Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

This is a light, fresh dressing for a delicious salad. This makes enough dressing for a large dinner salad or four side salads.

The salad in the picture has romaine, feta, cucumbers, and grapefruit with a few almonds on top. To make the dressing, I used a magic bullet to blend

  • 3 fresh strawberries
  • 2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 1 TBSP diced onion
  • 2 tsp of olive oil
  • salt and pepper

The salad is a lovely mix of sweet and sour, the balsamic adds a deep richness that makes any salad a treat.

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Grilled Cheese with Fennel and Kale

Grilled Cheese with Fennel and Kale

My Imperfect box came yesterday and I got a fennel bulb. I love fennel and want people to cook with it a lot more so it becomes more common and less expensive. This time I made a grilled cheese sandwich using some of the 5 pounds of kale I got from the Oregon Food Bank’s Harvest Share.

So what did I do?

Fennel, Onions, and Kale
I put a cast iron skillet on the stove over medium heat and added 1 tbsp of olive oil. While it heated, I used a mandoline to thin slice a medium-sized yellow onion and the small fennel bulb. I tossed the thin slices in the skillet, added a bit of salt, and sauteed until tender. Meanwhile, I chopped up about 2 cups of raw kale. I pulled the leaves off the stems, rolled to chiffonade. When the onions and fennel began to caramelize, tossed in the kale and covered to let it cook for about 5 minutes.

I removed the veggies from the skillet and dropped some butter, putting down one slice of whole wheat bread, I added thinly sliced sharp cheddar cheese and then forked some of the veggies on top of the cheese. When it was toasted and ready to flip, I added some more cheese on top of the veggies and added the second slice of bread and flipped the sandwich. In a few minutes, it was beautifully toasted.

So, this has an unctuous kind of savory deliciousness. People think of fennel as sweet, but it’s not and when it’s cooked it mellows even more. Kale is best with strong contrasts and fennel is ideal.

 

Curried Rutabaga Salad

Curried Rutabaga Salad

I had planned to make a “potato” salad substituting rutabaga for the potatoes. I cooked the rutabaga and boiled the eggs and then thought I really was not in the mood for such a heavy salad after all. So what to do when I was in the middle of making something else. Well, I repurposed the eggs for egg salad and set my mind to coming up with a new rutabaga salad. To go lighter I decided to use plain yogurt rather than mayonnaise.

  • 1 rutabaga, peeled, chopped, and cooked.
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 2 springs of parsley, chopped

Peel and dice one rutabaga into chunks. Put in a saucepan and boil until tender but not mushy. These have substance and toothiness but no crunch. Removed from the heat, put in colander to drain away hot water and rinse in cold water so they quit cooking. Let cool in the fridge for half an hour or so.

Add chopped onions, celery, and parsley. Mix together lightly.

For the dressing I mixed

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/3 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 TBSP curry powder
  • salt and pepper

Mix the yogurt, vinegar, curry powder, and salt and pepper well. Stir into salad and toss lightly. Put in the fridge for an hour or more to let the rutabaga begin absorbing the flavor. Use your own judgment on curry powder, lots of people like things spicier than I do and some like it less spicy. The dressing is light and does not overdress the salad. You don’t want a pool of liquid in the bottom of the bowl.

This is a delicious salad, the curry adds heat, the vinegar some brightness and the texture is wonderful, with just the right amount of bite.

Rutabaga Wheatberry Salad with Lemon, Caraway, and Maple Dressing

Rutabaga Wheatberry Salad

I got a big bag of huge rutabagas from Harvest Share. Just so you know, in England, they call rutabagas swedes, and this Swedish-American can remember stopping at a roadside vegetable stand on the way to my uncle’s house in the fall and Dad buying some rutabagas, peeling them and cutting them into chunks, and we would eat them raw, the way some people eat apples. I have always loved rutabaga and think it might be in my genes.

Still, I wanted to create something new. I was thinking about Dad and how very Swedish they are and thought it might be interesting to use caraway which anyone who has tasted aquavit knows can be a fabulous, vibrant flavor that Swedes love. This made me think of caraway cake and how much I like adding lemon zest for a brighter flavor and from this came this new recipe, a lemon, caraway, and maple dressing that is a revelation.

Start by making the wheatberries since they take the longest time and must cool before you make the salad.

To make wheatberries, put one cup of wheatberries in a sauce pan, add 3 cups of water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and put the lid on the pan. Check back after 30 minutes and then keep checking until they are chewy. It can take up to 50 minutes or so, depending on the specific kind of wheat. Some people like toasting the wheatberries for 10 to 15 minutes in a medium oven (350°) before boiling them to make them more aromatic and nuttier. I am usually too impatient and don’t think it makes a big enough flavor difference.

After the wheatberries are tender, drain in a colander, run cold water over them and let them drain until they are dry and cool. You can store in the fridge if you like.

Prepare the vegetables.

Meanwhile, peel and dice one large rutabaga into 1/2 square pieces. Rutabaga is kind of tough, so I cut 1/2 inch slices, stack them and slice into 1/2 wide sticks, and then cut the sticks. Should be about 2 cups.

Peel and dice 1 cup of carrots

Spread on a flat cookie sheet and bake for about 10-15 minutes at 450°. Check after 10 minutes because you want them just tender enough without changing color or becoming soft. This is a crunchy salad, not a tender one.

Peel and dice one medium yellow onion. Don’t bake the onion!

Prepare the dressing.

Heat a small pan over medium heat. Add two teaspoons of caraway seed and toast until the aroma permeates the air. Add 1 TBSP of olive oil and continue to heat for about a minute, so the caraway flavors the oil. Squeeze the juice of one small lemon, stir and add 2 TBSP of maple syrup and 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar. Remove from heat, add the zest of the lemon.

Mix everything together.

Add the onions, baked rutabaga and carrot chunks to the wheatberries, stir together and pour the dressing over the salad. Put a lid on the container and shake, distributing the dressing. Store in the fridge for at least two hours before serving.

So this is delicious. The maple-caraway-lemon dressing is everything and goes so well with the rutabaga. There is a brightness to the salad and the caraway has a homey, familiar flavor.

I actually doubled the wheatberry recipe in order to make two salads because anything that takes up to 50 minutes to cook on the stove is a big time investment in my opinion, so I want to make it worth it.

Wheatberry Salad Duo

 

Brussels Sprouts and Radish Salad

Continuing my experiments in search of a luscious red and green veggie dish, I tried Brussels sprouts and radishes. This is a delicious, light salad.

  • ½ cup yellow onion
  • 2 cups shredded Brussels sprouts (measure after shredding)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced and chopped radishes
  • Lemon
  • 3 TBSP Asiago Cheese
  • 8 pecans, toasted and chopped

I chopped and mixes the onions, radish, and Brussels sprouts. I squeezed the juice of one fresh lemon, added some salt and pepper and tasted. It was a bit too tart, but I didn’t want to add oil, so I added some cheese which offset the lemon’s tart bite. I added some pecans for texture and a bit of umami.

This was delicious. It’s light and delicate, with just the tiniest bit of cheese to balance the lemon juice and lemons love Asiago cheese and pecans. They are a magical combination that makes any vegetable delicious.

This made four servings since I am experimenting for potluck fixings, not just myself.

Ginger Chicken with Turnips and Pears

Ginger Chicken with Turnips & Pears

This is so delicious that I am going to make it again and again, though it would be nice to add some fresh parsley just to get a bit of green. We humans like a bit more color variety in our food, but the flavor is intensely varied. I was at Harvest Share and a woman from Somali who was in line ahead of me asked what she might make with turnips. I mentioned how much I like them in a salad with pineapple and onions, but we also were given a big bag of pears and I said the pears and turnips would go together in a soup or puree. When I got home, I was inspired by our conversation to come up with something tasty with turnips and pears.

I had a chicken breast thawed out for supper, so I decided to try something with chicken. I thought the piquant flavor of the turnip would go well with ginger, so I decided to focus on ginger and garlic for flavor. Wow, it worked out so well.

I heated a cast iron skillet to medium heat with about 1 TBSP of olive oil. I chopped up ¼ yellow onion, 2 garlic cloves, and about ½ inch of ginger root chopped fine and added to the skillet with some salt and pepper. As soon as the onions softened, I added the chicken breast. I might have cooked a whole breast, but I bought this bargain bag of chicken breast pieces, so I cut it up into bite-size pieces.

While the chicken browned, I peeled a turnip and cut into ½ inch size pieces. It was more than I wanted, so reserved half for something tomorrow and added half the turnip pieces to the skillet. I stirred things around and put the cover on for about 8 minutes, to the point where the turnip was close to tender.

Meanwhile, I peeled a mid-size pear and chopped into ½ size pieces. When the turnip was close to done, I added the pears and stirred, sauteeing for about 2 minutes since the pears just need to be warmed. I removed the food to a plate and added about 1 TBSP of water to deglaze the skillet. Stirring the juices in, I added a teaspoon of balsamic vinegar and added the food back, stirring it into the sauce, making sure it is well-coated. I served it on a plate and sprinkled some sliced almonds on top.

This is so delicious, there is this wonderful umami from the chicken and onions, this fresh tartness from the ginger and turnips, and a delicate sweetness from the pears. It comes together in this rich flavor explosion.

I think I might toast the almonds next time. It might be interesting to try with pistachios, too. A sprinkling of fresh parsley would add some color.

 

Vegan Yam and Pear Soup

 

Put 3 TBSP of olive oil in the bottom of a large stock pot on a medium low burner. Add 1 TBSP of cinnamon, 1 tsp of allspice, salt, pepper and heat until the aroma rises. Add 2 TBSP of chopped ginger, and I know that is a lot, but ginger is what we need to make this a savory soup, not a dessert soup. Ginger and onions, which come next. Add 1 yellow onion, chopped coarsely. It’s all going to be pureed in the end, so don’t bother chopping fine. Sauté until onions are soft and transparent.

Peel 8 small yams and cut into uniformly sized chunks, about 2 inches square. Toss into the pot with 32 oz. of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Cook until tender, about 20 – 30 minutes depending on the size of your chunks. Test with a fork.

Peel 4 pears, remove the stem, and chop into pieces and add to the pot. Cook for 15 more minutes. Add 32 oz. of unsweetened coconut beverage. Let cool and puree using a Magic Bullet, blender, or immersion blender.

I used 5 slices of fresh pear (one sunk) and a couple baby spinach leaves to garnish. I was going for the artistically pleasing Rule of Five, but one did not cooperate. I suppose if I were a super arty food blogger, I would make another bowl, but that seems silly for this blog.

This makes a smooth soup that is about the consistency of a canned tomato soup, but the similarities end there. It is so good, it is not the least bit sweet, but tastes of yam and pear and these deep aromatic spices with a little bit of heat that lingers from the ginger. It is not the least bit sweet despite the pears. The ginger and allspice are important in grounding the flavor on the savory side. If you don’t have allspice, you could use nutmeg or cardamom. It’s also kind of addictive and from spoon-licking from when I served it up to reheat, I can tell you, it’s actually pretty good cold, too. It was tasty last night, but today’s its flavor is richer. This is no single-serving. It makes 4 quarts of soup, which was nice to send some home with friends and to save for lunches this week.

The unsweetened coconut beverage is in a white unlabelled box with the ingredients stamped on it for Oregon Food Bank. This product from Pacific Foods matches the ingredients in type and order of quantity.

Everything but the olive oil and spices came from the Oregon Food Bank’s Harvest Share program. Harvest Share is a program that provides fresh produce to low-income Portlanders through the Oregon Food Bank. This is a big contrast with regular food bank products which are dependent on donations and tend to focus on nonperishable carbs like rice, pasta, beans, bread, and crackers. It’s a fabulous program that I wish were available across the country because fresh produce is expensive and many food banks simply do not get enough donated, and what is donated is often well past its prime.

 

 

Pomegranate Relish or Dressing

Pomegranate Dressing or Relish

It’s pretty easy to clean a pomegranate, just cut it in half and pull the edges than knock it on the outside with a spoon and the seeds fall out. However, at Harvest Share this week, I got two packages of already cleaned pomegranate seeds. Sadly, however, they were already past their sweet spot and had turned sour and vinegary. I know some people would toss it out, since it was beginning to change, but pomegranate is acidic and just being past its prime does not make it a home for bacteria, just very sour flavor. I knew I could fix it and enjoy this fruit I really love. I just had to figure out how. Since it was already very vinegary, it made sense to use it as a sort of vinegar and make a salad dressing or a relish. But first I had to figure out what could balance the sourness. I pulled out aromatic spices like nutmeg, cardamom, and anise and tried a few grains with one pomegranate seed to see what I liked best. Both the nutmeg and the cardamon tried, but they added heat as well as balance and I wanted to make it more mellow, so I chose anise.

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • ½ tsp anise seed
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 8 oz pomegranate seeds
  • 4 TBSP rice vinegar

I put 2 tbsp of olive oil in a sauce pan with ½ tsp of anise seed and heated to release the oils and flavor the oil. I then added 2 tsp of minced fresh ginger. I sliced ½ of a yellow onion into slivers and added to the olive oil, cooking until tender. I then added the 8 oz package of pomegranate seeds and cooked just until it started to break down. I added 4 TBSP of  rice vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. This made enough dressing for 4 large salads. It would also work well as a relish on the side where you might use cranberries, with pork, turkey, or sausage.

Here are a few salads made with the dressing. A simple salad with pecans and feta. A dinner salad with chicken sautéed with a bit of Old Bay. A dinner salad with some carne asada marinated in soy sauce and vinegar with some garlic, pears charred on the electric burner, and feta cheese.

 

Roasted Carrot and Black Bean Soup

Carrot and Black Bean Soup

Preheat oven to 400° F.

Wash and peel 1 pound of fresh, raw carrots. Cut into approximately 2 inch long pieces. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and some kosher salt. Roast about 30 minutes, turning once so they brown a bit on both sides.

About 15 minutes before the carrots are done, heat 1 TBSP of olive oil in the bottom of a soup kettle. Add 1 cup of chopped yellow onions, 2 bay leaves, salt and pepper and sauté until transparent, about five minutes.

Crush two garlic cloves and toss in to the onions and sauté for a few more minutes.

Add one can of diced tomatoes with green chiles and  4 cups of vegetable broth. Season with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.

Remove the carrots from the oven and add to the soup. Cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.

Cool and puree in a blender, Magic Bullet, or with an immersion blender until smooth.

Drain 2 cans of cooked black beans. Strain and rinse the beans with water. Add to the soup and stir in gently. Cook on low heat about five minutes, until beans are done.

Serve. You could top with parsley, if you have it. Cilantro or pumpkin seeds would be delicious, too. Some red pepper flakes would heat it up if you dare. You could also add a dollop of sour cream, but then it would not be vegan. Makes 10 cups of soup.

This is a delicious blend of heat from the tomatoes and chiles and the rich, deep sweetness of the carrots with a bit of smokiness from the roasting. It’s delicious.

Pear & Delicata Squash Soup

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I have an abundance of pears so I decided on making a pear soup. One of my favorite soups is Pear & Parsnip Soup but I didn’t have any parsnips. I had a delicata squash though and thought it looked promising.

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 cups diced yellow onion
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 Delicata squash
  • 3 small pears or 2 large pears
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 32 oz. or 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper
  • kosher salt

I put my soup kettle on a low medium with the olive oil. I added the diced onions and dried thyme, letting them slowly cook until transparent.

Meanwhile, I peeled and chopped up the squash, reserving the seeds. It made about 2 cups of chopped up squash, perhaps a little bit over.  Adding the squash to the pot, I stirred and let cook for 3 to 5 minutes. While they cooked, I peeled and chopped up the pears and added them to the pot and let it cook a couple more minutes before tossing in the wine and the broth. I turned up the heat so it began to simmer and let cook for about 20 minutes.

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While the soup was cooking, I rinsed the seeds in water and cleaned away the stringy pulp. Pushing the pulp against the strainer mesh helped in cleaning it away. I then heated a cast iron skillet in a dry pan with no oil to a notch above medium. I tossed the seeds in and toasted them with some kosher salt until toasty brown, stirring frequently so they did not burn. These I set aside for garnish.

I let the soup cook until the squash was tender and puréed with an immersion blender. Serving with a few squash seeds on top, it was a delicious soup. The flavor of the wine comes through without overpowering the soup. The sweetness of the pears and the squash make it lush and slightly sweet. It is a light and refreshing soup. This makes six servings.