Feeling green…

My brownstone apartment in NYC was south-facing, which meant that it was sunny and bright throughout the year, even during the short days of winter.  I took advantage of this to have my own little window sill garden in the city.  At one point, though, the herbs were more like a jungle – they liked the sun and plant food a little too much and I was too busy to prune them back.  Fortunately, my roommates didn’t seem to mind.

I just recently purchased a basil plant and was inspired to make an avocado based basil salad dressing, something akin to the dressing used for one of J’s favorite salads at Trader Joe’s – a chopped field greens salad with chicken, Israeli couscous, and a basil vinaigrette.

The avocado herb dressing is quite versatile, and can be adjusted to the preferred consistency – left a little thicker, it would be a great dip.  Made a little thinner w/ additional olive oil and/or lemon juice, it makes a luscious salad dressing that goes well with kale salads, radishes, and other bold greens.

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Avocado Herb Dressing

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup avocado, cubed
  • 3.5 oz Fage plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 large garlic clove clove, smashed
  • 2 tbl chopped scallions
  • 2 tbl chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup packed basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • ~2.5 tbl ponzu, or 1 tbl white wine vinegar + 1.5 tbl lemon juice
  • 4-5 tbl good olive oil
  • 1.5 tbl honey
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
  • freshly ground pepper
  • red chili pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions:

Place all of the above ingredients in a food processor or small blender and process until smooth.  Adjust seasonings to taste.  If dressing is too thick, add water in small amounts to thin dressing to desired consistency.

Dress salad and enjoy!

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How do you like your crab cakes?

Apparently, I favor my crab cakes more crab-by with little filler, while J prefers his not quite as dense with crab.  I guess it’s too filling to have less filler, and he’d rather be able to eat more crab cakes!

We have both spent a good amount of time back East, and we both remember gathering with friends to devour bushels of Maryland blue crab smothered in the ubiquitous Old Bay seasoning.  I’m pretty sure the salt content in that rub would send more than several of my patients’ blood pressure through the roof, but in moderation it is very tasty indeed!   Learning to pry open crabs with my fingers, drenching humidity, and the addictive spices in Old Bay seasoning are some of my vivid associations with summers in D.C.

I used a recipe from Cooking Light to make crab cake sliders the other night for dinner, and they were perfect with the warm weather we are having.  After a run along the beach and soaking in the sunshine, these little sliders reminded us that spring break and summer fun are not that far away.  J enjoyed his with a cool, refreshing beer.  I enjoyed mine with extra dill sauce ;).

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Crab Cake Sliders with Yogurt Dill Sauce (recipe adapted from here)

Ingredients:

  • 8 whole-wheat slider buns
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I used Meyer lemon)
  • 1/2 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion
  • 6 tablespoons plain fat-free Greek yogurt, divided
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh dill, divided
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 2/3 cup whole-wheat panko
  • 8 ounces lump crabmeat, drained and shell pieces removed
  • 4 teaspoons canola oil
  • 1 1/2 cups baby arugula or mixed baby greens

Instructions:

1. Preheat broiler to high. Hollow out buns, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick shell. Arrange buns in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until lightly toasted. **

2. Place 1/4 cup vinegar and sugar in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds. Stir in red onion. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain.

3. Combine  1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3 tablespoons yogurt, and  1 tablespoon dill in a small bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

4. Combine remaining 3 tablespoons yogurt, 1 tablespoon dill, bell pepper, and next 5 ingredients (through yolk). Add panko and crab, stirring to combine. Working with damp hands, divide crab mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each into a 3/4-inch-thick patty.

5. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add crab cakes to pan; cook 4 minutes on each side or until golden and thoroughly heated.

6. Spread 1 teaspoon yogurt mixture on bottom half of each bun. Top with 1 patty. Divide onions and arugula among sliders. Top with top halves of buns.

**J wanted to use fluffier bread for the crab cakes, so we used a cookie cutter to cut rounds from garlic naan bread, which we then pan-toasted until lightly crispy on the outside to use in lieu of hamburger buns.  

Let them eat…carrots!

Roasted rainbow carrots with toasted cumin and a blood orange vinaigrette, to be exact!

I should have celebrated 3.14.15 (Pi) day with pie, but we somehow didn’t get around to that with all of the other festivities planned for my birthday.  Nor did we have cake, which I guess is a little odd but not missed.  It was the first birthday J and I were able to celebrate together in the same place, so he took it upon himself to plan it all.  Knowing how I’ve missed my friends while in NYC, he somehow managed to gather people from all different phases of my life (college, SF/residency, NYC/fellowship) for fun and food.  As it so happens, my college roommate’s birthday is Pi day, so we were able to celebrate with her, too.  We were just missing pie!  Between dim sum, macarons, wine flights, and late – night tapas, however, there was no time (or calorie deficit) to allow for pie (or cake).

Amidst all the indulgences of the weekend, it was so nice to cleanse the palate with something a little lighter, which somehow bridges the winter-spring transition quite nicely using winter citrus and root vegetables, for perhaps the last time.  I’ve always loved having a March birthday – it’s always a month of hope regardless of where you live, as the vestiges of winter are shaken off and spring warmth slowly seeps in.  We lose some of that seasonality in CA, but even here you can feel the difference as March roars in but leaves gentle green buds in its wake.

This late winter salad, inspired by Ludo Lefebvre’s Roasted Carrot Salad, surprised J into saying “You may make me into a vegetarian yet.”  Carrots are a great source of beta-carotene and vitamin A.  Enjoy!

Roasted Rainbow Carrot Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette

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Ingredients:

For the carrots:

  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1-1½ pounds small rainbow carrots, approximately 5 inches in length, scrubbed clean and tops trimmed (if using larger carrots, peel and slice into sticks about 4-5 inches in length)
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 6 cloves of unpeeled garlic, smashed (use more if you like garlic)
  • 5 to 7 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  •  Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the blood orange vinaigrette:

  • 2 blood oranges, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  •  cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the cumin crema:

  • 1 cup nonfat greek yogurt (Fage)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  •  Pinch kosher salt

For the salad:

  • ½ small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped roasted almonds
  • 2 blood oranges, cut into supremes
  • 3-4 tablespoons of chopped herbs: parsley, tarragon, chervil, or chives
  •  Kosher salt or fleur de sel

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Toast the cumin for both the carrots and the yogurt in a small pan set over medium heat until it becomes aromatic. Remove from heat, and set aside.
  2. Mix together the carrots, bay leaf, smashed garlic, thyme and olive oil in a bowl. Sprinkle 1/2 teaspoon cumin over the carrots, and mix again.
  3. Tip the carrot mixture onto a sheet pan, and spread evenly into one layer.  Season with salt and pepper and place in oven. Roast until the carrots are soft and beginning to caramelize, 30 to 45 minutes.
  4. Remove carrots from oven, discard aromatics and set aside to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, make the vinaigrette. Combine blood-orange juice, vinegar, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl, and whisk to incorporate. Slowly add the olive oil while continuing to whisk, until the dressing is emulsified. Add the carrots to the bowl, and toss to combine.
  6. Make the cumin crema by combining the nonfat Fage greek yogurt, lemon juice and remaining toasted cumin in a mixing bowl.  Stir well to combine.  Add a pinch of salt.
  7. Assemble the salad on a large serving plate. Put the cumin crema in the center of the plate, and using the back of a spoon, spread it evenly across the bottom. Arrange the carrots on top of the greek yogurt. Sprinkle the onion and the nuts on top of the carrots, then add the supremes of blood orange. Sprinkle the herbs across the top of the salad, and finish with a pinch or two of salt. Make a mess when serving, so that everyone gets plenty of the cumin crema along with the vegetables.