Feb 23, 2014

Chard, Red Lentil & Potato Slow Cooker Soup

I don't know what the weather's been like where you are, but here in NYC, this winter has been a BEAST. Every time we think we're getting a respite (like today when it's sunny and in the 50's), it lasts for a couple of days and then, just when we're starting to relax, we're hit with another polar vortex and temperatures drop down thirty degrees overnight and stay that way for another week.

My favorite season is summer and I really do not handle cold weather well. So my first inclination at times like these is to hibernate and not leave the house (or my bed) again until spring. Sadly, that's not an option. But I can make soups -- warming, delicious, vegetable-filled, stick-to-your ribs soups, to be exact. Like this one that I adapted from Oh My Veggies, a fabulous vegetarian food blog that I just recently stumbled upon.

I had an enormous bunch of chard that was starting to wilt and so I wanted an easy way to use it up but I needed to be in and out of the house all day. However, I still wanted to come home to a hot meal. That, my friends, is a perfect time to dust off your slow cooker, fill it up and forget about it while you do sundry other things like go to work, defrost yourself and do laundry. Ah, laundry. Because the more clothes you have to wear, the more you have to wash (yet another reason to prefer summer).

But this soup only dirties two dishes -- your slow cooker and a skillet to saute the aromatics. And if you're lucky (and I am), both of those can go into the dishwasher. So, really, what have you got to lose? If you have the extra time, soak the lentils overnight with some kombu (or, if you're really good about planning ahead, even do it for a few days so they can sprout). If not, no worries -- they'll be just as delicious. I prefer red lentils for this soup since they melt down into the broth, making it into more of a stew. For extra protein, serve with chicken or, to make it heartier, over rice. Turn leftovers into lasagna. Bon appetit!

I'm making this my submission for Wellness Weekend, hosted and created by Ricki Heller!

Chard, Lentil & Potato Slow Cooker Soup
adapted from Oh My Veggies

If you have time, soak lentils and kombu in a clean bowl with enough cold water to cover them by several inches, for anywhere from 1 hour to 3 days. If going the sprouting route, change water 3 times/day.

Drain lentils and set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion, celery, carrots, garlic and Swiss chard stems and cook, covered, 8 minutes.

Place cooked aromatics, lentils, potatoes, broth and liquid aminos into slow cooker. Stir so everything is nicely mixed up together and cook 8 hours on low.

When cooked, stir in Swiss chard leaves and raise slow cooker temperature to high. Cover and cook an additional 5-10 minutes until chard is soft and has integrated into the soup. Serve, topped with salt and pepper. Enjoy!


Feb 20, 2014

Potato and Celeriac Puree

Nutritionists often tell us to eat as many different colors as we can. And on a good day, I can probably get three or four onto my plate -- white, green, pink and red. But there are some colors that we almost never get such as my favorite, purple.

That all changed the other night with this delectable puree. Yes, it's another celeriac (white) recipe but this time I mixed the celeriac with purple potatoes. The celeriac blended right in with the potatoes and we wound up with this exquisite meal, served alongside baked eggplant (for the vegetarian) and chicken (for the omnivore). Leftovers we reheated in a 350F oven for 20 minutes and served under buffalo steak (for the omnivore) and portobello mushrooms (for the vegetarian). A great take on a more traditional (and less colorful) meal!

A note about dairy: as many of you know, I have been avoiding dairy (to the best of my cheese-addicted abilities) for almost a year. I recently re-introduced clarified butter (ghee) into my diet and I love it. It brought an especially rich quality to the puree and mixed perfectly with the rice milk. If you're avoiding dairy of all sorts, feel free to substitute coconut oil instead.

This puree ended up a little chunky (which I love -- anything too silky smooth bores me about halfway through). If, however, you prefer a smoother puree, mash the potatoes and celeriac in the food processor instead of by hand. Bon appetit!

Potato and Celeriac Puree

Put potatoes into a large pot and cover with cold water (make sure the pot is big enough to fit the celeriac too and that you put in enough water to cover both). Add kosher salt. Bring pot to a boil over high heat, covered, and cook 10 minutes. Add celeriac and boil another 10 minutes. Drain and return to pot.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring rice milk to a boil. Using a potato masher, mash potatoes and celeriac as smoothly as desired (you could also do this in a food processor). Add 1/4 cup milk and stir (and mash) vigorously until absorbed by the vegetables. Add 1/2-1 tablespoon butter and stir (and mash) until absorbed. Continue adding 1/4 cup milk and 1/2-1 tablespoon butter until puree is a cohesive texture and as rich and decadent as you desire. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve.


Feb 14, 2014

Fennel, Celeriac, Parsley and Red Onion Salad

I'm spoiled. I live in New York City, surrounded by wonderful supermarkets (I have three to choose from everyday, not to mention the two that I choose not to frequent because there are better options) and one to two Greenmarkets within walking distance as well as countless others a short subway ride away. I can get fresh vegetables (in and out of season) and, while I try to eat seasonally to keep costs down and quality up, I don't fret about it too much if one of us has a hankering for eggplant or tomatoes in the middle of February.

As for how this affects my cooking, unless we're having company over, I try not to buy too many ingredients for any one meal (another side of keeping costs and waste down). So I take for granted that I'll have flavorful ingredients that don't need much to make them vibrant and tasty.

But this salad brought all these facts starkly into relief. A simple winter salad, it's a delightful mix of fennel, celeriac and parsley, all tied together with a simple olive oil and lemon juice dressing and sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds. Sounds perfect, no? Well, it was good but neither my celeriac nor my fennel was anywhere near as flavorful as it should have been. So, while it was tasty, it wasn't fantastic. As the vegetarian put it, "The flavors are all good but they're so quiet!"

So why, you might ask, am I even sharing this with you? Because it is good. And it's a winter salad (which is exceedingly rare. And, if you make it with exceptionally fresh ingredients (like from a garden if you're lucky enough to have one), it will be phenomenal.

I'm entering this in Raw Foods Thursday on Gluten-Free Cat. Join us!

Fennel, Celery Root, Parsley and Red Onion Salad
adapted from the Washington Post

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toss pumpkin seeds with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Roast 6 minutes. Set aside and let cool.

In a large bowl, toss together celeriac, fennel, onion and parsley. Add oil, lemon juice, sea salt and pepper and mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.

Serve, sprinkling each portion with pumpkin seeds and avocado. Bon appetit!

Additions? If you want to add some protein, a can of tuna is a delicious addition. This also works nicely on a sandwich with some sliced turkey.

Drink? A glass of Riesling.