Saturday, April 27, 2013

An Easy Spring Lunch: Coconut-Spinach Rice Salad

I'll be honest here: I don't remember where the original inspiration for this recipe came from. Thinking back, it must have been somewhere in the Creamed Spinach realm, but for us gluten/dairy-free-tards (Shh, don't tell those-who-be that I sometimes indulge in my favorite cheeses...) there HAD to be another substitute. And then I remember seeing a recipe for something green-plus-coconut rice salad. SCORE! Sounds kinda tasty, no?

So in a moment of laziness, I swapped lacinato kale (because my local market didn't have anything organic/up-to-snuff) out for frozen spinach (aka a time-crunched-cooks-best-friend). I upped the coconut factor with coconut milk and coconut flakes. A bit of cayenne for heat (I love!). Salt. Cilantro (for fun). And a mix of primarily wild rice, but because I had the space (and fellow-ingredient-capacity...) added some brown rice for kicks. Warning: It turned out more like a risotto-like salad than a grainy salad. Given my craving for "comfort" food during the stressful parts of the term, it's a good thing. But, I'll give you due warning. (Not a fan of "creamyish" rice? Swap out full-fat coconut milk for low-fat, and don't stir the rice. Let it cook low and slow until done as you like). 

To be honest, I didn't expect this recipe to taste as indulgent as it turned out! I've been in a bit of a (stress-induced) funk, and this (and a glass of red wine) served as my midweek remedy. And it was quite an effective one. It's perfect for a portable lunch, a dinner accompaniment for the perfect roast rack of lamb, or if you're really missing your western home (like I am at times), delicious with truffle salami from Salt Lake City and dried cherries... FOR BREAKFAST. I suggest trying a fried egg on top... perhaps a grating of Parm too. Then let me know how it goes :)

Easy Spinach-Coconut Wild Rice Salad

1 large shallot, sliced fine
3 tbsp olive oil
2 cups rice (I used 1.5 cups wild, .5 cups brown rice)
2 boxes Cascadian Farms frozen spinach (not drained, defrosted)
1 can coconut milk
½ cup (more if needed) water 
Paprika and cayenne pepper, to taste
1 cup dried coconut flakes
2/3 cup chopped cilantro
Tamari almonds, chopped, for garnish

In a large dutch oven or stock pot, combine shallot and olive oil, sauteing over medium-high heat until tender. Add the rice and cook for about 2 minutes, until the grains are toasted. Add the spinach and cook until the moisture is reduced to nearly nothing. Season a bit and add the coconut milk. Cook, stirring frequently, until the grains are done to your preference, about 40 minutes, over low-medium heat. Add more water if needed. Season to taste with cayenne and paprika.

Once the rice is nearly done, add the coconut flakes. Cook 5 minutes. Then add the cilantro and season to taste. Serve with chopped Tamari almonds on top. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lunchbox-Friendly Asian-Inspired Meatballs

Who doesn't love meatballs?

This is a rift on a recipe I spotted on Tasting Table. Being a student, I try to make and pack lunch each day (key word: TRY). So I’m always on the lookout for packable meal-makings that are versatile, low-carb (I can’t fall asleep in my afternoon classes!), and flavorful.

These fit the bill.

The original recipe calls for gochujang, a Korean chili sauce, and pork. Now, in the Upper Valley, I have yet to discover an Asian market. Moreover, most Asian sauces have modified food starch or gluten of some sorts that I’m to avoid. So screw the chili sauce. I swapped in my favorite ground turkey from a local farm, and added a bunch more garlic, ginger, scallion, and soy to boost flavor. Mirin gives the meatballs a delicate sweetness to go along with the much-needed umami and seasoning from the tamari (and now that I write this, I think back to my other sweet-savory meatball concoction starring spinach, currants, and pine nuts…mmm).

I don’t know why I didn’t make meatballs more often in DUMBO. Oh, right. I was in a studio and I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have my bed smelling like what I made for dinner the night before. Yeah. Not cool, says my inner OCD person. Anyways, making these here in my 4-bedroom house? SO easy.

The recipe below yields about 40 meatballs (about 1-1 ½ inches in diameter), more than a little me can eat in a week. So I kept 15 out for lunch, and froze the rest. Be sure to cook off a little meatball before you cook them all so you can taste for seasoning.

They’re great served with rice noodles, peppers, and peanut sauce – or, as I do, over roasted vegetables. My go-to lunch these days. Perfect for lunchboxes (no one is ever too old for a lunchbox). Oh, and they’re completely gluten-free!

Asian-Inspired Meatballs
Adapted from a recipe by Rachel Yang of Joule in Seattle, WA, published on Tasting Table

1 pound ground turkey (half regular meat, half dark meat - you could also use ground beef)
6 scallions, finely chopped
¼ cup mirin rice wine
2 tablespoons soy sauce, plus more as desired
5 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled (use the edge of a teaspoon to scrape off the skin) and finely chopped or grated
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large bowl, stir together the meat, scallions, mirin, soy sauce, garlic and ginger until combined (the mixture will be very wet). Use your hands to roll the mixture into 1½-inch meatballs. Place on foil-lined baking sheet.

In a large skillet set over medium-high heat, add the oil. Once the oil begins to shimmer, add the meatballs (cook the meatballs in batches if necessary). Cook until browned, about 2-3 minutes. Turn the meatballs over and brown the other side, 2 to 3 minutes longer, and then transfer them to a rimmed baking sheet.

Place the meatballs in the oven and bake until they resist light pressure and are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel to drain and serve hot if possible.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Perfect Meatloaf Dinner

... or The-Perfect-Meal-to-Impress-Your-Date, perhaps?

Now is the time when the temperatures fluctuate from the mid-40s to 50s during the day, down below freezing at night. While I may dream of the days when I can again hop on the bike and wear shorts to the gym without freezing, there are nights I still crave warm, filling meals by the roaring woodstove and a big glass of red wine.

Such was the case last week. I had plenty of ground beef on hand, and I kept being taunted by the thought of my grandmother's meatloaf. Mmm. And salad. And, per my sous chef's request, mashed red bliss potatoes. Sounds awfully good.

I began with the basic meatloaf recipe my grandmother has somewhat followed for years (though I think there is ketchup in there somewhere, I forget). I adapted it a bit again this time, using a local tomato sauce rather than making my own (Bove's!! The best in VT) and adding a bit of Worcestershire sauce and basil to my meat mixture, along with toasted gluten-free bread in lieu of traditional breadcrumbs. I found the Worcestershire to impart the umami flavor I like in ketchup without the added sweetness. My only fault was that I wish I'd used 2 lbs of beef rather than one, because it went pretty fast and my onion:meat ratio was high.

My sous chef was in charge of the mashed potatoes (I'm wary of my abilities). Super easy. Wash and remove the eyes from the potatoes. Chop into 1-inch chunks. Place in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are easily piercable with a fork. Drain and add 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 1/2 stick of butter. Mash well, adding more cream or butter if desired. Season to taste.

I served this with my favorite salad du jour: Bibb lettuce with pear, avocado, and toasted walnuts, tossed in olive (or toasted walnut) oil, maple syrup, and Maldon salt. This one with spinach and roasted grapes would be good, too, as would this one with beets and blue cheese. Even this hearty kale-miso one, if you're super hungry!

Monday, April 8, 2013

Super Easy Thai Red Curry

This is a classic winter favorite that comes from a friend/talented chef/sous chef Claire Smallwood from Alta, Utah. Oh, and one sick skier ;)

When my grass-fed beef share served me up some stew meat, I postponed by grand Boeuf Bourguignon plans for something a bit more exotic, a lot easier, and did I mention less expensive (even though I splurged on a $5 organic red pepper. Geez…)

I made this with whole coconut milk, but you could also swap in two cans of light coconut. As well, I went heavy on the curry paste, because I like my food with a kick. The key ingredients to finish this off are the juice of a lime and fish sauce to taste. Served over sticky or jasmine rice, it’s a real winter evening treat!

Super Easy Thai Red Curry
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 ½ pounds grass-fed beef stew meat (or chicken. Or tofu. Your pick.)
1 medium-large shallot, chopped in slices
Red curry paste, to taste (I used about 6 tablespoons)
2 bunches of baby bok choy, rinsed and chopped
2 red bell peppers, chopped
1/3 cup sliced fresh basil
Salt, to taste
Juice of 1 lime, to taste
Fish sauce, to taste.

In a dutch oven over medium-high heat, add oil and heat til it shimmers. Add the beef and cook until just cooked on one side. Add a sliced shallot and stir, browning the other side of the beef. Add the bok choy and red pepper and sauté briefly. Add the coconut milk and ½ can of water (if using full-strength coconut).

Bring to a simmer and reduce to low. Cook for 30 minutes or so (be careful NOT to boil the mixture), then add basil. Season to taste with salt, lime, and fish sauce. Serve hot over rice and garnish with more basil, if desired.