INCREDIBLY SIMPLE: CRUNCHY ASPARAGUS

For a few years I’ve been blogging on recipes that are almost too simple to call as such (see them all here), but tasty enough to sit side by side in a blog with more elaborate concoctions. Normally I like to wait until I have several “incredibly simple” items to share in a single post, but spring is almost here, asparagus season is knocking at the door, and this recipe was too good to keep it a secret for much longer. I made it three times in two weeks. The delicate crunch on these babies? I am seriously in love.

INCREDIBLY SIMPLE CRUNCHY ASPARAGUS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

a bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed
olive oil
lemon juice
salt & pepper
Herbes de Provence
1/3 cup almond meal

Heat oven to 425 F.

Mix enough olive oil and lemon juice (half and half) to give enough liquid to coat the asparagus well.  Add salt, pepper, Herbes de Provence to the mixture, eye-balling is totally fine.

Place the asparagus on a tray, pour the seasoned olive oil mixture over them, and move to coat well.

Place the almond meal in a separate tray, drop the asparagus coated in olive oil over it, move gently to make the almond meal stick to the surface.

Arrange them on a single layer on a baking dish covered with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Roast for 12 minutes, shaking them a bit halfway through.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Really hard to imagine a simpler recipe. Well, of course, you can omit the almond meal coating and still get excellent roasted asparagus that way. But this very minor additional step sends this side dish to a whole other level of deliciousness.

Change things around by using other spices, although you risk masking the flavor of the veggie itself. Still, if you are in the mood for it, add cayenne, smoked paprika, sumac (oh, that would be great), play with the whole concept and make it yours. Whatever you do, do not omit the lemon juice.

ONE YEAR AGO: A Sourdough Quartet

TWO YEARS AGO: When bad things happen to good people

THREE YEARS AGO: Sweet Potato “Hummus”

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Crust Pizza

FIVE YEARS AGO: Silky Rutabaga Puree

SIX YEARS AGO: Bon Bon Chicken: Light and Spectacular

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Red Wine Sourdough Bread with Cranberries

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Award-Winning Sourdough Baguettes

NINE YEARS AGO: Country Rye (Tartine)

TEN YEARS AGO: Penne a la Vechia Bettola

 

PICKLING RIBBONS

A couple of weeks ago we went out for dinner and I ordered a salad that  was surprisingly good. I don’t normally expect to be impressed by a salad, but that was the case. What made it so good was a simple ingredient: ribbons of pickled carrots. I got home, took a virtual ride to Google University, and found out I could double the carrot pleasure by using it also in the dressing.  Very pleased with this salad which was hearty enough to almost call it dinner. Almost. Because some boneless chicken breasts were also involved.

CARROT RIBBON SALAD
(inspired by several sources)

for pickled carrot ribbons:
(slightly modified from Chocolate and Zucchini)
2 large carrots
1 tsp grated ginger
120 ml (1/2 cup) apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 + 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 + 1/2 teaspoons sugar

Peel the carrots and, using the vegetable peeler, cut them into thin ribbons. Place the ribbons in a heatproof bowl.

Combine the ginger, vinegar, salt, sugar, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. When the mixture boils, stir to make sure the sugar and salt are dissolved.

Pour the ginger brine through a sieve and into the bowl of carrots. Make sure the carrots are completely immersed, cover and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to a clean jar, close tightly with the lid and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

for carrot dressing:
1/2 cup chopped raw carrots (include leftover from making ribbons)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon minced ginger 2 tablespoons (30 mL) fresh orange juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a blender, puree the carrots with the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, and ginger. Thin with a little cold water if too thick. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

for the salad:
(use as much of each ingredient as you like)
baby romaine leaves
slivered almonds, toasted
a couple of avocados, diced

Add the ingredients to a large bowl, add the carrot dressing and mix well, but gently. Drain the pickled carrot ribbons, and place on top.

Serve with your protein of choice, or a bowl of grains if you prefer to go the vegetarian route.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

I don’t know about you, but at this time of the year, when I just about had it with the weather, a platter of colorful food lifts my mood. Pickled carrots will be here to stay.  I’ve been keeping a small jar in the fridge for my own pleasure. It seems to go well with lots of main dishes, and the texture only gets better with time. Make sure to shave them thin, and probably best to avoid that central harder core. Just turn the carrot around and start from the other side.

I totally forgot to take a picture of the dressing, it ended up with a shockingly bright yellow color, really beautiful. If you like pickled foods, I hope you’ll give this salad a try. Just remember that it is not good manners to steal all the ribbons to your own plate.

ONE  YEAR AGO: Green Beans and Carrots with Spicy Almonds

TWO YEAR AGO: Quiche 101

THREE YEARS AGO: Persian Butternut Squash Soup

FOUR YEARS AGO: Walnut Cranberry Sourdough Bread

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi in Brazil?

SIX YEARS AGO: Roasted Winter Vegetables with Miso-Lime Dressing

SEVEN YEARS AGO: 2012 Fitness Report: P90X2

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Caramelized Bananas

NINE YEARS AGO: Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette

TEN YEARS AGO: Whole Wheat Bread

IVORY LENTILS, MY NEWFOUND LOVE

In May last  year I read a very interesting blog post by Mimi, in which she shared a Mediterranean salad recipe using Ivory Lentils. Are they white lentils? Well, not really. They are the center of a black bean found in India and known as “urad dal.” I was intrigued, and knew that at some point I had to amazon-it. Because, obviously, the chances of finding ivory lentils in our neck of the woods are essentially zero. Finally I can share my first adventure with this product. I absolutely loved them, but must warn you they do not taste anything like lentils. Or beans. They are quite unique and remind me more of a grain such as barley. Which is pure gastronomic joy in my book.

IVORY LENTILS WITH CHICKPEAS AND BLACK OLIVES
(inspired by Chef Mimi)

1 cup ivory lentils, soaked for 4 hours

for the dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1/2 small lemon
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste

for the veggies:
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
olive oil to coat chickpeas
salt and smoked paprika to taste
2 celery ribs, diced
1/2 cup artichoke hearts marinated in oil
1/3 cup black kalamata olives, pitted
a few sundried tomatoes, sliced thin

After soaking the ivory lentils, cook them in a large volume of salted boiling water for about 20 minutes, until tender. Skim the surface every few minutes. Drain, and reserve to cool (if serving as a salad).

Roast or air-fry the chickpeas coated in olive oil and seasoned with salt and paprika.  Reserve.

Make a dressing whisking all the ingredients together. If the sundried tomatoes are too hard, let them soak in the dressing for a few minutes. If they are soft, simply mix them with the cooked lentils and all other ingredients.  Place in a serving bowl, and serve immediately.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Some recipes do not call for soaking ivory lentils, but I decided to follow Mimi’s advice. I am glad I did, because they foamed a lot even after soaking for hours and changing the water for cooking. Maybe they cook fast enough without the soaking step, but if you have the time, do it.

This exact preparation would work very well warm, so consider skipping the cooling time and just mixing everything together as soon as the lentils are drained. Leftovers are equally tasty at room temperature or briefly warmed in the microwave.

I get so excited when I find a new ingredient to play with! I already have another recipe to try using these beautiful “lentils”, one that takes them in the direction of a flatbread… Intrigued? Stick around…

You can order and read more about ivory lentils with a click here.

ONE YEAR AGO: Bouillabaise for a Chilly Evening

TWO YEARS AGO: Bergamot-Cherry Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Veggies with Queso Cotija Dressing

FOUR YEARS AGO: Creamy Broccoli and Mushroom Casserole

FIVE YEARS AGO: Maple Walnut Biscotti

SIX YEARS AGO: Barley Risotto with Peas

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Oatmeal Fudge Bars

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Cauliflower Steaks

NINE YEARS AGO: Soft Spot for Chevre

TEN YEARS AGO: Quick sun-dried Tomato Crostini

SWEET POTATOES WITH TAHINI SAUCE

As some of you might know, I don’t like to apply the word “healthy” to a recipe. Just a pet peeve of mine. But it is hard to resist using it in this case. Sweet potatoes are full of nutrients that are good for you, and in this preparation they get the right amount of luscious that makes them almost festive. Cutting them into wedges makes them cook faster, so no problem considering this side dish for a weeknight meal.

SWEET POTATOES WITH TAHINI SAUCE
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled, cut in wedges
olive oil to coat potatoes
salt and pepper to taste
4 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon honey
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp sesame oil
water to thin sauce (adjust to your liking)
toasted sesame seeds to sprinkle over sauce

Heat oven to 400 F.

Coat the potatoes with olive oil, season lightly with salt and pepper. Try to massage the oil around them, so they are well coated. Spread them in a single layer over a baking dish covered with aluminum foil. Roast them for 15 minutes, move them around and roast for 10 to 15 minutes more, until fully cooked and starting to get golden brown at the edges.

Prepare the sauce by mixing all ingredients together and whisking very well.  The sauce will thicken as it sits, so don’t make it too thick to start with.

Place the potatoes on a serving dish, spoon the sauce over, and finish with toasted sesame seeds.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I think tahini and sweet potatoes are another example of a match made in Nirvana. Save any sauce leftover and use it over other veggies like broccoli, or drizzled over roasted salmon (yes, another a bit unusual but nice move for tahini).

I visualize this recipe again, with some pomegranate seeds added to this party. Color and freshness never hurt.

ONE YEAR AGO: 30-Hour Leg of Lamb with Mashed Sweet Potatoes

TWO YEARS AGO: Maple-Grilled Pork Tenderloin over Lemony Zucchini

THREE YEARS AGO: Danish Rye Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: The Best Sourdough Recipe

FIVE YEARS AGO: Mini-Quiches with Duxelles and Baby Broccoli

SIX YEARS AGO: Quinoa and Sweet Potato Cakes

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Bolo de Fuba’ Cremoso

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Citrus-crusted Tilapia Filets

NINE YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, not just for Hippies

TEN YEARS AGO: Flourless Chocolate Cake

 

 

PEARLED FARRO WITH ASPARAGUS COINS

A few years ago I posted a pasta recipe using tiny little asparagus coins as a component of the sauce. The other day I decided to roast them and ended up with a side dish that won me over. Added bonus: it is super fast to prepare. Pearled farro cooks a lot faster than the regular grain, and I did not detect any loss in flavor or texture. If you find it in your grocery store, stock on a few bags.

PEARLED FARRO WITH ROASTED ASPARAGUS COINS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

3/4 cup pearled farro
asparagus stalks, cut in very small rounds
2 Tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Herbes de Provence
squirt of lemon juice

Heat oven to 420F.

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the farro, cook for 15 to 20 minutes. If you like it with a bit more bite, check at 15 minutes and if it’s done to your liking, drain and reserve.

Meanwhile coat the asparagus coins with olive oil, season with salt, pepper, and Herbes de Provence, amounts are flexible, just go with your intuition. For a regular size asparagus bundle I used 1/4 tsp Herbes de Provence.

Place the asparagus in a single layer in a baking dish covered with aluminum foil to facilitate clean-up. Roast for about 15 minutes moving it around the baking sheet.  When they are done, squirt some lemon juice, adjust seasoning and mix with the warm farro.  Serve right away. Leftovers are great also. Even cold as a salad.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Many variations are possible here. If you don’t want to roast the asparagus coins, simply sautee them quickly in olive oil plus all the spices. Because the coins are so tiny, they cook very fast, so doing the top of the stove method, they can be ready in 5 minutes for sure. The roasted version has slightly more intense flavor. The second picture shows a similar approach (top of the stove), but using zucchini. Also very delicious.

I use farro a lot, but was a bit unsure about trying the pearled version, thinking it would not be nearly as good. I was wrong. It is a way to make farro a suitable option for a fast side dish after a busy day in the lab.

I hope you’ll give this simple recipe a try.

ONE YEAR AGO: Pistachio Caramel and Apple Mousse Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Someone turns 70 today!

THREE YEARS AGO: Carioca Cake, the Final Chapter

FOUR YEARS AGO: Duck Confit for a Special Occasion

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ken Forkish’s Warm Spot Sourdough 

SIX YEARS AGO: Bran Muffins, Rainbows, and a wonderful surprise!

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

NINE YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

TEN YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

 

ROAST VEGGIES WITH BLACK BARLEY

Black sesame, black barley…  What can I say? Love them both, although black barley is not always available in our stores. Online I see what seems to be the exact same product described as “purple barley” and pretty expensive by comparison to the product I find here at Hy-Vee. I love the way it looks and it seems to be slightly more chewy and perhaps a bit more bitter than regular barley. In this recipe, I paired it with my current favorite way to roast all kinds of veggies.  It all started with carrots

ROAST BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND CAULIFLOWER WITH BLACK BARLEY
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

(use enough veggies to cover a baking sheet in a single layer)
Butternut squash, cut in 1 inch pieces
Cauliflower florets sliced to have a flat side
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp rose harissa
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp salt
lemon juice to taste
1 cup barley

Heat oven to 425F.

In a large bowl, mix together the olive oil, harissa, paprika, pomegranate molasses and salt.  Add the veggies to the bowl and toss well to combine. Spread on a baking sheet, add a tablespoon or two of water, cover with foil and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and roast for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until nicely golden brown.

Meanwhile cook the barley. Fill a large saucepan with lightly salted water, when it comes to a boil drop the barley and cook gently until soft. It should take between 30 and 40 minutes. I prefer to retain some texture. Drain it, coat lightly with olive oil and reserve.

Remove the veggies from the oven, add some lemon juice and serve over the cooked barley. Adjust seasoning if needed.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I love this type of recipe, it “almost” makes me feel that becoming a vegetarian would be possible. Almost is the key word, though. I rather embrace my omnivore nature. Leftovers? You know I always cook dinner with leftovers in mind, and more often than not I pair them with another favorite food item of mine.

Lunch is served!

ONE YEAR AGO: Creamy Chicken Thighs with Sun-dried Tomatoes


TEN YEARS AGO:
 Magical Lamb Stew

MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD

I love carrots but have a problem with eating them raw, cannot quite wrap my mind around the harsh texture. In fact, when I see carrot sticks playing as crackers next to a nice bowl of hummus, I feel a bit sad. In this salad, raw carrots are grated and mellowed down by spending some time in a nice dressing with one of my favorite ingredients, pomegranate molasses.  It is absolutely delicious, and even a person with my anti-raw carrot approach will love it. Trust me.

MOROCCAN CARROT SALAD
(adapted from many sources)

2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 tsp smoked paprika
Kosher salt
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup dried dates, thinly sliced
1 pound carrots, peeled and shredded
3/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup pitted green olives, chopped
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

Prepare the dressing by mixing in a bowl the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, turmeric, paprika and salt.  Pour the olive oil whisking constantly. Add the chopped dates. Reserve while you process the carrots.

Shred the carrots in a food processor or grating by hand.  Add the carrots and olives to the dressing/dates mixture, and mix well. Leave it to stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Add the toasted almonds, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds on top, adjust seasoning and serve.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Cannot praise this simple salad enough. One of the things I love most about it is that it is still good next day. How many salads stand an overnight sleep in the fridge? Not that many. Well, maybe if you have more rabbit genes than me, you could find the texture next day a bit too soft, but I doubt it. Still delicious. Pomegranate molasses brings the right amount of sharpness and sweetness, it all goes together beautifully. And don’t skip the pomegranate seeds, they please the eyes and the palate!

Between writing this post and publishing it, I made this salad again. Second time around I used Ras-El-Hanout instead of turmeric, skipped the paprika, and added thinly sliced green apples instead of green olives. Another version, same deliciousness…

 

ONE YEAR AGO: Pumpkin Sourdough

TWO YEARS AGO: First Monday Favorite

THREE YEARS AGO: Secret Recipe Club: Paalak Paneer, a Farewell Post

FOUR YEARS AGO: In My Kitchen, November 2015

FIVE YEARS AGO: Helen Fletcher’s Oatmeal Cookies

SIX YEARS AGO: Thai-Style Pesto with Brown Rice Pasta

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Shrimp with Spicy Orange Sauce

EIGHT YEARS AGO:  A Simple Appetizer (Baked Ricotta)

NINE YEARS AGO: Sour Cream Sandwich Bread

TEN YEARS AGO: Pasta with Zucchini Strands and Shrimp