Friday, January 21, 2011

Playing with Produce

Okay, for starters, it's been entirely too long since my last post on January 4th! Shame on me for succumbing to multiple preoccupations and not allowing myself to be inspired enough to blog. Well, today things took a tasty turn. Work at the hospital was a bit stressful to say the least with staff shortages and super detail-oriented time-consuming tasks. As soon as I got out, I drove straight to pick up my biweekly organic produce. Since I was a bit late and my share was the last one remaining, I actually got a bonus head of lettuce! Now I have two huge lettuces. I think I will definitely have to share.

Luckily, my kitchen sink was empty (thanks honey!) and after taking the pups out and feeding them, I got to washing my fruits and veggies. Apparently there exists a culinary debate of whether to wash produce before storing or not. I think it is fruit/veggie-specific. I find that if I wash my greens, let them drain, and store them in a paper-towel lined fridge drawer, they will last a few days. Placing them in clean food storage bags will make them lasts even longer. I leave my citrus, apples, pears, tomatoes, bananas etc. in a basket at room temperature; although in the summer, I may place some of these item in the fridge for good measure. Either way, I usually enjoy scrubbing my items under running water before storing. It was definitely the most colorful and playful part of my day.

sweet mini peppers
can't wait to roast these rainbow carrots!

Italian flat leaf parsley, not sure what I will make with this...suggestions?

ice cream bananas

one of my favorite OXO tools. the peeler is also great!

pretty heirloom tomatoes

too much lettuce!

i love the sweetness of these babies

Another cool thing that happened today, is that I discovered this awesome national website:  It contains a plethora of resources about food coops, farmers markets and such near you. Check it out!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Balance your black beans.

Ever crave black beans? I do. And it happens suddenly. It's like out of the blue, my body needs the 15 grams of fiber and 15 grams of protein (per cup), along with a ton of iron. This is why I always have canned black beans in my pantry. No need to soak. Just make a quick 'sofrito' or 'adereso' with olive oil, diced onions, green pepper, and fresh chopped tomato. Spice your adereso with cumin, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste and fry that up for a bit until onion is clear. Add 1 can of black beans. Simmer for a few.

I happened to pick up a pack of whole baby portobellos (mushrooms) today and thought that a bit of acidity goes very well with the earthy flavor of beans. Wash and dry your mushrooms. Slice to preferred thickness and saute in a hot oiled pan for a couple of minutes, salt and peppering to taste. Finish up your mushrooms with a healthy splash of good balsamic vinegar. Coat mushrooms and remove from heat.

Pair your beans with the balsamic glazed baby portobellos and you will be in black bean heaven!

And if you're like me and crave even more protein...heat up any left-over lean pork (this is what I had tonight) or steak and tah dah! Oh yes, and how could I forget the red wine. Tonight I poured a delicious glass of Coppola Tempranillo I received as a lovely gift. Cheers!!!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ringing in the New Year with a wonderful Italian-inspired dish!

Once I completed all of my organizational activities on Friday, I headed to the kitchen to see what I could make for Matt and I that would pair up nicely with a skirt steak he brought home. I spotted a box of orzo pasta in the pantry. There was also all that left over fresh mozzarella and basil from my birthday on the 26th, and a pint of organic cherry tomatoes from FarmFresh...wheels turning...

Our menu would consist of the following: orzo tossed with homemade pesto sauce, fresh mozzarella and halved cherry tomatoes, almost like a warm pasta salad.

I quickly pulled up a pesto recipe on and got the jist of the ingredients and quantities. I used a small Cuisinart chopper/grinder which I sometime use as a mini food processor and I dropped basil leaves (about a cup, though you can use more), walnuts (about 1/2 cup), 4 peeled garlic cloves, FRESHLY grated parmesan cheese (this makes all the difference), sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. It's okay to go a bit overboard with the salt, as this will be the primary flavoring for all of the dish and it will get diluted. I grinded the ingredients and then started adding the olive oil, little by little, alternating with grinding, until the mixture became pesto-like :) This was soooo easy!

Then, I mixed the pesto, halved tomatoes, and coarsely cubed mozzarella with the recently boiled and drained orzo while it was still hot (but with the burner off, back in pot). The tomatoes got soft and warm and the mozzarella just barely melted, still squeaking in between your teeth when you bite it. You can pair this with the protein of your choice, although I have to admit, a juicy lightly-salted grilled skirt steak is a nice buttery choice.

Once we sat to enjoy our last dinner of 2010, I couldn't help but to consider that this pesto orzo was easy and delicious enough to prepare for a large group. These are the kind of recipes that are a must for effortless and affordable entertaining!

Cheers to 2011!
May this year bring out the culinary goddess within...