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...]

Simply Roasted Beet Salad with Fresh Mint

Roast some beets for a jewel-box salad
Let’s talk about beet love.

The thing about beets is this: People tend to either devour them with joyful greed, like a dog might Hoover up a hunk of smoked turkey bacon off the floor, or spit them out in disgust after mistaking their glistening, jeweled beauty for some kind of exotic fruit. There’s no middle ground, no room for wishy-washy ambivalence when it comes to loving beets.

In the history of me, there was a time when I belonged to the latter camp. I found the curiously earthy nature of beets overwhelmingly and distractingly….dirty. Because let’s face it – along with the surprising sugary-sweetness of beets is the underlying, penetrating flavor of the earth in which they grow.

That combination of dirty-sweetness is kind of what I imagined a wad of mud rolled in honey might taste like.

It wasn’t until I worked the salad station in a restaurant kitchen that I became attached to beets in a more sensory way. One of the dishes I was responsible for was a salad topped with goat cheese and balsamic marinated roasted beets. I roasted, peeled and chopped umpteen pounds of beets, staining my hands a startling shade of magenta. I tossed and tasted all those beets to make sure they were cooked and seasoned just right.

Maybe it was that day-to-day intimacy with beets that converted me in the end, but I came around. I crossed over to the world of beet love.

I still prefer roasting to any other method of cooking beets; probably because it’s so easy to wrap them up and stick them in a hot oven, where they pretty much take care of business all by themselves. And I can’t resist beets that are colored vivid orange or the gorgeous candy-striped Chioggia varieties.

Beets have a particular affinity for things tangy; like fresh soft goat cheese, mild vinegars and citrus juices, making them perfect for salads.

I hesitate to call the following a recipe. Consider it more of a method, to ready your beets for a simple toss with olive oil, some fresh herbs, and your tangy ingredient of choice.

Simply Roasted Beet Salad with Fresh Mint

To roast your beets, trim off the greens (save those if they are in good shape and chop some up for your salad) and place them on a sheet of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little drizzle of olive oil.

Roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. You’ll know they’re just about done when the kitchen takes on a pleasing aroma and the beets offer no resistance when you poke a sharp knife into them.

Let them cool a bit before slipping off the skin and slicing.

Toss the beets with some of your best olive oil, salt and pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon or orange juice. Sprinkle with chopped mint, some crumbled goat cheese and serve over salad greens.

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Black-Eyed Pea and Soybean Salad with Lime and Avocado

It’s hard to stop eating this simple salad


I saw a recipe recently – the first-place winner in the Vegetarian Times Reader Recipe contest – that inspired me to make this salad for lunch yesterday. It was delicious! This is a recipe to satisfy any number of your vegan, high-fiber, low-carb, low-fat desires. My only problem is that I wanted to eat the whole bowl myself.

Black-Eyed Pea and Soybean Salad with Lime and Avocado
adapted from Greens (aka Vegetarian Times) magazine October 2007

makes 6 servings
1 (14-ounce) can black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1 (14-ounce) can soybeans, rinsed and drained
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 avocado, diced
1 small tomato, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot or red onion
1 serrano chile pepper, finely chopped (You could use a jalapeno, but I love serranos because they have a dependable heat level, unlike jalapenos which are sometimes very bland)
1 small garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon low-sodium teriyaki sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. In a large bowl, layer the peas, beans, bell pepper, avocado, tomato, cilantro, shallot, chile pepper and garlic.

2. Whisk together the lime juice, oil, vinegar, teriyaki, sugar, salt and cayenne in a small bowl.
Pour dressing over the bean mixture and toss gently to avoid smashing the avocado.

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