Lisa on August 18th, 2014
Tomato Stuffed with Ricotta, Olives & Fresh Herbs

Tomato Stuffed with Ricotta, Olives & Fresh Herbs

Tomato season is in full swing! Time to enjoy those ripe garden beauties. And fresh herbs, too — I liberated some thyme and rosemary from my garden along with the tomatoes. Feel free to use whatever herbs you have on hand: chives, oregano, marjoram, even mint. In-season tomatoes are so sweet and fresh that they’ll pair well with any herb. To add a contrasting burst of savoriness, I added chopped olives to the creamy ricotta.

Admittedly, a stuffed tomato is a little tricky to eat (make sure all your guests have sharp knives to slice their tomatoes!), but the presentation is too pretty to pass up. If you’d like to make appetizers, you could core and stuff cherry or grape tomatoes to create pop-in-your-mouth treats. Or you could arrange sliced tomatoes on a plate and dollop them with the herbed ricotta. You’ll have a gorgeous summer dish no matter which way you serve your garden-fresh tomatoes.

Tomato Stuffed with Ricotta, Olives & Fresh Herbs

First of all, find the freshest ricotta you can. My favorite is Serra ricotta, which is Michigan-made and only lists milk, whey, salt, and vinegar as its ingredients. Place a generous scoop of ricotta in a small bowl and stir in chopped pitted green olives, chopped fresh herbs (I used thyme and rosemary), and a generous sprinkling of freshly ground pepper.

Cut out the stem of the tomato, then keep cutting around and slightly into the top of the tomato to create an area you can stuff. Top with the ricotta, using a small spoon to mound the ricotta up and over the tomato. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on August 11th, 2014
Broccoli, Green Bean, & Corn Pizza

Broccoli, Green Bean, & Corn Pizza

If you have a garden, you probably have all kinds of veggies hanging off vines and stems. What to do with a random assortment of homegrown produce? You could toss them together to make a quick salad, of course, or you can toss them together to make a summer pizza as I’ve done here. (I even included leftover grilled corn from a BBQ the night before.) I made the crust from scratch using sweet potato, corn, and buckwheat flours, but you could use whatever crust you like best. Ditto for the sauce — I opted for an ultra-simple combination of sliced avocado and Greek yogurt to make an unusual sort of white sauce, but a more traditional tomato-based sauce would work just as well. It’s all about creativity!

Southwestern-Style Broccoli, Green Bean & Corn Pizza
Makes a 12″ pizza.

For the crust*:
1 cup raw buckwheat OR sorghum flour
1/2 cup sweet potato flour
1/2 cup corn flour
2 T. chia seeds, ground into flour in a coffee grinder
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 T. dried Italian herbs
1 tsp. sea salt
3/4 cup + about 2 T. whole milk OR water

For the toppings:
Plain whole-milk Greek yogurt
Avocado slices
Cilantro leaves
Sliced tomatoes
Roasted green beans
Roasted broccoli
Grilled corn (freshly cut off the cob)
Sliced or shredded mozzarella

Preheat oven to 425F. Get out a 12″ aerated pizza pan and rub with extra-virgin olive oil or butter. Set aside.

To make the crust, place all ingredients except the milk in a large bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine. Stir in milk with a wooden spoon, using your hands to knead the dough together when it gets too difficult to stir. (You may have to add another teaspoon or two of milk if the dough is too dry to stick together.) Press into the pan, rocking the heels of your palms back and forth in a rolling motion as you press the dough out towards the edges of the pan. Bake for 12 minutes or until the crust is browning around the edges and has pulled back a little from the sides of the pan. Reduce oven temperature to 400F.

To finish the pizza, cover the baked crust with a thin layer of yogurt and a layer of avocado slices. Add whatever toppings you like, finishing with the mozzarella. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melting and has begun to turn golden brown. Use pizza shears or a rolling pizza cutter to cut pizza into slices. Serve immediately. Leftover pizza can be refrigerated for 5 days.

Enjoy!

* Alternatively, you might want to use your favorite crust or a different one I’ve developed that includes brown rice, corn, potato, and chickpea flours.

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Lisa on August 7th, 2014
Yuca with Roasted-Garlic Butter & Cilantro

Yuca with Roasted-Garlic Butter & Cilantro

Ever had tapioca? Then you’ve had yuca, as it’s called in Mexico and Central America. If you were in Brazil, it would be called manioc, and in African countries, it’s known as cassava. Bubble tea (popular in Asian cuisines) is made with tapioca pearls. Yuca looks like a very long, dark brown sweet potato with skin that resembles bark. It has a tendency to dry out and become fibrous, so when you find yuca in U.S. markets, it’s often been coated with wax to help prolong its life. Since you won’t be using the outer skin anyway, it’s no big deal — you’ll slice away the wax with the skin.

Yuca tastes a little like a redskin potato, but yuca has a naturally sweeter taste and a firmer texture. You can still mash it, though, as I’ve done here, and yuca readily takes on other flavors. Seeing as it’s prevalent in south-of-the-border dishes, I tend to pair yuca with ingredients like cilantro and garlic. The smooth sweetness of the yuca is a nice counterpoint to vibrant herbs and savory ingredients like garlic and cheese. Or just mash it with a pinch of sea salt and coconut oil or butter. Yuca is a fun change of pace from more-familiar roots like potatoes and beets.

Yuca with Roasted-Garlic Butter & Cilantro

Peel yuca by first trimming the ends and cutting the yuca in half. Once you have two short pieces instead of a single long unwieldy one, it’ll be easier to trim away the tough outer “bark.” You’ll also be able to see that there’s a faint purple-tinged ring of flesh immediately underneath the skin. You want to trim that away, too — it’s too fibrous to eat. Stand up one of the halves on its flat base and trim away the outer skin. If any streaks of purple remain, trim those away. You should see only white flesh.

Cut trimmed yuca into 1″ cubes and proceed to cook as you would potatoes — fill a medium pot halfway with water, then simmer the yuca for 10 minutes or until it has reached its desired tenderness. Drain well.

Mash yuca with a touch of sea salt and coconut oil/butter, or do as I’ve done here and roughly mash with chopped cilantro and roasted-garlic butter. Serve immediately. Leftover yuca can be refrigerated for 4 days. It’s best to reheat it in a skillet with another dab of coconut oil or butter — think of it as a fresh twist on hash.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on August 4th, 2014
Red Lentil Pasta & Kale with Creamy Goat Cheese Sauce

Red Lentil Pasta & Kale with Creamy Goat Cheese Sauce

It seems like lately I’ve hit a treasure trove of unconventional gluten-free whole-food pastas — first pappardelle made with corn flour, and now penne made with red lentil flour.  The latter has a stronger, fuller flavor that pairs beautifully with other assertive ingredients like broccoli, kale, and tomatoes. And I found out (somewhat accidentally) that whipped goat cheese makes an instant cream sauce when tossed with hot pasta and some melted butter. As an extra splurge, I used the roasted-garlic butter I had made last week for another recipe — the nutty/sweet sweet aspect of the roasted garlic made the cream sauce even richer. You could opt for “plain” butter, so to speak, but making roasted-garlic butter is surprisingly simple, and you’ll have plenty left over for other dishes. A win-win!

Red Lentil Pasta & Kale with Creamy Goat Cheese
Serves 4.

For the roasted-garlic butter:
1 head garlic
Sea salt
Freshly cracked black pepper
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
1 stick butter, preferably from grass-fed cows (I adore Kerrygold)

For the pasta:
4 servings red lentil pasta (look for Tolerant brand) OR your favorite whole-grain/whole-food pasta (make sure it’s gluten-free pasta if you’re making a gluten-free dish)
1 head broccoli, florets only, cut into bite-sized pieces
Double handful green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
Double handful grape OR cherry tomatoes, halved
1 banana pepper OR 1/2 yellow bell pepper, seeds and stem removed, flesh cut into thin strips
4 ounces whipped goat cheese (look for Chèvremousse; it’s sold in a small oblong tub)
Generous dab of roasted-garlic butter

To make the garlic, preheat oven to 400F. Cut off just the top of the head of garlic and place on a square of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Salt and pepper the garlic lightly and drizzle on a little oil. Fold/wrap the parchment/foil up over the garlic to create a pouch, then place directly on oven rack. Roast for 45 minutes. Let COMPLETELY cool (roasted garlic is hot and sticky!) before squeezing out the contents of the entire head into a bowl, pushing from the root outward and leaving the papery part behind. Add butter to garlic and mash with a potato masher to incorporate the garlic into the butter.

Note that if you use grass-fed butter, it will be soft enough straight from the fridge to mash immediately. Conventional butter will have to stand for at least an hour before you can mash it. (That’s because grass-fed butter contains far more anti-inflammatory, more-malleable omega-3 fats.) Alternatively, you can beat the garlic into the butter with beaters. Roasted-garlic butter can be refrigerated in a tightly closed container for 3 weeks.

To make the pasta, check to see how many minutes your pasta needs to boil. Get that going, then add the broccoli and green beans to the pot for the final 3 minutes of the cooking time. Drain pasta and veggies well, then return them to the still-warm pot. Add remaining ingredients and toss well to combine. If the butter hasn’t readily melted in the warm pot, stir the pasta over low heat for a minute or two or until the butter has completely melted and you have a creamy, smooth sauce.

Serve immediately. Leftover pasta can be refrigerated for 3 days, but it’s much better eaten fresh off the stove.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on July 31st, 2014
Cauliflower with Prosciutto, Tomatoes & Basil

Cauliflower with Prosciutto, Tomatoes & Basil

Lately, I got my hands on some gorgeous imported pappardelle ribbons made with corn and rice flour. I was utterly delighted — it was the first time I’d come across gluten-free pappardelle. I made it for dinner last night and decided that I liked it so much that I was going to make the same thing for lunch again today, except with cauliflower in place of the pasta. (I liked the toppings as much as the actual pasta.) The cookbook I’m working on now is a Paleo-friendly book, so I’ve been playing around with omitting pasta altogether in favor of neutral veggies like zucchini and eggplant. Cauliflower falls into that same neutral category.

The result? I liked the dish just as well with florets as I did with pasta. Of course, there’s something to be said for twirling lusciously wide noodles onto a long-tined fork, but then again, there’s something to be said for the entirely-whole-foods version of what I’d come up with. And cauliflower is lovely with savory prosciutto and Cheddar, sweet-tart tomatoes, and fresh-from-the-garden basil. The secret is to cook the cauliflower for just 5 minutes — then you’ll get that firm-but-tender “al dente” effect.

Cauliflower with Prosciutto, Tomatoes & Basil
Makes 4 light servings.

1 small head cauliflower, florets only, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 thin slices of prosciutto, preferably imported prosciutto de Parma
About a cup of grated Cheddar cheese (I opted for Kerrygold’s Dubliner)
Double handful of cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
About 20 basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
Generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Fill a large pot halfway with water and bring to a boil. Add florets and reduce heat to medium. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes, then promptly drain.

While the cauliflower simmers, place 2 slices of prosciutto in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Cook for 2 minutes or until prosciutto is starting to turn golden brown and crisp, then flip over and cook another minute or until both sides are golden brown. Remove to a cool plate and repeat with remaining slices.

Place cooked florets and remaining ingredients except salt and pepper in a mixing bowl and toss well. With each slice of prosciutto, pull away and discard the strip of fat running along the edges, then tear the meat into small pieces and add to the florets. Toss well again. Salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately.

The basil will blacken quickly, but the other ingredients can be refrigerated for 3 days, so if you think you’ll have leftovers, add the basil to individual portions.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on July 28th, 2014
Charcuterie Plate

Charcuterie Plate

Cheese plates are always a hit, so why not expand the idea to include charcuterie? Charcuterie includes any meat — although usually pork — that has been cured, brined, salted, fermented, or smoked. All of these natural methods involve time and a great deal of skill. Typically, meats prepared in such traditional ways start out as being artisanally produced themselves, which is to say the meat comes from animals that were pastured/grass-fed/allowed to roam. Living a natural lifestyle means more flavorful meat that is also more nutritious. The fact that some charcuterie methods add their own layer of nutritional benefits is a bonus. (Fermented meat, like fermented dairy, is fantastically probiotic.) All natural preservation methods involve creating deeper, richer flavors.

Enter lomo ibérico de bellota, which is Spain’s reigning example of fine charcuterie. These cured hams (“lomo” means “loin” or “tenderloin”) come from Iberian black pigs that are allowed to freely snuff about in forests for their favorite foodstuff: acorns, or bellotas. The resulting thinly sliced hams are incredibly rich in flavor and hue. Just a few slices go a long way —  you don’t need many on a plate to have a showstopping dish.

For this charcuterie plate, I opted to include figs to offset the savory meat and cheese. Other good possibilities include apples, pears, and plums. You don’t want an overly sweet fruit, and you probably want a creamy cheese rather than an aged one —  again, it’s all about providing contrast. A creamy cheese like this American Morbier is a velvety complement to the assertive ham. The fact that figs provide a bit of crunchiness was ideal, too, since it’s also nice to have different textures on the plate.

Just be sure to have all of your elements at room temperature when serving — a straight-from-the-fridge chill can dim flavors. And if you can’t find lomo ibérico de bellota, opt for imported Italian prosciutto de Parma, Spanish chorizo, or Portuguese linguiça. All of those fall squarely in the “charcuterie” category and are incredibly delicious. Charcuterie is becoming ever-more popular in the U.S., too, so you might also find some artisanal charcuterie products at your local farmer’s markets. Don’t pass them by!

Enjoy!

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Lisa on July 24th, 2014
Cheesy Chard

Cheesy Chard

Of the hearty greens — kale, chard, turnip greens, beet greens, collards — chard is probably my favorite. (Although kale chips and Ethiopian-spiced collards and cabbage rank up there, too.) Chard is softer and thinner than the other greens, so it cooks more quickly and winds up being similar to spinach … which is why I had the idea to make a three-ingredient version of creamed spinach with chard, Morbier cheese, and ghee. After all, cheese and ghee contain plenty of cream!

I opted for Morbier because its earthy, raw-milk nature makes it a perfect partner for chard’s savory character. Morbier is similar to Raclette and Comté, albeit trickier to find than those two. But Comté is widely available and would provide the same rich flavor and smooth texture. The residual water from having rinsed the chard combines with the cheese and ghee to create its own thick sauce — all you need to do is chop and stir! It’s like macaroni and cheese without the macaroni. Much better to focus on delicious cheese made with grass-fed milk.

Cheesy Chard

Wash and whack dry a bunch of chard (no need to pat it dry). Trim away the bottom tough stem, then roughly chop leaves.

Melt a generous knob of ghee in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add chard and cooking, stirring often, for about 4 minutes or until chard has wilted. Stir in grated or slimly sliced Morbier cheese and toss gently to coat the chard as the cheese melts. It only takes a minute or two. When you have a velvety cream sauce, remove from heat and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on July 21st, 2014
Hummus Salad

Hummus Salad

It isn’t much of a leap from a dip to a dressing — since dressing is more free-flowing, just add more liquid to a thick sauce until it’s pourable. Usually that means drizzling in more oil, vinegar, or citrus juice since most dressings contain oil and an acid, but you could also shake/blend enough water into the dip (or sauce) to make it thinner. In this case, I had made some roasted red pepper hummus that I later decided to turn into a dressing for a simple side salad of crisp Romaine, sweet blueberries, and the savory hummus. Not only did I wind up with a near-instant dressing, adding hummus to a salad gave me a whole new way to enjoy it. A leftover doesn’t seem like a leftover when it’s a whole new dish! (Not that there’s anything wrong with leftovers.)

So the next time you have a tasty dip or sauce in the fridge, make it into dressing. Or make this hummus and enjoy it as a dip the first day and salad dressing the next. So easy!

Hummus Salad
Makes about 2 cups (16 ounces) of hummus.

For the hummus:
1 red pepper
4 cloves garlic, chopped
15 oz. chickpeas, preferably in a BPA-free can
1 heaping spoon of tahini (about 1 T.)
Generous squeeze of fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. cumin
Sea salt to taste

For the salad:
Chopped Romaine
Fresh blueberries

First, roast the pepper: place a piece of foil in a rimmed baking sheet and position it in the center of the middle oven rack, then place the whole pepper directly over the sheet. (The sheet will catch the drips; otherwise, you’ll have a messy oven to clean.) Roast for at least 20 minutes at 450F. The goal is for the skin to be blistered and blackening. When it is, remove the pepper and let it sit until it’s cool enough to handle, then peel away the skin and discard the stem and seeds.

While the pepper roasts, saute the garlic with a generous drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat for 3 minutes or just until the garlic is starting to turn golden brown. Transfer to food processor. Drain the chickpeas, catching the liquid in a bowl, and add the drained ‘peas to the processor. Add remaining ingredients, including roasted pepper. Process until smooth, trickling in the reserved bean juice (or water) if needed to make a smooth texture.

To make the hummus into dressing, keep adding water — or more extra-virgin olive oil or lemon juice — until the hummus has taken on a pourable consistency. (I suggest keeping some of the hummus as a dip and using some to make dressing so that you can enjoy it both ways.) Toss with Romaine and blueberries or whatever else strikes your fancy. Leftover hummus/dressing can be refrigerated for 5 days.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on July 17th, 2014
Mung Bean Cakes

Mung Bean Cakes

One of the reasons grains make great cakes is that they’re starchy, and starchiness = stickiness. (And some grains — specifically wheat, rye, barley, and all their variants — also contain gluten, which is even stickier.) Obviously, you need a certain amount of stickiness for your batter to work. Eggs, of course, also hold things together thanks to their protein structure, but if you want light-textured cakes, they need a starchy/sticky factor along with the protein-binding eggs.

Enter legumes! Like grains, beans (and lentils and peas) also contain lots of starch. Indian cuisine takes masterful advantage of this fact by using various beans as flours and as soaked, blendable batters. Dosas, cheelas, idlis, and papadums are all delightful flatbreads based in part or in whole on legumes. It’s surprisingly easy to make your own one- or two-ingredient versions, especially if you have a high-powered blender like a Vitamix. As long as you think to put your legumes in a bowl of cool water the day before to let them thoroughly soak, you’ll have light-textured, almost puffy cakes in a matter of minutes. Fry them in ghee to enjoy an even more authentic flavor!

Mung Bean Cakes

Soak split mung beans (or any lentil, bean, or pea that’s been split; split legumes soak more thoroughly than their whole counterparts) in a bowl full of cold water overnight. You should have at least twice as much water as beans. If it’s a hot night, soak the beans in the refrigerator to avoid any chance of them accidentally fermenting. Drain the next day.

Place in a blender (preferably a high-speed blender), add a pinch of sea salt, and start blending with a glass of cold water at hand. Trickle the water into the beans, adding just enough to create a batter that is pourable but still thick.

In a large skillet, heat a knob of butter or ghee over medium heat until melted. Add the batter in 1/4 cupfuls, making three or four per batch (whatever best fits your skillet). Cook for about 3 minutes on each side, peeking underneath to see if it’s golden brown before carefully flipping. Remove cakes to a wire rack as they’re done, and add more butter/ghee to the skillet with each batch of cakes.

These cakes are delicious served with a sprinkling of curry powder and a dollop of whole-milk Greek yogurt, either on their own as a snack or as a side dish.

Enjoy!

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Lisa on July 14th, 2014
Nachos with Peppadew Peppers

Nachos with Peppadew Peppers

Nachos are a great summer snack — they don’t require much more effort than layering corn chips, salsa, and cheese onto a baking sheet and popping them in the oven. If you’re feeling fancy, you can add some black beans and cooked chicken strips into the layers. Perfect for a backyard BBQ appetizer! And if you have a toaster oven, nachos become even more summer-friendly, because toaster ovens are so much more energy-efficient than standard-sized ovens (plus they put out less heat).

The last time I made nachos, I thought I’d experiment with adding a different kind of pepper: a peppadew. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m too wimpy to add jalapeños to my nachos (as a contact-wearer, I’ve had very bad experiences with jalapeños), but I do sometimes add canned green chiles. Since peppadews are sweet/hot, though, they give nachos an entirely new kind of kick.

Lots of olive bars in grocery stores nowadays stock peppadews, or you might find them near canned olives, brined artichokes, and/or jarred roasted peppers. They’re fun to have around when you want to enjoy a not-hot pepper with a firm texture and beautiful bright color. (Peppadews are red and yellow.) And they’re stuffable, too, if you ever want to serve them as individual appetizers instead of slicing them to use as garnish. So many possibilities!

Nachos with Peppadew Peppers
Serves as many as you like — these are ideas for toppings and meant to be eyeballed in terms of amounts.

Blue corn chips, preferably organic
Black beans, drained, preferably from a BPA-free can
Roasted/sauteed chicken, preferably free-range, cut into bite-sized pieces
Salsa of your choice
Shredded Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, preferably made with milk from grass-fed cows
Peppadew peppers, drained and sliced

Arrange corn chips evenly over a parchment- or foil-covered baking sheet. Try not to overlap — the goal is for every chip to be topped with toppings, not tucked away underneath a neighboring chip.

Spoon beans, chicken, and salsa over the chips, then top with cheese and peppers. Heat in a 400F oven or toaster oven for 5 to 8 minutes or until cheese is melting. Serve immediately while the cheese is nice and gooey.

Enjoy!

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