corona bean salad with asparagus, artichoke hearts, leek and lemon


There are times when things go according to plan, and times when mixing things up on the fly is the better way to achieve your objectives…

Before I last went grocery shopping, I had checked the weather forecast and my calendar; I had plans in mind and a list in hand. Then my intended dinner guest declined to join me for dinner this weekend, and the weather forecast changed significantly– now calling for a 90F day or two. Hmmmm… Knowing it was going to be hot today, and that I needed to prepare my asparagus today if I was going to enjoy eating it, I decided to prepare a dinner salad in the cool of the morning. Yes! a perfect opportunity also to use the remainder of the corona beans I tucked into the freezer last week.

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ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups cooked corona beans
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 large bunch asparagus
  • 1 large jar artichoke hearts
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • a little Italian Pinot Grigio
  • 1/2-1 fresh lemon
  • fresh ground black and green pepper
  • mixed salad greens

instructions:

Snap each asparagus spear near its base to remove any woody ends, then delicately pare away any thick skin. Chop coarsely into 1-2 inch long spears. Saute chopped leek for 1-2 minutes in 2T butter and a drizzle of olive oil, then add garlic and asparagus, stir over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add a couple tablespoons white wine, cover, reduce heat, and steam for 2 minutes. Do not overcook, asparagus is never good soggy. Rinse artichoke hearts well, then slice. Mix the cooked corona beans (a logical substitute on the fly would be a can of white kidney beans or garbanzos) together with the leek, asparagus, and sliced artichoke hearts in a casserole dish with airtight lid. Refrigerate ’til meal time! When ready to serve, dress with the juice and pulp of the lemon, also a drizzle of olive oil, and finish with a little fresh ground pepper.

When it’s super hot tonight, I know I’ll be happy I prepared this earlier, and that I met my objectives of preparing healthy, tasty meals, without wasting ingredients. I’ll pour a glass of the chilled Pinot Grigio I’d intended for the weekend, maybe making a little hors d’oeuvre dish of a couple dried apricots or cold orange slices with a handful of walnuts. Then I’ll serve this over mixed greens including baby spinach, chard, kale, and radicchio. Buon appetito!

on breaking bread happily alone together


My daughter has been happily and successfully traveling the world for the last year and a half working as a freelance writer and photographer. As it happened to work out, she’s now in Tuscany, nearby where I recently traveled…
cor·re·spond·ence
noun
  1. a close similarity, connection, or equivalence.
  2. communication by exchanging letters with someone.

We share our news updates and thoughts via email and text; our correspondence is also often in the form of photographs, no words needed to convey the sentiment. We talk on Skype fairly frequently as a morning coffee date here as she has gets ready for dinner there. Healthy, beautiful and yummy food is something she enjoys as much as I do. I like hearing what food she’s finding and relishing as she travels through varies countries, and it makes me smile to think how recently, when I caught a snotty head cold on a plane, she offered “drink ginger root and lemon tea”. Yes!

These days she’s not looking up her favorite childhood recipes on my blog– she’s a capable and creative cook, and she’s also jamming on article deadlines. And while we are now busy in time zones 9 hours apart, simple correspondence prevails in our daily experience. This was her visual message to me earlier today. I want to call it “Breaking Bread Happily Alone Together” because of course she is there now alone, while I enjoyed a similar experience of lovely brushetta– albeit with Prosciutto– and posted that here just a week ago. Such lovely meals, and such lovely shared experience.

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corona bean salad with lemon, basil & garlic, haricot verts and yellow pepper


Having just returned from a lovely spring trip to Paris then Florence, I am enthused by all the incredibly delicious French and Italian food we enjoyed! I’m also eager to see how I could incorporate more of the wonderful ingredients and combinations of flavors in my home cooking.

First up was my determination to source big beautiful Italian Corona beans– so buttery in texture, and seemingly versatile! After I found them locally, of course I wanted fresh basil and garlic with my Corona beans… It’s a wet Spring here in the Pacific NW, so French green beans — haricot verts– were a logical choice too for this bean salad over hardy mixed greens. A bright Tuscan sun yellow pepper, black olives, and red onion rounded out the picture in my mind, with photo here now for posterity. So simple, and so good. (Having enjoyed so much good cheese on our trip, of course I was tempted to garnish this with Pecorino Romano– now in my fridge. I resisted the urge this time, acknowledging it would be tasty.)

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ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups dried Corona beans
  • 1 lb haricot verts, chopped 1 in long
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6-8 large leaves fresh basil
  • 1 t fresh lemon thyme, diced
  • 1 lemon
  • black olives, quartered
  • fresh ground green pepper to taste

instructions:

Cull then rinse beans, cover with fresh water and allow to soak for 24 hours. Rinse, cover with fresh water, bring to boil, then simmer uncovered for about 1 1/2-2 hours, until beans are soft. Turn off heat, allow to cool in water. Drain, set aside in casserole dish. Saute  garlic for 1 minute in olive oil, then add haricot verts and continue to saute, stirring over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add a couple tablespoons of water, cover, reduce heat and simmer until beans are bright green and just slightly softened, about 2-3 minutes. Remove haricot verts to casserole dish. Saute chopped yellow pepper with lemon thyme and basil for about 3 minutes, until bright yellow and slightly soft, add to casserole dish, together with chopped red onion and black olives, stirring all together well. Dress with lemon juice and pulp, a drizzle of olive oil, ground green pepper to taste.

 

why would a vegetarian eat fish, chicken, or dare I say, pork?


I’ve now been a vegetarian for over half my life, and over those many years I’ve read, thought, and discussed a lot about food, health and healing, cooking and eating well. During those years I was diagnosed as having a low-thyroid condition; I tried to address that through natural means of diet modification, and while that was supportive, I finally relented and accepted my allopathic doctor’s prescription for Synthroid. Concurrently I accepted my Acupuncturist’s advice to eat organic kelp, scallops, salmon, and white fish, trying for once or twice weekly, and to take Selenium supplements daily to support my thyroid. Thus I overcame my aversion to eating flesh by selecting fish whenever I was eating out on business meals; I can honestly say that for about 15 years I’ve enjoyed eating salmon.

Meanwhile I’ve forever been interested in other cultures, people and places, and now I’m at a stage in my life where I have more discretionary time and money, so I’m able to travel some. For over two years I’ve also enjoyed a loving partnership with a man who wants to travel with me, a man who enjoys tasty healthy food, and good spirits– by that I mean both good and happy people, also good wine, beer and liquor. When we traveled together to Ireland and Scotland a year ago, knowing we’d be staying as house guests part of that time, I decided it would be wise to add chicken breast to my diet too, to help me have more options when eating with others abroad. I’d enjoyed salmon and chicken in my mother’s home, and I recalled the flavors happily. My mind was willing, my gut easily survived. Culinary bonus points scored with discovery of draft Guinness beer!

I’ve been thinking about these things as I prepared to go on a wonderful vacation– we’ve just returned from Paris, Florence, and rural Tuscany. Ah, you say, French food! Oui! Oui! How fun that KLM/Delta aired the movie “Julie and Julia” (a comedy by Nora Ephron staring Meryl Streep as Julia Childs) on our flight to Paris! That was perfect, as my partner is a huge movie fan, and I, of course, love to cook.

Indeed we enjoyed the food in Paris– especially wonderful savory crepes, and quiche. Ah but yes, Quiche Lorraine has bacon in it. Oh, the restaurant menus– artichokes were in season, abundant, beautiful, and so delicious! Ah, pea soup! And oh, my, not just beef ragout in those lovely red individual serving sized enameled cast iron casseroles, but duck and rabbit as speciality menu items… The local markets were stellar, well stocked with beautiful produce. The artichokes, haricot verts, and so many types of beautiful greens! The bread, the cheese, oui, oui! And of course, the wonderful wines.

The food scene in Italy felt entirely different. There too the wonderful cheeses, wine, bread, and the olives! Best of all gelato! And my partner introduced me to Sambuca. Yum! I found the restaurant menus there were much more accessible to me as a vegetarian, even though I almost never eat pasta (having long ago given up gluten noodles.) I had lovely choices of fish, all beautifully prepared in delicious butter. The question for me on this trip though was pork. Did I want to eat pig meat after more than thirty years?? Thinly sliced prosciutto, on bruschetta with marinated artichoke hearts, thinly sliced pecorino romano, and a drizzle of olive oil, so perfectly Italian. I decided yes, when in Florence do as the Florentines do, and I was delighted.

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Antipasti of thick sliced cold salsiccia, with a cold Bierra? Hmmm, that Salsiccia just looked to be a bit much for me to stomach; the bierra was delicious. For breakfast in before a full day out adventuring in rural Tuscany, my partner made his awesome over-hard eggs that I have come to enjoy (I was vegan for many years), with fried tomato and yes, a little salsiccia sausage link cooked perfectly. Yum! And no gastric distress. Moderation is the key.

Now home again, I went to our County Master Gardener’s “Incredible Edibles” organic vegetable and herb start sale event last weekend, and I’m making progress turning and weeding my raised beds after a horrendously wet Spring. I’m thinking about eating with the changing seasons, and as the name of my blog reminds me, as a Conscious Vegetarian. Thinking about that now, I acknowledge that means for me also cooking salmon or chicken breast on occasion.

Last night I was really hungry, and knew I needed a generous serving of protein. I enjoyed braising 3 oz of salmon with garlic, dill, and lemon, then making a lovely salmon salad with mixed greens, radicchio, topped with black olives, sheep feta, walnuts, thin slices of red onion, and orange slices, dressed with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Yes, it was a perfect meal for me, a conscious vegetarian.

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asparagus and black beans salad with ginger and lemon


It’s Spring! yet after a few days of lovely warm sunshine, it’s now gray out, cool and wet again. Sigh. Cooking with the seasons– and in sync with my internal energy levels based on my personal local environment and activity level– is harder when the temperatures whiplash up and down. With this in mind, for this meal I chose warming and grounding black beans with ginger and brown rice, paired with bright lemon and Spring asparagus. The peppery arugula was a perfect complement, and a nice stimulant to the liver for “Spring cleaning” too.

ingredients:

  • 1 lb asparagus, woody ends removed then cut into 2 inch lengths
  • 1 16oz can organic black beans, well rinsed
  • 2/3 cup brown Basmati rice
  • 1 lb firm tofu, rinsed and cubed
  • green onions, chopped
  • 2 T fresh ginger root, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • black and red pepper, sea salt to taste
  • 1 lemon
  • mix of baby spinach and arugula

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instructions:

Rinse rice, cover with 1 1/2 c fresh water and a dash of salt, bring to boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer until water is absorbed, about 35-40 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff with fork. While the rice cooks, saute the tofu and chopped green onions in 2 T olive oil until the tofu is lightly browned. Set aside in a covered casserole dish together with the rinsed black beans and cooked rice. Melt 2 T butter (or olive oil for vegans) and saute the minced garlic and ginger for just 1 minute, then add asparagus and cook for 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of the stems, turning continually until asparagus is just al dente– slightly browned on the outside and still a bit crunchy inside.  Add cooked asparagus to the casserole dish and mix all together well. This will hold well if covered and refrigerated for 1-2 days. I served this over a bed of baby spinach and arugula, dressed with a drizzle of olive oil and fresh lemon.

tempeh & root veggies with lemon and sunflower seed butter


I went grocery shopping in a cold 50F downpour, knowing the forecast called for a quick blast to a single day of sunshine and 80F. Thus bridging seasons and needing something fulfilling, as I looked at the vegetables available to make a satisfying one pot meal, I chose a spring leek and summery yellow pepper, cauliflower and root vegetables, lemon and sunflower seed butter. Yum!

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Ingredients:

  • 12 oz tempeh, cubed
  • 1 medium leek, chopped
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 Jalapeno pepper, with seeds, diced
  • 1 medium jewel yam, pared and chopped
  • 1 medium turnip, chopped
  • 1 small rutabaga, chopped
  • 1 small head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • black pepper to taste
  • sunflower seed butter
  • mixed greens (baby spinach, mizuna, chard and kale)

instructions:

Saute chopped tempeh in 2-3 T olive oil ’til brown, then remove to large casserole dish with lid. Saute chopped leek for 2-3 minutes, stirring ’til lightly browned, and set aside with tempeh. Using same frypan, saute yam, rutabaga, and turnip with minced garlic and diced jalapeno pepper for 3-4 minutes, then add a tablespoon or two of water, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 4-5 minutes until root veggies are just soft but not mushy. Remove to casserole dish. Using same frypan, saute chopped cauliflower for 2-3 minutes, then add tablespoon of rice vinegar, cover and simmer for another 2 minutes or so until just soft; remove to casserole dish. Lastly add yellow pepper to the frypan and saute for 2-3 minutes or so, until brightened and slightly softened. Remove to casserole dish and stir all together well. May be refrigerated in a closed container before serving, warm or cold, over a bed of mixed greens (I used some heartier greens and some with peppery zip), dressed with the juice of the lemon, and several happy informal dollops of sunflower seed butter (as I wasn’t inclined at the time to prepare a separate dressing.) For extra protein and crunch, serve garnished with walnuts.

Tuscan white bean soup


I’ve just returned from a lovely spring vacation– adventuring in Paris, Florence, and the Tuscany region. So much yummy food and wine, so much fun! Now home in the Pacific Northwest, I’m tired from long days out exploring, late nights having fun, and most of all from jet lag; I made it to my favorite grocery store and mowed my crazy long grass my first day back. The weeds in my garden will wait another day while I cook some nurturing food, channeling Tuscany. I love eating out in other cultures, and love cooking just as much.

ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 dried cannelli beans
  • 1 head Lacinato kale, stems removed, cut into ribbons
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 small turnip, chopped
  • 1 small rutabaga, chopped
  • 1 14 oz fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 3 T tomato paste
  • 6-7 leaves fresh sage, finely chopped, or 1 T dried
  • 1-2 t basil
  • 1/3 c fine corn meal
  • juice of 1/2 large lemon
  • 1/4 t salt, fresh black pepper to taste

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instructions:

Cull and clean dried beans, then soak overnight in fresh cold water. Drain, cover with water, and simmer for an 1- 1 1/2 hours or so until soft. Remove from heat. Saute chopped onion in 2-3 T olive oil in a large soup pot for 2 minutes, then add minced garlic and spices and stir for another minute or so. Add 1/2 of cooked beans with 1/2 of their fluid, the chopped turnip and rutabaga, the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Stir together well. Puree the other half of the beans and their liquid, then add puree to soup pot. Place lid on, and simmer for 10 minutes or so, until root vegetables are softened but not mushy. Place corn meal in a measuring cup, add the lemon juice, then fill with cold water to make 1 cup, whisking together well. Add to soup pot, stir well, then add chopped kale; cover and simmer for 5 minutes or so until kale is bright green and softened, but not mushy. Remove from heat. Serve topped with grated Pecorino Romano cheese, a Tuscan Sangiovese wine, and simple green salad with walnuts and black olives.