Saturday, November 20, 2010

Guest Post: Roasted Shallot Vinaigrette

I have the great joy of being part of The Academy for Spiritual Formation #30. We meet together for a week, four times a year for two years. Last week was session 6. Only 2 remain. I am already grieving the end of this transformational experience. One of the things I will miss greatly is talking with my food friend, Blake. He is a chef trained in classic French and Italian Provincial cooking (*see below recipe for details*) and someone who continues to teach me so much about food. I am a simple cook--look around, see what I've got, throw it together in a pot, and dinner is served. Blake really stirs creativity within me to experiment and try new things. We were talking about salad dressings during one of our meals last week, and he shared one of his favorites with me, and with his permission I'm passing it along.

With the holidays coming up there will be full days devoted to food preparation, and I am putting this one on my list to include. Simple ingredients, a little extra time and vitamin L(ove) will make this recipe a new holiday favorite at our house. I hope the same for you.

2 shallots
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Dijon mustard
Juice of one lemon
2-3 T honey
1 cup White Balsamic Vinegar
2 cups Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 T fresh tarragon
1 t fresh thyme
1 t fresh mint (optional


Peel two shallots and brush them thoroughly with extra virgin olive oil.  Place them in a loosely enclosed aluminum foil tent with a dash of sea salt and fresh cracked pepper (to taste).  Place tent in a 350 degree oven until translucent (14 to 18 minutes).  Pull the shallots out of foil and place them on cutting board; let them sit until they return to room temperature (15 minutes).  Finely dice the shallots until fully minced into tiny pieces.  Pulverize the tiny pieces of diced shallots in a mortar and pestle until you form a paste.

Place the roasted shallot paste into the bottom of a large mixing bowl (stainless steel or plastic).  Add one (heaping) tablespoon of fine Dijon mustard.  Add sea salt and fresh cracked pepper (to taste).  Squeeze in juice from one fresh lemon.  Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of fine quality honey (depending on sweetness desired).  Add 1 cup of fine quality white balsamic vinegar.  Add 2 cups of fine quality extra virgin olive oil.  Whisk until thoroughly incorporated.  Stir in freshly minced tarragon (2 tablespoons).  Add one teaspoon of fresh thyme (stripped from stem).  

For added "pizazz", add one teaspoon of fresh mint (optional).

*The French were the first culture to master the culinary arts.  They were so wealthy and had the leisure time to explore this realm.  However, most of their recipes originated with the peasant, working class.  Most French cooking is just an "artsy" recapitulation of a humble, modest peasant dish.  This same style of cooking spread wildly throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sunchokes (aka Jerusalem Artichokes)

The first time I ever saw one of these, I thought it was ginger root. That's what it looks like to me, but it sure doesn't taste like ginger! This versatile little tuber is a delightful addition to my kitchen. A reminder of the joy of new foods I encounter through my CSA provided by the wonderful folks at Crabtree Farms.

A member of the sunflower family (who would have guessed that one?), sunchokes are native to North America, and once they were introduced to pilgrims by the Native Americans, they became a staple to the settlers diet. They are high in potassium and low in calories. It's a little bit tender, so take care to wash it gently with a brush, but unlike ginger, there's no need to peel it. Wash, slice, and eat.

The flavor is mild, so you can add it to anything or enjoy it all alone. So far, we've eaten it raw on a salad, sauteed (with onions, garlic, carrots, shiitake mushrooms, edamame, and fresh tarragon served over quinoa), roasted with sweet potatoes, and in a stir fry. 

This new veggie is a welcome addition to my kitchen!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Simply Sweet

Do you see the evil look on this pumpkin's face? It's laughing at me. Me and the hundreds of other folks trying desperately to get the stinkin' Halloween candy out of the house!

It has been a real challenge for me lately to get a grip on my sugar cravings, and I know that the holidays coming up are going to test me to my limit, but I've got a strategy in place that started the day before Halloween this year, and it's helping!

Sweet vegetables. I know it sounds crazy, but by adding more sweet vegetables into your diet, you can reduce your sugar cravings. And this time of year, the sweet vegetables are abundant, especially beets, sweet potatoes and winter squash. But I'll admit I keep a bag of carrots in my fridge and onions on my counter (yes--they're in the sweet family!) year round to be sure I've got something in the sweet veggie family to easily add daily.

So here are a few simple ways to get those sweet veggies added into your diet quickly. The more you add, the less your sugar cravings. Try it for a week and see how it goes. Maybe you'll have new found success reducing the appeal of that trick or treat bag for everyone, including yourself!

Sweet Sensation--layer several sweet veggies in a pot with hardest on the bottom and softest on the top. For example, from bottom to top layer chopped carrots, beets, and onions. Cover with water and cook to desired tenderness. The longer you cook them, the sweeter they get.You can add seasoning (sea salt, spices, etc.) and/or drink the broth. It makes a sweet sauce!

Roasted Roots--wash some sweet potatoes or peel some beets, cut into bite size pieces, place on cookie sheet, drizzle oil over them, toss to coat, bake at 375 until tender to a fork. The first time I made these with sweet potatoes for my husband he asked if I had put sugar on them. Not making that up.

Easy Winter Squash--I think we have this once a week at our house. Super simple and yummy!