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the curry comeback

I missed you guys!

I really like blogs. In fact, I have several I read every day, I enjoy catching up on daily musings and adventures of writers who feel like virtual friends. A Pear to Remember is not currently a site for daily recipes, and I decided recently that I am okay with that. Rather than disappointing myself with unrealistic expectations of time, or regularly pairing recipes with apologies, I’m going to visit to talk deliciously do-able cooking whenever I can–and that might not be every day. I just love living life, you know?

You see, I do get my blogging in: I also author a weekly WordPress blog at my new job, so you can find new recipes and Nutrition-talk here. I hope you’ll feel free to pop over and see what I’m cooking in my new career.

I don’t forget about you, no no—I’ve photographed many a dinner, anxious to share the secrets to recreating the magic in your kitchen. I even made homemade pumpkin spice lattes that are the best welcome home treat ever. Last night was the third time I made the dish in today’s post—you know I rarely make any recipe twice, so third time here is truly a charm. And I added a few special twists you will love. You do not need a dutch oven to make this rice, you can steam it right on the stove, or bake it in a covered dish—amazing baked rice has come from my Grammy’s vintage turquoise pyrex. But it does look pretty in Monsieur Pesto, oui?

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugFinal disclaimer before we get to the goods: I know a few dears out there are going to FREAK OUT at the word preceding “cauliflower” in the recipe name below. In previous Indian dishes on this site, I’ve tried my darndest to remind you that curry is really a verb meaning to mix. When the Brits got a taste of how spectacular Indian food is (my favorite cuisine, in fact), they—yes, the Brits—invented a spice blend to mimic Indian flavors. Curry powder, I made some last week when I ran out, can be as simple as turmeric + cumin + coriander + cayenne. Put it in a jar and people freak out. An alarming number of people have said to my face: Oh see, I don’t like curry. Well, if I can’t change your mind, this rice will change your world.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugAndrew will gladly call your house and tell you himself.

One-Pot Curried Cauliflower Rice

loosely based on a recipe from Everyday Food, serves 6

4 teaspoons vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter—oh God!!)

1 large head cauliflower, cored and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (or 1 bag frozen florets)

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

2 cups basmati or other long-grain white rice (we used brown), rinsed well

4 heaping teaspoons curry powder (if it’s been in your pantry for two presidents, time for a new jar)

1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 3/4 cups low-sodium broth

1/2 cup canned coconut milk

½ cup other veggies in your fridge (I diced carrot and fennel), optional

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Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a Dutch oven or other heavy pot, heat 2 teaspoons oil over medium-high. Add cauliflower and cook, stirring frequently, until browned in spots. Transfer to a plate.

Add 2 teaspoons oil and onion (plus any other veggies) to pot; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, 5 minutes. Add the rinsed rice, curry powder, and chickpeas.

Cook, stirring constantly, until rice is coated, about 2 minutes. Add broth and coconut milk (shake the can first!) and bring to a boil.

Scatter cauliflower over top (do not stir to combine). Cover and bake until rice is tender and liquid is absorbed, 15 minutes (25 minutes for brown rice).

Let cool 10 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with cilantro and a pinch of salt for pizazz. We enjoyed ours with a side of fried paneer.

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plenty: multi-vegetable paella

To celebrate my new job(!!), my in-laws took Andrew and I to one of my absolute favorite restaurants, Jose Andres’ Jaleo. This is how I finished a memorable night of tapas:

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Back in our apartment days/my unemployed-days, I often stayed up to watch Chef Andres’ PBS show Made In Spain. His dishes looked remarkable, and I was especially envious of his children digging their forks into the paella he made on their backyard grill. Unfortunately for me, his paella consisted of many meat-lover’s ingredients, assuring me I might go my entire life without experiencing paella. Paella, meaning “frying pan”, is a saffron-flavored Spanish dish made with varying combinations of rice, vegetables, meat, chicken, and seafood. Those last three key ingredients just don’t fit in to my picky palate.

Then I bought this beautiful book last year that has rocked my kitchen over and over and over. To continue my series featuring the brilliant cookbook Plenty, I’m first going to tease you with this upcoming pistachio couscous recipe from said Cookbook-That-Delivers-Every-Time (then we’ll talk paella).

I did not have paella rice (though I realized yesterday I had risotto rice hiding in my pantry all along. Out of complete desperation I used long-grain white rice (you could use jasmine or basmati, though basmati has a strong flavor). I know using long-grain white rice means my chances of shaking hands with Chef Andres are now as slim as ever, surely I have embarrassed the entire country of Spain. But people: this is still the best damn rice you’ll have in your life, so don’t let a little grain get you down. Yes there are numerous ingredients, but this is very, very special. Bring this one out for company.

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Multi-Vegetable Paella

from Plenty, serves 6

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped

1 red bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 fennel bulb, cut into strips

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 bay leaves

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1 cup short-grain paella rice (however, I used jasmine)

6  1/2 tablespoons sherry (I used sherry vinegar)

1 tsp. saffron threads

2 cups low-sodium vegetable stock

3/4 cup fava beans (fresh or frozen)

12 plum tomatoes, halved

5 small artichokes in oil from a jar, drained and quartered

15 pitted kalamata olives, crushed or halved

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

4 lemon wedges

Saute the veggies.

Heat up the olive oil in a paella pan, or a large shallow skillet, and gently soften the onion for 5 minutes. Add the bell peppers and fennel and continue to cook on medium heat for about 6 minutes, or until soft and golden. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

Add the spices and cook the rice.

Add the bay leaves, paprika, turmeric, and cayenne to the vegetables, and stir well. Then add the rice and stir thoroughly for 2 minutes before adding the sherry and saffron. Boil down for a minute, then add the stock and ⅓ teaspoon salt. Reduce the heat to the minimum and simmer very gently for about 20 minutes, or until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Do not cover the pan, and don’t stir the rice during the cooking.

(I omitted this step:) Meanwhile, pour plenty of boiling water over the fava beans in a bowl and leave for a minute, then drain well and leave to cool down. Now squeeze each bean gently to remove the skin and discard it.

Steam the vegetables.

Remove the paella pan from the heat. Taste and add more salt if needed, but without stirring the rice and vegetables much. Scatter the tomatoes, artichokes, and fava beans over the rice, and cover the pan tightly with foil. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Take off the foil with gusto to reveal this exquisite presentation. Scatter the olives on top of the paella and sprinkle with parsley. Remove the bay leaves and serve with wedges of lemon.

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Andrew and I haven’t been to Spain—yet—but this dish provided a divine cultural experience. We have been traveling abroad recently, more on that next time 😉

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the only exception

I’m not usually drawn to recipes that require specialty ingredient substitutions to make a dish healthier. Brewer’s yeast, soy cheese, nut cream—not my thing. I often find little other uses for expensive health alternatives.

Oh, but today’s cookie—a whole different (do-able) story.

Pear readers know not to bother visiting this spot for dessert recipes. It’s not that I don’t like desserts—if I could bake, I would eat the entire pan of whatever chocolate-y goodness popped out of my oven. Thankfully, I flop at nearly everything I bake, which means it’s easier to be healthy when there’s no cookies in the house.

Let’s also clarify something: ours is a healthy home, so I don’t really endorse daily cookie eating. Or recipes that call for funky ingredients and substitutions. BUT HERE’S WHERE I’M WILLING TO MAKE A PERMANENT EXCEPTION.

When Vegetarian Times magazine called this “The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookie in the World”—let’s say I was intrigued.

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I am an oatmeal-for-breakfast girl through and through (berries + cinnamon + honey = mmm mmm), and typically I would raise an eyebrow at you if you ever tried to put my breakfast in a dessert. But seriously, people: the exception.

Besides that this is deliciously chocolatey and moist, let’s talk nutrition facts for a sec. Take a Mrs. Fields’ Oatmeal Chocolate Chip (65 grams) made with butter, brown sugar, whole eggs, vanilla, salt and baking soda—standard cookie ingredients…

MRS. FIELDS                                   THIS COOKIE

280 calories                                      173 calories

13 g fat                                                 10 g fat

8 g sat. fat                                           3 g sat. fat

40 g carbs                                           21 g carbs

140 mg sodium                                122 mg sodium

35 mg cholesterol                           0 mg cholesterol

1 g fiber                                               2 g fiber

17 g sugar                                           12 g sugar

Two big points I take away from this cookie comparison is the fat content—both cookies are high in fat per serving, but the cookie with walnuts and oat flour has less saturated (artery-clogging) fat. The cookie here is also cholesterol free.

It is not time to start substituting cookies for breakfast or a nutritious snack, but this is a great dessert alternative for get-togethers—a huge hit among a crowd of family members that might have freaked if I mentioned the word “vegan”… With nine people in the house the weekend I cooked these in Delaware, they were gone by morning! This cookie is work, but not complicated work. This cookie is worth it.

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Note: I found oat flour in Giant’s “Natural” health aisle. (Does it drive anyone else bonkers that a commercial FOOD store has a single aisle devoted to “healthy” products?)

The Heart-Healthiest Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World

Vegetarian Times, February 2009

makes 30 cookies, active time: less than 30 minutes

3 Tbs. canola oil

2 cups walnuts

1 cup light brown sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1½ cups oat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

2 cups rolled oats

3 3.5-oz. bars bittersweet or dark chocolate, chopped, or 12 oz. dark chocolate chips

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Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray, or line with parchment paper.

Blend walnuts in food processor 30 seconds, or until ground into a fine meal. Add canola oil, and blend 2 to 3 minutes more, or until mixture has the consistency of natural peanut butter, scraping down sides of food processor occasionally. Transfer to bowl.

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Whisk together brown sugar and ½ cup water in small saucepan, and bring mixture to a boil. Pour brown sugar mixture over ground walnut butter, add vanilla extract, and stir until no lumps remain.

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Whisk together oat flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon in separate bowl. Stir oat flour mixture into walnut mixture. Cool 10 minutes. Fold in oats, then chocolate chips.

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Shape cookie dough into 2-inch balls, and place 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Flatten cookies with bottom of drinking glass dipped in water.

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Bake 8 to 10 minutes, or until cookies begin to brown and tops look dry. Cool 3 minutes on baking sheets, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

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There aren’t too many desserts here, as baking is simply not my strong suit (ironic that I was employed as a baker four years ago…) Still, there are a few desserts I love to recreate. Find my galette, brown-butter krispies, fresh berry tart, watermelon bites, chocolate peanut-butter pie and more here.

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pantry picnic

If you live on the East Coast, you know Mother N. hit the fast-forward button straight from winter to summer. I’m rocking sundresses on a daily basis these (80-degree) days and ready to eat outside. Andrew and I have re-opened Cafe Lindrew for the season—that is, our little stone patio looking out to the woods. This week has been barbeque with cousins and Mickey Mouse birthdays, and Happy Hour on the patio with the hubs (yuengling for Andrew, textbook for me).

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Isn’t it clear it’s time to get outside for some Vitamin D? In keeping with our humble canned-food quest, here’s a two-minute slaw to take on your next picnic—even if it’s in your backyard. Yes, I realize the contradiction: canned food + a $150 food processor? A big ol’ food processor makes this salad lightening-fast. In case you don’t have a large food processor, you could make this in batches in a small $14 food processor, or just chop up all the ingredients and stir in a big bowl! I never have luck with these hand choppers, but this slaw is the perfect use for one if you’ve got it!

I was missing several ingredients (indicated below) and this was still delightful—like the chicken salad solution for vegetarians. A surprising hit in both the teacher’s lounge and my hubby’s sneak taste-test. “Wow, that smells awesome,” he said over my shoulder. “Am I allowed to have some?” Don’t mention it’s missing meat 😉

Chunky Artichoke and Chickpea Salad

Vegetarian Times, serves 6

For a spring picnic or lunch, serve this dish as a dip with crackers or spread on pumpernickel and top with tomato.Or enjoy with your favorite sandwich (apple and cheddar). Don’t freak out at the number of ingredients until you see how many steps follow.
1  16-oz. can / jar artichoke hearts packed in water, drained
1  12-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup chopped onion
¼ cup chopped cornichons (French baby pickles)—I used a bread & butter spear
¼ cup chopped green bell pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh celery
¼ cup vegan mayonnaise (I used regular Hellmans)
2 tsp. olive oil
1 tsp. capers (I omitted)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
1 tsp. seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay (I omitted)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard (I omitted)

Pulse all ingredients in food processor until chunky. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Chill at least 30 minutes, or overnight.

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Thank you Vegetarian Times for the nutrition facts! Per 1/2-cup serving (note the majority of the fat is not saturated):

Calories: 148, Protein: 5 g, Total Fat: 9 g, Saturated Fat: 1 g, Carbohydrates: 17 g, Cholesterol: 2 mg, Sodium: 435 mg, Fiber: 6 mg, Sugar: 3 g

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a salad to weather the weather

It’s April, and I find myself discussing “Spring” with the kindergarteners each day. Spring, however, is a confusing concept on the east coast of the United States of America in the year Two-Thousand Thirteen.

Last week was Spring Break; I spent three days in the mountains with my in-laws and the remaining weeks shivering with my folks at the beach.

Spring break day one (at a magical mountain cottage) looked like this:

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our NEIGHbors

Spring break day two looked like this:

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Last week I wore short sleeves to work; the following night’s forecast was sleet and flurries. This weather certainly leaves one stumped about dinner. Something potato-laden, bubbling with cheese? Or shaved asparagus with lemon, crisp and chilled? Here’s a very special salad featuring some buttery comfort from the oven and simple fresh veggies.

$19 mandolinFIRST, SECRETS TO A SUPERB SALAD: I get lots of compliments from guests about my salads, and this is the real texture secret: a mandolin. I have a $10 mandolin from Home Goods and love using it to slice peppers, apples or pears to toss with salad greens, lemon juice and olive oil (those last ingredients are Secret Number Two). The salad is uniformly thin, fork-friendly and crisp. No more salads weighted down with thick cuts of carrots and radishes that require endless chomping. I used my mandolin (carefully, so carefully) to quickly slice the onions and bell pepper for this recipe. You can find a mandolin at Target, Wal-Mart, TJMaxx, Amazon, etc. (Other kitchen essentials here).

Andrew and I loved this restaurant-quality dressing, exciting enough to enjoy the salad for two dinners—and use up the leftover buttermilk for fruit-topped pancakes on night three.

Time-saver Note: I whipped up Trader Joe’s Cornbread Mix in two minutes and baked this while prepping the remaining salad. I have still included a from-scratch cornbread recipe I’ll try on a weekend 😉

Corn Bread Salad

Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 recipe Crispy Corn Bread (below) or 3 cups of 1-inch cornbread cubes
1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (4 to 6 medium or halved cherry tomatoes)
6 cups roughly torn sturdy fresh lettuce, such as Bibb, butter or Boston
2 cups bitter greens, such as arugula (crucial!)
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 large Vidalia onion, trimmed, peeled, sliced crosswise as thinly as possible and separated into rings
1 recipe Buttermilk-Lime Dressing (below)

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Preheat oven to 250°. Scatter the corn bread in a single layer on a half-sheet pan and bake until the pieces are lightly toasted, about 7 minutes.

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Chop the tomatoes with the skin on. Place lettuce, greens, 3 cups of toasted corn bread, onion and tomatoes to a large bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle with buttermilk dressing, season with salt and pepper, and toss again. Serve immediately.

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Deb’s do ahead tip: If you’re making this for a picnic or pot-luck — and oh, you should — she suggests keeping the croutons in one container, the dressing in another and the salad mixture in a third; this is best freshly assembled, or in the 30 minutes after.

Buttermilk-Lime Dressing
Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

3/4 cup whole or lowfat buttermilk
5 tabespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (they say from 3 to 4 limes; I only needed 1 1/2)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (optional, this was my addition to give it more zing)
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup finely minced fresh basil
1/4 cup finely minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup finely minced green onions
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

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Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small bowl until combined. Can covered tightly and stored in the fridge up to two days.

Note from Lindsey: I kept this hand-chopped and chunky, but I think it would be creamier (and faster) in a blender. Since this is a repeat recipe, I plan to puree next time. This recipe is a fabulous twist on my favorite couldn’t-be-easier salad, Panzanella. Try it here.

if you’re not making the cornbread from a mix, read on…

Thin, Crispy Corn Bread
Adapted by Deb from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole or lowfat buttermilk (whole is preferred, here’s how you can make your own)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Grease a 12-inch skillet with one tablespoon of the lard or butter, leaving any excess in the pan, and place it in the oven.

In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg until frothy and then whisk in the buttermilk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix thoroughly. Melt the remaining butter in a small skill (or your microwave) and whisk the butter into your batter.

While the fat in the large skillet is smoking, carefully remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the fat around to coat the bottom and sides evenly. Pour the batter into the skillet; it should “sizzle alluringly”, says the Lee Brothers. Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top of the bread is golden brown and the edge has pulled away from the side of the skillet. Remove from the oven and either serve hot, in six wedges, or let cool and reserve for Corn Bread Salad (above).

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origanum majorana

Marjoram sounds like the name of a homely, studious girl in your mother’s eighth grade biology class.  I don’t know about you, but the scientific classification for the herb Marjoram, origanum majorana, sounds like a naughty phrase from the boy’s locker room. Utter its cousin, origanum vulgare, and it’s study hall for you.

However you like to address fresh herbs, I have a spunky friend for your new pal Marjoram. Oregano is her sneak-out-the-window older sister, so the same flavor rules apply. If you’ve visited A Pear to Remember before, cue palm-to-forehead smack as I gush over eggplant and feta YES SERIOUSLY AGAIN. (I find affordable, abundant varieties of eggplant at Korean/Latino grocers, discussed here).

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Andrew is a newly inducted member of the eggplant fan club and still weary of initiation rituals. When it’s not breaded or covered in cheese, eggplant in-the-nude lingers suspiciously longer on his fork on the slow ascend to his mouth. He liked this salad. Really, genuinely liked this salad. I like to think the Andrew-Stamp resides in the same circle of Kid’s Approval since, let’s face it, men aren’t always so excited about new veggies.

If you thought eggplant was only for Italian food, well, obviously you’re new here. Even if you’ve cooked it twelve ways, here’s a strikingly simple Middle Eastern salad for your expanding culinary repertoire.

Spinach Salad with Grilled Eggplant and Feta

from Gourmet, June 2009

serves 4 as a main dish, 8 as a side

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon minced garlic (I’ve got a sexy Brit to show you how)

2 teaspoons chopped marjoram or oregano

1 (1 1/4-pounds) eggplant, trimmed and cut into 8 (1-inch-thick) rounds (here’s how)

10 ounces baby spinach

1 cup crumbled feta (1/4 pound)

1/4 cup pine nuts (1 ounce), lightly toasted

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over hot charcoal (high heat for gas); we use this stovetop fellow year round. Whisk together oil, lemon juice, garlic, marjoram, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a small bowl.

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Brush both sides of eggplant slices with some of dressing. Season with 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper—you know, pinch it, don’t fret over measures. Oil grill rack, then grill eggplant, covered only if using a gas grill, turning occasionally, until tender, 12 to 15 minutes total. Cut into pieces.

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Toss spinach with enough dressing to coat and season with salt and pepper. Add eggplant, feta, and pine nuts and toss again.

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Serve atop fluffy couscous and sprinkle with some baby tomatoes. I imagine this salad would gladly accept an invitation from my juicy roast chicken to get together after school and “study”.

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the can-can gratin

My food snobbery diminishes by the day. I like to think.

In the past eight months, I visited six food banks—even as recent as yesterday. I’m learning how they operate, feed, support, and educate the hungry working poor they serve. In two weeks, I get to demo “creative cooking with canned spinach” at an incredible food bank in Maryland with a strong Nutrition Education emphasis. It has me thinking about canned food—where and how it has a place in the American diet.

In my blog profile, I reference my soggy canned corn/green bean childhood. (Allow me to mention here that I was raised in a loving, stable, incredible family and blessed to have canned vegetables as my main complaint). Indeed, my fresh-food-filled adulthood has thus far proven crunchy and delightful. I love witnessing how many food banks are providing seasonal produce to their clients when there are abundant markets. They wisely save canned products for colder seasons. Some local food banks are even sorting canned produce by nutrient priority: orange vegetables, beans, low-sugar fruit, low-sodium soup.

Canned vegetables are not ideal: fresh and frozen are more nutrient-dense and contain less sodium. However, my feelings here resemble my feelings toward the organic-local movement. That’s great if you have access to fresh, local, organic foods. That’s seriously awesome you can afford it. I, in fact, envy this privilege—my farmer’s market has been beyond our budget for the past two years. Hunger is a real and prevalent problem for more Americans than we imagine. Yes, canned vegetables are more susceptible to BPA and sodium. But for thousands of families living within ten miles of me, rent payments and medical bills take precedence over seemingly invisible issues like BPA.

It’s important to note that I don’t believe for a minute economically disadvantaged families should have to choose between nutrition and every other financial matter. I find it appalling it’s often acceptable to donate our leftovers and junk food to “the poor”.

As I am turning my own home into a novice test-kitchen for interesting and healthy canned-food recipes, it only seems appropriate to revisit this dreamy artichoke gratin I made in Brennan and Alejandro’s kitchen. Oh yes, a gratin—pronounced gre-tan—from a can.

Artichoke Gratin

from Plenty, serves 4-6

2 pounds frozen artichoke hearts (sold out, so I used 32 oz. canned in water, rinsed well)
4 lemons, grate zest and reserve juice
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons thyme, chopped (the thyme is crucial!)
6 tablespoons flat-leafed parsley, chopped (I omitted the parsley)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 cups milk (lower fat is great)
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup ricotta
6 tablespoons parmesan, grated 

Place frozen artichoke hearts in a large pot and cover with water. Add the lemon juice to the pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes or until tender. If using canned artichokes, no need to boil just rinse well. Drain.

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While artichokes are cooking, heat saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add onions and some salt and pepper. Saute 15 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Add cooked onions and artichoke hearts to a bowl and mix with lemon zest, thyme and parsley. Add salt and pepper as needed.

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Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and then add the flour. Stir mixture constantly for 2 minutes. Add milk slowly, whisking as you pour. Add salt and whisk on low heat for 10 minutes or until sauce is thick and creamy. When the sauce coats the back of a spoon, it’s good to go—give it a taste (I like to add an extra tablespoon of parmesan into the sauce at this point).

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Mix bechamel—the groovy french word for the white sauce you just made—with the artichoke mixture.

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Lightly grease a medium-sized casserole dish and pour in mixture. Make small holes in mix and drop in teaspoons of ricotta. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.

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Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees and remove foil. Top gratin with Parmesan. Continue baking for 20 minutes or until golden brown and bechamel bubbles. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes. Serve warm. Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

The thyme is a surprising match to the artichokes—and believe me canned vegetables deserve to be featured in such a decadent meatless entrée. Even Andrew and Alejandro—carnivores of carnivores—scarfed up spoonfuls. The best part? Company in the kitchen.

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For more recipes from the cookbook Plenty, check out this zucchini pasta and this unforgettable yogurt-pomegranate eggplant.

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emerging from hibernation

Good evening readers and eaters! As I mentioned two posts ago, I have an exciting life project that occupies my evenings—hence the lack of recent recipes. I have indeed been cooking and photographing lovely meals to share with you. Warning: this blog is about to grow in its proportion of heart-healthy, veg-filled delights.

Andrew and I are really cutting back on saturated fats these days: it’s not about a fad diet or vegan trends. As we venture into our fifth year of marriage, we’re unhappy with the weight gain we’ve experienced in this brief time—over 20 lbs. between the two of us. Neither of us is overweight, but 20 lbs. in 5 years is a scary trend considering the inevitable metabolic slow in the coming 5 years. A generous topping of high-fat cheese was making its way into too many of our meals.

My two years immersed in Nutrition grad studies taught me that the most realistic way to weight loss is small, simple dietary substitutions. One less soda a day, less fattening milk, etc. For Andrew, this meant switching from sandwiches to soup for most workday lunches. For me, this meant cut-up fruits and veggies as snacks before meals insteaPhoto & Video Sharing by SmugMugd of my infamous feed-a-family lunch portions. Smaller portions, more frequent meals. Now Andrew eats breakfast. We eat smaller dinners and finish the evenings with yogurt fruit smoothies.

So now I must share my thrilling very-recent discovery: ethnic markets. I had heard about the affordable produce prices for years, and finally visited my local Korean and Hispanic supermart. Not only were the prices one-third of what I paid at Shoppers (which I had found less expensive than my other local chains), but the produce was fresh, abundant, and varied beyond my imagination. Where Shoppers has carried three to four moldy eggplants the past five months, Fresh World had hundreds of firm, blemish-free eggplants—five different varieties! I realize I am spoiled in my metropolitan area, but if you have the opportunity to explore an international market, this is a wonderfully affordable way to incorporate far more fresh ingredients into your meals. I left with seven stuffed produce bags  for barely $40.

Sometimes, we’ve just got to stop complicating dishes with steps and stress. Have a simple, fresh meal. Give yourself a break, your body a boost. Here was our light Friday night…Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

Pita and Feta with Vegetables

inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s “Very Full Tart” recipe (minus eggs, heavy cream, buttered pie crust)

do substitute/omit ingredients per availability

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced

handful cherry tomatoes, halved

1 sweet potato, peeled and diced (1-inch)

1 zucchini, diced

1 large onion

4 tbsp. grapeseed/vegetable oil

4 oz. feta, crumbled

whole wheat pita for serving, cut into wedges

Preheat the oven to 400F. On at least two baking sheets, scatter the chopped vegetables into an even layer. Drizzle with oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with dried thyme or oregano as you like. Roast the veggies about 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until potatoes are fork tender and browning occurs. Season with ground pepper and sprinkle with feta. If you have fresh oregano or chives, add them here.

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We spooned this vegetable mixture into whole wheat pita pockets, dunking the pita into homemade baba ganoush as well. Surprisingly satisfying.

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radical radishes

“What do I know of man’s destiny? I could tell you more about radishes.” —Samuel Beckett.

Despite abundant radishes atop this blog page, I never before enjoyed these reddish roots (beyond their photogenic appeal). Oh but my destiny was to find a simple recipe where they would shine!

Friends, those of you popping over here for the convenient, 10-minute dump-and-stir recipe will quickly click over to my prior post. And those Tuscan beans are true winners. Oh but here, my adventurous home cooks, my “I’ve never tried quinoa and it’s about dang time” flavor-seeking readers, HERE is a truly delicious undertaking.

My love for feta cannot be overstated. I think there is surely no more delicious combination to enjoy feta (God bless Gourmet for tossing feta with only brown butter and egg noodles)… and then here is this crunchy, fresh, tangy salad you must double because a One Night Only performance does not satisfy. And it’s charming served cold.

The recipe truly works as written, despite my skepticism about steaming multiple grains. But I am certain this recipe would not be diminished by using couscous or quinoa alone, as the dressing and veggies pack the [tastebud] punch.

Note: I just scooped a bit of bulgur from the grocer’s bulk bin, don’t worry about purchasing large containers of multiple grains if you’re trying them for the first time. I do not typically enjoy olives, but a few silky oil-cured babies from the olive bar were lovely to savor with the minty lemon dressing. I also added more olives and more radishes when I fell in love on the first bite.

Quinoa and Bulgur Salad with Feta

from Gourmet, October 2005 serves four

active time: 20 min total time: 40 min

1/3 cup quinoa, rinsed well

4 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup medium bulgur

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tbsp chopped fresh mint (or ¾ tsp dried mint, crumbled)

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

4 oil-cured (or brine Kalamata) black olives, pitted and cut into slivers

2 radishes, quartered and thinly sliced

2 oz feta, coarsely crumbled (1/2 cup)

2 cups baby spinach, (or shredded Bibb lettuce)

Wash quinoa in 3 changes of cold water in a bowl, draining in a sieve between changes of water. Stir together quinoa, 4 cups water, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a 2- to 3-quart saucepan, and simmer, uncovered, until quinoa is just tender and germ starts to separate from grain, about 20 minutes. Drain well in sieve, then transfer to a medium bowl.

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While quinoa is simmering, cover bulgur with warm water by 2 inches and soak until tender and chewy, about 10 minutes. Drain well in a sieve, then stir into drained quinoa. Cool grains completely, about 20 minutes.

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While grains cool, stir together oil, lemon juice, mint, pepper, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl and let stand 15 minutes, then stir into grains along with olives, radishes, feta. Serve over lettuce (and keep the spinach / lettuce separate for leftovers).

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Cooks’ note: Grains can be made ahead and kept, chilled and covered, 1 day. Bring to room temperature while dressing stands.

Hooked on quinoa? Try this very different, equally surprising grain salad…

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greetings and bean-ings!

Hi friends, I’ve missed you, too! Where have I been? I have an exciting life-project (which may involve me reading 22 books) that I can’t reveal for some time—sorry for the necessary suspense. How have you been?

Here’s the quick catch up on me since August…

Andrew and I celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary at our favorite B&B

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I chopped my hair off (my students love the fairy resemblance)

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My sweet sister-in-law got engaged (while I snapped, surprise!, 201 photos)

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For Andrew’s 27th birthday this month, we threw a wildly successful Mad Men party (where Andrew had this genius idea to have everyone else bring the food)

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I honored my Grammy’s memory with her kick-ass thanksgiving stuffing

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And, kind of personal, but it’s been nearly 300 days since my last sinus infection so I lovvvvvvve being chronically healthy now (thank you, Symbicort) and in the kitchen every day!

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I realize last time I dropped in to chat, we were discussing corn, but the weather demands we move on. I don’t know where you live, but Virginia had a sunny, 60 degree Thanksgiving day quickly turned blistery-cold weekend. Let’s warm-up and snuggle up with a hearty, healthy dish before the neighbors start delivering cookies…

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Fresh herbs are vital in this simple stew, trust me. And grab a big, fresh, cheesey loaf of bread to scoop up every last drop.  We serve this with Trader Joe’s Alpine Gruyere bread. Click on the highlighted words should you like a demonstration on technique. In this dish, don’t concern yourself with precise vegetable measurements; the more veggies the tastier.

Tuscan White Beans

Adapted from Ina Garten, serves 6… or amazing leftovers

1 pound dried white cannellini beans, cooked (or about 4 15 oz. cans; I have always used canned)

3 tbsp. olive oil

2 cups chopped carrots (4 carrots)

1 red bell pepper, diced

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves; note jarred minced garlic will be too potent in this dish)

1 to 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I love the rich flavor of Pacific Organic)

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (or aged cheese like parmesan)

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Rinse and drain the white beans. Heat the olive oil in a large pan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the pepper and carrots, and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender. Add the garlic, and cook for 1 minute more. Add the beans to the vegetables.

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Add 1 cup of the stock, rosemary, salt and pepper, and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 15 minutes, until creamy.

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Stir in the Pecorino, season to taste, and serve hot with fresh bread. We’ve never used spoons.

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Filed under budget, dinners, health, here to share, lickety-quick