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Roasted Salsa Verde

Roasted Salsa Verde

Salsa is the most widely known condiment of Mexican food.   Originating with the Inca people, salsas blend tomatoes, chilies and herbs and spices into sauces used as a key component to many dishes and as a finishing sauce and condiment.

The majority of salsas commercially available are of the rojo variety which are tomato based and range in spice level based on the accompaniment of chiles of different heat levels.

An often underutilized variation is salsa verde or green salsa.  Verde is made using tomatillos instead of tomatoes.

Tomatillos are also in the nightshade family but they contain less moisture, are more acidic and less sweet when consumed raw.  These smaller fruits grow inside a husk and are coated in a sticky substance called withanolide which you’ll definitely notice when prepping them.  The combination of the husk and withanolide helps protect the tomatillo from insect infestation during its grow cycle.

There are a number of ways you can use tomatillos.  They can be blended raw or stewed or roasted.  When consumed raw, they are lend a very bright flavor and when cooked, the flavor profile changes and they become a bit sweeter.

Tomatillos are rich in vitamins and like other fruits and vegetables, are part of a heart healthy diet.

In this application. we will be cleaning these husked little gems and roasting them along with other vegetables before blending with lime, garlic and cilantro.  This sauce is not just a condiment although it’s great with chips or on tacos and burritos.  You can also use it as an enchilada sauce and as a base to stew meats and fish.

We will also be roasting poblano and jalapeno peppers for this recipe but you can feel free to use a different blend.  If you prefer a milder salsa, feel free to use half green pepper and half poblano and you can adjust the heat by increasing or decreasing the amount of jalapeno you’d like to use.  Always start with less with it comes to spicier pepper varieties and add to the sauce for more heat.

Don’t be alarmed by the volume of ingredients in my photo.  I made a huge batch of this using 15 pounds of husked tomatillo which yielded nearly 2 gallons of salsa.

The following recipe is for consumer use and will yield you about a quart (4 cups) of sauce.

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds tomatillos (husked, rinsed and halved)
  • 1 head of garlic cloves
  • 1-2 jalapeno (halved, seeded)
  • 3-4 poblano or green peppers (whole)
  • 2 onions (peeled, quartered)
  • 1-2 bunches cilantro
  • 2 limes (zest and juice)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Set your oven to 425 degrees

On a large rimmed baking sheet, add your tomatillos, garlic, jalapeno, poblano or green peppers and onion.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and peppers.  Make sure to give it all a good mix and be sure all the vegetables are coated.  Add more oil if needed.

Roast in the oven until you notice the onions are beginning to char and the vegetables become soft.  This can take 20-30 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow the vegetables to cool so you can handle.

Pluck the tops off the peppers and remove the seeds.

Using a blender or hand blender, work in batches, if necessary.  Don’t fill your blender too far to reduce the chance of splatter.

Blend the vegetables and use the liquid on the sheet tray from roasting to help get the mixture going.  Add the lime juice and cilantro.  Once fully blended, you can pour in a large bowl or small sauce pot.  Add the lime zest and taste the sauce.

Adjust the flavor by adding more salt or lime juice and if you roasted a few extra jalapenos and would like a spicier salsa, blend these using a bit of the finished sauce and add back to your bowl or sauce pot.

Tasting the product is the key here as there is a wide range in terms of acid, spice and salt.  When you’re satisfied with the salsa, let it cool to further  meld the flavors.

 

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Baba Ganoush

Baba Ganoush

I had recently moved to Kansas City and took a part time job as a chef on a CSA farm about an hour from where I live.  The opportunity was very exciting for me as I would have a lot of freedom to create interesting food for  a membership community of 50 families.

I showed up for work the first day feeling confident and ready.  My tools were sharp and my apron clean.  I was thrilled to start something new like this and to jump right in.

I work Monday-Wednesday and during the weekend before I head in, I get a list of ingredients that need to be used up that week.  These items are usually either in abundance or need to be used as they have a short shelf life.  You see, this farm I work for doesn’t use any chemicals or pesticides.  The foods are natural and for the most part are not meant to sit around for weeks at a time uneaten.

One of the ingredients I was told to use up was eggplant.  Just over 50 pounds of it.

I will be perfectly honest.  Eggplant is not my favorite vegetable.  For some reason, I just don’t like the texture when cooked using traditional techniques.

I am well aware of the health benefits of eggplant.  It’s high in fiber and nutrients.  It’s good for bone health, digestion and heart health but the truth is, I rarely use it in my diet.

As it was my first week on the job, I really wanted to make a great first impression and while I was also give a long list of other vegetables to use up, I was locked in on what to do with the eggplant as I had little experience working with it since I mostly had avoided it in my personal diet.

After consideration, I decided to push myself to make the best Baba Ganoush that I, or anyone else for that matter, had ever eaten.

Baba Ganoush is a Lebanese dish. I find the origin of the name to be pretty funny as “baba” = daddy, and “ganoush” = to spoil.  In essence, the dish is meant to spoil daddy and if made correctly, this dish will definitely hit that mark!

Baba Ganoush essentially is a roasted, mashed eggplant salad.  This dip relies on one of my favorite ingredients, tahini.  Tahini is made from toasted hulled sesame seeds and contains more protein than milk and most nuts.  It can be used in dressings, sauces and marinades.

When I wrote this recipe originally, I had figured I may have about 20 pounds of eggplant.  When I actually made this recipe, I had over 50 pounds. You probably don’t have that much eggplant to use up so you can divide the quantities by whatever quantity you do have.

I will say that you’ll want to make more than a few servings.  This dip is so delicious, versatile and can be frozen, so if your garden is overflowing with eggplant, or they’re on sale, don’t skimp out.  Make 2 or 3 times what you think you’d actually want.

Here’s the recipe based on the volume I used.

Ingredients:

  • 48 pounds eggplant
  • 40 cloves garlic – minced
  • 3 cups lemon juice
  • 4 cups tahini
  • 7 cups EVO
  • 5 cups chopped parsley
  • 2 TBSP cumin
  • salt
  • smoked paprika

Directions:

Oven at 400. Cut the eggplant in half and oil the flat side then season with salt. Roast them flat side down until they are very tender and the skin starts to deflate. Remove and let cool.
Scoop out the flesh into a large perforated pan or strainer and work with a large fork to remove as much water as possible and to mash. Add the garlic, lemon juice and tahini. Mix well. Slowly work in the EVO then add the parsley, cumin and salt. Taste and add more salt or lemon juice if needed. I finished these with a sprinkle of smoked paprika.
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Farm Fresh Gazpacho

Gazpacho is a traditional Spanish summertime classic dish. While the original version was made of stale bread, olive oil, garlic with either a vegetable or fruit base, variations evolved, the most popular of which consists of a tomato base.

Whether the gazpacho be served as a soup, an apertif or a first course, one constant is that is should always be served cold and while the specific ingredients are flexible, they should always be consumed raw.

Gazpacho is sort of like a vegetable smoothie that’s chock full of nutrients, minerals and antioxidants and since it’s consumed in a raw form, it’s a great fit for speciality diets like Keto, Whole 30, Paleo, Vegan and in the case of this recipe also gluten free.

The end of summer is the perfect time to make this soup as the tomatoes are extra sweet in the later months and using a combination of different types of tomatoes, if possible, will help create a more complex and interesting broth base.  If you are a tomato grower, this is a great dish to make to use up your abundance of summer time vegetables.

You’ll notice in my recipe that I made a huge batch.  You can adjust your numbers based on how much tomato you need or want to use up and you can portion and freeze your excess for those winter months when you really need something light, refreshing and healthy.

Let’s jump into the recipe!

Ingredients:
80 pounds tomato (peeled, seeded), half diced, half left whole, juice reserved
20 quarts cucumber (peeled, seeded), half diced, half left whole
15 quarts bell peppers, (cored and seeded), half diced, half left whole
8 quarts red onion (rough chop)
40 jalapeno (seeded), half diced, half left whole
10 heads garlic – minced
3 quarts olive oil
50 limes (juiced)
2 cups balsamic vinegar
2 cups worcestershire sauce
1 cup roasted cumin
1 cup salt
1/4 cup pepper
Basil for garnish

Directions:

To peel the tomatoes, score the bottom lightly and drop into boiling water for about 15 seconds.  Quickly drop in an ice water bath to cool.  Remove skin then cut in half and use a small spoon or melon baller to remove seeds and core.

Place cores and seeds in a colander over hotel pan to catch the juice.  When your colander is full, press the liquid out of the cores and seeds with the back of a ladle or wooden spoon. Reserve the juice.

Once you have seeded all the tomatoes, dice half and place the other half whole in another container

.Dice half of your cucumber, bell peppers and jalapeno and add it to the diced tomato.  Add the other half of your cucumber, bell pepper and jalapeno to the tomatoes left whole.  You also want to add your red onions and garlic to this.

If you have a Robot Coupe immersion blender, that would be that fastest way to process the base otherwise you can use a blender and do it in batches.

Add some of the tomato juice reserved and begin to process the vegetables left whole.  Our goal here is to make this very smooth and we’ll later add the diced vegetables for texture.

Once you process each batch in your blender, pour the liquid into a larger pot.  You can decide on the thickness you want by adding more tomato juice.  I don’t like the soup to be too thick especially because we’re going to have so much fresh diced vegetable to munch on.

Add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, worcestershire sauce, lime juice, cumin, salt and pepper and stir well to incorporate.

Make sure you taste, taste, taste!  Especially with a batch this big, you want to make sure you add enough salt.  Adjust the seasoning and if it needs more zing, add more lime juice and vinegar.

Add in all the diced veggies and give the soup a nice stir to incorporate it.  Place entire container in the fridge overnight.

The next day when you grab your gazpacho out of the fridge and open your pot, you’re going to inhale some serious fresh deliciousness.

To plate, just spoon some into a bowl and garnish with fresh basil.

Drink it up!

 

 

 

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Reverse Seared Bone-In Ribeye with Roasted Potatoes, Radishes and Fennel

Reverse Seared Bone-In Ribeye with Roasted Potatoes, Radishes and Fennel

The age old question – “Which piece of steak is the best?”

You’ll usually hear replies from a similar cast of cuts like NY strip, tenderloin, ribeye or porterhouse with the occasional skirt or sirloin thrown into the mix.

I was lucky enough as a kid to be able to eat at some quality steak houses in the Washington, D.C. area.  Usually it was the result of my mom or dad’s birthday that garnered me the invite to one of these white tablecloth establishments.  I looked forward to these special dinners very much and always ordered the same thing, no matter what the waiter deemed to be best option. 

“I’ll have the filet mignon, medium-rare with asparagus, fried onions and sides of bernaise and peppercorn (Au Poivre) sauce.”  I’d balk at the option of having them serve me the petite sized, although 8 ounces would definitely have been enough for me. I wanted to take full advantage of this special night out so the bigger, the better.

I loved the texture of the filet and how great it tasted slathered in sauce options.  As I carved down, slice by slice, my mouth watered until my plate was cleaned and whatever juices remained had been sopped up with a leftover piece of bread or dinner roll.  I would go home satisfied and eager for the next reason to dine out.

I didn’t dabble much in high end protein through my teenage and college years as quite simply, I didn’t have the resources to do so.  I roasted a lot of whole chickens paired with bags of potatoes or other starches intended to fill me up for cheap. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I even found myself able and interested in preparing steak myself.

When shopping for steak at your local grocery store, you may notice beef labeled with different quality grades and regardless of which cut you prefer, these grades are used to categorize beef based on attributes like the ratio of intramuscular fat or marbling, texture, color and maturity.

There is a large range of grades but the three most common direct to consumer grades are Prime, Choice and Select.

If your market or butcher stocks Prime, I would always suggest shelling out the extra cash for it.  You’ll find this grade to be the most tender and juicy which usually also means the animal was processed at a younger age and with a high ratio of marbling and fat content.  It will yield the best texture and flavor. Prime cuts represent about 3 percent of beef graded for quality.

The next best option you’ve likely seen available is Choice, which makes up around half of all graded beef.  Choice is considered to be a high quality cut but is graded lesser than Prime due to moderate marbling. 

The third grade is called Select which will yield the lowest fat content.  These cuts will be much leaner and will contain less moisture and flavor. When cooking Select grade beef, I would suggest using a marinade or using a wet cooking technique like a braise in order to add to flavor and moisture.

One other factor to take into consideration is grass-fed vs grain-fed and there is a common misconception of the differences between the two.  It is perhaps more accurate to use the terms grass-finished or grain-finished as each of these types of farming techniques involve feeding cattle a diet of grass for the majority of their lives.  

Grass-finished cattle will eat a similar diet throughout their lifetimes while grain-finished cattle will change diets during the last few months before they’re processed.  It’s during this time only that the cattle will add grain, vitamins and minerals to its diet which will lend the beef a sweeter flavor while grass-finishing will leave you a more earthy flavor.

My personal preference for steak cuts has changed since I was a kid and although I would still adorn my dining table in other bovine body parts, my most celebrated slice is the bone-in ribeye.  The ribeye is cut from the rib primal, is rich in marbling and fat content and lends a very beefy, satisfying flavor.  

Half the fat in beef is monounsaturated, which is the good kind of fat. This type of fat, like you’d find in avocado, helps reduce bad cholesterol and is high in vitamin E, an important antioxidant.

We’re going to use the reverse sear method for cooking this steak.  In my opinion, this is the best way to cook a steak to ensure the doneness of your preference.  I also like to sous vide a steak like this which works under the same principal of cooking the steak until the internal temperature is exactly where you want it, then searing the outside for that crusty and amazing texture steak lovers go nuts for.  

If you’ve never used this method for cooking steak, all you really need is a decent digital meat thermometer.  You can pick up something suitable at any grocery store or on Amazon for around $10-$20.  

Our side for the steak is roasted potato, radish and fennel with a maple dijon dressing.  It’s packed with flavor and will compliment the beef well and add punch.

Both radishes and fennel are good for your digestion.  If you haven’t cooked much with fennel, you should! It’s one of my favorite herbs, has many applications and is really beneficial for your health as a natural diuretic, meaning it helps you pee regularly, flushing your body of toxins.

This is definitely enough for 2 people to share.

INGREDIENTS

Roasted Potato, Radish and Fennel

  • 1 pound baby potato – halved
  • 8-10 radishs – quartered 
  • 1 fennel bulb – cored and sliced (tops reserved for garnish)
  • 1 white onion – sliced
  • 6 cloves whole garlic
  • 2-3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt

Steak

  • 1 bone-in ribeye steak – 10-16 ounces
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp vegetable oil

Maple Dijon

  • 1/3 C dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp real maple syrup
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • Fennel tops (reserved from bulb) for garnish

DIRECTIONS: 

Since we’ll be using the oven both for the vegetables and for the steak, we’ll start off by cooking the vegetables at higher heat first and then we’ll pop them back in the oven at the end for a few minutes before we dress them and finish the steak.

Set the oven to 425.

In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, radish, fennel, onion and garlic.  Add the olive oil, salt and pepper and mix well with your hands.  

Place the contents of the bowl in a roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven.  Set your timer for 20 minutes and stir the vegetables when it goes off then set it for another 20 minutes to finish.

While the vegetables are going, take the steak out of the fridge and let it come closer to room temperature.  Season it liberally with salt and pepper and lay another rimmed baking sheet or wire rack over one lined in foil. 

Insert your oven safe thermometer into the steak. This thermometer should allow you to keep the reader point in the meat and the digital part on your stove top or kitchen counter so you don’t need to continually open the oven to check the temperature. 

When the vegetables are done, remove from the oven and keep on top of the stove.

Reduce the oven temperature to 225 degrees and place the steak in the oven.

Now we play the waiting game.  This technique is very much a matter of having the steak reach the desired internal temperature.  It is a nearly fail-safe method for achieving perfect results.  

I always suggest serving steak medium rare.  In order to produce a medium rare steak, remove the steak from the oven when the thermometer reaches 115 degrees.  If you prefer your steak cooked to medium, let the temperature go up to 125. It will take about 22-30 minutes to reach this temperature.  Be sure to check the thermometer often.

While the steak is cooking, make the dressing for the vegetables in a large bowl by whisking together all the ingredients except for the fennel tops.  

Once the steak hits 115 (for medium-rare) remove it from the oven, turn the oven heat back up to 425 and put the vegetables back in to reheat.

Heat a cast iron on the stovetop over high heat.  

When the pan is very hot, add your vegetable oil.  The pan is ready when the oil starts to smoke. You’ll want to turn on your vent over the stove as you will produce a lot of smoke during this finishing process.

Season the steak again with a bit more salt and sear on each side for about 30-45 seconds or until nice and crusty on each side.  Using tongs, sear the sides of the ribeye to make sure you get an even color and cook on all sides of the steak.

Remember that the steak is already perfectly cooked on the inside.  You are just searing it for color and that beautiful crusty texture.

Remove the steak to your cutting board and remove the vegetables from the oven.  Put the vegetables in the bowl you made the dressing in and stir to combine.

Since the steak has already been perfectly cooked, there is no need to rest it like you normally would after using other cooking techniques. The juices will have already redistributed.

You can slice the steak against the grain to portion it, or if you’re feeling really hungry, just spoon some of the vegetables on your serving place, garnish with fennel tops, drop that bad boy right on top and get to work.  

 

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Chicken Fajita Spaghetti Squash Bowl

Chicken Fajita Spaghetti Squash Bowl

Keto, Gluten Free, Dairy Free

My grandparents were first generation German poultry farmers from Ohio and my mom, who was raised on the farm, often talks about what it was like growing up.  In the spring, they would receive thousands of young turkeys and baby chickens on their 78 acres that they would mature and process to sell before the cold winter months.

I am fascinated to hear about how my mom, her brother and their parents ran this business with no additional help.  They grew wheat and corn to feed their pigs and cows and made and sold butter and cheese that their milk cows produced.  My grandmother baked with the grains grown on the farm and very little, if anything, was purchased at market. 

This was not an easy life by any means, but to be almost entirely self sufficient definitely helped bond them together and created a sense of responsibility and structure.  

When I was growing up, not surprisingly, we ate a lot of chicken and as far as I can remember, it was mostly cooked as skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts.  Quite frankly, this was my mom’s favorite part of the bird. Her usual technique was to season the chicken and sear the skin side then roast skin side up until well-done. 

The result was crispy skin, rendered of fat, and fully cooked white meat chicken breast.  She would usually serve it with some vegetables or other side and I remember squirting sweet BBQ sauce on the plate to run the chicken through to provide moisture and flavor.  

Thinking back to those years, I rarely recall ever having chicken thighs or other dark meat chicken.  It was always the breast and always bone-in, which my mom would say was more economical and provided more flavor.

There is definitely a personal preference most people have either for white or dark meat and it makes me wonder if it has to do with how they were brought up and what their parents preferred or cooked for them as kids. 

I believe there is a common misconception regarding the difference between white and dark chicken parts and that many assume that the breast is healthier while the dark meat is higher in fat and is not as good for you.

This is one of those fact vs. fiction food topics I love to talk about from the perspective of someone who has learned to appreciate and prefer legs and thighs over the breasts I grew up with.

The truth is that yes, chicken thighs are higher in fat content but this fat is monounsaturated fat, the good kind, like what’s found in avocados and olive oil.  These fats can reduce cholesterol, lower your risk of heart disease and cancer and can actually even promote weight loss by increasing your metabolic rate which specifically helps you to burn stomach fat faster.  

Health attributes aside, chicken thighs also are far cheaper than white meat, have better flavor and are more tender than their counterpart.  They’re also much more forgiving and versatile and can withstand longer cooking times without drying out. There’s a reason I used to douse my white meat in BBQ sauce as a kid.

In this recipe, I’m going to use spaghetti squash.  This winter squash is high in dietary fiber which aids in digestion and is a good source of beta carotene, vitamins A and C and minerals that are good for bone health.  

This particular squash offers many applications of use as when cooked/roasted, the flesh becomes a similar texture/appearance as noodles.  It’s a great way to low carb or keto a pasta dish with a lower calorie and healthier alternative. 

This recipe is just the tip of the spaghetti squash iceberg as its universe of use is infinite.  Try this one out and then use your imagination and creativity to explore variations using an array of other ingredients like tomato bases or meat sauces, salsas or even Thai noodle flavor profiles. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 spaghetti squash – halved
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs – large dice
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chile powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper
  • 2 limes – juiced
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion – sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • 1 green pepper – cut into strips
  • 1 red pepper – cut into strips
  • 1 medium tomato – cored, seeded – diced
  • 1 avocado – diced
  • 3 green onions, green part – sliced

DIRECTIONS:

Set oven to 400.

Rub the flesh side of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the squash flesh/flat side down on the parchment paper.  Set your timer for 50 minutes and place the sheet tray in the oven.

Add the chicken, cumin, chile powder, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and 1 Tbsp olive oil to a bowl.  Mix thoroughly, cover and place in the fridge for a half hour to marinate.

In a large saute pan on medium heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil.  Add the sliced onion and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the marinated chicken and increase the heat to medium/high. Cook for about 15 minutes or until the chicken is slightly caramelized and fully cooked.  Add the strips of peppers and a sprinkle of salt and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the tomato and remove from heat.

When the timer goes off, check the squash by inserting a fork through the top of the flesh.  If the fork easily penetrates, the squash is done.

Carefully turn the squash over and using a fork, scrap the flesh of the squash starting from the middle outwards to the sides.  You basically are “fluffing’ the squash flesh here to resemble noodles. It will also help the vegetable to cool off enough to consume.

Spoon half the chicken and pepper mixture on top of the squash and garnish with the cubes of avocado and green onion.  

I’m already thinking of a Pad Thai spaghetti squash bowl for my next adventure!  

 

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Eggplant and Lamb Al Forno

Eggplant and Lamb Al Forno

Translated from Italian, “al forno” simply is a sexier way to say a dish is baked.  This delicious entree screams Mediterranean and is so hearty and satisfying that it would be best enjoyed on a cold winter or fall day paired with a simple side salad of cucumbers and red onion.

This is a layered entree not all that unlike a lasagna except we’ll be using eggplant instead of noodles.  I also picked roasted red peppers as a sauce base for the ground lamb instead of the more traditional tomato. 

When I was a kid, I always had bad heartburn.  Back then, I would just self medicate with some chalky antacid to make it go away.  I had never really considered at the time that there may be a bigger underlying issue with my diet and it wasn’t until adulthood that I even had it checked out by a professional.

When I was in my 30ties, I had my first endoscopy as my symptoms were becoming routine and much more severe.  The results showed that I had ulcers in my esophagus due to a condition called Barrett’s esophagus. I won’t dive too deep into the details of this condition, but it’s usually the result of repeated exposure to high acid foods and is often a symptom of people with GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

I decided against the doctor suggested surgery and also against taking a PPI (proton pump inhibitor) every day for the rest of my life and instead chose to lower my intake of high acid foods like tomatoes. 

While tomatoes offer solid nutrient content, they are also high in citric and malic acid which are what can cause acid reflux and heartburn.  In making dietary changes to combat this sour stomach syndrome, I look to replace tomatoes where it makes sense in my diet and recipes.  In this recipe, I’ll be substituting them with roasted red peppers which are more alkaline than acidic and in my personal experience, leave me with much less of a sour stomach feeling.

Red peppers pack in twice the daily suggested amount of vitamin C your body needs.  Vitamin C is an essential vitamin meaning your body cannot produce it naturally. When I was a kid and not feeling well, my parents would always give me vitamin C to ward off illness and boost immunity.  It also works to help protect blood cells from free radicals.

Essentially in this recipe, we’ll be making a meat sauce with roasted red peppers and ground lamb to be layered between slices of salted eggplant.  

Studies have shown that the average American eats less than a pound of lamb per year and some who sway from eating lamb may suggest the flavor is gamey or otherwise unpleasant.  

Since most New Zealand or Australian lamb is grass fed, ground lamb still will have that earthy flavor but will be less potent than a chop or rib cut.  If you’re on the fence with how you feel about the flavor of lamb, try it in burger form, or in a recipe like this, in a sauce and and I’ll think you’ll be praising yourself for making an adventurous smart choice! As an alternative, you could use ground turkey or chicken.

On the health tip, lamb is rich in vitamin B and more specifically in vitamin B-12 which give your body high levels of energy and is good to revive blood cells.  It’s also a good way to intake zinc that helps thyroid function, healing and is an immune booster.

One other ingredient I’m choosing to substitute here might be a surprise.  Instead of using breadcrumbs to top this dish, I’m using crushed chicharron (fried pork skin).  This makes the dish gluten free and will add the same great texture and seasoning.  

INGREDIENTS 

  • 2 eggplants – ends removed and cut into ½ inch slices
  • 1 pounds ground lamb
  • 3 red bell peppers
  • 1 medium white onion – diced
  • 3 cloves garlic- minced
  • Tsp ground cumin
  • Tsp dry oregano
  • Tsp dry thyme
  • Tbsp olive oil
  • ¼ c parsley – rough chop
  • ¼ cup chicharron – blitzed in food processor
  • Salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Set your oven to 400.

Salt the slices of eggplant and place in a colander in the sink.  Salting the vegetable will help to draw out some of the moisture which will help keep this dish from getting soggy when baked.  Allow the eggplant to drain for about 35 minutes then rinse the salt off and dry it with paper towels. 

While the eggplant is going, char the red peppers.  I do this by turning on one of the burners on my stove and by placing the peppers directly on the burner.  Let the peppers char on each side until blackened. Once fully charred, put the peppers in a glass bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam for about 10 minutes.  This will make it easier to peel off the skin.  

After 10 minutes, remove the plastic wrap, remove the skin and cut the peppers in half, removing the stem, seeds and white parts.  Cut the peppers into strips then chop.  

Heat a saute pan or skillet on medium heat.  Add the olive oil and diced onion. Cook for 3-4 minutes then add the garlic and red peppers.  Add the cumin, oregano and thyme along with about a teaspoon of salt and ½ teaspoon cracked pepper.  Cook for about 3-4 minutes longer than add the ground lamb.

Break up the lamb and let it cook until well browned.  Spoon off and discard some of the fat as it cooks so your sauce isn’t too greasy.  You can do this by tilting the pan to remove the excess. It’s ok to leave some fat but you don’t want it to be swimming in it.  Cover and reduce the heat to low and cook for about 5-8 more minutes.

Use a baking dish or other deep glass lasagna dish and spoon a very thin layer of the sauce on the bottom of the dish.  This will help keep the bottom of the eggplant from burning. Place 6-9 pieces of the eggplant in a single layer on top of the sauce then spoon more sauce on top of the eggplant.  Repeat with another slice of eggplant then more sauce and then a third slice of eggplant. Top the third piece with the rest of the sauce.

Mix the crushed chicharron with half the parsley and top each piece with an equal amount. 

Tent with foil, put in the oven and set your timer for 50 minutes.  

While the dish is in the oven, you can make your salad or any sides you want to serve with it.

After your timer goes off, remove the foil and place back in the oven for 15 minutes. 

Remove from oven and top with the remaining parsley and serve immediately.  

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15 Minute Vegetarian Green Curry

 

15 Minute Vegetarian Green Curry with Black Rice Noodle

This recipe is in the same vein as my 15 Minute Vegetarian Stir Fry recipe.  These two easy, inexpensive, healthy and satisfying meals are something you can add to your weekly repertoire to replace unhealthy fast food alternatives.  

There are some staples used here that I always like to have in my kitchen.  Each of them can be found in the Asian section at any Western grocery store.

Time permitting, I really like making my own curry paste. I make it using a blend of toasted chilis, shallots, garlic, ginger, tumeric and lemongrass.  It’s fun to make at home as you can adjust it to taste or preference.  

Sometimes however, I either don’t have all the ingredients on hand, or I simply don’t feel like making a batch so I like to have a few jars of premade curry paste in my cabinet.  

Most likely you’ll be able to find the Thai Kitchen brand in red and green curry paste locally.  For this recipe, I’m using their green variety which is a blend of green chili pepper, garlic, lemongrass, shallot, lime peel, salt and spices.  How can you go wrong with that?

Another item I always have on hand is coconut milk.  There are so many ways you can use it to make rich and creamy sauces that are lower in sugar than those using dairy milk.  Coconut milk is full of electrolytes like potassium and phosphorus which help bones and teeth to be strong. It’s rich in the healthy kind of fat you need but contains less than 10 percent of the sugar as 2 % dairy milk.  Coconut milk also fights bacterial and viral infections and is a high iron food that helps healthy red blood cell development which transports oxygen throughout your body.

As our salt component in this curry, we’re using fish sauce, an age old ingredient that you definitely should have on hand but that carries an unfounded stigma. Many are under the misconception that fish sauce is made with rotting fish.  This is inaccurate.

The reality is that fish sauce is made from fermented fish.  Good quality fish sauce uses small fish like anchovies which are packed in salt and water and the longer the fish ferments, the less fishy the flavor will be.  The salt removes the impurities like if you were salt curing salmon or other fish before smoking it.  

If done right, it takes around 12-18 months to ferment.  The process turns the fish to liquid which is then strained.  Cheaper versions of fish sauce will be watered down at this stage but good quality products will not.  

This process is not to be confused with decomposition. In actuality, it is the process of preventing decomposition which would result in a product dangerous to consume as it may be accompanied by the growth of harmful bacteria.  

Food needs salt.  That’s just the reality of it, but fish sauce trumps salt in my opinion, not only because it contains less sodium chloride, but because it does so with more range in depth of flavor.

Last but not least in my pantry provision wheelhouse are dried noodles.  I will often store a bounty of varieties for different applications under the premise that they have a long shelf life and are versatile. Just about anything you may consider eating with rice, would be just as well suited with a bowl of noodles.  

For today’s curry, I’ll be using black rice noodles.

Aside from just looking cool and unique, black rice noodles also bring along some good nutritional content to the party.  In fact, black rice is significantly more nutritious than white rice. It’s gluten free and high in iron, calcium, zinc and B vitamins.  It helps the liver to detox the body as an antioxidant and it’s high in fiber. 

When using noodles, follow the cooking instructions on the package.  Some thinner rice noodles will just need to be soaked while thicker noodles, like the ones we’re using today, should be cooked more traditional in boiling water until tender.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 package black rice noodles
  • Tbsp grapeseed oil
  • ½ onion – sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic – minced
  • 2 inches ginger – peeled and minced
  • 3 pounds assorted hearty vegetables cut into bit sized pieces (broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, asparagus, squash, onion)
  • 2 Tbsp green curry paste
  • 1 can full fat coconut milk
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 limes – juiced
  • Cilantro leaves – for garnish

DIRECTIONS:

Cook the noodles according to the package directions.  Rinse in cold water then toss in a bit of oil so they don’t clump together.

Use a large wok on high heat.  Add the oil and then the onions.  Cook for 3-4 minutes then add the ginger and garlic.  Toss in all the vegetables and the curry paste and cook for about 3 minutes.  It is very important to cook the curry paste in order to develop its flavor.

Add the coconut milk, bring to a light boil then reduce the heat to low/medium.  If you have a lid, you can cover the wok, otherwise just cook until the vegetables are at your desired doneness.  I really like crunch and texture to my vegetables, so I don’t cook it for too long, about 3-5 minutes.  

The coconut milk will have reduced and thickened a bit. Add the lime juice and fish sauce.  Taste the curry and adjust seasoning if needed. If you need more salt, add a bit more fish sauce.  

From this point you have two options.  You can fill your bowls with the noodles and spoon the curry on top or you can place the noodles in the wok with the curry to combine.  If your curry is a bit thin, I suggest mixing with the noodles. The starch will help finish the job of thickening the dish.  

Garnish with cilantro leaves and additional lime wedges.  

 

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Brassica 2-Way – Vegan General Tso Cauliflower with Cauliflower Fried Rice

General Tso Cauliflower with Cauliflower Fried Rice

Vegan, Gluten Free, Grain Free, Paleo

Pick up any Chinese food menu these days and you’ll likely see an interesting dish on there called General Tso’s Chicken.  A lot of restaurants will even showcase this delight on their list of Chef Specials or Recommendations. While one may think this dish to be a Chinese staple, the reality is that it has only even been around for about 50 years!

Peng Chang-kuei is the Taiwanese chef and creator of General Tso, named after a 19th Century Chinese military leader.   Chef Chang-kuei operated a restaurant in New York City frequented by Henry Kissinger in the 70ties and prior to Chang-kuei’s passing in 2016, he suggested that it was because of Kissinger that this dish became recognized and popularized in the United States where other chefs altered it to appeal to the tongues of Americans.

When I was on the Candida Diet 4-5 years ago, I was up against a lot of restricted ingredients.  That specific diet is low carb and grain free as these would spike blood sugar. This meant taking out rice, pasta, bread and tortillas.  It had me thinking back then of alternatives to these starches which always circled back to cauliflower. I’ve written recipes for cauliflower tortillas and cauliflower breadsticks and while I never ventured into the land of cauliflower pasta, I did really put this brassica to the grind in terms of functionality. 

In this recipe, I wanted to use a simpler technique that you could easily replicate, for a satisfying and relatively quick and healthy weekday dinner idea. It’s sure to satisfy the Chinese food loving fatty in us all!   I’ve made this many times and even cooked it for the entire restaurant staff at my old job for family meal before dinner service. They ate it up!

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable like collard greens, kale and Brussels sprouts and is likewise very high in Vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals.  The antioxidants in cauliflower help to remove nasty chemicals more quickly from your body and it’s also high in fiber.

I’m going to use dried chile de arbol in this recipe which are small, spicy peppers high in capsaicin.  Capsaicin is what makes peppers hot. The hotter the pepper, the higher concentration of capsaicin. Capsaicin offers cardiovascular benefits, is a natural pain reliever and boosts immunity.  It also can fight inflammation and can lower the risk of diabetes.

Other switcharoo’s I’m making in this recipe are almond flour over bleached all purpose flour and arrowroot powder (the starch produced from the root of a tropical plant) instead of cornstarch. 

Cornstarch is what most Chinese food dishes contain to thicken the sauce.  The downside is that cornstarch is very high in calories and carbs, has very little nutritional content and a chalky flavor, while arrowroot powder is gluten and grain free and has no taste.  

When using arrowroot powder, it’s important to make a slurry with it using cold liquid before adding it to your dish to thicken it.  You don’t want to actually cook with it either as it will break down at high heat. Make sure you add your arrowroot slurry at the end of the cooking process to thicken so it doesn’t break down.

INGREDIENTS:

General Tso Cauliflower

  • 1 head of cauliflower – rinsed and cut into bite sized florets 
  • 1 C almond flour
  • ½ C arrowroot powder
  • Tsp salt
  • ½ C water
  • Peanut oil for frying
  • 3 green onions – sliced
  • Tsp sesame seeds

Sauce

  • Tbsp sesame oil
  • 5-6 dried chile de arbol (add more if you like it spicy or less for less heat)
  • 5 cloves garlic – minced
  • 2 inches peeled ginger – minced
  • ½ C liquid aminos or tamari
  • ¼ C rice vinegar
  • ¾ C vegetable stock
  • 2 Tbsp arrowroot powder (mixed with a few Tbsp of the stock to make a slurry)

Cauliflower Fried Rice

  • 1 head cauliflower – riced in food processor or pre-riced
  • Tbsp canola oil
  • ¼ C white onion – diced
  • 3 C garlic- minced
  • 1 large carrot – peeled and diced
  • ¼ c frozen peas
  • 3 Tbsp liquid aminos or tamari

DIRECTIONS:

For the General Tso cauliflower, heat a dutch oven with about an inch of peanut oil.

Mix the almond flour, arrowroot powder, salt and water.  Whisk together until there are no more clumps. The consistency should be about the same as pancake batter.  Add more water if it’s too thick. Add the cauliflower florets to the mixture.

Start the cauliflower rice by heating a large saute pan with the canola oil on medium heat.  Add the white onion and cook for about 3 minutes then add the garlic. Cook for 30 seconds then add the carrot.  The carrot will go for about 3 minutes and then you can add the cauliflower, peas and liquid aminos or tamari. Stir frequently and cook until the cauliflower becomes tender.  This will take about 8-10 minutes.

While the cauliflower rice is working, start the sauce and fry the cauliflower pieces.  

Once the oil is hot in your dutch oven, in batches you can drop your battered cauliflower.  You want to fry until golden brown and then remove to a cooling rack on top of some paper towels to drain excess oil.  Fry the cauliflower in batches until complete and be sure not to overcrowd the pan or it will reduce the heat of the oil too much causing it to cook unevenly.

Make the sauce while the cauliflower frys.  

In a wok, add the sesame oil on medium/high heat.  Add the dried chiles and cook for about 2 minutes then add the garlic and ginger.  Cook for about a minute then add the liquid aminos or tamari, vinegar and vegetable stock.  Let this go for a few minutes to reduce a bit then whisk in the arrowroot slurry and remove it from the heat.  The sauce should be nicely thickened. If it’s not quite thickened, you can make more slurry and add to the sauce.

Place all the fried cauliflower in the wok with the sauce and stir to combine everything.  Gently toss the cauliflower with the sauce to evenly coat.  

Plate by spooning some of the cauliflower rice into a bowl and top with the General Tso.  Garnish with chopped green onion and sesame seeds.  

 

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Seared Tuna Salad with Mixed Greens and Wasabi Vinaigrette

Seared Tuna Salad with Mixed Greens and Wasabi Vinaigrette

I would serve this Springtime salad as a lunch or dinner entree as it will leave you feeling satisfied but not overstuffed and weighed down.  To me, it embodies the freshness and warmth of the season.

Tuna is my favorite fish eaten as sushi or sashimi but it’s important to discuss the varieties of tuna as surely they offer different health benefits and risks. Tuna is a lean protein and much like wild salmon, it’s high in omega-3 fatty acid which is the good kind of fat that is super important for your body.  This healthy fat helps lower blood pressure and reduces inflammation that can lead to more serious health issues.  

It’s important to discuss the differences between tuna types as although they contain a lot of good stuff for the body, certain varieties are definitely better for you than others, especially if you eat tuna regularly.

For this recipe, I’m using sushi grade tuna but let’s take a step back and look at tuna that we probably all have in our cabinets at home right now – canned tuna.  There are a few varieties of canned tuna. Some are canned with water and some in oil. The other difference you’ll notice is that some are marked as “Light” and some are not.  Being tagged as “Light” doesn’t mean it’s lower calorie or lower fat. Light tuna usually is of the smaller tuna species, most often skipjack tuna. Skipjack is typically fished at a young age.  “White” tuna not marketed as “Light” is normally of the Albacore variety which is a larger species that is typically fished at a more mature age.

When choosing between these two in terms of canned tuna, I ALWAYS opt for the “Light” variety.  The reason is very simple. Skipjack contains significantly lower levels of mercury as opposed to other tuna species like albacore or yellowfin.  The largest would be bigeye which may contain up to 2 or 3 times the level of mercury as the smaller species. Simply stated, the older the fish, the higher the concentration of mercury just given the level of exposure over its lifetime.

I was treated for mercury poisoning about 4-5 years ago and it was a long and expensive process to heal from.  I suffered from many neurological issues like brain fog, dizziness, trouble focusing, blurry vision and also from insomnia.  My mercury levels were off the charts due to old dental work I had done as a kid and not from my indulgence in consuming high mercury seafood but certainly, if eaten regularly, this can be a huge problem with a diet high in seafood.

When purchasing sushi grade fish for this salad, ask your fishmonger for skipjack.  I think you’ll notice the texture and flavor to be similar to albacore or yellowtail and you should feel better about consuming a significantly lower concentration of mercury.  This is especially important if you consume a lot of tuna in your diet.

You won’t need a ton of ingredients to assemble this salad but what we are using will pack a big healthy punch.

To coat the tuna, we’re going to use furikake.  Furikake is a very common Japanese ingredient and is composed of sesame seeds, bonito (fish) flakes and seaweed.  You can find furikake at your local Asian supermarket and maybe even in the Asian section at your Western supermarket.  This condiment is the epitome of umami.  The fish really needs this flavoring which also is high in Vitamin B and calcium. 

For the salad greens, grab one of the 50:50 mixes of arugula and baby spinach.  Arugula will add a peppery pop that’s high in fiber and antioxidants. It’ll help detoxify, clean out your body and promote regularity.  Spinach is packed with vitamins and just like Popeye knew, it’s great for bone health.

Edamame basically are just young soybeans.  When picked young, they’re tender and edible as is.  They’re high in protein, are known to reduce cholesterol and have been proven to help prevent certain types of cancer like breast and colon cancer.

The real flavor bomb in the salad comes from the dressing which is simple to mix and explodes with flavor from the wasabi base.  

I’m sure you’ve all had wasabi when you’ve eaten sushi.  It’s traditionally made from Japanese horseradish and it’s quite spicy.  I remember taking a friend out for sushi for the first time and she thought that mound of it next to her pickled ginger was guacamole.  She chomped the whole pile down in one bite and royally learned her lesson.

Wasabi is high in dietary fiber and is good for your gut and heart health.  It naturally fights the bacteria that cause food poisoning and is a natural decongestant.   You can find wasabi paste in the Asian section at your local market.

This salad will serve 2.

INGREDIENTS:

Tuna

  • ½ – ¾ pound sushi grade tuna – skipjack is available
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 Tbsp furikake

Salad

  • 8 cups 50:50 mix arugula:baby spinach
  • ½ cup shelled and cooked edamame 
  • 2 green onion (green part) – sliced
  • ½ cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 cup fried wonton strips
  • 1 avocado, halved and sliced

Wasabi Vinaigrette

  • 1 Tbsp wasabi paste
  • 1 Tbsp liquid aminos, soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 clove ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp ginger, peeled and minced
  • ¼ C Extra Virgin Olive Oil

DIRECTIONS:

Coat the tuna with one tsp of the canola oil. Season with salt and pepper then coat the fish with the furikake on all sides.  Press the furikake into the flesh of the fish gently so it adheres.

Heat a non stick to medium heat.  When hot, add the other tsp of canola oil.  Wait about a minute for the oil to get hot then gently add the tuna and sear on each side for about 30 seconds on each side.  Remove from the heat and let rest on your cutting board while you assemble the rest of the dish.

Mix the greens with your edamame, green onion and cilantro in a large mixing bowl.

In a small bowl whisk together the wasabi paste, liquid aminos, rice wine vinegar, garlic and ginger.  Slowly pour in the olive oil while continuing to whisk to incorporate and emulsify.

Pour the dressing over the greens and mix well.  Using salad forks or tongs, mound the salad in your serving bowl.  

Slice the tuna against the grain and layer on top of the salad.  Garnish the salad with the wonton strips and sliced avocado.

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Seared Lamb, Spiced Butternut Squash, Warm Potato & Kale Salad with Balsamic Tangelo Reduction

Seared Lamb Sirloin, Spiced Butternut Squash, Warm Potato & Kale Salad with Balsamic and Tangelo Reduction

Once in a while I like to write about composed plates.  This is how I like to cook when I have the time and resources. I have a mentality around composed dinners that involves 4 main components.  The ingredients used will vary depending on the season and what looks good when I go shopping but the format of the entree follows this general structure – puree, salad, protein and sauce.

I like this format for a number of reasons but a big one is that it’s very vegetable forward and as you are likely aware, a diet full of vegetables is important for general health.  I break down the benefits of different vegetables often in my recipes and I’ll hit some key points for this dish as well. I also think that texturally, it’s important to have variety to please the palate.  Textures like firm, crunchy, creamy, chewy and even watery can help a dish mature in composition of taste but also in presentation.

My goal in sharing this recipe is not just to help you replicate this dish but to help you open your mind to creating an infinite combination following this structure by using different purees, salads, proteins and sauces.  Thinking about plate composition can be fun and you may surprise yourself with how certain things may compliment each other.  

I’m using lamb sirloin in this recipe. While lamb is available in almost all Western grocery stores, it definitely takes a back seat to other meat proteins like beef, chicken, pork and fish, in terms of being recognized and marketed to consumers. “Beef, it’s what’s for dinner, “ and “pork, the other white meat” are marketing taglines I’m sure we’re all familiar with but what about lamb?  Perhaps the lamb farming industry in North American is dwarfed by more common meats? Maybe due to perceived cost, people shy away from something unfamiliar? I can’t say for sure but personally, I love lamb and use it as steaks, ground, shanks, in rib racks and thinly sliced in Chinese hot pot or in Korean BBQ at home. It has tremendous flavor.

Lamb is a very high quality protein.  It’s high in the vitamins that promote proper brain function and it’s high in iron and zinc.  Iron is a crucial mineral that helps transport oxygen from the lungs throughout the body. It’s also good for your hair, nails and skin.  Zinc helps your immune systems and a lack of zinc in your body makes you more susceptible to illness and infection.

I purchase lamb sirloin at my local grocery store in a package of 3 pieces and cook it as I would prepare a small steak.  The main difference between a lamb steak and a beef steak, in my opinion, is that there really should only be one doneness level, so if you like your ribeye welldone, this probably isn’t the protein for you as overcooked lamb will be chewy and unpalatable. 

I used butternut squash for this puree.  I like to keep a variety of squash on hand at home because they will keep fresh for a long time but also because they have a variety of cooking applications.  Butternut squash is full of vitamin C and is also very high in beta-carotene, the same pigment found in sweet potatoes, that gives the vegetable its color. Yellow and orange vegetables are proven to be helpful in he bodies fight against heart disease.  

There’s a reason why you see kale in so many healthy recipes and on the menus at more health-minded restaurants as it quite possibly contains more nutrients than any vegetable on earth.  Green leafy vegetables are the centerpiece of the vegetable universe and kale is hugely loaded with vitamins A, C and K. The lesser discussed vitamin K is needed to provide prothrombin which is used by the body for blood clotting. It also has been shown to improve memory in adults.  I love this warm kale and potato salad as both vegetables are inexpensive and are rich in nutrients.  

The balsamic vinegar pan sauce benefits your body by upping the enzymes that help breakdown and digest proteins.  Balsamic vinegar also contains antioxidants that improve immunity and aid in proper blood circulation. 

INGREDIENTS:

Lamb

  • 3 lamb sirloin steaks (about 6-8 ounces each)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Tbsp canola oil

Spiced Butternut Squash Puree

  • 1 butternut squash
  • Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper

Warm Potato and Kale Salad

  • 1 ½ pounds baby potato (fingerling, yukon, purple)
  • 2-3 cups kale – washed and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 lemon – zest and juice separated
  • 2 Tbsp canola oil
  • 2 cloves garlic – sliced
  • 1 Tbsp stone ground mustard
  • 1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Salt and pepper

Balsamic Vinegar and Tangelo reduction

  • 2 cloves garlic – minced
  • 2 Tbsp shallots – minced
  • ¼ C good balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tangelo – juiced

DIRECTIONS:

Set your oven to 400 degrees.  

Take the lamb out of the fridge to bring to room temperature. 

Cut the squash in half and season the flat size with olive oil.  Combine the spices and mix well then sprinkle all over the flat size of the squash.  Line a sheet tray with parchment paper and arrange the squash, flat side down on the sheet tray.  Set your timer for 35 minutes and work on the other components.

Set a medium pot full of water to high heat.  When the water comes to a boil, add about a Tbsp of salt and let it return to a boil.  Cut the potatoes in half. If they are larger potatoes, cut them into quarters. Put the potatoes in the boiling water and cook until they are just fork tender – about 10-12 minutes. 

In a medium bowl, add the cut kale and the lemon juice.  Mix thoroughly with your hands. You should notice the kale start to change color.

Once the potatoes are fork tender, drain them and dry them off with a kitchen towel or paper towel.  

Heat the canola oil in a large saute pan.  Add the garlic and cook for about 30 seconds.  Add the cooked potatoes , flat side down and cook undisturbed until they start to brown.  Add the kale in lemon juice and cook until the kale wilts, about 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Add the potatoes and kale and toss to combine. Top with the lemon zest.

The squash should be done now.  Remove from the oven and turn over to scrape out the flesh from the squash.  Put the squash directly into your blender and whiz on high speed. If the mixture is too thick, add some chicken stock or water until you achieve the desired consistency.  I like to pass this mixture then through a mesh strainer to remove any lumps and to get to a very silky and smooth texture. After straining, taste and add salt if necessary. Keep warm in a small pot on the back of your stove. 

To cook the lamb sirloin, heat up a cast iron on medium/high heat.  When the pan is hot, add the canola oil. Season the lamb with salt and pepper and when the oil in the pan begins to smoke, add the lamb sirloins.  Cook for 3 minutes then flip and cook another 2 minutes then remove from heat to rest and to make the pan sauce.  

Lower the heat on the cast iron then add the shallots and garlic.  Cook for about 30 seconds then add the balsamic vinegar and tangelo juice.  Using a wood spoon, scrape off all the bits of fond from the bottom of the pan.  There will be a lot of great flavor. Reduce the sauce by about half, It should be thick enough now to coat the back of a spoon.  In French culinary, this consistency is called, “nappe”. Strain the sauce through another mesh strainer to remove the bits of garlic and shallot or if you prefer, leave them be for a more rustic sauce.  

To plate, spoon about a quarter cup of puree on your serving plate.  Top with a nice portion of the warm potato and kale salad and top with one piece of lamb sirloin.  Using a spoon, drizzle the balsamic reduction around the plate.  

Once you’ve mastered this technique, there are so many other ways to mix it up with different ingredients.  I think you’ll find it fun to be creative with flavor profile combinations!