Wheatless Wednesday – Caramelized Endive with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

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Blackened lettuce?  I know that is not the traditional way to prepare greens usually reserved for salads but it’s all the rage right now, and with the summer salad season coming up, it’s an interesting alternative to your tossed green salads.  Along with some lovely heads of endive, I found a recipe for Caramelized Endive with Brown Butter Sage Sauce in my CSA box, compliments of Farm Fresh To You.  Thank you FFTY.  It was delicious! My family was surprised at how good it was.  I have to admit they were a bit skeptical at first,  but they were quickly won over by the lovely, caramelly flavor of the blackened endive paired with the brown butter and crispy sage leaves.  I’ll admit that this isn’t the prettiest of preparations, but if you are brave enough to try it, you won’t be disappointed. This technique is also very easy and requires only four ingredients, plus salt and pepper and about 15 minutes.  You’ve got to love that!  If you live in Northern California and are interested in getting organic produce delivered to your door, Farm Fresh To You will offer $10 off the first box.  Just use promo code 6164. I love it! It’s like sending myself a gift every week.

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If you are looking for more of a salad recipe using endive, check out these Three Bite Salads which I made a couple of weeks ago with my first delivery of endive. They are a tasty way to serve endive as either an appetizer or side dish.  Although, if you eat enough of them (like I did) it could be dinner.

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And just because I was completely stunned by my new-found knowledge that endive is grown indoors in dark warehouses, I am also sharing their photo again along with the link on how endive is grown in case you missed it the first time. I was fascinated by the process.  You almost have to look twice to realize what you are seeing. At first glance I thought they were roosting chickens.

TIPS:  The brown butter and crispy sage leaves really make the caramelized endive special.  The butter browns quickly so don’t walk away from the pan or get involved in something else or it might burn. I would recommend one whole endive per person (so each gets two halves) and at least one sage leaf per half so no one gets cheated. You may want to add a few extra so you can taste one or two to make sure they are crispy.

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CARAMELIZED ENDIVE WITH BROWN BUTTER SAGE SAUCE

4 heads endive
2 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbsn salted butter
8-10 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup grated parmesan (optional)
salt and pepper

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  • Cut the endive in half lengthwise.

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  • Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat until shimmering.  Place endive in the skillet cut side down and cook until nicely browned, about 5 minutes.

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  • Carefully turn endive and cook another 2 or 3 minutes, until tender.

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  • Remove from skillet to a platter and tent with foil. Melt butter in the skillet over medium heat.  Add sage and cook until butter is browned and fragrant and sage is crispy, 3 or 4 minutes.

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  • Drizzle over endive and sprinkle with grated parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Caramelized Endive with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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4 heads endive
2 Tbs olive oil
3 Tbsn salted butter
8-10 fresh sage leaves
1/4 cup grated parmesan (optional)
salt and pepper

  • Cut the endive in half lengthwise.
  • Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat until shimmering.  Place endive in the skillet cut side down and cook until nicely browned, about 5 minutes.
  • Carefully turn endive and cook another 2 or 3 minutes, until tender.
  • Remove from skillet to a platter and tent with foil.
  • Melt butter in the skillet over medium heat.  Add sage and cook until butter is browned and fragrant and sage is crispy, 3 or 4 minutes.
  • Drizzle over endive and sprinkle with grated parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Meatless Monday – Eggplant, Potato & Goat Cheese Gratin

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Looking for healthy comfort food?  Picture yummy layers of roasted eggplant, caramelized onions, buttery mushrooms and creamy potatoes topped with fresh herbs, tomatoes and goat cheese.  This is my favorite kind of food, loaded with flavor and oozing with goodness.  You might ask, what exactly is a gratin?  It’s a fancy name for a dish with a lightly browned crust of breadcrumbs or melted cheese, usually served in the dish in which it is cooked.  The word ‘gratin‘ has an interesting history of evolution, from the original French which derives from the word gratter meaning “to scrape” or “to grate” as of the “scrapings” of bread or cheese. Le gratin evolved to signify the ‘upper crust’ of society and has subsequently been borrowed into the English language , particularly in food terms.

Each layer in this gratin has something to offer.  The creamy white potatoes on the bottom soak up all the lovely flavors and form a delicious bottom ‘crust’.  Regardless of what you have been lead to believe, Potatoes are not worthless fattening carbs.  They are complex carbohydrates which provide energy for our bodies along with significant amounts of Potassium and Vitamin C. The layer of caramalized onions is not only delicious but loaded with antioxidants and vitamins including vitamin B complex. Earthy mushrooms provide nutrients that are also found in meats, beans and grains like selenium, potassium , riboflavin, niacin, vitamin D, which makes them a great meat substitute.  Eggplant with it’s gorgeous purple skin offers a host of vitamins and minerals along with it’s delectable flavor.

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TIPS: I really love the tang that goat cheese adds but if you’re not a fan you can substitute your favorite cheese.  Mozzarella, gruyere or parmesan are good choices.  If you are vegan, use breadcrumbs instead of cheese. for a crispy top.

If you don’t have the time or inclination to pre-cook the vegetables before layering them, you can skip a few steps. Instead of roasting and boiling you can bake the mostly raw ingredients which is easier prep but will take quite a bit longer to cook.  You will lose some of the nuances of flavor but it should still be delicious.  Don’t skip the step of salting the eggplant but while it’s resting, chop onions and saute them with garlic until soft.  Slice all vegetables ( I would omit the mushrooms since they make so much water) and layer them raw as per the directions.  You may want to store the sliced potatoes in cold water or slice them last to prevent browning until you’re read to layer. I would wait on the last layer of cheese or it could get overbrown. You may not need as much broth as the raw veggies have so much water.  Cover tightly and bake for one hour. At 30 minutes, using a flat spatula, press vegetables down so juices come to surface. If it seems dry add a bit more liquid. At 60 minutes, uncover, press veggies again and check for doneness. If veggies seem soft sprinkle with cheese and bake another 15 minutes or until cheese is golden brown and juices have evaporated.  Otherwise, cover and bake another 20 minutes or so.

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EGGPLANT, POTATO & GOAT CHEESE GRATIN

1 large or 4 small Japanese eggplants
2 large potatoes
3-4 Tbsn olive oil
1 large onion
6 large brown mushrooms (optional)
1 16 oz can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 Tbsn or more fresh thyme or 1 tsp Italian seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz goat cheese
1/3 cup vegetable broth (or more)

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  • Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and spread in a single layer on paper towels.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and let sit at least 10 minutes or until you see beads of water forming on their surfaces.

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  • Peel and slice potatoes, slice into 1/4 inch rounds and place in a pan filled with cold, salted water.  Heat the potatoes to a boil and cook for about five minutes, until slightly soft but not losing it’s shape.  Drain and rinse with cold water. Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a baking dish.  Layer the potatoes in the bottom of the dish.

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  • Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange eggplant circles in a single layer.  Brush with olive oil and roast in a hot (450 degree) oven for about 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from heat and let sit.

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  • Peel and slice onion into 1/4 inch rounds.  Brown them in a frying pan with about a Tablespoon of oil over medium high heat.  Flip to brown the other side, then break circles apart and add garlic.  Let sit for a few minutes of lower heat until softened. Layer the onions over the potatoes.

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  • Clean the mushroom caps with a damp paper towel and slice in half horizontally. Add a bit more oil and saute until golden on each side.  Layer over the onions.

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  • Dot the vegetable mixture with about half of the goat cheese.  Sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper.

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  • Add a layer of eggplant slices.

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  • Pour the tomatoes evenly over the eggplant and dot with the rest of the goat cheese.  Pour vegetable broth over the top.  Add sprigs of thyme, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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  • Bake at 425 degrees for about a half hour, covered.  Check after 15 minutes, if it’s not starting to bubble add a bit more broth.  Then uncover and let bake another 5 to 10 minutes.

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Eggplant, Potato & Goat Cheese Gratin

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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1 large or 4 small Japanese eggplants
2 large potatoes
3-4 Tbsn olive oil
1 large onion
6 large brown mushrooms (optional)
1 16 oz can chopped tomatoes with juice
1 Tbsn or more fresh thyme or 1 tsp Italian seasoning
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 oz goat cheese
1/3 cup vegetable broth (or more)

  • Slice eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds and spread in a single layer on paper towels.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and let sit at least 10 minutes or until you see beads of water forming on their surfaces.
  • Peel and slice potatoes, slice into 1/4 inch rounds and place in a pan filled with cold, salted water.  Heat the potatoes to a boil and cook for about five minutes, until slightly soft but not losing it’s shape.  Drain and rinse with cold water.
  • Lightly oil the bottom and sides of a baking dish.  Layer the potatoes in the bottom of the dish.
  • Lightly oil a baking sheet and arrange eggplant circles in a single layer.  Brush with olive oil and roast in a hot (450 degree) oven for about 10 minutes, turning once. Remove from heat and let sit.
  • Peel and slice onion into 1/4 inch rounds.  Brown them in a frying pan with about a Tablespoon of oil over medium high heat.  Flip to brown the other side, then break circles apart and add garlic.  Let sit for a few minutes of lower heat until softened. Layer the onions over the potatoes.
  • Clean the mushroom caps with a damp paper towel and slice in half horizontally. Add a bit more oil and saute until golden on each side.  Layer over the onions.
  • Dot the vegetable mixture with about half of the goat cheese.  Sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper.
  • Add a layer of eggplant slices.
  • Pour the tomatoes evenly over the eggplant and dot with the rest of the goat cheese.  Pour vegetable broth over the top.  Add sprigs of thyme, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Bake at 425 degrees for about a half hour, covered.  Check after 15 minutes, if it’s not starting to bubble add a bit more broth.  Then uncover and let bake another 5 to 10 minutes.

Wheatless Wednesday – Quinoa ‘Mac’ and Cheese

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Let’s face it – it’s all about the cheese, yummy, oozy, bubbling, crispy deliciousness, creating the ultimate in comfort foods. Much of the country, the east coast in particular, is trapped inside due to piles and piles of snow and in great need of something warm and cozy. The rest of us just like comfort food.  How about everyone’s favorite Mac and Cheese but with a twist? Macaroni and Cheese was a childhood favorite of mine.  My mom used to make is from scratch (none of that boxed stuff) and bake it in the oven until the top was brown and crispy.  What a treat!  It wasn’t until I was in college and looking for cheap food to make in my dorm room that I discovered Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (along with that other ubiquitous college staple, Ramen Noodles).  That tasted pretty good to a starving college student too but I’m not sure how much actual food is in there. It would be a game changer to find a Mac and Cheese that we love that loves us back.  I know quinoa isn’t a traditional ingredient in Mac and Cheese but it’s so much healthier than macaroni which is a delicious foil for the cheese but  really is just empty carbs, providing very little nutrition, mostly calories.  But maybe we can have it all.  I spotted this recipe for Quinoa ‘Mac’ and Cheese from Just a Pinch Recipes and decided to give it a whirl, since I appear to be on a quinoa kick (there are worse things I suppose).  My recipe below is an adaptation of the original.

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This recipe calls for white quinoa, which is fluffier than the colored versions.  I will not make you read about the virtues of quinoa again, since I did that on Monday when I posted my recipe for Quinoa Salad with Artichokes, Olives and Chickpeas which was quite tasty, however if you want to read about why you should be eating more quinoa click HERE.  I used sharp cheddar, whole milk from, Strauss Family Farms, and pasture raised eggs, both local growers, whom I am becoming quite passionate about supporting.  Please, please, please think again before buying factory farmed milk and eggs.  Our animals deserve better.  Every time you buy organic products of any kind that have been raised or grown out in a field or pasture you are encouraging more farmers to do the same.  This recipe can be made vegan by substituting vegan cheddar cheese, almond milk and a thickener like flour.  For another wheatless ‘Mac’ and Cheese recipe, check out my Cauliflower “Mac’ and Cheese post, yum!

TIPS:  If you like it extra creamy, use  a bit more milk, or cream ,and cheese as quinoa absorbs more liquid than pasta does.  It will look runny when you put it in the oven but will firm as it cooks.   Next time I will be tempted to use a variety of cheese.  This would be a great use for those odds and ends of cheeses left in your refrigerator.  Just grate them all together and toss with the other ingredients.  For a larger portion double the recipe and use a 13×9 pan.

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QUINOA ‘MAC’ AND CHEESE

3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese (plus more if desired for topping)
3/4 cup milk (or cream)
1 large egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

  • Rinse and cook quinoa according to instructions. Cover and set aside.

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  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Coat 8×8 inch dish with butter or cooking spray.

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  • Whisk together eggs and milk in large bowl. Add garlic, salt, red pepper flakes.

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  • Fold together quinoa, egg mixture and cheese until cheese is evenly distributed.

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  • Pour into prepared baking dish and bake 30-35 mins, until top is browned.

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  • You can top with more cheese to make a cheesy crust  10 minutes after cooking, if desired. To test for doneness, press a finger into top.  If liquid appears, cook a bit longer, or until the casserole is firm.20150127_124304

 

Quinoa 'Mac' and Cheese

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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3/4 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese (plus more if desired for topping)
3/4 cup milk (or cream)
1 large egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)

  • Rinse and cook quinoa according to instructions. Cover and set aside.
  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Coat 8×8 inch dish with butter or cooking spray.
  • Whisk together eggs and milk in large bowl. Add garlic, salt, red pepper flakes.
  • Fold together quinoa, egg mixture and cheese until cheese is evenly distributed.
  • Pour into prepared baking dish and bake 30-35 mins, until top is browned.
  • You can top with more cheese to make a cheesy crust  10 minutes after cooking, if desired. To test for doneness, press a finger into top.  If liquid appears, cook a bit longer, or until the casserole is firm.

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Roasted Butternut Squash, New Potatoes, Artichoke Hearts and Wilted Tomatoes

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Fall officially begins tomorrow so time to start thinking about sweaters and boots.  Here in California we are literally just thinking about it but soon cold weather will be a reality, and with it hopefully some much needed rain.  Along with cooler temperatures comes more lovely squashes, root vegetables and the last of the tomatoes from the garden.  I absolutely love a colorful plate and make an effort to Eat the Rainbow which is not only gorgeous but also more nutritious in that a colorful variety provides a wider range of nutrients.  Go bold!  The brighter the color the bigger the bounty. For those of you with picky eaters at home there is even a downloadable game Eat the Rainbow Challenge which might encourage your kids to go beyond carrot sticks and apple slices.  Here is the rundown from Every Day Health of just what that beautiful color can do for you.

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Red. In fruits and vegetables, red is usually a sign of vitamin A (beta carotene) and vitamin C. Typically, red produce are also high in manganese and fiber. Choose red bell peppers, tomatoes, cherries, cranberries, raspberries, rhubarb, pomegranates, and beets. Red apples also contain quercetin, a compound that seems to fight colds, the flu, and allergies. Tomatoes, watermelon, and red grapefruit are loaded with lycopene, a compound that appears to have cancer-fighting properties

Yellow. Banana is probably the first yellow fruit that comes to mind — and it delivers potassium and fiber. You will also find potassium and fiber plus manganese, vitamin A, and magnesium in other yellow produce, such as spaghetti squash, summer squash, and yellow bell peppers.

Black Rice Squash cut raw

Orange. Just a shade away from red, orange in fruits and vegetables signifies a similar vitamin and mineral profile. You’ll get vitamins C, A, and B6, potassium, and fiber in choices such as butternut squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, oranges, pumpkins, orange peppers, nectarines, and peaches.

Green. Dark leafy greens are packed with nutrients — this group offers far more vitamins and minerals than iceberg lettuce. A favorite dark leafy green is spinach because of its rich lutein content, which aids eyesight, and folate, which supports cell reproduction. Broccoli and asparagus also contain these compounds.

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Blue. Think blue, and you’re most likely picturing a bowl of blueberries, one of nature’s most powerful antioxidants. They are also loaded with fiber and make an incredibly versatile addition to your diet

Purple. This group includes vegetables like red onions and eggplant, and fruits such as blackberries, Concord grapes, currants, and plums. Purple indicates the presence of anthocyanins, powerful antioxidants that protect blood vessels and preserve healthy skin. You can also find vitamin A and flavonoids in purple vegetables like radicchio, purple cabbage, purple potatoes, and purple carrots.

White. White may not be much of a color, but white vegetables, such as cauliflower, rutabagas, and parsnips, still shine with vitamins and minerals like vitamins C, K, and folate, and they contain fiber. Don’t forget onions and garlic, which have a compound called allicin that seems to protect the heart and blood vessels from damage.
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For Meatless Monday this week, I roasted butternut squash, purple, pink and white baby potatoes, artichoke hearts and assorted small tomatoes from my garden.  This is a really easy and quick dinner to prepare, ready in a half hour, and almost any root vegetable, like carrots, turnips or parsnips that you might have on hand can be added.  I happen to really love the small purple potatoes.  They add an interesting color and their flavor is more defined than a white potato.  Just slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out seeds and pulp.  Remove the peel and dice into medium cubes. Cut potatoes in half (or quarters if larger). Place potatoes and squash in a large baking dish and toss with oil and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

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Remove from the oven and add artichoke hearts, tomatoes and fresh herbs and bake another 10 minutes or until squash and potatoes are fork tender and the tomatoes are ‘wilted’. Splash a bit of balsamic vinegar over the top of the cooked vegetables, if desired, and gently stir to combine.

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Serve topped with crumbled feta, if desired, or cool and serve warm or cold over a bed of fresh mixed lettuce drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

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  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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2-3 cups new potatoes
1 small butternut squash (2-3 cups cubed)
1/4 cup olive oil
1-2 cups artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
1-2 cups assorted small and/or cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh herbs, thyme or oregano
1 tsp cumin (or more to taste)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 Tbsn balsamic vinegar (optional)
1/2 cup feta (optional)

  • Cut butternut squash in half, lengthwise and scoop out seeds and pulp.  Remove the peel and dice into medium cubes.
  • Cut potatoes in half (or quarters if larger)
  • Place potatoes and squash in a large baking dish and toss with oil
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes
  • Remove from the oven and add artichoke hearts, tomatoes and fresh herbs and bake another 10 minutes or until squash and potatoes are fork tender.  Add balsamic vinegar, if desired, and gently stir to combine.
  • Serve warm topped with crumbled feta, if desired, or cool and serve over a bed of fresh mixed lettuce drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.

 

Meatless Monday – Garlicky Kale Pasta with Lemon and Parmesan

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CAN WE GET A KALE YEAH!!!  I spotted that slogan on a billboard for Naked Juice in Boston and knew I was going to be making kale  soon.  Kale, also known as the ‘Queen of Greens’  is the culinary darling of the moment although I have not personally gone kale crazy. I like kale all right but I just like other leafy greens better.  That said, I really like this garlicky, lemon, kale pasta dish that I adapted from ivillage.com .  It’s very simple, only six ingredients, allowing each flavor to shine, and can be made using only one pot.  I normally don’t like boiling vegetables since nutrients are lost in the water, but in this case, the pasta is cooked in the salty kale cooking water and the resulting pasta is way more flavorful than when just cooked in plain water.  The pasta definitely absorbed some of the kale flavor, and hopefully some of the nutrients as well.

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Want to hear more about kale?  Did you know it is closer to the cabbage and broccoli families than chard or other leafy greens? It’s kind of like a wild cabbage whose leaves don’t form a head-a bit of a free spirit.  Kale is a great source of fiber and an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K , as well as many important phytonutrients. In selecting kale, smaller leaves are usually more tender and less bitter than larger leaves but you may need to use more as the yield will also be smaller.  The center rib is edible but very fibrous, so unless the kale is going into a soup where it gets cooked for a while, the rib is usually removed and discarded. The photo below shows curly, dino (lacinato) and purple kale.  Click HERE for more info on the different types of kale.

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TIP:  I used curly kale but dino kale, or any other type will work just fine.  Curly kale is a bit more bitter and fibrous and may need to cook longer than other types. There is a perfect point in cooking kale where it is tender and the natural sweetness comes out.  Cooked too long, kale can get bitter again and it loses it’s beautiful bright green or purple color.  Spinach may be substituted for non-kale lovers.  Just use twice as much spinach since it shrinks so much during cooking. If you want to add some protein or make this a heartier dish, stir in  a cup of cooked white beans.  Since I was cooking this dish for myself, I reduced the ratio of pasta to kale because I like extra veggies.

Pasta with Garlicky Kale, Lemon and Parmesan

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 pound kale (or more if you like heavy veggies)
3/4 – 1 pound spaghetti
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
5-6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
3 ounces Parmesan cheese, shaved or freshly grated (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

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  • Remove the tough core and stem from the kale and slice into ribbons.

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  • Rinse well.

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  • Wash and dry lemon (drying with a cloth or papertowel removes any residual debris).  Zest the lemon before cutting in half to juice.

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  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the kale and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until tender. Using a mesh spoon or sieve, scoop the kale out of the water and transfer to a bowl or platter. Return the water to a boil. Add the spaghetti and cook, stirring often to ensure it doesn’t stick together, for about 8 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Scoop out and reserve 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the spaghetti.

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  • Heat a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 cup of the olive oil and the garlic and cook for about a minute, or just until fragrant. Stir in the kale, add the lemon zest, and season with salt and pepper.

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  • Add the spaghetti and the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil and toss to coat. Stir in the lemon juice, followed by half of the Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in enough of the reserved cooking water to moisten the pasta as necessary.

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  • Divide the pasta among four pasta bowls, top with the remaining Parmesan cheese, and serve.


3 Kale Photo Credit:  PopSugar

 

 

Meatless Monday – Char-Roasted Eggplant and Bell Peppers with Olives, Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

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The end of summer means Back to School, Last Little Get Aways and Glorious Sunsets which herald more sunny days ahead. I have always loved this time of year, which has always seemed like the ‘real’ new year to me.   The beginning of each school year has always been filled with excitement and the anticipation of something new and better.  When I was young I was always sure that this was going to be the year I made the team and got straight A’s as well as the cute boy, ever the optimist. Fall also serves as a marker for where we are in our lives, sort of a  growth chart in time.  When my boys were young I  met each new school year with the disbelief that they were one grade older, each new grade a momentous step, coupled with an almost giddy joy that they were going back to school and I could finally get something done-call it a guilty pleasure.  Now that I am less married to the school calendar, since my kids are in college and beyond, I am still reminded of the season by my garden which is  abundantly rich with bounty but showing some signs that summer is ending.  It’s almost time to prepare for the cold of winter, but not quite yet…still many beautiful days ahead.

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This lovely salad started with a Martha Stewart Living recipe for Blistered Eggplant with Tomatoes, Olives and Feta which I stumbled upon while thumbing through the September, 2014 issue.  I was immediately drawn to the colorful assortment of some of my favorite vegetables and decided to give it a try but, as they say on American Idol, ‘make it my own’. Those of you that know me well, understand that, unless I’m baking, I consider recipes to be merely suggestions and I tend to cook a bit on the fly with what I have on hand.  The original recipe calls for only a drizzle of olive oil with salt and pepper but I opted to let garlic and fresh herbs rest in the olive oil with a splash of balsamic vinegar while I prepared and roasted the vegetables.  I also roasted red and yellow bell peppers because I thought they would enhance the other flavors with their natural sweetness. The combination of charred eggplant and peppers with sweet, ripe tomatoes, tangy olives, fresh herbs and creamy goat cheese is a wonderful taste sensation. The goat cheese is optional, in fact my husband doesn’t care for it so I placed the goat cheese in a corner  of the tray so vegans or non-goat cheese lovers don’t have to pick through the salad for something ‘safe’.  Sprinkle some freshly chopped basil for a final fresh garnish.

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TIP:  Eggplant is usually sliced and then salted (a process called ‘degorging’) before cooking to remove any bitterness and to help draw out the extra water which prevents the eggplant from acting like a sponge and absorbing great quantities of oil or marinade or releasing unwanted water into the dish.  However, with this method of cooking, sometimes called blistering or charring (i.e. dry roasting), salting is not as necessary if the eggplant is fresh, as the high heat of the broiler dries the slices out enough.  Older, tougher eggplants will really benefit from salting though.  So if you have fresh eggplant and don’t have time, skip the salting process.  Adding the oil after roasting gives the eggplant a nice texture and enhances the slightly smoky, charred flavor.

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For those eggplant lovers, you might want to try some of my other eggplant favorites.  Just click on the photo for the recipe.

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Eggplant Parm Minis

Eggplant Tart1

Summer Vegetable Tart

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Roasted Eggplant with Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts

Roasted Eggplant and Bell Pepper Salad with Tomatoes, Olives and Goat Cheese

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 large globe eggplant
2 bell peppers, any color
1-2 lbs mixed tomatoes
1/2 cup mixed olives
6 oz goat cheese (optional)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsn fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

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  • Slice eggplant into thin rounds.  If you have time, spread the slices on paper towels and sprinkle with salt and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.  Wipe moisture off the slices before roasting.

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  • Combine olive oil, garlic and thyme in a small bowl. Set aside.

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  • Halve bell peppers and remove core and seeds.

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  • Preheat broiler and place rack 6 inches from the heat source.  Broil eggplant and peppers until they are blistered and deep brown on the top, about 10 minutes.

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  •  Turn and repeat on the other side.

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  • Immediately transfer eggplant to a large bowl, slice the peppers into wide strips and add to eggplant.  Toss with half the oil to coat all slices.

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  • Cover with a plate and let stand until softened, about 10 minutes.

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  • Slice larger tomatoes into thin rounds and cherry tomatoes in half.

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  • Arrange eggplant and peppers on a platter.

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  • Add tomatoes and olives and drizzle with remaining dressing.

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  • If using, sprinkle with goat cheese or serve in the corner of the platter or on the side. Top with fresh basil and salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Serve family style or prepare individual plates.

 

100th Post – Cauliflower “Mac” and Cheese

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Wow, this is my 100th post! I’ve certainly learned a lot since publishing my first recipe, Green Curry Tofu, on November 25, 2013. I had never even been on a blog before starting Goodmotherdiet, so it has been quite a learning curve.  I got a domaine name on WordPress and suddenly, I was a blogger!  Every new techie thing I have learned, has been a major victory, like successfully uploading photos and then figuring out how to make them larger than a thumbnail; or adding links that work and making my recipes printable. I’m even writing code! What? Six months ago I didn’t even know what that was!  My thought processes and food choices have also evolved. It’s been over a year since I’ve eaten meat, other than the occasional free range chicken, and I feel good about the evolution, but I promised myself not to make any permanent changes, or edits to my About Page, until GMD turns one in November.  There will definitely be some edits since I now have a different and stronger perspective than when I started.  It’s interesting how just a simple change in diet can also change your way of thinking.  Anyway, thanks for joining me on this journey.  I hope you’re enjoying the ride…  You can follow me via email by clicking the Follow Me button or you can Like the Goodmotherdiet Facebook Page, both top left of the screen.

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Deciding what to feature for my 100th post which happens to fall on a Wheatless Wednesday, was a challenge until I came across a recipe for Cauliflower ‘Mac’ and Cheese  on Tabitha’s Gluten Free Dishes, which is a great blog that I follow.  What is more iconic or American than Macaroni and Cheese? Nothing is quite so comforting as a big bowl of yummy, creamy cheesiness!   How about a Mac and Cheese that has no actual pasta but still satisfies that craving?  Many versions of Cauliflower Mac and Cheese are available including those by Dr Oz and Rachel Ray. Most recipes include heavy cream and cream cheese.  I have opted to make a ‘skinny’ version using non-fat milk and yogurt instead of heavy cream.  Cauliflower is a good stand in for pasta and many other things as it is extremely versatile and good at absorbing flavors while adding a variety of good nutrients and fiber but little fat and no cholesterol.  I have already posted recipes for Cauliflower Crust Pizza  and Cauliflower Buffalo ‘Wings’ and Cauliflower Puree instead of mashed potatoes, all with great success. So here goes…

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TIP:  You can use any kind of cheese that you like but a sharp cheddar gives you more bang for your buck than mild, in that it’s stronger flavor allows you to use less cheese (hense fewer calories and fat).  Another way to cut fat and calories is to use 2 cups non-fat milk and increase the butter and flour to 3 Tablespoons each,  or 1 1/2 cups low or non fat milk and 1/2 cup full fat milk or cream.  If you like extra creamy, you can use all heavy cream and even add 2 tablespoons of cream cheese.  To make this vegan, use coconut oil, almond milk and vegan cheese.  I used 1 1/2 cups non-fat milk and 1/2 cup non-fat yogurt with good results.  Several recipes I looked at called for adding cayenne pepper, onion powder, sautéed onions or fresh scallions before cooking, so think about those as options.

Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Cauliflower Mac Cheese13

1 head cauliflower
2  cups mild or sharp cheddar (gruyere, Swiss or your favorite melty cheese)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan (optional)
2 Tbsn butter
2 Tbsn flour (rice, oat or quinoa flour work well in lieu of wheat flour)
1 1/2 cups non or low fat milk  (see Tip above for other options)
1/2 cup yogurt
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

 

  • Pre-heat the oven to 375F
  • Spray a baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

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  • Cut core out of cauliflower and break or cut into small florets.

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  • Bring a pot of water to a boil and par boil the cauliflower florets for 5 minutes. Rinse in cold water, drain well and pat between several layers of paper towels to dry. Transfer the cauliflower to the baking dish and set aside.

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  • Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute.

 

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  • Pour milk in slowly, whisking to combine.  Add yogurt one tablespoon at a time,  if using, and whisk into a creamy sauce.

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  • Stir in salt, pepper and 1 1/2 cups cheese. Stir over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.

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  • Pour the cheese sauce over the top and stir to combine.

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  • Top with remaining cheese, plus parmesan, if using.

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  • Cook for 15 minutes or so until the cheese turns golden and begins to bubble. Broil last few minutes to brown the top, if desired.

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  • Sprinkle with red pepper flakes for an added kick, if desired.

 

100 Photo Credit: Sonandoconparis.blogspot.com

 

 

Meatless Monday – Summer VegetableTart

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Eggplant Tart2

Are you a flexitarian?  I have heard the terms omnivore, herbivore, vegetarian, vegan and pescetarian.  What on earth is a flexitarian?  Well apparently it wasn’t even a word until 2012, when it was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Flexitarian = flexible + vegetarian:  a person whose diet is mostly vegetarian but sometimes includes meat, fish, or poultry.  My mom recently sent me an article from Mother Earth News,  Becoming a Flexitarian. which outlines the basic flexitarian approach – eat less meat and eating grass-fed when you do.  There are a lot of great reasons to eliminate or reduce meat in our diets, including health, the environment and humankindness.  Perhaps a Flexitarian approach is more doable for people than going vegetarian or vegan and can actually help promote local farming as a profitable business by only buying grass fed, humanely raised meat from responsible growers and not from the big factory farms.  I personally apply the same principles to purchasing eggs, milk and other animal products.

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The good news is that people who don’t eat meat, i.e. vegetarians and vegans, are becoming more main stream and there has been a shift in the public perception to consider where your meat has come from for  health, safety and animal rights reasons. Vegetarianism has come a long way from the hippie culture of the 70’s as evidenced by widespread programs like the Meatless Monday Campaign which has gone global.   It’s been over a year since I’ve eaten meat (although I do eat fish and the occasional chicken that has been locally farm raised) and I don’t miss it.  It was an easy adjustment for me since I never ate huge quantities of meat anyway, except maybe for bacon.  Anyway, I feel good about my choices and now I have another moniker, Flexitarian.  Thanks Mom!

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So how do you eat less meat and still have delicious, satisfying meals?  It’s pretty easy but takes a bit more thought than just throwing something on the grill, although you can do that too.  How about my Meatless Monday selection of the week, a Summer Vegetable Tart? I was inspired by an exquisite Zucchini and Aubergine Tart by Mimi Thorisson which is a complete work of art (photo above). You can click on her name to get the recipe if you are so inclined.  It’s almost too pretty to eat!  Not being a recipe follower, I didn’t actually make her recipe but just used the overall concept of making a tart in flower form. My tart is a bit more casual than Mimi’s and next time I will pack in even more veggies to make it more vertical (which my followers know I love vertical food).  My tart can be made with or without a crust and is easy to make vegan by leaving out the fresh mozzarella.  I absolutely loved this dish.  My guests loved it too, although I was surprised to see three 22 year olds going back for seconds on the vegetables rather than the meat.   I consider that quite an accomplishment.  The only problem is that there were no leftovers…

Summer Vegetable Tart

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

1 small eggplant
1-2 zucchini
1-2 yellow squash
3 tomatoes
3-4 Boccocinni fresh Mozzarella balls (optional)
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 Tbsn fresh basil, chopped
2 Tbsn olive oil
Salt and pepper

Crust (Optional):  There are some pretty decent store bought crusts or click Here for a very simple Whole Wheat Crust recipe from Whole Foods

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  • Thinly slice eggplant using a sharp knife or mandolin.  Spread the slices on a flat surface and sprinkle them with salt and let sweat for at least 10 minutes.

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  • Thinly slice zucchini, squash, tomato and mozzarella.
  • Pat eggplant dry and place in a large bowl.  Add zucchini and squash, garlic and oil.  Gently mix to evenly coat all veggies.

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  • If you are using a crust, spread it evenly in the bottom and up the sides of an ungreased pie or quiche pan.  If you’re not using a crust, spread a little oil in the bottom of the pan to prevent sticking.

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  • Arrange the veggie slices in a circular pattern starting at the outside making sure the veggies go up the sides of the crust.  I did a couple of rows of eggplant and squash before adding tomatoes and mozzarella since they are so soft.  For an even less fussy dish, just layer the vegetables and don’t worry about the pattern.  It will still be delicious.

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  • Keep arranging  toward the center, pushing the slices towards the outside and into a more vertical position as you go.  The more vertical you go, the more veggies you can use.
  • Save a few of your best thin slices of eggplant or zucchini and roll or fold this into flower like shapes to decorate the center.

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  • If you have any leftover slices, just slip them in anywhere.  Slide any remaining garlic and basil between the slices.
  • Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are done and the rust is golden brown.
  • Remove from heat and let cool a bit before serving. Also good at room temperature.

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Meatless Monday – Mushroom Pappardelle with Braised Greens

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Calling all Mushroom Lovers!  This one is for you (of course I had to choose between mushrooms and wild boar-more on that later).  I am an official blogger for the Meatless Monday website, as you can see by the cute logo on my sidebar.  The Meatless Monday campaign is working with the Mushroom Council and looking for recipes that substitute mushrooms in traditional meat dishes for their ‘Swap it Out’ contest.  I have already done a Portobello Mushroom Stuffed with Eggplant and Gorgonzola which was pretty tasty but I wanted to come up with something new.  Then I was perusing the pasta aisle and came across  a box of Pappardelle, a California product by Community Grains using 100% whole grain hard amber durum.  Perhaps I got sucked in by the packaging which states that it is “stone milled on a granite wheel”.  That sounds really labor intensive, and almost reminiscent of the Flintstones and their really cool stone age car and gadgets (Yabba Dabba Doo!) so it must be great, right?  I also loved the Tip on the package, “Pasta water should taste like the ocean.”  I had never heard that before, but now I know what I’m aiming for.  So I bought the pappardelle- and it was delicious!  The pasta had great texture and the sauce clung to the surface ensuring that every bite was flavorful.  It is also nice to know that they mill 100% of the grain, the germ, bran and endosperm all together instead of milling them separately and adding them back together (reconstituted), which is more common.  I’m kind of liking the re-emergence of the old tried and true, dare I say Stone Age, methods.

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Pappardelle are large, very broad, flat pasta noodles, similar to wide fettuccine (about the width of a finger). The name derives from the verb “pappare”, to gobble up (in Italian).  I would say this is an appropriate name, since I found myself doing just that with this yummy dish!  Pappardelle is usually topped with heavy sauces that include game like rabbit, duck and wild boar, however, for Meatless Monday, I chose to use the “meaty” mushroom, Portobello, as a stand in for wild boar.  I marinated them first, then seared them on high heat to intensify their flavor before adding them to the sauce.  I also included dried Porcini mushrooms along with garlic, herbs and shallots to give the sauce an earthy and rich flavor.  I threw in a few fresh Criminis for a wonderful mushroom trifecta!  I love braised greens and threw in a few handfuls of arugula and spinach, which really help lighten up a heavy sauce.   We tend to stay away from creamy sauces in our house, as my husband is not a fan, however, sour cream or plain yogurt can be added to this sauce if you crave rich and creamy.

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Of course you have to be a big fan of mushrooms to enjoy this dish, but if you are, lucky you!   ‘Mushrooms are a good source of Vitamin B, potassium and selenium and the only plant based source of Vitamin D.  Low calorie, fat free and gluten free, they have a great nutrient value at little cost.  In addition, mushrooms help satisfy our desire for Umami, which is the fifth basic taste after sweet, salty, bitter and sour. Derived from the Japanese word umai, meaning “delicious,” umami (pronounced oo-MAH-mee) is described as a savory, brothy, rich or meaty taste sensation. It’s a satisfying sense of deep, complete flavor, balancing savory flavors and full-bodied taste with distinctive qualities of aroma and mouthfeel.  The more umami present in food, the more flavorful it will be. All mushrooms are a rich source of umami and the darker the mushroom the more umami it contains.’ – See more at: http://mushroominfo.com/benefits/#sthash.NbUzgRtx.dpuf

So next time you plan to serve pasta with Wild Boar  meat, try a few mushrooms instead…

Mushroom Pappardelle with Braised Greens

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Mushroom Pappardelle8

3 large Portobello mushrooms, sliced
6-8 crimini mushrooms, sliced
2-3 cups vegetable broth
¼ cup dried porcini or mixed mushrooms(about 6 oz)
1/4  cup roughly chopped parsley
3 fresh sage leaves
3 cloves garlic, peeled
3 shallots or 1 small onion, roughly chopped
¼ cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt(depending on the saltiness of the broth)
1/4 tsp black pepper (or more to taste)
½ cup dry white wine
2 cups fresh spinach, arugula or other dark leafy greens
8 oz. fresh or dried pappardelle (about 3/4 box)
½ cup grated parmesan(optional)
 
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  • Marinate the sliced, fresh mushrooms in 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 Tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar, pinch of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper (a zip lock baggie works great) and let rest.  The marinade should coat all pieces but they shouldn’t be swimming in liquid.
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  • Pour 1 cup boiling water over dried mushrooms and let sit until soft, about 20 minutes.  Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and strain mushroom liquid to remove any sediment.  Reserve liquid.
  • In a food processor (or by hand) finely dice parsley, sage, garlic and shallots in a food processor until smooth; set aside.  Finely dice reconstituted mushrooms.

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  • Heat 1 Tbsp oil in a skillet(preferably cast iron) on medium high heat.  Sear/brown fresh mushrooms one layer at a time and turn to brown the other side.  Remove  and set aside.
  • Saute vegetable purée in about 2 Tablespoons oil, stirring occasionally, for 5 -6 minutes.  Stir in diced mushrooms.
  • Add wine, broth and mushroom liquid and cook, until almost completely reduced, about 10- 15 minutes.
  • Cook pasta in salted boiling water according to package instructions. Drain pasta; add to sauce
  • Stir in greens and let wilt.
  • Add seared mushrooms and half the parmesan ( if using) and toss to combine.
  • Transfer pasta to a serving dish; garnish with finely chopped parsley and remaining parmesan.
 VARIATIONS:  If you prefer a creamy sauce, stir in 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt before adding pasta.  Fettuccine or other larger shaped pastas will work fine with this dish.
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Meatless Monday – Grilled Nectarines and Summer Squash with Balsamic Glaze

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I know I’m late to the grilled fruit game.  I never understood the fascination with throwing everything on the grill, but I am now a believer.  Grilling transforms something simple and delicious into a spectacular crowdpleaser.  Grilling enhances the natural flavors of fruits and vegetables and caramelizes the sugars in them, which is why grilled fruits are particularly delicious.   I came home to find a beautiful display of summer squash, nectarines and spring onions sitting on my counter, compliments of our local farmers market.  The squash had such interesting shapes that I immediately wanted to showcase.  I especially love the star shaped yellow squash!   I thought slicing them into rounds and grilling them would make a visually interesting dish.

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Then, once I added the nectarines and purple onion to the mix, I thought, “They look so beautiful all together, why not grill them all?  Sometimes dinner just  has to be dictated by what you have on hand.

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Vegetables can be grilled dry, but many of them taste better and are less prone to sticking if they are marinated first, or at least drizzled with oil.  Fruit, on the other hand, with its natural sugar content, is great when placed directly on the hot grill.  I marinated the squash in olive oil, garlic and herbs before grilling, then carmelized the onions on high heat in a cast iron pan and made the balsamic glaze (or rather, my sous chef, Veronica, made the glaze while I grilled the zucchini).  Lastly, I grilled the nectarines and piled everything together in a large tray and drizzled with the balsamic glaze.  I sprinkled with a bit of feta and a handful of blueberries, the first from my garden this year.  My final result was a pretty spectacular vegetable/fruit platter with gorgeous colors.  The balsamic glaze complimented the grilled fruit and combined nicely with the savory squash.  I will definitely be mixing more veggies and fruits this summer!

If you’re interested in more grilled fruit recipes, check out my recipe for Tortillas with Grilled Pineapple Salsa (with Mango Margaritas, of course)

Grilled Nectarines and Summer Squash with Balsamic Glaze

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

4 -6 summer squash (any variety)

Marinade:  1/4 cup olive oil, 1 clove minced garlic, 1 Tbsn lemon juice, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp fresh herbs(oregano, thyme, parsley or marjoram)

1 large spring onion (or Walla Walla or Maui sweet)

2 Tbsn avocado oil, or other high heat oil
6 nectarines
1/4 cup olive oil
2 oz feta (optional)
1/2 cup blueberries (optional)
Balsamic glaze:  1/4 cup basamic vinegar, 1 Tbsn honey, pinch of salt
salt and pepper to taste

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  • Place all marinade ingredients into a large ziploc baggie or container.  Slice squash into rounds and put into marinade until ready to grill.

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  • Heat balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan until reduced by about half.  Stir in honey and add a pinch of salt.  Remove from heat.
  • Slice onion into thick rounds.  If you don’t completely remove the stem, the top slice becomes a ‘rose’ which is a nice centerpiece.

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  • Saute the onion slices on high heat, keeping the sections together, turning with a spatula to brown both sides.  Then break apart and saute a few more minutes. Or you can marinate and grill the onions until they are softened and browned.  Remove to a platter.

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  • Grill the zucchini rounds until brown on both sides.  Remove to platter with onions.

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  • Half and pit the nectarines and place on a hot oiled grill, a few minutes per side until grill marks appear.  Remove to platter with veggies.
  • Sprinkle with feta and blueberries, if using.  Drizzle with balsamic glaze. Coarse salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve warm or room temperature with reserved balsamic glaze on the side.

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