New Ingredient: Young Garbanzo Beans (Young Chickpeas)

We’re well on our way to summer!

 

Temperatures are reaching nearly a hundred degrees this week. Seriously? What IS nice is that the mornings are now like, 70 degrees (instead of a chilly 50 earlier this year, ugh), so I can comfortably wear the same outfit all day. No shedding sweaters for me anymore! That being said, I’m only a student, so that prime time between when the sun rises and hits the very top of the sky, at the perfect temperature: I’m stuck in class. 

 

Yes, boo hoo for me. At least there’s only a month left until we’re out of those cold, air-conditioned classrooms. Temperatures aside, let’s enjoy the season while we have it! There are so many new vegetables coming in; spring is prime for young ones, too, and I stumbled upon some of these beauties when I was at Whole Foods. 

What are they? Young garbanzo beans! (Or chickpeas as you may know them). They were sold in their shells, and inside each shell is a little green bean. How cute! I bought a small handful, knowing how time consuming it would be to peel them. That being said – I have no experience with these little guys. The only time I’d ever seen them was on the tv show Chopped; I vaguely remembered they were sautéed, but this wasn’t enough to quell my curiosity. So my research began! 

 

Turns out you should never boil them, but they’re good prepared steamed, roasted, sautéed, or even raw! When they’re boiled, they’re akin to nasty over-cooked lima beans, ew. Dorothy over at shockinglydelicious gave a ton of suggestions at her site, too, one that I found particularly interesting being to roast them in a pan with a bit of oil and blend of salt, cumin, chili powder, and other spices for 5 minutes. That’s a pretty amazing sounding recipe over there!

What I did was simply steam them for about 6 minutes, and snack on them plain. They’re something like fresh peas or edamame, I can’t put my finger on what, but mighty tasty to just mindlessly munch on if you find yourself sitting by the pool sometime. 

So if you run into these, buy them! They’re fun, healthy snacks that are just so adorable. 

Carrot-Jicama Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Plum Dipping Sauce

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Beautiful plates of food. Gorgeous posts on instagram. Delicious restaurant meals. Inspirational healthy recipes. You’re motivated; you want to cook, and you’re ready to embark on a journey into the culinary world, and then you open the fridge, and you’re missing the key ingredient.

The eggs. The cilantro. The canned tomatoes. The jalapeno. Suddenly your epicurean aspirations fall apart, and you’re back on the couch with a takeout menu in hand. I get it.

Yes, it is difficult getting started cooking. You have to have the recipe laid out; every ingredient has to be present; you have to make sure all your equipment is up to par. It might seem like missing one thing is the end of the world when you’ve got one thing in mind, but one of the most important lessons I’ve learned from cooking (and the TV show Chopped) is improvisation!

For example, today I was so ready to make spring rolls. I had my carrots and jicama sautéed, my vietnamese ham all fried up, sauce ready, herbs washed, and then I realized: I was out of rice paper. Duh! Luckily iceberg lettuce came to my rescue and I made lettuce wraps instead. In the future I think I’ll use this as a lazy spring roll version (as opposed to salad-ifying spring rolls) if I’m in the mood to dip.

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If you’ve never heard of vietnamese ham (or vietnamese baloney), called Cha Lua in Vietnamese, do not be put off by the name! It’s such a sad english translation. It’s basically like a huge cylindrical steamed meatball, like the kind you’d find in asian soups, but wrapped in banana leaf. It’s often available at Vietnamese sandwich shops and grocery stores. Try it in a Vietnamese sandwich first (Banh Mi Cha Lua) and once you’re hooked, you can buy the full ham to slice at home!

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Carrot-Jicama Lettuce Wraps with Hoisin-Plum Dipping Sauce

  • 1 jicama, julienned
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled & julienned OR 1 bag shredded carrots
  • 1 tablespoon fried shallots
  • fish sauce & pepper to taste
  • 1 roll vietnamese ham, julienned
  • 1 cup fresh mint, washed
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce, washed
  • 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
  • 1/4 cup plum sauce
  • 1 tsp sriracha

Heat a bit of oil in a large skillet and add the fried shallots over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the julienned jicama, stir. Let cook down a bit, for about 2 minutes, before adding the carrots. Stir fry all together until the carrots and jicama are softened and the jicama is slightly translucent. Season the jicama-carrot mixture with pepper and fish sauce to taste. Set vegetables aside.

In the same skillet, toss julienned vietnamese ham and let brown, stirring every minute or so until the small bits are crispy. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix hoisin, plum sauce, and sriracha. Thin out a bit with some water if your plum sauce is too thick.

On a cutting board, slice the iceberg lettuce in half down the stem. Carefully remove the leaves so they do not lose shape.

Layer a leaf with jicama carrot mixture, then vietnamese ham, then the mint leaves. Continue making lettuce “rolls” until all ingredients are finished. Enjoy by dipping the rolls in the hoisin-plum sauce.

New Ingredient: Beet Greens

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If you’ve ever bought beets, you’ve probably noticed that they’re often sold with their leafy tops attached. More often than not, these leafy heads get tossed away, but don’t let them wilt in the compost bin!

Beet greens are 100% edible. They can easily be substituted for another dark, leafy green, like rainbow chard or spinach, but they have their own distinct flavor. They shockingly taste a bit like beets!
The first time I discovered beet greens could be eaten, I was addicted! The hearty flavor of dark greens, paired with a subtle sweetness in the stems – sautéed in a little olive oil and garlic, it’s a simple delight that showcases the beauty of using kitchen scraps.
This humble green is also extremely versatile; you can:

  • quickly sauté in olive oil & garlic
  • blanch & add to eggs or a vegetable hash
  • chop and stir fry in a wok with mushrooms
  • add to borscht (duh), minestrone, or vegetable soups
  • toss with grains to up your vegetable intake

There are also recipes for beet green, kale, & cauliflower salad, simply sautéed with their roots, or even in a beautiful mushroom frittata!

What you do with beet greens is really up to you! Just make sure they don’t end up in the compost 😉

Japanese-style Steamed Fish

Sometimes its nice to just have something simple.

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Clean, crisp, light flavors are like a cleanse for the palate, and after my dad and I had three nights of heavy eating, we were really craving a simple dinner for Sunday evening.

 

With some fresh ginger from the farmers market and beautiful fillets of cod from Whole Foods, what better way to use them than with Japanese steamed fish. Seasoned with only soy sauce, mirin, and ginger, this dish steams conveniently in the oven for those of you who don’t have a nice steamer.

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Japanese-style Steamed Fish

Adapted from Allrecipes

  • 24 oz. true cod, cleaned and cut into palm-sized fillets
  • 1 inch grated fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons mirin
  • 4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1-2 green onions, sliced
  • Handful of sprouts for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a round or square glass baking dish, place fillets of fish in one even layer. Mix the marinade in a seperate bowl. Carefully pour over the fish. Cover the dish with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until fish is opaque as it will continue to cook in the hot liquid.

Garnish with fresh sprouts and serve with rice or a grain and steamed fresh vegetables for a truly simple meal. Enjoy!

New Ingredient: Quark cheese

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On the weekends, I always like to have a bit of something special with breakfast.

Hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows, an omelette strewn with seasonal vegetables, freshly baked granola, or even a taste of cheese make weekend breakfasts special and allow me to really appreciate the extra time I have.

Wandering through the dairy aisle at whole foods, I spotted this little gem amongst the chèvre and ricotta. It’s similar in texture to full-fat greek yogurt, but less tangy and more akin in flavor to a mild chèvre.

 

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According to the packaging, it’s made in Vermont from cow’s milk (which accounts for its mild flavor) and can be an ingredient in cheesecakes.

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I was immediately drawn to the idea of having it with fresh fruit. With spring having just begun, we now have (better) strawberries & blueberries to enjoy here in sunny California. My favorite way to enjoy the berries with quark is to cut them up and spoon a dollop of cheese on top. The cheese is light, fluffy, and cloudlike, and its tanginess highlights the sweetness of the berry. It’s almost tastes like a cheesecake in a bite! All that’s missing is a bit of butter crust, but that’s a bit indulgent for breakfast, isn’t it?

Fruit & quark cheese could also make a great light sweet treat or dessert. 20140323-175429.jpgSo if you see quark cheese at your grocery store & you’re a fan of greek yogurt, chèvre, ricotta, or dairy in general, don’t hesitate to try it out! It could really brighten your breakfasts, or lighten your desserts. And if you’re already familiar with quark, what is your favorite way to use it? Happy eating!

*This post was not sponsored by any third parties.

Power Mocha Smoothie

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I used to be a banana hater.

I distinctly remember trips to Jamba Juice gone wrong because there was a banana in my smoothie. Even the slightest detection of the fruit would set me off; it was so stringy and sticky, and smelly, ick.

However, my banana aversion gradually withered away with time, thanks to quite a few loaves of banana bread and my introduction to banana chips. To this day, I’m pretty tolerable. It’s a great fruit, after all, loaded with potassium, super portable, good for muscle cramps, and versatile, too!

Speaking of how useful it is, it’s a truly amazing component in smoothies. It really binds the whole thing together, acts as a natural sweetener and thickener. It pairs well with a myriad of fruits and flavors, and I’ve learned one of my favorite combos with bananas is chocolate!

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So why not put them together in a smoothie? Bananas are great quick sources of energy because they are easily digestible, and paired with a few spoonfuls of cocoa powder, and maybe some coffee beans to really accent that dark, rich flavor, they are truly stars. Smooth and creamy, streaked with little flecks of beautiful coffee beans, this makes a great afternoon snack or morning pick-me-up. And hey, this smoothie is easily vegan, gluten, and refined sugar free! Yay bananas!

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Power Mocha Smoothie

  • 1 medium banana, peeled
  • 1/2 cup soymilk, almond milk, flax milk, or regular milk
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup whole coffee beans (if blender is not powerful, use ground coffee or sub 1 tsp instant coffee)
  • 1 tsp dutch cocoa powder (regular is ok, too)

Put all the ingredients in a blender and mix, gradually increasing speed, until coffee beans are ground into small specks. Pour into a tall glass and serve. You might need a spoon because of how creamy this is!

Revamp the Classics: Peanut Butter & Jelly with an Asian Twist

As part of theKitchn‘s cooking cure, I’ve been trying a load of new recipes for lunch. One idea that I will definitely be adding to my regular lunch rotations is an amazing spin on an old childhood classic: Peanut butter and Jelly! 

Instead of the sweet route, this sandwich goes savory & southeast asian, with crunchy peanut butter, chili jelly, a drizzle of sriracha, and some fresh herbs on top. To lighten it up, I’ve decided to go open faced. Plus, the sandwich is SO much prettier that way!

Feel free to use any peanut butter/bread/jam you have on hand. I’ll go ahead and give you the recipe for what I used, though. Image

Open-Faced Peanut Butter + Chilli Jelly

  • 1 slice of seeded whole wheat bread (any will work, preferably not a very sweet loaf)
  • 1 tablespoon crunchy peanut butter (I used Jif)
  • 1 teaspoon sweet chilli jelly or orange marmalade (I have used both and they are equally delicious)
  • 1 drizzle of sriracha
  • A handful of cilantro, mint, torn into small pieces

Layer peanut butter, then jelly/marmalade, then sriracha, then cilantro/mint. Enjoy!