Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tomato, Spelt and Herb Salad

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Elizabeth Eckholt, a chef in Northern California who specializes in “healing” foods, believes that greens, cucumbers, celery and seaweeds help maintain health by preventing the body from becoming overly acidic. This notion gives me pause, and for one big reason: I love tomatoes, and they are notoriously acidic.

But Ms. Eckholt recently told me that tomatoes are welcome among the healing-foods folks, too, because they are quickly digested, limiting their impact on the body’s Ph balance. And whether you subscribe to the healing foods philosophy or not, it’s well known that tomatoes are very rich source of vitamin A and vitamin C, not to mention lycopenes, phytonutrients that some scientists believe may have antioxidant properties. Relieved, I am heading out to my garden to reap this summer’s bounty.

This is a light summer chopped salad with chewy and crunchy textures. Give it time to marinate for the best flavor.

1 cup cooked spelt, farro or wheat berries

1 pound tomatoes, diced

1 cup diced cucumber

1/2 cup diced celery

1 cup finely chopped fresh herbs, like a mixture of parsley, dill, mint and basil

1/2 cup crumbled feta

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 small garlic clove, minced or puréed (optional)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine the spelt, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, herbs and feta in a salad bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Mix together the lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, optional garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil. Toss with the salad. Place in the refrigerator, and marinate for one hour or longer before serving.

Yield: Serves four to six.

Advance preparation: The salad will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator. The tomatoes and cucumbers will make it a bit juicy. Toss it all together and serve it with bread to soak up the excess.

Nutritional information per serving (four servings): 351 calories; 5 grams saturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 11 grams monounsaturated fat; 17 milligrams cholesterol; 39 grams carbohydrates; 7 grams dietary fiber; 238 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 11 grams protein

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Watermelon Gazpacho

I was skeptical about this recipe when I tried it, but it turned out to be a delicious surprise. The celery brings this combination together, so don’t leave it out.

4 cups cubed seedless watermelon, about 1 1/4 pounds

1 pound ripe tomatoes, quartered or cut into sixths

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Generous 1/2 cup chopped celery (2 ounces)

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Thin celery slices or sticks for garnish

1. Working in batches, purée all of the ingredients except the garnish in a blender for two minutes or longer until frothy and smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings, making sure you have used enough salt and lemon juice for a vivid flavor. Transfer to a bowl, and chill for several hours. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve, garnishing each bowl with thinly sliced celery or, if serving in glasses, with a thin lengthwise slice of celery stick.

Yield: Four to six regular servings, or 8 to 12 aperitifs.

Advance preparation: You can serve this soup the day after you make it. Leftovers are good for two or three days.

Nutritional information per serving (four servings): 130 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 5 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 17 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams dietary fiber; 19 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 2 grams protein

Chilled Pea, Lettuce and Herb Soup

Last week was a perfect week to be working with cold soups — what with the sweltering heat, I was happy to be drinking my lunch or dinner every day.

This elegant soup is sweet and heavenly. The texture is silky and the consistency thick -- but only because there are lots of peas in it. I used water rather than stock when I tested this recipe, and it worked just fine.

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 leeks, white and light green part only, cleaned and sliced

Salt to taste

5 cups frozen or fresh peas (1 1/2 pounds, or 2 12-ounce bags frozen)

3 cups, tightly packed, coarsely chopped Boston or bibb lettuce

5 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water

1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh tarragon leaves

1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves

1/4 cup chopped chives, plus additional for garnish

Chopped fresh tarragon, chives and/or mint for garnish

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until tender, about five minutes. Add the peas, lettuce and stock or water, and bring to a boil. Add salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer five minutes. Remove from the heat. Drain through a strainer set over a bowl, and allow the vegetables and the broth to cool for 15 minutes. Taste the broth, and season as desired.

2. Working in batches, purée the vegetables and herbs in a blender with the broth and additional olive oil for two minutes until frothy and smooth. Pour into a bowl, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. Chill for several hours.

3. Serve, garnishing with additional chives, tarragon and/or mint.

Yield: Six regular servings or 12 aperitifs.

Advance preparation: You can make this dish a day ahead.

Nutritional information per serving (six servings): 183 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 5 grams monounsaturated fat; 0 milligrams cholesterol; 22 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 155 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 9 grams protein

Friday, July 15, 2011

Cherry Clafouti

Like other dark red, blue and purple fruits and vegetables, cherries contain anthocyanins, phytonutrients that some experts believe may help reduce inflammation and may have antioxidant properties.The season for freshly picked cherries is short, usually no longer than a month. And in most parts of the country, that month is July.

Because cherries are ripe when they’re picked, this is one fruit that will be sweet and juicy whether you buy it at a supermarket or a farmers’ market. I’ve tried a variety of different uses for them this week — including a soup, a smoothie and a cobbler — but a big bowl of cold, unadorned cherries is pretty hard to beat.

This classic French dessert looks fancy, but it is a cinch to make. I use yogurt in my clafouti, although it isn’t traditional (the French use cream). And I always enjoy leftovers for breakfast.

1 1/2 pounds (about 5 cups) fresh ripe cherries, stemmed and pitted if desired

2 tablespoons kirsch

6 tablespoons sugar

3 large eggs

1 vanilla bean, scraped

Pinch of salt

2/3 cup sifted unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup low-fat yogurt

2 tablespoons milk

2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar (optional)

1. Toss the cherries with the kirsch and 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and let sit for 30 minutes. Drain over a bowl.

2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 10- or 10 1/2-inch ceramic tart pan or clafouti dish. Fill the dish with the drained cherries.

3. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs with the remaining sugar and the seeds from the vanilla bean. Add the salt and the liquid from the cherries, and combine well. Slowly beat in the flour, and whisk until smooth. Add the yogurt and milk, and combine well. Pour over the cherries, scraping out all of the batter with a rubber spatula.

4. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the clafouti is firm and puffed. Press gently on the top in the middle to see if it’s firm. If not, return to the oven for five minutes.

5. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. When the clafouti is warm or cool, sift on the powdered sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Yield: Serves eight.

Advance preparation: If you’re making this for a dinner, you can make it several hours ahead. The leftovers will keep for about three days in the refrigerator.

Nutritional information per serving: 176 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 grams polyunsaturated fat; 1 gram monounsaturated fat; 71 milligrams cholesterol; 33 grams carbohydrates; 2 gramsdietary fiber; 45 milligrams sodium; 6 grams protein

Not Knowing

There is wisdom in not knowing and it is a wise person who can say, "I don't know." No one knows everything. There are many types of wisdom: from intellectual to emotional to physical intelligence. Yet, even deemed experts in their fields do not know all there is to know about yoga, literature, psychology, or art. It is a true master who professes ignorance, for only an empty vessel can be filled.

There are many things in life that we don't know, and there are many things we may have no interest in finding out. There is freedom in saying “I don’t know.” When we admit that we don't know something, we can then open ourselves up to the opportunity to learn. There is power in that. We can’t possibly know everything. And when we think we do, we limit ourselves from growing and learning more than what we already do know. A person who can admit to not knowing tends to be more intellectually and emotionally confident than someone who pretends to know everything. They also tend to be more comfortable with who they are and don’t feel the need to bluff or cover up any perceived ignorance. Of course, people actually end up appearing more foolish when they act as if they know something that they don't.

We are wise to respect people who freely admit when they don't know something: they are being honest, with us and with themselves. We, too, should feel no shame in saying, "I don't know." In doing so, we open ourselves up to the unknown, and we can then discover what lies beyond our current levels of understanding. It is the wise person in life who answers questions with a question and inspires the pursuit of internal answers with a funny face, a shrug, and a comical, "I don't know."

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Lentil Pâté With Cumin and Turmeric

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Lentils and curry flavors go together beautifully. This pâté tends to be dry if you overcook it, so remove it from the oven when it’s just set, before the top cracks.

1 cup brown lentils, picked over and rinsed

1 quart water

1 bay leaf

1 medium onion

4 garlic cloves, 2 crushed, 2 minced

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons peanut oil or canola oil

1/4 teaspoon cayenne (more to taste)

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground

1 teaspoon black or yellow mustard seeds

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 eggs

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

4 teaspoons lemon or lime juice

1. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan with the water and bay leaf. Cut the onion in half, and add one half to the pot along with the crushed garlic cloves. Bring to a boil, add salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 35 to 45 minutes until the lentils are tender. Remove the onion half, and taste and adjust seasoning. Drain and set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Butter or oil a 5-cup paté tureen or baking dish, or bread pan. Finely chop the other half of the onion. Heat the peanut or canola oil over medium heat in a medium skillet. Add the chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is tender, about five minutes. Stir in the garlic and spices, and cook, stirring, until the mixture is fragrant and the spices are sizzling, about 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste, and continue to stir over medium heat until it has darkened, one to two minutes. Stir in the cilantro. Remove from the heat.

3. Place the lentils and eggs in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Turn it on, add the olive oil and lemon or lime juice and process until smooth. Add the onion mixture, and pulse to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Scrape into the prepared baking dish and cover tightly.

4. Bake for 40 minutes until just set. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. For best results, refrigerate overnight. Serve at room temperature or cold.

Yield: Serves 8 to 10.

Advance preparation: This keeps for about five days in the refrigerator.

Nutritional information per serving (eight servings): 168 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 5 grams monounsaturated fat; 47 milligrams cholesterol; 16 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams dietary fiber; 26 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 8 grams protein

Nutritional information per serving (10 servings): 135 calories; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 gram polyunsaturated fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 37 milligrams cholesterol; 13 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams dietary fiber; 21 milligrams sodium (does not include salt to taste); 7 grams protei

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