Sunday, May 15, 2016

Roasted Asparagus with Basil-infused Olive Oil


Nothing sings spring like asparagus.  Our markets are full of fresh, tender, bright green asparagus now.  This early in the season, when the asparagus is tender, I mostly just roast the asparagus in the oven and we eat it as a side or toss it in a salad.  A little later, around June, when the stalks become a little more mature, I make sautee'd dishes, like the Edamame Spaghetti with Asparagus that I had written about last June.  I also sometimes make a yummy asparagus pesto with olive oil, a couple of cloves of garlic and some pine nuts.

Fresh spring Asparagus

Before we get in to the recipe for roasted asparagus, I wanted to throw in an odd question.  How many of you have felt threatened by hummingbirds in your garden?   I hang out in the garden a lot during the weekend, either line-drying my laundry, or puttering around with my plants.  If I am anywhere close to the patch of the bright pink alstroemeria flowers, this little hummingbird with a red neck flies close to my face flutters around as if to threaten me for intruding into its territory.  I read somewhere that hummingbirds are the Aztec God of War and are actually very fierce creatures.  V simply does not believe me when I say I am being threatened by a hummingbird in our garden!   Thoughts, anyone?

Back to spring and asparagus, basil is yet another spring necessity I cannot live without!  We always have basil growing in the garden during spring and summer and sometimes it even survives the winter.  The basil smelled so lovely when I was out in the garden today that I decided to make a basil-infused olive oil to roast the asparagus with.

Roasted Asparagus with Basil-infused Olive Oil

Recipe for Roasted Asparagus with Basil-infused Olive Oil
[Printable Recipe]

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 1 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb asparagus stalks, trimmed
  • Salt and ground black pepper to taste
Method:

To make basil-infused olive oil
  • Wash and dry the basil leaves on a kitchen towel
  • Blend the olive oil with the basil leaves thoroughly
  • Gently heat the blended oil in a pan for 5 minutes
  • Remove from heat and let it cool
  • Strain the oil through a fine mesh stainless steel tea strainer in to a bottle and store
To make roasted asparagus
  • Pre-heat oven to 350F
  • Toss the asparagus with 2 tablespoons of the basil-infused olive oil, and nice big pinch of salt and black pepper
  • Place on a cookie sheet in the oven and roast for 10 minutes (maybe 5 minutes longer if the asparagus is not as tender)
  • Remove from oven and use as a side, or toss it with pasta or a salad

Roasted Asparagus with Basil-infused Olive Oil
As V and I have been busy on Saturday mornings with a class that we are taking, I have unfortunately not been able to go regularly to our local farmer's market.  I need to find a different one that is open on Sundays.  I am curious to see what vegetables are available this spring after the first rainy winter in four years! 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mint chutney - A versatile herb spread

California in spring!  When was the last time I raved about my beautiful state?  It's been too long - the punishing drought really had me down for a while there.   Well, we had some decent rain this past winter and are still getting a few interspersed spells, so hopefully we are slowly making it out of the drought.

Lower Yosemite Falls, Spring of 2016

As further proof of slow conquest over the drought, the waterfalls in Yosemite are gushing with gusto this spring!  We were there last weekend to celebrate V and amma's birthdays and got really lucky. After unrelenting rain and snow on Friday, it cleared up beautifully on Saturday to allow us to enjoy the grandeur of Yosemite.  It is a very humbling, solemn experience to be surrounded by the towering granite monoliths and unimaginably powerful rivers and waterfalls - Every single time I am there, I am reminded of how small we humans are in the large scheme of things.

Mint chutney on breakfast cracker

Back to spring in California!  It is my favorite time of the year to hike - right after the rain has washed the trails clean, the golden poppies are in glorious bloom and baby deer, baby rabbits and baby birds are taking their first steps.  I also get excited about planting my vegetable garden for the year and go crazy trying to decide what to plant in my tiny patch.  Amma helped me decide on tomatoes, basil, bell pepper and okra this year.

Mint bush in the sunlight

Of course, we have mint in the garden all year round.  Mint is pretty hardy and will keep coming back as long as it has plenty of water.  It also spreads like wild so it is better to plant it in a large pot.  With the recent rains and beautiful California sunshine, the mint in our pot grew lush green and fragrant and was begging to be picked and eaten. One fine day, amma made a mint chutney that was so good that I have made it twice since.   V and I love to eat it with everything!

Mint chutney

Mint is pretty versatile and can be used in a number of ways.  It is supposed to good for digestion and stomach aches and I drink a lot of mint tea as I have a pretty delicate stomach.

Here's a list of 10 recipes you can make with mint:
  1. Dry the mint leaves in shade or sun and store for later use (to make tea or to add to stews)
  2. Make a tea out of fresh mint by pouring hot water over a small bunch of mint in a glass. Let it steep for 5 mins or more before drinking
  3. Use the leaves and sprigs as a pretty garnish for dessert
  4. Mint icecream!  (Thanks V S for leaving the comment below.)
  5. Add sprigs of mint to a fresh vegetable salad with cucumber, tomatoes, etc. or a summer fruit salad with berries and melons.  (Watermelons and mint make a deadly combination!)
  6. Make a tabbouleh salad with couscous or quinoa and finely chopped mint and parsley
  7. Serve a herb plate on your table (like Persians do) with mint, cilantro, basil, parsley, dill and any other leaves or herbs
  8. Make a mint pulao, a delicate rice dish flavored with whole spices and mint sauteed in ghee. (Amma makes a great mint pulao and I will share the recipe one of these days)
  9. Stock up on fermented ginger-mint shrub to make a cooling drink in the summer with sparkling water 
  10. Make a mint chutney (recipe below) which can be used as a spread for sandwiches or eaten with plain white rice

Mint chutney

So here's the super-easy recipe for amma's mint chutney.

Recipe for Mint Chutney

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil plus another 1 tsp for tempering
  • 3 Tbsp split black lentils/split black matpe beans (urad daal in Hindi, uluththam paruppu in Tamil)
  • 2-3 dried red chilies
  • 2 cups (loosely packed) mint leaves, washed and patted dry
  • 2 Tbsp of tamarind paste (to make a paste from fresh tamarind, soak it in hot water just to cover for 30 mins.  Squeeze with fingers to remove pulp from fibers and seeds)
  • 2 cups (loosely packed) cilantro sprigs, washed and patted dry
  • 1 green chili, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Pinch jaggery or brown sugar (optional)
  • water for grinding
  • For tempering:  1/4 tsp mustard seeds and 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
Method:
  • Heat the oil in a wok, add the lentils and lower the heat
  • When the lentils turned golden brown and fragrant, add the red chilies and saute for a minute
  • Add the mint leaves and saute for few minutes until the mint shrivels. Add the tamarind, switch off the heat and let it cool
  • Throw in everything except the tempering ingredients in a blender and grind in to a thick smooth paste adding as little water as you can get away with
  • Heat oil in a small pan and add the mustard seeds.  When they sputter, add the cumin seeds and switch off the heat in a minute.  
  • Add the tempering to the chutney
This spread will keep for a week or more in the refrigerator.  We took it with us on our trip to Yosemite, and used it as a spread for pita sandwiches on the road as well as a spread for our breakfast crackers.  It was a pretty handy condiment to take along!

Mint Chutney

How else would you use mint?

Monday, April 4, 2016

Multi-colored Turmeric Sauerkraut

Veggie Sutra is back after a hiatus of over a month!   Life has a way of throwing unexpected curve balls at us while we are busy making other plans, if I may filch the famous quote.  At the end though, every event is a chance to learn and grow.   V and I got a nice reminder that it is important not to accumulate stuff and to always value people and experiences over stuff.

And as always, we strive every day to eat good, healthy, clean food with each other and in the company of friends and family.  Looking back at Veggie Sutra archives from a year back, we were deep in to the fermentation series and did a post on making a South Indian-style fermented lemon pickle, which turned out to be very popular.   This year, we go to another part of the world for a fermented staple, sauerkraut!

Multi-colored sauerkraut

I had limited success with sauerkraut in the beginning, but since then have mastered making basic sauerkraut both with red and green cabbage.

But first - what is sauerkraut and why?  Sauerkraut is basically fermented cabbage.  Fermented foods offer rich probiotic enzymes which are beneficial to our digestive system.  Fermenting also makes nutrients more bio-available to the body.  The Wikipedia article on sauerkraut has a long list of other scientifically-proven benefits.

Sauerkraut with black peppers

So, here is the recipe for basic sauerkraut with some interesting variations at the end.  The basic steps outlined in the post on making lemon pickle still apply.  To recap from the post on lemon pickle:  In its simplest form, fermenting vegetables just involves submerging vegetables in salty liquid and leaving it alone to let the wild bacteria do its work.  Sandor Katz, in his excellent book The Art of Fermentation, which is regarded as the bible of fermented foods, lists the following steps:
  1. Chop or grate vegetables
  2. Salt the vegetables (and squeeze with clean hands for some vegetables to release liquid)
  3. Pack the vegetables in a jar tightly
  4. Wait
Really, it is that simple!  

Recipe for making basic sauerkraut and Variations with turmeric and pepper

Ingredients:
  • 1 medium green cabbage and 1 medium red cabbage, washed and dried (I had around 4.5 lbs total)
  • 3 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp whole black peppers (optional)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder (optional)
  • 2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
Equipment:
  • Wide Mouth Ball Jar, 32-Ounce.  I used 2 40 oz jars that I specifically purchased for making sauerkraut.   Alternately you can use a crock with lid or ceramic jar with lid
  • Sharp 10" chef knife and clean cutting board
  • 2 Pyrex glass mixing bowls

Massage salt in to the cabbage until limp and juicy

Method:
  • Save a couple of the outer leaves of the cabbage, and shred the remaining cabbage using a sharp chef's knife in to fine strips
  • Store the red and green cabbage separately 
  • Take about half the green cabbage in one large pyrex bowl, add 3/4 Tbsp salt and massage with hands for 5-10 minutes (depending on how tender your cabbage is) until cabbage is limp and has released a lot of briny liquid
  • Do the same with the red cabbage in another bowl.  Red cabbage tends to be crisper than green cabbage and may need more massaging up to 15 mins
  • Layer the red and green cabbage in to one jar tamping down with your fist or with a flat spoon or potato masher as you go.  The salty brine should start submerging the cabbage 
  • When you have reached within the top 1 inch of the bottle, stop and use the saved outer leaf to cover the top and press down
  • Repeat with the other jar
  • Weigh the cabbage down with a smaller bottle that will fit in the mouth so the liquid covers up to the top of the bottle, or just keep pressing down every day until the cabbage is fully submerged in the liquid
  • After 2 weeks, do a quick taste test and refrigerate if it has fermented to your liking.  If not allow it to ferment some more.  Sauerkraut should be sour, pungent and very crisp.
Optional variations:
  • Black Pepper:  Use a mortar and pestle to coarsely crush around 1 Tbsp of whole black peppers.  After each layer of cabbage, sprinkle some crushed black peppers.  Allow it to ferment.  We love the peppery taste combined with the sour taste
  • Turmeric and red pepper flakes: After massaging each batch of cabbage with salt, add about 1/4th tsp of turmeric and 1/2 tsp of red pepper flakes and mix.   Then follow steps above to layer in to glass jars.  Allow it to ferment.  I am trying out turmeric for the first time and am not sure if the antibacterial properties of turmeric will prevent lacto-fermentation, but V says the bacterial will always win in the end!  Will keep you guys posted!

Turmeric sauerkraut

We eat sauerkraut as a side with any meal (usually breakfast) or use it as a filling in a sandwich   We also add it to salads, like our broccoli salad, or to scrambled eggs or tofu. Some cuisines also make a warm soup with sauerkraut.  Do note that cooking sauerkraut will reduce the probiotic benefits, although other benefits remain.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Low-carb Goji Berry Energy Bars

Last week's low-carb protein bars were so good, they disappeared within a few days.  We had them mostly for breakfast with a slice of avocado or some berries.  V declared on Friday evening that he refused to go without them for breakfast this week!  Obviously I was not going to repeat the same recipe, so I cooked up a different one.

Goji Berry Energy Bars

Also, in the meantime, I have finished reading Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food by Megan Kimble.  I thoroughly enjoyed her very down-to-earth, funny and unpretentious tone.  She is simply writing about her dilemmas, her experiences and her learnings, not dictating what is right and wrong. There are a million experts on food and nutrition who pontificate every day only to be proven wrong the very next day.  She also has very concise takeaways for every food group at the end of each chapter which I found useful.  

Goji Berry Energy Bars

I made this week's breakfast bars with goji berries which I have never cooked with before.  I had a Chinese colleague at work who would brew up a big mug of tea with dried goji berries and sip it all day long.  He claimed that it was very good for the eyes.  He was always willing to share a spoonful of the pretty red berries with me.  I loved the taste of the tea and eating the berries softened by the hot water at the end of the mug.

So here it is, an experimental recipe again!  Goji berry bars!  I was at Whole Foods to pick up dried blueberries but spotted the goji berries and went for it.  About 2 cups cost around $12, making this a pretty expensive ingredient.

Goji Berry Energy Bars

Recipe for Low-carb Goji Berry Energy Bars
[Printable Recipe]

Dry Ingredients:
  • 1 cup coconut flour (substitute with almond flour if desired)
  • 3 Tsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 Tbsp maca powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 Tbsp raw hemp seeds
  • 1/2 cup raw sprouted pumpkin seeds
  • 2 cups dried goji berries (from the bin at Whole Foods)
  • 2 pods cardamom, seeds removed and powdered <or> 1/2 tsp cardamom powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt (optional)
Wet Ingredients:
  • 1 cup water to make flax-chia egg:
    • 8 Tbsp ground flax seeds 
    • 1 1/4 cup cool water
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup organic blackstrap molasses
  • 4 drops liquid stevia

Making Goji Berry Energy Bars

Method:
  • Pre-heat oven to 375C
  • Dot a 9x13 inch pan with coconut oil and line with parchment paper
  • Make the flax "egg" by mixing the ground flax seeds with 1&1/4th cup water.  Set aside for around 10-15 mins.  Add a bit more water if it thickens too much.
  • Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl.  (As my pumpkin seeds had added celtic sea salt, I did not add salt.  You may want to add some salt if you are using plain pumpkin seeds).
  • Fold in the flax egg, coconut oil and molasses until well-combined
  • Pat the mixture in to the tray and smoothen the surface with a flat spatula
  • Bake for 20 minutes
  • When it has cooled a bit, scour in to bars.  Let cool completely and store in an airtight container

Goji Berry Energy Bars

V did not super love this new recipe as much as last week's but was still pleased that his breakfast routine remained unchanged.  I would go with almond flour and coconut sugar if I make this again. But both of us really loved the addition of the colorful red goji berries which gave a tart sweet taste to the bars!  

Goji Berry Energy Bars

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Low-carb Grain-free Coconut Flake and Multi-Seed Protein Bars

Coconut flake and multi-seed protein bars

Ever since I heard about "Unprocessed: My City-Dwelling Year of Reclaiming Real Food" by Megan Kimble, I wanted to read it.

Here's why.  I constantly worry about the amount of processed, packaged foods we consume these days.  The reason is two-fold:  One, because of the toll it takes on our body due to all the chemicals and two, because of the toll it takes on the environment due to amount of packaging that is used, and the distance food travels to be processed and then shipped to us.  However, I get overwhelmed at the thought of making everything on my own every single time - things we consume regularly like hummus, tofu, nut milk, nut/seed butters, protein bars, as well as things we consume occasionally like roasted chestnuts.

My dear friend, K, is quite amused at my predicament, and says that it is absolutely not difficult to make everything on your own if you wanted to. But then K is a super woman, truly one of a kind, the kind who will roast and peel chestnuts when they are in season at great anguish to her fingernails.  But me (and others like me) have to deal with using packaged foods for the sheer convenience of it, and keep swatting that worry at the back of our minds.

That is why it is so refreshing to read  "Unprocessed".  I am still in the middle of it, but I was relieved to see that the first thing Megan Kimble does is to spell out what unprocessed means. At a high level, it is just stuff that she "theoretically" cannot make in her own kitchen.  Phew!!!!  What a relief.  By that definition, I don't have to worry about buying hummus now as long as the ingredients are basic.

Coconut flake and multi-seed protein bars

Here's something that we usually pick up in the store that I whipped up in the kitchen.  V is on a low-carb diet these days and cannot eat most of the store-bought Protein Bars which either have too much carbs or sugar (same thing).   Hence, this (rather successful) experiment of making it.   I whipped up my own recipe as most of the other recipes online had oats or quinoa or some grain as the base.

Recipe for Home-made Coconut Flake and Multi-seed Protein Bars
[Printable Recipe]

Dry Ingredients:
Wet Ingredients:
  • 1 cup water to make flax-chia egg:
    • 6 Tbsp ground flax seeds 
    • 2 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup organic blackstrap molasses

Method:
  • Pre-heat oven to 375C
  • Dot a 9x13 inch pan with coconut oil and line with parchment paper
  • Make the flax-chia "egg" by mixing the ground flax seeds and chia seeds with 1 cup water.  Set aside for around 10-15 mins.   Add a bit more water if it becomes too thick.
  • Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl.  
(I did not add any salt as the Go Raw Sprouted Pumpkin Seeds I used had celtic sea salt added.  You might need to add some if you are using plain pumpkin seeds).

Mix all the dry ingredients for the protein bar thoroughly
  • Fold in the flax-chia "egg", coconut oil and molasses until well-combined
  • Pat the mixture in to the tray and smoothen the surface with a flat spatula

Pat the protein bar mixture in to a pan and smoothen the surface

  • Bake for 20 minutes
  • When it has cooled a bit, scour in to squares.  Let cool completely and store in an airtight container

It was pretty simple to make, except for the fact that I brought out the whole pantry and used up every healthy ingredient I laid my hands on!  V loved it and meticulously calculated the number of carbs in each bar.  (Turned out the coconut sugar had more sugar than the carbs in all the other ingredients combined.)   However, I expect it will serve as quite a substantial snack after a strenuous hike.  It would also be great for a mid-afternoon snack craving or a grab-and-go breakfast!

Coconut flake protein bars with herbal tea in the afternoon

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Super Nutritious Snack for Super Bowl - Spinach Kale Bites


Every year V settles down to watch Super Bowl, with me at his side cheering on enthusiastically..... for the ads and the half-time show!  It bothered V to no end that I did not follow the game itself.  This year though, I was prepared!   I knew the rules of the game, I knew the teams playing, I was even rooting for one of them (the one that won of course)!   V, I think, was suitably impressed.

On the food front, there is an interesting tradition we follow every year on Super Bowl day.   We always cook a vegetable rice dish (which could be Thai fried rice or Chinese fried rice or Indian biryani or pulao) and eat it with kettle-fried potato chips with salt & pepper, and buttermilk.  I am not sure how this tradition came about but we follow it quite religiously. This year, as Amma is visiting us, we made biryani rice with green beans, carrots, red and green bell pepper and peas, seasoned with cardamom, cinnamon and cloves.  Yummy as always, when watching Super Bowl!

For a healthy snack before the meal, I decided to make a egg-free version of the Spinach & Kale Bites from Trader Joes as amma does not eat eggs.  I was surprised how easy it is to make this yummy finger food.

Spinach Kale Bites

To replace the egg, I used a trick that I had read in a vegan cookbook a while back.  I had to look up the recipe again online.  To replace 1 egg, mix 1 Tbsp of powdered flax seed with 2.5 Tbsp of water and set aside for 10 mins to thicken.  Use for baking as you would use an egg.  I have not tried making muffins or cookies with this technique but do intend to give it a try soon.

Spinach Kale Bites

Recipe for Spinach & Kale Bites
Inspired by the Trader Joes frozen snack
[Printable Recipe]

Ingredients:
  • 1 bunch curly kale, stemmed and chopped (came to around 10 oz chopped)
  • 10 oz fresh spinach
  • 2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and mashed up
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese or Gruyere cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
  • 3 Tbsp powdered flax seed
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Baking the Spinach Kale Bites

Method:
  • Preheat oven to 375C
  • Process the chopped kale in a food processor and add to a large bowl
  • Steam the spinach for 5 mins with about a tablespoon of water until wilted.  Cool.  Then process in a food processor and add to the bowl with the kale
  • Mix in the mashed potato, grated cheese and 1 cup of bread crumbs.  (Save the remaining bread crumbs to coat)
  • Mix the powdered flax seed with about 8 Tbsp of water.  Set aside for 10 mins to thicken.  Then add to the bowl.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and mix all the ingredients in the bowl well.
  • Line 2 cookie sheets with foil or wax paper
  • Form small ping pong ball-sized balls with the mixture and roll well in the remaining panko bread crumbs to coat.  Flatten in to hockey puck shapes and place on the cookie sheet
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown on both sides turning them over once in the middle
This recipe makes around 20 balls, enough for a party of around 6 people.  Serve warm and crisp with a hot sauce or ketchup.

Spinach Kale Bites

The experiment to make an egg-free version of this super-nutritious snack for super bowl was quite successful.  Again, V, I think, was suitably impressed!

Update: I made this recipe again the following weekend to take with us for a potluck.  I made some variations such as adding potatoes and omitting the onions.  I also flattened the balls out in to hockey pucks and turned them over once in the middle of baking.  It tasted much better than the first time!  So I have updated the recipe accordingly and included one picture I shot indoors in the dark. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

Salad with winter vegetables and a spicy dressing


Winter's finally here and I haven't been talking much about the rains here in Northern California because I don't want to jinx it.   Shhhh.. no more talk about that.   But,  I do want to mention again that I am really thankful that our local farmers market is open year-round, even when it is raining!   I went late this weekend, around closing time, and was disappointed that I had to scrounge for veggies, but I did not do so badly.   See my basket filled with cabbage, fennel, romanesco broccoli, daikon radish and a few others like onion.

My farmers market basket (January 2016)

I was looking through the Veggie Sutra archives and last year, around this time, I had posted a recipe for Warm Kale Salad with Pear inspired by Alice Waters' book.  Maybe it is something about those beautiful cruciferous vegetables that makes me want to put together salads even in winter time!   

A Winter Salad with Harissa Dressing

While a light olive oil + lemon juice dressing is perfect for a summer salad, winter time calls for something more substantial and spicy.  So I flipped through a few of my books to find a suitable dressing.  The inspiration, finally, came from Mildreds, which has recipes from the eponymous restaurant in London.   I modified it quite a bit, but was intrigued about adding harissa in a salad dressing.  

A Winter Salad with Harissa Dressing

Recipe for a Winter Salad with Harissa Dressing

Ingredients:
Salad:

  • 1/2 cup of fennel, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup of radish, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of greens like spinach, arugula, etc.
  • 1 cup of shredded cabbage, carrot, etc.
  • 1 avocado, sliced in to wedges
Dressing:
  • 2 tsp harissa (add more after tasting if desired)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4th cup olive oil
  • 1 pinch white pepper
  • 3 tsp brown sugar
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 inch piece ginger, grated
Garnish:
  • 2 Tbsp hemp seeds
  • 2 Tbsp shelled and toasted pistachio nuts
Method:
  • Whisk or shake together all the dressing ingredients until it is blended well.  Add more harissa if desired after tasting
  • Mix all the salad vegetables except avocado in a salad bowl
  • Add the dressing and toss to combine well
  • Serve with avocado wedges on top, sprinkled with hemp seeds and pistachio nuts

A Winter Salad with Harissa Dressing

I love fennel and it's available in our farmer's market only around this time of the year.  The first time we tasted fennel was in a very fancy restaurant in Aswan in Egypt.  They served the whole bulb cooked with a curry sauce and it was absolutely divine.  I use up every part of the fennel, basking in the lovely aroma as I am cooking.  Last week, I made a fragrant pesto with the dill-like leaves and it was wonderful.   Good timing too, since the basil in my garden has dried up completely.  

Oh, and I know avocados are not a winter produce, but I could not resist getting some when I went in to Trader Joes especially because the produce guy was just stacking it up in a great big pyramid near the entrance as I was walking in!

The salad came together quite nicely for a great, quick lunch on a busy day.  I usually pack the salad in the lunch box minus the dressing and nuts.  I pack the dressing separately in a bottle so that it can be poured on and tossed right before eating.  This is a lunch that you don't have to place in the refrigerator at work.  If you leave it at your desk, it will be the right temperature around lunch time!

Any one else crave salads in winter?