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Mushrooms

Creamy Polenta with Spring Greens and Shiitakes

Creamy Polenta with Spring Greens and Shiitakes

Oh man. A whirlwind of travel mayhems transported me to my mom’s garden this past weekend.

I was out in San Diego last week for work (consider me sunshine-swooned), and my layover flight home ended up terminated due to poor weather. My choices were: 1) Struggle to keep my eyes open till 4a.m. at the airport and achieve automatic world-class traveler status; or 2) Switch my flight destination from Philly to Baltimore and persuade my mom to come pick me up, just before the strike of midnight. Family for the win. I chose to forgo the world-class traveler award as soon as my mom gave me the go-ahead. That accolade can wait, especially in circumstances where a spring garden awaits. Oh, and let’s not forget that a ton more places are waiting for me to visit, too.

Spring greens

Naturally as soon as my jet lag wore off, I was outside inspecting the garden, and cooking up lunch with my findings. It happened to serve as a good thank you to my mom, and a pre-Mother’s Day gift. That deserves an accolade in itself, right? Just kidding.

Creamy Polenta with Spring Greens and Shiitakes

I dream of days where I have my own garden. Or even just a yard. But for now, my mom’s will likely have to do until I migrate away from Philly. Luckily, it holds its own with an uplifting plethora of baby greens and herbs, all of which gave inspiration to this meal.

At their youngest, kale and collards simply can’t be beat. And now is the time to find them.

Spring greens

It’s been said life hardens you, and apparently this goes for greens too. You see, babies are inherently soft-skinned and sweet in nature. Apply this to greens, and you get leaves that are far more tender than when they grow older, and generally less bitter, too. (And since this seems to apply to humans as well, I’m keeping a “big kid” status forever.)

The soft and sweet characteristics make early spring greens perfect for raw preparations and for quick 2-minute sautes in recipes like this. From kale to spinach to swiss chard, any green that might be sprouting up in your garden or making its way to your local farmer’s market will work here. If available, go for a mix. That may just mean throwing in a few red lettuce leaves, too, and turning your mushrooms a strange shade of magenta. Es la vida.

Creamy Polenta with Spring Greens and Shiitakes

Pile those greens and mushrooms on top of St. Andres cheese, already working to melt its way into creamy polenta, and you’ve got a spring meal that’s memorable, to say the least.

My best description for St. Andres is “a more heavenly version of butter”. However, if for some reason you can’t find it, opt for a soft cheese, one that’s ideally slightly stronger in flavor than brie. If baby greens aren’t at your disposal, feel free to use the big guys. Just add a few extra minutes to your saute time. Then tell those big babies to stop growing up so fast!

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Pasta with Shitakes and Shredded Dijon Brussels Sprouts

Pasta with Shitakes and Shredded Dijon Brussels Sprouts

Okay, so I lied. I said I wasn’t going to do any food blogging this week given the first week of actual spring-like weather. I had a packed schedule of tennis, running club, concert photography, yoga teaching, and wedding photo meetings, in addition to some First Friday festivities I’m headed to tonight. Not to mention my regular full-time job. Whew, just listing all that out is starting to make me feel the soreness from my first tennis match a bit more.

Somehow, however, I still managed to get in the kitchen. With my camera, too! That’s true love, ladies and gents.

But it’s also a result of the weather, the same reason I thought I wouldn’t be doing much cooking. Oh spring, how I love thee.

Pasta with Shitakes and Shredded Dijon Brussels Sprouts How many of you also feel a sudden onslaught of energy once springtime arrives? Maybe it’s the extended hours of daylight. Maybe it’s because my body isn’t working so hard to stay warm. Maybe it’s just because I’m all around happier. Whatever it is, spring gives me pep. And I’m all about it. Ya feel me? No complaints here. Even if my shins are killing me, and my shoulders are a bit sore. And my friday night might be cut a bit short because I really probably could use some sleep. It’s spring so none of that matters.

Pasta with Shitakes and Shredded Dijon Brussels Sprouts

My brother just moved to L.A. I’m visiting him this summer, and after I do, my mom thinks I’ll never come back. If this trip were in the winter, she’d probably be right. I’m pretty sure one day I will unite with a warm weathered locale, and never turn my back on it again. Will it be L.A.? Who knows. I have my doubts, though I’ve yet to ever go there, so I can’t say for sure.

What I can say for sure is I could gush about springtime forever. If that makes me a boring weather-conversationalist, so be it. Me and spring, and summer too, have a deep connection. If you’re in on that, you know what I’m talking about. If you’re not, well, sorry.

Brussels Sprouts

I’ve also got a deep connection with mushrooms. I love ’em. Chewy and full of flavor, there is not a shitake I wouldn’t want in my pasta. Here, they team up with some shredded sprouts, which get coated in a light olive oil, garlic and Dijon sauce. Tossed with parsley, salt and pepper, this feels like the perfect early springtime dish before the abundance of other seasonal veggies start to shower my kitchen. It’s light and fresh, but not too delicate on flavor. The sauce can certainly hold its own to a hearty whole wheat pasta, so make sure to go that route when you make this.

Alright, I’m off to brave a few April showers. Enjoy!

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Coconut Curry Cabbage Stir-Fry with Pasta

Coconut Curry Cabbage Stir-Fry with Pasta

Sometimes I get the weirdest cravings. Like for iced coffee in the middle of a February snowstorm. Or for bubble baths (likely a result of said iced coffee). Or for cabbage, a vegetable I think of little outside of those lone, random lustings.

Generally, cabbage comes into my mind mainly in the summer, when its heads are running rampant in the garden. It comes to mind when I’m dining outside, veg. or fish tacos in hand, and a few shreds of crunch lace the top. I can get down with some cole slaw, too, but I can’t say I’m dreaming of it all year. It’s definitely not something I seek out. (This recipe excluded.)

Cabbage, however, seized my mind this past cold, wintry week. (Along with thoughts of California. And beaches. And everything else warm-related, to the extent I started writing about it in my music journalism…)

Cabbage

As per usual, while working at a coffee shop shifted to daydreaming of dinner at a coffee shop, as per not usual, my mind drifted to cabbage. And so was born this recipe.

Cowabunga.

Coconut Curry Cabbage Stir-Fry with Pasta

Coconut curry’s something I daydream of on the regular, so no surprises here. It gives this pasta a vegan sauciness that feels creamy but not overly rich. It pairs perfectly with the crunch from the cabbage, and the peanuts thrown on top. Feel free to swirl in a little peanut butter if you do want to take it to the richer side, or if you simply don’t have any peanuts on hand. Just don’t skip out on the nutty element all together.

A little cabbage, yes cabbage, to brighten up a winter day. Who would’ve dreamed? Me.

Green cabbage

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Millet Cauliflower Caraway “Mashed Potatoes”

Cauliflower Millet Mash

Cauliflower is trendy. It’s become the hip, harlem shakin‘, Sriracha loving, Ray-Ban wearing vegetable of 2013. It’s hot on demand and is quickly sneaking its way onto restaurant menus nationwide. Can’t say I predicted that.

I could’ve predicted the past year’s kale boom, the one that’s quietly beginning to slow. Leafy, vibrant greens packed with nutrients – it was only a matter of time before they shifted beyond garnish status on the plate. This whole cauliflower craze though, it really snuck up on me. I definitely didn’t see the day coming where cauliflower “steak” would push beef aside and become the highlight of a menu (at $34 a plate)! I could certainly argue with that price, but cauliflower shining across menus is fine by me.

Cauliflower doesn’t make my grocery list all that often, but I admit, its crowns have been the favored ones ever since I was kid. My mom would often steam it up alongside broccoli, the green monster I’d grimace at after every bite. For the cauliflower, however, there was never any kind of the “you won’t get dessert if you don’t eat…” convincing needed. Today, I probably eat more of the green crowns than the white, but again I admit, cauliflower is still the favored one. Cauliflower Millet Mash

Its relatively neutral flavor makes it great for dishes like this (and apparently pizza crust too!). Here, cauliflower is paired with a slightly nutty millet, and then whipped up in a food processor. The result is a creamy, mashed potato-like texture yielded without any butter or cream needed. In fact, you could call this a no-fat version of mashed potatoes, although with the caraway seeds, it’ll bring just a tad more complexity to the table. Feel free to skip the seeds altogether if you’re looking for a neutral side or straight-up mashed potato replacement. However, I find the caraway to really add a nice, unique element you seldom find outside of rye bread.

I served this up with a batch of sautéed baby portabella mushrooms and garlic. To do the same, simply slice up  8 oz. baby portabellas along with a couple of garlic cloves. Saute in a little olive oil, deglazing the pan with a splash of balsamic vinegar, and seasoning with salt and pepper. Feel free to add in thyme or other herbs, or keep it simple and let the millet mash speak for itself. The mushrooms will add a nice depth of texture to the velvety smooth cauliflower. Continue Reading…

Brie and Butternut Quesadillas with Sage and Shiitakes

Butternut and Brie Quesadillas

New Year’s Eve is always a gamble.

When I was little, the bet was always whether or not I could keep my droopy eyes open till midnight. Middle school brought the toss up of whose parents would give them the freedom to leave the family for the night. And high school was a roll of the dice over what kind beverages would be obtainable (crappy beer vs. sparkling cider, which these days, I’d likely choose the latter).

As I entered college, the gamble became whether or not you’d have a date for the night. Which I did last year. We conveniently got into a fight just before midnight. Even with a boyfriend and confetti all around, last year’s countdown was a strike out.

This time, however, I don’t care what the night brings; it’s going to be a winner. There will be no droopy eyes, no friends stuck at home, and while I can’t promise a lack of crappy beer on site, there definitely won’t be any fighting taking place. This, and letting any other expectations walk out the door, is all I need to know that this year won’t be a gamble.

Although…just in case something does go wrong… I’ll be whipping up these Brie and Butternut Quesadillas. Because seriously, you just can’t go wrong with these. If you’ve never tried brie melted on sliced butternut squash, just removed from the oven, I recommend you do so just before assembling these. With a sprinkle of cinnamon, too. It will be a nutty, creamy, pre-New Years celebration in your mouth. For the more finger-friendly option, stick with the quesadillas. These are a crowd-pleaser that will likely set you apart at the party.

Click here for recipe…

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