Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Roasted Napa Cabbage

I may have mentioned, on between one and sixty-three previous occasions, that roasting one's vegetables is almost always a brilliant idea. You might wonder whether the same thing holds for Napa cabbage, since it seems like it might be a little too limp and lettucey to roast properly. Let me be very clear about this: NOT roasting your Napa cabbage, while technically possible, would be an act of culinary irresponsibility. You owe it to yourself and the world of food to put it in a 400 degree oven. Seriously.

Of course, it's summer, so you may be delicately wondering whether I've gone completely insane to suggest roasting something, and if it were yesterday or tomorrow I would agree with you. But it is today, and today was a balmy and bewildering 68 degrees in Sacramento, and it was raining. (Sacramento is the place where you can go a whole summer without seeing a single cloud. This is not normal.)

So, in celebration of global warming or Armageddon or whatever's going on out there, we roasted us some cabbage. It was delicious.

Napa cabbage, sliced crosswise about 3 times into wide strips, washed, and dried
Olive oil
Freshly ground white pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the cabbage with a bit of olive oil and arrange on a baking sheet about two layers thick. Roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes, turning halfway through, until some of the leaves start to turn golden brown in spots.

Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and a dusting of white pepper, and serve. Pairs particularly well with quinoa.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Wilted Greens Salad with Tuna

The problem with brunch -- and I must admit I feel slightly sacrilegious uttering those words, so allow me to rephrase -- one tiny, insignificant, easily airbrushed imperfection on the face of the deeply beloved meal of brunch (ah, much better) is that it's one meal instead of two.

I bemoan this fact not because of my intrinsically greedy, supersized-endless-refill-loving American ways, but because as someone who eats like a hummingbird (that's the polite term my husband has developed to mean "constantly"), having one big meal all at once can't quite take the place of smaller portions spread out over the day. Now if it's a late brunch, this is easily remedied by a surreptitious cup of coffee and handful of fruit while, for example, your house guests slumber away unknowingly upstairs. But if it's an earlyish brunch, you're left with this awkwardly-sized stretch between french toast and dinnertime that's too small for lunch but too big for nothing.

Enter the Goldilocks Brinner. Large enough to feel like a meal, and light enough not to interfere with dinnertime appetites: just right for any fellow foodie hummingbirds out there.

1 can albacore tuna, drained
Medium, good quality curry powder
Handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt & black pepper
Small handful sliced almonds
Olive oil
Yellow and/or black mustard seeds
Several large handfuls of spicy greens (e.g., half baby arugula and half mustard frisee -- something with a bit of a kick), very coarsely chopped/sliced

Combine the tuna with a bit of olive oil in a small bowl, then stir in half a spoonful or so of curry powder, the parsley, a pinch of salt, and ground black pepper to taste. Mix well, then add the almonds and stir gently a couple times to combine.

Meanwhile, heat a bit of olive oil in a wide saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and stir once or twice. After about 20 seconds, add the greens and toss to combine with the mustard seeds. Saute for a minute or two until they just begin to wilt, then cover the pan, turn off the heat, and let steam for a minute more until just wilted.

Arrange a bed of the greens on plates (don't preheat the plates -- you want the greens to go ahead and cool to room temperature), sprinkle with just a little olive oil, and top with tuna.

Serves 2 for a very light, halfway-between-brunch-and-an-early-dinner sort of meal.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Grilled Veggies and Chicken over Quinoa

Hey guess what? It's summer. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but it's clearly high time we put things on skewers and grilled them.

Also, just in case you've been pining for new ways to express your support for the blog, voila: Visit this website, and click "Like" near the top of the page. And as always, you can Follow the blog by clicking the button to the right, either to actually follow via Google or as just a virtual wave to say hi and that you enjoy it here.

Incidentally, I'm completely delighted by the wave of new readers (hello!) as well as by those of you who have been regulars for awhile now and keep coming back. I kept thinking, when I started this, that either nobody was ever going to read it, or that to get readers, I'd have to do one of those advertising thingies (so that someone somewhere would put up a link to my blog in exchange for me advertising Rice-A-Roni or whatever at the top of the page...which struck me as slightly ridiculous for a blog that's purportedly about whole foods). So, let me just take a moment and thank you all so much for reading and cooking along with me. Without you, I would've gone back to easy microwave dinners sometime last October and thought back nostalgically from time to time to the few months I actually did what I wanted to do with food and cooking.

But that wasn't the point. The point was skewers. This combination is delicious, and I like that the meat ends up being a complement to the meal rather than the main focus.

2 pastured chicken breasts, cut into 1 1/2" cubes
Zest and juice of 1/2 Eureka lemon
1 tbsp chopped green garlic (or sub 1-2 cloves garlic, pressed)
1-2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
Ñora pepper (if you have it)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 red onion, sliced in half again lengthwise and then quartered into wedges (you want squares that are about as big as the chicken pieces)
1 bell pepper, cut into squares (same as above)
Olive oil

Olive oil
1 tbsp chopped green garlic (or sub 1-2 cloves garlic, pressed)
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
Ñora pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 portobello mushrooms, brushed clean and stems cut off
Summer squash (.25 lbs or a bit less), thickly sliced (about 1/2" thick -- cut pattypans crosswise into circles; zucchinis lengthwise into long strips)

1/2 cup red quinoa
1/2 cup white quinoa
1 cup veggie or chicken broth
A little less than 1/2 cup water
4-6 sorrel leaves, thinly sliced crosswise into ribbons (optional)

Whisk together a glug or two of olive oil with the lemon juice, and then stir in the zest, garlic, rosemary, ñora, salt, and black pepper. Pour over the chicken, toss to coat evenly, and let marinate for an hour or two in the fridge.

About half an hour before you want to take the chicken out, rinse the quinoa and then soak in room temperature water for about ten minutes. Next, whisk together the ingredients for the veggie marinade, and brush over the vegetables (including the onion and pepper). Make sure to let a little marinade soak down into the gills of the portobellos.

Take a couple pieces of the onion and pepper and chop them (I use any pieces that ended up too small or weirdly shaped for the skewers). Rinse and drain the quinoa. Heat a smallish pot over medium heat, and add a glug of olive oil, followed by the onion and pepper. Saute until soft. Stir in the quinoa, saute for another minute, and then add the broth and water. Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the grill on high. Push the chicken onto skewers, separating each piece with a pepper on one side and an onion on the other. Grill the skewers, mushrooms, and squash slices, turning to let all sides cook evenly.

Just before serving, stir the sorrel into the quinoa. Use as a bed for the chicken and veggies.

Serves 3.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Black Beans and Rice with Greens and Oregano

The combination of rice and beans and whatever greens we have on hand tends to be my go-to meal when I haven't thought ahead about dinner and just want something straightforward and easy that doesn't require going to the store. But because it's the Backup Plan and doesn't really sound that glamorous, I'm always surprised when it turns out to be not just passable but really good...and it almost always does. So here's another version that works well if you have black beans and beet greens or chard nearby (if you have fresh cilantro instead, see this post or this one, and for white beans and kale, go here).

1 cup Forbidden rice (or sub brown basmati rice), cooked
Olive oil
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 tbsp(ish) chopped green garlic
1 jalapeno, minced
1 red pepper, chopped
2-3 cups beet greens (or sub chard), sliced into ribbons
1 can black beans, partly drained
Finely chopped fresh oregano, to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little extra sharp white cheddar, grated

Heat a glug of olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, green garlic, and jalapeno, and saute for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add the red pepper and cook for a minute or two more, then stir in the beet greens and saute until they begin to wilt. Add a pinch or two of salt.

Stir in the black beans, cover, and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 5 minutes or so to let the flavors blend, then add a couple pinches of oregano and cook a minute more. Turn off the heat, add some pepper, and adjust the salt and oregano to taste.

Serve over rice with a little grated cheddar sprinkled over the top. This is one of those dishes that will taste more complex when it's not piping hot, so leaving a minute or two between serving and starting dinner will help bring out the flavors (you want it to be warm, just not molten).

Serves 2 for a light dinner (if you're hungry, you might want a little salad too or a fruit course afterward).

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes with Caramelized Onion

This is really, really good, and goes very well with lamb. It probably goes with other things, too, but right now all I can think about is lamb and rosemary potatoes. And lamb. And rosemary potatoes. I may be stuck in a loop....

Olive oil
1.5 lbs smallish yellow or purple potatoes, halved
1/2 yellow onion, sliced into half rings
1 tbsp or so chopped green garlic (or sub 1 large clove garlic, pressed)
Needles from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, separated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Toss ingredients together in a nonstick roasting pan (big enough so that the potatoes are about 2 layers deep). Roast in the oven for 45-60 minutes until potatoes are well-browned and soft when poked with a fork, turning every 15 minutes or so. (If after about half an hour, the pan is still wet at the bottom, it means the potatoes are clustered too close together -- try spreading them out a bit more to let them brown. If the potatoes start to dry out instead, try clustering them closer, or cover the pan with some aluminum foil.)

Sprinkle with salt and black pepper.

Serves 2.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Melon and Prosciutto with Pink Pepper and Rosemary

Pink peppercorns, it turns out, are not peppercorns at all. Which explains how they can taste completely different (peppery, but also fruity and spicy with a kind of white chocolate thing going on in the background). It also explains why they pair so well with chocolate, and why they can do such interesting things to a recipe like this one.
1/2 ripe cantaloupe, cut into 1-inch cubes
2-3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
Freshly ground pink peppercorns
Small sprig rosemary, finely chopped
Spoonful balsamic reduction (optional)

Wrap each piece of melon with a strip of prosciutto and arrange on a plate. Sprinkle with a pinch or two of chopped rosemary, and then grind the pink peppercorns liberally over the top. Dab each piece with just a drop of balsamic reduction if desired, and serve.

Serves 2 for an appetizer, or spear each piece with a toothpick for hors d'oeuvres.

(To make a balsamic reduction, heat a tbsp of balsamic vinegar in a small pot until it simmers. Turn heat down and simmer until volume is reduced by half.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Wild Rice and Greens

This is one of those random, I-don't-want-to-go-to-the-store dishes that's easy, flexible, and makes you wonder why you ever bother making anything complicated if throwing together random things from the cupboard can taste so good.

Olive oil
1-2 spring onions, sliced (or sub a large shallot, sliced)
2 large cloves garlic, smashed
1 rounded cup wild rice
Just under 2 cups chicken broth
1/2 can chickpeas, rinsed

Several big handfuls mixed greens, cut crosswise into wide strips (baby mustard, spinach, and/or mystery leafy green from your CSA box)*
Salt and black pepper
2 eggs, poached or medium-boiled (7-8 minutes)

Heat a glug of olive oil in a smallish pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft and the garlic lightly golden. Add the wild rice and saute in the onion-garlic mixture for a minute or two, then stir in the chicken broth. Cover, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 45 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, adding the chickpeas about halfway through (if there's a little extra liquid at the end, you can uncover the pot and raise the heat back up to medium for a minute or two, stirring occasionally, to let it evaporate).

Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil for the eggs, but wait to cook them until a few minutes before the rice is done.

When the rice is done or almost done, heat a wide saute pan over medium heat. Drizzle the pan with a little olive oil, then throw in the greens and toss to coat with olive oil. Add a pinch or two of salt, cover the pan for a minute to let the greens begin to wilt, then stir again. When the greens are tender (a minute or two for baby greens so that they've just wilted; longer for bigger greens), turn off the heat, add the fully cooked rice, and stir to combine evenly. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Serve in bowls and top with an egg sprinkled with a bit of salt and pepper.

Serves 2.

Note: Use two spring onions if they're still smallish (like the ones to the right), but you probably just need one if they've reached their bigger, more bulbous stage (like the ones pictured in this post).

*Variation on a theme: Take out the mixed greens and substitute 2-3 cups chopped broccolini and spinach and a couple handfuls of shiitakes, sliced. Saute the broccolini, cover to let steam for a few minutes, then uncover, add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt, and a bit more olive oil, and saute until cooked through.