Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Best. Squash. Ever.

We're completely addicted to Delicata squash, but roasting it and filling it with sauteed leeks and sage and toasted pine nuts takes that obsession to a whole new level.

Olive oil
2 Delicata squash of similar size
A small handful of pine nuts
1 small to medium leek, white and light green parts, minced
8-10 fresh sage leaves, sliced into thin ribbons or chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Preheat oven to 375. Rinse and dry squash, cut in half lengthwise, and scrape out the seeds. Rub cut face with a little olive oil and place face down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast for 25-35 minutes until they just start to soften slightly.

Meanwhile, heat a small pot over medium heat. Add the pine nuts and toast, stirring or tossing occasionally, until they begin to turn golden. Push to the side and add a generous glug of olive oil. Wait for a few seconds till it heats, then stir to coat the pine nuts. Add leeks and continue to cook for several minutes, stirring, until they soften. Add sage and a pinch or two of salt, cook for another minute, then add white pepper to taste and turn off the heat.

Turn squash cut side up on the baking sheet. Spoon the leek mixture into the squash halves, spreading it evenly along each one, then return them to the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes until the squash is just soft enough that it gives easily when a spoon is pressed into it.

Serve hot. I just found out that you can eat the skin of a Delicata squash and it's often delicious (thanks, Dad), but we thought this version was even better just scooping out the insides. This would be a good dish for a dinner party -- fancy-looking and fancy-tasting, but pretty much a breeze to make.

Serves 4 as a dinner party side dish when everyone is on good behavior, or 2-3 if you're unconstrained by social norms and can't help but go back for seconds.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin with Cilantro, Chickpeas, and Thyme

I should be posting something from this past week, which has been stuffed, one might say, like a turkey (or perhaps, like a homemade ravioli) with collective cooking and shared food...starting with a homemade pasta party on Sunday and continuing through yesterday with a vaguely Thanskgiving-themed gourmet feast.

But all this will have to wait, because, as everyone knows, the first question that pops into your head after you've cleared out your houseguests and leftovers and emerged from your post-Thanksgiving food coma several hours or days later is: Can I eat that? And if you're gazing at the pie pumpkin you bought up at Apple Hill several weeks ago because it looked like it would make a nice autumn-evoking centerpiece, the answer is a resounding and emphatic YES.

1 smallish pumpkin (ours was a pie pumpkin about 8-9 inches in diameter, or substitute an heirloom or butternut squash)
Olive oil
2 small yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed
1 large jalapeno, minced
1/2 tsp dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
A big handful of cilantro, chopped
1/4-1/2 cup veggie broth
1 tbsp brown sugar (or less if using a sweeter squash)
2 cups well-cooked chickpeas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds, and rub cut sides with a little olive oil. Roast face-down for 25-40 minutes or until just tender, turning heat down to 375 if it starts to get too brown. Let cool until it's easy to handle, then cut into 1-inch slices, peel, and cube.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large, wide pan with deep sides over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and saute until soft. Add the jalapeno, cook for another minute or two, then add the garlic. Saute for half a minute and then add the pumpkin, thyme, a pinch of salt, and a little more olive oil. Stir to coat.

After sauteing for another minute or two, add the cilantro and 1/4 cup of the broth, turn the heat down to medium-low, and cover the pan. Simmer for 5-10 minutes to let the flavors blend, and until the pumpkin is soft, adding more broth if it starts to dry out.

Next, add the brown sugar, another pinch of salt, and a dash of black pepper, and use a potato masher to gently mash the squash to form a coarse puree. Fold in the chickpeas and cook for another few minutes until heated through. Adjust salt and pepper to taste, and serve garnished with cilantro.

Goes well with brown basmati rice simmered with cumin and saffron.

Serves 4.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pan-fried Garbanzos with Peppers and Greens

By all rights, this should have been a disaster. Bok choy and garbanzo beans clearly don't mix, and I honestly don't understand my fascination with saffron or my inability to keep from throwing it into dishes in which it obviously does not belong. And yet instead of being disastrous, this dish turned out surprisingly well, and even bordered on addictive. Which actually probably explains my obsession with saffron...I tend to throw it in when it a dish is already moving in bizarre directions, and then when it turns out, I associate the resulting deliciousness with the pinch of fiery red strands I couldn't help but toss into the pan.

Serve this over black Forbidden rice or brown jasmine rice.

Olive oil
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
A couple generous sprinklings of black mustard seeds
A pinch of saffron, crumbled
1-2 bell peppers (white, red, purple, green, whatever), halved and sliced
1 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 large clove garlic, pressed
2-4 heads of bok choy, sliced crosswise into one-inch pieces
1/4-1/2 cup veggie broth
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a large, wide pan over high heat. When hot, add the garbanzos and shake the pan to coat them with olive oil. Let sit for a minute, then shake again. Wait until a few start to pop, shake to stir, and wait again, adding a little more olive oil if necessary to keep the bottom of the pan coated. After several minutes, they should start to turn a little golden brown.

Next, add the mustard seeds and saffron, stir a few times, then add the peppers and cook, stirring, for a minute or two. Turn the heat down and add the garlic, wait a few seconds, then stir to combine. Add the bok choy, a pinch of salt, and 1/4 cup of broth, cover the pan, and let the greens steam for a minute or two until you can get a spatula under them to mix them in with the garbanzos. If the pan is dry, add a little more broth, stir, and cover to steam again for another minute or until greens have started to wilt. Uncover, stir-fry for another minute or so, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve.

Serves 2-3.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Roasted Kale

Speaking of kale, and of roasting, and of quick and easy ways to put plants on your table: Roasted kale may be both the easiest and the most delicious kale recipe we've tried yet. Wash and dry leaves, cut crosswise 3 or 4 times into wide strips, and toss with olive oil and a generous pinch of salt. Spread out on a cookie sheet or baking pan (it should be a couple layers deep), and roast at 375 degrees for 10 minutes. Toss or turn kale with tongs, and roast for another 6-8 minutes or until most of the pieces are a little crispy. Serve hot.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Easy Roasted Veggies

Swimming in a sea of swiftly approaching deadlines? Toss your plants in the oven while you type madly on your computer. I can't think of a vegetable that wouldn't be good roasted, although surely there must be something. Lettuce, I suppose. Please do not roast your salad. But yes on root vegetables, or cauliflower, or practically anything else. Cut them into chunks, toss with olive oil, a pinch of salt, and some freshly ground black pepper, and roast in the oven at 400-425 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until nicely browned and tender, stirring every 10-15 minutes or so.

Play around with spreading them out in a wider pan versus clumping them together several layers deep -- layering keeps them moist, but if they stay too wet, they won't brown as nicely. (My turnips tonight ended up getting wetter than I expected, so halfway through, I spread them out more sparsely in the pan, and they soon turned golden (and purple, due to the purple carrots, which ended up looking kind of neat).

Side note: I notice, upon rereading the preceding paragraph, a distinct lack of grammatical correctness, or at the very least a glaring absence of a second closing parenthesis. This is because my brainpower has been usurped by the aforementioned deadlines. I take no responsibility. None.

Onward, then: Turnips are particularly good with a little pressed garlic thrown in, and I always love huge pans full of roasted root veggies this time of year (turnips, parsnips, carrots, yams, potatoes, fennel bulb, you name it -- mix with olive oil and garlic, then add a bit of chopped parsley just before you serve). Roast cauliflower until tender and sprinkle with a tiny bit of ground cumin and some ├▒ora pepper. Eat. Enjoy. Thumb your nose at the evil deadlines.

P.S. Found it:    )

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cucumber Salad with Pan-Seared Kale

I can't help but feel that kale and I have some unfinished business. After my summertime kale saga and subsequent declaration of victory, I pretty much checked kale off a mental list of untried vegetables and have been blithely ignoring it for the most part since. But kale, I suspect, has unplumbed depths. It is more than a risotto ingredient or toast topper. I have not, in short, given kale its due.

Case in point: It can apparently be pan-seared with black sesame seeds and tossed with cucumbers and rice vinegar for a delicious and vaguely Japanese-ish accompaniment to take-out sushi.

2 small or one large cucumber, diced
Seasoned rice vinegar
Olive oil
Black sesame seeds
7-10 leaves dino kale, rinsed, dried, and sliced crosswise into ribbons

Sprinkle the cucumber with rice vinegar, stir, and set in the fridge to chill and crisp for at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add a liberal sprinkling of sesame seeds and stir for 10 seconds or so, then add the kale. Toss with the sesame seeds (I found tongs to be the most useful here) and cook, turning occasionally but not too often, until wilted and just slightly browned or seared. Set aside (or in the fridge) to let it cool to room temperature.

Mix the kale and cucumber together, and serve.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fall Apples with Limoncello

We arrived home from our annual autumn pilgrimage to Apple Hill in Placerville a couple weeks ago loaded down with local mutsu, granny smith, wine sap, golden delicious, and rome apples (not to mention pears, honeycomb, and a bottle of wine from Wofford Acres). We've quickly devoured most of them, but had a few left to dress up a bit for dessert a few nights ago.

You'll want crisp apples for this, and slightly sour works well to balance the sweetness of the limoncello.

3 apples, chilled
A shot of limoncello

Slice apples and cut into bite-sized pieces. Toss with limoncello, and serve. (Guard carefully against errant forks from greedy dinnertime companions.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Tomatoes and Basil

I never realized spaghetti squash was actually like spaghetti until we cooked one last night. I still don't quite understand how the noodly goodness that emerged could have possibly come from a squash, and I'm pretty sure we need to make this at least five or ten more times before I'm convinced that the transformation has nothing to do with oven leprechauns switching the squash innards out for noodles when I'm not looking.

1 spaghetti squash
Olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, pressed
A basket of grape tomatoes, halved
1 regular tomato, diced
A big handful of basil leaves, chiffonade
A small handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
A handful of savoyed green mustard (or substitute regular mustard greens or arugula), chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Halve the spaghetti squash and gently remove the seeds (if they're hard to get, you can also wait until after it's cooked, which can make it a bit easier). Brush cut surface with olive oil and place face down on a baking sheet. Bake for 30-45 minutes, depending on size, until a fork inserts with little resistance (you want it to be tender but not mushy, or the noodles won't retain their shape). Let cool for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the onion in some olive oil over medium heat. When soft, add the garlic, cook for another minute or so, then add the tomatoes, herbs, a pinch of salt, and a liberal dousing of pepper. After about a minute, add the greens and saute till just wilted.

Gently scoop the squash out of its rind with a large spoon, and toss with the tomato mixture (either in the pan or in a bowl if the pan's not big enough), gently pulling apart the strands of spaghetti squash. Grate some parmesan over the top, toss once or twice, and serve.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Baby Chard with Shallot and Tomato

I usually cook chard with some garlic and olive oil, but somehow we ran out of garlic a few nights ago and didn't notice until after we'd already been to the store. In my apprehensive fridge-raiding to find complementary ingredients that would be flavorful but not too sweet, I threw an assortment of random things into a pan, which somehow became what may actually be my favorite chard recipe yet. (If you don't have access to baby chard, just slice regular chard into ribbons and cook it a few minutes longer.)

Olive oil
1 medium shallot, sliced
1 mild or medium chili pepper, minced
1/2 carton cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
A big, two-handed pile of baby chard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sherry vinegar

Saute the shallot and chili in olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes until soft. Add the tomatoes and saute, stirring, for another minute or two, then add the chard and a pinch of salt. Saute for 1-2 minutes until the chard is just wilted, then turn off the heat and add pepper and a spoonful of sherry vinegar or a little more to taste. Toss to coat evenly, and serve.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chayote (or Zucchini) Stuffed Squash

Just when we thought the produce in our produce box couldn't get any more exotic, these appeared.

It seems to me that even the most stalwart of vegetable adventurers might be forgiven for taking one look at these and stashing them in the depths of the vegetable drawer for a couple of weeks.

Fortunately, they keep well. When a second round appeared in our box again last Friday, I resigned myself to having to actually figure out what on earth to do with them.

Step 1: Consult handy weekly insert that explains what on earth is in the box. Insert calls them "chayote." Hello, chayote. You look weird. Not that weird is necessarily a bad thing.

Step 2: Consult the Google. A Wikipedia entry helpfully notes that these are also called choko and pear squash and a handful of other names, and says they are native to Mesoamerica. Also they are edible. Good to know. There are a handful of online recipes, many of which pair it with cilantro, which would require a trip to the store, and some of which suggest peeling it. This is comforting: One is not required to eat the spiny outcroppings. I peel one. It looks light green and shiny and, compared to its pre-peeled state, reassuringly domesticated.

Step 3: Gaze half-heartedly into the depths of the fridge for inspiration. Notice the Thema Sanders Sweet Potato Squash (also from the CSA box, shaped like an acorn squash but colored like a butternut) languishing on the top shelf. (No, I do not know why we put it in the fridge. It's been that sort of month.) Precipitously decide to try something random and hope for the best.

1 acorn or sweet potato squash, halved, with the seeds scooped out
Olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 rounded tbsp pine nuts
1 chayote, peeled, grated, and squeezed gently to drain excess liquid
   (or substitute a zucchini)
A small tomato, diced
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt and pepper
A pat or two of pastured butter

Preheat oven to 375. Brush the cut surface of the squash with olive oil and set face down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes until it starts to get tender (when you poke the outside of the squash, it should give a little).

Meanwhile, heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add the pine nuts and toast until they start to turn golden, then add the olive oil and the onion and cook, stirring, until the onion starts to caramelize. Turn the heat down to medium, then add the chayote and saute for about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, a pinch or two of salt, and a liberal dousing of freshly ground pepper, and cook for another minute or two. Last, add the parsley and butter, stir until melted, and turn off the heat.

Turn the squash cut side up. Fill each half with the chayote mixture, then return to the oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until the squash is very soft. Let cool for a few minutes, and serve.

Serves 2, and makes for a good dinner party side dish (relatively simple for something that ended up looking so fancy, and got high marks taste-wise from our house guests this weekend).