Monday, June 10, 2013

Easy Peasy Meals

One of the biggest complaints I hear about local food is that it takes more time to prepare raw ingredients than pre-made or out of the box meals. This is true but should not scare away those that haven't gotten their frying pan or dutch oven out of the cabinet for months. With just a couple common ingredients, you can make almost any local vegetable delicious. Here are some of my go-to preparation methods when I'm not following a specific recipe or can't just throw a salad together. I've listed some vegetables I prepare these ways off the top of my head but the options are endless!

Olive Oil, Garlic and Onion (V) 
This method works for summer squashes, zucchini, turnips, rutabagas, mushrooms, peppers, and many bitter leafy greens (ie bok choi). I use a normal yellow onion but if spring onions or garlic scapes are in season, throw those in too. Soy sauce is another good option to add an Asian-inspired kick to the meal, especially if you're going to serve this over rice like I usually do.
  1. Heat oil in a large frying pan or skillet on high.
  2. Mince garlic and onion and add to the skillet. Cook till onions are soft. (If you want to add meat, add it with the onions and garlic and cook till almost done).
  3. Add your vegetables, hardest ones first. Toss in the oil until covered then stir often until they reach your desired tenderness. 
I made both zucchini and bok choi for this meal with basmati rice.
Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper in the Oven (V)
For your winter squashes, harder vegetables, or those that just don't soften adequately in a skillet, this is a great low-fat method. I use this for beets, winter squashes like butternut and acorn, and any and all potato varieties. It really allows the vegetables' natural flavors to shine.
  1. Sprinkle olive oil in a brownie-sized baking dish.
  2. Cut desired vegetable in approximately 1" pieces and place in pan. Drizzle with more oil, salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Cook at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until they've reached your desired tenderness. For harder vegetables or large pieces, cover with tin foil for the first half of the cooking time then remove to get a nice outer coating on the veggies.
Cheese or Greek Yogurt (v, LPO)
Cheese can save so many meals from being boring and we have some amazing cheeses in North Carolina. Cows, goats and sheep live all over the U.S. so no matter where you live, you probably have access to local cheese. For those that are watching the calories, try Greek-style yogurts instead, also available from many dairy farmers. Yogurt can often be added to sauces to both bolster the flavor as well as the portion and protein content.

  1. Cook pasta till it's just on the raw side of al dente.
  2. Follow the olive-oil-onion-garlic method above, then toss the pasta in the frying pan with the onions. 
  3. Put whatever cheese or yogurt you have and stir in a bowl then add the pasta and mix. For hard cheeses, shred the cheese first. Stir until covered.
  4. Optional: place entire bowl in the oven to warm through.
One of my new favorite recipes is this one that uses quinoa, an ancient grain that's incredibly good for you, and kale which is abundant this time of year.

1 cup raw quinoa
1 1/4 cup water
2 large handfuls of kale, sliced small
3 tablespoons pine nuts
Juice of half a lemon
1/4 cup goat cheese
  1. Boil water then add the quinoa. Let simmer at medium-low heat for 10 minutes covered.
  2. Add the kale just on top of the quinoa and leave covered for 5 more minutes to soften the greens.
  3. In a ceramic bowl, place lemon, pine nuts and cheese. 
  4. Add the quinoa and mix well. Salt to taste.
This is one of the easiest meals and has lots of protein!

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