Fennel and Fava Bean Salad

Seattle has always been on my list of places to visit because I’ve heard so many good things about the fresh produce in Pike Place Market. Before starting my new job after 4 years at Fast Company, I flew to Seattle and met with my friend Lily, who flew in from San Diego. We ate for 4 days, checking most of the spots I research and culled from Facebook friends and Anthony Bourdain’s recommendations.

Because spring arrived in the west coast earlier than the east, we ate a lot of fiddlehead ferns, pea shoot leaves, and fava beans. I’m pretty sure that I balanced my sushi overload with all the greens I ate.

Starting anew in New York a week later, I wanted to eat healthier so I stopped by Fairway in the upper west side to fill my basket with a lot of fruits and vegetables. This recipe comes from a Food & Wine Magazine piece that uses some pricey ingredients like pumpkin seeds, shelled pistachios, and pine nuts. I didn’t want to spend any more than I needed to, so I ended up using the blanched almonds I already had and toasted them before crushing them with my mortar and pestle.

Ingredients:
olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
juice from half a lemon
salt and pepper
1/4 cup fava beans, shelled from about 15 pods
1 small fennel, sliced thinly
a handful of blanched almonds, toasted, crushed
cayenne pepper

1. Make the dressing. In a screw-top jar, shake some olive oil with the garlic and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. Shell the fava beans. Open the pods and remove the beans. In a small pot of salted boiling water, blanch the beans for a minute and remove with a strainer to an ice water bath. Drain and shell the beans. The shells should come off easily and the bright green beans should pop out.
3. In a salad bowl, mix the fava beans with the fennel and the crushed toasted almonds. Sprinkle with cayenne pepper and then toss with the dressing.

Black Pepper-Cardamom Banana Bread

I’ve never even been to Café Grumpy, but Noah brought a few slices of their breads and pastries to the office one day and I was blown away by this savory banana bread. I searched for the recipe and found it on Greenpoint Gazette but the measurements were in grams which is really annoying, Brooklyn! It’s easy enough to convert using a recipe calculator or use a digital scale, but the cook in me still needs to feel if everything is right after the conversion. I found myself rounding off the converted measurements, and in the end I realized I could have just used my usual banana bread recipe and added the yogurt, the black pepper and cardamom to the batter. So much for science.

I used a loaf pan for my version, but I had enough leftover batter to fill up a mini one. I lined the large pan with greased parchment paper to make it easy to separate the bread before serving. I always found that the larger loaves that I bake are more sticky. Sprinkle the top of your loaf with confectioner’s sugar if you want to be extra fancy.

Update: I baked this again using a muffin tray and the ingredients filled 18 regular-sized holes. I baked them in the same temperature for the first 30 minutes, but brought it down to 275º for the remaining 10 minutes.

Ingredients:
2 cups flour, sifted
2 tsps salt
1 tbsp baking soda
2 tsps black pepper, ground
2 tbsps cardamom, ground
4 very ripe bananas
1 4-oz plain yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
1 stick of butter, cut into smaller pieces
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 eggs

1. Heat oven to 325º and grease a loaf pan. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, black pepper, and cardamom. Set aside.
3. In another medium bowl, mash ripe bananas with yogurt and vanilla until well-combined. Set aside.
4. Place butter along with both sugars into a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Cream. Slowly add eggs, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between pulses to ensure that all ingredients are well-incorporated.
5. Alternating between the dry ingredients and the banana and yogurt mix, add everything to the mixer using a medium setting so as not to over-mix.
6. Pour batter into the loaf pan and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake is golden. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Related post/s:
Greenpoint Gazette’s recipe
My very reliable banana bread recipe without the fixings

Golden Beets Salad with Figs and Ricotta

Spring can’t come fast enough outside but at least the produce I’m starting to see in the markets tell me it’s around the corner. I bought a pint of figs and thought about this great spring salad that’s usually matched with toasted kale. I used the mache I had in the fridge instead but feel free to use any mixed greens.

This is the first time I’ve ever peeled golden beets before roasting them. It was more work, but less messy later and it stops you from double-guessing if they are tender enough after 25 minutes in the oven. You can see they’re good to go since they’ve already been sliced.

When plating, act like you’re a chef on TV and smear the ricotta with the back of your spoon–it makes for a great presentation.

Ingredients:
4 small golden beets, peeled and cut into wedges
olive oil
2 tbsps balsamic vinegar
1 tsp maple syrup
mache, or any mixed greens
3 fresh figs, stemmed and sliced
a scoop of fresh ricotta
salt and pepper

1. Preheat your oven to 425º. Toss the beet wedges with some olive oil and sprinkle them with salt. Spread them on a baking dish and roast until tender, about 25 minutes.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together balsamic vinegar and the maple syrup. When the beets come out of the oven, toss them with some of the dressing. There should be some olive oil coating the beets. If not, drizzle a little more olive oil.
3. Assemble your salad. On a plate, smear a spoonful of fresh ricotta using the back of a spoon. Create a bed of greens and then top with the dressed beets. Add the figs and drizzle some more of the maple syrup-balsamic vinegar dressing all over for a little sheen. Season with some pepper and serve.

Homemade Blueberry Oatmeal Scones

I had a long weekend coming and I wanted to prepare for a lovely and slow Monday morning and thought of baking something the night before so I can leisurely enjoy breakfast the next day. I found this blackberry oatmeal scone recipe from 3191 Miles Apart and adapted it using blueberries, the only frozen berries I had left in my freezer from all the smoothies I’ve been making myself in the mornings.

It also required 2 tbsps of milk but I only had almond milk handy so I used that knowing that a wee bit of a different kind of milk won’t make too much of a difference. For the plain whole milk yogurt, I just picked up a small cup of the regular Fage total Greek yogurt. Pulsing all the dry ingredients and then folding it in with the wet was sloppy, but I held them together with flour dustings and gently patted the dough down to make a semi-thin wheel before I sliced them into 8 beautiful pieces.

Ingredients:
1/2 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour, more for dusting
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
6 tbsps unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 egg
2/3 cup plain whole milk yogurt
2 tbsps almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 400». Add the oats, flours, sugar, zest, baking powder and soda, salt and butter to the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until it resembles a coarse meal. Transfer to a mixing bowl and add blackberries, toss gently until blackberries are coated.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg, yogurt, milk and vanilla. Gently fold the wet ingredients into the blackberry mixture until just combined. Dough will be sloppy but take care not to crush the berries.
3. Transfer to a floured work space and gently pat out into a circle about half an inch thick. Cut into 8 pie-shaped wedges and carefully transfer each scone to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 14-18 minutes or until lightly browned. Transfer baked scones on a wire tray and let rest.

Luvo

I called in sick for 3 days last week because of coughing attacks. I wasn’t feverish so I doubt it was full-on bronchitis, but I definitely felt very unsexy. Add that to the snowstorms we’ve been having here in New York City and it’s been a very taxing winter.

When Fast Company released their 2014 list of Most Innovative Companies, it included Luvo, a company that brought together chefs, nutritionists and doctors to come up with restaurant-quality food you can zap in your microwave or heat up in the oven. I was curious to try the food and how much different they could be from the lifeless quick meals I see a lot of co-workers heat up too often in the office. I was stuck at home with cabin fever and it was the perfect week to feed myself something quick without sacrificing the taste.

My favorite was the orange-mango chicken with green-tea infused whole grains and steamed kale and broccoli. I would usually forego whole grains, but in this case it gave the dish a really good chewy texture. I also tried the nine-grain pilaf with sweet chile beef and it also came with the sturdy kale and broccoli. (That’s the photo below and that’s how it looks like straight out of a heated pouch. Not bad, right?) It was so much better than the Chinese takeout beef you like but always feel guilty about. The chicken chili verde was also tasty and it came with polenta with pumpkin seeds; the black beans made it more savory.

All 3 definitely tasted more healthy than I am used to as far as lunch options go and it felt good to eat them especially when I was feeling under the weather. I was surprised at how green the vegetables were coming out of a pouch I heated up for half an hour in the oven–I do not have a microwave at home anymore–and how much color each dish had. The combination of ingredients may sound too good to be true but they work well together. My only complaint? I’m a growing girl and I needed 2 of these just for one sit-down lunch!

If the food quality is not enough for you, you have to commend the packaging: the box is made from 100% recyclable paperboard and the pouch contains unbleached paper from 20% pre-consumer waste; soy or waterless inks were used for printing to cut down on resources and pollution.

Related post/s:
Luvo is one of Fast Company’s 2014 Most Innovative Companies
Find out where to buy Luvo