everyday green lentils

I can’t remember the last time I missed the sight of brown dirt in the winter. It’s been over a month since a few major storms covered my part of the Northeast with snow, immediately becoming frozen in place. We literally have boulder-sized piles on the street made of solid ice and a thick layer of white on the ground you can walk on without making a dent.

All this icy whiteness is making me think about what spring will look like – one season I haven’t seen here in New Jersey yet – and what plants I’ll plant as soon as it thaws.

I always try to grow my favorite perennial herb plants like thyme, lavender and rosemary. Depending on what kind of winter blast Mother Nature sends, they can survive a few seasons, the lavender plants spreading out with fragrant flowers all summer.

Why did I start out writing about dirt?  It must be a sign of deprivation. Lentils taste nothing like earth or dirt to me, but their humbleness never fails to make a comforting, simple meal especially suited for eating while things go Arctic outside.  [Read more...]

chile chickpea brodo, chorizo and greens

chili chickpea brodo with chorizo and greens
Chickpeas, garbanzos, ceci — by whatever name you choose, I love them.

Last week, as I was lying face down on a mat focusing on my breath and the sorry state of my pedicure, I misheard my yoga teacher ask that we take a moment to look into our inner beans.

And so I found myself asking this eternal question, one that can only be answered after a sweaty yoga class and a few minutes of peaceful contemplation – what is my inner bean?

chili chickpeas, chorizo and greens

I emerged from that brief meditation certain that my inner bean was a cannellini; earthy, velvety soft and creamy at the core. A bowl of warm cannellini beans drizzled with delicious green olive oil, strewn with tiny slivers of chopped fresh rosemary and some Parmigiano grated over is one of the most comforting foods I can think of.

However, I came to the conclusion that if I am truly a cannellini being at the core, then the outer being must be all chickpea. I eat them almost every day!

I’d gotten into the habit of using canned chickpeas after many frustrated hours trying to cook dried ones that more often than not were old and stale. But now that diet trends veer toward the Gluten Free Vegan Cave Dweller, chickpeas are a very popular protein choice for many people, which translates into faster turnover and fresher dried beans.

I fell for a method of cooking garbanzos I found in Suzanne Goin’s AOC Cookbook , which is genius because the cooking water becomes a fabulous light broth – or brodo – that is so tasty I keep the chickpeas in it and build a soup meal along with some smoky, slightly spicy chorizo and dark greens.

I find the combination of sharp cheeses with chile peppers hard to resist. Coach Farms was kind to send me a sample of their Grating Stick, an aged goat cheese that my Microplane turned into savory dust on my chickpeas – yum. But lacking that, a good sharp and salty sheep’s milk Pecorino or even feta would be perfect substitutes.

chile chickpea brodo, chorizo and greens

Serving Size: 4 - 6

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight

3 whole garlic cloves, peeled

1 shallot or small onion, finely chopped

2 dried chile de arbol, crumbled (or 1 or 2 teaspoons crushed red chile pepper)

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon paprika

Kosher salt

8 ounces short tubular pasta, such as ditallini or tubetti

4 ounces cooked chorizo, cut into cubes

1 roasted red bell pepper, peeled, seeded and sliced

A few handfuls of washed mixed leafy greens (spinach, kale, arugula, etc.) stems trimmed; torn into bite-sized pieces

Aged sharp cheese, such as Pecorino or Provolone or dry goat

Instructions

  1. Drain the soaked chickpeas and put into a 3 or 4 quart heavy saucepan along with the garlic, shallot, chiles, bay leaf and paprika. Pour over enough water to cover by 3 inches and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and loosely cover. Cook an hour or so, then add 2 teaspoons salt. Continue cooking until chickpeas are tender - 30 minutes or more depending on the age of the chickpeas. Remove the bay leaf.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente.
  3. Just before serving, warm the chickpeas and broth over low heat. Stir the pasta, chorizo, roasted red pepper and greens into the pot and taste for seasoning, adding a little more salt if needed.
  4. Serve in bowls and grate cheese over the top.
http://familystylefood.com/2014/01/chile-chickpea-brodo-chorizo-and-greens/

carrot soup and almond-parsley pesto

carrot soup and almond parsley pesto

Did your mother – or someone else who presumably cared about your well being  - ever tell you that peeling a carrot takes away all its vitamins?

It’s one of those admonitions that gets stuck in your head for the rest of your life, probably because you first heard it when soft brain material was still forming (up till the age of 26, I read somewhere). Those whose job it was to see that you grew up with all parts intact did their best to point out every which way you could inflict damage, wreaking havoc on not only yourself, but others, too. You know:

Don’t run across the room with that sharp pencil – you’ll put someone’s eye out!

You’re going to fall off that tree/roof/high-up-dangerous place on top of the swingset and crack your head open!

If you sit so close to the TV in this dark room; YOU”LL GO BLIND!

I can’t think of such warnings having to do with food equally as menacing as the visions of heads cracked open like watermelons dropped from a tall building and eyeballs plucked whole out of their sockets by an innocent writing tool. Oh, there was something about Vitamin C – not enough and you’d become riddled with scurvy and toothlessness. Other than that my takeaway nutritional wisdom remains; All the Vitamins are in the Skin.

I only just learned (like, yesterday) that in fact, peeling carrots has absolutely little effect on the nutrients contained therein. Other forms of produce, such as apples, pears and potatoes, yes – keep the skins on. But carrots? Turns out that some of the best stuff in carrots, like the beta carotene, is in there all the way through. Lots of vitamins, antioxidants and magical cells live in the colorful parts of fruits and vegetables, and if the food is the same color inside without its skin, no harm done.

I admit I do peel carrots when they have an abundance of stiff, old root hairs and tiny clods of dirt. Who wants to eat that?? Plus they look brighter and prettier without the skin. Fresh little carrot bunches with their green tops on don’t usually have that problem.

Having gone on and said all that (are you still reading this?), it won’t make much difference if the skin is on or off the carrots in this soup recipe since they get pureed in the end. It’s your call.

carrot soup with almond parsley pesto

I’ve just started browsing through Deborah Madison’s tremendously wonderful new book, Vegetable Literacy.  The book is organized by families of vegetables, how they’re related and play together – I LOVE that.

The first chapter covers The Carrot Family, which includes celery, parsley, fennel and coriander. Carrots remind me of spring, and parsley reminds me of carrots, so there’s the starting point for my soup.

carrot soup and almond-parsley pesto

Yield: serves 4 - 6

This soup couldn't be simpler and tastes like the essence of carrot. Use any leftover pesto within a day or two, tossed with roasted vegetables or spread on a warm crostini.

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur (optional)

Pesto:

1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley

½ cup sliced almonds, toasted

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt

½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan until butter melts; add the carrots, onion, celery, salt sugar and coriander. Stir the vegetables around and cook until they begin to release liquid and become softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Pour in 6 cups water and bring to a simmer. Cook about 15 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Remove from the heat and cool for a bit, then puree the soup in a blender until completely smooth. Stir in lemon juice and amaretto, if using, and taste for salt.
  3. To make the pesto, reserve a few parsley leaves and chop the rest in a small food processor until finely chopped. Add all but 1 tablespoon of the almonds and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped and the mixture forms a paste; add the fennel seeds, olive oil, salt to taste and the cheese and pulse to combine.
  4. Serve the soup with a spoonful of pesto and sprinkle with remaining parsley leaves and almonds.
http://familystylefood.com/2013/04/carrot-soup-and-almond-parsley-pesto/