Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Celery root and potato latkes

I tagged this recipe when I bought my first celery root this past fall, and although I didn't make it back then, I'm glad I remembered it when I bought celery root again this week. The celery root makes these latkes really unique and flavorful, and I enjoyed them quite a bit. I suppose it is a bit late in the holiday season to be posting a latke recipe...however, I think these could be a good addition to a New Year's Eve meal.  They'd make great appetizers to go along with some beer, and would also be a nice side dish, if you're looking for something starchy. And you might as well get some fried food in before those resolutions kick in!

While these latkes are delicious on their own, I do think they'd be best with some kind of sauce or chutney as an accompaniment. The recipe suggests applesauce or sour cream, but I didn't have either of those around. I ate mine with ketchup, but that was kind of boring and didn't really complement the celery root that well. I'm thinking that a spicy apple chutney would be great. I'd love to hear any ideas you have!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Indian cabbage slaw

I hope everyone enjoyed a wonderful holiday weekend! I certainly did, and am now enjoying the wintry weather from the comfort of my favorite couch, with a mug of hot buttered rum. As it is snowing busily outside, I decided to tell you about a recipe from a warmer place - India. This site has definitely been lacking in Indian recipes so far. I grew up with Indian food and love eating it, but don't cook it that often. One of my resolutions for the new year is to cook more Indian food, and learn to cook the South Indian dishes that my family makes.

This dish is one that I found in an Indian cookbook that my mom gave me - Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking. You might not think to look to a Betty Crocker book for authentic Indian food, but the recipes are by Raghavan Iyer, who is a well-known Indian chef, and everything I have tried has come out really great. The cookbook has recipes from all over India - this cabbage slaw is from the region of Gujarat. It's a different part of India than where my family is from, so it's not quite the food I grew up with, but it is a recipe that I turn to often when I have cabbage waiting in the fridge. The balance of sweet, spicy, and sour is just perfect in this slaw, and it works well with many different main dishes, Indian or not.

Indian cabbage slaw
Adapted from Betty Crocker's Indian Home Cooking
Serves 6-8

1/4 cup peanut or vegetable oil (you can substitute some sesame oil for part of this for some extra flavor)
1/4 tsp asafetida powder (omit if you don't have it)
1 cup dry-roasted unsalted peanuts, roughly chopped
1 medium head cabbage (1 1/2 pounds) finely shredded (8 cups)
1/2 cup dried unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
3 fresh Thai, serrano, or cayenne chilies, chopped (remove seeds if you are sensitive to heat)
3 tbs sugar
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 tbs freshly squeezed lime juice

Heat oil in a wok or deep 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Add peanuts and asafetida, and cook for 30 seconds, stirring. Add all remaining ingredients except lime juice. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until cabbage is heated through and just barely wilted. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Sweet potato and black bean empanadas

This is the time of year when most food bloggers are posting recipes for cookies or other sweets. But since I've already found a winning holiday dessert recipe for this year, I'm going to do something a little different and tell you about these empanadas. They're delicious and fun, and they keep really well, which means you can enjoy the leftovers for lunch for a few days. Sure beats the usual soup or sandwich. Besides, you need something to eat between all those Christmas cookies, right?

Sweet potato and black bean empanadas
Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2010
Makes 10 empanadas, 2 empanadas make a good dinner serving

9 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour (I substituted white whole wheat flour for half of this)
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup cold water
1 tbs cider vinegar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tbs cumin seeds
1/4 tsp hot smoked paprika
3/4 tsp chili powder
1 cup mashed cooked sweet potatoes
1 cup canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten

Combine flour and 3/4 tsp salt in a large bowl and mix together with a whisk. In a medium bowl, combine canola oil, water, vinegar, and egg. Slowly add oil mixture to flour mixture, mixing until just moist. Turn dough onto a work surface and knead until smooth. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400 deg F. Toast cumin seeds in a medium saucepan over medium heat for 1 minute, stirring. Grind toasted cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. In the same saucepan used for cumin, heat 1 tbs olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds longer. Remove pan from heat. Combine cumin, paprika, chili powder, sweet potatoes, black beans, onions, garlic, cilantro, and 1/2 tsp salt in a large bowl and mash with a fork until well combined.

Divide dough into 10 equal portions, and shape each into a ball. Working with one ball at a time (keep remaining dough covered), roll dough out into a 5-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Add 3 level tablespoons of sweet potato mixture to the center of the circle. Brush egg white around the rim of the dough, and fold dough over filling into a half moon shape. Pinch edges together to seal. Place empanadas on a large baking sheet coated with spray oil. Make 3 diagonal slashes on the top of each empanada using a sharp knife. Bake at 400 deg F until lightly browned, 16-20 minutes.

Cooked empanadas keep very well for a few days in the fridge.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Slow cooker beef stew

I finally got a chance to use the slow cooker that Andrew and I got as a wedding present. This beef stew simmered in the crockpot for several hours yesterday, and made a nice winter dinner. I hope to use the slow cooker a lot more in the upcoming cold months - I know it's a great way to cook meat, but I'm also interested in using it for vegetarian meals. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

This is a good, basic beef stew recipe, and you can modify it to your liking. Andrew suggested using red wine in place of some of the broth, which I think would add some great flavor - I'll try it next time I make the stew and will update this page when I do. Mushrooms might be another good addition, and I'm sure that there are other herb combinations that would work well here too.

Slow cooker beef stew
Adapted from this recipe
Serves 6

1 1/4 pounds cubed beef stew meat (I cut up a Delmonico and a sirloin steak)
1 tbs olive oil
4 cups beef broth
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
3 large carrots (mine were 1 1/4 lb total)
4 stalks celery (I omitted this because I didn't have celery around, but I would definitely add it next time)
4 medium potatoes (mine were 1 lb 5 oz total)
1 large onion
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp cold water
Chopped fresh parsley, to garnish

Special equipment: slow cooker

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a large heavy saucepan. Add beef and cook until meat is browned, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer beef and any accumulated juices to crockpot. Add broth, rosemary, dried parsley, and pepper. Cover and cook on high for 2 1/2 hours.

Peel carrots and cut carrots and celery into 1-inch pieces. Cut potatoes into 1-inch cubes, and chop onion. After meat has cooked for 2 1/2 hours, add vegetables to crockpot. Dissolve cornstarch in 2 tsp cold water, and stir mixture into stew. Cover and cook on high for 2 1/2 hours more.

Add salt to taste, and garnish stew with chopped fresh parsley.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Butternut squash galette

I'm finally back to blogging! Sorry that I haven't posted in a while - Andrew and I were in India for a couple weeks, and then I had to go out of town again for a conference. I probably don't need to tell you that we ate really well in India - between the home-cooked meals and a few nights eating out, we got to try cuisine from several regions of the country. Everything was sooo delicious! I'm really looking forward to cooking more Indian food at home now, so you can expect some posts on that theme in the future.

But for today, I'm going to tell you about this butternut squash galette, which would make a nice vegetarian addition to a holiday meal. Unsurprisingly, there is a very limited selection of locally grown vegetables available in Boston during the winter (maybe Three Seasons of Food would have been a better blog title?). Butternut squash is one of the few things that is still readily available, and I was determined to make a main course with it. I came across a butternut squash galette recipe that was originally published in the February 2009 issue of Gourmet, and modified it a bunch, with some inspiration from Smitten Kitchen. I was really happy with the result - the filling is nice and savory, and the crust was easy to make and shape. This was my first time making a galette, and I enjoyed the free-form nature of the crust - way easier to make than a tart or quiche. I'm looking forward to experimenting with more galette fillings in the future.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Cranberry pecan caramel bars

Yesterday, to procrastinate working on a paper, I baked up a batch of these delectable bars (and now, to procrastinate more, I'm blogging about it). I found the recipe in The Gourmet Cookbook a few days ago, and couldn't wait to try it. The bars have a layer of buttery shortbread topped with caramel, cranberries, and pecans, and finished with a drizzle of chocolate. They're decadent and perfect for the holidays, especially because cranberries are in season right now. The tart cranberries keep things from getting too sweet, and the combination of flavors and textures is fantastic. I especially liked the way the slightly salty shortbread worked with the sweet-tart topping.

I experimented a bit with the shortbread, using a mixture of all-purpose, white whole wheat, and oat flour, which gave it a slightly complex, nutty flavor. I also scaled the recipe so that the bars would fit in a 9 x 13 inch pan, rather than a 10 1/2 x 15 1/2 (who has a pan that size with sides?). Sorry for the slightly odd measurements that resulted. But given how buttery and delicious these are, it's probably best for my waistline that I didn't make the full recipe...

One important note: Make sure you have all the ingredients ready before you start the caramel step. You don't want to end up panicking because the caramel is already boiling and the corn syrup lid is stuck closed and you haven't yet toasted the nuts or chopped the cranberries. Yeah..that happened. Andrew actually had to punch a hole through the top of the corn syrup jar for me. Just be organized and you'll avoid the stress!

Andrew and I are leaving for India in a week, and I probably won't be able to post again until we return in December. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Brussels sprouts with bacon dressing

This recipe is my second contribution for this week's brassica-themed Fall Fest. As I mentioned in the last post, I had some trouble at first getting excited about brassicas, which are not the most glamorous of vegetables. However, I did have some brussels sprouts in the fridge and used Fall Fest as an opportunity to find something new to do with them.  I ended up making this simple, tasty side dish of braised brussels sprouts tossed with a savory bacon dressing. This recipe might be a good way to try to convert people who don't like brussels sprouts - a little bacon always helps, right?

Brussels sprouts with bacon dressing
Serves 4
Dressing adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook

1 pound brussels sprouts, stems trimmed and sprouts halved
4 slices bacon (1/4 pound), chopped
Olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tbs olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add brussels sprouts and cook until sprouts are browned in spots, about 5 minutes. Add 1/2 cup water to skillet and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cover skillet. Cook until sprouts are tender, about 7-9 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook bacon in a skillet over moderate heat until crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but 1 tbs fat from the skillet. Add water and vinegar to skillet and simmer, whisking constantly, for 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Immediately before serving, toss sprouts with dressing and top with bacon. Note: I only used about 2/3 of the dressing for this amount of sprouts. Leftover dressing can be used on other vegetables.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pasta with cauliflower and walnut pesto

This post is the first of my two entries for this week's Fall Fest, which features brassicas. Brassicas are a category of vegetable that includes cauliflower, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage, to name a few. Even for a vegetable lover such as myself, it's not exactly the most exciting group...I'll admit that it took me a while to get inspired for this one. But after flipping through several cookbooks, I found this cauliflower pasta recipe, which is a keeper, as well as a few other brassica recipes that I'm looking forward to trying.

The pesto in this dish is made with cilantro, parsley, garlic, and walnuts. It's got a really interesting flavor, much more subtle than I expected. I thought it was a great match for the cauliflower and other vegetables. The recipe calls for fresh bell peppers, but they're no longer in season here, so I had to improvise. I'm determined to continue eating as much local produce as possible through the colder months, so I substituted some roasted red peppers (frozen from the summer) and a carrot. We also stirred in some chickpeas for added protein, but I forgot to add them before Andrew took pictures. I really liked the final dish with these additions - it's a satisfying single-bowl meal, and is good served warm or cold.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pommes paillasson (grated potato pancake)

Andrew and I had some friends over for brunch last weekend. When I was planning the menu, the idea of making potato pancakes or latkes crossed my mind, but I didn't want to deal with the hassle of cooking individual pancakes and keeping them all warm and crisp. This recipe is the perfect solution - too bad I found it a week late...anyway, this recipe makes one large potato pancake which can be cut into wedges for serving. The outside is golden brown and crisp, and the inside is soft and creamy. The Gourmet Cookbook recommends serving this as a bed for meat, because the tangled potato strands soak up juices nicely, but we ate it with eggs this morning. Whatever you choose to serve it with, it's really good!

Recipe notes: I cut the recipe in half and cooked the pancake in an 8-inch skillet instead of 12-inch. I also used red potatoes instead of russet, since that is what I had in the pantry. I'm sure russet potatoes would give a different texture, but I still enjoyed the result with red potatoes.

Pommes paillasson (grated potato pancake)
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
Serves 6

2 1/4 pounds russet potatoes
5 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Peel potatoes and grate using the large holes on a box grater, or the coarse shredding attachment on a food processor. Working in batches, gather grated potatoes in a clean kitchen towel and wring out as much liquid as possible. Put potatoes in a bowl and toss with salt and pepper.

Heat 3 tbs butter over moderately high heat in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. When foam subsides, reduce heat to moderate, spread potatoes in skillet, and press them down with a spatula. Cook until bottom of cake is golden brown and crisp, about 12 minutes (I cooked my smaller cake for 11).

Slide cake onto a large plate. Invert another plate over it, and flip the cake onto the second plate (with the smaller skillet, I was able to flip the cake directly from the skillet onto a plate). Heat remaining 2 tbs butter in skillet over moderate heat until foam subsides. Slide cake into skillet, browned side up, and cook until bottom is golden brown and crisp, about 12 minutes more (10 minutes for my smaller cake). Slide cake out of skillet and cut into wedges.

Note: according to the cookbook, you should be able to make this up to 30 minutes ahead of time, keep it at room temperature, and then reheat in a 450 deg F oven for about 5 minutes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Kohlrabi/carrot/radish salad

This week's Fall Fest theme is root veggies, and it made me remember a recipe that has been sitting in my drafts for a while. It's a light salad of crunchy, julienned vegetables with a nice Asian-ish dressing. I found the original recipe - a kohlrabi and carrot version - on Orangette. If you haven't tried kohlrabi, this recipe is a good way to start. The taste of kohlrabi is somewhere in the middle of cabbage and broccoli stems, but sweeter. (I don't think kohlrabi is technically a root, but it looks like one, so I figured it fit the theme well enough...). I've also made this salad with radishes in place of the kohlrabi - milder radishes work well, and daikon is especially good. I think any combination of kohlrabi, radishes, and carrots is great here. This salad is really refreshing and is a nice accompaniment to richer dishes. I especially like the flavor the fennel contributes to the dressing.

Kohlrabi/carrot/radish salad
Adapted from this recipe on Orangette

2 medium kohlrabi bulbs
Optional: substitute radishes for some or all of the kohlrabi
1 large carrot
1 tsp. fennel seed
2 tbs. rice wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt, or more to taste
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Using a sharp knife, peel kohlrabi bulbs. Peel carrots. Use a mandoline (or a sharp knife and a lot of patience) to julienne the kohlrabi, carrots, and radishes (if using) into matchsticks.

In a small dry skillet, toast the fennel seeds over medium heat until they are slightly browned and smell fragrant. Grind coarsely in a spice grinder, or with a mortar and pestle. Whisk together fennel, vinegar, salt, pepper, olive oil, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Add dressing to salad and toss to coat vegetables. Taste and adjust salt if needed.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thai red curry squash soup

It's November (!), which means all my cooking magazines are filled with Thanksgiving recipes. I don't usually get very excited about Thanksgiving, which is a shame for such a food-centered holiday. My family never did a traditional Thanksgiving when I was growing up (my mom is a vegetarian, so roasting a turkey wasn't exactly an option), so I don't have a nostalgic attachment to the food. And although Thanksgiving food is always good, it's usually not that exciting, especially for someone who grew up on spicy Indian food. Which is why I was very happy to see the current issue of Food & Wine feature a series of Asian-inspired Thanksgiving recipes created by Joanne Chang (the chef behind the amazing Flour Bakery + Cafe). I love the idea of giving Thanksgiving food a multicultural twist - maybe I'll be creating an Indian-inspired Thanksgiving feast for my own family one day...

Out of all the recipes in the feature, the red curry squash soup looked especially appetizing, and seemed like the perfect way to use the butternut squash that had been sitting on our counter for about a month. And the soup definitely lived up to expectations - it was totally delicious, creamy, and flavorful. The curry and coconut milk blend really well with the flavor of the squash, without overpowering it. Plus the soup gets even better after sitting in the fridge for a day or two, so you can make it ahead of time.

Recipe notes: The recipe suggests kabocha, kuri, or buttercup squash, but I used butternut, and it was fantastic. I left out the lemongrass, lime leaves, and scallions because I didn't have any, and added a handful of cilantro leaves at the end. Andrew and I both thought the cilantro added really good flavor to the soup. I also added more than the suggested 1 tbs lime juice.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Kale salad with sherry-walnut vinaigrette

When I was younger, my parents would sometimes let me help cook when people were coming over for dinner. This resulted in some mishaps (accidentally putting way too much chile powder in a taco filling, for example), but there were also successes. In particular, I remember making a salad once with greens, blue cheese, apples, and walnuts. Until then, my salads had always consisted of lettuce with chopped vegetables, so the idea of a salad with fruit/cheese/nuts instead of veggies was something of a revelation to me. And I think that salad gave me my first taste of blue cheese, which I am very grateful for!

This kale salad was something I put together for lunch last weekend, and it came out really good. And it also gave me my first taste of a new cheese, ricotta salata in this case. I went for a sweet-salty theme with the salad - sweet raisins, salty cheese, sweet & salty roasted walnuts. The dressing is from The Gourmet Cookbook - Andrew and I bought both sherry vinegar and walnut oil in Bar Harbor during our honeymoon, so the sherry-walnut dressing seemed fated to be made in our kitchen at some point.

Kale salad with sherry-walnut vinaigrette
Serves 3-4

1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves cut into thin slivers (I used Red Russian kale)
2/3 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 tbs maple syrup
1/2 cup coarsely grated ricotta salata cheese
1/2 cup golden raisins

Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
1 1/2 tbs sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
6 tbs walnut oil

Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Toss walnuts with maple syrup and sprinkle with salt. Bake in preheated oven until toasted and crunchy, about 4-5 minutes. Let walnuts cool. Toss together kale, walnuts, ricotta salata, and raisins in a large bowl.

Whisk together vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly pour in oil, whisking until well blended. (I make my salad dressing in a mason jar, and shake everything together instead of whisking).

Toss salad with enough dressing to lightly coat the kale (you will have leftover dressing). Eat salad within a few hours of dressing.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pear tarte tatin

This week's Fall Fest theme ingredient is pears, and I decided to try making a pear tarte tatin. Tarte tatin consists of fruit (usually apples) caramelized in butter and sugar, then topped with a pastry crust and baked. When done, it is flipped over so that the fruit is on top. It's not as fussy as traditional tarts - since it is baked upside down, you don't have to worry about the crust getting soggy, which means no blind baking (yay!). And the presentation is supposed to be rustic, so you don't have to worry about making it look perfect. That being said, tarte tatin can still be tricky to make, as I discovered with this one.

This was my first time making tarte tatin. I had a couple problems - the recipe said to cook the pears in butter and sugar until the mixture turned a golden caramel color...but it was hard to assess the color with everything cooking in a black cast iron pan. Also, during baking, the caramel oozed over the sides of the pastry and burned a bit, as you might be able to tell from the photos. Maybe I didn't do a good enough job of tucking in the sides of the crust? Maybe I didn't cook the caramel the right amount on the stovetop? I'm not really sure what went wrong. But in any case, it still tasted pretty good! The crust was nice and flaky, and the fruit was sweet and scented with cinnamon.

Recipe notes: I was in a bit of a rush when I made this, so I chilled the dough in the freezer instead of the fridge to speed things up. The recipe called for Bosc pears, but I only had an Asian pear and a Bartlett, so I used those instead. It came out absolutely fine - they were both firm enough to hold their shape during cooking. Also, my pears were huge, so I cut them into quarters or eighths instead of halves.

I know that some of the other Fall Fest participants are more experienced with tarte tatin, so please let me know if you have any tips!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Peanut butter banana bread

I have always loved peanut butter. As a kid, I would only eat the chunky kind, and later on switched to the creamy camp, where I still am now. I even remember trying peanut butter soup on a family vacation once. Bananas, on the other hand, I never really liked until a few years ago. It turned out that all it took to change my mind was smelling bananas one morning when I was very, very hungry. I started craving them immediately that day, and still enjoy them now. It's strange how tastes can change so quickly.

Once I started eating bananas more often, I quickly discovered how good the combination of peanut butter and bananas is. So when I saw this recipe for peanut butter banana bread in the October 2010 issue of Cooking Light, I couldn't believe that I hadn't thought of it before! I knew it was going to be delicious, and it didn't disappoint. The peanut butter adds a nice nutty flavor, and the peanut pieces add good texture. Regular banana bread is good, but I think this is even better!

Obviously bananas are not local to MA, but this is one of those recipes that I wanted to post about anyway. As for modifications, I used white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, like I always do for quick breads. I also substituted 1/2 cup applesauce for some of the banana, since I didn't have enough banana around. It worked out really well - the bread still tasted like banana (not apple), but the banana flavor wasn't too strong. I'll probably do the same thing next time. Finally, the original recipe also included a peanut butter glaze, but I left that out - I knew the glaze wouldn't store or freeze well. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010


I like a good sandwich as much as the next person, but for me, sandwiches fall squarely into the lunch food category, not dinner food. I'm not sure why, since I consider burgers and quesadillas to be perfectly acceptable for dinner, and they're basically sandwiches...But in any case, I've started to rethink my position on sandwiches this week. Andrew and I were out of town for the long weekend and arrived back home late Monday night to an empty fridge. I haven't had time to do any grocery shopping since, so we've been making do with staples and freezer stock, as well as a loaf of bread and some apples that I picked up at the farmers' market near my office. Sandwiches have been on the dinner menu twice this week, and since our kitchen is always stocked with things like bacon, olives, and cheese, we've been able to make some pretty good ones.

With this post, I just wanted to give you an idea of some of the sandwiches that we're been making with the ingredients that we tend to keep around. We had bacon, apple, and cheddar sandwiches yesterday, and today I made an olive and tomato spread that went pretty well with grilled cheese (I had some slow-roasted tomatoes in the freezer, which came in handy). These recipes I've given aren't meant to be strict, and you should adjust the ingredient amounts to your liking.

What about you? Do you like to eat sandwiches for dinner? What are your favorite kinds to make?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Braised greens with bacon and white beans

Andrew and I are heading to my parents' house in Indiana tomorrow, and I still have to pack, so this is going to be a quick post. As I've mentioned in the past, greens are a bit of a challenge for me, although I'm starting to get a handle on how to cook them well. Recently I've discovered that braising is a great technique for some of the tougher greens that are popping up at the markets this time of year - the greens get tender but not at all mushy. This dish is simple enough for a weeknight dinner, but still very flavorful, mostly because of the cheese rind in the braising liquid.

One warning - wash your greens well! The dish isn't quite so enjoyable if you find yourself chewing grit...   

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Beet and apple salad

This week's  Fall Fest theme is "fall salads". Andrew wanted something with beets, I wanted something with apples, and we both love arugula, so this recipe was perfect for us. The original recipe actually called for Asian pear, but I substituted a Honeycrisp apple, which was really good. The only thing I would change for next time is to cut the apples into larger pieces - the flavor got kind of lost with the small matchsticks. Looking forward to seeing everyone else's entries!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Curried lentil soup with tomato and greens

I just watched an episode of Project Runway, and it had me bawling. What's up with that? This never happened when PR was on Bravo. But anyway,  it seemed like a good time to blog about something comforting, namely soup. This one comes together quickly, and makes a satisfying meal, perfect for these autumn days.

The original recipe (from The Gourmet Cookbook) calls for spinach, but I used radish and turnip greens. Next time I would pick one or the other - both was a bit too much. I also added carrots and potatoes to make the soup a bit heartier, and made a few other minor changes. The final product was reminiscent of an Indian dish that my mom makes often, and was nice to have around for weekday lunches. With a hunk of crusty bread, it makes a great dinner as well.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cilantro pesto

It's only within the last year or so that I've experimented with pesto beyond the classic basil/pine nut/parmesan combination. This stellar cilantro pesto is by far the best one I've come across (although obviously not for the cilantro-haters out there). The pesto gets an Asian twist with ingredients like soy sauce and sesame oil, which makes for a really interesting and tasty sauce. I like to eat it with soba noodles and tofu, but I bet it would be great on chicken as well. It's definitely a quick and easy way to spice up a meal.

Notes on the recipe: I don't bother removing the cilantro leaves from the stems. It's all going in the food processor anyway, so why bother? Also, I use peanuts instead of pine nuts, and I think cashews would work as well. 

Cilantro pesto
Adapted from Gourmet Today
Serves 4

1/4 cup mild olive or vegetable oil
2 cups packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 tbs pine nuts
1 tbs fresh lime juice
2 tsp soy sauce (GT suggests using fish sauce instead for deeper flavor)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Serve with tofu, chicken, rice, or noodles. Pesto freezes well.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Brie, apple, and arugula quesadillas

I have been super busy ever since the fall semester started up a few weeks ago. I'm trying to get my thesis research to the point where I can start to see the light at the end of the PhD tunnel, taking a class, doing some community work, and of course, cooking and blogging! Lately it has become very clear that I need to change my usual pattern of cooking fairly elaborate and time-consuming dinners every night. So I've been trying to to get some quick and simple recipes into my repertoire, and also save time by doing some cooking and vegetable prep over the weekend. I'm also trying to keep the freezer stocked with things like soup, meatballs, pesto sauce, etc. that help get dinner on the table fast (I'll be posting some of those recipes in the next few days). What do you do to keep weeknight meals quick but still interesting?

This quesadilla recipe is a perfect example of a quick, tasty meal. I found the recipe in the October 2010 issue of Cooking Light, and decided to make it for this week's Fall Fest, which features apples. (I originally wanted to make apple pie, but didn't get to it over the weekend, and yeah - see above paragraph about not making complicated things on weeknights). I really liked the mustard and apple cider mixture, and thought all the ingredients came together to a make a unique and sophisticated quesadilla.

An aside about apples - don't you love the apples that are at the farmers' markets now? The variety is amazing, and they are all so good. Plus I won't eat an apple unless it is perfectly crisp, and those are kind of hard to find at the supermarket. Fresh apples are definitely one of my favorite things about autumn in New England.

Some notes on the recipe: I had some trouble fitting all the arugula into the quesadilla - maybe it would work better if I let it wilt just a bit before trying to fold the tortilla over. I used a Honeycrisp apple, and I think I'll add more next time - half an apple per quesadilla would be good. Also, we had some whole wheat wraps around, so I used those instead of tortillas - tasted great.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Roasted turnips with parsley-mustard vinaigrette

Almost every stall at the neighborhood farmers' market sells Hakurei turnips (smallish white turnips, sometimes labeled "Asian turnips"). I tried them for the first time last summer out of curiosity, and ended up buying them almost every week after that. I usually eat them roasted with some browned butter or soy sauce. I never thought to pair them with a bright vinaigrette before I saw this recipe.

This one is from Food & Wine, September 2010, and is my Magazine Mondays entry for the week. It's easy to put together and would make a nice side dish for almost anything. And actually, I think the vinaigrette would be good on other roasted vegetables as well.

If you like turnips, I'd love to hear your favorite ways to eat them!

Grandma's hermit bars

My sister-in-law threw me a lovely bridal shower last spring. Knowing my fondness for cooking, she asked all the guests to contribute a favorite recipe, and compiled them into a little book for me. It was such a thoughtful gift! I love flipping through it, not only for the recipes, but also for the memories and connection to family and friends.

Have you ever heard of hermit bars? I tasted them for the first time a year or two ago at Andrew's grandmother's house, and I was excited that she contributed the recipe for my shower. They're kind of cakey in texture, humble and homey in spirit, and filled with raisins and spices. The flavors are perfect for fall. I'm not sure how they got their name - if you know, please share!

I didn't change much in this recipe, except to use white whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose (as usual), and a combination of brown and white sugar instead of all white. The hermits came out great - perfect for an afternoon snack (and mid-morning snack, and dessert, and breakfast...)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spinach pasta

Summer Fest has officially transitioned into Fall Fest, and this week's theme ingredient is spinach. To be honest, I was feeling kind of uninspired about this one - I just didn't really have any idea what to make. Pretty much the only thing I knew for sure was that I wanted to make a dish that didn't require removing the spinach stems...I'm kind of lazy about certain things (I just realized the irony of the last statement in a post about homemade pasta, ha). Anyway, I had some time to kill over the weekend, so I eventually decided to incorporate the spinach into some fresh pasta.

I was underwhelmed by how this pasta turned out - the flavor was good but the texture was too soft. Definitely not the best pasta I've made at home. I have a feeling this was my own fault, and not the recipe's - I used more spinach than called for, and I didn't let the pasta dry out enough before cooking. If any of you are expert pasta makers, please share your tips!

A note on pasta making - I use an Atlas hand-crank pasta machine to roll out the dough. Although it is time-consuming, I do enjoy the methodical process of rolling the dough into thinner and thinner sheets. I actually find it kind of relaxing. Kitchenaid also makes a pasta roller/cutter attachment for their stand mixers if you want to speed things up.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lentils with curried butternut squash and walnuts

Winter squashes of all shapes and colors are appearing at the farmers' market. I like trying different kinds, but I usually end up coming back to butternut squash - it has more meat than some of the other squashes, and it's easier to peel.

I especially love butternut squash in savory rather than sweet preparations. I think the sweetness of the squash works really well with contrasting flavors. In this recipe, the butternut squash is roasted with curry powder, and then mixed with lentils, toasted walnuts, lime juice, and cilantro - a really interesting combination of flavors and textures. I think I'd like it with a bit more lime juice than the recipe calls for, but Andrew really liked it as written. We both agreed that the dish was tastier after being in the fridge for a couple days - the flavors developed over time. The original recipe classifies this as a side dish, but I think it is filling enough to be a main, with some rice on the side. We also ate this stuffed into pitas, which was really good.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Potato and parmesan gratin

Okay so I don't often make potato recipes that involve lots of cream and cheese. But for this week's Summer Fest, featuring potatoes, I decided to forget about nutrition and make something decadent. I went with a potato gratin from Gourmet Today that they describe as "the ideal marriage of potatoes and cheese" - if Gourmet says it, I believe it! I was lazy with this recipe - I didn't peel the potatoes, and coarsely grated the cheese to avoid giving my arm a workout by finely grating. Maybe that made it a bit less pretty, but it still tasted good!

Potato and parmesan gratin
Adapted from Gourmet Today
Serves 8

4 pounds medium boiling potatoes
1 1/2 tsp fine sea salt or table salt
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk (I used 1%)
3 tbs softened unsalted butter
7 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (2 1/3 cups)

Put a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 deg F. Peel potatoes (or not, if you don't mind the peels) and cut into 1/8-inch thick slices - a mandoline is very helpful here. Spread potato slices out on a kitchen towel and sprinkle with salt.

Mix together cream and milk. Dot the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch pan with 1 1/2 tbs butter. Pour in 1/3 cup of the cream mixture. Layer one fifth of the potatoes in the dish (don't rinse or dry them), drizzle with 1/3 cup cream mixture, and top with one quarter of the cheese. Repeat 3 more times (this will use up all the cheese). Top with the last one fifth of the potatoes, and drizzle with the remaining cream mixture. Dot the top layer with the remaining 1 1/2 tbs butter.

Bake gratin uncovered in the preheated oven until potatoes are very tender and the top is browned, about 2 hours. Let sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before serving.