Thursday, December 31, 2009

Rosemary ginger snaps

I'm writing this from the Albany airport (free wifi, thanks Google), in the throes of Christmas cookie withdrawal. I have eaten soooooo many Christmas cookies in the last ten days. To ease withdrawal systems (and cause Mom asked for it), I am posting one of my favorite Christmas cookie recipes. It comes from a King Arthurs cookbook, I think one called "the Baker's Companion" or something like that.

It makes 10 - 12 dozen, and can be halved. I love the combination of rosemary in these cookies, and go towards the higher end of the 4-6 t. spectrum.

* 1.5 cups, (3 sticks) butter, brought to room temperature
* 2 cups sugar
* 2 eggs
* 0.5 cup dark unsulphured molasses
* 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 2 teaspoons salt
* 4 – 6 teaspoons rosemary, crushed or powdered
* 1 teaspoon ground ginger
* 0.5 teaspoon ground cloves
* 1 teaspoon cinnamon
* granulated sugar, I like a raw brown sugar (like sugar in the raw), or you can use red or green colored sugar to make them more Christmasy.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, or prepare the dough a day ahead and chill before baking.

In a large, standup mixer, cream the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs, one a time, and continue to beat in until each egg is mixed well. Add the molasses and continue to beat until well combined.

Sift together the flour, soda, salt, rosemary, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Roll nickel-sized pieces of dough into balls between the palms of your hands. Then roll them in granulated sugar and place them on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10 – 12 minutes.

Stuffed squash

This is a great winter recipe. We’ve been getting a lot of cabbage and squash in the CSA. I’ve written this recipe calling for all fresh ingredients, but when I made it, I actually used about half a recipe of leftover plain sautéed squash in place of the fresh cabbage and brown sugar. If you make it in that manner, just stir in the cooked cabbage in the mixing bowl step and heat the assembled squash a little before broiling, so everything is warm.

Serves 8 as a side or 4 as a main course

4 acorn or kabocha squash – acorn squash has a better shape and I prefer the texture for this application.
1 c. bulgar wheat
2 T. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 apple, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 half head green cabbage, thinly sliced or shredded
1 t. caraway seeds
2 t. brown sugar
salt and pepper, preferably Maldon smoked sea salt
Slices cheddar cheese, preferably Cabot Hunter’s extra sharp, enough to cover the 8 squash halves.

1. Preheat the oven to 375.
2. Cut the squashes in half at their equators. Remove the seeds and dribble some oil onto the cut sides. Use your fingers to coat all the exposed squash flesh with the oil. Place the squash, cut side down, on a foil lined baking sheet. Cook for about one hour, until the skin can be indented with a spoon. If in doubt, cook for extra time… it is difficult to overcook the squash at this step, and no one like undercooked squash.
3. Cook the bulgar: bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the bulgar, simmer for 15 minutes.
4. Melt the 2 T. butter over medium-low heat, add onions and apples and a few pinches of salt. Cook till thoroughly soft and beginning to caramelize (10-15 minutes), stirring occasionally.
5. Turn the heat up a little and add the garlic, cabbage, and caraway seeds. The goal is to cook the cabbage quickly (hence the thin slices). Since the cabbage is bulky, but cooks down, it is easiest to add it in a few handfuls, stirring the whole time. Cook till the cabbage it is tender, but still has a textural bite to it.
6. Combine the bulgar and the veggie-apple mixture in a mixing bowl, add in brown sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Undersalt a little, as we’ll add some more in the stuffing stage.
7. Assemble the roasted squash halves cut side up on the same foil covered baking sheet (you may need to pour off the juices liberated during cooking). Fill each one with the stuffing. Sprinkle a little more of the smoked sea salt on top, and finish with some slices of cheddar cheese.
8. Return to the hot over if the ingredients have cooled, otherwise, placed under preheated broiler for 4-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Variations – Kind of like the summer grain and veggie salad, this stuffing is very adaptable to varied vegetables and herbs. Cooked sausage or toasted nuts may also be added. A bread crumb topping could be used in place of the cheese (though I think the cheese makes this a winner!)

Plain sauteed cabbage

I’ve made this a lot lately cause we’ve gotten so much cabbage in the CSA! At first I was making a lot of cole slaw, which is okay, but I’ve really been preferring my cabbage cooked lately. This recipe is super simple and adaptable to other flavors… and was conceived when there was little other produce in the fridge! Most recently, I served it alongside roasted carrots and parsnips, and our first elk roast that was the fruit of Andy’s hunting trip in Montana. It is good as written, but can be even better if you cook some onions (substitute for onion powder), garlic, and apples first and toss in some caraway seeds.

I like to quarter the cabbage, core it, and cut it in half across its equator before slicing, so the slices are thin and not too long. The idea with thin slices is to cook it quickly. Long cooking times produce the bitter off-tastes that many people associate with cabbage. This side dish can accompany meats or potato or squash dishes.

Serves 6-8 as a side

2 T. butter
2 t. onion powder
1 head green cabbage, cored and thinly sliced.
1 T. brown sugar
2 t. soy sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Melt butter over medium heat in a large skillet; add in onion powder.
2. Add in salt and cabbage in handfuls, stirring constantly.
3. Cook for a few minutes till the cabbage is tender but still retains some crunch.
4. Stir in the brown sugar, soy sauce, and pepper to taste.

Use leftovers to make stuffed squash.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Potatoes with kale pesto

Here's a recipe I made last week too, inspired by this recipe from the New York Times. I was getting a little bored with plain roasted potatoes so I made them with a kale pesto.

1 lb potatoes (I had red skinned potatoes, but I think any kind would work)
1 T. olive oil
1 small bunch kale, washed, stems removed
1/3 c. pine nuts (toasting is optional)
1 or 2 cloves garlic
the zest from a lemon (I use a normal vegetable peeler to remove the zest, it's faster and will be processed later)
1/2 t. salt + more to taste
1/2 t. pepper + more to taste
about 1/3 c. olive oil
*Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for serving

1. Turn on oven to 375. Wash and cube the potatoes, toss with 1 T. olive oil, and place in roasting pan in oven. Roast for about 45 minutes or till done.
2. Bring some salted water to a boil, add in the kale and cook for just 45 seconds. Drain.
3. Combine pine nuts, garlic, lemon zest, S&P in the work bowl of a food processor. Pulse about 10 times till zest is finely chopped.
4. Add in the boiled kale.
5. Tun the food processor to on. While it's running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Process till smooth, add in more S&P if desired.
6. When the potatoes are done, remove from oven and toss with pesto. Serve with lots of Parmesan cheese.

*The easiest way to grate Parmesan is in the food processor. So before you make the pesto, cube the block of Parmesan into 1/2" cubes. Turn the food processor on, and drop the cheese cubes through the feed tube one at a time. Let it go for about 10 seconds after you've dropped in the last tube. Transfer the grated cheese to a serving bowl. No need to wash the work bowl before making the pesto!

Stir-fried Napa cabbage and leeks with noodles

I've developed a new appreciation for cabbage, again thanks to the CSA. Especially the Napa cabbage - it's so crisp and has a really unique taste - I don't think I'd had it before this summer. I've mostly been eating it raw in salads and cole slaws, but I decided it's like bok choy so why not stir fry it? There was also a recent minimalist blog posting that gave me the idea to put this over noodles, but the highlight here is the stir-fry, it should be greater in volume than the noodles. Warning: I ate so much of this (along with some raw Napa salad) that I felt a little sick afterwards - Andy was gone so I ended up eating almost the whole head of cabbage by myself.

Serves 2

4 ozs. soba noobles (Japanese buckwheat noodles that look like short spaghetti) or whole wheat thin spaghetti, broken in half.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. chilli flavored oil
1 T. vegetable oil
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
4-5 leeks, thinly sliced into half-moons, whites and the lighter green areas, well-rinsed (leeks are usually muddy)
1 head of Napa cabbage - quartered, cored, then sliced in 3/4" slices across the ribs.
1/2 c. washed and chopped cilantro
toasted sesame seeds

1. Boil salted water for cooking noodles. Add in noodles, cook according to package directions.
2. Combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and chili oil.
3. Heat oil in a wok over medium-high with red pepper flakes.
4. Stir-fry leeks, stirring constantly, for a few minutes.
5. Add in garlic-ginger-soy sauce-oil mixture, stir for a minute.
6. Add in the cabbage. Stir frequently for about 4 minutes, till the cabbage is wilted but still crunchy at the ribs.
7. Serve the stir-fry over the drained noodles, top with cilantro and sesame seeds. Splash with additional soy sauce and red pepper flakes if desired.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Rosemary and walnut topknot rolls

Made these rolls for Thanksgiving lunch today, based on Lisa's ideas for flavors (the walnuts and herbs), and based on a recipe from Gourmet that I made a few weeks ago.

1/4 c. warm water (105-110 degrees, should feel slightly warm on your wrist)
1 T. sugar
2 and 1/4 t. (1 packet) yeast
1 and 1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. olive oil
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 and 1/2 c. white flour
2 t. salt
3/4 c. toasted walnuts, chopped
2-3 T. chopped fresh rosemary (optional: include some thyme in here)
1 egg white
1 T. water
flaky sea salt

1. Dissolve sugar in warm water; sprinkle yeast on top and whisk. Let this mixture sit for about 10 minutes, a bubbly foam should develop.
2. Warm up the milk to about the same temperature as the yeast mixture.
3. Whisk the milk and olive oil into the yeast mixture.
4. Combine flours, salt, walnuts and rosemary.
5. Add flour mixture to the wet ingredients. Stir, and then turn out onto a clean floured surface, and knead. Kneading will take about 10 minutes, it's done when you pinch it and it has the consistency of your earlobe. And, when you poke it, it should readily spring back. As you're kneading, try not to add to much additional flour. It's better to oil your hands and the surface instead of flouring them.
6. When it's done, put it in an oiled bowl and flip over so the top of the dough is oiled. Let rise overnight in the fridge, or at room temperature for at least 2 hours. The longer it rises, the more flavor develops.
7. Preheat oven to 375. Prepare two baking sheets with parchment paper.
8. Divide dough in half. Working with the first half, divide into 12 equal amounts.
9. To shape the topknots, take each piece of dough, and make a ~12" long snake. Make a knot by looping the snake around your four non-thumb fingers, and drop the long end through the hole. Try to limit the contact between the loop and the long end so they don't stick together. Then, put the long end through the hole again. Now there should be an end sticking out of both sides. Put each roll on the parchment, 12 per sheet. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
10. Whisk the egg white with the water, and brush on each roll. Sprinkle a little sea salt on each one.
11. Bake for 12 minutes, switch positions, and bake an additional 12 minutes. They're done when they're nicely browned on top.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Spaghetti squash with kale & tomatoes

This dish has become pretty common here. For one thing, we've been getting a lot of spaghetti squashes in the CSA, and for another, it's quick, easy, and awesome. I really love the combo of the butter on the squash with the tomato sauce; it really comes together on your plate. My only gripe with this dish is that sometimes I'm hungry again about two hours after eating it. It's always filling at dinner, but spaghetti squash is pretty low calories. Just plan on dessert a while after eating this for dinner. Alternatively, it's probably a good diet dinner (but lacking in protein as written - see also the variations). This goes well with a nice salad - we had it with a green salad with roasted beets the other night.

1 spaghetti squash, or 2 "mini-ghettis"
2 T. butter
salt and pepper
chopped parsley
A little olive oil
1 onion, sliced or chopped and/or a few shallots, chopped
1 bunch kale, washed, stems removed, roughly torn into manageable pieces
3-6 cloves garlic, chopped
1 28 oz. can tomatoes
splash (~1/4 c) red wine
optional: chopped fresh herbs
freshly grated parmesan cheese

1. Slice the spaghetti squash in half. Scoop out the seeds. Place the two halves cut side down in a microwave safe dish with 1/4" of water. It's okay if they don't both fit on the bottom of the dish.
2. Microwave the squash for 8 minutes. If you can depress the skin of the squash, it's done. Cook for additional 2 minute increments if it needs more time. Total cook time will vary based on microwave strength, but it probably won't be less than 8 minutes or more than 12.
3. Let it cool for a while. Once cool enough to handle, use a fork to separate the strands, and then a spoon to move all the strands into a serving bowl. Toss with butter, S&P, and optional parsley.
4. Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a large (non-cast iron) skillet over medium heat, sautee onion and/or shallot till translucent.
5. Add kale and garlic. Stir frequently for a few minutes, till the kale is starting to wilt and the garlic is starting to small nice.
6. Add a few tablespoonfuls of water, cover, and reduce to low heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, till kale is pretty tender but still textural and somewhat chewy.
7. Add wine and tomatoes and simmer for about 10 minutes, till the tomatoes start to lose their acidity and turn a deeper color of red. Remove the lid is you prefer a thicker stew. Stir in herbs, if using, at the end of the simmer. Season with additional S&P.
8. If necessary reheat the sphagetti squash in the microwave, and serve. Top with lots of parmesan.

-For herbs, I think rosemary or sage would be nice, as would any combination of basil, marjoram, oregano, parsley, herbes de provence.
-Use eggplant in addition or instead of kale for a ratatouille-like sauce; I've had it this way too, works really well.
-Add chunks of sausage, or tempeh. Or serve with grilled or seared shrimp or sea scallops.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Andy's birthday dinner!

Andy's birthday was October 7th... this shows how behind I am updating the blog!

I didn't make anything very fancy, I can't remember what we did - maybe mountain biking? - but there wasn't a lot of time left for cooking. So, I don't really have any recipes to share but thought I'd post a pic and the menu:

~Crab cakes (rescued from the freezer, so I definitely don't remember what want into them) with faux chilli aioli, i.e. a mixture of mayo and Sriracha chilli sauce.

~French fries from the awesome Yukon golds that come in the CSA... made roughly according to this recipe.

~Tasty salad!

Chile relleno casserole

This recipe comes from one of my PhD committee members, Linda. Thanks to the CSA, I again had a whole bunch of chiles, Anaheims I believe. I often get chiles rellenos when I eat at Mexican restaurants. They're so good. I always figured they were somewhat of a production to make, until Linda told me about her short cut way. The amounts here are definitely guesses, I should have jotted them down as I was making it (this is a common theme lately), so if it looks like too much or too little, definitely adjust! The key to the recipe is the batter; whipping the egg whites makes it light and crispy, mimicking the results of frying batter-dipped chiles.

1 lb potatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
salt & pepper
~at least 1 dozen green chiles: Anaheim, poblanos, hatch most types would work
~1/2 lb of cheese, preferably Cabot Hunter's X-sharp, sliced or grated.
optional green chile
some butter
2 eggs
~1/3 cup flour
1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375.
2. Sautee potatoes and onions in butter till potatoes are done, season with S&P to taste.
3. Roast chiles the same way as directed in the green chile recipe. Linda says you can skip this step if you don't have time - or use canned roasted chiles.
4. Butter a medium-sized casserole or baking pan.
5. Layer half the green chiles, the potato and onion mixutre, the cheese, and top with the other half of the green chiles or the optional green chile. If your chile are still whole, you can make it fancier by stuffing them instead of layering.
6. Separate the eggs, reserving yolks and transferring whites to a mixing bowl.
7. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer till the soft peak stage.
8. Lightly beat yolks in a separate small bowl.
9. Very lightly fold in the yolks, flour, baking powder and S&P. The batter should be light and thinner than pancake batter.
10. Pour the batter evenly over the casserole.
11. Bake for about 40 minutes, till the batter is completely cooked in the middle.

Serve with warm corn tortillas, chopped cilantro, plain yogurt or sour cream, and salsa (fresh, if available!), and/or rice and black beans.

Green chile

Here in Colorado, green chile is ubiquitous. It's served by itself, as stew (usually thinned with stock), but more often as a condiment for burritos, tamales, eggs, meat dishes etc. I don't think it's very common outside of Colorado, New Mexico... maybe a couple other places. And interestingly, there's not a lot of recipes for it online, and there seems to be wild debate on message boards. A couple things I've decided about green chile, which may or may not be right:
1. Green chile should be made of New Mexico Hatch chiles
2. The chiles are roasted and peeled first
3. It does not contain tomatoes, tomatillos, cilantro, or really much else.
4. It contains pork

I don't really like pork very much. So I decided to try to make a somewhat traditional green chile (ie follow observations 1-3), but without the pork. I thought some chicken, flavorful, fatty chicken, might give the green chile the required depth in place of the pork. I got a "stewing chicken" from our CSA thinking it might do the trick. I don't claim that this is traditional, the correct way, the best way, or anything else, but it did work fairly well.

I took a similar approach to making pho ga, the Vietnamese chicken soup, which I learned to make from Tin's mom Thuy. My thinking was that I would end up with a bunch of awesome chicken stock, some cooked chicken, and some chicken fat to work into the green chile.

The chiles, as I noted above, are roasted first. I didn't do this part particularly well, so I am writing the recipe as it should be made, not as I made it. My problem was I roasted them for too long, and the chile flesh got a bit burned and dry. The parts of the chile that weren't as subject to high heat were the best. So onto the recipe!

1 whole chicken (you won't use all of it)
About two dozen green chiles, I used mostly Hatch, and some Anaheim
4 cloves garlic, minced

Part 1 - the chicken
1. Rinse the chicken.
2. Boil water in a stockpot, add chicken. You can throw in some charred onion or other vegetables (char the onion directly over a gas burner).
3. Bring to a boil again over medium heat, then reduce, and let simmer for 45 minutes.
4. Pull out the chicken, make sure it's done. Put on some gloves (latex are fine, it'll be hot and they help a little) and used a fork and knife and your fingers (with caution, hot!) to pull the meat of the carcass.
5. Return the carcass to the stock and boil for another hour or two or however long you want.
6. Chill the stock overnight in the fridge.
7. In the morning, skim the fat off the top, and save it.

Part 2 - the chiles
1. Wash the chiles. One comment on a message board says to rub the chiles with lard or shortening, saying that it helps cook the chiles more evenly and makes the skinning easier. I haven't tried this, but might next time.
2. Put the chiles on the grate of your preheated grill. If it's a gas grill, I would probably aim for only about half heat, but it's all relative.
3. Watch the chiles carefully. As soon as you see black and blistering skin, turn the chile, getting them as evenly cooked as possible. I think when I cook this again, I will err on the side of underdone.
4. As they finish cooking, but them in a bowl and cover with a damp dishtowel. Let them sit and steam until they are cool enough to handle.
5. Peel off the skins. Gloves are again useful, especially if you wear contact lens and will eventually want to touch your eyes! Discard any stems and big clumps of seeds. The seeds that stick to the inner membranes are fine to leave.
6. Chop the peeled, cooked chiles roughly (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch dice, but shouldn't be terribly uniform).

Part 3 - unification
1. Heat up a little of the reserved chicken fat in a heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. If this grosses you out, use a neutral oil.
2. Add in the garlic and all the chopped up chiles. Stir occasionally for 5 minutes. My thinking here was to evoke any of the fat-soluble flavors from the chiles.
3. Pour in enough chicken stock to just cover the chiles; you won't use all of it. Cover and simmer for about half an hour.
4. Take the reserved chicken out of the fridge and shred or chop. You want the chicken in small pieces... and not long strings. You can put as much chicken into the chile as you want.
5. Add as much chicken as you want and simmer for another half an hour or so. Simmer without the lid if seems too soupy.

My version of this chile was quite spicy (it all depends on the spiciness of chiles though). I knew it would take a while to eat it all, so I froze it in an ice cube tray for little blocks that are the perfect size to accompany a fried egg! In fact I think my favorite breakfast of the moment might be two over easy eggs with sliced tomatoes (too bad the season's over! no more in our CSA...), grated Cabot cheddar cheese, and green chile on some warmed corn tortillas, as is pictured below (actually this looks like wheat tortilla, corn is better :)

Monday, November 2, 2009

Pumpkin pie oatmeal

I've been having trouble making the time to put up my recipes. But I intend to keep doing it! I've got about 6 recipes I want to put up, so hopefully they will be here soon. But in the meantime, here's a super quick one.

I don't intend to put much breakfasty stuff on here, but this is one of my more brilliant breakfast ideas lately. It stems from the deluge of pumpkins coming from the CSA and elsewhere. It's delicious, and a lot healthier than pumpkin pie.

Serves 1, but can be easily scaled up:

1/2 c. old-fashioned rolled oats (never, ever eat instant oatmeal, it's gross IMO)
1 c. milk
2 T. pumpkin puree, from a can or your own
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
small handful pecans, toasted if you have the time
brown sugar, milk to taste

Combine oats, milk, and pumpkin in saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to low heat. Rummage through spice cabinet and add spices as you find them. Cook a few minutes till it looks creamy and delicious. Serve with pecans, brown sugar, and more milk.

I think this would also be great with steel cut oats, soaked overnight and then cooked with pumpkin and spices.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Mac and Cheese (or Cheese and Mac?)

Mac and cheese is an ultimate comfort food. I like mac and cheese from a box (Annie's) but homemade mac and cheese is soooooo much better. This recipe is not actually mine. It's written down in this little recipe notebook I have. I wrote it down my junior summer in college when I worked at Moosilauke, and I'm pretty sure that it's from a giant green binder of recipes that landed at the lodge from AMC (Appalachian Mountain Club) huts' kitchens.

I think it's okay for me to share it because it's not a published recipe and I also usually don't follow the recipe exactly, I'll explain how under the recipe in the variations section.

8 ozs. pasta (macaroni, shells, anything small)
1/4 c. butter
2 eggs
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/2 lb. cheese (what kind? discussed below)
12 ozs. evaporated milk

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Boil mac according to package directions, err on the side of al dente since you'll be baking it a bit more.
3. Toss w/butter in an ovenproof casserole.
4. Mix in the rest of the stuff.
5. Top with breadcrumbs.
6. Bake for 20 minutes.
Cheese - 1/2 cheddar and 1/2 Swiss is a fantastic combo, and is what I usually make. But I can also think of a lot of other good ones too.

As is, this mac and cheese is incredible, but yeah, 1/4 c. butter and 1/2 lb. cheese is not so good for you.

Variation - healthier version, pictured in the photo
8 ozs. whole wheat pasta (macaroni, shells, anything small)
optional: up to 8 ozs. veggies (leftovers are great, or veggies that you can throw in with the pasta while it's cooking! Here, I used about 8 oz. green beans, cooked with the pasta)
1.5 - 2 T. butter
2 eggs
1/2 t. dry mustard
scant 1/2 lb. cheese (~3/8 lb smoked gouda, ~1/8 lb asadero)
12 ozs. skim milk
whole wheat breadcrumbs

Follow the same directions as above, remember to throw the veggies in the pasta if you want! There's still a lot of cheese in the recipe, but that's the way mac and cheese, or cheese and mac should be!
Other veggies that would be great: broccoli, peas, or chopped hearty greens cooked in the boiling pasta water. Sauteed peppers, onions, spinach, or snow peas. Any leftover grilled veggie like eggplant or zuchini!
(And yes, I did eat half of this for dinner... by myself!)

Eggplant dip/spread

I love having lots of different things in the fridge for sandwiches. Yesterday I had a lone eggplant from last week's CSA that needed to get eaten since today (Monday) is when we pick up this week's box. So here's a quick and easy recipe for a dip/spread that is great on sandwiches, and would be just as tasty as a dip for crackers, pita chips, or veggies.

1 medium eggplant (or other size, adjust other ingredients accordingly)
1 clove garlic
1/4 c. pine nuts
2 T. lemon juice
1 T. olive oil
small handful fresh mint
salt and pepper to taste

1. Rinse eggplant and put on a hot grill, or in a 35o degree oven. Rotate it every 8 minutes or so, until it's very soft. At least 20-25 min. on a grill, or maybe 50-60 min. in the oven.
2. When it's cool enough to handle, scoop all the insides out of the eggplant into the work bowl of a food processor.
3. Add all the other ingredients, and process till it's smooth!

That's it! If you want this as a dip, you might want to add a little more liquid to make it thinner. Olive oil, yogurt, or tahini could all be used. My sandwich for lunch today was a pita with this eggplant spread, Cabot cheddar (Hunter's extra sharp), avocado, and tomatoes and spinach (which is the tastiest spinach I've ever had) from the CSA. And check out the carrot in the picture - that's from the CSA today - who's ever seen a carrot that's red on the outside and orange on the inside?!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Summer grain and veggie salad (framework)

I am going to give you a framework, a detailed recipe, and a bunch of suggested variations here. I make this salad all the time, especially in the summer, but I have probably never made it the same way twice. Even calling it a salad is a bit of a stretch. I would prefer to call it "tasty healthy things in a bowl with dressing," but that's a bit long. But it's easy to make, everyone likes it (especially Andy), and it's great for using up leftovers (esp. grilled veggies) so that's why I'm sharing it.

Most often, this salad is approximately equal volumes grains and a combo of veggies/fruits/beans, with a lemon-olive oil-herb dressing and some optional "flair". You could certainly go lighter on the grains, but I like the texture, taste, and filling-ness lent by a predominance of grains. So, to break down the ingredients and amounts required for a big bowl (to feed at least 6 people), here's the framework.

Dressing. Juice of 1.5-2 lemons, about 3 T. olive oil, big handful of herbs, salt and pepper. The herbs in my kitchen have been mint and parsley almost all summer. The mint has been going gangbusters since May and we keep getting lots of parsley in the CSA. Almost any other fresh herb would be delicious: oregano, thyme, basil, sage, rosemary (but in moderation), tarragon (also in moderation), cilantro (might want to go with lime instead of lemon since they're so good together!)

4-5 c. cooked grains. My favorites are quinoa, followed by bulgar wheat. Brown rice, couscous, and barley are all good as well. I like quinoa and bulgar the best, and use them most often because they are whole grains (unlike couscous, although there is whole wheat couscous), and fast cooking (unlike brown rice or barley). Quinoa is a good protein source too.

4 c. veggies/fruits/beans. The veggies can be cooked or not (depending on what they are). I usually don't want to put the whole CSA in the salad; rather, I'll pick 3-5 veggies that complement each other, in the context of the herbs or other flair items (read on for what that means). I don't often put fruits (besides dried ones like raisins), but could certainly imagine a barley/pumpkin/apple/onion salad in the fall (with sage? mmmm...)! Beans are also optional, and I generally put in a smaller volume of beans than veggies, like 1 can, if using canned beans. Black-eyed peas, lentils, white beans, garbanzos, black beans are all great, as would be edamame, fava, or lima beans (don't think I've ever used those guys, will have to try).

Flair. Make the salad special with a smaller amount of toasted nuts, olives, marinated artichoke hearts or peppers, or cheese (goat cheese, parmesan, feta, chunks of gouda, fresh mozzarella) sprinkled on top or tossed at the last minute. Marinated and cooked tempeh is also awesome.

Detailed recipe
Here's what I made last night for dinner, and what is pictured (will upload picture later).

Juice of 1.5 lemons
3 T. olive oil
Small handful parsley leaves (roughly separated from stems)
Small handful mint leaves (thoroughly separated from stems)
12-15 cherry tomatoes (I put them in the dressing cause they were starting to get a bit past their prime, they'd be fine sliced into the salad with the other veggies too).
Salt and pepper

2 c. dry quinoa

1 T. olive oil
5 medium Yukon gold potatoes, in a 1/4 - 1/3 inch dice
3 shallots, diced
2-4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 yellow squash, sliced

1. Pulse all dressing ingredients in food processor or blender. Herbs and and tomatoes can still be chunky, based on your preference. Set aside in serving bowl.
2. Bring 3 c. water to a boil with a little salt. Rinse quinoa in at least 3 changes of waters. Rub the grains vigorously with your hands while submerged**. When boiling, add the quinoa and reduce heat to low. Cover partially and simmer for about 10 minutes, or till all water is observed and quinoa is al dente (I like it with a little crunch still).
3. Toss cooked quinoa with dressing in serving bowl and refrigerate.
4. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a cast iron or other large skillet. Add potatoes and cook for about 8 minutes, till they are edible but still undercooked.
5. Add the shallot, continue to cook, stirring frequently, till the shallot is translucent (about 5 minutes).
6. Add the garlic and squash. Cook till squash is just softened (less than 5 minutes).
7. Combine veggies into the rest of the salad in the bowl, toss, and add more salt and pepper to taste if desired. Serve or refridgerate. It's good warm, room temperature, or cold. If I had it on hand, I also would have tossed in some feta cheese at this point.

**Rinsing the quinoa thoroughly is necessary to remove bitter surfactants called saponins. The way I do it is to submerge the quinoa in a bowl, agitate it with my hands, and then hold a length of cheesecloth across one edge of the bowl, and drain. The quinoa are so small they go through many collanders (at least all of mine). Repeat that process at least 3 times and don't sweat losing a few down the drain.

Other suggested combinations
1. Mint, parsley-bulgar-green onions, cucumbers, tomatoes-olives (this is kind of like tabouli)
2. Thyme-barley-sauteed mushrooms, onions, spinach, lentils-toasted pecans or walnuts
3. Oregano-brown rice-shredded raw carrots, beets (cooked or shredded raw), garlic, golden raisins-pine nuts, parmesan
4. Cilantro, lime juice-quinoa-grilled red peppers, jalapenos, shredded cabbage, black beans-pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I heart my new grill (and grilled pizzas)

I'd like to think I'm not materialistic, but I love our new grill. LOVE it. Andy and I got it for anniversary #5. It is a Weber gas grill, E-320 Genesis. This box had a shipping weight of 275 pounds. It's all cast iron and stainless steel parts, so we unpacked it at the front door, carried it piece by piece to the back deck, and assembled it out there.

We've cooked on it each night since it arrived, including a big dinner with Lisa, Tin, Thai, and Elliot the first night, after two or three hours of putting it together. We've mostly been grilling veggies, sausages, and burgers, but on Saturday we grilled some pizzas. The benefit to grilling pizzas as opposed to cooking them on a stone in the oven is 1) you don't heat up the kitchen with a 450-500 degree oven, 2) it's fun, 3) you get cool grill marks on a nice, crispy crust.

There's a lot of recipes and discussion out there for grilling pizzas, including a nice detailed writeup on 101cookbooks and Bitten. So I won't go into detail, except to say that I made the dough I always make for pizza, which is the recipe from our Cuisinart manual (but with half whole wheat flour and half bread flour), and topped them with garlicky olive oil, leftovers, and parmesan (would have been better with more cheese but we were out). Mine was leftover grilled mushrooms and sauteed collard greens with raisins, pine nuts, and garlic. Andy's was leftover grilled red pe
pper, summer squash, mushrooms, and chicken sausage.

It was dead easy, but the most important thing is to make sure your dough is not to sticky. I put on some extra oil and cornmeal to prevent disaster. They were a little burnt on the bottom cause I'm still getting used to how awesomely hot this grill gets.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Japanese-style Carrot Slaw

Dinner, 8/13/09. Context: back home from a mountain bike ride at 7:30, hungry, and wanted a quick salad with some protein. We ate this with some left over homemade whole wheat bread, and a poached egg each.

I only call this "Japanese style" because I use mirin, an ingredient in Japanese cooking. Mirin is a sweetened rice wine. It definitely makes the salad. I almost always cook tofu before using it, but here it's raw so it imparts a nice coolness to temper the dressing. With a food processor, this is a really quick salad.

1/3 bunch of parsley
1-2 cloves garlic
3/4 inch piece of ginger, peeled
2 t. soy sauce
2 t. mirin
2 t. rice wine vinegar
1 T. hot chili flavored oil (this oil is a mixture and contains some sesame oil, you could substitute sesame oil, but I like the hotness of the chili)
Juice of 1/2 lime

1 lb carrots
1/3 lb radishes
1 12 oz block of firm or extra firm tofu, pressed**
Black pepper, to taste

1. While the tofu is being pressed, blend all ingredients listed under dressing in food processor (or blender). Transfer dressing to bowl.
2. Replace food processor blade with grating disc (don't clean the workbowl). Grate the carrots and radishes, in two batches, then transfer to the dressing bowl.
3. Dice tofu into 1/3 inch cubes and transfer to bowl. Toss well, add pepper to taste. Like many slaws, it'll get better with time.

**Pressing tofu. I am convinced pressing tofu is essential to almost any tofu dish. It removes some of the water so that your sauce or dressing can get at the tofu, and so that the water doesn't leave the tofu and make for a watery sauce or dressing. Directions: drain tofu. Wrap block of tofu in a clean kitchen towel. Place something heavy on the block of tofu, such as a cast iron skillet, for at least 10 minutes.

This recipe is very adaptable to other veggies: turnips, kohlrabi, cucumbers, cabbage, broccoli would all be welcome at the party. Cilantro instead of parsley might make it even better, but parsley was what the CSA gave us!

Because the world needs more food blogs...

I have created one. Actually, I probably could have graduated by now if food blogs didn't exist so I'm not sure why I'm adding to the problem. I blame Julie & Julia for spurring me to do this, even though I've been thinking about it for a while.
The real point of this is
1. To encourage me to write down recipes that I make. Most of the cooking I do is improvisational. I definitely cook from cookbooks too, but I usually find myself buying whatever looks good in the grocery store and working from that. Or more recently, basing my cooking on all the veggies that come in the CSA box. But anyway, sometimes my improvisational cooking is pretty good, so I might as well write down the recipes.
2. To share these recipes with friends and family... and I guess random people.
3. I think a lot about food, so I might put some thoughts down here. I also might repost links to my favorite postings in other places.