Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Fig is Up


I've been playing it safe here the past few months. You know, actually writing about food like a proper food blogger as opposed to life, love (or lack thereof) and the new mint green blouse I just got on sale at Anthropologie.

It's been fine, I guess. Though if I'm going to be completely honest (major revelation coming!), writing about food in and of itself isn't necessarily all that interesting to me. At least not without the context of a restaurant experience or some sort of personal anecdote about, say, how this caramelized onion galette was something I ate every summer growing up, so now I make it every August as a nostalgic tribute to my childhood and those bygone days of yore.

Except it totally isn't, and then I'm left with, "I made this galette on a Saturday afternoon because I was bored and wanted to eat a caramelized onion galette for lunch so I could post a photo of it on Instagram."

Just kidding.


Granted, I do try to be somewhat more eloquent than that without resorting to words like, "delicious" and "yummy" and "moist." Because really that's the goal of any food-related post, isn't it? To get through without saying "delicious," and to presumably inspire the person reading said post ("Hi, Mom!") to want to make or eat it too?

Except that never really was the main priority for me. Sure, I like food (minor understatement), but what I really really like is the act of writing as a vehicle for self-expression - finding exactly the right words to convey the crazy things spinning around in my head in a way that someone else might find relatable. I'd secretly rather get a "Me too!!!" response than a pin on Pinterest or whatever that Stumble Upon thing is. (No clue.)

Lately, I've been caught in this struggle - thinking that I aught to keep all that deep ooey gooey stuff buried beneath a sea of pretty pictures and censored proclamations, while secretly wanting to tell you about the guy who I went on seven whole dates with this spring and how I knew it was over the second I had enough faith in it to mention it to MY BROTHER. Because isn't that how it always goes? You give it no credence until you, well, do and then it comes crashing down around you because you dared to say it out loud.

Even if it was just a whisper after too many glasses just the right amount of wine.

I've wanted to tell you other things too.

Some of it good, some of it bad, some of it weird, and some of it just plain and ordinary - the little brush strokes that have colored my spring and summer into a full and vibrant picture. Instead, there's been chia pudding and farro salad and white beans and a recap of my trip to New York that said nothing of how scared I was to go on a trip by myself and how empowered I felt during and after it. 

Because the thing is, even though a picture supposedly is worth a thousand words, there's always more to the story than what the retouched, styled photo reveals. It shows the neat and shiny version of life - not the dirty dishes that are stacked up in the sink nor the countertops that are strewn with bread crumbs and something… sticky. You know, "the good stuff," at least according to Robin Williams' character in Good Will Hunting. (Seriously, best movie and scene EVER.)

So maybe, there's more of this to come. More dirt. More mess.  

More real life.

Juxtaposed against the glossy image of a delicious chia yogurt pudding, topped with moist figs and yummy slivered almonds.  

Vanilla Chia Pudding with Figs and Almonds
Serves 1

Notes: Make this now - before the last gasp of summer steals all those fresh figs away. The below features quantities appropriate for a "hearty" breakfast, which suits me well since I'm typically ravenous after my early morning workouts. If you are more of a "dainty" breakfast eater, adjust as you see fit. 

1 6-ounce container of vanilla Greek yogurt (I prefer Fage fruyo)
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 - 1/3 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
4 fresh figs, chopped
1-2 tablespoons slivered almonds, toasted (I usually use closer to 2)

Combine yogurt, chia seeds and almond milk. Stir until well-combined, then store, in an air-tight container, or bowl covered with plastic wrap, in the fridge overnight (if planning to eat for breakfast that is - I imagine just a couple hours of fridge time is fine if you eating this as a snack or dessert).

The next morning, remove the pudding from the fridge, adding additional almond milk to thin, as needed. Top with chopped figs and slivered almonds. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Savory Caramelized Onion Galette

There are certain things that are ill-advised activities to do during the summer. Things like going for a run at noon in an unshaded area, planning a vacation to Phoenix (oops?), and turning on the oven to spend an afternoon making a caramelized onion galette.

Normal people don't endeavor such absurdities. They go to the pool. An air-conditioned theater to watch other people cook food. Or give up hope of any functionality at all and eat a quart of ice cream. (I very much like these people.)

As much as I appreciate these very reasonable activities, at some juncture my logical side always surrenders to my compulsive side, and I decide that rather than scoop my way to sweet relief via a carton of Madagascar Vanilla, I have to make some seasonally inappropriate dish in my air-conditionless kitchen instead.

This insanity would be far more excusable if I were using some precious summer ingredient that is only available for a few weeks of time rather than onions, which are pretty much available always - even during the final half hour of a farmer's market when it's been scavenged down to one hard lemon and a wilted bunch of kale. As stray bags float down the center of the deserted aisle like tumbleweeds, there will still be a heap of onions piled up, regardless of the month. The same could not be said of heirloom tomatoes, corn or peaches.

If this were a galette involving any of those things, it could all be forgiven. I would be completely exonerated for cranking up the oven and dusting down my counter tops, my hair tied up in a sticky, frenzied mess with sweat beading at my temples.

Naturally, I had considered an alternative filling for this savory tart. I briefly marinated over the possibility of oven-roasted tomatoes and paper-thin zucchini slivers only to quickly dismiss them in favor of what I actually wanted. A sticky, frenzied mess of caramelized onions clinging to an indecently buttery crust that is the opposite of what one should be eating during "bikini season."

As for those far more appropriate heirloom tomatoes?  They found their place on the side, served up in thick colorful slabs without considerable embellishment. Exactly as and where they should be.

Savory Caramelized Onion Galette
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 brown or yellow onions, sliced into thin rings
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 disk of galette dough (recipe below)

Galette Dough
From White on Rice Couple
Makes 2 disks

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick (very cold) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 egg
1/4 cup (very cold) water
Heavy cream or melted butter for brushing the crush

For the onions:
Heat large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the onions and push around with a spoon to make sure all the rings are separated and lightly coated with oil. Cook, stirring occasionally to ensure they aren't sticking to the bottom of the pan, for 10 minutes. Season with salt and the sugar, and continue cooking, stirring every now and again to ensure even browning. Keep cooking at least 30 minutes or so, or until deeply caramelized. Turn off the heat, add the balsamic vinegar to de-glaze the pan, scraping up any bits that have adhered to the base of the pan. Set aside to cool.

For the dough:
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt.  In a separate small bowl, whisk together the egg and water. Set in the fridge to keep cold. Add the butter cubes to the flour/salt mixture and use your hands to work the butter into the flour, until the butter pieces are no larger than a pea. Add the egg/water mixture and use your hands to gently knead the batter together into a dough. Divide into two flat disks and wrap with saran wrap or other non-stick wrap. Set in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

For the galette assembly:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly dust flour over a flat surface (whether a clean countertop or cutting board). Use a rolling pin to roll one of the galettes into a 10-inch diameter circle. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Spread onion mixture evenly in the center, leaving an inch or so of dough around the edges uncovered. Fold edges over the filling. Glaze the crust with heavy cream or melted butter, then bake approximately 35 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cool 5 minutes before slicing, then serve in wedges with seasoned heirloom tomatoes on the side. (You can also try topping the galette with dollops of goat cheese - I highly recommend this trying.)

Friday, July 18, 2014

Chocolate & Cherry Chia Pudding: Breakfast of ch-ch-ch-chiampions

I've been having a fierce debate in my head about how to tell you this. Do I pretend like it's nothing? Just come out with it without even addressing the elephant in the room that may or may not double as a decorative planter?  Or admit straight-out that this is weird and now I'm weird, but then again I always was weird, so it's really not that shocking that I've become...

a chia seed-eater.

And, guys, it's not even because I'm an ignorant hipster who also happens to order her decaf cappuccinos with almond milk, or because I am fixated on how it's going to make my skin all glowy or tighten things up so I look better in my new denim shorts (50% off, bitches!).

It's because I actually like them.

Chia seeds!

The things that grow the ch-ch-ch-chia pets that my brothers and I used to mock and threaten to give each other for Christmas whenever the commercial came on the TV while we watched "Saved by the Bell" and "Full House" re-runs.

It wasn't an immediate like, of course. There were some failed attempts, some sad bowls of gelatinous fruit-topped goop that were consumed with the same level of enthusiasm I reserve for dentist appointments. I ate these experimental breakfasts hoping, but not really hoping, that I would begin to understand "the fuss."  The why behind the #chiaseed #superfood #omgyum Instagram photos that have been clogging my feed.

And while we're on the subject, kind of looked like feed.

So naturally I was shocked when I inadvertently stumbled upon a way to make them - the ch-ch-ch-chia seeds - not only palatable, but enjoyable! The breakfast that has been propelling me through my early morning workouts for the past three days as a genuinely perceived "reward" for my effort.

Obviously, it involves chocolate. And fruit - banana that's pureed and combined with the chia seeds to counterbalance the gelatinous texture, as well as cherries that are judiciously layered over the top. And lest we stop there, at a point where it's already far past the point of acceptability, toasted walnuts that bring further textural contrast into the picture.

So, basically, dessert. That you get to call a healthy breakfast. Maybe even the breakfast of ch-ch-ch-chiampions.

Chocolate & Cherry Chia Pudding
Serves 1

1 ripe banana
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Ghiradelli)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
6-8 ripe cherries, pitted and cut into quarters
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts

Using an immersion blender or blender, blend the banana with the almond milk until smooth. Transfer to a bowl or container that can be fitted and sealed tight with a cover. Stir in the chia seeds, the cocoa powder and vanilla. Seal and refrigerate overnight.

The following morning, remove the chia pudding from the fridge. Serve topped with the chopped cherries and toasted walnuts.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Charlie Bird's Farro: Reset, revisit

I've come to the conclusion that going on vacation is the worst possible thing that anyone can do ever. Particularly when it's someplace so far removed from your daily life that you forget that work and responsibility and laundry and things that are not pizza & ice cream even exist. They are the song you skip on Pandora, the garnish in your cocktail that you toss aside, the commercials you fast-forward through when catching up on "Mad Men" "The Bachelorette." 

Unnecessary interruptions to the life you actually want to be living.

So when you arrive home with a suitcase haphazardly stuffed with dirty clothes that you now have to unpack and wash, and are faced with things like the gym and your Outlook inbox after five days out of the office (!!!), returning to normal feels impossible. 

"You mean I can't just go eat doughnuts now?" You think when confronted with your first work crisis -- a mere hour into your Monday morning.

Because on vacation, there are no problems.

There are doughnuts.

I realize that doughnuts are not exclusive to one specific city or region, and, in fact, are perhaps more prevalent in Los Angeles than elsewhere, but "doughnuts" as an idea feels less accessible after a trip that revolved around what could be entangled on the tines of your fork.

By nature, that moment seems reserved for adding insult to the injury of your return -- a post-vacation "detox" whereby you are supposed to eat "clean" and "vegan" or whatever form of self-flagellation you're inclined to employ when hitting the reset button.

Perhaps it's a three-day juice cleanse. Maybe it's gulping down sparkling grapefruit Perrier instead of sparkling wine.

And maybe, it's a farro salad inspired by one of your favorite meals during your vacation. Wholesome without edging into the punishment territory, and a reminder of a brief period of time when you experienced a world without responsibility. 

Charlie Bird's Farro with Pistachios, Mint and Parmesan
Adapted from the NY Times
Serves 4

Notes: The original version of this salad contained fava beans, but as these are now a scarce commodity in Los Angeles, I opted for shelled edamame to no adverse effects. I also omitted the tomatoes (mostly because I am loathe to buy them at the grocery store and couldn't make it to the farmer's market that day), and added in some thinly sliced fennel for kicks rather than the arugula requested. (Yes, I do realize I get "kicks" from weird things.) Finally, I was a bit less liberal with the salt and application of olive oil, and a bit more liberal with the thinly sliced radishes, as this salad was meant to help me recalibrate after a trip filled with all the things you'll find documented here.

1 cup semi-pearled farro, rinsed well
1 cup apple cider
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup parmesan, shaved with a vegetable peeler
1/2 cup roasted pistachio nut meats
1 cup basil leaves, torn
1 cup mint leaves
1 medium fennel bulb, sliced into thin ribbons
1/2 cup thinly sliced radish
1 1/2 cups shelled edamame, cooked
Freshly ground pepper, salt, to taste

In a medium pot, bring the apple cider and 2 cups water to a boil. Add the farro, salt and bay leaves, and simmer, uncovered, until the farro is tender (approximately 30 minutes) and the liquid evaporates. I found that the liquid actually evaporated before the farro was tender, so I added a bit more water as it was cooking along.

While the farro is doing its thing, combine the olive oil, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a large salad bowl. Add the warm farro and then let cool to room temperature if serving immediately. If not, refrigerate until ready to use. (Just be sure to let it come back to room temperature prior to serving - it's best when not too cold or too warm. Like Goldilocks.)

Just before you're ready to serve, toss the farro with the herbs, radish, fennel, edamame, parmesan, and pistachios. Season with freshly ground pepper. Add additional salt if needed.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

25 Things to Do When Traveling Solo to NYC

1. Use airbnb to find a spare bedroom in an apartment with an insane view in your desired neighborhood destination, and spend the week (or 3 days) playing, the "I live in NYC" game, whereby you abide in extremely close quarters with a stranger, who could very well be your best friend, or just that person who you pass, blurry-eyed, in the living room on your way to bed after drinking too much Rosé during happy hour at the wine bar at Punch across the street.

2. Share a gene pool with someone who has airline points growing on his trees and get "magically" upgraded to first class, because going to New York all by yourself is "sad face." Drink lots of champagne and eat excessive amounts of the warm, salty, roasted cashews & almonds to make yourself feel less "sad face." Flying alone is hard.

3. While you're waiting for your luggage to arrive (you obviously packed ALL your shoes & special normal-sized beauty products since no one was around to complain), download the HopStop app on your iPhone to map out the best subway routes to get to your destinations restaurants while you're in town.

4. Once your suitcase is in hand, make a beeline for the taxi line. Direct the driver to take you to "Manhattan, please," all suave-like, and then totally flub up your super awesome, totally-with-it, fake New Yorker persona by leaving your black sweater in the back seat. Momentarily wonder if you can call Yellow Cab to get it back, and then picture the actually super-awesome, totally-with-it real New Yorker laughing in your face. Your very sad sad face. 

5. After checking out your vacay digs (and securing the Wi-Fi password), head out to nab a seat at the bar at one of the best new restaurants in the city, because when it's 10 pm and just you, getting into Estela is like #NBD. Order the mussels escabeche and eat it like a savage beastly human, with vinegar and mussel juices dripping down your chin. No date, no shame.

6. Since you are in NYC (!!!) and are feeling excited noises (!!!), walk back to your airbnb trying not to be the out-of-towner who looks up at all the buildings. Get smacked on the butt by a 20-something riding by on his bike and feel simultaneously violated and impressed by his audacity/strategy.

7. Even though you barely slept your first night in town (still too excited noises!!!), wake up the next morning to go for a run in Central Park. Accidentally stop your supposed "6-mile loop" at West 72nd instead of East 72nd, but figure out how to get back to your temporary home anyway, because HopStop saves the day!

8. Since you went running and obviously need to do some reverse carboloading now, find you way to the L train to Brooklyn for lunch at Roberta's (off the Morgan Avenue stop). Pony up to the bar, order a PBR, because when in Rome, and even if it's not on the menu, ask for the Bee Sting Pizza. Initially think it's far too big for one person, but after eating four slices of what is probably the best pizza you've had in your life, insist that the two hipsters sitting next to you finish the rest.

9. Feeling virtuous because you only ate four slices as opposed to six (bravo, you!), reward yourself with ice cream. Take the L train back into the City, get off at 3rd Avenue, and head to Momofuku Milk Bar to try the Cereal Milk Soft Serve (add the crunchy cereal bits for the extra .75 cents), and both the Compost and Confetti cookies for, uh, later.

10. A few licks into the Cereal Milk Soft Serve, decide that now that you've tried breakfast fro-yo, you're obviously ready to graduate to Brunch Ice Cream. Walk to Davey's and order a scoop (in a cup or their housemade waffle cones), and make the astute conclusion that you prefer cinnamony French toast chunks (!!!) and caramelized nubs of bacon better than cereal in your frozen, err, rewards.

11. Since you have 3 1/2 hours until you're going to be rewarding yourself with libations (see Punch), continue walking through the city, weaving your way down 5th Avenue to see if the Anthropologie in New York is different than Anthropologie in Orange County, Los Angeles, Carmel, Phoenix, Washington DC, Chicago…

12. Continue your solo dining adventures at Charlie Bird in the South Village. Fill up on the salted Grissini, because, obviously, but still finish your Octopus with Crispy Pancetta & Chickpeas; and Farro with Pistachios, Mint and Parmesan, because, obviously. Make friends with your neighbor who ordered the Roast Chicken. Or just make friends with the chicken.

13. Compost your Momofuku cookie in bed. 

14. Bypass the cronut line outside Dominique Ansel because you (or your savvy New York friend) had the foresight to place a pre-order for the coveted croissant-doughnut hybrid at 11 a.m. EST on a Monday precisely two weeks prior to the week of your visit. Order the kouign amann in real time, because you had the foresight to be…fat.

15. Put your sugar high to good use by taking a Bar Method class at the studio down the street. $37 a class is a small price to pay for… absolutely nothing.

16. Go sight-seeing in Greenwich Village.

17. Decide to give your body a break from the pastry-composting and stop at Hu Kitchen (the place on 5th Avenue with the giant black & white sign that says "Food for Humans") for quinoa & lentils and green juice. You know, food for gerbils. 

18. Bring your recovery lunch, sunscreen and a blanket to Washington Square Park, and take pictures of your outstretched legs & feet while you pretend to read your book. Aaaah, vacation.

19. Drink prosecco or a Sbagliato cocktail at the bar at Bar Primi while waiting for your party of five (or zero) to arrive. Order the burrata anchovy bruschetta, stuffed meatballs and spaghetti clams casino. Giggle at the visual of a casino filled with clams. Drink more prosecco.

20. Refuel with more ice cream at Morgenstern's. Mostly because you want to take an overhead shot of your salted caramel pretzel and chocolate oat scoops with the black and white tile in the background for Instagram. #sugar #dessert #payattentiontome

21. Have a nightcap at Eleven Madison Park. Do not take any photos for Instagram.

22. Pay $7 for a piece of smashed avocado toast with curry oil, lime and mustard seeds at The Butcher's Daughter for a wholesome breakfast. Decide it's the best thing since… sliced bread.

23. Pop into Ladurée in SoHo to pick up macaron souvenirs for your friends. Document the entire experience so they understand how expensive special and French these macarons are.

24. Eat the caramel with salted butter macaron you bought for yourself on a bench in Washington Square Park to savor one last bite in NYC before you leave on an Amtrack train. Try to look really pensive in case Brandon Stanton from HONY is there taking your picture. 

25. Hustle to Penn Station and have a minor panic attack trying to get through the bottleneck at the escalator after the track for your train posts on the schedule. When you finally get through and secure a window seat next to the outlets for your laptop/iPhone, comfort yourself with your Momofuku Confetti cookie. Congratulations, you've survived a trip to NYC alone!

Previously: 25 Things to Do When Traveling to NYC

Friday, June 27, 2014

The Creamiest White Beans & Leeks with Parsley Pesto

It seems odd to say that "I've been on a bit of a white bean kick." White beans are not exactly the type of food item that would seem to evoke any sort of "kick" type behavior, and yet here I am, once again writing on the subject with, admittedly, far too much enthusiasm for a humble legume.

I can hear the collective groan. Legume? It's a terrible word, isn't it? The "moist" of the dried food world, if I'm going to be unabashedly, and disgustingly ironic about it.

The thing is, I never really thought much of them either, gliding by them in the grocery store in pursuit of more compelling (?) proteins. At least as far as my palate was concerned. I far preferred chickpeas, edamame or, well, bacon, until I discovered the dried bean way of going about things. Like Columbus discovering America. New to him, not new to the Vikings or Leif Erikson.

And just like that… switches. Flipped.

This dried bean nonsense is serious business. You start by rushing the soaking. Perhaps even skipping it entirely, thinking, foolishly, that you can somehow hurry it along with mental telepathy. After the third hour of ferocious boiling on the stovetop, you decide to plan better next time, soaking it for a whole four (!) hours, feeling proud that you had the foresight to take 45 minutes off the ferocious boiling time. Never mind that perhaps the beans seem to break a part more than you'd like - the same qualm you have about their canned counterpart that has sat undisturbed in the back of your pantry for a rainy day that you secretly hope never happens.

What you are really looking for is bean with bite, that bit of resistance that almost makes you forget that you are eating… not bacon.

And suddenly, you become fanatical about how to make them taste better and better - monitoring how tiny changes impact the final product. Soaking them not just overnight, but for a whole 30 hours, intermittently changing the water, tending to the precarious bowl that's taking up far too much space on the second shelf of your refrigerator with far more attention than you ever paid to the rainbow fish you owned as a child.

Then you begin carrying on about the cooking process. Preparing them without the requisite onion, carrot, celery, garlic, a bay leaf, and sprig of thyme flavoring the water becomes an impossibility. You find yourself fretting about the precise moment to add salt lest the tenderness of the beans be compromised during their, now, much more succinct cooking time.  Even that is conducted with less ferocious boiling and more gentle bubbling to preserve the delicate shells.

Intact shells, you discover, are a very good thing.

So, naturally, when you spend all this time fretting and attending to some humble legumes, what you do with them has to be equally ambitious - a recipe that proclaims itself as the "creamiest," as though it were a blue Kraft box in the dried pasta aisle.

It, the recipe that instructs one to simmer white beans with white wine and sautéed leeks, is perfectly fine in its original conception, yet compulsion dictates further embellishment. Ribbons of parsley pesto stain the beans green, grated parmigiano reggiano and lemon zest graze the top, and when you finish the plate with a side of kokuho rose heirloom brown rice and roasted asparagus, you wonder out loud:

"All this for rice and beans."

A real kick, isn't it?

Creamiest White Beans with Leeks & Parsley Pesto
Adapted from Jamie Oliver via Serious Eats
Serves 4

For beans:
1 cup dried white beans
1 celery stalk
1 carrot, scrubbed clean and stem removed
2 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt

For parsley pesto:
5 cloves garlic, roasted in the oven, unpeeled, at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes
Leaves from 1 bunch parsley
Juice from half a lemon
2 tablespoons toasted, slivered almonds
1/4 cup grated parmesan reggiano
1 tablespoon olive oil
Water, as needed to thin out

For dish:
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 leeks, cleaned well, white & green parts only, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Salt, pepper
6 ounces dry white wine (a pinot grigio works well)
1/2 cup chicken broth + more if needed
1 cup dried white beans, prepared (as per the above)
Parsley Pesto (per the above)

To finish:
Parmigiano reggiano cheese
Lemon zest
Short grain brown rice (optional, but encouraged)
Roasted asparagus (optional, but encouraged)

To prepare the white beans:
At least 12 hours before preparing (and preferably more), rinse 1 cup of dried white beans, picking through to remove any stones or blemished beans. Transfer to a large bowl, and cover with a few inches of cold water. Refrigerate, changing the water out a couple times, until ready to use.

Drain the soaking water away, and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the beans, the celery, carrot, garlic, and thyme. Reduce the heat to a low boil, and simmer, uncovered for 30 minutes. Add the salt, and continue simmering for 15-30 additional minutes until at desired level of tenderness. Drain, discard the aromatics and set aside.

To prepare the parsley pesto:
Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor (an immersion blender also works great). Pulse/blend until the ingredients blend together into a green sauce, adding splashes of water, as needed to thin out.

To prepare the dish:
Heat olive oil in a large, deep, heavy-bottomed pan over medium-hiigh heat. Add the leeks, and sauté for 7 or so minutes over medium heat, stirring every now and again. Add the garlic, a pinch of salt, pepper, and continue sautéing for another 3 minutes. Add the wine and chicken broth, bring to a boil, and then add the prepared white beans. Simmer over medium low heat for 15-20 minutes until the liquid has mostly evaporated. Stir in the parsley pesto to taste (you'll likely have some left over), and turn off the heat.

To serve:
Spoon the white beans over brown rice (preferably a short grain variety). Sprinkle with lemon zest and parmesan cheese. "Garnish" the plate with roasted asparagus.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

White Bean & Quinoa Salad: Repeat Offender

It hardly seems fair that one of my favorite salads - a quinoa salad at that! - was initially introduced to you as an afterthought. An "oh, by the way," rather than the star of the show, the meat of the matter, or whatever cliche you prefer to be inserted here.

It's been bothering me for the past few months, and increasingly more so with its recent revival back into my weekday lunch rotation. Every time I sit down in front of my computer, my shoulders hunched over my oversized tupperware as I brace myself to go into shovel mode, I feel it.

A nudge of guilt.

The whole thing is really quite ridiculous. It's not as though salads - and quinoa salads at that! - are even exciting to most people. At least not in the same way that strawberry buttermilk cupcakes and chocolate cookies are, because, you know, sugar. I'm very well aware that I'm part of a mere 0.005% of the population who actually looks forward to eating something this egregiously healthy, and the others populating that minuscule percentage point are probably secretly lusting after bacon.

So, of course, it's positively absurd that I would be bothered that you may have missed the memo about this quinoa salad. That you may not have noticed the key differentiators that make this so much more than the lunch you eat because you aught to - the use of dried white beans instead of canned; the quinoa that's lightly toasted in a skillet before preparing; the aggressive crunch of finely chopped celery, radish and red onion; the woodsy walnut oil & sherry vinaigrette that is far more interesting than the standard made with olive oil.

And then, lest we stop there, the triumphant application of toasted walnuts and avocado.

These things - walnuts and avocados! - are like cupcakes and bacon to people like me.

A very big deal.

The biggest deal.

And something worth repeating in case it wasn't explicitly clear the first time. 

White Bean and Quinoa Salad
Inspired by the Cranberry Bean Salad in The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Serves 3-4

1 1/2 cups cooked white beans (preferably prepared from scratch - it makes a difference, I pinky swear!)
3/4 cup quinoa
4-5 radishes, sliced into thin pieces, then chopped into little nubs
1 stalk celery, minced
1/4 red onion, minced
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon walnut oil
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
Salt, pepper
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1/2 avocado, sliced and cut into small chunks

Thoroughly rinse the quinoa. Heat a large, nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the quinoa, and toast, shaking the pan frequently, until lightly brown, but not burned.

Bring just shy of 1 1/2 cups of salted water to boil in a medium-sized sauce pan. Add the toasted quinoa, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed. Fluff quinoa with a fork and let cool to room temperature.

While quinoa is cooking, soak minced red onion in bowl of cool water for at least 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Whisk together the walnut oil and sherry vinegar.

In a large bowl, combine quinoa, white beans, radish, celery, parsley, salt and pepper. Toss with sherry-walnut vinaigrette.  Top with walnuts and avocado just before serving.