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.
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
mix of baby spinach and arugula
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.
It’s the spring equinox today, a time to celebrate balance, warmth and hope. Today it’s also cool and wet, the sky dark gray, the earth and my garden muddy. Thinking about balance in our diet, and wanting to make a warming and bright meal to celebrate the equinox, I made this to share.
1 cup red lentils
2-3 shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 t turmeric
1-2 t curry powder
1 t cumin
2-3 t fresh ginger, finely minced
1 jewel yam, cut into 1/4″rounds then pared, cut into chunks
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1/4-1/2 head cauliflower
6 oz coconut milk
6 cups fresh spinach
1/2 lemon, squeezed, for optional dressing
Cull through and rinse lentils, then cover with 2 1/2 c fresh water. Add a dash of salt, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until fully softened and water is mostly absorbed. Set aside uncovered. Saute shallots in 2T or so of olive oil in a large frying pan until they start to turn translucent, then add chopped yam, minced garlic, turmeric, curry powder, cumin, and black pepper; continue to saute for another 2 minutes until spices are fragrant and yam is well coated with spices. Add several tablespoons of water, cover and reduce heat to steam yam for about 12 minutes until softened (but not dissolved into mush). When yam is soft, remove from pan into large casserole dish with lid, then stir in cooked lentils. Using same frying pan, saute chopped celery and cauliflower with minced ginger for about 2-3 minutes, then add the coconut milk and yellow pepper, stir to combine well, cover and steam for about 3 minutes until peppers turn bright and begin to soften. Add this to casserole dish, stir everything together well. Serve over fresh raw spinach.
My friend Carla’s fig tree produced an awesome crop this year, and Carla generously shared her bounty with me when I said I wanted to make fig chutney. My own raised bed garden provided a fabulous crop of jalapeno and serrano peppers, and I spotted wonderful golden beets at the farmer’s market. All I needed to do was buy more apple cider vinegar, then set aside some time to prepare the jars and lids, simmer, and then preserve my chutney in a boiling water bath.
4 cups fresh figs, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 cups golden beets, blanched to remove skin, then coarsely chopped
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 1/2 cups yellow onion, chopped
1-2 red jalapeno peppers, diced, including seeds
2-3 t fresh ginger root, minced
3 t coriander seeds
2 t black mustard seeds
1/4 t cardamom
1/8 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 lime, squeezed
First blanch the beets: Cover with water, bring to a roiling boil and boil for 3-4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the beets and dunk into cold water to cool enough to handle; then use a sharp paring knife to remove outer skin and chop.
In a medium sized deep pan, saute the onion in a teaspoon of olive oil over medium heat until almost translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the mustard seeds and coriander seeds and continue stirring over medium heat until the seeds begin to pop. Add the jalapeno and ginger root and continue to stir for another minute.
Add all of the remaining ingredients withholding only 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar; bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer the chutney for 1-2 hours until thickened and fragrant, stirring more than just occasionally. Taste the chutney and adjust the seasoning if necessary with more cider vinegar, or perhaps 1/8 t sea salt? I was shooting for a balance of sweet and tart with jalapeno heat on the finish. When you’re satisfied with your balance of flavors and texture, ladle into sterile jars, and can in a water-bath according to standard safe canning procedures. This simmered down to fill six 8oz jars.
I was standing looking over the beautiful produce and thinking about the weather forecast for the hot summer days ahead. What to make? “I want pasta”, the man next to me said to his companion. “Again?”, she asked. I’m not a big pasta fan- I don’t really ever do noodles. But the classic cheeses, olives, Italian spices…yum. And the ambiance created by those simple little red checkered table clothes, the good wine, yes. So there I stood, thinking of simple, red, and ricotta, and the desire for a hot summer salad. Here’s what I came up with– not Italian, but we enjoyed it! Next time I think I’ll serve it on baby spinach (to make it prettier, not so overly red).
2 red and 2 yellow beets
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, coarsely grated
fresh ginger root, finely minced
3/4c low fat ricotta cheese
1 small head radicchio
walnut pieces as garnish
Cut off beet roots and tops (setting aside greens), then cut into 4ths. Place in pot with lid and just enough water to cover, bring to boil then turn down heat to simmer covered for about 15 minutes- until beets pass the fork test. When beets pass the fork test, remove from heat, drain, and rinse in cold water to arrest cooking. Use a sharp knife to peel away the beet skins, then chop into medium bite sized pieces. Return chopped beets to pan, then mix in ricotta while beets are still warm. Stir to mix well. Add chopped red onion, coarsely grated carrots, and finely minced fresh ginger root. I like the heat of the ginger, so I used 2 1/2 generous T of minced ginger (about 5 slim slices of peeled fresh ginger root.) Mix all together well, then transfer to glass serving dish with air tight lid (or cover tightly with plastic wrap). This gets even better after sitting and chilling for an hour, or next day; keeps in airtight container in refrigerator for 3 days. Serve cold- or warm- over radicchio with walnut garnish.