Last Week I Cooked…

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersChili. I think I’ve finally landed on my perfect chili recipe. It’s based on this old Rachael Ray recipe, and I’ll post my version soon.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersPasta with sautéed mushrooms, onions, peppers, tatsoi, garlic thyme olive oil, and mozzarella. So this pasta was meant to be pizza. The dough had been rising all day, and a little before I was ready to cook I put it on top of a wood stove to warm a bit more. I promptly forgot about it as I was cooking all the other components, and by the time I got back to it the bottom half was cooked through. I probably should have left it there to keep cooking and called it oven top bread. But, I tried to salvage the top half which would have made a meager pizza for the five people I was feeding. A furious search through the cabinets (this was not in my kitchen) thankfully resulted in a box of spaghetti. The garlic oil I intended for a white pizza with sautéed mushrooms became the sauce, the firm mozzarella was cubed and added into the pasta at the end to melt a bit. With a salad alongside, dinner still happened.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersCassoulet with lots of vegetables. This is a soup with lots of options, yet I seem to always make it in a very similar manner. I start with sausage, spicy if possible, and then proceed with the vegetables (minus the zucchini). The liquid does vary according to what I have, which this time around was leftover beef stock from the chili and bean cooking liquid. At the end I stir in some shredded cabbage. The result is a hearty almost all vegetable soup with a bright tomato base (that is really not at all like cassoulet, but that’s ok).

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersLast Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersThanksgiving! I stuck mostly to the menu I set out with. The turkey brine was Sam Sifton’s, but the method was Alton Brown’s. Most of the other dishes were straight from Thanksgiving. We had mashed potatoes, creamed Brussels sprouts with bacon, green beans with lemon and butter, fresh bread dressing with apples, onion, and celery, mashed buttercup squash with butter and sage, and giblet gravy (which was my favorite item on the table). I adapted my simple cranberry sauce just slightly by using fresh orange juice and half sugar for the honey (because I ran out of honey). Lastly I made these sweet potato rolls which were a hit but I think can be improved upon. I want to experiment with sourdough more often (a new year’s resolution perhaps?) and I think they would benefit from a heftier flour.

I took the week off work so I actually cooked some lunches (but just barely). One day I had a quesadilla with sautéed tatsoi, another was a quesadilla with scallions and a simple black bean spread made with sautéed onions and cumin. And another was the requisite leftover turkey sandwich on a sweet potato roll.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersCranberry grilled cheese. I may like this version more than the traditional Thanksgiving leftover sandwich. I used cheddar cheese and added in some turkey. And never, ever, leave out the swipe of Dijon mustard.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal Matters“Exhaustive research into the business and culture of American breakfast suggests you can always put an egg on it” – Sam Sifton, Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well. AMEN. My favorite breakfast this week was repeated twice: mashed potato cakes (just mashed potatoes grilled in a cast iron), topped with creamed Brussels sprouts with bacon and a fried egg.

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Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal MattersI’ve made the leap. Now I don’t just have recipes that I published myself on this little website, but also in a little local publication and on their website. The print edition is just a short intro and the recipes for the most basic of cranberry sauces that you can doctor up, and breaking free from the cylindrical confines of canned pumpkin. The online version has a bit more of a story to it, which you can read here. Rumor has it these may be the first recipes ever published by our town paper. For the tiny portion of you who may reside in the same town in central MA, you can see the article in the November 18th edition of the Grafton News. Today is a great day to make both recipes and start checking things off your Thanksgiving to-cook list.

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal Matters

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal Matters

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal Matters

 

 

Last Week I Cooked…

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersShakshuka. I scaled this way down to just serve two. I used maybe ½ a cup of onion, a stalk of celery, a 15.5 oz can of chopped tomatoes, and a couple garlic cloves. No pita was to be found, so I served it with toasted bread and it was all ok. It is hard to go wrong with a paprika spiked tomato sauce, eggs, and feta.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersPancetta and white bean pot pies. I believe this was the first recipe I made from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook when it came out. This time around I didn’t start with the pancetta because there was a vegetarian in the bunch. Maybe because the pancetta fat wasn’t the base of the sauce, but its flavor was barely detectable in the finished dish so next time I wouldn’t bother. I used kale in place of the chard because I already had a bunch and it worked just as well. There is so much butter in the crust. So much. I even scaled back a tablespoon and replaced it with olive oil. I may go even more next time. So these pies are a bit indulgent, but since there is barely any meat they are still lighter than your usual pot pies. They are nice and creamy, but full of vegetables. They were extra fun dinner party fare.

Escarole salad. Ok I didn’t cook this, but my mom made it to go alongside the pot pies and it was excellent. The dressing was bright with the complex saltiness of the anchovies and none of the fishiness. I especially liked such an acidic dressing to balance the creamy, buttery pot pies.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersCauliflower báhn mì. This is the first recipe I’ve made from Thug Kitchen: Party Grub (it’s also the cover photo). I didn’t drain the cauliflower sufficiently (or at all….) so my bread crumbs got a bit soggy. They may be better just sprinkled on top of the cauliflower. I thought it was a bit weird to call for just two shiitake mushrooms. Maybe the mushrooms in LA are bigger, but mine got totally lost in the cauliflower (also, this is why ingredients should be defined by weight!!). Next time I would add more or leave them out entirely. This makes a great sandwich though, all the right báhn mì flavor and texture combinations. I’ve heard so many times that you should taste your jalapeño before adding it to a recipe, and this is something I rarely take to heart. Thankfully the jalapeños in this recipe were easily removed, because I ate half a slice and my mouth was ON FIRE (and I enjoy some nice heat). Lesson learned.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersSmoky tortilla soup (from Bowl + Spoon). I love how fast this was, and the ancho chilies did add a nice smokiness. I used the pinto beans instead of chicken and a 28 oz can of whole tomatoes that I pureed instead of the fresh (see: November), and topped with sour cream, cilantro, tortilla chips, and avocado. My one complaint was the cornmeal was hard to integrate in the soup just by stirring and ended up clumping. Next time I would add before pureeing the soup. I’ve also made the tortilla soup in the first Thug Kitchen book which is excellent, and calls for less exotic ingredients so that will likely remain my staple.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersSalad with escarole, roasted cauliflower, and celery. This salad was unplanned, but just an attempt to use up items in the fridge before heading away for the week and of course ended up being the best thing I made. There was maybe a cup of escarole left over, so that went into a bowl with one thinly sliced stalk of celery and ½ a cup of chopped Kalamata olives. Half a cauliflower (leftover from the báhn mì) was chopped into bite sized pieces and tossed in olive oil, zest from one lemon, and salt. Roasted for 20 minutes at 425F it took on a nice char. While that cooked I made a dressing with the juice from half a lemon, a few glugs of extra virgin olive oil, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Once the cauliflower cooled a bit it went into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients, and everything was tossed in the dressing. I want this again right now.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersBreakfast for a couple days was the eternal favorite, country toast with mashed avocado topped with a fried egg and hot sauce. Other days it was the other eternal favorite, scrambled eggs, pinto beans (I made extra when I cooked some for the tortilla soup), and mashed avocado in a flour tortilla. The key is to toast the burritos in a dry pan once they are filled to uniformly heat the ingredients (and melt and cheese if you added it), and crisp the tortillas.

Thanksgiving Gameplan

Thanksgiving Gameplan - Vegetal MattersI’m the boss at Thanksgiving this year. As always, with such power comes responsibility. There is a menu to plan, shopping list to make, tasks to dole out, and the added complication of not cooking in my kitchen, so I have to make sure any needed equipment makes the trip as well. This isn’t my first Thanksgiving rodeo though, so fear not.

My menu so far is easily executable versions of classics. Though what I consider classics may be debated. I to this day have never consumed green bean casserole. I have only once attended a Thanksgiving where marshmallows were allowed on top of sweet potatoes (it was with an ex-boyfriend’s family – maybe a sign that it wouldn’t last?). To me, marshmallows on sweet potatoes are as outlandish as capers on ice cream. Mashed potatoes are a given, perhaps something with sweet potato or a squash, and the green things vary. I think I recall sautéed green beans on the table growing up, but I can’t say that for sure. I’ve tried out Brussels sprouts the last few years which I love, but they aren’t appreciated by all. This year I’m going to use Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well as my guide, but wanted to offer up a few options I’ve made before to fill out your menu.

The turkey. Every time I’ve been in charge of the turkey, I’ve made Alton Brown’s and it had not failed me. Brining makes for a moist bird, and his hands off approach is so logical – why would you keep opening the oven to baste when that lets all the heat out? Thought maybe it just appeals to me because I don’t want to be tending to the bird anyways. There is also a recipe for brined turkey in Thanksgiving that I may try out.

Stuffing (or dressing, if we are being technical). I’m most undecided about stuffing. This kale and caramelized onion stuffing looks so good, but I’m not sure it would be a crowd-pleaser. I may have to save that for anther time. I’ve made cornbread stuffing and more traditional bread and celery stuffing, but I can’t say any recipe stood out enough for repeating. Suggestions?

Mashed potatoes. I think this is the only Pioneer Woman recipe I’ve ever cooked. You would be creamy too if you had this much cream cheese, cream, and butter in you.

Sweet potatoes or squash. Chipotle smashed sweet potatoes are a bit of a departure from normal fare, but are a welcome spicy/sweet combination.

Green things. I’m deciding between these Dijon braised sprouts (which I like a whole lot) and the creamed ones with bacon in Thanksgiving. I may lean towards the creamed ones to make one more attempt at converting Brussels sprout haters, who are often swayed by cream and bacon. And I supposed I should offer a non-sprout green…maybe green beans?

Gravy. Yes, another Alton recipe (for big holidays, I tend to rely on my dependable favorites).

Cranberry sauce. I like my cranberry sauce in a blob rather than a cylinder. This recipe makes for the perfect complement to all Thanksgiving fixings, only has 4 ingredients, and can be made ahead. You can go even simpler as all you need to make cranberry sauce is cranberries, sugar/honey, and water, or fancier with the addition of liqueur or nuts.

Extras. This fresh cranberry cocktail is tart and festive. It takes a bit of premonition, but serving is easy. I’m not a huge pie fan, and the marbled pumpkin gingersnap tart with cheesecake swirls is just the perfect thickness and amount of pumpkin.

Even more ideas.  I made a Pinterest board a few years back to keep track of Thanksgiving ideas. Last year the New York Times posted Thanksgiving Recipes Across the United States. Some suggestions are very questionable, but they are fun to read through. And lastly, Thanksgiving can be an expensive meal not in reach for everyone. Many food banks and pantries are accepting donations right now for their Thanksgiving distribution. Here is a great list of foods to donate now and all year long.

Last Week I Cooked….

Last Week I Cooked.... - Vegetal MattersButternut squash curry. This is essentially my favorite butternut squash soup, in curry form. I put in the whole can of coconut milk instead of just a cup. In a shockingly short amount of time you have a rich, fragrant, creamy curry with spice to your liking. Chickpeas would not be unwelcome here. I also made cauliflower that I roasted at 425F for about 20 minutes with a healthy dusting of cumin and cayenne. This is also a vegan meal which is fully satisfying and company worthy.

Marcella’s broccoli and potato soup. Mondays are when all the errands happen after work. Pick up produce at Potter Hill, go to the library. It also happened to be the night I didn’t plan a meal for. So I weighed options…there was broccoli I just picked up, potatoes I had. Salad was too cold a dinner for the blustery day, something on toast not enough of a meal. So I landed on this quick soup. The broccoli does get soft, but that didn’t bother me. As usual with soup the night of the flavors hadn’t really developed so a lot of parm was used, but the leftovers were great alone. To fill this out a bit more next time I would add some white beans.

Last Week I Cooked.... - Vegetal MattersCabbage and white bean soup. This was the first making of this soup, but I can promise there will be more. This is a hard soup for me not to love as it is entirely comprised of my favorite soup components: rich tomato broth, cabbage (and lots of other vegetables), and white beans. Again, better the next day.

Last Week I Cooked.... - Vegetal MattersPepperoni meatball spaghetti. This is not your grandmother’s spaghetti and meatballs. The meatballs are huge and full of rich meats and spices. The sauce is intensely flavored, and the one spot I would pull back a bit. A full tablespoon of red pepper flakes is aggressive and they totally dominate the sauce. My date was a fan of this, but I would probably dial it down to a teaspoon and a half next time. This was a great dish to let bubble over a Friday night in, with a sumptuous finale.

Ruth Reichl’s spicy Tuscan kale. This might be taboo to Lady and Pups, but I felt the urge to serve an aggressively healthy vegetable along with giant meatballs and pasta. I halved the amount of kale and just used one anchovy, as I had a single one in the fridge and didn’t want to open another can, but also…the last time I cooked with anchovies I added one too many and they totally overpowered the dish, so I’m treading lightly. I also used regular curly kale and it worked just fine. The kale still retained it’s fresh green color, with a linger saltiness from the anchovy and the sweetness from onion and garlic. I left out the bread crumbs, but would add them next time if I wasn’t so focused on spaghetti and meatballs (and there will be many more next times with this dish).

Breakfasts this week included scrambled eggs with kale on toast with whipped feta (yes again, it’s SO good), a big omelette with kale, caramelized onions, brie, and ham (pictured at top), toast with jam, and whole wheat yogurt pancakes, with the raspberries replaced with one small apple, grated.

Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well

Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well - Vegetal MattersThanksgiving is a holiday with lofty expectations. There is a big meal to prepare for more people than you usually cook for comprised of dishes you more than likely only make once a year. Each year there is an explosion of trendy recipes with new methods, imploring you to cover your turkey with a bacon lattice or a wine soaked t-shirt, soak it in a salty, sugary bath for days beforehand, fry it, grill it, slow cook it, spatchcock it, or squirt it every 15 minutes with a supersoaker of basting liquid (I may have made that up, but watch it catch on). There are so many people to please, traditions to uphold, and diets to account for that all the fun is almost sucked out of planning.

Sam Sifton is here to cure all these ails. A New York Times writer with 25 years of Thanksgiving cooking experience, as well as the one man Thanksgiving help line for the Times. The combination of his own experience and saving so many other meals made him full of opinions and wisdom on the subject which are compiled in Thanksgiving: How To Cook It Well. It may seem silly to have a cookbook you use for one day a year, but the recipes and lessons transcend turkey day. The dry humor alone makes this worth reading cover to cover each year, whether or not you are hosting (it will take you an hour at most, not counting for the times you walk around reading parts aloud to all in earshot).

On some topics Sifton offers no compromises: NO APPETIZERS (oysters don’t count), NO SALAD, NO GARLIC, NO CHOCOLATE.  One bottle of wine per person is not outrageous. Gravy and cranberry sauce are the most important elements because they tie everything together (I agree). If you don’t cook, you clean (which should be law, holiday or not). “Leave the kitchen gleaming so that the morning may dawn on a new day, not a continuation of this one.”

If you are paralyzed by options each year, Thanksgiving is your book. There are enough variations to keep the meal interesting year after year, but all are well tested recipes guaranteed to succeed. Sifton says with his guidance “you are going to cook and serve a meal that will bring praise down upon you like showers of rose petals.” And once we are past Thanksgiving, and you have a picked over carcass and a ton of meat Sifton directs us through making turkey stock (get everything you can out of that giant, expensive bird!) and turkey gumbo, turkey salad, and even Thanksgiving eggs (because “exhaustive research into the business and culture of American breakfast suggests that you can always put an egg on it” – AMEN).

The suggestion I am most excited to put to work in my own kitchen this year is to start the morning of Thanksgiving by using the neck of the turkey to create a stock which will be used throughout the day (genius!). It will take everything I have not to, but there will be no salad (guess what will be for lunch Thanksgiving day though?!). Thanksgiving is a book I will most often reach for in November, but also on days when I need a little extra guidance when hosting a large group, classic recipes, or a reminder of how funny food writing can be.

 

Last Week I Cooked…

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersMiso sweet potato and broccoli bowl. This is another recipe I rarely deviate from. The tangy miso sauce expertly balances the sweet potato. If I don’t have fancy rice I just use brown and little is lost. A redemptive weeknight meal that fills and pleases.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersLeftover chicken fra diavolo with beans and kale. The beans and kale I made in the style of this favorite recipe but without the anchovies (I thought they would be a bit much with the spicy chicken). The beans and kale appeared as breakfast later on in the week topped with a fried egg.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersBaked falafel with beet dip and pita bread. Admittedly this was a bit ambitious for a weeknight, but buying pita would make for a much simpler meal. I liked the falafel, but I’m not enough to settle on them as my go to recipe. My favorite falafel ever from Sofra is served with beet tzitziki, so that inspired pairing them with this beet dip (next time I’d do more yogurt and less beets to make it even more like Sofra’s version). This was my first time making pita and it was SO FUN. Watching them puff up into little pockets was incredibly satisfying. As you cook the pockets individually they do take a bit longer, but the process itself was very easy. My one misstep was for a few of the pita I rolled them out too thin and then balled them up and re-rolled them, and those did not puff into pockets like the others.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersMexican tortilla casserole. This recipe gets high marks for return on minimal effort, and it feeds a crowd. I subbed kale for the spinach because it was already on hand and added in the last of the leftover chicken fra diavolo (shredded). Flour tortillas instead of corn were my only other change. This is a great basic recipe to substitute whatever veg and beans you have around.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersPizza with sauteed kale, pepperoni, and garlic oil. I’ve been using the dough recipe from Lady and Pups for all my pizza making recently and is the best dough I’ve made. I don’t always have bread flour and regular still makes an awesome dough (maybe even with a little wheat flour snuck in as well). Drained chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced stick pepperoni, lightly sauteed kale, mozzarella cheese, and finished with garlic oil (just like in the Lady and Pups recipe above, but without the capers) make for a richly flavored pizza. I love a bit of kale (which gets nice and crisp) to balance out the pepperoni (but that probably surprises no one).

Roasted cauliflower and garlic dip. I made this to take to a brewery (many let you bring food in if they don’t serve any) along with the rest of the beet dip, carrots, and chickpea crackers. I left out the pepitas and nutmeg and forgot the parsley and it was a big hit.

Chickpea crackers.  These were the easiest crackers I’ve ever made (and they’re gluten free if that’s your thing). There is no rolling, just spreading the batter on a baking mat. They were heavily spiced, so next time I think I’ll hold back on the cayenne and cumin.

Since I ran out of bread to make scrambled eggs with kale and whipped feta on toast I had to revert to the old standby, hash browns, kale and a fried egg. Breakfast was saved.

Not something I cooked – I’ve enjoyed my share of small plates with pretentious names and ingredients. But sometimes it can go too far, and this hipster bar menu generator does everything right. I love the balance of ridiculously namesd dishes and single items (oyster – $14).

Scrambled eggs with kale on toast with whipped feta

Scrambled eggs with kale on toast with whipped feta - Vegetal MattersBreakfast is the meal I most often improvise. Some combination of staples are always on hand. The fridge is rarely eggless, there is bread or tortillas, a bit of vegetables and cheese leftover from dinners to work with, and beans if it is an extra good week. On days when something sweet is called for there is yogurt with fruit or jam and granola, pancakes, or oatmeal with apples. I don’t plan out and shop for breakfasts the way I do dinner (except for rare weekend company). I wake up and assess the fridge and make what I can in about 15 minutes (pancakes and oatmeal take a bit more premonition). And when I happen upon a really good combination, and the ingredients are still on hand, there is often repetition. This has been breakfast the last three days in a row, and each morning I’ve been surprised by how ridiculously delicious it is. My love of whipped feta is well documented, topped with creamy scrambled eggs (but not in the eggs, which I find makes them watery), with a little sauteed kale for color, texture, and virtuosity. Good toast is key, and a whole wheat sourdough is the perfect base. This recipe makes enough whipped feta for about 6 toasts, but keeps well and is excellent on toast or crackers alone, sandwiches, pizza…maybe double it.

Scrambled eggs with kale on toast with whipped feta

Serves 2, scales easily.

  • 3 oz full-fat feta cheese, crumbled (don’t ever bother with dry low-fat phantom feta)
  • 1 oz cream cheese or marscapone
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil (this isn’t being cooked and you really taste it, so bring out the good stuff)
  • 2 pieces of whole wheat bread
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil or butter
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 teaspoon water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • Salt and pepper

In a food processor or with a hand mixer combine the crumbled feta, cream cheese, and olive oil. Mix until thoroughly combined (shouldn’t take more than a minute or two).

Put the bread in a toaster to brown to your liking. Crack both eggs in a bowl and beat with the milk, salt, and pepper until uniformly mixed.

In a small pan heat the olive oil or butter over medium heat. Add the kale and water and cover the pan. Allow to cook for 3-4 minutes until the kale is bright green and uniformly shiny. Uncover and turn down the heat to medium low. When the extra water has evaporated and the pan has cooled a bit add in the egg and stir to scramble. Continue stirring until the eggs are solid to your liking.

Slather toast with whipped feta and serve with scrambled eggs on top.

Last Week I Cooked…

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersThere are two tomatoes in a bowl on my counter. They are from the last of the tomato crop at Potter Hill, and the true end of the tomato season. They are not nearly as juicy as the tomatoes that come in during August and September, but I’m still holding on to them like they are made of gold. (Let’s not talk about eggplant) There are still greens and crunchy things available though, like carrots, cabbage, and kale that make for colorful meals. I’ve had some concord grapes in the fridge that I harvested before the frost from the vines that grow like crazy in the yard. I had jam priorities but need to find a food mill to deal with all the seeds so they were ignored, but shame on me because grape focaccia is a great thing.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersCabernet-braised short rib and chanterelle cobbler. This dish is definitely a show stopper. We subbed shiitake for the chanterelle’s because they were more reasonably priced, but otherwise kept everything the same. The biscuits were very easy to put together, and made for the perfect crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside topping. The stew was richly flavored and I liked the combination of vegetables and mushrooms a lot. The photo is of the recipe doubled, which added some time to the cooking as many things needed to be cooked in multiple batches.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersVichyssoise. This is one of the few recipes I never deviate from when I make it. It has the most delightful name and a perfect potato texture and leek flavor improved with cream and buttermilk. Serve with lots of freshly ground pepper.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersBBQ shiitake toast. This was another recipe tested from The First Mess cookbook. It was essentially a sweeter tomato sauce with mushrooms on toast, which isn’t a dish I’m super prone to be excited about. A spicy tomato sauce with mushrooms over pasta would be more my jam.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersRice bowls with roasted kohlrabi and tofu, carrot and cabbage slaw, and miso peanut sauce. These were pretty basic bowls with what was in the fridge. I’d never cooked kohlrabi, and this might not have been the best application for it. The tofu recipe is from the Thug Kitchen Cookbook (page 77, that’s how often I make it). The slaw was just thinly sliced cabbage with shredded carrot dressed with a little oil and rice vinegar. I substituted the tahini in the dressing with peanut butter, and didn’t like it quite as much as normal but it was better than making a special trip to the grocery store.

Whipped ricotta with honey and spicy salt (pictured at top). I used the recipe from The Homemade Pantry to made the ricotta, which was then whipped with cream cheese and a little milk. My whipped cheese spread of choice lately has been feta, and I missed the salty bite of it. I don’t think it will become my go-to spread, but I ended up being an excellent focaccia topping.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersGrape focaccia with rosemary. The rising timeline on this bread did not at all work with my schedule for a weeknight meal, so changes had to be made. I reduced the amount of yeast to 1/8 teaspoon and made the dough the night before I wanted to eat it for dinner. The morning of I flattened it in the pan as described and let it rise during the day. The grapes took a long time to de-seed (probably over 30 minutes), but their sweetness paired with earthy rosemary and topped after baking with honey-ed ricotta was a mouthful to behold.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersShredded kale salad with tomatoes. Another potluck, another kale salad! Some of summer’s last tomatoes made it into this.  A simple salad with a tart dressing and nice, salty feta. I left out the olives as I didn’t have any, and used parsley instead of the dill. I’ve made this twice, and both times one of the salad consumers has commented that it is their first time trying kale. It must be a gateway salad.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersSmoky red devil eggs. This was my first time making deviled eggs, and they aren’t so easy to make into pretty little filled orbs. But, they did taste good. I think my paprika is a bit past it’s prime because I wanted some more spice, but the rich tomato paste and slight bite of vinegar in the filling were great.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersTorissi’s chicken fra diavolo (are you sensing a theme?).  I didn’t shop for this until the day of, so I boiled some water about 5 hours before cooking and then soaked the chilies in that to soften the flesh. I was still able to get out about ½ a cup of flesh from the peppers. I followed the directions and removed the seeds and ribs, but was a bit disappointed that the sauce wasn’t spicier. Next time I will reserve some seeds and add them back in if needed. It was still a rich sauce that was nicely balanced by the yogurt. I don’t have a grill so I just roasted the chicken whole then cut it into pieces and topped with the vinaigrette. I had some kale leftover from all the kale salads this week so I used that in place of the frisée and radicchio.

Last Week I Cooked... - Vegetal MattersRye chocolate brownies. Since these were just for to I halved the recipe and used a loaf pan. They were thick brownies, and could have used more than 25 minutes cooking time (but a gooey center doesn’t stop me). I couldn’t detect a large different from the rye flour, and they were plenty chocolate-y. They were topped with a bit of ghost pepper salt to complete a very scary Halloween meal.