Shaved Asparagus and Potato Salad

Tonight is my last night of scuba diving class. It has been fun spending my Tuesdays and Thursdays for the last two and a half weeks taking quizzes and breathing underwater, but I’m glad it is almost over. The classes extend a half hour beyond my designated bed time, you see, preventing me from getting my required 9 hours of sleep each night. Nonetheless, it’s pretty cool that I now feel comfortable with the act of breathing through a regulator underwater.

I have been meaning to obtain my Open Water Diver certificate ever since I studied abroad in Australia in 2006. As a student, it was too expensive, though I did do a “resort dive” in the Great Barrier Reef, which allowed me to go underwater with a scuba unit for around 20 minutes, albeit holding on to an instructor’s hand.

Before Eric and I went on our honeymoon, I thought of taking classes also, but Eric had some anxiety about it. So we held off, promising that we’d do another “resort dive” when we were staying on Pom Pom Island off the coast of Borneo – off some of the very best dive sites in the world. It’s true – the diving and even the snorkeling is amazing there. Better than any snorkeling I’ve done elsewhere, including the Great Barrier Reef. Eric happened to catch a cold when we were there, and after watching the video that shows your lung exploding, he didn’t want to risk it. I dove, again holding on to my smarmy Italian instructor’s hand, and thought it was awesome. With that, I decided to take the plunge and invest in Open Water courses and my very own snorkeling gear.

bye bye water bungalow
Water bungalows at Pom Pom Island

lion fish!
Lion fish in Borneo

nemo!
It’s nemo

eric "making the snorkel"
Eric “makes the snorkel”, as our Italian dive master would say

Anyway, what does this have to do with potato salad? Nothing, really, but it is a fun little intro. This potato salad is full of all kinds of springy, healthy goodies. Nearly all my ingredients came from the market – including the Russian fingerling potatoes, asparagus, stinging nettles, and green garlic. It’s a versatile recipe, though, so if nettles and green garlic aren’t available or don’t float your boat, a simple vinaigrette would work nicely as well.

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Shaved Asparagus and Potato Salad with Stinging Nettle and Green Garlic Vinaigrette

1 pound fingerling potatoes
1 pound fresh asparagus
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
3-4 stalks stinging nettles, leaves only
1-2 stalks green garlic, chopped into 1-inch pieces
salt and pepper
1 can tuna packed in olive oil
1/4 cup capers

Start by boiling the potatoes. Fill a pot with cool or room temperature water. Plop in the potatoes and bring to a boil. Boil them until they are al dente or just underdone. Strain out the water and put the potatoes in an ice bath to stop them from cooking further. Slice the potatoes into thin discs and set aside.

Using a mandolin or vegetable peeler, shred the asparagus into this strips, keeping the heads in tact. Bring another pot of salted water to a boil. Drop the shaved asparagus in for 1 minute, then remove. Mix with the potatoes.

To make the vinaigrette, mix the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard, honey, nettles, and green garlic in a food processor. Process until the oil is emulsified and the solids are nicely ground. Taste and add salt/pepper to taste, as well as some additional lemon juice or vinegar if needed.

Finally, strain and rinse the can of tuna. Combine the potatoes, asparagus, capers, and tuna, then toss with the dressing.

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Yogurt and Spelt Flour Biscuits

Ok, ok, I guess I’m a baker now. But I’d like to point out that I am strictly baking savory foods. I do not bake cakes or cupcakes or brownies. I’m afraid of those things – after all, Eric and I could barely keep ourselves from eating this entire batch of biscuits in one sitting; what would we do if it was cake?! We’d be much, much fatter, that’s for sure.

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When I wrote this post – two weeks ago – it was spring. I had quite the paragraph written about how glorious the weather had been. I wore shorts and flip flops to my scuba classes, and ran in a tank top and shorts for the first time.  I received my first bundle of ramps  and already whipped them into a great, earthy pistou – the French version of pesto that does not include nuts or cheese. Then last weekend came, and the 80-degree week gave way 40-degree, rainy nights. Sad. This week continues to get better, but the rain still can’t seem to stay away.

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Anyway, back to these biscuits. Wow, they are good. I think spelt flour might be my new favorite thing – the flavor is so light and it tastes and behaves much the same way as all-purpose flour, so most people won’t even know your biscuits have some nutritional value. They are best straight from the oven, split in half, and slathered with a little butter, but we ate them cold the next day and warmed up in the microwave, too. It all worked.

Yogurt and Spelt Flour Biscuits
adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Everyday

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup spelt flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup butter (I used Earth Balance spread)
1 1/3 cups plain yogurt (Heidi calls out Greek yogurt; I did not have enough so used half Greek, half regular plain yogurt)

Preheat the oven to 450.

In a food processor, combine the dry ingredients and pulse until well mixed. Cut the butter into small chunks and spread over the top of the dry ingredients. Pulse until “the mixture resembles tiny pebbles on a sandy beach”. Then add the yogurt and pulse until pretty well combined. Don’t worry if it all doesn’t come together; dump the contents onto a clean, floured surface and knead together until all the flour is completely mixed in.

Press the dough into a large square that is approximately 3/4″ thick. Cut out 12 biscuits and place on a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the crust turns golden. Serve immediately with a slab of butter and/or jam.


Dijon Mustard

I made my own mustard! How cool is that? Eric was seriously impressed, and I was seriously proud of myself. But really, it’s not hard at all. Now we eat it on our sandwich every day – so good! And none of those nasty preservatives. Hit up the bulk bins, fill up with mustard seeds and mustard powder, and make some yourself!

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Dijon Mustard
adapted from Food.com

2 cups dry white wine
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
1/2 cup brown mustard seeds
2 tablespoons mustard powder
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Start by simmering the onions and garlic in the white wine. Simmer for approximately 5 minutes, then strain out the solids, reserving the liquid. Discard the solids.

Combine the wine with the mustard seeds, mustard powder, honey, and salt. Heat slowly and stir continuously for another five minutes. Pour into a bowl and let sit in the refrigerator for two weeks.

At the end of the two weeks, add the vinegar. The mixture will seem runny at this point, still. Blend the whole mixture using an immersion blender, which will thicken the mustard. Taste, and adjust salt and vinegar as necessary.

Rhubarb, Lemon, Mint Cooler

Spring is no longer here, but I made my way to the first farmer’s market anyway. I wore a mid-weight coat and gloves, but I brought home quite the spring bounty anyway. Stinging nettles, fingerling potatoes, Italian dandelion greens, mint, and rhubarb filled my bag before I quickly jumped on a bus to get out of the cold.

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I have never used rhubarb before, but I had a drink in mind when I brought my fresh stalks home. I just made this up as I went along, but it turned out great.

Rhubarb, Lemon, Mint Cooler

1 pound rhubarb
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lemon
2 sprigs mint
1/2 cup natural cane sugar
5 cups water
vodka
sparkling wine

In a pot, simmer all the ingredients together for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, strain out the solids, then let the liquid cool.

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To mix a cocktail, fill a glass 1/4 full of vodka, 1/4 full of sparkling wine, then top with the rhubarb simple syrup. Garnish with mint leaves. For a non-alcoholic version, you can mix half and half simple syrup and club soda.

Buckwheat Groat “Taco Salad”

I’ve been cooking so much and posting so little. It’s a serious shame – look at some of the amazing things coming out of my kitchen!

Yogurt and spelt flour biscuits…

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Avocado with seeds and cumin…

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Mango with sweet sticky rice…

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Broiled rainbow trout…

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Tomato and wheat germ soup…

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Blackened salmon with black bean salad…

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Also, look at my cute husband! This mural is splashed across a building near our house, so we pass it often. We call it our favorite mural.

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And finally, the title of this post… buckwheat groat “taco salad”! Like I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been loving buckwheat as of late. The groats are just as good as the flour and cook up super easy.

Buckwheat is actually not related to wheat at all. It has a really unique flavor unlike other grains or rice. It’s almost sweet. The “groat” part of the equation refers to the fact that the grain is whole and that it has not been stripped of the bran, endosperm, or germ. So basically, the grain contains all the great nutrition it was “born” with.

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Buckwheat Groat “Taco Salad”

1 cup uncooked buckwheat groats
assortment of veggies – I had a red pepper, onion, broccoli, and zucchini
1 avocado
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
dash of cayenne pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
feta cheese
greek yogurt

Cook the buckwheat groats like you would rice; use 2 cups of water for 1 cup of groats.

Heat the oven to 400 and coat the veggies in olive oil and salt and pepper. I chose not to roast the zucchini and left it raw, but the pepper, broccoli, and onion were all roasted. Dice the avocado and set aside.

When all the components are ready, mix together with the olive oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. Top with feta cheese and a glob of greek yogurt.