Friday, July 29, 2011

Beans Beans they're good for your heart.

Beans are generally not my thing. I don't have an aversion to them or anything dramatic like that but they are definitely not at the top of the list of things I enjoy eating. I mean if creatively prepared and seasoned just right or served along side a great entree in the form of some unique puree then I am game. But overall, I sort of just feel blah about beans. Recently however, things have changed.

White Bean Pure with Roasted Tomatoes on Whole Grain
Toast topped with Eggs and Arugula

A few weeks ago I woke up just dying, absolutely aching for beans. Who knows the reason for this sudden urge. It could be some recent overdoses of meat-filled dinners Osso Bucco from here comes to mind. Took me a few days to recover from that one. Or possibly the after math of numerous summer BBQ's where kebabs and more kebabs have shown up time and time again on my plate. Be what it may, but something in me has changed. I now want and crave all things beans and forgoing meat for a while.

Why just the other day I managed to consume beans in some shape or form during breakfast, lunch and even dinner. I started with Eggs and White Beans during breakfast at Sweet Butter near my house. LOVED IT! The two sunny side-up eggs with their Housemade Rancho Gordo White Bean Spread and oven roasted tomatoes on toasted rustic bread was BEANALICIOUS! The spread was mild yet flavourful, and topped with the runny yummy egg and tangy arugula was so hearty and satisfying. I swear it gave me the energy to take on the world for the remainder of the day. Well, maybe not the world but my kids who were having a particularly crabby day for sure!

For lunch I made myself a sandwich with White Bean and Basil Hummus from Trader Joe's (a twist on traditional hummus, they explode with basil flavor) spread on a crusty baguette topped with some thinly sliced cucumbers and red bell peppers. Boy I wish I had a picture of this colorful sandwich for you, but the speed with which it was consumed left no time for a close up! AGAIN....BEANALICIOUS!
Italian Cabbage And White Bean Soup
I wrapped up my bean filled day with a soup the recipe for which I stumbled upon while reading my daily dose of Jen's List, specifically the July 17th, 2011 post. Aptly titled "Beans, Beans, Beans" she provided this link where the recipe for Italian Cabbage and White Bean Soup immediately caught my eye. I ran to the market gathered the ingredients and voila! BEANALICOUS DINNER! I topped the soup off with some herbed croutons I make from scratch almost weekly. They are amazing as snack, on top of soups, and in a home made Cesar Salad! See the recipe at the end of the post and you shall never get a store-bought crouton again I promise.

I know what one may think, how in the world does her stomach handle it? All those BEANS! I swear its been all good. I feel fabulously healthy, delightfully full and just loving my new obsession. Whether it will last or not I will keep you posted. For now I am enjoying my meatless rampage and discovery of new "proteins". My heart is loving the Bean Thang! Join me won't you? Just for a while :)

Herbed Croutons

1 loaf of day old sourdough or any other favorite baguette, cubed
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons dried thyme
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
5-6 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Preheat your oven to 350degrees and line a baking sheet with foil. Put the cubed baguette in to a large bowl, drizzle generously with olive oil and add the remaining seasonings. Using your hands gently coat all the pieces of bread with the herbs, oil and salt and pepper to ensure even distribution of the seasonings. Spread the bread cubes on to the foil lined sheet in a single layer. Bake on center rack at 350 until golden, about 25minutes. Set the timer to 15 minutes to start and flip each crouton over before continuing to bake to ensure they get golden evenly.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A blast from a cookbook past

The pants she's wearing in this picture used to be to her
ankles less then 6 months ago, I swear!
Recently I've noticed that my 4year old daughters long pants were suddenly hitting her just below the calf. I was certain I did not purchase them that lenght, and sat there bewildered for a few moments as to how the sudden change? It didn't take too long before the light bulb went off and I realized that the lenght change was not just the obvious result of her growing like a weed these days, but also my incredible lagging on spring cleaning this is year!

I am late! We are half way through July and I barely started sorting through closets, drawers, shelves, cupboards and my favorite....bookshelves. Typically the cleaning rampage begins with organizing my kids toys and clothes, as they grow so fast I can hardly keep up. I eventually make it to my favorite area in the kitchen, a shelf filled with cook books. Books don't exactly fall into the official "spring clean" category. I rarely part with my cook books nor can I ever imagine giving any of them away. OK maybe I may allow someone to borrow one from time to time but even then I hesitate. I am very territorial when it comes to my cook books!

Some of my Lovely Books
So the week has passed, clothes have been sorted and Lia's calf length pants removed and ready to be donated. The pantry has been cleaned and expired items tossed, and all spices are now in alphabetical order. OK I'm only kidding as that would be neurotic even for me! The spices are however neatly organized and perfectly lined up. The BEST part of this overhaul had to do with the sorting through my cookbooks however. I came across one I hadn't seen in ages, but that I've loved since 2001. A Williams-Sonoma Chicken book that of all things has my absolute favorite Turkey Meatloaf with Sage Gravy recipe in the back bonus section.

Turkey Meat loaf with Sage Gravy
What a blast from the past. 2001 was the year I got engaged and I will forever associate this meatloaf with that incredible time. This was probably one of the first recipes I ever made from a book, while finishing college and living in a tiny apartment with my Husband (then fiance). I swear when I made it last week, and we sat there eating together, it was as if we had traveled back in time. There at our breakfast table felt like I was 21 again, happy to have successfully prepared a dish from a book and proud of myself for having followed directions correctly. Thrilled to have cooked a delicious meal for the man I was about to marry. You know it helped that the kids were asleep and not around to whine and snap us back into 2011....I love them but they are not allowed to time travel with us :)

The Sage Gravy is Incredible
I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we have over the years. The loaf comes out so moist and the flavors so simple and mild yet comforting and and delicious. Eating this dish just makes me so relaxed and soothes my senses. The gravy is the star and the sage really adds that special something. I am so happy to have stumbled upon this recipe after 11 years and glad to share it with you. I hope you enjoy it with those special to you as I have.

Recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma Chicken Cook Book
Turkey Meat loaf with Sage Gravy

For the Meat Loaf:
1 egg
1 tablespoon tomato paste
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/4 lb. ground turkey
1/3 cup dried bread crumbs
1 small yellow onion finely chopped
1 small celery stalk, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

For The Gravy:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all purpose plain flour
2 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and lightly oil a 9 by 13 inch baking pan, as well as a small loaf pan.
2. In a large bowl whisk together the egg and tomato paste, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper until well combined. Add the ground turkey, bread crumbs, onion, celery, parsley, and rosemary to the bowl and mix just until combined.
3. Pack the mixture into the prepared loaf pan. Then put the baking tray on top of pan and flip it gently.

4. Bake until the center of the loaf registers 165F on a food thermometer. About 1 1/4 hours, my oven takes about 50minutes so check at that point as all ovens differ. Transfer the meat to a platter and cover with foil to keep warm.
5. To make the gravy, add butter to the pan and melt over low heat. Then whisk in the flour and cook for 1 minute. Next slowly whisk in the stock and raise the heat to medium, bring to a boil while continuing to stir with the whisk. Make sure to scrape any brown bits from the pan that were left over from the loaf.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer about 5 minutes until the gravy reduces slightly. Stir in the sage, season with salt and pepper.

Serve the turkey loaf with mashed potatoes and pour the gravy over everything before you eat.
(TIP: I like to use 99% fat free organic turkey. Don't worry it will still be moist, besides the decadent gravy you will pour over it will create even more moisture)


Monday, July 11, 2011

Mini Me

Ben at a Mother's Day Brunch 2011 eating shrimp and salmon roe
on mini blintz and drinking sparkling apple cider
One of the biggest benefits to loving food and experimenting with food (at least in my household) is having it rub off on family members. Its a benefit because they not only partake in my passion but in the case of my son (my husband has come a long way and my little girl is getting there) he actually shares the passion!

An after school lunch ritual that began when my son started first grade in September of 2010, confirmed what I have happily been observing for a few years now! My son's palate is slowly morphing in to mine! I am officially a proud Momma of a bona fied food-lover who is on his way to understanding, appreciating and sharing the same passion for food as I at his tender age of six!

He chose a spicy shrimp pasta during this lunch out
Tuesdays are a short day for Ben and school finishes at 1:30. I pick him up and we head straight to a late lunch. Just the two of us. He not only makes for great company because of his incredible sense of humor (forgive my obvious bias) but he is so into food and enjoys eating so much that there are very few I'd rather share a lunch date with.

Loving his french toast at Charlie's at Farmer's Market on Fairfax and 3rd
We often head to sushi on these Tuesday afternoons as that is his absolute favorite. He even deciphers between the "OK sushi place down the street" vs. "the special places, like katsuya or kushi yu I try telling him that we save the "special sushi places" for special days, like maybe a birthday celebration or him doing expectational work in class on a given day.

Sushi is a Fave!
You see if I allow, then we'd be slobbering over cut rolls and sashimi together daily and I am not sure these pricey lunches are the best example for a six year old. So we try to balance between the "special places" and the "OK"ones. After all its more about spending quality time together!

Another Italian Lunch
OK I promise there is a point to this. This is not just self-righteous mumbo jumbo where I pride myself on the diverse food offerings I give my child and the wonderful job I have done introducing various foods to my family! NO, I am actually trying to make a point, sort of.

For a long time I was convinced food obsession would only rub off on adults i.e. my husband mainly. I've now learned that this is not at all the case, and passion is contagious to even the tinniest of palates. Bottom line is if you have kids DO NOT DOUBT their capacity for culinary bounty. I am surprised every day by the understanding, desire and appreciation kids have for food. And we are not talking mac n cheese and nuggets here (sadly I see this all too often). That's not to say Mac N Cheese and Nuggets are a bad thing. I just wish more people would "skip the box" and drive through and make it from scratch!

Clam Chowder Lunch, his absolute favorite soup! Although as he
puts it "The soup has to me chunky and with HUGE clams not
the little ones"!  
So go out and oooh and ahhhh in front of your kids about foods you never thought they'd try. Do not restrict yourself if you are a food lover as I am. Bring it on, show them the ropes, spread the passion and they will gladly follow! You owe it to them and I promise you it makes life Sooooooooo much easier when your kids are not just eating the same 5 things. Hey imagine the possibilities, the new restaurants, or as Dr.Seuss would say "The Places You'll Go"!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Summer Salmon

Ben and Lia in Malibu, CA July 5, 2011
Summer is in full swing here in Los Angeles, and this passed 4th of July long weekend, was officially the HOTTEST 4 day stretch we've had in some time. No more June Gloom, just sunny skies from the moment the sun rises followed by daily temperatures that here in the San Fernando Valley easily reach 100 degrees.

Somehow the prospect of cooking in this heat is not as exciting. Personally I'd much rather spend afternoons swimming with the kids and eating watermelon until the sun sets. But one cannot survive on watermelon alone, besides I have to keep their growing little bodies well nourished. So here is where this next dish comes in. A nice salmon, filled with omegas and vitamin C that's healthy and good for everyone.

Citrus Cilantro Marinade
I call it Tangy Citrus Salmon. Although I love making this recipe all year long, something about it makes me think of Summer. Its simple, easy to assemble and throwing it in the oven is prefect for hot days where you don't want to spend too much time over a stove. Served with a side of fragrant basmati rice, its such a great and flavourful meal.

The citrus marinade is tangy, flavourful and light, just what one would want on a hot summer day. The affect of the citrus on the salmon makes it super moist and flaky. The end result is a melt-in-your-mouth fish.

RECIPE-Citrus Salmon
1 lb Salmon Fillet cut into 4 equal pieces
Juice of 1/2 Lemon
Juice of 1/2 Lime
Juice of 1/4 Grapefruit
Juice of 1/4 Orange
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 Handful of Cilantro Finely Chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1-2 Roma tomatoes cut into circles (OK to substitute for 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes)
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine the citrus juices with garlic, cilantro and olive oil. Whisk everything together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the Salmon fillets in a 9x12 glass baking dish. Pour the marinade over the fish and scatter the tomatoes evenly over the top. Cover the dish with foil and bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes until the fish flakes easily. Serve hot with a side of basmati rice. Pour some of the marinade over the rice or for added tang. You may also toast some crusty baguette to have a few pieces ready on hand to soak up all the juices. Trust me you'll need it! 

*Note pictures above are of 2.5 lbs of the Salmon I prepared for a large group of people. In that case I marinaded the two large fillets whole and DOUBLED the amount of all ingredients from the above recipe. Should you go that route,  feel free just keep in mind to increase the amount of marinade and tomatoes. You will also need a larger glass baking dish and cooking time will increase to 40 minutes. You'll need to check if fish is flaky and adjust the cooking time accordingly.