Category Archives: Main Course

Making sprouts, if not friends

It is difficult to make new friends in your 30s. I know that to those of you in and past this phase of life have probably already figured this out, but bear with me a moment while I catch up. I’m just not as social as I used to be. In fact I find that I’ve developed a social awkwardness that I don’t remember having in my 20s. Maybe it’s because most of my social interactions then were at a bar, drink in hand?

In any case, I find I still have the human need for friends, but am less adept at interacting with strangers than I once was. So, one solution to this has been to seek out structured activities where I am thrust into the presence of other people, but do not have to make a lot of conversation with them right off the bat. Knitting class, writing workshop, author readings, gardening class, and one class about sprouting. Yes, a class about DIY sprouting given at the local co-op. How’s that for being a crunchy Oregon hippie?!

lentils

I didn’t make any friends at the class, but I did learn a lot of fascinating things about sprouting and I have been hooked on it ever since. It turns out there is a lot more to sprouts than the alfalfa variety that I remember from my youth, and that I hated. You can sprout nuts, beans, lentils, seeds, grains, the possibilities are endless! Or nearly so.

And there are some convincing health benefits, at least I find them convincing, that have to do with all the nutrients locked up in the seed of a plant (which is, of course, what all the aforementioned things are). When you sprout a bean or a nut, you release all the protein and vitamins that it was storing to help it grow into a strong, healthy plant. Sprouts are also delicious, and have very different flavors depending on what you are sprouting – something that surprised me because my sprout experience had been limited to the alfalfa variety.

spices

My favorite sprouts so far, and the ones that have been the most consistently successful, are lentil sprouts. So, they are the sprouts featured in today’s recipe. I have also had a few challenges, though, and one sprouting disaster – lest you think my sprouting glasses are a little too rose-colored. The disaster was self-inflicted, really, and involved an attempt to sprout garbanzo beans that I knew were way too old to do anything with other than use as pie weights. Pro tip: if beans are too old to cook, they are too old to sprout.

citrus

For the most part though, sprouting has been smooth-sailing, delicious, and nutritious. This recipe is by far my favorite that has incorporated lentil sprouts, but they are supremely versatile. They add a wonderful texture and flavor to salads, sandwiches, or as a topping for just about any quinoa or other grain salad.

finished salad

Carrot, Avocado, Sprout Salad over Quinoa

Barely adapted from DailyCandy (RIP)
Makes four good-sized portions, good for lunch or dinner

Directions for lentil sprouts are below this recipe, but heads up: it takes about 3 1/2 to 4 days to sprout lentils. So, if you want to make this recipe, you best get sprouting!

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 3-inch chunks
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • ¼ teaspoon crushed red chili flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup, plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 tangerines (I used Cuties), halved
  • 2 lemons, halved
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • 4 cups lentil sprouts (directions below)
  • a couple dollops of sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons mixed seeds (I used pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame, but you could use any seeds you want), toasted

Combine quinoa, 2 cups water, and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Turn heat down to just what is needed to maintain the simmer and cook until all water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy, 15-20 minutes.

While quinoa is cooking, turn the oven on to 350° and put a large pot of water on to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the carrots and cook until a knife pierces them easily, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the garlic, cumin, thyme, chili, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ¾ teaspoon pepper in a food processor and pulse until pasty. With the food processor running, add the vinegar and ¼ cup of the olive oil and run until well-mixed. Set aside.

When the quinoa is done, set it aside. When the carrots are done, drain and then arrange them in a single layer on a sheet pan. Spoon the cumin/olive oil mixture over the carrots.

Cut 3 of the tangerines and 1 lemon in half and place them on top of the carrots, cut-side down. Roast in the oven for 25 minutes or until carrots are golden brown.

When cool enough to handle, squeeze the juice from the roasted tangerine and lemon halves into a small bowl. Squeeze in the juice each from the remaining uncooked tangerine and lemon. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and drizzle about half over the roasted carrots, reserving the rest.

To assemble the dish, start with a scoop of the quinoa and top with saucy carrots, then avocado, then sprouts. Drizzle with reserved sauce, add a dollop of sour cream to the top, and then sprinkle with toasted seeds. Serve immediately.

Lentil Sprouts

Directions from Susan Hyne, who taught the sprouting class
Makes ~4 cups

  • 1/4 cup lentils (I used Puy lentils, but you could use Beluga, brown, red, yellow, etc.)
  • 1 quart glass jar with a screw top lid
  • cheesecloth

Rinse lentils in a sieve and then dump into the glass jar.

Fill the jar with water. Cover the opening of the jar with a 2-ply piece of cheesecloth and then screw lid on to hold cheesecloth in place.

lentils in jar

Cover the jar with a kitchen towel to keep out light and soak lentils for 12 hours.

After the lentils have soaked, drain the water and rest jar in a small bowl so that it’s tilted and any remaining water can drain out. Re-cover with the kitchen towel.

draining lentils

Rinse the lentils and the bowl well 2-3 times per day for 3-4 days, each time returning the jar to the bowl so that the lentils can drain and covering with the towel.

day one

 

day two

day three

The sprouts are ready when they are about 1-inch long.

finished sprouts

Eat right away or store in the fridge. If you are storing in the fridge, do not rinse right before putting them in the fridge (i.e. you want them to go into the fridge as dry as possible to keep them from getting slimy). If you put them in the fridge dry, they will keep for up to 4 days.

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Filed under Food, Lunch, Main Course, Odds & Ends

The beauty of an unplanned meal

I am a planner. I like to organize things and catalog them and plot them out on a timeline if they will let me. I am a librarian, after all. At work I have a master To Do list on my computer that is then broken up into sub-lists, including To Do This Week, To Do This Term, To Do This Summer, you get the idea. I also have a Projects list on a whiteboard in my office, just in case my other lists distract me from what’s really important.

This extends to my personal life as well, and definitely to my kitchen. I have a list of my goals for the year next to my bed, so that I can read them every night and stay motivated. I never (well, hardly ever) go to the grocery store before planning out the week’s meals and making a list. When I first started cooking, I always, always followed a recipe. It didn’t even occur to me, in fact, that there was any other way. And I liked how following a recipe gave me a consistent, predictable result.

Thankfully, I have learned by now that so much of cooking is unplanned. It’s about tasting and adjusting and customizing. Especially since we’ve moved to the Pacific Northwest where there is so much fresh, local produce, I have embraced seasonal cooking, which means you have to be ready to do what you can with what you’ve got at any given time of year. I encountered a perfect example of this one weekend recently when David and I went to our first farmers’ market of the spring.

spring vegetables

It is still indoors, in a warehouse-like building on the fairgrounds. The outdoor market won’t return until later this month, but spring was definitely making its presence known. The booths had more life, the whole place was humming, there were spring onions. Spring onions! They even have the word ‘spring’ in their name. So, of course, we bought some. We also gathered a hodge-podge of other vegetables, whatever spoke to us, as well as a dozen pullet eggs, which are the petite eggs of a hen under 1-year-old.

ingredients

I didn’t know what I was going to do with our random purchases and I started to feel a little Type-A panic about it. But when we got home and unpacked everything it became clear: a spring quiche was in order. It was the best kind of unplanned meal – fresh ingredients combining with a well-stocked pantry to create something delightful.

finished quiche

Hearty Farmers’ Market Quiche

Crust adapted from Joy the Baker, filling modeled on Two Peas and Their Pod
Makes one 9-inch quiche

In the spirit of spontaneity, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that this recipe can be endlessly adapted and tinkered with. In fact, that’s what a quiche is for, in my opinion. Especially when it comes to what vegetables and cheese you use. You can use almost anything you can imagine. Just keep the proportions of vegetables and cheese to eggs and milk about what they are in this recipe and you will be sitting pretty.

Crust:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks and chilled or frozen
  • 1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons milk, chilled (I used 1%)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch (about 4 cups) Russian kale, ribs removed and then chopped
  • 4 spring onions (white and green parts divided), chopped
  • 5 large eggs (or equivalent in pullet eggs)
  • 1 cup milk (I used 1%, use whatever you have on hand)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

First, prepare and prebake the crust:

In a medium bowl whisk together flours, salt, sugar, and baking powder. Add the butter pieces and cream cheese and work into dry mixture, using a pastry cutter or your fingers, until most butter and cream cheese bits are pea-sized.

Whisk together the milk and oil, and then add all at once to the flour and butter mixture. Combine wet and dry ingredients with a fork until the liquid is just incorporated. Do not overwork – the dough will not totally come together, it will stay sort of shaggy.

Dump the dough into a clean 9-inch pie pan and use your fingers to press the dough evenly into the bottom and up the sides. Try to get it as even as possible, but don’t worry about it too much – no one will ever see it!

Put the crust in the freezer for at least 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350°.

Once your crust is frozen, line it with foil and fill it with beans or some other pie weight. Bake for 8 minutes. Then remove pie weights and foil and bake for another 4-6 minutes until it starts to brown.

While the crust is baking, prepare the filling:

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add kale and the white parts of the spring onions. Cook until kale is wilted, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in spring onion green parts, then set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and milk, then stir in the feta. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

When the crust is done prebaking and the filling is prepared, raise the oven temperature to 375°. Spread vegetable mixture over the bottom of the crust, and then pour in egg mixture.

Bake the quiche for 45 minutes or until quiche is set and the top is golden brown. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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Filed under Breakfast, Food, Lunch, Main Course

Spring and spinach

Happy first day of spring! I am more excited than usual for its arrival this year. I am excited for spring every year, who isn’t? But this year the winter seems to have been longer, darker, more wearing. I’m sure this is all in my mind, but regardless, I am brimming now that spring has finally decided to show up.

spring flowers

One of the things that starts to happen in my kitchen when spring comes, and is fully ensconced as a policy by summer, is that the meals get simpler. The best spring and summer recipes involve less prep time, less cooking time, just less fuss all around. This suits my spring mood perfectly, since all of a sudden there are a million other things I’d rather be doing than standing over a hot stove (the opposite of how I feel in the winter, for the record!).

I want to plant an herb garden, for instance, and to ride my bike along that path by the river that I kept meaning to check out last summer. David and I are planning to hike and camp and swim in as many of the spots that new friends and acquaintances have described as the “best places” for such things around here as we can.

I’m looking to sit on patios – as many as I can find/get myself invited to – with a cold drink and a book, feeling the sun warm the back of my neck. It is my goal to have a picnic at every park in town and watch the dogs that will surely be at said parks run and play. I want to pick blueberries at one of the many fields that I pass on my drive to work, when the rows and rows of bushes that have been red and bare all winter become green and laden with fruit.

With all these plans, who has time to cook? Spring and summer produce is so glorious though, that I certainly wouldn’t want to forgo home-cooked meals during this time. That is where recipes like this Spiced Coconut Spinach come in. During this time of year I return again and again to old standbys like this one: recipes that I know by heart, that are quick, simple, consistently delicious, and that show off the season’s best fruits and vegetables.

mise en place

This spinach comes together in no time (seriously, 15 minutes from start to finish) and its flavors are dazzling – much more intense than you might expect. You can pair it with other spring and summer vegetables to your heart’s content. The original recipe pairs it with asparagus, which is lovely, and I imagine it would also meld well with zucchini, summer squash, corn, fresh peas, even green beans. 

It is also an ideal accompaniment for almost any starch or protein that you might be using to round out your meal. We generally eat it with brown rice, but it also tucks nicely into a pita and sits well atop a baked potato or a pile of pasta. The original recipe suggests folding it into an omelet, which is how I plan to eat it next.

Here’s to spring!

spiced spinach

Spiced Coconut Spinach

Adapted from 101cookbooks
Serves 2 as part of an entree, 3-4 as a side

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on how spicy you like things)
  • 6 1/2 cups spinach (~7 oz.), washed and chopped (no need to chop if using baby spinach, but I’d recommend lovely, full, spring spinach!)
  • 1 cup summer vegetables, chopped (optional)
  • squeeze of lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over medium heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and toast them until they start to pop. Then, add the red pepper flakes and cook for one more minute.

Add the shallot, garlic, and salt and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the spinach and any other summer vegetables (i.e. quick cooking vegetables) you’re using. Stir frequently and cook for just a few minutes – until the spinach cooks down and any other vegetables are fork-tender.

Finish with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and top with the toasted coconut.

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Filed under Food, Main Course, Sides

Brussels tops from The Oxbow Box, my new best friend

The Oxbow Box ProjectLast week, I was lucky enough to be given a box of produce as part of The Oxbow Box Project. Oxbow is an organic farm and education center here in Washington state, and I am thrilled to be able to help get the word out about them.

The box of produce I got was from Oxbow’s CSA program. For those who may not be familiar, CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture and essentially means that you – as an individual or family – buy a share in the harvest of a particular farm. Once you’ve signed up for a share you receive a box at regular intervals containing produce that is currently being harvested at the farm. It is a wonderful way to eat seasonally, and to learn about fruits and vegetables you’ve never used in your cooking before.

The Oxbow Box

My first experience with a CSA box was several years ago when I was living in DC and had decided to go vegan. Once I made that decision, I quickly realized that much (MUCH) of my regular diet did not fit the restrictions of a vegan diet, and that if I was going to do this thing and still be healthy, I needed to eat more vegetables. Lots more vegetables.

So, I signed up for a CSA as a way to force myself to do just that. Sure, I could have not eaten the produce and let it go bad in the fridge, but the combination of being a semi-impoverished early twenty-something and having an aversion to wasting food basically guaranteed that I would eat all the dang vegetables come hell or high water.

This period of enforced vegetable eating led to a much more veggie-focused diet that I have happily maintained, even though I am not vegan anymore. I decided to treat this CSA box the way I treated my boxes back then – as my week’s allotment of produce, the challenge of which is to make it last the week without letting anything go to waste.

This can be a really fun challenge…at least if you have a good attitude about it and like to cook. It can also be stressful if you just want something you know you can turn into dinner. To get myself into the right mood, I like to pretend like I am on Chopped or Iron Chef America!

Ahem, anyways… This is what I found when I opened my Oxbow box:

  • Carrots
  • Purple Romano beans
  • Brussels sprouts tops
  • Broccoli
  • Walla Walla onion
  • New potatoes
  • Radishes
  • Apples
  • Lemon cucumbers
  • Tomato

A pretty good haul, right?! And only a few things that I don’t generally use (whew!) The carrots and tomato I used in salads throughout the week, and the apples I happily just munched on for breakfast or a snack. The broccoli I roasted one night – my favorite way to eat broccoli – and the potatoes I used in this DELICIOUS potato and green bean salad from The Garden of Eating.

All of that was easy enough, because they were vegetables and fruits that I use on a regular basis. By the middle of the week I had to start getting creative. (I mean, what are Brussels sprouts tops anyways?)

My bible when I need to cook with an unfamiliar vegetable – or even want to try something new with a familiar one – is the book Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. Not only does it contain hundreds of mouth-watering vegetarian recipes, it also devotes a page or two to explaining each vegetable, enumerating cooking techniques that can be used with it, and listing flavors that go well with it. It is a life-saver.

Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Using this treasured tome as a guide, one night I prepared the Romano beans topped with a spicy, bright olive tapenade sauce. Another night I created a variation of this quinoa dish with pickled radishes, using the radishes, radish greens, and lemon cucumbers.

Olive tapenade sauce

But those Brussels sprouts tops were still staring me in the face whenever I opened the fridge. I returned to Madison for inspiration, and this time really made use of her complimentary flavors lists to figure out what could potentially go well with the Brussels tops. After ruminating on that list, it struck me to create a riff on this favorite pizza I told you about a few weeks ago.

Let me tell you people, I am really happy I made this pizza. It is crazy good. A little weird? Yes. But so, so good. Here it is…stay with me here: shredded Brussels tops and spinach cooked with onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes, fresh mozzarella, and capers, topped with parsley and lemon juice. It’s creamy, it’s spicy, it’s tangy and a little salty, and it has that lovely roasty-toasty taste of roasted Brussels sprouts.

Brussels tops pizza

A traditional pizza it is not, but I will be making it again. The best part is that it turned Brussels tops, a vegetable (rather, part of a vegetable) I’d never heard of or used, into my new best friend. That’s the beauty of a CSA. Thank you Oxbow, for giving me the chance to cook with these wonderful ingredients!

Spicy Brussels Tops Pizza with Capers and Parsley

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen and Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone
Makes one 12-14 inch pizza

In order to shred the Brussels sprouts tops I ran them through the slicing blade of my food processor. The grating blade made the shreds way too small, but the slicing blade did the trick. Admittedly, Brussels sprouts tops are not an incredibly common ingredient. But, you could easily use actual Brussels sprouts in the same way and I think it would taste very similar – and similarly delicious.

  • half of this pizza crust (I left the honey out this time and it worked well for this pizza)
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • one small onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 cups shredded Brussels sprouts tops
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, diced
  • 1 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • lemon juice from 1/2 a lemon

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Sauté onion over medium-low heat with 2 tablespoons olive oil for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Then add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds to 1 minute, until the garlic is fragrant.

Add the shredded Brussels tops, spinach, salt, and red pepper flakes, and sauté until the Brussels tops are tender (5-10 minutes).

While that is cooking, roll out the pizza dough into a 12- to 14-inch disk and transfer to pizza pan or stone. Lightly brush the dough with the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge dry.

Evenly sprinkle the cheese on the oiled dough. When the greens are done, spread them over the cheese, then top with the capers.

Put the pizza in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the crust is brown and crisp.

Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with parsley and lemon juice. Slice and serve.

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Telling my story with veggie curry

I’ve been thinking a lot for the past few days about my story, and about sharing that story through writing. This heightened level of contemplation is thanks to some very inspiring speakers I heard this past weekend at the BlogHer Food conference that was right here in Seattle (lucky me!)

Pike Place Market

This was the first time I had ever been to any type of conference or gathering about blogging – hell, it was the first time I had ever talked about my blog to anyone besides family members and close friends. It was exhilarating. I laughed, I cried, I learned a ton. When it was over, I left with a lot to think about, but also with special memories and even a few new friends. I could not have asked for a better experience.

And after a few days of decompressing and letting everything that was shoved into my brain over the weekend settle in, there is one thing that has continued to bounce around and push for my attention. It is this idea of story and how important it is to tell your own unique story with your own voice, however you do it – on a blog, in a journal, in a book, whatever.

I want to focus on doing that more in what I share with you here. I want to share my story with you. I hope you’ll want to read it.

love

It’s more difficult to do, of course. To talk about my life, the people I love or have loved, the things I care about.

Casey

It takes more work to find the words to describe memories that live, whether recent or distant, as wordless snapshots in my mind. They live as smells. As tastes. As colors. Many of them live as food.

Often they come up, rise to the surface unbidden, while I’m cooking. While I’m doing something like chopping an onion or, as happened a couple of days ago, while I’m peeling chickpeas – a meditative (read: tedious) activity if ever there was one. It is during times like this, at the stove or the cutting board, deep in the well-worn motions of cooking that I know by heart, that my mind is calm and free to wander into little nooks and crannies it hasn’t visited for a while.

Peeling those chickpeas took me back to the first time I realized that I could cook. And not just that I could do it, but that I was good at it, that it was fun, that I loved it.

chickpeas

I was vegan at the time and was with a boyfriend that did not support that choice, to put it mildly, so it was kind tough going. (He’s not my boyfriend anymore.) That year that I was vegan though, it was a year of growth – I learned a lot about myself and about how to cook.

The night this particular dish came about I was home alone and hadn’t planned dinner, which generally meant I would be eating cereal and soy milk. On this night though, I remembered a recipe for a veggie curry from one of my vegan cookbooks that I really wanted to make. I looked it up and I was missing half the ingredients. I sighed and closed the book. But then, the little cheerleader inside my head decided that I was going to make the dish anyways, that I could do it and that it would be great! So I did.

veggies

I went into the kitchen and pulled every vegetable that I had out of the fridge and freezer. I pulled out a forgotten container of chickpeas, the remainder from a can used a few days earlier. I pulled out all the Indian-sounding spices in my cupboard. And I went to work.

I chopped and tasted and added a little of this and a little of that. What I came up with was delicious. I literally danced and clapped over my stove as I tasted the finished dish. I was happy not only because I had made myself a tasty and nutritious dinner, but because somewhere during the process of doing so I discovered that I. Could. Cook.

Of course, I was feeling so good about my instinct-driven, self-discovery-prompting dish that I didn’t write the recipe down…but maybe it’s better that way, since the beauty of it was in its spontaneity. I dug up the recipe that inspired it the other day and made another variation – again using the veggies and spices I had on hand at the time – that was equally as delicious and satisfying.

This time, I wanted to share it with you. I hope you’ll make your own version and that it leaves you with a story to tell.

Creamy Vegan Veggie Curry

Creamy Vegan Vegetable Curry

Adapted from The Survivor’s Handbook
Makes 4-5 servings

As is probably apparent by the story of my first go-round with this curry, you can really make it your own. Use whatever vegetables you happen to have in your fridge or whatever is seasonal. Just keep the general proportions of veggies to spices to coconut milk the same and you won’t be disappointed. Serve it over brown rice, or just slurp it up with a spoon.

Also, it probably doesn’t need to be said, but just in case: this is in no way an authentic Indian curry…it’s a white-girl-with-a-stocked-spice-cabinet curry, just so we’re clear.

  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 large carrots, diced
  • 2-3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 1 medium potato, cubed
  • 1 cup cabbage, shredded
  • 1 1/2 cup kale, chopped
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1 15-ounce can (2 1/2 cups) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1 14-ounce can coconut milk (light or regular)
  • 1/4 cup water or vegetable broth (I like my curry thinner, omit this if you want it thicker)
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Other vegetables you could use in this recipe instead of/in addition to what is listed above:

  • Cauliflower florets, chopped
  • Broccoli florets, chopped
  • Mushrooms, sliced
  • Spinach, chopped
  • Green onions, sliced
  • Asparagus, diced
  • Bok choy, chopped
  • Swiss chard, chopped
  • Bell pepper, diced
  • Zucchini or other summer squash, diced
  • Green beans, diced
  • Leeks, chopped
  • Sweet potato, diced

In a large saucepan or soup pot, sauté the onions, garlic, carrots, and celery in oil over medium-high heat for 5-8 minutes.

Add the remaining vegetables and all spices, cook for 2-4 minutes, stirring often.

Add the coconut milk, cover, and reduce heat to medium-low, simmer for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cook until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork. If you’re not using potato, cook until all your vegetables reach your desired level of done-ness.

Stir in the peas and soy sauce and turn heat up to medium-high, cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened.

Serve over brown rice, or on its own.

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Filed under Food, Main Course

The epiphany of homemade pizza

Hello friends, I have a sad confession to share with you. For 30 years, I’ve been scared to make my own pizza. Ok, maybe ‘scared’ isn’t the right word, but certainly ‘reluctant’, even ‘unwilling’. And, sure, there were probably some years somewhere between 0 and 10 that I didn’t think much one way or the other about making my own pizza. But since then it has always been a beloved and yet mystical substance that only restaurants (and occasionally my mom) could make. I rarely even considered making it myself.

Well, about three weeks ago I had an epiphany. A pizza epiphany. And ever since I have been a pizza-making fool.

broccoli rabe pizza

It all started a few weeks ago at the farmers market when the broccoli rabe showed up. I was SO excited. I absolutely love that Seattle farmers markets are open year-round, don’t get me wrong, but I had gotten a little board with the slim winter pickings, truth be told.

So, when the broccoli rabe showed up – one of the first spring veggies to appear in the stalls – I went a little crazy. One week, I bought three bunches of it on Saturday and by the following  Saturday there was still one poor, languishing bunch left in the fridge. I would not allow myself to waste this precious spring gift, however, so that day I cast a wider net than ever before in my search for recipes that use broccoli rabe. What I found…*drumroll please* was this recipe for Pizza w/Broccoli Rabe and Roasted Onions. It was right there all along, on one of my favorite food blogs! I decided to give it a try and let me tell you, it was a good decision.

broccoli rabe

I was flabbergasted at how good  it was. Flabbergasted and hooked. The next weekend I made pizza again, this time with different toppings. And you can guess the rest… Weeks worth of pizza later, I am here to share with you. I’m sorry I selfishly kept it to myself for so long. I could blame grad school, but it could also be (hypothetically speaking) that I was too busy eating pizza to type.

After several iterations of homemade pizza, I have isolated what it was about it that was frightening me: the crust. Pizza crust engenders such strong opinions – I’ve seen the argument of thin crust vs. thick crust nearly come to blows. Also, in all the movies and T.V. shows where you see people making pizza, they are always tossing it up in the air! I was always completely sure I am not coordinated enough to do that. Really though, it is surprisingly easy to make a crust that is the best of both worlds and will satisfy 90% of pizza eaters (100% in this house) without any tossing – or even very much kneading.

pizza crust

Now, I should make a small digression to note that I am aware that making pizza can be an art form. (My favorite pizza restaurant in Seattle, Delancey, certainly takes it to another level. I’ve also heard wonderful things about Serious Pie and am planning to go there as soon as humanly possible.) That is not what this pizza is, just so we’re clear. It is a totally acceptable substitute though – when you don’t want to go anywhere, want a home-cooked meal, or are considering just ordering delivery.

So, without further ado, let me introduce you to my current obsession. First, I give you an easy crust recipe that makes enough dough to make two perfectly sized pizzas (you can freeze half the dough for later use, it freezes beautifully). The crust is thin, but still soft and chewy, and slightly sweet. The perfect accompaniment to the crust is the broccoli rabe toppings I list below, but go nuts! Use any topping combination your heart desires, you will not be disappointed. Below the recipe, I also list some other pizza recipes/topping combos that want to try. If you have a good combo, let me know!

pizza!

Broccoli Rabe, Onion, & Olive Homemade Pizza

Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen and A Cozy Kitchen
Crust makes enough for 2 14(ish)-inch pizzas; toppings make enough for one piled-high pizza, or two slightly spartan pizzas.

I use instant yeast in my pizza dough because I like not having to wait as long. But, you can totally use regular active dry yeast in this recipe – you will just have to wait a little longer for the dough to rise. Also, a note on the olives: niçoise olives are the best for this combo, but I’ve used other types of cured olives and they all worked wonderfully.

Pizza Crust:
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tbsp instant dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In a large bowl combine warm water, yeast, and sugar and stir to dissolve the yeast. Wait 5-10 minutes and allow the yeast to activate (you don’t have to do this with instant, but I’ve found that it moves things along).

Add the olive oil, and honey and stir until the honey dissolves. Then, add the flour and salt. Mix together until a dough forms.

Remove the dough from the bowl and, on a floured surface, knead 8-10 times or until it comes together into a smooth ball shape.

Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover with a clean, dampened towel. Place in a warm, draft-free place for 45 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and cut in half. At this point you can freeze one or both of the balls by wrapping tightly in plastic wrap. Roll one or both to desired size, then transfer to pizza pan.

Pizza Toppings & Assembly:
  • 4-5 spring onions OR 2 shallots, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped off stems
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, roughly chopped (about 2 cups)
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes (depends on how spicy you want it – 1/2 tsp is pretty spicy, which we love)
  • Pizza dough for one recipe (above)
  • 1/2 cup fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • 5-10 niçoise or greek olives, pitted and chopped
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon

Preheat oven to 500°F.

Sauté onion over medium-low heat with enough olive oil to coat lightly, a pinch of salt, and the leaves of the thyme sprigs. Stir occasionally for 15-20 minutes until brown (even a little crispy is OK).

Heat a large sauté pan over high heat and coat it with olive oil. Add the broccoli rabe, season with salt, pepper, and the hot pepper flakes, and sauté until the broccoli rabe is tender (about 10 minutes). Add the garlic and sauté, tossing, for a 15-30 seconds.

While those two elements are working, roll out the pizza dough into a 12- to 14-inch disk of pizza dough and transfer to pizza pan. Lightly brush the dough with olive oil, leaving a 1/2-inch boarder dry.

Evenly sprinkle the cheese on the oiled surface. When the onions are done, spread them over the cheese, then top with the broccoli rabe and the olives. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon olive oil over the pizza.

Put the pizza in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, until the crust is brown and crisp. Remove the pizza from the oven, sprinkle with lemon juice, slice and serve.

Other scrumptious homemade pizza combos:

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The best kind of tourist: Seattle Staycation (part 2)

Well, the glorious spring break I told you about last time has come to an end, and the impending wave of homework can be seen once again, cresting on the horizon, threatening to drown me. (just kidding…sort of)

The last week of my Seattle Staycation was so much fun though, I am grateful I get to re-live it by telling you about it here.

space needle view

The day after I left off my last post, I headed downtown to be a tourist and that theme continued throughout the week. Now, I love going to new places and seeing new cities, but when I’m a tourist I always find myself overwhelmed with how much there is to do and how little time I have to do it all. This is often compounded by the fact that I tend to get lost – a lot – thus leaving me with even less time to experience everything the place has to offer. And at the end of a long day of walking and tourist-ing around, no matter how nice the hotel is that I’m staying in, I always just wish I could sleep in my own bed.

Well, this time I got to be the best kind of tourist: one that wasn’t pressured to see every single thing in one day (since the sights and I will both still be here next time.) One that didn’t get lost (well, I did still get lost a couple times…but I was able to get back on track faster!) And one that, at the end of a long, fun day was able to go back to my own home and sleep in my own bed.

top pot doughnut

So, getting back to my adventures…that up there is a Top Pot doughnut. Yum. Unsurprisingly, much of my activity during this week of hometown touristing was focused on food. In addition to doughnuts, I ate some lovely homemade pasta at a tucked away place called Il Corvo while I was downtown. But! I also did other things. Fun, intellectually stimulating, culture-y things.

Olympic sculpture park

I went to the Olympic Sculpture Park, which is right on the waterfront in downtown Seattle (read: beautiful). Even better, the day that I went happened to be gorgeously sunny – one of a few sunny days that we had here that week. I like to think the gods knew I was on spring break.

Elliot Bay

I also went on an entertaining and education tour called Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour, during which I learned lots of fascinating things about the history of Seattle and what it was like to live here in olden times.

One of these factoids that stuck with me was about how in the late 19th and early 20th century, most of the roads in downtown Seattle were built about 20 feet above the sidewalks because the city ran out of money to raise the sidewalks above sea level after they had already raised the roads. This meant that people literally had to climb huge ladders in order to cross the street, and that most businesses had both a lower door (level with the sidewalk) and an upper door (level with the road). When the city finally did build up the sidewalks, they made them hollow so that people could still use the lower level sidewalks and entryways. In order to let light into this underground area, they built skylights that are still there today, though the old glass has turned purple.

underground skylight from below underground skylight from above

Having sated my appetite for history with that tour, I then headed up to the observation deck of the tallest building in Seattle, called Columbia Center, to get the ol’ adrenaline going (man did it, this sucker is TALL) and saw some breathtaking views.

view from columbia center

On another equally lovely, sunny day David and I rode a ferry across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. The ferry ride alone, and stunning views it afforded us, was almost enough to warrant the trip. While there we ate an amazing lunch at Cafe Nola and spent a couple of hours wandering around The Bloedel Reserve, a beautiful nature reserve and garden open to the public.

bloedel reserve reflecting pool

Those were the highlights, and though there is more I am going to have to end my gushing here. Suffice it to say that my Spring Break Seattle Staycation was a total success. By the end of it I felt relaxed and refreshed and, best of all, I had increased my knowledge of, and love for, my new city by leaps and bounds.

view of downtown from the ferry

On the last day of my respite we visited the Ballard Farmers Market where I bought a bunch of the first broccoli rabe of the season. As much as I have embraced and enjoyed the winter offerings of the farmers market, I was giddy at the sight of some spring veggies.

broccoli rabe

I used the broccoli rabe right away in a simple pasta dish in which it is blanched and then lightly sautéed along with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and red pepper flakes. It is a perfect quick dinner to welcome spring.

Since I pretty much followed the recipe for this dish from Simply Recipes to the letter, I will just point you there: Broccoli Rabe with Pasta and Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Happy spring!

finished pasta dish

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Filed under Food, Main Course, Pacific Northwest