Sunday, May 29, 2011

Warm Lentil Salad

 I'm partial to thick, hearty vegetable stews in the winter and light tossed salads in the summer. I'm excited to introduce to you a perfect combination of the two for spring: Warm Lentil Salad. Still tossed fresh salad-style but loaded with spring root vegetables such as radishes, parsley and carrots, this recipe is baked at the end of its preparation to deliver a warm simple crunch that is a perfect temperature for a warm spring day, or cool spring night.

I took this recipe from the New York Times "Recipes for Health" section, but added a few extra veggies and a sliced orange to give the dish more flavor for a main rather than a side. In addition to the delightful crisp texture, the juxtaposition of the earthy vegetable flavors and orange/vinegar/mustard derived acidity makes this recipe truly outstanding.

Warm Lentil Salad
Yield: Serves 4 to 6 as a main dish salad, 8 as a side
Advance preparation: The lentils can be made and tossed with the dressing up to 3 days ahead. Do not add the parsley until just before warming the salad.

My substitutions: fat-free feta cheese instead of goat, regular lentils, adding vegetable broth to the water to cook the lentils, and skipped the bayleaf (only because I didn't have one.)

 1 pound green or beluga lentils (about 2 1/4 cups), washed and picked over
1 cup vegetable broth (optional)
1 medium onion, cut in half and peeled
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1/3 cup thinly sliced radishes
1 cup arugula
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf (optional)
Salt, preferably kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup minced flat-leaf parsley, or a mixture of parsley and chives
4 ounces fresh goat cheese, cut in rounds OR crumbled fat-free feta
1 orange, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
For the dressing:
1/4 cup sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup cooking liquid from the lentils
Salt, preferably kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Place the lentils and carrots in a large saucepan or soup pot with the halved onion, the garlic cloves, and the bay leaf. Add enough water to cover by 1 1/2 inches.*  Bring to a simmer, add 1 teaspoon salt, cover and simmer 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender all the way through but intact. Set a strainer over a bowl and drain the lentils. Remove the onion halves, bay leaf, and garlic and discard. Return the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to 1/2 cup.
2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Whisk together the vinegar, garlic, Dijon mustard, olive oil, and cooking liquid from the lentils. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss with the lentils. Stir in the parsley (or parsley and chives), radishes, and arugula; place in a baking dish and top with the rounds of goat cheese. Heat through for 15 minutes, until the goat cheese has softened, and serve.

*If using vegetable broth, add 1 cup to uncooked lentils and fill the rest of the way with water until the liquid combination covers lentil by 1 1/2 inches.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Herbed Omelette & Sweet Potato Fries

I am one of the biggest brunch enthusiasts out there. What is more perfect than sitting outside a tree-lined street in the middle of the day, my coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, and whatever saliva-inducing egg based concoction I ordered all at my fingertips?

Sometimes though- like after today's 2 hour wait (yes, worth it) for Clinton Street Bakery's famous blueberry pancakes where I may or may not have consumed an entire stick of butter in one sitting- I recognize the convenience and weight-conscious elements of making your own brunch.  This easy brunch recipe is healthy and light in calories, but rich in taste thanks to a focus on fresh spices and herbs. You cannot beat the combination of fresh herbs and gooey melted cheese encased in egg, or the crisp crunch of a spicy sweet potato fry. Pick up your spring-fresh parsley and leafy greens from the farmers market or garden if you have, and enjoy this Herbed Omelette & Sweet Potato Fries pairing- your beach body will thank you :)

Herbed Omelette
Yield: 1 omelette

1/4 cup chopped scallion, or 1 shallot
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 cup loosely-packed leafy green (spinach, arugula, or swiss chard)
1 tbsp fresh dill
3 large eggs (1/2 cup egg whites)
1/4 cup reduced-fat cheese such as Parmesan, ricotta, cottage, or goat cheese

Spray cooking spray in a nonstick skillet over medium heat.  Add scallion/shallot and leafy green to pan, and cook covered for five minutes.  Add eggs (if using yolk, beat entire egg thoroughly) to pan and cook covered for 3 minutes. Lift edges with spatula to let uncooked egg run underneath. Cook covered for a few more minutes, and when omlette is no longer liquidy on top, sprinkle dill, parsley, and cheese evenly over the pan. Fold omelette in half with spatula and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from heat and serve with a sprinkle of salt & pepper.

Sweet Potato Fries
Yield: 2 servings
I'm grouping this dish under "brunch" as the baked fries are replacing traditional hash browns, but feel free to serve as a side during any meal.

2 large sweet potatoes, cut lengthwise into wedges
1 tbsp olive oil (plus 1 tsp for the olive oil spritzer)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp paprika
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat over to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray a large baking sheet or tin foil with olive oil spray. In a large bowl, toss sweet potato wedges, olive oil and spices. Spread sweet potatoes in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes, flip, and bake for another 20 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are crisp and golden brown. Let cool, and sprinkle with salt before eating.

Sweet News about Sweet Potatoes for Your Skin
Sweet potatoes offer a wealth of health promoting benefits that regular white potatoes do not. Specifically, clear, smooth and younger-looking skin! How? Sweet potatoes' signature orange color comes from the antioxidant beta-carotene, which converts vitamin A and activates DNA to produce new skin cells while shedding old ones. This constant flush of new cells keeps your skin healthy and fresh looking, while simultaneously resistant to free radical derived irritants and damage, plus wrinkles. 

"Recipe Roundup: the Sweet Potato - Perfect Skin Connection: Healthy Bites: Food & Diet:" Healthy Bites. SELF Magazine, 21 Sept. 2009. Web. 23 May 2011. <>.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Chicken with Mushrooms, Arugula, Roasted Peppers & White Wine

A winter confined to collard greens and kale at the farmers market has found this vegivore overwhelmed with spring's abundant offerings. As I filled my bag with as many bunches of spring greens one can carry, I asked myself, how can I incorporate all these vegetables into a weeks worth of cooking?

I decided to be adventurous and add some extra veggies into recipes where they are traditionally scant.  An unfinished bottle of white wine in the fridge led me to search for chicken with mushrooms and white wine recipes, to which I added a heaping portion of arugula and roasted red pepper. The result: Chicken with Mushrooms, Arugula, Roasted Peppers & White Wine. You'll never be satisfied with the traditional version again!

Chicken with Mushrooms, Arugula, Roasted Peppers & White Wine
original recipe link from Bon Appetit May 1996 issue
yield: serves 4


  • 4 boneless chicken breast halves, with skin
  • All purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 pounds mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cups arugula, loosely packed
  • 1 1/2 cups canned roasted red peppers, sliced
  • 4 large shallots, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried

  • 1 1/2 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine

My substitutions: I used skinless chicken breast, whole wheat flour, halved the vegetable oil (of which I used EVOO), traded shallots for scallions, and stuck with fresh thyme for herbs.


Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper; dust with flour. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken; sauté until brown, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer to plate. Add mushrooms, arugula, red pepper, shallots and herbs to skillet. Sauté until mushrooms are cooked through and juices are reduced to glaze, about 12 minutes.
Add broth and wine to skillet. Boil until reduced by half, about 8 minutes. Return chicken to skillet. Simmer until chicken is cooked through and liquid thickens to sauce consistency, about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer chicken, vegetables and sauce to plates.

Optional: Season with hot red pepper flakes. This dish would also taste great tossed with pasta, pine nuts, and grated Parmesan.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring Panzanella

I bring this recipe to you fresh from the farmer's market.  There is something so magical to me about the buzz of a farmers market: both the palpable sense of community between the farmers and local shoppers and the overwhelming feeling of care about where ones food comes from makes the trip enjoyable to say the least, every time.  On this particularly rainy Sunday, I set out recreate Smitten Kitchen's Spring Panzanella, and am extremely excited to report that every fresh ingredient in this wonderful mix of fresh vegetables and homemade parmesan-crusted croutons came directly from small local farms in the New York area. And oh can you tell the difference!

Feeling anxious about your first trip to the Farmers Market? Don't, with these  6 Simple Steps to Mastering the Farmers Market by The Daily Green.  Here's a quick summary of each:
1. Do Your Homework: know what's in season.
2. Come Prepared: reusable, easily transportable bags and cash are a must.
3. Arrive Early and Shop Around: may the first to arrive win! The best selection, that is. To know whats available before you begin to buy, "do a lap before we commit to a location" (thanks Cher.)
4. Talk to the Farmers: they're the experts, and more than happy to share their knowledge!
5. Store Your Purchases Properly: Transport your produce with care, and learn how they should be stored.
6.Stay Connected: there's no better way to foster a sense of community than getting to know your farmer personally. Find out your favorites' days, and if they have multiple locations.

Also, make sure to take advantage of the Daily Green's Get Local Info tool, where you can simply plug in your zip code for instant access to local green food and recycling resources near you.

Spring Panzanella (original recipe link here)

Panzanella comes from Italy. Typically a summer salad of chunked stale bread and tomatoes tossed with oil and vinegar, this spring version features asparagus, leeks, red onions, and white beans. The parmesan-crusted croutons are dangerously addicting, and compliment the fresh crisp vegetables wonderfully. I mostly stuck to the original recipe here- I used shallots instead of red onion, and red wine vinegar instead of champagne or white wine. If you are being calorie-concious, use minimal oil in the croutons and dressing.

For the croutons:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cups day-old bread, crust removed, cubed
6 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan, plus more for garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the vinaigrette:
Half a red onion, finely diced
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons champagne or white wine vinegar
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
For the salad:
4 large leeks
2 teaspoons salt
1 pound asparagus
1 19-ounce can of white beans, rinsed and drained or 1 1/2 cups cooked white beans


Preheat oven to 400°F.
Mix the bread cubes with the garlic, olive oil, parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Toss to coat well. Transfer bread to a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake stirring once or twice, until the croutons are crisp and lightly colored on the outside but still soft within, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside and let cool.
Mix the red onion with the vinegar and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes before whisking in the remaining vinaigrette ingredients: olive oil and dijon. Set aside.
Cut off dark green tops of leeks and trim root ends. Halve each leek lengthwise to within 2 inches of root end. Rinse well under cold running water to wash away sand. Cover leeks with cold water in a 12-inch heavy skillet. Add salt and simmer leeks, uncovered, until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
Without draining the cooking water (you will reuse it for the asparagus), transfer leeks to a bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking, then pat the leeks dry with paper towels. Break off tough ends of asparagus and cook it in the boiling water until crisp-tender, no more than three minutes if they’re pencil-thin, more if your asparagus is thicker. Transfer it to another bowl of ice water, drain and pat it dry.
Cut the leeks and the asparagus each into one-inch segments–the leeks will be especially slippery and prone to separating; hold firm and use a sharp knife! Place pieces in a large bowl and mix in beans and cooled parmesan croutons. Pour vinaigrette over and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spring Orzo Salad

I made this Spring Orzo Salad recipe on Mothers Day, as it was passed on from my grandmother to my mother to me. What better way to judge a successful recipe than three generations of post-dinner party and family barbecue success? There is something undeniably perfect about the pea, olive, pepper and orzo combination; so much so that memories of this dish have stayed with me since I was a little girl. I put the recipe (handwritten on faded paper) to work today, and in its typical fashion, it received copious praise.

Spring Orzo Salad

1/2 box orzo (.5 lb)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped sweet green or red pepper
1/2 cup sliced green olives
1 tsp tarragon
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley or cilantro
1/4 cup finely chopped sweet onion
1 cup peas

Optional decoration:
1 small cucumber
tomato slices
sliced pimiento-stuffed olives

Cook orzo according to package directions.  While orzo cooks, combine olive oil, vinegar, salt & pepper, and tarragon. After orzo drains and is hot, pour dressing over top, and let cool. Fold in green/red pepper, parsley/cilantro, onion, and peas. Cover, refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
Optional decoration: At serving time, pare cucumber, cut into quarters lengthwise. Cut strips into 1/4 inch pieces, and toss with orzo mixture.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spinach-Portobello Quesadillas with Corn Salsa

As promised, my Sedona-inspired Southwestern recipe, just in time for Cinco de Mayo!

Eating Mexican food out can be tricky. Even if you skip the sour cream and cheese in attempt to create a healthier dish, vegetables can be loaded with oil and black beans even served in pig fat.  One burrito can easily contain a full day's worth of calories.  This Spinach-Portobello Quesadillas with Corn Salsa recipe loads up on fresh veggies and classic fajita spices while skipping excessive oil.  In addition, reduced-fat cheddar cheese and whole wheat tortillas prove that light Mexican isn't an oxymoron.

These quesadillas are totally versatile too: cook a batch of the filling and have dinner done for the whole week, or cut small triangles of quesadilla for an easy cocktail party appetizer.  Can't get enough corn salsa?  Mix with avocado chunks and spring greens for an easy salad. Both of these dishes are a hit every time. Buen Provecho!

Spinach-Portobello Quesadillas
Yield: 2 Quesadillas
1/2 tbsp olive oil
4 whole wheat tortillas
2 portobello mushroom caps, thinly sliced
6 cups uncooked spinach leaves
1/2 large vidalia onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 jalapeno pepper, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp chili powder
pinch of salt & pepper
1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

In a large pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cooked covered for 8 minutes, or until onions become translucent and begin to take on a caramelized look.  Add garlic and jalapeno, and cook for 2 more minutes.  Add spices, mushroom, and spinach, and cook covered for 5 minutes. (Both mushrooms and spinach retain a lot of water, so if the pan becomes too liquidy, continue to cook uncovered until the liquid evaporates.) Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Remove quesadilla filling from pan and transfer to a medium sized bowl.  Spray the same pan with a light coating of cooking spray or olive oil from a spritzer, and add one tortilla.  Cook covered on medium heat for 1 minute, flip, and cook for another minute. Remove, and do the same for the other tortilla.
Place original tortilla back in the pan and sprinkle with 1/8 cup of cheese. Cook covered for another minute, or until cheese begins to melt. Add half of the vegetable filling from the bowl, sprinkle with another 1/8 cup of cheese, and add the second tortilla on top. Press down lightly on the quesadilla with a spatula, flip, and cook for a few more minutes. Repeat the same for the other two tortillas, 1/4 cup cheese, and rest of vegetable filling.
Cut quesadillas into 8 slices, like a pizza pie. Top with Corn Salsa, and enjoy!

Corn Salsa: (serves 4)

1 15.5 oz canned corn (no salt added)
1 10.5 oz canned black beans (no salt added)
1/4 cup minced sweet onion
1/4 cup minced green pepper
1/3 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp red cider vinegar
juice of 1/2 lime (and 1/8 tsp of zest)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
salt & pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. (This is one of those recipes where the flavors taste even better after they've mixed for a day, so feel free to prepare in advance!)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Taste of Southwest from Sedona

A week of vacation in Sedona, Arizona exposed me to the amazing tastes of southwestern cuisine straight from its origins.  With an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables, plenty of spice, and the discovery of the prickly pear margarita, this food was right up my gustatory alley! I photographed some of the best dishes to share with you, in hopes that you may find some inspiration from these dishes' southwestern influence.  It also influenced my next recipe, coming soon. Enjoy!

 Skim Cappucino...perfect start to the morning

 Southwestern cobb salad: a healthy take on the traditional chopped version, which is in saturated fat overload between the bacon, blue cheese and ranch dressing. This version consisted of sun dried tomato corn, portabella mushrooms, roasted red pepper, candied pecans, cucumber, asiago cheese, and a light balsamic vinaigrette. 

 Double chocolate mousse cake...yes, this tasted as good as it looks.

 Famous Elote corn dip spiced to perfection with Cholula brand hot sauce and pure-ground red chili

 Jicama salad with grapefruit, orange and cilantro

 Miso salmon salad with napa cabbage, mango, soba noodles, and broccolini

Quinoa salad wrapped in grilled zucchini with a blackberry and caramelized onion compote

Water with soaked orange slices created hints of subtle but refreshing citrus