Friday, May 27, 2011

Rhubarb Shortcake Ice Pops

As the days are growing sunnier and warmer, I decided to break out my ice pop molds over the weekend - I haven't used them since last summer. I am excited to make more healthy frozen treats this year!

I saw a fun idea to make strawberry shortcake ice pops using layers of strawberry puree and vanilla yogurt mixed with crushed vanilla sandwich cookies. I don't usually buy packaged cookies (I prefer to make my own) but these ice pops looked so fun that I wanted to give it a try. I'm sure any crunchy cookie would work. Also, I decided to swirl rather than layer these ice pops, mostly because the shape of my molds makes it rather difficult to pour anything into them so I can't achieve neat layers.

Regardless, these were a fun and delicious treat on a hot day. The rhubarb swirl was still perfectly tart, balancing the sweet and creamy yogurt very nicely.

Rhubarb Shortcake Ice Pops
Adapted from Baker's Royale

Makes 6-8 ice pops, depending on the size of your molds

3-4 stalks rhubarb (about 3/4 pound, or 12 oz), cut in 1/2" pieces
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1 1/4 cups plain yogurt (I used Greek yogurt for a protein boost)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

8 vanilla-flavored sandwich cookies

Place the sandwich cookies in a plastic zip-top bag and crush them into small bits with a rolling pin or other heavy object. Set aside.
In a small saucepan (with the heat off), combine the rhubarb with 1/4 cup of the sugar and let sit for about 10 minutes to get the rhubarb juices flowing, then turn the heat on to medium low and simmer for about 20 minutes until the rhubarb is very soft. Use a stick blender or regular blender to puree the rhubarb.
In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, vanilla and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Stir in the cookie crumbs.
Fill your ice pop molds about 2/3 full with the yogurt mixture, then fill the rest of the way with rhubarb puree. Use a skewer or a knife to swirl the two components together and to get out any air bubbles.
Freeze for at least 6 hours before serving. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Farro and Feta Salad with Spring Veggies

I scored big in the bulk section last weekend: 3 pounds of almonds, 2 pounds of oats, a pound of dried chickpeas and another 3 pounds of farro. I haven't had farro in months since it's harder to find than wheat berries and quinoa, but I am happy to be back in stock.

This week we have a quick and easy salad that takes advantage of quick-cooking spring vegetables, English peas and broccolini. Regular broccoli would also be delicious, as would broccoli rabe or kale rabe. I am also happy to start using fresh thyme from my new thyme plant!

From left, we have flat-leaf parsley, oregano, and thyme. I need to repot these guys! I wish I had room for a full garden, but I have a small, east-facing balcony that doesn't get a ton of light. Good for herbs (and maybe lettuce?) but not much else. I have a great book called The Bountiful Container, which I highly recommend for anyone who wants to grow edible plants in containers. The authors go over a ton of different veggies, herbs and even fruits that can be grown in pots - what varieties to look for, what kind of soil and sunshine they need, when they can be harvested, etc. I am not great with plants but I keep trying!!

Farro and Feta Salad with Spring Veggies
Makes 4 main dish servings

1 1/3 cups dried farro
4 hard boiled eggs
1 bunch broccolini, about 1/2 pound
1 pound English peas, shelled (about 1 1/2 cups of peas)
1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2-3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, minced (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme)
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Rinse farro well, then place in a pot (with a lid) with about 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 25-30 minutes until farro is tender and fully cooked but still chewy. Drain any excess water and set aside to cool.

Bring another pot of lightly-salted water to a boil. Chop broccolini in half or thirds. Add the stem ends of the broccolini to the boiling water, and after thirty seconds, add the rest of the broccolini. After 20 seconds, add the peas. Boil for another 60 seconds (no longer!) then drain and place the veggies in a bowl of ice cold water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.

Make the dressing: Combine lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, thyme, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir in about 1/2 ounce of crumbled feta. Drizzle in the olive oil and whisk or shake to combine. Pour half of the dressing over the farro and stir well. Save the rest of the dressing in a sealable container or jar.

Lunch assembly: In your lunch container, combine 1/4 of the farro and 1/4 of the veggies. Add one of the hard boiled eggs, sliced, and 2 tablespoons of the pepitas and a handful of crumbled feta. Drizzle with a little extra dressing right before serving.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Lemon-Tahini Lentil Salad

I learned something about myself this week: I do not like roasted turnips. Admitting I don't like a certain food, especially a healthy vegetable, is not something I do very often, but I just don't see any way around it.

Poor turnips, object of so many childrens' hatred, and now mine too. At least the full-grown turnips. Baby turnips, on the other hand, can be quite tasty. I've made this recipe for Orechiette with Baby Turnips and their Greens (from In Praise of Sardines) several times, and it is a wonderful combination of the earthy (yet mild!) baby turnips, the slightly bitter greens, a touch of salt from some pecorino cheese, and heat from red chili flakes.

So, if you ever see baby turnips (about 1" in diameter), I do recommend them. Full-sized turnips, however, well, I'll have to try them again sometime. But not for a while.

Before I knew my true feelings for (full-sized) turnips, my big plan for this week's salad was to roast some turnips and carrots, and mix them with some lentils that I tossed with a simple lemon-tahini dressing. I used a base of baby spinach and topped the salad with a few salted pistachio nuts and a hard boiled egg. But the turnips were so gross (sorry to offend anyone who likes turnips - maybe you could share a recipe you like?) that after Monday's lunch I knew I had to come up with something else.

The roasted turnips looked so promising...

Even the carrots were contaminated with the taste of turnips. I felt bad, but I had to throw them out. Fortunately the lentils were good, so for the next few days' lunches, I added more spinach, more pistachios, and I chopped up a few dried apricots. The extra pistachios and the sweetness from the apricots really helped balance the earthy lentils, and I definitely wasn't missing the turnips.

This version was definitely tastier.

So there we have it. A gross lunch turned into a tasty one. And please, if you like turnips, I would love to hear how you cook them!

Lemon-Tahini Lentil Salad
Makes 4 main-dish servings

1 to 1 1/3 cups dried lentils, picked though and rinsed (I used French green lentils, but regular brown ones will work)
4 hard-boiled eggs
4-6 ounces baby spinach, washed and dried
Several dried apricots, diced
1/2 cup salted pistachio nuts

Juice of one lemon, about 3 tablespoons
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tahini paste
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt, freshly ground black pepper
2-3 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Simmer the lentils in lightly salted water until tender, drain any excess water and set aside to cool.

Mix all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Toss half of the dressing with the lentils and save the rest in a small container.

In the morning (or the night before), place a few handfuls of baby spinach in your lunch container. Add 1/4 of the lentils. Top with pistachios, diced apricots, and a sliced hard boiled egg. Drizzle with a bit of extra dressing right before serving.


Thursday, May 19, 2011


First of the season. From the farmer's market. Devoured in less than 10 minutes. Love!!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fail: Rhubarb Custard Pie

This is far from my first kitchen fail, but it is the first that I have shared on Olalliberry. It's about time! I have learned to cook from my parents and relatives, reading cookbooks, and from watching a lot of Food Network in college (it was my favorite way of curing a hangover, believe it or not, along with drinking as much water as I could stand). But I have also learned a lot from kitchen mistakes that I've made all on my own. I love to experiment, and experiments sometimes go wrong. Fortunately, this one still turned out pretty tasty.

Rhubarb custard pie is a classic spring dessert, one I grew up eating and so I am pretty fond of it. I didn't have the family recipe handy, but I figured it was such a classic dessert that I could just search for a few recipes online and mix-and-match to my tastes. One recipe called for just 2 cups of chopped rhubarb, while another called for 3 - I chose the more fruit-heavy option. Everything looked good at first, and while it ended up tasting okay, it could have been a lot better.

There were two problems with this pie: first and foremost, the filling was watery in the middle. This is always a risk with any fruit pie, but I assumed that without a top crust, the excess liquid would evaporate in the oven. Lesson learned: when making a fruit pie it is (almost) always a good idea to add flour, cornstarch or some other starch to the filling to absorb the fruit juices. This should also help to stabilize the custard.

The second problem will take more time and practice to fix, and that is the crust. I've made pie crust at least a dozen times in my life, but it doesn't always turn out so well. This one was kind of tough, and definitely too thick. The flavor was good though.

I love rhubarb custard pie, and even a "fail" is still delicious. Next time will be even better.

P.S. You may have noticed the difference in photo quality between these pictures. The first two were taken with a DSLR (not mine, but I use it occasionally) and the last one was taken with the point-and-shoot that I've owned for six years.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Black Rice Salad with Watercress Pesto

This combination was a bit of a gamble. The watercress was an impulse purchase at the neighborhood farmer's market, which opened for the season last week. I didn't have enough of it to do much except make pesto, so that is what I did. I pulled off the leaves and smaller stems, discarding the thicker, woodier stems. Combined with garlic, toasted walnuts, lemon zest, salt, and olive oil, it became a fresh and lively addition to this salad.
For the roasted carrots and kale, I used the same method that I used a few weeks ago - it worked very well. No fennel this time, and I used curly green kale instead of lacinato  - I'm glad to know this cooking method works with both types equally well. Just be sure to massage the olive oil into all of the curly edges of the kale, and it will roast much more evenly.
Delicious pesto
I decided to add a lemony harissa dressing to the roasted veggies on a whim (are you sensing a theme here?). Lemon zest, lemon juice, harissa paste, and a touch of smoked paprika gave a wonderful brightness to the veggies, contrasting with the nutty and comforting beans and rice.

And a sprinkle of feta for good measure. I love it when impulse veggie purchases turn out to be a success.

Black Rice Salad with Watercress Pesto and Harissa Roasted Veggies
Makes 4 main dish servings

1 cup black japonica rice (wild rice would also be delicious here)
2 cups cooked cannellini beans
1 large bunch kale (curly or lacinato)
4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped in 1” pieces
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Zest of half a lemon
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons harissa paste
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
2-3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

¼ cup watercress pesto (directions below)

Cook the rice according to package directions. Drain any extra water and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Toss the chopped carrots with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast for 15-20 minutes until almost tender. In the meantime, cut the kale leaves from the stems and slice into thin strips. Place the kale in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt, using your hands to massage the oil into all of the curly parts. When the carrots are almost tender, pour the kale on top of the carrots and return to the oven for 3-5 minutes until the kale is wilted but not crispy. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl or jar, combine the lemon zest and juice with the harissa paste and smoked paprika. Set aside.

Lunch assembly: in the morning (or the night before), combine 1/4 of the cooked rice with 1/2 cup beans and a spoonful of pesto in your favorite lunch container. Add 1/4 of the roasted veggies and drizzle with 1/4 of the lemon-harissa dressing. Top with a sprinkle of feta.

Watercress Pesto
Makes about ¾ cup

1 bunch watercress
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
Zest of half a lemon
¼ teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons olive oil

Cut the leaves and smaller stems of the watercress any larger stems. In a food processor or blender, combine the garlic and walnuts, then add the watercress, lemon zest and salt and pulse/blend. Drizzle in the olive oil while processing/blending until it turns into a smooth, bright green paste.

Extra pesto is delicious on roasted potatoes, tofu, eggs, pasta, or toast.


Monday, May 9, 2011

Roasted Rhubarb Scones

I am a big fan of rhubarb. I grew up eating it as we always had a patch of it growing in the back yard, growing bigger every year. Roasted rhubarb is one we never tried, and I'm glad to have finally tried it. The method I followed, from The Kitchn, suggested adding cinnamon but I chose cardamom as I feel cinnamon can be a bit overpowering, especially with a fruit as mild-flavored as rhubarb.


After the rhubarb is roasted, you set it aside to cool while putting together a quick buttermilk scone recipe by hand. I was out of buttermilk and mixed yogurt with plain milk - a nice substitute in a pinch. I will definitely be roasting more rhubarb in the next couple of weeks, while the fresh rhubarb lasts. It is delicious by itself, and I can imagine loving it over yogurt, ice cream, french toast or waffles, etc.

The unbaked scones can be frozen for future quick treats or breakfasts, and I definitely recommend freezing at least half the recipe unless you are planning a big brunch - these scones are wonderful the day they are made, but quickly drop off into chain coffee shop scone territory the next day. But fresh out of the oven, these are some of the best scones I've ever had - light, flaky and buttery, and the sweet-tart rhubarb is a refreshing addition.

Roasted Rhubarb Scones
Roasted Rhubarb method from The Kitchn, Scones adapted from Tartine via NPR
Makes 12 scones

For the Roasted Rhubarb:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Chop 2-3 stalks of rhubarb in 1/2" pieces. You need about 1 1/2 cups for the scones (but you may want extra for a snack!).

Put the rhubarb in a baking dish, then add 2 tablespoons sugar and a scant 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom, stir and set aside.
Bake for 15-20 minutes until the sugar and rhubarb juices are caramelized and the rhubarb is very tender. Set aside to cool.

For the scones:
Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut 1 cup (2 sticks, 8 oz) unsalted butter in 1/2" pieces, then place in the refrigerator to chill.

In a large bowl, combine 4 3/4 cups (680 g) flour (I used 200 g whole wheat pastry flour and 480 g all purpose flour), 1 tablespoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 cup sugar. Stir well, then cut in the chilled butter with a pastry blender, a fork and a knife, or your hands. It shouldn't be completely blended, there should be some pea-sized chunks of butter.

In a 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together 1 cup milk (whatever type you prefer) and 1/2 cup yogurt until blended. Pour the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the roasted rhubarb. Do not overmix, there will still be some shaggy areas.

Dump the dough onto a mat or a floured surface and pat into a rectangle about 6" by 14" and 1 1/4" thick. Cut into 12 pieces. At this point the scones can be frozen, on a baking sheet, then individually wrapped (I used a layer of plastic wrap and a layer of foil) and kept frozen for up to a few weeks. Whether fresh or frozen, place on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes until golden. Serve hot.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Weekly Lunch: Citrusy Barley and Golden Beet Salad

I think this is a record - the first four days in May have all provided actual sunshine in Portland. Actual sunshine!! It's amazing how the general mood in this city lifts when it stops raining. It's cloudy now, of course, but those four days were pretty darn nice.

This is not the first beet salad I've made, and it certainly won't be the last. This one is a little different, though, with a citrusy-shallot vinaigrette and a little kick from some pepperoncini peppers. Pepperoncinis are my new favorite thing - I've been putting them in everything from pizza to stirfry.

Citrusy Barley and Golden Beet Salad
Makes 4 main dish servings


1 1/3 cup hulled barley
2 golden beets
Half a head of red cabbage, thinly sliced
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled or cubed
Pepperoncini peppers, as many as desired
Sunflower seeds (optional)

Zest and juice of half an orange
Zest and juice of half a lemon
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 medium shallot, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Rinse the barley and place in a medium pot with about 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until barley is tender but still chewy. Drain any excess water and set aside to cool.

Wash and trim the beets. but don't peel them. Drizzle each beet with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper, then wrap each beet in foil. Roast in a preheated 375 degree oven for about an hour or until easily pierced with a knife. Set aside until cool, then peel the beets and chop into bite-sized pieces.

Make the dressing: put all ingredients in a small jar or other sealable container and shake to combine. Pour about half of the dressing over the barley and mix well.

In the refrigerator, keep the barley, beets and cabbage in separate containers. Each night (or in the morning) put a serving of each component in a lunch container, then top with crumbled feta, pepperoncinis and sunflower seeds. Drizzle with a little extra dressing before serving.
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