Edible adventures: 1000 new fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds

I added a new list to my list of lists this week: one of my kitchen resolutions for this year – a thousand new fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, stretching both my culinary chops, shopping habits, foraging opportunities, and encouraging and indulging my travel bug. I suppose this is more of a lifelong quest to eat with curiosity. I don’t exactly plan on trying a thousand new foods this year, but hopefully I’ll get a good start. Game, on!

The full list (or at least the start!) is here.

Have you gone on any epic culinary quests? Traveled the world to try a new food? I want to hear about it!

Summer Scallop Salad

Scallop Salad

You guys, it’s hot around here. It’s hard not to feel sluggish. And back when I was bragging a few weeks ago that the extra air conditioners didn’t raise the electric bill? Well, I lied. Or at least this month we ran them harder than ever. Today I woke up at 5:05 to make my way to November Project, and going back on my verbal with a coworker, promptly fell back asleep. The heat made me do it! I spent part of the day racked with guilt, and then got over it to go to my favorite class of the week – olympic lifting at my gym. We worked on snatch balances and power snatching. Snatches are my most dreaded lift – more reason to practice them! I’m always looking to bring power to the lift, execute an efficient bar path, and reduce my tendency of muscling up the weight, which *surprise, surprise* doesn’t work when you aim to lift heavier!

When it’s blazing hot outside, it’s doubly hot in my kitchen, so if anything is going to be cooked, it has to be quick! Here’s my dinner tonight.

Summer Scallop Salad

I’m always on the lookout for light summer salads with seafood of any kind.  Some of my favorites are Greek salad with grilled shrimp, Niçoise salad with the addition of smoked fish, and this scallop salad, which is equally good with scallops, shrimp, mussels, or lobster.

Serves 2
scallops 9 or 10 large
olive oil
tomato 1 large
cucumber 1 medium
romaine lettuce a few cups per person
assorted antipasti (optional) olives, gigande beans, crisped prosciutto, corn, feta, roasted peppers are all good!

lemon 1
olive oil
chopped fresh herbs (a handful of dill, basil)

Season scallops with salt and pepper. Heat a few glugs olive oil in a large skillet until shimmering. Add scallops, and cook over high heat until browned on the bottom, about two to three minutes. While they are cooking, go ahead and slice up a cucumber, and cut a tomato into wedges. Turn the scallops and cook for another minute, then take out of the pan immediately to avoid overcooking them! I like arranging this salad on a plate. Layer the bottom with romaine lettuce, and sprinkle on fresh herbs. Add the cucumber and tomato. Add on any extra antipasti (tonight I went for kalamata olives and gigande beans from the Whole Foods Antipasti bar). Drizzle with olive oil, squeeze the lemon wedge over top, and season, if you’d like, with a little bit of extra salt and pepper.

Some reading:

Good coaches and trainers don’t let their athletes work irresponsibly through injury. Great post by Alyssa Royse on why she kicked an athlete out of her gym.

The Man Booker Long List has been released! I’m likely going to team up with some other voracious readers to work my way through the list this summer. Anyone else in?

Also:

I’m currently signed up for B.A.A. Half, and Newton Chilly Half. Should I add Hampton Rock Fest to the mix? (Home turf race!) Maybe Newburyport Half? Do I even like running??

Beef and Cabbage “Taco” Salad

Beef and cabbage taco salad

Let me just say, thank goodness for Trader Joe’s. When I’m running late, and haven’t meal planned, I tend to stop by Trader Joe’s to purchase protein and a vegetable, and go from there.

Tonight I did a “double” at the gym – the WOD (workout of the day), followed by the Olympic Lifting Clinic (where we practiced snatches). The main workout was AMRAP 20: Run 400 meters, then three rounds of {5 pullups, 10 pushups, 15 squats}. Feeling sluggish from a track workout yesterday, I managed through only two full rounds (two runs and two sets of three rounds) before calling it. After two hours in the gym, I went for a long walk with my friend AA to make our respective Jawbone/Fitbit step goals. I headed home feeling very accomplished, and decided to support my fitness behavior with a home cooked meal instead of takeout.

Tonight’s dinner – a twist on one of my favorite dinners: taco salad. While I’m not competing in my gym’s nutritional challenge this time around, I’ve been feeling inspiration to eat delicious home cooked meals and share ideas with friends. This dinner takes about 8 minutes to put together if you buy the salsa and guac pre-made. (I like Trader Joe’s Avocado’s Number guacamole, or sometimes if I’m feeling spend-y, the freshly made guac at Whole Foods.)

Beef and Cabbage “Taco” Salad 

beef, cabbage, pico de gallo, guacamole

Sauté a pound of ground beef (I use organic, free range when possible) with a large pinch of salt and a heaping teaspoon or so of cumin. When the beef is cooked, add a few large handfuls of shredded green cabbage (about 5 ounces), and another large pinch of salt. Let the cabbage cook for about 4 minutes, until slightly softened but still toothsome. You want the cabbage to still have a little bit of crunch. Once cooked, assemble your salad – the beef and cabbage as the base, and then spoon on pico de gallo and guacamole on each plate.  For some added vegetable, add a few chopped cherry tomatoes. Nice with a little squeeze of lime. Serves 2, generously.

Green Almonds + The Zuni Cafe Cookbook

Green Almonds and Prosciutto

Yesterday at Formaggio Kitchen I noticed a basket full of green almonds, but passed them over while gorging myself on cheese samples because the $6/pound price tag made me cringe. Yes, they’re shipped from California, but boy is that a markup – in California you might see them for a few dollars a pound. Today I went back, with clearer perspective, to pick up a small bag for snack – some seasonal items with short windows are worth paying a premium for just in case you can’t find them somewhere else for cheaper before they’re gone.

Green almonds are tart fuzzy pods that contain almonds in their earliest stage of maturity– a springtime treat that you can often find in Middle Eastern markets.  You can eat the pods whole doused with a little olive oil and salt, or  you cut them open with a little paring knife down their center groove and eat the white almonds that haven’t yet hardened. The pods are crunchy, and filled with a clear citrusy jelly substance. Unlike the mature nut, they are soft, fresh and verdant – more plant-like than nutty in taste. In the Middle East, they are often pickled, sometimes fried, and sometimes featured in stews, such as the Persian Khorest-eh Chagaleh Badam, with beef, parsley, and mint. Usually, they are just eaten plain, accompanied by a cold beer, but also taste delicious sliced into spring salads.

Today I took a cue from the masterful Judy Rodgers in her Zuni Cafe Cookbook, and stole the pairing right off the cover photo: green almonds, stone fruit and prosciutto. If you happen to see these cheerful orbs, grab them quickly, before they are gone.

Foods of Fall (a.k.a. Winter is Coming)

Fall foods. I decided today that I needed to write a list of fall foods so I wouldn’t miss them. Because it seems like we’re on the cusp of winter already, and I haven’t had my fill of cider donuts and delicate and baked apples. Usually I think of seasonal foods too late, and then I become bitter and cranky. And nobody likes that.

Speaking of bitter and cranky, first, a complaint. The Pumpkin Spice Latte. The pumpkin spice donut. The pumpkin spice pretzel. The pumpkin spice soap. The pumpkin spice dishwashing detergent. (Just kidding, that doesn’t exist…. I hope.) So yes, I just don’t understand it. Peppermint mocha? Okay, I get those. I like the idea of spiced drinks and nostalgia, and feeling homey, but the majority of the PSL’s I’ve tried – not purchased, but obligingly sipped from those who say imploringly “I swear you’ll love it, just try it one more time!” – have been cloyingly sweet, almost metallic tasting. Not to mention the whole zero-pumpkin thing for most of these drinks. The pumpkin spice latte just isn’t for me. But what about warming beverages? I’ll take coffee, tea, chai, or even cider spiked with spiced rum. It’s a thing I “invented” on Thanksgiving one year at the open bar. Yep, that’s a drink I can be on board with.

I’ve been trying to get my fill of fall foods that come (mostly) from nature. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Delicata squash, reigning supreme varietal of squash. I like mine sliced, tossed in coconut oil, with chile, cumin, and salt. Sometimes I add sweeter warming spices, like cinnamon, mace, and clove. Roast, roast, roast.

2. The other squashes: butternut squash, acorn squash, spaghetti squash. Okay, these squashes, well, they just aren’t delicata. I still like ‘em anyway.

3. Apples. I didn’t go apple picking this year. I know there is still time, but I’m not sold on having bags and bags in my fridge taken up by one type of food. That said, I did go through about a dozen varietals from Volante Farms, and managed to sample another dozen more. I like them fresh, in salads, and baked – stuffed with walnuts and dark chocolate, and doused out of the oven with a hint of cream.

4. Boiled cider. Here’s how you make it – take fresh cider (not the boozy kind), and simmer down as long as you can, until reduced by half, or if you can wait long enough, by 3/4. This took me a little under an hour for a half gallon. Take resulting cider, and spoon over apple cake, vanilla ice cream, granola, oatmeal, yogurt, and more. When you are sick of it with sweet things, use some to marinate and bake a pork tenderloin.

5. Apple cider donuts. My longstanding favorite have been from Applecrest farm in Rye, warm.

6. Chili. I’ve been waiting all summer long to have my chili back – it’s not that I don’t like eating it in the summer time, it just didn’t feel right to cook something low and slow in my own house until the temperature dropped below 65.

7. Parsnip Fries. Parsnips in general. Sure they look like white carrots, but they don’t taste like carrots at all!

8. Pumpkin whoopee pies. The winning whoopee this season has come from Volante Farms in Needham. Preferably cream cheese frosting.

9. Turkish pumpkin dessert. Pumpkin braised in a simple syrup with coconut and nuts. I haven’t made it this year, but when I do, I’ll post the recipe.

10. Persimmons. Oh, how I miss these in San Francisco, where you could find them ripe, and they didn’t cost $3 a fruit. (It’s true you can get them for cheaper on the East Coast, just never ripe.)

11. Pumpkin chocolate chip bundt. This recipe. My absolute favorite fall food. Tastes good warmed for breakfast. Tastes great at the end of a long hike.

Of course there are many more – cranberries, cabbage, every type of braise. I’ll have to keep on thinking, and get started on the eating!

Romesco Sauce – 10 Minutes to a Better Lunch

I was going to share this recipe last week, but then noticed that Ken and Jody had a wonderful post on Romesco with Grilled Spring Onions, and I suffered a short bout of blogger envy. Mine is the quick version, but be sure to swing over to theirs and check out the gorgeous photos – and then go ahead and make some Romesco! It’ll take you ten minutes, and you’ll be happy all week long.

*           *           *

I’ve really been enjoying the new era of Bon Appétit with Adam Rapoport at the helm. It feels like they’ve made a good comeback and successfully refreshed themselves. The creative direction feels modern and relevant, and they have been taking chances on some great up-coming photographers. (It was a treat to see the work of Kimberley Hasslebrink and Brian Ferry in recent issues.) Lately I’ve been really excited for each issue to arrive – and when it does, I find myself flagging multiple recipes to try, and actually heading in the kitchen to cook them.

As part of this year’s kitchen resolutions, I’ve been trying to make a new sauce every week – sometimes a pesto, salsa verde, or chimichurri. Or even a good mayonnaise spike with fresh herbs and garlic. Having a sauce on hand is a good incentive to cook when you are feeling uninspired – you know you already have one component finished, a perfect accompaniment to chicken, roasted vegetables, spooned on eggs, or to refresh leftovers.

A few months ago I had flagged a segment of the magazine called “Master Fresh and Easy Sauces”, which had an entire selection of sauces I’d be interested in eating: Romesco, Green Harissa, Avocado-Lime Sauce Vierge, Kimchi Relish, and Charred Lemon-Shallot Chutney. The Romesco made the cut because I had all of the ingredients already in my pantry.

Romesco
adapted from Bon Appétit January 2013 
(Recipe by Soa Davies)

The original recipe called for one large pepper, although I used 1/2 the jar from Trader Joes (about 3 medium ones), and substituted almond meal for toasted slivered almonds. I think you’d get a little bit more depth from toasting, although frankly I found that the sauce had enough punch without. For the tomato purée, I’ve used both Italian passata and Trader Joe’s tomato sauce in the can with success here.

1 large roasted red bell pepper from a jar
1 garlic clove, smashed
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup tomato purée
2 Tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp. Sherry vinegar
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor, pulse the first 8 ingredients until finely chopped, and add slowly add olive oil until smooth. Or, if you can’t exercise patience, put all of the ingredients into a large cup, and blend with your immersion blender. (Quick, less to clean, and just as delicious.)

Makes 1 1/2 cups. Keeps in the fridge for a week.

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