Monday, March 2, 2015

Cauliflower and Celery Root Chowder {#MeatlessMonday #Vegan #GlutenFree}

Cauliflower and celery root, also known as celeriac, meet up with curry and light coconut milk for a healthy, low calorie vegan chowder featuring produce from San Diego's Specialty Produce.


This flavorful, gorgeous soup came into being after I was given a Farmers' Market Box from Specialty Produce during a San Diego Food Blogger's Instameet at their warehouse this past weekend. The box included a head of bok choy, a beautiful large head of cauliflower, three big gorgeous red spring onions, a head of garlic, two limes, a bag of parsnips, a bag of fingerling potatoes, hydro butter lettuce, two Hass avocados, one sumo mandarin orange, and one bunch of Easter egg radishes. 

Now get this guys, yes to be honest, I received this box as a gift in exchange for spreading the word about the Farmers' Market Box program. But this box with all this fresh from the farm produce if I had bought it would only have set me back $20. Let me rewind a bit to give you some perspective: I recently cancelled my first ever CSA membership from another outfit that was doing some pretty heavy promotion door-to-door in my neighborhood. The box from there was $26 and was delivered to my door, which was quite convenient and is what sold me on them in the first place. However, I cancelled because three deliveries in a row (I only stayed with them through four deliveries) half the produce was beyond it's prime. I mean, opening up the box and the kale (A LOT of it, by the way) was already turning yellow, tomatoes where starting to get wrinkled skin, fruit was either under ripe or overripe not to mention who really eats an entire box of shishito peppers three deliveries in a row? Also, delivery was on Tuesdays. I do the majority of my cooking on the weekends, especially for this blog. Come Saturday, most of the produce was no longer useable. Big waste of money. 

But the produce in this box? Gorgeous I tell you. And talking with other food bloggers who have been getting boxes every two weeks for quite some time now, say the produce is so fresh that it easily will last the entire two weeks without showing any signs of spoilage. How is it that the produce from Specialty Produce stays fresh so long? Well, they have a 2-3 day turnover maximum for all the produce coming in and out of the warehouse. Restaurants in San Diego count on Specialty Produce to provide premium quality produce and the awesome part is that the warehouse is open to the public. Plus, we were told during the tour that they can pick and choose the best of what is available to create these Farmers' Market Boxes for their members. You just don't know how excited I am to hear this and how much I'm looking forward to signing up and receiving my next box!


Okay, so toning down the excitement for a minute to get back to this soup. From the box, I pulled out the cauliflower, onions and garlic. Look at the color of those red spring onions! So gorgeous!


The beautiful poblano I picked up at Specialty Produce while I was there for the tour. The carrot was already in my veggie bin at home. Also, I've had this celery root hanging around for about three weeks now, waiting for inspiration to use it. It's my first ever celery root, also known as celeriac, and truth be told, I've been a little intimidated by it's gnarly looks to attempt cutting into it and using it in recipes. However, I've been told by a few that it's a great stand in for potatoes. Looking at it and looking at my cauliflower, I decided chowder was the ticket.


As I started gathering additional ingredients from my pantry, I saw I had light coconut milk and that's when I decided to keep this soup vegan, using the coconut milk in place of cream. Too keep the soup gluten free, I also decided that I'd puree part of the soup to help thicken instead of adding flour. Once I decided on the coconut milk, the spices naturally came together. I've added plenty of turmeric not only for it's gorgeous color but because the spice is beneficial as an anti-inflammatory and helps to reduce glucose levels and lower insulin resistance in Type 2 diabetes. Ginger helps improve insulin sensitivity so it went in, along with curry, coriander and a bit of ground cardamom.


So that's pretty much how I often come up with recipes. One ingredient leads to another. Then that leads to another and before I know it, those ingredients are telling me which spices to use and how to prepare them. Sure, sometimes what I think the outcome will be is far from the reality and I'll need to tweak ingredients or preparation but just as often, a recipe will be pretty spot on right out of the gate. Like this soup.


Let's talk celery root for a moment. I love potatoes and removing them as a staple in my diet was one of the most difficult parts of revamping my dietary habits. I can count on one had the number of times I've had potatoes since this past June. I used to have potatoes almost DAILY. Not too long ago, I pinned a recipe of this luscious sounding potato gratin and lamented on Facebook over not being able to even try remaking that dish into a healthier version because I am staying away from potatoes. A friend responded that I could sub in celery root for most recipes that called for potatoes. What?! I researched and found others said the same thing. One cup of celery root is only 42 calories with zero fat and cholesterol. It has only 9g of carbohydrate with 2 grams of dietary fiber and no sugars. With a glycemic load of only 3, this is now looking like a vegetable I'm going to be experimenting with more often. (Check out this video on a step-by-step on how to cut.)


Look at the color of this soup! This is the half that was pureed before I added back the reserved whole vegetables. Such a gorgeous color. 


I wanted differing textures in the soup, so while it was simmering, I hopped into the car and drove to the nearest store to pick up a fresh loaf of whole grain bread to make my own croutons (Yay! for a break from the rain). The smell of the garlic croutons toasting in the oven, mingled with the soup bubbling away on the stove made my tummy rumble and made me impatient to finish the plated shot so I could dig in for breakfast (that turned out to be after lunchtime). This soup is warm and comforting. Perfect to keep the chill at bay. Continue to end for recipe.

A little more about the tour and Specialty Produce


Specialty Produce is located at 1929 Hancock St, Ste 150 in San Diego (92110). There's plenty of street parking available with some reserved customer parking at the corner of Hancock and Noell Street. To enter, walk past the loading dock and up the walkway along the back fence. When you enter the warehouse, you'll find a painted yellow stripe on the floor that leads you to the check-in table. First-timers must sign a waiver of liability, it is, after all, a working warehouse with lots of pallets being moved about, wet floors and stacked boxes everywhere. Subsequent visits, no waiver signing is needed but you do still need to sign-in. Upon your first visit, the friendly staff is available to answer any questions or show you around to help familiarize you with what is available and where to find everything. Also located at the the check-in table are rubber gloves. You must wear gloves while shopping to avoid touching produce bare-handed. It's also highly suggested that you wear a jacket or sweater as the large walk-in coolers are very chilly.


The first big walk-in cooler has both organic produce and sustainably farmed produce (for now, that is, as a new, larger, dedicated organic produce walk-in is under construction). All the produce looked so good, it made me want to take a little of everything! Seriously, the creative juices where flowing. When shopping, don't be afraid to pick whatever looks great to you. Feel free to open a box and take as little or as many as you like. The only caveat being not to separate produce that obviously is sold in bunches (carrots, radishes, etc.) or to tear into produce that is sealed in a bag (i.e., loose leaf lettuce, bagged herbs, 1 pound bags of produce, etc.).


After the tour of the warehouse, lead by Cassandra Poindexter, Specialty Produce's Retail Manager, we got a little more history on the story of some of the produce available plus it was time to taste!
Truly, the rainbow of colors was something to behold. Amazing to see what nature provides us with. Why would anyone want to eat orange puffs of air when they have these beauties staring them in the face? Real, whole foods equals health and wellness and lately, I can't get enough of it!


Some food bloggers tasting the biggest sugar snap peas I have ever seen. They were so incredibly crisp and sweet, it was like eating nature's candy. From left to right, that's Broderick of savoryexposure.com, Mimi of mimiavocado.com, Brandon of kitchenkonfidence.com, and Holly of fmitk.com.

For more information about the Farmers' Market Box, check out the information here.

Ready to make this soup? I think you're gonna love it! Have an incredible week you guys. Until next time... xo, ani


CAULIFLOWER & CELERY ROOT CHOWDER
I made this vegan by using vegetable broth in place of my usual chicken broth and I swapped in light coconut milk in place of heavy cream. Don't pass on the croutons or the bell pepper garnishes. The crunch from the toasted whole grain bread is a nice compliment to the tender veggies and the sweet, cool crispness of the bell pepper adds another layer of texture and flavor. To boast the nutritional value, I've adde nutritional yeast flakes. Feel free to leave them out.

Makes 8 generous 2 cup servings

INGREDIENTS
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1 poblano (aka, pasilla)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups cauliflower florets with stems chopped into ½-inch pieces (1 large head)
4 cups chopped celery root (½-inch pieces), about 1 medium root
2 large carrots, peeled and diced into ½-inch pieces
1 cup red spring onion, thinly sliced, or red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 cups low sodium organic vegetable broth
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground green cardamom
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes, optional
1 can (13.5 ounces) light coconut milk

For croutons
4 ½-slices whole grain bread
3 teaspoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
pinch sea salt, or to taste

For garnish
finely chopped red bell pepper
green tops of spring onion, finely sliced
lime wedges, optional


DIRECTIONS


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1. Place a small cake rack on a gas burner. Place poblano on rack and turn heat to high. Roast until all sides of chile are blackened, turning chile by the stem (use tongs if needed). Alternately, place chile on a small rimmed baking sheet and set under a broiler to char. Remove charred chile to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Chop cauliflower, celery root, carrots, onions and garlic. Place a dutch oven or heavy bottomed soup pot on medium heat. Drizzle in olive oil. When shimmering, add onions, carrots and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often to keep garlic from burning. Toss in the cauliflower and celery root. Pour in broth; add spices, stirring well to incorporate. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer. In the meantime, remove chile from bowl and peel away charred skin. Do not rinse chile. If necessary, rinse hands often to remove charred chile skin from hands while peeling. Cut top off of chile, run knife down length of chile to open up and remove all seeds. Chop chile and stir into soup pot. Continue simmering for 25 to 30 minutes or until vegetables are fork tender.

4. While soup is simmering, make croutons. Cut whole wheat bread slices into 1/2-inch cubes and place onto a rimmed baking sheet, piled in the center of the pan. Drizzle olive oil evenly over bread and top off with garlic. Toss well to combine and spread bread out across pan in a single layer. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Place sheet pan in oven and bake for 6 minutes. Remove pan from oven, flip bread with a spatula, return to oven and bake for 4-6 more minute or until golden brown. Remove croutons, place in small bowl and set aside.

5. When vegetables are fork tender, stir coconut milk into soup pot. Remove half of the vegetables from pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the remaining soup in the pot. Alternately, add remaining soup to a blender, in batches, and blend until smooth. Return blended soup to pot along with reserved vegetables and stir well to combine. Taste soup for seasoning, adding more salt or pepper to taste. Divide soup between 8 large soup bowls. Top with croutons and garnish with peppers and onions. Squeeze a bit of lime juice over the bowls, to taste.

Per 2 cup serving (including croutons): CAL 187  CARB 29g  FIBER 8g  FAT 7  PROTEIN 6g  SODIUM 334mg  SUGAR 11g


Disclosure: I received one Farmers' Market Box from Specialty Produce as part of the San Diego Food Bloggers Instameet that included a tour of the warehouse and a tasting of some of their produce in exchange for social media promotion. No other compensation was received. As always, recipe and all opinions and observations are my own and not influenced by Specialty Produce.






Monday, February 23, 2015

Enfrijoladas {#MeatlessMonday}


"What did you make yesterday?" asked my mother during a visit early Sunday afternoon knowing that I devote my Saturdays to cooking and shooting for this space.

"Remember the tortillas in beans that you used to make for us?"

"Yes, of course," she answered. "That's what you made?"

I laughed. "Yes," I answered. "Did you know that it's a real Mexican dish with an actual name? It's called 'enfrijoladas' and legend says that it started at rancheros as a quick, hearty and inexpensive meal to serve to ranch hands. It fueled the workers so they could endure the hard work that comes with running a ranch and working out in the fields."

"Who knew?," she said. "I thought it was just something we made up. I guess it's just a dish that comes naturally to Mexicans," she laughed.

Indeed. Later, I mentioned it to my father who gave me a strange look when I described it to him. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said looking at me like I was nuts. My mind raced quickly back in time, scanning childhood memories. Nope. I don't think dad ever partook of such a meal. Dad is a meat and potatoes guy. From carne asada, tripe, homemade chorizo to BBQ ribs, stuffed pork loin and beef stew, he really hasn't met a cut of meat he didn't like. Vegetarian meals are not in his culinary vocabulary. So it makes sense that this comfort food was one shared just between us girls and my mother who learned it from her mother as there are tons of memories of eating it at my grandparent's house.


This is total Mexican comfort food. Depending on what region of Mexico, recipes for this dish call for either black beans or pinto. Our family only ate pinto beans so that's what we used for enfrijoladas. In fact, I'd never seen black beans until I was in college eating Cuban food for the first time. Now it's one of my favorite beans although my father still wrinkles his nose at the mere mention of them which explains why they never made an appearance in our house.


Making this dish is super simple and really budget-friendly which is an important consideration when you are raising a family with five kids. It was a tasty way to stretch one meal into two. Basically, we would take leftover beans, reheat them, mashing them with enough water to make them soupy and sauce-like. Then we'd dunk a warmed corn tortilla into them, carefully fishing it out and folding it onto a plate with plenty of beans clinging to it. We'd often top it with a healthy dollop of sour cream (personally, I preferred ketchup. Don't knock it. Refried beans and ketchup taste delicious). Dinner served.


Pinto beans and corn tortillas have always been a staple in my home as an adult. So on many occasions when I hadn't made it to the grocery store and I'd come home famished from work, this was a quick dinner. It also makes a frequent appearance during lent. Although, now I've graduated to topping it with a little queso fresco (a soft, mild farmer's cheese), panela (a soft, curd-like mild, crumbly cheese) or cotija (a hard, parmesan-like dry cheese) in addition to a smaller dollop of sour cream than I used to when I was a kid.

Sometimes, a meal doesn't need to be complicated to be good. This is one such meal. As my sister Deb is fond of saying after a satisfying meal, "Panza llena, corazón contenta." Full stomach, satisfied heart.

Make this and see for yourself.

Until next time … xo, ahi


ENFRIJOLADAS
This dish has a higher carbohydrate count than I normally eat these days but the beans are high in fiber and protein so even though it's not an "everyday eats" kind of meal, I am nonetheless content to have it every now and again. 

Homemade beans will give you the best taste but canned beans will do just fine. Feel free to use a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce in the beans to spice it up a bit instead of the jalapeño juice listed in the recipe. Or, you can also add chili powder to taste. 

As for serving, our family always just folded it up and ate it as is but you could always lay it flat after coating it with the sauce, fill it with some Monterey Jack cheese and roll them up like an enchilada if you want a little more "filling" in addition to the beans clinging to the tortilla. Also, skip the cheese altogether for a vegan meal.

Yield: 6 servings (2 tortillas each)

INGREDIENTS
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2 teaspoons canola oil
3 cups cooked pinto beans, drained (or 28 ounce can)
1 ½ cups cooking liquid from homemade beans (or water, vegetable broth)
2 tablespoons juice from a small can of jalapeño peppers
12 corn tortillas (6 inches)

For garnish:
3 ounces queso fresco
chopped cilantro
sliced jalapeño (canned or fresh)
sliced avocado
sour cream or Mexican crema

DIRECTIONS
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1. Place a serving platter in the oven and turn oven on to Warm setting.  

2. Heat a small pot big enough to fit the tortilla on medium high heat. Drizzle oil into the hot pan, swirl to cover the bottom of the pan. Add the beans, stirring to heat through. Pour in the liquid of choice and use a potato masher to mash the beans (for a finer texture, whirr with an emersion blender for 30-40 seconds, or until desired texture). Add the jalapeño juice, stirring to combine. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, whisking periodically to keep the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

2. Wrap tortillas loosely in a clean kitchen towel. Microwave for 30 seconds on high. Remove from oven and shuffle, re-wrap and microwave for another 30-45 seconds or until pliable. 

3. Prepare garnishes and place in serving bowls; set aside until ready to serve.

4. Prepare workstation by placing the tortillas, beans, dinner-sized plate and serving platter from left to right. Dunk a tortilla into the beans, submerging it and immediately fish it out with tongs, being careful not to tear, and place on a plate. Fold the tortilla into a triangle and use a spatula to move it to a warmed serving platter (or straight onto individual dinner plates, serving 2 tortillas per plate). Repeat with remaining tortillas. Serve immediately allow diners to top theirs with any combination of recommended garnishes, to taste.

Per serving (estimated data includes cheese but not other toppings):
CAL 290   CARB 45g   FIBER 16g   FAT 8g   PROTEIN 14g   SODIUM 158mg   SUGAR 2g