lentil salad with zucchini, shallots, currents, mint, & lemon


A little like my raised vegetable beds– for a long time too wet to plant, then baked by the sun– with our weather forecast continuing to shift from hot-and-sunny back to cold-and-wet, I find myself not at my best. I’m tired, and simply not feeling robust. I want something warm and nurturing, yet also light, and bright in flavor without being spicy hot. My raised bed zucchini and yellow squash, my tomatoes and hot pepper starts are finally settling into the season and beginning to grow well; thankfully my herb garden and especially the mint is thriving! So I took my cues from them for this meal… with good protein with the lentils and quinoa, lots of vitamin C with the yellow pepper and lemon, also lots of fiber, folate and B vitamins with the lentils and greens, plus a lovely mix of flavors with earthy and sweet notes.

ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup french lentils
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed well
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup currents, soaked in white wine then drained
  • 12 spearmint leaves, diced
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh lemon thyme, diced
  • 1 lemon
  • fresh ground green and black pepper

instructions:

Place currents in a small bowl or glass, and cover with white wine– I used a Pinot Grigio with hints of green apple that I had open already. I ended up soaking them overnight as my evening plans changed… and fortunately did not finish off the bottle that night, as the Pinot Grigio proved to be a perfect complement for this meal.

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Cull through then rinse the lentils, cover with fresh water, bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer covered for 15-20 minutes. Cook until soft but not mushy, draining any remaining fluid. Let rest without lid ’til cooled. Rinse quinoa well, then cover with a generous cup of fresh water, add a dash of salt, bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for 18-20 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff with fork, let cool uncovered. While lentils and quinoa cook separately, saute the shallots, garlic, and zucchini in a couple tablespoons olive oil for about 3 minutes, until shallots are just barely beginning to brown and zucchini is bright. Transfer to casserole dish with lid. Next saute the yellow peppers for 2 minutes, until bright and just barely softening. Transfer to casserole dish. Mix lentils and quinoa together well, then mix in cooked veggies and diced herbs. Season with fresh ground pepper, dress with juice and pulp of lemon. This will store in air tight container in fridge for a day or two. I served this warm over mixed greens including some peppery arugula and earthy spinach, with a glass of cold Pinot Grigio.

 

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!

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.

 

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.

fava beans with artichokes, bulgur, lemon and basil


It’s January again, and the gym is rocking full as so many earnestly begin their New Year resolutions to lose weight and live more healthfully. Days are shorter and work seems harder after leisurely time off over Christmas. So friends ask me more often at this time of year, “How do you eat a good fast lunch at work?” and “How do you get a good dinner on the table fast after work and the kid’s team practices?”, as well as the standard  “How do you manage to get enough protein not eating meat?” My answers are simple– cook ahead larger batches of simple whole foods with their own natural bright flavors. Keep basic staples in your cupboards and fridge. Include legumes, seeds and nuts in your diet daily. Try new ingredients, in new combos. Eat mostly local foods, in season, but allow yourself to enjoy too the occasional ingredient that may be from afar- or a season afar- if that makes your recipe pop. Enjoy!

After many days of winter root based soups, and potatoes or yams with dark greens combos, now that the sun is out and it’s clear and cold, I wanted something savory and bright…so decided to go to the Mediterranean for a sunny and heart healthy fava bean salad…

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ingredients:

  • 16 oz frozen fava beans
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 jar artichoke hearts
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 3/4 cup bulgur
  • black pepper
  • olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • feta cheese

instructions:
Place bulgur in large casserole dish with lid. Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil, then stir into bulgur, cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Drain off any residual water, fluff with fork. Place frozen fava beans into saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil then turn down heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, until beans feel soft and you can readily peel away the inner skin. Drain, rinse in cold water, then enjoy popping each bean out of its inner skin. Place a couple tablespoons olive oil into a large skillet, then saute the chopped onion until it starts to become translucent. Add garlic, chopped celery and peppers, also peeled fava beans and artichokes (first drain the artichokes, then rinse and drain again); stir all together as the peppers cook just enough to turn bright and begin to soften. Remove from heat. Add finely chopped fresh basil, bulgur, and juice of 1/2 squeezed lemon. Stir all together well, add black pepper to taste, also dress with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Serve warm or room temp for lunch at work, topped with feta cheese. Stores well in refrigerator in a casserole dish with airtight lid for several days.