Friday, October 29, 2010

Lemon Pappardelle with Tomatoes, Basil, and Smoked Bacon

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This post, though, is about pasta. Trader Joe's has this lemon pepper pappardelle that has relatively few ingredients (all recognizable), despite being processed enough that it can't really count as a whole food. But it's really, really good. And not every night can be a cook-everything-from-scratch night.

Serve this recipe with something green on the side. It's fairly easy, and (did I mention?) really, really good.

Lemon pepper pappardelle (or you could probably use egg pappardelle, and add a little lemon zest or lemon basil to the sauce)
Olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1 1/2 slices Niman Ranch Applewood Smoked Bacon (or other good-quality, pastured bacon or pancetta)
A bunch of fragrant tomatoes, cut into chunks
A big handful of fresh basil, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper 
Splash white wine
A little Parmesan

Cook the pappardelle according to package directions, then drain.

Meanwhile, saute the onion in some olive oil over medium heat till soft, then remove and set aside. Add the bacon to the pan and cook for a few minutes until it starts to brown a little, then add the onion back in and also the garlic. Cook for a minute more, then stir in the tomatoes, half the basil, a pinch of salt, and some pepper. After a minute or two, add a small splash of wine, cook for another minute, and then turn off the heat.

Add the rest of the basil and the cooked pasta to the pan, toss, and serve with a little parmesan grated over the top.

Serves 2.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Eggplant with Curry and Cilantro

I tend to be ambivalent about big purple eggplants -- on the one hand, they're so delightfully purple, and can sometimes taste wonderful grilled. On the other hand, I find it suspicious and worrying when vegetables bite back. Japanese eggplants and other smaller varieties lack the bitterness and tough skins of their fat purple cousins, and often seem more buttery and flavorful, and are especially addictive in curries or (in this case) recipes vaguely inspired by the notion of a curry.

Eggplant (We used three smallish purple-and-white ones, which may have been an Italian variety called Listada de Gandia, but Japanese eggplant would certainly work here and a regular eggplant might too)
Olive oil
A little chopped yellow onion
A scattering of black mustard seeds
Small spoonful of good-quality curry powder
A few thin slices of fresh ginger, julienned
Small handful of cilantro, chopped
Splash of cream (optional)

Cut the eggplants into pieces (if you're using a smaller variety, try cutting them in half lengthwise and then (still lengthwise) into half again or wedges, then turn 180 degrees and slice into one-inch pieces).

Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium heat, add the mustard seeds and then the onion, and saute until soft. Push to the side of the pan, add a little olive oil to the opposite side, and turn up the heat a bit. Add the curry powder to the olive oil and stir a few times to toast, then combine with the onion. Add the ginger and a pinch of salt, stir once or twice, then add the eggplant and a little more olive oil if the pot has gotten dry. Stir and saute for a minute or two, then add a little water (a quarter cup or less), stir, cover, and turn the heat down to medium or medium-low. Simmer for 3-8 minutes, stirring from time to time and adding a little more water if needed, until the eggplant is soft but not mushy. Add the cilantro when it's almost cooked through.

Turn off the heat, add just a small splash of cream if desired, and serve hot.

Serves 2.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Cucumber Salad with Radish and Lemon Basil

Found in our CSA box this week: Radishes, with lush green leafy tops, lemon basil, and more melons-masquerading-as-cucumbers.

2 medium cucumbers, peeled and sliced
3-4 large radishes
A little olive oil
White wine vinegar
8-10 leaves lemon basil, chiffonade

Toss the cucumbers with a little olive oil and some vinegar, and pile them on a plate. Refrigerate for at least five minutes to get them cold and crisp. Meanwhile, cut the radishes in half lengthwise, turn cut side down, and slice each half lengthwise. Turn 90 degrees and slice crosswise (so you end up with little strips). Spoon the radishes over the cucumber, top with lemon basil, sprinkle with a little salt, and serve.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Carrots with Cumin and Mustard Seeds

I have this pet suspicion that anyone who says they don't really like vegetables must be thinking of the boiled, steamed, or canned variety.

As soon as you toss a carrot or bean or zucchini in some olive oil and put it over high enough heat to start browning, transubstantiatory and addictive things start to happen. We've definitely tucked away a full pan of oven-roasted root vegetables in a single evening between the two of us, and a single vegetable cooked on the stovetop really doesn't stand a chance of making it to the leftover phase. So if you feel a certain dispassionate aloofness toward the carrot, try cooking this. It may be that underneath your calm and cool exterior, you love them, deeply and madly.

Carrots (preferably fresh, carroty ones from a farmer's market or CSA box), cut into sticks
Olive oil
A spoonful of black mustard seeds
A small spoonful of cumin seeds

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the mustard and cumin seeds, stir once, and add the carrots. Use tongs to toss the carrots with the seeds until they are evenly coated, then add a tbsp or so of water, cover the pan, and turn the heat to medium.

Continue cooking, adding a spoonful of water from time to time if the pan gets too dry and turning the carrots occasionally, until they're just tender and starting to caramelize a nice goldeny brown color on the bottom (you'll want to adjust the heat up if they don't seem to be browning, and down if they start to brown too quickly). Sprinkle with a pinch of salt, and serve.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Soba Noodles with Luffa Squash

This is one of those everything-but-the-kitchen sink recipes that can be made with whatever you have on hand. Luffa squash appeared in our CSA box this week, but Japanese eggplant would make a good substitute. If you have spinach or Chinese cabbage, chop some and throw it in. If you don't have curry leaves, add a bit more ginger and cilantro to keep it flavorful; if you don't have cilantro, increase or substitute something else. In other words, adjust all proportions to taste and switch things out for whatever strikes your fancy. But definitely call it Luffa Noodles at least once, out loud, because you'll feel instantly and delightfully transported into the midst of a Dr. Seuss book. (It really can't be helped. Consider: If you quickly turn the corner near the farthest side of town/and follow Horton's footprints down the block and then around/the Christmas-stealing Grinch who sometimes suntans on his stoop/you can often join the Lorax for some Luffa Noodle Soup.)

2/3 package soba noodles (typically, two of the three bundles in a package)
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
Several fresh curry leaves
A spoonful of black mustard seeds A spoonful of good-quality medium curry powder
A few thin slices of fresh ginger, julienned
2 luffa squash, peeled and cubed (you can also cook it without peeling it, but we decided we liked it a little better without)
Luffa Squash
Some shiitake mushrooms (or oyster, or enoki), brushed and cut into wide slices
A few long beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup chicken or veggie broth
1 egg
Freshly ground black pepper
Small handful cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
A handful of pea shoots or bean sprouts, for garnish

Boil the noodles one minute less than directed on the package, drain, and set aside.

Heat some olive oil in a big pan over medium-high heat. Add the curry leaves and mustard seeds and stir for 15-20 seconds, then add the onion and cook until soft, turning the heat down to medium. Push onion to the side of the pan, add a bit more olive oil on the other side, then add a spoonful of curry powder to the oil, stirring to toast for a few seconds. Combine with the onion, add the ginger and saute for a minute, then add any vegetables that take a little longer to cook (the luffa squash, in this case). Stir and cook for awhile, covering the pan if it starts to dry out to create a little more liquid (you can also sprinkle a little salt on the vegetables to encourage them to release a little water). After awhile, add the mushrooms and beans, and continue cooking until tender. Sprinkle with some chopped cilantro and pepper, and turn off the heat.

Meanwhile, in a small pot, heat the chicken broth until it simmers. Add the soba noodles, bring back to a simmer, and then add the egg to the center of the pot. Turn off the heat, and fold a few noodles over the egg so that it's immersed. After 30 seconds or so, stir to break the yolk and let it cook into the broth.

Serve in layers: Noodles, then veggies, and top with a few sprouts and a bit more cilantro if desired.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Green Beans with Caramelized Onion

We found a big bunch of purplish green beans in our produce box last week, and they turned out to be much heartier and less watery (and also slightly fuzzier) than the typical supermarket variety. I'm not particularly a fan of boiled or steamed green beans...they get all soft and bland and squeaky...but I love them sauteed or stir-fried so that they start to get a little sweet on the outside but still stay firm and beany. This version was easy and delicious.

Olive oil
A little chopped onion
Spoonful black mustard seeds
A bunch of green beans
A little chicken broth

Saute the onion in some olive oil over medium heat until soft and sweet. Add the mustard seeds and stir a few times, then add the green beans and a little more olive oil. Toss the beans with the onions, then cover and cook for a couple minutes. Uncover, toss again, add a bit of chicken broth (enough to create some steam). Cover, turn the heat down a little, and steam for a few minutes until they're just tender but not yet soft. If there's extra liquid in the pan, turn the heat back up and simmer uncovered for a few more moments. Serve hot.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wild Rice, Asian Pear, and Blue Cheese Salad

1/2 cup wild rice
Mixed baby greens or baby arugula
A handful of pecans, toasted
Some Bleu d'Auvergne or your favorite blue cheese, crumbled
1-2 Asian pears (or substitute Bosc pears), sliced and cut into 1-inch squares
Olive oil
Sherry vinegar
Salt & black pepper

Heat a little olive oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add the wild rice, stir for a minute or two, then add 1 cup of water. Cover, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 45 minutes until cooked.

Toss the greens with some olive oil in a salad bowl. If you're using arugula, add the rice over it while it's hot so that the greens wilt just a little bit (otherwise, add it after it's cooled a little). Toss with a little sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper, then top with the Asian pears, pecans, and blue cheese.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Grated Trombocino with Tomato and Basil

Trombocino again, but Italian this time, and uncooked. As if this squash wasn't unique enough already, it has an entirely different character when raw, and tastes surprisingly like honeydew melon.

1/2 trombocino squash, coarsely grated (about 2 cups)
3-4 ripe and fragrant tomatoes, sliced and quartered
A handful of fresh basil, chiffonade (if it happens to be blooming, save the flowers for garnish)
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Drain the grated squash by pressing or squeezing it gently to remove some of the excess water. Combine in a bowl with the tomato and basil, drizzle with olive oil and a couple spoonfuls of balsamic vinegar, and add some black pepper. Toss, serve, and garnish with basil flowers.

Serves 2.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Trombocino Squash with Cinnamon and Cardamom

I'm madly in love with the shape of this squash. Turns out it tastes too good to keep it around for long, so I was glad to see it reappear in our CSA box this week. It's different: thin-skinned like a summer squash, but with a texture that seems a little closer to a winter squash once cooked. (I'm not sure what possessed me to add cardamom and cinnamon to it, since I assume it must be Italian, but it works.)

1/2 trombocino squash, sliced crosswise into rounds
Olive oil
2 cardamom pods, crushed
Pinch saffron

Heat a glug of olive oil in a deep pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cardamom pods and stir for 10-20 seconds, then add the saffron. Stir once or twice, then add the squash slices, turning to coat. Adjust the heat to medium, cover the pan, and cook for 3-4 minutes until the layer of squash on the bottom just starts to brown. Flip the squash slices over, add 1/4 cup of water, cover, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer for another 15-20 minutes, turning from time to time and adding additional quarter cups of water as necessary (you want them to primarily cook by steaming, not boiling), until the squash are very tender. Remove the cardamom pods, sprinkle the squash lightly with cinnamon and a pinch of salt, and serve.

Serves 2-3 as a side dish.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Chickpea Curry with Squash and Cabbage

Found in our CSA box last weekend: tinda squash and chinese cabbage, and a recommendation to make a curry. So we did.

Serve this over some Bhutanese red rice or brown basmati rice cooked with some cumin seeds, a pinch of saffron, and a couple lightly crushed cardamom pods. (Heat a little olive oil in a pot until very hot, add the cumin seeds and stir a couple times, then add the saffron and cardamom pods, then the rice, stirring to coat the grains. Then, add the water and cook as you normally would.)

Olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 tsp black mustard seeds
A heaping spoonful of good-quality curry powder
1 tinda squash, scrubbed and cut into thin 1-inch strips (I removed the seeds as I went, since they seemed pretty tough, although I'm not sure if you have to)
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
Ground cumin
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or canned)
A little chopped spinach (frozen works fine)
A small bunch of Chinese cabbage, julienned, rinsed, and dried
A splash of cream
A little black pepper
Some chopped fresh cilantro

Heat olive oil in a large pan over high heat. Add the mustard seeds and stir a few times until they start to pop. Add onion and a pinch of salt and turn the heat down to medium-high. Saute until translucent, turning the heat down a little if necessary.

Push the onion to the side of the pan, turn the heat back up to medium-high, and add a little olive oil to the empty side. Add the curry powder to the olive oil and stir it in so that it toasts for 5-10 seconds, then stir into the onion. Add the tinda squash and cook, stirring, for a minute or two, then add the chickpeas, a pinch or two of salt, the turmeric, and a liberal sprinkling of cumin. After a minute more, add 1/4 cup of water and cover the pan. Turn the heat down to medium-low and let simmer for 10-20 minutes, adding more water if it starts to dry out, until the squash and chickpeas are tender. At some point, taste it and make sure it's flavorful -- if not, you might want to add some more curry powder. When it's almost done, add the spinach and cook for 2-3 more minutes.

Last, turn the heat back up to medium, stir in the cabbage, and cook for just a few moments until it starts to wilt. Turn the heat off, add the cream and a dash of pepper, and adjust salt and other seasonings to taste. Sprinkle with a little cilantro, and serve.

Serves 2.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tomatoes Tossed with Lemon Basil

There were purple tomatoes in our produce box this week -- perfectly ripe and wonderfully fragrant. We cut them up, tossed them with a little extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and then added some freshly ground black pepper and a liberal sprinkling of chopped lemon basil. There's not much you have to do to amazing tomatoes to make them amazing, and so despite its simplicity, this salad was heavenly.

I hadn't appreciated lemon basil until it started showing up in our weekly box, and I can't remember seeing it in stores very often. It seems like the sort of thing that might be worth sticking in a pot on your back porch to have on hand. Use less of it in a salad like this than you would with regular basil.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Squash, and the Zen of Cooking

The school year has started, and with it, the typical fall onslaught of meetings and manuscripts and grant deadlines and teaching and treading in a sea of urgent emails. A few nights ago, I dragged myself to the car after a ten-hour day only to get stuck in a freak traffic jam for an hour, then arrived home and realized I still had six things left to do after all, and my husband was going to be stuck at the hospital until 9. I thought about my sanguine summer self with a kind of wistful resignation. My mind felt vaguely like it had been run over by a truck, I was sleep-deprived enough that my eyes hurt, and the last thing I remotely wanted to do was cook an involved dinner out of stupid, non-microwaveable, time-consuming whole foods. I wanted a packet to open and dump into a bowl, or a can, to open and dump in a bowl, or something hot and salty and deliverable. I wanted to lie on the couch and not move except for chewing purposes.

But, we were out of cream for coffee in the morning. So I at least needed to go to the coop and get cream. And while I was there, I could pick up a less-processed-than-most-processed-things processed thing from the deli. And I could bring it home, and stick a fork in it, and then stick the fork in my mouth. Yes. That is what I would do.

So I went to the coop, exhausted, and I walked in the door, exhausted, and I walked over to the dairy case, except that on the way there I noticed the avocados. And then I got distracted by pea shoots. Plus they have this amazing house made Andouille lamb sausage, which would be pretty easy to cook. And figs. And delicata squash.
In just a few minutes, my basket was full.

I came home, still tired but less so, and started peeling cucumbers, and picking up big fistfuls of pea shoots, and slicing into the squash, and thinking about where these plants came from and how they were harvested, and how before that they sat out in a field eating energy from the sun and transforming it into leaves and shoots and seeds, and how we then take that energy and transform it yet again. And suddenly, instead of feeling exhausted, I felt happy and energized, like when you think you're too tired to go for a swim or a run but then feel enlivened halfway into it. I sliced and chopped and  roasted and pan-fried, and we ate a late feast.

So what I'm saying, I think, is that this food thing is important. I'm going to try, very hard, not to lose it in the shuffle.

Roasted Delicata Squash

Delicata squash, halved lengthwise, with seeds scooped out
Pasture butter
Pine nuts (optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place the squash halves cut side down on a large piece of foil on a cookie sheet. Bake for 15 minutes, then turn cut side up. Flake just a little butter into each half, and sprinkle with some pine nuts.

Fold the foil so it covers the squash and continue cooking until tender (about 15-25 more minutes). Grate nutmeg over the top, let cool for a couple minutes, and serve.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Quick and Classy: Fruit-Filled Melon

After our melon with moscato, it was really only a matter of time before we started dunking more fruit into wine. The arrival of miniature honeydew melons in our CSA box gave us the perfect excuse to try again, this time with late season peaches from Ikeda's and some leftover anise hyssop from the produce box. You could use pretty much any fruit here, or even just a different color melon.

A smallish melon, halved
Peaches, peeled and cut into pieces
Moscato or another sweet dessert wine (or champagne -- just don't let it soak so long that it goes flat)
Anise hyssop, chiffonade (optional)

Fill the melon with peaches, then pour moscato over. Refrigerate during dinner to let the wine soak into the fruit a little, then garnish with anise hyssop and serve.