Posts Tagged With: feta

supper tonight – 5.29.12 – beet & carrot salad, couscous with lentils (plus a quick lunch with the leftovers)

Root vegetables.

They’re kind of amazing, if you think about it.

All you see above ground are stems and greens. Sometimes tasty, sometimes bitter. Sometimes edible, sometimes poisonous.

Who in our hunter-gatherer ancestry first mined the hidden gems that flourish underground? Who was first curious enough to discover that some plants have wiry tendrils for roots, while others stand on concealed, crisp, bulging nuggets of stored nourishment? Who was first brave or hungry or reckless or stupid enough to unearth and eat one of these mysterious fruits from the earth, willing to risk sickness or death for the sake of a strange thing that might–or might not–be food?

It’s easy to scout your garden for the perkiest basil leaves, the fluffiest fennel fronds, the plumpest strawberries, the tenderest figs.

But until you part the earth to release its buried root treasures, you won’t know whether your carrots are pretty and slender like a maiden’s fingers or knobby and hooked like a witch’s claws. You won’t know what shape your potatoes or yams have taken until they’re out of the soil and in your palm.

(You can estimate size, of course–pretty accurately, even–based on when you planted those veggies and what above-ground signals they’ve transmitted. But really, you will never know for sure until you hold those secrets in your hand.)

Here’s the other thing about root vegetables: you’ve got to work for them.

Fresh herbs? Snip a few sprigs as you need them. Fruit and berries? Pluck ’em from the bush and enjoy. Quick, easy.

But with roots, the magic happens under the soil, and you can’t see it or hold it or taste it until you dig it up, unearth it, get a little grit and grime under your fingernails. Brave the worms and grubs and bugs, brave the mess, brave the unknown.

Carrots and beets? Prepare to get dirty. Prepare to scrub. Prepare for food that doesn’t really look like food at first, not until you’ve shined it up and shown the beauty underneath.

And once you’ve unearthed these treasures, please, do let them shine.

the (mostly) unadorned beauty of roots

Our salad, enjoyed warm, was simple: roasted beets and carrots tossed with crumbled feta and fresh parsley, drizzled with a cumin vinaigrette. The recipe comes from our favorite cookbook, Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South, which I know I’ve written about plenty already. But it’s our favorite, so it’s hard not to cook from it as often as we do. 🙂

What’s in it (the cumin vinaigrette):

  • 1 teaspoon grainy mustard
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (another wine vinegar would probably work well)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (Hugh toasts and grinds whole seeds, which we didn’t have–I’m sure this would add even more flavor)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Whisk together the mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, and cumin.
  • Gradually whisk in the olive oil, then the mint.
  • Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

This makes about 3/4 cup of dressing, so you will have extra leftover after you make the salad. You won’t mind, though, because it makes a great dressing for other salads or a crisp cabbage slaw (which I’ll tell you more about in another post).

What’s in it (the salad):

  • 1/2 pound carrots, left whole or halved if they’re very small, or cut up if they’re larger
  • 1/2 pound beets, halved or quartered if they’re very small, or cut up if they’re larger
  • a little olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • 2-3 ounces crumbled feta
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons cumin vinaigrette

Step-by-step:

  • Get a pot of salted water boiling on the stove.
  • Add the carrots, boil for 1 minute, then remove to a bowl to cool.
  • Add the beets and boil until they’re just tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain the beets and allow them to cool for a few minutes.
  • Preheat your oven to 450°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Toss the carrots in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper, then spread them out on one side of the baking sheet.
  • Do the same to the beets, then spread them out on the other side of the baking sheet.
  • Roast for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and slightly browned.
  • Let the vegetables cool for a few minutes.
  • In one bowl, toss the carrots with the feta, half of the parsley, and about a tablespoon of the vinaigrette.
  • In another bowl, toss the beets with the rest of the parsley and another tablespoon of the vinaigrette.
  • Add carrots to your plates first, then top with the beets and a little more of the vinaigrette.

We followed these instructions exactly, but if you don’t mind your beets bleeding a little on the rest of your salad, you could certainly mix them with the carrots on the roasting pan or when you toss the veggies with the vinaigrette at the end. This is probably what we’ll do next time.

The amount of salad this made could easily have been a light lunch for two or sides/starters for four. We were pretty hungry, so we added lentils and couscous to the meal to make it a little heartier, plus a bottle of white wine, because…well, why not?

the whole meal, with Micah waiting patiently in the background

The flavors in our mugs of lentils and couscous paired perfectly with the salad, so I’ll share how I made them, too.

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup dry lentils
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated minced onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup dry couscous
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the lentils and stir around for a few minutes to coat them with the oil.
  • Add the tomato paste, diced tomato, orange zest, minced onion, and spices. Stir to incorporate.
  • Add the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.
  • Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are just tender.
  • Add the couscous. Bring to a boil again, then reduce the heat to very low and cover the pot. Let stand for about 15 minutes.
  • Uncover the pot, stir in the vinegar and white wine, then season with salt and pepper to taste. If you have more liquid then you’d like, you can simmer and reduce for a few minutes.

The orange zest, balsamic vinegar, and white wine brightened up the smoky, earthy flavors of the lentils and paprika, and the Mediterranean-inspired seasonings meshed beautifully with that colorful beet and carrot salad.

Really, the only problem with our lentil and couscous dish was that we made too much. If we’d eaten no salads, or much smaller salads, we would have had plenty of beans and starch for a main course–about 3-1/2 cups. But with our substantial vegetable dish, this was just too much to finish in one meal, so about a third of it went into the refrigerator as leftovers.

I love eating leftovers just as they are, especially if they were good the first time around (as this definitely was). But I also love experimenting with ways to transform old leftovers into something new and different, so of course that’s what I decided to do on Sunday for lunch. 🙂

similar flavors, completely different texture and form

What’s in it:

  • about 1-1/2 cups leftover couscous and lentils
  • 1/3 cup dry breadcrumbs (I used panko because that’s what I had in the pantry)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mixed Greek olives, finely chopped (or you could try subbing capers or a ready-made tapenade)

Step-by-step:

  • Use your hands to smoosh together the leftover couscous-lentil mixture, breadcrumbs, and egg (kind of like making a burger).
  • Divide the mixture into fourths and form into patties.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the patties to your pan and cook for about 4 minutes per side or until they’re nicely browned and firm.
  • Top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of olives.

Wow. These came out better than I could’ve hoped or expected.

Of course I knew they ought to taste pretty good since we had enjoyed the original dish so much, but I worried about the texture. Needlessly, because the outsides of these couscous lentil cakes were nice and crisp, while the insides were moist and flavorful. Combined with the creamy, tangy yogurt and the salty, briny olives, this lunch was even better than the leftovers that inspired it.

So good, in fact, that I know we’ll have to cook up these little cakes again the next time we make a batch of that splendid root vegetable salad.

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Categories: musings, recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

quick lunch (for one) – 5.22.12 – zucchini frittata

What to do when your husband’s out to lunch and you need a quick meal at home?

Make a frittata.

I say this authoritatively, like I do it all the time. But in reality, today was the first time I’ve ever made a frittata, and it’s pretty rare that I’m cooking lunch for one. 

As I had never cooked this Italian omelet-like dish before, I kind of winged it based on my best guess (and what I’ve seen folks do on the Food Network). I knew I needed eggs, plus some kind of vegetable and/or cheese filling, and I knew I needed my skillet o’ stuff to start on the stove and end in the oven.

Apparently, that’s all you really need to know.

you say frit-TAY-ta, I say frit-TAH-ta?

What’s in it:

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 of a large zucchini, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • a sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten with a little more salt and pepper
  • 1 ounce feta, crumbled

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the olive oil in a 6″ oven-proof skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 2-3 minutes or until it starts to brown.
  • Add the zucchini, marjoram, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until the zucchini is tender and starting to become translucent.
  • Pour in the beaten eggs. Let them cook, without stirring, for 3-5 minutes or until they are starting to set on the bottom.
  • Sprinkle on the feta.
  • Transfer your skillet to the oven and broil for about 5 minutes or until the frittata is golden brown and puffy (it’ll deflate when you take it out of the oven) and the egg is cooked through.
  • Use a heat-resistant silicone spatula to loosen the frittata from the skillet and slide it onto a plate.
  • Enjoy with fresh fruit, a green salad, and/or a slice of crusty bread.

Yum! Now that I know how to cook a frittata, and now that so many beautiful summer veggies are coming in, and now that I’m on vacation from school…I have a feeling I’ll be making more of these soon.

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

quick lunch – 5.7.12 – quinoa with tomatoes, feta, and mint

Maybe I caught a little bug, or maybe it’s just the last few weeks’ insane rush of activity catching up with me, but I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather these last two days. My symptoms (headache, stomach cramps and discomfort, and some serious fatigue) don’t point to anything specific that I can think of, but I’m hoping that taking a sick day today and spending most of it working from home in my pajamas will help me recover enough to return to school tomorrow.

Yes, working from home. Since our students only have a week and a half left of school, today was the day to send overdue notices home with kids who still haven’t returned their library books. I’m also working on suggested summer reading lists that will go home with the kids in the next few days. So while I did stay home sick, I’ve actually done about half of the work that I planned to accomplished at school today anyway. Which still puts me a half day (or more) behind….but that’s pretty normal. 🙂

Sick or well, a gal’s gotta eat. Breakfast was easy–reheating a pear oatmeal muffin and brewing some coffee–but we don’t really keep much easy lunch food around the house since we usually take dinner leftovers to work with us during the week…and today, we didn’t have any leftovers left. So, I had to come up with something quick that I could cook without much effort.

Quick starches in our pantry included pappardelle, couscous, and the last of the rainbow quinoa, so I gave Micah his pick. He chose the quinoa (surprising, because although he likes the flavor, he usually gripes about it getting stuck in his teeth).

This was the result:

the mint was the best part…

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, divided in half
  • 2/3 cup quinoa (we used rainbow)
  • 1-1/3 cup stock or broth (we used chicken)
  • 1/2 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped

Step-by-step:

  • Heat 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the quinoa and toast it in the oil for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the stock/broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover for about 20 minutes. (I forgot to set my timer and let ours go a little long. Oops.)
  • While the quinoa cooks, crumble your feta, dice your tomato, and chop your mint.
  • When the quinoa is finished cooking, remove it from the heat. Stir in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil, along with the vinegar, tomatoes, mint, and feta.
  • Divide between two bowls and enjoy! (We ate this warm, but I’ll bet it would be delicious chilled as well.)

I thought our lunch turned out pretty tasty, and Micah loved it. The feta, an Athens Locally Grown item from Greendale Farm in Madison, GA, was really delicious–Micah said it was the best feta he’d ever tasted! And I might just have to agree. That sharp, tangy, salty cheese made very good friends with the cool mint and the sweet tomatoes.

My favorite thing about this recipe is that I can see so many possibilities for yummy variations. Our lunch was kind of Greek/Mediterranean, but why not go Italian by replacing the sherry vinegar, mint, and feta with balsamic vinegar, basil, and cubes of fresh mozzarella? Or travel south of the border with fresh lime juice, cilantro, and crumbled cotija?

I’m still not back to 100%, but enjoying such an easy, delicious lunch definitely made me feel a little better. 🙂

Categories: recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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