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Posts tagged ‘asparagus’

Welcome Back, Farmer’s Market!

Spring is almost over, and summer’s just around the corner. And in these parts, that means that the Farmer’s Market is back! *throws confetti*

Well, truth be told, the farmer’s market that I frequent is technically open year-round; but they spend the winter selling breads, cakes, tea, and pickles. While yummy, this doesn’t exactly constitute a well-balanced diet. So once the ground thaws and the plants start growing, I’m back at the Farmer’s Market faster than you can say “sweet potato.”

While sweet potatoes were not to be found at the market this week, I did find an amazing bounty. Anyone concerned that Farmer’s Markets won’t have everything you need produce-wise, look around. Today alone I purchased cauliflower, asparagus, broccoli, spring onions, zucchini, yellow zucchini, kale, and miniature cucumbers. The market also had carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, yellow onions, basil … you get my drift. It’s well-stocked.

Not only are these markets well-stocked, but the produce is fresh and looks amazing! For instance, I found a head of cauliflower that was bigger than my own noggin. Check it out:

Attack of the 50 Ft Cauliflower!

Speaking of colossal, check out these spring onions. I’m just gonna laugh at the ones they keep in the store now, shipped in all the way from California. Hey CA, keep your minis – VA’s got the big guns!

What I’m most intrigued by, though, are the yellow zucchini. I’ve never had this variety of zucchini before, and while I have an iffy relationship with summer squashes (they sometimes make me nauseous), I couldn’t resist their pretty yellow color and the following description: “buttery taste.” I’m looking forward to trying some new recipes with these guys, and of course sharing my results!

Don't confuse yellow zucchini with yellow squash!

In short, my first 2011 foray to the Farmer’s Market was a success, and I look forward to getting local produce again through Autumn. To fresh and local eating!

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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!

Wheatberry and Dandelion Green Salad with Pesto

Mmm, healthy salads (and no, that’s not always redundant – just ask any chain restaurant)!

Wheatberry and Dandelion Green Salad with Pesto

Earlier this week I sang the praises of wheatberries, and suggested adding them to a salad. I followed my own advice and made them one of the staple bases of this filling lunchtime salad, along with some dandelion greens!

Dandelion greens are new to me in terms of food. I’ve heard health food types sing their praises for the past few years, but I’ve never picked them up for my own use until now. Whole Foods had some nice bunches for sale, and one of my goals each week is to never get the same leafy greens twice in a row, with an extra incentive to try and get greens I don’t normally buy. Dandelion greens fit this bill, and I’m excited to try them in some new dishes, especially since they supposedly do amazing things for your health* (the website claims that dandelion greens could, among other things, improve liver function, cleanse and purify both the skin and blood, and help treat various illnesses), and are a natural source of loads of vitamins and minerals including vitamin A, iron, potassium, fiber, and more. Huzzah!

Who can resist such beautiful greens?

But the million dollar question – how do dandelion greens taste? I ate these greens straight up and raw in the salad (save for a pesto dressing) and the first thing I noticed was that they were very bitter. Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s a flavor to note – if you’re not a fan of bitter greens, then you may want to cook the dandelion greens a bit or perhaps swap out another green for this salad (I would recommend arugula on the stem, or kale). Have you ever eaten celery leaves? It’s a similar bitter flavor, but not quite as zippy. It’s kind of hard to explain. I, however, didn’t mind once I processed the flavor, and actually really enjoyed the way it paired with tangy tomato, sweeter asparagus, and neutral wheatberries, not to mention the pesto (I also love celery leaves, for the record).

This salad is very dense thanks to all the fiber, not to mention a good share of protein coming from the wheatberries and veggies. I used a pre-made pesto sauce, so no recipe for that (today) – use your favorite! I think the pesto adds a nice zip to all of the vegetables and especially the wheatberries, but you can use another dressing if you like.

Wheatberry and Dandelion Green Salad with Pesto (serves 1)

1 1/2 to 2 cups chopped dandelion greens

1/2 cup prepared wheatberries

1/2 of a medium tomato, sliced

3 stalks of asparagus, chopped

1-2 TB prepared pesto sauce

Toss all ingredients in a bowl until the pesto covers all of the ingredients evenly. Serve immediately.

*Just a note that I’m not a doctor and am not claiming that dandelion greens *do* perform health miracles, but rather *may.* Always consult a professional for advice on herbal medicine (or any sort of medicine) – certainly don’t consult a food blog!

Once More on the Go: Cafe Green

This past Monday I had the pleasure of seeing long-time vegan and amazing musician Moby speak about his photography at National Geographic Live. While I could go on and on about meeting one of my musical heroes, this blog is not about epic music fandom, but rather about food. So I will focus instead on the dinner I had beforehand, which was at Cafe Green!

The inside of Cafe Green. Pretty colors!

Cafe Green, which is owned by the same people behind Java Green (hence the two sharing a website/URL), differs from Java Green in that it’s a sit-down restaurant focused more on dinner and relaxed eating as opposed to a quick sandwich or salad. It is one of (if not the) only all-vegan, sit-down restaurants in DC (I don’t count places like Sticky Fingers because that’s more like a coffee shop, while Cafe Green is a more traditional restaurant with full table service and the like). Their meals have no animal products of any kind; and it also features a wide variety of raw, gluten-free, and nut-free dishes. The menu changes by season and features a variety of appetizers, sandwiches, traditional entrees, and desserts. They also have a brunch on Sunday’s, which I’ve never tried (but would like to!).

I’ve been to Cafe Green several times (including for my birthday!) and have always had good experiences. This past Monday was no different. It was a warm day, so I ordered one of my favorite drinks, the Ginger Joy, which is a sweetened ginger root tea that you can have hot or cold. My boyfriend took advantage of the happy hour specials and got an organic ale to start; the menu features several organic and eco-friendly beers, wines, and cocktails if you want some spirits with your food!

Ginger Joy iced tea, and an organic beer

Up next, the appetizer. The boy and I decided to share the Mini Mung Bean pancakes (which were also available for $1 less than usual thanks to the happy hour specials), which consisted of two mung bean and veggie pancakes that came with a tamari dipping sauce. The veggies in the pancake included spicy kimchi, so the pancakes dipped in the sauce made for a spicy punch! It was a nice appetizer that, when shared, was small enough to not ruin our dinners, but also satisfying enough to help ward off some hunger while we waited for our main courses.

Mini Mung Bean Pancakes

Now, onto the main course! Originally I was going to try the Raw Spaghetti Marinara (made with zucchini “noodles”) with Herb-Walnut “Meatballs,” but unfortunately they didn’t have the meatballs available that evening. So, I decided to try the Veggie Meatloaf with creamy mashed potatoes, mushrooms, asparagus, and vegan gravy. I was very pleased that I had to choose this alternative, because it was delicious! The asparagus was sauteed to a perfect crisp, the mushrooms and gravy had great flavor, and the creamy mashed potatoes tasted just like the kind I had growing up. I also loved that the “meatloaf” was largely vegetable-based – the menu described the loaf as having a lentil and vegetable base, and I definitely saw chunks of carrot and other veggies inside. But unlike some garden loafs or patties which have chunks of vegetables and just taste gross or bland, this loaf was very savory and tasty without relying too much on mock meats to try and mimic the original product – this loaf stands on its own!

Veggie "Meatloaf" with asparagus, mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and gravy - it's all vegan!

Both my boyfriend and I were quite full afterward and decided against dessert, though in the past I have had their vegan gelato and it was very good. One of these days I am going to try the raw cinnamon bun!

So in short, both of us had yet another good dining experience at this all-vegan restaurant. Cafe Green’s greatest strengths lie not just in their commitment to use vegan and organic ingredients, but to focus largely on using whole foods very well in their entrees. They do serve some mock products such as Gardein mock chicken and (excellent) vegan mac-and-cheese, but they also have dishes like the vegetable meat loaf and the raw pizza (also very good) which rely less on using mocks and more on making whole foods sing.

I will say that Cafe Green is not cheap. Both my boyfriend and I paid about $22 each for our dinner before tip, and entrees alone typically cost between $12 and $20 depending on what you order. But Cafe Green is a cozy place with great food, and an excellent option for a vegan dinner at a sit-down restaurant in the District.

Bonus picture: my boyfriend's dinner, the "steak and cheese" made with vegan boolgogi and mock cheese sauce. He loves it!

Bowl o’ Happiness (Veggie and Grain Bowl)

How about some happiness for dinner?

Bowl o' Happiness

Having spent four years cooking in the dorm and several years cooking in a small kitchen, you learn to embrace the skillet meal. I love stir-fry’s because you can cook everything together, you use relatively-little space, and it cooks vegetables to a nice bite which neither steaming nor boiling can hold a candle too. Plus, you can eat everything in one bowl!

While this recipe/incarnation uses quinoa and specific veggies, it’s really a versatile recipe and can be made with whatever grains and vegetables you prefer. Go crazy! This could almost be called Kitchen Sink Stir-Fry but I like Bowl o’ Happiness better because a) it’s more fun to say, and b) it’s true! All those veggies and whole grains cooked in healthy oils and lightly-seasoned? How can you not be smiling with every bite?

Veggies, glorious veggies!

First off, I cooked up some quinoa, which took about ten minutes since I only prepared a single serving. The recipe is even faster and uses less kitchenware if you use pre-baked quinoa. Tip: I usually keep a tupperware of pre-made brown rice or wheat berries in the fridge since these take longer to cook, and don’t go bad super-quickly (but they can go bad after awhile! Originally this meal was gonna have brown rice but the small amount I had left was in the fridge just a little too long). But quinoa is fast-cooking and doesn’t necessarily need to be pre-made; you can chop veggies and prep your other ingredients while it cooks!

To start the stir-fry, I heated a blend of olive and toasted sesame oils in a skillet on medium, then sauteed some onion and garlic for about a minute or two, until the onions started to become translucent. I then added some frozen spinach (which I thawed under running water) and sliced baby portobello mushrooms.

I added the mushrooms and spinach first because both have a pretty high water content and I wanted to let the water steam out some and allow the mushrooms to reduce in size before adding the other veggies. This helps the rest of the veggies stay more crisp and prevents any seasonings from washing off in the water which is coming from the spinach and especially the mushrooms. However, you don’t have to have the water completely gone before adding the rest of the ingredients, just mostly gone. You don’t have to do much stirring here, so this is a good time to do some dishes or prep more veggies if need be.

This is how the mushrooms looked right when I added the other ingredients, just as a guide/suggestion.

Finally, I added everything else – the quinoa, black-eyed peas (like the quinoa, the choice of bean is not limited to one type), carrots, asparagus, frozen peas, and frozen corn. Mm mm, what a colorful skillet! I sauteed the veggies for awhile, then added a generous drizzle of Bragg’s liquid aminos, a lower-sodium sub for soy sauce (but you can use soy sauce if you like, or even just salt). After stirring in the Bragg’s, I allowed the mixture to cook without stirring for a bit, to give them a chance to heat up before tossing them around. And then it was done! This is a nice, simple stir-fry that doesn’t use a lot of spices or sauces, so it gives the veggies a chance to stand out on their own. Besides, sesame oil has such a great flavor on its own, you really don’t need much else.

Bowl o’ Happiness (Veggie + Grain Bowl) (Serves 2, or 1 if you’re famished)

1/4 cup dry quinoa + 1/2 cup water (or 1/2 cup prepared quinoa or other grain)

2 tsp olive oil

1 tsp toasted sesame oil

1 large clove of garlic, diced

2-3 TB diced yellow onion

1/2 cup frozen spinach, slightly thawed

3-4 baby portobellos, sliced

1 medium carrot, chopped

3 spears asparagus, chopped

1/3 cup frozen peas, slightly thawed under running water

1/4 cup frozen corn kernels, slightly thawed

Bragg’s liquid aminos, to taste

In a small sauce pan, bring the quinoa and water to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the quinoa has sprouted (when the swirly white part is visible on the grain).

In a medium or large skillet, heat oils on medium, then add the garlic and onion, sauteeing for a minute or two until the onions start to become translucent. Add the spinach and mushrooms and cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the water from the spinach and mushrooms has reduced greatly and the mushrooms have started to shrink (entirely is not necessary). Add the quinoa, beans, carrot, asparagus, peas, and corn, stirring to incorporate. Cook for about a minute, then add the Bragg’s, stirring it into the veggies and quinoa. Cook for about five minutes more, stirring occasionally. Serve hot in your favorite bowl.