Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Bacon-Infused Beluga Lentils with Zucchini

Don't be fooled by its lentil-like appearance. This dish is like a bowl full of bacon. Only, you know, healthy. And easy. Neither of which you'd ever suspect from the taste.

Adapted from here, and reheats well the next day...if you manage to have any left. 

1 strip Niman Ranch applewood smoked bacon, diced
Olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large or 2 small carrots, diced
2 medium cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup beluga lentils, rinsed and carefully picked through for any stones
1 3/4 cups chicken and/or veggie broth
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 zucchini, halved and sliced crosswise into semicircles

Heat a smallish pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it just starts to brown. Add a glug of olive oil and the onion and saute, stirring from time to time, until the onion turns translucent, then stir in the carrot and garlic and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Add the thyme and then the lentils. Saute for a minute more, then add the broth. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and simmer for 20-25 minutes until lentils are tender but not soft, stirring every 5-10 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a wide pan over medium heat. When hot, add a glug of olive oil, then toss in the zucchini (you want them in a single layer—if they won't all fit in your pan, do them in batches). Fry until golden brown on both sides and tender (if they are browning without cooking through fully, you can cover the pan for a few minutes and turn the heat down to low). When the zucchini are soft but not soggy, salt to taste and turn off the heat.

Serve the lentils in soup plates, topped with the zucchini and freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 2 (or 4 as a side dish).

Saturday, August 24, 2013

One-Pot Pasta with Fresh Basil

If you're anything like me, there's nothing less motivating than the prospect of cooking lunch for one.

Here's what happens. Somewhere around midday, if I'm working from home, I think of something I'd like to eat. And then I think about the number of pots involved, and the fact that I will be the only one eating...and perhaps most significantly, the only one cleaning up afterward...and that dinner comes after lunch, which will mean even more cleaning. Then, in response to this disheartening realization, one part of my mind earnestly tries to convince the other part that a spoonful of peanut butter is really a very well-balanced meal, if you think about it, because it contains protein and um and uh protein and well anyway there would only be a single utensil to wash afterward. (Inevitably, five minutes after I implement this idea, I'm both hungry and glaring at the stupid spoon sitting expectantly in the sink.)

So the other day, I am in exactly this situation—post-peanut butter, pre-spoon-cleaning—and thinking guiltily of the rampant African blue basil on the balcony that has grown to the size of a small elephant in the moist summer heat. A gangly, adolescent elephant. It was gazing reprovingly at me through the balcony door window.

I thought about how I should prune it, and how I was hungry, and how I needed to stop anthropomorphizing plants. (This last part I may have said aloud to our houseplants, Ellie and Beatrix, who nodded knowingly in the circulating air from the ceiling fan.)

And then, less than twenty minutes later, I was sitting down to this. The ingredients can be prepared while the pasta water is coming to a boil. The water boils quickly, because you can use a small pot. And most magically of all, everything happens in that one small pot—leaving you just one thing to clean up afterward.*

Plus it's like mac and cheese comfort meets homemade pesto gourmet deliciousness.

Ingredients (per person):
1 small to medium clove garlic, unpeeled
A bit more than 1 cup whole wheat fusilli pasta**
A big bunch of fresh basil (say, 2 generous'll want about 1/2 cup chopped)
1-2 oz grated extra sharp cheddar (or sub Parmesan, Asiago, or any full-flavored cheese)
Any other pasta-y ingredients that happen to be languishing in your fridge (optional)***
A scattering of pine nuts (optional)
Salt & freshly ground black pepper 

Bring a pot of water to a boil for the pasta (a 2 quart pot is fine for a single serving). Toss in a 1/2 tsp salt.

While you're waiting for it to boil, wash, dry, and chop up the basil (you want enough for about 1/2 cup chopped), grate the cheese, and assemble any other ingredients.

When the water boils, add the garlic clove and the pasta. Boil for 7 1/2 minutes or follow package directions, until al dente. 1 minute before the pasta is done, fish out the garlic clove, rinse briefly under cold water, peel, and smash or chop.

Drain the pasta (directly from the pot if you can, using the lid, to save yourself the bother of cleaning something else), and replace the pot full of pasta back on the stove. Drizzle with olive oil, stir in the garlic and basil and any other pasta-y ingredients you've decided to add, and let sit one minute to warm through. Add the cheese and pine nuts and stir gently until the cheese melts. Sprinkle with black pepper, and serve.

*And the fork, technically. And a plate, if you're being all formal.

**If you're looking for the best store-bought whole wheat pasta by far, ever, look no further than
Eden Organic Kamut spirals.

***e.g., a spoonful or two of roasted red pepper tapenade, a chopped artichoke heart, a little diced tomato, and/or a scattering of chopped parsley.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sukuma Wiki: Kenyan Braised Sweet Potatoes and Collard Greens

The husband has been cooking up a storm while he's on his own in the wild midwest. Recently, he adapted a recipe from our Kansas produce box for Sukuma Wiki, a common Kenyan dish of braised collard greens. In Swahili, sukuma wiki literally means "stretch the week," and this dish is surprisingly filling (in addition to being deeply delicious).

And, when we each cook it in our respective kitchens for a Skype dinner date, it can stretch the week from here to Kansas City.

Olive oil
1 medium to large red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1 large Japanese sweet potato (about 12 oz.), peeled and diced
1 bunch collard greens, lower half of the stems removed, coarsely chopped
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups diced Roma tomatoes
Dash or six ground cumin
Scant 1/4 tsp turmeric
1 cup veggie broth
Freshly ground white pepper to taste

Heat a deep saute pan (one that has a lid) over medium heat. When hot, add a generous glug of olive oil. Add the onion and saute, stirring, until it turns translucent, then add the jalapeno and saute a couple minutes more.

Stir in the sweet potato and continue to saute, stirring occasionally, until golden brown in places. Next, add collard greens by the handful, stirring to coat. Sprinkle in the salt, and continue to cook for another 5-7 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add the garlic, tomatoes, cumin, turmeric, and broth. Stir, cover, and reduce the heat to low or medium-low (you want to end up with a strong simmer). Cook for 40 minutes, stirring every 10-15, until the collard greens are very tender and the kitchen smells amazing.

Adjust seasonings to taste, top with freshly ground white pepper, and serve warm.

Serves 2-4.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Polenta with Sauteed Leeks, Zucchini, and Tomatoes

Deep down, I know I'm a fickle foodie. One moment I'm swooning over green beans; the next, I'm madly in love with fish. But in August, my heart has and will always* belong to tomatoes. And when perfectly ripe heirloom cherry tomatoes keep crowding our co-op in fragrant piles of orange and red and yellow, I feel morally obligated to do my part and make this.

You make it, too. Because you're selfless like that, and you don't want the tomatoes to sit there feeling unloved. Also because it's blissfully delicious.

Olive oil
1 medium zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
About 3" of a medium leek, white and/or light green parts, halved lengthwise and sliced
2 medium to large garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup (half a basket) cherry tomatoes, halved and sprinkled with a pinch of salt
Big handful basil, chopped
1 cup chicken or veggie broth
1 cup coarsely ground cornmeal (polenta)
1-2 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar, reduced (simmer gently in a small pot until volume reduces by half)
(Optional: If you're in the mood, top with a fried pastured egg)

Bring the cup of broth and 2 cups of water to boil in a pot.

Meanwhile, heat a glug of olive oil in a wide nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add the zucchini and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown on most sides. Push to the side of the pan, turn the heat down a little, and add a drizzle of olive oil and the leeks and a pinch of salt to the other side. Saute the leeks, stirring occasionally, for about two minutes or until they soften. Add the garlic and saute for a minute more, then mix everything together. Add the tomatoes and basil, stir, and turn off the heat. Adjust salt to taste.

Add the polenta to the pot of simmering broth in a slow, steady stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Keeping the heat at medium-low, continue to stir slowly until the polenta thickens and just begins to pull away from the sides of the pot. Turn off the heat, and stir in the Parmesan.

Serve the tomato-zucchini mixture over the polenta, drizzle with balsamic reduction, and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper.

Serves 2-3.

*Give or take.