Recipe: Earthy Bean Soup with Fresh Greens and Herbs

Sometimes things just work out.  A mood strikes you.  A craving develops.  You get an idea, start moving on it, and it all comes together.

Like this soup.

Bowl 3 - edited

My mood had me wanting something that I could cook lazily, with a relaxed vibe.  Slowly chopping vegetables, stirring in spices, and watching something simmer away.

My craving called out for something earthy and rich with simple, yet deep flavors developed from quality ingredients.

My idea was to sort through my pantry to see what beans or legumes may be lingering about, waiting for just the right meal.  Then, I headed to the farmer’s market and strolled through the booths, seeing what would catch my eye.  I became intrigued by a beautiful bunch of misome, a green I had never even heard of before.  The vendor explained it was an asian green and could be used similarly to spinach, kale, or chard.

misome 3 - edited

Perfect.  I took that bunch of misome home and this soup was born.

And it hit every right note.

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Earthy Bean Soup with Fresh Greens and Herbs

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dry beans (I used a combination of great northern and orca beans), soaked overnight in pot - edited
  • ½ tblspn olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 medium celery stalks, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (+ water if needed)
  • ½ tblpsn smoked paprika
  • ½ tspn salt
  • ¼ tspn black pepper
  • 1 bunch of fresh misome or spinach, chopped
  • 1 tblspn fresh marjoram
  • 1 tblspn fresh oregano

Directions:

  1. Warm olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Add onion, celery, and carrot and sauté for 3-4 minutes, or until vegetables just begin to soften.
  2. Add bell pepper, garlic, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper to the pot and cook, stirring frequently, coating the vegetables with the spices, for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add tomatoes, soaked and drained beans, and vegetable broth.  If your broth does not cover your beans, add a bit of water until it does.  Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer for 45 minutes to an hour, until beans are cooked through.
  4. Add in chopped misome or spinach, along with the marjoram and oregano.  Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper as desired.  Cook for 3-5 minutes, just enough time for the greens to cook down.  Remove from heat and serve.

Foodie Firsts: (Delicious) Homemade Stovetop Oatmeal

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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I am fully prepared for you all to think I’m a bit odd to have never had a proper bowl of stove top oatmeal until now.  Odd or not, it’s true.  Oatmeal was never on my radar even at all until the last year or so when I tested out some instant oatmeal with varying results.  Some were edible, others were atrocious.  Either way, I wasn’t jumping up and down clamoring for more.

apricot walnut honey with spoon - edited

On two or three occasions in the last year, though, I did try ordering oatmeal at restaurants.  These experiences were better and opened my mind up to the idea that oatmeal may not be such a bad thing.  Okay, let me back up, I mostly ordered it when it was called porridge.  Because calling it porridge appealed to the total anglophile in me.

Anyway, there was hope on the horizon for this warm cereal-like concoction to actually be worth trying.  But I still wasn’t ready to invest in making it at home.  A couple of things stood in my way.  First: granola.  A formidable foe for oatmeal, because I LOVE granola.  I could (and often do) eat granola every damn day.  Second, I was totally intimidated.

Given the facts that instant oatmeal was generally awful, restaurant oatmeal was (at best) kind of nice, and I had never seen anyone actually make oatmeal on the stove top before, it seemed like it must be really, really difficult.  I imagined it being super-finicky, needing to keep the heat level just perfect, the amount of liquid measured with ultra-precision, and timing it just magically to prevent mush.  (Sort of like the breakfast version of risotto, which is actually kind of funny because I love making risotto and have never found it difficult at all.)  I just couldn’t figure out how it would be worth it to go through all of that for a bowl of oatmeal when there was granola-a-plenty in my pantry.

cinnamon raisin with pistachios - edited

Then came my gluten-free dietary change.  Now, many gluten-sensitive people can’t eat oats, either, but I don’t seem to be one of them.  As long as I buy gluten-free oats, I seem to be okay and I didn’t react to them when my blood was tested, either.  With many of my go-to food options out the window, I need to learn some new tricks.  This is what prompted me to take on homemade stove top oatmeal.

AND I AM SO GLAD I DID.

Sorry for all that yelling.  I just am really excited about this.

Homemade stove top oatmeal is AMAZING!

Frankly, I don’t really understand why no one has told me about this before.  Are there huge numbers of us out there who don’t realize how delicious and easy this meal is??  Or, do those that know keep it a secret so they never have to worry about having to share??  I’m just so shocked it took me until 32 years of age to discover this one.

NEAR FLOWERS - edited

I have Project Grown-Up to thank for providing me the basic instructional information on how to make this oatmeal.  I used this post here as a guide and proceeded to make oatmeal three times in four days because it was so good – each and every time.  It may come as no surprise to you that I absolutely love how versatile it is.  The flavor combinations are virtually limitless and allow me to suit my every whim.  It’s also quick, totally easy to make, and provides such a warm, comforting, healthful way to start my day (or end it, as I did eat this for dinner one night).

So far, my oatmeal expeditions have led to the following bowls of goodness (all prepared with soy or rice milk):

  • Pumpkin Pie Flavored Oatmeal with Figs & Hazelnuts
  • Apricot, Walnut, Honey Oatmeal
  • Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal Sprinkled with Pistachios

They have been amazing and I just want to eat oatmeal all the time. All.  The. Time.

As dull as this topic may have seemed before starting it, this might be my favorite Foodie Firsts yet.  Plus, there are so many avenues with which to take this.  I keep seeing recipes for baked oatmeal.  I can only imagine how delicious that will be!

Notes & Final Thoughts:

Serving Suggestions:  While you can certainly go with just a bowl of old fashioned oats or just a bowl of steel cut oats, I have found I like a Bob's Oatsblend of the two.  I use about 2 or 2 ½ parts old fashioned to 1 part steel cut, but I find the little bit of texture variation between the two is quite nice.  Play with contrast in other ways, too.  Top your warm oatmeal with some slices of cool apple.  Cook in some dried fruit to soften it up, but don’t add your nuts until after the oatmeal is done cooking, providing a nice crunch in each bite. Finally, make sure you salt your oatmeal.  This is CRUCIAL to flavor.  CRUCIAL, I say!

Lessons Learned:  This challenge totally taught me to be willing to put aside my pre-conceived notions about common foods.  I THOUGHT I knew what oatmeal was (bland, mushy, sticky) and I was TOTALLY wrong.  It’s good to be humbled sometimes in this way and be willing to allow myself to be wrong in order to discover something wonderful.

Virtual Vegan Potluck: Yellow Curry Vegetable Stuffed Burritos

Its Virtual Vegan Potluck time, people!

A whole day where the blogging world is flooded with a variety of delicious vegan recipes is one of the best days ever.  This is my first time participating and I am thrilled to be able to share this recipe.

burrito sliced - edited

I put quite a lot of thought into what I would contribute to the potluck.  I knew that I wanted to create something different from recipes I’ve featured on the blog in the past and I also knew I wanted something that would really represent who I am as a foodie.  It would be a tall order to find the perfect representation of my food tastes, as I like a lot of different things for a variety of reasons, but I do feel that in many ways, this meal does it.  It is full of veggies, packs layers of flavor, includes potatoes (one of the foods I find most satisfying to eat), allows for some flexibility and personal twists to be made, and it gets rolled up in a tortilla.

I love anything that can be rolled up in a tortilla.  Tortillas make life better.  Period.

I stand by that broad, sweeping claim. (I ❤ tortillas.)

Collage

I made my own curry powder for this, which I highly recommend.  It can seem daunting when you look at the long list of ingredients, but the process itself is straightforward.  If you have access to a bulk spice and herb shop, consider paying them a visit.  You certainly can use a pre-mixed curry powder, too, if blending your own powder isn’t your thing.

You’ll also notice that I cook the potatoes separately from the other ingredients.  There is a reason for this extra step, my friends, and that is to give the potatoes a slightly crisp outside, which will lend to textural variety in the burrito itself.  You could cook the potatoes differently.  You could do so.  BUT, you would lose the slightly crunchy, delicious potato magic that happens when you roast them in this way and who wants to lose that?

flat tortilla with filling - edited

I served my burritos with a side of snap peas sautéed up with some Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, garlic, ginger, a dash of sesame oil, and sprinkled with sesame seeds.  I also took leftover burritos for lunch (as I tend to do with leftovers) and they held up nicely.  I would venture to say that the curry flavors may have even deepened upon sitting overnight.

I hope you try them.  I hope you love them.  And, I hope you find lots of goodies visiting all the Virtual Vegan Potluck dishes!

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Yellow Curry Vegetable Stuffed Burritos  rolled burritos on pan 2 - edited

Makes 10 burritos

Ingredients:

For the curry powder:

  • ½ tblspn coriander seed
  • 1/2 tblpsn white peppercorns
  • 1 tspn yellow mustard seed
  • 1 tspn cumin seed
  • ¼ tspn fennel seed
  • 1 tblspn ground turmeric
  • 1 tspn red pepper flakes
  • 1 tspn ground ginger
  • ¼ tspn ground fenugreek
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 4 curry leaves, minced (optional)

For the burritos:

  • 1 cup yellow onion (about ½ large onion), diced
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped small
  • 2 large russet potatoes, chopped into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 ½ tblspn olive or canola oil, divided
  • 2 tblspns curry powder (above recipe or pre-mixed), plus more for sprinkling on potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tblspn fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 tblspns vegetarian fish oil (if you can’t find this ingredient, vegetable stock may be substituted)
  • 10 soft burrito-sized tortillas
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fistful cilantro, chopped

Method:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.  Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment.
  2. To make the curry powder, place first 5 ingredients (all the seeds) into a dry skillet over medium-high heat.  Toast the spices, shaking and stirring seeds often, until they start to pop and become fragrant.  Remove from heat and grind into a fine powder.  I used a coffee grinder for this, but you can use a mortar and pestle if needed.  When ground, add all other curry ingredients and stir together to combine well.  Set aside.
  3. Place chopped potatoes into a bowl with 1 tablespoon of the oil and a hearty sprinkling of curry powder, salt, and pepper.  Toss to combine and coat potatoes well.  Spread potatoes out onto parchment-lined baking sheet in a single layer.  Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 25 minutes, flipping once halfway through.  Remove from oven and set aside.
  4. While potatoes are cooking, make the rest of the filling.  Heat ½ tablespoon oil over medium heat in a large non-stick sauté pan or cast iron skillet.  Add onions and carrots and sauté for 5 minutes, until starting to soften.
  5. Add bell pepper, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, and 2 tablespoons of the curry powder to the pan, stir so all ingredients are coated with the curry powder, and sauté for 3-4 minutes this way.
  6. To finish cooking the vegetables, add the vegetarian fish oil to the pan, stir, and cover.  Cook, covered, for 5 minutes over medium heat.  You may want to stir once or twice during this time to prevent any items from burning, but keep covered when not stirring.
  7. Turn off heat and add cooked potatoes to the pan with the rest of the vegetables.  Combine well.
  8. To make burritos, fill each tortilla with ¾ cup – 1 cup of the filling, sprinkle with cilantro, and roll up.

*** Note:  If you want to keep burritos warm while you eat an appetizer or finish any side dish preparations, you can place rolled burritos onto a baking sheet and into an oven heated to 200 degrees until ready to serve.

Click here to see the tasty dish that preceded mine in the Potluck (@ vegan miam):  Go back

Click here to check out the next goodie in the line up (@ Honk If You’re Vegan):  Go forward

 

Foodie Firsts: Making Friends with Mushrooms – Part 1 (with Recipe for Italian Vegetable Pie)

wooden spoons-001Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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You know how people often say they have a love/hate relationship with something?  How they lament about being torn between the benefits and satisfaction of something and the pain or challenges that very thing may cause them?  You know that, right?

Well, I have had a hate/hate relationship with mushrooms for as long as I can remember.  There’s been no love.  None.

Not.  One.  Ounce.

mushrooms on chopping board - edited

To be fair, I haven’t eaten a lot of mushrooms in my life, but, really, it didn’t take me long to develop a belief they were the worst food ever.  They were slimy.  Or mealy.  Or slimy AND mealy.  They were overcooked or undercooked.  They tasted sort of like dirt and they took up large portions of ingredient real estate that could have been used for other, less offensive items.

I guess this is the post where I tell you how I REALLY feel.

Here’s the catch, though, I know how good they are for me.  I know that they bring an incredible amount of nutrition to any meal and I’m on board with that.  After I read Super Immunity by Joel Fuhrman (LOVE this book, by the way), I was convinced I needed to figure out a way to start over with mushrooms.  Fuhrman is a big fan of what mushrooms can do for our health and I’m a big of Furhman, so I decided that we needed to make amends, mushrooms and I.  I thought maybe it was time I give them another chance.

Slice on plate 4 - edited

It was going to be tricky, as I was still holding a bit of a grudge against them.  But, here’s where my Foodie Firsts column came in to play.  I had NEVER cooked with mushrooms and I had NEVER eaten a mushroom I liked.  I had the opportunity for two firsts and decided to view that a challenge to take on.  I had to start by considering my mushroom options.  After some discussion, I was able to discern I would be best to avoid button mushrooms.  A friend let me know that it was likely these types of mushrooms I had generally been served in restaurants and had spit out in slimy horror.  This was helpful information.  Button mushrooms were flagged as off limits for now.  I was also gently steered away from Portobellos for the time being; it being suggested those might be best left for after developing a bit more mushroom tolerance.

So I knew what to avoid.  Excellent.  Next, I needed to know what to make.  I wanted to try something that would definitely feature a hefty dose of these little fungi, but would also have familiar and likeable components.  I didn’t want to just dive right into a plate of cooked mushrooms with no other food around, if you know what I mean.

I decided on Italian.  Specifically, I decided on an Italian vegetable pie.  This vegetable pie would have many items I love (onions, tomato sauce, garlic, bell peppers) along with a hearty portion of mushrooms.

My course was set.

Layering up 3 - edited

Knowing what kind of mushrooms NOT to get helped guide me at the store and I settled upon a bag of crimini mushrooms to feature in my vegetable pie.  Italian mushrooms for Italian pie.  Perfect.

The criminis that I bought were pre-sliced (fancy), but I wanted them chopped a bit smaller, so I took care of that at home.  I will say, as someone who finds chopping vegetables thoroughly pleasant and at times even therapeutic, going to work on these mushrooms was very enjoyable.  The ease at which my chef’s knife moved through them was quite satisfying.

The mushrooms were cooked briefly with other filling ingredients for the pie, layered up with the noodles and sauce, and baked for a short while.  When the pie was ready, I was nervous.  I wanted to love it.  I wanted to love THEM.  But I was totally unsure of how it was going to turn out.

Onward I went.

Slicing up the Italian pie, I dove in with gusto.  I decided to just take a leap of faith in regards to this meal and tried to eat without the memory of past experiences coloring my tastebuds.

And?

Cooked in skillet - edited

I was rewarded.

It was GREAT.  It was REALLY GREAT.

This was a perfect re-introduction to mushrooms, as I certainly did know they were on my plate, but they held their texture quite well and I ate them in forkfuls with other familiar and delicious ingredients, not having to be the only thing I tasted in each bite.

You may have noticed that I titled this post ‘Making Friends with Mushrooms – Part 1’.  Because there are so many varieties of mushrooms, as well as an abundance of preparation options for them, I have decided I will do another post or two featuring the mushroom family.  And, I’m actually looking forward to it, which is nice.

Notes & Final Thoughts:

Serving Suggestions:  I have to say the Italian Vegetable Pie I made was quite good.  It hit all the right notes for those who love lasagna or Italian casseroles, but provided a new twist on these old favorites. The recipe is below if you, too, want to give it a try.  It’s filling, produces an enticing aroma while it cooks, and makes a lovely presentation, in addition to just tasting really good.

Lessons Learned:  Be flexible and creative when trying to incorporate ingredients that may not initially appeal to you.  Once I stopped my rigid thinking about mushrooms (ALL mushrooms are bad) and considered that maybe the types or preparations I had experienced in the past just weren’t the best ones for my particular tastes, I was able to think about this ingredient in new ways.  Drawing upon positive food experiences as a base and finding ways to incorporate mushrooms into food I already knew I would enjoy has opened up new cooking doors for me.

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Italian Vegetable Pie mushrooms in bag - edited

Adapted from Cooking Light

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 10 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 10 oz firm tofu, drained, pressed, and crumbled
  • 3 tblspns tomato paste
  • 1/2 tspn dried oregano
  • 1/4 tspn crushed fennel
  • 1 tspn crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tspn salt
  • 1/2 tspn black pepper
  • 28 oz marina sauce of your choice
  • 8 lasagna noodles
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 3 tblspns vegan Parmesan

Method:

  1. Boil lasagna noodles according to package directions, set aside when done, and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Coat a large non-stick skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat.  When warmed, add bell pepper, onion, and garlic.  Cook, stirring frequently, 4-5 minutes until softened.
  3. Add mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and crumbled tofu.  Stir to mix all ingredients and cook 3-4 more minutes.
  4. Add tomato paste, oregano, fennel, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper,  Stir to coat vegetables with seasonings and then add marinara sauce.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from heat.
  5. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs and vegan Parmesan and set aside.
  6. Coat a 9-10 inch pan or cast iron skillet with cooking spray.  Arrange cooked lasagna noodles in a circular pattern around the pan, so that they line the bottom of the pan, with half of the noodles hanging over the edge.  Spoon half of the vegetable-marinara mixture onto the noodles.  Fold the hanging edges of the noodles over to cover this part of the filling, then spoon the rest of the vegetable-marinara mixture on top.  Sprinkle bread crumb and vegan Parmesan mixture evenly over the top.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Recipe: Spelt Blueberry Scones (An Offering of Comfort)

I could write a typical narrative here – an introduction to this recipe or a recap of the process of making them.

But I don’t really have it in me right now.

Three on plate - edited

This week has been difficult.  For many, many people it has been devastating.

I have read dozens of thoughts across the web on the week’s events and I have appreciated each and every one of them.

But right now, I just need some:  Comfort.  Calm.  Serenity.

Three up close - edited

Scones do that for me.  Preparing them is soothing (the cutting of the butter or butter-like ingredients into the mixture; the folding in of berries) and eating them is even better.  A well made scone is one of my absolute most favorite things in the world.

So I present these scones to you today in a gesture of goodwill, because sometimes the simplest things can provide the comfort that we need most.  May they nourish your body and spirit.

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Spelt Blueberry Scones

Adapted Just A Tad From Alisa Cooks (and Babycakes)

Makes 8-12 scones

 

Ingredients:  Two on plate further away 2 - edited

  • 2 cups spelt flour + more for rolling the blueberries in
  • 1 tblspn baking powder
  • ½ tspn sea salt
  • 1/3 cup hazelnut oil (can sub canola oil or similar)
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1 tblspn vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup hot water
  • ¾ cup frozen blueberries
  • Cinnamon for dusting (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment (or spray lightly with cooking spray).
  2. Prepare your blueberries by placing them in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of additional flour.  Roll around until blueberries are lightly coated with the flour.  This will help keep them from ‘bleeding’ into the scones as they bake.
  3. In a large bowl whisk together 2 cups flour, the baking powder, and salt.  When combined, add in the oil, agave and vanilla extract.  Stir together until just combined.
  4. Pour your hot water into the batter and stir again until batter is moistened.  Dump in the blueberries that have been rolled lightly in flour and fold them into the batter gently.
  5. To create similar-sized scones, use a measuring cup (I used a ¼ cup size) to scoop up batter and drop onto your prepared baking sheet.  If they are very tall, press down just slightly to even out.
  6. If you want the addition of an ever so slight cinnamon flavor (which is delicious), sprinkle cinnamon lightly over the top of each scone.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops are golden and slightly firm to touch.  Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet for 10 minutes.  Transfer to wire rack to let cool completely.  These can be stored at room temperature for 2-4 days (if they last that long!).

Foodie Firsts: Meyer Lemons (Plus, A Recipe: Meyer Lemon Linguini with Kale Raab and Cherry Tomatoes)

wooden spoons-001

Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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Meyer lemons are one of those foods that people have very strong opinions about.  They almost have a cult-like following.  Devotees talk animatedly about their return each season, preserve what they can for the dark days when fresh ones are not available, and fill their lives with Meyer lemon goodness when the season is right.  If food were science-fiction, you might say that Meyer lemons are the Doctor Who of the food world.  (Or maybe, I’m just excited about Doctor Who right now and it’s infiltrating my other life spaces.)

Whole Close Up - edited

As you might have guessed given the focus of this column, I had never had a Meyer lemon.  So when people started blogging excitedly about them or expressing joy in the supermarket at their return, I just wasn’t getting it.  What was all the fuss?   Could they really be that much different from a ‘regular’ lemon??

Let me say that I am a BIG FAN of lemons.  I happen to believe that they are one of the most endlessly useful items to have in a kitchen.  Their zest and juice can transform baked goods to a whole other level of awesomeness, add zingy interest to soups, brighten up pasta in a flash, elevate salad from dull to exciting, and, heck, a slice in a glass of water (or, ahem, gin) can go a long way to increasing taste and experience.

Lemons are good stuff.

So, I had to ask, was a Meyer lemon going to be much different?  And, if in fact it was that different, was that going to actually be a good thing?

Meyer Lemon Collage

I think I can say that it WAS THAT different.  I decided to try Meyer lemons two ways – sweet and savory.  Plus, I just sampled a bit of the juice itself.  The difference, of course, starts right from the get-go with the visual aspect of the fruit.  It’s lemon-shaped and lemon-sized, but the color is not the same.  Less bright and catchy, the Meyer lemons I purchased had a flatter hue.  When I placed them side by side on my counter with a standard lemon, there was no confusing which was which.

Tasting the Meyer lemon juice on its own, it was clear that the taste is definitely a different experience from standard lemons.  I could tell it wasn’t as sharp or acidic and I was curious to see how this would impact my food.  I had 6 lemons and decided I would put 3 to work in a savory dish (pasta) and 3 would be used in a sweet dish (lemon bars).

I’ll start with the bad (because the good was REALLY good).  The lemon bars didn’t quite come out right.  To be fair, I don’t think it was entirely the fault of the Meyer lemons themselves.  The recipe I used just didn’t work quite right for some reason and I needed to have baked them longer, I think, as they didn’t set up quite right.  So, there were some serious fundamental flaws.  What I will say is that regardless of these issues, if you want a traditional lemon bar, with loads of wake-up-and-stimulate-your-senses sharp flavors, Meyer lemons aren’t going to do that for you.  If you want a smoother, more subtle, and possibly more sweet lemon bar, than the Meyers just might work.

Plated 5 - edited

Moving on to the good.  I made pasta.  Meyer lemon linguini with cherry tomatoes and kale raab to be specific about it, and it was tremendously satisfying.  Maybe I was just having a good night in the kitchen, but the Meyers really worked with this dish.  That lack of bold lemon punch was a really good thing in this case, as the Meyer lemons actually added a rounder, more full-bodied flavor to the dish, rather than just a zap of acid and tartness.  I would venture to say that they added a richness to this dish that a standard lemon just would not have done and it elevated the flavor to something a bit more complex.  This dish made me excited about Meyer lemons the way I have seen others be.

What about all of you?  Are you a Meyer lemon convert?  Do you get excited when their time rolls around each year?

Notes & Final Thoughts:

Lessons Learned:  As I said, I really love lemons.  I can’t say that Meyer lemons have won over my heart from their more common counterparts quite yet.  I certainly don’t think they have the versatility of their lemon cousins.  I was really excited about the pasta dish though and, in that context, totally understand how they could be used differently, uniquely, to make a dish their own.  That gives me enough incentive to want to experiment with them further.

Serving Suggestions:  Well, the pasta below, of course.  But also, I’ve seen a variety of recipes for Meyer lemon muffins and bread.  I am pretty much always in favor of a good muffin or bread, so those seem like an excellent thing to try.  Also, probably one of the most popular things to do is snag some while they’re in season and preserve them for later use.

Lessons Learned: I was struck by how it really is quite possible for two items to be so closely related to one another and yet be so very unique in the outcomes they produce.  It has caused me to give more consideration to the subtle differences between similar food items and how they will impact a dish.  It is fun to notice how my own palate is becoming more discerning as I continue to try new things with an open mind and attention to subtle details!

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Meyer Lemon Linguini with Kale Raab & Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:In Pan 2 - edited

  • 8 oz linguini (I used spinach linguini)
  • 2 small batches kale raab, stems discarded, leaves and flowers chopped
  • 3 tblspns water
  • 1 tblspn olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tspn red pepper flakes
  • Juice of 3 medium Meyer lemons
  • 1 tspn kosher salt
  • ½ tspn black pepper
  • 1 tblspn fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese (vegan or dairy, per preference)
  • Handful of Italian parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. Prepare noodles according to package directions.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Warm sauté pan over medium heat.  Add chopped kale raab, along with 3 tblspns water.  Cover immediately and let steam in pan for 2-3 minutes.  Remove steamed kale raab from pan and set aside.
  3. Return sauté pan to stovetop, over medium heat.  Add oil.  Once warmed add garlic and red pepper flakes.  Cook, stirring frequently for 1-2 minutes, or until garlic begins to lightly brown.
  4. Add steamed kale raab, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and thyme to pan.  Stir to combine all ingredients well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add cooked noodles and cherry tomatoes to pan and toss all ingredients together.  Cook 2-3 more minutes until all components are heated and combined.
  6. Remove from heat and add Parmesan, tossing to coat other ingredients.  Serve with fresh Italian parsley garnish.

Foodie Firsts: Orca Beans (AKA Calypso Beans and Yin Yang Beans)

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Foodie Firsts is a Move Eat Create weekly feature focusing on my adventures in the world of food.  Over the course of a few short years, I have transformed from a picky, fearful eater to a curious and open-minded foodie.  In a commitment to continue to expand my culinary experiences, I have started Foodie Firsts.  Each week I will commit to trying something new and sharing that experience with you.  My endeavors may include experimenting with cooking techniques I’ve never tried before, testing a single new ingredient, or drawing upon my creativity to combine foods in ways I never imagined.  Whatever it is, I will eat (or maybe drink) it and share it all with you.  You can decide for yourself whether you, too, would like to try.  Let’s be bold and eat good food!

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There I was strolling through the store, all set to pick up the final couple of items I needed for dinner that night, when I spotted something beautiful and unfamiliar to me.

I love it when this happens.

in bowl - edited

The item I had spotted was in the bulk food section.  Included among the rows and rows of bins filled with nuts, seeds, and pastas, were the bins of beans.  There were your usual suspects – kidney, black, pinto, cannellini, navy – but there was also a variety I had never seen or heard of before . . . . orca beans.  These beans are gorgeous.  Boldly patterns of black and white swirl across the surface of these beautiful legumes, just as they do on their namesake.  I took home several scoops and set about learning more about orcas (because last week, I learned the importance of research!).

It turns out that orca beans hail from Mexico.  They are also commonly called calypso or yin yang beans.  Through various Internet trolling, it is noted that they are a fairly rare variety and are often paired with corn or other traditional Mexican ingredients.

I decided to cook up these beans with corn, but instead of going with tried and true Mexican flavors, I was inspired by a recipe celebrating the flavors of Native America.  Granted these two cuisines have a lot in common, so many of the ingredients here can be found in both.   You can see the recipe that I used for inspiration here at Vegetarian Times.  I followed the sage pesto portion almost to a tee (except for subbing half the oil with vegetable broth – a little trick I learned to lighten things up a bit).  Then, I combined the pesto and orca beans with cooked brown rice, zucchini, corn, garlic, onion, and peppers.

in bowl close up - edited

I soaked my orca beans overnight and, in true food-nerd fashion, got excited peeking at them glistening in the water.  They really are appealing little things!   Cooking these beans was a cinch.  After their fairly long soak, they only needed about 45 minutes before they were tender, ready to be drained, and added to the rest of the dish.

Interestingly, the black on the beans lightens in the cooking process, turning to a shade of brown.  I found that these beans held their shape and form quite well, not breaking down as much as, say, a navy bean might do.  The taste was pleasant enough, but fairly unremarkable.  That’s not to say they weren’t tasty, they just didn’t necessarily stand out as exceptionally different from their bean cousins.  I read one description of orca beans that commented on their potato-like taste.  I suppose that I would say that they did have a somewhat starchy quality to them, which is reminiscent of a white potato, though I wouldn’t go as far to say that they tasted like potatoes (but, seriously, someone should get on that – a bean that tastes like potatoes would be amazing).  I could see them working in just about any recipe that called for kidney or cannellini beans quite well, adapting to whatever spices and herbs may be added to them.

cooking with beans added in - edited

Overall, these beans were quite fun to try.  They seem very versatile and I can imagine picking them up again in the future when I want a bean that will stay somewhat firm through an extended cooking process, without distracting from a specific desired flavor profile.  Plus, they are visually very interesting and can add a playful appearance to an otherwise standard dish.

I know there are loads of bean varieties out there that I’ve never tried before and this gave me an excellent starting point from which to keep experimenting.  I am certainly going to keep my eyes peeled to see what else pops up in those bulk bins!

Final Thoughts:

Serving Suggestions:  Use the recipe that I linked to above if you like.  The sage pesto was quite delicious and offered a nice change from a more traditional basil pesto.  Orca beans can also easily be substituted for black beans or kidney beans in soups, stews, or chili.  I also imagine they’d be excellent stuffed into peppers and baked with your grain of choice and chopped vegetables.

I’m curious as to how they would work in a bean burger.  My feeling about their texture and taste is that they could make a pretty fantastic vegetarian burger patty, maybe combined with oats, rice, corn, or quinoa, as well as a binder and plenty of seasoning.  I might try this in the future.

Lessons Learned:

Visual appeal is important in food.  I knew this already, of course, but the value of it really stood out when I came across these beans.  Like a child taken in by shiny objects, I was so drawn to the color and pattern of these beans that it made cooking them all that much more engaging.

Pay attention to cooking times with different beans!  I had expected these to take somewhere between 1-1 ½ hours to cook, but they were done in 45 minutes!  They were pretty small which may have had something to do with it.  Either way, I’m lucky that I checked on them when I did, because letting them go unchecked could have led to a mushy bean disaster of epic proportions!