Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Easy Lemony Chickpea & Artichoke Spread

It's funny how pantries and fridges can indicate where you are in life... or who might be visiting. Like tea leaves, show me either and I think I could give you a pretty good read on the owner.

Certainly when our daughters were younger and still living at home, we were stocked to the brim... ever ready for not only their childhood favorites, but also those of their friends.

Now when they visit, I try to stock up on the items that they now stock... things like almond milk, greek yogurt, tofu, lots of veggies... and, particularly where our oldest is concerned... hummus and peanut M&M's (though not eaten together!).

Unfortunately, this past weekend didn't allow for a special market run to prepare for the visit of our oldest. So, when she went to the fridge in search of a late morning snack of crackers and hummus, there was no spread to be found.

After a quick pantry and fridge search, I whizzed up a substitute. And that's pretty much all that's involved ... a super quick whiz of fairly common pantry items... plus some fresh pops of flavor... and you're done. The hardest part of getting this spread together is washing up the food processor!

So... what does my pantry and fridge say about me? Hmmm... always a mom!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Composed Salad of Beets... on Mache Greens with Boiled Egg, Avocado, Radish and a Lime-Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Pretty food.

While it's certainly not enough to look good on a plate, pretty food is pretty captivating (for me, anyway). Apart from aroma, it's right up there in what is most enticing about a dish.

However, as the saying goes, pretty is as pretty does. So... if pretty doesn't deliver in the taste department, then it's pretty much all for not.

We enjoyed a rendition of this beet salad while visiting Seattle last month. Suddenly enamored with the empire of Ethan Stowell, we dined at Staple & Fancy (having thoroughly enjoyed How To Cook A Wolf on a prior visit). In the midst of contemplating our order, we caught a glimpse of a beautiful salad being delivered to the table adjacent to ours. While I've definitely been accused of being a bit of a neck bender when dining out, assessing platings as they parade from the kitchen, I do make every effort to be discrete. The fact that this beauty was set just inches from our table made it ever easier to see. And that one little look sealed the deal.

While I'm somewhat of a purest when it comes to plating... believing that stark white plates are the perfect canvas to showcase most anything you might serve... this salad would have looked beautiful brought in on a cutting board. Perhaps it was the lighting, surely it was the company, but I'm thinking I heard harps lightly playing in the background as this dish was set down. Just maybe.

Vibrant green blooms were sprinkled atop a beautiful, yet simple, white platter... pretty enough. Then, nestled in amongst the blooms were slices of ripe avocado, sunny little wedges of boiled egg, and stunning ruby pops of radish.

And then... the star attraction... beets!

Beautiful crimson wedges of roasted beets tucked in here and there... like a perfect little game of hide and seek, with every discovery offering a tasty bite.

Though brilliantly colored and captivating, the entire salad absolutely popped with a perfect little citrus-infused dressing. My rendition is a lime-honey-balsamic vinaigrette that I lightly drizzled on the greens before tucking in each little gem of beet, avocado, radish, and egg.

Pretty... yummy... food.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Pasta Primavera

Welcomed back into the City of Roses yesterday by a low ceiling of gray clouds, a steady drizzle, and a breeze that packed a bit of a bellow, I was intent on recreating a pasta primavera I had shared over the weekend with our youngest daughter at a fairly nondescript italian eatery nestled on a sleepy main road in Half Moon Bay, just outside of San Francisco. It's not that that pasta was particularly special. We had had far more interesting fare during our visit together. It's that this pasta can truly live up to its name... offering such a grand promise of spring that you can't help but feel your mood instantly lift.

With the local high falling pitifully shy of 50 degrees at touchdown, I figured a pasta primavera... awash with vibrant color and fresh, bright flavor ... was exactly what was needed to allay that little sting of melancholy that seems to linger longer than welcomed when I leave either of our daughters after a visit.

It's basically Springtime in a bowl... and it only takes 15 minutes to get there.

You set a large pot of lightly salted water on high heat to boil, while you get busy slicing up your veggies.

When your water is ready, drop your pasta in for about 9 minutes, until al dente. Meanwhile, begin your sauté... onions and carrots in first, followed by the peppers (a little minced garlic, if you like), and then the zucchini. Season it all up with a little kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste. And, just before plating, toss in your black olives and add a little drizzle of fresh lemon juice. Top each plating with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and parmesan... and another little touch of extra virgin olive oil, if you'd like. Then just settle in and enjoy the season... fleeting though it may be.