Lemon and Herb Kefir Spread

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Lemon and Herb Kefir Spread

(Look for kefir in the yogurt section of your grocery store.)

2 cups plain whole milk kefir
1 teaspoon finely chopped preserved lemon (optional)
½ teaspoon lemon zest, grated on a Microplane
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Pour the kefir into a nut bag or a triple layer of cheese cloth. Place the nut bag in a strainer. Place the strainer inside a bowl. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 16 to 18 hours.

Discard or reserve the whey (clearish liquid) in the bowl. Transfer the strained kefir from the nut bag into a small bowl. Add the preserved lemon, lemon zest, lemon juice and thyme and stir to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Slather on a piece of your favorite toasty bread and serve!

Photo: Ronald Tsang

P.S. This recipe was recently featured in an issue of Clean Eating Magazine!

Watercress and Spinach Soup with Cheesy Thyme Crisps

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Watercress and Spinach Soup with Cheesy Thyme Crisps

Yields: 4 to 6 servings

1 (16-ounce) bag chopped frozen spinach
8 ounces fresh watercress
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced small (2 cups)
1¼ teaspoon kosher salt, divided, plus more to taste
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly (1 tablespoon)
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
8 medium fresh mint leaves
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (juice of half a lemon)
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
Crème fraîche, for serving

Fill a small pot halfway with water and bring to a boil.

Add the spinach and cook until spinach is thawed, approximately 2 minutes. Add the watercress and continue to cook an additional 2 minutes. Drain into a strainer over the sink, and cool quickly with cold running water. Continue to drain in strainer and squeeze out as much of the water from the spinach and watercress as possible.

Add the olive oil to a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and ¼ teaspoon of salt to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 6 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and beginning to color.

Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Add the chicken stock to the saucepan, raise the heat to high and bring to a simmer.

Remove from heat. Add the spinach, watercress and mint to the blender.  Pour the chicken stock mixture into the blender as well. Blend until smooth.

Add the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, lemon juice, and butter; continue to blend until fully incorporated.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve in individual bowls with a dollop of crème fraîche and a few cheesy thyme crisp. (recipe below)

Cheesy Thyme Crisp

1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated on a microplane
1/2 cup grated Gruyere, grated on a microplane
1/2 tablespoon white whole wheat flour, sifted
3/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, then preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Toss to combine in a large bowl, the cheeses, flour, thyme and pepper.

Place 6 1-tablespoon mounds of the cheesy mixture, evenly spaced apart, on a parchment lined sheet tray. Pat the mounds of mixture, using your fingers, into 3½ to 4-inch rounds.

Bake for 8 minutes until crisps are light brown in color. Remove from the oven and allow cheesy crisps to cool on the sheet tray for 5 minutes. Using a metal spatula, transfer crisps to a cookie rack and let cool completely.

Using a cool sheet pan, repeat the process until all crisps are cooked off.

Photo: Ronald Tsang

P.S. This recipe was recently featured in an issue of Clean Eating Magazine and my new online cooking course with Clean Eating Magazine, “Clean Cooking & Nutrition: The World’s Healthiest Proteins & Advanced Vegetable Prep” will be starting on April 3! It’s gonna be so. much. fun! Check out the course trailer/preview to see for yourself!

Braised Spiced Chickpeas 
with Swiss Chard & Sweet Potatoes

Try my delicious veg & fruit packed stew recently featured in Clean Eating Magazine!

braised-spiced-chickpeas-with-swiss-chard-sweet-potatoes

photo by Ronald Tsang

Braised Spiced Chickpeas 
with Swiss Chard & Sweet Potatoes

 

Yield: 6 servings

 

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and diced small (2 cups)

2 small fennel bulbs, stems and bottoms removed, diced small (2½ cups)

¼ kosher salt, plus more to taste

7 large garlic cloves, peeled and minced (2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon orange zest, grated on a Microplane

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes (3 cups)

3-ounces dried figs, tough stems removed and quartered (9 figs)

3-ounces dried apricots, chopped roughly (11 apricots)

3-ounces dried plums, chopped roughly (12 plums)

1 tablespoon honey

2 (15.5-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

3 cups low sodium chicken stock

1 pound rainbow chard (leaves and stems), chopped roughly

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

 

Add the olive oil, onions, fennel and ¼ teaspoon salt to a 5.5 quart dutch oven and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and orange zest. Stir and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.

Add the sweet potatoes, dried fruit, honey, chickpeas and chicken stock. Cover and increase the heat to medium high to bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce the heat to medium low. Cook for approximately 10 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are barely tender.

Stir in the chard. Cook, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the greens are tender.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve in bowls and top with fresh cilantro for a delicious garnish. (Pairs well with brown rice, quinoa, chicken, etc.) Tip: make this dish vegetarian by swapping out the chicken stock for veg stock.

Latte Panna Cotta

How do you sneak in an espresso beverage before bed? By hiding it in your dessert!

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Latte Panna Cotta

Yield: 8 servings

 

Nonstick spray

1 packet powdered unflavored gelatin (2 teaspoons)

3 tablespoons cold water

2 cups heavy whipping cream

⅓ cup granulated sugar

1 cup half-and-half

2 ounces (2 tablespoons) brewed espresso

 

Prepare eight 4-ounce ramekins by lightly spraying nonstick spray into each and wiping gently with a paper towel to distribute the spray evenly along the sides and bottom.

Add the gelatin to the cold water in a medium bowl, and allow to bloom (soften) for 5 minutes; do not stir.

Meanwhile, stir the heavy whipping cream and sugar together in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is fully dissolved at just barely a simmer.

Slowly add the warm sugar cream to the gelatin and stir until the gelatin is fully dissolved.

Pour the half-and-half into a large bowl (or a large pitcher for easier pouring) and, stirring continuously, slowly pour the warm cream mixture into the half-and-half.

Stir in the espresso.

Fill the ramekins equally and refrigerate uncovered for approximately 5 hours until chilled and completely set.

To unmold the panna cotta, dip the bottom of each ramekin into very hot water for 45 seconds, or until you can see the panna cotta just beginning to melt around the sides. You may also take a knife and run it around the inner circumference of each ramekin. Place a dessert plate on top of the ramekin, then holding both the ramekin and plate, simply invert.

Apple and Fennel Salad

Stay healthy in 2017 with this crisp and bright salad!

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Apple and Fennel Salad with Shaved Parmigiano and Black Currants

Yield: 4 servings

 

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 medium shallot, peeled and diced small (3 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 large apple, unpeeled (preferably Braeburn, Fuji, or Honeycrisp)

1 large fennel bulb

¼ cup black currants

⅓ cup toasted, salted walnut pieces

¼ cup finely chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, not pre-grated, for serving

In a small container with a tight fitting lid, combine the vinegar, lemon juice, shallot and olive oil, close the lid tightly, and shake well to combine. Or, whisk to combine the ingredients in a small bowl.

Slice the apple and fennel bulb into French-fry strips on a mandolin (or cut into matchsticks), for approximately two cups apple and two cups fennel.

Toss together the apple, fennel, currants, walnuts and parsley in a medium bowl. Add vinaigrette and gently fold to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve, divide the salad among 4 large plates and drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over each salad. Lastly, using a vegetable peeler, top each serving with shavings of Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Hot Mulled Cider

Ring in your New Year with a steaming mug of cider! Adult and kid friendly versions available!

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Hot Mulled Cider

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

 

½ gallon freshly pressed apple cider

3 sticks cinnamon, plus more sticks for garnish

1 medium orange, unpeeled, sliced thinly

2 whole cloves

½ vanilla bean, seeds and pod: slice down the length of the pod, spread open, and scrape out the flesh by pressing with a butter knife

1 tablespoon honey, preferably orange blossom

⅓ cup brandy, optional

 

In a large saucepan or small pot over low heat, add all of the ingredients, and mix together. Stir occasionally until very warm. Serve in mugs with slices of orange.

Notes:

  • If the mulled cider will be sitting for an exceptionally long time, remove the cloves when the flavor is to your liking.
  • If you are a big fan of spice, combine 3 star anise and 1 inch of peeled, roughly chopped fresh ginger and put them into a tea strainer or mesh bag to steep along with the other ingredients. Much like steeping tea, remove the tea strainer or mesh bag of ginger and star anise when the desired flavor is achieved.

Pot Roast with Root Vegetables and Kumquats

Presenting… your holiday roast!

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Pot Roast with Root Vegetables and Kumquats

Yield: 6 servings

1 (2½- to 3-pound) boneless beef chuck roast

1½ teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

2 large yellow onions, peeled and diced medium (3 cups)

3 celery stalks, chopped roughly (1½ cups)

5 large carrots, peeled and chopped roughly (5 cups)

3 tablespoons tomato paste

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and chopped roughly (1 tablespoon)

2 cups red Zinfandel wine

4 cups chicken stock

2 dried bay leaves

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 pound small yellow potatoes (7 to 10), scrubbed

6 kumquats, halved and seeded

  1. Remove the roast from the refrigerator, pat dry and season all sides with the salt and pepper. Allow the roast to sit at room temperature for 1 hour.
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position, then preheat the oven to 300ºF. Open a few windows or turn on the oven hood/fan; it might get a little smoky.
  1. Heat a small oven-safe pot over medium-high heat until hot, then add 1 tablespoon oil. It will most likely start to smoke. Immediately add the roast and brown on all sides, 2 minutes per side. Transfer the roast to a large plate and discard the oil.
  1. Return the pot to medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, the onion, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 to 7 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent.
  1. Add 1 additional tablespoon of olive oil, the tomato paste and the garlic. Cook 2 minutes more, stirring often.
  1. Add the wine and stir with a wooden spoon, loosening up any brown bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Cook for 3 minutes more; it will begin to thicken just a bit.
  1. Stir in the stock, bay leaves, thyme, potatoes and kumquats. Replace the roast in the pan. Depending on the size of your pot, the roast may be halfway or completely submerged.
  1. Bring the pot just barely to a simmer, cover and carefully place in the oven for 2 hours and 45 minutes. Remove from the oven.
  1. Season to taste with salt and pepper. To serve, remove the roast and cut into pieces, or simply pull apart with two forks. Discard the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Ladle pieces of the roast, vegetables, and broth into soup bowls.

Note: When shopping for your boneless beef chuck, look for a lot of marbling in the meat. Those white streaks are marbling, or fat. It is the fat, in part, that gives this dish loads of flavor and keeps the meat moist. The total cooking time is just over 1 hour per pound of meat. Thus, a 2½ pound beef chuck roast will take approximately 2¾ hours to cook.