Friday, September 13, 2013

The Local Lunch Box - Ideas and Recipes

Children are back at school and parents are back at work, which means that the brown bag lunch is back, too! Though we would love to welcome you for lunch at Tre Piani, sometimes it is just impossible to leave your desk. We believe, however, that you deserve to eat well-even in your cubicle-so we compiled some tips and recipes for assembling delicious, healthy lunches at home.
Farmers markets are still going on strong and will continue through fall. You can get some great local meats, cheeses, breads and veggies for super sandwiches. Mix up some interesting salads that will hold up, too, like pasta salad with fresh veggies, cheese and olive oil, or quinoa-tzatziki salad (tzatziki is actually better made the day before, which makes it a great brown bag lunch choice).
Try whole-wheat bread from a local small bakery (some loaves are baked in square pans and are perfect for sandwiches). Spread with a nice bean hummus or even roasted garlic instead of mayo. Fresh local apples and pears have just made their annual appearance at the market. Slice them thin and insert into peanut butter sandwiches instead of jam.
For a sweet treat, choose plain organic yogurt - try goat yogurt from our friends at Valley Shepherd Creamery (they sell it at farmers markets and we bet that if you call ahead they will hold some for you). Sweeten it with some local jams or honey, also available at farmers markets. Garnish with apples and pears.
Soup is another great food that kids and grownups love. If you make pureed soups you can even sneak in healthy things-kids won’t even know they’re in the soup!  This time of the year make sungold cherry tomato soup and pack in a thermos. It is naturally creamy and sweet, and tastes great at room temperature.
Here are some recipes to get your creative juices flowing.  

Carrot Curls With White Bean Hummus
Also makes a nice party presentation
1 carrot, peeled
3 tablespoons white bean hummus dip (see recipe)
Place the carrot on a cutting board, and using a vegetable peeler, press hard as you peel long, thin strands of carrot. (Pressing hard will help the strands curl.) Pack dip in a small container and take along with carrot curls.
White Bean Hummus
2 cups home-cooked or 1 16-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
3 roasted garlic clove (see recipe)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Combine first four ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth. Drizzle in the olive oil throughout.

Sungold Tomatoes Soup

Intensely flavored sungold tomatoes are available at farmers markets. If you’re using other kind of tomatoes you may need to add a splash of balsamic vinegar and a little sugar to intensify the tomato flavor.
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large white onion, diced
3 cloves roasted garlic (see recipe)
2 cups low-salt chicken broth, homemade vegetarian broth, or water
4 pints sungold tomatoes
1 sprig fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil, chives, or dill, or a mixture of all three (omit if sending it with your child to school)
In a nonreactive 5- to 6-quart heavy pot, heat the oil and butter over medium-low heat until the butter melts. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft but not browned, about 8 minutes.
Add the broth, tomatoes, sugar, thyme, and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat while stirring. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
Discard the thyme sprig. Let cool briefly and then purée in two or three batches in a blender or food processor. Serve warm or at room temperature, garnished with the herbs.

Popped Quinoa With Tzatziki and Chickpeas

Pack 1 cup quinoa with 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas and some vegetables in a container. Top with 1/4 cup tzatziki sauce or bring the sauce with you in a separate container.

Double or triple the recipe and serve for dinner on a weeknight. Make sure the kids hear the popping sounds, they make the quinoa sound tasty.
1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
1 cup quinoa
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1-1/2 cups broth or water
Heat olive oil or butter in a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid. Add quinoa and salt and stir to coat with oil. Keep stirring until you hear “popping” sounds (just like popcorn) and the quinoa emanates nutty aromas. Add water or broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer approx. 20-25 minutes until all water is absorbed and quinoa is slightly "puffed.” Take off the heat, fluff with a fork, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. To intensify the nutty flavor, you can stir in some good butter (preferably from grass-fed cows).

1 large zucchini or other summer squash, scraped but not peeled
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups (450 gr) Greek yogurt
1/3 cup chopped dill and fresh mint, mixed
1 tablespoon olive oil
Shred zucchini with the large holes of a box grater. Mix the the zucchini in a strainer with the salt, and let them stand for about 30 minutes, shaking and turning them a few times to encourage them to expel their water.
After they’ve drained, squeeze the shredded zucchini in a dishtowel to get out most of the excess liquid, and transfer to a large bowl.
Mix zucchini with the garlic, yogurt, herbs, and olive oil, and taste, adding more salt if desired. Depending on the brand of yogurt, you might want to add a squirt of fresh lemon juice or a little sour cream if you want it more tangy and or rich.

Roasted Garlic
It’s creamy, it’s aromatic, and your co-workers will thank you for the lack of a garlicky aroma. Add to sauces and dressing or even use as a spread. 3 large heads garlic, cut horizontally in half
3 cups extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs thyme
1-1/2 teaspoons black peppercorns
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut off the top of the garlic heads. Put them in a small casserole or ovenproof pot and pour the olive oil over them. Add the thyme and pepper. Cover with a lid or foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the garlic is soft.
Cubicle Meal Salad With Local Cherry Tomatoes
We can’t get enough of those cherry tomatoes. Here they are combined with beans and shredded local chicken breast (you can get some from Griggstown Poultry Farm) to make a hearty salad that will keep you going until dinner.
1 16-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 cups local cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cooked chicken breast, diced
1 tablespoon aged sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup excellent olive oil
1 cup baby arugula leaves, packed separately

In a large bowl, combine white beans, tomatoes and chicken. In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard and a little salt and pepper. Add the oil, whisking constantly so that the dressing emulsifies and thickens. Season to taste.
Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Pack a serving into a plastic container. Take the arugula along and mix it in just before eating.

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