Thursday, November 4, 2010

Red bell pepper panzanella

I just had the most delicious lunch. I mean, how could lunch made almost entirely of bread not be awesome? It's something I created out of my leftover focaccia bread. It uses pickled red onions, but if you haven't prepped that (or don't want to), cook some chopped onion with the red bell pepper and be sure to add a splash or two of red wine vinegar along with the olive oil.

Red bell pepper panzanella

1 red bell pepper, chopped
Zest of half a lemon
Rings of pickled red onion with a bit of the liquid (I eyeballed it)
Day old small loaf of focaccia bread, cut into bit sized chunks (about enough to fill a toaster oven tray)
Fresh basil, chopped (or slivered if you're feeling fancy)
Grated mozzarella cheese
Extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

1. Saute the bell pepper until just done in a bit high heat oil of your choice. Turn off heat and stir in lemon zest and onions.
2. While bell pepper is cooking, toast the focaccia chunks in the toaster oven.
3. Toss together the bread, basil, mozzarella, a few splashes of extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper with the bell pepper mixture. Taste; adjust seasoning if necessary.
4. Eat with salad or something else "healthy" so that you don't feel too bad. ;)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


As promised, I'm going to talk about grains. However, since there are already so many great resources out there, I will simply point you to them and share some favorite recipes!

First of all, grains don't have to be intimidating. Just take one you've never heard of, look up how to cook it (if you can make rice, you can cook grains), and enjoy! If you have a store nearby that sells food in bulk bins, even better! Just grab a trial amount so you don't waste your money. And for a hard to find grain, opt for an ethnic market rather than the "ethnic" section of the grocery store. Not only will you save money, you'll also have fun looking at all the foods you've never seen before, getting to ask the people who work or shop there what to do with them!

Now on to the info. Here is a handy description of various grains and what to do with them:

For a brief glossary, see here:

For a very detailed description of each grain (or any food, for that matter), use

Now on to some of my favorite recipes!

Brown Rice:
Plain BROWN RICE. Best brown rice method hands down. No more mushy or undercooked brown rice!

If you're wanting to try a new grain but aren't sure if you'll like it, try adding it to brown rice. Or try this recipe that uses five grains (or four or three, depending on what you have and/or like). I once made a large batch and froze the leftovers for later use. Boy did the leftovers come in handy for quick weeknight meals (stir fry, anyone?).

My favorite grain is probably quinoa. Ah, quinoa. I've blogged about it before here. It's also delicious served with grilled zucchini and pork. My favorite seasoning for it has to be cumin. Also, I've recently discovered that I prefer a longer cooking time than what most packages indicate (25 minutes instead of 10 of 15). Beyond the usual applications, I absolutely love this creative and mouthwatering delicious Quinoa Skillet bread. If you try it, be warned that it comes out better when you measure by weight (ounces, grams) rather than volume (cups, pints).

Multiple grains:
If making bread is up your ally, I highly recommend Peter Reinhart's Multigrain Bread Extraordinare. An almost pompous sounding title, I know, but this loaf from his book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, is the best multigrain bread I've ever tasted. Really. It uses brown rice, oats, bran, and your choice of coarse corn meal, amaranth, millet, or quinoa. Google the name of the bread and you're sure to find a recipe (or get your hands on a copy of the fantastic resource that is the Baker's Apprentice).

And finally, let me add something about oats. I have fallen in love with quick-cooking steel oats. I much prefer the texture to rolled oats. That's not to say that one couldn't enjoy both. If you want to try something new in the oat department, try steel cut, and preferably quick cooking since they take longer to cook than rolled oats. Here is a decadent way to use them:
You can use any nuts you have on hand. I also like to add fresh or dried fruit, especially raisins, dried cranberries, apples, apricots, etc. Have fun mixing and matching nuts, fruits, sweeteners (honey, agave, maple syrup).

Friday, June 4, 2010

I'm back (with a late spring salad)

After many weeks of silence (and lack of inspiration at home), I have finally broken the silence (and the dry spell)! Last time we spoke, I just started a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I never did get back to you about my experience. Stay tuned!

This lovely in-between-spring-and-summer evening, I'd like to share my recent creation! Like I alluded to earlier, I have been a bit bored lately with my cooking. My remedy? Go to my favoriteblog and look up new ingredients! I decided to branch out with grains and vinegar. I will talk about grains more later.

Vinegar? Isn't that a little boring or basic? Perhaps, but it was severely underutilized in my kitchen! One day I realized I had a decent bottle of balsamic vinegar and Chinese cooking wine (which in my mind is pretty much like vinegar) sitting, just sitting there, in the pantry (next to my olive oil, no less). What a shame, I thought. So I just started adding it to things. First, the Chinese cooking wine went into stir-fried bok choy (thank you CSA for introducing me to bok choy!), and the balsamic into a vinaigrette for salad with chickpeas.

So the next time I went to Trader Joe's, I decided to investigate the vinegar section. Holy smokes, there are some delicious looking vinegars! I decided upon the orange muscat champagne vinegar. Once I opened the bottle, catching a sniff of its sweet scent, I knew was going to have fun. With this and my CSA basket in hand, I was inspired to make this beauty of a salad.

Late spring salad with orange-mint vinaigrette

3-4 cups washed and torn lettuce leaves (I mixed romaine, red leaf, and iceberg)
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted

For the vinaigrette:
4 strawberries, sliced
1 small blood orange, peeled and pulled into segments
3 mint leaves, crushed and chopped
1 shallot, thinly sliced
a few splashes of orange champagne vinegar (or whatever you have that's similar)
a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
pinch salt and pepper

1. Prepare vinaigrette and let sit for at least 5-10 minutes.
2. Toss vinaigrette and toasted walnuts with salad and enjoy!

Notes: No blood orange? No problem. Any small, sweet orange or tangerine will do. Also, the shallot could just as well be an equivalent amount of red onion. I'm sure this could be adapted for other kinds of fruit and nuts depending on what you have on hand as well.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

CSA Basket #1

I just joined a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for the first time. Full of excitement, I brought home my first basket today. Can I say wow? I'm a bit overwhelmed with produce now! Here's a list of what items were in it:

Kale (kale)
Butter lettuce
Broccoli (tiny)
Red romaine (huge)
Red lettuce
Parsley - flat leaf and curly
Swiss Chard (huge)
Green onions
6 small russet potatoes
2 large sweet potatoes
2 meyer lemons
5 apples
1 grapefruit
2 huge avocados
11 oranges/tangerines
2 kiwis

I would like to do some cost comparison to the same quantities and quality of these items from the grocery store. I say quality because cost is not my reason for doing this. It's more about getting food that's fresh and supports local farmers. However, even good things shouldn't be done if you can't afford them (cough health care cough). I have a feeling that so far, though, it's going to come out about the same. In which case, CSA you are amazing!