From pancakes to muffins, smoothies to salads — steamed roasted and raw — beets and beet greens been the subject of lots of posts this year. I didn’t start 2013 with the intention exploring this deeply pigmented root from every possible angle. In fact, on a few occasions, I made a small determination to rein in my new-found fervor, and then I’d end up asking myself, “why stop now.”
The bottom line, I’ve barely just begun. Next on the docket: beet chips, assorted borscht recipes, pickled beets, and a beet cake. In the meantime, here’s a brief recap of the fun that we’ve had with beets for the first 8 months of 2013.
Quinoa has been the go-to grain around here for most of the year. Faster and fluffier than rice, a complete protein — and then there’s the whole Inca connection. Back in the day, when in doubt, I’d steam some rice, saute an onion along with any vegetables that were on hand, add a little salt, pepper and cumin, and call it dinner.
Last night, I switched it up a bit, with quinoa and then raised the superfood bar with a few cups of chopped arugula and spinach. We had it as a main course and everyone was happy. This dish could also stand in as a side dish, or served cold as a salad.
1 cup of quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 red or yellow pepper, chopped
1 cup black beans rinsed
1 tsp. cumin
salt and pepper
2 cups tightly packed spinach and arugula, or other greens
Rinse quinoa and add to 1 1/2 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until water is absorbed. About 15 minutes.
Saute onions and pepper in olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Add rinsed black beans and cumin.
Rough chop greens and add to the saute pan along with cooked quinoa. Salt and pepper to taste.
When quinoa is cooked, add to the saute pan. Serve warm as a main course or side dish, or chilled as a salad.
A good salad dominates the dinner conversation. When it doubles as a vegetarian main course, that’s even better.
That was the case last week with this Kale, Quinoa, Feta, Avocado, Cucumber and tomato creation that we enjoyed at my sister’s house in Iowa. As soon as we got back to Austin, I had to have it again, and made the mistake of steaming the kale for too long. It’s a whole different thing when the leaves all clump together without any of the that robust kaleness that we have learned to love. So rule No. 1: Only steam the kale leaves for a split second — just long enough for the green to become deeper.
Otherwise, this salad is a sure hit. First time around, we had discussion about whether or not to go with the quinoa once all of the other ingredients were tossed together. It seemed perfect already without tossing in a grain when a grain did not seem necessary. We took the leap of faith. Turns out, it was a good leap.
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups water
1 large bunch of kale, rinsed and torn into small pieces
1 avocado, diced
1 cucumber, diced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
Rinse quinoa and add to a small saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed — about 15 minutes. Stir and set aside to cool.
Using a steamer or a metal colander, steam kale for 45 seconds. Remove from the steam and allow to cool.
Transfer kale to a large salad bowl and top with avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese and quinoa.
Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and toss.
Broccoli Pancakes with Pesto. Seriously, these were delicious. One of my favorite blogs, Beyond the Peel, came out with a recipe for 3 Ingredient Savory Pancakes, and I had to try them immediately, largely out of disbelief that
2 cups chopped broccoli,
4 eggs and
2 Tbsp. of ground flax
zapped together in a food processor could turn into a game-changing pancake batter. They cooked up in a skillet with a little oil, just like a regular pancake.
Topped with warm pesto, we had the pleasure during dinner of experiencing something truly new under the sun. Gluten free to boot. Great for dinner, I can’t wait to serve these for a brunch and convert a whole new crew of doubters to the concept of a broccoli pancake.
It’s fairly recently that I’ve started pushing the envelope of pesto possibilities, stirring in a tablespoon of pesto here, spreading it liberally there, and discovering more and more reasons to love pesto.
Pesto is simply amazing. Packed with more flavor per square centimeter than any other item on the savory shelf, it also serves as a vehicle for some of the finest superfoods out there — garlic, olive oil, fresh herbs, walnuts, lemon juice. One could almost make an argument for popping a pesto capsule on days when it did not make it onto the plate.
What we’re talking about here are dishes that incorporate pesto — not recipes for pesto. But first, a few words on pesto itself. Earlier this year, I experimented with a Basil Arugula Parsley Pesto, which became my standby. Recently, I took a crack at a Basil Almond Pesto, and even though I’m thinking that might be my new go-to, I’ll never tire of new pesto possibilities. My only rule when making pesto: make a lot. A refrigerator that’s stocked with this wildly versatile standby tends to spark the creative juices.
Here are some more of the ways that pesto has managed to spice up our lives lately.
I bought a few ears at the Farmer’s Market. Shucked them. Immersed them in boiling water for a few minutes and was about to bring them to the table with a stick of butter and a shaker of salt — like I’ve done since I was 10 years old — and I stopped myself in my tracks thinking, “I wonder what a little pesto would be like instead.” There are those who would advocate mixing half butter and half pesto, and that’s one way to go. We went for straight pesto and loved it.
Pesto Pilaf. A side dish doesn’t get much easier (or better) than this: One cup of brown rice, 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the water is fully absorbed. Stir in 2 Tbsp. of pesto. Top with toasted, sliced almonds. Perfect.
Cheese and Pesto Sandwich. A cheese sandwich began as a very blah lunch-on-the run until I eyed some pesto in the fridge, spread some pesto on a slice of whole wheat bread, and added a slice of cheddar along with a few arugula leaves. The transformation to an entirely new sandwich stratosphere was immediate.
The next day, Sarah took the same concept and grilled it. Even better.
Pesto/Lemon Dressing. Equal parts pesto and fresh squeezed lemon juice. That’s all it takes to unseat the standard Dijon vinaigrette.
Pesto Frittata.Fun with frittatas — brunch, lunch or dinner — is a big theme around our kitchen these days. A recent addition of a tablespoon of pesto into five beaten eggs, took a potato, onion and tomato frittata up several notches.
Pesto Omlette. And next we have the obvious extension of the pesto frittata. Two large eggs, a tablespoon of pesto spread in the center, and about a half tablespoon on top.
Baked Salmon with Pesto. Once again, pesto comes to the rescue. 30 seconds is all it takes to transform a plain plank of salmon into a perfectly moist and flavor-packed filet. Spread about 2 Tbsp. of pesto across the skinless side of a 1 to 1 1/2 pound salmon filet. Wrap in foil and bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Pesto Salmon Cakes. I’m a big proponent of always having a can of wild-caught sockeye salmon on the shelf (as well as a container of pesto in the fridge), because it means that Pesto Salmon Cakes will always be an option. One 14 1/2 oz. can of red salmon, 3 Tbsp. of pesto, 2 eggs and 2 slices of whole wheat bread ground into crumbs, and that’s it.
Pesto Croutons. Bill could not be a bigger fan of homemade croutons and pesto couldn’t be a more perfect crouton mix. Combine 2 cups of cut up cubes of bread with 3 tablespoons of pesto mixed in with additional olive oil to ensure that the pesto spreads evenly. Toss gently until all of the bread cubes are coated and toast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minute. Toss again after about 10 minutes and monitor closely to ensure croutons don’t burn.
Pesto Pasta. Serving as the poster child of this blog’s Auto Pilot page, pasta with pesto is where my love of pesto began — and the point from which is did not stray for many years.
Broccoli Pesto. And for a variation on the basic pasta with pesto, steam broccoli for a good seven minutes and mash it with a fork along with a few tablespoons of pesto. Mix with hot pasta and top with parmesan.
A very shallow dive into the Mediterranean Diet over the past week or so revealed that it does not require knowledge of the fish that swim in the Mediterranean Sea or the produce that grows near the shores of Alexandria or Morocco. That’s a good thing, because I did a little Google search on the fish that swim in the Mediterranean and found neither tuna nor salmon. What I did find was a very long list that included the Monrovia Doctor Fish, the Mediterranean Sand Eel, the Highfin Lizardfish and the Blackmouth Splitin — all of which sound scary and none of which are available at a fish counter in Austin.
Last week was indeed a big week for learning. After writing about some of my favorite foods, I’ve learned, once and for all how to spell tzatziki and spanakopita. So I’ve got that going for me.
Best as I can figure, aside from the absolute requirement of olive oil (cold pressed extra virgin) the Mediterranean Diet is fairly open ended, and just calls for a diet that’s centered around
Nuts, legumes and seeds,
Fruits and vegetables,
Fish, and of course,
It seems a given that we also need to add to the list: LOTS OF GARLIC.
Here’s a list of the recipes that I had fun with over the past week or so, along with a few other recent posts that appear worthy of inclusion in the Mediterranean Diet.