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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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!

Porter-Soaked Refried Beans

* Adapted from Mark Bittman’s Food Matters Cookbook *

I’m not a big recipe repeater. My dinner cravings vary week to week, so I don’t often cook something more than once. Then, a few weeks ago, I had some leftover pinto beans from a pot I’d made, so I set out to make Mark Bittman’s Refried Beans recipe I’d been meaning to try. With what I had in my fridge (bell peppers, dark beer and half an onion), I cooked up my own version. The result was a flavorful—a combination of warm spices, rich beer and the smooth texture that defines the best kind of refried beans (in my eyes). And without overselling it, I’ll just say that I made a pot of pintos this week just so I could use the leftovers for this recipe.

Ingredients:

¼ olive oil

4 cups cooked pinto beans

1 bell pepper, chopped

½ an onion, chopped

1 tablespoon of cumin

½ tablespoon of chili powder

¼ teaspoon of cayenne

kosher salt and freshly-cracked pepper

¼ cup of dark beer (such as a stout or porter), more as needed

Method:

Warm the olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan or skillet.

When the olive oil is hot, add the beans. Mash the beans with a potato masher or fork until they’re broken down and about 75% smooth, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the bell pepper and onion and stir thoroughly. Add the spices and the salt and pepper. Raise the heat slightly to medium high. Keep mashing the mixture until the vegetables have softened, about 5 more minutes.

As the mixture becomes dry, add the beer to achieve your desired consistency (I enjoy my refried beans pretty smooth).

Taste your beans, and adjust the spices to your preferences. Remove from heat, and serve.

Serving suggestions: Tucked in burritos, along side brown rice, with cilantro, Dabbed with salsa next to eggs for breakfast. Tonight, I piled them in homemade tortillas, topped with chard, cilantro pesto and hot sauce.

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?

Technicolor Salad With Meyer Lemon Dressing

See my original recipe here.

At my parent’s house in northern California, we had a Meyer lemon tree in our backyard. In elementary school, we had a “tree party” where everyone had to bring a dish made with an ingredient from a tree. Dozens of bags of chocolate were piled on the picnic table at the party, but I came carrying a jug of lemonade bigger than me. My Dad and I spent that entire morning squeezing the lemons from our tree for every last drop of juice. From that day on, the smell of the little golden orbs always makes me think of home. But enough with my sentimentality—if you’ve never had a Meyer lemon, you’re in for something special. Meyer lemons are much sweeter than your standard citrus, and are often used in baking or cocktails. I find that this sweetness works well with a fruity olive oil for the perfect salad dressing, which is how this recipe was born.

The ingredients in this salad are ones that will soak up the vinaigrette well, allowing the meal to be prepared in the morning and carried with you to campus. Feel free to sub different kinds of cabbage or other vegetables—just make sure they’re a little sturdy if you plan to make it ahead of time.

Ingredients:

Dressing

  • One half a shallot
  • Juice from one Meyer lemon (or a regular lemon plus
  • a teaspoon of sugar)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Black pepper

Salad

  • 1 cup of red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large bell pepper, any color, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup of mixed herb salad (or regular greens mixed with
  • 1/4 cup of chopped herbs of your choice)
  • 1/2 cup of kidney beans
  • Finishing salt (like Fleur De Sel)
  • Black pepper

Method

First, make the dressing (you can do this a few hours ahead of time so the shallot flavor mellows a bit). Add the shallot to a small container with a lid (I use leftover takeout holders), and squeeze the lemon juice in. Then, slowly drizzle the olive oil in, whisking as you go. Season the mixture with salt and pepper. Place the lid on the container and shake thoroughly for about 30 seconds so the mixture is smooth.

To make the salad, place the cabbage, bell pepper, greens and beans into a large bowl. Mix in the dressing with salad tongs, and season thoroughly with finishing salt and pepper. Serve as is, or take it with you to enjoy later. Serves 1–2 people.

Do Lunch With Portobello Vegan Trattoria

Photo by Saria Dy

Find my original article here

Once a dinner-only spot in Cellar Door Coffee’s space, Portobello Vegan Trattoria has really grown since its June opening in its Southeast Division location. Just this week, Portobello has opened its doors to allow vegans and Italian food lovers alike to get their fix at lunchtime, too. It’s no secret that Portland has a flourishing vegan community. But while other Portland vegan spots feel like they are missing more than animal products, Portobello has stepped on the scene to create phenomenal Italian food just right, no matter who the audience.

Lunch is now served from 11:30 to 2:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and the dishes on the menu are reminiscent of their outstanding dinner fare—just with an extreme price decrease. On the current lunch menu is a sandwich section including a Portobello mushroom frittata sandwich, and one with cashew ricotta, chard, pears and caramelized onions. Other parts of the menu include pizzas, soup and pasta—almost all in the $6 range. Since lunch is a new addition to the vegan spot, the menu will be changing and evolving in the next few weeks, according to Chef Aaron Adams.

“We folks at Portobello change the menu super often with the seasons, so keep coming back for new stuff (like big salads and some baked pastas),” reads Adams’ comment on the first lunch menu.

For those who haven’t experienced Portobello and are new to vegan food, this restaurant’s offerings are far from soy curls and tempeh nuggets. The dishes offered at Portobello are studded with fresh vegetables prepared in classic Italian style. Although they may be missing cheese, butter and meat, it doesn’t feel like a single thing has been omitted. The dishes are all flavor.

Portobello’s pizzas are prepared in a pizza oven at extremely high heat, allowing the crust to have the best amount of crisp on its edges. Traditional Italian crusts are vegan anyway, with just Caputo “00” flour, yeast, salt and water, so Portobello didn’t have to tweak their pizza recipe to vegan-ize it.

A recent pizza offering this week was the Autumn Pie, which was topped with silky butternut sauce, Brussels sprouts, chanterelle mushrooms, sage and peppers. The soft and warm fall flavors of the squash, mushrooms and sage play well with the tang and spice added by the peppers, creating a complex and interesting pizza. The single-serving pies are quite large for just $5–$7, so there’s lots of room to try new things on each visit. Other pie options come from their dinner menu, like the arrabiata, which has cherry peppers, garlic, spicy chili-fennel marinara, chili oil and Daiya “cheese.”

Daiya, for those not knowledgeable of vegan products, is a cheese substitute made from tapioca starter. And unlike many “substitutes,” Daiya imparts a smoky, creamy flavor that melts well atop the pizzas at Portobello, tasting not like a substitute, but a privilege.

Another condiment used on this menu is the cashew cream, which is drizzled atop some of the pies. In the vegan community, cashews are often ground up to make sauces reminiscent of butter (due to their creaminess), and Portobellos’ sauce resembles somewhat of a thin sour cream.

A soup recently offered (which can be added to sandwiches or pizza pies for an additional $3), was a hubbard squash soup with chanterelles and Brussels sprouts. The creamy texture of the squash thickens the soup, while highlighting the meatiness of the mushrooms—the soup feels just like autumn in a bowl.

Another standout dish on the lunch menu is the baked gnocchi with red sauce. Each dumpling is soft and flavorful, bathed in a rich marinara sauce that can likely be attributed to the Italian olive oil they use (Oleum Priorart).

Whether you are vegan or just a lover of carefully prepared Italian food, Portobello’s lunch menu is sure to make you a believer.

An Interview With NY Times author Mark Bittman

Find my original interview here

Mark Bittman writes the weekly New York Times “Minimalist” column, and is the author of multiple cookbooks. He wrote the food bible “How To Cook Everything,” as well as “Kitchen Express,” “Food Matters”and the just recently released “The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes For Better Living.” He was at Powell’s City of Books last night, and I managed to catch up with him.

Daily Vanguard: For many home cooks, including myself, you have become the go-to source for cooking. “How To Cook Everything” has become my generation’s “The Joy Of Cooking.” How did you gain so much information on food? It must have taken you years.

Mark Bittman: Well, I started cooking when I was 20 years old. It took me from when I was 22 to when I was 45 to get all the information…I began writing about food at around 29 or 30, so I had a lot of background in it. I worked very hard on it.

 

DV: Your new book states that a conversation with your doctor kick-started your new way of living and eating. Was there one moment that made you decide to share this cooking style with your readers?

MB: You know, it’s what I do, I write about this stuff. If it’s changing the way I eat or think of food, it’s going to change the way I write.

 

DV: How can home cooks who have taken on a mostly-vegan lifestyle (as you encourage in your new book) convince others to share these beliefs? How can you get them to eat the new kind of food that they’re not used to?

MB: Well, the first question, I have no clue. What I can say is that we eat vegan meals all the time—spaghetti is vegan food, salad is usually mostly vegan food, it’s not like there’s no one who doesn’t ever eat vegan. You just have to keeping talking and telling them this is the way things are things are going to get better, by eating more plants. As for getting people to eat your food; well, cook it so it tastes good. If you’re nice enough to cook them good food, people should appreciate that no matter what it is.

 

DV: Is there a meal or snack have you been making nonstop lately?

MB: I was obsessed with spaghetti and fresh tomato sauce for a while at the end of tomato season. These days, I’m interested in soba noodles, in a Dashi broth. I’ve been preparing it all kinds of strange ways; I’m still playing with it.

 

DV: I have found that your recipes have a very distinct voice. Do you believe that a recipe can have a tone to match its writer?

MB: Well, first of all, thank you. You’ve answered your own question though, I think. I’ve worked hard to learn how to write recipes and have a clear have voice that feels like me. I write the way I speak. Recipes deserve to be treated like real literature, and I try not to write them like a technical manual. It matters the way it’s written.

 

DV: You are one of the few food writers famous for cooking-based writing, instead of restaurant reviews. Do you see a future for more food journalists in your field?

MB: Well, I’m certainly not the first one to do this. I sure hope so—this is an honored field—it was at its low when I started doing it, and I sure hope more people can. I hate to say it, but chefs don’t write great recipes. Journalist and writers do it well, and I think they should.

 

DV: Do you think there will be more Food Matters-style cookbooks in your future or perhaps a column with that focus?

MB: I think that’s the way I’ll be cooking in the future, so it’s what I’ll be writing. “Cooking Matters” is not the last word for me or anyone else. Lessmeatarian, semi-vegan, whatever you want to call it, the movement is new and I think we’re going to start seeing a change.

 

Bittman’s new book, “The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes For Better Living,” is in stores now.