Archive for the ‘Ingredient of the Month’ Category

Despite the fact that the British Air Ministry deceived more than the Germans during WWII, thus searing the myth that carrots were good for your eyesight onto the collective retina, carrots are good for you.  They’re packed full of fiber, phytonutrients and anti-oxidants [lutein, lycopene, alpha, beta and gamma carotenes, zeaxanthin and xanthophyll], vitamins [pro-vitamin A, vitamins C, D, E, K, B1 and B6] and minerals [biotin, potassium, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, organic sodium and other trace minerals].  That’s just the stuff we know about.  The carrot, as a whole, is a great food and that is why this month we shall include many recipes that focus on this incredibly versatile and ubiquitous vegetable.

If you can find carrots with the tops attached, buy them!  I remember as a teenager I worked at a local market and the checkout clerks would offer to remove the carrot tops for their customers.  Then, I thought it was a great service, now…you’d have to pry them out of my cold dead hands.  Carrot tops are marvelous to cook with.  They have the brightness of parsley and a slightly carrot  flavored taste to them.   Which leads me to the first carrot recipe this month…

Roasted Carrots with Carrot Top and Pepita Pesto


1 bunch carrots with tops

 ¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

 ¼ cup pepitas, pan toasted

 1 tsp lemon zest

 1 T walnut oil

 1 clove garlic


Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut carrots into bite-sized pieces and spray lightly with olive oil.  Toss to coat well and place in the oven for 30 minutes or until the carrots are fork tender. 

Wash and dry the carrot tops.  Give them a rough chop and place ½ cup into a food processor.  Add the parsley, lemon zest, 2 T pepitas, walnut oil and the garlic clove.   [Do not process it so much that you get a homogenous paste.  You want some rustic texture.]   Transfer the pesto to a bowl and add in the remaining pepitas.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Simply spoon the pesto over the roasted carrots and serve.  

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I’ve been slacking on collard green recipes lately and have had this recipe kicking around in my head for a while now.  Today it expressed itself and they turned out really well.  They’re sweet and spicy hot and would go great with some savory black beans.


1 bunch collard greens, washed, destemmed and cut into a 1/4-inch chiffonade

1/2 onion, diced

2 clove garlic, minced

2 T currants

1/3 cup orange marmalade

minced chili pepper [To your tastes, I used a single Thai chili, for something   milder use the whole or part of a ribbed and seeded jalapeño.  A pinch of red pepper flakes would also work.]

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

zest of half an orange

canola oil


Sauté the onions, garlic and chili pepper in a drizzle of canola oil until the onions begin to soften.  Add in the collard greens and currants and mix well.  Allow to cook for 10-15 minutes.  [If the collard greens weren’t still wet from having been rinsed, add in a splash of water to help steam them.]  Once wilted, but still bright green, add in the marmalade, orange zest and grate in the nutmeg.  Stir to combine and set aside off the heat.  Once cooled, place on a cutting board and chop the filling so that no long strands of collards remain.

Masa Harina Dough:

1-3/4 cup vegetable stock

1/2 cup canola oil

3 cup masa harina

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 tsp sea salt

dash of cinnamon


Add the dry ingredients to a mixer and then add the wet.  Mix slowly until the dry ingredients are damp and then turn up the mixer to a medium speed.  Mix for 5 minutes.


Spread a golfball-sized amount of dough over the middle area of a softened corn husk.  [ You can certainly make larger tamales that cover most of the husk area, I just prefer sweet tamales to be petite.]  Place a tablespoon of the filling down the center in a line.  Roll the cornhusk over while rolling the dough over the filling.  Once rolled, use a strip from another corn husk to tie around the center and secure the tamale into shape.  Steam vertically for 30 minutes.

Serve fresh from the steamer.

[ETA:  Fixed a massive spelling error]

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I was in the mood for something spicy and needed to use up some tortillas that have been lurking in our fridge for a while now.  Our fridge is also still over-run with collard greens. Imagine that.  I went a bit overboard at the store the other day and bought a few too many bunches, heh.  To resolve these issues, I decided to make a slaw to go along with some potato tacos for dinner.


Mix together the sour cream and lime juice first to loosen up the sour cream,  then simply toss it all together.

1 cup shredded red cabbage

1 cup raw collard greens,  cut in a chiffonade

1/4 red bell pepper, sliced thinly

1/2 papaya, diced

1/2 lime, juiced

1 tbsp. Tofutti sour cream

1 tsp. adobo sauce [or more if you want it spicier]

1 tsp. cumin

dashes of garlic and onion powder

Mmmm, it scratched all my itches, though my mouth is still on fire. [Not always a bad thing, heh.]

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This was such a great way to incorporate greens into a meal on a cold Winter’s night.  H told me she’d been craving pasta and this is what I came up with for her.


Fettuccini in a Garbanzo Bean and Walnut Sauce


1-15 oz can Garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 white onion

one bunch of collard greens [destemmed and cut length-wise into long strips 1/2 inch wide]

2 cloves of garlic

1/2 head radicchio

1/2 cup walnuts, oven roasted for 5 minutes at 400 degrees [Grind half of them into a meal in a food processor for the sauce]

pinch of red pepper flakes

zest of one lemon

vegetable stock  [Kitchen Basics is the brand I favor]

olive oil

fettuccini pasta [I used brown rice pasta this time, but any type would do]

toasted bread crumbs [I just blitzed a stale heel of a baguette in the food processor and then toasted in the oven for a few minutes]


Sauté onions and garlic in a couple teaspoons of olive oil for a few minutes and then toss in the pepper flakes.  Add garbanzo beans and some vegetable stock.  [I don’t give an amount for the vegetable stock because it’s a matter of taste, if you like a thinner pasta sauce use more stock.  Just add it a little bit at a time and if you over-add simply remove the lid of the pan, raise the flame on the stove and reduce it down.] Mash one half the beans in the pan and then add in the ground walnuts and lemon zest.  Adjust the volume of sauce to your liking with vegetable stock and then cover and let simmer gently.

While the above is happening, have a pot full of salted water heating to a boil for the pasta.  Once the water boils, toss in the collard greens and allow them to cook for about 5 minutes then transfer them into the pan with the sauce.  Add pasta and cook till al dente.   While the pasta is cooking, add the radicchio to the pan with the collards and sauce and fold in.  The radicchio will lose that gorgeous purple color turning a warm tobacco brown but will retain that wonderful bitter flavor.  When the pasta is ready, strain it and fold it gently into the greens and sauce along with the remaining walnuts and mix well.  Sprinkle the toasted bread crumbs onto the pasta once plated for a nice little textural crunch.

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White Bean and Collard Green Hummus

1 can white beans, drained
1 cup artichoke hearts, packed in oil
2 tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil
1 tbsp. capers, rinsed
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
5 collard green leaves, lightly steamed and diced
toasted pine nuts


Place the artichoke hearts, capers, half the sun-dried tomatoes and half the beans into a food processor and pulse till chunkily blended.  Add in the lemon juice and zest and the remaining beans.  Pulse quickly to mix but not so much that you lose the texture of the freshly added beans.  Remove from processor and add in the remaining sun-dried tomatoes, pine nuts and the diced collard greens.  If the texture is too thick, drizzle in some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes to loosen it.  An alternative if you’re trying to reduce your fat intake would be to loosen it up with some vegetable broth rather than oil.  Slather onto some grilled pita and chomp!  Delicious way to get in your greens.

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Alrighty!   Another way to use these amazing greens:  as a pocket!  I made up a caponata of sorts with lotsa wintery goodness, let it cool and then stuffed some steamed collard leaves.

Winter’s Stuffed Collards

1 cup eggplant, diced

1 cup butternut squash, diced

1/2 white onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/4 cup cooked wild rice

3 dried kalamata figs, diced

1/4 cup dried tart cherries

fresh thyme sprigs

olive oil

salt/pepper to taste

Collard leaves, de-stemmed [the thick part] steamed until pliable but still bright green


Drizzle in a bit of olive oil (couple of teaspoons worth) and heat.  Add in diced eggplant, squash, onion,  garlic, and a handful of thyme sprigs tied together with some kitchen string [really makes it easy to remove them later].  Sauté until the squash is slightly tender to a fork.  Add in dried fruit and wild rice.  Sauté for another few minutes and then set aside off the heat to cool.  Lightly steam the collard leaves and allow to cool.  Place a collard leaf flat on a cutting board and fill with a few tablespoons of the filling.  Roll up like a burrito or an egg roll.   After you have as many as you wish, place them into the steamer and heat through, shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.  Enjoy!

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Greens just plain rock!  Packed full of vitamins and minerals including one of the best non-dairy sources of calcium on the planet, collards are a great way to ensure that you’re on your way toward eating healthfully.  I’ll start off with a very basic recipe for a quick dose of goodness and then over the weeks include some more recipes on how to handle and add variety to these great greens.

Basic Braised Collard Greens

Collards, rinsed and de-stemmed and then sliced into strips [After destemming, stack the leaves atop one another and then roll together into a cylinder.  Cut across the roll into a chiffonade of 1/2 inch widths.]

Olive oil


Red Pepper Flakes

Vegetable broth

Dead simple.  Drizzle a little bit of olive oil into a pan, preferrably one with sides to it.  Add a clove or two of sliced garlic; mince it if you want a more potent dose of garlic flavor.  Toss in a pinch or two of red pepper flakes [ or none at all if you don’t like the heat] and stir about until the garlic releases it’s aroma.  Toss in the sliced collards and coat with the olive oil.  Cook for a few minutes and then pour in a bit of vegetable broth and cover.   The longer you cook them the softer they shall become.  H and I really like them cooked for a minimal amount of time; perhaps 5-10 minutes.  If you’re going to cook them longer make sure that you check the broth level so that they do not scorch.

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