Whole30 Week 3: Vegan and Not-So Vegan

Asparagus & Fennel Soup by Amy Roth Photo

This week’s post is dedicated to Kenji Lopez-Alt, that test kitchen god (and managing culinary director at Serious Eats) whose recipes formed the backbone of the best meals I made this week. Only minor tweaks were necessary to make them Whole30-compliant; though I’m really starting to hate the word compliant, the adjustments seem to be coming to me naturally now. I’m still constantly hungry despite eating all the time and adding even more fat to my diet, but the cheese cravings aren’t constant, so I’m headed in the right direction. No tiger blood, either, but I always thought that was a long shot, anyway.

Lunch today was a fan-freaking-tastic soup of asparagus and fennel, found on Lopez-Alt’s Instagram feed. I took the basics and tweaked them a bit with what I had in the house and fell head over heels. I sautéed 1/2 large chopped onion with a small thinly sliced bulb of fennel and a finely chopped stalk of celery in olive oil until they were soft, then added one bunch of chopped asparagus (minus the tips, which I steamed) and half of a sliced russet potato and cooked them together for a few minutes. One quart of chicken stock, salt to taste and some simmering later, I blitzed the soup in my Vitamix and lunch was served. I love simple, seasonal recipes, don’t you? I may try to accentuate the fennel flavor next time with a splash of Herbsaint, but honestly found the soup to be perfectly balanced this way. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Cast Iron Steak & Vegan Creamed Spinach by Amy Roth Photo

A more substantial meal came in the form of a stovetop-cooked ribeye and vegan creamed spinach, which may sound like an odd combination, but hear me out. When you’re eating so much meat in one sitting (though not that much — Gil and I split the steak), there’s no need to go overboard with real creamed spinach. It’s just too much. And honestly, I found the flavors of this vegan dish much more pleasing and less muted than I do with the standard recipe. Blended cauliflower and almond milk form the base of the “cream” and are just brilliant at that job. I did add a little nutritional yeast for a cheesy tang, but otherwise cooked it according to the recipe.

The steak followed the Serious Eats recipe I use exclusively during winter, when the thought of standing at my grill would be enough to keep me from eating steak at all if not for this method of indoor cooking. I did use ghee instead of butter and could definitely taste a difference, but the steak was excellent anyway, so no complaints there.

I did have a couple of small cheats this week. When I couldn’t stand the thought of preparing one more meal, Gil whisked me away to a BBQ joint where I had smoked beef with a side of mashed potatoes that might have (probably) had milk and/or butter in them. I felt fine after, so no worries for me! Then, at a meeting I attended Tuesday, I had one Terra Chip which was The Best Thing I’ve Ever Tasted In My Life. I can’t even lie. Fried potatoes (though this was taro, I believe) are absolutely my trigger food and that chip was like a drug that left me wanting more. I don’t know where I got this self-control, but am very happy for it, because otherwise I’d be sitting on my living room floor covered in grease and crumbs.

Then again, Benny would probably take care of the crumbs situation. I haven’t really shared about it here, but we lost both Ru and Otis over the last two years, which was just heartbreaking. Ru left us only in December of last year, so we waited as long as we could, but finally adopted another greyhound just three weeks ago! He’s the sweetest little guy with a funny bark and a much bigger brain than Ru and Otis put together — it’s a little scary to watch him figuring things out. He’s still a little camera-shy, so no decent photos yet, but if you’d like to follow him on Instagram, he’s precocious and has his own account. And while you’re there, follow me, too! I try to post everyday, so there’s always something delicious to see.

I’m planning to end Whole30 a few days early next Thursday, when I’m going out to lunch with friends. We’re planning for dim sum and I don’t want to miss out on everything but steamed vegetables. But I’ll behave. Mostly. See you next week!

Steak, Spinach and Another Cookbook Giveaway

Cast Iron Ribeye Steak | Amy Roth Photo

UPDATE: Congratulations to Sarah Cordes, winner of the cookbook Around My French Table by Dorie Greenspan! 

To say I’ve been in a cooking rut would give the wrong impression entirely; it isn’t so much a little ennui-filled rut as it is the Grand Canyon. Gil doesn’t cook and doesn’t much care if I do, so we’ve been eating out a lot and I’ve been making little things here and there, uninspiring things that are fine (she said with a sigh), but not new and certainly not blog-worthy. Getting through the slump has taken a while, and I’m not entirely sure I’ve made it out just yet, but time will tell. I’ve had my periods of kitchen disinterest, but this was another thing entirely and I didn’t quite know how to deal with it, to be honest. So I just started reading again, reading without an agenda or in service to dinner, just for the sheer enjoyment of experiencing food on the page again. And when I happened across an article in last week’s New York Times outlining a different way of preparing a steak on the stovetop, something just clicked.

See, I’m a sucker for technique-refinement and experimentation. If there’s a new way to do something, an avenue that promises better results than the tried and true, I am there, my friend. It’s why I trust America’s Test Kitchen implicitly and why Kenji Lopez-Alt’s version of the pan-seared steak at Serious Eats became my go-to method for cooking steaks indoors during the long winter. I might’ve considered breaking out my grill for a steak now that Spring has arrived, but for the Times’ refinement of his method, which calls for salting the pan rather than the steak to form a nice crust.

Cast Iron Steak Close-Up | Amy Roth Photo

And what a crust it was! I salted my cast iron pan and put it over high heat to prepare it for the steak. And this is where my amazing American Range comes in handy. 23,000 BTUs got the pan smoking in no time at all, and it only took about six minutes of frequent flipping to reach an internal temperature of 120°F, though I should’ve pulled it off the heat just a little bit sooner because I prefer my beef somewhat bloodier than this. But that’s a minor thing and easily rectified the next time I try it. Because you know what? I like a grilled steak, but I don’t always want that smoky flavor. (I also promise to sharpen my knives this very weekend.)

Dorie Greenspan's Steamed Spinach | Amy Roth Photo

Part of my intensive reading plan involved going back through my cookbook collection to see what I could glean from the masters. I always learn something useful and eye-opening from Dorie Greenspan, so I pulled out her cookbook Around My French Table to see what she had to say on the subject of spinach — because you can’t have steak without spinach, at least not in this house. And once again, she blew my mind with a technique for STEAMED SPINACH that guarantees flavor rather than flaccid, bland leaves. I won’t give away the recipe here, but she simply turns the dish on its head and dresses the spinach BEFORE cooking it so the flavor (in this case, lemon rind) penetrates the spinach as it steams. It’s brilliant.

No, SHE’S brilliant. I’ve been a big fan for a long time and can’t gush enough about her conversational tone and spot-on recipes. I suppose what I appreciate most about the recipes is the thought she puts into each one. Just as in the steamed spinach recipe, her technique takes an ordinary dish to something extraordinary by tweaking it with just a little extra care. From whirring a pudding in your food processor to aerate and lend a silky texture to the detailed instructions for turning out the perfect chocolate chunkers, her advice always yields stellar results.

And I want you to experience it, too. I have an extra copy of Around My French Table, which I’d love to give away to one lucky reader. I can’t guarantee it’ll pull you out of a cooking funk, but I suspect it might just. At the very least, it’ll elevate your cooking by several degrees, which will benefit you greatly. To enter, fill out the form below and I’ll post the winner here next Saturday! Good luck!

Field to Feast: Spinach

Kasha and I are back with more Field to Feast posts this week! Head over to The FarmGirl Cooks for more ideas on what to do with what’s in season.

Spinach never was something I ate as a child, so I’m not sure when or where I developed my love for it, but love it I do. And after hardneck garlic, it’s my favorite thing to buy from Bialas Farms at the market. We see it a couple times a year — first in Spring, when I gobble it up after a long winter of the industrial, bagged stuff. Then, after I’ve eaten my weight in summer-ripe tomatoes and corn and think another zucchini might be the death of me, it crops up again when the weather cools down. So by June, I’ve waited the better part of a year for spinach to come back to market and what happens? I’ll tell you what happens. A sinus infection happens! A disgusting sinus infection that sapped my energy and kept me shuffling between the bed (for naps) and sofa (for marathons of Doc Martin and Wallander) for a full week. (Side note: My ass is tired of all the sitting, which seems ridiculous, because aren’t asses made for that very thing? My body craves movement and walking for more than 20 feet at a stretch. When I’m able to do a downward dog again, I have a feeling the angels will sing.)

So that’s why this post is so slim. My nasal passages apologize for the interruption, but promise that next week’s post will be a doozy, so be sure to tune in.

My busy schedule of TV marathons and napping notwithstanding, I DID manage to work up a new spinach recipe this week. I wanted to make gluten-free spanakopita for you, but let’s get real. There’s NO WAY I’d attempt to make my own phyllo dough (gf or otherwise), so I thought spinach turnovers would be an acceptable substitute.

Spinach Turnovers at Minimally Invasive

And they were entirely delicious, if not the same texture as flaky spanakopita. For the pastry, I used the pie crust recipe at Cup4Cup minus the sugar, then adapted the filling from Vegetarian Times. I rolled out the dough to about 1/8″ thickness, then cut out individual turnovers with a 4″ round cutter, which made a nicely-sized turnover to be eaten in a few bites. You could size these up or down without too much of a problem, as long as you adjusted the amount of filling in each. Believe me, what looks like a paltry amount of filling can become a big mess when folding and crimping if you’re not careful. Just a word of warning.

Spinach Turnovers Recipe at Minimally Invasive
Click on the picture to embiggen.

Spinach Turnover at Minimally Invasive

And since everyone (me included) seems to be on a green shake kick lately, I’ve included the one I make for myself nearly every morning. It’s a good baseline to use and produces a very pretty shake. You can always add other fruits or vegetables to it. Just know that strawberries and blueberries, while delicious additions, mean you’ll be drinking a shake the color of a bruise. As long as visuals aren’t that important to you, carry on!

Green Shake Recipe at Minimally Invasive

Click on the picture to embiggen.

This post brought to you by Cefuroxime Axetil, Nasonex and DayQuil.

Recipes below, if you want to copy and paste text instead of referring to an image.

Spinach Turnovers adapted from Cup4Cup and Vegetarian Times

Your favorite double-pie crust recipe (I used this one, minus the sugar.)
8 cups spinach leaves
1 tablespoon garlic confit, or 2 teaspoons olive oil + 1 large garlic clove, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
1/3 cup feta cheese, finely crumbled1 egg, beaten
Maldon sea salt

Rinse and drain spinach and, with water still clinging to leaves, transfer to large skillet. Cover, and cook over medium-high heat until wilted. Rinse with cold water in a colander, squeeze out liquid, and coarsely chop.

Heat garlic confit (or garlic and olive oil) in a large skillet over medium-low heat. When it starts to sizzle, add onion and cook until softened. Add spinach; cook 2 minutes more. Transfer to bowl and cool.

Stir ricotta and feta cheeses into spinach mixture. Adjust seasoning, if necessary.

Preheat oven to 350˚F, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll dough to 1/8″ thickness and, using a 4″ round biscuit cutter, cut out as many circles as you can. Remove extra dough and place back in bowl. Put one tablespoon of spinach mixture in the center of dough rounds and wet edges of dough with water. Carefully fold dough in half, pressing out air, and crimp the edges with a fork. Poke holes in the top of the turnovers for air to escape during cooking. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

Brush tops of turnovers with beaten egg and sprinkle with Maldon sea salt.

Bake 30 minutes, or until turnovers are golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Green Shake

1/2 cup water
1/3 head romaine
1 handful spinach
2 tablespoons parsley
1 stalk celery
1/2 granny smith apple
1/2 lemon, peeled
1/2 cucumber, seeded
1/2 cup yogurt or 1/2 avocado

In a high-speed blender, combine the first four ingredients(water through parsley). Blend on high speed for 30 seconds. Add remaining fruits and vegetables and blend until combined. Add yogurt, if using, and blend for just a couple of seconds.

Delicious additions:

1/2 frozen banana
strawberries
blueberries
kiwi (if you like a tart shake)
pineapple
1 kale leaf
1 tablespoon chia seeds or flax seed

 

From the Market — Week 2

This weekend’s farmers’ market was a great example of the early bird getting the worm. We lazed around Saturday morning instead of hitting the market when it opened and by the time I got to the vegetable booth (15 minutes before closing), the only produce available was potatoes and spring garlic. Good thing I overloaded last week and have a crisper drawer that really works; I was still set for a couple of meals this weekend.

Yes indeed, what you see up there is more pizza, but in my defense, I’ve been looking for the definitive gluten-free pizza crust and now have two in my arsenal. The batch from last weekend was featured on Shooting the Kitchen, a blog well worth your time if you’re into gorgeous food photography. The crust had a rich depth and could fool just about anyone into believing it’s the real thing, but it requires a two-hour initial rise and it’s best after spending a full day in the fridge. It’s great for the weekend, but maybe not so practical on weeknights (unless you get home far earlier than I do).

This week’s crust was from Jules Gluten-Free, and took less than an hour to make, but relies on a starchier flour combination and the taste is a little one-note. Still, if you need to turn your pie around right away, it’s a great option.

The toppings were cobbled together from last week’s market haul with minimal grocery store supplementation — sautéed broccoli rabe with garlic and red pepper powder, paper-thin lemon slices (which turned sweet under the high heat of the oven), drained ricotta, grated parmesan and the remaining garlic confit that needed to be used up this weekend. I just love throwing together lunch with whatever’s on hand.

with bacon/cider vinaigrette and toasted slivered almonds

Speaking of, that’s how Sunday’s lunch came about, too. The spinach was robust, but already a week old, so I tossed it together with the juiciest strawberries you can imagine, some toasted slivered almonds and a bit of minced shallot. For the dressing, I heated some of the rendered bacon fat from the bacon jam weekend, added a little neutral oil, cider and sherry vinegars and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s a perfectly delicious and light salad that really lets the seasonal produce shine.

From the Market: Week 8

Or, corn week

And we’re back with another weekend of cooking, fresh from the Ringwood Farmers’ Market. Despite temperatures that reached the triple digits a couple of weeks ago, it didn’t really feel like summer to me until this weekend, when I first spied corn at several booths at the market. And because corn heralds the arrival of tomatoes (thus my favorite food weeks of the year), I’m a happy, happy girl.

So with a full bag of corn and some adorable baby eggplants, I set my sights on grilling this weekend. The only question was what slant to give the meal, and after some consideration (Mexican — lime & cotija? Italian — balsamic vinaigrette? Cajun — loads of paprika, oregano & pepper?), I decided to go for Middle Eastern with a harissa rub/dressing since the cumin, coriander and paprika would play so well with the flavors of the grill.

There are lots of ways to grill corn and I’ve tried most of them. Rolling the shucked ears in foil with a little butter and spice is where I started years ago, but that only takes advantage of the grill’s heat and doesn’t capture its essence. Grilling already-shucked ears bare on the grate is a little more satisfying, but the kernels tend to dry out and turn rubbery, no matter how attentive you are. So I’ve turned into an unshucked griller. I remove some of the outer husks, peel back the rest and keep them attached at the base, then strip the silk from the cob. At that point, it’s really simple to season the corn however you like, re-cover the ear with the husks and tie them at the top with one of the detached husks. Some people like to soak the cobs, but I prefer not to so the outer husks burn and char, and infuse the kernels with the smokiness of the grill.

For this weekend’s meal, I brushed the kernels with olive oil, then sprinkled them with dry harissa. I like to keep the dry rub around because I’m never quite sure how long the paste will keep with fresh garlic in it. Using powdered garlic and leaving out the water solves that problem, and it’s easy enough to turn it into a paste later. The corn roasted over a hot fire for about 20 minutes while I turned the ears frequently. The outer husks charred to black and began to crumble away after a time, but we were left with smoky, tender corn cooked through perfectly. Just before we dug in, I drizzled it with some harissa sauce (more on which later):

SUMMER'S HERE!

Although I’d be perfectly happy making an entire meal of grilled corn, Gil probably wouldn’t be, so I threw together a quick salad as well. While the corn was grilling, I placed the baby eggplants in the in-between spaces and let them cook until they were charred and had just enough form to escape going all Bruce Davison in X-Men. Once off the grill, I sliced them in half lengthwise, slathered them in harissa sauce mixed with lemon juice and honey and let them marinate till they’d cooled down and were shot through with spicy-sweet-tart flavor. They were perfect over a simple salad dressed with lemon vinaigrette, and damn if this isn’t going to be a go-to recipe for me this summer. The flavors just marry so well.

a fine side dish

Last weekend, I was fooling around with some basil and decided to use it in a green apple sorbet, but never got around to posting it here because the recipe isn’t quite where I want it to be yet. It’s awfully refreshing on a hot summer day, but is just a little too reminiscent of frozen applesauce for my liking. Once I find the appropriate level of tartness I’ll share, but for now, here’s a picture to serve as a placeholder.

refreshing!

Hope you all had a great weekend and managed to stay somewhat cool.

recipes after the jump

Continue reading “From the Market: Week 8”

From the Market: Week 1

Kofta with Spinach & Arugula Salad

The Ringwood Farmers’ Market opened this weekend, and not one minute too soon! I’ve been craving their fresh produce since the weekly market closed last November; winter market (new this year) only took place once a month, and the pickings were slim. It was winter, after all.

But now we’re back to greens, berries, honey and meats from small local farms, so let’s dive in.

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What I missed most about the early markets was the amazing spinach and arugula from Bialas Farms, not to mention the rest of the veggies and fresh herbs that always make up the bulk of my shopping experience on weekends. Because I was impatient to try the first haul, I made brunch as soon as we got home — a quick pesto with the spinach and arugula, some walnuts and grated locatelli, all smoothed out with a Ligurian olive oil. The pasta was a gluten-free selection from Fontanarosa’s, which I only visited for the first time this weekend. I now plan to shop there all summer long.

[About the gluten-free thing: I cut out the major sources of gluten about a month ago after reading The GenoType Diet. I’m highly suspicious of any diet at all (and definitely didn’t try this to lose weight — so don’t worry, those of you who know me), but thought I’d give this one a try since a lot of what the author said about my type rang true, given my experience. Anyway, I can honestly say that the mild-to-moderate joint pain I’ve had for the past few years has completely disappeared since I cut the out the gluten. (Other things I won’t go into here have cleared up as well.) Maybe it’s all unrelated, and I hope it is, but we’ll see how I feel when I re-introduce regular pastas and whole-grain bread into my meals.]

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Even though we were invited to a BBQ Sunday afternoon, I had to get in a little grilling of my own this weekend, so I threw together a quick-ish lunch. The appetizers were inspired by this post at Smitten Kitchen and I was thrilled with the way they turned out:

That’s a lot of good stuff packed into a couple of bites, and it came together with almost no effort on my part. I just grilled 1/2-inch-thick slices of homemade bread till they were toasted, smeared them with loads of truffle butter, some room-temperature robiola (one of my favorites, but you could try whatever you like here), and topped them off with ribbons of asparagus, crunchy fleur de sel and freshly ground pepper.

To make the ribbons, just grasp the tip of the spear and use a vegetable peeler to shave down the length of the asparagus.

Our main course was a kofta salad. The spinach and arugula made another appearance here, tossed with tzaziki sauce for the salad base. I had a few extra asparagus ribbons from the appetizers, so I threw them on as a garnish. But the real draw was the kofta made with ground lamb from Snoep Winkel Farm. I used the recipe that’s become my standard, substituting walnuts for pistachios since those were, um, about 18 months out of date. Oops.

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And then we went to a BBQ where I consumed lots of steak and delicious veggie skewers, so I was pretty meated- and veggied-out by Sunday morning and took it easy with a little goat’s milk yogurt with fresh strawberries, blueberries and honey. (Sadly, the blueberries were store-bought since they aren’t quite in season here, but the The Orchards of Concklin‘s strawberries are as perfect as ever, and their peonies aren’t half-bad either. I’ll bring my camera next time we go so I can show you just how popular Rufus and Otis are with the proprietor. The honey is local, too — from Nina’s Red Barn Farm, where we buy our fresh eggs and where I’m evidently known as Rufus’s mom.)

gluten-free

Hope everyone had a safe and relaxing Memorial Day Weekend.

Chickpea & spinach curry

curry2jpg.jpg

Keeping with our decision to eat mostly meatless around here, I turned to the meat of the legume kingdom for dinner tonight — the chickpea! What? You’ve never heard of that? Anyway, I just love ’em; they’re one of the few beans I really don’t mind eating canned, mainly because I’m too lazy/scatterbrained to get my act together and start cooking the dried ones a full month in advance.

I’ve been thinking back to one of Anthony Bourdain’s visits to India this past week. He dined at a vegetarian restaurant and said if the states had such incredible vegetarian food to offer, he’d have no trouble respecting the lifestyle (or something to that effect). So I got myself in the kitchen tonight (after blocking the entrances with baby gates to keep the boy out) and made a nice little curry using a recipe from Cooking Light as a starting point and served it over a mound of delicious, aromatic basmati rice.

I’m really glad I made enough for leftovers tomorrow. Wow — a meatless meal and anticipating the leftovers? I don’t even know myself anymore.

curry.jpg

Of course, when we decide to go carnivorous, we really do it up right. Stay tuned for details…

recipe after the jump

Continue reading “Chickpea & spinach curry”