For the first time in my life I feel balanced. Not the ephemeral balance and serenity you feel after a good yoga class that disappears as soon as the rest of life slaps you in the face, but a more steady, sustained sense of ease and peace. It’s a sense that everything is all right, and that even if life throws me a curve ball, I’ll have the strength to face it with flexibility and courage. It’s letting go of the need to control everything and everyone around me. It’s an opening up to new adventures and smiling at all the possibilities before me. Don’t get me wrong. This doesn’t mean that I’m now able to keep up with my personal to-do list. The difference is that now I’m able to allow myself to slack off if that’s what my heart is telling me to do, and not feel guilty about it. I’m able to approach my to-do list with a sense of excitement rather than heavy dread.
It’s taken a long time and a lot of hard work for me to get to this point. What has helped? A daily meditation practice. A daily, but flexible (pun intended) yoga practice. Quality time with those I love. Knowing, in the true center of my soul, that I’m deeply loved. Lots of sleep. Drinking lots of water. Spending time in nature. A job I really enjoy that aligns with my values. Making time to play and nurture my creativity. Being thankful. And eating healthily (and deliciously) most of the time.
One of my most favorite ways to eat deliciously and healthily is a big bowl of this awesome tabouli. It’s packed with anti-oxidant-rich beets and fresh herbs and vitamin-and-mineral-heavy quinoa. If we were to crunch the numbers, I suspect that this dish does not qualify as low-fat. But most of the fats found in pine nuts and olive oil are the good, heart-healthy ones. And if you’re looking for a yummy, detoxifying meal, this is it, just leave out the cheese.
A few notes about olive oil. I regularly keep two types of olive oil in my pantry, one for cooking and the other for dressings and finishing. I use an inexpensive extra virgin olive oil from Whole Foods for pan sauteing and other low-to-moderate-heat cooking. I use a pricier olive oil when I make salad dressings or need a dash of extra flavor just before serving to make a pasta dish smile. This tabouli recipe calls for the latter. I’ve conducted several lengthy (oh so arduous) taste tests in search of the best, most flavorful olive oil, and I tend to always return to the ones from Spain. My favorite is exclusively purveyed through Feast and comes in refillable glass bottles. It’s smooth and fruity and a little grassy. Conduct your own taste tests – I’d love to hear about your personal favorites!
Beet and Quinoa Tabouli
Adapted from La Tartine Gourmandeby Beatrice Peltre
Serves 4-6 as a side, 2-3 as a main
The lenghthiest portion of this recipe is cooking the beets. I often cook the beets a day or two prior to preparing the tabouli and store the cooked beets, unpeeled in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2 medium-large beets, unpeeled
6 tablespoons pine nuts
1 cup uncooked white quinoa (rubbed between fingers and rinsed well)
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup mixed cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
3 oz feta cheese, finely crumbled
For the vinaigrette:
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon or lime
6 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped mint
- Add unpeeled beets to a large pot of water. Bring water to a boil and cook until a knife inserted in the middle of each beet inserts easily, approximately 50-60 minutes. Periodically check during cooking and add more water if necessary to keep beets fully immersed.
- Meanwhile, heat a dry frying pan over medium heat. Add pine nuts and toast, tossing periodically until moderately browned. Set aside in a small bowl to cool.
- Place rinsed quinoa and broth in medium pot, add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat, cover and simmer until all the broth is absorbed, approximately 12-14 minutes. Remove pot from the heat and leave covered for an additional 5 minutes. Transfer quinoa to a bowl and let cool.
- Peel the cooked beets and chop into quarter-inch dice. Add to the quinoa and gently toss until the quinoa turns a bright pink color.
- Add tomatoes, onions, cheese and pine nuts and toss again.
- To prepare the vinaigrette, combine a pinch of salt, sprinkling of pepper, lemon/lime juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Using a whisk, mix until emulsified. Add the herbs and stir to combine. Add dressing to quinoa mixture and toss. Adjust seasonings and serve.
Spring means asparagus has finally come into season. If you try to plan your meals around ingredients that can only be obtained locally, you probably already know that the actual harvest season for asparagus is very short, about eight weeks. Sure, in today’s big agribusiness world we can find asparagus all year round in chain supermarkets, but nothing beats the sweet, honest, tender stalks of a locally picked, in-season asparagus.
This is a spring-celebration stir-fry. As with all stir-fries, the secret to flawless execution is to chop, slice and prepare all the ingredients prior to turning on the burner. Start by compiling the sauce, then cut all the vegetables and tofu to spec. You can throw the chopped green onions, garlic, asparagus, ginger and red pepper flakes into a single bowl because they will be added to the hot pan at the same time. Start cooking by first pan-frying the tofu. Once you’ve finished the tofu, the actual stir-fry will literally take five minutes to cook.
Asparagus Stir-Fry with Tofu and Almonds
a Ginger and Berries creation, but originally inspired by a recipe in Cook 1.0 by Heidi Swanson
Serves 2-3 (with steamed brown rice)
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons sriracha (or other similar hot sauce)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
dash white pepper
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
1 pound extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 pound thin asparagus, bias cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, peeled and minced
4 green onions, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (use half for less heat)
3/4 cup toasted almonds, roughly chopped
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
6 tablespoons of the stir-fry sauce above
1 handful fresh basil (about 25 medium leaves), slivered
1 handful fresh mint (about 40 medium leaves), slivered
- Combine all the sauce ingredients in a deep bowl and stir using a wire whisk until all the ingredients have been thoroughly combined into a smooth mixture. Taste and adjust the flavors. You’re looking for a balance between slightly sweet, spicy and salty.
- Heat the oil in a large (10-12” diameter) non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. When the oil just begins to shimmer, add half the tofu. Be careful. Excess water in the tofu will spatter upon contact with the oil. Season with a sprinkling of salt. Cook without stirring for 3 minutes, until the tofu is golden brown on the bottom. Stir to flip the tofu pieces and allow to cook an additional 2 minutes. Remove the tofu from the pan and place on a paper-towel lined plate. Cook the remaining tofu in the same manner as the first batch then transfer to the paper-towel lined plate to drain.
- Add an additional splash of oil to the still hot pan if necessary. Turn up the heat to high. When the oil is shimmering, add the asparagus, garlic, ginger, green onions and chili pepper flakes. Stir constantly for 1-2 minutes. Err on the low end of the time spectrum and keep stirring to avoid burning the garlic and overcooking the asparagus.
- Add the almonds to the pan and continue to stir for another minute.
- Add the pan-fried tofu, lime zest and juice, and 6 tablespoons of the stir-fry sauce. Cook and stir for an additional 1-2 minutes. Aim for a tender but slightly crunchy asparagus.
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the basil and mint. Adjust the flavors by adding salt and/or more stir-fry sauce.
- Serve over steamed brown or jasmine rice. Pass the leftover sauce around the table for an additional flavor boost.
Spring is just around the corner. Can you feel it? If you look carefully you’ll certainly catch glimpses of it popping up through the ground and budding on the trees. I’m particularly eager and observant this year because this is my first full spring here in Charlottesville. I’m constantly comparing the weather here with the one in my former hometown, Providence, reveling in the sunny above-50-degree days we’ve accumulated thus far, and enjoying meals on our back deck whenever possible.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, however, there’s no harm in embracing the warming, comfort foods of winter. This mushroom barley risotto comes to mind. Mushroom and barley are a classic combination, but I decided to notch up the flavor profile by balancing their sweetness with the lemony bite of sorrel. Never tried sorrel? It happens to be in season right now, at least here in Virginia. If you’re lucky enough to find a local source, I encourage you to give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised, as I was, when you take your first bite. It is tangy and refreshing. In addition to being the perfect foil for the mushrooms and barley in this dish, it would be a great addition to a mixed greens salad.
Mushroom Barley Risotto with Sorrel
a Ginger and Berries creation
Serves 2-3 as a main
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large red onion, diced
4 ounces sorrel, stems removed (about 3 cups)
1 cup pearled barley
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 ounces cremini mushrooms, cleaned with a paper towel and sliced
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/3 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 – 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano, cut into shards using a sharp vegetable peeler
- Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Lower the heat to a simmer.
- Melt the butter in a large stockpot over medium heat. Saute the onions until translucent and softened, about 5 minutes. Add the sorrel and cook an additional minute until the sorrel begins to wilt. Add the barley and toast for 1-2 minutes while stirring constantly.
- Lower the heat to medium-low. Add a 1/2 cup of the warmed vegetable stock and stir into the barley until absorbed. Continue in this manner, adding one cup of stock at a time. Allow the barley to fully absorb the stock before adding the next cup. Lower the heat to low if the stock is absorbed too quickly. You don’t need to stir constantly, but stir often (every three minutes or so). Use a wooden spoon so that you can scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot every time you stir. The sorrel will transform into an olive green paste.
- While the barley is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms to the pan. Cook, stirring 2-3 times, until the mushrooms have softened and are slightly browned, approximately 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper.
- After the last cup of stock has been added and absorbed into the barley, add the parsley to the barley and season generously with black pepper. Stir, taste, and add salt if necessary.
- Scoop into bowls and top each bowl with sauteed mushrooms and cheese.
I am somewhat of a Valentine’s Day Scrooge. It’s not because Valentine’s Day is coming up and I don’t have a date. In fact, I’m currently in an awesome relationship with someone that makes my heart squeeze with so much affection that sometimes I feel like it may burst. I think the concept of designating a day to express to your loved ones how much you love them is, well, lovely. But I hate the commercialization that also surrounds the day. So much emphasis is placed on spending money on the ones you love on this single day. Why not concentrate instead on being more present for your significant other EVERYDAY? A dozen roses one day out of the year can’t compare with an honest, warm hug every day of the year.
As a recipe blogger, I’ve been feeling the pressure to post a Valentine’s Day related recipe. But I’m not giving in. Go ahead, make the best batch of chocolate chip cookies ever for your loved one. Why not do it today? TODAY is the best day to shower the ones you love with your hugs, kisses and words of affection. Today and everyday. Today is also a good day to show how much you value your partner’s health and happiness by sharing a bowl of this tasty salad. Everything about this salad screams nutritional powerhouse, yet it still manages to be delicious. I love eating kale raw – it’s the best way to maximize the many nutritional benefits of this “queen of greens”. If you’ve never tried kale, this is one of the best ways to introduce it into your repertoire.
Kale, Avocado, Apple and Toasted Almond and Nori Salad
Adapted from Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia
Serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main
Massaging the kale with the olive oil, avocado and salt as described below “cooks” the kale, transforming it into a tender, more digestible food that still retains all its natural antioxidants because no nutrient-diminishing heat has been applied.
Nori is seaweed that is often used to roll sushi. It can be found in the Asian food aisle of well-stocked grocery stores. Toasting it brings out its rich, savory flavor and adds an interesting taste element to this salad.
1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and coarsely chopped
1 ripe avocado, diced
1/2 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked ground pepper
1 carrot, peeled and sliced into half moons
1 small sweet, crisp apple, unpeeled and sliced thin
1 scallion, green part only, thinly sliced
1 large handful toasted almonds
1/2 sheet nori
- Combine the kale, avocado, garlic and olive oil in a large bowl. Add a sprinkling of salt. Using your hands, gently massage the oil and avocado into the kale for about 3 minutes. The kale will soften and shrink.
- Put aside a small handful of the carrot and apple slices. Gently fold in the remaining carrots and apples into the salad. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Plate the salads, garnishing the top of each serving with the reserved carrots, apples, scallions and almonds.
- Using a pair of tongs, pick up the nori and pass it over the flame of an open burner 3 or 4 times. Alternatively, if you have an electric stove, heat a dry, nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Toast the nori sheet in the pan for a minute, watching carefully to prevent burning. Allow the nori to cool, fold the sheet in half, and cut thin ribbons of nori with scissors over each plate.
We woke up to a dull, cold rainy day this morning. Everywhere I turned I saw mists hovering over the tops of the distant mountains. On days like these I get the urge to turn on the oven and bake.
This apple crisp soothes the soul. After fifteen minutes in the oven, your kitchen will start smelling caramelly sweet with a hint of cinnamon. This version of apple crisp leans more heavily on the crisp side, just the way I like it.
Bourbon Apple Crisp
Makes 6 to 9 servings
Adapted from The Boozy Baker and Bella Eats
2 cups rolled oats
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 pounds apples (about 6 small-medium apples), cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick (peeling them first is optional)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional – leave out totally or substitute dark rum or brandy)
1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the oats, flour, sugar, salt and cinnamon. Add the melted butter then stir until thoroughly combined.
- Stir together the apples, maple syrup, bourbon (if using) and lemon juice in a second large bowl. Taste one of the apple slices. Adjust the flavors by either adding more maple syrup or lemon juice, keeping in mind that the apples will become sweeter as they bake.
- Spread the apple mixture in a 9-inch square baking dish. Layer the oatmeal mixture on top, lightly patting it down to create an even surface.
- Bake in the oven until the topping is golden brown and the apples are bubbling, about 35-40 minutes.
- Let cool on a wire rack and serve either warm or at room temperature.
Need I suggest a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side?