Tropical Breakfast Bowl

think winter is almost over. I’ve almost permanently switched over to a spring coat, and I have worn capri tights more often than my winter leggings when running lately. And speaking of running, I have been running outside! I think the last time I stepped on the treadmill was two full weeks ago. Most importantly, champagne mangos are showing up at the grocery store.

So, with signs of spring and thoughts of warmer places, I made this 2-grain, 3-seed tropical breakfast bowl on Saturday. Eric said it reminded him of mango and sticky rice that we gobbled up in Thailand, and while it wasn’t inspired by that treat, it did certainly hit those notes.
Tropical Breakfast Bowl

Eric and I took the time to plan a year of trips while we still have the Southwest Companion Pass, which expires at the end of this year. We have some fun stuff coming up, including a weekend in the Florida Keys, camping in the Sawtooths in Idaho, and a week-long trip to Austin (Eric has a conference there) and San Antonio. We’ve decided to put off all international trips (except trips to Mexico on Southwest) until next year. My feet are seriously itching for something exotic, but we must take advantage of 2-for-1 domestic plane tickets while we can.

Tropical Breakfast Bowl (2)

Anyway, back to breakfast.

Tropical Breakfast Bowl (1)

Tropical Breakfast Bowl

The mention of two grains and three seeds above may be confusing, but buckwheat is actually a seed, not a grain. As for the coconut cream, often times a can of coconut milk will be separated into a thick cream on one end of the can and a watery milk on the other. If your can is not separated, just use the combined milk and add it to taste.

*Serves 3-4

1/2 cup steel cut oats
1/2 cup bulgar wheat
1/2 cup buckwheat groats

2 tablespoons coconut cream
1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 mango, cut into cubes
1/2 pink or ruby red grapefruit, peeled and cut into cubes
1/2 orange, peeled and cut into cubes
1 banana, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon flax seed powder (or whole flax seeds are fine also)
1 tablespoon chia seeds

Cook each of the grains separately in double the amount of water (ie, for 1/2 cup steel cut oats, cook them in 1 cup water) until all the water is soaked up and the grains are tender. Mix all the cooked grains in a bowl and, while still warm, add the coconut cream and maple syrup. Stir around until the coconut cream is melted and thoroughly combined. Taste and add more sweetener if you prefer.

Top with fruit, flax, and chia seeds.

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Cheese-less Pizza

Eric and I have started a Friday night pizza ritual. We generally pick up some multigrain pizza dough from Whole Foods, though making your own is just easy (but messier!). It seems crazy that I only recently brought home my first haul from the farmer’s market. My Saturdays have been so busy, I just never had time to go. Nonetheless, we turned Friday night pizza night into Saturday morning pizza day because we wanted to load up our pizza with fresh veg from the market. We also bought baby kale, sorrel, and radishes for a perfect spring salad.

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Radishes are cute, aren’t they?

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We eat most of our pizzas without cheese these days. I already have enough of a cheese habit – I don’t need it on my pizza, also! The key, then, is really good tomatoes. We always buy San Marzano in the can for this pizza, then load on tons of fresh garlic and black pepper. I rarely make an actual sauce – the tomatoes with fresh garlic are enough to make this a great meal.

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And for the salad, I just juice some lemons into a mason jar, put in equal amounts of olive oil, sometimes a splash of red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Shake it up and drizzle it on – easy.

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So there’s no real recipe here. For this particular pizza, we chopped asparagus into little discs and sprinkled them all over. Fresh slices of an heirloom tomato went on top, and make sure to sprinkle salt over the whole shebang. And seriously, do not skimp on the garlic. I think I added 5-6 cloves to this pizza. I minced them finely, but sometimes I’ll just do thin slices. Eric and I have been practicing making pizza so that he can make it perfectly while I’m gone all summer. His version will likely include granulated garlic instead of fresh garlic, but even he can handle rolling out the dough and smearing canned tomatoes all over it!

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.

Heirloom Tomato and Garlic Scape Gazpacho

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I finally made it to the Wicker Park farmer’s market this past Sunday. It’s a small market just a few blocks from our house, but they have all the necessities – a couple produce vendors with a nice variety of fruits and veggies, a couple meat vendors, baked goods, one Wisconsin cheese stand, and a couple flower vendors.

Farmers Market

I woke up to thunderous storms, so as soon as the rain let up, I made my way down there. It was a muggy, gloomy morning, but that meant there weren’t many people in the park, which made for a pleasant market experience. The first stand I came across had rows upon rows of heirloom tomatoes. I couldn’t pass them up. Then I saw the garlic – everything from the scape to the bulb. I knew the combination of the heirloom tomatoes and garlic scapes would be perfect is a fresh, summery chilled soup.

Picnik collage
Picnik collage

Oh my it was good. So so good. Those tomatoes – wow – and with a mild bite from the garlic scapes, I really feel I outdid myself here. I also found baby fennel, which I roasted and threw into the mix. Just perfect for that hot summer day.

Heirloom Tomato and Garlic Scape Gazpacho
The proportions here are small – I started small and did a couple different varieties (some with no cumin, some with more jalapeno, etc., so below is just the basic recipe I started with.)

3-4 heirloom tomatoes of any or all varieties
3-4 garlic scapes
1 clove raw garlic (my garlic was still very young, so it wasn’t as sharp; if you have mature garlic, you might want to halve this)
1/2 cucumber, peeled
1/2 cucumber, unpeeled
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 jalapeno, seeded

1 bulb baby fennel, roasted in 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, reserve a few sprigs of the greens and 1 raw layer
a few slices whole grain bread, cut in to cubes
1/2 carrot, julienned
1 avocado
olive oil
juice of one lemon
splash of red wine vinegar
salt & pepper

Prepare croutons with the bread cubes by layering in a single layer on a baking sheet and toasting them in the oven.

Take one layer of the raw baby fennel, a sprig or two of fennel greens, the unpeeled cucumber, a couple of the garlic scapes, and carrots – finely chop them or julienne them and combine to form a crisp salad. Drizzle with olive oil and lemon juice and set aside.

In a blender, combine the tomatoes, peeled cucumber, roasted fennel, garlic scapes, raw garlic clove, cumin, jalapeno, salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar. Drizzle some olive oil in the mixture and blend into a smooth puree. Taste to see if it needs more vinegar, oil, or seasoning. Adjust as necessary.

Serve with the salad, some slices of avocado, and croutons on top. The soup will be thin and soupy, while the salad provides a nice crisp texture.

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Pea and Asparagus Pesto

Sorry for the absence. I’ve been so busy and not really cooking anything memorable lately, so I figured I’d share one last spring pesto. This one is one of my favorites.

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This past weekend we were in Boston, eating more food than the human body should normally be able to handle and visiting my lovely soon-to-be brother-in-law and his lovely girlfriend. You can read more about that over at Hungry City Blogs tomorrow, but I will tell you that I love Boston not only because I get to see two people I adore, but also because it seems like every single corner in that city is covered by trendy restaurants and bars – good food and beer everywhere you look. My kind of city.

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So this pesto. I promise it’s the last one! Especially since my quasi-CSA informed me today that this is the last week of local asparagus. This pesto is so great though. The flavor is sort of mild and understated, yet subtly sweet. Perfect with some whole wheat pasta and more asparagus.

Pea and Asparagus Pesto

1 cup frozen or fresh peas
1/2 bunch fresh asparagus, woody ends removed
1/4 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1/2 of a lemon
salt and pepper

whole wheat pasta – I love thin spaghetti
handful or more of spinach
other 1/2 bunch of fresh asparagus, woody ends removed

Cook the asparagus and peas in boiling water for just a few minutes – enough for the peas to un-freeze and the asparagus to get just tender but not mushy. Toss those in a food processor with the rest of the pesto ingredients and blend to combine.

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Cook the pasta according to package directions, tossing the rest of the asparagus in about half way through. When you turn off the heat, submerge the spinach then quickly drain, preserving a bit of the pasta water. In a saute pan on medium high heat, heat the pesto then combine with the asparagus, pasta, spinach, and a splash of pasta water (add more water until you get a consistency you want). When pesto sticks to pasta nicely, serve.