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Posts tagged ‘arugula’

Once More on the Go: Sweetgreen

A growing trend in fast food is the quickie salad place, an eatery where they create your salad in an assembly line and have it ready usually in under five minutes. I’m all for this type of fast food, especially since fast and healthy options are usually few and far between. One of my favorite fast salad places is also very vegan friendly, locavore friendly, and environmentally friendly – Sweetgreen!

Sweetgreen has various locations throughout DC and the metro area, including Georgetown, Dupont Circle, and Ballston. I recently went to the one in Ballston (and that’s where the pictures are from), but I also frequented the one in Georgetown when I went to school there. Sweetgreen offers wonderful pre-determined salad combos on their menu, and also a variety of ingredients so you can make your own. The ingredients are all delicious and taste incredibly fresh, probably because most of them come from local farms! Each day Sweetgreen tells you where their local ingredients came from, and their seasonal salads are based on which ingredients are currently in season. Mm, fresh and local food!

With such an abundance of local ingredients, it's a wonder why more eateries don't work with local farms!

On this particular trip I ordered the seasonal May Salad, a salad made with  mesclun greens, arugula, mint, strawberries, sunflower seeds, and asparagus. The salad is advertised as coming with feta cheese, but I decided to keep it vegan and swap out the feta for their amazing roasted tofu. Seriously, try this tofu – it’s covered in some wonderful seasonings and it’s roasted to a great bite! I also want to praise Sweetgreen for subbing the tofu for the cheese at no extra cost, and for including the tofu amongst its cheaper toppings when it comes to building your own salad. Furthermore, the two cheapest salads on the menu – the sabzi and the chic-p – are both vegan, helping to abolish the myth that eating vegan is more expensive than a meat-based diet. Oftentimes eating vegan is actually the cheaper option!

As with all of their salads, my May Salad came with a delicious wedge of multigrain bread. At the Ballston location they served the salad in a reusable bowl, though at Georgetown they only serve them in to-go containers since it’s a much smaller venue and doesn’t offer seating. However, Sweetgreen’s plasticware is plant-based, and I believe all of it is compostable – the Sweetgreen in Ballston didn’t even have a garbage bin! They had one bin for compostables (napkins, cups, silverware, etc.), and one for bottles – that’s it. How impressive! Further, they sell reusable versions of their to-go containers, and offer a discount each time you use it. Kudos for promoting sustainability in more ways than just recycled napkins.

The May Salad - get it while it's still in season!

The salad itself was about $8, which is a very good price considering how fresh and healthy the ingredients were, and how big the salad was! These salads are definitely meals, so don’t order one thinking it’ll go on the side with a sandwich or something – these salads are front and center when it comes to your lunch! Most of the salads range from $7.50 to $9 before tax, and drinks are between $2 and $3. They offer house lemonade, soda made from organic cane sugar (no high fructose corn syrup here), Honest Tea, and other tasty beverages. They also sell organic tart frozen yogurt, which comes with various fruits, nuts, and dark chocolate for toppings. Unfortunately they do not have a vegan frozen yogurt, but maybe they will in the future! (Devises letter-writing campaign)

In short, Sweetgreen is a restaurant that is tasty, reasonably-priced, vegan friendly, and fast. It’s perfect for lunch or for a light dinner, and has many options for people with any sort of dietary need!

Adventures in Urban Gardening: The Tote Bag Garden

As I’ve discussed before, having a garden is a small dream of mine. I’d love to have a small backyard with a modest plot to grow greens, tomatoes, winter squashes, and the like for my culinary use. But living in an apartment (that doesn’t have a shared gardening space) can make this difficult. So far I’ve managed to keep Marvin the living basil plant alive for about three weeks. He’s grown taller and is still growing leaves, which makes him the most successful produce I’ve ever maintained on my own. Which makes me wonder, what else can I grow inside an apartment?

Enter the tote bag garden!

I got the idea specifically from this month’s Birds and Blooms, which suggested creating a portable garden by planting seeds within reusable tote bags. The light bulb sparked and refused to go off. Tote bags are cheap, big, and don’t take up a lot of space – why couldn’t I grow produce? And furthermore, why hadn’t I thought of this before?

So after deliberating about it for awhile (all of a week), I bought some seeds, reusable totes (made from recycled plastic), potting soil, a big plastic tub to hold the bags, and a watering can. In sum I paid about $43 for everything, including the watering can and the plastic tub; so your own costs may be less if you already have these materials available. The dirt only came to about halfway up the bag, so I cut off the tops for easy watering and maintenance. In lieu of proper garden markers from labels or popsicle sticks, I labeled my produce with some plastic forks I had lying around. Recycling!

I then planted my seeds: two different greens, kale and arugula, in one bag; brandywine tomatoes in another, and yellow pear tomatoes in the third. They’re hanging out in front of my window now in the living room, in the apartment below Marvin, if you will.

I am hoping this turns out at least moderately successful because it’d be a great and convenient way to grow produce that I tend to go through quickly and thus spend a lot of money on. I will of course be tracking my plants’ progress on the blog, so stay tuned! And hopefully I’ll have some recipes featuring homegrown tomatoes and greens later this summer!

2 for 1: Strawberry Basil Jam and Strawberry Arugula Salad

As I mentioned on Monday, last week I loaded up on strawberries which were on sale. This week I came up with some strawberry-based dishes: Strawberry Basil Jam and Strawberry Arugula Salad!

Strawberry Arugula Salad with Slivered Almonds and Balsamic Vinaigrette

The first thing I made was the salad, a delicious and refreshing Spring salad which was great for lunch. I started by cutting up some fresh arugula which came on the stem, then quartering some strawberries to go in. I love the way greens and fruits go together, and strawberry with arugula is no exception. It almost makes a salad taste decadent or dessert-y (or it could just be because I love fruit so much).

While fresh arugula only lasts about 5 days, it still holds up better than the bagged varieties!

I also threw in some slivered almonds for a protein and healthy fat punch, then topped it off with balsamic vinaigrette. This simply involves me putting 2 parts balsamic vinegar, one part olive oil in a bottle and shaking it to emulsify before pouring it on a salad. After tossing everything together, I topped the salad with a blend of black and pink cracked pepper for a little extra zip.

But I still had lots of fresh strawberries left, as well as a craving for some fresh jam. Enter Strawberry Basil Jam!

Strawberry Basil Jam

Homemade jams, I’ve discovered, are a food item that seems way more complicated to make than it actually is. Fortunately I found a recipe a few years ago which had you make jam in under ten minutes by using corn starch as a thickener instead of pectin. Brilliant! I’ve been making jam this way ever since, and I don’t taste a difference.

Similar to my love of fruit in salads, I love basil with fruit. Basil and strawberries make an excellent combo in smoothies, popsicles, and sorbet; so I thought, why not add some fresh basil to a homemade jam? So Marvin lost a few more hairs and I got an amazing Spring/Summer jam made from scratch in ten minutes.

I started by pulsing the strawberries and basil leaves in a blender until well-chopped. You can mash the strawberries if you want, but since you have to chop the basil anyway, I just prefer to chop them all together in a way that gets them really pulsed down for proper jam texture. Once pulsed, I put the mixture in a small saucepan and added agave nectar, heating it on medium to get it bubbling.

Not the prettiest photo but it shows the bubbly goodness of the jam mixture

Once the mixture started bubbling I added some arrowroot powder (a good sub for corn starch) and a bit of water, then lowered the heat to low and simmered for about six minutes. It got nice and thick really quickly; I simmered for this long to let the flavors cook and meld. Now it’s sitting in the fridge chilling away!

Strawberry Arugula Salad with Slivered Almonds and Balsamic Vinaigrette (Serves 1)

2-3 cups fresh arugula, chopped or torn

1 cup fresh strawberries, quartered

2-3 TB slivered almonds

2 tsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Cracked black and/or pink pepper, to taste

Toss the arugula, strawberries, and almonds together in a bowl. In an empty bottle or jar with tight-fitting lid, shake the vinegar and olive oil until emulsified. Pour over the salad and toss. Add pepper and serve.

Strawberry Basil Jam (makes about 1/2 a cup of jam)

1 cup fresh strawberries

1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

1 TB agave nectar

2 tsp arrowroot powder

1 TB water

Pulse the strawberries and basil in a blender or food processor until well-chopped and almost smooth, like a sauce. Transfer to a small saucepan and stir in the agave nectar. Heat on medium until bubbling.

Dissolve the arrowroot powder in the water, then add the mixture to the jam and stir it in. The jam will look white-pink but the color will deepen as you cook it, so don’t worry. Turn the heat down to low and cook for about 6 minutes. Transfer to a jar and allow to cool a bit before putting in the fridge to cool completely.

Penne, Broccoli, and Arugula with Ridiculously Easy Tomato Basil Sauce

Mm, pasta.

Penne, Broccoli, and Arugula w/ Tomato Basil Sauce

I love a good pasta meal for lunch or dinner, but especially lunch, since the carbs give me a great mid-day boost. I also love loading the pasta dish with veggies, so I can bulk it up without meats or mocks. Plus, the veggies give the dish such a nice color!

But the make-or-break, of course, is the sauce. I love me some fresh sauce, but a lot of recipes can be complicated or require a ton of simmering time. Enter Ridiculously Easy Tomato Basil Sauce! This sauce is fast, easy to make, and largely fresh. What’s not to love?

Mm, sauce.

I started by using a whole tomato, some fresh basil, and a smidge of onion – as in, I chopped off about 1 1/4-inch slice. I would’ve used whole garlic cloves as well, but I’d used the rest of my garlic to make Golden Pizza Hummus, so I made due with garlic powder. I pulsed these ingredients in a blender, then transferred them to a sauce pan, where I added tomato paste (adds more flavor and makes for a deeper red), olive oil, and salt/pepper. I simmered the sauce while I made the pasta, and all were done in record time!

As for the pasta, I boiled some whole wheat penne for about six minutes, which made it al dente, just the way I like it. I also added broccoli and fresh arugula which was still on the stem. I chopped the arugula until I got to nothing but stems, then discarded the remaining stems; but you can add them if you want. I like to add the veggies to the boiling pasta about one minute before the pasta’s scheduled to be done, so that the veggies can cook a bit without getting too mushy. Then you just drain the pasta and veggies, return to the pot, then toss with your freshly-made sauce. Presto! A fresh pasta dish made with fresh sauce, all within 30 minutes.

Penne, Broccoli, and Arugula with Ridiculously Easy Tomato Basil Sauce (serves 1)

Sauce:

1 small-medium tomato, quartered

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves

A slice or two of one yellow onion, quartered

1-2 cloves of garlic OR 1/2 to 1 tsp garlic powder

2 TB tomato paste

1 TB olive oil (optional but recommended)

Salt and pepper, to taste.

Place the fresh tomato, basil, onion, and garlic in a blender and pulse until pretty smooth, but not completely pureed (unless you don’t like chunky sauce). I highly recommend pulsing instead of straight-up blending, as this allows for greater control of the texture.

Transfer to a small sauce pan and add tomato paste. This will deepen the red color, so don’t worry when you initially pour out the blended ingredients and they look pink and bland. 🙂 Stir and heat over medium heat. Simmer for a few minutes over medium, making sure the sauce is good and bubbly, and the red color has a chance to really deepen. Add the olive oil and seasonings, then reduce the heat to low, simmering for at least five minutes more.

While the sauce cooks, make your pasta.

Pasta:

2/3 cup dry whole wheat penne

1/2 cup broccoli florets

1 cup chopped fresh arugula

Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan, then add the penne. Cook for six minutes, adding the broccoli and arugula after five minutes. Drain completely, then return to the pot. Toss with tomato basil sauce, then serve.