Sunday, November 28, 2010

Marcella's Vegan Chickpea and Rice Pilaf

This recipe comes from my best friend Marcella who serves this savory pilaf to her three kiddos to sneak some leafy greens onto their plates.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chiffonade
2 large leaves Swiss chard, chopped
4-6 pitted kalamata olives, diced
1 1/2 cups cooked brown basmati rice
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Sweat onion, garlic and bell pepper in olive oil with salt over medium heat until onions are golden. Add herbs and chard and cook for 2 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients and cook until heated through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve with lemon wedges.

For a satisfying main course, add marinated tofu, grilled shrimp or thinly sliced steak, cooked separately.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Chilled Green Bean Salad

I enjoyed this salad on a hot Phoenix summer evening during my friends' and my weekly "family dinners." Really it was just an excuse to eat, drink and spend time together while our children, all of them under 3, entertained one another. Anna, a professional baker by trade, made this salad that evening and it was love at first bite. It's the perfect side dish when you're bored with everyday mixed greens. Enjoy!
Serves 4-6

1-2 pounds fresh green beans, ends trimmed
juice of 1 lemon
3 tablespoons prepared hummus
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 roma tomato, diced
1/4 of a small red onion, sliced thinly
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Blanch the green beans in a large pot of salted boiling water for 3 minutes or until they reach the desired tenderness. You still want a lot of crunch and snap. Drain and then plunge into an ice water bath immediately. Allow to cool completely and then drain once again.

Place the beans in a serving dish and douse with half of the lemon juice. Garnish with tomatoes and red onions.

Whisk together the hummus, olive oil and the remaining half of the lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Drizzle over the top of the salad and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Baby Cheesecakes with Fresh Figs

Baby Cheesecakes with Fresh Figs
Serves 4
What better pair than fresh figs and cheese after dinner? I can’t think of anything, so I bought a pound of Mission figs at my local market with the intent of bruleeing  them over individual cheesecakes. I baked the cheesecakes in adorable little green ramekins. Dessert perfection. They were rich, creamy, and delicious. However, the normally wonderful caramelization of the sugar in a brulee preparation didn’t complement the figs as well as I had hoped. So serve with the fruit sliced raw, or another fruit or just enjoy these precocious little cakes naked.
1 8-ounce package cream cheese (not light)
½ cup granulated white cane sugar
2 eggs
1 cup of sour cream (not light)
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup of graham crackers, pulsed to a fine crumb
¼ cup butter, melted
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and set a kettle of water on the stove to boil.
Pulse the graham crackers and melted butter in a food processor until it resembles coarse bread crumbs. Spoon this mixture into each of the ramekins and press down lightly. Don’t pack it too tightly or you’ll end up with a rock solid crust after baking. Not delicious.
In a medium-sized mixing bowl whip the cream cheese with a hand mixer until it’s smooth and creamy. Blend in the sugar thoroughly then add the eggs, one at a time, blending after each addition. Mix in the sour cream, vanilla and lemon zest. Divide the mixture evenly between each of the ramekins.
Pour the boiling water from your kettle into a 9x13” glass pan until it’s about 1-2” deep. You want it to be about three quarters of the depth of the ramekins but not so high they’re in danger of drowning. Settle each of the ramekins into the water bath and put the whole pan into the oven. Bake for about 25 minutes until the sides are set but the centers still look wobbly. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the stovetop for about half an hour, then remove each of the ramekins, cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to chill completely. If you wish to speed up this process, and I can’t blame you, pour out the hot water bath after the pan has cooled on the stovetop, and create an ice water bath, cover and refrigerate.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tour de Coops

Among buzzwords of the present age, "permaculture" is one of my favorites. Coined in the 70's by a professor and his student, permaculture denotes sustainable living in cooperation with the environment.
Keeping urban livestock is an element of permaculture growing in popularity around the country. To increase awareness of the practice and methods of urban chicken farming, the Phoenix Permaculture Guild is sponsoring its annual Tour de Coops, a self-guided tour of the Phoenix valley's coolest coops December 4, 2010. For more information, visit the Phoenix Permaculture Website.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Heirloom Tomato Bruschetta

If conventional tomatoes are the supermodels of supermarket shelves, then heirloom tomatoes are the natural beauties, untainted by the genetic modifications designed to make their picture perfect counterparts stand up to long transportation times and brusque handling. Heirlooms are the pure breeds. But with that comes some ungainly appearances, mottled coloring, and what some might call imperfections. Nevertheless, heirloom tomatoes elevate this dish from the everyday Italian standby. So skip the picture-perfect red orbs and go for the sometimes peculiar heirloom tomatoes. Sample a new variety each time you make this appetizer.

serves four

4 slices boule
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 cup mini heirloom tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a wide skillet over medium heat. When it is good and hot, cook the bread on each side until it is golden and toasty.

While the bread is cooking, slice each tomato in half or in quarters and make a chiffonade of the basil leaves. Toss these together with the balsamic and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the toasted bread slices to a plate and top with tomato mixture. Serve immediately.