Wednesday, June 29, 2011

I have a problem with lunches. They just don't fit into my life. I've worked out a somewhat healthy breakfast routine, and I always make time for dinner. But three meals a day is just too much.

Would you support me if I lobbied to cut back to just two meals a day? It sure would work a lot better for me.

Don't get me wrong. I love a good lunch as much as the next gal. I just can't seem to fit it in.

Which brings me to what I love about this dish. It's a dinner that does double duty as a lunch the next day. And the next (if you still have any left). Now, that's the kind of lunch I can handle!

Swiss Chard Gratin
serves 4; 1 hour prep, about half the time unattended
Feel free to swap out the swiss chard for kale, spinach, or even beet greens, although chard is my personal favorite. 

1/2 cup raw wheat berries
2 tablespoons olive oil, butter, or a combination
1 onion, sliced thin
leaves from a few sprigs of fresh thyme
6-8 large mushrooms, sliced thin
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bunches swiss chard, cleaned and sliced
3 eggs
1 tablespoon cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
Some snippings of fresh chives
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons bread crumbs

First, get the wheat started on the stove top. Place the wheat berries in a saucepan. Add about 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Drain and rinse. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil or butter in a large, preferably cast-iron, skillet. Add the onions and thyme, and saute gently for about ten minutes. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook for another ten minutes or so. Add the chard and cook, stirring every couple of minutes, till warmed through and softening. That should take about ten minutes longer. 

In a large bowl, combine the eggs, cream, salt, ricotta and chives. Add that mixture to the cooked vegetables and stir in the wheat berries. 

Pour the mixture into a gratin or casserole dish and sprinkle the parmesan cheese and bread crumbs evenly over all. 

Bake for about 40 minutes in a preheated 400* oven till the top is beginning to brown and the gratin looks 'set.' Serve hot, warm, at room temperature or even cold. These make for GREAT leftovers. 

Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Thursday, June 23, 2011

A friend of mine has this really insane eating rule. It goes like this: Never spend more time cooking a dish than you do eating it. 

Well. Let's just say that her rule wouldn't work very well for me. I'd have to start chewing VERY slowly. 

Or cooking in fast forward. 

Or maybe eating plain grass. 

I won't pretend this salad whips up in snap. You've got to slice the radish super thin - preferably with a mandoline if you have one. It isn't the most labor intensive dish to make, but I sure did devour it in less time than it took me to prepare it. Seriously, no sooner had I dressed and tossed it than I proceeded to wolf down forkfuls. 

Please try this. Even if you don't like radish. The radish is sliced thin enough to take out some of its sting. The snap peas are sweet and crunchy. And the mint gives it a lively spring-like flavor.

Radish and Snap Pea Salad

6-8 fresh firm radishes
1 pound snap or snow peas
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
pinch of salt
1/2 bunch of mint

Slice the radishes super thin - preferably with a mandoline. If you're not ready to use them right away, leave them soaking in a bowl of cool water for up to a few hours. When you're ready, drain them and pat them dry. 

In a separate bowl or small jar, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, oil, and salt. Mix well and set aside.  

Chop the mint up really fine. 

Right before serving, combine the peas with the radishes in a large bowl. Stir the mint into the dressing and pour it over the vegetables. 

Mix well and serve immediately. 

Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Let's say someone, hypothetically, were to spread obscene quantities of Nutella onto obscene numbers of pretzel crisps.  Let's say said someone did that several times a week.

And let's say on off days that person made chocolate chip cookies with real butter.

Do you think that person would be salvaged by eating greens every day? Twice a day? Triple portions laden with healthy oils and protein?

I'm not saying I know anyone like that. (I wouldn't associate with anyone THAT unbalanced.)

But if I did, do you think all those greens would save her soul?

Roasted Beet Salad, inspired by a recipe shared by my wonderful CSA, Earthen Harvest
Serves 2 as a main dish salad

2 beets, scrubbed and unpeeled
1 clove garlic
a couple dozen mint leaves 
4 t red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon dijon mustard
a pinch of sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 head of Romaine lettuce, coarsely chopped
some goat cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 425*. Wrap the beets in foil and roast until fork tender (45-60 minutes). Allow the beets to cool and remove the skins (you may want to wear gloves).

Cut the beets into small pieces, about 1/2 inch square.

Finely mince the garlic and mint. In a small jar, combine the vinegar, oil, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. 

Toss the beets with half of the vinaigrette and allow to marinate for at least an hour or two. 

Immediately before serving, toss the lettuce with the other half of the marinade. Put the beets over the lettuce and crumble goat cheese over the top if desired.

Linking this up to Melt in Your Mouth MondayHearth and Soul HopLet's Do Brunch, Real Food Wednesdays. Also submitting to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Mele Cotte.

Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Today was One of Those Days. I worked in a frenzy all day, trying to meet deadlines and trying not to look out the window at the Beautiful Weather.

Then when work let out, I took my two-year-old for a walk around the lake. I completely misjudged both the temperature (it was Hot) and my daughter's ability to sit in the carriage for any length of time so I can get in some brisk walking (she can't).

By the time I reached the end of our just-barely-45 minute walk, toting my 30 pound baby in one arm and pushing a stroller with the other, I was hot and cranky. That was when we passed a female jogger. I'm all for staying cool in the summer, but there do have to be some boundaries. She was wearing Very Little. My daughter said it better than I could have (and certainly louder too): "Mommy. Naked lady!"

The point is, I needed some therapy this evening. For me, therapy arrived in the form of a CSA basket loaded with beets and greens.

As soon as I got my very tactful baby into bed, I set right to work scrubbing, soaking, roasting, chopping. Am I the only one who finds gritty beets (with their greens still attached!!) beautiful? Am I the only one who finds chopping and cleaning greens therapeutic?

This soup was a combination of lots of wonderful fresh ingredients that I've been wanting to put to use. The beet greens, of course, but also a lovely Vidalia onion and some super pretty red lentils I bought last week.

And a few sprigs of the abundant mint I have growing on my patio.

It was fresh and exquisitely flavored. Paired with a whole wheat pita bread, it made a satisfying dinner. I think I'm on the road to recovery.

Red Lentil Soup with Mint and Beet Greens
Serves 4

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
a dozen or so mint leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coriander
beet greens, removed from one bunch of beets (use the beets for something else), cleaned and sliced
1 small tomato, chopped
1 cup red lentils
1/3 cup bulgur wheat
1 egg, lightly beaten
extra mint, for garnish, optional

Heat the oil in a medium soup pot. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes, till translucent. Add the garlic and celery and cook for a few minutes longer, stirring frequently.

Now, add the mint, salt, and coriander. Mix well and cook for another minute or two.

Add the beet greens and cook for a few minutes till they are softened and heated through.

Add the lentils, bulgur and about 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a very gentle simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes, adding water as needed if it seems too thick.

After the 1/2 hour of cooking, add the tomato and cook for about 10 minutes longer.

Immediately before serving, whisk in the egg. Serve, garnished with mint if desired.

Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Monday, June 13, 2011

I bought myself a new toy today. A 10 inch santoku knife. It's beautiful. Sharp. Solid. Makes me feel almost like a professional chef.

Funny the things that get me excited.

Which brings me to today's topic on Eat. Live. Be: a healthy eating tip. Mine is simple. Cook foods you like and have fun while cooking them. Fresh greens (if you like them). Pasta with cheese (if that's your thing). Fruit. Chocolate (!).

I make a point of cooking my favorite foods. Sometimes that means swiss chard three times a week. Sometimes it means an abundance of grape tomatoes or strawberries.

And I make a point of having fun. I own a stand mixer and food processor, and I have a few really good knives. These tools make cooking fun for me, and encourage me to spend more time doing it.

This year, I joined a CSA. I did it mostly for practical reasons - I thought it'd save us money and help us eat healthy. Turns out that it's a ton of fun! I love opening my weekly CSA box and seeing the surprise produce. I love being part of the farming community, even in a small way. I love trying new foods and cooking with the seasons. It makes healthy eating more fun than ever.

This recipe uses seasonal mizuna, a rich dark green leafy vegetable that can be eaten raw or steamed. It was the first time I tried it, and it was great. Full flavored but not bitter or sharp. It combines well with Asian flavors. If you can find some, I highly recommend it.

Chicken with Mizuna
Serves 6

Use tofu instead of chicken for a vegetarian version. 

2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake rice wine
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 bunch scallions or green onions, sliced thin
1 lb. trimmed string beans or haricot verts
1 bunch mizuna

First, prepare the chicken. Mix together the soy sauce, sake, oils, honey and ginger in a large bowl.  Cut the chicken into small cubes (about 3/4 inch). Mix the chicken into the marinade and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably 4-5.

About 1/2 hour before serving time, heat half the oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add the scallions and saute over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Remove the scallions and add about half the chicken bits (leave behind the marinade, but reserve it - you'll need it later). Brown the chicken for a couple of minutes, rotating the chicken now and then to get all the sides browned. Remove the chicken, add the remaining oil, and let it get hot. Add the rest of the chicken bits and brown.

Now, add back the scallions and reserved chicken. Pour in the reserved marinade. Cover the pan, bring to a boil and cook at a strong simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the string beans and cook for another few minutes, covered, till the beans are tender.

Finally, add the mizuna and cook for 2-3 minutes, uncovered, to get rid of some of the extra juices and steam the greens.

Serve hot next to whole wheat pasta or brown rice.

Posted on Monday, June 13, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Saturday, June 11, 2011

I have a not-so-glamorous secret. I save my vegetable scraps. Carrot peels. Onion skins. Apple cores. Soft tomatoes. Even peach and plum pits.

I keep a big scary looking ziploc bag in my freezer. Every time I have some vegetable (or fruit) scraps, I toss them in.

By the end of the week, the bag is usually bulging with scraps. That means it's time to make stock.

I dump all those nasty scraps in a colander. I turn on the hot water and rinse and rinse and rinse and rinse and rinse.

Then I dump it all in a pot, add some bay leaves, dried mushrooms, kombu seaweed or dry wine if I have some handy, and cook it up for a couple of hours.

When it's cooked through and through, I pull out the colander and drain it, discarding the veggie scraps and saving all that nutritious stock.

And I've got healthy, flavorful stock for whatever soup I want to make!

Do you make stock? What's your secret?

Linking this up to Weekend Bloggy Reading.

Posted on Saturday, June 11, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Sunday, June 5, 2011

There was a time when I was ashamed to admit this. When I would dodge the question or avoid answering rather than admit the truth.

But I'm all grown up now and I'll say it with pride. I Like Greens. 

I like how they taste. I like how they make me feel. 

In fact, there are few vegetables I enjoy more in the summer than sauteed or cooked greens - chard, spinach, collards.

This was the first time I tried turnip greens though. They came in my CSA box (attached to the turnips - who knew turnips ever came that way? Certainly not I.... Never saw a green attached to a supermarket turnip). I wasn't sure what to do with them, but I tentatively nibbled a leaf and it tasted pretty innocuous. I figured I couldn't go wrong with a dish that combines the turnip and its greens.

I was right. The dish came out terrific. My husband and I licked our plates clean.

Turnips with (or without) Greens
Feel free to leave out the greens if you're using ordinary supermarket turnips. But if you've got some, by all means use them. They're GOOD and will make you feel like a Good Girl (or Boy). Like you are doing the Right Thing.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1 onion, chopped
6 leaves sage, chopped
a handful of turnip greens, cleaned well and sliced
6 medium turnips, peeled and sliced in wedges
1 sweet apple (I used red delicious), peeled and sliced in wedges
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons apple juice

Heat the oil in a frying pan. Over medium heat, saute the onion and sage for about 10 minutes till the onion is translucent. 

Meanwhile, put the greens in a small pot and cover them with water. Bring to a boil and cook for about 10 minutes. Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid

Add the turnips and apples to the onions and sprinkle with salt. Saute for about 10 minutes longer, stirring from time to time so they brown evenly. 

Add the vinegar, juice, and about the reserved cooking liquid. Stir and then cover the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes longer, till the liquid is incorporated into the vegetables. Uncover the pan, add the greens, and cook for another couple of minutes till the liquid is mostly gone. 

Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. 

Posted on Sunday, June 05, 2011 by Rivki Locker


Thursday, June 2, 2011

I am going to tell you something that may make me sound like a terrible mom. Please don't think less of me when you hear it. Please continue coming to my blog and leaving lovely comments. I am a good person. I just sometimes get my priorities a little confused.

My very first CSA box arrived this week. My first CSA box ever. This was a monumental occasion, one I'd been looking forward to for months. The thing is: I was away. In Atlanta, on a business trip. 879 miles away from my beautiful box of fresh seasonal produce.

Ready for the confession?

I flew out on Tuesday and called home quite a few times. Early in the day to check on the baby. Later in the day to check on the big kids. In the evening to Skype with everyone. I was a good mom. Really I was.

On Wednesday morning, I called home too. I talked to my husband. To my son and my daughters. And then I very nonchalantly popped the question: "did the box come yet?" I was informed that it had and that it was full of vegetables.

Ready for the confession?

My call home on Wednesday morning was really to check on the status of the CSA box. PAUSE FOR EFFECT. I mean to say, I knew the kids were ok. I had just spoken to them a few hours earlier. But all sorts of things could have gone wrong with my first CSA delivery. It could have been left on a neighbor's porch. It could have been eaten by bunnies. Or abducted by aliens.

But it was safe. And when I got home at midnight last night, the second thing I did (AFTER checking on the kids) was to take inventory and come up with some ideas for putting all that lovely produce to good use.

And the second thing I did this morning, after getting the kids on the bus? I sauteed a big pot of mustard greens with soy sauce, sake and sesame oil. And then what? I ate half the lot. At 9 in the morning. It was that good. 

Mustard Greens
Serves 2-4 
1/2 hour prep

1 tablespoon oil
1 onion, sliced in thin rings
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large bunch of mustard greens
1 tablespoon soy sauce
3 tablespoons sake
1 teaspoon sesame oil, optional

Heat the oil in a super large pot. (Those greens take up a lot of room.) Cook the onion on medium-low heat for about ten minutes.

Meanwhile, clean the greens. (Mine were quite dirty; I put them in a big bowl and rinsed and rinsed and rinsed till the grit was all gone.)  Stack them up and slice into thick ribbons.

Once the onion is translucent, add the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Then add the greens - don't worry about the water clinging to them. That'll help them cook.

Cook for a couple of minutes and then use a wooden spoon to stir the greens to give the greens on top a chance to get heated through. Keep repeating this for 10-15 minutes, till the greens are all heated through.

Add the soy sauce and sake and cook for another few minutes till hot.

Remove from the heat and add the sesame oil. Stir. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature. These will also keep well in the fridge for a couple of days.

Posted on Thursday, June 02, 2011 by Rivki Locker