Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit

When I first ate quinoa, my gratitude propelled my love for it more than its flavor. I was desperate for another gluten-free option to replace rice, and I was also on a low-glycemic diet. I can eat wheat and other gluten-protein grains, but several of my friends can’t. So, serving food that everyone can eat, not feel different or left out is my entertaining and personal philosophy. Quinoa is a perfect grain (seed), to eat and a great source of protein for plant-based diets. Ever since my discovery of this recipe, quinoa salad with avocado and dried fruit makes a regular appearance on my dinning table, especially for entertaining.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit reicpe

I discovered this salad recipe in Fine Cooking Magazine 2009, in an article featuring avocado recipes. Next to dark chocolate, avocados are one of my favorite foods. Naturally, the recipe grabbed my attention.  During the time, I needed vegan and gluten-free recipes to serve with Thanksgiving dinner. The quinoa salad with avocado turned out to be the perfect option, a two for one deal. Additionally, this quinoa salad turned my attitude around from not just being grateful, but liking quinoa as well. This salad appeals to everyone, not just people who are vegan, vegetarian, or on a gluten-free diet.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit

There are many reasons why I love this salad and the taste is just one of them. This quinoa salad is just as much about avocados as it is quinoa. With a ratio of about 2 cups of cooked quinoa to 2 whole avocados, you get a creamy avocado morsel in every bite. Being a major avocado fan, I find this significant amount of avocados wonderful. What’s not to love about an avocado in every bite? There is never such a thing as too much avocado.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Reicpe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

The dried apricots and raisins adds punch and concentrated flavor. The nuttiness of the quinoa and creaminess of the avocado provide a foundation for the dried fruit to pop. You do not need a lot of dried fruit, a little goes a long way. The deep orange color of the apricots adds a nice attractive element to the salad as well. If you live in an area where apricots are grown, try substituting fresh ones for the dried apricots. The only consideration is, once sliced, apricots get mushy and aged looking after they linger. However, adding a fresh ripe apricot might be worth a try.

Quinoa Salad and Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

The lemon cumin vinaigrette is much brighter than it sounds. Thanks to the absorbing power of the quinoa, the cumin flavor is in the background and does not overpower the delicate flavor of the avocado. The cumin adds a bit of earthiness against the airy and lemony sunshine. The taste of the flavors are unexpected, yet truly complimentary. I love it. The blend of the quinoa, avocado and dried fruits with the dressing is a nice balance of sweet, acid, nuts and earthy flavors. It is not a heavy dressing, just enough to season the ingredients. Therefore, the quinoa salad does not taste or look oily.

More Gluten-free recipes:

Nifty Cake recipe 

Gluten free Dutch Baby

Airy Banana Oat Pancakes

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

The only thing I change is, I like to add fresh herbs when they are available. Basil adds a nice bit of fresh green sweetness, and even parsley or mint works. If you want to add cilantro, substitute the lemon zest and juice with lime and see how you like it. Quinoa and avocados pair well with a variety of herbs and spices, just be careful not to overpower the salad with too much of anything. If you need a more substantial meal or substitute for almonds, chickpeas are also delicious in this salad.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit recipe

Making this salad reminds me of my hometown in California. I can picture so many parts of my childhood with each ingredient. Eating avocado sandwiches with my friends at a restaurant in Strawberry. Climbing our apricot tree and picking them before the birds got them.  But, what really touches my heart is when I rinse the quinoa. Running my hands through the cold, wet and gritty quinoa seeds, reminds me of making sand castles and building forts at Cronkite Beach.  It’s usually cold, foggy and the sand is rough. Despite the cold, I love the Marin Coastline and will forever hold it dear in my heart.

Food has a way about savoring old memories and making new ones. Deborah Madison created this recipe, but after making it for so long and cherishing new and old memories, it feels like my own.

Quinoa Salad with Avocado and Dried Fruit Recipe

 

Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Category: Side Dish or Vegetarian Main Salad

Cuisine: American/ Vegan

4 main course servings, 6 side dish servings

Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Dried Fruit

If you love avocados, like I do, you will love this quinoa salad. The lemon and cumin vinaigrette is bright with just enough seasoning to blend well with all the ingredients. I make this salad often for entertaining and weeknight dinners.

If you ever need a salad that covers many dietary considerations, this is the one to make. It is perfect for vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free diets, as well as a crowd pleaser for everyone.

Use any color quinoa you like. I like the mix the white and red quinoa, but the red quinoa with the green avocado and orange apricot is very appealing.

You can make the salad ahead, but do not add the salad dressing, almonds and avocados until you are ready to serve. Best eaten the day it is made, but will be ok for leftovers the next day.

Recipe is from Fine Cooking Magazine, by Deborah Madison 2009

Ingredients

  • 3 TB raisins, dark, golden or a mix of raisins
  • 2 TB dried apricots, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup red or white quinoa, or a mix
  • Kosher salt
  • Zest from one lemon
  • 1 TB fresh lemon juice
  • 3 Tb extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp ground sweet paprika
  • 2 ripe avocados, pitted, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 2-3 TB coarsely almonds

Instructions

  1. Add the raisins and apricots to a small bowl and cover with hot water. Soak the dried fruit for 5 minutes. Drain the water and set aside.
  2. Put the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water until the water passing through the strainer runs clear, not chalky. Add the rinsed quinoa to a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt. Bring the water to a boil, then cover and turn the heat down to medium-low. Cook until the water is all absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. You will see the germ ring that will look like a white curlicue around each seed.
  3. When done, fluff the quinoa with a fork and spread out on a sheet pan to cool to room temperature.
  4. While the quinoa is cooking, toast the almonds. Heat a small skillet on the stove at medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add the almonds and stir, shake or flip the almonds in the pan and toast the almonds until they get slightly darker and release their oil. About 1 minute depending on how hot your skillet is. You will start to smell the almonds as they toast. Keep the almonds moving so they do not burn. Immediately remove the almonds from the skillet and cool. Once cooled, rough chop the almonds and set aside.
  5. Make the salad dressing. Finely grate the lemon zest into a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, coriander, cumin, paprika and 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt, and whisk until well combined.
  6. In a large bowl add the cooled quinoa, apricots, raisins, avocados, scallions and chopped almonds. Carefully mix the ingredients together. Try mixing them with a fork so you do not squish the ingredients together. Then add the salad dressing. Mix until combined. Spoon into a severing bowl, garnish with chopped almonds, scallions, and lemon zest. Serve at room temperature.
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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Usually, when I’m making dinner, my primary focus centers on the main entrée. The side dishes get made, but my attention is elsewhere. It is just too stressful to cook three different recipes, that require a lot of ingredients, prepping, and everything done at the same time. I love vegetables and don’t mind eating them without a lot of flourishment. Yet, they do deserve an opportunity to be front and center. Making a composed dinner doesn’t have to take up a lot of time, just a little foresight.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots

Most people like carrots. When my son Evan was young, carrots was one of the 3 vegetables he ate. This popular vegetable is easy to prepare and does not require a lot of pampering. It is one of the backbones used to make stocks, soup, stews and braises. If you haven’t given carrots much thought, think again. Carrots are so much more than crudité. I love cooking with them because their natural sweetness and sturdy structure make it easy to pair with bold flavors on either the sweet and/or spicy side.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

This recipe was inspired by a recipe written by Nigel Slater titled, Harissa Carrots. His recipe is delicious and is featured in his cookbook Eats. In Slater’s recipe he blanches carrots, then mixes them with harissa paste, egg yolk, vinegar and olive oil. The egg yolk in the dressing made it nice and creamy, but not suitable for a vegan diet. My idea was to make a carrot side dish that everyone could eat. So, keeping the flavor of Slater’s Harissa Carrots in my mind, I created a vegan dressing to compliment the carrots natural sweetness, provide some spicy-heat, and lots of fresh herbs. I have said it before and I will say it again, fresh herbs elevate any food from good to awesome. I do not cook without them.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

In this recipe for Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots, I use three different types of herbs. I realize cilantro and dill do not have a big fan club. Yet, if you are willing to be adventurous then reduce the amount of cilantro and see if you like it in a blend. There are times when less is more, but this recipe is not one of them. However, if you do not want to commit to all three herbs, use one or two of them. Mint and dill are especially delicious with carrots. I want you to enjoy your meal, so if you know you don’t like something – don’t use it.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots Recipe

For me, I am no longer fearful or stingy with how I cook with herbs. Many recipes from Middle Eastern cuisine have inspired me to combine herbs and not use them by themselves. There are many herbs that compliment each other, and tasting an abundance of the freshness is always welcome in a recipe.

More carrot recipes: One Pan, One Meal Chicken Dinner

Fortunately, making Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots, is as easy as making a salad. Making this dish won’t take up a lot of your attention, but the results will taste as if you slaved all day. The spicy heat is in the background and will grow as you continue to enjoy your meal. I prefer all the ingredients to balance one another. This recipe is not about the heat but about balance, and bringing all these flavors together to give carrots center stage.

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots recipe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots reicpe

Sweet n' Spicy Herbed Carrots reicpe

Serve with any grilled meats and white meat fish. They are also delicious as part of a vegan bowl made with greens, carrots, chickpeas, a grain, and nuts. Enjoy!

Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 2 minutes

Total Time: 17 minutes

6 servings

Serving Size: 3oz

Sweet n’ Spicy Herbed Carrots

Carrots are a great and pleasing vegetable. Their natural sweetness makes them a very versatile food that most people enjoy eating. This recipe for carrots has a nice balance of flavors, not too sweet and not too spicy. I prefer the heat to be in the background and not dominate the flavor of the food.

The fresh herbs add a bright green touch and really compliment the carrot's sweetness. Add all three herbs or just a couple. The mint adds a really nice touch and it is not too overbearing.

Perfect with grilled meats, and most fish. Sweet n' Spicy carrots are also great as part of a vegan meal made with greens, grains, these carrots and walnuts.

Ingredients

  • One inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard (smooth or grainy)
  • 2 tsp honey (or 1 tsp maple syrup for a vegan recipe)
  • 1/4 tsp ground chili pepper* (more if you want it hotter)
  • Zest from 1 lime
  • Juice from half a lime, reserve the other half to add if needed
  • 1 Tb red wine vinegar*
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tb chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tb chopped mint
  • 1 Tb chopped dill (optional)
  • 1 1/2 lbs / 683g medium size carrots
  • 2" piece of daikon radish (3 oz / 87g)

Instructions

  1. Gently scrape off the thin skin of ginger using the edge of a teaspoon. Be careful not to dig into the flesh of the ginger root. Once the skin is removed, thinly slice the ginger and mince. Add to a small mixing bowl.
  2. Add the Dijon mustard, honey, (maple syrup), ground chili pepper, lime zest and juice, vinegar, and Kosher salt into the bowl with the minced ginger. Whisk together until well combined.
  3. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, a little at a time. While you drizzle, whisk to create an emulsion. Once all the olive oil is added, give it a good whisk to keep the oil and acid from separating.
  4. Taste the dressing and correct the seasoning to suit your taste.
  5. Add the herbs, then whisk to combine. Set the sweet and spicy dressing aside while you prepare and cook the carrots.
  6. Peel the carrots and trim the ends. Cut each carrot in half across the width, then cut each piece in half down the length. Cut all the pieces in half lengthwise to create long carrot strips.
  7. Fill a medium saucepan with water and turn the heat up to high. Add a pinch of Kosher salt, a 1/4 inch sliver of ginger, and 2 crushed garlic cloves to the water. Bring the pot to a boil and add the carrots. Cook the carrots for 1-2 minutes after the water returns to a boil. Drain the carrots and pick out the garlic cloves and ginger. Add the carrots to a mixing bowl.
  8. Peel and julienne the daikon radish in long thin strips. Add the daikon to the carrots and gently toss the carrots and daikon radish with your hands to mix together. Before you add the dressing taste it again and make any adjustments. Add the dressing, give it a gentle but good stir until the vegetables are evenly coated with the dressing.
  9. Serve hot, warm or room temperature.

Notes

Use your favorite ground chili. The ground chili I used has a bright flavored heat, not a smokey one. Sorry I do not know the name of it. I started with a quarter teaspoon of ground chili then added a little more later. This meal is not about the heat, but about the balance of heat and sweetness. Good substitutes are: your favorite ground chili powder, harissa paste, Thai chili paste, or sriracha. Adjust the amount you add to match the chili's heat. Example, if you use sriracha I would begin with 1/2 teaspoon then add more later if needed. Just like cooking with salt, it is always good to start with less then add more.

Do not substitute balsamic vinegar for this dressing. Good substitutions are: white wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.

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Roasted Red Pepper Dip: Muhammara

Day 2 of Super Bowl Dip frenzy featuring Muhammara. This is a delicious dip recipe made with roasted red peppers, chili pepper, chopped walnuts and pomegranate molasses. Muhammara, pronounced [mu-HUMM-a-da](Maureen Abood), is an amazing discovery and could be the best party dip ever.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip- Muhammara

Roasted red pepper dip has its origin from Aleppo, Syria. It is typically served as part of mezze. To generalize, mezze is the Middle Eastern equivalent to Spanish Tapas. A selection appetizers featuring spreads, cheeses, several meats, and served with drinks. We served Muhammara with grilled chicken for dinner last night and I thought it was out of this world. I could not stop myself from spreading it over everything on my plate. I showed great restraint not to dollop this dip all over my salad.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip- Muhammara

If you are ever looking for an alternative to hummus, Muhammara is a good substitute. Nonetheless, you will have nothing to lose if you want to serve both. I believe there is always room for more. The walnuts make this dip of roasted red peppers thick and creamy, and the olive oil smooths the texture. Additionally, pomegranate molasses adds a touch of sweetness to counter the spice of the hot peppers.

My research revealed that there are as many versions of this dip as there are recipes, and almost as many different pronunciations. (Food Network pronunciation is [moo-hahm-MRAH].) So please feel free to play around with the amounts of each ingredient. After all, the more you make this dip you will develop Muhammara into your own special creation. I adapted this recipe of Muhammara from two recipes, Red Pepper Dip with Walnuts and Pomegranate by Amanda Hesser from Cooking at New York Times, and Muhammara from 101 Cookbooks.

 

Roasted Red Pepper Dip - Muhammara
Tips for success making Red Pepper Dip: Muhammara

Roast the peppers on a hot grill, under the broiler, or over the flame on a gas burner. You want to get the whole surface of each bell pepper really charred. It is a lot easier to peel off the skins when the peppers have a good char, followed by a good steam in a covered bowl.

I used Aleppo pepper flakes, but feel free to use any dried red pepper flakes you have. You can also use a fresh hot chili pepper. Roast the chili with the red bell peppers, peel off the skin, and add according to how spicy you want it to be. You can buy Aleppo pepper flakes at specialty spice markets or on Amazon.

Toast the walnuts. Toasting nuts brings out the flavor by releasing the oils and makes a big difference in their flavor and texture. You can toast walnuts by spreading them out on a sheet pan and place in a preheated 350˚F oven for 8 – 10 minutes. Watch the nuts carefully so they do not get scorched. The walnuts are finished toasting when they are slightly darker and have a toasty-nutty aroma.

Pomegranate molasses is concentrated pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice which is cooked down and reduced to a thick syrup. You can make it or buy it at specialty markets (Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Korean Markets, Middle Eastern Markets, specialty grocery stores, or Amazon).

Recipe for making your own pomegranate molasses.

Buy pomegranate molasses.

For a simple shortcut you can buy jarred roasted red peppers, or from the olive bar in the deli section of a grocery store. You will need the equivalent of 3 whole red bell peppers.

Muhammara is also delicious with:

Lamb chops

Grilled Flank Steak

Roasted Red Pepper Dip -Muhammara

Be forewarned, this dip is very addictive.

Roasted Red Pepper Dip: Muhammara

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

About 2 1/2 cups

Roasted Red Pepper Dip: Muhammara

Muhammara is a dip made from roasted red peppers, toasted walnuts, pomegranate molasses, and dried hot pepper flakes. It has concentrated flavor of roasted red bell peppers and an amazing creamy texture. Make the dip as sweet or spicy as you like. It is the perfect party dip and very addictive.

Muhammara should rest for at least one hour after it is made to allow for the flavors to meld. Can be made a day ahead. Best served at room temperature.

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs red bell peppers (2-3 red bell peppers)
  • 1 Tb Aleppo pepper, or dried red pepper flakes, or 1 small fresh hot chili pepper
  • Up to 1 ½ cups toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Juice of ½ a lemon
  • 2 Tb pomegranate molasses
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp Kosher salt
  • ½ tsp granulated sugar
  • 2 Tb olive oil, more for garnish
  • Pita bread for serving

Instructions

  1. Roast the red peppers (and fresh chili pepper if using): Turn the oven on to the broiler setting. Cut the red bell peppers in half and place them on a sheet pan covered in aluminum foil, and put the peppers under the broiler*. Broil the peppers until the sides are charred all over. This will take some time, about 10 - 20 minutes. You will need to watch the peppers closely during the broiling process. The more it is charred the easier it is to peel the skin off the bell peppers.
  2. Once the peppers are charred, immediately put them in a bowl large enough to accommodate all the peppers and quickly cover with plastic wrap. Let the peppers steam in the bowl for 15 minutes.
  3. Once steamed and cool to touch, rub the skins off the peppers and remove the seeds and pith. Rough chop the peppers and place in the blender, or food processor.
  4. Using an immersion blender, blender, or food processor, combine half of the chopped walnuts and the remaining ingredients, except the olive oil, into the bowl to process. You might need to add the ingredients incrementally depending on what small appliance you are using. I used an immersion blender and the dip got very thick until I added the roasted red peppers. Blend until smooth and add more of the walnuts to reach your desired consistency. If the dip is too thick you can add a small amount of water, two teaspoons at a time.
  5. Add the olive oil and process until very smooth. The dip can have some texture to it, but you want a smooth consistency.
  6. Let the dip rest on the counter, or covered in the refrigerator if longer than one hour. Serve the muhammara at least one hour after you make it. Muhammara is best served at room temperature. Drizzle the dip with extra olive oil, ground cumin and chopped walnuts. Serve with plain or toasted pitas.
  7. Muhammara will last in the refrigerator for one week.
    Toast the pita bread.
  1. Turn on the oven to 350˚F and cut each pita into 8 triangles and place on a rimmed sheet pan. Place the pitas in the oven and bake until lightly browned and crispy, about 10 to 20 minutes.

Notes

*If you are using a fresh hot chili pepper, broil and remove the skin at the same time with the red bell peppers. Add the amount of chili pepper to the dip to satisfy your desired level of spice and heat.

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© 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli. Spinach. Fresh herbs. These three ingredients are all that is needed to develop a nutritious and velvety smooth soup. No fat. No diary. Just vegetables and fresh herbs. It doesn’t get any purer and simpler than this. What I am talking about, is broccoli soup with spinach and mint. This broccoli soup recipe is deliciously satisfying, and so wonderfully smooth you won’t believe there is no added cream. Broccoli soup with spinach and mint is also the easiest soup that I have ever made.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

This recipe is from the cookbook, Fresh Happy Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell. I love this cookbook. The recipes are inventive, not complicated to make, and Jane likes to enhance the flavor of her food with a lot of fresh herbs. Jane Coxwell is the personal chef to Diane von Furstenberg aboard her sailing yacht. She gets to sail around the world, shop at international seaport markets, and cook delicious food for Diane von Furstenberg and the boat’s crew. The photographs of the food and markets are sunny with vibrant colors, and Jane always has a laughing smile on her face.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

If you have never made soup before and want to try, this is the soup recipe for you. Most soups begin with a base sometimes called mirepoix or sofrito. They usually consist of celery, carrots and onions that are sautéed until softened.  Mirepoix is the bodybuilder for stews, soups and some regional foods.  However, this broccoli soup does not have it or need it. Broccoli is the base, spinach mellows the broccoli and contributes to the smooth texture, and the fresh herbs add interest. All the ingredients contribute to the soups bright and pure flavor. If you love broccoli and spinach, then you will love this soup.

Keys to Success Making Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

The number one key to success is all about the blending. You will need special equipment to make broccoli soup with spinach and mint. The original recipe specifies using a blender, but I do not own one. I have made this recipe at different times using a food processor or an immersion blender. Both appliances worked with excellent results. My advice is to be patient, and keep at it. The whole blending process will take time. Just when you think you are done blending, blend some more. Later when you think you are done, blend some more. As you continue to whirl, the soup will become thicker, velvety smooth and develops an amazing bright green color. I have never been to Ireland, but I imagine the soup is the color of Ireland’s grassy emerald fields.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Another key to success comes from the secondary ingredient, the spinach. I believe the raw spinach, along with the blending, is responsible for creating the luxurious texture. Broccoli alone will not blend so smoothly because of its own texture. Understand that if you substitute the spinach with other leafy green vegetables like chard, it might taste great, but omitting the spinach will create a completely different soup.

This is a minor suggestion: I cut off the stems of the raw spinach before it is added the blender or food processor. Sometimes, even baby spinach leaves can have stringy stems.

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

What to serve with Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint:

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint pairs beautifully with goat cheese and olives. If you are lucky enough to have access to a delicious olive rosemary bread, toast it and spread it with creamy goat cheese.

Or, make croutons with the olive rosemary bread and garnish the soup with the croutons and a drizzle of yogurt or crème fraîche.

Additionally, any open face melty cheese sandwich made with crusty bread is yummy with soup.

We like to serve broccoli soup with spinach and mint for dinner smorgasbord style. Accompanied with grilled herb marinated chicken breasts, marinated artichokes, olives, goat cheese, and toasted bread. Joe refers to this type of meal as, “Soup and Stuff” and is one of his favorite dinners.

Anything salty, crunchy, tangy, creamy is divine served with broccoli soup with spinach and mint. Enjoy!

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Prep Time: 8 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 28 minutes

4 12 oz servings

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint

Broccoli Soup with Spinach and Mint is a healthy, delicious soup that is velvety smooth. The fresh herbs and the luxurious texture make this soup special. This soup is super healthy for you with no added fat. A cinch to make.

You can change the herb combinations to suit your taste, but always use fresh herbs. Watch the quantities of each herb so they do not overpower the taste of the broccoli and spinach. Other fresh herb pairings are: mint and tarragon, cilantro and mint, parsley and mint, Fines herbs which is a classic blend of tarragon, chervil, and chives.

Special equipment is required to achieve this velvety smooth texture. A blender, food processor, or immersion blender are necessary to achieve the consistency specified in the soup.

Recipe is from Fresh, Happy, Tasty: An Adventure in 100 Recipes by Jane Coxwell

Ingredients

  • 2 heads of broccoli
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled sliced in half and green germ removed
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 small handful mint leaves
  • 1 small handful basil leaves
  • Flakey Sea Salt such as Maldon
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon
  • Honey or agave to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Fill a saucepan large enough to accommodate all the prepared broccoli with water add about 1/2 tea of Kosher salt, and bring to a boil.
  2. Cut the broccoli heads by separating the florets and the stems. Trim the florets into small pieces. Set aside. Then cut the rough and thick end off each broccoli stem and discard, Chop the remaining stems into 1/2 inch pieces.
  3. When the water comes to boil add the garlic halves and the chopped broccoli stems. Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the broccoli florets and cook until the florets are tender, but still bright green. About 5 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat. Using a slotted spoon, remove the broccoli and put into a bowl of a blender or food processor. (*If you are using an immersion blender you will need to do some juggling. Once you have removed the broccoli, pour the broccoli water into a container and reserve. Put the broccoli back into the stock pot that you cooked them in.)
  5. Measure 2 cups of the broccoli water and place in the blender (or pot) with the broccoli. Reserve the remaining broccoli water.
  6. Blend the broccoli until it is smooth. Add the spinach, mint and basil and continue to blend until very smooth. If you think you are done blending, blend some more. One of the outstanding features of the soup is getting the soup to have a luxurious and smooth texture. The blending step is what will set this soup apart from any other broccoli soup. It will take awhile to accomplish, even longer depending on what equipment you are using. The blending should take at least 5 minutes but possibly longer.
  7. If using a food processor or blender, pour the vegetable puree into a clean pot. Turn on the heat to medium and add broccoli water, a little at a time, into the stock pot with the vegetable puree. Keep adding until you reached your desired consistency. Taste the soup and season with the lemon juice, about 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. (Be careful with the amount of lemon juice you add. The acid reacts with the green vegetables and changes the color from bright to drab.) Sweeten with about 1 teaspoon of honey or agave if needed. (optional) Taste and correct for seasoning.
  8. Serve warm for lunch or dinner. The soup will keep in the refrigerator for a couple of days. The color might change after a day or more in the refrigerator.

Notes

The amounts of the ingredients are somewhat open to interpretation. Every head of broccoli is not the same size, as well as every handful is not the same. But one of the great characteristics about making soup is you can play around with the amount of ingredients without totally messing it up. The key ingredients are the broccoli and spinach. To give you some guideline, the two heads of broccoli weighed a total of 1 lb 8 1/2 oz / 697 g and the total amount of spinach weighed 2 1/8 oz / 61 g.

I once bought a head of broccoli at the farmers market that was so big, it could have been the equivalent of two or three heads of broccoli. Use your judgement and let your eyes and tastebuds be your guide.

You can add around 3 -4 sprigs, or less, of each fresh herb to your liking.

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Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

When I plan a meal the quote, “Everything in moderation, including moderation,” is forever lurking in my brain, except when it comes to vegetables. I love vegetables and could easily have them take over half of my plate for any dinner meal. One vegetable I particularly love is sugar snap peas, and despite the fact that it is not spring, they are widely available at most stores in my area now.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

Sugar snap peas have a great sweet pea flavor and a snappy-crispy crunch. They could not be easier to prepare, just clean and trim the ends. Sometimes the fibrous string along the side needs to be pulled off, but I rarely feel it is necessary. I like to eat them raw in a salad, or quickly blanch or sauté them, then toss the snap peas with butter and fresh herbs.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms Recipe

I wanted to make a vegetable side dish that would compliment my chicken entrée that was marinated in yogurt, tahini, and sriracha and roasted in the oven. With the chicken baking in the oven, I could spend the down time on creating a flavorful vegetable side dish. Truth be told, the real inspiration came from the fact that I just happened to have all the ingredients in my refrigerator. I know I should be more studious and plan every meal for the week, but often my dinners are spontaneous creations based on what is in my refrigerator. Spontaneous or not, this is a recipe that compliments most meat entrée and can be adapted for a vegetarian entrée as well.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipes

When cooking with vegetables most of the work involves cleaning and prepping the vegetables. The actual cooking time is very short. For this recipe I have a two-step cooking process for the sugar snap peas. First I blanch them for 30 seconds and set them aside until the mushrooms are sautéed. Then I add the snap peas to the pan with the mushrooms and sauté just long enough to get the sugar snap peas heated through. The blanching and minimal cooking time help maintain the bright green color and crispness of the peas. In this recipe the contrast of the crispy sugar snap peas with the silky sautéed shiitake mushrooms is part of its appeal.

Sautéed sugar snap peas with shiitake mushrooms pair beautifully together.  Add minced shallots, fresh ginger and garlic to the sugar snap peas and shiitake mushrooms you have a side dish that can stand on its own merit. Despite the potent ingredients the flavoring is subtle with the ginger adding a bright note that is not overwhelming. I happen to love cooking with fresh ginger. I do not find its flavor to sharp or biting. It is a sweet bite of spice. If you are not a fan of ginger, you can omit the ginger and the sugar snap peas and shiitake mushrooms will have plenty of flavor.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

Sugar snap peas with shiitake mushrooms and ginger can be paired with any grilled or roasted meat, chicken or fish. It would make a perfect Thanksgiving side vegetable that would brighten up the rich flavors of the turkey and gravy and stuffing. If you serve this recipe with rice or other grain, the sugar snap peas with shiitake mushrooms and ginger becomes a great vegetarian and vegan meal for Thanksgiving, or for any dinner. Sprinkle some chopped peanuts, almonds, or hazelnuts over the dish and it is even better for vegetarians by adding more protein.

Sugar Sanp Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms Recipe

Bits and Tips making Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

What is a sugar snap pea?

A sugar snap pea is a member of the legume family that originated in East Asia. It is a cross between a snow pea and a garden, or English pea and is widely cultivated in North America. Like the snow pea, sugar snap peas are eaten whole: pod and seed together. They can be enjoyed raw or briefly cooked to keep the crisp snappy texture and bright green color. The fibrous string along the side may need to be removed.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms recipe

How to store mushrooms:

Mushrooms often come packaged in plastic containers and tightly sealed in plastic wrap. Plastic creates an overly moist environment that will quickly turn the mushrooms slimy. Paper bags are perfect for storing loose mushrooms. Be careful not to crowd the mushrooms, (or any vegetable) in an overly packed crisper drawer. Air movement keeps everything fresh longer.

How to clean mushrooms:

Sometimes mushrooms have a lot of dirt on them and brushing or wiping the dirt off the mushroom is not practical or effective. You can quickly rinse the mushrooms in running water and then pat dry with a paper towel or a clean cloth. Mushrooms are like sponges, so rinse them quick and do not soak them. Clean mushrooms right before you plan on using them.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms Recipes

How to peel ginger: 

To peel the skin off of a knobby chunk of ginger root the best tool to use is a spoon. Hold the piece of ginger in your non-working had and a spoon in the other. Gently scratch the ginger skin with the side of the your spoon. The skin should scrape right off without you having to dig into the ginger root. Use a light hand when working. The spoon makes it easy to work around all the knobby ends.

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

4-5 servings as a side dish

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger

Sugar Snap Peas with Shiitake Mushrooms and Ginger is a delicious vegetable side dish.This will pair well with Asian inspired main entrees or with grilled or roasted meats, chicken or fish. It is also the perfect Thanksgiving side dish that will brighten up the rich flavors of turkey with gravy, stuffing and potatoes.

To serve as a vegetarian entree serve Sugar Snap Peas with Ginger along with your favorite cooked grain, like brown rice. and add chopped nuts and/or sesame seeds.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb/ 455 g of sugar snap peas- cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot (about 3 oz/ 92 g)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 1/2 inch piece of fresh ginger root
  • 1/2 tea Kosher salt, divided
  • 8 oz/ 246 g shiitake mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
  • Optional garnishes
  • About 1 to 2 Tb of chopped fresh herb of your choice- parsley, scallions, mint, chives, thyme, (see note)
  • Chopped nuts like peanuts, almonds or hazelnuts, or toasted sesame seeds are a great garnish

Instructions

    Prep
  1. Wash and cut the stem off the sugar snap peas. You can remove the little string at the tip if think it is unsightly.
  2. Cut the stem off the shiitake mushrooms right at the base of the mushroom cap. Discard the stem or reserve for making stock. Slice each mushroom cap in long 1/4 inch strips.
  3. Mince the shallots garlic and set aside in separate piles. If the garlic cloves have a green germ in the middle, remove it before mincing. Peel the skin off of the fresh ginger root then mince. Keep the vegetables in separate piles and set aside.
  4. Quickly blanch the prepared sugar snap peas in boiling salted water for about 30 seconds. As soon as the water returns to a boil. Drain the water from the sugar snap peas. Keep the peas in a colander and set aside.
    Putting it all together
  1. Heat a large 10 or 12 inch skillet on medium heat and add 1 Tb olive oil.
  2. Add the minced shallots and stir to evenly coat with the olive oil. Cook the shallots until they are translucent. Stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pan and to prevent browning. About 4 minutes.
  3. Add the minced garlic, ginger and 1/4 tea Kosher salt, then stir to coat with the olive oil and mix with the shallots. Cook until the garlic and ginger become aromatic, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the sliced mushrooms and stir until they are evenly combined with the shallot mixture. Cook the mushrooms and occasionally stir them until the mushrooms have reduced in size, look glossy and released all its liquid. About 5 minutes.
  5. Pour in the stock into the pan and stir to deglaze the pan and cook off the liquid for a minute.
  6. Add the sugar snap peas and the rest of the Kosher salt then stir to combine. Cook the vegetables briefly just to get the sugar snap peas heated all the way through. About 2 minutes.
  7. Taste and add more salt if needed.
  8. Serve immediately.

Notes

Depending on what you are serving the sugar snap peas with, will dictates what herb or garnish you may want to finish it with. Sugar snap peas and shiitake mushrooms with ginger is perfectly delicious as is, but I always like to add fresh herbs to finish a meal. For this recipe the ginger should remain the dominant seasoning, choose an herb, if using, to compliment the ginger and your main entree, like parsley and mint and use a light hand adding it.

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.

Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille

It is hard to think about turning on the oven when it is so hot and humid outside. It is ironic to me that during the summer when the sun and the heat produces abundant amounts of fruits and vegetables, turning on a heat source to cook vegetables, or anything else for that matter, is the last thing on our mind. Fortunately fruits and vegetables can be eaten raw or cooked, hot or cold. During this crazy hot weather it is ideal to be thrifty and make one meal that can be used later for several additional meals.

An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Mixed vegetables for fennel and chickpea ratatouille

Ratatouille is just that kind of dish. It can be used as a side dish with grilled meats or fish, a sauce to cook eggs or fish in, a sauce to mix with pasta or other grain for a vegetarian entrée. Ratatouille is so versatile it is worth turning on the oven once for the additional meals that can be served with it afterwards.

An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Eggplant
An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Tomatoes with Zucchini

I was not a huge fan of ratatouille until I tried this recipe from Mark Bittman at cooking.nytimes.com.  One reason being, I first learned to cook ratatouille by sautéing each vegetable separately then combining all the vegetables in a crock and bake until bubbly. No thanks. There can be at least five different vegetables and that is just too laborious for a summer’s day. Secondly, I like eggplant but I do not love it, so making something with eggplant is not my first idea or inspiration.  Eggplant is a stunning and beautiful plant. The color is one of my favorites and why I haven’t dismissed it altogether. The flavor, by itself, just does not excite me. With this recipe the eggplant helps give ratatouille body developing on the classic pairing of eggplant and tomatoes. The fennel and fresh herbs makes the ratatouille fresh. Each ingredient adds a layer of flavor to create a medley of roasted vegetables that does not feel heavy.

An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Fennel
An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Prepared Fennel

Three aspects make this recipe stand out: fennel, chickpeas and the simple preparation. The fennel lightens the flavor of the roasted vegetables and the chickpeas turn it into a substantial meal when served as a vegetarian/vegan entrée. I also find the concentrated sweetness of the roasted red peppers gives the ratatouille its depth of flavor and body. Thanks to Mark Bittman, who was the Minimalist Chef for the Times after-all, the cooking process is simple and effective. There is no need to sauté each ingredient separately. Add a large handful of fresh herbs and the ratatouille will be bright like the beautiful summer day you are experiencing.

An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Chickpeas for Ratatouille
An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Prepared Vegetables for Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille

Turn on the oven for one hour and you will have created a mixed vegetable cornucopia that you can enjoy, for two to three additional meals. Fennel and chickpea ratatouille can be a vegetable side dish, (tonight I am serving my ratatouille with lamb burgers,) or serve ratatouille as a sauce for pasta or mixed with your favorite grain. You can serve this ratatouille on grilled toasts or make an open face sandwich by adding cheese and putting it under the broiler for lunch or an appetizer. Add a fried egg to the ratatouille and you have a great breakfast or light dinner. No recipe needed for the additional meals, just imagine and go. The possibilities are endless.

An easy vegetable dish that can be served for breakfast, lunch, dinner or an appetizer. This versatile dish can be served as a vegetarian/vegan entree or a side dish along with your favorite meat. It is also great as a sauce for pasta.
Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille

Don’t throw out your chickpea water, make aquafaba meringue cookies

Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes

8 serving as a side dish

Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille

Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille is an easy meal to prepare that can be served for any meal of the day. Serve this dish as a main course vegan entree with pasta or grains. Serve as a side dish with any grilled meats or cook as a sauce to cook fish and eggs with. Spread this ratatouille on toast for an easy lunch or quick appetizer. There are so many options for easy meals at any time of the day.

This recipe is very slightly adapted from Mark Bittman' s Chickpea and Fennel Ratatouille from New York Times Cooking.

Ingredients

    Fennel and Chickpea Ratatouille
  • 1 medium eggplant, 1 lb or less
  • 2 medium zucchini, about 1 lb
  • 1 pound of plum (Roma) tomatoes
  • 2 red and/or yellow sweet bell peppers
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 onion
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half (green germ removed)
  • 1/4 cup (about 60ml) olive oil
  • 1 tea Kosher salt
  • 3 cups cooked chickpeas (2 15oz cans of cooked chickpeas, about 1 lb, or 487g))
  • 2 Tbl minced fresh herbs such as rosemary with thyme or lemon thyme, or basil and parsley. If you do not have fresh herbs you can use 1 1/2 tea of dried Herbs De Provence.
  • You will need a large roasting pan, I used 12" x 17" x 2" pan. (30.5cm x 43cm x 5cm)

Instructions

  1. Pre- heat the oven to 425 degrees F/ 220 degrees C/ Gas Mark 7
  2. Cut each vegetable into similar size pieces, about one inch. There is no need to peel the eggplant, do so if it is your preference. Combine all of the chopped vegetables and garlic in a large roasting pan. If you do not have a pan large enough you can use two separate pans, like rimmed baking sheets, but your cooking time might change. Add the salt and olive oil and mix until evenly combined. (If you are using dried herbs add them now.)
  3. Bake the vegetables in the oven for 40 minutes. Add the chickpeas to the vegetables and fresh rosemary, if using. Bake for an additional 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are evenly cooked through and there is some browning in the pan. Once the vegetables are cooked take the pan out of the oven and mix in any reserved fresh herbs you are planning on using.
  4. Serve hot or room temperature.

Notes

There are a lot of vegetables in this recipe and a large roasting pan is perfect for the job. You can use a rimmed baking sheet and divide the vegetables in half and bake on two sheets. You just might need more time roasting the vegetables.

Feel free to substitute any vegetable with your favorite summer vegetables, just keep the sizes of the chopped pieces similar. Ratatouille is traditionally tomato based vegetable "stew" that is easily adapted to what you have on hand.

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© 2016 – 2017, Ginger Smith- Lemon Thyme and Ginger. All rights reserved.