Meatless Monday: The Many Reasons For a Healtiful Diet and Vegetable Pilaf

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Over the weekend, I learned a lot about different dietary needs and restrictions.  For so many reasons, people follow either a vegan, vegetarian, lacto-ovo-vegetarian, gluten-free, etc. diet. Not all of their reasons are political, environmental, erratic, religious, or trendsetting. Some people choose specific diets for serious health reasons, such as Celiac Disease. Giving up food that you have always loved but your body cannot tolerate is emotionally draining. It’s like being in a life-long marriage that has come to a sudden end.  However, finding food “that loves you back” (Gluten Free Girl) will give you your life back! Also, following a certain diet doesn’t mean you have to be stuck eating disgusting, bland food. There is a world of food beyond meat, potatoes, wheat, and lettuce.

At the food bloggers picnic, I only ate gluten-free food and I couldn’t even tell that the food was any different than “regular” food. We had chickpeas and dill, butternut squash and grapes, brownies, wild rice, quinoa, cookies, truffles, and pies.  I had wanted to make Upama, a South Indian breakfast, but decided that it was easy enough to make something gluten-free. I flipped a coin between butternut squash gratin and a pilaf.  I settled on the pilaf after buying  beautiful cauliflower at the market that morning. The pilaf (seasoned rice dish) is something my mom often makes and isn’t anything extraordinary or of culinary genius. It’s comforting, delicious, and simple.

Cauliflower and Potato Pilaf

Ingredients
1 cup Basmati rice
1 tablespoon Ghee, butter or olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 medium onion, sliced
1/2 cup leeks, sliced
1 large potato, cut into cubes
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup green peas
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 cups water
1/2 lemon
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped, for garnishing

Methods

1. Wash and soak rice in water for 30 minutes and drain. This helps the rice cook evenly and properly.

Cover the rice in enough water to soak for 30 minutes.

While the rice is soaking, prep the vegetables.

2. Heat Ghee in a flat, deep pan/pot for 30 seconds on medium heat. Add the cumin, coriander, and turmeric and let the spices cook for 1 minute. Add ginger, leeks and onions and sautee for 3 minutes. Add potatoes, cauliflower, peas, salt, and pepper and mix well; cook for 1 minute. Add the rice and mix well.

Ghee is simply unprocessed, clarified butter. It is slightly liquidy and stores well in a jar, kept away from bright light and heat.

Cook the spices alone first to bring out their oils and aroma.

Stir the onions and leeks once, before adding in the other vegetables.

The rice!

3. Pour in the water and bring to a boil.  Cover and cook on low heat until the water evaporates, about 15-20 minutes.

Cover the pot once water is boiling. Remeber to reduce heat to low and leave pot covered!

4. Squeeze the half lemon over the pilaf and stir once. Transfer to a serving plate and garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately. Serves 4-6.

Cilantro will brighten up the dish and provide extra flavor.

Can be eaten as the main meal or as a side dish. Great comfort food in the Fall and Winter.

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Meatless Mondays: Fascination or Obsession

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I am love with farm fresh vegetables, particularly tomatoes. I fell in love with tomatoes when in first grade I got to take home a small tomato plant from a school field trip to a greenhouse. About 15 years later, my parents went on a vacation leaving my brother, a blooming tomato plant, and myself to fend for ourselves. For some reason, I couldn’t let the beautiful heirloom tomatoes  rot on the vine and there must have been a dozen ripe tomatoes.  These tomatoes were shiny, imperfect in shape, large, dark greenish red, and plump. I had an urge to use all of them up at once, so I decided to make an Italian meal. I had no clue on how to make my own sauce, but I had convinced myself that it was easy. I also convinced myself that I didn’t need to look online for methods on making your marinara from scratch. I cut each tomato in half, put them into the food processor, and liquefied them until they became a thin juice….to make a long story short, we had liquidy lasagna for dinner. And my brother and I still swear that it was the best lasagna we’ve ever had.



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Meatless Mondays: Who’s Doing It

The Hollywood Sign as it appears from a trail ...

Image via Wikipedia

In honor of us being in Los Angeles on a Meatless Monday, I would like to highlight a few celebrities who have embraced the movement to give up meat one day a week for better health,  and ecology. Celebrities have always been important in using their fame and power positively to raise awareness about social and environmental issues. Since MM is a national campaign that encourages Americans to incorporate more vegetables and less meat into their diet, many celebrities have taken it upon themselves to better our eating habits. (Celebrities are infamous for their crazy diets and personal chefs, so don’t mimic their dietstyle completely!)

1. Mario Batali, famous for his meat-centric restaurants and Iron Chef title on the Food Network, has pledged to offer more vegetarian options at all of his 14 restaurants. Batali has taken it upon himself to send a powerful message to other chefs and restauranteurs to adopt to more sustainable practices, by supporting farmers who raise their animals humanely and focusing on a more plant-based diet.

2. Gwyneth Paltrow, beautiful and talented Hollywood actress, has joined the movement after learning about the environmental impact of raising livestock for consumption. The Livestock industry produces gases that are extremely dangerous for the future of our environment, since the gases produced are more harmful than CO2 and livestock production is land and water intensive. Also, a third of all cereal crops, and well over 90% of soya, goes into animal feed, not food for humans.

3.  Simon Cowell, the controversial former America’s Idol judge, has signed up for the cause after long-time vegetarian Leona Lewis asked for his participation.

4. Michael Pollan, professor and food activist,  is an obvious promoter of a more plant-based diet. Besides helping the environment, Michael says “meatless Mondays” have a bonus benefit. “To the extent we push meat a little bit to the side and move vegetables to the center of our diet, we’re also going to be a lot healthier,” he says.

5. Kate Moss might still don fur coats and decorate her house with animal-hair rugs, but has embraced MM with bff Stella McCartney.

Check out Homemade Dosas below!

Meatless Monday Meals: Dosas

Indian food is super easy to eat delicious, filling, vegetarian meals. Today, I have the absolute pleasure of eating homemade dosas made by my sister-in-law. Dosas are not super hard to make, but require planning and is time-intensive. Traditionally, dosas are rice and lentil crepes stuffed with spiced potatoes and coconut chutney that are eaten in South Indian households for breakfast. However,  in America, most people eat dosas for dinner. If eaten without being cooked in tremendous amounts of butter/oil and filled with a variaty of vegetables, dosas can be very healthy and nutritious. Since, dosas are made with only rice and urad daal (high protein lentils), they are gluten/wheat free. Unfortunately, most of the dosas from restaurants are drenched in butter/oil. I normally buy freshly made dosa batter from a local Indian store and make non-traditional filling myself. (By non-traditional I mean -avocados, tomatoes, spinach, eggs, pulled chicken, etc.) However, today my sister-in-law has made everything from scratch in the traditional manner.

The Masala Filling:

Boil, let cool, peel, and roughly chop the potatoes for the filling
Add the potatoes, lemon juice, and salt to mixture of sauteed onions, green chilis, black mustard seeds, urad daal, chana daal, cumin, and curry leaves.
Stir mixture on medium heat for 5 minutes and transfer to serving bowl.

The Sambar:

Sautee black mustard, cumin, curry leaves, and red chilis in oil.
Sautee sliced onions in spice mixture until translucent
Add fresh, chopped tomatoes and tamarind to the mixture and cook for 5 minutes
Once tomatoes are 1/2 done, add Sambar powder (optional).
Add pressure-cooked toor daal and water to the sambar pot. Add more water if it’s too thick.
Usually, Dosas are dipped into Sambar, a soup of lentils and tomatoes. Keep warm.

The Chutney:

Blend green chilis, cilantro with stems, shredded coconut, almonds, roasted chana daal, salt and lemon juice.
Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves and roasted chana daal

The Dosa:

The dosa batter is made by soaking rice and urad daal for six plus hours in a warm place then grinding them to make a smooth paste. After adding salt, let the batter sit for an additional 12 hours until it has fermented. Once fermented, stir the batter and add just enough water to make it a thick batter of pouring consistency.

On a hot taava, spread dosa dough quickly to make a thin crepe. Cook each side for 2 minutes each until crispy and golden brown. Or, once both sides are done, spread chutney all over one side of the dosa while still on the taava. Then add two spoonfuls of the masala potato mixture and fold the crepe in half. Serve hot with a cup of hot Sambar.

Plain dosa: Serve on the side of Sambar, potatoes, and chutney.

Video coming soon!

Farmer’s Market Find: Eggs

The Story

Eggs have gotten a lot of press over the years- “they are bad for you, they are good for you, nope-they are bad, well, we take that back, they are good again”. Well, eggs have always been good for me.  (Of most recent, eggs have been getting BAD press because of the Salmonella outbreak- don’t blame the eggs, blame the industry.) When I was twelve, I made up my own Atkins-type diet. Everyday, I would eat a scrambled egg, tossed with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, and two saltine crackers. I seriously cannot remember where I came up with this idea, but I thought it would keep me skinny. I find it amusing now, but I must have been really desperate to be skinny. Come to think of it, I have always been desperate to be skinny. Haven’t we all? It’s just not socially okay to be happy with the way you look. Anyway, I still love eggs. Actually, Satish and I eat eggs for breakfast (or a quick, power snack) four times a week. I have at least a hundred of my own omelette recipes. To make a simple omelette takes me just a little bit more time than pouring cold milk over cereal. We usually eat one egg  with at least 2/3 cup of veggies and herbs.

I didn’t make it to my usual Farmer’s Market today, but did go to the Eat Real Festival. The festival’s mission is to raise public awareness about our food system, while showing ways for us to eat healthier. A zone of the festival was reserved for the “Urban Homesteading“, where everyday people can learn how to make/grow their own food in a sustainable, fun, and nourishing manner.  Beautiful, live chickens were on sale for urban homesteaders to raise in their own backyards. Benefits of having your own chickens: fresh, nutrient dense  eggs everyday.

These hand-built chicken coops give them enough space to roam and spread their wings.

All of the chickens on display were for sale!

The Alameda County Beekeepers Association presented a workshop on how to make salve using beeswax.

Summer Omelette

Ingredients

3 eggs (organic, cage-free eggs)
1/3 cup zucchini, sliced thin
1/3 cup organic baby spinach
1/4 cup organic tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp parmesan cheese/ fresh mozzarella
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tbsp organic Herbs de Provence
or
½ tbsp of any fresh, organic herbs you like (basil, thyme, mint, marjoram)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Farmer's Market maintain the highest scrutiny in food safety. Ask where exactly your food comes from and eat safe!

Directions

Beat the eggs in until foamy.  Heat the oil in the pan and pour in the eggs, swirl to cover the pan with the eggs and let set slightly. Sprinkle the vegetables, herbs, salt and black pepper on the eggs.  Let the eggs continue cooking until the liquid is almost set but still creamy and moist on top, about 2 minutes. Add salt last, as it will cause the eggs to toughen.   Tip the pan over the serving plate, and gently shake the omelet onto the plate filling side first. Buen Provecho!

You can use any seasonal vegetables you prefer.

Deconstruction

Eggs are the perfect protein.  They also have almost every essential vitamin and mineral needed by humans.  Eggs have iron, vitamins A, E and B, folate, zinc, and phosphorus. Importantly, they contain essential fatty acids, which are necessary for proper brain and eye function, healthy skin, hair, libido, reproduction, growth and response to injury.

Zucchini has many health benefits and is nutrient dense. It’s loaded with folate, potassium, manganese and vitamin A, yet is low in calories.

Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is known for its antioxidant and cancer-preventing properties. In addition to lycopene, the vitamin B6, niacin, potassium and folate found in tomatoes are potent protectors against heart disease.

Spinach is another super food. It contains a relatively high level of iron, magnesium, potassium, Vitamin C and manganese.  It is a great source of folate/folic acid, particularly important for pregnant or nursing women. Due to its fiber and water content, spinach is a natural diuretic and laxative.

Adding fresh herbs is a quick way to transform ordinary meals into extraordinary meals. Studies show that fresh herbs contain large amounts of antioxidants like vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin A.

Olive oil has a high content of monounsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. Studies have shown that olive oil offers protection against heart disease by controlling LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels while raising HDL (the “good” cholesterol) levels. Extra virgin olive oil contains polyphenols that can reduce inflammation and may help to prevent some forms of cancer.

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Meatless Mondays: Going Beautiful

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It’s already Monday! I am looking forward to using all of my Farmer’s Market Finds, and making a beautiful salad full of vitamins and antioxidants and then digging into the Saag Paneer I made yesterday. Indian food always tastes better the next day. It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables contain tons of antioxidants that boost your body’s abilities to repair itself. Vainly, lets get  to the heart of the topic, fruits and vegetables make you beautiful. All of those fancy creams, lotions and potions that you spend a good portion of your paycheck on, contain vitamins and collagen! Imagine the miracles real, unprocessed, plant-based foods can do for your looks and body. Tighter skin, shinier hair, brighter smile…all by just doing what you need to do to survive-eat (real food)!

Meal Plan:

-Saag Paneer with buckwheat rotis (non-authentic)

Traditional roti is made with whole wheat flour and rolled very thin making them light, fluffy, and soft. I have used buckwheat flour, since it nutritionally has a higher content of protein (7g) and fiber (7g). If you are used to eating traditional rotis, the taste is something you have to get used to, but the health rewards are worth it.

Ingredients:
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/4 tsp salt  (optional)
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
1/3 cup warm water
All-purpose flour – for rolling and dusting

In a mixing bowl, mix flour and salt well. Add oil and mix until all lumps are gone. Add water a little at a time to form a soft dough ball.

Heat skillet on medium heat. Divide into golf ball size balls. Dip one ball into the all-purpose flour to coat and roll it out into a thin disc. Keep dipping the rotli into the dry flour to prevent it from sticking to the rolling surface.

Rub off excess flour from the rotli and place it onto the hot skillet.Flip to the other side once you see bubbles appear on the surface. Allow it to cook for 10-15 seconds. Meanwhile, turn the next stove on high heat, genlty pick up roti with tongs, and place on open flame. The rotli should balloon up and remove quickly. Place the cooked rotli into an insulated container and smear it with ghee/butter (optional) and repeat the process for the remaining dough. Serve warm.

Scoop up the saag with bread, eat with your hands, and enjoy each bite.

-Fig salad

Slice a few figs, heat on skillet (optional) for 60 seconds, toss in with mixed salad greens, walnuts, salt and (fig) balsamic vinegar.

Farmer’s Market Find: Cooking Indian Food

We were traveling in the North Coast last week, and came back to a stark empty fridge.  I was happy to return to my FM today and stock up my kitchen with fresh veggies, eggs, cheese, olives, and fruit. It’s also a special week- Satish’s birthday, and I plan to spoil him with food that he loves. Each birthday, I make him an elaborate brunch of all of his favorite things. The first year, I made goat cheese bruschetta, beets salad, mushroom omelets, and a few other things. This year, I am going for the “less is more” theme for brunch. Though, I am going to make a healthier version of Saag Paneer and Chicken Curry for the rest of the week. So off to the market I went with a specific grocery list (usually I just buy whatever appeals to me). Recipe follows.

Today, the fog lifted and it was a full 8 hours of bright sunlight.

Mango Peaches- Ken's Top Notch Produce CCOF

I took a pizza sauce making class recently and couldn't resists these perfect tomatoes. I am actually going to make a thick gravy for the Chicken Curry- Happy Boy Farms CCOF

The fig season is short-lived, so hurry get them fresh while you can!

Beets contain higher amounts of natural sugars, along with beta-carotene and deliciousness. Serendipity Farms CCOF

Other Farmer’s Market Finds:

-Spinach, heirloom tomatoes, San Marzano tomatoes, salad mix with edible flowers ($15.00)- Happy Boy Farms
-Mixed stone fruit ($5.00)- Ken’s Top Notch Produce
-Beets and strawberries ($5.25)- Serendipity Farms
-Dried olives and lemon ($4.50)- California Olive Farm
-Zucchini and one pint fresh salsa ($6.25)- Swank Farms
-1 large marigold ($0.50)- Hollie’s Homegrown
-Figs $4.00
Total: $40.50

I will have to stop by Whole Foods to pick up eggs, yogurt, and chicken breasts later this week.

Healthier Saag Paneer

I have to note that paneer is not the healthiest food you can eat. Paneer is firm, mild Indian cheese. A three ounce serving contains 300 calories and 15 grams unsaturated fat. Though, paneer is also a good source of calcium, protein, and vitamin A. It’s cheese, to be enjoyed in moderation on occasion. You can substitute the paneer for tofu. The paneer dishes often found in restaurants is made with a lot of heavy cream and ghee/butter, making it unhealthier. I took a traditional recipe found on multiple sites and substituted ghee for olive oil (and drastically reduced the amount) and heavy cream for yogurt. I like to make this dish once in every two months, and keep a block of paneer in my freezer. Paneer can be found in Indian grocery stores and sometimes Whole Foods. I don’t use a heavy hand on the spices and keep the flavors subtle, yet mouthwatering. The key is in the freshness of the spices and vegetables. Indian food isn’t so daunting or a time-consuming process if you have all the basic ingredients at home.

Ingredients

  • 16 ounces paneer
  • 2 lbs fresh or frozen spinach (fresh preferred)
  • 1/2 cup low-fat yogurt
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cinnamon stick (optional)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional)
  • Salt and red chili powder to taste
  • 1 tbs cilantro/edible flowers for garnish (optional)

Directions

Simple Indian spices to have on hand: turmeric, coriander, cumin, and red chili powder, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and whole cloves. Store in an airtight container in the dark.

Heat oil in large non-stick pan over medium heat, sautee onions until translucent, then add garlic, ginger, and spices. Sautee for another 2-3 minutes. The spices will brown and aroma will be pungent.

Liquefy washed/wet spinach and yogurt in the blender until it's smooth and creamy. Depending on the size of your blender, you may have to do this in batches. Gently pour into the pan of spices, stir well to blend the creamed spinach with spices. Simmer or medium-low heat for 5 minutes.

Chop the paneer into bite sized pieces and gently fold into the spinach. This is a checkpoint for salt. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring every 3-4 minutes. Just beforing turning off the stove, add the lemon juice.

Garnish and serve. Eat with roti, naan, flatbread, or rice. Eat slowly. :-)

Serves 4

The lemon juice is optional, but really helps to lift up all of the flavors  without making the dish tangy.  The marigold petals add a beautiful pop of color, sweet fragrance, and a taste that makes you want to go back for more. It’s unexpected, looks fancier than it really is and impresses. (Inspired by Hollie’s Homegrown). The flavors only become more intricate with time, so the Saag Paneer will taste even better the next day.  Totally foodie moment: keep the cinnamon stick in the Saag Paneer and suck on it the next day. The flavors will be a sensual party in your mouth. Trust me.

What are your opinions on garnishes and edible flowers?

Egg Salad Grown Up

A very simple, bright summer salad that could be eaten as a full meal or on the side. I actually like to eat this salad for breakfast, when I am tired of omelets and cereals.  The eggs provide a nice balance of protein, which is important  in keeping you satiated for longer time. Eggs also have the most absorbable form of  Vitamin B12, which is typically only found in meats.

Since tomatoes are in peak season, I use them in almost everything. Once they disappear from the Farmer’s Market, I will greatly limit my use of them. Tomatoes contain lycopene, which is known for their  antioxidant and cancer-preventing properties. In addition to lycopene, the vitamin B6, niacin, potassium and folate found in tomatoes are potent protectors against heart disease.

Red and dark green leafy vegetables are generally higher in nutrients than light-colored greens. I’ve used red leaf lettuce, but you can substitute it for any salad greens you prefer. Green leafy vegetables contain Vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, folate, fiber, and phytonutrients.

Serves 2

1. Place two eggs in boiling water for 6 minutes, drain and cool under running water.

2. Peel and set aside.

2. While the eggs are cooking whisk together 1/4 cup (butter)milk, 2 tsp lemon juice, sea salt, and cracked black pepper

3. Place sliced tomatoes on a plate of salad greens.
4. Slice the eggs in halves and place on top of the salad greens.

5. Spoon the dressing over the salad.

Why Dine In?

Why bother with buying groceries, cooking, and cleaning? Step out of the house and you find an abundance of fast food chains, diners, deli food, pre-packaged food, take-out places, and the likes of Delarosa.

Cooking for yourself gives you freedom and control. Freedom to choose exactly what you want to eat, the way you want it. When cooking for yourself, you have ultimate control over each ingredient and can maintain portion control. Choosing high quality ingredients will make any dish taste good without the use of excess butter/oil, sweeteners, sodium, condiments, and artificial flavorings. Thus, it is much healthier for you to cook your own meals. With the right ingredients, cooking at home will put you on the track of gaining your health back. In most restaurants, you can never be too sure of health sanitation or the source of the produce, meats, spices, sauces, etc. Even when you think you are eating a healthy burrito or salad at a restaurant, you may just end up consuming more calories, fats, sugars with processed, manufactured ingredients and preservatives. Also, it’s just faster to dine in. Investing some time in the beginning to well stock your kitchen, you can whip a quick, nourishing meal in no time. It would take you longer to get to the restaurant, wait in line, order, wait for your food, pay, and then go back home. Another bonus, you save a lot of money by dining in. You can eat leftovers the next day or use the same ingredients to make something different.

After cooking at home for some time, dining out becomes more pleasurable and special. With all of the money saved by dining in, you can really splurge at a nice restaurant. Eating in restaurants can be an inspiration for you to cook something new at home or a chance to enjoy food that you wouldn’t ever consider making yourself. Also, appreciation for the chefs and staff increases.  Considering that dining in is healthier,* you will not feel guilty about eating creme/butter based foods or dessert at restaurants. Therefore, save up your money  and indulgence calories by cooking more often and allow yourself to dine out on occasion.

*It’s important to choose high quality ingredients and minimize the use of sweeteners/condiments/fats in order to achieve better health.

Meatless Monday: Health Benefits

Meatless Monday (MM) is a nation-wide campaign to encourage people to give up meat one day out of the week to increase health, ecology, and economy. It’s also very achievable. You are only going one day a week without any meat. In turn, you will increase your intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.(MM does not mean substituting meat for refined carbohydrates,  large quantities of full-fat cheese and peanut butter; it will add a significant amount of fat and calories to your diet. MM also does not mean for you to increase your intake of meat for the rest of the week.)

Here are a few health benefits from a vegetarian diet:
-Vegetarian diets often contain more fiber, potassium, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and vitamins associated with reduced risks of chronic and preventable diseases (diabetes, obesity).
-Generally, vegetarians maintain a healthier body weight (that is if they make good choices).
-Diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Whereas, red and processed meat consumption are linked to colon cancer.
-Studies have shown that countries with a higher intake of fat, especially fat from animal products, such as meat and dairy products, have a higher incidence of breast cancer.
- Fiber is only found in fruit and vegetables. Fiber makes you full on fewer calories, hence less overeating and greater weight control.

These are just a few of the many health benefits of a diet focused on fresh vegetables and fruits. Adopt to MM and see the results for yourself.

Vegetable “Lasagna”

-Inspired by Giada De Laurentiis’ Vegetable Parmesan

I love this dish because it’s versatile and you can use any vegetables you have on hand. I like using “meaty” vegetables such as zucchini, squash, eggplant, and mushrooms. You can add a layer of no-boil-lasagna sheets for an extra bite and sustenance. I choose to substitute the lasagna sheets for slices of potatoes. Potatoes have fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese. What I love about this dish is that it tastes better the next day and the days after…I make extra, so I don’t have to worry about cooking so much the rest of the week.  This dish isn’t heavy, cheesy, or saucy. Rather, it’s light,  satiating, and fresh! Another great thing about this dish is that I really am not cooking- the oven does all the work! Just chop, mix, assemble on a baking dish, throw it in the oven and forget about it for the next 40 minutes!

Ingredients:

  • Butter, for greasing
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dried basil or Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped chard, stem discarded
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into thick slices
  • 1 medium potato, cut into thick slices
  • 1 large, ripe tomato, cut into thick slices
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese or  ricotta (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix salt, pepper and herbs. Coat the vegetables with this mixture.

Spoon 3/4 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange the potato slices and then the eggplant slices on top of the marinara. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese  or spoon 1/2 cup of ricotta over the eggplant. Arrange the peppers first, tomatoes second, and then the zucchini in a single layer on top.  Spoon 3/4 cup of marinara sauce over the zucchini. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella/ricotta cheese. Arrange the chard and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Scatter the bread crumbs over the cheese and drizzle liberally with oil. Bake until the top is golden and forms a crust, about 45 minutes.

Use a locally grown tomatoes for ultimate flavor

Ricotta or mozarella works well.

Rainbow Chard

Enjoy natures bounty!

Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Farmer’s Market Find: Cucumbers

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This week I went to three different Farmer’s Market in the city! On Thursday I went to the grand opening of Mission’s Community Market. I couldn’t resist and bought a head of lettuce from Blue House Farm ($1.50), stone fruit from Arata Farms ($2), 2 squash blossoms from Tomatero Farms ($.50), and mint from Happy Boy Farms ($1.50), even though I wasn’t headed straight home.
A very lively FM in the Mission, offering produce, entertainment, youth mural project, and artisanal goods

I stopped by the Ferry Plaza FM on Saturday because I wanted to check out the Epicurious booth and grab something delicious to take to the Slow Food San Francisco picnic. I was greeted by bright colors popping from every booth- peppers, plouts, plums, nectarines, raspberries, kale, mint, marigolds- oh it was hard to not buy anything! I did buy sprouted lentils, and a delicious roasted beets and coriander yogurt sandwich and 1/4 rotisserie chicken from Il Cane Roso and headed to South Park for the picnic.

It was a beautiful day on the Embarcadero.

 

I returned to my usual FM at Fort Mason today to get my weekly groceries. Perfect as always, except there was no glimmer of the sun today. I was glad to see the familiar faces of the farmers and hot food vendors. I splurged and bought farmstead “Foggy Morning” cheese from Nicasio Valley ($7), to stuff in the squash blossoms I bought on Thursday. Also, the cheese is light and a great substitute for ricotta and feta. I was amazed to see the varieties of cucumbers that I bought all three kinds from Hamadas Farms. They also had the most plumpest, juiciest peaches and melons that I could not resist ($7.50). I also bought a lot of tomatoes, but Satish and I appreciate seasonal tomatoes! Maybe, I will make an Indian curry out of them. Or maybe, I will just roast them in the oven with salt and pepper. Or eat them with the farmstead cheese.

 

Enjoying the sandwich from Il Cane Roso

Other purchases:
Fingerling potatoes, basil, heirloom tomatoes, and baby spinach ($9.50)- Happy Boy Farms
Cherry tomatoes and one large beefsteak tomato ($2.00)- ?
Strawberries and a variety of zucchini ($5.50)- Serendipity Farm
Chard, kale, and purple bell peppers ($7.00) – Rio Parras Organics
Broccoli, red onion, garlic, and tomatoes on the vine ($5.50)- Swank Farm
A dozen large, fresh eggs- $4.50
Sandwich buns ($2.00)- Bakers of Paris

I spent $50.50 on this and much more! We are dining in every night this week and having a friend or two over for a meal. :)

Trifecta Cucumber Salad

I was really hungry after a pleasant time at the Farmer’s Market. I wanted something quick, healthy and filling. I decided to try out the different cucumbers I bought by making a simple salad. I had bought a Lemon, Armenian, and “Normal” cucumber.

1. Wash and dice or cube 1/3 cup of cucumbers
2. Wash and dice or cube ripe 1/3 cup of tomatoes (any variety)
3. Wash, pat dry, and roughly chop 1/4 cup mint

 

4. Toss all ingredients together in a mixing bowl. 5. Add 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Toss well.
6. Transfer salad to a serving plate 7. crumble 1 tablespoon of Ricotta/Feta/Goat Cheese on top of the salad.
Cucumbers and mint are “cooling” foods, perfect foods for the summer.
Tomatoes contain Lycopene-an antioxidant that fights cancerous cell formation.

This salad can easily be made with one or many varieties of cucumbers and tomatoes; it’s all a matter of preference and what you have on hand. On a hot day, chill the tomatoes and cucumbers in the fridge before tossing in the mint and lemon juice.

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