Thursday, December 23, 2010

Stuffed Baby Pumpkins

When I grow up, which could totally happen someday, I want to be a professional recipe breeder. We crossed this one with that one the other night and the product was out of this world.

2-3 miniature pumpkins
Olive oil
Small handful pecans
1/4 cup finely chopped leek
4-5 fresh sage leaves, chopped
Freshly ground white pepper 
1 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the tops out of the baby pumpkins on a slight inward angle, and scrape out the seeds. Put the tops back on each pumpkin and bake for 30-45 minutes until soft.

Meanwhile, heat a small pan over medium-high heat. Break the pecans into pieces and toast in the pan until fragrant, then add a glug of olive oil, the leeks, and a pinch of salt and turn the heat down to medium. Saute until the leeks begin to soften, then add the sage and saute for another couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and sprinkle liberally with white pepper.

Fill each baby pumpkin with the leek mixture, top with some goat cheese, and serve hot.

Serves 2-3.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mizuna Salad with Sweet Potato and Pomegranate

Mizuna is on the savory, peppery side, which makes it a perfect complement to the sweet potato and pomegranate in this recipe. You could also use baby arugula or another flavorful green. Feel free to substitute regular sweet potatoes and/or regular sliced almonds, or to jettison one ingredient in favor of another -- the trick is just to keep in mind the balance between savory and sweet. 

Several large handfuls of mizuna or other baby greens
Part of a leftover roasted Japanese sweet potato, cut into small pieces
Seeds of 1-2 pomegranates (see this new page for an easy seeding trick)
Handful toasted Marcona almonds, halved lengthwise
1-2 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Coarsely chop the mizuna a few times if the leaves are large enough to be unwieldy (you don't want the leaves to mass together later while all the other ingredients fall through - shoot for pieces that are about an inch long). Whisk together a liberal glug of olive oil with a bit less than half as much balsamic vinegar, add salt and pepper to taste, and toss with the greens till the leaves are lightly coated.

Arrange mizuna as a bed on each plate, then sprinkle generously with sweet potato, pomegranate seeds, almonds, and goat cheese.

Serves 2.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Roasted Bok Choy

Have I mentioned that just about any plant tastes better roasted? I put this notion to the test a few nights ago with a big head of bok choy from our CSA box, and was delightfully surprised at how well it turned out.

Olive oil
1-2 heads of bok choy

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice the bottom inch off each head of bok choy, separate the leaves, and rinse carefully. Dry well, slice crosswise a couple times if desired, and toss on a baking sheet that you've lightly drizzled with olive oil. Toss the greens to coat lightly with the oil, then stick in the oven.

Roast for 8 minutes, turn the leaves, and roast for 6-8 minutes more or until stems are tender and tops of the leaves are just starting to turn a little crispy. Sprinkle with salt, and serve hot.

Serves 2-3.

Variation: Half bok choy and half dino kale works well, too -- cut both crosswise a few times first, and reduce the cooking time by a couple of minutes.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Carrots and Parsley

Found in our produce box: Purple (!) sweet potatoes
Found at the coop: The freshest, crunchiest carrots imaginable

2 orange or purple sweet potatoes, peeled
3-4 purple, white, or orange carrots, peeled
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly-ground white pepper*
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the sweet potatoes crosswise into 3/4-inch thick slices, then halve or quarter each slice into bite-sized pieces. Cut the carrots crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Toss with olive oil and a pinch of salt, and throw in a small roasting pan (I used a loaf pan, so that they were several layers deep and crowded together).

Roast in the oven for 40-50 minutes, stirring every 10-15 minutes. About halfway through, turn the heat down to 400 and add a little more olive oil if the pan has gotten dry.

When the sweet potatoes are very soft and the carrots are just tender and a little browned, remove from the oven and toss with a little more salt, a liberal dousing of freshly ground white pepper, and some parsley. Serve hot, with a little parsley sprinkled over the top.

Serves 2-3.

*If you don't have a grinder full of white peppercorns, get one. I'm swiftly become a white pepper fanatic, but freshly ground versus not is just as different in this case as it is for black pepper, which actually never occurred to me until my husband brought home a bottle of white peppercorns. It's particularly good with squash, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, because it gives sweet things a hint of pepper that blends with the sweetness instead of overpowering it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Peppers and Greens

I know this shouldn't come as a shock, but plants, it turns out, have leaves. Or in other (slightly less obvious-sounding) words, we often ignore the leaves of non-leafy plant foods, like beets or amaranth grain, and are for some reason surprised when they turn out to be both edible and delicious (or in the case of amaranth greens, to exist in the first place).

Case in point: Fava greens, which turned up in our CSA box this week for the second time, and which are my new favorite throw-a-handful-into-just-about-anything vegetable. They're similar in this way to spinach or amaranth greens, with a very mild, fresh taste and a lovely fava beany scent when raw.
If they come in clumps, like ours did, you may want to separate the individual leaves from the stem before cooking. We added them to a new recipe for spaghetti squash last night, while we continued our search for oven leprechauns.

1 medium spaghetti squash
Olive oil
Pasture butter
1 large shallot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
A big bunch of fava greens, amaranth greens, or spinach (all will cook down quite a bit, so use more than you think)
1/2 tsp ñora pepper
2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Grated Parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Halve the spaghetti squash and brush cut surface with olive oil, then place face down on a baking sheet. Bake for 35-50 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, then gently remove seeds with a fork.

Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until it softens, then add the garlic and a small pat of butter and cook for a minute more. Stir in the peppers, cook for a couple of minutes, then add about half of the fava greens and fold in with the peppers until they begin to wilt. (If you need a bit more liquid in the pan, add just a little chicken broth or white wine). Next, add the ñora pepper, half the parsley, a pinch of salt, and a liberal dousing of black pepper.

Gently scoop the spaghetti squash out of its rind with a big spoon, and add to the peppers and greens mixture. Use the spoon and a spatula to gently pull apart the strands of the squash and mix them into the greens. Add the rest of the greens and more parsley to taste, stir until the greens just begin to wilt, sprinkle with some Parmesan, and toss one last time. Serve hot, topped with some more Parmesan and parsley.

Serves 2-3.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Beet Reprise

Curiouser and curiouser. Apparently, beets can be...well, I can't quite bring myself to say it. I'll just note that we polished this off much more quickly than I would have expected.

The secret seems to be to leave them raw, and to offset the sweetness with something tangy (in this case, a mustard vinaigrette). I found this recipe on the NY Times website, and tweaked it just a bit:

1 large shallot
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
Small spoonful grain mustard
Salt and black pepper to taste
A small handful of parsley, finely chopped (about 1 tbsp)
2 small to medium beets, peeled and grated

Quarter the shallot lengthwise, turn it 90 degrees, and slice. Saute in a little olive oil over medium heat for 1-2 minutes till just soft, and set aside. In a smallish mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, and mustard, then add the shallots, salt, pepper, and parsley. Add the grated beets and mix to coat evenly. Let sit for 5 minutes to let the flavors blend, and serve.

Serves 2.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Rehabilitation of the Beet

We are not exactly a beet-loving household. We tolerate them from afar -- in Spain, for example, they sometimes place a beet on an otherwise perfectly acceptable veggie sandwich, and we are fine with that (as long as we are not actually in Spain). But up close -- in the same country, for instance -- they become decidedly more troubling. Let's put it this way: there are only three things in the world that my husband won't eat, and the beet is one of them.

But we knew they were coming. It's that time of year. So when they showed up in our CSA box this week, we did not jump, or scream. We calmly extracted them from the box, turned, and stuffed them safely in the back of the vegetable drawer, buried under a heap of parsley, carrots, radishes, and about six other things we managed to cram in on top of them. We returned to our lives, and did not think about beets. Or rather, we thought about not thinking about beets. We tried not to think about not thinking about beets. We thought about beets.

We could, we reasoned, try the beets. A little, tiny, modicum of beets. A beetlette. We could try a beetlette, mixed in with other things, and see if maybe it wouldn't be quite so beety. And a fellow beetophobe had suggested trying them raw, rather than cooked, which would make them less beety as well. We could try a raw, practically infinitesimal, highly camouflaged bit of a beet, and see. Yes. We would do that. We would do that, and see, and then we could never ever ever eat beets ever again.

Except that after all that, we kind of liked them.

Baby greens
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sherry vinegar
2-3 lemon cucumbers, peeled, quartered, and sliced
1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 radishes, halved, sliced, then turned crosswise and sliced into thin strips
1 beet, peeled and grated
1-3 carrots, peeled and grated
2 medium- or hard-boiled pastured eggs, quartered

Whisk together a generous dousing of olive oil with about a third as much vinegar to form an emulsion, and add a pinch of salt and black pepper to taste. Toss the greens with enough of the vinaigrette to lightly coat them (you'll also want a little more vinaigrette to drizzle over the salad, so save a bit or make more if necessary).

Arrange a heaping bed of greens on each plate, then layer on the cucumbers, radishes, and chickpeas. Sprinkle liberally with the grated beets and carrots, and drizzle a couple more spoonfuls of vinaigrette over the top. Add the egg on top or on the side, sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

Serves 2 hungry beetophobes as the main part of a meal, or more as a side salad.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Simple Chickpea Spread

This could easily be made in larger batches and stored in the fridge. You would think that using "home-grown" versus canned chickpeas wouldn't matter for something like this, but the home-grown ones surprised me yet again -- they give the spread a deeper, fuller, nuttier flavor.

2-3 cups cooked chickpeas
Olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, pressed
Pinch or two of saffron
Ground cumin
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/3 cup vegetable broth
Small handful cilantro, chopped

Saute the onion with a pinch of salt in olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic. Stir a few times, then add the chickpeas, saffron, and a liberal dousing of cumin. Saute for another minute or two. Add the turmeric and veggie broth, stir, cover, and turn the heat down slightly. Simmer for 10 minutes or so to let flavors blend, stirring once or twice and adding a little more broth or water if it starts to dry out. Turn the heat off, and add the cilantro.

Blend the chickpea mixture in a Cuisinart or blender until smooth, adding a little olive oil and/or broth if it's too dry. Serve warm or at room temperature on bread, toast, or crackers.

Serves 2-3 as part of dinner, or more as an appetizer.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Braised Turnips with Apple and Nutmeg

It's a turnipy time of year, and if you get a CSA box, you're likely to find them soon and find them repeatedly if you haven't already. We've been experimenting with different ways of cooking them, and here's a new one -- the sweetness of the apple offsets the slight bitterness of the turnips, and the whole thing tastes very autumny.

1/2 tbsp pastured butter
1-2 tbsp olive oil
3-4 turnips, peeled, sliced, and cut into 3/4 inch pieces
Pinch salt 
1-2 apples, peeled, sliced, and cut into smaller pieces
1/4-1/2 cup veggie broth
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Liberal dousing of freshly ground white pepper
Pinch brown sugar

Heat butter and olive oil in a wide pan over medium-high heat. Add the turnips and stir to coat. Cook until lightly browned on one side, then mix in the apples. Cover the pan and continue to cook for another minute or two to brown, then stir, cover, and let brown again. When the turnips are a nice golden brown on all sides, turn heat down to medium, add a little veggie broth, and cover the pan to let simmer for about 5-7 minutes or until turnips are tender (you should check the pan every 2 minutes or so, stir, and add more broth if it's starting to dry out). Last, add the nutmeg, white pepper, and a pinch of brown sugar, and season with salt to taste.

Serves 2-3.