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!

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.

Spicy black-eyed peas, lentils and split chickpeas with mustard greens

One of my favorite restaurants in my hometown of New Orleans is Bennachin. It’s not one of those classic New Orleans Creole or Cajun restaurants–it’s a simple, homey place that serves super-tasty African food. I think it’s really the owner/chef’s home cooking–that’s what it tastes like, anyway, delicious home-cooking. They have a big selection of vegetarian dishes (as well as meat and fish), and it seems that most things come with coconut rice and fried plantains. I’ve found that any meal accompanied by fried plantains is pretty awesome.

They serve this wonderful black-eyed pea dish that I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to reproduce at home. It’s a simple stew with onions, tomatoes and black-eyed peas, but it tastes like much more than that.

The surprising (and revelatory) thing about it, to me, is how tasty black-eyed peas are in a tomato-based stew. As a southerner I’ve eaten my share of black-eyed peas (especially on New Year’s day, when it brings you luck), and we might throw a chopped tomato in when we serve it, but it’s definitely not in a tomato sauce.

My most recent experiment included some garden-variety brown lentils and some split chickpeas. I ventured far from my Proustian memories of Bennachin’s black-eyed peas and into new territory with some Indian spices (and the addition of two other legumes). The split chickpeas are also known as Chana dal, and can be found in any Indian market. If you can’t get them, just use more black-eyed peas.

I usually throw a small piece (1 square inch, roughly) of Kombu/kelp in the pot when I make beans–it helps soften them and mineralizes the dish.

I like things spicy, so if you don’t, cut down on the chili. I encourage you to use the full amount of ginger though–it helps the digestion and really makes the dish tasty! I find that the heat of green chilis here in Boston is unreliable–they often taste like small bell peppers. Serrano chilis are usually pretty hot, and like with all chilis, the seeds are the hottest part. You can test for heat of your chili with a small nibble of the green part, and then decide how many seeds to include. I strongly recommend you do this! When I don’t, my dishes turn out either way to hot or disappointingly mild.

I always want to have something green with every meal, and this time I made mustard greens with onions, mustard seed and hing/asofetida.

Spicy Black-eyed peas, lentils and split chickpeas

1/3 cp split chickpeas (aka Channa Dal, available at Indian markets) or just black-eyed peas
1/2 cp brown lentils
1/2 cp black-eyed peas
1 bay leaf
small piece kombu/kelp
1 onion, chopped
1-2 green chilis, chopped
2 inches of fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
Olive oil, for sauteing
1 tsp cumin (or more, to taste
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2-1 tsp ground coriander seeds
1 14-oz can diced tomatoes (I use no salt added tomatoes, reduce salt if yours have added salt)
1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped
2-3 tbsp lemon juice, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

If you are using the split chickpeas, bring them to a boil in about 4 cups of water, along with the bay leaf, kombu and about 1.5 tsp salt. Reduce fire and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add black-eyed peas and lentils and about 1 more cup of water (if you are not using chickpeas, just bring lentils and black-eyes to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes).

In the meantime, prepare the seasoning: Saute onion, garlic, chilis and ginger until onions soften. Add cumin, cardamom and coriander and briefly saute, making sure not to burn the spices. Add entire can of diced tomatoes (including juice). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add tomato mixture to pot of beans. Simmer on a low fire for at least 20 more minutes or until beans are soft and stew is thick. You might need to add 1-2 more cups of water to keep it from sticking, but finished result should be thick.

Remove from heat and stir in chopped cilantro and lemon juice, both to taste. Adjust salt and seasonings. Serve on rice.

Seasoned mustard greens

1 small onion or 2 shallots
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds
pinch hing/asofetida
1 bunch mustard greens (or any hearty green–kale, collard greens)
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute onion or shallots until they soften and give off some water. Add mustard seeds and continue sauteing until they start to pop. Add the pinch of hing, the greens and some salt. Saute until greens are bright-green and softened (maybe 5 minutes of sauteing). Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Mark Bittman on cautious optimism about food

My favorite New York Times food columnist and cookbook author, Mark Bittman wrote this nice blog post about some good news regarding healthy foods. He points out that it’s getting easier (and hipper?) to eat healthy foods–there are more farmer’s markets, more emphasis on sustainable growing practices, and most importantly, a greater emphasis on healthy meals in our school systems.

Hopefully all of these changes really do turn us into a nation of healthy whole foods eaters instead of chubby processed foods eaters. I suppose we won’t see real change until we stop subsidizing corn (which is processed into all sorts of chemicals and sugars) and start subsidizing things like kale, fruit and whole-grains. I could get excited about my tax dollars being spent on that!
Read the original post here.

One stock, two dinners: Celery Root Gratin, Lentil Soup

It’s cold here and Boston, and I’m suddenly, happily, more interested in spending time in the kitchen. Summer cooking is a challenge–the farmer’s markets are brimming with beautiful veg, but I want to spend my time lollygagging on the patio, not sweating in the kitchen. So, while the cold weather has it’s challenges, it makes me want to cook.

I’ve been making a lot of soup lately. I think of soup as a perfect food–I pack them with veggies, and usually include some type of bean and serve it with brown rice or quinoa. I’ve also been making my own stock lately, which makes a huge difference in the quality of the soup.

Stock always seems like a lot of work, certainly harder than using a bouillion cube or opening a carton of your favorite store-bought stock. It really isn’t, though. Coarsely chop some veggies (with skins intact for extra flavor), saute them in some olive oil, add water and some herbs and leave it to simmer on the stove while you do other things.

My current approach is to make a big pot of stock, and then use it as a basis for two different recipes. I also try to freeze some for some future time when I don’t have time to make stock. It doesn’t feel like that much work when you can use a pot of stock to make a couple of dishes.

This week I make Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone“>Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone mushroom stock using my favorite dried mushrooms, Maitake/Hen of the Woods and a few shiitake.

Maitake/Hen of the woods (pictured above) are super-delicious mushrooms with wonderful health benefits. They helps strengthen the immune system and have anti-viral and anti-fungal properties. Research has also shown that they have tumor-fighting properties and can help regulate blood sugar. I buy dried Maitake from Mountain Rose Herbs and use them almost every time I make stock.

Shiitake (pictured above, growing on logs) have similar immune-stimulating, anti-tumor and anti-bacterial effects. They’re easily found at any Japanese market and most Asian markets. Mountain Rose Herbs also carries dried Shiitake. I buy them fresh at my local Whole Foods Market, as well.

Fresh Maitake and Shiitake are quite expensive, but a little goes a long way. Dried mushrooms tend to be less expensive and are almost as nice as the fresh, depending on how you prepare them.

With cold season upon us, it make sense to use as many maitake and shiitake as possible.

This batch of Mushroom Stock went towards making a Celery root/brown rice gratin (also from Deborah Madison’s book) and a pot of lentil soup (recipe to follow later). These two dishes gave us several lunches and a dinner–a great reward for the work. The original gratin recipe called for wild rice, but my husband doesn’t think wild rice is good for eating, so I made it with brown rice. The added step of making the bechamel sounds like a lot of work, but once you throw it together it’s not hard to keep 1/2 an eye on it while you do other things. Just keep the fire low and remember to stir. Or use a double-boiler.

Mushroom Stock

1/2-1 oz dried mushrooms–maitake, shiitake, porcini, or combination
1 1/2 tbst olive oil
1 large onion, cut into quarters, skin on (remove any dirty layers)
2 carrots, quartered
2 celery ribs, quartered
4-8 oz white mushrooms, quartered or coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped leek greens (save whites for lentil soup, recipe to follow)
1/4 cup walnuts or almonds, optional
2 garlic cloves, skin on, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried sage
8 springs parsley
2 small bay leaves
2 tsp salt

1. Clean any dirt from dried mushrooms. Soak in hot water while you prepare everything else.
2. heat oil in a soup pot, add onion, carrots and celery. Saute over medium-high heat until the onion is browned, about 15 minutes.
3. Add mushrooms and their soaking liquid along with the remaining ingredients.
4. Add about 9 cups of water and bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for 45 minutes.
6. Strain

Vegan brown rice and celery root gratin

Bechamel (made with mushroom stock, recipe to follow)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 small celery roots, peeled and grated
juice of 1 lemon
2 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp chopped parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
3 cups cooked brown rice (or wild rice)
1/2 cup pecans
ground hazelnuts to sprinkle on top, optional

1. Preheat oven to 400.
2. Oil 9×13 baking dish (or anything large enough to hold about 5 cups)
3. Make bechamel.
4. Heat olive oil in a skillet. Add celery root with lemon jice, garlic and 2 tbsp parsley. Cook until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Combine rice, celery root, pecans and bechamel. Spread into prepared baking dish. Bake for about 20 minutes. Top with grated hazelnuts and return to the oven for another 5 minutes or so.

Mushroom bechamel

1/4 cp minced shallot or onion
3 tbst olive oli
2 tbsp flour (use white or brown rice flour for gluten-free version)
1 1/2 cups hot mushroom stock
salt and pepper to taste

1. Cook shallots/onions in olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat for about 3 minutes. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes more. Whisk in the stock all at once, then cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently, or in a double-boiler for about 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Lentil soup with leeks and mushroom stock

Elana’s Pantry Biscuits

Biscuits have always been one of my favorite breakfast foods. I prefer them with just a pat of butter–no jam, nothing fancy.

I haven’t made biscuits in a while–they are a little time-consuming–but I’m excited to try this recipe from Elana’s Pantry.

They’re made of almond flour, so they are much higher protein than your standard white-flour biscuits. I suspect the texture will be quite different, but they do sound tasty

I can’t wait to try them.

You can see Elana’s original post here. I’ve pasted in her recipe below.

Biscuits

2 ½ cups blanched almond flour, plus about 1 cup for dusting the dough
½ teaspoon celtic sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ cup earth balance natural buttery spread (soy free)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon agave nectar

1. In a medium bowl, combine almond flour, salt and baking soda.

2. In a large bowl, blend together buttery spread, eggs and agave.

3. Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until a nice dough forms. Roll out dough between 2 pieces of parchment paper to 1 ½ inches thick. Dust dough with extra almond flour if it is sticky and/or misbehaving.

4. Cut the dough into biscuits using a mason jar with a 3-inch wide mouth. Using a spatula, transfer biscuits to a parchment lined baking sheet.

5. Bake at 350° for 15 minutes, until biscuits are browned on the bottom edges.

Yield: 10 biscuits

Almond flour banana blueberry muffins

I recently found Comfy Belly, a blog of healthy recipies for people with different food intolerances. I tried Erica’s Banana Blueberry muffin recipe as was really excited with the results. I did modify her recipe a bit to suit my preferences, but you can see her original post here. This beautiful picture is hers as well.

banana-blueberry-muffins

Here’s my variation:

Banana Blueberry Muffins

1/4 cup of Agave Nectar or Honey
3 tablespoons of coconut oil, olive oil, Earth Balance or butter, melted
2 eggs
2 very ripe bananas
3/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 1/2 cups of almond flour
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
3 tbsp. chopped candied ginger
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup of blueberries (or more)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Prepare muffin pan either with paper cups or by thoroughly greasing each muffin cup (make sure to get the corners). My batch made 12 muffins.

Mix all the wet ingredients (except for the blueberries) together in a bowl until well blended.

Combine baking soda, salt, almond flour, cinnamon and allspice (a whisk gets the job done quickly and thoroughly).

Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well again. Add candied ginger and chopped nuts.

Gently fold blueberries in.

Spoon batter into each cup, filling them to just below the tops of the muffin cups.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from a muffin.

Cool and enjoy!

It’s best to store these in the freezer and defrost as you go as they do not hold up well at room temperature. Of course, if your house is like mine, they won’t last long!