Fall Grain Salad with butternut, shitake, leek, sage and brown butter

fall grain saladI love hearty winter wheat berries , the little brown grains have such a wonderful spring-back after cooking, and hold-up to heavier additions in a fall or winter salad. Last evening I was looking for a recipe that could incorporate my fall ingredients – leeks, butternut squash, sage, and some dried shitake mushrooms, but nothing seemed quite right. So I just made one up. This is a perfect comforting, hearty lunch if you’re stuck in an office with a microwave. And if I had a log of goat cheese, I might have put some in, but it’s delicious without.

Fall Grain Salad with butternut, shitake, leek, sage and brown butter

2 cups cooked hard winter wheat berries (you can actually cook these in your rice cooker!)

2 cups roasted butternut squash cubes (about 1/2 of a medium squash)

1 large leek


2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/8 cup fresh sage leaves, chopped

1/4 c. dried shitake mushrooms

white wine

salt and pepper

While the winter wheat is cooking is the squash is roasting, thinly slice the leek, up to the leaves, and saute on medium-low heat in butter (or oil) until it softens. Add the chopped garlic and sage,  and saute until the garlic softens. In a separate saucepan, melt 1 Tbs. butter (if you are using oil, skip this step). Allow the butter to cook, periodically scraping the saucepan, until it becomes brown and toasty. Stir-in the dried mushroom, and then add 1 cup of white wine. Allow to simmer until the sauce reduces to about 1/2 cup. Combine the winter wheat, squash, leeks, and mushrooms with sauce together. Salt and pepper to taste.


Lunch Boxes and what goes in them

I almost always bring my own lunch to work. Even though I’m blessed with a plethora of cheap and tasty food trucks near my office, I know that I eat better, and use up my leftover far more quickly, if I bring them for lunch. Leftovers are boring, you say? Well, yes, they can be. But you can always shake them up. I like to change them slightly, like I did in the lunch above (adding a side of pickled radishes and a boiled egg to my raw kale salad)by adding new components, or cooking in a new way (frying leftover risotto into cakes).

I love my new Black + Blum lunchbox, pictured above, for so many reasons. It’s BPA-free and easy to clean, has a divider box and even a mini dressing box, reminds me that the largest portion in my lunch should be vegetables, and even has a little soy sauce indentation and fork holder on the lid.

How do you like to pack your lunch? What kind of lunchbox do you use?

Garden Lunch Salad

My garden is still producing tomatoes and cucumbers and herbs and all kinds of good things. But the beginning of the school year always means that I have less time for cooking in the evening than I would like. My solution? Toss a whole bunch of delicious things in a tupperware, take them to work, and chop them all up there. If you don’t have a work kitchen, don’t worry. You can throw a salad like this together in just a few minutes. Measurements and amounts don’t really matter, either. Just try to balance out the your salty and savory with the sweet and the crunchy. The salad pictured above (along with a whole-grain bread heel and some hummus):

Amish paste tomatoes, halved
Small Kirby cucumber, sliced
fresh parsley
fresh basil
low-fat feta, crumbled
kalamata olives
sea salt and black pepper
white wine vinegar
olive oil

I like it Raw – raw cabbages salad

It is beautiful in Philadelphia, sunny, breezy, early-summery and also sometimes hot and humid. The vegetables are overflowing the raised beds and tumbling out of the CSA box and my fridge is packed. And I’m loving every minute of it. But I need to eat a lot of vegetables to keep up, and lately I just haven’t really felt like curries or stirfry or braises or casseroles. Why turn on the oven?

So I’ve been enjoying a whole lot of raw salads. The secret about raw salads is that you can eat almost any green raw. If it is particularly tough, just marinate and massage it a bit. I currently have lots of vegetables in the cabbage family, so I thought it would be fun to combine them for varying textures and colors. The above salad I made one evening and ate un-marinated, then poured the dressing over top, marinated overnight, and took for lunch the next day. For lunch (and the above photo) I added some cubed and fried tempeh chunks, and half of an avocado. YUM.

Raw Cabbages Salad

4 heads baby bok choi, sliced thinly
1/4 purple cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
3 kholrabi, loosely diced
1 cup sprouted mung beans
2 garlic scapes
2 tsp. toasted black sesame seeds

3 Tbs. tamari or soy sauce
4 Tbs. rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1 Tbs. safflower or other light oil
1 tsp. sesame seeds
1 Tbs. diced fresh ginger or 1 tsp. dried ginger
pinch of roasted chili powder or flakes

Combine vegetables in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing on top or, for a “softer” salad with less crunch, add dressing, mix well (use your hands!) and allow to rest for at least an hour. This recipe allows for 4 large servings. For a heartier meal, add tempeh, tofu, or avocado!

Chez Temporal, Quebec City

The perfect little cafe, just farther down a side street than you would likely travel aimlessly. Steamed windows, one cook in an open kitchen and a waitress who reminds you of someone you know. A crusty piece of bread brushed with white wine and garlic, topped with Swiss and fat rounds of tomato, sprinkled with herbs and then slow toasted. A mustardy-mayo side schmear. A lightly dressed side salad. A cup of coffee, a class of water, a perfect lunch.

25 Rue Couillard
Québec, QC G1R 3T3
(418) 694-1813

Morning Glory Diner, Toronto

A tiny little gem of a breakfast and lunch spot in the east end neighborhood of Toronto, may just have the best breakfast sandwich rolls around. Soft, yet chewy, and porous enough to soak up plenty of the house-made aoli they slather on. The small menu isn’t all that veggie-friendly, outside of the omelette of the day and yogurt with granola, but I ordered this breakfast sandwich without the “mennonite ham” and with a side of rosti – basically a hashbrown patti, with house-made ketchup. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s a delicious and quaint operation (one cook, one waitress) with vintage dishware, big portions, and nice prices.

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

Sorry loves. It been a long long holiday season, with a lot of travel and spotty internet service, but I plan to make it up to you with some tasty comfort food and a heap of foreign foods.

As I mentioned before the holiday, I’ve been slowly working through the easy, healthy and so far, delicious recipes in “Super Natural Cooking.” As the recipe mentions, this dish is incredibly easy of you have extra cooked sweet potatoes hanging around, but it’s tasty enough to make from scratch. For those of you unfamiliar with spoon bread, its very soft, almost a pudding, so don’t be upset if it seems too “jiggly.” And while the recipe tells you to layer the goat cheese under another layer of potato “dough,” you could skip this step and just put the cheese on top of you like your goat cheese on the brown and toasty side. A light lunch or dinner, even a brunch with a good salad, I served mine with some reheated spicy curried sweet potato soup with greens.