Saturday, August 14, 2010

Vegetable Recipes for Cancer Fighters

I have a friend, R1 she has been nicknamed, who is one of the bravest people I know.  She is one of two friends who are, at this very moment, raging war again cancer in her body.  Her doctors and her readings have strongly stressed the importance of creating an uninhabitable environment for cancer cells—one of those ways being loading her body with antioxidants from fresh vegetables.

On her blog that is tracking her whole story (you can find it at rachaelswritingsonthewall.blogspot.com), R1 requested vegetarian and fish recipes, and so I've decided to create a post for her and for all other cancer warriors out there.  These recipes are simple and delicious and are favorites of mine.  They also feature ingredients that are regularly touted as being high in antioxidants.  I've bolded all ingredients and utensils needed so they can be gathered and prepared ahead of time before you start to cook.

R1, I hope you enjoy them.  And may they be my contribution to kicking your cancer cells' fucking asses!!!

Homemade Guacamole

In a medium bowl, blend:
1 Tblsp water
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. crushed oregano

Halve 4 avocados that yield to the gentle pressure of your thumb.  To halve, hold the avocado lengthwise in the palm of your hand.  Insert a paring knife, then rotate the avocado top to bottom then bottom to top to score the whole way around the seed.  Twist the two halves to separate.  Take a heavy chef's knife or cleaver and whack it into the big seed.  Gently twist the knife to loosen and pull out the seed.  Take the paring knife again and CAREFULLY make three scores down through the flesh to the skin (don't cut yourself!).  Now take a big dinner tablespoon and scoop down along the skin to get the flesh out of it's "shell."  Plop the flesh into the bowl of spices.  Do this with all 4 avocados.


Add to the bowl a small chopped red onion, a tablespoon or two of chopped fresh cilantro, and a small chopped plum tomato.  Squeeze the juice from one lime into the bowl.  Sprinkle with coarse salt and a dusting of cayenne pepper to taste.


Take a potato masher or pastry blender to the bowl and mash everything together to the consistency that you like.  Some people like it chunky, some smooth.  I'm somewhere in between.  Scrape the guac into a serving bowl and cover it with plastic wrap, making sure that you press the wrap down onto the guac.  Guac reacts to the oxygen in the air and turns a nasty brown color if you don't do so.  Pull it out, still covered, about 15 minutes before serving time so it isn't too cold.  Garnish with some cilantro leaves and a cherry tomato half, if you so desire, when you serve.

This recipe makes quite a bit, enough for a decent sized party.  If you make it for just two of you, I'd only use one avocado and scale down everything else to a fourth.

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Cornmeal-crusted Tilapia with Salsa and Spicy Black Beans (adapted from Everyday Food) - serves 2

Shake in a plastic bag then dump in a pie plate:
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tsp. paprika
a dash or two of cayenne pepper
coarse salt and cracked pepper to taste

Rinse and pat dry 2 tilapia fillets and score them at the "seam" with a knife so you make two strips out of each fillet.  

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil.  While it's heating get the fish ready: doing one at a time, shake, pat, sprinkle, and roll each strip in the cornmeal mixture, making sure the coat both sides of each piece completely. 

Cook the tilapia strips in the skillet until they are a delicious, crunchy, golden brown, about 2 minutes per side for the thin pieces and 4 minutes per side for the thicker pieces.  Serve with a salsa of your choice and the Spicy Black Beans (below).

Spicy Black Beans
In a small saucepan, heat 1 tsp. olive oil over medium heat.  Add 1 or 2 minced garlic cloves and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes and cook another minute.  Rinse and drain 1 can black beans and add them to the pot with 1/2 cup of water and the juice from 1/2 a lime.  Simmer, covered but stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes.  Season with coarse salt and cracked pepper and serve with tilapia.

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 Homemade Hummus

Open 2 cans of chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), reserving 1/4 cup of the liquid.  Rinse and drain the chickpeas and dump them into the bowl of a food processor with the reserved liquid.  Add to the bowl:
1/3 cup fresh (NOT bottled) lemon juice--and don't go over
1/4 cup tahini (found in the organic or ethnic section--it's sesame seed paste)
2 chopped garlic cloves
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. olive oil
1/8-1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 1/4 tsp. coarse salt

Turn the processor on and blend, blend, blend, stopping frequently to scrape down the sides with a spatula and redistribute the mixture.  Blend it to the consistency you like.  I like hummus smoother rather than chunkier, but see what you like.

I like to serve hummus at room temperature with a little pool of olive oil in the middle and a dusting of fresh cracked black pepper, but it does need to be stored in the fridge.  Excellent served with all manner of raw veggies and toasted whole wheat pita wedges (make them yourself, don't buy them) or naan bread.

This recipe makes a LOT.  Good for a party, but cut it in half for two of you. 

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Green Beans with Tomatoes - from Everyday Food - serves 4

In a large skillet with a lid, heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high.  Add 1 halved and thinly sliced medium onion and 1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed, to the oil.  Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are lightly browned, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add a 14.5 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes in puree to the skillet, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon or your fingers.  Stir to combine with the onions, then add 1 lb. trimmed fresh green beans, 1 1/2 tsp. coarse salt, and 1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper, and stir again.  Bring everything to a boil.  Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover the skillet, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the green beans are done to your liking.   Don't cook more than 30 minutes.  I tend to go about 15 minutes.  Stir once more, and then serve.

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Nicoise Salad - serves 2

On a platter or two serving plates, arrange:
2-3 steamed red new potatoes, quartered (optional)
4 oz. steamed trimmed green beans (optional)
2 plum tomatoes, quartered
1 head of Boston lettuce, rinsed, dried, and torn
half a small red onion, thinly sliced
1 hard-boiled egg, sliced (optional)
1/8 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 can Italian tuna in olive oil (has a gold label), lightly drained and broken up 

Serve with Dijon Vinaigrette:   
In a small jar shake together:
2 Tblsp. fresh lemon juice (NOT bottled)
1 Tblsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small garlic clove, crushed
coarse salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

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Sauteed Zucchini, Peppers, and Tomatoes - adapted from Everyday Food - serves 2

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add 1 medium zucchini, quartered and sliced into 1/2-in. chunks; flesh of 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 3/4-in. squares; 1/2 pint grape tomatoes, and 2 smashed garlic cloves.  Season with coarse salt and fresh cracked black pepper.  Cook, tossing frequently, until the veggies start to brown but are still crisp-tender, about 5-7 minutes.  Serve.

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