Chive and Walnut Pesto {Recipe ReDux}

Well, Mother’s Day is coming up and I figured I’d highlight one of the MANY amazing things about my Mom: her mad cooking skills. Not just the fact that she’s a great cook, but that she instilled a passion for food and nutrition in me — so much so that it’s how I make my living (and how she makes hers as a fellow RD).

So, when Recipe ReDux tasked us with creating a recipe using “treasured cookware,” I was excited to incorporate one of my Mom’s — and my — favorite, albeit extremely underrated, kitchen tools. The nut grinder.

nut_grinder

nut_grinder1

Such a simple tool yet so incredibly useful. Especially when you don’t have a food processor (wah, wah). And while I guess it’s not technically “cookware,” I still wanted to highlight it as it’s a sentimental kitchen tool for me.

While growing up we used the nut grinder for many delicious loaves of walnut banana bread and dozens of almond cookies, I wanted to use it to create a more savory recipe.

I do love a good pesto but I wanted to make an out-of-the-box, more unique version. What I created is quite possibly one of the best condiments I’ve tasted. Super-versatile, too. I spread it on tonight’s Mahi Mahi dinner but it would be delicious over vegetables, mixed in with an omelet, with olives added to make a play on a tepenade or over a boring salad. Basically, this provides an instant upgrade to any food with which it’s paired. Enjoy!

Recipe: Walnut and Chive Pesto

While this isn’t a true pesto, its components — herbs, citrus, cheese, nuts and spices — are reminiscent of one. The lime zest and juice add delicious acidity and flavor to the pesto.

walnut_chive_pesto

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup walnuts, ground {ahem, nut grinder}
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup aged white cheese (I used Quattro Formaggi from Trader Joe’s)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • Juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp salt

walnut_chive_pesto

Directions:

Grind walnuts using nut grinder, food processor or chop by hand.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Enjoy over fish, chicken, steak or veggies. Truly multipurpose.

 

I used the pesto as a topper for Mahi Mahi. If you’d like to do so, cook the fish (would also work well over salmon or white fish) using your preferred method. I baked it at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes. In the last couple minutes of cooking, spread the pesto over the fish. This will allow the cheese to melt and the walnuts to get a little toasty.

mahimahi_with_pesto

Check out more “treasured cookware” from fellow Recipe ReDuxers by clicking on the link below!

Kale and Sweet Potato Niçoise Salad

Ever since eating my first Niçoise salad, I’ve been hooked. The perfect green beans. The Kalamata olives (my favorite). The potatoes, which give just the right amount of sustenance to the salad. And of course, the seafood. Throw in hard-boiled eggs and a delicious dressing, and you’ve made the classic.

Well, last week, the urge for a Niçoise salad hit and it hit bad. Since I didn’t have all of the ingredients on hand for the classic, I decided to mix it up a bit and do my own take. Leftover sweet potato subbed for white potatoes, kale subbed for lettuce, capers subbed for olives and sardines subbed for tuna/anchovies. Plus some fresh basil from my beloved Farmed Here and black garlic — a new obsession — to add a little more flavor. Top it off with a 3-ingredient Dijon vinaigrette and I was in Niçoise heaven (or at least my improvised version of it).

Nicoise_salad

Oh and no offense to the Niçoise peeps, but I feel my version is quite possibly tastier and most definitely packed with more nutrients than the original — from the “superfood” status of kale to the omega-3 content (it’s high, folks) of sardines to the antioxidant power of fresh herbs.

Recipe: Kale and Sweet Potato Niçoise Salad

Trader Joe’s just started carrying fermented black garlic, which is where I bought it. If you live near an Asian market, however, you will most certainly find it there. Fresh rosemary or thyme would also be delicious in place of the basil.

Image

Yields: 1 salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups fresh baby kale (love the Earthbound Organic pre-washed Kale)
  • 1/2 large sweet potato
  • 1, 6 oz. can water-packed sardines
  • 1 cup cooked green beans
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into ribbons
  • 1 Tbsp capers, juices drained
  • 1 clove fermented black garlic, sliced

black_garlic

  • 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp olive oil, preferably organic, cold-pressed
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • Pepper to taste

Directions:

Poke holes in sweet potato and microwave for 3-5 minutes, until potato is soft. You can also use a leftover baked sweet potato if you have one on hand. Cut the sweet potato into large wedges.

Assemble salad: Lay kale on top of a large plate. Top kale with cut sweet potato, can sardines (drained), cooked green beans, capers, sliced black garlic and fresh basil. Grind black pepper over the salad.

Make dressing: Mix Dijon mustard, olive oil and apple cider vinegar in a small bowl. Pour over salad.

dijon_vinaigrette_nicoise

Warning: this salad is best enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. Your coworkers will not be very pleased if they have to smell sardines and garlic over the cube wall. Just sayin’…

Wild Blueberry, Avocado and Sweet Corn Salsa {Recipe ReDux Sponsored Contest}

“Wild blueberries, you make my heart sing…”

When I found out that the Wild Blueberry Association of North America (WBANA) was sponsoring this month’s Recipe ReDux challenge, I could not have been more thrilled. I have long been a lover and proponent of wild blueberries.

I buy organic wild blueberries on the regular at Trader Joe's.

I buy organic wild blueberries on the regular at Trader Joe’s.

Not only do wild blueberries have double the antioxidants of regular, cultivated blueberries, they also have a deeper, richer blue/purple color and contain less water, making them ideal in both sweet and savory recipes.

I’ve been reading Jo Robinson’s “Eating on the Wild Side,” which has taught me that over time, we’ve altered many of our fruits and vegetables to make them larger, change their color or make them easier to store or transport. Sadly, that often comes at the expense of nutrition. But not wild blueberries — they are the same berry that existed 10,000 years ago!

Wild_Blueberry_Avocado_Corn_Salsa

I like to throw frozen wild blueberries into everything from oatmeal to salads to smoothies and Greek yogurt. They also make for great sauces that are perfect for topping seafood, poultry and red meat (veggies and beans too!).

Oh, and the anthocyanins (antioxidant that contributes the deep purple color) found in wild blueberries, along with other nutrients, have potential benefits including brain and heart health, anti-aging and cancer and diabetes prevention, among others.

Here’s a savory take on wild blueberries: in a salsa!

Recipe: Cumin-Dusted Salmon with Wild Blueberry, Avocado and Corn Salsa

The salsa is also fantastic over chicken, beans and lentils, or over greens for a quick and flavorful salad. The jalapeno is optional, depending on how hot you like it. You can also add 1/2 of a red onion to punch it up a bit.

Makes: 4 servings

Salmon_with_Wild_Blueberry_Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound wild salmon filets (cut into four, 4 ounce pieces)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup frozen wild blueberries, thawed
  • 3/4 cup organic frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 fresh avocado (preferably California avocado, if available), cubed
  • 1 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Optional: 1 small fresh jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place salmon, skin side down, on baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with 1 teaspoon cumin and salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until salmon is opaque.

Mix remaining ingredients (wild blueberries through jalapeno, if using) to make the salsa. Top salmon filets evenly with salsa.

Nutrition information: 330 calories; 15 g fat (2 g saturated fat); 80 mg cholesterol; 365 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrate; 6 g fiber; 31 g protein; 10% daily value for vitamin A; 39% daily value for vitamin C (excellent source!); 20% daily value for iron (excellent source!)

*By posting this recipe I am entering a recipe contest sponsored by the Wild Blueberry Association of North America and am eligible to win prizes associated with the contest. I was not compensated for my time.

*I work on behalf of the California Avocado Commission. I was not compensated or asked to include California Avocados — I just really love them. 🙂

Stay tuned for two more delicious wild blueberry recipes to come this week (hint: one includes chocolate and the other, cheese).

Click the icon below for more Recipe ReDux-er Wild Blueberry Recipes.  I want to try them all!!

Purple Asparagus: Antioxidant Powerhouse

Chicago’s Green City Market has finally started back up! And with a spring farmers market comes asparagus AKA the only vegetable available in Chicago at this time of year. Lucky for me, I love asparagus. My newest obsession, however, is purple asparagus. With a slightly sweeter taste than regular [green] asparagus, it’s perfect both cooked and raw. Note, purple asparagus sadly turns green when cooked (see pic below), so if you want to keep the color intact, slice it thin and serve it raw in salads. A source of acid, such as vinegar or lemon juice, also helps to boost the purple color. Nutritionally speaking, purple asparagus contains slightly less fiber, more protein and more vitamin C than green asparagus. Check out the comparison below:

Left: purple asparagus, Right: green asparagus

Left: purple asparagus, Right: green asparagus

The purple color is not only pretty — it’s what makes purple asparagus a nutritional powerhouse. Anthocyanin, the flavanoid responsible for purple, red and blue colors in fruits and vegetables, is considered an antioxidant, able to remove free radicals (which can cause negative health effects, from inflammation to cancer). Various research has shown that anthocyanins also have antimicrobial properties and can decrease inflammation, improve blood pressure, improve eyesight and suppress the spread of cancer cells*.

The most important point to note with purple asparagus, however, is that it is delicious. It tastes less bitter than green asparagus and just looks gorgeous as part of a meal. Dietitians and other health professionals will tell you to “eat the rainbow” not only because it will provide a variety of nutrients, but also because we eat with our eyes, and a colorful plate is much more appealing that a monochromatic one.

With leftover salmon and purple asparagus on hand, I cooked up a delicious little meal. After cutting the asparagus on the bias, I sauteed it in coconut oil and minced garlic. This formed the bed underneath my salmon. I then drizzled with Trader Joe’s Balsamic Glaze (amazing stuff, by the way). A nice, light, low-carb lunch!

purple asparagus and balsamic salmon

 

 

*Source: J Biomed Biotechnol. 2004 December 1; 2004(5): 239–240.

Mediterranean Salmon with Olives and Carmelized Red Onions

Looking back at my previous posts, they were looking a little too vegetarian/vegan. It’s time to put some meat on ‘dem bones blog! I realize salmon isn’t meat (fret not…there will be more meat-centered posts to come), however it is an excellent source of protein along with providing omega-3 fatty acids, which help to improve heart health. Omega-3 fatty acids can help lower triglycerides, regulate heart rate, slow the formation of plaque in our arteries and may help decrease blood pressure. On top of all that, they also work to inhibit inflammatory processes in our body (AKA they are anti-inflammatory).

The American Heart Association recommends eating omega-3 rich fish at least twice a week (8 ounces per week), but I personally recommend eating it more than that. With lots of delicious omega-3-rich fish to choose from, plus endless preparation possibilities, why not? The way I look at it, salmon and vegetarian proteins should be your main protein sources, with poultry as a supplement and the occasional red meat thrown in. Here are some of my top picks for delicious seafood options (all are high in omega-3’s and the varieties listed are also the most sustainable):

  • Salmon (wild-caught Alaskan): Canned varieties can easily be made into a salmon cake, salmon salad or drizzled with olive oil and eaten with crackers, as-is.
  • Sardines (wild-caught, Pacific): all I am saying, is give sardines a chance. Really! There’s a tendency to give me the stink face when I mention sardines but I promise, they’re delicious! Try ones that are smoked and served in tomato or my favorite – cayenne pepper sauce. Serve over arugula or spinach for a quick dinner salad.
  • Rainbow Trout (farmed, U.S.): I find an amazing, local variety from Wisconsin at Whole Foods. It comes as a filet that I usually stuff with veggies and sometimes cheese and bake in the oven.
  • Tuna (light, skipjack, troll- or pole-caught): canned chunk light tuna (skipjack variety) is lower in mercury than chunk white tuna and also makes for a super-quick protein addition to lunch or dinner. I like it mixed with salsa and a little olive oil topped with diced avocado on a corn tortilla (add cilantro and lime for a little freshness).

For a list of the most sustainable seafood options, check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Pocket Guides. I LOVE their app and it makes me feel way less dorky to look something up on my iPhone rather than having to pull out a little paper brochure.

salmon_mediterranean

Though my go-to salmon preparation is salmon with Island Teriyaki sauce from Trader Joe’s, served with brown rice or quinoa and steamed broccoli (for sure would be my last meal), I wanted to venture out. Seeing that I like to cook with Mediterranean flavors, I created this recipe for Mediterranean Salmon with Green Olives and Carmelized Red Onions. Enjoy!

Mediterranean Salmon with Green Olives and Carmelized Red Onions:

Ingredients: 

  • 16 oz wild Alaskan salmon, cut into 4, 4-ounce pieces. 
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/2 large red onion, diced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup chopped green olives
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375. Spread 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste over each piece of salmon and spray with cooking spray. Bake salmon for 12-15 minutes, or until opaque and flaky.

salmon_tomato_paste

Used the tomato paste tube from TJ’s – hence the squiggles of tomato paste.

While salmon is baking, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in large sauté pan and add diced red onion.  Sauté 5-7 minutes, or until onions are carmelized. If desired, add 1 tsp sugar to the onions to bring out their sweetness. Mix red onions with chopped green olives.

Place 1 1/2 cups arugula on plate (I also had leftover black lentils, which I sprinkled on top of the arugula) and top with salmon filet. Spoon 1/4 of the onion/olive mixture over salmon, and drizzle with vinegar and oil.