Monday, February 28, 2011

Homemade Pasta with Garlic and Greens

Found in our CSA box: Arugula rapini.
Still obsessed with: Homemade pasta.
(Really, when you think about it, there was only one thing we could do....)

Homemade pasta (e.g., this fettuccine), cooked al dente

Olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, pressed
3-5 big handfuls of greens (e.g., arugula, spinach, or baby mustard)
Generous glug or two white wine
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
Salt & black pepper
1 tbsp chopped parsley
Grated Parmesan cheese

Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a wide pan with deep sides over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 30-60 seconds until it softens but does not brown. Add the greens and a pinch of salt and saute, stirring, until the greens just start to wilt slightly at the edges. Add the wine and lemon zest and cover, turning the heat down slightly. Steam until the greens just begin to wilt for real, then uncover, stir again, and add salt and pepper to taste.
When the pasta is al dente, drain most but not all of the water and add to the pan with the sauce. Sprinkle with a little more olive oil and toss with the greens. Serve hot, topped with parsley and Parmesan.

Serves 2.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mushrooms with Sherry

The first thing you need to know about Korbel Champagne Cellars is that their deli, of all things, is phenomenal. It has phenomenal pasta salads, and phenomenal sandwiches, but most of all it has a phenomenal lunchtime experience involving tri-tip, caramelized onions, and gorgonzola inside warm bread that you can devour while seated blissfully on a sunny patio with light filtering down through the trees.

The second thing you should know is that their sherry is good, and that it does happy things to mushrooms.

Olive oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, brushed clean, stemmed, and halved or quartered
(depending on whether they're small or large)
Salt & black pepper
A slosh or two of sherry
1 tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley

Heat a glug of olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat (make sure the pan is wide enough that the mushrooms won't be crowded -- 11" or so will do). Add the garlic slices and stir, letting them simmer in the oil, for 1-2 minutes (you may want to turn the heat down a little to prevent them from browning). Add the mushrooms, stir a couple times, and turn the heat up to medium-high. Cook, stirring occasionally, and allow to brown on all sides.

When the mushrooms are golden, add a pinch or two of salt and some freshly ground black pepper, and cook for a moment longer.

Add a generous slosh of sherry (enough so that you can see a bit of liquid simmering in the bottom of the pan) and cook, stirring, until it's mostly but not completely evaporated. Stir in the parsley, and serve hot.

Serves 2 as a side dish or appetizer.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Starlitta Salad with Carrot and Radish

We found a bag full of springy, light, fresh-flavored greens in our CSA box labeled starlitta (although I haven't been able to track them down on the Google, so they may usually be called something else). But this light salad would work with other microgreens or a mix of mild baby greens, as well.

Two large handfuls of greens
2 carrots, grated
1 medium daikon (white radish), grated
Olive oil & balsamic vinegar

Whisk a generous couple glugs of olive oil and about a third as much balsamic vinegar in a small bowl to form an emulsion. Lightly coat the greens with the vinaigrette, but reserve 1-2 spoonfuls. Arrange greens in salad bowls or plates, sprinkle generously with carrot and radish, and drizzle a little of the remaining vinaigrette over the top.

Serves 2 .

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

I can't quite figure out if purple sweet potatoes actually taste any different than orange ones, because it's entirely possible that I'm just madly in love with their color. Certainly they have a creamier texture than some orange varieties, although not necessarily all. But does it matter? They're purple. Can't really beat that.

Purple sweet potatoes (or sub orange ones, if you must)
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 375. Slice sweet potatoes lengthwise, then turn and cut again lengthwise into thick fries. Toss with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt, spread 1-2 layers deep on a baking sheet, and bake for 25-35 minutes until tender, stirring every 15 minutes or so (the timing will depend on how thick the fries are, so just check them from time to time when you're stirring anyway).

Sprinkle with a little more salt, and serve hot. Unlike fried fries, these won't get soggy if they sit for a little while before serving. (But like fried fries, they're delicious).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

White Beans and Rice

I got home one night last week at 8pm, walked into the kitchen, and went to gaze half-heartedly into the fridge to find something not too ridiculous to make myself for dinner ("not too ridiculous" has been known to include microwave popcorn, but ever since our cupboards got their whole food makeover, we haven't had any in the house). I noticed the leftover home-grown cannellini beans from our pasta and some dino kale in the vegetable drawer, and threw together an easy, all-in-one sort of dish in the vague hope that it would be mildly edible.

Apparently, the cooking gods owe me one from a certain roasted vegetable fiasco last week that I am choosing to pretend never happened, because this ended up being amazingly delicious. Serve it over black Forbidden rice or else regular brown rice, and top with some good-quality extra sharp white cheddar.

Olive oil
2 medium shallots, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
1/2 bunch dino kale, sliced crosswise into ribbons*
2-3 cups cooked cannellini beans (or sub canned)
1/2 cup cooking liquid and/or chicken broth*
1/4 tsp dried oregano or more to taste
Salt (unless your canned beans are already high in salt)
Sprinkling ñora pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
1 tsp chopped parsley or more to taste
1/2 cup grated extra sharp white cheddar

Heat a glug of olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. When hot, add the shallot and saute for a couple of minutes until it just begins to soften, then add the smashed garlic clove, pressing it into the olive oil. Continue cooking for another minute or two until the garlic clove begins to brown and the shallots are soft.

Add the kale and saute, stirring, for 2-3 minutes until it wilts. Next, stir in the beans, and add the chicken broth, oregano, and salt to taste. Bring to a simmer, turn the heat down a little, and simmer for a few minutes. Add the dried pepper and parsley, cover, and simmer for 5-7 more minutes, adding a little extra broth if necessary (you want some liquid left at the end, like a sauce, but it shouldn't be soupy).

Serve over rice, lightly sprinkled with cheese.

Serves 2.

*Variation on a theme: Substitute chard for the kale, white wine for the chicken broth, and sprinkle with extra parsley at the end.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sauteed Broccolini and Wilted Red Mustard Frisee

Our CSA box has been sending big bags of red frisee mustard that has the color of red mustard, the shape of frisee, and an aroma reminiscent of a baked potato. I suspect they're supposed to be salad greens, but they taste incredible when quickly sauteed in a little bit of olive oil. Meanwhile, we got a bouquet of blossoming broccolini this week, which involves excessive amounts of alliteration (there was no way around it -- the only other option was to call it a big bunch of blooming broccolini, and that's even worse), but it was also excessively pretty and excessively tasty, so I decided to forgive it.

You can turn this into a quick and easy dinner by pairing it with some good bread and cheese. (For a quick picnic in front of my laptop one night last week, I layered avocado, sharp white cheddar, and chopped arugula on slices of walnut levain* from Village Bakery and sprinkled with a little black pepper...who says fast food can't be gourmet?)

*If you live in the Sacramento/Davis area, I suggest finding Village Bakery bread (Taylor's and the Co-op both carry it), buying the walnut levain and/or the seeded batard, going home, grabbing a knife out of the kitchen, locking yourself in a room after reassuring anyone present that you are not about to do anything drastic, and eating it. Seriously. Because you have not really had bread until you have had this bread.

Olive oil
Several big handfuls of red frisee mustard (or sub arugula)
1 bunch broccolini, stems sliced into 1 inch pieces and tops separated
1 clove garlic, pressed
Splash chicken or veggie broth
Squeeze Meyer lemon juice

Heat a little olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Add the mustard and saute for a minute, pressing the leaves gently against the pan and then turning them. Cover the pan and cook for a minute or until just wilted (arugula will cook even faster, so saute only until it just begins to wilt and remove from heat). Decant into a bowl and set near the stove to keep warm.

Add a little more olive oil to the pan, then toss in the broccolini stems and stir a few times. Push them to the side of the pan and add the garlic and a little more olive oil, so the garlic can simmer in the oil for a few moments. After about 10 seconds and before it browns, stir it in with the broccolini. Sprinkle with a little salt, saute for a minute or so more, then add the chicken broth and cover the pan, turning the heat to medium-low. Simmer for about 2 minutes, then uncover, turn the heat back to medium, and add the broccolini tops. Saute for a minute more, then turn off the heat, sprinkle with lemon juice and pepper, and serve next to or over the red mustard frisee.

Serves 2 as a side dish.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Leaves for Breakfast: Quail Eggs and Greens

Scene: Midnight, inside. Lights are off, all is silent. Husband and wife are on the brink of sleep.

Husband (suddenly, without warning): What do you suppose would happen if we made an omelet out of the quail eggs?

Wife: Mmph.*

*Translates as: "I'm sorry, the person you're trying to contact has already fallen half asleep and can't respond using prototypical language at present, but clearly that's an empirical question that we need to investigate first thing in the morning."
Answer: Good things happen. It's not that quail eggs really taste different than chicken eggs, but it was like this had a whole extra layer of freshness and eggy taste to it. If that makes sense. Which it probably doesn't. So you'll just have to make it sometime and see.

8-10 quail eggs, or 2-3 pastured chicken eggs
Olive oil
1 medium shallot, sliced into thin half-rings
1-2 handfuls mild greens (e.g., fava, baby mustard, and/or spinach), coarsely chopped
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
Ñora pepper
2 slices whole grain bread, toasted

Carefully crack the quail eggs into a bowl without breaking the yolks (use a fingernail to get through the membrane under the shell, and peel back to get the egg out).

Heat a little olive oil in a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and a pinch of salt, and saute for a couple of minutes until soft. Add the greens and cook, stirring, until just wilted, then add the pepper, parsley, and ñora and stir to mix. Pour in the eggs (still without breaking the yolks) and turn the heat down to low.

Wait about 10 seconds, then slowly stir the eggs and greens together, and continue cooking for a minute or two until the whites have set.

Lightly drizzle the toast with olive oil, top with the eggs, and serve hot.

Serves 2 for a light breakfast.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Butternut Squash with Shallot and Sage

This is an easy and delicious way to use up leftover butternut squash if you've roasted or precooked more than you need for another recipe.

Olive oil
About 1 1/2 cups coarsely mashed leftover squash
1 small shallot, halved lengthwise and sliced
3-5 leaves fresh sage, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup water
Freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground white pepper

Heat olive oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and a pinch of salt and saute until soft, then add the sage. Continue cooking for a minute or two, then fold in the squash. After another minute, turn the heat slightly and stir in the water. Continue cooking until it takes on desired consistency (it should be kind of like mashed potatoes -- not too thick, not too soupy). Turn off heat, add a pinch of nutmeg, salt, and white pepper to taste, and let sit for a minute or two before serving.

Serves 2 as a side dish.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fettuccine with Winter Squash, White Beans, and Sage

Apparently, I spoke too soon. This pasta recipe was perfecter.

Pasta Ingredients
1/2 cup stone ground whole wheat flour
1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 cup mixed quinoa & chickpea flours (half & half)
1/8 tsp salt
1 pastured egg
1 tbsp warm water + 1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp olive oil
Liberal dousing white pepper (when using this recipe with winter squash)

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl, then make a well in the center and add the olive oil and egg. Mash together with a fork, adding the milk and water as you go. When it forms a ball, take it out and knead it for 10 minutes on a very lightly floured cutting board. When dough is smooth and elastic, form a ball, set in a bowl, cover with saran wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes.

Break dough into quarters. Take each quarter, press lightly into a rough ball, and feed through the pasta machine at its widest setting. Fold in half, and repeat. Tuck the edges over to square the piece of dough, and feed through at the second-widest setting. Continue until setting 7, then hang to dry on a pasta tree. Repeat for each quarter of the dough. Let dry for about 30 minutes, then feed through the fettuccine attachment on your pasta machine to cut the noodles.

Cook in salted boiling water for 3 minutes until al dente (reserve a ladleful or two of the pasta water for the sauce).

Sauce Ingredients
4 cups cubed butternut squash (or cut into flat squares about 1/4" thick)
3 tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp pastured butter
Olive oil
1 large leek, halved lengthwise and sliced (white and light green parts)
1 cup cooked cannellini beans (or sub canned)
1/4 cup white wine
1/3 cup veggie or chicken broth
Several big handfuls of baby mustard greens (or sub half arugula and half spinach)
12 sage leaves, sliced crosswise into thin ribbons
Zest of 1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

Toss the squash pieces with olive oil, spread on a baking pan, and roast in the oven at 425 degrees until tender (15-30 minutes, depending on their size).

Heat a wide pan with deep sides over medium high heat. Add the pine nuts and toast until lightly brown, then remove and set aside.

Heat butter and a generous glug or two of olive oil in the same pan over medium heat. Add the leeks and a pinch of salt and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the beans and saute for another minute or two, then add the wine and stir, cooking, until it evaporates. Gently stir in the squash and 1/4 cup of broth and saute for a couple of minutes, adding a little more olive oil if necessary and a pinch or two of salt.

When the squash is heated through, add the greens and remaining broth and cover the pan to let the greens begin to wilt in the steam. Uncover, stir, and add the sage. Continue cooking until the greens are completely wilted, then add the lemon zest and white pepper, adjust salt to taste, and turn off the heat. Cover and let sit 5-10 minutes to let the flavors blend.

Add a ladleful or two of pasta water from the pot just before draining the fettuccine, and stir. Add the drained noodles back to the pot, drizzle lightly with olive oil, and toss with the sauce.

Serve hot, topped with a liberal sprinkling of pine nuts, parsley, and grated Parmesan.

Serves 2-3.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Excuses, Excuses

I have heard, through the grapevine, that certain readers are politely wondering what the devil I've been doing slacking off my posts in the last couple of weeks, and to you I say:
...well, I hadn't figured out what to say yet, really, because I'd been sorting through my excuses trying to figure out the best one. Since a favorite hasn't emerged yet, you're stuck with the whole list:

1. I was in Oregon.

2. On the way back from Oregon, I was inescapably confronted with a packet of Northwest Nibbles when a flight attendant chucked them onto my tray table and refused to take them back, and I lapsed into a deep depression over their continued existence.

3. Because of #1, we missed our CSA box last week, and so we have since been lacking our usual heaps of inspirational produce.

4. We have been revisiting old favorites.

5. I have developed an unholy and unshakable addiction to cara cara oranges, which are amazing and delicious and so juicy that it would be imprudent and irresponsible to type while one is stuffing them in one's face.

While you're waiting for me to run out of oranges and cook something, read this. It's excellent. Kind of like a cara cara orange for the brain.
(Have I mentioned that I may be slightly obsessed?)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Smoked Salmon Sandwich with Lemony Kale

One of my favorite things about days that I get to work from home is the possibility of a warm sandwich for lunch. Someday, I will get a panini maker for my office. (You assume I mean a panini grill, but having written "panini maker," I'm now picturing a professional-looking office assistant with a nice little apron who would stand in the corner and produce hot sandwiches on demand.) Until then, I will tide myself over with the occasional Warm Sandwich Wednesday.

Ingredients (per sandwich)
2 oz. smoked wild salmon
3 leaves dino (Lacinato) kale, sliced crosswise into thin ribbons
Olive oil
Squeeze of lemon
Black pepper
Whole grain or Dijon mustard
2 slices whole grain, not-too-many-ingredient bread, toasted

Heat a little olive oil in a small pan over medium high heat. Toss in the kale and stir-fry until it begins to wilt, then cover pan, turn off the heat, and let sit for a minute or two until fully wilted. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the top, sprinkle liberally with freshly ground black pepper, and toss to combine.

Drizzle the bottom piece of toast very lightly with olive oil and spread the top piece very lightly with a little mustard, then layer the smoked salmon and kale in between.