These 3 dishes are big on flavor but still healthful – Orange County Register

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Kat Ashmore is a private chef, as well as a former producer and recipe developer for Martha Stewart. Her new cookbook, “Big Bites” (Rodale), shows off recipes that capture her flare for creating full flavor dishes that are also healthful.

Her concoctions show off interesting twists. If comparing her ingredient choices to artwork, I’d say that she colors outside the lines with thoughtful but bold strokes. The results are palate pleasing, delectable with a note of whimsy.

The dressing for her chopped salad caught my eye. I thought that in my many years in the kitchen I had used just about every possible combination of ingredients to make vinaigrette.  But her vinaigrette for this chopped wonder relies on roasted red bell peppers, storebought and plucked from the jar, then pureed in a high-speed blender. Garlic, honey, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil come to the dressing party, along with salt and pepper. Delicious.

Check out her Swiss chard salad replete with white beans and garlic breadcrumbs. Swiss chard is usually allocated to sauteed dishes, but here the leaves are used as raw salad greens. The texture of the leaves holds up well with the weight of the rinsed canned white beans, an element that adds balance to the dish, along with crunchy garlic breadcrumbs and a citrusy vinaigrette.

As for dessert, chocolate lovers will embrace her Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Mousse that utilizes silken tofu.  Silky, indeed.

Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Mousse is made with silky tofu, rather than dairy products, making it vegan-friendly. (Photo by Christine Han)
Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Mousse is made with silky tofu, rather than dairy products, making it vegan-friendly. (Photo by Christine Han)

Dark Chocolate Earl Grey Mousse

Rather than using dairy products to make this creamy mousse, Ashmore uses silky tofu. The tofu whips up in a high-speed blender in seconds, closely mimicking the traditional cream and eggs. Once the mix is complete, it’s spooned into ramakins and refrigerated for at least four hours. She suggests using storebought vegan coconut whipped cream for the topping, but I use standard whipped cream unless there are vegans at the table.

So what does Earl Grey tea taste like? The primary flavoring in Earl Grey tea is bergamot, a type of citrus fruit with similarities to the Meyer lemon. It tastes very floral with a distinct citrus note.

Yield: 6 servings

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup water

1 Earl Grey teabag

1/4 cup maple syrup

1 cup chopped dark chocolate

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 pound silken tofu

For serving: storebought vegan coconut whipped cream

For serving: chocolate shavings

DIRECTIONS

1. In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup of water to a boil. Take the pan off the heat and drop the teabag in. Cover the saucepan with the lid and leave it to steep for 6 to 10 minutes. The longer the tea steeps, the more Earl Grey flavor you will have; 8 minutes will produce a subtle yet noticeable flavor. Remove the tea bag and bring it to a simmer again. Remove from heat, add the maple syrup and chocolate; stir to melt the chocolate.

2. Transfer the chocolate mixture to a high-speed blender and add vanilla, salt, and tofu. Puree until completely smooth, stopping to scrape the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula as needed to fully incorporate.

3. Divide the mixture evenly among six ramekins and chill for at least 4 hours.

4. For serving, top the mousse with the whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

This salad is made with Swiss chard, lemon, Dijon mustard, white beans and breadcrumbs. (Photo by Christine Han)
This salad is made with Swiss chard, lemon, Dijon mustard, white beans and breadcrumbs. (Photo by Christine Han)

Lemony Swiss Chard with White Beans and Garlic Breadcrumbs

Ashmore calls for Swiss chard in this delicious salad; that chard variety has red stalks and veining. Just before using, wash it in cold water. Trim the stalks from the leaves with kitchen scissors or knife, or fold leaf next to stalk and pull away from stalk. Pat the leaves dry with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel.

Yield: 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

Extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, see cook’s notes

1 garlic clove, minced

Kosher salt

Dried red pepper flakes

1 lemon

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 large bunch Swiss chard (about 12 ounces)

1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained, rinsed, and patted dry

1 shallot, thinly sliced

Cook’s notes: To make breadcrumbs, put 1- to 2-inch cubes of hearty country rustic bread in the food processor. Pulse until you have crumbs — some will be tiny, others a little bigger.

DIRECTIONS

1. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring frequently, until they are crisp and golden brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Stir in the garlic, a pinch of salt and a pinch of dried red pepper flakes; toast for 30 seconds, then remove from heat.

2. In a large serving bowl, add minced lemon zest and juice.

3. Add mustard and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Whisk in 1/4 cup olive oil in a thin stream.

4. Wash and dry chard and remove the central stalk from the leaves. Discard stalks (stems) or freeze them to make a pasta sauce or frittata in the future. Stack a few leaves on top of each other and roll them into a cigar shape. Slice crosswise into thin ribbons. Repeat with all the leaves, then place them into the bowl with the dressing. Toss to coat leaves with dressing.

5. Top each serving with white beans and shallot, then the breadcrumbs.

This crunchy shopped salad, made with coarsely chopped hearts of romaine and raw cabbage, is topped by a roasted red pepper dressing. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)
This crunchy shopped salad, made with coarsely chopped hearts of romaine and raw cabbage, is topped by a roasted red pepper dressing. (Photo by Cathy Thomas)

Mediterranean Chopped Salad with Roasted Red Bell Pepper Dressing

To my way of thinking, for a chopped salad to be delicious it must be crisp and crunchy. Ashmore insures that by augmenting coarsely chopped hearts of romaine with raw cabbage.

Yield; 6 to 8 servings

INGREDIENTS

1 (12-oounce) jar roasted red bell peppers, well drained

1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, smashed

1 teaspoon honey

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Pinch of kosher salt

Pinch of freshly cracked black pepper

Salad:

2 hearts of romaine, coarsely chopped

2 cups chopped green cabbage

1 medium red onion, diced

2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved

1 cup pitted green olives, preferably Castelvetrano

1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, diced, see cook’s notes

1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed

Freshly cracked black pepper

Cook’s notes: I buy cherry-sized balls of fresh mozzarella called “ciliegine.” That way I use whole with no need to dice. If you like, place the mixed salad without the dressing on salad plates, and then generously drizzle each serving with the dressing.

DIRECTIONS

1. For dressing: In a high-speed blender, combine red peppers, garlic, honey, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Blend for 20 to 30 seconds until very smooth, scraping down the blender as needed. The dressing may look brown at first, then turns a bright orange-red as the peppers liquefy. Set aside.

2. For the salad: Combine romaine, cabbage, onion, tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, and garbanzo beans (chickpeas) in a large serving bowl and then drizzle with the dressing, using enough to lightly coat the leaves. Toss and finish with a few cracks of pepper and serve.

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