Changing Seasons: Herb & Citrus Shrimp

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As the weather changes, the cooler temperatures bring tender herbs back to the market. Although this recipe was originally created in springtime, the ingredients are now available at the farmers market where I live. I’ve just started retracing my steps: cooking at the farmers’ market to help my patients and community understand how to easily prepare what was available was a wonderful challenge. I’d forgotten this recipe which was originally on my Facebook page, where I would post right after the cooking demonstrations; actually there were so many recipes concocted in the moment on Saturday mornings that I didn't keep track. I’m now going back and retrieving them. It makes me realize that my food choices are getting simpler overall. With great ingredients, very little has to be done to get incredible flavors. The shrimp I get from Lil Emmas Seafood was swimming in the Gulf of Mexico a few hours before I buy them Saturday mornings. My favorite, gulf brown shrimp, are sweet and delicious.

This recipe takes under 10 minutes to prepare. One pound of shrimp makes 4 servings. At only 125 calories a serving, with 24 grams of protein and 190 mg of cholesterol, this is an easy and nutritious meal.

RECIPE: HERB AND CITRUS SHRIMP

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound shrimp, cleaned and deveined

  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

  • 1.4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

  • 2 teaspoons extravirgin olive oil

  • 1/3 cup each, chopped flat leaf parsley & fennel fronds

  • 2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice (or 1 tablespoon regular lemon juice)

PROCESS

  • Clean & devein shrimp. Toss with extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly cracked black pepper

  • Sautée shrimp until they starting to turn opaque, about 2-3 minutes depending on size.

  • Add herbs and lemon juice and toss to coat

  • Serve with a salad, good bread, pasta, quinoa.... Or just enjoy !

 
 

Tuscan Kale & Pecan Pasta

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When time is short, the ingredients limited because you cleaned out the fridge in advance of leaving town, and you’re trying to follow the Healthy Is Homemade motto, this dish is the perfect solution.  

I usually have several types of raw nuts in the pantry and they are a perfect addition to pasta for protein, healthy fats and to keep you full. The lucky part of the day was being able to harvest the little tender shoots of a potted Tuscan Kale plant that sprouted on the very long stalk I let bolt this spring (in hopes of harvesting seeds, but I lost track of time). I tasted the leaf, preparing myself for some serious bitterness. If you’ve ever grown lettuce and let it bolt, you’ll know what I mean—the once sweet leaves turn incredibly bitter. To my great and delicious surprise, it was sweet and tender, with marvelous kale overtones. I harvested about a cupful and chopped it up with an equal portion of pecans. I had  a half cup of grated Parmesan in the fridge. I had 15 minutes. The dish sprang to life. 

We ate, did the minimal clean up and headed to the airport happy that we wouldn’t have to resort to the mostly unhealthy food choices available to us.

I will be making this again with fully grown Tuscan kale. You can substitute any sturdy, dark leafy greens, thinly sliced brussel sprouts, cauliflower or broccoli leaves, or even napa cabbage. Spinach is not a good choice here as it wilts away to nothing and gets watery.

RECIPE: Tuscan Kale & Pecan Pasta

INGREDIENTS

  • 4oz dry spaghetti cooked to al dente in salted water

  • 1 cup chopped raw pecans (you can use walnuts or almonds instead)

  • 1 cup chopped Tuscan kale (or any sturdy green)

  • 1/2 cup grated parmegiano regiano

  • 1/3 teaspoon cracked pepper

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter

  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

  • 1/4 cup retained pasta water

PROCESS

  • Boil water, add salt and cook the pasta. While the pasta is cooking,

  • Heat butter and oil over medium flame. Add the pecans and gently toast.

  • Add the chopped kale and sauté until gently wilted. About 2 minutes. Add the pepper.

  • Add the cooked pasta and toss. Add the cheese, 1/4 cup of the pasta cooking water. Toss to combine.

  • Adjust the seasoning. Remember that the cheese will add salt to the dish, so taste the completed dish before adding any salt.

    Serves 2

 
 

Roasted Eggplant (Aubergine): The perfect canvas

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I have loved roasted eggplant since I was a wee child.  Both my grandmothers cooked eggplant over earthen or clay stoves with wood fires.  The smoky, luscious eggplant was dressed with cilantro, green chilies and mustard oil.  My maternal grandmother may have added sautéed onions and a few spices on occasion.  

Roasted eggplant is beloved by many culinary traditions.  Middle eastern dishes like babaganouj and Persian spiced eggplant are some of my favorites.  The mediterranean and the near and far East have their own versions. I've described the simple method favored in Bengal. In other parts of India, tomatoes, spices and garlic are added with amazing results and complex tastes.  

I demonstrated this dish at the farmers' market a few summer ago.  I don't usually cook it at home as my husband doesn't prefer (his code for 'I really don't like') eggplant.  He's tried it and just doesn't like it. I've always wondered if he'd feel differently if we called it aubergine, which is far more sophisticated and appealing. 

Last weekend, I was in line a produce vendor at the farmer' market and the two women in front of me were talking about eggplant.  One said it looked great, but she didn't know what to do with it.  So I offered up this technique in which you can take the flavor profile into any direction that you prefer.  The roasting takes a little time and can be a bit messy if done over a gas flame (lining your stove with foil may help), but it can also be done in a broiler with the eggplants cut in half and laid with the cut side down so the outsides char.

The smoky, umami liquid that pools when you allow the eggplant to cool in a bowl is too delicious to toss; strain it into the pulp.  Waste not want not. 

I have dressed this with parsley, mother of thyme (a little less intense than regular thyme), gray salt, lemon  and olive oil.  I added a teaspoon of mustard oil in honor of my grandmothers--the pungent flavor blends perfectly with the smoky sweetness of the eggplant. You can add other herbs, garlic, onion, spice mixes including zatar, ras el hanout, herbs de Provence, garam masala, cumin, Thai curry paste, Chinese five spice, miso, tahini or something from wherever your imagination and inspiration lead you.

Large, globe eggplants work best here.  Medium rounded eggplants will also do.  One large black beauty eggplant yields about a cup of flesh.  You can roast an army of eggplants, or treat this like the precious, special dish that it is.  Eat less; savor the flavors and the moment. 

In terms of nutrition, eggplants are a rich,low calorie source of fiber, providing vitamins C, B6, niacin, Folate and also minerals such as potassium and magnesium. 

You should really try this dish.  Who knows. You may make an aubergine lover of someone.

RECIPE: Roasted Eggplant with parsley, mother of thyme, lemon and olive oil

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 large black beauty or other globe eggplants
  • 1 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 table spoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon mother of thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon gray salt (more to taste)
  • 2 teaspoon lemon juice (more to taste depending on the acidity of your lemon)
  • Strained juice of the eggplants
  • 1 teaspoon mustard oil (optional)

PROCESS

  •  Roast the eggplants until the skin is charred all over and the flesh is very soft.
  • Use spoons or knives to break down the flesh. 
  • Add all remaining ingredients and mix well.
  • Season to taste.
  • Enjoy.

Makes 2 cups

 
 

Summer Oatmeal-A Cool Idea

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I love grains.  They are good and good for you in so many ways.  Humans have eaten them for thousands of years and many of the vitamins essential to good brain, heart and overall development come from grains.  That said, I despise processed cereals, which are a blight upon the earth; ok that may be a  little heavy but not inaccurate.  I can say this because I spent most of my medical school life eating frosted flakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It was easy and delicious.  I just had no idea that it wasn't really food but sugar with a false label telling me I was getting nutrients in a bowl.  After researching processed cereals several years ago, I came home and threw out all my husband's Cheerios, including the chocolate.  This was an unpleasant surprise for him.  We got through it.  

But here's something more pleasant-a cool (literally) way go prepare oatmeal in the fridge.  It can be personalized based on what dry fruit one prefers.  There's no cooking and it can live in the fridge up to a week making it perfect for school day breakfasts as well.  Make them in smaller mason jars and you can take them to go.

I'm using Mcann's Irish Rolled Oats here.  I like currents and have recently discovered dried mulberries.  These have no sugar added.  You can enhance the oatmeal with additional chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, pistachios) and fresh fruits, berries or yogurt. The combinations are only limited by your imagination,  As always, I encourage you to eat seasonally.

You can use a larger jar and increase the amounts--just leave some room for the oatmeal to expand a little.  Your can mix all the ingredients in a bowl and divide into smaller jars for individual and to go servings

RECIPE:  Summer Cold Oatmeal

In a Pint canning jar, place:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/8 cup dried currants
  • 1/8 cup dried mulberries
  • Add 1 and 1/2 cups of whole milk.
  • Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight (about 12 hours)
  • Spoon out about 1/3 into a bowl and enjoy as is or with the toppings of you choice.

Makes 2-3 servings

Suggestions for toppings:

Peaches, pecans and honey

Berries, almonds, yogurt and honey

Blueberries, walnuts, cinnamon and maple syrup

Bananas and brown sugar

Lamb Vindaloo with Potatoes & Carrots: An Instant Pot Recipe

After a busy day, I usually try to get dinner on the table in about 20 to 30 minutes. The simpler the better for me and I have learned to use good spice mixes to make things easier for myself.  I also try to make as many one pot meals as possible, adding as many vegetables as I can to the protein I'm using.  I can make a quick salad with sliced cucumbers and radishes and make rice in the time the vindaloo is cooking.

This recipe is inspired by Indian restaurants where this dish is always on the menu. A regional favorite from Goa, India, this is a spicy lamb stew with potatoes. I have added carrots as they were at the end of availability at my farmers' market and they add a nice sweetness to balance the spice.  Typically, this would start with puréeing onions and garlic and then adding an extensive variety of spices, which doesn't work at all for me in terms of time.  I've found that Penzey's has a delicious vindaloo spice mix that makes my life simpler.  I always have tomato paste and coconut milk in my pantry.

I get grass fed lamb from Katerra Exotics.  The fat from grass fed lamb is like the mono-unsaturated fat in olive oil. Potatoes are a rich source of vitamin C, B6, magnesium and fiber. Carrots provide vitamins A (from beta-carotene), C, K (phylloquinone), B6, magnesium, biotin, potassium and fiber.

I prepare it all in the Instant Pot, but any pressure cooker will do. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound of grass fed lamb stew meat, about 1 1/2 inch pieces
  • Four medium red potatoes , 1 inch pieces
  • Four medium carrots chopped, half inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons Penzey’s vindaloo spice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • One Half tablespoon sea salt
  • 6 ounces coconut milk
  • 6 ounces water

PROCESS

  1. Sauté lamb in olive oil with spice mix for 1 to 2 minutes.
  2. Add tomato paste and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes more.
  3. Add potatoes and carrots and mix well.
  4. Add salt, coconut milk and water. Mix well.
  5. Bring to a simmer.
  6. Place the lid on the instant pot making sure that the event is closed.
  7. Cook on high pressure for 20 minutes with natural release (about 10 minutes).
 Shown her over basmati rice and  Asian Long Beans with Mustard (in recipes)

Shown her over basmati rice and Asian Long Beans with Mustard (in recipes)

 
 

Fried Squash Blossoms Bengali Style

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I love squash blossoms! Did you know that the entire squash plant is edible?  Many cultures prepare the leaves and peel the stems to use in soups, sautés and curries. So if you don't get the squash when you plant it , it's not a total failure.  The most laborious part of preparing squash blossoms is removing the stamens from the base inside the blossom. Since I'm frying these, and not stuffing them, it doesn't matter if the the flower tears a bit--it'll be dipped in a delicious, savory, crunchy batter soon enough, covering any flaws. 

This is one of the simplest recipes from the State of Bengal in India and one that has been made in my family for generations.  I have adapted the recipe using soda water to create a lighter batter. 

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These blossoms have a delicate flavor and this light batter works well. The nigella seed adds a nice mild oniony flavor. The low temperature frying is done in olive oil, a good for you mono-unsaturated fat.  I eat these free of any guilt as they are really good and good for me--all things in moderation of course.

Squash blossoms are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. They offer a good source of iron, potassium, calcium and beta-carotene and are high in fiber.

RECIPE: Fried Squash Blossoms Bengali Style

INGREDIENTS

  • 14-16 blossoms, stamens removed

Batter:

  • 1/4 cup rice flour 
  • 1/8 cup chick pea flour
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne 
  • 1/2 cup soda water
  • Extra virgin olive oil for shallow frying

PROCESS

  1. Prepare blossoms by gently shaking off any debris and carefully removing the stamen.
  2. Set a pan on medium heat with 1/4 inch of oil to cover the bottom.
  3. Prepare batter by whisking all ingredients in a bowl.
  4. When the surface of the oil begins to move, hold the blossoms by the base, gently coat with batter and lay into oil with a movement away from you.
  5.  Fry until golden on both sides. Place on rack or brown paper to drain.

Enjoy at once! They are also delicious at room temperature. 

Can be enjoyed on their own, as a crispy element to a meal, with a cool herbed yogurt or green goddess dip. I love them with a glass of champagne or sparkling rosé.

Quintessentially Summer!

 
 

Asian Long Beans with Mustard

One of the delights of living in a diverse community is the variety of produce that's available.  Summer is prime green bean season, and the asian long bean (yard long beans) is variety that I love.  You can certainly substitute it for regular green beans in the recipes you love.  I'm cooking them with a little mustard seed and finishing with mustard oil for a nice, light summer version with a little zing.  This is so easy and fast your kitchen have doesn't have time to heat up.  This recipe is husband approved; it's been requested and prepared for the last several weeks when I can get my hands on the beans!

From a nutrition standpoint, Asian long beans are a rich source of vitamins A,C, calcium and fiber.  The mustard adds some anti-inflammatory properties as well.  The extra virgin olive oil is a healthy mono-unsaturated fat.

You can find black mustard seed and mustard oil at most Asian markets or online.

RECIPE: Asian Long Beans with Mustard Seed and Oil

INGREDIENTS

  • 2-3 cups chopped long beans (about 1/2 inch pieces)
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cane sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard oil

PROCESS

  1. Heat mustard seeds in oil until they start to pop
  2. Add the beans, salt and sugar.  Toss to mix and cover the beans for 2-3 minutes until tender.
  3. Drizzle the mustard oil over, toss and enjoy.
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Summer Harvest: Pesto

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The long, hot summer has gotten to the point where basil must be harvested.  I was fortunate enough to be given a bucket full of freshly harvested basil, a combination of sweet and Genovese varieties.  With that kind of volume, nothing but a quick turn in the food processor will do to make perfect pesto.  I'll store it in the freezer to use for the next few months in a variety of ways. Pesto is a versatile sauce that can be used for pasta, with vegetables, added as an accent to soups or to fish or meats.  I love to toss a little with steamed potatoes and beans.  

I use pecans instead of pine nuts.  I like the sweetness and I'm from Texas. Walnuts, almond or a combination of nuts are also really good.  I leave out the garlic and add crushed red and ground black peppers for a little bite.  I also like to add the zest and juice of a lemon or two.  I don't add the cheese to the pesto until I'm ready to use it.  I find it this keeps a smoother texture when the pesto is frozen and then thawed.  

I always make mine freehand based on taste and texture. I ended up with 16 cups of packed basil leaves, so I scaled up accordingly.   I made an effort to keep measurements and scale  them down for a  smaller quantity, so you may have to adjust for your taste, which you should do anyway.

If you've never made pesto, now's a good time to try it. All you need are the ingredients and a food processor.  If you're old school, a mortar and pestle will be even better. 

RECIPE: Basil Pesto (With Pecans)

YIELD  Makes 2 Cups

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup pecans (pine nuts, slivered almonds or walnut halves will do)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 4 packed cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for storage
  • Juice add zest of 2 lemons
  •  1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes to taste (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated parmagiano regiano (leave this out if freezing)

PROCESS

  • Put the nuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped.
  •  Add the basil, oil, salt, peppers and  pulse for 1 minute or so until smooth.
  • Add the lemon juice and zest and pulse for 1 minute more, until smooth. 
  • Stir in the cheese if using soon.  Leave this out if you are freezing.
  • To store, transfer the pesto to a sterilized jar with a tight-fitting lid. Pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto, seal and refrigerate up to 10 days or freeze up to 3 months.

Hurricane Harvey Fallout: Bread Is Good Food

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Hurricane Harvey may have devastated Houston, but it did not destroy us. Even if you didn’t directly experience the flooding and loss, we are still all touched by it through our friends, families and communities. For almost a year people have been displaced from their homes and the routines of daily living where we find sanctuary. Kitchens are slowly being redesigned and remodeled. Instant Pots, induction cook tops and microwaves are playing a role feeding us. We’re getting back to some basics in the kitchen. I’m back to the basics of bread.

Our Harvey preparations were a last minute affair, so no bread was to be found on grocery shelves. No matter, we had flour, yeast, salt and time.  The baking began. I must give credit to my husband for bringing home a bag of Bob's Redmill Artisan Bread Flour when he couldn't locate bread.  He made a loaf of pan de mie.  I found an easier recipe right on the back of the bag.  I’m partial to this very easy, no-knead bread. The crust is not too hard, but has body and the crumb is soft and tender. Great for sandwiches, toast or dipping into soups. I hope you’ll try this. It takes a little planning, but it’s so worth it. 

A word on bread and gluten.  Unless you have Celiac Disease (I have plenty of patients who do) or have a true wheat allergy (which is rare), you do not need to be gluten free.  Our bodies have evolved over tens of thousands of years to digest and process wheat.  Wheat is a main source of many B vitamins which are essential for good health, with thiamin and riboflavin being essential for memory and brain function.  That said, I do not support the consumption of grocery store and commercial breads which have large amounts of gluten added for longer shelf life and that strangely soft texture; they do indeed cause bloating, digestion, rashes and a whole host of other problems.  This is the reason why eating store bought bread in the United States makes you feel sick but you are able to eat bread in Europe without any problems.  In most places in Europe the bread is made daily the old fashioned way.  Bread should have good flour, preferably unbleached, water, yeast and salt if you like (Tuscan bread is made without salt and is delicious). The gluten that is developed in the dough undergoes a conformational change when baked making it more difficult for the human gut to absorb.  Evolution has already done this for us.  We just messed things up by adding gluten to everything and turning it from food, which should be fresh, into a commodity to sit on shelves for convenience. So, EAT REAL BREAD.  I'm sure there are bakers where you live who are following this noble tradition which has fed the world for ages.   Or try the recipe below and become a fresh bread baker yourself.

No Knead Bread-a Hurricane Harvey Recipe

EQUIPMENT
Dutch oven with lid
Large mixing bowl
Patience

INGREDIENTS
3 C artisan bread flour
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1-1/2 C warm water

PROCESS
1. In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. Add water and mix completely to form a shaggy dough. Cover with plastic wrap and set at room temperature or proof setting in oven for 10 hours.
2. Preheat oven with uncovered Dutch oven inside to 450 degrees for 30 minutes.
3. While the oven is preheating, place dough on floured surface and form into a round and allow to rest for 30 minutes covered with plastic wrap.
4. Carefully place dough into hot Dutch oven, cover with lid and bake 20 minutes.
5. Remove Dutch oven lid and continue to bake another 12-18 minutes until crust is a golden brown.
6. Remove loaf from oven and cool.
7. Enjoy!

 
 

At The Market: Shrimp with Green Beans, Potatoes and Mustard Seed

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The summer heat has been relentless and many of the gentler, more tender crops have dried up. We've also had a drenching rain that caused flooding over the July 4th holiday. In Houston, there's been some PTSD as last year's Hurricane Harvey left us damaged and bruised.  The wounds have not yet healed and many people still have not been able to rebuild their lives.  It's a tough time for farmers, so it's even more important to support them. Whatever is available at their stands will be what I will cook with.  As I live close to the Gulf of Mexico, I'm fortunate to have Lil Emma's Seafood bringing fresh shrimp that were swimming just a few hours earlier right to my farmers' market. With a few potatoes, green beans and a little help from the pantry, a quick, easy and nutritious dish came together.

Using mustard seeds and mustard oil give the shrimp a lovely warm flavor without too much sharpness. Along with the turmeric, mustard is an anti-inflammatory agent in Ayurvedic teachings. I like the flavor of green chilies, but feel free to leave them out or use ground cayenne.

Shrimp are high in cholesterol, but are an excellent source of protein, magnesium and some calcium.  Potatoes are rich in Vitamins C, B6, magnesium, iron and fiber. Green beans are rich in Vitamins A, C, B6, folic acid,  and the minerals calcium, iron and copper.  The fresher the vegetables, the more nutrition they contain as many vitamins, especially Vitamin C, degrade rapidly with storage.  

Today, I made basmati rice and Indian style lentils/daal with zucchini and tomatoes (in plentiful supply right now) to go along with the shrimp. As always, the vegetable component of the meal is the largest, with the meat, in this case shrimp, playing a special guest starring role, in small quantities. You can also serve this with bread, or just a fork.

If you don't have fresh shrimp on hand, frozen will be fine. Thaw them slowly in a few changes of cool water.

RECIPE: Shrimp with Green Beans, Potatoes and Mustard Seed

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pound shrimp (cleaned and deveined)
  • 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups potatoes, 1/4 inch dice
  • 2 cups chopped green beans, 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 1-2 green chilies, split halfway (Serrano, jalapeño) or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cane sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 small lemon, about 1 Tablespoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard oil

PROCESS

  1. Heat mustard seeds  and chilies (if using) in oil until the seeds start to pop.
  2. Add potatoes, chilies  and spices. Sauté over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add 1/4 cup water, cover and cook for 5 minutes until the potatoes are just tender, but not soft.
  4. Add the green beans, sautéed for 1-2 minutes and food covered for about another 2 minutes. They should remain undercooked as they will cook further with the shrimp.
  5. Add the shrimp, and sautéed until cooked through. The time will depend on the size of your shrimp.
  6. Drizzle the mustard oil over and toss.

Serves 4