Thursday, October 16, 2014

Warm Green Bean, Tomato, and Chickpea Salad

My work schedule has been insane lately, leaving me much less time to cook that I'd like, so when I'm able to carve out the time, I really want to make it count. For me, making the most of that limited kitchen time means cranking out a big batch of something healthy, delicious, and versatile. This recipe fits that bill perfectly. Packed with tons of fresh vegetables and herbs, filling beans, and savory cheese, this salad is delicious with a slice of crusty bread, over rice or pasta, as a bed for a juicy salmon fillet or chicken breast, or all on its own. This recipe is very versatile depending on what's available - green beans could be swapped for asparagus, sugar snap peas, or even Brussels sprouts, white beans for the chickpeas, Parmesan for the feta, and almost any fresh herbs for the parsley. My garden might be in its death throes with winter's impending arrival, but there's still enough time to use the scrappy ends of my horticultural endeavors in a delicious meal like this one.

Warm Green Bean, Tomato, and Chickpea Salad
adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 4

1 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch length
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus additional for the pan
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 wide strips lemon zest, cut into thin matchsticks, plus 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved, or 3 medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch wedges
1/4 small red onion, sliced
1 can (15.5 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 1/2 ounces feta, crumbled (1/2 cup)
2/3 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves

1. Preheat a large pan over medium heat, add a splash of olive oil, and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook beans, stirring occasionally until browned in spots and just shy of crisp-tender, about 6 to 8 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice and oil and season with salt and pepper. Add tomatoes and onion to the pan and cooking continuing until the tomatoes collapse and onions start to soften, about 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and cook until mixture is warm, another minute or two.

3. Remove the pan from heat and toss with the dressing, feta, and parsley. Serve warm or at room temperature, either over cooked grains or with a slice of crusty bread or pita.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

BBQ Cauliflower Grilled Cheese

As a born and bred Wisconsin girl, I never need an excuse to eat a grilled cheese, but as the days grow short and the temperatures drop, I crave them even more. I can't complain about even the most basic version, provided it's served hot with a cup of tomato soup, but there's certainly plenty of room for creativity too.

Roasted cauliflower is another food I just can't get enough of, so I figured why not toss it on my grilled cheese? It makes my sandwich tastier and healthier and is a wonderfully easy way to sneak in more of those veggies we all need. Fall and winter are prime time for roasted vegetables, so you may have some leftovers hangimg around as I perpetually do, but it's well worth cooking up some just for this occasion. The creamy barbecue mayo is the perfect sweet and spicy sauce (if you use a quality BBQ) and the touches of red onion and greens have just enough acidity and freshness to contrast the rich and nutty Gruyére. It takes a little more time and a few more ingredients than the bare bones version, but the upgrade to gourmet is completely worth it.

While the long days and warm temperatures of summer are fading away, there are no shortage of wonderful things to embrace about fall, especially the culinary fare. And I can't wait to keep the cozy meals coming.

BBQ Cauliflower Grilled Cheese
serves 1

1/2 tablespoon light mayo
1/2 tablespoon barbecue sauce
2 slices whole grain bread
2 ounces raw cauliflower, cut into approx. 1/4-inch thick slices (or leftover cooked cauliflower)
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
A few thin slices of red onion
A few leaves of spinach or other greens (optional)
1 ounce Gryuere, thinly sliced or shredded
Cooking spray

1. Preheat a pan over medium heat. If using raw cauliflower, toss with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the cauliflower in the pan, flat side down, and cook until the first side is nicely caramelized, about 4 to 6 minutes (depending on the thickness of slices). Flip the cauliflower over and cook until the other flat side is also nicely browned and tender, another 4 to 6 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, combine mayo and mustard and mix thoroughly. Spread on one slice of the bread.

3. Place the spinach on the second slice of bread and top with the cauliflower, red onion, and cheese. Place the other slice of bread on top.

4. Preheat a pan over medium heat and spray with cooking spray. Place the sandwich in the pan and cook, flipping once halfway through, until bread is golden and ingredients are warmed through, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. Cut sandwich in half and serve promptly.