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.

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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.

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).

 

 

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.

 

 

Quinoa Lentil Salad with Summer Veg and Tahini Dressing

20170809_154641I didn’t have a plan for dinner tonight. We already had pasta and sandwiches with chickpeas and tzatziki this week, and plans for pork with rice on Thursday. I wanted a different protein, so I pulled lentils from the pantry. The lentils reminded me of this salad, but I wanted it to be a meal in itself so I grabbed some quinoa. The fridge was stocked with cucumbers, kohlrabi, cilantro, scallions, and fresh onions from Potter Hill. I love the tahini dressing with the Smitten Kitchen lentil salad, so I just barely adapted it to fit what I had on hand (I only had one small lemon, so I used vinegar as well to have enough acid).

What resulted is a salad that could be easily adapted with the grain, protein, and vegetables you have on hand. What is most important to me is the pickled onions to brighten, and the creamy dressing to bring everything together.

Quinoa Lentil Salad with Summer Veg and Tahini Dressing

  • 1 cup green (Le Puy) lentils, rinsed
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 3 cups of water, divided
  • 1 small fresh onion, chopped (mine was the size of a large shallot and about 1/4 cup chopped)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 4 small or 2 medium cucumbers, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 medium kohlrabi, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves, chopped (about 1/4 cup chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon sumac (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds (optional)

Dressing

  • 2 teaspoons coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons well-stirred tahini
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the rinsed lentils, both halves of the garlic clove, bay leaf, and olive oil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for 25-30 minutes. Check halfway through and add a bit more water if necessary. The lentils should be soft, but not falling apart. Taste a few to ensure the batch is done. Drain, and allow to cool for a few minutes.

Put 1 cup of water in a small saucepan to boil. Add the quinoa and a pinch of salt, cover, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the top, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool for a few minutes.

In a small dry pan toast the cumin and coriander over medium heat for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and lightly toasted. Cool slightly, and grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.

Add the minced onion to a small bowl and toss with the one tablespoon of vinegar. Let sit for 10 minutes (or more if you have time).

Mince the garlic, and then use the 1/2 tablespoon of salt and the side of your knife to mash it into a paste (use your knife to scrape the garlic and salt against the cutting board repeatedly until a paste forms). In a jar add the ground spices, the garlic salt paste, and the rest of the dressing ingredients. Cap the jar and shake to combine.

In a large bowl toss the cooked lentils, cooked quinoa, chopped cucumber and kohlrabi, scallions, cilantro, and dressing.  Toss until everything is thoroughly mixed and coated in the dressing. Garnish with the sumac and sesame seeds (if using).

 

Buffalo Enchiladas

DSC02032This recipe is another challenge from “Will it Buffalo?”. I think we can safely say that enchiladas DO buffalo. Whole wheat tortillas, a couple pounds of vegetables, and beans make this into a meal you can enjoy much more often than wings (or that mac and cheese mentioned above…).

Vegetarian Buffalo Enchiladas

Serves 6.

The filling here (as with any enchiladas) is very flexible. You could use a mix of different vegetables (zucchini and cauliflower would be nice), and even throw in some chicken for a non-veg version. The pan I used in the photo is bigger than 9″ x 13″, so I snuck a couple extra along the side and cooked the others in a loaf pan. It made for an awkward split, which is why I recommend a 9″ x 13″ and 9″ x 9″ below.

  • 1 summer squash (mine was about 12 oz)
  • 2 small heads of broccoli (mine were 20 oz together)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15.5-oz can chickpeas, draining and rinsed
  • 1/2 a large red onion (about 1 cup chopped), plus a bit extra for garnish if you please
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup hot sauce (such as Frank’s)
  • 12 whole wheat tortillas
  • 6 oz shredded Monterrey jack cheese
  • 6 oz crumbled bleu cheese
  • 2 tablespoons minced parsley for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F. Chop the summer squash and broccoli into small pieces (about the size of a chickpea). Toss in the olive oil, garlic powder, and salt, then spread on two baking sheets. Roast for 15 minutes, then toss. Roast for 5-10 minutes more until they start to brown. Allow to cool slightly before putting in a large mixing bowl.

While the squash and broccoli are roasting, saute the red onion until soft in the remaining teaspoon of olive oil (about 10 minutes over medium heat). When the onion is done, add it to the same bowl as the broccoli and squash. Add the chickpeas as well and mix to combine.

Reduce oven heat to 350F.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and whisk to combine. Continue cooking for 5 minutes while whisking continually. Slowly add the stock and whisk to incorporate in between additions. When all the stock is added, cook for 5 minutes longer to thicken slightly (it should be able to coat the back of a spoon). Add the hot sauce and stir to combine. Taste, and add more hot sauce if you like.

Set up your enchilada rolling station with the tortillas, a large plate or pie dish the sauce coating the bottom, a cutting board, and a 9″ x 13″ pan plus a 9″ x 9″ pan. Spoon enough enchilada sauce onto both pans to coat the bottom. Dip the tortillas into the sauce so it coats both sides, then let the excess drip off. Place the tortilla on the cutting board, then put a heaping 1/2 cup of filling into the middle. Roll the tortilla up, and then place it along the short side of the baking dish. Continue until all the tortillas are filled.

Top the rolled enchiladas with any remaining buffalo sauce, then cover evenly with the Monterrey jack cheese and the bleu cheese. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese on top is completely melted. Garnish with minced red onion and parsley, plus a couple extra dashes of hot sauce, and serve.

 

Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

20170409_184906Will and I have a shared Google Doc called “Will it Buffalo?” It has three columns: To Buffalo, Have Buffaloed, and Did it Buffalo? Everything in “Have Buffaloed,” did indeed Buffalo, including wings, salad, pizza, and now this mac and cheese. Items in the “To Buffalo” column include lasagna, enchiladas, sandwich, pot pie, tacos, and veggie burgers (other suggestions welcome).

I should probably explore other vegetable and Buffalo pairings beyond just cauliflower, but it is a perfect neutral vehicle. My love of cauliflower in mac and cheese is not new either, and I just barely adapted the sauce from this cauliflower arugula bleu mac and cheese for this recipe. Considering the amount of cheese in this I don’t think it quite qualifies as healthy, but half a pound of pasta is stretched with a full head of cauliflower to make six satisfying servings. It definitely counts as a comfort food, but one that is slightly more redeeming than others.

Buffalo Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

Serves 6.

  • 8 ounces short pasta, like macaroni, fusilli, or penne
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 5 ounces of sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup cayenne pepper sauce (such as Frank’s)
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more for the cauliflower and pasta water
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 4 oz bleu cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 425F. Chop the cauliflower into small florets that mirror the size of your pasta. Toss in the oil and a sprinkle of salt, and then spread onto 2 baking sheets (so there is enough room for them to brown and not just steam). Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing and switching the pans once.

Put the water on for the pasta, and start your sauce by melting the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. When it is starting to bubble, add in the flour and whisk to combine. Continue whisking while the flour and butter cook for about 3 minutes, until it smells a little nutty. Slowly add in the milk, whisking in between additions (or while someone else pours, if you have an extra set of hands). When all the milk is added let it cook over medium heat (or slightly lower if it starts to bubble a lot) for 5 minutes. The sauce should be visibly thicker at this point. Add in the cheddar cheese and hot sauce and whisk to combine. Add in the salt and ground pepper and turn off the heat.

When your cooking water is boiling, salt it and add in the pasta. Cook until al dente, about 6 minutes, and drain. In the pasta pot combine the pasta, roasted cauliflower,  and the Buffalo cheese sauce and mix it all up.

Grease a 9″x13″ pan and add in the pasta and veg mixture. Top with the crumbled bleu cheese. Bake in your oven (still at 425F from roasting the cauliflower) for 15 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes then dive in.

I have also assembled the mac and cheese up to the point it is ready to be baked and then refrigerated it. In that case take it out of the fridge for about an hour and preheat your oven to 375F. Then bake for about 30 minutes until the bleu cheese is melted and it is heated through.

 

Simple Caesar Dressing

20161228_131003I’ve long been on the hunt for a simple, perfect Caesar dressing. My requirements are: easy to pull together and in-your-face flavor. Too many Caesar dressings are creamy, with maybe a bit of pepper to flavor and nothing else. While I’ve made a classic Caesar with raw egg (guided by Alton), it isn’t something you can make a batch of and leave in your fridge (though, it does make for impressive dinner party fare). In my Caesar search I made this vegan version from The First Mess, which is excellent and worth a try. The pine nut parm and roasted chickpeas are full of flavor and wonderful toppings. But all together they take a good amount of work, and involve ingredients I don’t have on hand all the time (in fact, the only reason I have nutritional yeast in my pantry is to make this recipe). Since I’m not vegan, I adopted this flavor profile to fit ingredients I more often have on hand. The result is a simple and intense dressing that you can double or triple easily.

The result is dominated by the flavor of garlic, so if you are sensitive then scale back to smaller or fewer cloves. But it’s worth giving a try at full power – you might be surprised. Instead of the usual romaine (which would still be delicious), I like a mix of kale and cabbage to make more of a slaw as done in The First Mess recipe linked above which is more nutritious than just lettuce and has the added benefit of not getting wilty and watery as leftovers. For a simple side salad you could add grated cheese, croutons, or try the pine nut parm and chickpeas. For a full meal the classic grilled chicken is an easy route, or you could try a vegetarian option. I topped mine with roasted cauliflower and these chickpea burgers for a break from heavier holiday fare.

Simple Caesar Dressing

This makes 3/4 of a cup, about enough for 4 meal salads or 6-8 side salads.

  • 1/4 cup full fat mayonaise
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, grated
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl or put them in a jar and shake it up. Either way: move them about until fully combined.

Making Vanilla Extract to Give to a Crowd

dsc01924Vanilla extract only has two ingredients: vanilla beans and vodka. Mix those together, give them some time to marry, and you have an incredibly potent elixir to bake with. If you’re going to go through the little trouble it takes to make extract, it is barely any more effort to make a big batch of it. Start that batch now, and you will have an excellent gift for friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors for the holidays. It fits into all kinds of diets, doesn’t go bad, and is one of those things that people don’t usually make so it seems more impressive than it is. To make a single batch you need a handle of vodka (nothing too fancy), about 25 vanilla beans, and some jars for gifting. The up front expense seems high (vanilla ain’t cheap), but it works out to about $5 a bottle (4 oz) for a homemade and actually useful gift. (I’ve seen nice vanilla extract go over $10 for 4 ounces.)

I follow the formula laid out here of 1 vanilla bean for every two ounces of vodka. This year I wanted to make a lot to give out, so I bought two 25 packs of beans, and two handles of vodka. The last few years I’ve used the US Kirkland Vodka from Costco, but any lower to mid-range vodka should work (not the worst, not the best). I use quart mason jars to make the measuring easy – just count fourteen beans for each jar, split them, put them in the jar, and then fill it up to the 28 oz line. A handle of vodka (750 mL) is just under 60 ounces, so that would fill two 28 oz mason and make about fourteen 4 oz bottles. This year I put fourteen beans in three quart jars and filled them, so I had about a half handle of vodka leftover from the two. I’ll use that to make a second batch with doubled-up used beans after Christmas that I can use myself. I have eight beans leftover that I’m saving for other cooking projects, as they are far cheaper bought in bulk like this.

dsc01927The shortest amount of time I’ve let them sit before gifting is five weeks, but longer is better. Order beans and vodka now, put them to steep, and by the holidays you will be all ready. How is that for lazy gift making? Past years I’ve bought twelve packs of Boston round bottles which are economical and just the right size, but I’ve found they leak a bit so I’m searching for a better sealed option.

I like to check up on them and give the bottles a shake every few weeks, but that is mostly just for fun and observing the process. The change in color is dramatic, especially after the first few days. I took these photos just two days after I started my jars and look at the difference already!

dsc01932

So many gifts and celebrations around the holidays focus on rich foods and sweets. I like giving something that can help create decadence later on, but does not need to be consumed on top of the already collected mountain of extravagance. Someone can tuck it away in a cabinet and maybe not use it for months without the quality or usefulness being compromised. Start a batch now, and you can take care of your giving list before Halloween!

Everyday Peanut Sauce

DSC01879Why aren’t we all making peanut sauce? Every day? To put on everything? These are big and important questions. Many a meal can be made from peanut sauce. It takes any combination of rice or noodles with vegetables and unites them into dinner. Or in this instance, takes a collection of vegetables and herbs from the garden/crisper, rolled up in rice paper skins, from a dry, protein lacking appetizer to a legitimate, hot weather dinner option (at least in these parts). This sauce is vegan, comes together quickly, freezes well, and can be easily adapted. It is mildly spicy on purpose, and I usually serve hot sauce alongside so people can increase heat at will. It is worth making a double or triple batch to stash in the freezer for dinner emergencies during heat waves.

Everyday Peanut Sauce

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen. This makes enough for 2 meals to each feed 4. I usually freeze half because frozen peanut sauce at the ready is money in the bank.

  • 1 teaspoon vegetable or peanut oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ginger
  • 1 15.5 oz can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 cup smooth natural peanut butter (though I have used chunky in a pinch and blended it at the end)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha or other Asian hot sauce (omit if spice adverse)
  • juice of one lime

Heat the oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute a minute or two, until they are just fragrant. Add the other ingredients except the lime juice and whisk to combine (it may take a couple minutes for the peanut butter to loosed up and integrate). Simmer for 10 minutes and remove from the heat. Add the lime juice and whisk to combine. If you like a really smooth sauce, put it in a blender or food processor for a minute.

Crostini with whipped feta and garlic collards

20160709_174408Collards get a bad rep. They are a vegetable that most consider married to one dish, and if that’s not a dish they cook, they don’t eat them. But I happen to know that collards are not married, or in a relationship of any kind. They are single as can be, and very experimental. Willing to partake in any meal of the day, and mix with a variety of ingredients.

This is my first year growing collards, and they’ve sprung up like weeds (even quicker than the kale!). If you want to make collards into a full meal, try them with peanut butter (really, it makes a quick peanut sauce!). Or make them into a salad (or try them in place of kale in any other salad). Or this cobbler I just discovered and will have to try soon. I’ve made this crostini for a couple parties recently, which is easy to transport, quick to assemble, and just another way to eat whipped feta. The leftovers have been enjoyed with scrambled eggs for breakfast.

See – collards are great! And versatile. Grow them, eat them, love them. People eating this appetizer won’t even realize they’re collards with all their predetermined baggage, and will fall in love with them too. Which is okay, because collards play the field.

Crostini with whipped feta and garlic collards

  • 1/2 lb collard greens (or 1 large bunch)
  • 3 tablespoons plus 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili flakes
  • 6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 baguette or loaf of another crusty bread

Remove the stems from the collards and chop the leaves into bite sized pieces.

Put the feta and cream cheese in a bowl of a food processor. Turn on the blade for a few seconds to combine, then pour in the 1/3 cup of olive oil. Process until smooth and uniformly combined.

In a large saute pan that has a cover, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the whole, peeled garlic clove and allow it to brown slightly in the oil, flipping a few times so it doesn’t burn. When it is golden, remove the garlic clove and add the collards. Cover, and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove the cover, toss the greens, add the red pepper flakes, and continue to cook for a few minutes more uncovered until the extra liquid has evaporated.

When read to serve, slice the bread and toast under a broiler or on a grill. Slather with whipped feta, and top with the greens.

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto - Vegetal MattersIt’s a good thing my sausage order didn’t come in this week. I planned on making this orecchiette with sausage and pesto, or maybe my eternal favorite, orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe. Without good sausage, neither seemed appealing, so instead I turned to the half a cauliflower in the fridge. Pesto still seemed like a good idea, but I used the perfectly serviceable greens already in the house (kale and parsley) in place of basil.

What resulted was the fastest dinner I’ve made all week (exactly 45 minutes). Pasta with nicely charred cauliflower and pesto that hits all the right notes of salt, grassy herbs, and richness from the pine nuts and olive oil. I keep pine nuts in my freezer for when pesto cravings strike (and to make this salad topping – so good!), and throw them straight from there into the food processor.

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto - Vegetal MattersPasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto

Serves 6. Inspired by Two Red Bowls, pesto recipe adapted from The Art of Simple Food.

  • ½ a large cauliflower, or 1 whole smaller one (I used half a giant one, that clocked in at 26 oz worth after the stem was removed)
  • 1 lb pasta (I used orecchiette, because it was either that or lasagna noodles from the pantry. Another short pasta like penne, zitti, or fusilli would be great.)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 tablespoon parsley (or more if you want)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon (divided)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the cauliflower into small florets about the size of your pasta. Toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper, and spread out on 2 baking sheets. This may seem like one extra pan to clean (and it is), but it is needed for truly crisped and not just steamed cauliflower. Roast the cauliflower for 10 minutes, and then toss it. If your pieces are very small check again after 5 minutes. Mine were about an inch long and done after 10 more minutes.

When you put the cauliflower in the over, put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

While your water is coming up to temp, make your pesto. Using a food processor start the blade running and drop in the garlic. When you stop hearing it bounce around it will be fully chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the salt, kale, parsley, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. Pulse until they are uniformly combined, then run the machine and stream in the olive oil. Taste and adjust if needed.

When your water boils add the pasta and cook according to the directions for your particular shape (or, set the timer for 7 minutes and taste every minute after for done-ness). Before draining the pasta reserve a small cup-full of the water. Drain, then return the pasta to the pot. Add in the roasted cauliflower, pesto, and two tablespoons of the cooking water. Stir to combine, and if it seems a little dry add another tablespoon of water.

Serve with a bit of extra parm grated on top and a sprinkle of parsley.

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema - Vegetal MattersWhen I first began cooking in earnest, I watched a lot of the Food Network. Recipes cooked and loved were printed out, inserted into plastic sleeves (so cooking splatters were easily removed), and organized in a binder. Within a few years I shifted more heavily and then completely to blog and cookbook content, and started saving most recipes on Pinterest.

Unable to completely let go of that stage in my cooking education, the binder has moved five times with me in the last five years and still holds some recipe gems. This black bean soup was an early addition, but my cooking style has changed enough that the method and ingredients needed an update. This version requires a little more time because it uses dried beans, but is even more economical and tastier because of them. The chipotles make for a smokey undercurrent in this rich tasting but humble soup.

Chipotle Black Bean Soup with Lime Crema

Serves 6. Adapted from David Lieberman and Joy the Baker.

  • 1 lb black beans, soaked overnight and drained
  • ½ lb bacon, diced
  • 1 large onion, diced (about 2½ cups)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 quart of stock, such as vegetable or chicken
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 28-oz can diced or crushed tomatoes
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1-2 chipotles en adobo, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • juice from ½ a lime
  • ½ cup sour cream

Put your bacon in a large pot over medium heat. Cook 5-10 minutes, until the fat has rendered out and the bits are starting to crisp. Drain out all but a tablespoon of the fat (save it for cooking!!), and add in the onion and garlic. Saute for 5 minutes or until the onion becomes translucent. Add in the beans, bay leaf, stock, and water, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes check your beans – they should be close to done. If they still have some crunch let them cook for another few minutes. When they are tender add the canned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, chipotles en adobo (1 makes for a nice smoky flavor, 2 for heat), and salt. Stir to combine and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

You can serve the soup as is, partially pureed, or entirely pureed (use a potato masher, stick blender, or spoon part/all of the soup into an upright blender). I go in the middle, so the soup is thickened a bit but there are still whole beans and tomato.

Stir the sour cream and lime together until uniformly combined.

Serve with extra chipotle en adobo or hot sauce, crema, and any crumbs from the bottom of the bag of tortilla chips.