Tag Archive: vegetables


[Winter Squash, Part 2]

Squash!

After finishing off the last of the spaghetti squash, I decided to tackle the butternut squash that you can see lurking there in the background.  Weighing in at over 5lbs, it was an impressive specimen!  I’ve always liked butternut squash (despite the lack of recipes featuring it on this blog!), and I frequently use it in any recipe that calls for pumpkin, since it’s often more readily available than pie pumpkins.  This time, though, I wanted to do something a bit different.

5lbs+!

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s various squash salad applications (for example this or this), I decided to make up my own.  I contemplated various beans and grains before deciding on using red lentils because a) we had some in the pantry and b) you don’t have to soak them overnight.  Along with the squash and lentils, I decided to roast a few shallots that had been rolling around in the bottom of the fridge, and to top the whole thing off, I went with some feta, parsley, and toasted hazelnuts.  Of course the feta turned out to be the wrong kind for crumbling, but since the salad was warm, I rather liked how it melted and mingled with the squash and lentils.

Cubing a squash that big takes a while...

Parchment keeps your towel clean

So much for the main ingredients, but what about spices?  Normally I probably would have gone with a bolder spice palette, and no doubt would have added a healthy dose of cayenne pepper (or even added some fresh cayenne peppers for that matter–we had quite the haul this year from our balcony garden!) but alas, since pregnancy has given me the gift of heartburn, I had to get a bit more creative with my flavors.  In the end, I decided to roast the squash and shallots together with some whole cumin seeds and a bit of salt, and to cook the lentils with a cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and some black peppercorns, as well as a couple of tablespoons of tamari soy sauce (which is my favorite trick for imparting flavor to any sort of bean/grain/rice).  I also created a simple vinaigrette with olive oil, rice vinegar, and tamari–the acid from the vinegar definitely brightened up the dish, although in retrospect a bit of lemon juice would have been very nice too.

In the end, this dish turned out to be one of the best applications of butternut squash that I’ve ever made–it managed to be filling without being heavy, spiced without being spicy, and it was pretty easy to pull together with a fairly minimal amount of pre-planning.  It also made enough to feed a small army, and the leftovers tasted just as good cold as warm.  I think this dish is definitely going to be a permanent addition to the fall meal rotation.

squashlentils

Warm Salad with Cumin Roasted Butternut Squash and Spiced Lentils
(Serves 6-8)

For the squash:

  • 1 large butternut squash (approx. 5lbs)
  • 1-2 large shallots
  • 3 tbsp grapeseed oil
  • 2-3 tbsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt

For the lentils:

  • 1.75 c red lentils
  • 3.25 c water
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 9 whole black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp tamari soy sauce

Dressing:

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp rice vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • a few grinds of black pepper

Toppings:

  • 1/4 c crumbled feta cheese (or finely diced if your feta doesn’t crumble)
  • 1/4 c hazelnuts, toasted and peeled
  • small handful of fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread out the hazelnuts on a parchment-lined sheet pan (the kind with edges so they don’t roll off!).  Put them on the middle rack and toast for 8-12 minutes, giving them a good stir halfway through.  You’ll be able to smell when they’re done–don’t burn them!  Remove the hazelnuts from the oven, and turn up the heat to 400 degrees in preparation for the squash.  Allow the hazelnuts to cool for a bit.  Then take the corners of the parchment and bring them together, creating a little package.  Wrap the whole thing in a towel, and rub it around until the nuts are mostly peeled (they don’t need to be perfect).

While the hazelnuts are toasting, peel your butternut squash, halve it lengthwise and scoop out the seeds, and then cut it up into 1-inch cubes.  Peel the shallot(s) and cut into large chunks.  Line the sheet pan you used for the hazelnuts with aluminum foil, and spread out the squash and shallots in a single layer.  Drizzle the grapeseed oil over everything and then sprinkle on the cumin seeds and salt.  Mix it all together with your hands, making sure that all the pieces of squash are coated in oil, spread them back out, and then put it in the oven (which should now be at 400) for 20-30 minutes or until the squash is fork tender but not disintegrating.

Once the squash is going, rinse and pick over your lentils and then add them to a pan with the water, tamari, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and peppercorns.  Give it a good stir and bring it to a boil.  Then reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are fully cooked–probably about 20 minutes.

While the lentils and squash are cooking, whisk together all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.  Taste, and adjust the ratio of vinegar/lemon juice to oil as needed.  You may end up wanting to sprinkle a bit more lemon juice or vinegar over the finished salad if the acidic flavor gets lost in the squash and lentils.

Once the lentils are done, drain off any excess water, and pull out the cinnamon stick, bay leaf, and (if you can find them) the peppercorns.  (If you can’t find them, just chew carefully!)  Put the lentils in a large serving bowl along with the squash and shallots.  Mix them together, and then pour on the dressing and add the toppings.  Give everything a good toss, add extra vinegar, lemon juice, or salt to taste, and serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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[Winter Squash, Part 1]

And just like that, it’s fall.

winter squash

I’m loving the cooler weather, changing leaves, and most of all the availability of winter squash!  Last night’s successful spaghetti squash experiment marked the first new dish I’ve created since June, when I made a mayonnaise-free, vinegar-free potato salad that I will definitely share with you at some point.  Why the lack of cooking, you ask?  Well, a certain new addition to the family is due to arrive in late December, and as it turns out, he seems to hate most vegetables (particularly the green, nutritious ones!), and he has somehow scrambled my brain such that I have become terrible at figuring out which flavors go together.  (I maintain that peanut butter, jelly, and cottage cheese is a perfectly normal and delicious sandwich combination!)  But since squash is sweet (and isn’t green!), it seemed like a perfect way to start eating vegetables again in a way the baby would let me tolerate, and sage was the obvious herb to combine with it.

sage

There are different schools of thought about the optimal way to cook spaghetti squash–whole or halved, seeds in or out, microwave or oven, covered or uncovered, steamed or roasted with oil and herbs–in the end, since I wanted the “noodles” to be all the same consistency, and since the half hour baking time would give me just enough time to make the sauce, I went with halved, seeded, face down in a baking dish with a bit of water, covered tightly with aluminum foil so it would steam.

The sauce was really easy to throw together–essentially it’s a basic white sauce (roux + milk) combined with shallots, sage, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and Parmesan cheese.  For a richer sauce, you could definitely use half and half or cream, but if you don’t have them, milk works just fine.  Definitely be prepared to add more salt after you toss it with the squash “noodles” — they will dilute the flavor of your sauce more than you expect.

If you want to get a bit more elaborate than just squash + sauce, this dish would definitely be enhanced by the addition of some toasted hazelnuts or perhaps a bit of crispy pancetta–I was too hungry by the time I was done with the squash and sauce to bother, but if you have the time, you should definitely try it out.

spaghetti

So without further ado:

Spaghetti Squash with Sage and Nutmeg Cream Sauce
(Serves 2-3)

  • a small spaghetti squash (approx. 2.5lbs)
  • 3 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 large shallot, finely diced
  • 2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1.5 cups milk
  • a handful of fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • salt
  • pepper

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  While it’s heating, cut the squash in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and put the halves face down in a baking dish.  Add enough water to go up the sides of the squash about 1/4 inch.  (It took me about a cup and a half of water for my 9×13 pan).  Cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a sharp knife slides easily into the squash.

Meanwhile, melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat, and saute the shallots until they soften and just start to get a bit of color.  Remove them from the pan and set aside.  Add the remaining two tablespoons of butter to the pan, and when it’s melted, add the flour, whisking constantly until you have a nice, even roux and it darkens a bit.  Then add the milk, and continue to whisk until the sauce starts to thicken.  Reduce the heat to low and add the shallots back to the pan, along with the sage, freshly grated nutmeg, and pepper.  Taste, and adjust the amounts of nutmeg and pepper accordingly.

Remove the sauce from the heat, stir in the Parmesan cheese, and then add salt to taste.  Cover, and keep warm, stirring occasionally to keep it from thickening too much; the longer it sits, the thicker it will become.  When the squash is ready, carefully remove it from the baking dish and use a fork to separate the flesh into “noodles”.  Put your squash noodles into a serving bowl and toss with the sauce until well-coated.  Taste, and adjust seasonings as needed.

Enjoy!

P.S. If you can, wash the sauce pan right away–we let it sit a bit too long, and so even after an overnight soak it was hard to get clean!

You guys, I’m so excited!  The husband and I are headed off on our honeymoon tomorrow to Portland, Oregon for 10 days of food nerd awesomeness!  We have both a spreadsheet and a customized google map marking out all the places we want to try–it’s going to be awesome!  (Of course we also have lots of walking and hiking planned…have to do something to burn off all the ridiculous meals we’re going to be eating!  Plus there are awesome waterfalls near Portland!)  I’m planning on tweeting pictures of the food (and anything else cool that we come across!), so if you haven’t followed me on Twitter yet, please do!  Or not if Twitter’s not your thing–don’t worry, I’m planning a round-up blog post about the trip when we get back.

And now on to today’s recipe!  I made this a couple weeks ago but I hadn’t gotten around to actually writing up the post yet.  But this might just be one of my favorite recipes I’ve shared here.  It has just the right balance of flavors…sweet/sour/savory/salty/bitter, with just the right amount of spice.  The key is really the lime juice at the end.  The lime juice takes what would have been a pretty decent dish to a whole other level of flavor.  So don’t leave it out!  Added bonus: this dish is ridiculously healthy, what with the quinoa and the beans and the kale and such.  But it doesn’t *taste* like health food.  It just tastes good.

Colorful, isn't it?

So without further ado:

Quinoa Adzuki Bean Stir Fry

  • 1/2c quinoa (uncooked)
  • 1.25c water
  • 1/2tbsp tamari
  • 2 carrots, sliced into discs
  • 1 daikon, sliced into discs
  • 1 green pepper, sliced into strips
  • 1/2 habanero pepper, minced
  • 1/2 large white onion, diced
  • 1 can adzuki beans, drained (also rinsed if they contain salt)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • splash mirin
  • 1 inch knob ginger, peeled and freshly grated
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 bunch lacinta kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1/2c sugar snap peas
  • freshly ground black pepper

Rinse and pick over the quinoa, then put it, the water, and the tamari into a pan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  Once it starts to boil, reduce the heat and simmer for about half an hour until all of the water is absorbed.  Keep an eye on it, both so it doesn’t boil over and so it doesn’t overcook.  If it finishes cooking before you’re done with everything else, take it off the heat, fluff it with a fork so it doesn’t stick and then set it aside.

Meanwhile in your largest skillet, heat the tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat.  When it’s hot, add the onion, carrot, daikon, ginger, and black pepper.  Stir periodically.  When the onion starts to get transparent, deglaze the pan with the mirin and add the kale and habanero.  When the kale starts to wilt, add the quinoa, green pepper, and adzuki beans.  Mix well.  When everything is heated through, remove it from the heat and add the sugar snap peas and a splash of tamari.  Pour in the lime juice, give everything a good toss to mix it all together and enjoy!

 

I owe you a potato salad recipe!  I really meant to get this recipe posted last week, but I didn’t manage to get it written before leaving for a long weekend in Virginia (if you’re ever in Williamsburg, try The Trellis) and then this past week turned out to be unexpectedly busy!  But I haven’t forgotten about the potato salad I promised you on Twitter!

The thought process behind this potato salad: “Oh crap, I still haven’t used those garlic scapes I bought at the farmer’s market last week!  Are they even still good?  Oh and the mushrooms!  And the bag of potatoes!  And the asparagus!  What can I make with mushrooms, garlic scapes, asparagus and potatoes??? …Potato salad!”

As I detest mayonnaise, I decided to make a yogurt-based potato salad.  Plain Greek yogurt provides both a wonderful creamy texture and a nice tang, which I amped up even more by adding some soft goat cheese and a little dijon mustard.  (Emphasis on little.  I’m not a fan of mustard but my husband loves it so we compromise).

Garlic Scapes!

lonely corn

As I was chopping up the potatoes I remembered that I also had a lonely ear of corn in the back of the fridge.  So in that went as well!  All in all it turned out to be quite good, both as an entree and as a side dish.  (And as a way to clean out my fridge!)  So the next time you have some potatoes and other random vegetables hanging around, make yourself some potato salad!

 

On a plate!

Potato Salad with Asparagus

  • 2lbs small red potatoes, diced into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • 1-2 ears of sweetcorn
  • 1 bundle of garlic scapes
  • a handful of Italian flat leaf parsley
  • 1c chopped mushrooms (I used shiitake)
  • 1c plain Greek yogurt
  • 2oz soft goat cheese
  • 1/2tsp vinegar
  • 1/4tsp dijon mustard (more if you like it)
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

Put your potatoes into a large pot of salted water and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat slightly and let them cook until the potatoes are tender, but not falling apart.  (You don’t want potato mush in your potato salad!)  While the potatoes are boiling, drop your shucked ear(s) of corn into the water for about a minute or so.  Pull the corn out with a pair of tongs, run some cold water over it to stop the cooking, and then set it aside to let it cool the rest of the way. When the potatoes are done, drain them, and set them aside to cool.

Meanwhile, get out a medium sized skillet and heat it over medium heat.  Add a splash of olive oil and then toss in your mushrooms and garlic scapes.  Saute for a few minutes until the mushrooms are browned, then remove the skillet from the heat and let the mushrooms and garlic scapes cool as well.

While you’re waiting for everything to cool, in a small bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt, goat cheese, vinegar, mustard, and pepper.  Taste it as you go, and adjust the ingredients to your preferences.  Set aside.

Get out a large bowl, and stand your ear(s) of corn on end and shave off the kernels into the bowl.  Then chop the asparagus into inch-long segments and add it to the bowl as well.  Add your cooled potatoes as well as your mushrooms and garlic scapes, and then add the yogurt mixture.  With a spatula or wooden spoon, gently fold everything together until all of the components are well-coated with the yogurt mixture.  Season with salt and more pepper to taste and enjoy!

I love chicken pot pie.  Okay, really I love all pies, but most pies are dessert–chicken pot pie is your entree!  You could have pie twice in one meal and be totally justified!  Unfortunately, chicken pot pie is, for obvious reasons, not vegetarian friendly, and when you’re married to a vegetarian, it’s usually nice to cook things that both of you can eat.

Enter the vegetable pot pie.  All the creamy goodness and golden brown flaky crust, none of the dead animals.

You can really use any vegetables you want–potatoes, parsnips, carrots, beets, onions, sweet potatoes, celery, greens…it’s all good!  Just adjust your herb selection based on your vegetables and you’re good to go.  In my case I had some beautiful golden beets, a bunch of swiss chard and a couple of potatoes so I decided to go in a dill-heavy direction (I love dill!).  But play around!  The beauty of this dish is that you can make individual pies in ramekins, so feel free to make some different flavor combos.

Confession time: I did not make my crust from scratch.  I had Trader Joe’s puff pastry in the freezer and as I was short on time, I just slapped it on top of the pie instead of taking the time to make my own crust.  That said, Trader Joe’s puff pastry is quite delicious.  So don’t feel bad if you don’t make puff pastry from scratch!  It’s a little high maintenance, what with all the folding, pounding and rotating.  (If you do want to make it from scratch though, Alton Brown will teach you how!)

The third important part of making a good pot pie is the sauce.  This is what gives the filling the delicious creaminess you expect from a pot pie.  And the key to a good sauce?  A good whisk.  Whisk the flour and melted butter together to make a smooth roux, and then just keep whisking as you add the milk and stock.  This is how you will avoid lumps.  I’m also convinced the sauce thickens faster when I’m whisking, but I make no promises.

And with that, I give you my take on a vegetable pot pie:

Vegetable Pot Pie, fresh out of the oven!

Vegetable Pot Pie
(makes approx. 5 servings of pie with some leftover filling)

  • 3 medium beets
  • 4 medium potatoes
  • 1 bunch Swiss chard
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • splash of olive oil
  • 3 tbsp dried dill
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp water

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  Give your beets a good scrub and then put them in a large pot of water and bring them to a boil.  Cook them until you can get a fork into the center of the beet without too much difficulty.  Drain, run them under cold water, and slip the skins off.  Then dice them and put them in a large mixing bowl.

Meanwhile, cube the potatoes (you can peel them if you like–I didn’t bother) and bring them to a boil in a pot of salted water.  (If your beets are already done, you can use the same pan to save on dishes, but get some fresh water in case there was any grit left on the beets).  Cook until just barely tender–be careful not to overcook them!   You don’t want potato mush!  Add them to the bowl with the beets.

Dice the onion and chop up the upper half of the chard stems and put them in a skillet with a splash of olive oil over medium heat.  When the onion starts to turn translucent, add the chard leaves (cut them into bite sized pieces first) and a pinch of salt and let it cook until the chard is fully wilted.  A lid helps speed the process along if you have one that will fit your skillet.   Once that’s done, add it to the bowl with the beets and potatoes.  Add the dill as well.

In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat.  When it’s melted, add the flour and whisk until you get a smooth paste.  Then add the milk and stock, whisking as you go.  Keep whisking until the sauce starts to bubble and it thickens up.  Once it’s at a consistency that you like, take it off the heat and pour it in with the vegetables.

Toss everything together until the vegetables are well coated with sauce.  Give it a taste, and season with salt and pepper.

Take your puff pastry and lay it on a cutting board.  (If it was frozen, thaw it for 10 minutes first).  Cut it into pieces large enough to cover the tops of the ramekins with an overhang of 1/4-1/2 inch.  Or if you’re me and you’re geometrically challenged, cut a piece to fit your biggest ramekin and cover the other pies with random scraps.  And then only take a picture of the pretty one.

Set five small ramekins (or whatever odd selection of ramekins you have handy–there’s no reason you can’t make one big pot pie if you want) on a sheet pan.  You can line the pan with parchment paper for easier cleanup if you like.  Fill the ramekins with your vegetable mix.  In a small bowl, beat together the egg and tablespoon of water.  Brush it onto both sides of the puff pastry, and set the pastry over the tops of the filled ramekins.  Put it all in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  After that, check it every few minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden brown and the filling is bubbling.  Let the pies rest for a few minutes after you take them out of the oven.

Enjoy!

Beets Romano

At long last a new post!  It’s been far too long.  In the beginning I had a good excuse: I was busy getting married!  Then we were eating out a lot and when we weren’t doing that we were eating leftovers (who knew that getting married would leave you with mountains of leftovers in the fridge and freezer…like a giant bag of edamame!)  And then…I couldn’t think of anything to write.  I had a few halfway decent recipe ideas, some of which might turn up in later posts, and a few major recipe fails, but nothing really inspired me until this dish.

I had some beets in the fridge and I really wanted to do something other than making individual lasagnas with them.  Much as I like individual lasagnas, I wanted to branch out a bit.  But what to do?  I remembered that I also had cream cheese in the fridge, and so I grabbed my mom’s old copy of the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook to look up the recipe for Noodles Romano–a favorite childhood dish of mine that we simply referred to as “cheesy noodles” (as distinct from macaroni and cheese!).

The resulting dish contains no noodles, and in fact looks nothing like its white-colored inspiration, taking on, instead, a vibrant pink color.  But it sure was tasty!

And now without further ado:

Beets Romano

  • 4 medium-sized beets, boiled until tender
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • a handful of fresh chives, cut small
  • 1tbsp dried dill 
  • 3/4c  frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/3c buckwheat, cooked til tender
  • 1/4c unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 8oz package cream cheese or Neufchatel cheese, softened
  • Up to 2/3c boiling water*
  • salt
  • pepper

Once you’ve boiled your beets and they are cool enough to handle, slip the skins off of them, dice them up, and put them in a large bowl.  Add the thawed peas and garlic and set aside.

Meanwhile put the softened butter and softened cream cheese in a metal bowl and mash them together a bit.  Then pour in about half of the water and whisk everything together until the cream cheese and butter have melted and you have an even consistency.  If it seems too thick or lumpy, add more water until you have a consistency you like.  Add the dill and chives, and salt and pepper to taste.

Pour the cheese sauce over the beets and peas and stir until everything is coated in sauce.  Then stir in the buckwheat, add a bit more salt if you like, and enjoy!

*I used 2/3c of water right away and this proved to be too much–the dish ended up with the consistency of soup.  Luckily by the second day the buckwheat soaked up all the excess liquid and it turned out exactly how I wanted it originally!  So don’t worry if you add too much water–it will be better on the second day!

It’s been too long since I last posted.  My time has been consumed with far too many books and not nearly enough cooking.  But at last I have survived my general exams and have time to get back in the kitchen!

I have a couple new recipes to write about, but I decided that this one needed to come first so that I wouldn’t forget what I put in it!  It was very much a make-it-up-as-you-go-along type of dish.  I bought the kale and mushrooms knowing that I wanted to put them with white beans, but aside from that I had no idea where I was going to go with this!

mushrooms, celery and onion

I ended up going in a garlicky, nutmeggy, peppery direction–because there was so much kale, the spices didn’t always get evenly mixed in, leading to bursts of different flavors in different bites.  If you want a more uniform flavor, it would probably be best to add all the spices prior to adding the kale to the skillet.

Speaking of the kale, you could really substitute any leafy green you like in this recipe–swiss chard, beet greens, lacinta kale or red kale would all work well.  Another addition that might be nice is bacon–if you fried the bacon in the same skillet with everything else, you could omit the butter and just use the bacon grease.  Bacon makes everything better, and gets along well with both beans and kale, but alas, it’s obviously not vegetarian-friendly.  If you do make this with bacon, though, let me know how it goes!

the finished dish

Mushroom, Kale and White Bean Skillet
(serves 4)

  • 4 big handfuls dried white beans (or 1 can)
  • 1 large bunch of kale (or other greens), roughly chopped
  • 12-15 crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 3 stalks of celery, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 2tbsp butter
  • splash of white wine
  • 1 bay leaf
  •  thyme
  • oregano
  • garlic flakes
  • nutmeg
  • 1-2 pinches salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes
  • freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Soak your beans overnight, or at least for an hour or two prior to cooking.  (If using canned beans, simply rinse them off and skip the next few steps.)  Rinse off your soaked beans in cold water, and then put them in a medium-sized pan with enough cold water to cover them by at least half an inch to an inch.  Bring the beans to a boil, and then reduce the heat and simmer them until tender.  Keep an eye on them so they don’t boil over!

When your beans are almost done, put your largest skillet on to heat up over medium heat.  Once it’s hot, add a glug or two of olive oil, and then add the onion and celery.  When the onion is transparent, add a good splash of white wine, the bay leaf, thyme, oregano, and garlic flakes.  (This is not an exact science–just put in a good shake of each).  Stir everything around, and let the wine cook off.

While that’s going, slice up your mushrooms, and when the wine is almost gone, add the mushrooms to the skillet.  While those are going, you can wash and chop the kale.  Once the mushrooms have started to brown, drain off any water that was still in with your beans and add them to the skillet.  (Or add your canned and rinsed beans).  Add the nutmeg, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, as well as the butter.  Once the butter is melted, add the kale.  It will seem like a lot of kale, but it will lose a lot of volume as it cooks down.

Once your kale is cooked down, make sure everything is mixed thoroughly and taste your dish.  Adjust the seasonings according to taste, take it off the heat, and top it with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.  Enjoy!

Brussels Sprouts

I know, I know, I’ve been neglecting the blog lately.  Unfortunately grad school has been getting in the way of both cooking and blogging.  I owe you some long posts on Thanksgiving and Christmas cookies…but for now, I want to say a few words about brussels sprouts.

Everybody (supposedly) hates brussels sprouts.  But how many of you haters out there have never actually even tried them?  I never had!  I know I always assumed I would dislike them, but until last night, I had never actually *tasted* any brussels sprouts to find out for sure.  But now, having had them, I can tell you that they’re actually pretty good, IF you cook them right.

Luckily, there’s 101 Cookbooks to help you out.  Heidi Swanson’s Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts are tender on the inside, caramelized and slightly crunchy on the outside, and (best of all) topped with cheese.  The golden-brown caramelization is really the key–it adds a whole new dimension of flavor to the slightly cabbagey sprouts.

So go out there and get yourself a little tree of brussels sprouts–they’re all kinds of nutritious, containing ridiculously high levels of Vitamins C and K–and redeem this much maligned vegetable!

I’ll admit it–I’ve been procrastinating on writing this post.  Why?  Because of the two people who tried this dish (me and my fiance) only one of us (me) liked it.  50% success rating?  Not very good.

But I liked it!  So I’ve decided to post it anyways.  Feel free to try it out, make your own tweaks, and tell me what you think.

squash

Yellow summer squash has a pretty delicate flavor, which makes it a good canvas for mixing with other, stronger flavors.  I decided I wanted to try marinating it in a mix of spices, so I pulled out all the spices I thought would work well together, measured them into a bowl (amounts based on how it smelled), and then I chopped the squash into 1 inch(ish) cubes, tossed them in a ziploc bag, poured in just enough olive oil to coat them, and then added the spice mix.  I sealed up the bag and tossed it around until all of the squash was well coated in spices and then I left it to sit while I got everything else ready.

Spice Mix

Marinating Squash

 

I put a pot of water on the stove to boil for making buckwheat, which I thought would make a good base for the spiced squash.  You could also use rice, quinoa, couscous, or any other grain you wanted.  Once that got going, I chopped up some baby red onions, and put my largest skillet on the stove to heat up.

Once the skillet was good and hot (check this by dripping some water on it–if it sizzles and evaporates right away, it’s ready), I dropped in the squash.  To get a bit of a flavor contrast with the savory spices of the squash, I also added about a third of a cup of dried sour cherries.  You could use any dried fruit, really, depending on what you’re going for, but I found that I really liked the sourness the cherries brought to this dish.

After half a minute or so, I added in some white wine,  because I had a bottle that was almost empty and it seemed like a good idea!  It turned out to be an excellent idea except that I only had about a quarter cup left.  If I were making this recipe again I would definitely use at least half a cup if not a bit more so that the wine flavor really gets in there.  The cherries and the wine really pair well together.

Simmering

I let everything simmer down for several minutes, and then I added the onions and covered it so that the squash would cook through faster.  (The buckwheat was almost done!)  After simmering for about 20 minutes, the squash was tender and it was time to serve it up!  I put a scoop of buckwheat on each plate, put a good-sized scoop of squash on top, plus a bit of the juice from the bottom of the pan.  And that’s it!

Spiced Yellow Squash

Spiced Yellow Squash
(serves 3-4)

  • 2 medium yellow squash, chopped into ~1″ cubes
  • 1/3c dried sour cherries 
  • 2-3 baby red onions or shallots, chopped
  • 1/2c white wine
  • olive oil
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2tsp smoked paprika
  • 1tsp cumin
  • 1/8tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8tsp black pepper
  • 1c buckwheat or other grain
First, measure out your spices into a bowl and mix them together.  Feel free to vary the amounts–it has a pretty good kick the way I made it.  Chop your squash into approximately 1 inch cubes, then toss it in a ziploc bag with some olive oil and the spices.  Make sure it’s fully coated with the spices, and then leave it to marinate for a bit.
Put the water on to boil for the buckwheat/rice/whatever, and make it according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, chop the onions, and put a large skillet on medium heat.  When the skillet is hot, add the squash and the cherries.  Let it sizzle for half a minute to a minute, and then add the white wine.  When it starts to reduce, add the onions and cover so that the squash cooks through.  (If you don’t have a cover for your skillet, use aluminum foil).  When the squash is tender, serve on top of a scoop of buckwheat.
My fiance wanted the dish to be sweeter.  If you agree, feel free to add a few handfuls of golden raisins at the same time you add the cherries.  Personally I like it better without, but to each their own!

We’ve been going to the farmer’s market the past couple of weeks.  Now that it’s mid-summer, the market is full of all kinds of fresh, local, and often organic produce.  All for way less than you’d spend at the grocery store.  It’s fabulous!  Two weeks ago when we went, as we wandered past the cheese stand, we saw one last stand of vegetables, hiding just off the main drag.  Along with the usual assortment of beets, onions and lettuces that were populating most of the stands, this one had these delightful, curly green things with cone-shaped bulbs near the top.  The Asian man working at that stand told us that they were part of the garlic plant and that many people just used them to decorate their kitchens, but that in his culture people would chop them up and put them in stir fry.  Never ones to pass up new varieties of produce, we bought a bunch.

A little googling told us that these curly green stems were called garlic scapes and that they had a milder garlic flavor than the bulb so I decided that they would go really well in an omelette.  The stems seemed a little tough, so I figured they would need to cook for a little while before I poured the egg in (actually, they could have cooked even more than they did).  I dropped some butter in a skillet (nonstick because I can’t for the life of me make an omelette in stainless steel) on medium heat.  Once it melted, I dropped in the garlic scapes which I had chopped into half inch pieces, some finely chopped green chili pepper, and some onion.  Meanwhile I beat four eggs in a bowl and after a few minutes, added them to the pan.  After giving everything an initial stir, I covered it and let it cook, shaking it every so often to unstick it from the bottom.  When it was almost finished, I added some freshly ground pepper and pieces of fresh mozzarella cheese on half of it.  I folded it in half when dumping it onto the plate.  The cheese was plenty salty, so it didn’t need any additional salt, but if you’re making it without cheese or with a different kind, you might want to add some salt.  The garlic scapes did indeed have a wonderful, aromatic flavor which went really well with the eggs and cheese.  The bulbs were a bit strong, but if you cook the scapes a bit longer than I did, it would probably mellow out.

Sorry I don’t have any pictures, but it was gone before I thought to take any!  It was that good!

 

Garlic Scape Omelette
(serves 2)

  •  one bunch fresh garlic scapes
  • one shallot or small onion
  • one green chili pepper (optional)
  • butter
  • four large eggs
  • fresh mozzarella cheese
  • pepper (and salt)

Put a skillet on medium heat and add about 1.5tbsp of butter.  While it’s melting, chop your garlic scapes into half inch pieces, dice the onion, and finely chop the green chili pepper (if using).  Add all the vegetables to the skillet and cook until garlic scapes start to soften.  Meanwhile, crack four eggs into a bowl and beat them until they’re a uniform color.  Once the vegetables are starting to soften, add the eggs, give everything a good stir to evenly distribute the vegetables and cover.  Check on it periodically, giving it a good shake, and if it seems like the bottom is cooking much faster than the top, you can cut slits in it to let the uncooked egg on top run down to the bottom.  When the omelette is almost set, add the fresh mozzarella over one half, along with some freshly ground pepper.  Cover it again and cook a bit longer, til the cheese starts to go melty.  When transferring your omelette from the skillet to the serving plate, fold it in half so that the half without cheese covers the half with it. If desired, add more pepper over the top.  Enjoy!