Warm Portabello Salad

We all (probably) have a food out there that we really just do not enjoy. For me, I find mushrooms to be just unappetizing in every way. Periodically I try to eat them, but often find they return to my (very short) list of foods I avoid.

How then can you explain the mystery when in my produce box appeared this large almost romantically beautiful portabella mushroom? It sat in my fridge for 3 days. And every time I opened the door it seemed to be calling out to me, begging for my attention. One day, I couldn't take it any longer and I gave in. But, how would I enjoy this mushroom when half way through I knew it would once again feel slimy, taste dirty and remind me of its manure filled origin.

The only solution was to add as many of my favorite foods, while still highlighting this mysterious fungus.

First step: butter. I knew the taste would be a challenge therefore adding a bit of butter might help me to dive deeper into the mushroom. After I sliced the mushroom paper thin, I lightly sautéed them in a drizzle of coconut oil with just a bit of butter. The slices of portabella were ecstatic as they danced with the two fabulous fats, but I couldn't stop adding flavor. Thyme, white wine, and then as if a glorious cherry on top I splashed the mess with balsamic. It was a powerful punch and the sizzle and puff of smoke were almost overwhelming.

As the mushrooms melted with flavor I threw a large pile of one of my favorite, bitter greens, arugula into the middle of a salad plate. Once the portabella was satisfyingly hot I spread it onto the greens and watched them sigh and wilt slightly under the heat. I then shaved long slivers of parmesan cheese and a handful of crunched up fresh walnuts to decorate the top. My artwork was complete, but now for the taste by my worst critic... myself!

I loved it. The mushrooms are vinegary, but almost caramelized, the arugula bites back with bitterness that is sweetly met by the walnuts, which complement the rustic charm of the parmesan. So simple and yet my mysterious mushroom craving was finally met. Now, when I talk about mushrooms, I say I prefer not to eat them, unless of course they are in my Warm Portabella Salad.

Warm Portabella Salad
Serves 4-6

2 large portabellas, rinsed & dried to remove the dirt
1 tablespoon coconut oil (or other high heat vegetable oil)
1 tablespoon butter
3 sprigs fresh thyme
¼ cup white wine
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
6 cups argula and/or spinach
¼ cup walnuts, broken into pieces
2 ounces parmesan cheese, peeled

To begin, lay the portabella on the rounder side and slice thin. In a medium skillet, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat. Once it becomes hot and liquid-y add in the butter. As soon as the butter starts to sizzle, spread the mushroom slices in the pan. Allow to sizzle on one side for 4-6 minutes until it is lightly golden. Flip over and repeat on the other side. Continue until all slices are sautéed. When the pan is full of the cooked up mushrooms, add in the leaves of the fresh thyme and the white wine. Allow the wine to absorb for about 1 minute and then toss in the balsamic vinegar. Take care not to inhale the balsamic fumes.
Arrange the arugula and/or spinach on plates or in a salad bowl. Drizzle the balsamic sauce and portabellas on top of the greens, sprinkle with the walnuts and top with the Parmesan strips.

Here are a few other dishes for those who LOVE mushrooms:
Earthy Fig, Chicken & Mushroom Salad - I love the idea of adding Figs!
Bacon, Mushroom, Asparagus Salad -and adding bacon is always a good idea for masking a least favorite food ;)


Black-Eyed Peas & Collards

I have spent very little time in the Southern states and I am always intrigued by the beautiful and well-established food culture that seems so foreign to my palate. I have cooked for a lovely Southern couple for quite a while now and at the start they commented that my cuisine is more California then Southern and if there is an opportunity to put fat or sugar in a dish- I should go for it. You have to enjoy that license to cook!

I love the idea of black-eyed peas and the simplicity of preparing them even from scratch. I am came up with this recipe when I was following a detox and needed a clean, vegetable-bean dish that felt hearty and filling. Since I am no longer on the detox I occasionally toss in a few ham chunks, but without them this dish is Vegan. To give a smokey flavor I add in one of my favorite spices, smoked paprika which I buy from the lovely Savory Spice Shop. I am sure my clients would tell me without the ham hock in this dish more 'Californian' but what can I say- I spent a few years there and maybe Black-Eyed Peas needed a little West Coast love... or interpretation.

Black-eyed Peas unlike other beans do not need to be soaked prior to cooking. You can throw them in a pot rinsed & dry, cover with water and cook up for 45 minutes to an hour. If you want to speed things up a Pressure Cooker makes beans cook up like pasta- since it is only about 10-12 minutes in a pressure cooker.

Creole Black-eyed Peas with Collard Greens

1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans black eyed peas or 2 cups cooked black eyed peas
15 ounce can diced roasted tomatoes
1 (generous) teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 tbls fresh oregano
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon hot sauce (or to taste)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
6 ounces ham, cut into chunks (optional)

In a large pot over medium heat drizzle in the olive oil, sauté the onion and celery for about 5-6 minutes until tender. Add in the remaining ingredients, except the spicy cayenne, hot sauce and black pepper. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then start adding the spices seasoning to your desired taste. Stir in the ham chunks if using. Serve with the collard greens on the side.

Collard Greens

1 teaspoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced fine
1 bunch of collard greens, rinse of all of the dirt, shake dry & slice into short strips
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Add in the olive oil and garlic. Warm up and once the garlic starts to sizzle slightly (usually soon- so be ready) toss in the collard greens and sauté until the greens have just wilted.

Complete this meal with a side a cornbread! Maybe try out this Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Cornbread.

Here is a Black-eyed Pea Soup with Collards that looks lovely as well!


Pancakes with Bananas (gluten-free)

I am probably a strange American since I find the classic buttermilk type pancakes completely unappealing even when I was a kid. Just ask my husband who thinks pancakes are the best breakfast EVER. Soon after we were married, it became my mission to find out a way to make them enjoyable, because it would be a looooong marriage of pancake complaining (on both our parts) otherwise.

I have analyzed why I do not like pancakes. First, I prefer proteins in the morning and rarely something sweet or high in white carbohydrates. My blood sugar goes through the roof and then I am sad and grumpy for the rest of the day. A fact that hubby seems to not mind from time to time in exchange for his beloved breakfast. I also find pancakes to be boring, often too baking powder-y tasting and syrup gaggingly sweet first thing in the morning.

I did discover I like fluffy, fluffy pancakes and with the help of a Brit, Jamie Oliver, I finally found a pancake I could enjoy… occasionally. His recipe is simple, contains protein rich eggs and over time I have adapted it to be even more appealing to my glycemic levels, by including a bit of almond flour. I recently found that an egg on the side keeps my blood sugar from crashing and provides even more pancakes to my husband- no more complaints from him for so many reasons!

We have also adapted the recipe to be gluten-free just because the flours are available in our pantry and it is a great place to use them. I don’t bother with adding any corn/potato starches or Xantham gums, but if you feel they will lack the “gluten” texture a pinch of those added to the flour could help.

Instead of all of that maple syrup I sauté whatever fruit I have lying around in a bit of butter with a splash or two of the syrup as well. Hubby has taught me to also warm the syrup and serve it in a little side dish, dunking each bite to perfection.

With this recipe I used bananas- in honor of one of our favorite Jack Johnson songs, Banana Pancakes, (which we of course sing whenever we make pancakes) but apples, pears, plums, berries or whatever is ripe and ready would all be a lovely substitution. Even rehydrated dried fruits would work well.

Please welcome the new Lilly-enjoyable-Hubby-Loveable-lower-glycemic-Pancakes:

Gluten-Free Pancakes with Banana-Nut Sauté

Serves 2 (generously)

3 eggs, separated

½ cup brown rice flour (or other flour of your choice)

½ cup almond flour (or other flour of your choice)

1 teaspoon baking powder

pinch of salt

½ cup milk plus 2 tablespoons (soy, almond, or even water will work instead)

3 tablespoons butter

1 banana, roughly sliced

about 8 pecan or walnut halves, broken into pieces

2 tablespoons juice (often orange, water could work in a pinch)

1 sprinkle of cinnamon

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Place the egg yolks in a large bowl and the egg whites in another to be whisked. Stir the flours, baking powder, salt and milk in with the yolks. Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold together.

Place a cast iron pan or non-stick skillet over medium heat. Rub a bit of the butter around the pan. Scoop on some of the batter- an ice cream scoop works nicely and helps the pancakes come out to the same size.

Cook the pancakes on one side until the wet side appears slightly dry, check the bottom, when it is a golden color flip them over and cook until the opposite side is golden. Continue with the remaining batter. As each pancake finishes place them in the serving dish in a warm oven (about 180-200 degrees).

Meanwhile, place the remaining butter in a separate skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the banana slices and sear until slightly golden. Toss and sauté them until they are hot and steamy leaving big chunks. Add in the broken nuts, juice cinnamon and maple syrup (add more of each to your desired taste). Simmer for a minute, reduce the heat and keep warm until the pancakes are done and serve alongside.

When the pancakes are all complete, add in however much maple syrup you will be using to the wiped out pan. Heat for just 1-2 minutes and serve in small bowls for each diner.


Ginger-Cranberry Relish

We have spent the last several days relaxing and enjoying Christmas with my wonderful Mother-in-Law, Sharon. For Christmas dinner we enjoyed an amazing roast duck that we roasted on the barbeque and last night she invited a few of her friends (of Three Sisters Laughing) over for Turkey dinner. We again roasted it on the barbeque which had an amazing way of clearing space in the kitchen so we could use the oven for the rest of the dishes.

One of the biggest hits of the evening, especially for Sharon was my Ginger-Cranberry Relish. It is seriously the easiest way to get cranberries on a Holiday table (well, arguably opening a can is probably easier, but if you prefer freshness over cans I am still right).

This relish does rely on a food processor to make it. I plan to figure out a non-food processor recipe, but in the meantime do what you can to borrow one if need be as it is worth the ease and is delicious. Or if you are potluck-ing your holiday ask a guest to throw this one together.

You can also make this several days prior and the flavors meld and merge to be even more satisfying.

So, here is the recipe for you Sharon! Thank you for hosting us in your sweet home for the Holidays and being such a great sous-chef, too!

Cranberry-Ginger Relish
12 ounces cranberries (1 standard size bag)
1 whole orange, (thin-skinned if possible, navels work well)
¾ cup sugar (or more to taste)
¼ cup crystallized ginger, chopped
1 inch piece fresh ginger, finely minced
1 teaspoon ground ginger

Rinse the cranberries and sort through removing any that are no longer appetizing looking. Cut the orange into 8 pieces, removing any seeds. Place all of the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse lightly until everything is well chopped but not to mushy. Taste and add a touch more sugar or ginger if needed.

Enjoy alongside Turkey dinners or as a spread on Turkey Sandwiches.


Pomegranate-Orange Salad

Tis’ the season for this beautiful jeweled fruit!
I can’t think of a more festive fruit then the sparkly seeds of a pomegranate. Seriously, for me the Holidays are all about Red and Sparkles and what could satisfy that more than a “natural” version of Red-Sparkles.

This salad is a also a refreshing addition to the starch laden sides that grace most of our tables. Fruit, lettuce, a simple dressing and a touch a creamy goat cheese in between equal pure loveliness.

Removing the jewels can be a bit of a challenge. Simply cut in half and break into pieces. If you are like me, you will also want to cover yourself in an apron and protect anything else that make become splattered by your efforts. Some people break them apart underwater, but that will not work for this recipe as you want to reserve some of the bright red juice for the dressing.

Pomegranate-Orange Salad
4-6 servings
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 pomegranate, outside washed
2 oranges
1 teaspoon white wine or champagne vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper (more to taste)
1/2 cup pecans, broken & crumbled
4 ounces goat cheese
4 cups of spring lettuce greens

Start with the red onion, place in warm water to mellow out the astringent flavors while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Cut the pomegranate in half. Working over a colander with a bowl below (and protective clothing on your body if you are like me and spray juice all over) gently loosen the seeds from the membranes breaking the pieces a part as needed. Discard the white membranes and allow any juices to drizzle into the bowl.

Slice off each end of one of the oranges. Carefully slice down along the orange, removing all of the skin and white pitch, just the fleshy center will be exposed without any of the white pith on the outside. Next cut down through the middle of the slices (leaving the pieces long) remove any seeds lay on the flat side and thinly slice along the oranges, so you have pretty fanned-half moon pieces. Any excess juice on the cutting board can be scraped into the bowl with the pomegranate juice.

Cut the second orange in half and juice it. You will want at least a 1/2 cup of juice. Add the vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil slowly and season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the lettuce on individual plates or salad bowls or in one large bowl. Arrange the orange segments and drained red onions on top, sprinkle on the pecans and goat cheese and top with the pomegranate seeds. Drizzle a few tablespoons of the dressing on top and enjoy.