Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Five Minute Plate, and an Announcement

Well, a Five Minute Plate is an apt post to accompany the announcement that I will be away or infrequently updating the TIP blog in the coming weeks and perhaps months. Readers: THANK YOU for your overwhelming support and encouragement since the Ten Ingredient Project launch at the beginning of the summer.

School starts for me in two days, a double whammy of coursework and teaching that is already diverting my attention from food to books. How lucky I am to have two great loves! But I must budget my time in favor of books for the time being.

Being very busy doesn't mean that I will--or anyone should--sacrifice good nutrition or ten-ingredient eating. I feel strongly that simple meals centered around whole vegetables and fruits are just as important if not MORE so during periods when life is demanding a lot from us. Green smoothies and five minute plates are not glamorous or gourmet, but they have just as much amazing nutrition as exotic or involved culinary inventions.

I've been opting for very simple, clean and light meals lately, like this 100% organic plate of only three ingredients: 1 organic hard boiled egg, 2 organic nectarines, and a big heap of organic steamed spinach.

I hope you've enjoyed this summer of simple plates, and I look forward to coming back to this project when I have more time to devote to the foods that I love. Thanks again to everyone for making the Ten Ingredient Project your own! Happy eating!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Frosty Compost

Ten Ingredient Project eating produces a lot of compost. The "packages" that whole foods come in--the skins, rinds, shells, peels and stems--bear little resemblance to the packages of your average processed food item. At least, I wouldn't dream of piling the latter in my backyard. But those beautiful biodegradable scraps belong close to surface of the soil where insects, microbes and oxygen work to decompose them into rich, fertile soil.

I don't have gardens at the moment, so my compost pile is just kind of hanging out. But even if you're not actively growing anything, composting fruit and vegetable scraps reduces landfill waste, and provides you with a store of good soil in case you do decide to use it.

In case you're wondering if compost makes a real difference in the success of a garden, check out these two kale plants I potted last spring. The one on the left is planted in pure compost, while the one on the right is planted in organic store-bought potting soil. The compost kale was actually the punier plant to start, too.

The most valuable composting trick I've learned comes from my old roommate Alex, who introduced me to the concept of frozen compost. Instead of keeping an open pot on the kitchen counter to attract flies and... interesting aromas, I keep a large plastic bowl in the freezer, and toss in scraps as I produce them. This technique staves off spoilage until the scraps make it into the yard.

At my house, it takes about 3-4 days to produce a heaping bowl's worth of compost, seen above. My dad pointed out recently that if you're eating the right kinds of foods, the compost pot fills up before the contents have time to fester (he's an old-fashioned kitchen counter composter). That's a good point, and maybe even a useful barometer of your eating habits. Do you compost? How long does it take to fill your pot?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Easy Vegan Sushi

Hooray for Sushi Tuesday! Homemade sushi is a lot easier than you'd think... unless you'd think it would be very easy, in which case you're absolutely right. I get by without even a sushi mat. It's so delicious and even with some of the classic accoutrements it has only ten ingredients.

Avocado is a must in vegan sushi because it approximates the fatty consistency of the usual raw fish. Also, try using brown rice. Besides providing B-vitamins and fiber, brown rice stands up better than white to the hot/tangy flavors of soy sauce and wasabi, in my opinion. I know there are some hardcore sushi fans out there who will disagree with me. You wanna fight??

Nori and other sea vegetables deserve a whole post of their own, they are so nutritious. Trace minerals support thyroid function and reproductive health, and half the alphabet is represented in vitamin content.

In short, there's nothing not to love in this classic dish gone veg!

10-Ingredient Easy Vegan Sushi
Total Kitchen Time: 45 minutes. Makes 2 rolls.

1/2 avocado, sliced
1 carrot, julienned
1 2-inch chunk of cucumber, julienned
2 nori sheets (seaweed)
2/3 cup short grain brown rice
1 Tbls. rice vinegar

soy sauce for dipping (soybeans, alcohol)
pickled ginger garnish (ginger, citric acid)

Rinse and drain rice and set to simmer in a covered saucepan with twice the water.

When rice is cooked, add vinegar and mix well.

Place nori sheets on a flat surface, rough side facing up. Spread rice in a thin layer on the nori, leaving an inch bare on on two opposite sides.

Arrange a line of avocado, carrots and cucumber at one shoreline of the rice. With dry hands, roll nori beginning from the side with the vegetables.

Seal the roll by sticking the nori to itself at the end of the roll. Dampen slightly if necessary.

Slice into bite-sized pieces, dip into soy sauce and rice vinegar and enjoy!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Garam Masala Green Beans

I was in the mood for something light and hydrating today, so I put together this grain-free, just-veggies plate starring these amazing garam masala green beans. I first saw the recipe on a creative vegan blog called Soul Food run by G-ville local Lindsey Mills. The original version, from Vegetarian Times, calls for vegetable oil, but Lindsey subbed in coconut oil and I followed suit. Coconut oil is a good choice for frying because it has a high smoke point compared to other unrefined oils like olive oil and butter, so you can really get food sizzling without contributing burnt-oil carcinogens to your dinner. Plus, those sweet eastern spices love a good coconutty note or two.

I had some cucumber spears, a couple grape tomatoes, and the most unbelievably sweet, juicy organic white nectarine on earth for a total of seven ingredients on this fresh and nourishing plate.

4-Ingredient Garam Masala Green Beans
Total Kitchen Time: 15 minutes. Serves 4.

4 cups fresh green beans, rinsed and snapped
3 cloves garlic, grated
1 1/2 Tbls. coconut oil
juice from 1 lemon

Free Spice Blend
1 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds

Combine beans, garlic, coconut oil and spices plus 1/4 cup water in a large pan over medium heat. Cover and steam for about five minutes, until beans are tender.

Remove lid from pan and continue frying several minutes until excess water has evaporated and beans begin to brown. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and salt to taste.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Roasted Red Pepper Fusilli

Attention, tomatophobes! Are you tired of feeling left out on spaghetti night? Embarrassed about clumsily pairing red wine with a cream sauce again? Then this is the sauce for you!

Sweet, tangy roasted red peppers, savory onions and mellow carrots blend to make this delicious tomato-free twist on classic red sauce, from the September issue of Vegetarian Times. The fusilli shape provides plenty of cling-friendly crags for the sauce, and of course, I used single-ingredient whole wheat pasta.

As with all my meals, whole plant foods take center stage on this plate. I had the vegetable-rich sauce over whole grains on one half of the plate, and a big pile of lightly steamed broccoli on the other. Total ingredients: 8. Tomatoes: 0. Yum rating: infinity.

7-Ingredient Roasted Red Pepper Fusilli
Total Kitchen Time: 30 minutes. Serves 2.

1 cup roasted red peppers, chopped (from the jar: peppers, citric acid)
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 sweet or yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbls. extra virgin olive oil
2 cups uncooked fusilli pasta

In a pan, fry peppers, carrot, onion, olive oil and garlic on med-high heat for 5 minutes.

Add 3/4 cup water, cover and simmer on med-low heat 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, set fusilli to boil.

After veggies are soft, remove from heat and puree well. I used an immersion blender.

Drain pasta, toss with sauce and serve with salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Chopped Salad with Nuts and Olives

Walnuts look a lot like brains. Coincidence? Probably. But it's still true that the omega-3 fats in these wrinkly cerebral nuts protect and promote cognitive function. Walnuts also provide protection from cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and immune dysfunction, while making you cooler and more attractive to the gender of your choice. Geez! I think I'll have some right now.

This simple afternoon salad contains grape tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, walnuts, Kalamata olives, extra virgin olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice. A couple of years ago I discovered that walnuts and Kalamata olives are a great match. The brininess of the olives and the fatty protein of the nuts give the combination an almost meaty appeal (they make a great vegan Tapenade).

The curing process for olives adds a couple of extra ingredients, but it's no bother when the rest of the meal is comprised of single-ingredient whole plant foods. The total for this rich yet refreshing plate is nine.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mediterranean Chickpeas

I love it when one of those "there's no food in the house" afternoons yields a surprise as good as these no-cook Mediterranean Chickpeas. The simple lemony dressing, refreshing herbs and sweet sun dried tomatoes dress up the mild, creamy chickpeas without overpowering them.

When the spice blend is as simple as cumin, salt and pepper, it really pays to grind your own. Yes it's an extra step, but one taste of cumin seeds straight from the grinder is enough to make a spice snob out of anyone! A standard coffee grinder will do the trick; just don't ask yours to do double duty. Once French roast stakes its claim on a grinder, it's best to just buy a second one, lest you find yourself crafting coffee-flavored curries.

To make a meal out of these chickpeas, I threw together a mixed steam basket of languishing sweet potato and the last handful of Brussels sprouts from the crisper, and voila: a seven ingredient goat gourmet with plenty of vegetables, plant protein, fiber and heart-healthy oils.

Excuse the ominously lit plate... we were having storms.

6-Ingredient Mediterranean Chickpeas
Total Kitchen Time: 10 minutes. Serves 2.

1 (15 oz.) can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 sun dried tomatoes, diced
1 Tbls. chopped parsley
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbls. red onion, finely diced (optional)

Free Spice Blend
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
salt* and black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and serve.

*canned beans tend to be high in sodium; salt sparingly.