Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thai-Spiced Stew

Given my somewhat neurotic love for all things Thai and all things soup, when I came across this recipe I was happier than a pig in...Well...You know where I'm going with this.

First off, preparing this was not only simple, it was delightful. The beautiful colors of the fresh vegetables all combined in the soup pot were picture-perfect. I wish I would have taken a photo while the ingredients were in their raw state, but the fact is, I couldn't wait to taste the finished product.


I modified the ingredients to my taste, adding a little more curry paste than the original recipe called for, and also adding the red chile paste that gave it a little heat. I also substituted the sugar with agave nectar. Agave nectar is low glycemic and a healthier option for those who are sugar sensitive.

If you'd like to get fancy, you can add a little more by topping with diced avocado and a squeeze of fresh lime juice, both go great with the coconutty, curry flavors famous in Thai cooking.


Thai-Spiced Stew
By Nava Atlas & Kristen Haney
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, quartered and thinly slices
4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 1-1⁄2 pounds), peeled and diced
3 cups water
1 medium green or red bell pepper, cut into narrow strips
1-1⁄2 cups frozen green beans
1 teaspoon red or green curry paste, more or less to taste
1/4 teaspoon red chile paste
1 tablespoon agave nectar (or sugar)
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 stalks lemongrass (optional)
One 13.5-ounce can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter
Salt to taste
One 8-ounce package Thai peanut-flavored baked tofu, diced (optional)
Cilantro leaves for garnish

In a soup pot over medium-low heat, heat the oil. Add the onion and sauté until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until both are golden.
Add the sweet potatoes and water. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are about half done.
Add the bell pepper, green beans, curry paste, sugar, and ginger. If using lemongrass, cut each stalk into 3 or 4 pieces, and bruise by making long cuts throughout with a sharp knife. Stir into the soup pot. Simmer the stew for 10 minutes.
Stir in the coconut milk, peanut butter, salt, and tofu. Return to a simmer, then cook over very low heat for another 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender and the flavors are well integrated.
Remove lemongrass pieces. Taste to adjust seasonings, particularly the curry paste if you'd like a spicier stew, as well as the salt, sugar, and ginger. Serve at once, topping each serving with a few cilantro leaves.

Monday, March 22, 2010

CSA Season is near!

Ahhh...Spring. The time of year for rejuvenation, to start fresh, to plant seeds and prepare to watch the magic.

Yesterday, Josh and I were in our backyard clearing away the remnants from last season, and discovered the tips of eager hostas, tiger lillies, wild onions, and other amazing garden fare that although were hidden under the brush and a recently melted blanket of snow, were definitely not forgotten.

We cleared the herb garden where I caught the scent of fresh thyme. The earthy scent made me excited to once again walk outside to gather fresh basil, parsley, rosemary, and thyme.

If I only had the space to grow more!

And that, my friends, is where the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program comes in handy.

A CSA is a farm share, and provides individual families the opportunity to partner with local farmers. You become a member of a CSA by purchasing a share of the farm's harvest and in turn, receive 18 weeks of fresh, organic produce throughout the growing season (June through September) that is typically delivered on a weekly basis to a local drop site.

Costing between $500-$700 per full share (some farms offer half shares for half the cost) that will feed a family of four, you will receive a wide variety of produce depending on your chosen farm's offering. Typical produce, by season, includes,

Spring: Kale, Broccoli, Lettuce, Bunching Onions, Radishes, Spinach, Salad Mix, Swiss Chard, Sugar Peas, Collards.

Summer: Basil, Beets, Bell Peppers, Cabbage, Carrots, Cilantro, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Flowers, Melons, Garlic, Green Beans, Jalapenos, Leeks, Lettuce, Bulb Onons, Parsley, Potato, Sugar Peas, Specialty Peppers, Summer Squash, Sweet Corn, Roma Tomatoes, Zucchini,Turnips, Parsnips.

Fall: Basil, Beets, Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts,Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Cilantro, Eggpant, Leeks, Lettuce, Storage Onions, Parsley, Pie Pumpkin, Potato, Radishes, Spinach, Winter Squash, Sweet Corn, Sweet Potato, Swiss Chard, Heirloom Tomatoes, Turnips, Zucchini, Kohlrabi, Kale, Collards.

Not only is this a great way to incorporate more fresh produce into your diet, it also supports your local farmers that will in turn, support your community. Plus, you get to experiment with new recipes and find fun things to do with kohlrabi, collards, and bok choy!

For a CSA near you, visit the Local Harvest Website, an organization that has compiled a nationwide directory of small farms, farmers markets and other local sources of sustainably grown food.

Stay tuned this summer for weekly installments of fun and creative recipes inspired from my CSA!

Happy Spring!


Friday, March 12, 2010

Red Pepper-Carrot Soup

Every once in a while I make a new recipe and I hate it. Usually, it's because it's too bland, and when you're making a meal the last thing you want it to be is bland.

Incidentally, that is the first thing I thought when I tried this soup. Boring and bland. Even after adding a little cumin into the mix, I still didn't think this could stand on it's own.

Fortunately, I was planning on serving it with the Spicy Tofu Lettuce Wraps, a dish that has so much flavor and is so bold on it's own that it welcomes a more mild side, where this soup fits that bill to a tee.

The roasted red peppers and carrots in the soup are wonderful additions to the strong flavors of the lettuce wraps and it's mildness is a welcome reprieve from the heat of it's sidekick.

When I roasted the red peppers I placed them on the burners of my gas stove-top, slowly rotating them until the outsides were black. I then enclosed them in a paper bag and let them sit and cool before peeling off the skin. This will save you time over how they suggest you do it in the recipe, but if you don't have a gas stove, you can stick to the instructions.

Red Pepper-Carrot Soup
Recipe from Vegetarian Times Magazine February 2010
Serves 6

2 large red bell peppers (1 lb)
plus slices for garnish, optional
2 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp cumin (I added this in for more flavor)
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, sliced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbs lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Place bell peppers on baking sheet, and roast 1 hour, or until skin is wrinkled and blackened all over, turning peppers occasionally with tongs. Transfer to bowl and cover with plastic wrap 10 minutes to steam. When peppers are cool enough to handle, rub off blackened peel, and remove seeds.

Heat oil in 2qt saucepan over medium heat. Add curry, cumin, and bay leaf, and stir 10 seconds. Add onion, carrots, garlic, and salt. Cover, and cook 10 minutes, or until onion is translucent.

Add 4 cups water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, covered, 25 minutes.

Transfer carrot mixture to blender, add bell peppers, ad puree until smooth. Stir in lemon juice. Garnish servings will bell pepper slices, if using.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Spaghetti with Torn Fresh Basil

Life can be a bit hectic. I get that. Which is why I want to remind you that when life gets crazy, it's important to remember to take care of yourself.

We live in a country where faster and cheaper is supposed to be "better." But when it comes to our food, we need to stop and take the time (or make the time) to make sure that we are feeding our bodies the best that is available.

After all, for all our bodies do for us, it's the least we can do to return the favor.

The following is a quick and easy recipe filled with fresh veggies, grains, and protein. Being that it is void of meat or tofu, you may be asking yourself, where is the protein?

Remember the quinoa spaghetti from the last recipe? High in protein, (6 grams per serving) quinoa has all the essential amino acids, is easy to digest, and is also high in fiber and iron.

With all its natural, whole goodness, this recipe raises the temperature of my spring fever...Warmer days are on their way!


Roasted Vegetable Spaghetti with Torn Fresh Basil
Recipe from Vegetarian Times Magazine February 2010
Serves 6

2 cups sliced shiitake mushrooms
1/2 lb fresh asparagus, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 small onion, coarsely chopped (1 cup)
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1 package Quinoa spaghetti
1/2 cup torn fresh basil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss together mushrooms, asparagus, onion, oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in large roasting pan. Roast 20 minutes, or until mushrooms and onions begin to brown, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Add tomatoes to pan, and roast 7 to 10 minutes more, or until tomatoes shrivel and soften. Transfer vegetables to bowl. Add wine to roasting pan, stirring to scrape off any stuck-on bits from the bottom of pan. Return roasting pan to oven 5 minutes and let the wine cook off.

Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain pasta and reserve 1/2 cup cooking water. Stir cooking water into reduced wine in roasting pan.

Return pasta to pot. Add wine mixture and vegetables, and toss over medium-low heat until heated throughout. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Stir in torn fresh basil leaves and serve immediately.