Monday, April 29, 2013

Wild Leek and Carrot Greens Pesto

I am loving spring right now. I love how the earth is awakening from the winter and just bursting with green. Luckily, all that green is being used in my kitchen and I just couldn't be happier. And I got to try a new-to-me vegetable in this here pesto: the wild leek, also known as the mighty ramp! I have to admit, I'm a little late on the ramp bandwagon, so it seems. These little green onions are all over the food blogs I read and the Instagram pages I follow and they're popping up at farmers markets everywhere!  I guess they can be classified as one of those "fad foods", but hey, you know what? If they taste good, I don't care if they're "trending" or not. After all, they're only around for a few short weeks out of the year, so I'd better try them while I can! I've seen them roasted, grilled, sauteed, topped on pizza, tempura battered, and fried. And all of those ideas sound fantastic. But I decided to make a pesto with them because at the time, I figured it was one of the healthiest ways to use them.  And boy was it delicious.
Of course I couldn't stop at ramps alone when to came to this pesto. I wanted to put to use the carrot tops from my lovely baby spring carrots. Sure enough, they helped mellow out the sharp onion-y kick that this ramp pesto had in the most perfect way possible. I love that this pesto (and any other pesto for that matter) really lets the ingredients at hand shine. I mean, there's no hiding the flavor of the ramps or the carrot tops here. And I must mention how amazingly nutritious this pesto is. It's packed with chlorophyll, antioxidants, omega 3's from the walnuts, and cancer-fighting and cancer-preventing compounds that are present in the onion family. I served the pesto on top of some equally nutritious 100% whole grain Einkorn wheat pasta. The meal was a winner, for sure.

Wild Leek and Carrot Greens Pesto (makes about 1 1/2 cups of pesto)
2 small bunches wild leeks (ramps)
greens of 1 bunch of carrots
large bunch of basil, parsley, or any other herb
3/4 cup walnuts
juice of half a lemon, or more to taste
one clove garlic
1/3 cup olive oil
sea salt

1. Trim about an inch or so of the white parts of the ramps. Soak them in a large bowl of water to rid them of dirt. Rinse the carrot greens and herbs.

2. Put the ramps, carrot greens, herbs, walnuts, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor. Process until the greens have broken down, then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is running. Add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and pulse to combine. Serve the pesto over whole grain pasta or any other type of grain you'd like. You can even use it as a dip for veggies.

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Whole Barley "Risotto" with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Peas

I've been trying to figure a lot of things out lately. Things that have to do with my future, my career, my dreams. There are a lot of ideas swirling around in this head of mine and I have to admit, it's been a bit overwhelming. Uprooting my life and moving to a city where the possibilities are literally endless has been really great, but at the same time, really intimidating for someone like me. I feel like I'm fighting a battle with myself sometimes. A battle of self-doubt mixed with a feeling of invincibility. One minute I feel like I can do anything and the next, I feel that there's just no possible way. It's really something.

You see, I desperately want to feel fulfilled in the work I do. Doesn't everyone? Simply put, I want to make a difference in people's lives through teaching about food's ability to heal. I'm so passionate about creating beautiful, delicious, and healing food and all I want to do is share it with others who are eager to learn. I honestly feel that it is my calling to do so. And that's why I write this blog. That's why I'm so utterly committed to this space, even though those feelings of inadequacy creep up and cause me to wonder why I bother. There are so many people out there doing what I dream of doing and they're doing it so damn well that I just can't help but compare myself to their greatness. And you know what happens when you compare yourself to others, don't you? Well, you're just setting yourself up to be crippled by your own thoughts of self-doubt.

I guess it seems like I've treated this post like a venting session, and I thank you for reading these jumbled up thoughts of mine. Truly. There are still so many things swirling around in my head, but it helps to write it down. Put it out there. Maybe see if something will become of it. At the very least, it's an attempt motivate myself to get out there, take risks, and conquer these dreams of mine no matter how scary it is. I don't want to settle anymore just because it's safer and easier. I don't want to be that person.

Really, all this rambling has nothing to do with barley risotto. But I will say that this dish is quite delicious given the fact that it has very few ingredients. Using whole, unpearled barley kept this dish from becoming creamy and "risotto-like", so I suggest using pearled barley or regular Arborio rice if that's what you're after. I wrote a recipe for a traditional springtime risotto this time last year if you want to check it out here. But in this, I really wanted the grains to be toothsome, hearty, and healthy. It's want I'm craving this time of year. Mixed with some of my favorite spring vegetables, it was a real treat. A much needed bowl of comfort when I needed it most.

Whole Barley "Risotto" with Mushrooms, Asparagus, and Peas 
(serves 2 hungry people generously)

1 1/2 cups whole (unpearled) barley, preferably soaked overnight to aid digestibility
3 tbs organic grass-fed butter (or olive oil to make it vegan)
1 large onion, finely diced
sea salt
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
4 cloves of garlic, minced
12 large crimini mushrooms (or other mushrooms of your choice), sliced
1 bunch of asparagus, tough part of stems removed and cut into 2" pieces
1 cup of shelled fresh English peas
more butter for finishing

1. In a large pot over medium heat, saute diced onion in 1 tablespoon butter with a generous pinch of salt for about 5-7 minutes or until onion becomes soft and translucent.

2.Add the whole sprigs of thyme, the bay leaves, minced garlic, and sliced crimini mushrooms. Stir well and cook another 7-10 minutes until the mushrooms start to release their juices.

3. Add the barley along with 3 cups of water to the pot. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Watch the pot and occasionally give it a stir as the liquid starts getting absorbed and evaporated. If too much water evaporates before the barley is cooked all the way, just add more water a little at a time and continue to simmer until the barley is cooked through. It took about 45-50 minutes for my barley to get soft enough (and I soaked mine overnight), but yours may take a bit longer. Keep in mind, if you decide to use pearled barley for this (barley with the outer bran layer removed) it will cook a lot faster.

4. When the barley is cooked to your liking and there is hardly any liquid remaining in the pot, remove the sprigs of thyme and bay leaves. Add the asparagus and peas and stir well until they turn a bright green and retain some crunch. Finish it off by stirring in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter for a beautiful rich taste and seasoning with salt to your liking. Remember salt brings out flavor and don't be afraid of the butter! It makes it delicious. Enjoy.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Carrot Ginger Miso Soup

I have a whole new appreciation for sunshine after moving here to Seattle. When those rainy skies clear and those gray clouds lift, I am literally dancing with happiness. I'm practically sunbathing on the sidewalk (I don't have the luxery of a backyard). I'm taking advantage of every waking moment to enjoy the rays. Because sure enough, when we get three days in a row of completely clear skies this time of year, it's bound to be followed by ten gloomy ones.
This soup was made on one of those gloomy ones. I wanted to use the bunch of pretty carrots from the farmers market in a way that would warm my soul. I realized that I hadn't made carrot ginger soup nearly as much as I should have this winter. And so, I got to work putting this sunny soup together,
This carrot soup has some serious nutrition going on. It's brightened with the potent anti-inflammatory ginger and turmeric and is packed with beta carotene for glowing skin. The addition of traditional fermented miso paste boosts it up even further with an added detoxification benefit. As if that wasn't all enough, I topped it with some gorgeous green pea shoots and radish sprouts (because who am I kidding...I need something green on everything I eat).
Luckily, we've had some sunshine this week and I'm trying to do my best to soak up as much of it as possible. I've got a few more recipes up my sleeve this week as well, so stay tuned for some tasty goodness coming out of this kitchen of mine and into yours. Be well, everyone. And enjoy the sunshine.
Carrot Ginger Miso Soup (makes a lot of'll have leftovers)

2 onions, diced
2 pounds of carrots, or 2 bunches, cut into 1"chunks
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp turmeric
2" piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
4-5 cups of water or vegetable stock
salt, to taste
2 tbs miso paste
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup(depending on the sweetness of your carrots)
sprouts, pea shoots, cilantro, or avocado (optional toppings)

1. In a large soup pot over medium heat, saute the diced onion in some ghee, olive oil, or coconut oil with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes or so. Add the chopped carrots, garlic, sliced ginger, turmeric, and water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cover. Let simmer 20-25 minutes or until carrots are very tender.

2. Turn off the heat. Add the miso paste to the pot of soup. Puree the soup with an immersion blender until it's smooth. If the soup is too thick, you may add more water. Add maple syrup and sea salt to taste.  At this time, you may add some freshly grated ginger to the soup if you want it to have a spicier ginger kick. Serve with toppings of your choice.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Raw Kale and Fennel Salad with Fava Bean Greens

This week in my kitchen, the theme has been green. I'm craving all sorts of green. It's amazing how in-tuned our bodies are to the changing of the seasons. As plenty of new green plants are shooting out of the ground, our bodies literally crave what is abundant from the earth. At least mine does. And I'm sure yours does, too, if you take a moment to listen to it.
The other day, I came across a new-to-me leafy green at the market. They were the lovely fava bean greens and I snatched up a giant bunch of them. They have a tender texture like spinach, but have a flavor that resembles pea shoots. I love how versatile they are and they've been making their way into my salads all week. As with any leafy green, they're full of alkalizing and cleansing properties and are perfect during this time of year when the body needs green nourishment. Combined with my favorite varieties of kale and some thinly sliced fennel, they made a perfect green-packed salad that made my body sing.
This is such a simple salad that can be made with literally any type of greens you have. You can even add some more thinly sliced crunchy vegetables, like young carrots or raw beets. And go crazy on the fresh herbs, like basil, dill, cilantro, or parsley. The dressing is simple, just lemon, olive oil, and salt. Really, there's no reason not to make this salad. It's that easy. Do your body a world of good and whip it up today for lunch.

Raw Kale and Fennel Salad with Fava Beans Greens (makes a very big salad)

1 bunch curly purple kale, rinsed, de-stemmed, and chopped
1 bunch Tuscan kale, rinsed, de-stemmed, and chopped
1 small bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
juice of one lemon
4 tablespoons olive oil
a few pinches of sea salt
1 small bunch fava bean greens (or baby spinach or chopped Swiss chard)
big handfuls of fresh herbs of your choice, chopped (cilantro, basil, dill, or all three!)

1. Combine the chopped kale, sliced fennel, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt in a very large bowl. Massage this mixture with your hands until the kale starts to wilt (about 3 minutes of massaging)

2. Add the fava bean greens (or spinach or Swiss Chard) and fresh herbs. Season with more salt if needed.

Remember, this salad is very versatile. Add any other vegetable to the salad to bulk it up, serve it with some cooked quinoa and a lentil salad, or top it with a poached egg. The sky is the limit! The key here is just getting these beautiful greens into your body and enjoying every minute of it.

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