italian marinated eggplant & my whole 30 week 3 recap

melanzane sottolio
Me: I did it!
You: What have you done?
Me: I’ve completed my third week of the Whole 30! I’ve cruised through the half way point, even went out to eat and found something on the menu to suit me without a hitch. I’m feeling absolutely incredible physically, mentally, and emotionally, and now I’m headed to an awesome festival in Costa Rica for the next 8 days and I intend to stick to the plan!

[Screeching halt of breaks. A spotlight centers on the dialogue bubbles.]

You: How do you intend to do that… there?
Me: I don’t really know…
But I’m trying my best to figure out how!
I’ve packed a bunch of nuts and some other Whole 30 approved dry goods, I plan to hit a fruit stand on my way to the event to get some avocados and other tropical deliciousness, and then I hope that they’ll be serving fresh caught fish and other tasty grilled meats once I’m there. I won’t have a way to cook for myself but I have no problem asking for what I need and a majority of the people I will be with eat healthy too.

I just really hope I can resist the nectar of the agave gods while I’m down there. Good tequila is my weakness. Instead, I will drink in the sunrises and sunsets and imbibe the high vibes of all the other party goers. This will be the greatest test of will I’ve ever faced in this lifetime and it will certainly be nothing short of phenomenal. Wish me luck!

Bet you thought I was going to play the tequila song, didn’t you? Psych! I grew up on the Eagles so this is what song comes to mind first when I think about that muy bueno inebriant that makes me feel so muy bueno… lest I digress.

So, on to this week’s recipe!

I’ve been craving a burger and was wondering what I could use in place of a bun, then this recipe came to mind…
When I lived in Italy and worked in the kitchen of Casa Cares, this was a favorite of mine. In Italian, it’s called “melanzane sott’olio” which literally translates to eggplant (or aubergine, depending where you hail from) under oil. It’s simple to prepare yet it takes time, most of which is inactive, but it’s so tasty it’s so very worth it.
marinated eggplant ingredients
Italian Marinated Eggplant (aka Melanzane Sott’olio)

Prep time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Active prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 2 hours 45 minutes
Serves 4-6

1 large eggplant (about 1 pound)
¾ cup chopped italian parsley
3 cloves chopped garlic
2 cups extra virgin olive oil

  • Slice the eggplant into half inch thick rounds. It’s important they’re all the same thickness so they roast evenly. In a mixing bowl, place one layer then salt them, add another layer and salt, and another until all the rounds are in the bowl with salt on them. Let them sit for 2 hours or more to allow the salt to leach the water out of them.
  • When 2 hours are up, preheat your oven to 325 degrees.
  • Oil the bottom of a baking sheet (preferably non stick), drain the water from the bowl and arrange the eggplant in a single layer.
  • Roast for 30 minutes then flip each piece and roast for another 10 minutes. During that 10 minute interval, chop the garlic and parsley.
  • Find a dish with a lid and, one layer at a time, add a piece of eggplant, sprinkle with garlic and parsley, drizzle with oil, until you’ve added all the pieces, then cover with oil.
  • Cover and let marinate for at least an hour, then serve.

*Because there is raw garlic in this dish, I recommend eating it within a few days or else it goes bad. No need for botulism here!

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Since I will be in Costa Rica next week through the weekend, I won’t be able to post my regularly scheduled blog but I am going to try to continue making daily updates to my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, so you can peep my adventures there.

Hope you enjoy and have fun cooking!

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cashew cauliflower rice & week 2 of my whole 30

week2-bld-whole30
Some highlights from this past week (left to right):
Breakfast – Two pastured eggs, basted medium, over a bed of kale sauteed in coconut oil and cashew cauliflower rice;
Lunch – A salad of organic spinach greens, steamed yams, shredded beets and purple cabbage, plum tomatoes, pepitas, and baked chicken breast tenders tossed in my savory herb vinaigrette (sans the tamari);
Dinner – Seared ahi tuna steaks smothered in sunshine sauce over a bed of cashew cauliflower rice with a side of steamed broccoli and plum tomatoes.

Second week of my Whole 30 is behind me and I have to admit, it was tougher than my first week.

The most difficult thing about this week was my digestion. I took solace in the fact that this was to be expected – as the Hartwigs mention in their book, It Starts With Food, it can take a couple weeks or more for the body to get “fat adapted” and in the meantime there can be various side effects including digestive issues. However, now as I round the corner into my third week, things are moving along smoothly (pun intended).

Speaking of noticeable benefits this past week, I’ve had super steady energy throughout my long work days, I’ve been sleeping like a rock, and waking up early without my alarm… loving it!

Over the past week, I’ve received several requests for my cashew cauliflower rice recipe so here it is – so incredibly simple, delicious, and a great base for sauces and other gooey things (like runny eggs), you can spice it up any which way you like by adding other spices, herbs, veggies, or even dried fruit to satiate your sweet tooth.

cashew cauliflower rice-ingredients
Cashew Cauliflower Rice
tweaked from a Well Fed recipe

Prep time: 2 minutes
Ready in: 25 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

1 head of cauliflower
1 cup of raw cashews
2 tablespoons of coconut oil
dash of salt
sprinkle of pepper

    • Break up the head of cauliflower into florets and blend in food processor for 15 seconds on low, then another 5-10 seconds on medium or high – just until it reaches a grainy looking consistency. Be careful not to over blend or else it will get mushy.
    • Toast the cashews in a hot cast iron skillet or heavy pan turning every 30 seconds until nice and brown – about 5 minutes.
    • Add the coconut oil, letting it melt, then add the cauliflower and sautée on high heat stirring every minute or so until some of the moisture cooks out and it starts to get toasty – about 15 minutes.
    • Salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!

Seriously, it’s that easy! If you’re prepping for the week, it keeps super well in the fridge and reheats nicely and gets even more toasty after just a couple minutes in a skillet on the stovetop – no additional oil necessary!

Check out my daily Whole 30 updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and have fun cooking!

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cashew cauliflower rice
As always, your thoughts and questions are welcomed in the comments section below.

roasted pine nut hummus

roasted pine nut hummus
Hummus is a Mediterranean dip made of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic, lemon juice, and spices. I’ve been a hummus connoisseur for quite some time and I wasn’t super fond of many that were out on the market so I started trying to make it myself. For several years I could never get it quite right, following recipes from cookbooks or off other sites, then one day I discovered the secret… it’s all about warm beans! Say goodbye to chunky hummus with a watery consistency! I prefer to start from dried beans but if you decide to use canned beans (which is totally okay) heat them up for about 5 minutes. Definitely don’t cook them as long as I indicate or they will get hard and… not so delicious.

This recipe is smooth, creamy, and very flavorful with the roasted pine nuts… I think I’ve finally perfected it and it may just be the best darn hummus you ever did eat!
pine nuts banner
Roasted Pine Nut Hummus

Prep time: 9 hours
Active prep time: 1 hour
Makes about 4 cups

1 cup dried garbanzo beans
6 cups pure water
3 garlic cloves
½ cup raw pine nuts
2 tablespoons tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoon cumin
pinch of cayenne
dash of paprika

  • Soak the dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas) in 3 cups of pure water overnight or at least 8 hours.

Now there’s a lot of things you could do in 8 hours. You could sleep, have a full work day, go for a long adventure in nature, read an enthralling book, or a whole bunch of other things… but if you have no idea what you’re going to do for the eight hours while you’re beans are soaking, I’d like to recommend you check out this captivating and inspirational full length movie called Thrive on YouTube. Disclaimer: It’s only 2 hours long but it will likely change the way you look at the world forever, in the most wondrous way.

Well, how was it?!

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Using a colander, strain the water from the soaked beans and rinse them thoroughly. Add them to a large measuring cup, if you have one, and you will see they’ve about doubled in size to 2 cups. Fill the measuring cup with pure water up to the 4 cup mark then add the contents to a heavy large pot and bring to a boil.

soaked garbanzo beans in measuring cup

  • Once boiling, reduce to low heat, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, peel and trim the ends from 3 cloves of garlic and wrap them together in a small piece of aluminum foil. Roast them in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until soft but not mushy.
  • Spread the pine nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast them for 5 minutes. It’s crucial not to over roast them! 1: they taste terrible when over done and 2: they’re kinda pricey but really give this recipe the special flavor it needs.
  • Set aside a tablespoon of the roasted pine nuts and add the rest along with the roasted garlic to a food processor or heavy duty blender. Turn on low for about 1 minute until almost a paste consistency and scrape the sides using a spatula.
  • Strain but reserve the liquid from the cooked beans.
  • Add the garbanzos, tahini, lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, cumin, and pinch of cayenne and blend on high, adding ¼ cup of the bean liquid at a time until you reach your desired consistency. I usually add somewhere between 1 cup and 1½ cups. Note: it will thicken as it cools.
  • Add salt to taste, transfer to a dish, sprinkle with paprika and reserved roasted pine nuts, drizzle with olive oil and serve as a snack or appetizer with veggies, pita, or crackers. It will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

Enjoy!

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As always, I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below!

sweet potato frittata with goat cheese and thyme

sweet potato frittata with goat cheese and thyme
A dish I would often make when I was working in the kitchen of the guest house in Italy was frittata. It’s easy, affordable, protein filled, and can be made using a variety of ingredients.

Well, this morning when I awoke I was hungry and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to make today but then it came to me in a flash (and perhaps slightly influenced by what I had in my kitchen pantry) – sweet potato frittata with goat cheese and thyme. Super fast to make and filling, it’s a great source of protein and complex carbohydrates to balance blood sugar.

eggs lemon zest thyme

Sweet Potato Frittata with Goat Cheese and Thyme

Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 20 minutes
Serves 4 to 6

1 medium sweet potato
4 pastured eggs
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons of thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon of sea salt
½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
¼ cup goat cheese crumbles

  • Peel and slice the sweet potato into ¼ inch rounds (about 1½ cups) and steam over high heat for 6 minutes until slightly tender but no where near falling apart.  Meanwhile zest the lemon, separate the thyme leaves from their stems.
  • Whisk the eggs together and add the zest, thyme, salt, and pepper.
  • Heat a heavy non stick pan over medium high heat and add the olive oil and sweet potato slices in a single layer. Fry on each side (about 2 minutes each side) then add the egg mixture and evenly sprinkle the goat cheese over it.

Here comes the fun part, FRITTATA FLIPPING!!!  If you’re feeling bold, you can try doing it like this guy or you can try it by using a plate to flip.
sweet potato frittata with goat cheese and thyme mixture in pan
How I do it:

    • After I pour the mixture into the sizzling hot pan, I make a few breaks in the bottom of it using a spatula, in order to get as much of the egg cooked on one side as possible.
    • When the edges are golden brown and peeling away from the pan, cover the top of the pan with a large plate or lid and holding it firmly, in one fell swoop, flip the pan and plate over and slide the other side back into the hot pan.
    • Cook for another couple minutes, pushing the edges down to make sure they fully cook then transfer to a clean plate, slice, and serve.

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Buon Appetito!

As always, your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below.

lemony kale and quinoa salad

I love winter in San Francisco and all the food that’s in season!

kale lemons parsley

I heard a knock at my door the other day and when I opened it, no one was there, but sitting on my doorstep was a gift bag of lemons. My neighbors are the best.

Shortly after that, I went to the grocery store to find that organic lacinato (dinosaur) kale was on sale – 2 bunches for $3 – such a great deal! I grabbed two of those, came home, picked some parsley which is growing like a weed (among the weeds) in my backyard and whipped up this savory salad recipe.

And for a little comic relief where lemons are involved:

Ha!

Lemony Kale and Quinoa Salad

Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 30 minutes
Serves 6 as a side dish

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic
1½ cup rinsed quinoa
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1½ teaspoon sea salt
3 cups water
1 bunch dinosaur kale, cut into chiffonade (about 4 cups)
zest of 2 lemons
juice of those 2 lemons
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon real maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground black pepper
3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
more sea salt to taste

  • Mince the garlic and put aside ¼ of it for the dressing.
  • Heat a heavy pot over medium heat for 15 seconds add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil shimmers (in 15-30 seconds), add the remaining ¾ of the minced garlic and let it “sweat” for 1 minute. Add rinsed quinoa, turmeric, and 1 teaspoon of salt, and stir to coat. Toast for 30 seconds
  • Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes — do not stir. When time’s up, remove the pot from the burner and fluff with a fork, then leave uncovered for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, “massage” the kale with ½ teaspoon salt in a large bowl for a minute (kale will shrink in volume). Squeeze the kale and discard the juices that come out of it.
  • In a glass measuring cup, add ¼ cup olive oil, the lemon zest and juice, maple syrup, dijon mustard, black pepper and parsley and whisk together.
  • Add quinoa to the bowl with the kale, cover with dressing, and stir it all together. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Enjoy!

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lemony kale and quinoa salad 014

As always, your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below.

lucky black eyed peas

dry black eyed peas

Happy New Year!

In southern lore, black eyed peas are thought to bring good luck when eaten in copious amounts on New Year’s Day. So, in the midst of your New Year’s eve prep or New Year’s Day recovery, slow cooking them in a crock pot is awesomely lucky because it’s super easy!

Some prefer to soak the beans for 8 hours to break down the carbohydrates before cooking them and while I have done this before and it definitely reduces the slow cooking time drastically, I have found they are more flavorful when slow cooked from dry beans in chicken broth. For the vegetarians, you can substitute the chicken broth with veggie broth and omit the bacon. Also, this is an excellent “day 2” dish, meaning it’s even better the longer it stews in it’s own juices.

I reckon that the luck of this dish comes from the spice. But that could just be me…

I just can’t get enough!

I will be the first to admit I have a spice addiction – hot sauce in particular. I consider myself a connoisseur of spice. (Sounds classy, doesn’t it?) At one point, I realized that my hot sauce habit was costing me $6 a week. I found this phenomenal secret sauce and I was having it shipped to me directly from the manufacturers in Portland because I couldn’t find it anywhere within 300 miles of San Francisco. Ridiculous, I know! I saw things were getting out of hand so I (tried to) cut back. Then I was averaging about $3 on a good week (just half a bottle)… hopefully I have my habit under control.

This dish is spicy all by itself and definitely doesn’t need any extra heat. In fact, if you’re sensitive to spice, feel free to halve the amounts of jalapeño and cayenne.

Though optional, I recommend a dollop of sour cream on top to balance the spiciness. And for the full southern comfort, I always like having cornbread with this dish. For those gluten free like me, I recommend Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread Mix (available at most fine grocery or natural foods stores), and I use coconut milk and coconut oil in place of milk and butter. Super tasty!

Lucky Black Eyed Peas

Prep time: 30 minutes
Ready in: 6-8 hours
Serves 8

6 cups chicken broth
2½ cups black eyed peas (rinsed)
1 red onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and minced
6 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1½ teaspoons cumin
½ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
salt, to taste
cornbread (optional)
sour cream (optional)

  • In a heavy pot or in a ceramic crock pot, sauté the onions, garlic, bell pepper jalapeño, bacon, and spices over medium heat until onion is translucent and bacon is cooked, stirring constantly.
  • Transfer to crock pot / slow cooker, add the black eyed peas and broth, stir it up, cover and cook on low for 6 hours.
  • If after 6 hours the peas are still not soft enough, turn the heat up to high and check on their tenderness and stir every 30 minutes until ready.
  • Divide into bowls with a piece of cornbread and a dollop of sour cream and enjoy!

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lucky new year black eyed peas

I wish you health and happiness in 2013 and as always, your thoughts are welcomed in the comments section below~

strozzapreti aka amaze balls

Amaze Balls In Your Mouth

Strozzapreti is an Italian dish I learned while working in a Tuscan guesthouse under the direction of an amazing cook. These spinach and cheese dumplings make great appetizers and as I found out this past weekend, a spectacular brunch item. I brought this dish to a ladies potluck brunch and as you can see from the picture above, it was a hit! All the ladies loved them and they have aptly changed the name from strozzapreti to “amaze balls”. I have to agree, they are pretty amazing. You can’t help but want to put at least one or two of these balls in your mouth. Speaking of which:

Strozzapreti literally translates to “priest choker”. I cannot confirm the story behind their name other than the possibility that they are so delicious, if eaten too quickly, one might choke. Or perhaps it’s because they are sinfully delicious? Oh yes, that could definitely be it…

For this recipe, I use frozen spinach and I have been asked if fresh spinach could be used instead. I’m sure it can be however I’ve personally never done it. The recipe calls for 3 pounds which is quite a voluminous fresh amount. Also, the spinach mixture can’t exude too much moisture or else the balls will fall apart before they make it in your mouth! I have tried making these gluten free, using rice flour, and they paled in comparison to the original. If anyone successfully adapts this recipe using fresh spinach or finds a comparable gluten free alternative, I’d love to learn your strategy!

For the sake of ease, I use three 1 pound bags of frozen spinach and take them out of the freezer to thaw at least 8 hours before I start prepping. This recipe is really quite easy and fun, especially if you like getting your hands covered in gooey goodness!

prepping the strozzapreti

Strozzapreti aka Amaze Balls

Prep time: 15 minutes
Ready in: 1 hour 15 minutes
Yield: 35 amaze balls

3 pounds of thawed (previously frozen) spinach
3 cloves chopped garlic
15 ounces fresh ricotta
1 pastured egg
½ cup bread crumbs
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ cup chopped fresh sage
8 ounces grass fed butter
2 cups fresh shredded parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Put thawed spinach into a colander and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

Transfer the spinach to a large mixing bowl and add the chopped garlic, ricotta, egg, bread crumbs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper. Using a spoon, stir until well combined.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ x 13″ casserole dish and using your hands, roll the mixture into 1¾” balls and place them in pan. Usually, I can perfectly fit about 35 balls in a dish.

After all your balls are rolled and ready, put the dish in the oven and set your timer to 35 minutes.

In the meantime, chop the sage, shred the parm, and cube the butter. When about 10 minutes remain, add the sage and butter to a saucepan over medium heat and stir until butter is melted.

After the 35 minutes is up, remove the dish from the oven, spoon the sage butter mixture evenly over the balls, and then cover with shredded parmesan. Return the dish to the oven and bake for 15 more minutes.

When time’s up, remove the dish from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

You can enjoy them as is or eat them atop a slice of ciabatta bread. Either way, enjoy them to the last buttery drop!

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strozzapreti out of the oven