Tip of The Week: Utilize Your Freezer

downloadThis week’s kitchen tip is brought to you by…your freezer. No, I’m not someone that has quarts of homemade chicken stock tucked away between my bags of frozen blueberries and peas. Though I definitely admire those who do. My kind of freeze-planning ahead usually comes from having too much of something or not wanting it to go bad right away. Here are the 4 things I usually have lurking somewhere in my freezer:

Ginger

Ever had a nubby little ginger root go bad on you in one week flat? Your freezer can prevent this. Simply cut off the end of one side of the root so the interior is exposed and pop it in a small ziplock. Then, use your microplane or small holes on a cheese grater to zest ginger into smoothies or stir-fries.

Lentils

This has saved my work lunches for more than a year now. On a slow Sunday I make some variation of this lentil recipe and then freeze 1/4 cup amounts small Ziploc bags. Then, all I have to do is pack a kale salad and grab a bag of frozen lentils on my way out the door. At lunchtime, I microwave the lentils on a plate for about a minute and pop them on top of my salad so I can still have something warm to eat on the coldest days.

Grains

As I write this, I’m currently eating a salad enhanced by some farro I cooked months ago and  popped into bags the same way I do with lentils. You can do this with rice, barley, or any other grain, too. Just expect a little bit chewier texture than it’s original form.

Bananas

Is a bundle of bananas on your counter starting to freckle? Take off their peels, cut them in any size (or not), and to the freezer they go. Now you have a way to make your smoothies sweet and creamy whenever you need them.

That’s all for now, have a great weekend, and eat well!

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Tangy Kale Salad With Dates & Toasted Nuts

This salad has become my go-to work lunch lately. It’s fast to prepare—you don’t even need to dirty a knife—it takes on additions well (sometimes I add garlic or anchovies), and it’s filling enough to hold me through the day.

I often switch out the toasted nuts for whatever I have on hand (walnuts, sliced almonds, slivered almonds, etc.). The only important part is that you toast the nuts. It doesn’t take long, just a few minutes in a skillet on medium low until they change color a bit and they start to smell delightful. Oh, and if you do decide to use minced garlic, go with half a clove—for the sake of your coworkers.

Ingredients

1/2 bundle of curly kale

1 tablespoon of olive oil

2 tablespoons of wine vinegar (I like white)

10 or so toasted nuts (walnuts, sliced or slivered almonds, etc.)

5 pitted dates

Salt and fresh ground pepper

Method

Take the kale bundle and use your fingers to tear the leaves into bite sized pieces. Put all the pieces in a to-go container or the bowl you’ll be using.

Add the oil and massage it into the leaves with your fingers, then do the same with the vinegar. Do one tablespoon, mix, then the other.

Add the nuts (feel free to add beans here for more protein if you like), and then tear the dates into pieces and toss them into the mixture as well. Season aggressively with salt and pepper and let it marinate for a few hours if you can.

What’s your go-to packable lunch?

Rustic White Beans With Spinach (Or, Leftovers In A Ziplock Bag)

I love the surprises that come from my leftovers. This recipe was born from a slightly barren fridge and a lack of to-go containers. It’s perfect for work consumption, works well from cooking ahead (try making the beans and sauce in big batches on Sunday), but also would be equally successful from twisting open a jar of marinara and a can of beans-all a matter of preference. This recipe, which is sweet from the tomatoes and toothsome from the beans, is comforting and healthful at the same time.

Speaking of, you may notice a lack of holiday recipes on my site, and it’s intentional. There are so many cookie recipes, dips for parties, cakes, fudges, etc. being covered everywhere that I like to cover the other 24 days of the holiday season. Recipes when you want uncomplicated and flavorful meals that aren’t for your in-laws (not to mention I’m a horrendous baker).

Ingredients

1 cup of white beans (cooked from scratch or canned)

2 cups of red sauce (recipe below or your favorite jarred kind)

2 huge handfuls of spinach

2 slices of bread for toast

Method:

If you’re taking this meal with you, simply load all the ingredients except the bread in a large ziplock bag or to-go container. When you’re ready to eat, microwave for three minutes or simmer on your stove at medium heat for 10-15. Serve with your favorite toasted bread drizzled with olive oil for scooping.

My Go-To Red Sauce

1/4 cup olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, minced

3/4 lb button mushrooms

Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

1 bay leaf

2 cans of whole tomatoes

Method:

Warm the oil in a large saucepan at medium heat. Add the onion and saute until soft, about eight minutes. Toss in the garlic and stir until fragrant, about one minute. Add the mushrooms and spices, stirring for about six minutes until lightly browned and some of the juices have released. Don’t be afraid to go crazy with the black pepper here-it’s the base of your sauce so it’ll pay off later in flavor after simmering away on your stove.

Next, open your cans of tomatoes and get messy–squeeze each tomato  with your hands in the pot (low so you don’t spill on yourself, which I have a habit of doing), or squish with a potato masher. Add the remaining tomato liquid and the bay leaf, and bring the sauce to a simmer at medium low heat. Now, walk away. The longer it cooks, the chunkier the sauce will be, my ideal time is about 30-40 minutes. When your sauce is at the consistency of your liking, fish out the bay leaf and serve.

Note: You can play with the flavors by adding wine, tomato paste, etc. based on what recipe you’re using the sauce for-this is just a base, make it your own!

Très Affordable

Find my published version of this article in the Vanguard  here

In the past year, Portland’s French scene has grown significantly, with three new spots

Photo by Saria Dy

popping up in various corners of town: there’s downtown’s Little Bird, North Portland’s Cocotte and St. Jack on Southeast Clinton. It’s hard not to feel left out when your slightly slim wallet won’t allow you to try them all in the same month—not to mention keeping up with old favorites like Paley’s Place. Yet, it’s important to remember that while some parts of France are stereotyped (or known for) their big attitudes, good French food is not actually about ego or even about being expensive. Simplicity and quality ingredients are all you need to enjoy a fabulous French meal, in your home or at a restaurant. Here are three ways to consume French excellence without having to pay a Paris-sized bill.

Evoe

This appendage to specialty food shop Pastaworks doesn’t primarily serve French dishes, but their food holds the true spirit of the cuisine. The chefs at Evoe build sandwiches from the fresh produce, carefully crafted charcuterie and array of cheeses from the next-door shop in an uncomplicated yet careful way. Sitting belly up to the counter or at the few sparse tables in the room, you’ll sip rosé while the sun pours in through the window that you will use to spy on Hawthorne shoppers. Each sandwich is elegant and intelligently built; rarely do you leave feeling uncomfortably stuffed.

What to mange: The Parisienne sandwich (thinly sliced ham on a light-as-air baguette) or croque madame (open-faced sandwich with a fried egg and a dab of creamy Mornay sauce).

Price: $7–10

3731 SE Hawthorne Blvd.

Open Wednesday–Sunday, noon–7 p.m.

503-232-1010

Chez You

While it’s always fun to go out and let others cook for you, sometimes the best way to eat French is to cook French. I’m not saying you need to pull out every recipe in Julia Childs’ “Mastering The Art Of French Cooking,” but you’d be surprised what a quick jaunt to the market will do for even the shyest of home cooks. Head to Whole Foods, grab a Ken’s Artisan Bakery baguette, some good cheeses and perhaps a hard cider and take them home to enjoy. If you have some extra cash, asking the deli to thinly slice you a little ham wouldn’t hurt either.

What to mange: Ken’s Artisan Bakery Baguette, Le carrer d’affnois (ridiculously creamy double brie) and some Gruyere for good measure.

Price:$7–12

Whole Foods Market

1250 NW Couch St.

Open 7 a.m.–10 p.m., seven days a week

503-525-4343

St. Jack

Amongst the new French garçons in town, St. Jack stands out. With lovely mood lighting and a classy bar seating area complete with photos of stunning French actresses from the past, happy hour feels a whole lot more elegant than PBR and onion rings. The happy hour menu at St. Jack carries dishes for seafood enthusiasts and carnivores alike. To start, try the butter-lettuce salad, carefully dressed with Dijon vinaigrette and tossed with hunks of avocado and thinly sliced radishes. Later, you can get a decently sized bowl of light broth, creamy clams—each stuffed with garlic—that’s served with French bread for dipping. The burger is over-the-top-memorable with a juicy patty, lardons (for $1 extra) and Gruyere, dabbed with a slightly spicy mustard sauce to balance the richness. On the side are parsley-sprinkled frites with a generous amount of aioli for dunking.

What to mange:Le Hamburger with

Gruyere & bacon

Price:$13-15

2039 SE Clinton St.

Happy Hour: Monday–Saturday 4–5:30 p.m.

503-360-1281

Israeli Couscous With Dijon Thyme Sauce

Find my published version of this article in the Vanguard here

I’ll admit it—I’m a little bit of a homer. Since I grew up in California, I instantly love

Photo by Karl Kuchs

101cookbooks.com author Heidi Swanson from San Francisco. I’ve been addicted to the recipes from her recent book, “Supernatural Everyday,” since I bought it less than a month ago.

And then, I like to claim my Oregon side as well—which explains my devotion to Bob\’s Red Mill and all of his whole-grain products. From steel-cut oats to farina, the man has not let me down with solid, reliable ingredients.

The following recipe is a middle ground between these two devotions I have—Swanson’s book has a popcorn recipe with a similar dressing, and I used the Israeli couscous from Bob’s Red Mill (also known as pearl couscous). Wherever you come from, this dish is flavorful with its tangy herb-flecked dressing and ridiculously simple to put together. And of course, it highlights the best parts of the West Coast.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Israeli couscous, preferably whole wheat
  • 1/4 cup mixed herbs (I like chives, thyme and parsley)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 large cucumber, sliced
  • 1 cup of spinach, torn into pieces
  • Coarse salt (like fleur de sel) and freshly ground pepper

Bring 1 1/4 cup of water to a boil. Salt the water and stir in the couscous. Let the couscous simmer covered until it’s al dente or until the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small glass, whisk together the herbs, Dijon and olive oil.

In a large bowl, toss together the spinach, cucumbers, cooked couscous and the dressing. Season the salad liberally with salt and pepper. Serves one to two.


Soba Noodles With Cilantro Pesto, Mint, and Spinach

find my original article here

As the weather heats up (it will eventually, right?) our tastes for dinner may shift from

Photo by Karl Kuchs

rich, meaty casseroles to lighter fare. The following recipe is quick to pull together with a little help from store-bought cilantro pesto (I like Pesto Outside The Box at the PSU farmers market), and it is still incredibly flavorful. If you have more time, make your own pesto: blend one bundle of cilantro, 1/4 cup walnuts or pistachios and 1/4 cup of olive oil until chunky. Then fold in 1/4 cup of grated Parmesan and proceed with the recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 package soba noodles or whole-wheat spaghetti
  • 1/2 cup frozen shelled edamame
  • 2 cups spinach, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup cilantro pesto
  • 2 tablespoons mint, torn into pieces

Method

Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Meanwhile, place edamame in a small bowl or mug and cover with about one cup of water. Microwave the edamame on high until soft, about three to five minutes.

When the water is boiling in your saucepan, add the soba noodles and cook according to package directions. You will know your noodles are done when they are floating at the top of the pot—careful, soba cooks a little faster

than pasta.

When the edamame are done, drain in a pasta strainer. Drain the cooked soba noodles in the same strainer. Rinse the noodles in lukewarm water so they cool a bit, and spread the noodles with your fingers to prevent clumping.

Next, take a large bowl and add half the spinach. Toss in the soba noodles and edamame and then half the pesto with tongs. Sprinkle in the torn mint and toss again. Then add the rest of the spinach and pesto and toss once more so everything is evenly coated with pesto. Serves one to two people.

Blades of Grass Asparagus Salad

See my original recipe here

photo by Karl Kuchs

With the recent arrival of the farmers market in my neighborhood, I know many will be taking home green stalks of asparagus to roast away in the oven, as we all seem to do every spring. However, why not update the classic dish?

Shaving asparagus changes the texture to thin whispers of freshness that look beautiful in the bowl. To shave them, simply hold each asparagus by its woody end and use a vegetable peeler to shave strands away from your body. The textures will vary, but shoot for thicker stalks in this recipe since they give the opportunity for more salad. As for the fennel in this recipe, you can use a vegetable peeler as well—though you’d want to shave towards your body instead—or simply slice thinly with a knife or mandoline. This salad is a great light lunch or one can serve it under scallops or chicken breast for a pretty spring dinner.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of walnuts
  • 1/2 bundle of asparagus
  • 1/4 of a bulb of fennel
  • 2 tablespoons of mixed minced herbs (chives, parsley
  • and mint are a nice combination)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel fronds
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground pepper

Preparation

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place walnuts on a baking sheet and let them toast while you prepare the other ingredients.

Shave the asparagus stalks and add to a bowl. Thinly slice or shave the fennel and add to the same bowl.

In a small cup or bowl, add the herbs and fennel fronds. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking with a fork until the mixture is well combined. Season the dressing with salt and pepper.

Remove the walnuts from the oven after 6–8 minutes, or when warm and slightly toasted.

Add the walnuts to the salad and toss in the dressing with tongs. Serves 1–2 people.

How to you like to cook your asparagus?