CSA Cooking

20180815_185929We’re about six weeks into the Potter Hill CSA and I wanted to check in on my fellow CSA members (and members of other CSAs elsewhere!). How are you using up your bounty each week? We’ve just entered my favorite month: August 15-September 15. (Yes, I’ve defined my own month.) Summer produce is still coming in hot, fall produce starts creeping in, and the days cool off a bit. This week I received tomatoes, zucchini, celery, Swiss chard, bok choy, lemon basil, parsley, beets, and 2 heads of baby lettuce.

I slow roasted some tomatoes (2 hours at 275F) for this gorgonzola lentil salad, which also used some red onion leftover from last week and parsley from this week. Tomatoes and lettuce went into this barbecue chicken salad (pictured above), which I made with my standard bleu cheese dressing instead of the goat cheese ranch because I had extra gorgonzola from the lentil salad to use up. I’m going to use the lemon basil on top of urad dal instead of the cilantro. The fate of the zucchini is either zucchini carbonara or succotash (or maybe I’ll buy more and make both!!). Last time we got celery I made my favorite stir fry, and I’ll probably just make it again because I think it is celery’s highest calling (and it is so far superior with intensely vegetal farm celery than it is with watery supermarket celery). The beets are destined for a labneh dip from DinnerAnd the greens are obviously going into another round of greens with eggs, garlic yogurt, and chili butter because how could I not?!

Don’t forget all of my weekly CSA recipes are under the Potter Hill tag.

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Greens with eggs, garlic yogurt, and chili butter

IMG_20180812_101958068Yogurt finally convinced me it was worthy of my attention in the summer of 2009. Prior to that I hated the gloppy texture and saccharine sweetness of fruit flavored yogurts in tiny cups (or worse, pouches). But that year my mom and I traveled through Greece and Turkey, both cuisines that revere yogurt and think of it as an ingredient more like cream cheese that can be used in savory and sweet applications. But unlike dense and fattier cream cheese, it is light, tangy and refreshing.

My gateway yogurt experience was in Greece. We ate a meal that I’m sure was delightful but is now totally obscured by my memory of dessert. After the meal I was served a schmear of plain Greek yogurt in a stemmed bowl lightly drizzled with honey. It was creamy, cool, and a perfect foil to sweet and herbal honey. Where had THIS yogurt been all my life?

In Istanbul we wandered the streets until we came upon a little cafe with outdoor seating. (Our family rule is any meal that can be eaten outside, should be eaten outside.) When I’m in a place where I’m not familiar with everything on the menu, I like to watch what people around me order. I saw a plate of rice, grilled vegetables, something that looked like grilled meatballs, tomato sauce, and yogurt be delivered to a nearby table, and motioned something to convey “PLEASE FEED ME THAT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE” to the waiter. Turkish kofte is ground lamb or beef that is heavily spiced with cumin and onion, and the warmly flavored meat is incomplete without yogurt or a yogurt sauce.

When we returned home I discovered that my hatred of flavored yogurt had blinded me to a well established US obsession with Greek yogurt, which was widely available. It became a staple in my fridge that earned its keep with its versatility. Flavored yogurt can be breakfast with granola or in a smoothies, but its uses stop there. Plain yogurt serves those purposes even better (especially with fresh fruit), but also can be used in baking, in pancakes, instead of sour cream (when you forget to buy it, or just can’t be bothered to knowing the rest will languish in the fridge), stirred into soups, dolloped on top of dal, or incorporated into a savory sauce.

Which brings me to this dish of sauteed greens, eggs, garlic yogurt, chili butter, and potatoes. Israeli cuisine is another that celebrates the flavor of yogurt, and Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks are some of the first I turn to when I am looking for interesting ways to prepare vegetables. I own Jerusalem, Plenty, and Plenty More, which I flipped through this week for some inspiration. I was mostly looking for ways to use tomatoes and eggplant, but a recipe for baked eggs with yogurt, chile and arugula in Plenty More (page 140) seemed a fitting use for the bunch of greens in my fridge. Instead of arugula, I used a mix of Asian greens from my CSA and kale and collards from my garden.  (Those were from last week’s CSA, but from this week the chard, bok choy, or both would be excellent). I boiled extra potatoes when I made the composed salad earlier this week, so I crisped those up to have with the greens, but a nice piece of toast would be fitting as well. I find eggs very difficult to cook to my preferred done-ness in the oven (set whites and verrrrrrrrry runny yolks), so I did my usual pan-fried over easy eggs here, but prepare them however makes you happiest.

The magic really comes from Ottolenghi’s genius accouterments: grated raw garlic stirred into yogurt, and melted butter with chili flakes. Both quickly come together while everything else is cooking, and provide a creamy tang and a fatty heat that make this dish so much more than greens and eggs. I made it for Sunday breakfast, but this would work for any meal.

Greens with eggs, garlic yogurt, and chili butter

Adapted from Baked eggs with yogurt and chile in Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 4

  • 1 cup sliced onion (from 1 small onion)
  • 1/2 lb of hearty greens, chopped (8 cups total)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup plain (unflavored) Greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo chili flakes (or 1/4 teaspoon regular chili flakes)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

For serving

  • 1 lb of cooked potatoes or 4 slices of toast
  • 4 eggs, cooked however you please

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add the greens and stir. Cook for 5 minutes more until greens are completely wilted.

While the onions and greens are cooking, stir the grated garlic into the yogurt along with a pinch of salt. Do not refrigerate while you finish cooking.

In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the butter and chili flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the butter is foamy and turns red from the chili flakes.

Serve greens with eggs and yogurt alongside potatoes or toast, and drizzle everything with the chili butter.

Done is better than perfect

20180808_190615Sunday night I was surrounded by cookbooks, making a list of all the dishes I HAVE to cook this month. It is peak harvest in New England, and every year at this time I constantly feel like I am missing opportunities to eat the best, freshest produce in the all ways I’ve been dreaming of since December. Everything I love ripens at once – raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, nectarines, peaches, plums, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, summer squash, green beans, greens, and every herb you can imagine.

I’ve joked before about taking the month off just to cook and eat, but this year I took real action and took a day off from work later this month with no plans other than to cook. But I can’t take every day off (and also, I like my job), so I’ve also tried to be more realistic about what I can accomplish on a weeknight.

This is surely not a new revelation. But I am an obsessive cook who takes immense pride in making things from scratch. When I have people over for tacos, I make the tortillas. I went on a camping trip and fried Scotch eggs to bring with us. This is not meant to be boastful, but just to help you to understand the level of crazy I generally operate on. There are many nights when I’ve taken on more than I can chew, and I stare at the mess of an unfinished cooking project around me at 10pm and wonder “HOW DID I GET HERE?”

So when I see a recipe with three sub-recipes like these pambazos, I see myself making enchilada sauce, refried beans, and pickled onions, and THEN frying eggplant to make the sandwiches. I do have some idea of my capacity for cooking projects on a weeknight, so I think I will have to wait for a Sunday. But then there are only four measly Sundays in August, and way more than four elaborate meals I want to cook. Which means that this will get pushed on to my list for next year, when the same thing will happen again, and then five years from now I will finally make this sandwich and wonder “How did it take me so long to do this????????”

But no. Instead, I looked at this recipe, and added refried beans and enchilada sauce to the shopping list. I pickled the onions last night while I was waiting for Will to get home from the grocery store with ingredients I needed to finish yesterday’s dinner. I relaxed after work by sitting in the AC, writing, and drinking a Miller High Life. Then I meandered into the kitchen around 6:00pm, fried up the eggplant, snacked on a few pieces as I made them, and put together these beast sandwiches that hold everything I love between two slices of bread and then are coated with enchilada sauce. Would this sandwich have been better if I had made the refried beans and enchilada sauce myself? Maybe. But as they say, a sandwich in the hand is worth two in the bush. Or something like that.

Summer Composed Salad

20180808_122241For my Potter Hill CSA recipe this week I made an updated version of a salad by a very similar name for our current season. The concept is the same: take a mix of cooked and raw vegetables, pick a protein, and serve them with a tangy dressing. Use whatever is currently at its peak and let it shine, which this week is new potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers. I included hard boiled eggs because I always have them around, but grilled chicken or canned tuna would be a great choice too.  I swapped capers for dill in the dressing this time because herbs are jumping out of my produce drawer right now, and another soft herb like basil or parsley would also work great.

Tomato season is hitting fast and hard, and I could not be happier. My forever favorite tomato meal is lightly toasted bread with mayo, thick tomato slices, salt, and pepper. A couple years ago I wrote about my favorite things to eat in August, and I still stand heartily by that list. I made this tomato tart this week which had great contrast and intensity from fresh tomatoes and a sun dried tomato spread (I used savory instead of the thyme and feta instead of goat cheese to use up what I had). I also have my eye on this harissa eggplant, eggplant tortas, and a big fat BLT later this week.

Summer Composed Salad

This is incredibly easy to scale. I plan on these quantities per person: ¼ lb potatoes, 1 small tomato, ½ cucumber (assuming a smaller cucumber – like a pickling cuke), 1 egg. I would also use blanched green beans, lettuce leaves (separate them from the head but don’t slice them), radishes, or salad turnips.

Serves 6

  • 1 ½ lbs new potatoes
  • 2 lbs tomatoes
  • 3 small cucumbers
  • 6 eggs

Dill Dijon Vinaigrette

  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons minced dill
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard (I used a mix of whole grain and smooth – whatever you have works)
  • Salt and pepper

Bring a small pot of water to a rolling boil. Lower the eggs in with a slotted spoon and cook for 12 minutes for fully set yolks. While the eggs are cooking put a dozen ice cubes in a bowl and cover with water. When the eggs are done transfer them to the ice water to cool while you prep everything else.

Wash your potatoes thoroughly (I let them sit in a bowl of water for a few minutes, then scrub and rinse). Cut any large potatoes in half so that they are all roughly the same size. Put the potatoes in a pot and cover them with water that comes about an inch higher than the potatoes. Add a pinch of salt and bring the water to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes, or until the potatoes can easily be pierced with a fork. Drain and let cool.

In a jar or small bowl, combine all the dressing ingredients and shake/whisk until uniform. If you like a thicker dressing, add some more Dijon.

Peel and halve the eggs, quarter the potatoes, slice the tomatoes and cucumbers. Arrange on a large platter with the dressing (or give everyone a little bowl for their own dressing if you have a dishwasher and can stomach such dish excess).

Roasted Summer Vegetables

20180802_122021Admittedly I had another plan for a recipe to share this week, but it ended up being only ok, and I am not in the business of peddling mediocre recipes. This is what I made on Monday night when I came home with my CSA (I get mine early for recipe writing). I had no plan for dinner, but knew it needed to involve a lot of vegetables. I took stock of leftovers from the weekend, which included some naan, tzatziki, hummus, and olives. I still had a zucchini and summer squash from last week’s CSA, plus this week’s eggplant, tomatoes, onions and savory. I chopped everything up, tossed it with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, and threw it in the oven. The result is the cruel truth that so many summer vegetables are really better roasted, when you would rather change a tire on the side of the highway in the pouring rain than turn on the oven.

But summer vegetables like this are so, so good. The tomato adds a bit of acidity, and provide enough moisture to make a bit of a sauce. Eggplant, when properly and thoroughly cooked, becomes meaty and velvety. The onion becomes a bit caramelized, and summer squash adds a freshness you only get at this point in the year. If you don’t have savory, you could try another hearty herb like rosemary or thyme, or finish the dish after cooking with a soft herb like basil or parsley.

The rest of my share this week was cucumbers, perpetual spinach, kale, basil, new potatoes, lettuce, and pea tendrils. I used the perpetual spinach, kale, and cucumbers in some easy noodles with peanut sauce from the freezer (I cooked the greens, but left the cucumber raw). The potatoes and onions are going into a Thai yellow curry from Simple Thai Food tomorrow night. I also get an egg share, and for tighter mornings, I hard-boil eggs and eat them with everything.

Roasted Summer Vegetables

Serves 6

I’m outlining my basic method, but you could easily mix up the vegetables you include here. For six servings, I fill two baking sheets with 1/2-1″ between pieces for thorough browning. The photo shows naan with a layer of hummus topped with the roasted vegetables.

  • 3 small eggplant
  • 1 summer squash
  • 1 zucchini
  • 2 medium onions (I used fresh onions)
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons chopped savory
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F. Chop all of the vegetables into 1″ pieces. Toss with the olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped savory. Spread across 2 baking sheets, with about 1″ of space between the pieces. They should be able to roast and brown, not just steam. Roast for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven, toss the vegetables, and return them to the oven on opposite shelves. Roast for another 10-15 minutes. In my oven the pan that starts on the bottom is always done first, while the other pan usually requires an extra 5 minutes to achieve the same level of browning.

Serve with hummus and pita or naan, in a sandwich, on pizza/pasta/polenta, or all by its glorious self.

 

 

Buffalo Chickpea Tacos

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In our house your birthday warrants a week of birthday meals. Every meal is one of the birthday person’s favorite foods. It started a couple years ago when I had too many ideas for Will’s birthday dinner, so I just decided to make all of them.

Will loves anything Buffalo-ed (that is with Buffalo hot sauce not buffalo meat), and as a challenge created a spreadsheet called “Will It Buffalo?” with meal ideas for me. I’ve been picking my way through them over the years, and you can see all the recipes here. It was inevitable that a Buffalo dish would make it into the birthday week meals, and given Will’s love of tacos might equal his love of Buffalo sauce, we ended up here.

I love tacos that have a hearty bean component as the main protein, so these start with a base of spicy chickpea dip (which is excellent on its own), topped with a combination of cooked and raw vegetables for great contrast in flavors and textures.

In my Potter Hill CSA share this week I received red cabbage, fresh onions, leeks, 2 small heads of lettuce, a bunch of mixed beets, kale, radishes, celery, basil, zucchini, summer squash, and cherry tomatoes. The lettuce, cherry tomatoes, and basil went into a steak salad with herb dressing from the Smitten Kitchen Every Day Cookbook (very similar to this salad). I used onion, celery, and cauliflower and broccoli leftover from last week in the tacos. Tonight I’m making a kale salad with beets similar to the one from a few weeks ago, but without the onions and cheese. Tomorrow I’m going to make these Korean Bulgogi Burgers with the red cabbage and subbing my French radishes for the daikon (not at all traditional, but that’s the game with a CSA!).

Buffalo Chickpea Tacos

If you can’t be bothered to make the chickpea spread, just buy some hummus and stir in the hot sauce. The recipe below makes the equivalent of 2 8-ounce containers, which is plenty for the tacos and some extra for snacking. I used both broccoli and cauliflower because I had a small head of each, but feel free to use one large head of either, or sub other vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, cabbage, or corn (you can broil any of them in the same manner).

Chickpea Spread

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3.5 cups cooked chickpeas (or 2 15-ounce cans), rinsed and drained
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup cayenne hot sauce, such as Frank’s (if you like it really fiery, go for 1/2 a cup)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Taco Toppings

  • 1 small head of broccoli, chopped (about 1/2 lb)
  • 1 small head of cauliflower, chopped (about 1/2 lb)
  • t tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup minced red onion (1/2 a small onion)
  • 1 cup minced celery
  • 1/4 minced celery leaves (or parsley)
  • 1 cup crumbled bleu cheese
  • 1 cup deseeded and chopped tomato (2 small or 1 large)

For serving

Heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat. Add in the chopped onion, and saute for 10-15 minutes, until soft, translucent, and browning in places. Remove from the heat and cool slightly.

Turn on a food processor with an S-blade and drop in the garlic close from the top. Run the food processor until you can’t hear the garlic bouncing around anymore. Scrape down the sides with a spatula, and then add in the cooked onions, chickpeas, extra virgin olive oil, hot sauce, and salt. Process until uniformly smooth and then taste for seasoning. Alternatively, mince the garlic, then add to a large bowl with the onions and chickpeas. Mash with a fork or potato masher, then add in the olive oil, hot sauce, and salt and mash again until a spread forms.

Move a rack to the top of the oven and turn broil on high. Chop the broccoli and cauliflower into 1/2 inch pieces, and then toss on a baking sheet with the vegetable oil. Broil for 10 minutes total, tossing halfway through, until the are lightly charred.

Serve tortillas warmed, and let everyone assemble their own (lots of extra hot sauce on mine, please).

 

Summer Rolls Tutorial

IMG_20180718_191718580I’ve waxed poetic on the magic of having peanut sauce in your freezer for easy, no cook summer meals before, and I’m here to do it again. Last time I focused on the peanut sauce, which is still my favorite recipe (it makes a double batch for easy freezing). What I didn’t do was a thorough tutorial on how to make your summer rolls. Rice paper can take a bit of finesse, but once you get a sense for how it behaves the roll making is easy. If you can’t be bothered to make the rolls, you can make some rice or noodles and serve the veg and peanut sauce on top for much quicker assembly.

I’ve outlined what I put in these rolls, but feel free to work with what you have. I’ve also used leftover cooked vegetables in addition to raw ones. I had leftover tofu from a salad earlier in the week, but leftover chicken, pork, steak, or shrimp would be great additions as well (or leave out the protein altogether!). I used brown rice wrappers that I found at Whole Foods here, but white rice ones are much easier to find (look in the Asian section of the grocery store next to the noodles).

My whole Potter Hill CSA share this week was 2 heads of lettuce, salad turnips, broccoli, cauliflower, cilantro, savory, a small red cabbage, celery, fresh onions, and new potatoes. One night I made a quick pasta with pesto, soldier beans, cubed mozzarella, and a ton of sauteed greens (the leaves from the cauliflower, broccoli, and turnips). I didn’t make the pesto this time around because my mom gave me some she made (thanks Mom!!!!), but this recipe is very similar, just switch up the veg and add 1 can/about 2 cups of white beans. With both heads of lettuce I made a riff on this Thai tofu salad topped with shredded salad turnips, carrots, and cilantro. Breakfast has been a perennial favorite: potatoes, kale, and eggs. The celery is destined for this amazing Sichuan dish. Don’t forget – all my Potter Hill recipes so far are tagged here.

Summer Rolls

Makes 8-10 rolls – Serves 4 as a side

  • 1/2 lb red or green cabbage (about 1/4 of a large one), thinly sliced
  • 1 small cucumber, shredded (about 1 cup)
  • 3 salad turnips, shredded (about 1/2 a cup)
  • 2 carrots, shredded (about 1/2 a cup)
  • 1/2 cup minced herbs (I used cilantro and Thai basil, mint or regular basil would work too)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of chopped tofu (see note)
  • Rice paper wrappers
  • Water
  • Peanut sauce
  • Sriracha/hot sauce

Once all your veg are prepped, set them out around your cutting board. Fill a pie plate or baking dish with warm water – you want to be able to submerge your rice paper wrappers entirely. Dip the rice paper wrapper in the water and hold it under for 10 second. It should change texture and feel plastic-y/crinkly, but not be totally soft.

Lay the rice paper flat on the cutting board, and arrange a couple tablespoons of each filling on the half closest to you. the filling should be along an imaginary 3 inch line, so that every bite will get some of each filling. I use about 1/2 a cup to 2/3 of a cup of filling for each roll.

By now the residual water should have soaked into the rice paper, making it soft and pliable. Bring the bottom edge up over the filling, and then fold in each side. Roll away from yourself so a complete cylinder forms. Depending on how much filling you put in each you will have 8-10 rolls. Leave whole (better for transport/eating later) or cut rolls in half. Serve with peanut sauce and extra sriracha.

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Beans and Greens

IMG_20180711_200712584_LLTwo summers ago this recipe saved me. I was living in an apartment where I could plant a garden. The garden was in a corner of the yard that didn’t get great sun (installed by a previous tenant), but it was my first place where I truly had a garden of my own and I tried a little of everything. I planted some collards, and there must have been a big rainstorm after I did so because they didn’t sprout up in a neat row, but in random places all around the garden and outside the garden. The rest of the garden was not as successful, but they did phenomenally. I had collards coming out of my ears, and grew to truly love them and find all sorts of dishes to stick them in (my love letter to collards is here).

That season I found myself making Sarah’s beans and greens whenever I needed a quick dinner. The greens were outside my door, and I an never without a couple cans of beans in the pantry. Over the years my version has morphed into what you see below, though it does vary a bit each time based on what is in my pantry. I am an expert bread crumb burner, so I swapped them for some nice bread for dipping (and now you don’t have to turn the oven on).

In the Potter Hill CSA Paul has reliably including a bunch of fresh onions, and while I can easily use up the bottoms, the tops have been more of a challenge. They’re mild enough to blend in with all the greens without making them overpoweringly onion-y, so I just threw the whole lot in.

The rest of my share this week was two heads of lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, zucchini, chard, bok choy, and basil. I made a giant salad with Dijon vinagrette, grated turnips (leftover from last week) and radishes. and hard-boiled egg. It doesn’t include as many CSA ingredients, but I also made this chickpea salad using the parsley and fresh onion in place of the shallot. It was excellent on top of more lettuce salad (the joke this week was no one was allowed to leave the house without a salad). The zucchini and summer squash are headed for the grill this weekend.

Beans and greens

You can use just about any kind of hearty green here: various kinds of kale, collards, chard, beet greens, turnip greens, radish greens, spinach (or perpetual spinach if you are a CSA member!). This time around I used one large bunch of chard, a medium bunch of bok choy, and a small bunch of radish greens and they were 20 ounces before I stemmed them. If you are really adverse to anchovies you can of course leave them out, but I implore you to try them at least once. This dish does not turn tour tasting fishy at all. If you don’t want the bite of raw garlic in the vinaigrette, saute it in the oil for a minute before you add the onion tops.

  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 anchovies, minced (or 2 teaspoons anchovy paste)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice or red/white wine vinegar
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Green tops from 1 bunch of fresh onions or 1 whole bunch of scallions, sliced
  • 1 lbs of hearty greens, stemmed and chopped (see note)
  • 3 1/2 cups or 2 15-ounce cans of white beans, drained and rinsed (I used solider beans)
  • 1/2 grated parmesan cheese
  • hearty bread for serving

In a small bowl mix the chopped garlic, anchovies, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice/vinegar, a few grinds of pepper and a punch of salt (not too much, as the anchovies will add some saltiness too). Stir to combine and taste, adding more acid, salt, and pepper as needed.

In a large pot heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the onion tops and cook until soft, about 3 minutes (they should lose their structure and become uniformly dark green). Add in the greens and cover the pot. Cook for 3-5 minutes, until the greens are mostly wilted. Put the beans in the pot and stir to combine with the greens. Let cook uncovered for a couple more minutes to warm the beans through, then add in the olive oil mixture and stir to combine. Sprinkle the grated cheese on top, and serve with crusty bread.

Kale and Beet Salad with Pickled Onions, Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Goat Cheese

IMG_20180705_132657179Admittedly, I have done very little cooking in the last week. This heat has inspired a diet of fresh fruit, salads, sandwiches, and frozen desserts. I’ve made eggs for breakfast, but once the sun really comes up I can’t be bothered to heat up the kitchen any more. Refusing to cook can be inspiration all its own, and salads do not have to be boring.

This week my Potter Hill CSA share was kale, perpetual spinach, salad turnips, baby beets, zucchini, summer squash, fresh onions, bok choy, basil, and parsley. If I can find a grill to make use of, this zucchini with pesto and beans is high on my list to make. If you could be bothered to roast sweet potatoes, these wraps are an excellent vegetarian main (and if you can’t be bothered, grated carrots or beets would be a fine substitute). My favorite everyday use for greens is to saute them to have with eggs and toast in the morning with a few dashes of hot sauce.

The revelation in this salad is there is no reason to cook your beets. Yes, when you roast them their sweet, earthiness is concentrated, but that is not always what I want from a beet. In fact I was anti-beet until I ate them raw and was able to appreciate their mildly sweet crunch. Young beets are especially great this way, and are an excellent addition to salads, wraps, and sandwiches.

 Kale and Beet Salad with Pickled Onions, Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Goat Cheese

These pickled onions are a great addition to sandwiches or potato salad (as in their inspiration recipe). I had a great intention to add nuts, but then forgot to do so while I was making it. Toasted pecans or almonds would be my pick. With baby beets I just wash them thoroughly and trim any stringy bits off the bottom, but don’t feel the need to peel them.

Dressing inspired by Sprouted Kitchen, pickled onions inspired by Smitten Kitchen.

Serves 4 as side salads, or 2 as mains.

  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large fresh onion bulb, minced (about 1/2 a cup)
  • 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
  • 3 small beets, greens removed and reserved
  • 3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Measure white wine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a small jar (1/2 pint works great). Shake to dissolve the salt and sugar, then add the minced onion and let sit while you prepare everything else.

In a second jar (or the bottom of a large bowl, if you are going to mix and serve everything at once) combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Shake or whisk to combine.

Trim any stringy ends off the bottom of the beets, and then grate them on the largest holes of a box grater (or, you could cut them into matchsticks by hand or on a mandolin).

Assemble the salad by massaging the majority of the dressing into the kale with your hands (reserve a few tablespoons of dressing to drizzle on top) until the leaves are thoroughly coated and shiny. Top kale with grated beets, crumbled goat cheese, about 1/2 the pickled onions (see head note for other uses), and a final drizzle of dressing.

 

 

Summer Quinoa and Zucchini Salad with Herbs and Lemon

zuke saladIt’s the greatest time of the year – local produce is here! Well, it’s always around to some extent but farmer’s markets are reopening and the bounty is flowing through the doors. This year I’m writing recipes for Potter Hill Farm’s CSA, so in addition to the great produce members receive each week they will get some ideas of what to cook with them. I’ve been buying excellent produce from Paul for years, and I’m so excited to be both a member of his CSA and an added value for his other customers. If you were not able to sign up for the CSA, you can still get Paul’s produce through the Grafton Farmers Market and order directly from him for Monday pickups at the farm in Grafton, MA.

This is the first of many weeks of recipes, and I think an introduction is in order for all those who are new here. Hi! My name is Tori. I’ve been writing this blog for about five years, focusing mainly on my love of vegetables and accessible home cooking, but also dabbling in books, beer, and travel. I contribute to Yankee Brew News as a columnist for our region and feature writer. By day, I’m an education coordinator at a non-profit farm where I run nutrition and agriculture programming, including cooking classes for kids (more on that here).

I live in and love Worcester. Since returning to my home state of Massachusetts five years ago after a stint in Seattle, I’ve spent a lot of time exploring the nooks and crannies of New England. My husband, Will, is my primary adventure partner and recipe taster (He’s the main instigator behind the Will It Buffalo? series). Eggplant is my favorite vegetable, and I’m determined to convince the masses to love it too.

If you want to search my blog, or see all the posts in a single category, open up any post and scroll to the bottom. Click the tags at the bottom of the post to see other posts with a similar ingredient, click on a category to see all my posts on a single subject like books or travel, or use the search bar to find a specific post. I’ll be tagging all CSA recipes under Potter Hill.  You can find me on Instagram here. I’d love to hear more about you, what you’d like to see more of with your CSA recipes, and any questions you may have in the comments. Let’s get cooking!

zuke salad 2Summer Quinoa and Zucchini Salad with Herbs and Lemon

There is a lot of flexibility in this kind of recipe. Not into quinoa? Try couscous, farro, or barley. Can’t bear to turn on the oven? Slice the zucchini into planks, toss with the oil/zest/salt/pepper, throw it on the grill, and chop it after cooking. Out of chickpeas? Try cannellini beans or green lentils. Still trying to use up a head of lettuce? Put the whole mess (mixed or not) on top of greens dressed with lemon and olive oil. Vegan? Leave out the feta.

Serve 6 as a main, or 12 as a side.

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as olive oil (not extra virgin) or vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 lbs zucchini (I used 3)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced (2 tablespoons total)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (about 1 3/4 cups total)
  • 1/2 cup minced parsley leaves (half a small bunch)
  • 1/2 cup minced scallions (2 giant scallions)

Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the quinoa and a pinch of salt. Cover, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Removed from the heat, fluff with a fork, and let cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Chop the zucchini into 1/2 inch pieces, then toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon zest, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and ground pepper. Spread zucchini pieces on 2 baking sheets (if they are too close together they will steam and not roast), and roast for 15 minutes. Toss the zucchini on both pans, and return them to the oven on the opposite racks. Roast for another 15 minutes, until they are slightly charred.

In a jar or the bottom of the bowl the salad will be in, mix/whisk the lemon juice and olive oil. Combine the quinoa, zucchini, chickpeas, feta, parsley, scallions, and dressing in a large bowl., toss with the dressing and serve.

Broccoli Stem and Kale Salad with Lemon Miso Dressing

kale and broccoli stem saladLast week, Will and I were on our way back from visiting friends in Philly. Last time we visited we spent the entire weekend eating excellent food, and this trip was equally delicious. We had incredible Lebanese food at Suraya (the fatteh with eggplant, chickpeas, and tehina yogurt was divine), hummus at Dizengoff, falafel, shwarma spice fries, and a Turkish coffee tahina shake at Goldie, ice cream at Weckerly’s twice, the best pour over I’ve ever had at Menagerie, a giant wedge salad at North Third, incredibly varied beer and great food at Tired Hands, and a cheesesteak on our way out at Dalessandro’s.
(Thanks again for having us Jesse and Brian – we’ll be back!!!)

But anyways, back to that journey home. We started off a little late, and hit rush hour traffic in Connecticut. We decided to stop and have dinner, and Will picked out Stanziato’s. It was surprisingly busy on a Monday night (a good sign), had an excellent beer list, and a creative take on Italian food that didn’t shy away from ingredients from other cultures. The pizzas were good, but the salad is what left the real impression. The only vegetable it contained was very thinly sliced broccoli stems that were coated in a lemon miso dressing and almost matched in volume by the toppings, which were parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, and capers. It was a delightful umami bomb and variety of textures that turned a normally trashed part of the vegetable into something you might buy on purpose.

I’ve been thinking about that salad since, and while I loved the flavor profile it seemed unbalanced. Afterwards I felt like I ate a bunch of salty cheese and nuts (which, I had) instead of a refreshing bowl of vegetables. The great joy of cooking at home is I can take what I loved about that salad and right the other wrongs. What results is definitely a salad, with a piquant dressing, buttery pine nuts, and a dusting of salty cheese. It feels like the best possible way to eat your vegetables.

Broccoli Stem and Kale Salad with Lemon Miso Dressing

Serve 4

This can easily become vegan by leaving out the parm, but in that case I would urge you to take the extra step of making Laura’s pine nut parm for salad perfection. I made roasted broccoli to go with dinner earlier in the week and saved the stems for this salad.

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (I used 1 smaller lemon)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon white miso paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 small bunch of kale, de-stemmed (mine was 4.5 ounces)
  • 3 small broccoli stems (or 2 medium or 1 large, mine totaled 8.5 ounces)
  • 1 stalk (2 ounces) celery
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped

In a large bowl whisk the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, miso, mustard, and the pinch of salt until combined.

Chop the kale, and very thinly slice the broccoli stems and celery (I used a mandoline, but careful knife work will also do the job). If you are working with a single large broccoli stem, you may want to peel it first. Test it by trying a slice to see how tough the outer bits are.

Add the kale, broccoli stems, and celery to the bowl and toss with your hands to combine. Work the dressing into the kale leaves so they are totally coated and shiny. Let the salad sit for a few minutes if you have time, so the dressing can soften the kale a bit (at least 10 minutes would be great). When you;re ready to serve top with the parmesan, pine nuts, and capers, and toss once more to combine.

The pine nuts will soften a bit as the salad sits, but its still great the next day.

*I did forget to add in the capers when I took this photo, but I put them in before we ate and they are definitely vital.

Vegan Favorites

DSC01879After last month’s vegan puddle debacle, I felt that vegan food needed to be redeemed. Despite what my disappointing soup suggested, vegan food should not be bland and boring. It should be a celebration of flavors and textures in the most nourishing way. To remind myself how great vegan food can be, I returned to some old favorites and tried out a few new ones that have become fast favorites.

Curried Lentils with Coconut Milk – When made with red lentils this becomes much looser than the curry shown made with brown lentils, but it is no less delightful. The coconut milk makes for a rich dish that is heavily flavored (but not overpowered) with cumin, coriander, and turmeric. I like to serve this with some roasted or sauteed veg to mix in as well and give a bit more texture to the dish, like cauliflower or cabbage. The curry and a veg can be made in the time it takes you to make brown rice, so dinner is on the table in 45 minutes. (I’ve been cooking through Small Victories bit by bit and I am liking it so far. Julia’s lasagna is a revelation.)

Goodness Wrap – This is everything I look for in a vegan wrap: various textures, the bright acidity of a pickle, and a sauce to tie it all together. I made this in the same week that I made the curried lentils and just made some extra rice to include, but honestly I didn’t feel it added that much to the wrap. I also added in some chickpeas for extra heft, which felt necessary to power more active bodies. These were so, so good.

Thai Chopped Salad with Tofu – This salad is the most refreshing thing to eat a lunch on a hot day. The crunchy veg and slightly sour dressing are spot on, and the tofu marinade with curry paste is so flavorful you might forget you’re eating tofu.

Thai-ish Cauliflower Rice Salad – Sprouted Kitchen again with a wonderful mix of colorful vegetables in a Thai slaw. The cauliflower rice was a bit weird to me, and didn’t go with the texture of the rest of the dish (it just coated the other things in mush). Next time I would just roast the cauliflower to include, as there will definitely be a next time. I made the same roasted tofu as in the salad above to bulk it up and the flavors went really well together. The crunchy vegetables were nicely coated in the peanut sauce. This is definitely an indulgent dish as it calls for a lot of ingredients that are not always easily found, but so worth the time.

Summer rolls with peanut sauce (pictured at top) – Now seems like a good time to remind everyone that peanut sauce freezes super well so you make make a big batch on a colder day and then have it at the ready for those nights when turning on the oven would be torture. I just picked up some brown rice wrappers at Whole Foods that I am pumped to try with rolls this summer.  I use any mixture of chopped raw veg (collard, kale, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, beets, summer squash, etc, etc), herbs (mint, cilantro), and leftover protein in my rolls on hot nights to make the best cold dinner.

Buffalo Chickpea Bowl

IMG_20180529_193252851When it becomes too long since I have made a buffalo-ed dish, Will gets antsy. It had been even longer since I attempted a new dish from the “Will it Buffalo?” suggestions (more on that here). I envisioned a creamy curry-inspired sauce, spicy with the usual heat, and cooled by complementary bleu cheese dressing. The result is not heavy at all, but satisfies the buffalo craving usually satiated with wings. This was one of those magical times when the dish I ended up with was exactly what I imagined, and I hope you’re as pleased with it as I am.

I’ve tagged all previous Will it Buffalo? dishes so you can easily find them. Happy buffalo-ing!

Buffalo Chickpea Bowls

Serves 6

  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 medium head broccoli
  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as olive, sunflower, or vegetable, divided
  • 1 cup diced onion (1 small, or 1/2 a very large one)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 15.5 ounce cans, or about 3 1/2 cups chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce, such as Frank’s, for moderate spice, more or less if you please
  • 1/2 cup bleu cheese dressing
  • 1/2 cup bleu cheese crumbles (optional)
  • 2 scallions, minced

If you’re making the bleu cheese dressing yourself, start with that and then let it sit in the fridge while you wait.

Put the 2 1/2 cups water in a small pot with a cover to boil with a pinch of salt. When it comes to a boil add in the brown rice, turn the heat down to medium low, and cook for 40 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425F and get out two baking sheets. Chop the broccoli and cauliflower into florets (1-2 inches long). Toss the florets with the 1 tablespoon oil, sprinkle with a few pinches of salt, and toss to combine. Distribute evenly on two baking sheets, and roast for 20-25 minutes, tossing the florets and switching the pans after 15 minutes. I find the pan I have on the bottom rack first is usually done after 20 minutes, but the other pan needs a few extra minutes to brown. The florets should be fork tender and charred at the edges when done.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the onion to the pan, and cook for 5-10 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes more until fragrant. Add the coconut milk and hot sauce to the pan and stir to combine. Simmer uncovered for 5-10 minutes until it starts to thicken, then add the chickpeas. Simmer for 5 minutes.

To serve put rice in a bowl, top with roasted broccoli and cauliflower, then the saucy chickpeas, and finish with a drizzle of bleu cheese dressing, scallions, and bleu cheese crumbles if you desire (I prefer not to so that is what the photo shows, but my dining companions were very pro-crumble).

 

 

A story of three failures

I

A few weeks ago I made spinach pasta on a Sunday night. It wasn’t a particularly complicated recipe, but it involved cooking the spinach, straining and chopping it, then adding it to the dough as you made it, resting the dough, rolling it out, and cooking it. Since that didn’t seem like a particularly hard project (many parts, but none difficult), I was also prepping a few other things for the week ahead.

But the evening got away from me, and by the time I was actually cooking the pasta it was much later than I expected (almost 9pm). Since fresh pasta is often promised to be a transcendent and simple meal, I hadn’t planned to dress it with more than some butter, olive oil, and Parmeggiano Reggiano. I tasted some from the pan and was instantly disappointed by the blandness. Where was my transcendent simplicity????????????

This failure exacerbated stresses that were building for the work-week, and led to me sobbing over my terrible pasta that I had put so much effort into. (While I was finishing crying, Will excavated some pesto from the freezer and started defrosting it to save my dinner, and therefore wins Husband-of-the-Year one hundred times over.)

II

The next week I wanted to try a simple (catching a theme here?) vegan soup that involved a vibrantly green and thick herb coconut broth, broccoli, snap peas, tofu, and rice. In the cookbook photo the author used black rice noodles, which were incredibly dramatic and contrasted beautifully with the green broth. The photo of this dish makes you feel cleansed and restored just from looking at it. Like you’ve achieved absolute purity and suddenly understand why vegans forego meat and are ready to give it up forever too.

My first failure was in the liquid. A high speed blender was called for to combine the coconut milk, broth, and herbs. I don’t own a $500 blender, and I figured my stick blender could stand in as it usually does for pureed soups. Since the coconut milk/broth/lemongrass mixture is supposed to steep off the stove I tried to use my stick blender directly in the bowl it was cooling in. After a small wave covered my counter, I switched to the food processor. No amount of time processing would yield the thick, uniformly green broth the photo. Instead I was left with a thin broth with flecks of cilantro throughout. Given I wasn’t using the right equipment to start I wasn’t too dissuaded.

The recipe notes said to serve it with rice noodles or rice, and I happened to have black rice! I cooked some up, made my meager broth, and added in the vegetables and tofu. When it was time to serve, the rice went into the bowl, and was topped by the soup. But I had not rinsed the rice thoroughly enough. What had been a passable green broth, was now the color of mud.

I’m not one to judge a meal by its looks. But the photo I had for comparison was just so beautiful, and I was staring down at a puddle. I hoped taste would change my mind, but what I was eating did not live up to my expectations. It was thin, herby, flat, and very……healthy tasting. Like something I should always eat, but would never want to. It tasted like how people who hate vegan food on principle expect vegan food to taste. (I make vegan food on the regular and it can be overwhelmingly delicious, but this was not one of those times.)

III

Last week I knew I had an especially long work-day ahead of me, so I planned a fool-proof and almost effortless meal: tortellini with pesto and roasted asparagus. I was NOT making the pasta this time (it came pre-made from Wegmans). The pesto would be the last from the stash in the freezer that I was reminded about when Will used it to save my previous pasta dinner. The asparagus would go in the oven at 425F with salt, pepper, and olive oil for 15 minutes.

I put the asparagus in the oven and put the water on to boil. I had a double pack of tortellini, but decided to cook both in case we needed extra meals later in the week. This was a total of eight servings of pasta, which is way more than I usually make, but figured it would be useful when I had to work over the weekend.

The water on to boil, and put asparagus went in the oven. I put about the same amount of water in the pot I use for a pound of pasta, and didn’t think twice about it. The tortellini was in two separate but attached packs, and when I put the first in the pot was almost full, but it seemed like more could fit in. Partway through the addition of the second pack the water came dangerously close to the top, and I was in trouble. I took out a measuring cup to remove some of the water, but couldn’t remove enough of it in time. the tortellini threatened to boil over, and I knew the rest couldn’t fit in the pan…but I tried anyways.

Had I never made pasta before? Did I not understand that doubling the amount of pasta you make means you should also double the size or number of vessels you cook them in?

It was too late in the game to criticize myself; I just had to fix the problem. Some water went into the kettle to boil quickly, and I moved some of the pasta into a small pot. The tortellini monster was subdued for the moment. Eventually everything was cooked but somehow not overcooked, and I returned to the glass of wine I had hurtfully ignored.

The asparagus, by the way, was perfect.

IV

At work I teach kids cooking classes. Cooking with children is always an adventure, and often times they are doing something for the first time ever with me as their guide: cracking an egg, using a knife, measuring the flour. I always leave room for error in these situations and tell them this: sometimes when we cook we get delicious food, sometimes delicious food and a lesson, and sometimes just the lesson. But no matter what, you walk away with something.

Recent Cooking and Reading

Hey! How are you? What have you been cooking? April was a whirlwind, and half of the month was spent traveling around England visiting family and friends (more on that soon). Here are a few things I’ve been eating and reading.

Spaghetti Puttanesca (Serious Eats) – This whole year has been a building love affair with Serious Eats. Their recipes are so varied, reliable, and always delicious. This recipe has a quick turnaround, and the finished product has more flavor than it seems possible to produce in such a short period of time. I suppose putting capers, olives, anchovies, and garlic in a dish will do that. Even if one of those ingredients scares you, please still try this. They reach amazing harmony together, and no one ingredient overpowers.

20180426_192230Street Cart Style Chicken and Rice from Smitten Kitchen Every Day (adapted here) – I first made this dish in December, and can’t for the life of me figure out why I waited until last week to make it again. I’m even struggling to describe why it is so good. The mixture of spices? Slight acidity? Hit of heat from hot sauce and harissa? Creamy yogurt sauce? Crunchy salad? Just make it, and then again soon.

20180424_121025Everything bánh mì. Will and I finally found out perfect bánh mì spot (here if you live in MA!!!!). But, it is a longer drive than I find conducive to weekly bánh mì consumption. So instead I made this lemongrass bánh mì (but with chicken by accident…because I forgot to put tofu on the grocery list) and this breakfast bánh mì with the leftover daikon/carrot slaw, cukes, and cilantro. You can’t go wrong with either.

Green falafel (101 Cookbooks). Falafel is my Achilles heel. Every time I’ve tried to fry falafel at home it has disintegrated in the oil. Yes, I’ve baked them to some success, but they are never as good. This recipe is definitely a ways removed from what you would get at a falafel joint, but easy to make, actually sticks together, packs in an impressive amount of greenery, and pan fries nicely. I think I can say I’ve found my go-to falafel recipe.

The New Noma: Frequently Asked Questions. I don’t know what I am going to do when Pete Wells retires. Who will I look up to???? He simultaneously makes me want to eat everything he does, and be a better writer so when I do eat at places like Noma I can write about them like this. I love how he switches up the formats of his reviews. (Do I even need to direct you here? If it’s your first read, YOU’RE WELCOME.) They are clever, playful, but also deeply appreciative and thoughtful.

A Long Answer to a Simple Question: How Do You Eat a Slice of Pizza? While out for pizza last Friday night I pulled this up to reread and was laughing out loud. Read the whole thing, preferably with a slice in hand.

Winter Root Vegetable Bowls with Vibrant Parsley Sauce

IMG_5457 (2)This recipe was born before I was headed away for a weekend and trying to use up veg in the fridge. After an overzealous trip to the winter farmers market I had celeriac, beets, radishes, and sweet potatoes. I knew I wanted something bright to counter the earthiness of the root vegetables, so out came the parsley and lemon. Chickpeas made it into a full meal. The feta adds a great salty tang, but can easily be omitted for a vegan meal. This bowl is distinctly wintery, but much more like bright sunshine reflecting off of white snow than dreary, pervasive brown.

IMG_5436 (2)IMG_5444 (3)Winter Root Vegetable Bowls with Vibrant Parsley Sauce

Serves 6

  • 3 lbs root vegetables, such as radishes, beets, carrots, sweet potato, potatoes, kohlrabi, and celeriac (for these photos I used watermelon radishes, purple daikon radishes, yellow carrots, orange carrots, beets, and sweet potatoes)
  • 3 tablespoons neutral oil, divided
  • 3.5 cups cooked chickpeas (2 15.5 oz cans, drained and rinsed)
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • ½ teaspoon pepper, divided
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups of packed parsley leaves (about 1 bunch worth)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Scrub all of the root vegetables and peel as needed. I peel veg with tough skin like kohlrabi and celeriac, plus winter radishes like watermelon, but don’t always feel the need to peel beets, carrots, and potatoes depending on how dirty they are and how thick their skin is. Chop all of the root veg into ½ inch pieces (you are aiming for them to be about the size of a chickpea). Toss the root vegetables in 2 tablespoons of neutral oil, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper and spread on to 2 baking sheets (the photo above is after I tossed them in oil on 1 baking sheet – the pieces should not be that close together for cooking). Roast them for 15 minutes, then take them out of the oven, toss them, and put them back in the oven on opposite racks. Roast them for another 10 minutes until they are starting to brown and can be easily pierced with a fork.

While the root vegetables are roasting, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion slices and a pinch of salt. Cook the onions, stirring occasionally, until they are thoroughly browned (about 30 minutes). I don’t usually go far enough to fully caramelize them, as that would take longer than it takes the root vegetables to cook. When the onions are cooked through, add in the chickpeas and stir to combine. Cook for another 2-3 minutes until the chickpeas are warmed through.

Turn on a food processor with the S blade in and drop the garlic cloves through the opening at the top. When the garlic cloves stop bouncing around they are fully minced. Turn the food processor off and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Add the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper, parsley leaves, and lemon juice. Turn the food processor on to chop them, then drizzle in the olive oil so a smooth sauce forms. Alternatively, very finely mince the garlic and parsley, then stir in the salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Serve the root vegetables with a big spoonful of the chickpeas and onions, topped with crumbled feta (if using) and a generous drizzle of parsley sauce.

If you happen to have any parsley sauce leftover it is amazing stirred into hummus or labneh.

 

 

The most memorable things I cooked in 2017

The last year was a busy one, so I didn’t spend as much time planning out and executing elaborate recipes. I cooked a lot of stand-byes, like pizza, big salads, and tofu bowls. These were the recipes that stood out the most in my memory (many new, one old).

20171118_182557 (2)Sicilian Pizza with Spicy Tomato Sauce. This is, without a doubt, the best pizza I have ever made. The fussiness of the dough and the indulgent nature rule it out as a weeknight regular, but as a special pizza it will forever have a place in my kitchen. You douse the pan in olive oil before stretching out the dough, which essentially fries the bottom of the pizza making for a perfectly crispy crust. I experimented with a few pepperonis and can’t say I found the natural casing pepperoni (which was suggested) to make that much of a difference. I would focus first on using the best pepperoni you can find.

20171220_191201Spaghetti Puttanesca. The amount of flavor packed into this pasta with such a short cooking time is incredible. I suppose you are starting with some punchy ingredients, but the cohesion in the final dish that is not overwhelmed by any one particular flavor is perfect. I also loved the method of cooking the pasta in very little cold water to make an extra starchy water for sauce thickening (plus, water conservation!). I did add in the tuna which was a nice bit of protein, but wasn’t so essential that I would need it every time.

Burrito bowls. I keep falling back on this recipe, at home and elsewhere. I coordinated an event at work where we were making lunch for 15 people, and everyone prepped a different part of the recipe. I also roasted a chicken that we pulled the meat off of, and made some cumin cabbage slaw. We left the yogurt out of the sauce and used 1/2 cup of oil total to keep it vegan.  Everyone built their bowl with what they liked. Depending on how you built your bowl, it could please vegans, vegetarians, gluten intolerants, and meat lovers alike.

20171017_193121Corn dogs. I can’t quite believe I am admitting to making these, but here we are. My roommate asked me if it was possible to make corn dogs, and I thought I would try it as a fun surprise. They were insanely easy (though my batter was way too thick as first, but a little more buttermilk solved everything), surprisingly delicious, and such a crowd-pleaser.

Instant Pot Minestrone. It’s true, I too have jumped on the Instant Pot bandwagon. I eased into use by just cooking single ingredients (such as beans or hard boiled eggs), and this recipe was my first attempt at making a whole meal in the pot. You start sauteing the aromatics (With the saute function!! Take THAT slow cooker!) and then add dried beans, water, and potatoes. Tomatoes and kale are stirred in at the end, and I also added pasta and a swirl of pesto when I served it. The fact that I started with dried beans and water, and ended with cooked beans in a wonderfully flavored broth an hour later, was just magical. Electric pressure cookers do have their limitations (mainly size – I could make a much bigger pot of soup on the stove), but their strengths make them a worthy kitchen edition.

20170607_185903Fried butterbeans and pizza beans. Two recipes, one (new to me) excellent ingredient: lima beans. This giant beans have been dubbed “potato beans” in our house. They have a fluffy, creamy interior and are an excellent vehicle for herbs, feta, and pizza toppings (though not all at once). I made these recipes about 6 months apart, and after the pizza beans was asked “Why don’t you make these beans more often??” The people have spoken, and more big beans will be cooked.

Call me crazy, but I planned the food for my own wedding: the initial plan (Part 1)

14079762_10101841976930277_313916221619506309_nWill and I got engaged in August of 2016 at the Athenaeum in Providence (the scene of our second date, and a most delightful place). While we did debate having one, we ultimately decided we did want to have a wedding. We’d both been to enough weddings to know the feel we wanted for our own: a comfortable, casual celebration. While we did want to have the big party, we didn’t want to get sucked into the wedding vortex and lose sight of the fact that a wedding is just ONE day (a very special day, but still just one). We wanted to host the people we love in a place we love, and share our favorite things with them as we declared our love for each other.

We decided to get married where I work, which is a farm with a large barn and a commercial kitchen. Not being a traditional wedding venue gave us more freedom in how we could run the event. There were no specific list of caterers we had to use, or minimum cost per guest. My mom did a ton of research on other venues, and from what she found I saw the more “wedding” specific a venue was, the less work you had to do to plan but you also were much more restricted in your vendor options. Places like where we got married are not as common, especially if you just use “wedding” as a search keyword, but they do exist. In the end, we couldn’t beat the convenience of getting married where we did, plus we have a personal connection to the place.

We started with a strict budget (about $8,000, which I think it is important to know because no one talks about how ridiculous wedding costs are), and stuck to it very closely. Being fairly cheap people, we planned to do the majority of the set up and clean up ourselves with help from very loving group of family and friends.Neither of us read any wedding planning books, but I did read One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding and Something New: Tales of a Makeshift Bride which both emphasize that a wedding should be just what you and your partner want it to be. We picked the traditions and trends we liked, and ignored the rest.

We sent emails for the save the date and invitation, only registered for about 10 things we really wanted, didn’t buy any decorations besides a few strings of lights, and used Spotify playlists for the music (except for the procession, when our roommate played her accordion). We used what we had or what our friends and family had whenever possible, including platters, tablecloths, speakers, and an arbor. We did rent some essentials we couldn’t borrow, including a tent, tables, and chairs, and hired a bartender for the night. I grew the flowers for the tables and bouquets, which admittedly was made significantly easier for me because I work on a farm and had access to a small section of land to use (but I have a friend who grew her flowers for her wedding at her house, so know it can be done). We had both the wedding and reception on site, and asked two of our friends to co-officiate.

From the very beginning, I knew I wanted to have a heavy hand in the food.  Planning menus is what I do for fun, and cooking for crowds didn’t intimidate me, especially with the help I knew would roll in. We decided to cook all the food ourselves. This was my initial menu:

Starters

  • Bread and butter
  • Antipasti with olives, preserved peppers and eggplant
  • Pickles (scapes, cauliflower)
  • Hummus
  • Cheeses (brie, more brie, cheddar, bleu)
  • Salamis

Drinks

  • Beer
  • Wine
  • Signature cocktails made with whiskey (Will) and gin (me)
  • Champagne

Dinner

  • Vegetable minestrone
  • Leek bacon salad? Other salad?
  • Whole chicken piccata with baked rice pilaf or baked polenta
  • Roasted vegetables with chickpeas (also serves as veg main)

Desserts

  • Variety of items made by my aunts

Everything was simple and could be done in large batches. There would be no tiny passed appetizers, and all of the foods could be prepared beforehand and would stand up fine to reheating.

(A quick side story. The first time I cooked dinner for Will was on Valentine’s Day. We had gone on our first date about a month prior, and then had gone to see a movie a few days before the fateful couple’s holiday. As you do on the 4th or 5th date, we were discussing when our next would be and Will suggested Friday (VALENTINE’S DAY). I had assumed he would completely ignore the fact that Valentine’s Day was happening and expressed that to him. His response was along the lines of “but why wouldn’t I spend it with you?” (And see why I married him?) I made gin and grapefruit cocktails with rosemary sugar, he brought a bottle of his favorite white wine, we had Alton Brown’s chicken piccata (one of my favorite dishes) for dinner, and chocolate for dessert.)

And this is why I was determined to serve chicken piccata at our wedding. We both love it, but it is not a dish meant for entertaining as you pan fry the chicken and make the sauce in the pan right before serving. So my idea was to make a dish with roasted whole chicken (also the most economical way to buy chicken) with the flavors of the dish (lemon, capers, herbs). As the year went on and we got closer to the date, I was under pressure to figure out the logistics of this. How many chickens would I buy? How would I break them down? Where would they fit into my cooking timeline? What would I roast them in?

Since this post could go on for another 1,000 words, I’ll stop here and be back later with what I actually ended up doing.

Even More Kitchen Gear Everyone Needs

DSC02048 (2)My argument around the holidays is always if you are going to buy someone kitchen gear, make it something essential and useful. Don’t bother with futzy, single use things. And if you can’t make it something useful, then make it something edible (tea, coffee, liquor, or spices are all awesome things that don’t need to be consumed immediately). These are a few things in my kitchen I love. If you’re looking for even more ideas, check out the other two iterations of this list I made: Kitchen Gear Everyone Needs and More Kitchen Gear Everyone Needs. I still stand by every item I mentioned previously, and use them constantly. With the exception of the citrus squeezer, which I recently had to replace because the coating was chipping off, I still use all of those exact items weekly, if not daily.

This list is working from the bottom up and clockwise through what is in the photo above.

Commercial baking sheets. Do your baking sheets ever make a popping noise in the oven? And then when you open the door to look, the baking sheet is no longer flat, but warped? Those should be demoted to craft-only baking sheets. Invest in a couple really nice baking sheets which are meant to withstand high temperatures (like those in an oven!!) and they will last a lifetime. I have half and quarter sheet pans which I use frequently (the standard size in a home kitchen is actually a half-sheet pan, the giant ones used in commercial kitchens are full). (My half and quarter sheet pans look vastly different because the half has logged over 5 years of constant use, and the quarter is only a year old.)

Cooling racks the same size as your baking sheets. These were a game changer for me. I bought a cooling rack without measuring it, only to find it was much thinner and longer than a standard half sheet pan. This is very inconvenient when you need to nest a cooling rack within a sheet pan for very important tasks like allowing chicken wings to rest in the fridge prior to baking, or cooling/draining just fried breaded eggplant.

Fine mesh brewing basket. This isn’t cooked gear per se, but I still find this invaluable. There are plenty of adorable tea infusers out there (like the MANATEA!!!!!!), but….THEY DON’T WORK. I want to drink tea, not water full of leaves. This is the only strainer I’ve used that has holes that are so fine that even rooibos can’t get through it.

1/4 cup measure. Admittedly, I bought this after reading Julia Turshen sing its praises, and she sure was right. This tiny cup is endlessly useful and has saved what I’m sure will account for many hours of my life that I could have spent measuring 4 individual tablespoons, but instead just measured once. (It is also great for measuring cocktail ingredients, and far easier to pour than a shot glass.)

Glass containers for food storage (shown with the red top). I don’t know where I was without these in my life. They stand up to being filled with hot foods, stack, don’t stain or retain smells, and work great for reheating in an oven or microwave. I’m partial to the 4 cup size, which I think is the perfect portion for a lunch, but I have a few larger and a few smaller containers that I wouldn’t want to go without. The lids are not as durable at the glass bases (mine lasted about 2 years), but you can buy replacement lids separately.

A mandoline (no, not a mandolin). This does some with a caveat, because it is really easy to slice of the tip of your finger with one of these. But….they do make consistent, thin slices or matchsticks of many a vegetable. My one complaint with this particular model is it is fairly narrow, so if you have a large vegetable you have to cut it down a bit.

For a bit more fun, check out this year’s edition of my absolute favorite gift guide.

Thanksgiving Menu 2017

20161124_145229Do you have your Thanksgiving menu planned yet? This year I will be at my mom’s, and she and I are splitting most of the cooking duties. If you need ideas, both Serious Eats and NYT Food have great menu planners.  Sam Sifton and Melissa Clark (both of NYT Food) were on On Point today discussion The Big Day. My favorite new piece of advice was to use a bit of stock to warm the turkey after carving and right before serving. Sam Sifton has many other great ideas (and even more opinions) in Thanksgiving: How to Cook it Well, which is worth seeking out as much for the writing as it is for the recipes.

Breakfast (Don’t forget breakfast!!!!!!!)

  • Bagels, cream cheese, and lox. This pleases everyone in the house, and doesn’t require actual cooking (there is enough of that going on).

Appetizers (all cooked multiple days in advance)

  • Bit and Pieces Party Cheese Ball: Mom made this for our wedding, but neither Will nor I actually got a chance to eat it. The reviews were great.
  • Shrimp cocktail: A classic, in case the rest of our experiments fail.
  • Hummus Masabacha: A new hummus variation (at my request).
  • Chicken Liver Pâté: I’ve never made pâté, but I thought a meal with many other stars would be a good time to try it (so if everyone hates it, they will have many other options).

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal MattersDinner

  • Spatchcocked Turkey (prepped and cooked day of): Flat and fast!
  • Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce (cooked many days ahead): My mom has made this before and really liked it.
  • Dressing (not stuffing, because we NEVER put it inside the bird) (prepped the day before, cooked day of): I’m wavering between the one I linked to, and the dressing in Thanksgiving (which I made last year and is very similar, just sans sausage plus apples).
  • Giblet Gravy (cooked day of): I make the gravy after the turkey roasts with the drippings and giblets, following the recipe in Thanksgiving.
  • Mashed potatoes (cooked day of): Maybe now is a good time to tell my mom that I got some purple potatoes to include in here…
  • Brussels sprouts (prepped the day before, cooked day of): I may go with Sam Sifton’s recipe (also in Thanksgivinghave you bought a copy yet?), which has bacon and cream. If not, I may go with a simple roast.

20161206_083130Dessert

  • Cranberry Pie (prepped and cooked the day before): I’m sure this is considered Thanksgiving blasphemy, but apple and pumpkin pie don’t really excite me. This cranberry pie is the only pie I crave annually. Last year I made it for myself the week after Thanksgiving just because I wanted it that much.  (The photo above is this beloved pie over Greek yogurt for breakfast, or, my dreams come true.)

Drinks

  • Cranberry Black Pepper Shrub (cooked many days before): Shrubs are excellent for non-alcoholic cocktails with just some sparkling water, or with sparking wine.
  • Four Roses (perfect, as is): Because, as Sam says, the day should end with a glass of whiskey.

20161125_104847If you need even more inspiration, this is my game plan from a couple years ago. And don’t forget to be creative with your leftovers! Above are mashes potato cakes, Brussels sprouts, and an egg.