Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Persimmon Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

'Tis the season everything is pumpkin flavored, even my favorite breakfast. I've been loving persimmons in my smoothies lately because of the texture and natural sweetness. Something about them just cried for pumpkin, so I went from there and came up with this winner.

Persimmon Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Serves 2

1/2 cup plain kefir (or your favorite yogurt)
1/2 cup milk, or milk substitute (I use homemade unsweetened almond milk)
1 cup pumpkin purée
1 persimmon
1 banana
Juice of half a lemon
Small strip of lemon zest
Small hunk of fresh ginger
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup – 1 cup of ice (depending on your blender and whether any of the fruit is frozen)

Blend it all together and you have sweet, tart, fresh pie in a glass! For breakfast!!!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Arugula Nectarine Salad

I've been feeling summery. Walking up and down Sacramento St. in sandals and skirt during today's sidewalk sale, enjoying live jazz music, a roving magician, and friendly purveyors of goods - all I could think about was a salad, but a special salad. I'd procured a beautiful, local finishing olive oil from March Pantry during today's festivities, and then picked up a bottle of chilled Grgich Fumé Blanc from Wine Impressions. I let these purchases inform my choices at the market. Some baby arugula - I knew just the dressing to make! - and a nectarine; even if they're not quite perfect, yet, my mood insisted. And I built from there.

Now I know plenty of anti-arugula naysayers, who claim the leaf is too bitter for a salad. To them I say two things: 1. BABY arugula, and 2. Dress it right. I used what I remembered from a Cook's Illustrated recipe for an arugula salad with oranges and radishes. It's a simple dressing with a lime juice base. The light tartness compliments the arugula to mask any bitterness. Pair that with the sweetness of nectarine and chevre, toasty pine nuts, and grassy olive oil - well, that's summer right there.

Arugula Nectarine Salad

Serves 2 as an entrée, 4 as a side salad. Multiplies well for a larger group.

4 cups baby arugula
Juice of 2 limes
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 Tbs pine nuts
Salt and fresh ground pepper
1 small dollop dijon mustard
3T high quality extra virgin olive oil, separated
1 nectarine, sliced thin
2oz. chevre or other mild goat cheese
Cilantro (optional)

Toast coriander in a small, dry pan over medium high heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds to a minute. Add to lime juice. Wipe out pan and return to heat. Toast pine nuts in pan for a couple minutes until golden brown, stirring often. Set aside. Into the lime juice and coriander, whisk dijon, salt, and fresh ground pepper to taste. Slowly add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, whisking constantly.* Toss arugula with the dressing and divide evenly between individual plates. Top each mound of greens with a portion of nectarine slices, toasted pine nuts, and dots of chevre. Sprinkle with coarsely ground sea salt and pepper. Finish with a drizzle of the remaining olive oil and a few ripped up cilantro leaves.

*For me, the beauty of this combination is the tartness of the lime juice. If someone is overly sensitive to sour flavors (like the husband man), try whisking in a bit of honey to taste before adding the olive oil.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Welcome Spring with Asparagus Soup

The first produce of Spring is here: asparagus! I whipped up a quick soup to savor its arrival using a Williams Sonoma recipe for inspiration, but making it my own, of course.

Asparagus Soup

Serves 2-3 as an entree, 4-6 as a starter.

1 Tbs olive oil
1 leek, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp paprika
2 bunches asparagus, tough ends snapped off, spears chopped
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth, separated
1/4 cup buttermilk (optional)
juice of half a lemon
fresh ground black pepper

Heat olive oil in pan over medium. Add leek and sauté a few minutes until soft. Add garlic and paprika and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add asparagus and half a cup of the broth. Cover and steam until asparagus is tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer contents of the pan and the remaining broth to blender. Blend on high until smooth. Transfer to a pot on the stove and heat over medium low until hot, without letting it come to a boil. Stir in buttermilk, if using. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Salt to taste, if needed. Top with black pepper, paprika, and a drizzle of high quality olive oil.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Creamless "Creamy" Soups

By now you've all read me go on and on (and on and on) about trying to make my favorite creamy soups and pastas without using cream, which gives me (and apparently more than half of the adult population) tummy yuckies. I usually use other forms of dairy with less lactose, like cream cheese or yogurt. But I recently discovered I could make the most common vegan form at home super easily using my beloved Blendtec: raw cashew cream. I have nothing against dairy, but this is such a nutritious and versatile substitution. It has protein, the same types of healthy oils as olive oil, less than half the fat and calories as heavy cream, and yet tastes and behaves JUST LIKE CREAM in recipes. I now always have baggies of cashew cream in my freezer for anytime I need it.

I'll share a delicious pasta sauce I've created using cashew cream soon (I'm packing for a move and my recipe is taped up in a box stacked somewhere). First I'll share how I've used cashew cream as a direct substitute in creamy soup recipes with excellent results. Earthy, velvety "cream" of mushroom:

And smooth, tart "creamy" tomato:

I swear you can't tell the difference!

Tonight I gave cashew cream a true test: reducing the calories in cheesy broccoli soup without reducing the flavor. This is a fun, easy one, that turned out surprisingly satisfying while saving over 200 calories (nearly cut in half!) and 25 grams of fat (19 of those saturated) per bowl. A warning for those avoiding cream for different reasons than me: this is NOT a dairy free, vegan recipe!

"Creamy" Broccoli Cheese Soup

Serves 4-6.

1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 14oz packages frozen broccoli, thawed
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup cashew cream
1 cup 1% cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups 2% cheddar cheese, shredded

In a large, heavy bottomed pot or Dutch oven sprayed with cooking spray, cook onion over medium-high heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add broccoli florets and chicken broth, cover, and simmer until broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, puree cashew cream with cottage cheese and set aside. Once broccoli is tender, puree soup in two batches, return to pot, and whisk in cashew cream and cottage cheese mixture. Return to simmer, then slowly whisk in shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese. Season liberally with salt and pepper to taste. Optional: top with croutons or shredded Parmesan cheese.

Next, the ultimate test to see if cashew cream has really returned all my favorites to me: Clam Chowder. I hardly dare hope, yet I'm giddily optimistic!