Tag Archives: shallot

Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad

L1030066I am one week into my new food regimen.  I like to think of it as a regimen rather than a diet.  I don’t do well with diets.  The minute I am told I can’t have a particular food, I immediately want it.  This regimen was prescribed for me by a naturopathic doctor that I have been seeing for my IBS.  As you know from my last post, peri-menopause has caused quite a bit of havoc in my life over the past 18 months. I can’t believe it took me this long to seek medical treatment. I am a firm believer that much of what ails us has to do with our diets. So when my doctor prescribed this specific diet for my condition, I decided to give it a go. One year ago, I probably would have said, “No thanks”, but I am desperate to feel better. The regimen is  similar to the Paleo diet in that it excludes sugar, dairy, and all cereal grains. However, I am allowed a few types of cheese (thank god) as well as legumes.  I joked to my husband that I might join the CrossFit/Paleo cult that has swept the nation. I saw fear in his eyes.

I had awful headaches during the first few days. I’m assuming this was my body going through sugar withdrawal. But after they passed, it got a lot easier. I’m feeling pretty good and not feeling deprived at all. In fact, the thought of sugar doesn’t even sound good to me, which is strange. I was planning on allowing myself a piece of cake next weekend for my birthday, but I decided that I am going to make a healthy dessert instead.  Black bean brownies, anyone? I will try to post that recipe here in the coming months. It’s one of my favorite things to eat when I need something sweet.

In the meantime, get a load of this salad! It may sound boring, but I can assure you that it’s full of flavor and slightly addictive.  The dressing has a nice bite/tang to it, thanks to mustard and shallots. Give it a whirl!
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Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad
Adapted from Bon Appétit

Yield: 8-10 servings

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
1/4 teaspoon sea salt plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
2 large bunches of Tuscan kale (about 1 1/2 lb. total), center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
12 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed, finely grated or shredded with a knife
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup almonds with skins, coarsely chopped
1 cup finely grated Pecorino

1. Combine lemon juice, Dijon mustard, shallot, garlic, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper in a small bowl. Stir to blend; set aside to let flavors meld.
2. Mix thinly sliced kale and shredded brussels sprouts in a large bowl.
3. Measure 1/2 cup oil into a cup. Spoon 1 Tbsp. oil from cup into a small skillet; heat oil over medium-high heat. Add almonds to skillet and stir frequently until golden brown in spots, about 2 minutes. Transfer nuts to a paper towel-lined plate. Sprinkle almonds lightly with salt.
4. Slowly whisk remaining olive oil in cup into lemon-juice mixture. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Add dressing and cheese to kale mixture; toss to coat. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Garnish with almonds.

Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks with Ginger Vinaigrette

DSC_5873My relationship with my dad has come a long way.  I feel like he respects who I am, and how I live my life, even if he doesn’t always agree with my decisions.  We don’t talk on the phone that often, but when we do, we make sure to always say, “I love you” before hanging up.  However, as a kid, you could not have convinced me that I would one day have a loving relationship with my dad.  Back then, he was a very different person.  I just don’t think he wanted to be married, and he most definitely did not want to be strapped with two children in his mid-twenties, let alone with two girls.    He was pretty mean and angry, and I was basically scared of him a lot of the time.  Looking back now as an adult, I have empathy for him as a young parent who didn’t have the tools to be a good father.

Things started to slowly shift when I was in my teens.  I’m not sure what changed for him, but I could tell he was working on becoming a better man, and parent.  I remember him blowing up at me for something I did, and then later coming upstairs to my room and apologizing.  There was so much sadness in his eyes.  He looked at me and said something along the lines of how he had reacted was the complete opposite of how he should have reacted, and that he would try to do better next time.  Hearing my dad say that shifted something in the universe for me that day.  It was one of the first times I comprehended that adults, people, could change, and for the better.   We aren’t born a certain way, predestined for a specific path.  Rather, we decide who we want to be.

I’ve often wondered if my dad carries around any guilt or shame about the kind of dad he was to my sister and I growing up.  A few summers ago I went home for a visit.  My dad and I went out for an early morning walk, and we started talking about how things were when I was a kid.  I told him that the only way for my brain to reconcile the man he was back then with the man he is today is to think of them as two completely different people.  It’s like at some point, he shed the skin of my younger dad, and morphed into my older dad–one who is patient, kind, affectionate, and considerate.   I have so much love for my dad.  And although we are a lot alike in many ways, we see the world differently.  After all that we have been through, it feels so good to think of my dad, and smile.

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I’m pretty sure this was the first time I’ve ever made a dish using fresh tuna.  I was shocked at how easy it was.  I mean, it should be easy, because it’s fish, but making a tuna dish always seemed so intimidating to me.  If you enjoy fresh tuna and have never attempted a dish in your own kitchen, start with this one.  It’s super simple and very tasty.

Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks with Ginger Vinaigrette
Adapted from Food and Wine

5 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
5 Tbsp. sake
2-1/2 Tbsp. mirin
3 Tbsp. minced shallot
1/2 Tbsp. finely grated, peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 bunch of Broccolini, trimmed
Two 1-inch-thick yellowfin tuna steaks
2 tsp. toasted white sesame seeds

1.  In a small saucepan, simmer the soy sauce, sake, mirin and shallot until the liquid is slightly reduced, 3 minutes.  Remove from the heat: stir in the ginger.  Slowly whisk in 1/4 cup of the oil.  Season with salt and pepper.
2.  In a steamer basket set in a large saucepan of simmering water, steam the Broccolini until tender, about 6 minutes.  Transfer to plates.
3.  Meanwhile, in a large non-stick skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.  Season the tuna with salt and pepper.  Sear over high heat until golden brown but still rare within, about 30 seconds per side.
4.  Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  Slice against the grain and transfer to the plates.  Drizzle with some of the vinaigrette and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
5.  Serve with the remaining vinaigrette.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Raisins

DSC_5162In January of 2005, I took a bus from Port Authority to Springfield, Massachusetts for a silent meditation retreat.  My good friend had gone on a retreat the previous year, and she told me it had helped her become more present in her daily life.  The style of meditation is called Vipassana, which means to see things as they really are.  It was taught in India thousands of years ago as a way to deal with everyday ills.

I had had a particularly rough winter:  breaking up with my boyfriend, getting back together, then breaking up again.  I wasn’t happy at my job, and things just seemed pretty bleak overall.  I was counting on this meditation retreat to solve all of my problems.  I would finally become enlightened, gain more self-acceptance, and learn how to be at peace with myself.  I didn’t realize that I was also going through a bout of depression.
DSC_5152The Vipassana style of meditation is very regimented, and looking back, I now know that it wasn’t what I needed at the time.  When you first arrive at the retreat center, the staff conducts a brief orientation where they go over the rules and shortly after that you give them your phone, reading materials, etc. (basically anything other than your clothing).  You are not allowed anything that might distract you from your practice.  Furthermore, you take a vow of silence for the next 10 days, and you are expected to refrain from eye contact as well.  For some reason, this all felt very doable at the time.  I was desperate to feel better.

Throughout the first few days of meditating, we focused on our breathing.  Everything becomes very still and quiet.  By the fourth day, you learn how to notice physical sensations throughout your body without reacting to them.  The objective of this practice is to learn how to go through life in a more mindful way.  Thoughts will come and go, but we are in control of how we react to those thoughts.  Feel your feelings, and know that they will not kill you.  You don’t need to numb out with alcohol, food, drugs, sex, etc.  One of the most important things I learned at this retreat is that when you try to numb the pain with whatever your poison is, you also numb yourself from feeling joy.  Life just becomes something you have to slog through, as opposed to something to celebrate.  I still struggle with this idea sometimes.

By day five, I was ready to leave.  It was cold and dark everyday, and the staff had made announcements that a snowstorm was imminent in the coming days.  I was in the middle of nowhere in Massachusetts and I felt trapped.  I had learned some helpful meditation techniques, but I was dying to talk to another human being.  I was profoundly lonely and depressed, and found myself trying to sneak glances at the other participants at lunch or while walking outside in between meditation sessions. I was beginning to understand that being alone all day with my negative thoughts was not helping me.  It was making things worse.  All I wanted was a smile from another person, something to reassure me that everything was going to be ok.  I felt like I was going a bit crazy not being able to talk to someone.  Years later I was diagnosed with chronic depression and was told that silent meditation retreats can actually be dangerous for depressives because of the isolation factor.  I have since learned healthy ways of managing my depression, and still try to incorporate meditation on a weekly basis.  To this day, I consider that retreat to be one of the toughest mental challenges I’ve ever been through.
DSC_5156This is one of my favorite recipes for the colder months.  I discovered this recipe last winter, and I must have made it at least a dozen times.  I used to hate Brussels sprouts growing up.  My mom would boil them, and they would turn out soggy and bitter.  That hatred has grown into a real fondness.  Brussels sprouts might just be one of my favorite veggies now.  The bacon and raisins are a perfect pairing because of the salty/sweet combo that combines beautifully with the slight bitterness of the sprouts and the sour vinegar.  Warning:  this recipe is addictive.

Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Raisins
Adapted from Bon Appétit

1 tsp. olive oil
4 thick slices bacon
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup raisins
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1.  Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add bacon and cook, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 5 minutes.
2.  Using tongs, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain.  Let cool.  Coarsely crumble.
3.  While bacon cools, add Brussels sprouts to drippings in skillet; season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring often, until well browned in spots and beginning to soften, 5-7 minutes.
4.  Reduce heat to low and add raisins, shallot, and butter; cook, stirring often, until shallot is soft, about 3 minutes.
5.  Add broth to skillet; increase heat and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until broth has evaporated, 1-2 minutes.
6.  Stir in vinegar and crumbled bacon.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

 

Warm Green Snap Beans in Bacon Vinaigrette

DSC_4641I was feeling very rushed yesterday.  I had a doctor’s appointment in the morning, and by the time I returned home I felt like I was racing against time trying to finish my to-do list before going to work.  I am hosting my monthly book club tonight, so the passion fruit cheesecake(!!) had to be made yesterday.  Even though I love entertaining and hosting, it can easily turn into a nerve-racking situation if I allow it.  It must stem from the part of my ego that needs other people’s approval.  What starts off as excitement about choosing recipes, selecting a playlist, and fantasizing about drinking good wine over stimulating conversation can quickly turn to panic.

The day before hosting, I turn into my own worst enemy creating endless to-do lists and noticing everything that is wrong with our apartment.  We still haven’t hung up that shelf!  Why doesn’t our living room get more light?  I wish we could hire a decorator so I could truly enjoy our home.  However, I caught myself in the midst of these thoughts yesterday.  I allowed myself to sit still (my acupuncturist finds it curious that I usually frame it as, “I forced myself to sit still.”) for a few minutes, took some deep breaths, and tried to quiet the loud voice that was trying to put a negative spin on an experience that brings me a lot of joy.  When I woke up this morning, I told myself I was going to approach the remainder of my to-do list with gratitude:

How fortunate am I that I get to have friends over to discuss a novel that I really enjoyed (we read The Orphan Master’s Son for anyone who is curious)? 

I get to cook and bake delicious food for my friends. 

I am able to drink wine and connect with other women who I respect and appreciate. 

I can buy a beautiful bouquet of flowers to celebrate the arrival of spring.
DSC_4633And I’ll be doing all of the above tonight.  Speaking of spring, I made this salad last week because I needed an easy yet healthy lunch to take to work.  It’s a warm salad, so it’s perfect for this time of year when the days can fluctuate between a balmy 50 degrees during the day and a much chillier evening.  It reminded me of a tangy, rustic French salad with the green beans, tomatoes, and shallots.  I just realized that I’ve been to France twice and both visits were in the spring.  They do seem to compliment each other well.  Isn’t there a classic song called “April in Paris”?  [End of tangent.]  This salad is light yet filling, and very satisfying with the bacon and olive oil so you don’t feel deprived whatsoever. 

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Warm Green Snap Beans in Bacon Vinaigrette
Adapted from Food and Wine 

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

2 lbs. green snap beans, trimmed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces thickly sliced bacon, cut into lardons (1 cup)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
10 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small shallot, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup chopped basil
salt and freshly ground pepper

1.  Cook the beans in a large pot of salted boiling water until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
2.  Drain the beans and cool them under cold running water.  Drain well and pat dry; transfer the beans to a large bowl.
3.  In a large skillet, heat the olive oil.  Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, 7 to 8 minutes.
4.  Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the vinegar, tomatoes, shallot, garlic and basil.  Scrape the bacon vinaigrette over the beans, season with salt and pepper and toss to evenly coat.  Serve warm.