Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Arugula Rapini with Garlic and Mustard Seeds

I suspect this would work with any green mystery vegetable. Certainly broccolini would go well (but note that it will probably take a few more minutes to cook until tender).

If you do find yourself with a bunch of arugula rapini, do this with it. Because it is somehow kind of like french fries, only better.

Olive oil
1 large clove garlic, smashed
Yellow mustard seeds
1 bunch arugula rapini
1/4 cup chicken broth (or sub vegetable broth)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and let simmer in the olive oil for a minute or two, then add a scattering of mustard seeds (a couple four-fingered pinches should do it). Continue cooking for another couple of minutes, turning the garlic when it starts to brown lightly on one side.

Add the rapini to the pan. Using tongs, toss with the olive oil and mustard seeds to coat evenly. Cover the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add the chicken broth and salt, cover again, and let simmer 2-4 minutes until tender.

Uncover, let any excess liquid simmer off, and sprinkle liberally with pepper before serving.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Smoked Bacon and Arugula

This looks long and complicated, but it's not particularly difficult -- just roast the squash and sweet potatoes at some point during the day when it's easy to check on the oven a couple of times, and set aside until you're ready to cook the risotto. And yes, we've put cumin and bacon in the same dish. You can blame Andalusia (and then, once you've tried it, you can thank the Christians and Moors for generously blending their cuisines as they fought over Cordoba, thereby freeing us of the limiting notion that Moroccan spices don't belong in close company with European herbs and meats).

1 small butternut squash (about 1.5 lbs), halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch slices
1 thin Japanese sweet potato, lightly scrubbed clean
28 oz veggie broth (Imagine's low sodium is currently our favorite brand)
1 1/2 strips Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon, sliced crosswise
Olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, pressed
1 generously rounded cup Arborio rice
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 cup dry white wine
Scant 1/2 tsp dried sage
Salt, to taste (unless you're using a heavily salted broth in the first place)
Freshly ground white pepper
4 oz baby arugula
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with foil and sprinkle with a little olive oil. Place squash slices cut side down, still pushed together (so that you have two rows of squash slices that look like the two halves of the squash, face down). Put the Japanese sweet potato on the side of the pan, then roast for 35-45 minutes until squash is golden brown and tender and sweet potato is soft, turning the squash slices on their side about halfway through (to brown on two sides rather than just one). If the Japanese sweet potato is thick, it will take longer to cook than the squash.

Set squash and half the sweet potato aside to cool, then cut away from skin and slice into flattish squares (about 3/4" square and less than 1/4" thick -- you'll want to use all of the squash and enough sweet potato to make about 1/4 to 1/3 cup after it's sliced).

Put the broth in a pot and bring to a boil, then turn heat down to low, uncover, and let simmer gently as you cook the risotto (this evaporates some of the liquid and makes the taste even richer).

Meanwhile, heat a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until lightly browned. Drain most but not all of the excess fat from the pot, then add the onion and a glug of olive oil and cook for five minutes or so until soft. Next, add the garlic, and continue to saute for a couple more minutes.

Add the rice and cumin to the pot and toast, stirring, for 2-3 more minutes. Next, add the white wine and cook, stirring, until it's absorbed. Begin adding the broth, one ladleful at a time, cooking and stirring until each addition is absorbed before adding the next.

When most of the broth has been added and the rice tastes almost done (mostly soft with just a little hint of crunch in the middle of the grain), add the squash and the sweet potato and stir gently to combine with the rice. Add another ladleful of broth, stir gently, and cook until it's absorbed.

Add the sage, salt, and a liberal dousing of white pepper, and stir to combine. Next, add the arugula and spoon one last ladleful of broth over the top to help it start to wilt. Fold gently into the rice and continue cooking until liquid is mostly absorbed.

Turn off the heat, stir in the Parmesan, and serve. Let cool for a minute or two, then bring to the table.

Serves 3.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Plants for Breakfast: Japanese Sweet Potato

As a longtime cereal-and-toast person, the first meal of the day continues to be the one I'm most likely to cheat on when it comes to the eating whole foods. It's certainly possible to buy whole grain, not-too-many ingredient cereal or bread, but at the end of the day...or at the beginning, rather...most of the ones that taste good have at least one ingredient in their still rather long list that seems questionable from a Pollanesque perspective.
And while I love making more leisurely whole food breakfasts on the occasional lazy weekend morning, I'm usually too rushed to cook something (and probably too sleep-deprived to be trusted anywhere near an open flame).

Enter the Japanese sweet potato. Because here is all you have to do, it turns out, for a warmly delectable whole food breakfast: scrub a few Japanese sweet potatoes clean, dry them, wrap them in foil, and stick them in the oven along with something else you happen to be baking at a reasonable temperature (anywhere from 350-425 should be fine). Cook until soft (when you poke it with your finger, it should give easily), then remove from oven and let cool. Drain if necessary (sometimes a little liquid collects in the foil), and stick in the fridge.

For breakfast, take a half or a whole potato, slice lengthwise, and warm in the microwave for a minute or two until hot. Sprinkle with cinnamon and serve.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Easy Chickpeas and Greens

Simple but totally delicious. Use any green or mix of greens that's fairly mild but still has a hint of spice -- the red frisee mustard from our CSA box worked perfectly, or you could substitute half baby arugula and half baby spinach. If you use big greens rather than baby ones, slice them into ribbons and cook a few minutes longer.

Olive oil
1 slice whole grain bread, coarsely chopped
1 large clove garlic, smashed
Ñora pepper (or sub a dash of sweet paprika)
3-4 large handfuls red frisee mustard, coarsely chopped (or sub baby arugula & spinach)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed (or sub home-cooked)
Ground cumin
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Small handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

Heat a wide pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add a generous glug or two of olive oil. Add the garlic and let brown on one side, then flip, push to the side, and add the bread to the pan. Toss the bread to coat lightly with oil, and then toast, tossing from time to time, until golden. Add the greens and a generous sprinkling of ñora pepper (and a little more olive oil if the pan is getting dry) and turn the heat down to medium. Saute for a few minutes, stirring, until the greens are just wilted.

Add the chickpeas, a couple dashes of cumin, salt, and a liberal dousing of pepper, and cook for a minute or two until the chickpeas are heated through. Stir in the parsley to taste, turn off the heat, and let sit for 5 minutes to allow flavors to blend.

Serves 2 for a light lunch.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pasta with Mushrooms, Mustard, and Chard

If I were a swanky recipe book, I would note that the combination of mushroom and shallot in this recipe provides a rich undertone to the interplay of sweet chard and spicy mustard.

If I were me, I'd just focus on typing up this recipe while repeating, under my breath, "you do not need to go make a new batch of this now. You do not need to go make a batch of this now."

At the moment, however, it has been at least 15 minutes since we ate the last bites on our plates. Possibly 16 minutes, even. Maybe we should go make a new batch of this now...

Home made fettuccine noodles for two
Olive oil
1/2 tbsp Pastured butter (optional)
2 garlic cloves, smashed
2 medium shallots, halved and sliced
1/2 lb shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, sliced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Splash sherry
Slosh veggie broth
3-5 leaves rainbow chard, sliced into ribbons, or several handfuls baby chard
3-5 leaves mustard greens, sliced into ribbons, or several handfuls red mustard frisee
Handful flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Shaved goat gouda or other hard goat cheese (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil for the pasta.

Heat olive oil and butter in a wide pan with deep sides over medium high heat. When hot, add the garlic and press into the pan. Cook until lightly golden on one side, then push to the side of the pan, flip, and add the shallot. Turn the heat down to medium and saute until the shallot is very soft, adding a pinch of salt if needed to keep it from browning.

Add the mushrooms and toss with the olive oil and shallot to coat. Saute, stirring, for several minutes, adding salt and pepper as the mushrooms cook. (If the mushrooms end up seeming very dry, sprinkle them with a little more olive oil.) When the mushrooms have started to release their juices, add a slosh of sherry and stir until it mostly evaporates.

Fold in any big greens (the sliced chard and/or mustard greens), add a splash of vegetable broth and a little bit more sherry if desired, and cover the pan to let steam. After a minute or two, uncover and stir, then cover again to let simmer until the greens are tender (2-3 more minutes).

At this point, add the fresh pasta to the boiling water and boil for 2 minutes or until al dente.

Meanwhile, add any baby greens (baby chard and/or red mustard frisee) to the mushrooms. Add a little more broth if necessary (you want there to be a little bit of liquid at the bottom, but not so much that it's soupy), cover, and steam for a minute. Turn off the heat.

Reserve 1-2 ladlefuls of pasta water, then drain the pasta into a colander and shake just a couple of times (so the pasta isn't too thoroughly drained). Add to the pasta to the pan with the mushrooms, ladle in a little of the reserved water, and toss with the sauce. Add more pasta water if necessary -- you want the mixture to be very moist but not soupy (the pasta will absorb some water between now and when you get it to the table, and you don't want it to dry out).

Sprinkle in the Parmesan cheese, toss, and serve onto plates. Top with a liberal scattering of parsley and a few shavings of goat gouda. Serve hot.

Serves 3, and pairs well with Syrah or another red with a bit of heft and complexity.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pan-Fried Winter Squash

It's getting to be the time of year when even the most squash-enamored individual might be excused for wondering when the vegetable might pack up for the season and go home already. After baking it, stuffing it, mashing it, sauteing it, and pureeing it, I have to admit I sighed a little last week when I opened our CSA box to find a big piece of Guatamalan blue banana squash (although you have to admit it's a fabulous name, at least). But Suzanne Ashworth, the mastermind behind Del Rio Botanical, suggested pan-frying the squash in the insert she sends every week with our produce, which turned out to be a brilliant idea. Suddenly, we're re-addicted to winter squash and hoping there might be just a few more weeks of it.


Winter squash (butternut or similar texture), cut into rectangular slices about 1/3 inch thick
Pastured butter and/or olive oil
Freshly ground white pepper

Heat a pan that's wide enough to hold the squash slices in a single layer over medium heat. When hot, add a little butter and/or olive oil (about enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan). Add the squash slices and fry 2-4 minutes until lightly browned, then flip to brown the other side as well.

When both sides are golden, sprinkle with a little salt, add 1-2 tbsp water, and cover the pan to let steam, turning the heat down slightly. Steam 5-10 minutes until very tender, adding a little more water if necessary (the cooking time will depend on the thickness of the squash).

Sprinkle with white pepper, and serve.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Sauteed Beet Greens

Apparently, beet greens are a close relative to Swiss chard. Which means that if you happen to be a completely reasonable person with a still-not-fully-eradicated, deep-seated beet phobia, you can call them chard-like greens, which is obviously a much nicer and less fearsome sounding word. Chard-like greens have chard-like roots, which some of us will no doubt muster up the courage to try again someday soon, especially now that they have this nice, placid, appropriately appetizing name. In the meantime, we've been munching on their leafy green tops in this recipe.

Olive oil
1 shallot, sliced
1 tomato, diced
Several handfuls young beet greens (if larger/older, chop before cooking and cook a little longer until tender)
Splash chicken or veggie broth
Freshly ground black pepper
Squeeze Meyer lemon juice

Saute shallot in a little olive oil over medium heat until soft. Add the tomato and continue cooking for a couple minutes until it softens and releases its juice. Add the beet greens and toss with the tomatoes to coat. Add a splash of broth, cover, and simmer until the greens are just wilted, stirring once or twice.

Turn off the heat, add salt, pepper, and lemon juice to taste, and serve hot.

Serves 2.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Broccoli with Garlic and Meyer Lemon

I always forget about broccoli. We make it, and I marvel at it, and then I go back to thinking of it as a bland side dish that tends to range from overcooked and mushy to generic and flavorless. Which it often is, if you boil or steam it, or get it out of the frozen food section. But fresh di Cicio broccoli from our produce box, sauteed in olive oil and then barely steamed for a few minutes until just tender? Not the same vegetable at all.

Olive oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 clove garlic, smashed
Broccolini or broccoli for two, sliced lengthwise into equal-width pieces
Splash or two veggie broth or water
Meyer lemon (pinch zest plus a little juice)

Heat a little olive oil in a pot over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and garlic. Stir, toasting, until garlic begins to lightly brown, turning down the heat a little if the seeds start to pop.

Add the broccoli and salt and stir to coat with the mustard seeds. Saute for a minute or two, then add a splash of broth and cover the pot. Steam for 1-2 minutes until the liquid evaporates, then add a splash more liquid, stir, and cover again. Steam another couple of minutes or until just tender (you want there to be just enough liquid to create a little steam, but not so much that the broccoli is sitting in liquid -- the idea is to get the bottom of the vegetable lightly caramelized as it sits against the hot pan, while steaming the rest of it).

Turn off the heat, add a pinch of lemon zest and a squeeze of juice, and serve hot.

Serves 2 (and goes particularly well with these).