Absurdly addictive asparagus

This recipe combines so many of my favorite flavors and is going to be a firm favorite. Such a heady combination of leeks, pancetta, orange zest, pine nuts and parsley added to the asparagus is without doubt the best asparagus recipe I’ve encountered.

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Serves 4

4 oz pancetta, cut into 3/8 inch to 1/4 inch dice
1 tbsp butter
1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces on the bias
1 1/4 cups leek, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1-2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large non-stick pan, sauté the pancetta, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until crisp and lightly golden.
Add 1 tbsp of butter to pan. Add the asparagus pieces and leeks and sauté until the asparagus is tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic, lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley and sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt and serve immediately.

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“Vaghareli Makai” (Spicy corn with peanuts, lime, cilantro and mustard seeds)

This is a real gem from Heidi Swanson’s new book “Near and Far” What a stunning array of flavors!

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The original recipe called for “2 small red chiles” so you can use whatever kind of chile pepper you want, depending on how hot and spicy you like things. If you are avoiding nuts then use pumpkin seeds. To make it vegan, Heidi recommends using sunflower oil in place of the butter.

2 small red chiles, stemmed, seeded (if desired), and sliced
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
One 1-inch (3cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon sea or kosher salt
2 tablespoon clarified butter (ghee)
1 ½ teaspoons yellow or brown mustard seeds
3 cups (450g, about 3 large ears) fresh corn kernels
½ cup (60g) roasted peanuts
1 cup (30g) chopped cilantro
lemon or lime wedges
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1. In a mortar and pestle, or with a mini food processor, grind the chiles, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and salt to a paste.

2. Heat the clarified butter in a wide skillet. Add the mustard seeds and cook, stirring until they pop, which will take a minute or two. Stir in the corn kernels and cook a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they just start to feel tender, which will take a couple of minutes.

3. Stir in the peanuts, half of the cilantro and half of the red chile paste. Cook for another minute then taste. If desired, for additional heat, add more of the chile paste and perhaps a bit of salt. Remove from heat and add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

Serve the spiced corn over rice, or as a side dish, topped with the remaining cilantro and sesame seeds.

Have lemon or lime wedges handy for guests to add as they wish. Any leftovers can be reheated in a skillet with a little more clarified butter.

Roasted butternut squash, quinoa, kale, cranberries, walnuts and goat cheese salad

A stunning array of flavors from the toasty walnuts to the sweet cranberries added to the very flavorful quinoa and goat cheese… Need I go on?
This recipe is from a blog called “Stuck on Sweet”

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Serves: 4

1 small to medium butternut squash, diced fairly small
2 large leaves of kale, stems removed
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup walnut pieces, toasted
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese (or feta if you prefer)
1 cup quinoa
2 cups chicken stock
olive oil
salt and pepper

Prepare the quinoa according to package directions. Use chicken stock instead of water to add flavor. Cool completely.
While the quinoa is cooking, add a few drizzles of olive oil to a saute pan and place over medium heat. Add the diced butternut squash and saute until tender, about 10-12 minutes. Remove from the pan and let cool.
In the same saute pan add a little more olive oil and the kale. Wilt slightly, 1-2 minutes, you want the kale to still be slightly crunchy. Remove from pan and roughly chop. Set aside to also cool.
Again, in the same pan add the walnut pieces, no olive oil is necessary. Toast for a few minutes on low heat – careful not to burn! Remove from pan and let cool.
Add all of the cooled ingredients along with the cranberries, goat cheese, a little salt and pepper, and gently mix.
If you want to add a little more olive oil you can, but I don;t think it needs it.

No-bake cranberry almond energy balls

This is a lovely and super simple recipe from the food blog “Skinny Me” Your kids will love them too and they will be able to help you make them

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1 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup natural almond butter, (optional peanut butter)
1/4 cup raw honey
1/2 cup almonds, crushed
1/2 cup pistachios, crushed

In a medium mixing bowl combine all ingredients. Shape dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. Store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Roast butternut squash stuffed with Medjool dates, cashew nuts and cilantro couscous

I just love winter food especially when it’s anything to do with butternut squash. This one is from Skye Gyngall and is gorgeous with such interesting flavors.

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Serves 2 and could easily be augmented

1 small butternut squash
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
a decent drizzle of olive oil
a good splosh of white wine
sea salt and ground black pepper

For the stuffing

6 oz instant couscous
2 tbsp olive oil
2 shallots, finely sliced
1 small leek, finely sliced
4oz cashew nuts
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 cardamon pod, crushed open with the flat of a knife
2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tsp hot curry powder
6 Medjool dates, chopped
1/2 bunch of cilantro
1/2 bunch of flat-leaf parsley
1/2 bunch fresh mint
juice of 1/2 lemon

Peel the squash, cut it in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds. Place the squash halves in a shallow roasting dish and sprinkle over the garlic slivers and thyme. Drizzle over the olive oil, pour over the white wine and season with salt and pepper.
Cover with foil and roast in an oven preheated to 350 F for 25 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for about 10 more minutes until the squash is tender.
This may take a little longer depending on the size of your squash. Check it’s doneness as you would a potato and remove from the oven. Leave the oven on.

While the squash is cooking, prepare the stuffing.
Put the couscous in a bowl, pour over about 1/2 cup cold water or chicken broth and leave to soak.
Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, add the shallot, leek, cashews, mustard seeds, cardamon pod, ginger, coconut and curry powder and fry gently until the shallot is soft and the aroma from the spices is making you hungry!
Turn up the heat and add the couscous to the pan, stirring thoroughly.
Remove from the heat, cover with a lid and leave to cook for 10 minutes.
Stir again to fluff up the grains, then add the dates, herbs and lemon juice and season to taste.
Stuff the squash with the couscous and return to the oven for about 20 minutes.
Serve immediately

Bruce’s beautiful broccoli dish

You may not have known but I am married to not only a wonderful composer, but a wonderful cook. Because he’s such a brilliant orchestrator of his own music, that attention to detail works wonders with his food preparations too. He just knows how to combine flavors, textures, tweak, and make all his food look and taste stunning.
This recipe he makes up, so I have had to stand over him and catch the ingredients as he throws them into the bowl, then measure them and give them back to him to re-throw. It has taken several times to get it right and he continues to tweak the recipe but to me, there is no better dish using broccoli out there.

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Serves 2, but can easily be augmented

4 Cipollini onions
1 large head of broccoli
1/2 cup whole cashews or slivered blanched almonds
3 cloves garlic or granulated garlic to taste
Dried chili pepper flakes
1/3 cup smoked sun-dried tomatoes (the smoked ones are preferable if you can find them)
1/2 cup good olive oil
salt and pepper

First, fill a large pot of salted water and bring to the boil. This is for the broccoli and onions.
Peel and quarter the onions. Chop the garlic if using real garlic. Cut the broccoli into florets and cut the stems into 1/4 inch slices.

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Lightly toast the nuts, then put these into a large bowl. Add the chopped garlic or 4 to 5 shakes of granulated garlic, 4 big pinches of salt and 2 good pinches of dried chili pepper.
Julienne the sun dried tomatoes and add them to the bowl.

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When the water is boiling, add the broccoli and onions and cook for 3 minutes only. (Please use a timer for this) Drain and add to the bowl with the nuts and sun dried tomatoes. Add 1/2 cup olive oil, toss together and season very well. It can take a good whack of salt but taste as you season to check.

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Bruce’s beautiful broccoli dish

Serves 2, but can easily be augmented

4 Cipollini onions
1 large head of broccoli
1/2 cup whole cashews or slivered blanched almonds
3 cloves garlic or granulated garlic to taste
Dried chili pepper flakes
1/3 cup smoked sun-dried tomatoes (the smoked ones are preferable if you can find them)
1/2 cup good olive oil
salt and pepper

First, fill a large pot of salted water and bring to the boil. This is for the broccoli and onions.

Peel and quarter the onions. Chop the garlic if using real garlic. Cut the broccoli into florets and cut the stems into 1/4 inch slices.
Lightly toast the nuts, then put these into a large bowl. Add the chopped garlic or 4 to 5 shakes of granulated garlic, 4 big pinches of salt and 2 good pinches of dried chili pepper.
Julienne the sun dried tomatoes and add them to the bowl.

When the water is boiling, add the broccoli and onions and cook for 3 minutes only. (Please use a timer for this) Drain and add to the bowl with the nuts and sun dried tomatoes. Add 1/2 cup olive oil, toss together and season very well. It can take a good whack of salt but taste as you season to check.

Easy beet and goat cheese terrine with pistachios and basil

I saw this recipe by Amy Stafford on her blog, “A healthy life for me” and immediately loved the idea of it. We adore beets and goat cheese and it’s a fairly easy one to put together and impress your guests.

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Serves: 8

6 red beet
6 yellow beets
10 oz of goat cheese, room temperature
¼ cup of salted pistachios, shelled and finely crushed in food processor
Fresh basil leaves, cut into slivers (about 6 large leaves)
zest from ½ lemon
Pinch of kosher salt and ground black pepper
¼ cup of olive oil + more for drizzling

In two separate pans boil water.
Add the yellow beets to one pan and the red to the other and cook for 30 minutes.
Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool.
Take plastic wrap and line a loaf pan letting the plastic wrap overhang on both sides, enough so that you can grab wrap to lift out finished terrine.

In a bowl, add the goat cheese, lemon zest, olive oil, salt, pepper and pistachios and stir to blend.
When the beets have cooled, peel and slice thinly.
Line the pan with a layer of yellow beets, slightly overlapping.
Then add a ¼ cup of goat cheese mixture, spreading over the beets.
Add a sprinkle of basil slivers and a drizzle of olive oil.
Continue layering the yellow beets, goat cheese, basil and olive oil four times and then start with red, continuing the layering four times.

Make sure that you finish with a beet layer and drizzle of olive oil. (you will not reach the top of the pan.
Take the plastic wrap flaps and cover your last layer
Place heavy cans on top of the plastic to compress the terrine.
Place in the refrigerator for 2 or more hours.
When you remove, unwrap and use the plastic to lift the terrine out of the pan.
Slice and serve with a drizzle of olive oil