Thursday, October 8, 2009

Roasted Autumn Harvest Vegetable and Bulgar Wheat Salad

Autumn is the best time of year at the farmers market, especially here in SLO county. I have to say that September through November are probably the most abundant three months of the entire year, and I feel sorry for whom ever does not take advantage of it. Summer and autumn sort of crash into each other, and it seems like everything is in season. It is amazing to see autumn apples right next to dry farmed watermelons; pumpkins next to bell peppers and green beans; and tomatoes next to collard geens. I LOVE it!!! I have been so busy lately that I feel like autumn is passing me by way to quickly. I have hardly entered the kitchen except to throw something quick together (between teaching night culinary classes, my one year old, and my husband's two businesses, I feel quite swamped). This recipe sort of came out of using up what was left in the fridge before the next mornings trip to the farmers market. I really like it, but I have done bulgar wheat salads before. I love whole grain salads though... they are so easily adapted to any season, are nourishing and filling, and typically quite easy to prepare. Hope you like it!! Oh... and I know I have been using sheep milk feta and goat cheese way too much... I am going to try and incorporate some different cheeses in. It is just that they both are so good, especially with autumn fruits (by far the most unique of the year)!!!

Roasted Autumn Harvest Vegetable and Bulgar Wheat Salad
Serves 4 as a side dish
-1 cup bulgar wheat
-1 3/4 cup vegetable stock or water
-1 bulb fennel cut into 1/2" wedges through the core
-1 small orange bell pepper, seeds removed and pepper quartered
-1 small red bell pepper, seeds removed and pepper quartered
-2 portobello mushrooms, sliced into 1 inch slices
-1 red onion, cut into 1/2" wedges
-1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-salt and fresh ground pepper

Combine the bulgar wheat and vegetable stock in a sauce pot. Add a good pinch of salt and bring to a boil, immediately turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook until the bulgar wheat has absorbed all liquid, about 10-15 minutes. Set aside until ready to use.

Pre-heat oven to 400 F. Toss cut autumn vegetables with the extra virgin olive oil, a good pinch of salt, and a few grindings of fresh pepper. Pour out onto a baking sheet or tray, and roast in the oven until tender and slightly browned in areas, about 20-25 minutes. Set aside to cool. Rough cut the vegetables into bite sized pieces. In a large bowl combine the vegetables with the bulgar wheat. Finish the recipe as follows...

To Finish
-1/2 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
-1/3 to 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese or sheep milk feta
-1/4 cup chopped basil
-Juice of 1 orange
-1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
-2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Toss the bulgar wheat and vegetables with all of the above ingredients. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Peruvian Beans with Roasted Peppers, Sheep Milk Feta, and Cilantro

I bought a large bag of Peruvian beans today at the farmers market in SLO. Also known as a Mayocoba bean, this tan, oval shaped bean is similar to a pinto bean in both flavor and texture, and is used quite a bit in Latin American cooking. It cooks up nice and plump, with a creamy texture and good flavor, and it holds it shape perfectly. The beans I bought today were picked and dried just recently, so they took no time to cook, about 40 minutes with no soaking. The older the bean, the longer the cooking time!

I have never worked with this bean before, so I decided to keep it simple. I had a few small red and yellow bell peppers to use up, as well as a bunch of cilantro. I also just bought a very good, very soft and creamy sheep milk feta, and decided to incorporate that as well. The below recipe is what came out, and I really like it! My 1 year old daughter and I ate these beans with a side of roasted sweet potatoes and some steamed and marinated collard greens, all from this mornings market. Autumn is by far the best time of year at the farmers market here on the central coast!

Peruvian Beans with Roasted Peppers, Sheep Milk Feta, and Cilantro
Serves 4 as an entree, 6 as an entree with tortillas

For the Beans
-1 cup freshly dried Peruvian Beans
-1 bay leaf
-1 dried chipotle pepper
-salt to taste

Pick over the beans and discard any pebbles and/or twigs. Rinse the beans well. Place in a large, heavy bottomed pot and cover with four times the amount of water. Add in the bay leaf and chipotle and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, and cook the beans until tender but still holding their shape, about 40 minutes. Add salt to taste and simmer five minutes more. Strain the beans, saving the broth, and discard the bay leaf. If you like heat, mince up the chipotle and add back into the beans, otherwise, discard. Set the beans and broth aside.

To Finish
-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
-1 small onion, diced small (about 4 ounces)
-1 small red bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
-1 small yellow bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced
-1 large clove garlic, minced
-Cooked beans from above
-1 cup bean broth
-1/4 packed cup sheep milk feta
-1-2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
-salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste
-Lime wedges and fresh tortillas

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add in the onion. Saute, stirring often, until the onions begin to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the diced peppers and garlic, and saute for 2 minutes more. Add in the beans and the broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer until the liquid has reduced to about 2-3 tablespoons. Turn off the heat and stir in the feta and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground white pepper. Serve with lime wedges and tortillas if desired.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Rinconada Dairy Pozo Tomme

I want to give a wide, open arm welcome to Rinconada Dairy at the Saturday morning farmers market in SLO. Rinconada Dairy makes one of the best raw sheep's milk cheeses I have ever had. It is called Pozo Tomme,and it is delicious. Rinconada dairy showed up at the SLO Saturday morning market a couple of weeks ago, but I kept forgetting to bring extra money so I could buy a wedge of their fantastic cheese. Well, this week I remembered. The best way to eat this cheese is just as it is, though, this morning dipping it in Stotley's Bee Farm Honey was quite exceptional. Rinconada Farm also brought pasture raised chickens to the market this morning. As far as I know, they are the only local farm raising eating chickens this way. I am bringing even more extra money next week so that I can buy a chicken as well. If you are looking for healthy meats to feed your family, pasture raised and grass fed are the only way to go. Please go to the market and show your support for this great farm, I want them to stick around!!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Two Great Summer Condiments: Roasted Poblano and Tomatillo Sauce, and Mixed Tomato Pico De Gallo

Here are two great summer condiments to keep in the refrigerator; Roasted Poblano and Tomatillo Sauce, and Mixed Tomato Pico De Gallo. The poblano sauce is great to drizzle over quesadillas or corn crepes filled with black beans and goat cheese, and the pico de gallo is perfect for dipping organic corn chips, to roll into tortillas with avocado, or to eat with eggs. Both are quick to make and stay fresh in the fridge for at least 4 days, though the pico de gallo probably won't be around that long (ours hasn't anyway!). Sorry, no photos, our camera has been broken and we just have not gotten around to getting a new one.

Roasted Poblano and Tomatillo Sauce

-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
-1/2 yellow onion, diced
-1 clove garlic, smashed
-1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled and seeded, and chopped
-8 tomatillos, husks removed, tomatillos chopped
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1/2 cup vegetable stock
-salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a medium sized sauce pan over medium heat. When hot, add in the diced onion. Cook until the onions begin to soften, about 3-4 minutes, stirring often. add in the rest of the ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cover, turn the heat down to low, and cook until the tomatillos are falling apart, about 15 minutes. Puree in a food processor until smooth and season to taste with salt and fresh ground pepper.

Mixed Tomato Pico De Gallo

-3 large tomatoes, chopped
-4 small yellow tomatoes, chopped
-2 small orange tomatoes, chopped
-Handful or sun gold tomatoes, quartered
-6 scallions, chopped
-1-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1 jalapeno, minced
-2 tablespoons citrus juice
-salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Combine everything in a bowl and mix. Season to taste with citrus juice, salt, and fresh ground pepper. Let sit at least 15 minutes so the flavors can begin to meld.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


I just want to say a quick "Hello" to everyone, and that I am sorry I have not updated the blog in quite a few days. My whole foods program I'm teaching at Cuesta College just started this week, and I have a few other things going on, so I have had no time to cook or test recipes. I will soon!! Maybe Friday. Anyway, please check back and thanks for your support!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

I want to tell all of you SLO county readers about a great local food and living blog. It is called Localette, and is written by Jennifer Olson. She is probably on of the best food photographers I have ever seen. She shares terrific recipes accompanied by beautiful pictures, and promotes local designers, foodies, writers, restaurants, and much more. She did a very nice plug for Seasonal Cuisine, which you can check out here. Thank you Jen for such a great site and taking such gorgeous pictures.

If anyone knows of other great SLO county blogs that focus on food or local living, please share in the comments area, I would love to know about them.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mini Zucchini-Tomato Frittatas

These little frittatas make a great breakfast, brunch, or lunch item. They are fairly quick to make, easy, and make use of terrific summer produce. This recipe can be adapted to any season. For example, use Swiss chard and fresh chopped thyme in autumn; or green peas,asparagus, and tarragon in the spring.

On another note, I am leaving town for about 10 days. My husband, my daughter, and I are going to Michigan to visit family, so I won't be updating my farmers market picks. I did go this last Saturday however, and it looks like summer is in full swing. All kinds of melons have shown up, and eggplants are everywhere. I am sure August is going to bring lots of tomatoes, corn, okra, and more summer squash and green beans. Can't wait!!!

Mini Zucchini-Tomato Frittatas
Summer, Makes 12 frittatas

-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
-1/2 red onion, diced
-2 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced thin
-1 large tomato dice, or 10 grape sized tomatoes quartered
-1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
-1/4 cup chopped basil
-8 large, farmers market organic eggs
-salt and fresh ground white pepper

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add in the onion and saute until beginning to soften and brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the zucchini and saute until just tender. Toss in the tomatoes and season to taste with salt and white pepper. Let cool slightly.

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. Line 12 baking cups with muffin papers. Add the crumbled feta and the basil to the cooled zucchini. Whisk up the 8 eggs in a large bowl and fold in the zucchini mixture. Season with a little more salt and pepper.

Divide the frittata mixture up between the 12 muffin cups. Bake in the heated oven until set and slightly brown on top, about 15-20 minutes. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Welcome Edible SLO

The other day I was purchasing some bulk items at Sunshine Health Food store in Morro Bay and came across a new publication being offered in San Luis Obispo County. Edible SlO, as it is titled, is exactly the kind of local food publication this county has been lacking. I read my first issue cover to cover and am very excited. Edible SLO will be published quarterly and will be covering every aspect of our local food scene such as organic farms, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), urban and community gardens, chefs that support local farmers, Slow Food movement, Food not Lawn Groups, Farm to School groups, and anything else that supports our local food shed. There is also a section of seasonal recipes (yes, seasonal!)that actually use local foods, along with a resource for the featured ingredient.

I think Edible SLO is just what our local food scene needs to sort of tie us all together. Thank you to Bob Banner, publisher of Edible SLO as well as Hope Dance, for providing a locally published resource that reflects our locavore way of life and beliefs. I am very excited about this and am encouraging you locals out there to check out this magazine. I have included a link under My Favorite Websites, and you can also link to the Edible SLO website via this post. Help support our truly local publications, it is just as important as supporting our local food system. We need local voices.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Warm Apricot and Toasty Goat Cheese Salad with Wild Arugula and Walnuts

Last Saturday some really terrific apricots showed up at the farmers market. They are very small with the largest being about the size of a golf ball. I decided to stuff the apricot halves with goat cheese and then put them under the broiler to slightly brown the top. Paired with some spicy and nutty wild arugula, this salad is probably one of my all time favorites. The arugula is dressed simply to taste with the best quality extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, coarse salt, and fresh ground white pepper.

Warm Apricot and Toasty Goat Cheese Salad with Wild Arugula and Walnuts
Serves 2-4
Mid Summer

-3-4 apricots, halved and pits removed
-2 ounces goat cheese at room temperature
-1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
-1 bunch wild arugula (also known as sylvetta), washed and spun dry
-Best quality extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar
-handful of toasted and chopped walnuts
salt and fresh ground white pepper

Pre-heat the broiler on high

Place the apricots cut side up in an oven proof baking dish. Mix the teaspoon of olive oil into the goat cheese and season to taste with salt and fresh ground white pepper. spoon the cheese into the apricot halves. Place under the broiler and cook until warm and the cheese has begun to brown. Remove from the oven and set aside.

In a large bowl, dress the arugula to taste with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and fresh ground white pepper. Arrange onto plates. Scatter a few walnuts onto each plate and divide the apricots accordingly. I like to drizzle a little more olive oil onto the plate.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A Bought of Inspiration

I just finished reading the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingslover (published in 2007; I know, I know, I just now read it!). What an amazing story. Like Barbara, I grew up in a rural area. I have lived most of my life at the base of the Sierra Nevadas, appreciating and adoring wide open spaces and small town life. I too grew up eating from a large family garden. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is the story of Barbara Kingsolver’s (and her family) journey to eat almost all of their food from local sources for one whole year, with most of their food coming from their own garden. They even raise chickens and turkeys for meat and eggs. If anyone of you out there is interested in eating local, this book is for you.

Though this book is quite interesting, I didn’t read it because I thought I would learn something knew; I know and understand our conventional food system, which is why I stay away from it. It is why I became a vegetarian (I will not eat meat from CAFOs, but home raised and organic is a different story). I read this book because I knew it would tug hard at my soul; and it did! This book spoke to me in ways many books can’t. Since I was a young child, running down rows of green beans, hiding in tall rows of corn, and picking off tomato worms to give to chickens, I knew I wanted to garden, and to garden on a large scale. I read this book to remind myself of my future goals and aspirations; to homestead with my husband and daughter, and to live a simple, productive life (and to hopefully write cookbooks and teach culinary arts).

When I first moved away from home at age 17, I lived in a little house in Morro Bay with a tiny yard. I set to work growing snow peas, broccoli, and lettuce, and eventually potatoes and garlic. My first attempts were not so good; I had picked a low sun area of the yard, not to mention the unreasonable amounts of fog. But since then I have made a habit of always having a garden. Even now, surrounded by concrete, I keep quite a few wine barrels where I grow zucchini, tomatoes, three kinds of beans, cucumbers, mint, rosemary, thyme, tarragon, chives, winter savory, oregano, Thai basil, lemon basil, and Greek basil. I just got another barrel yesterday to start my lettuce, carrots, and broccoli. Point is, even in small concrete covered areas, fresh homegrown produce is possible. Along with the terrific and productive Central Coast farmers markets, about 80% of my family’s food comes from local sources. My husband and I have been this way for over 6 years now, and anyone can do it. We have been planning for a while now to hopefully move back to the Sierra Nevadas and start our homestead. We want our daughter to not only grow up knowing where her food comes from, but to actually know how to grow it herself. Most people do not know where it is their food comes from, and how much work is involved, nor do they have the common sense to even care. And why should they? Our culture places no value on knowing these things. A tomato is a tomato, right? Why should I care about where it comes from?

I worry about our food security and food supply, with GE ingredients constantly threatening diversity. I want my daughter to have the practical sense and know how to grow her own food, to have that security. I also feel a civic duty to protect heirloom seeds and to hopefully raise heritage breeds of farm animals. This has always been a goal of mine, and the above mentioned book just furthered my inspiration. I am someone who truly loves to dig in the soil, so why not put that love to use and help to protect our future food shed in the process?

We are going to visit family for Fourth of July, and I am hoping to meet with a woman who makes fresh goat cheese from her very own goat’s milk. She is a friend of my moms, and has offered to show and teach me. These are our first steps toward self sufficiency, though it will be awhile before we even move, but the plans are in the works. The pictures connected to this post are of my gorgeous little daughter Ellissa playing with our first harvest of Yellow Romano beans and zucchini from our garden. She already loves to dig in the dirt, and I think she will be all the better for it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fava Bean-Basil Pesto

Here is a terrific puree to use on crostinis, in a sandwich, as a dip, of even as a pasta sauce. In the picture, I slathered my Fava Beans-Basil Pesto on garlic rubbed crostinis and topped it off with thick slabs of sheep milk feta and sliced Early Girl tomatoes. We ate plate fulls of these for dinner! To learn how to use fava beans, see the recipe Sauteed Zucchini and Fava Beans with Mint and Taragon.
Fava Bean-Basil Puree
Makes 1 ½ cups
Late Spring, Early Summer

-2 pounds fava beans in pods (1 ¼ cups shelled and peeled)
-1 ½ cups packed basil leaves
-1 ½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ small yellow onion, diced
-2 tablespoons vegetable stock or water
-Salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste

Shell and cook the fava beans until tender according to the instructions in the Sauteed Zucchini and Fava Beans with Mint and Tarragon recipe.Peel the fava beans and set aside. You should have roughly 1 ¼ cups peeled beans.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Dunk the basil leaves into the boiling water for about 30 seconds. Remove and immediately shock under cold running water. Squeeze out any extra liquid and set aside.

Heat ½ tablespoon of the extra virgin olive oil in a small sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add in the diced onion. Cook the onion until it begins to soften, about 2-3 minutes. Add in the 2 tablespoons of liquid and cook until the onions are tender and the liquid as evaporated. Set the onions aside.

Set up a food processor fitted with an S-blade. Add in the fava beans, basil leaves, sautéed onion, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Process until smooth. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground white pepper.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Zucchini Fritters with Greek Yogurt, Tomatoes, and Oregano

I am just going to post a recipe today featuring the great zucchini that has been at the market. This can be made with green zucchini, golden zucchini, or a mixture of both. Use a really good full fat Greek style yogurt for this, it is delicious!

Zucchini Fritters with Greek Yogurt, Tomatoes, and Oregano
Makes 12 appetizer size fritters
 Summer

-4 small zucchini or 2 large (about 10 ounces)
-¼ of a yellow onion
-1 tablespoon chopped oregano
-1 egg
-2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
-Salt and fresh ground white pepper
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-9-10 grape sized tomatoes, quartered
-4 tablespoons Greek yogurt
-Oregano leaves for garnish

Shred the zucchini and onion using either a food processor fitted with a shredding blade, or by running them over the large holes of a cheese grater. Combine and place into a bowl, sprinkle with a good pinch of salt, and let sit for about 10 minutes to draw out the zucchini and onion’s water. By the handful, squeeze out any extra water and place the dry zucchini and onions into another bowl. Discard the water or save to add to vegetable stock (remember, it’s salted).

Combine the zucchini-onion mixture with the chopped oregano, egg, flour, and fresh ground white pepper. Mix well with a fork to form a thick paste (this paste should be mostly zucchini and not too much batter).

Heat the two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Fry a small bit of the fritter paste to taste for seasoning. Adjust seasoning with salt and fresh ground white pepper as necessary. Drop 1 tablespoon sized balls of the paste into the hot oil, flattening each one a bit as you go to form small 1 ½ inch cakes. Do no more than 4-5 at a time. Brown well on one side, flip over, and brown the other side. If the fritters are browning or burning very quickly, turn your heat down a bit. If they are taking a very long time and seem to be soaking up a lot of the oil, turn your heat up. Each batch should take about 5 minutes total. Remove from the oil onto a plate with paper towels to drain. Top each fritter with 3 pieces of tomato, a small dollop of the Greek yogurt, and a little oregano leaf. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Whole Foods Chef Certificate, Cuesta College

For anyone living in the San Luis Obispo area, Cuesta College will be offering whole and natural foods based culinary classes starting Fall semester. Yours truly will be teaching all six classes. Each class is two nights a week, three weeks each, and the classes include:

-Whole Grains Cookery
-Seasonal Cuisine
-Healthful Ethnic Cuisine
-Raw and Living Foods
-Alternative Baking (whole grain flours, natural sweeteners...)
-Advanced Vegetarian Cuisine

Not many community colleges offer these types of classes as part of their culinary arts program. I wrote the curriculum for these classes last year while I was pregnant, and teaching them this coming fall is going to be my first time back to work since my daughter has been born! I am really looking forward to it. Hope to see some of you there. Just click here to go straight to cuesta's online catalog. Scroll down to page 28 for culinary classes.

Chilled Carrot Coconut Soup with Lime Pickled Red Carrots, Cilantro, and Sesame Seeds

The carrots at the market have been amazing the last couple of weeks. Esters's Farm sells beautiful bunches of rainbow carrots, which consist of the colors yellow, orange, white, and red. Though these carrots are beautiful to look at, I prefer the flavor of the regular orange carrots available right now. The rainbow ones are great to add a little color in garnishes. For the red carrots, do not peel them, or you lose the color. Also, they turn a dark, rusty brown when roasted, which is also gorgeous, but not red.

I am not usually a fan of chilled soups, but I love this one. I think it's the coconut milk. This soup becomes silky smooth from the coconut fat. A little of this soup goes a long way, it is rich! I like to serve it in little bowls or cups as an appetizer. The flavor of the carrots is of utmost importance here, so only use the best. I use the red carrots for the lime pickled carrots to give a little color contrast. The sweet and sour red carrots go wonderfully with the fatty coconut in the soup.

Carrot Coconut Soup with Lime Pickled Red Carrots, Cilantro, and Sesame Seeds
Serves 2-4 as a small serving appetizer
Spring, Summer, Autumn

Pickled Carrots
-2 red carrots, sliced into
paper thin rounds
-Juice of ½ lime
-1 ½ - 2 teaspoons agave nectar
-1-2 teaspoons umeboshi plum vinegar
-touch of chili paste
-1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Carrot Coconut Soup
- ½ small yellow onion, sliced
- ¾ pounds carrots, sliced
- ¼ hot jalapeno, or ½ of a mild one, sliced
- ½ tablespoon minced ginger
-1 clove garlic, smashed
-2 cups vegetable stock
-1 cup coconut milk, plus extra for drizzling
-Salt and fresh ground white pepper

Soup Garnish
-chopped cilantro leaves
- ½ tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

For the Pickled Carrots: Combine the paper thin carrot slices with the lime juice, agave nectar, plum vinegar, chili paste, and sesame oil. Toss to combine and set aside.

For the Carrot Coconut Soup: Combine the sliced onions, sliced carrots, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, and vegetable stock in a 2 ½ - 3 quart soup pot. Bring to a simmer and cook until the vegetables are very tender. Puree the soup in a blender, in batches if necessary, until completely smooth. Add in the coconut milk and blend again. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground white pepper. Pour the soup into a shallow bowl and place into the refrigerator. Chill until quite cool.
Pull out the soup and ladle into small bowls or cups. Top with a helping of the pickled carrots, chopped cilantro leaves, toasted sesame seeds, and a light drizzling of extra coconut milk.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Early Summer Vegetable and Kamut Berry Salad

This whole grain salad was made spur of the moment, and was delicious. The farmers market was just beautiful on Saturday, and this salad showcases some of the most recent new comers to the market. Kamut Berries (as well as spelt) are an ancient type of wheat, easily digestible, and hypoallergenic. Many people with wheat sensitivities find they can consume Kamut berries. Quick note about cooking Kamut, or any type of wheat berry; they are very chewy. It can be hard to tell when wheat berries are done. They will be tender, non chalky, very chewy, and void of any raw flavor.

Early Summer Vegetable and Kamut Berry Salad
Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a light lunch

-1 golden beet
- ½ cup kamut berries
- ¼ pound green beans, stemmed
-7-10 grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
- ¼ cup minced red onion
-Handful chopped and toasted hazelnuts
-1 tablespoon chopped mint leaves
-1/2 tablespoon chopped tarragon
-1 tablespoon chopped parsley
-3-4 tablespoons Sherry Vinaigrette
-Salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 350̊F.

Wash and trim the golden beet. Wrap in foil and place in the oven. Bake the beet, letting it steam in the foil, until tender, about 45-60 minutes. Un-wrap the foil and let cool. Peel and dice the beet into small cubes. Set aside.

In a small sauce pan, place the kamut berries and cover with 2 ½ cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender but still chewy, about 45-60 minutes depending on the age of the berries. Drain, cool, and set aside.
Cut the green beans into thirds. Steam or blanch until tender but still slightly crisp, about 4 minutes. Shock under cold running water and set aside.

Combined the diced beet, kamut berries, green beans, tomatoes, red onion, hazelnuts, mint, tarragon, parsley, and 3 tablespoons of the sherry vinaigrette in a large bowl. Mix well and taste for seasoning. If the salad seems dry, add a little more vinaigrette. Remember, you can always add more, but never take away. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and fresh ground white pepper.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Sauteed Zucchini and Fava Beans with Mint and Tarragon

Lots of summer vegetables are showing up at the market such as green beans, tomatoes, peaches, and zucchini. Lots of zucchini actually, and here is my first recipe of the season. I had to add in fava beans, they will not be around for very long!My nine month old daughter has discovered she loves steamed zucchini chunks, it is her new favorite snack!

Sauteed Zucchini and Fava Beans with Mint and Tarragon
Serves 4 as a side dish
Early Summer

-1 1/2 pounds fresh fava beans
-1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-2 shallot lobes, sliced thin
-8 small zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
-2 tablespoons chopped mint
-1 tablespoon chopped tarragon
-1 tablespoon butter
-salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste

Peel the fava bean pods and remove the beans. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the fava beans until tender, about 2-4 minutes for smaller, very fresh beans, longer for larger, older beans. Drain and shock under cold running water. Slip the beans out of their skins. Discard the skins and set the beans aside.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large saute pan over high heat. When hot, add in the sliced shallots. Cook 2 minutes or until slighty soft and beginning to brown. Add in the zucchini and a little salt and white pepper. Saute, stirring frequently, until the zucchini are just tender and slightly brown, about 5 minutes. Add in the fava beans, mint, tarragon, and butter. Heat through and allow the butter to melt. Season to taste with salt and fresh ground white pepper.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Making a Difference!

I am someone who firmly believes that every person has the power in them to make a difference in this world, and it is our duty to make this world a safer, cleaner, more peaceful place for our children. As busy adults, we tend to forget that even our smallest daily decisions can make a difference, and we sometimes feel discouraged as others around us seem to completely neglect this simple concept.

I receive an email newsletter once a month from a terrific food policy organization called Food First. In the latest issue, issue #128, the very first story immediately caught my attention. The story is about a group of fourth graders in Madison WI who are doing what us adults should be doing; making a difference. These fourth graders formed a group, the Boycott School Lunch (BCSL), after conducting some cafeteria experiments with their school lunches, like measuring how much grease they could squeeze out of their hamburgers. Their goal is to bring awareness and change to their school lunch options. They decided to hold a protest by staying back from their cafeteria lunch and holding their own homemade, healthy hot lunch on tablecloth covered picnic tables. Their protest, however, was cancelled by administrators due to technical and legitimate reasons, but the story is still quite inspiring. Please read the the full story by Mary Ellen Gabriel fromt the Capital Times

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Bulgur Wheat and Fava Bean Salad with Feta Cheese, Lemon Basil, and Mint

You know warm weather is coming when fresh fava beans show up at the farmers market. I feel that fresh fava beans our one of our last truly seasonal vegetables. By this I mean that you will almost never find them available in a grocery store or super market out of season (like we do tomatoes, asparagus, and artichokes).

The first of the season fava beans are the best. Even the large beans are tender, requiring only 3-4 minutes of blanching. If you have ever worked with fava beans, you know that they require affection and patience to work with. Only people who love favas actually cook with them. Fresh favas come in large, thick, hairy green pods. These pods must first be split open to reveal the beans inside. These beans then need to be dunked in boiling hot water for a few minutes (depends on their size and age) to make them tender, and to soften their leathery outer skin. This skin then needs to be peeled off (its easy, just pop the beans right out) before the bean can be used. All in all, fava beans have about an 80% loss when all is finished. 1 1/2 pounds of beans in pods will yeild roughly a cup of peeled beans. Fava beans are like artichokes; a bit of a hassle to work with, but sooooo worth the effort!

Fava beans go wonderfully with wheat, salty cheeses, fresh spring herbs, potatoes, artichokes, peas, and even early tomatoes. My favorite herbs to go with fava beans are tarragon, chives, parsley, basil, mint, chervil, and thyme. I have a mini basil garden going, and my lemon basil is flaunting a few beautful,leafy sprigs, which I decided to use in my first fava bean recipe of the year; Bulgur Wheat and Fava Bean Salad with Feta Cheese, Lemon Basil, and Mint. If lemon basil is not available, then any early basil will do. I really love the mint in this recipe as well. The salty and creamy feta cheese really ties the chewy bulgur wheat and tender favas together, while chopped walnuts add a nice toasty crunch. This is a really nice side dish. I used a full 3 tablespoons of exceptional extra virgin olive oil and the juice of two juicy lemons. If you feel the salad is too dry, add more oil or lemon juice if need be.

Bulgur Wheat with Fava Beans, Feta Cheese, Lemon Basil, and MintServes 4-6 as a side dish
Spring, Early Summer

-1 cup bulgur wheat
-1 ½ pounds fresh fava beans
-1 small shallot lobe, minced
-1 tablespoon minced fresh lemon basil
-1 tablespoon minced fresh mint leaves
-2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
-1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese*
-Juice of 2 lemons, or to taste
-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
-Handful toasted and chopped walnuts
-salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste

Place the bulgur wheat in a 2 quart pot and cover with 1 ½ cups water and a large pinch of salt. Bring to a simmer, cover, and turn the heat down to low. Cook the bulgur wheat until it has absorbed all the water. Let rest ten minutes, off heat. Uncover, and fluff with a fork. Refrigerate the bulgur if not using with in the hour.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Remove the fava beans from their thick green pods. Add the fava beans to the boiling water. Blanch until the beans are tender and their skins slip right off, about 3-4 minutes for young, first of the season beans, a little longer for later season beans. Drain and immediately run under cold water until cool. Peel the fava beans. They are now ready to use.

Combine the bulgur wheat with the fava beans, minced shallot, lemon basil, mint, parsley, and a little salt and fresh ground white pepper. Stir to combine. Add in the feta cheese, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, and chopped walnuts. Stir well to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary with salt, fresh ground white pepper, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil.

*Note: If your feta cheese is very moist and creamy instead of dry and crumbly, add it at the end of mixing, after you have adjusted to taste, otherwise, this dish will get soggy and the feta will disappear into the bulgur wheat.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Two Great Appetizers

Artichokes and cauliflower are two of my favorite spring vegetables. In the two following recipes, they both are prepared into terrific appetizers, or would be great in a tapas spread. For the first, artichokes are combined with smooth and creamy pine nuts to make a wonderful pesto, which is then stuffed into cremini mushrooms. This pesto, if you have any left over, keeps well in a glass jar with a little olive oil on top. Left overs can be used as a sandwich spread, as a crostini topping, or even on pasta.

The second is a pungent and intriguing plate of large cauliflower florets roasted with yellow curry powder. Great served warm, or even at room temperature.

Artichoke-Pine Nut Pesto Stuffed Mushrooms

For the Pesto
-1 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large shallot lobe, minced -
-2 medium artichokes, trimmed and quartered
-1 strip lemon peel
- ½ cup pine nuts
-1 teaspoons minced fresh chives
-1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
-1 teaspoons minced fresh parsley
-Salt and fresh ground white pepper

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add in the minced shallot lobe. Sauté, stirring often, until the shallots are soft, about 3 minutes. Add in the artichokes and strips of lemon peel. Just cover with water or vegetable stock, season with a pinch of salt, and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and simmer the artichokes until tender and only a tablespoon or so of liquid remains. Remove the lemon peel.

Place the warm artichokes into the bowl of a food processor fitted with an S blade. Add in the fresh herbs and a little salt and white pepper. Pulse the processor to grind the artichokes into a coarse puree. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

For the Mushrooms
-15-20 cremini or white button mushrooms, stems removed
-1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-Salt and fresh ground white pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 375̊F.

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel or wash cloth. Toss the mushrooms with 1-2 tablespoon extra virgin olive. Use just enough oil to coast the mushrooms. Season with a little salt and fresh ground white pepper.

Place the mushrooms in a large baking dish in one single layer, stem end facing up. Cover with foil and bake in the oven until the mushrooms are tender, about 15minutes. Remove the foil, and pour out the juice that has collected in each mushroom. I save this juice to add to stock, or to make vinaigrettes, or even to thin the artichoke pesto if it is too thick.

Fill each mushroom with a good spoonful of the pesto. Cover the dish back up with foil, place in the oven, and warm the mushrooms through, 5-10 minutes more. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Curry Roasted Cauliflower Florets
-1 head of white cauliflower
-1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 ½ - 2 tablespoons curry powder
-Salt and fresh ground white pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 400̊F.

Remove the leaves from the cauliflower. Divide the cauliflower into large florets. Toss the florets with the extra virgin olive oil, curry powder, salt, and fresh ground white pepper.

Line 2 baking sheets with baking paper. Place the cauliflower in a single layer on the baking sheets.Place the cauliflower in the oven and roast, stiring from time to time, until slightly brown and the cauliflower is tender. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Red Romaine, Asparagus,and Radish Salad with Sweet and Creamy MeyerLemon-Tahini Dressing

Where do I start! I love salad (I think I have mentioned this before), and spring time is when I really get to enjoy salads almost on a daily basis.
Salads,in my mind, have to have certain components to be really good. For starters, all ingredients must be fresh, seasonal, and of the highest quality. Two; there needs to be a variety of colors, textures, and flavors, but of course,they need to compliment each other. And three; the dressing or vinaigrette needs to be good. I am sorry (not really), but no ranch dressing in my book. This salad meets all my required components. The red romaine (Clark Valley Farms), is beautiful; crunchy, juicy, red on the tips and outside leaves,and light green the closer you get towards the heart. This week is the first week that I have seen such beautiful radishes (again, Clark Valley), I couldn't resist. Their gorgeous red color just pulled me in. Sliced thin, they offer a little crunch, a little mouth feel, and a little spice. I also added steamed asparagus pieces, thinly sliced refreshing fennel, and good raw and fatty walnuts (radishes need a little fat to compliment their crunch and spice). The dressing is a mixture of local honey, local Meyer lemons, shallots, tahini (sesame seed paste), and excellent extra virgin olive oil.
Meyer lemons are my favorite acid to use in vinaigrettes and dressings during the spring. According to Food Lover's Companion (Herbst, S.T. 3rd edition. Barron's Educational Series, 2001), a Meyer lemon is a cross between a lemon and an orange. Compared to a regular lemon, Meyer lemons have very smooth skin; sweeter, less acidic juice; are quite fragrant; and are rounder in shape. This dressing can be used in any salad, and is especially good with wild rice and asparagus. If you don't have tahini, or you just don't like it, pureed avocado would be just as good. Once you make your own dressings and vinaigrette, you will never buy an already made one again!
I like to garnish this salad with raw walnuts (not toasted to preserve their precious omega-3s), and the fronds from the bulb of fennel. Tarragon leaves would also be a nice garnish here as well. I always add herbs to my salads; they add such a nice surprise in between bites!
Red Romaine, Asparagus, and Radish Salad with
Sweet and Creamy Meyer Lemon-Tahini Dressing
Serves 2-4 as a first course or last course
-1 tablespoon minced shallot
-1 tablespoon honey
-juice of 2 Meyer Lemons
-1 tablespoon raw apple cider vinegar
-1 tablespoon tahini
-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, or to taste
In a pint sized glass mason jar, combine all ingredients except the extra virgin olive oil. Close the lid tight and shake well. Add the olive oil and shake well again. Set aside.
-1 head red romaine, cut into fork size pieces, washed and spun dry
-1/2 bulb fennel, core removed,sliced thin on a mandolin (a Benrinner mandolin is my favorite)
-3-4 Cherry Belle radishes, washed and sliced thin
-10 asparagus spears, cut into 1/2 inch lengths, steamed and quickly cooled
-Handful of chopped, raw walnuts
-Fennel fronds for garnish
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or on a plate. Serve with the dressing on the side.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Whole Wheat Penne and Cauliflower alla Puttanesca

This is my kind of pasta dish. Contrary to the Penne Pasta with Multicolored Cauliflower and Gorgonzola recipe I posted a while back, this pasta contains no cream or cheese, and uses whole wheat pasta instead of semolina. About once a year I will make a pasta containing cream and cheese, usually for my husbands satisfaction, otherwise, I prefer tomato or vegetable based sauces and whole wheat pasta.

Alla Puttanesca is one of my favorite tomato based sauces. This sauce is an aromatic, intense mixture of plum tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, kalamata olives, capers, and oregano. Both whole wheat pasta and cauliflower stand up well to this pungent sauce. Anyone reading know the orgins of the name Alla Puttanesca? I will tell you, but please, no one be offended, this is food and cultural history. The word puttanesca derives from the Italian word puttana, which means "whore". It is believed that Italian ladies of the night used this pungent and fragrant sauce to entice customers. Interesting food history isn't it?

Whether you like the meaning or not, this sauce is delicious, and it can be made any time of the year. The original version contains anchovies,but of course, I left this out. You can use any kind of salty black olive, and if you like a little heat, add a pinch of red chili flakes right at the end.

Whole Wheat Pasta and Cauliflower Alla Puttanesca
Serves 4 as an entrée
Autumn, Winter in some areas, Spring

-12 ounces dry whole wheat Penne
-2 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced
-1 medium carrot, diced small
-2 large shallot lobes, minced
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-2 cups small cauliflower florets
-2 1/2 cups diced canned plum tomatoes with juice
-1 cup reserved pasta water
-1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano
-1/2 cup kalamata olives, halved
-3 tablespoons capers
-Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta cooking water. Set the pasta aside.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a very large sauté pan over medium high heat. When hot, add in the diced onion and carrot. Cook, stirring often, until the onions and carrot begin to soften around the edges, about 4 minutes. Add in the shallots, garlic, and cauliflower. Sauté until the cauliflower begins to slightly brown and soften, 4-5 minutes more.

Add the diced tomatoes with their juice, the 1 cup of reserved pasta water, and the oregano. Cook at a simmer until the sauce becomes thick, and the cauliflower is tender. Add in the pasta, olives, capers, and season to taste with salt and fresh ground white pepper. Heat through and serve hot.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Re-Visiting Old Favorites

I thought I would re-visit some of my favorite recipes from last spring. I have been blogging for about a year now, though, I did sort of neglect Seasonal Cuisine for about the first 6 months of my daughter's life (if you remember, I had a baby back in September). Even though I like all of my recipes, I do like some more than others.

I have to say my favorite recipe, and most versatile, is Savory Roasted Spring Vegetables. This recipe can be adapted to any season, and has been my quick fix meal 3-4 times a week since my little girl was born. For those occasionally cold and rainy days we have in early April, think about Hearty Spring Minestrone. This soup is filled with great spring vegetables, whole wheat pasta, and energizing beans; a perfect soup to revitalize you on a cold day. Since strawberries are coming back in full force, with blueberries soon to follow, I've been making Berries and Cream Steel Cut Oatmeal, my favorite pregnancy breakfast. With all the beautiful golden beets showing up at the farmers market, Golden Sunshine Slaw would be a nice change from a green salad. And last but not least, my favorite grain salad, Asparagus and Wild Rice Salad. This salad is my favorite for spring get togethers and caterings. It is a glorious combination of asparagus, wild rice, fennel, hazelnuts, and a Myer lemon-Shallot vinaigrette. Yum Yum!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spring Vegetable Pad Thai

What could be better than a big bowl of vegetable packed Pad Thai. Pad Thai is a classic Thai rice noodle dish tossed with a sweet and sour sauce, scrambled egg, bean sprouts, scallions, and served with lime wedges. Usually, it is made with some kind of meat, such as pork or shrimp. Being a vegetarian, I omitted these two items, and instead used an array of fresh, gorgeous spring vegetables. Of course, tofu cubes could be used as well.

My husband and I love Thai food, and especially Pad Thai, but are to frequently disappointed when we are served rice noodles swimming in that hideous, fluorescent pink sweet and sour sauce that you find in cheap Chinese food places. That is not Pad Thai. Pad Thai sauce is sweet and sour in flavor, but is brown in color, and the final dish is usually quite dry. The sour component comes from tamarind, a tropical pod like fruit that is processed into a paste. Tamarind paste can be found at any Asian grocery store. There is a great Asian grocery on the corner of Monterey and Johnson streets in San Luis Obispo. Tamarind can be bought as a paste, or as a big block of dried fruit with the seeds. If you buy the big block, just cut off pieces, soak in a couple tablespoons of hot water, and then press through a small sieve to get all the pulp but no seeds. The seeds are large, you won’t miss them. The sweet component of the sauce typically comes from palm sugar, but I just used brown sugar in mine. Fish sauce is the salty element of the sauce, but again, being vegetarian I omitted this part and replaced it with an equal mixture of lime juice and soy sauce.

I packed this Pad Thai full of beautiful spring veggies I picked up on Saturday. The asparagus still looks and tastes great, but is getting thicker by the week. The snap peas are wonderful and I had to use them here. Red scallions are showing up at the market, as well as green garlic. I also used carrots to add some color. I used the best eggs you could ever buy; Farmer Jim’s eggs from Park Organics. His hens are laying generous amounts of eggs right now, so buy them while you can. They have the orangest yolks you will ever see (yolk color is a reflection of nutrient content and of what the hens are eating; greens, bugs, and all that good stuff hens are suppose to eat), and the cleanest egg flavor you will ever taste. These are the kind of eggs I feel are worth eating. Anyways, enough with my ranting, on to the recipe! Once everything is prepped, this dish goes quite quickly, so don't be intimidated by the list of ingredients.
Spring Vegetable Pad Thai
Serves 2-4 as an entree
-2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
-2 tablespoons brown sugar
-2 tablespoons lime juice
-2 tablespoons shoyu or low sodium soy sauce
Chili-Vinegar Sauce
-1/4 cup brown rice or rice wine vinegar
-1/2-1 teaspoons sambal olek or chili flakes
-1/2-1 teaspoon sugar, or other sweetener like agave nectar

Pad Thai
-10 ounces dry Thai rice noodles
-2 tablespoons peanut oil or other high heat oil
-1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed and
cut into ½ inch pieces
-15 snap peas cut into ½ inch pieces
-2 thin carrots, cut in half and thinly sliced
-2 eggs, whisked
-5 red scallions, sliced
-1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger

Cook the rice noodles according to the package directions. Set aside.

Whisk sauce ingredients together and set aside. Whisk chili-vinegar sauce ingredients together and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil, or other chosen oil, in a large wok set over high heat. When a whisper of smoke shows, add in the asparagus and snap peas. Toss constantly with a large spatula for 1-2 minutes. Add in the carrots and toss 1 minute more. Push the vegetables up the side of the wok and pour the whisked egg into the bottom. Stir the egg constantly for 1 minute, or until scrambled. Toss the cooked vegetables back in with the egg. Add in the mung bean sprouts, scallions, ginger, and garlic. Toss constantly for 1 minute more. Remove the vegetables from the pan and set aside.

Immediately re-heat the wok with the remaining tablespoon of oil. When hot, add in the rice noodles and toss constantly, pressing the noodles to the side of the wok to slightly brown and sear. Toss for about 1-2 minutes, add the vegetables back in along with the sauce, and toss 1 minute more to combine. Serve hot with lime wedges and the chili-vinegar sauce.

Phad Thai on Foodista

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Penne Pasta with Multi-Colored Cauliflower and Gorgonzola

One of my favorite produce items to show up at the Spring market is multi-colored cauliflower. Purple, orange, light green, and white, these cauliflowers are stunning to look at, leaving you baffled by Mother Nature's ability to make food naturally beautiful.

Cauliflower in general is considered royalty in my cooking repertoire. When truly farmers market fresh (I have never met a large chain grocery store cauliflower I liked), this sweet and slightly nutty vegetable can be served raw in a crudites spread, with pasta, gratin style, sauteed, and anything else you can imagine. The trick is to not over cook it! I think boiling is bad for almost any vegetable, but especially cruciferous ones that tend to let off that unpleasant, old cabbage smell. So steam or blanch quickly.

Cauliflower loves the company of strong, salty flavors such as black olives, gorgonzola, capers, curry, and red chili flakes. I decided to go with rich and creamy gorgonzola cheese, which, when mix with a little cream, makes a terrific sauce, filling each little penne tube and perfectly covering each cauliflower floret. Make sure to cut the cauliflower about the same size as the pasta. I taught this pasta at my Mediterranean Harvest cooking class at Edna Valley Vineyards. Someone suggested a little tarragon as a garnish to this pasta. I tried it tonight, along with parsley and chives, and it was fantastic!

Penne Pasta with Multi-Colored Cauliflower and Gorgonzola
Serves 4

-8oz dry, short style pasta such as Pipe Rigate, Fusilli, or even orzo
-2-3 cups chopped multi-colored cauliflower
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced
-1 large clove garlic, minced
- ½ cup heavy cream
-3 ounces crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
-Salt and fresh ground white pepper to taste
-Chopped flat leaf parsley, chives, and a little tarragon to garnish

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta to al dente. Remove the pasta from the water with a slotted spoon (save the boiling water), toss with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to prevent sticking, and set aside. Bring the pot of water back up to a boil and blanch the cauliflower until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain, rinse under cold water, and set aside.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When hot, add in the diced onion. Sauté the onion until it begins to soften around the edges, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the garlic and sauté one minute more. Pour in the cream and bring to a simmer. Let simmer about 1-2 minutes to slightly reduce. Whisk in the gorgonzola to create a smooth sauce. Add in the cooked pasta, and cauliflower. Heat through and season to taste with salt and fresh ground white pepper. Garnish with minced fresh Italian parsley, chives, and a small amount of fresh minced tarragon.

First Question!!

I've been asked my first question! Thanks Carolyn, so great to here from you, I am really glad you like the blog. Carloyn asked where to find golden beets and fresh garbanzo beans.

I buy my golden beets at the Saturday morning farmers market in San Luis Obispo. This market is located in the Bed Bath and Beyond parking lot, and is from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. This is the market I do almost all of my shopping at, though I am known to roam the other markets just for fun. Golden beets are not as readily available at the farmers markets as red beets are. Most vendors that sell red beets will also sell golden beets, but not as frequently. Because of this, it is a little hard to assume you will find golden beets any given week. Generally though, they are more frequently available in the spring, with a more steady supply. Golden beets are very sweet, just like red beets, but with much less of that "dirt" (I say this with affection), taste. They can be used just like red beets in salads, roasted as a spring vegetable, or sliced thinly for a slaw (see Golden Sunshine Slaw, May 15 2008 post).

Fresh garbanzo beans have an extremely short season, about 3 weeks. La Familia farm from Los Osos (they have that great pumpkin patch during autumn located out on Los Osos Valley Road), sells fresh garbanzos in the the autumn at the Saturday morning SLO market. We probably won't see them until September (if I remember correctly). Fresh garbanzos are really fun, I am already thinking of recipes for them. They look like fat little green pods of edamame. La Familia farm also sells the best ever dried pinto beans, as well as other dried beans. Now you have no reason to buy dried beans from the store! Their dried beans are so fresh that they need no soaking and cook fairly quickly.

On another note, I just want to give a quick thanks to everyone who attended my cooking class at Edna Valley Vineyards last night. I had a great time, and thanks for your positive feedback and support.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Features!

I have added two new features on the left side bar; Cory's Top 5 Produce Picks, and What's In Season. There is so much great produce showing up at the farmers market that I thought my top picks for the week (or month, depends on produce turn over) would be a nice Seasonal Cuisine feature. Now, these are not my only picks, just the five produce items I probably couldn't live without for the week. This list will also help to showcase those produce items that only seem to hang around for a couple of weeks, like fresh garbanzo beans. I have also decided to add a list of what is in season, which will be located underneath the blog archives. This will be a general list that changes 4-8 times a year. I actually think there are 8 seasons, produce wise that is! I have some other great ideas in the works, so keep reading!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Mediterranean harvest Cooking Class

Hi Everyone. I am teaching a demonstraton class tomorrow night, April 1st, at Edna Valley Vineyards in San Luis Obispo. The theme is Vegetarian Mediterranean Harvest. If you would like to sign up, please go to Edna Valley Vineyards website. Thanks everyone!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Ask Cory

I have recently noticed a jump in how many people are reading, or at least viewing, Seasonal Cuisine, and I thought it might be fun to here from some of you. I would like to get to know my readers, so I am going to dedicate one day a week to answering any food, cooking, and nutrition questions anyone might have. If I don't know the answer, I will find it for you. In addition to answering questions, readers could write in to suggest topics of discussion, other food and cooking related websites or blogs, good books and articles, or anything else having to do with cooking and the world of food. Just follow the email link to the left to ask a question or leave a suggestion. I hope some of you participate!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Welcome Spring Soup

Hello Spring! Finally, winter seems to be coming to a close. Not that we really have true winters here on the Central Coast. I love spring, and I love the spring farmers market even more. Asparagus, fresh peas, pea tendrils, artichokes, baby rainbow chard, baby beets, spring onions, and spring garlic are all showing up at the market. To welcome in spring, I decided to make a green soup filled with quintessential spring vegetables. This soup was not only inspired by spring, but also by my daughter's new favorite solid food combination; green pea and spinach puree.

This soup is a very green puree of spring onions, green peas, and spinach, and is garnished with sauteed asparagus, pea tendrils, and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil. Beautiful purple chive blossoms or arugula blossoms would be a perfect garnish as well. This soup is also quick to make, and can easily be made with frozen green peas.

Welcome Spring Soup

For the Soup

-1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
-2 spring onions, bulb only, sliced
-1 large garlic clove, sliced
-1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
-1 strip myer lemon peel (optional)
-3 1/2 -4 cups vegetable stock or water
-4 cups green peas
-3 large handfuls cleaned baby spinach
-salt and fresh ground white pepper

For the Garnish
-1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
-1 bunch thin asparagus, or 1/2 bunch thick asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
-2 large handfuls cleaned pea tendrils
-salt and fresh ground white pepper
-exceptional quality extra virgin olive oil for garnish

In a 4 quart soup pot, heat the tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat. When hot, add in the spring onions and garlic. Add a small amount of salt and sweat the onions until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add in the mined thyme, lemon peel, and 3 1/2 cups of stock or water. Season again with a little salt and white pepper. Bring to a simmer, and simmer 10 minutes. Add in the peas and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes depending on the size and freshness of the peas. If using frozen green peas, cook just ntil the soup returns to a boil. Add the spinach leaves, turn off the heat, and stir until the spinach has wilted. Blend the soup, in batches if necessary, until smooth. Pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer for a thinner, smoother soup, or leave as is. Add the additional 1/2 cup stock if the soup seems too thick.

Heat the 1/2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a medium sized saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add in the asparagus and saute until tender. Add in the pea leaves and saute about 1-2 minutes more, or until tender. Season with salt and white pepper.

Re-heat the soup if need be and season to taste with salt and white pepper. Ladle the warm soup into bowls and garnish with a spoonful of the asparagus and pea tendrils. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with chive or arugula blossoms if available. Serves 4.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens

This dish is delicious! Just what I needed on a cold and windy night. I am a big fan of leafy greens, and the collards at the market were looking quite beautiful. The thick, dense leaves of collard greens are packed with nutrition, boasting terrific amounts of folate (for all you mamas-to-be out there), calcium, cancer fighting phytochemicals, and minerals. I personally believe that collards are what Popeye was eating, not spinach; they seem to have a strengthening power that is un-explainable. Though both black eyed peas and collard greens are particularly popular in the southern United States, they are used all over the world. Black eyed peas are actually native to North Africa, and collards are quite popular in the Mediterranean. Soaking the black eyed peas shortens their cooking time, but not by that much, so it is not necessary. The older your peas, the longer the cooking time. Mine only took about 30 minutes with soaking, but I have had black eyed peas take almost 1 1/2 hours, so be patient if need be.

My recipe is not traditional; there is no bacon or ham. I added a small amount of diced preserved tomato for color and a little sweet/acidity dynamic, which worked really well. A splash of fresh squeezed lemon juice right at the end is just perfect.
Black Eyed Peas and Collard Greens
Serves 4 as a main course with rice

-1 cup dried black eyed peas, soaked in 3 cups water for 6 hours to overnight, floating and discolored peas discarded
-1 bunch collard greens, washed, thick ribs removed, and leaves sliced
-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1 small yellow onion, diced small
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-2 preserved plum tomatoes, diced
-Squeeze of fresh lemon juice (less than half of a lemon)
-salt and fresh ground white pepper

Place the peas in a large pot and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a simmer and cook, skimming any scum that rises to the surface, until the peas are tender but still holding there shape, about 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on the age of the peas. Drain and rinse again in cold water. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in the sliced collard greens and cook until just tender and bright green, about 3-5 minutes. Drain immediately and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well and set aside.

Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add in the onion and saute until beginning to soften and slightly brown, about 3-4 minutes. Turn the heat to medium and add in the garlic and tomato. Saute another 2-3 minutes. Add in the peas and collard greens and a little salt and fresh ground white pepper. Heat through, adding a little water or vegetable stock if the mixture seems too dry. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt, fresh ground white pepper, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve hot as is, or with brown basmati rice.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Vegetarian Feast

Spring Rolls woth Sesame Dipping Sauce
Roasted Vegetables with Black Olive Tapenade

Roasted Pepper Crostinis with Fontina Cheese and Arugula

Ellissa and Me with Roasted Beet, Feta Cheese and
Walnut Salad in the Background

These last two weekends were my annual Vegetarian Cuisine class that I teach for Cuesta College. We had a great time, as always, and the food was delicious! This year was extra special, as I had a gorgeous little assistant with me (my daughter Ellissa, see above). I just wanted to write a quick post and say thankyou to everyone that participated in the class, great job!

Monday, February 2, 2009

High Levels of Mercury Found in Corn Syrup

I receive e-mail updates from the OCA (Organic Consumers Association), and an interesting, if not frightening, article was recently posted regarding the mercury content found in high fructose corn syrup. According to the article, which is based from the original article written by the scientific journal Environmental Health, mercury was found in nearly 50% of tested commercial high fructose corn syrup samples. A separate study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) detected mercury in one third of 55 of top name brand products that list high fructose corn syrup as the first or second ingredient. These brands included Quaker, Hershey's, Kraft, and Smukers.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is found in almost every processed or packaged food product. Soda, obviously, is by far the worst since it is purely HFCS with water. Other common foods containing HFCS include packaged lunch meats, canned soups, breakfast cereals, bottled salad dressings, and even yogurt. Many of these foods are popular among our children, and are overused in our school systems and institutions. According to the above report, most teenagers take in above 80% of average levels daily of HFCS. Average American daily intake is a whopping 12 teaspoons, which is equal to 1/4 cup. Please follow the link above to read the report which is full of information.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Going Organic Without Breaking the Bank

So now that we understand the importance of buying organic foods, let's take a look at the prices. Yes, organic food is more expensive, simple as that. But it is possible, and worth it when the true cost of conventional food is taken into account (use of fossil fuels, middle men, pesticides, genetic engineering...this could be a post all on its own). My husband and I have been eating almost 100% organic for almost 5 years now, and I have found that I spend almost as much as everyone else on groceries. There are quite a few ways to buy organic at a reasonable price, you just have to do a little extra work. Here are my suggestions for eating organic without breaking the bank.

-Shop at Your Local Farmer's Market:
  • This is quite a simple concept. Since you are buying your food directly from the farmer, it is guaranteed to be cheaper. I find that the exact same head of organic lettuce at my favorite health food store is twice as much as it is at my farmer's market. By shopping with local farmers, you take the middle men right out of the picture, and your money goes straight into the pocket of your neighbor. The farmer becomes directly woven into the community, while the community becomes intimate with its local food source. A win win situation. If you don't have time to go to a farmer's market, then join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). A CSA does all the work for you by assembling a box of fresh produce, usually with recipes included, and delivering it either directly to you, or to a drop off spot. It doesn't get any easier than that. And again, your supporting a local farmer.

-Shop and Eat Seasonally:

  • Again, simple concept, but hardly done by anyone. Buying fresh produce out of season is bound to be much more expensive. Fresh tomatoes in winter not only taste terrible, but cost quite a bit. Not worth it! Keep your foods seasonal. This may be a bit hard at first, especially if you are use to eating the same foods year round. There is an amazing array of fresh produce out there, and every piece has its own season. If you follow the above concept to shop at your local farmers market, then you will inevitably be shopping seasonally. The two are one and the same.
-Shop at Local Health Food Stores and Co-Ops:
  • Organic foods are always more expensive in a large chain grocery store than they are at a local health food store or Co-Op. Most health food stores and co-ops buy directly from farmers, which again, gets rid of middle men. Large chain grocery stores buy their foods from other companies, who buy their food from other companies, and so on and so forth. This is especially true for already prepared and packages foods.

-Cook Your Food Yourself:

  • Buying already packaged and prepared foods is much more expensive than buying the raw ingredients. This is probably the hardest part for people, but the most rewarding, and there is no way around it. If you want the reward, you have to put in the effort! Pick one day a week where all you do is cook for the week ahead, freezing if necessary. There are many ways to make your cooking life easy. It is worth the investment.