Saturday, October 27, 2012

Roasted Acorn Squash

Looking for some roasted squash to pair with your braised kale for a cool-weather feast? Look no further.

2 acorn squash, halved lengthwise
Olive oil
1/2 tbsp pastured butter
1 smallish shallot, chopped
1 tbsp fresh chopped sage (or thinly slice crosswise into ribbons)
2 tbsp pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 400°.

Brush cut side of squash with olive oil and turn face-down on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for 45-80 minutes or until tender (the back of the squash should yield a little to a gentle poke with a pot-holdered finger).

About 10 minutes before the squash are done, heat a small pan over medium heat. Melt the butter, add a small glug of olive oil, and then add the shallot. Saute for a minute until they soften, then add the pine nuts and the sage and turn the heat down slightly. Continue to cook for another 1-2 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.

Turn the squash right-side up and test them for doneness with a fork or spoon in the middle of the cavity (the flesh should be smooth and soft, not hard or grainy). Add a dollop of the pine nut sage mixture to each half and spread across the bottom, then return to the oven and bake another 5-10 minutes until very soft.

Serves 4.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Braised Kale

Red Russian kale becomes heavenly when roasted. Green kale, it turns out, is meant to be braised, which turns it from obligatory health food to addictive melt-in-your-mouth caramelization with a southern, collard greeny feel.

Serve this alongside roasted squash and lamb or chicken for a richly delicious fall meal.

Olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small to medium shallot, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 bunch green kale, sliced crosswise into ribbons, washed well, and spun dry in a salad spinner
1/4-1/2 cup chicken broth

Heat a generous glug of olive oil in a wide saute pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and shallot and saute for 1-2 minutes, until they soften slightly. Add the kale, in batches if the pan isn't big enough to hold it all at once before it starts to wilt, and toss well with the garlic and shallot. Saute, turning occasionally with tongs, until the kale wilts down quite a bit and starts to brown slightly here and there, drizzling with a little more olive oil if necessary.

When the kale is browned in a few places, add about half the broth and a pinch of salt. Cover and turn the heat down slightly. Simmer for about 20-30 minutes until the greens are very tender, stirring every 5-10 minutes and adding a little more broth if the pan gets too dry. (If the pan does dry out and you don't catch it in time, never fear: This is the sort of dish that gets better the more times it caramelizes as it sticks to the bottom of the pan.)

When the greens are very tender and deeply delectable, turn off the heat. Adjust salt to taste, and serve hot.

Serves 2-4.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Dragon Beans with Shallot and Balsamic Reduction

One day in early autumn, while forging through the tulgey wood,* we found dragon beans.
Obviously, the name alone meant that we had to buy them. There is, after all, something deeply satisfying about responding to the question "What should we have for dinner tonight?" by yelling "DRAGON BEANS!" at the top of one's lungs. Try it. You'll see.

(Yes, that is your neighbor staring through your kitchen window at you, and yes, he could probably hear you just then as you were gleefully screeching about mythical vegetable beasts, but that wide-eyed look on his face is obviously just jealousy about your dragon beans. He probably wants to steal them. You should no doubt lock the window and then yell DRAGON BEANS again, with emphatic arm movements, just to stake your claim.)

It just so happens that dragon beans are also (a) gorgeous and (b) deeply delicious. They would be lovely kept raw, in a salad, or arranged on a plate as crudité. We cooked ours (after liberal nibbling), which meant that they lost their fancy coloring, but they turned out so sweet and juicy and delectably addictive that we forgot to care.

Olive oil
1 small shallot, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 mild chile peppers, sliced into thin rings
1 lb dragon beans (or sub any especially crunchy, juicy green beans)
About 2 tbsp chicken broth (or sub veggie broth)
About 2 tbsp sweet basil chiffonade 
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh nasturtium flowers (optional)

Heat a wide saute pan over medium heat. When hot, add a generous glug of olive oil, then add the shallot and chiles and saute for two minutes or so until they soften. Add the beans and toss to coat. Continue cooking for about five minutes, tossing every minute or two.

Add a slosh of broth, cover, and turn the heat down to medium-low. Let steam for 2-3 more minutes until they are a minute away from al dente. (If the beans are especially crunchy and juicy, like ours were, you might want to stop cooking them on the early side to capitalize on that.)

Push the beans to the side of the pan, add just a bit more olive oil and the basil, and fry for 30 seconds. Push to the side with the beans, tilt the pan toward the empty side, and add the balsamic vinegar. Keep the pan tilted with the vinegar side over the flame as it simmers, until it reduces in volume by about half. Turn off the heat, stir to coat evenly, and serve.

Garnish with nasturtiums.

Serves 4.

*a.k.a. our co-op

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Carrot Cake Pancakes with Toasty Pecans and Ginger-Apple Compote

Here's the thing. Let's say the school year has hit, and you're going up for tenure next year, and your calendar is flooded with back-to-back meetings and classes and meetings, and you're not sure which way is up, and you just woke up on a Sunday morning with the disorienting sense that it might be Tuesday.

Or let's say you've been meaning to bake a carrot cake for your husband's birthday. Since, well, technically since last October.

Or let's say you deeply need a nice big dose of delicious.

Or let's say you have decided to dedicate some portion of your life to pursuing the impossible dream of cooking the Perfect Breakfast—one that tastes sinfully like dessert while also magically possessing the nutritional profile of MyPlate's Platonic ideal of a meal, perfectly balancing whole grains, low-fat protein, fresh vegetables, and fruit—like you're some sort of Willy Wonka-inspired, pancake-obsessed locavore whose brain has been stir-fried by lack of sleep and looming deadlines and the early morning hour and a dazzling array of fresh fall carrots glowing orangely from the depths of the refrigerator.

Or let's say you're none of the above, and just happen to be reading this.

If so, I have important Life Advice.

Are you listening?

Make these.

(Adapted from this recipe with a glance at this recipe and a persistent personal addiction to toasted pecans and gingery apple-based toppings.)

1/2 cup stoneground whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3 tbsp toasted chopped pecans
(toast whole in a pan until fragrant, shaking from time to time, then chop)
1 egg
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger root
2 cups grated carrot (brush well, then grate with the fine hole side of a box grater)

For the compote:
2 apples, peeled and flat-diced (or zanziputted, if you will, which I would and did)
2 tbsp pastured butter
2 tsp packed brown sugar
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger root
Generous dash or three of cinnamon
Maple syrup for the table

Mix the dry ingredients (flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pecans) together in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, beat the egg, then mix in the brown sugar, buttermilk, vanilla, and finally the grated ginger. Add the carrots, and mix well.

Gently stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just blended (I'm always hearing that the secret to fluffy pancakes is to not over-stir, and after careful and strenuous empirical tests involving delicately cramming large bites of pancake into my mouth, I have decided that I agree). Let rest for five minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients for the compote. Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. Add the apples and stir to coat, then cook, stirring occasionally, for a minute or two. Add the brown sugar, ginger, and cinnamon, and cook for a minute or two more, until the apples just start to release a little juice. Cover, turn the heat down to low, and simmer for about five minutes or until the apples are desired tenderness. Turn off the heat.

While the compote is simmering, start the pancakes. Heat a wide nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a small pat of butter and use a nonstick spatula to spread it in a thin layer over the pan. Add pancake batter by the quarter cup (you can also make these silver dollar pancakes as its ancestral recipe apparently recommends, by dropping the batter in 2-tbsp increments instead). Cook for about two minutes until the sides look a little dry and the bottom is golden brown, then flip and cook 2-3 minutes more until both sides are golden brown and the inside is cooked through.*

Stack the accumulating pancakes inside a piece of tin foil loosely folded in half that you set on the burner behind your pan, or put them in the oven set on low to keep warm.

Serve topped with compote and extra toasted pecans if you have them, with maple syrup on the side for drizzling.

Serves 4.**

*It is perfectly acceptable at this point to taste-test a pancake to make sure it's cooked. Just try to save a few for breakfast. If you're making the slightly bigger pancakes, you may want to turn the heat down just a little after the first batch, so they cook through all the way without turning too dark on the second side.

**These also reheat well the next day if you make extra (just stick in the toaster for about half the length of time you'd use for a piece of toast, and apply liberally as a heavenly Monday morning inoculation against the work week).