A friendly reminder to hold on to your beet greens! Beet greens resemble red chard in both looks and taste. Don't let them wilt in your fridge! Once home from shopping, cut the greens loose leaving about an inch of stem still attached to the beets. You may store the greens in a plastic bag with a folded paper towel for several days if they are in good shape.
Beets cooked with their greens are a wonderful combination. The sweetness of the beets play off the peppery bitter notes in the leaves creating a wonderfully balanced side dish that needs minimal seasoning.
Here's a quick way to cook them inspired by my Grandma: Saute thinly sliced beets in a little olive oil and garlic for 3 minutes over medium heat. Slice or tear your greens into pieces, wash, and add wet greens to the pan with a twist of sea salt. Cover and cook for 5 minutes until wilted.
1 bunch beets with greens serves 3-6
That's right. Bacon-fu. Bacon-fu started as a joke and the idea of bacon flavored tofu is still one I can't take seriously which is exactly why I gave it such a stupid name. Nevertheless, this is one addictive recipe. Believe me. Anyone will eat this tofu including your boy friend. Baking it fills the whole house with a irresistible sweet smokey smell. Pop it in before your lunch guests arrive and you are sure to win them over.
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 Tbl nutritional yeast
- 1 Tbl brown sugar
- 1 Tbl olive oil
- 1 tsp cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp liquid smoke
- 1 16 oz package tofu
1. Preheat oven to 375. Slice your tofu lengthwise into 1/4 inch thick strips. Drain if needed.
2. Lay tofu in rows onto a large non stick pan.
3. Mix all ingredients in a food processor until blended. If you've never tried liquid smoke before, this is a great introductory recipe. It comes in small bottles and really packs a punch so use it very sparsely.
4. Using a pastry brush, paint thick layers of marinade onto each tofu slice. Turn the slices over and paint the other side. Try to use up all the marinade letting it pool up on top of the tofu slices.
5. Bake the tofu for 10 to 15 minutes on each side. The sugars in the marinade will burn easy so keep watch on it as it bakes.
Pile bacon-fu in a sandwich, crumble into a salad, or simply enjoy hot out of the oven! Enjoy your bacon flavored tofu: crispy bacon-fu!
Leeks are an essential ingredient to hearty soups and stews but a simple rinse under a faucet doest cut it because they are often grown in a mixture of soil and sand. The sand falls down through the tops of the leeks and gets stuck between the folds which means you'll need to take extra care to wash it out. But it's not as hard as it seems.
Chop your leeks into rounds like so. You may also slice the leeks lengthwise down the middle before chopping to produce half moons depending on your liking.
Fill a large bowl with warm water, add your leeks and use your hands to separate the layers while swishing clean water through them. The sand will fall to the bottom of the bowl and the leeks will float.
Remove the leeks using a strainer and place in a colander to drain for 5 minutes. Now you're ready to cook!!
Here is an incredible stew that is delicious any time of the year!
The original recipe came from a canadian cookbook handed down to me by my Grandfather. It become a bit tweaked over time and I've been known to swap ingredients in it to suit what I have in my fridge but here it is in a more or less pure state.
The versatility of this stew is in the ingredients. In the summer I make it from fresh tomatoes while in the winter I stick to canned. In the summer I top it with fresh basil whereas this time of the year I garnish with fennel fronds. For lunch I eat it with a slice of crusty bread. For dinner I serve it atop pearl barley for a more filling dish. Plus if your looking for a good way to use up extra cranberry beans, you're in luck here.
Ingredients (Adapted from The Essential Vegetarian Cookbook):
- 5 tomatoes, diced OR one 32 oz can whole tomatoes, diced
- 1 large fennel bulb washed and thinly sliced
- 2 leeks, washed and sliced
- 2 medium red skin desiree potatoes cubed
- 1 1/2 cups prepared white beans of any variety
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp fennel seed
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- 3/4 cup white wine
- 3 TBL olive oil
- salt and pepper
- fresh basil or fennel fronds for garnish
1. Saute the diced leeks in olive oil for 7 minutes over medium heat until soft.
2. Toss in the minced garlic and saute 1 minute until fragrant.
3. Season the softened leeks with the thyme and fennel seed and about a tsp of salt.
4. Stir in the sliced fennel, potatoes, beans, and tomatoes (plus juice if using canned). Pour in your vegetable stock and mix well.
5. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 20 minutes until potatoes begin to soften. The tomatoes will release their juices and the stew will turn a vibrant red orange.
6. Uncover and stir in the white wine. Taste the stew and add salt and pepper to taste. Continue to simmer uncovered for 10 minutes.
The beauty of stew is that it sits somewhere between a soup and a saute. The result of this stew will be a hearty vibrant mix of protein, starch, and wonderful flavors in a bright oily savory broth. Garnish with basil or fennel fronds and enjoy on a rainy afternoon or a chilly evening.
This stew also freezes wonderfully. Allow it to cool completely before freezing it in marked containers for next weeks lunch.
I came across these amazing beans at the Chinese produce shop around the corner from me the other day. You know how much I love a Chinese run grocery. The prices can't be beat!
Cranberry beans (also referred to as Borlotti beans)are shelling beans meaning the tough pods are inedible, but so pretty to look at! They are in season throughout the fall but we've all been having such a warm winter that I am still finding them in various stores. The beans are popular in Italian, French, and Mediterranean cuisine but they're mild flavor makes them extremely versatile. Use them in place of other varieties of white beans or build a dish around them. The thing I found remarkable about cranberry beans is that they are so widely available fresh. Have you ever had a fresh bean? I honestly hadn't until I tried these. They take less time to cook and their finish is much firmer and heartier than a dried or canned bean.
To prepare fresh cranberry beans, shell them by pressing along the spine of the firm pod. The pod will spring open easily revealing a row of large vibrant beans inside which should loosen and fall out with little effort.
The beans themselves should be firm and smooth with varied spotting and a slight green hue indicating rawness. To give you an idea of how many beans a package of pods will yield, I purchased about 2/3 of a pound which gave me approximately 3/4 of a cup of beans. You can also consider that each pod holds between 3 and 5 beans.
Discard the tough shells or, rinse them in a colander and add them to your stock bag.
Add beans to a large pot of salted water. You may add a bay leaf or some sprigs of sage for depth. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 30 or so minutes until beans are cooked through.
At this point you may drain them (don't rinse) and add them to your favorite recipe or simply saute them with a little garlic and oil before tossing them with a simple salad to showcase the mild nutty flavor.
Try a cranberry bean today!
I've been reading this wonderful book that I recommend everyone check out called Eat Good Food put out by San Francisco's Bi Rite Market. It's basically a food bible that walks you through how to properly buy, store, prepare, and eat a myriad of different household staples.
One of the many things that caught my eye in the book was an interesting technique of cooking pasta that involves finishing the still firm noodles in the tomato which allows for a heartier and more flavorful finish. After reading about it I decided to give it a shot with some left over marinara I had cooked up a few days earlier. Wow! Was it ever good! My sauce was richer, my noodles were chewier, and the ingredients seemed to marry in ways I never considered before. I thought I would walk you through the process so you can try it during your next boring old pasta night.
You will need:
- A package of your favorite pasta
- A quantity of pre made tomato sauce
- A measuring cup
1. Bring a large salted pot of water to a boil. Add pasta, stirring to separate noodles and let boil over hight heat.
2. Let pasta boil about two minutes less than the package instructs. You want your noodles to still be slightly stiff. Lift a few from the pot to check them. Take a bite if you're not sure. The center should still be hard.
3. Before draining your pasta, dip a measuring cup into the pot and reserve about 1/4 cup (or more depending)of the starchy salty cooking water. Set aside and drain pasta as usual.
4. Turn the stove to medium high, add the sauce to the pot and heat thoroughly. Then, add the undercooked noodles and about a third of the reserved water. Stir to coat noodles and let the sauce and water mix and boil rapidly. Gradually add more water as the liquid thickens.
The idea is that the pasta absorbs a bit of the saucy liquid during its last moments of cooking. The starchy water thickens the sauce while the well rounded saltiness adds to the dish.
5. The finished product should be thick and hearty perfect for a cozy december night in. A simple technique for amping up a familiar dish. Bon appetite!