You Say Tomato/ I say Panzanella

newsletter-photoLast weekend, O and I dragged ourselves out of bed early and drove out east of town to pick tomatoes on our CSA farm. For three hours we stooped in the dirt, grasping for the bright, plump fruits hiding within their rows and rows of tangled vines. Row by row, our senses became more honed: Was this one ripe enough? Diseased? Too soft? Begging to be sampled on the spot? It was hot and hard work—I have so much respect for all of the people who are out there harvesting our food every day. But even though we came out of it scorched and thirsty with aching thighs and backs, it was the best time I’d had in a while. There was something so intensely satisfying about being truly connected to the food that would end up on our plates and in our bodies. The heat and the dirt seemed to somehow intensify the scent and flavor of those tomatoes. When we were sent home with several pounds, we swooned over every bite.

For the last hour I’ve been trying to write something insightful about the importance of personally connecting with our food, but it’s just not coming out. Let’s just leave it at this: putting some energy into what you eat makes it taste better. So before tomato season is up, I urge you to try the following recipe using the most luscious, perfectly ripe, warm from the sun tomatoes you can get your hands on—it makes all the difference.

Panzanella (serves 2–3)

  • 6-8 slices of stale bread
  • 4 large tomatoes
  • 1 cup losely-packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • Flavorful Olive oil
  • Vinegar (your choice)
  • Sugar
  • Sea Salt
  1. Cut the bread into 1-inch chunks. If the bread is fresh (not stale), toast it in the oven until crisp and dry.
  2. Chop the tomatoes in half and squeeze out most of their seeds. Then into 1-inch chunks and place in a large bowl.
  3. Tear the basil leaves into pieces and add to the tomatoes.
  4. Chop or grate the garlic into the bowl with the tomatoes.
  5. Add the bread and toss everything together.
  6. Dress with olive oil (be liberal) and vinegar to taste (I like using the vinegar from pickled jalapenos for a little kick).
  7. Add salt and sugar to taste (even just a dusting of sugar really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes).
  8. Serve!
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Cooking with Unrefined Oils

I’ve completed my first round of homework for school! This consisted of keeping a diet and activity log for a week (sooooo painfully tedious) but also creating a handout related to any nutrition related topic we chose. We’ll make these handouts as a part of each module’s homeowrk assignment, with the idea of having a variety of handouts already prepared to hand out to clients at any given time. I chose to focus this first handout on unrefined oils. As I touched on in my recent post, I never realized how highly processed and poor for one’s health refined oils are. As I began to research unrefined oils, I was surprised by the true health benefits many of them provide—it’s not something you generally think of with oil. I was also pleasantly surprised by the variety of unrefined oils that are available. I’m excited to experiment with using avocado oil, red plam fruit oil and nut oils in my cooking. 

Oh, and in case you were wondering, I have made O’s chcolate-chip cookies with a mixture of coconut and macadamia nut oil with steller results. Buh-bye refined sunflower oil! So long!

Below is the information included on my handout. If you’d like to print a copy to keep in your kitchen, click here to download the PDF. Continue reading

Full of Beans

As all of you who are in Boulder can testify, this has been a weird summer weather-wise. It’s been in the mid-nineties and muggy for weeks on end. Aside from making me lethargic and grumpy, the oppressive heat is also making me feel mighty uninspired in the kitchen. That’s not all bad though. As I’m not feeling as inclined to try new recipes or spend hours (or any time at all) slaving over the stove, let alone firing up the oven, I’ve been focusing my culinary energy on the basics – beans, grains, simply-prepared veggies, smoothies (yes, they are their own food group)…

As a (mostly) vegan that eats (mostly) whole foods, I eat a lot of beans. For years I’ve felt less than stellar about canned beans- the BPA, the excess packaging, the extra expense. But actually getting my act together to soak and boil a big pot of dry beans was always a little intimidating. A couple of weeks ago I just bit the bullet and loaded up on dry beans at the store instead of canned. Despite the fact that my first batch (black-eyed peas) expanded more than expected while soaking and caused the jar they were inhabiting to ooze water all over the kitchen counter, I have deemed the experiment a successful one. I love the alchemical transformation through which these dry hard lumps from the bulk bin transform into swollen, soft little bits of deliciousness—their flavor is much more pronounced than the canned variety. And it sure is nice to just leave the pot on the stove to simmer without having to be in the same room. Once cooked and cooled, I’ve been loving having a mess of beans in the fridge to throw into salads, fill burritos or mix with rice. I’ve been doing much the same thing with various grains – quinoa, brown basmati rice, millet, barley. They are great to have on hand for substantial but light salads and quick lunches.

Amidst the cooking hiatus, I have crafted a couple of recipes that were remarkably delicious – maybe even warranting turning on the stove/oven (?)

Barley Summer Salad with Fennel & Chard (loosely based on the “Dill Basmati Rice with Chard ” recipe from Veganomicon)

2 cups cooked (& cooled) barley

1 cup cooked (& cooled) du Puy lentils (or other beans)

1/2 of a large fennel bulb, diced

1 small sweet onion, diced

1/2 of an English cucumber, seeded & diced

1 handful raisins

2 Tbs. minced fresh dill

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Good olive oil and red wine vinegar (in whatever proportions you prefer)– start with about 2 Tbs. vinegar and 1/4 cup oil.

Combine all the ingredients and mix with dressing. Let chill for at least one hour for optimal deliciousness. It’s even better the next day.

Sour Cherry Cornbread Cobbler (makes 4 -6 servings)

Filling:

2 cups lightly-sweetened pie cherries (sweetened however you prefer until palatable, but still tart)

2 small apples, peeled and grated

2 heaping Tbs. cornstarch

Squeeze of lemon juice

Biscuit topping:

2/3 cup cornmeal

1 1/3 cup Pamela’s gluten-free baking mix (or regular flour)

1 Tbs. baking powder

pinch of sea salt (add another if using flour)

1/2 sunflower oil

1/2 cup almond milk

1 spoonful coconut oil & 1 spoonful brown rice syrup, melted

  1. Heat oven to 400 F. Grease a pan (a large loaf pan should be perfect for this amount).
  2. Mix together the all of the filling ingredients and pour into the pan.
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients for the biscuits. Drizzle in the oil and mix with a fork. Drizzle in the milk and stir until mixture just comes together.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of dough on top of the cherry filling, more-or-less covering it. Brush or drizzle the top with the coconut oil/ brown rice syrup mixture.
  5. Bake for about 20 – 30 minutes until the top is golden and crusty. Mmmmmm!