Sunday, May 31, 2009

Bouchons au Thon

I spent Friday night staying up way too late reading the best book. It's called A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg (writer of the Orangette blog).

This girl can write. And she can cook and bake. If I wasn't totally a fan before from her blog (I was), I totally am now after reading her book. Now I can't stop reading old posts from her blog! This is how I discovered that on one of her old posts dated Sept 22, she mentions that her birthday was 8 days ago....that would make her birthday Sept 14, 1978...exactly the same day I was born. That's weird, right? Anyways, I loved her book and had to make Bouchons au Thon after reading about them.

Molly describes Bouchons au Thon as tasting "like what I imagined France itself would taste like, if it were small enough to fit in my mouth." You can read about them and see the recipe here (this post is nearly identical to the chapter in her book).

These are baked "tuna cupcakes" made with canned tuna and gruyere cheese. I served them with MORE radishes, fresh spinach, and sunflower seeds sprinkled with lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Bon appetit!

Homemade Larabars

Have you tried a Larabar yet? They're supposedly all the rage with health nuts on the east coast. Larabars have about three to six ingredients (and you can pronounce all of them) depending on the flavor, and are all natural, raw, unprocessed, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, vegan, and kosher.

There are lots of websites out there that have homemade Larabar recipes so I decided to try my own - almond coconut flavor. Very delicious and it took me less than 10 minutes to make the batch. Will definitely be doing this again!

Homemade Almond Coconut Larabars
12 oz container of pitted organic Medjool dates (about 12-15 dates)
1 cup chopped raw almonds (approx - see note below)
1 cup unsweetened coconut (approx - see note below)

Chop the almonds in a food processor and put in bowl with coconut. Pulse dates in food processor until totally chopped. Wet hands and add dates to almonds and coconut until well-mixed. Line loaf pan with saran wrap and spray lightly with oil. Again, with wet hands to avoid sticking, press mixture into pan and refridgerate to set. Cut into desired size pieces.

I have found that I can make this into 12 small square bars and it's filling enough for breakfast with coffee (that's half of the bar in the picture above).
Note: I don't measure very often so I hope all 3 or 4 of my readers aren't trying to follow these recipes exactly. I think it was about a cup of each but it could be a bit less of each. If you're going to try this at home, start with less and add more until you get the desired consistency.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Raising the Bar

How do you improve upon perfection? In this case, it's focusing on quality of ingredients.

My mind has been very preoccupied with the radish appetizer I made Thursday night for my spring dinner menu. Today I took it to a whole new level and turned it into lunch.

In a couple of short stops today at the amazing Mill City Farmer's Market and the incredible Seward Co-Op, I was able to procure certified naturally grown radishes from Burning River Farm, creamy chevre from Stickney Hill Dairy in central MN, and nutty hearty multigrain bread from Rustica Bakery.

Do not, under any circumstances, let anyone tell you that the quality of ingredients doesn't matter. From these few ingredients I was able to make one of the best lunches I've ever had. The radishes aren't bitter at all, they are almost sweet and when I sliced them on my mandoline they oozed out a little milky moisture showing how fresh they are. I cut the bread thick so the sandwich would be substantial enough for a meal and it's chewy texture was the perfect match for the crunch of the radish and the smooth creaminess of the chevre. Speaking of the chevre, it was so good I didn't even bother adding herbs or lemon juice as I usually do with goat cheese. I did add some snipped chives for color but I realized I had forgotten salt and pepper after I had eaten half my sandwich. It didn't even need it. That's how good these ingredients are.

Meals like this make me daydream that I live in Europe, I like to think that this is how they eat every day. I'm looking forward to continuing this local and seasonal trend as the summer of 2009 and lean all the way!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Spring Dinner Party

The best and tastiest way to be green and lean is to eat seasonal foods. I wanted my spring dinner party to highlight the best of spring's fruits and veggies.

First up: a simple, elegant, and beautiful radish appetizer. This is my new favorite warm weather lunch. Take a sliced baguette, spread on a layer of any soft cheese (cream cheese, boursin or alouette brand soft cheese, or my favorite herbed goat cheese), add thinly sliced radishes, and sprinkle with chives, salt, and pepper.

Main course: sauteed spring veggies (asparagus, snap peas, and shallot) and sesame seed coated scallops. This looks beautiful, but unfortunately I oversalted the dish and it was nearly inedible. I almost didn't want to post this because I only want to post good-tasting meals, but I think if it were prepared correctly, this would be really great.

Dessert: vanilla bean ice cream topped with roasted rhubarb. To roast the rhubarb, toss it in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes with the juice of an orange or lemon, 3-4 tablespoons sugar, and 2 vanilla beans. Also goes great with greek yogurt for breakfast with a steaming hot cup of super dark coffee.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Cran-Feta Turkey Burgers

I'm jonesing for nothing but bad, bad foods lately. I swear I nearly put a frozen pizza in the oven last night. Which would have been a disaster because I'm terrible at portion control when it comes to pizza. But I'm getting pretty darn good at making healthier substitutions.

So for my pizza craving, I used a multi-gran FlatOut and topped it with lettuce pesto, sliced tomato, fresh mozzarella, and kalamata olives. Much tastier AND leaner than a nasty frozen pizza!

Tonight the craving was for nachos. Or really anything crunchy and salty. After some thought, I made a batch of edamole. Perfect.

For my entree, I made my all-time favorite burgers - cran/feta turkey burgers. They were sweet from the cranberries, salty and tangy from the feta, moist from the onion, and all around fantastic. They taste like junk food, but really there's nothing too bad in them! I'm not going to pretend this is any kind of elegant picture or meal, cause it's not at all! But it hit the spot big time.

Cran-Feta Turkey Burgers
1 pound ground lean white meat turkey
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
handful crumbled feta cheese
1/4 yellow onion, grated
Salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together, form into 4 patties, grill a few minutes on each side until cooked through.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Freezer Dinner - Succotash

Something about the warm weather makes me feel the intense need to cram as many colors as possible onto my plate.

On this lazy, hazy Memorial Day I spent two hours trying to decide if I wanted to make anything for dinner or if I wanted ice cream instead. It's truly a testament to the amazing powers of this blog that I actually preferred to make dinner, and a lean one at that! It's always fun to make a healthy and tasty meal without having to go grocery shopping.

I had one goal for my succotash, I wanted it charred and crisp/tender, not soft. So they key was a screaming hot skillet, very little oil, and absolutely no salt until the end. I learned from the Food Network that adding salt softens everything and draws out the water. That's not what I was going for here - so ix-nay on the alt-say.

The other key to this dish is lima beans, and I used frozen ones. Lima beans are fat-free, low calorie, and high in fiber and protein. The bag also tells me they are an excellent source of vitamin C - who knew? I just like them because they're big and kind of meaty.

red onion, diced
red bell pepper, diced
1/2 bag frozen corn
1/2 bag frozen lima beans
salt and pepper
red wine vinegar
good quality feta cheese

Crank the heat on the stove and let your pan heat up. Add a tiny splash of olive oil and the onion. Cook until you see a nice char on the onion, then add the red pepper, corn, and lima beans. These will also start to char, or at least heat through (depending on how much ice is on the frozen veggies/beans it may be too watery to char anything else). Add salt and pepper to taste and a splash of red wine vinegar to deglaze the pan. Top with crumbled feta and a dusting of paprika for more color and spice.

Guest Blogger - Colin

Here is another guest blog entry, with "chef's notes" from the man himself. Enjoy! -A

On the Arctic Char: This is the tastiest damn fish on the planet. I grilled it on a cedar plank, because it's yummy that way. The fish was topped with coarse sea salt, pepper, Hungarian paprika, dried oregano, and lemon juice. That is all you need know.

On the clams: First I sweated some shallots and fennel in olive oil. I've never cooked with fennel before, but it seemed like it would work. Add white wine, bring to a boil, then devour the tasty bivalves right quick.

On the bruschetta salad: Roma and cherry tomatoes, lots 'o basil, half a bulb of garlic, 3-4 tablespoons of capers, roasted red peppers, red pepper and pepper --with diced fresh mozzarella thrown in. And... yummy.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Grilled Romaine

Get ready for the easiest dinner ever.

This is a heart of romaine lettuce, sliced in half lenghtwise (make sure to keep the root piece intact so all the leaves stay together on the grill). Drizzle with olive oil and put on a screaming hot grill pan (or outdoor grill, or I think it would even work under a broiler). Grill until it has grill marks and starts to wilt. Turn over and grill on the other side for a few seconds.

Serve with a sliced ripe tomato, fresh mozzarella, diced red onion on the side.

Douse the whole plate with balsamic vinegar, a sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper.

To turn up the volume, I put some toasted pumpkin seeds over the whole shebang.

Happy Memorial Day.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Trio of Salads

It's been too long since I've posted a salad picture and recipe! I've been missing my salads a lot lately. So today you get three of them!

The first salad is what I made for my dinner tonight. I tried to recreate a fantastic lunch I had a long time ago at a little outdoor restaurant in New York's South Street Seaport. It was the first time I'd heard of Chicken Paillard and I had to ask the waiter what it meant. If you don't know, paillard is a French word that means pounded very thin and grilled quickly. The chicken I had at the restaurant was pounded so thin it was as big as my plate! It was served with some greens lightly dressed with a lemon vinaigrette. I had to add some cannellini beans to mine because I love the whole beans and greens combo.

Chicken Paillard
1 chicken cutlet, pounded as thin as possible
cannellini beans
lemon juice
dijon mustard
olive oil
salt and pepper

Drizzle the chicken with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, grill a few minutes on both sides.
Mix the lemon juice, dijon, and olive oil with a whisk, add salt and pepper to taste.

Lightly dress the arugula with the vinaigrette, add some beans, pile on a plate, top with the chicken, and sprinkle the whole plate with finely grated parmesan cheese and a little more freshly cracked black pepper.

Next I needed to make something for lunch tomorrow. I have some really good feta cheese in the fridge that can't go to waste. And, I cleaned out my cupboards last week and found a box of Fantastic brand falafel mix. Now, I know I'm trying to avoid boxed or packaged foods, but it's simply not very green to throw away a perfectly good box of falafel. Also, the ingredient listing was fairly short and all items I could pronounce so I have made an exception. Maybe next time I want falafel I will try to make it from scratch. I made sure to broil the falafel patties instead of frying for obvious health reasons.

Greek Salad
Field greens
Good qualify feta cheese
Dried cranberries
Broiled falafel patties (packaged mix and water, formed into patties, drizzled with olive oil and broiled a few minutes on each side)
Balsamic vinaigrette

And finally, I had to make this recipe when I saw it on Apartment Therapy. It is honestly the best thing I've eaten in days. I can't put into words how much I love this salad. Something about the sweetness of the cranberries and rice wine vinegar combined with the raw broccoli and toasty almonds, and the mild bite of the red onion....I actually made "mmmm" noises as I took the first bite. It's a recipe I won't be making very often because it's rather addicting and I'm worried I will eat the whole bowl in one day. Plus I'm not sure how lean it really is, since it contains both mayo and sugar, but I am hoping the amount of broccoli offsets most of that! Finally, it gave me an excuse to use my grater attachment on my food processor.

I won't repost the recipe here, because I followed it exactly (I even measured!) but here's how pretty it is.

Praise salads!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Green Beans with Almonds and Lentil Soup

I started tonight's dinner with an epic FAIL! You know how when you start to get a big head about something, like thinking you know what you're doing in the kitchen? That's when you screw up badly enough to bring your ego crashing back down to earth. Clearly, I am cursed when it comes to lentils (I mentioned in February a gross lentil/kale/tomato soup I tried to make).

All during my ride home from work and my walk around Lake Hiawatha, I was looking forward to making this lentil salad recipe from Mark Bittman. When I got home, I realized the only lentils I had were orange, and not the little green French kind. Oh well, lentils are lentils, right? WRONG! I threw the lentils in some water with some bay leaves and salt, brought them to a boil, then simmered. Orange lentils do not need to simmer for 40 minutes like French lentils, and in fact they fall apart completely after about 20 minutes. When I checked on them, they were pure mush. I should have known this from my Mpls Community Ed Indian cooking class but the brain wasn't working.

I was able to salvage these lentils, though (because I can't stand to throw away food) by adding a couple vegetarian boullion cubes and it turned into a nice almost creamy orange soup, not unlike my yummy split pea soup (which I have made about 4 times since I posted about it).

To go with my last minute lentil soup, I made green beans with almonds, which was on Rachel Ray yesterday. I didn't want to use the canned fried onions though, so this is how I did it.

Green Beans and Almonds
Fresh green beans
Handful almonds
1 shallot
1 Tbsp butter

Blanch the green beans in 1 inch boiling salted water. Drain and set beans aside. In skillet, melt butter, add almonds and diced shallot and cook until almonds are toasted and shallot is softened. Add back the green beans and season with salt and pepper.

PS - I tried that egg baked in a tomato thing again...overcooked again! Will keep trying until I get it right. A very delicious assignment.

Colin Cooks Again

My friend Colin cooked for a group of us again last night. You gotta go here to see another example of this man's fine culinary skills. The thing that kills me is that he never uses a recipe, does internet research, or worries about how things will turn out like I do constantly. He cooks purely by instinct, which I think distinguishes a real chef from a simple cook.

His inspiration for this meal was a great course he had at his sister's wedding in France. He got some halibut from his home away from home (Coastal Seafoods) and a beautiful boquet of colorful veggies spiked with balsamic vinaigrette, served over orzo and topped with some crazy herb-infused oil. Needless to say, the meal was amazing.

Not to be outdone, Marney whipped up a doozy of a dessert!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Lettuce Pesto and Eggs Baked in a Tomato

Weird title, right? I know. It started innocently enough today. I realized I had a huge container of baby field greens (arugula, radicchio, spinach, frisee, etc) that was getting old and I was trying to think of ways to use it up. Soup, quiche, salad...none sounded great to me.

Then I found this link talking about a romaine pesto and I thought "bingo!" This is how I will use up the greens. Then I read a little further...what is this baked eggs in a tomato thingy?? So weird, I had to try it. Turns out, it was incredibly light, fresh, and delicous!

My pictures aren't nearly as beautiful as the original link at the Smitten Kitchen, but here is what it looked like when I made it.

I started with the lettuce pesto, on which I improvised a little. Traditional pesto is basil, pinenuts, garlic, parm, salt/pepper, and olive oil. I substituted lettuce for basil and toasted walnuts for the pinenuts.

Then I hollowed out a tomato (by the way, this recipe will be killer in the fall with real tomatoes) with a sharp knife, added a layer of pesto, and cracked an egg into the well. Topped with salt and pepper and baked in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes. I actually way overcooked the egg because I kept checking and saw water on the top of the tomato and thought it was the egg-white but I think it was just the water from the tomato itself. I will try this recipe again and aim for a runny yolk.

I served the eggy-pestoey-tomato with roasted asparagus with my newest culinary obsession - thinly sliced shallot.

Lettuce Pesto
Mixed field greens (or spinach) - enough to fill your food processor
2 cloves garlic
Handful toasted walnuts
Handful grated parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Pulse first 5 ingredients in a food processor until chopped, stream in olive oil until it makes a paste. Freezes very well.

Eggs Baked in a Tomato
1 medium tomato
lettuce pesto
1 egg
salt and pepper
parmesan cheese

Slice a tiny bit off the bottom of the tomato so it stands up. Slice off the top of the tomato and use a knife and spoon to hollow it out. Spoon some pesto into the hollow tomato and crack an egg into it. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.

Roasted Asparagus and Shallot
Asparagus, washed and trimmed
One medium shallot, sliced thin
salt, pepper, olive oil

Mix all ingredients on a baking sheet, roast for 15 minutes at 400 degrees.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Quality Control

Loyal readers of Green and Lean will recall that I allowed a guest blogger to submit some recipes in March. Today I realized that to keep the quality of my blog at the highest possible level, I needed to do some quality control to ensure one of those recipes meets my very stringent standards. I'm very happy to report that Cass's mustard salmon and smashed peas easily meets my criteria for a green, lean, and delicious dinner!

Unfortch, I didn't make it to Whole Foods today, so I improvised on my salmon. First, I rode my bike to my local supermarket and picked up some fresh salmon. I sprinkled the salmon with salt and pepper and smoothed a layer of dijon mustard over it. For the breadcrumbs....although I do have panko breadcrumbs on hand, I had other ideas. Remember the egg, mushroom, and asparagus strata baked in a loaf of ciabatta bread I made for Easter brunch? Well, I had ground up all the "guts" of the ciabatta in my food processor and froze them for a purpose such as tonight. Obviously, I'm taking the "green" part of this blog seriously lately.

So, I used the ciabatta crumbs to coat the mustard slathered salmon, then a drizzle of olive oil and a trip to a hot skillet for frying. I followed Cass's instructions completely for the peas. Here's my picture of the dish, not quite as pretty as the original, but pretty nonetheless.

I think the "healthy" squirt of lemon is critical in these peas, giving it such a bright finish. A nearly perfect meal for a hot, sunny, Minneapolis Sunday night - to celebrate my first sunburn of 2009 (courtesy of the May Day Parade and Festival at Powderhorn Park).

I'm reprinting Cass's recipe here but you should really follow this link to see her post with her photos.

Mustard Salmon w/ Smashed Peas
In a large frying pan in a small amount of olive oil add one diced sweet yellow onion - saute a few minutes. add thawed peas (about 3/4 of the bag) and cook 2 minutes more. toss w/ lots of freshly chopped parsley and a healthy squeeze of lemon. add salt and pepper to taste now SMASH w/ a potato masher. put aside.
stop by your lovely whole foods and pick up 2 pieces of mustard panko covered salmon. pan fry. meanwhile dish the peas onto 2 plates and in pretty little green piles. top w/ your salmon. pour the remaining bottle of yummy bubbly prosecco you have been drinking into your glasses - pop another bottle for when you run out - add one cute blond guy, throw in some flowers and enjoy!

Note: I was unable to obtain the cute blonde guy ingredient at my local market. Oh well. He wouldn't have fit on my bike for the ride home anyways.