September is here... I can’t believe that summer is almost over, school started early (almost inconspicuously!) and the markets are still basking in the most fragrant fruits and vegetables I have ever tasted.
However, all seasons have their do’s and don’ts and for me, fall is all about making the most of the current vegetables on the market and making them last from one meal to another. As a result, we are going to test out recipes that can be made today with the best ingredients on the market and repurposed throughout the week.
I have always had a fondness for leftovers... they are the hidden value of a good homemaker, the penny-stretcher of our failing economy, the reinventing force behind the daily meals that we must put on the table on a daily basis.
As I came from France and its daily food shopping expeditions, I was kind of a strange occurrence amongst all of my American friends who shopped once a week and that was it! For me, not knowing on Monday what I would be in the mood to eat on Friday made it almost impossible to have one huge and rigid and so definitive shopping list for the whole week. You see, in France, going to the market was our Facebook and Twitter and such. The interaction with specialized merchants on a daily basis was our source of information, of gossip and of social networking. To this day, I have not lost that habit. I have, however, developed a solid sense of repurposing leftovers to a science, and the recipes below will be a testament to how one pot can hold many, many meals.
For those who follow the Malibu Beach Recovery Diet, the benefit of following these recipes are multiple. Let me explain! When you crave food and find yourself in that semi-conscious want of something comforting, yet not knowing exactly what will do it for you, what will prevent you from going back to high-sugar, high-starch or processed foods, is having on-hand, at a moment’s notice, the right ingredients to make a delicious meal, snack or comfort binge. Yes, we have those cravings... and it’s all right to acknowledge it.
But in those cases, you want something that satisfies you as well as it does not impair all the efforts you have consciously made to stay on track. That moment when you have the ability to reach into your refrigerator and have a micro-minute of pleasure, you can orchestrate it to be something that is actually good for you.
- as a spread on sandwiches to replace mayo or butter
- on toasted pita bread for a quick snack
- add a tablespoon to salad dressing for a Mediterranean taste
- add to whole-wheat pasta for an instant flavor kick
1/2 cup green olive
1/2 cup black olives
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup finely chopped roasted red bell peppers
2 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp olive oil
Place all ingredients into a food processor and pulse until chopped fine but not blended. Put in a jar and refrigerate. Can be stored three weeks in the refrigerator.
It seems redundant to enumerate the many benefits of chicken but, if cooked right, chicken breasts can perform many duties throughout the week.
- Covered in a tangy mustard sauce when it finishes cooking.
- Cubed in a salad to add protein to a meal
- Sliced thin to add to a panini or a sandwich
- Shredded for an instant quesadilla or taco
- Added to a vegetable soup to bring it to meal-status
- Just because it’s great in a good dipping sauce....
Licia's Mustard Chicken
1 package chicken breasts, boneless, skinless, preferably organic
2 Tbsp grained dijon mustard
- Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place a heavy pan (that can go into the oven – i.e. with no plastic handles)on the stove on high-heat.
- Pat dry the chicken breasts and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
- Add olive oil to the pan and watch carefully until the oil glistens and shimmers at the bottom of the pan.
- Add the chicken, placing the side where the skin used to be first. Let the chicken cook, undisturbed until the chicken no longer sticks to the pan, and the breast is golden brown, approximately 3 minutes. Flip to the other side. Wait a few minutes until the other side gets golden. At this point, it is not important that the chicken be cooked since it will finish in the oven.
- Place the pan into the preheated oven and cook the chicken for 10 more minutes approximately, until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 170 degrees. Remove the pan from the oven and let it sit for 5 minutes.
- Add 2 Tbsp of mustard to the pan juices and bring to a boil. This will be the sauce to your first meal with the chicken you have just cooked. The rest can be refrigerated for the many leftovers we have enumerated above.
Here are the basics:
Baby tomatoes: slice them in half, add a couple of slices of chopped onions, one avocado and 4 Tbsp of dressing for a really, really good tomato salad in less than 3 minutes
Edamame: already shelled, adds substance to a pasta dish
Zucchini: slice, chop and sauté with 2 cloves of garlic and a tablespoon of chopped basil.
Butternut squash: buy already peeled and cubed. Have it ready to add to soups, salads or on its own with diced nectarines. Superb!
Peeled carrots, celery sticks, zucchinis: Mix one cup of yogurt with 2 garlic cloves and 2 Tbsp of basil and you have a Greek feast.
- Slice them really thin to add texture to your salad
- Microwave them for 10 minutes with agave syrup and nuts for a candied apple feast.
- Have them ready, sliced thin to dip into cashew butter for a nutritional snack.
- Pulse them through a blender or food processor for an intense coulis, spread over chocolate cake or vanilla ice cream
Fruits for Smoothies
- Use a good blender to mix yourself a smoothie.
- Go with color combinations (reds: strawberries, raspberries with apples and peaches) or yellows: mangoes, pineapple, apple juice)
Cashews, Almonds, Pine Nuts: Use them as snack foods or add them to salads.
Finally, one of my favorite recipes (found in "From Tapas to Meze" by Joanne Weir). I have left this recipe for the very end, because I want you to pause, pay attention and revere -- is the recipe for eggplant jam. No, I am not kidding, and once you make one dish of this succulent dip-sauce-spread you will totally undertand what I mean.
- 3 medium eggplants
- kosher or sea salt, or similar flaky salt
- olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon or allspice
- 1/8 tsp harissa, or hot sauce
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
- 2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1. Rinse and dry the eggplants, then use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel in vertical strips, leaving about an inch (3 cm) of space between each peeling. Slice the eggplant lengthwise, about 1/2-inch (2 cm) thick.
2. Sprinkle a modest amount of salt on the eggplants and let stand vertically in a colander for about 30 minutes, shaking it every once in a while over the sink to extract some of the eggplant juices.
3. Preheat the oven to 375ºF (190ºC). Brush two baking sheets fairly well with olive oil and lay the eggplant slices on the baking sheets in a single layer, then flip them over.
4. Bake the eggplants for about 25 minutes, flipping them on the baking sheets midway during baking.
5. Once the eggplants are cooked, put them in a large bowl with the garlic, paprika, cumin, cinnamon or allspice, harissa, and water, and mash them well with a fork or potato masher.
(Not all the eggplant skins will break up into little pieces. They do get rather soft during the double cooking, but if you’re the kind of person bothered by them, you can briefly pulse the cooked eggplant in a food processor or chop it on a cutting board with a chef’s knife.)
6. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and cook the mashed eggplant mixture on rather low heat, stirring frequently so it doesn’t scorch on the bottom. It tends to stick a bit, but just scrape in those brown bits which might form on the bottom of the pan.
7. Continue to cook the eggplant until it’s thick and most of the moisture is removed, about 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and let cook another minute, then remove from heat and add the parsley. When cool enough to taste, check and add a bit of salt and lemon juice.
This recipe can be used on almost anything you love: grilled chicken, fish, pasta, bread, crackers, fruit slices or vegetable sticks. I will soon become a staple of your pantry as it has become of mine.