, stirring and tossing it constantly. Once the kale starts to soften add in the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Keep stirring to be sure it distributes and cooks with the kale (about 5 minutes) and set aside from the heat.

Meanwhile, in a bowl add your butter with the miso paste. Combine them together until is is mixed well and not streaky in appearance.

Then, check your sweet potatoes to see how done they are. When they are pierced easily with a knife you can remove them from the oven to cool a bit. Reheat the kale over medium heat, and when it starts to sizzle add the coconut amino to the pan and too it all well to be sure the kale is seasoned and heated through evenly.  Once the kale is related and seasoned you can remove it from the heat.

Finally, to plate it all cut your sweet potatoes in half length wise. Carefully cut the flesh of the sweet potatoes in a criss cross pattern without cutting the skin of the potato. Fluff the potato interior with a fork, and then spread a bit of the miso butter over each prepared half of the sweet potato. Over the top of the potatoes spoon your kale over it all, and then sprinkle it with your chopped cashews. Serve immediately.

Cream Braised Cabbage - oh so good!

Quite some time ago I picked up the book “A Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg. It is a great quick read that is witty, descriptive, and has a casual approach to her life and recipes. I throughly enjoyed it and have given a bunch of the recipes in it a try and we've not had a complaint with them yet. The other day I picked up the book and thumbed through it to find her recipe on Banana Bread (my husband and I love it), when I happened to catch a glimpse of one of the other recipes in there for Cream Braised Cabbage. I remembered reading and loving the sound of it, but alas, there is only so much time and way too many recipes! Although, as luck should have it there was a small head of cabbage in my refrigerator! Well, well, well - it was going to be a fun filled night of braising cabbage. Yes, I know…there are some things that do not sound exciting to most, but to me this is thrilling.

Cabbage, crowded in the pan and ready to be seared.

Why? You see the days have started to really feel like fall around here. The air is cool and breezy. Days are growing shorter, and that funny thing called rain has been showing up. It is the perfect timing for a braised dish. One that simmers away at a slow pace making what you are cooking tender to a fork, velvety to your tongue, and rich on your pallet in a way that other cooking technique could ever do. Braising anything warms my kitchen and my soul. Yes! Cream Braised Cabbage you are perfect.

Seared and braising away with the cream.

Now I know some might look at the cooking time and say this is not a mid week dinner, but think again. Besides the the turning of the cabbage while it sears, and again while it braises, it gives you free hands to do what you like. Just an occasion check on the cabbage as needed. In the mean time I steamed some veggies to serve along side, folded laundry, made a salad and set the table. Wala! Dinner was ready. As I said the cabbage is fork tender and the cream makes it luscious. I paired it with some steamed carrots and boiled, little red potatoes sprinkled with a bit of thyme. (But I think this would pair extremely well with some seared pork chops or roasted chicken too.) It was just what a fall evening of lightly drizzling rain called for. I have said it before and I will say it again…this recipe is a must try. It will make you swoon over its tender braising perfection.

Tender and sweet braised cabbage. Plated with veggies on the side.

Cream Braise Green Cabbage (serves 4-6)

From the book: “A Homemade Life” 

1 small head of green cabbage (about 1 1/2 lbs)

3 tbsp (1 1/2 oz) of unsalted butter

1/4 tsp salt, plus more to taste

2/3 cup of heavy cream

1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice

First, pull away any outer leaves of your cabbage. trim the root end and and wash well to remove any dirt. Cut the cabbage into quarters, and then cut each quarter in half lengthwise, keeping a bit of the core with each wedge you cut. Try to keep them in equal sizes.

Next, place a large 12 inch skillet over medium high heat to melt the butter. Add the cabbage wedges, arranging them in a single crowded layer with one cut side down against the skillet. Do not disturb the cabbage and keep them this way for about 5 minutes until the down side is well seared and brown. (The browning is the caramelization of the vegetable and gives it a lightly sweet flavor.)

Then, using a a pair of thongs gently turn your wedges to the other cut side to sear. When that side sears like the other you may sprinkle the 1/4 tsp of salt over the wedges, and then add the cream to the pan. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and reduce the heat to low. You are looking for the liquid to stay at a slow and gentle simmer. Let it cook for 20 minutes, remove the lid and turn the wedges with tongs and repeat again for another 20 minutes with the lid on. The cabbage will be tender and can easily be pierced with a sharp knife. Add the lemon juice and shake the pan so that it evenly distributes.

Finally, let the pan simmer a few minutes to let the liquid in the pan thicken a bit. The cream should be able to coat the cabbage in a loose glaze like way. Serve immediately with additional salt for others to add.

Summer Chopped Salad

I think that if there was one thing I could make and eat until the end of time, it would be salad. Yes, if given the chance I will have a salad at each and every meal. I love them so much I think it is quite possible I was a rabbit in a past life! All the ingredients chopped and ready.

Why do I love them so? I am not quite sure. Although let me clarify - I am not talking about a romaine lettuce salad at every meal. I tend to cook with the season, no matter what the season is, you can always match up what is fresh and ripe brilliantly in a salad! But the fun is in how you prepare and serve it together.

Salad plated and awaiting it's dressing.

The other day, with the heat of summer a salad was second nature. But I thought to myself…Chop! Chop it all! A chopped salad! Yes!!! A chopped salad is fun, festive, pretty to look at, and satisfyingly refreshing from your average tossed salad. So I gathered what I had picked up from the farmers market. I chopped them all and had each item organized for plating. To keep things cool and refreshing I whipped up a dill yogurt dressing to tie it together. On platting I lined up all the ingredients in neat rows, not plating two like colors next to each other; you'll impress whomever you are sharing it with. Even if it is just for you, impress yourself! Treat yourself because you deserve a great and tasty salad like this one. Not to mention it is too perfect on those muggy summer nights!

Yougurt Dill Dressing over the Summer Chopped Salad and ready to be enjoyed!

Summer Chopped Salad (serves 4)  

1/2 bunch arugula, dried and washed well

1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1 carrot, peeled and chopped small

1/2 - 1/4 cucumber, sliced

1/2 cup of quinoa, cooked

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

2/3 cup feta, crumbled

3 green onions, trimmed and chopped small

1/2 cup greek yogurt

1/4 cup olive oil

3 tbsp sherry vinegar

1/4 cup fresh dill, minced

sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

First, as you get all your ingredients together place them on separate plates and bowls as needed. set them up on your work space in order for your plating to go smoothly.

Next, in a bowl place your olive oil, yogurt,dill, and vinegar and whisk it all together. Season it with sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste and refrigerate until needed.

Finally, line up your plates and center your arugula in a row in the center of each. Follow with the garbanzos, and other veggies as you like. End each plate with the feta on one end and the green onions on the opposite.  Serve with your yogurt dressing to be spooned over. Mix as you enjoy it all!

 

Grilled Zucchini

We recently traveled to Vancouver, B.C. and it was lovely. We ate and walked, dined and toured, snacked and water taxied, and yes - we ate some more. I will admit that we planned this trip with the soul purpose to relax and enjoy the city; the awesome food was a pure bonus. Bed side picnic and binge watching Chef's Table.

The funny thing is, the amount of walking we did does not even come close to the amount of food we ate. But that is the way we like to travel. We start out early, trek through unknown neighborhoods, and discover what they have to offer. We take in the sights, eat as we go, and once we make it back to where we are staying in the evening we are done. No nightlife, bars, shows, or music venus on this trip…just quiet evenings, reading, and some Netflix. It was really refreshing; even when we figured out that we walked about 8 - 10 miles in one day. Although, it was followed up with picnic on the bed and binge watching Chef’s Table.

Zucchini sliced and placed in marinade.

Once we were back into normal life here in Seattle, making a big meal was the last thing on my mind. We both were busy with work and everyday life that the simplicity of a salad kind of suited us. This made me remembered that many years ago when I was first cooking for myself, salads were my go to item. But then I discovered the beauty of marinating and grilling veggies. It was so simple, no fuse, and were always so tasty. The other amazing thing about making these is truly, any sliced veggie can work in this recipe: onions, eggplant, peppers, fennel, and squash. Trust me, we have tried it all, but my favorite of them all is zucchini. So the other night for dinner we dinned on a salad and grilled zucchini on the side. It was just as delicious as always…and so simple. Truly perfect for these busy warm nights of summer, you will have to give it a try. We have made many devout lovers of this recipe, it really is a winner.

Zucchini grilled and ready to eat.

Grilled Marinated Zucchini (feeds 4)

***Keep in mind that you can do this with any veggie, just as long as the veggies are sliced long enough and thick enough so that they do not slip though the grates of the grill.

3 zucchini (medium in size), cut into 1/2 - 1 inch thick slices

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp sea salt, plus more for finishing

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

First, pre heat your grill on high for about an hour.

Meanwhile; stir together your olive oil, vinegar, sea salt, red pepper, black pepper, and garlic in a large bowl. To this add your zucchini and toss it to coat it well. Cover it and place in the refrigerator to marinate. (You should let it marinate for at least 30 minute, or up to 3 hours.)

Then, turn your grill down to medium. Once your zucchini is marinated remove them from the marinade and place them length wise across the grates. Let them sit there and sizzle until you see the grill marks set into the zucchini slices. Once the marks are set, you can flip the slices over repeat the process on that side as well.

Finally, when the zucchini is grilled you can place it on a plate to serve. Before serving I like to sprinkle a bit more of sea salt over them. They are great fresh from the grill, but are great at room temperature as well.

Artichokes with a Ramp Puree

When spring begins to show my mind starts to race…Asparagus, morels, artichokes, peas, fiddle head ferns, rhubarb, fava beans, ramps!!! Let us not forget the ramps. I can go on but I will contain myself. It is just that I get so thrilled about all these new and special fruits and veggies when they finally decide to make an appearance. Ramps, cleaned and trimmed

Living in the Pacific North West I have come to notice that we are extremely fortunate to all of these items and the fact that they can all be found locally here. Growing up in New Jersey and spending a decade in Phoenix I saw my fair share of wonderful local produce. But in Seattle and the surrounding areas there are fantastic forgers. They show up at the markets with different findings each week and it is amusing to try and guess what they might have from week to week.The findings of spring are very exciting in contrast to that of the other areas I have lived. I admit that I never had a ramp before living here, let alone one that was sourced within miles of where I now call home. Walking through one of the farmer’s markets this past week one of the stands had bags and bags of ramps available. I scooped them up, cradled them in my arms, and  thanked the vendor for their work.

Ramp Puree

If you are not familiar with a ramp it definitely has it’s own complex identity. It has quite a strong (when fresh) aroma of garlic. It has a thin white base similar to that of a scallion, but the top is leafy and green. The ones I picked up had their roots still attached and were very gritty. I filled the sink up with water and washed them well. The roots were trimmed, the outer skin of the white base easily slipped away, and the leafy tops were brushed to rid of any remaining dirt. Once the cleaning was done I started in on my dinner. These ramps deserved something special to be parred with!

Trimmed and prepped artichokes ready for the oven.

I purchased these huge globe artichokes a day prior and this was the perfect paring for the ramps. I peeled, trimmed, snipped, and scraped away at the artichokes. Steamed them in the oven and made a wonderful ramp puree to brush and drizzle on the cooked artichokes. In the puree I added some Romano cheese and fresh mint, I was afraid that without the mint the garlic tone would be way too pungent against the artichoke. When it came to plating it all I served them over a bed of millet pilaf and sprinkled them with toasted hazelnuts. The whole dish was fantastic. The tender sweetness of the artichoke was a great duet with the bold and bright ramp puree. As we finished our plates and licked our fingers (yes, you need to eat artichokes with your hands), this meal left us grinning, and now I am just wondering how many more times I can make this before the season of ramps and artichokes are gone till next year?!?

Artichoke and Ramp Puree, over a Millet Pilaf and topped with toasted Hazelnuts.

Ramp Puree (yeilds about 1 1/2 cups)

2 - 2 1/2 cup ramps, washed and trimmed

1/4  cup fresh mint

1/4 cup grated Ramano cheese

1/2 cup olive oil

sea salt, to taste

Place your ramps and mint in a base of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse it all to begin to break it down. Adding a little bit of olive oil at a time while processing to emulsify it all together and bring it all together into a smooth paste. Fold in the Ramano cheese and season with sea salt to taste.

Arichokes (serves 2 - 4)

2 large gloobe artichokes, stem intact

2 lemons

2-3 tbsp olive oil

sea salt and fresh black  pepper

Hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

First, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. With a very sharp knife, trim the bottom of your artichoke stem and cut back the top inch or 1&1/2 inch off the tip of your artichoke. Remove the outer most leaves by pulling them off (about the first 3 layers), and then with a pair of kitchen scissors cut the top half of the leaves off all the way around until you see the leaves are a lighter shade of green. (This is to remove the majority of the most rough and fibrous parts of the leaves.)

After, the leaves have been fully trimmed, carefully slice the artichoke length wise from top to bottom of the stem. With a spoon or knife, gently carve out the choke center until the fuzzy center and sharp leaves pull away cleanly. Using a vegetable peeler strip back the outer layer of the stem and the bottom outside half of your artichoke. This is to reveal all the tender eatable parts of the vegetable. Place the trimmed and carved artichoke in a bowl full of water with one lemon cut and juiced into it. Repeat with the remaining artichoke.

When both artichokes are prepped, place them cut size down in a baking dish large enough to hold them all. fill the baking dish with about 2 inches of water. Slice the remaining lemon and and place it around the artichoke. Drizzle the olive oil over it all and season it with a bit of sea salt and black pepper. Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven for 30 - 40 minutes depending on size of your artichoke.

Before removing the artichoke from the oven test to see if they are done. If a knife easily pierces the flesh of the artichoke it is ready. Remove from the oven and let cool about 5  minutes before serving.

Millet Pilaf (make 2 cups)

1/2 cup of millet

2-3 cups of vegetable stock

1 tbsp of butter

1 carrot,chopped small

1 large shallot, chopped small

First, place the millet and two cups of the stock in a medium pan and gently simmer for 15 minutes.

Next, add the shallot and carrot to your pan along with the butter and stir well. Continue to gently simmer until the millet it cooked though. You might need to add another cup of stock or water to your liking.

Finally, when the millet is tender and liquid is absorbed remove from the heat and serve.

To Plate and Serve: Ladle a bit of your pilaf onto the center of your plate. Place the artichoke over this in the center of the plate and drizzle the top and stem with your Ramp Puree. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the top and serve.