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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Spinach Salad with Toasted Nuts, Asparagus and Roasted Beet Chips

I've always completely understood Popeye's fascination with spinach. Now, its true that what Popeye ate seemed to look like an amorphous heap of green goo that claimed to be spinach, but in reality, spinach is so versatile and healthy that I never grow tired of it and, between you and me, I eat my way through huge 3 pound bags of baby spinach weekly (unfortunately, a lot does not go a long way when you steam it so it is pretty easy to chow through that much spinach). Steamed. Sauteed. Raw. Baked. YUM.

(My 5-year old niece recently sang me a song she had learned at school about hating soggy greens, but all I could think of was how much I adore steaming a huge pot of spinach and serving it with a squeeze of lemon juice and spritz of apple cider vinegar...try it!)

Now, what I have never been known to like is beets. Beets. Deep red, messy beets that dye everything it touches and seem too messy to even bother. But then a friend of mine stayed at my apartment, went to my local farmers market and suddenly there were beets in my refrigerator that she had left behind with a recommendation on how she likes to prepare them. And every time I opened up the fridge in the next two days, there they were--sitting there, sad and lonely. Ok, fine. Beets it is. Here is where i have to admit to my friend (and you) that I followed her recommendation (sort of) and made a delicious (and I mean taaaaasty) meal using those beets...

It is easy to prepare, super healthy and the combination of flavors in this salad is most definitely a happy accident...


* 1/2 cup of raw, unsalted mixed nuts (I used almonds, cashews and peanuts, although I highly recommend adding a small handful of salted marcona almonds)
* 4 or 5 cups of raw spinach (thoroughly washed)
* 8-10 spears of asparagus, cut into 4 inch segments
* 1/2 cup edamame, shelled
* 3 beets, washed and peeled and thinly sliced
* 3-4 sprigs of fresh rosemary (leaves taken off the twig and chopped)
* 1/2 tsp. of coarse flakes of sea salt (or to taste)
* 2 Tbsp. olive oil


* Place the thinly sliced beets on a baking tray, drizzle half of the olive oil over it and sprinkle some of the chopped rosemary on top on them and bake in the oven at 425 degrees for about 20-25 minutes (careful not to burn them--you want them to be thin and crispy on the outside with a little bit of soft give when you bite into them). Note: the beets pictured here were cut a little too thick and I wished I had used a mandolin to ensure thin wafers.

* Lightly toast the mixed nuts and set aside.

* Blanche the asparagus segments for 30 seconds in boiling water, strain and then sautee them with the edamame beans on high heat with the remaining 1 Tbsp. of olive oil for about 2 or 3 minutes (you want them to brown a little bit without overcooking the asparagus, which should retain a slight crunch for the salad!). Sprinkle the flakes of salt over the asparagus and edamame just before you plate it.

* Put the spinach on the bottom and top with the asparagus and edamame mixture, toasted nuts and surround with the beautifully-colored baked beet chips!

Serving suggestion: I used a simple balsamic vinaigrette on my salad, but just about any salad dressing would be fabulous on this salad!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Guessing Game

Before I digress into a tirade about where I have been these past couple of weeks and what I have been eating, can you guess what these little gems are??

[UPDATE]: I am amused that these weird little things might be believed to be alien pods....but someone guessed it--they are actually papaya seeds, which is probably the obvious giveaway that I have been in Hawaii for the past week! Oh, and after careful and considerable deliberation, papaya is, in fact, my #1 favorite fruit!

My ideal breakfast would be 3 or 4 whole papayas (yes, I would eat that many at one time) with slices of apple bananas and a squeeze of fresh lime juice....

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Supper Club: Jewish Cuisine

You have been so patient waiting for recipes that I decided to do a rewarding post with multiple recipes by letting you in on a little "event" I do that involves creating full menus with various courses and executing them all in one evening for company: Supper Club.

We have a couple of vegetarian friends that we get together with regularly for said Supper Club (it's fun because I really enjoy hosting and appreciate the opportunity to see my friends regularly to do something fun and creative). We usually pick a theme for the food (Japanese, Mexican, Chinese, French, Carribean, Mediterranean, Spanish, etc.) and trade off on who cooks while the guests are generally in charge of dessert and drinks...Sometimes cooking vegetarian necessitates a deviation from authenticity in certain ethnic dishes, but it forces me to be more creative with the recipes, which is always a welcome challenge! (Note: all of the recipes below can easily be adapted to be vegan!)

It was my turn to cook for this Supper Club...Theme: Jewish food! The menu: Potato Latkes with Applesauce and Sour Cream, Vegetarian Matzoh Ball Soup, Vegetarian Golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls) and Challah bread.

Potato Latkes with Applesauce and Sour Cream--Latkes are delicious potato pancakes that are usually made from grated potatoes, grated onion, egg, flour and salt...of course, there are countless variations (you could even try adding grated parsnips for a unique twist) but I went for a simple, authentic recipe...Now, if this is your first time making Latkes, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get all of the excess moisture and water out of the grated potatoes and onion before frying them if you want to avoid a watery disaster!


* 1 or 2 large russet potatoes (a nice starchy potato is best for latkes), peeled and grated
* 1 medium onion, grated
* 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
* 1 large egg, beaten
* 1/4 cup flour
* 1/2 tsp. salt (sea salt or kosher salt)
* canola oil for frying


* Grate potatoes and onion.
* Add lemon juice and mix.
* Working in small batches, place scoops of the potato onion mixture in a dry paper towel and squeeze out as much liquid as you can.
* Add egg, flour and salt and mix thoroughly.
* Heat oil in a shallow fry pan over medium high heat.
* Use about 2 tablespoons of mixture per latke and flatten it into small round shapes for about 3-5 minutes or until golden brown.
* Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 3-4 minutes more.
* Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with kosher salt.

Serving Suggestion: Latkes are traditionally served with applesauce and sour cream (I use fat free greek style plain yogurt instead). (As a side note, I was recently mortified to find that many brands of applesauce are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which, to me, is just yucky and unnatural, so I recommend looking for an all natural, organic brand that will generally list apples and water and sometimes ascorbic acid--Vitamin C--as the ingredients).

Vegetarian Matzo Ball Soup--Matzo Ball Soup is traditionally made with chicken stock and chicken, but it can easily be made vegetarian and is one of my favorite comfort foods.


* 1 package Matzo Ball Mix (prepare Matzo balls according to directions on package)
* Vegetable stock (I prefer to make my own homemade stock)
* 1 medium onion, chopped
* 2 or 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
* 2 celery stalks, diced
* parsley (optional)
* 1 tsp. oil (canola or olive)


* Sautee onion and celery in oil for about 3-4 minutes.
* Add carrots and cook another 3 minutes or so.
* Add stock and bring to a boil--let cook for about 15 minutes.
* Add parsley.
* Use a ladle to gently lower matzo balls into the soup.
* Cook another 3-5 minutes and serve immediately.

Vegetarian Golabki (stuffed cabbage rolls)--Golabki is traditionally a Polish dish made with cabbage leaves stuffed with ground beef or pork, but I figured that there has always been quite a Polish influence in Jewish cuisine...Now, I have seen vegetarian versions that use mashed potatoes or other various vegetable fillings, but my vegetarian friend is a big fan of faux meats and so I decided to get really creative and they turned out great!


* 1 Tbsp. olive oil
* 1 large head of cabbage
* 3 carrots, boiled and mashed
* 1 large onion, chopped
* 2 cloves garlic, crushed
* 6 or 7 mushrooms (button, cremini or baby bella), diced
* 1 package Yves Vegan Ground "Turkey" (or other soy crumbles)
* 1 cup cooked rice or barley
* salt, pepper, onion powder, parsley to taste
* 1 can tomato soup (or tomato sauce, if preferred)
* grated cheese for topping (optional)


* Parboil/steam cabbage leaves in large pot with shallow water. Note: There is a trick to peeling cabbage layers in order to parboil them. Flip the head of cabbage upside down and use a knife to cut around the core creating a cylinder shape and remove the core. Then cut shallow marks along the bottom edges so that you can peel away the layers without ripping the beautiful cabbage leaves (because you want to try to keep them whole for wrapping!). Once you have pulled away each cabbage leaf, arrange them in a loose circle in the pot before covering it with a lid to steam. Any broken or torn pieces can go in the middle of the pot to be used for the bottom layer of the cabbage rolls. The cabbage will cook in about 3-4 minutes--just enough so that the leaves are flexible and pliable for wrapping (be careful not to over boil the leaves or they will be a soggy mess).
* When the cabbage is done, remove leaves from water and set aside to cool.
* Boil the carrots until cooked, drain and set aside to cool. Then mash them up with a fork (some chunks are okay--it doesn't have to be completely smooth).
* In a shallow pan, heat olive oil in a pan on medium-high heat.
* Sautee onions and garlic until the onions are translucent.
* Add mushrooms and set mixture on the side,
* Add Yves ground "turkey" to the pan and spice with salt, pepper, onion powder, parsley to taste and cook until browned.
* Add the onion mushroom mixture in with the "turkey" and mix.
* Remove from heat and place in a large mixing bowl to cool.
* Once the "turkey" mixture is cooled, add the cooked rice or barley and mashed carrots.
* Using one cabbage leaf at a time, place about 1/4 cup of the mixture towards the bottom of the cabbage leaf and wrap the leaf around the mixture to make a nice little bundle!
* In a 9 x 13 pan, coat the bottom with a little bit of tomato soup or tomato sauce. Line up wrapped cabbage bundles.
* Pour can of tomato soup over the cabbage bundles so that everything is covered in tomato soup or sauce.
* Grate some parmesan, mozzarella or other cheese on top.
* Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, uncovered.

It's true--these cabbage rolls take some time to prepare, but they are worth the effort and time and I am certain that you will find them to be a delicious and unique treat! They were a hit at the Supper Club!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Theo Chocolates, Seattle

Okay. Hold up the Cacao Train...because a stop in Seattle is warranted. Behold the latest organic-fair trade-sustainable chocolate trend for the cacao purists: Theo...brought to my attention by my lovely Seattle native friend, Alex (no amount of thank you's would suffice for all the varieties, shapes and forms of joy that Alex brings)...and, if you can believe it, Theo is so good and so trendy that it even has its own blog, theonista.

I should probably preface this entry (read: rant) with the fact that I am an avid fan of cacao....such a fan, in fact, that--at any given moment--I could host a cacao tasting of anywhere from 6-8 different cacao courses, if you will, with cacao amounts that vary anywhere from 60% to 99% pure cacao... Dark chocolate might even be the currency in the State of Morgan's Menu.

Anyway, I was first spoiled by a truffle sampler of some of the best truffles I have *ever* had in my life. And if you ever get to visit Theo at 3400 Phinney Avenue, I highly recommend inquiring about the Jasmine tea trufffle. or perhaps the scotch whiskey. or lavender (which will make you think you've literally been chewing on a lavender twig). or salty caramel. or peanut butter and jelly. The truffle flavors are unique, sometimes seasonal and in limited supply so you never know what flavors will be available--but i am certain that you will not be disappointed with the bursting flavor that can only be described as perfection...

Perhaps you have seen their 3400 Phinney line of chocolate bars at Whole Foods (or all the other smart hip-and-with-it places that carry Theo)...if you have, grab one immediately! They make a Coconut Curry Milk Chocolate that will confuse your tastebuds like the twisted streets of Prague...But my favorite is one called "Bread and Chocolate" which doesn't sound like much but, in reality, it was a smooth bar of dark chocolate augmented by little, delicious, buttery french baguette crumbs complemented by the perfect amount of salt...ohhhhhh, it is so delicious! And, for my vegan friends out there, they also make a Fig, Fennel and Almond dark chocolate that is really, really good--the fennel seeds bring such a unique flavor to the chocolate that you wonder why this combo isn't more widely available or known...instead, its a delicious secret...

And if you aren't already sold by now, Theo also produces a full line of vegan chocolate bars that use imported cacao beans from different parts of the world and it uses organic beet sugar grown in Sweden!!! I felt ever so fortunate to try:

Theo Ghana Dark Chocolate Bar (84% cacao)
"The Fair Trade Certified™ cacao used in this single-origin dark chocolate bar is from the fertile growing region surrounding Kumasi, Ghana. The perfectly fermented and dried beans yield slightly floral notes over golden and round chocolate flavors." I thought the flavor of this bar was mellow and delicate, with a very subtle but real sweetness...

Theo Venezuela Limited Edition Dark Chocolate Bar (91% cacao)
"This special bar is available for a limited time only and it will change the way you think about dark chocolate! It features the delicate flavors of a blend of cacao from Barinas, Merida and Tachiras, the remote western regions of Venezuela, and offers 91% cacao content without any of the bitterness typically associated with such a high percentage dark chocolate." For me, this bar had personality: a sassy girl with a touch so soft that you forgive her for being slightly bitter...

And though, ultimately, it didn't come down to a Ro-Sham-Bo contest, my friend James kept the Madagascar bar while I gratefully absconded with the Ghana-Panama-Ecuador blend, which is sitting patiently on my desk because we all know I have consumed more than my fair share of chocolate in the past couple of days...

Oh, Theo, I love you.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Anniversary Dinner

Whew! My friends, it has been awhile since I have posted--but rest assured, it hasn't been because I haven't been eating (because I have been)...I have been working a lot and apartment hunting in any free time I have (which has been such an exhausting project to say the least)...

In any case, my 2-year anniversary (April 4) with my significant other snuck up on me so fast that, once again, I was completely outdone by him and came home after a very long day at work to find a little scroll on my desk tied up by a blue ribbon, which was a typed dinner menu that read:

Enjoy a fresh seafood dinner by candlelight:

*Miso Soup with sesame seeds
*Sashimi of Saku Tuna, Yellowtail, and Salmon
*Prawn, avocado and edamame salad
*Steamed rice with Furikake garnish
*Nigori Sake

It was the perfect light and fresh dinner I needed! And if you haven't tried Nigori (unfiltered sake), I highly recommend trying some because it is very refreshing, unique and absolutely yummy. Think of it as...rice milk. with alcohol. Pictured here is Snow Beauty, but there are many, many different kinds to try. I love the descriptions of sake because, similar to descriptions of wine, there are abundant adjectives and complex comparisons (that was an alliteration accident, i swear! oi!) that I find wildly entertaining and imaginative...

But what I really want to rave about is the Prawn, avocado and edamame salad he created for the occasion, because it was soooo good and deserves a guest spotlight so you can enjoy it at home too!

Prawn, Avocado, and Edamame Salad


* 5 or 6 large uncooked prawns, peeled, deveined and cleaned (frozen or fresh)
* 2/3 cup edamame beans (shelled and rinsed)
* 1 tsp. sesame oil
* 1 tsp. mirin
* sea salt & pepper (to taste)
* juice and zest of 1 lemon
* 1 large tomato (vine-ripened is best!), cubed
* 1 large avocado (Haas if possible), cubed


* Heat pan to medium high heat and add sesame oil.
* Sautee prawns and edamame beans with mirin, lemon juice and zest, and salt and pepper.
* Let cool and toss with tomato and avocado.
* Serve in a mound or pack into desired shape and top with a chive or garnish of choice.

Variations: try adding fresh mango chunks!

Thank you, Honey! Happy Anniversary!