Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Earthy Quinoa "Tabbouleh"

I love whole grain salads that incorporate a mixture of cooked and raw vegetables, fresh herbs, nuts, and tangy notes of citrus.  And with such delicious flavors and textures mingling in your mouth, who needs meat or cheese to have a satisfying meal.  My Turkish-inspired Earthy Quinoa Tabbouleh highlights the grain over the parsley.  Unlike the more traditional Lebanese Tabbouleh, which is quite heavy on the parsley, the Turkish version is grain heavy and loaded with vegetables.  My version incorporates some unusual crunchy and flavorful additions, such as kohlrabi, radish, and squash.  It's amazingly tasty!

I start off by rinsing 1/2 cup of quinoa in cool water and letting it drain well.  Then I slice up 1 beautiful yellow sunburst squash into 12 uniform wedges, like so.

I bring 1 cup of water with 1/2 teaspoon of salt to a boil, stir in the quinoa and squash slices, and cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  After that, I check to make sure the all the water has been absorbed, turn off the heat, and let the quinoa come to room temperature.  In the meantime, I assemble the rest of my ingredients, which include 1 medium kohlrabi, 1 thin, dark green Anaheim pepper, 1 large or two medium radishes, 1 pickling cucumber (or you can substitute 1 Persian cucumber if you prefer), 1-2 fresh shallots (they resemble purple scallions and can be difficult to find, so feel free to substitute regular scallions instead), and 1/2 cup of shelled raw walnuts.

First I toast the walnuts in a heated, dry frying pan for about 5 minutes.  Then I peel the kohlrabi, and using a sharp knife, I cut it into match-like "julienne" sticks, like this.  There are tools that will do this as well, but I love to slice and dice -- I find it very relaxing!  

Next I cut the cucumber in half, lengthwise, and slice it (skin on) into thin semi-circles. I similarly cut the radish lengthwise into quarters, and slice it into thin quarter-circles, and I slice the pepper into very thin ringlets, removing any seeds.  I also slice and dice the fresh shallot, including most of the green part, and I coarsely chop the toasted walnuts.

I sprinkle a bit of salt on the vegetables to enhance their flavor, and then, in a large bowl, I combine the cooked quinoa and squash with all the chopped vegetables and the toasted walnuts.  I toss everything together gently, and then I add about 3 tablespoons of really good extra virgin olive, the juice of 1/2 a lemon, and about a tablespoon of fresh lemon zest.  Then I mix in a handful of well-chopped Italian flat leaf parsley, and season the dish with Kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and red pepper (optional).

A healthy serving of Earthy Quinoa Tabbouleh for lunch totally hits the spot, but it also makes a great dinner side dish, and you can easily double or triple the recipe for a larger group.  Enjoy!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Garbanzo Beans with Padron Peppers and Heirloom Tomatoes

This easy to prepare dish is completely vegan and out of this world.  What really elevates this version are the  garbanzo beans that I picked up from the sprout man at the Santa Monica farmers market, but you can certainly substitute dried beans that have been pre-soaked and cooked, according to package directions, or even canned garbanzos, and get delicious results.

I start off by removing only the hard stems from 10-15 Padron peppers, leaving the pods intact.  Next I drizzle them with just a bit of olive oil and sea salt, toss them around, and place them in a hot frying pan and let them sizzle until they are blistered and just tender (about 5 minutes).  Now I recommend popping one in your mouth (because they are so good!) and reserving the rest for the dish.

Next, I peel and slice three beautiful heirloom tomatoes and one white onion, like so.  Always salt the tomatoes after slicing to enhance their flavor.

I heat up about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a Dutch oven.  (As you may have noticed, I am not terribly precise when it comes to measurements, as my recipes generally do not require precision.)  I saute the sliced onions in the olive oil for a few minutes until they are a bit tender, and then I add the tomatoes and let them cook together over a medium heat for a few minutes, stirring frequently.  Then I add the blistered Padron peppers (whole), and just a tiny amount of tomato paste.  (Note the Padron peppers are so good, but they are not necessarily easy to track down, so of course feel free to substitute any peppers at all, such as Poblanos, Anaheims, or even bell peppers.  If you do substitute, just slice them up into long strips and saute them right along with the onions.)

I actually started adding whole peppers, or long strips of sliced pepper, to stews and chili when my boys were very young.  That way I could get my pepper fix while still having the ability to easily fish them out of the boys' bowls.  I soon developed a real preference for the larger more flavorful bites, and I've continued to cook that way -- long since my boys' palates have matured. 

Finally, I add the Garbanzo beans and seasonings, which include 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic sliced very thin (or a few dashes of garlic powder), 1 teaspoon of freshly ground cumin seeds (it's fine to substitute cumin powder), a bit of spicy red pepper to taste, and salt and black pepper to taste.

I cover the mixture with enough water to just cover the beans, bring everything to a boil, and simmer for at least an hour so that the beans are tender and the water reduces.  Then I taste and adjust the spices as needed and let everything continue to cook, if necessary, until the desired tenderness is reached.

Delicious on its own, in a big soup bowl with a hearty piece of bread for dipping, or served with brown rice, white rice, or rice pilaf and a simple salad (as depicted above), this combination of garbanzo beans, Padron peppers, and heirloom tomatoes is classic vegan, packed with protein and all kinds of other good stuff, and bursting with deliciousness! 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Eating VB6-Style in San Anselmo

Since embarking on the VB6 plan more than three months ago, I've been steadfast about adhering to it.  And when you have friends like Lisa and Jack hosting you for a weekend getaway, it's especially easy!  A few weeks ago my sister Cheryl and I, along with my nephew Lorenzo and our friend Baris, took a drive up the state to visit our friends Jack and Lisa in beautiful San Anselmo, located in Marin County, just north of San Francisco.  Lisa and Jack have a gorgeous home surrounded by an amazing garden that was absolutely bursting with dazzling flowers as well as a wide variety of succulent fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

When we arrived in the late afternoon, after a long drive up the oh-so-boring Interstate 5, we were greeted by our welcoming friends and an amazing (mostly) vegan spread of crudities and hummus, black and green olives, cold fresh cherries, bread, crackers and cheese, and Marcona almonds with rosemary, along with a lovely chilled Rose.  We eagerly devoured the delicious and healthy snacks, and then I started inspecting their garden looking for things to harvest.  Lisa and Jack know I'm a vegetable freak, and particularly a cucumber freak, so they intentionally left some lemon cucumbers clinging to the vine just so that I could pluck them off.  I also discovered fresh onions, beautiful squash varieties, enormous cantaloupes, gorgeous peppers, delicate tomatillos, golden sunburst tomatoes, lemons galore, and petite strawberries.

And as beautiful as the fresh fruit and vegetable offerings were in the garden, the herbs were just to die for, and included basil, mint, rosemary, cilantro, and red and green shiso.

One thing that all of us appreciate and enjoy so much is preparing delicious meals altogether, and with a garden setting like Lisa and Jack's, who wants to go out?

Some of our collective creations over the weekend included these beautiful heirloom beets with homemade vinaigrette and topped with garden fresh herbs; quinoa seasoned with red pepper and lots of fresh Italian flat leaf parsley; mixed green salad loaded with fresh shiso, basil, cucumbers, peppers, and almonds, and more homemade vinaigrette; cold yogurt "soup" (or cacik in Turkish) made with chilled plain yogurt, diced cucumber, fresh garlic, good olive oil, and a lot of fresh mint; corkscrew pasta with Lisa's delicious homemade pesto sauce; chicken kebabs marinated in garlic infused yogurt; and of course, Lorenzo's favorite potato salad with fresh peppers, onions and herbs (recipe to come soon!).
And of course, the perfect end to a perfect meal is most definitely Lisa's fresh, delicious, and intoxicating homemade limoncello!   Deliziosa!  Cin cin!
Photo by Lisa Gunheim Adams
(Hopefully soon-to-be guest Blogger demonstrating the art of making limoncello.)

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Red Lentil Soup with Homemade Croutons -- for Evren's Birthday

When my son Evren, who is away at school, called me from Colorado a few weeks ago and asked me for my recipe for red lentil soup, I knew right away that he was either missing mom's home-cooking, or he was a little under the weather, or both.  After all, red lentil soup has been one of our family's go-to comfort foods for colds, allergies, earaches, broken bones, and just the plain old blues for as long as I can remember.  Rich and earthy, red lentil soup (or ezogelin çorbası in Turkish) is a soothing and delicious soup that is packed with protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  Plus, red lentil soup is vegan -- without trying to be -- something I truly appreciate!

So, since Evren is turning 21 today, I was inspired to post his favorite soup, especially for him. (Perhaps now he will read my blog!)  Here is the recipe.

First, I dice 1 white onion, 2 cloves of garlic, and 1 large, juicy tomato.  I also measure out 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons of good tomato paste.  I heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven and sauté the onion and garlic for about two minutes.  Once the onion and garlic mixture is softened, I add in the tomato paste and the diced tomatoes, along with 2 tablespoons of paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground red pepper (Turkish pul biber is the best, if you have it), and I stir everything together over a low heat.

Next I add in 1-1/2 cups red lentils, which I've rinsed and strained, 1/4 cup long grain rice, and 6 cups vegetable broth, water, or a combination of the two.  (You can also substitute any other type of clear broth - whatever you generally like to use.)  I bring everything to boil and then cover the pot and simmer the soup for 30 minutes, stirring frequently.

While the red lentil soup is simmering, I prepare my homemade croutons.  Croutons are only as good as the bread they are made from, and for this soup, we like a good sourdough crouton.  First I slice and dice the bread into bite size cubes, utilizing as much of the crust as I can.  About four to five handfuls of the cubed bread should do it.

Next, I sauté the bread cubes in sizzling hot olive oil.  I do this in small batches, turning the bread frequently until all the cubes are golden on all sides.  As they finish cooking, I plop the croutons into a small paper bag and shake it to remove the excess oil.

Once all the croutons are ready, I place them all in a bowl lined with a paper towel, and I season them with salt, some finely chopped parsley, and a bit of red pepper.

By this time 30 minutes of simmering should be about up, and the lentils should be tender and just about done.  At this point I add to the soup 1/4 cup fine grain bulgur (No. 1), pre-rinsed and strained, along with 1 tablespoon of dried mint, and I stir it well and continue to simmer it for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If  the soup becomes too thick -- and it always does -- I add more water or broth until the consistency is just right.  It should be roughly the consistency of pea soup.   If you like a rustic soup, it's ready to serve at this point.  If you prefer a creamier soup, blend carefully using an emersion blender, or in small batches in a traditional blender.  We like it right in between rustic and creamy, so I run an emersion blender through the soup for only about 10-15 seconds until it's the perfect consistency.  

Finally, I season the soup with salt and pepper, and serve it piping hot, topped with the homemade sourdough croutons, along with fresh lemon wedges and a simple green salad.  Red lentil soup - the perfect 21st birthday lunch!  Happy Birthday, Evrenim benim!