Apricot Bean Salsa

8 08 2012

Salsa comes down to a few key ingredients: jalapeno, lime, and cilantro.  From there, the possibilities are endless, making it the perfect setting to use summer’s ripest fruits.  Adding beans takes it from side dish to main course.

2 cups cooked yellow eye stueben beans

2 large apricots, diced

1 jalapeno, seeded and minced

1 lime, zest and juice

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

To make salsa:  Combine all just before serving. Enjoy in bibb lettuce cups.

If making a day ahead, layer all of the ingredients in a large bowl, with the beans and cilantro on top.  Toss just before serving.  If you toss any sooner, you beans and apricot will get mushy.


Sweet Cauliflower and Currants

17 07 2012

Tiny currants provide bright pops to highlight the natural sweetness of cauliflower and the sweet licorice-flavor of fennel.  Other dried fruits like raisins, diced apricots, or chopped dates would also work well.

Serves 4 to 6

1 tablespoon fennel seed

1 head cauliflower, stem and florets, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 white onion

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup dried currants

2 tablespoons roasted sunflower seeds

Place fennel seeds in a large skillet.  Heat over high heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add cauliflower and onion to the pan.  Continue to cook until onions and caulifower begin to turn brown, about 4 more minutes.  Add the garlic, currants, and 1/4 cup of water.  Reduce heat to medium.  Use a wooden spoon to scrape up any bit from the bottom of the pan.  Cover and cook over medium heat until cauliflower is tender, about 7 minutes.  If the pan becomes to dry or garlic begins to burn, simply reduce your heat and add more water.

Serve over a mound of brown lentils and garnish with roasted sunflower seeds.

Cracked Wheat Greek Salad

9 07 2012

Cracked wheat is a low-maintenance whole grain.  How to cook?  Just soak in warm tap water.  No need to turn on the stove.  Now that’s what I call easy.

Serves 6

2 cups cracked wheat (also called bulgur)

1 red onion, diced

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 seedless cucumber, diced

1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

1 lemon, zest and juice

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

Place cracked wheat in a large bowl.  Cover with 4 cups of hot tap water.  Let sit while preparing other ingredients.  The longer it sits, the softer the cracked wheat will get.  You don’t need to cook the cracked wheat.  Just let it sit in the warm water.

Add all other ingredients to the cracked wheat.  Toss well to combine.  Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Best let sit overnight for flavors to marry.  Serve chilled.

Chard, Mushrooms, and Butter Beans

13 06 2012

If you haven’t had butter beans before, do yourself a favor:  Find some, buy some, eat some.  Delicious.  Like Buttah.  If you must substitute, I guess cannelini would be okay.  But not quite “Like Buttah”.

1 bunch Swiss Chard, leaves stripped from stems

8 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 can butter beans, drained and rinsed

Loads of freshly ground black pepper

Heat a medium saute pan over high heat.  Chop the chard stems into bite-sized pieces, about the same size as the butter beans.  The mushrooms should also be about this size.  Add the chard and mushrooms to the hot pan and cook until they start to darken, just a few minutes.  Add the tomato paste and a couple tablespoons of water to the pan, lower heat to medium, and continue cooking until stems soften, about 5 minutes.  In the mean time, slice the chard leaves.  Once the stems are soft, add the leaves to the pan and cover.  Cook just until the leaves wilt, about a minute or two.  If needed, add another couple of tablespoons of water to prevent burning.

Toss beans with the black pepper.  Serve a big heap of the chard mix with a few big spoonfuls of beans.  Enjoy.

Combine leftover beans and chard for next day’s lunch.  Or serve with whole wheat pasta for a hearty dinner.

Easy Chard and Quinoa

12 06 2012

This quick dish is a great easy lunch or a tasty afternoon snack.  Enjoy warm or cold.  Add toasted sunflower seeds and currants for more flavor.

1 cup quinoa

1 bunch rainbow chard

2 sweet onions

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Salt and Pepper, to taste

Place quinoa in a small pot and cover with 2 inches of water.  Simmer, covered, until soft, about 20 minutes.  Meanwhile, cook your chard.

Heat a large saute pan over high heat.  To cook your chard, remove the stems from the leaves of the chard.  Slice the stems into bite-sized pieces.  Cut the two onions into bite-sized pieces.  Add onion and chard stems to the hot pan.  Saute until the onion starts to caramelize (turn brown), about 5 minutes, stirring as needed.  Meanwhile, chop chard leaves.  When onions have caramelized slightly and chard stems have softened, add balsamic vinegar.  Scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan and turn heat to medium-low.  Add chopped chard leaves to pan, cover, and cook just until leaves start to wilt, about 5 minutes.

Quinoa should be done about now.  Remove the lid from the pan, taste to make sure the quinoa is soft.  Fluff quinoa with a fork and add to the chard mixture.  Season with plenty of freshly-ground black and pepper and salt to taste.

Lower on the Chain

6 06 2012

To produce one pound of US steak (less than 1,000 calories of food), 45,000 calories of fossil fuels are required. 70 percent of the antibiotics we make are used on our livestock. And while Africa starves, half of the food we grow in this country goes to feed our livestock.

There was a time when meat cost more than vegetables. Chickens were reserved for special Sunday dinners, and, even then, every part of the bird found its way into giblet gravy and leftover soup. Now, these birds come in perfectly-portioned, uniformly-sized pounded breasts that cook in ten minutes. As Americans, we spend a smaller portion of our family budget on food then any other developed country. This is probably why we’re okay with the genetically modified wheat and under-tested pesticides that are banned in the European Union: It’s cheaper.

A challenge to eat healthy and sustainably is a challenge to change the way we look at food. Take the meat off. Switch the plate around so that vegetables and complex carbohydrates are the foundation while meat is the rare treat. Eat whole foods. Eat more plants. You’ll still get plenty of protein and fat, but probably in a form that is friendlier to your waistline and your arteries.

Other cultures have been doing this for centuries. Use them for inspiration. Mexico has its rice and beans. India has its red lentils and curried dal. Even our Native Americans shared corn and bean succotash.

Here we still have our grand images of the cowboy lassoing tonight’s dinner in a heroic display of the hunter feeding his family a hearty meal. This is an idyllic image of the past, though. Our current image is the truth of claustrophobic factory farms filled with sick, mutated animals. Our image for the future is our choice, a choice we make three times a day, plus snacks. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming. It just means a little extra attention and one simple rule: Eat lower on the food chain.

For more information, check out these worthy reads:

Michael Pollan’s An Omnivore’s Dilemma

Northwest Earth Institute’s Menu for the Future