Winter Greens and Beets with Balsamic Vinaigrette

beet salad Lynda BalslevMarinated Beets, Arugula, Spinach, Pistachios, Feta, Mint

Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t have a salad. In fact, winter is a great time to eat a bowl of healthy greens – chock full of vitamins, nutrients and fiber, a sure-fire way to keep the doctor away. While summer salads are often light and ethereal, winter salads have heft, laden with all sorts of goodies like nuts, cheese, and dried fruit.

winter greens

Winter Greens and Baby Beets with Balsamic Vinaigrette

This recipe is brimming with baby kale, spinach, radicchio, and chard, sprinkled with nuts and seeds, and sweetened with roasted beets. A rich and potent vinaigrette naps the leaves, taming and binding the bitter, nutty, earthy flavors. I make a dressing, with rich, sweet and viscous balsamic, and slightly thicken it with Dijon mustard, so the dressing is sure to cling to the leaves. Mix and match your favorite greens from what’s available in the farmers market. Be sure to include a combination of bitter and mild flavors as well as a variety of color and texture. For this salad I used spinach, chard, baby kale, radicchio, and arugula, and flowering broccolini as a garnish.

Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salad:
1/2 pound baby or small beets, roasted, peeled, cooled
8 cups assorted greens
1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese or feta (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon pepitas

Whisk the vinegar, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add the oil in a steady stream, whisking constantly to emulsify.

Cut the beets into quarters or halves, depending on the size. Place the greens in a large bowl. Add half of the dressing and toss to thoroughly coat. Scatter the beets, pistachios, and pepitas over the salad. Drizzle with the remaining dressing to taste.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

lemon sea salt bars tastefood

Whether you are knee deep in snow or lucky enough to live where lemons grow on trees, these lemon bars will bring a ray of sunshine to your plate. Picture a zingy sweet-tart filling rippling with lemon zest, anchored to a buttery shortbread crust. A smidge of sea salt adorning the top keeps all sweetness in check, allowing the puckery citrus to shine through. These bars are thoroughly addictive and guaranteed to brighten your day. One bar will never be enough.

Lemon Bars with Sea Salt

This recipe is adapted from and inspired by many sources, including Ina Garten, Food52,  and my personal weakness for sea salt. Makes 32 (2-inch) square bars.

Shortbread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened but still cool, cut into cubes

Filling:
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Garnish:
Confectioners sugar
Sea salt flakes, such as Maldon

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking pan, then line the pan with parchment and butter the parchment.
2. Combine the shortbread ingredients in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix until the dough resembles coarse lumps and just begins to come together. Dump the dough into the prepared pan and, with your fingers, evenly press the dough to cover the bottom of the pan.
3. Bake the crust until it just begins to turn golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, but do not turn off the oven heat.
4. Whisk the filling ingredients together in a large bowl until blended, then evenly pour over the crust. Return the pan to the oven and bake until the filling is set but not coloring, about 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely on a rack.
5. Cut into bars. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and lightly sprinkle with sea salt flakes before serving.

Cheddar and Horseradish Potato Poppers

potato poppers tastefood

I was tempted to give you a recipe for a deflated cheese soufflé for the upcoming Superbowl, but decided to rise above deflategate and make these little poppers instead. Twice baked mini-potato poppers are a great appetizer to enjoy while watching the big football game. While they are a little time consuming to make, they can easily be prepared in advance then popped into the oven at the last minute.

Cheddar and Horseradish Potato Poppers

Something tells me that crispy bacon bits would be a great extra addition to the filling…. just saying. If you agree, then consider mixing a small handful of rendered bacon bits into the potato filling, or sprinkle on top in place of the thyme.

Makes 20; serves 4 to 6

20 round small potatoes, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup sour cream or whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup finely grated Cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1 to 2 tablespoons finely grated fresh horseradish
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Fresh thyme leaves

Heat the oven to 425°F.
Trim the potatoes: Slice a small tip off of each potato to create a flat bottom for the potatoes to stand without rolling or tilting. Slice about 1/4 off of the tops and discard the tops. Place the potatoes in a bowl with the oil and toss to coat. Arrange on a parchment lined baking sheet, cut-side down. Bake until tender, about 30 minutes. Remove and cool slightly.
Using a teaspoon, scoop out the centers of the potatoes without piercing the bottoms. Place the potato flesh, garlic, sour cream, cheddar cheese, butter, horseradish, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Using a fork, mash until well combined. Carefully spoon the filling back into the potato shells, mounding the stuffing. Arrange the potatoes, stuffed-side up, on a baking sheet. (The potatoes may be prepared up to 2 hours in advance to this point. Cover and refrigerate, then let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before continuing).
Sprinkle the Parmigiano over the potatoes, then transfer the potatoes to the oven and broil until the cheese is melted and golden, about 2 minutes. Serve warm, garnished with thyme.

Roasted Cauliflower Pizza with Calabrian Chiles and Green Olive Tapenade

I’ll get right to the point. The star of this pizza is the tapenade, which teams up with oily fiery Calabrian chiles in a smashing combination. Sprinkled over roasted cauliflower, fresh peppers and creamy mozzarella, this is one fresh and feisty pizza. The tapenade is so good, you might find yourself munching spoonfuls straight from the bowl, smearing it on a piece of bread, or swiping the prepped cauliflower through it before you have a chance to assemble the pizza. So make a double batch – then you can have your nibbles and eat your pizza, too.

Pizza with Roasted Cauliflower, Calabrian Chilies and Green Olive Tapenade

Calabrian chilies may be purchased in the Italian specialty section of your grocery store. When selecting the fresh chile peppers for the pizza topping, try to select a variety of sweet and hot to your taste. Be sure to taste each pepper before using, as the heat will vary from pepper to pepper. I used an Anaheim and a mild Fresno pepper on this pizza. Serves 2 to 4.

For the pizza:
2 cups cauliflower florets cut into 1/2-inch pieces, about 1/2 medium head
1 cup thinly sliced assorted chile peppers, such as Fresno, Hungarian, sweet red
Extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon  salt, or to taste
1  favorite fresh pizza dough – enough for one large pizza
1  (8- ounce) ball fresh buffalo mozzarella, shredded
2 tablespoons chopped Calabrian chiles
1/2 cup Green Olive Tapenade
1/4 cup finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper

Make the pizza:
Preheat the oven to 500°F (or prepare the grill for direct cooking over high heat) and preheat a pizza stone on the lowest oven rack or on the grill grates.
Toss the cauliflower and sliced peppers with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Thinly roll out or stretch the pizza dough to desired shape on parchment paper. Lightly brush the dough with olive oil and lightly season with salt. Scatter the mozzarella over the dough, then spread the cauliflower and peppers over the crust, keeping a 1/2-inch border all around. Scatter the calabrian chilies on top, then evenly sprinkle the pecorino cheese all over the pizza. Slide the pizza onto the preheated pizza stone. Bake until the cauliflower is tinged, the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbling, 13 to 15 minutes. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board. Drop teaspoons of the tapenade over the pizza. Drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with lemon zest and black pepper.  Serve immediately.

Superbowl Party Dips for Vegetables and Chips

Cruditees and dip tastefood

I am a diehard playoffs fan. Which is to say I am pretty oblivious to any sports season – until it gets to the playoffs. My last minute interest is amplified when it’s a Boston or a San Francisco team, due to history and my current zip code. As you can imagine, this can pose a dilemma. I have found myself at times the lone cheerleader for the other team, the guest-non-grata, risking loss of friends or getting pelted with tortilla chips. I can’t help it. Birthright rules, and so does Boston.  This year, once again, I am gearing up for the Superbowl, where the Patriots are on their way, and fortunately this year I have absolutely no conflict of interest. I may even be invited to a party.

Superbowl Party Dips for Vegetables and Chips

I get the chips, but if I am going to nosh for 3 hours while I watch a football game, I crave vegetables too. Here are a few of my favorite dips that go well with chopped veggies and chips alike – including this recipe for Guacamole

carrot hummus tastefoodCarrot Harissa Hummus

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Dip 

tsatsikiGarlicky Greek Yogurt Dip (Tsatsiki)

green olive tapenade tastefoodOlive and Almond Tapenade

Winter Vegetable Soup with Greens and Grains

winter vegetable soup tf

I make a version of this soup throughout the fall and winter. The recipe is easy and delicious, following a simple template which I switch up with different seasonal vegetables, often a grain, and sometimes beans. The basic stock is chicken, to which I add a can of Italian plum tomatoes for fruity acidity, plus a hunk of Parmesan rind which breaks down while cooking, adding a little oomph (aka umami) to the broth. From there I embellish, adding a grain, such as farro or barley, and chunks of sturdy vegetables, such as fennel, butternut squash, and carrot. If I crave more substance (think one-pot dinner), I’ll dump a can of cannellini beans or chickpeas into the mix. Finally, I stir in chopped hearty greens, such as kale, mustard, or spinach, and simmer until they just wilt but remain bright and fresh. You can do this too – use the following recipe as your template, and mix and match the veggies and grains to your taste.

Winter Vegetable Soup with Greens and Grains
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, thinly sliced (or 1 1/2 cups cubed butternut squash)
1 small fennel bulb, fonds and end trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
1 cup uncooked barley or farro
1 (15-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes, with juice
6 cups chicken stock, or more as needed
1 (2 to 3 inch) Parmesan rind
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained (optional)
2 cups coarsely chopped kale (or spinach)
Grated Parmesan for garnish

Heat the oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté until it begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the carrot or squash and the fennel. Saute until brightened in color, about 2 minutes. Add the barley and stir to coat, then add the tomatoes, chicken stock, cheese rind, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender and the barley is tender, about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon. If the soup becomes too thick, add more stock as necessary. Add the beans, if using, and bring to a boil, then add the greens and simmer until bright green in color and just wilted. Taste for seasoning. Serve hot with grated cheese.

Like the bowl? Many thanks to Terrestra for lending me this lovely bowl created by Jars Provence.

BLT with Avocado and Sriracha Mayo

blat tastefood

Step aside kale detox and juice cleanse. It’s the new year, and I’m having a BLT. Not just any BLT, mind you, but a two-fisted BLT, sandwiched between crusty country levain bread, layered with creamy slices of avocado and smears of sriracha-licked mayo. What’s more to say? Happy 2015 to you!

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Avocado with Sriracha Mayo

Makes 1

2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Sriracha
2 thick slices country style bread
1 to 2 lettuce leaves
2 to 3 slices vine-ripened tomato
2 to 3 slices crisp cooked bacon
1/2 ripe avocado, sliced

Whisk the mayonnaise and Sriracha in a small bowl.
Lightly toast the bread. Smear the mayo over each slice. Top one bread slice with lettuce, tomato, bacon and the avocado. Top with the remaining bread slice. Enjoy.

Roasted Carrot, Chickpea and Harissa Hummus

carrot hummus tastefoodHealthy Party Appetizer: Roasted Carrot, Chickpea and Harissa Hummus

I have had my sights on making a carrot hummus for a while. My friend Steve over at Oui Chef got me thinking about a spicy variation of the chickpea hummus when he posted a tantalizing recipe on his blog inspired by theKitchn. Now that the holidays are *almost* behind us, I find myself with some welcome free time to dabble in the kitchen – plus I have to bring an appetizer to a party tonight, so I decided to make a rendition of carrot hummus. A carrot hummus, you say? Picture you’re favorite Middle Eastern hummus, a blend of chickpeas, tahini, garlic and lemon. Then send it further west to North Africa, picking up a few ingredients along the way: carrots, coriander, mint, and the oh-so special harissa, a fiery red chile paste. The result is a vibrant and zesty hummus, with a kick of heat and a gentle perfume of spice. A shower of chopped pistachios and chopped mint finish this dip, ensuring freshness and satisfying crunch while topping this healthy party dip with a festive crown.

Roasted Carrot, Chickpea and Harissa Hummus
Makes about 2 cups

Carrots:
3/4 pound carrots, peeled, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Hummus:
1 (15 ounce) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons harissa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for garnish
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander

Garnish:
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shelled pistachios
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

1. Heat the oven to 400°F. Place the carrots in a small baking dish. Add the oil, salt, cumin, and black pepper and stir to coat. Roast in the oven until the carrots are tender, 25 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove and cool slightly.
2. Transfer the carrots and any pan juices to the bowl of a food processor. Add the remaining dip ingredients and process until smooth. If too thick, add additional olive oil or warm water. Taste for seasoning.
3. Serve in a bowl, garnished with the pistachios, mint, and extra black pepper

Roasted Root Vegetable Fries

root fries

If you have a hankering for fries, try these spiced and roasted root fries for a healthy alternative. Switch out the go-to potato for nutrient-rich roots and tubers, such as sweet potato, rutabaga, carrot, and turnip. Mix and match the selection to your taste, but go for a colorful array, guaranteed to brighten your dinner plate. Slow roasting them will coax out the natural sugars which will encourage browning and slight caramelization, without the added fat of deep frying. Serve with a cooling yogurt dip spiked with Sriracha – not too heavy, low in fat, big on flavor. So, go on and indulge in this healthy winter snack and consider it a virtuous start to the new year.

Roasted Root Vegetable Fries
Leave the skin on the baked potato for extra nutrients and texture. If you can get your hands on purple sweet potatoes, give them a try – they maintain their firmness during roasting which makes for a great fry.

Serves 4 to 6

2 1/2 pounds assorted root vegetables, such as sweet potato, rutabaga, carrot, parsnip
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sriracha Yogurt Dipping Sauce:
1 cup Greek whole milk yogurt
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon Sriracha
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 425°F. Cut the root vegetables into 2-inch batons, about 3/8-inch thick. Place in a large bowl. This the oil, salt, cumin, paprika, and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the vegetables and stir to evenly coat.

Spread the vegetables in one layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Bake on the lowest rack of the oven until browned on the bottom, 20 to 25 minutes. Move the baking sheet to the top rack of the oven and bake until golden brown on top and tender but not limp, about 20 minutes.

While the vegetables are roasting, whisk the dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl. Serve the fries with the sauce for dipping.

Healthy Holiday Appetizers: Smoked Salmon Kale Wraps

kale salmon tf

Here is a healthy gluten-free appetizer that’s perfect for holiday entertaining . I can’t get enough of these wraps, and neither can my guests. Not only are they delicious, they are pretty to look at. Crisp kale leaves are stuffed with a delicious salad of warm-smoked salmon, lemon and dill. Thanks to the sturdiness of the kale leaves, they can be assembled in advance. I recommend making an extra batch of the salmon salad, because it’s that good.

Smoked Salmon Kale Wraps
The narrowest parts of the kale leaves work best for these wraps.

Makes 24 to 30

12 ounces warm smoked salmon, flaked
1/4 cup whole milk Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup minced chives
8 to 10 lacinato (Tuscan) kale leaves

1 lemon, halved
Fresh dill sprigs for garnish

Combine the salmon, yogurt, lemon juice, red onion, capers, and Tabasco in a bowl. Stir with a fork to blend. Add the salt and black pepper and taste for seasoning. Fold in the chopped dill and the chives.

Cut the kale leaves crosswise into 2 inch pieces. Place 2 to 3 teaspoons salmon salad in the center of the leaves and fold the leaves around the salmon, pressing gently to hold in place. Repeat with remaining kale leaves. Arrange the wraps on a serving platter. Sprinkle with lemon juice and garnish with dill sprigs.