It must be summer because it’s Farmer’s Market time (plus sauteed Kale)

It’s farmer’s market season in Boston and I couldn’t be happier. I am fortunate enough to shop at the markets in Central Square and Davis Square (which is located directly behind my office!).

I have found that produce from the markets is fresher and tastier than anything in the stores. The prices work out to be more or less the same (or slightly cheaper, depending), but you get bigger bunches of things for the money. The markets have also turned me into a tomato snob–I never buy them from the grocery store because they are mealy and flavorless. I actually have a tomato problem in the summer–once they start appearing in the market I find myself buying so many that we have a hard time eating them all (a happy difficulty to have!).There are markets all over town, all week long. Check out the Federation of Massachusetts Farmer’s Markets to find one near you.

I always visit the Enterprise Farm stand in Davis Square to buy my greens. They’re an organic farm, and I like to try to buy as much organic produce as possible. They grow multiple varieties of my favorite vegetable, Kale, along with delicious salad greens, tomatoes and many other organic green things.

The Kimball Farm is at both of my markets and they have the biggest selection at both markets. They are not organic, but “low spray,” which means they only spray when they have to. They have expanded their “no spray” produce, making them a good alternative if you can’t find what you want at the organic stands.

I’m addicted to the berries from the Bug Hill Farm stand. They overfill their containers, and their berries are consistently sweet and delectable.

In the fall some stands have fresh foraged Maitake, or Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. I try to buy as many of these as possible. Maitake have fantastic health benefits, are extremely tasty and versatile to cook with, and include woody stems that I save in the freezer to add to vegetable stocks. Check out this post from Drweil.com about the health benefits of Maitake and other mushrooms like Shiitake.

Both of my markets have a variety of naturally-raised meat available, and now both have fresh fish vendors! In Davis Square, the Globe Fish Company offers super-fresh, never frozen fish from their family-run business. We have a new fish vendor in Central, C&C Lobsters and fish, which seems to also be a small, family-run business. They have a nice variety of local fish and also lobsters–either live for you to take home to cook, or, if you order ahead, steamed and ready to eat.

Aside from all the beautiful produce, farmer’s markets are a community gathering opportunity. I often run into people that I know and maybe don’t see too often at the markets, and it’s like we’re all giddy with joy–it’s just so delightful to be surrounded by beautiful produce and happy people!

One thing I buy every week is kale. I love Enterprise Farm’s organic tuscan kale (also known as black, lacinato or dinosaur kale), as well as their green and purple kale. Kale is one of the healthiest foods you can eat. I think I tell at least one patient every day that they should include kale in their diet.

The problem is that no one knows how to cook it! We almost always prepare it as a simple saute with some garlic and salt. Easy, fast, delicious–what else do you need in a vegetable dish?

I hesitate to post this as a “recipe” because there’s really nothing to it:

-Chop the Kale (cut the leaves off of the thick, woody stems first)
-chop a clove of garlic
-saute the garlic briefly in a large frying pan with some olive oil (less than a tablespoon should do)
-add the kale and saute. It’s good if there’s a bit of water left on your kale from washing –that water helps steam the kale as it’s cooking.

Add salt (be judicious–kale doesn’t seem to need much salt) and enjoy!

Chia Seed Pudding

Chia seeds are relatively new on the health food market, and I’ve been experimenting with them in a lot of my baked goods. They are a complete protein, and are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. They also have a decent amount of vitamins and minerals. They also pack a good amount of fiber, too. Click here for the nutrition data breakdown.

Chia seeds have a unique ability to absorb large amounts of liquids, opening interesting possibilities for consumption. They become thick and gelatinous when soaked in liquid, and can be consumed as a beverage (a chunky beverage, which is better than it sounds), or made into a nutrious gel that you can eat with a spoon. I have been using ground chia seeds in all of my gluten-free baking because they help things stick together.

It’s a nice travel food for those with food sensitivities–easy to pack, and when mixed with any liquid it becomes a nourishing and filling food source. I’ve been seeing juices on the market with chia seeds floating in them–just make your own by adding some to your favorite juice.

One of the tastiest ways I’ve been enjoying them is as a pudding. It’s easy and fast, involves no cooking (and few dishes), and is open to infinite variables. I don’t have a picture of it for you, though, but at the request of my patients I wanted to get the recipe up (and maybe I’ll add a picture later). It’s a bit like tapioca pudding, but it’s healthy instead of starchy.

I enjoy it both as a post dinner snack (it’s a great ice cream substitute). Depending on how much sweetener (and what type) you use, it can be a nice breakfast too (maybe with some granola or nuts stirred in).

It’s hard to call this a recipe, it’s really a ratio: 1/2 cup chia seeds to roughly 2-3 cups of liquid. I used coconut milk the last time I made it, but you can use any tasty, creamy base that you like.

The infinite variety come in with how you choose to flavor the liquid. Vanilla or almond extract? Chocolate? Warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, cloves? All are nice, so it’s up to you. If you are using whole spices like cinnamon stick, cardamom pods or cloves, you’ll get a richer flavor if you gently heat the base for a few minutes, and then leave the spices to steep (and then remove before you add the chia seeds).

Here is a rough sketch for a vanilla pudding and a chocolate:

Chia Seed Pudding

1/2 cp Chia seeds
2-3 cups coconut milk, soy milk, rice milk or whole milk
2 tsp vanilla
2-4 tbsp of your favorite sweetner (I use 1/2 palm sugar, 1/2 maple syrup)

Combine all ingredients and stir with a wire whisk. Let chia seeds soak for at least 10 minutes, whisking occasionally to prevent clumping. Start with less liquid, adding more to achieve your desired consistency. You can also add more chia seeds if it’s too liquid-y

It’s ready to eat as is, or you can chill it for a while.

To make this chocolate, add 2 tbsp. cocoa powder, and maybe use the larger amount of sugar.

Taste for sweetner, add a bit more if you need it.

A quick-and-dirty chocolate chia pudding can be had by mixing your chia seeds into chocolate soy milk (or whatever chocolate milk makes you happy).

Eggs poached in stock with spinach and buckwheat

I made a lot of soup this winter and came to appreciate the joy of home-made stock. With just a little extra work, you can get a stock pot going and then forget about it for at least 45 minutes. Strain it and you have a flexible base for a lot of good meals. It freezes beautifully, so make more than you need and bank some in the freezer for a future meal.

Spring allergy season has begun early in Boston. It’s predicted to be an especially bad year because of our mild winter. It’s also several weeks early.

We felt particularly under the weather last weekend, so I decided to cash in two jars of stock from the freezer stash. A quick and healthy meal can be had with two eggs, some pre-made stock, some leftover cooked grains and a handful of something leafy and green. Enhance the flavor as you time an inclination permits. If we’re feeling really under the weather, I add a few cloves of garlic to the stock and boil for at least 15-20 minutes. This time I sauteed some sliced garlic in olive oil and added it at the end, along with some chopped green onions. I had leftover cooked buckwheat in the fridge, but really any grain would do. I especially enjoy small round grains like quinoa and millet.

Eggs poached in stock with spinach and buckwheat

3 cups stock
4 eggs
1 cup cooked grains (give or take), preheated
a few handfuls of baby spinach
1-2 cloves garlic, sliced
2-3 green onions, sliced

Bring stock to a boil, taste for seasoning. Crack eggs into 4 small bowls (like ramekins). To poach eggs, bring bowl very close to the boiling stock and gently tip in. Repeat with other 3 eggs, giving each egg a little room. Gently boil for about 3 minutes.

While eggs are cooking, saute garlic in some olive oil, taking care not to let it brown.

Divid preheated grains between two large soup bowls. Top with a generous handful of baby spinach (you can use a lot here–it will reduce down to nothing once the soup hits it.

Stir sauteed garlic into broth, taking care not to break the eggs. Gently spoon 2 eggs into each bowl and divide the stock evenly between the two bowls. Top with sliced green onions.

Serves 2.

Easy herb and grain salads

My patients have been requesting that I post recipes that are quick and healthy, and I can’t think of anything easier than a whole-grain salad made with some leftovers and a few things you probably have on hand already.

I almost always have some odd bits of left over brown rice, quinoa or buckwheat lingering in the fridge. I like to use it to whip up a salad as either a quick meal (made more filling with some canned beans), or a side dish to go with a piece of fish. It’s also a great way to put those bits of cilantro and parsley to use when you have just a little leftover from something else you’ve recently made.

I don’t really follow a recipe–I just use whatever is on hand, and dress it with olive oil and lemon juice (or vinegar).

Things that are nice to include:

* raisins
* nuts (pecans, pine nuts, almonds, walnuts, toasted if you have the time)
* olives
* chopped fresh herbs if you have them (dried if you don’t)
* roasted red peppers
* capers
* beans (chickpeas are my favorite)
* cheese
* steamed veggies
* onions/scallions
* sprouts
* cucumbers
* tomatoes

For the dressing, think about combining 3 parts olive oil with 1 part vinegar/lemon juice. Add salt and pepper and any other seasonings to taste. You can also add 1 teaspoon of dijon mustard. It’s best to mix the dressing in a separate container, beat it with a fork and taste to see if you need to add any more of anything.

When you put it together, the grain should be the predominant item in your salad. Add as much or as little of the other ingredients as you like.

Mix everything together and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes (assuming you have that kind of time–otherwise just eat it right away).

The picture above comes from this nice blog I recently discovered, Tale of Two Vegans. Check it out!

Montreal and a quick egg recipe

Every few years my husband and I trek to Montreal for the Montreal Jazz Festival. The festival has changed a lot since our first trip their. On this trip we realized that instead of going to mostly listen to music, we were going to mostly enjoy some favorite things about Montreal, and then listen to a little al fresco music in the evening. It was one of our best trips yet.

Community garden in Montreal

We rented a small apartment near the Atwater market and the Lachine Canal, two of the highlights of our trip. The lovely community garden pictured above was next to the apartment, and it was pure joy to walk past it several times a day and see gardeners tending their tidy plots.

Farm stand at Atwater Market

The Atwater Market was a delight for me–a permanent farmer’s market with a wide variety of small local vendors. Quebec is a bit behind Boston in their season, so they still had strawberries and asparagus. Both were delicious and so simple to enjoy in our our little kitchen. We also bought some delicious local goat and sheep’s milk cheese, some maple syrup and La Messagere, a wonderful Quebec-made gluten-free beer.

The Lachine Canal (with access conveniently located right behind the market) is an amazing urban park, perfect for biking. It was originally built as an industrial canal, and spurred development in that parts of Montreal that it traversed. Biking along it is fascinating–a range of historic stone buildings, modern buildings and infrastructure, crumbling factories, and luxury condos line the path. There’s even one section that travels parallel (and within a visible, but safely distant) section of a major highway. Despite all of this human-made scenery, sections of it are lush with greenery and overall it was a peaceful ride.

Our bike journeys were made possible by the BIXI bike share program that’s like the one we’re getting here in Boston. It was a great service and I’m so excited to have something similar in Boston.

Kusmi Tea store

We also found a shop dedicated to selling our favorite tea, Kusmi Tea. It’s Russian-via-Paris, expensive, decadent and totally worth every penny.

Most of our meals were simply prepared dishes with loot from the farmer’s market (like the egg, potato and asparagus recipe that follows), but I have to mention the fantastic vegetarian restaurant we visited in the Plateau neighborhood, Aux Vivres. They serve a nice variety of interesting and healthy vegetarian fare, including several gluten-free items.

I’ve found that one of the easiest and healthiest foods a vegetarian can prepare when you’re traveling is eggs.

They’re versatile–on recent trips I’ve made omlettes and fritattas, hard-boiled, scrambled and poached in spicy tomato sauce–all with minimal equipment and seasonings.
They’re healthy–the white is almost pure protein, providing slow-burning fuel. Eggs are also an important source of B vitamins for vegetarians, something in short supply in the vegetable kingdom.
They’re filling–perfect to fuel a morning or afternoon of walking around or biking (or after, to refuel for the next adventure).
They cook up fast! Perfect for a quick lunch after a morning of exploring

They’re also available everywhere, maybe one of their best features.

Taking advantage of the delicious local asparagus and some nice new potatoes, I made this “hash” for lunch after one of our bike rides. It’s so simple it’s hard to call this a “recipe.” If you can use real butter, I encourage you to do it tastes great! If butter is not you’re friend, use your favorite butter substitute.

Eggs with potato and asparagus hash

For 2

4-6 eggs, depending on how hungry you are, beaten
8 small, 2-3 medium or 1 large potato
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces.
1 small onion or 2 shallots, chopped
butter
Salt, pepper
Optional additions: crumbled goat cheese (or any cheese), tabasco, avocado, chopped fresh herbs

Cut potatoes into a 1/2 inch dice. Boil until just cooked through (about 8-10 minutes).
To prepare asparagus, either add to potatoes in the last minute of cooking, or parboil or steam them separately until bright green and just tender.

Heat butter in a large frying pan. Saute onion or shallots until soft. Add potatoes and allow them to gently brown in the butter (but don’t burn the butter!). Add asparagus, stir to coat with butter.

Push veggies to the side of pan, add a bit more butter and pour eggs into the empty 1/2 of the pan. Scramble until mostly cooked, then stir veggies and finish cooking the whole process should take about 5 minutes, depending on how well you like your scrambled eggs to be done). Salt and pepper to taste

Served topped with any of the optional additions you’d like.

Nice way to use Mangos

Ataulfo mangos have reappeared in the markets for the spring and I can’t get enough of them. They’re so rich and custardy and “stringless” which is a really nice thing. I always feel great joy when I eat orange things like sweet potatoes, but these mangos are an extra special joy.

I had an eyes-bigger-than-my-stomach moment at the store the other day and bought 4, all unripe, and all destined to ripen at the exact same time. I could happily eat them, just as is, but then I remembered this recipe I found over at Chef in You.

Chef in You is a healthy Indian food blog that I’ve recently discovered. I love this recipe for Amrakhand, a thick yogurt and mango lassi. I’m planning a dinner of spicy Indian food this weekend just so we can cool off with this for dessert.

You can read the original post here. I’ve simply copied and pasted the recipe below.

Amrakhand

2 cups plain yogurt (use Greek style yogurt if available)
2-3 fresh mangoes, to make about 1 cup mango pulp (you can use canned mango pulp too)
sugar to taste
1-2 tbsp chiroli nuts for garnish (optional)
few fresh slices of mangoes for garnish

Note: You can also use saffron, cardamom powder and nuts to flavor this further like Shrikhand.

Method

If using fresh mango pulp, slice the flesh of the ripe mangoes. I used sweet mangoes for this recipe.
Process mangos in a blender or food processor until smooth. You can strain the pulp to remove the string,s if any.
Make sure the yogurt you are using is thick. if not, you can tie the yogurt in a clean cotton cloth (or cheesecloth) and hang it up for an hour or so to drain off all the whey. Or if you can get your hands on Greek style Yogurt, go for it. I think its perfect for this dessert.
Whisk the yogurt in a bowl and beat it well.
Add sugar little by little and continue to whisk.
When the yogurt gets light in texture, stir in the mango pulp.
Stir it until blended and then chill it.
Serve cold garnished it with chiroli nuts and some sliced mangoes.

Quick and easy nut butter chocolate chip cookies

I recently discovered this great recipe for really quick, really easy, and not-too-naughty chocolate chip cookies. It’s quick and easy, and you probably have all of the ingredients in your cupboard right now (doesn’t everyone keep chocolate chips on hand like I do?). I’ve been experimenting with reducing the amount of sugar from the original recipe, and replacing some with a liquid sugar like brown rice syrup. The liquid sweeteners affect the texture, but not in a bad way.

Flourless nut butter cookies

I made mine with almond butter, but you could use any nut butter you like. They tasted better with roasted almond butter than with raw almond butter. The picture above is from The Nourishing Gourmet, a great blog for healthy food ideas.

You can use whatever chocolate chips you like, or cocoa nibs. The nibs are nice. Since they’re not sweetened, they don’t add any sweetness to the recipe. I think of cocoa nibs as a guilt-free way to have chocolate every day. They are just coarsely-ground cocoa beans. There’s no added fat or sugar, as in chocolate bars, so you get the full wallop of antioxidants and nutrients and non of the bad stuff. I like to add them to my breakfast porridges. Chocolate for breakfast–what could be better?

These cookies tend to get crunchy as they cool, but using some liquid sweetener keeps them chewier.

Nut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cp any roasted nut butter
1/2 cp succanat/rapidura sugar
1/4 cp brown rice syrup/honey/maple syrup
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cp cocoa nibs or chocolate chips
1/4 cp chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease cookie sheet.
With an electric mixer, combine nut butter, sweeteners, eggs and vanilla. Stir in chocolate chips/cocoa nibs and pecans. Drop about 1 tbsp of dough for each cookie, leaving some room for them to spread out (about 2 inches).

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Dutch stamppot

We just returned from a delightful holiday in Holland. The picture below was taken on a cold morning in Amsterdam. The weather was cold and mostly dry, though we did get a bit of snow.

While in Amsterdam, we rented a small apartment so that we could experience the city more as a resident and (a little) less like a tourist. We shopped at the local Albert Heijn market and cooked many of our own meals. I know many people like to get away and leave the kitchen and the dirty dishes behind, but we find it oppressive and expensive to eat out 3 meals a day, every day of our vacation. The apartment helped us avoid this–breakfast at “home” before we set out for the day’s adventures, lunch at a restaurant, and dinner back at “home,” when we just couldn’t walk around any more.

I love visiting grocery stores when I travel to other countries. I love seeing what different types of foods are available and how they’re packaged. Judging by our local Albert Heijn, the Dutch eat a lot of potatoes! They sold bags of partially-cooked, peeled potatoes in a wide variety of different shapes and sizes. The also sold large bags of chopped kale, or “boerenkool.” I was extremely excited to see that kale!

The bags of boerenkool were sold to use for the Dutch comfort food, Stamppot. It’s basically like Irish Colcannon–mashed potatoes with kale (or cabbage) and various seasonings. The Dutch serve it with boiled (!) sausage on the side. It is simple and hearty, a perfect antidote to the cold, damp weather they have in Holland. Oh yeah, and here in Boston, too. Cold, damp–does that sound familiar to anyone?

There are a variety of recipes out there, and it seems like you can really make it any way you like. I think it would be fantastic with some roasted garlic mashed in. It’s a great way to get more kale into your diet.

Here’s one of the recipes that I found on the internet. The original recipe includes sausage, but I’ve removed that. When we made it, we served it with an English lentil roast (a recipe that I will post later).

Stamppot

3 lbs potatoes
2 onions
1 bay leaf
1 lb kale
1 pinch salt
1 pinch ground pepper
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter

1. Peel and dice potatoes and onions.
2. Clean, trim and slice kale.
3. Add the potatoes, onion, kale, a bay leaf, a pinch of salt and just enough water to cover all in a 3 qrt pan.
4. Cover and boil gently for about 25 minutes.
5. Remove the bay leaf, drain the vegetables, and mash them.
6. Add milk and butter. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Chickpea soup with saffron and almonds

As the weather gets cooler, I’m enjoying being in the kitchen again. I love summer so much that I don’t want to spend any time at all inside in the kitchen. When it starts to turn cool (and wet), being in a warm kitchen seems like the most reasonable thing to do.

I’ve been making a lot of soup lately. I’ve been experimenting with making stock, and then using it to create two different soups. This give me leftovers for nice lunches and dinners for the rest of the week.

In the fall and winter it’s especially important to eat warming, cooked foods. Chinese medicine teaches us that when it’s cold out, you should skip raw foods because they cool the body and put the digestive fires out (when it’s cold outside, you need warming inside). Soups are the perfect replacement for the salads of summer–nutritious and hydrating for the dryness that comes with cold air and indoor heating.

I just recently tried Mark Bittman’s recipe for Chickpea Soup with Saffron and Almonds from his book, How to cook everything vegetarian. I followed his recipe almost exactly, and made my own stock. If you don’t have time to make stock, just use whatever stock you like. I often use Imagine Foods No Chicken Stock when I don’t have time to make my own.

The inclusion of coarsly chopped almonds gives this soup and interesting texture. I mashed a few chickpeas to thicken the soup, but left it very brothy overall. Bittman says to mash the chickpeas to whatever consistency you prefer–there’s no wrong way.

Basic stock

1 large onion, with (clean) skin, cut into large chunks
2 medium carrots, cut into quaters
2 stalks celery, cut into quarters
3-6 Whole garlic cloves, with skin on, gently crushed with side of knife
Olive oil, for sauteeing
Stems from dried mushrooms (I used Maitake/Hen of the Woods), optional
2 bay leaves
1 Tsp dried thyme (or several branches of fresh)
6-8 cups of water

Sautee onion in olive oil until it starts to soften a bit (about 5 minutes). Add the carrots, celery and garlic saute until the veggies are slighty browned.

Add bay leaves and thyme and sautee briefly.

Add water and optional mushroom stems, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for at least 30 minutes, but longer if you have time.

Chickpea soup with saffron and almonds

3/4-1 cp roasted almonds (best with skinned)
2 cups cooked chickpeas (2 cans, or cook 1/2 pound dried)
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp minced garlic
Olive oil, for sauteeing
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp crumbled saffron, or more, if you like
6 cups vegetable stock or water or combo
1/4 cp chopped parsley

1. Coarsely chop the almonds. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in large soup pot. Sautee onions and garlic with a large pinch of salt and ground black pepper. Cook until onions start to brown, stirring occasionally throughout. Stir in almonds and saffron.
3. Add stock or water and chickpeas. Mash chickpeas to desired consistency with a potato masher or back of a spoon. Gently heat, stirring occasionally until hot. Taste, and adjust seasoning.
4. Serve garnished with parsley.

Quick and healthy: Poached egg on kale and millet grits

My work as an acupuncturist allows me to have lunch at home several days a week, and it’s something I’ve come to enjoy immensely. I love to cook, but I don’t want to go to a lot of trouble in the middle of the day (too much time, too many dirty dishes), so my challenge is to find something quick and healthy that I can whip up quickly.

Lately, all of my lunches involve eggs in various forms. I never get tired of eating them since you can do so many things with them. Eggs are an excellent source of protein for my mostly vegetarian diet, and pack a whallop of solid nutrition. The whites are almost pure protein, and it is a complete protein with the full compliment of all 8 amino acids. The yoke has gotten a bad rap in the past since it contains most of the fat in the egg, but it turns out that that fat is not so bad for you as they used to think. The yolk also contains most of the other nutrients, including healthy doses of B vitamins and minerals. They have an extremely low glycemic index, a 2 out of 100.

When I eat eggs, I feel comfortably full for longer, with steady-burning energy the whole time.

I feel best when I pair them with a whole grain and something green. Kale is another of my favorite super-foods. It has similar, almost complete amino acid compliment like eggs, along with a host of vitamins and minerals, including a hefty dose of vitamin A. Kale also has a low glycemic index.

I made this dish last week when I had some left over millet grits. Next time I have some of my Millet-Amaranth-Quinoa blend on hand, I think I’ll make this again.

This recipe is for 1 serving, and the quantity of kale is up to you–I like having a lot!

Poached egg on kale and millet grits

Millet grits (or other grain), prepared according to package instructions with small pat of Earth Balance dairy-free “butter” added (or real butter)

1-2 hands full of chopped kale (or any other leafy green)
Chopped garlic, to taste
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 or 2 eggs
Sriricha chili-garlic sauce (optional)

Place small pot of water on to boil for poaching your eggs (use a larger pot if you plan to poach more than 1 egg at a time). Add 1 tsp white vinegar to the water (this helps keep the egg together while it poaches).

Saute garlic and kale in a skillet. Season with small pinch of salt. If necessary, add a bit of water to steam the kale a bit until you get a texture that is soft but still toothsome.

In the meantime, poach your egg(s). Poaching instructions can be found here and here. You want to have a nice, runny yolk at the end.

Serve in a bowl large enough for you to stir everything together. Start with your grains, then top with sauteed kale and then your egg. If you like spicy things like I do, garnish with your favorite hot sauce (mine is Sriracha). Stir, making sure to break up the yolk and stir it in.