Tag Archives: Meatless

Roasted Beet Salad with Arugula, Sorrel, and Hazelnuts

I like to think I’ve always enjoyed vegetables — especially those others would prefer didn’t exist, let alone show up on their dinner plates.  The what are those, how does one prepare them, cook, or eat them vegetables.  But my perspective was limited early on by what so many of ours has been:  the availability and affordability of certain types of fresh vegetables as well as what our mothers actually served us.

Which brings me to beets.

The only beet I recall sitting on my dinner plate was a deep magenta slice of somewhat gelatinous matter not too unlike the canned cranberry sauce sliced and served at our holiday turkey dinners.  It was smaller in circumference and served with iceberg lettuce suggesting it was a salad.  My mother might tell me otherwise, but I’d also venture a guess cottage cheese was involved — or something white — and remembering our fridge, know that had to be it.  Creamy, soft goat’s cheese, salty feta, or crumbly cotija would not have been regulars in our cheese drawer which housed my stepfather’s sacred box of Velveeta, a wax-covered package of American cheese slices, and a green can of Kraft Parmesan.

I never learned to enjoy the taste or texture of those beets,  an odd combination of sour and sweet and something I thought should be warm instead of cold.  Years and years would pass before I learned of how one  friend enjoyed them — from jars with spooned sauce drizzled over a homemade chicken pot pie hot from the oven.  I can hear her now singing the dish’s praises with the accent her small town Texas roots provided her, and remember watching the respective juices ooze and mingle across the bowl she served the meal in.

I did not want a bite regardless of how happy she was about the idea and suspect she knew it was an odd favorite, goading me to take a bite.  I loved her in spite of that beet fiasco because don’t we all have at least one oddball of a dish we secretly enjoy?

Since that time, I’m embarrassed to admit that as much as I realize how good beets are for my body, I still have not quite learned to fully enjoy them.  I see them among the other vegetables I routinely purchase and pass them by unless I see rainbow beets, or golden beets.  Somehow their beautiful color tempts me to stop and wonder an extra second or two before I give in and throw them in the basket, giving them the benefit of my persistent doubt.  But rarely do I consider picking up a bunch of red beets unless I’ve seen a recipe somewhere that suggests I might reconsider trying them.   And I’m still reconsidering, because I do try them, then decide not to share the recipe.  What favorable comments might I make when the recipe isn’t what’s lacking, but my palate?

Beets leave me thinking that sure, the flavor is okay, and possibly bordering on pleasant,  but I can’t shake the memory of those Harvard beets years ago sitting on my lettuce and making everything pink.  We’ll call this salad made of roasted golden beets with arugula and sorrel picked from my sad excuse of an herb box a truce of sorts.  My continuing attempt to enjoy beets.

I’m not quite there yet, but maybe.

You?

Continue reading

Hold the Grease: Tacos with Potatoes and Skillet Corn and A Trip to Old Town San Diego

Late in April each year the Cinco de Mayo ruckus begins.  Ads on television air, local restaurants sport signs about Cinco de Mayo happy hours and don strings of red, green, and white flags, grocery stores advertise their specials full of bagged chips and cheese sauce in jars, and Twitter is abuzz with questions about what everyone will be making for their Cinco de Mayo parties.

“Interesting” but far from authentic variations on tacos and guacamole surface, there’s talk of new-fangled margaritas and cerveza, and for those interested in dessert, margarita cupcakes seem to be everywhere sporting that perfectly swirled, creamy top.  “You want it with or without salt?”

Continue reading

An Artichoke “How To” and a Pilaf

It’s a challenge to avoid the huge artichokes in the markets right now.  Maybe not at your market, but mine has them planted right in front of the entrance, so you can’t miss them.  It’s sort of an in-your-face-buy-me display that changes depending on any number of factors that I won’t go on about right now.  I  can usually maneuver past them because they’re so expensive, and as much as I love them, I balk at $4 for one — especially when I can pick up a can of hearts to do something with much more easily.  And in the long run, it’s more safe when you think about tackling those chokes, isn’t it?

Artichokes have a dual personality in my opinion.  There’s the real McCoy — the one you steam in a pot, then enjoy with myriad detours to a bowl of warm lemon butter (never mayonnaise if you’re in this house) that each piece is dipped into, then scraped along your lower teeth.  I grew up eating artichokes like this and it was quite an occasion when my mother brought one home.  Then there are the little hearts, all taken care of, canned, bottled or frozen and ready for any number of delicious dishes.  Thank goodness these choices are available, because waiting until artichoke season to enjoy them would be a problem for me at this point.  I love artichokes.

As I recall the image of our family of five seated around the kitchen table with one huge artichoke and a bowl of lemon butter, I have to wonder.  I always looked forward to it, but do the math.  Not many bites for each of us even when taking into consideration my sister probably didn’t like them.  This occasion for artichokes was never a precursor to dinner.  It was all about that artichoke — savored petal by delicious petal.  Bear in mind the petals were never trimmed, so dealing with the spikes on those tough outer petals involved a lot of caution after the first thumb prick, or a silent sucking it up for each subsequent prick.

It occurs to me we never ate the heart — or at least I don’t remember that we did.  Maybe my stepfather sneaked away with it after we’d lost interest because the lemon butter was gone.  I can see him now, perhaps standing at the kitchen counter enjoying the fact that the hard work had been done by us, and all he had to do was take a spoon, scrape away the fuzzy choke, then savor that amazing heart without having to share.  Denying us awareness of something wonderful.  Scarring us for life.

I could ask my mother about what happened to all those years of artichoke hearts, but she’d say she doesn’t remember.  There would be a few seconds of silence before she’d add she probably threw them away.  Can you imagine?  I can, because I threw them away, too, until I discovered marinated artichoke hearts sometime in my early 20s and put two and two together.  I had no clue they could be eaten.

If they weren’t such a challenge and expense, I’d enjoy them fresh more often in dishes like this lovely pilaf made with rice, orzo, pine nuts, and saffron.

Are you an artichoke lover?  If so, how do you prepare them?

Continue reading

Shaved Asparagus and Pecorino Romano Salad

size matters

It’s Spring, so that means it’s officially time for asparagus even though it seems there is rarely a time that it isn’t available at the grocery store.  It’s probably one of our favorite vegetables,  so often in the “green & healthy” rotation around here for one meal or another if the price isn’t too crazy.  Most often, I saute it simply in olive oil with onion or shallots, a bit of garlic and lemon zest.  We bake it, grill it, enjoy it in soup, frittatas, omelettes, salads, and more often without hollandaise than with it.

As much as I pride myself on knowing quite a bit about the vegetables I enjoy, I was surprised to find out even more.

Ten Things:  Did you know that:

#1  asparagus is grown in the US states of Washington, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey and California (which grows 80% of the nearly 200 million lbs. of the US crop). Otherwise, it’s grown extensively in Mexico, Peru, and China.

#2  it can grow as much as 10″ in 24 hours and that size does matter (the thicker the spear, the better the quality). The writer takes no responsibility for any connections the reader might make which are of a sexual nature.  *snort*

3#  asparagus contains glutathione (GSH) which happens to be the most powerful detoxifier in the body.

#4  the average American eats between 1-2 lbs. of asparagus per year as compared to 18.5 lbs. tomatoes.

#5  ancient Greeks and Romans thought asparagus might relieve a toothache or prevent a bee sting.

#6  asparagus contains rutin, a bioflavonoid vital to capillary strength and increasing circulation in the lower limbs.

#7  asparagus is a super source of folacin which helps not only with the duplication of cells, but growth and repair.

#8   it is a member of the lily family.

#9  after the asparagus harvest, the spears grow into ferns with red berries.

#10 asparagus is better suited to be grown locally more than any other vegetable.

Have you ever tried asparagus raw?  It’s my new favorite way to eat it.

Continue reading

Lasagne with Béchamel and Spring Vegetables

I’ve been trying to write something here for days now.  I approach the task with the best intentions but know that it’s really only my conscience goading me.  No words come.  I scrounge for a memory worth sharing, then wonder if it’s one I’ve already written about and catch myself wanting to waste time sorting through archived posts to make sure.  It’s an old procrastination ruse, so I’m onto it most of the time.

Photos of recipes I’ve tried and liked are accumulating, waiting for something to be said about them, or the ingredients they were made with,  whether they’re in season, local, organic….or not.  Because you know, that matters, right?

I can’t muster up the energy because it all sounds so trivial.

I’m like an ostrich avoiding reality.  I’d rather edit photos (which qualifies at least as legitimate procrastination), or sprawl on my bedroom floor in front of the big windows on this blustery day watching the storm come in off the Pacific — probably the last we’ll have until next winter.  Mother Nature seems to have gotten March all wrong this year, with its entrance more like that of a lamb’s and its exit resembling a lion’s — at least in San Diego.

I could grab a book and lose myself for a while or think again for what seems to be the millionth time about whether the windows need drapes, and whether I should make them myself — except I’m not sure which closet that sewing machine is in and even if I did, my heart wouldn’t be into it.

A walk in the rain would also be nice, but the force of the wind is rattling the skylights and whistling down the chimneys.  I’d make it out the door and realize how silly a decision it was since I’m nothing like the thin woman clad in white who just sprinted past my window, nor like anyone the Brontës might write about, a thin figure whose dark dress is flapping about her ankles on the hauntingly beautiful Yorkshire moors and proof of a pained existence etched across her brow.

So ridiculously unfocused and thinking none of it really matters.

I’ve been thinking about perspective quite a bit this past week.  Counting my blessings.  Thinking about life, loss, what I take for granted (see foolish exhibits A, B, C, and D above) and what others in the world right now have lost and may never, ever recover.  I’m watching it on the news, in the photos that stream through a variety of websites, and can’t begin to understand.  How can anyone not actually experiencing the magnitude of such devastation understand?  I’m weighing the pettiness of any complaint, feeling short with others for their narrow mindedness, and all in all just very sad and angry.

It’s overwhelming.

So on this first day of spring and all it traditionally represents with respect to birth, new growth, and renewal, I hope the best for people in so many places on Earth right now devastated by things beyond their control.

If you’re someone who has thought about donating to a relief fund for Japan’s recovery, you may be interested in this piece by Stephanie Strom from the New York Times, “Charities Rush to Help Japan, With Little Direction.”

Donations can be made directly to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

More information about other ways to help are listed in “The Lede” at The New York Times“Japan Earthquake and Tsunami:  How to Help”

Continue reading