The Fresh Sheet…Grapefruit

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For many of us, January is NOT the time when we think of anything being fresh and in season. But after the holiday festivities, fresh is exactly what I am craving. Luckily, while many parts of Canada and the US are under a few feet of snow, it’s citrus season under sunnier skies.

Luscious red grapefruit are a much sweeter, friendlier variety than their paler cousins and they just what the New Year ordered. Ruby hued grapefruit is full of the skin-loving phytochemical lycopene, along with a dose of vitamin C to help fend off cold and flu season.

When choosing grapefruit, look for fruit that are quite heavy for their size which means that they will be juicy and delicious! They will do fine on the counter but I love my grapefruit chilled.

Grapefruit are lovely on their own as a snack, broiled with a bit of brown sugar and chili flakes or in a smoothie but they also make a lovely addition to salads. No matter how cold it is outside, I am a salad girl. In the colder months, I tend to gravitate towards chewier leaves like parsley and kale. Stick-to-your-ribs kind of greens…if you can call greens stick-to-your-ribs.

If you are on the healthier path this month and looking for a dense, hearty salad to begin the year with a clean slate, we have just the thing. This salad will actually fill you up with plenty of heart-healthy fats and even has a bit of ginger to help settle an over-indulged tummy. Did I mention the scent of grapefruit helps to quell appetite?

Eat well. Heather and I wish you all the best for the year ahead!

Grapefruit and Avocado Salad with Ginger Lemon Dressing

Serves 4-6

1 large bunch of your favourite kale, de-stemmed, leaves torn into bite sized pieces (about 8 packed cups of leaves)
1 large red grapefruit, peel and pith removed and sliced into bite sized pieces
1 ripe avocado, chopped
1/2 cup raw almonds, whole or slivered

2 tbsp avocado oil or other lightly flavoured oil like almond or grapeseed
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
1 tsp honey
pinch of salt

Wash and spin kale leaves so they are nice and dry and place in a large salad bowl. Save the stems and mince them for use when making a soup or stir fry. Don’t waste good food!

Mix dressing ingredients together and then pour over kale. Using fingers, massage dressing into kale leaves until they wilt and shrink by about 50% in volume. Magic!

To make the grapefruit seem juicier, use a knife to slice off a 1 cm (1/2 in) piece from top and bottom. Then use a knife to cut off all of the peel and pith so you are left with just juicy fruit. Cut the fruit into pieces, placing your cuts so you don’t get any of the skin on the outside of the slices to reign in all that juicy goodness.

Toss grapefruit, avocado and almond with kale and serve.

Tip: to make this a complete meal, serve with shredded leftover chicken or some pan-fried tofu, cut into “croutons”

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Fresh Sheet…Spring Greens

Last weekend was the first here in Vancouver that actually felt like spring…warm sun, smiling faces, no jacket required. And not a moment too soon, if you ask us. I got my patio and windowsill gardening finished and now I am just eagerly awaiting for my first crop of heirloom carrots, deer’s tongue lettuce and herbs to enjoy all summer long. Not to mention the Portuguese kale that is now about 3 inches high.

So here is to new adventures! This week marks our first as guest bloggers for the Daily Perricone blog, helping their readers discover anti-inflammatory vegetarian delights – welcome Perriconistas! Dr Nicholas Perricone is a New York City dermatologist and a pioneer in recognizing the ability of good healthy food to help soothe chronic inflammation. Heather and I are delighted to share our passion for delicious, healthy food with Dr Perricone’s fans.

The warm spring breezes always stir in me a desire to eat vibrant, green food. As the watercress, pea shoots and other tender treats sprout up, I need to put them on my plate – immediately! So this Spring Greens Fritatta is a perfect transition food: still a wonderfully filling meal but packed with the flavours of spring.

Spring Greens Frittata
This frittata is the ultimate quick dinner or brunch. Protein-rich and chock full of nutrient dense greens, this dish is energizing, cleansing and bound to put a spring in your step! Makes great leftovers served cold on its own or as a sandwich filling between 2 slices of sprouted grain bread.

Serves 4

1 + 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 leek, white and light green parts only, washed and trimmed
1 large bunch of organic kale, washed and trimmed
8 organic omega 3 eggs
Optional: ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Juice of one lemon
1 large bunch of watercress, washed
1 cup of thinly sliced radishes

To wash leek, remove green tops and trim end. Slice leek lengthwise and rinse through the layers thoroughly to remove any grit. Then slice into 1/4 inch thick half moons. Remove stems from kale, slice thinly and set aside. Cut kale leaves into one inch squares.

Preheat broiler to high.

In a small bowl, mix lemon juice and 1/2 tbsp olive oil with salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Heat a medium, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tbsp olive oil, leeks and kale stems. Sauté gently until leek is glossy and soft, about 3 minutes. Add kale leaves and sauté until they just begin to wilt, about 2-3 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat eggs in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. If using, stir in the grated Parmigiano Reggiano. When kale is wilted, add vegetable mixture to eggs, stir to combine and then return to skillet. Cook eggs until set through the bottom, about 5-7 minutes. Take off the heat and place under the broiler to finish; eggs should be completely set.

To serve, slice a quarter of the frittata and plate. Toss watercress in lemon and olive oil dressing and then serve frittata with a small handful of salad.

Grow Your Own…Greens

It may be cold and (often) miserable out but that doesn’t mean you can’t start thinking about what you are going to grow once the days get warmer! This is my first “growing season” with a patio that receives actual sunlight so I will be relying heavily on Heather’s expertise to help me grow a little food. The first test I set for myself began last fall at the UBC Apple Festival with my somewhat crazy purchase of an apple tree. My next challenge will be to grow Portuguese cabbage.

About a month ago, an envelope arrived from my grandfather in Terrace. In it were some seeds whose provenance involved a transatlantic flight from Portugal in the 1970’s. Was that kind of thing illegal back then? To accompany the tiny, jet-black seeds, was a very simple note instructing me on how to grow them.

All that talk about loss of traditional knowledge? Yup, that’s me. I need “good” soil. If I go into the garden centre and say, “I need the good soil”, they will steer me in the right direction, yes? Even more mind-blowing to my uneducated self, the instruction about waiting a few days after the full moon. I immediately think of something biodynamic. Doubt my grandfather has ever heard the term biodynamic; bet he intuitively knows many of its dictums. According to my grandfather, I need to plant these seeds on Sunday, March 11th.

I grew up with a lot of veggies, especially greens. One of the most classic dishes in my grandmother’s kitchen was Caldo Verde, or quite simply, green soup. You can use any kind of green you like but for me, the memory of this dish is tied to the cabbage that you can’t buy in any store around here. I can’t wait for the day these tiny seeds turn into gorgeous jade-coloured leaves. This “cabbage” I will be growing more closely resembles collard greens but is soft, sweet and less leathery.

Caldo Verde, a casa Tomas

There are many versions of this soup; my grandmother’s is very simple and uses no stock or bacon or sausage. So simple, in fact, that she doesn’t have a recipe. This is my closest approximation of what she creates. Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 yellow onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 pounds potatoes, such as german butter, cubed
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt (remember, you aren’t adding stock!)
1 very large bunch (or two average bunches) of lacinato kale, collard greens or savoy cabbage

Optional: 2 cups of cooked pinto beans (or 19oz/540mL can, drained); 1 cup of cooked pasta

Heat the oil in a soup pot and sauté the onions until soft and glossy. Remove the stems from the greens, trim the ends and chop. Add the chopped stems to the pot and stir. Next, add the garlic and potato and stir until the garlic becomes fragrant. Add 10 cups of water and the bay leaves and bring to the boil. Add salt. Cover and simmer.

Meanwhile, slice the greens. Slice the leaves in half lengthwise (for larger leaf greens, do this again so you end up with quartered leaves or the strands will be too long for your spoon) and then stack the leaves and finely shred crosswise with your knife. Alternately, my grandmother always “chipped” the greens: after you remove the stems, grasp the bunch of greens tightly in one hand as you take a paring knife or kitchen shears and roughly chip away at the greens so that you end up with small pieces of greens instead of long strands. I wish I had a picture of this for you. It’s crazy. Not for the novice in the kitchen.

Take a potato masher and mash the soup partially, just so the potato forms a bit more of a broth. You still want chunks of potato in the soup. Once that is done, add the greens and cook until the greens are soft. Add the beans and pasta at this point if desired for a heartier soup. Adjust the seasoning if necessary before serving.

Soul Nourishing Salad

Does something as simple as a salad have the ability to slow down your day and provide a little yoga-like relaxation?

We sure think so.

It was one of those work days. The emails start accumulating before the day begins, the meetings are back-to-back and long and you’re lucky if you get lunch. So you eat off the side of your desk while catching up on a few things. The challenge with this scenario is that you don’t really get a break to rejuvenate and recharge your energy and mind. Balancing my lunch in one hand and typing with the other, I desperately tried to get a few more things done. Then, I popped a bite of my Chewy Wheat Berry and Kale Salad into my mouth. Like its name implies, this salad is chewy. There’s no gulping this salad down in a matter of minutes. It’s a salad that demands savouring bites to indulge in every flavour and texture it has to offer. As I slowed down to properly chew my lunch, I started to relax and truly savour in all its delicious flavours. It was a great reminder of the importance of taking the time to enjoy my meal, especially that lunch in the middle of a busy day. Not only did I feel more satisfied and ready to take on my afternoon, I was more relaxed when I got home from work to enjoy my evening.

We definitely dream of the day when our culture is built around meals, rather than trying to squeeze fast bites into busy days. We believe that food and meals are so much more nourishing when enjoyed to its full extent. So, until that dream day arrives, slow down and enjoy this soul-nourishing creation. We packed it full of winter-fresh kale (it’s that super nutritious green leafy you’ve probably heard lots about), whole grain wheat berries, colourful red pepper and fruity dried cherries. Kale is hearty and doesn’t easily wilt, so this salad can be tossed ahead of time to allow the dressing to soak into its leafy curves.

Chewy Wheat Berry and Kale Salad
Makes 4 servings

1 cup wheat berries
2 1/2 cups water
4 cups kale, chopped (about 1 small bunch)
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup dried cherries, chopped (You can substitute dried cranberries or dried apricots if you like.)

Dressing:
3 tbsp lemon juice
5 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tsp honey
1/ 4 cup shallot or red onion, finely minced

Bring wheat berries and water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Drain away excess water and spread cooked wheat berries onto a baking sheet to cool.

Once wheat berries are cool, toss with kale, bell pepper and dried cherries. To make the dressing, whisk together lemon juice and olive oil. Sweeten with 1 or 2 tsp of honey, depending on your preference. Season with salt and pepper to taste and stir in shallot or red onion. Toss dressing with wheat berry mixture. Enjoy or pack into containers for lunch during the week.