Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Week C - Braised Chard -Get Your Greens!!

Leaves built like a fan, Swiss Chard is a rainbow of goodness offering solid white stalks to reds, yellows and oranges.
I am presenting a simple and delicious side dish for folks who have always been curious about Swiss Chard, but don't know what to do with it. Or perhaps you are looking for other vegetables to introduce into your diet. This is a vegetable that will compliment many different dishes.
For most regions Swiss Chard's season runs between summer and fall, but here in Northern California we are able to receive this nutrient rich leafy green year round. I am always so thankful for the abundance of fresh lush produce available!
Swiss Chard is a relative of spinach and beets. Native to the Mediterranean during the Roman Era chard was respected for its medicinal properties.
Dark leafy greens are critical to a healthy diet. By incorporating chard into your diet regularly, it will improve digestion, balance out calcium deficiencies and boost energy levels. Vitamins A (for strong lung health), C (fighting free radicals), E (fighting cardiovascular and a wonderful anti-inflammatory) and K (for strong bones) are an excellent source of dietary fiber and chlorophyll. Chard is a great source of minerals as well. This includes iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium.

Braised Chard with Toasted Almonds and Currants

1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
3/4 Cup red onion, thin julienne
1 Tbsp garlic, minced
2 Tbsp currants
1 bunch red chard, stems removed and chopped small, chiffaunade leaves
1 Tbsp Bragg's Amino Acids or sea salt to taste
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 Cup almonds, toasted, rough chop

1) Preheat oven to 275F. Place almonds on sheet tray and toast for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.
2) Heat grapeseed oil on medium in a large sautee pan. Add red onions and sautee for 1 minute or until translucent. Add the chard stems and continue to sautee for another 30 seconds. Add the garlic, currants and the chard leaves to pan.
3) Cover with lid and let the natural water from the chard braise the leaves gently for 1-2 minutes. Do not overcook the greens. The leaves should be wilted and soft, not mushy.
4) Top almonds over chard and serve.

For preparation: Remove stems from leaves by holding stem in one hand and removing the leaf in an upward motion along the stem. As seen in the photo above.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Week C - Roasted Cauliflower Soup

A part of the cruciferous family, also known as a flowering vegetable, cauliflower is native originally to the Mediterranean and Asia Minor. Near the 17th century it was brought to parts of Europe. Today we see it all over North America as a staple vegetable.
Cruciferous vegetables are known to help protect against cancer, heart disease and strokes.
More specifically, cauliflower, protects against bladder, stomach and colon cancer. Cauliflower also lowers circulating estrogen levels in the body, which help to reduce breast and uterine cancer. Key nutritional information: folate is an essential vitamin B promoting healthy blood and cell growth. It is crucial that pregnant women and those who plan to have children in the future, get enough Vitamin B for healthy fetus growth. Cauliflower is rich in Vitamins C and K, as well as fiber and potassium

Roasted Cauliflower Soup Serves 6

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 head cauliflower, florets
1 Tbsp cumin, ground
1 medium yellow onion, diced small
2 leeks, white section only, sliced thin, soak in cold water for 10 minutes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 Cup crimini mushrooms, sliced thin
2 stalks celery, diced small
1 large potato, diced small (or two small potatoes)
2 bay leaves
4 Cups vegetable stock
3 Cups distilled water
to taste sea salt (approx 1 Tbsp)
to taste black pepper, ground

1) Preheat oven to 400F. Toss cauliflower and 1 tablespoon of cumin with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Make sure to evenly coat the cauliflower. On a greased sheet tray spread the cauliflower out evenly and roast for 30 minutes. Check half way through and toss to get the cauliflower evenly cooked. When the cauliflower is done, remove from oven and set to the side for later use.
2) In the mean time, heat a heavy bottom pot on medium high. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and heat for 30 seconds, then add the onions and cumin. Sautee for approximately 3 minutes or until translucent. You will be able to smell the cumin. Add the leeks. After the leeks soften add the garlic and mushrooms. Continue to sautee for another minute then add the celery and let the vegetables cook for another two minutes.
3) Fill one cup of the sauteed ingredients and set aside for later.
4) Add the vegetable stock, water and potatoes to pot. Bring to a soft boil and reduce heat to medium low. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the bay leaves.
5) Add the cauliflower to pot and remove from heat.
Blending Options
6) For Immersion blender: Cover the pot half way with towel so not to splash, blend until creamy and smooth.
For Blender: In batches blend on medium speed until smooth. Place back in pot.
7) Add the cup of vegetable mix to pureed soup and continue to reduce the soup down on a medium low heat for another 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
8) Serving Suggestion: sprinkle hot paprika and top with a parsley leaf or top with toasted cumin yogurt or creme fraiche. Enjoy!

Tools needed:
Heavy bottom pot
Immersion blender or blender
wooden spoon