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.

Mustard Potato Salad with Pickled Garlic Scapes

Mustard Potato Salad with Pickled Garlic Scapes - Vegetal MattersI spent years being afraid of potato salad. It wasn’t until my mom came across a recipe that used mustard instead of mayonaise (probably from Gourmet or Bon Appetit) that my tides turned. (I’m not anti-mayo at all, but it always seems to overtake the potatoes.) Since then I’ve added a few standbys to my repertoire, including this potato salad fra diavolo from Rachel Ray and spring salad with new potatoes from Smitten Kitchen. I’ve always followed those recipes pretty closely, but recently have embraced potato salad as something I can just play around with and adapt to the season and my fridge.

This is a basic version, and the only non-pantry item is the herb. I used dill because I had some to use, but chives/scallions, parsley, or basil would all work. This may seem like a lot of dressing, but it gets quickly sucked up by the hot potatoes. What made this version extra special was the pickled garlic scapes my sister made, but any pickle would work (or even olives or capers!). If I was bringing this to a party I would double or triple it, but this amount was perfect for casual weekend lunches.

Mustard Potato Salad with Pickled Garlic Scapes

Serves 4.

  • 1 lb red skinned potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup chopped savory pickles (not bread and butter pickles)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons pickle brine (from those same pickles you’re adding in)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dill

Prep a small bowl with ice and water.

Wash the potatoes and chop them into ½ inch pieces. Cover them with cold water, and bring to a boil. When they have reached a boil, set a timer for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes are up add the eggs to the water with the potatoes, and cook for another 10 minutes. Check the potatoes for done-ness with a fork (it should easily slide through) and drain the whole pot. Place the eggs in the ice water.

While the potatoes are cooking whisk the mustards, olive oil, pickle brine, salt, and pepper in the bottom of a large bowl.  After the potatoes have drained and cooled slightly, add them to the bowl with the dressing and toss to coat.

Peel the eggs and dice them. Add the eggs, chopped pickles, and chopped herbs to the potatoes and toss again to combine. Taste and adjust as needed.

Dad’s Chili

Dad's Chili - Vegetal MattersI’ve been honing this recipe for a few years and it is finally at the point where I can call it my ideal chili. The meatiness you expect from chili is balanced with beans, mostly because I love them so much, but also to make it healthier and more economical. (And when you’re using less meat, you can buy the really good stuff.) I realize to some of you the addition of beans disqualifies this as a chili, but I grew up in the Northeast where we put beans in our chili (if we want to) and still call it chili, and sugar in our cornbread.

There are multiple heat sources to provide a present but not overwhelming spiciness, and the perfect richness from tomatoes and tomato paste. I’ve made this including everything I could possibly want to be in chili, but that does make for a long ingredient list and some things could certainly stand to be substituted or left out (see head note).

Besides a life long love of chili (especially after ski days), I needed to get this in writing because my Dad asked me to teach him how to cook it. We are just about at the point of independence, and this posting should be a nudge to go forth on your own. It’s his favorite chili too, and hopefully will be yours.

Dad’s Chili

Serves 8. Adapted from Rachael Ray.

This is a flexible recipe. Use any combination of beef, pork/sausage, chicken, or turkey. Or leave them out entirely and double the beans. A bell pepper will do if poblano are not available; red, white, or yellow onion; any combination of black, pinto and kidney beans. If the chipotles were replaced with fresh jalapenos, or the tomato paste or Worcestershire was left out, the world would not end.

  • 1/2 lb  ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground pork or sausage
  • 2 poblano peppers (or 1 bell pepper)
  • 1 onion (about 1.5 cups)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1.5 teaspoons cumin
  • 1.5 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 chipotles en adobo
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 28 oz crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cup milder beer, such as an amber, wheat, or brown ale (Dos Equis works nicely)
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 1.5 cups cooked black beans (1 15.5- oz can)
  • 1.5 cups cooked kidney beans (1 15.5- oz can)

For serving:

  • sweetened cornbread or tortilla chips
  • shredded cheese
  • chopped onion
  • sour cream or yogurt

Dice the onion and poblano. Mince the garlic cloves and chipotle en adobo (but keep them separate).

Heat a large pot over medium high and brown the beef and pork while breaking it up with a spoon. When the meat has turned from pink to brown and there are perhaps a few bits sticking to the pot, add in the onion and poblano. Stir to combine, and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onion is becoming translucent and the peppers are softening.

Add the garlic, cumin, and chili powder and stir to combine. When you can smell the garlic, add in the chipotle en adobo, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and salt. Stir to combine again, and saute for a couple minutes.

Add the beer, and cook for another minute. Add the crushed tomatoes, and then clean out the cans by pouring the beef stock into them, swishing it around, and then pouring the stock into the pot. Add in the beans. Stir to combine everything, and cover. When it starts to bubble, turn the heat to medium low, and simmer uncovered for 1 hour. When the consistency is where you like it (I go for a thicker chili), taste for seasoning and adjust.

Serve with sweetened cornbread or tortilla chips, shredded cheese, chopped onion, and sour cream or yogurt.

 

Cauliflower Arugula Bleu Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese was my gateway to loving cauliflower. Growing up I only experienced it as a raw vegetable left sad and lonely as the last thing eaten on a crudités platter. But in my quest to revisit vegetables I dismissed in my youth I made Jamie Oliver’s Macaroni and Cauliflower Cheese Bake and never turned back. It’s no revelation that any vegetable in mac and cheese is lovable, but cauliflower is especially so. Will had been flipping through How To Cook Everything: The Basics and bookmarked the Cauliflower Gratin with Bleu Cheese, which intrigued me but I didn’t have other elements to make it into a meal.  The Jamie Oliver recipe is delicious, but creme fraiche is more expensive and not an ingredient I always have lying around. Marisa from Food in Jars posted a more basic veg mac and cheese last month that inspired me to work on my own basic mac recipe that I can adapt to whatever is in season or in my fridge.

My version has some different steps, including roasting the cauliflower (but if in a rush you could cook it with the pasta like Marisa does). Arugula is not a green I usually have around, and I might have otherwise used kale, chard, or spinach. There was a bit of cheddar sauce leftover from last week’s baked potatoes, and since the new sauce I’m making was essentially the same thing and I didn’t want to let it languish in the fridge I just added it on in. I think with this basic cheese sauce recipe I could make mac and cheese out of just about anything now.

Cauliflower Arugula Bleu Mac and Cheese

Adapted from Food in Jars. Serves 6.

  • 8 ounces short pasta, like fusilli or penne
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 4 oz bleu cheese, crumbled (or 8 ounces of a less intense cheese)
  • 2.5 ounces arugula or another green
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more for the cauliflower and pasta water
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (optional)
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese (optional)

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 bleu cheese 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. Reserve ½ a cup of cooking water before draining the pasta. Then return the pasta to the pot, add in the roasted cauliflower, the arugula, and the blue cheese sauce and mix it all up. You can stop here and enjoy a stove top mac and cheese with a nice creamy sauce.

To bake, grease a 9″x13″ pan and add in the pasta and veg mixture. Top with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Bake in your oven (still at 425F from roasting the cauliflower) for 15 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes then dive in.

 

Buffalo Cauliflower Pizza with Bleu Cheese and Kale

Buffalo Cauliflower Pizza - Vegetal MattersThe beginning of my love for vegetarian delicacies in buffalo sauce can be tracked to these Thug Kitchen buffalo falafel. They opened up my world of buffalo things so far beyond wings. Those falafel were essentially deconstructed to make this recipe for buffalo cauliflower salad (which would also be excellent with the falafel on top if you’re willing to do a bit more work). From there the logical next step is obviously pizza.

We were grocery shopping with a vague plan for dinner and Will had the genius idea for this pizza. The first try I put too much butter in the sauce, which made for a soggier pizza but the flavor was everything we hoped for. This version hits all the right notes, with a spicy (less runny) sauce, creamy cheeses, enough vegetables to make this an acceptable adult dinner, and a fresh bite of onion at the end.

Buffalo Cauliflower Pizza with Bleu Cheese and Kale

Serves 6

  • 1  recipe for pizza dough (this recipe makes about 1.5 sheet pans worth of pizza, if your dough recipe makes less then you will have some extra toppings…use them on a salad or in a sandwich!)
  • 1 head of cauliflower (about 2.5 pounds once the leaves and stem are removed)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter (half a stick)
  • ½ cup cayenne pepper hot sauce (such as Frank’s)
  • 10 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 1.5 ounces chopped kale (from about 3 leaves)
  • 2 minced scallions

Preheat the oven to 425F. Slice the cauliflower in half and cut out the core. Cut the head into 1 inch pieces (bite-sized). Toss the cauliflower in the olive oil and a few pinches of salt, and spread evenly on 1 or 2 baking sheets (you want space between the pieces so they brown). Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing once, until the cauliflower is soft all the way through and has some charred spots. When the cauliflower comes out of the oven crank up the heat to 500F.

Melt the butter, add the hot sauce, and stir to combine. Spread your pizza dough out on 2 baking sheets (the recipe linked to makes for a very moist dough that I find easiest to spread on a silicone baking mat).

Put the cauliflower in a bowl and pour ¼ cup of the hot sauce and butter mixture over it. Toss the cauliflower to coat. Spread the remaining hot sauce mixture evenly over the doughs. Then evenly distribute the rest of the items in this order: kale, cauliflower, bleu cheese crumbles, and shredded mozzarella.

Bake for 10 minutes, or until the bottom pulls away from the pan and the cheese is bubbling vigorously. Let cool for a couple minutes, then sprinkle the scallions on top and serve.

French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup - Vegetal MattersMy most recent recipe in the Grafton News is French onion soup. I originally wrote the recipe 5 years and a whole blog ago, but wanted to retest it, write clearer instructions, and take a new photo. I’m living clear across the country and have lived in four apartments since that one, but I’m still using that same chef’s knife. I’m also still greatly in favor of such a simple soup with a crispy, cheesy topper. It would be an excellent one to try out over a long weekend.

Rainbow slaw with beets, carrots, and radishes

Rainbow SlawThis recipe for a rainbow slaw is in the most recent issue of The Grafton News. It is based off of a recipe in Jerusalem that I’ve simplified. It really holds up well over a few days, and the cold water soak makes for supremely crunchy vegetables. The mild weather does not have me rushing to cook lots of soups and braised things, plus I always crave some vegetables to balance the Christmas cookies so there have been quite a few salads like this in my kitchen recently. The roots for this recipe came from my favorite nearby farm, so there is still local produce to be found!

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree

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

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal Matters

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal Matters

Simple Cranberry Sauce and Pumpkin Puree - Vegetal Matters

 

 

Scrambled eggs with kale on toast with whipped feta

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

Scrambled eggs with kale on toast with whipped feta

Serves 2, scales easily.

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

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

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

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

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

Kale salad with apples, dried cranberries, and pecans

Kale salad with apples, dried cranberries, and pecans - Vegetal MattersIf we’ve never met, I think I can sum myself up pretty well with this statement: I’m the one who brings a salad to a party. I’m certainly not anti-dessert (hooray for cider doughnut season!!!), but so often everyone else offers to bring an appetizer or something sweet and there are no vegetables to balance it all out. Kale salad keeps incredibly well, and is in fact better if made ahead so the dressing breaks down the kale a bit. The particulars are not so important here, I really like the apples but a roasted veg like butternut or beets works as well (or could be in addition to the apple), any dried fruit, and whatever nuts you have around. I wanted to make sure there was a diary free offering for our work potluck, but at home I would definitely add crumbled goat cheese on top.

Kale salad with apples, dried cranberries, and pecans

Serves 4 for lunch sized salads, 8 or more for party sized servings

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon smooth Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey

Salad

  • 10 oz kale (1 large bunch or about 6 cups), stems removed and chopped. I used a mix of Red Russian and curly green.
  • 1 apple, chopped right before serving
  • ½ cup toasted pecans, chopped
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup crumbled goat cheese (optional)

Put all the dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Taste and adjust to your liking. A few hours before serving, toss the kale in the dressing. To really get the dressing in the curly bits use clean hands to do the tossing and massage the dressing into the leaves. To serve, top with the pieces of apple, pecans, dried cranberries, and goat cheese (if using).

Barbecue chicken salad with tomatoes, peaches, and goat cheese ranch dressing.

Barbecue Chicken Salad with Tomato, Peaches, and Goat Cheese Ranch Dressing - Vegetal Matters Christmas creep is by far the worst example, but I think the problem has gone way beyond just one holiday. It is more like seasonal creep now. It happens with businesses, beers, and food bloggers. The infamous hot pumpkin coffee beverage starts making its appearance at the end of August.  I went to a grocery store and a craft store labor day weekend and was bombarded with pumpkin beer and Halloween decor. And this doesn’t just happen this time of year. Sam Summer goes out on shelves in March. Recipes for asparagus and strawberries pop up everywhere in March and April, even though their seasons aren’t really in full swing until June. Tomato dishes are everywhere in July, but their peak season is August and September (and it even goes into October).

There is a push for always preparing for what is ahead, instead of enjoying what is here. A need to experience all the quintessential things that are supposed to happen in a season, instead of the reality. It is about to be October. I live in Massachusetts, and on Monday I went to the farm where I buy my produce and selected from summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, radishes, winter squashes, potatoes, kale, chard, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, leeks, onions and herbs. It is that wonderful time of seasonal transition, when both summer and winter crops are coming in. I still love my share of fall crops (though pumpkin does not get me nearly as twitterpated as everyone else), but my true favorites come from summer. The beauty in many fall and winter crops is they last a long time if stored properly. So I have many months to get in my butternut squash soup and beet salads, but in the meantime I’m going to ingest all the nightshades and stone fruit I can manage.

Last week I made barbecue chicken, but wanted a lighter meal for the leftovers. A few peaches from peach week were still in the fridge, and since I’ve already put peaches and tomatoes together, and peaches and chicken together, putting peaches, tomatoes, and chicken in one dish wasn’t much of a stretch.

Barbecue Chicken Salad with Tomatoes, Peaches, and Goat Cheese Ranch Dressing

Serves 4.

This is easily scale-able. If you don’t eat chicken, chickpeas or cauliflower (a la buffalo cauliflower salad) would make an excellent substitution.

Salad

  • 2 chicken breasts with barbecue sauce (see note for substitutions), chopped
  • 12ish cups lettuce (I used a mix of lettuce and cabbage), enough to fill 4 dinner plates, from about 1/2 a head of cabbage and a small head of lettuce
  • 2 medium tomatoes (or a few handfuls cherry tomatoes)
  • 2 peaches

Dressing

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons minced shallots or red onion
  • ¼ cup goat cheese
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ fresh ground pepper
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley

If you have a food processor, set it up with the S blade (or use a blender). Turn it on and drop the garlic in from the top, processing until you don’t hear any more bits bouncing around. Add in the shallot, and process for 30 seconds. Add the goat cheese, buttermilk, salt, and pepper in and process until smooth. Without a food processor, whisk the garlic, shallot, goat cheese, buttermilk, salt, and pepper together. Then whisk in the parsley (don’t add the parsley into the food processor unless you want a very green dressing). Allow the dressing to sit in the fridge for at least 20 minutes, or longer if you can.

Chop peaches and tomato into ½ inch pieces. Divide lettuce onto plates, then top each plate with a quarter of the tomatoes, peaches, and barbecue chicken (I like to warm it slightly). Serve with goat cheese ranch.

 

 

Zucchini Carbonara

Zucchini Carbonara - Vegetal MattersJamie at Home has been on my cookbook shelf for close to five years now. It moved to Seattle and back, and has survived multiple collection cullings. I can’t say I like the cover much, but it does have a nice feel to it both in texture and heft. As it should be with any book, the real joy is inside. The photography is incredible, with so many garden and produce beauty shots in addition to the recipe photos. The book is arranged by season, and within each season section are chapters on specific fruit, veg, or meats available during that time (so the spring section is asparagus, eggs, lamb, and rhubarb). At the end of each chapter there are tips for growing the produce or acquiring the meat sustainably. I like that there are whole chapters focusing on humble ingredients like lettuce or onions. So many of the recipes I’ve made from this have become yearly staples, like the sweet cherry tomato and sausage bake and steak, Guinness, and cheese pie, both recipes that create almost unbelievable flavor out of very simple ingredients.

Zucchini Carbonara - Vegetal Matters

The zucchini chapter has three recipes in it, and I’m sure the others are very nice but I have’t gotten around to making them since I just repeat the zucchini carbonara. Yes, bacon, egg, and cheese with pasta is a bit indulgent, but there is also a lot of squash piled in there as well. Oliver’s directions are usually a bit vague (a handful of this, pinch of that), but every time I make it I think this recipe needs a little more guidance. Maybe my personal zucchini scale is off, but if I used the 6 medium he calls for I would have ended up using almost 5 pounds worth. And while 12 slices of pancetta would probably be appropriate, 12 slices of regular American (streaky) bacon was going to be about a full pound for me, which was just too indulgent. What follows is still a lush recipe (it is cabonara after all, and if it’s not rich you’re not doing it right), with just the right balance of herbs and veg in a creamy sauce. I hope there are still zucchini and summer squash around you, they are on their way out in MA but I’ve still seen some around this past week.

Zucchini and Summer Squash Carbonara

Adapted from Jamie Oliver

  • 2 pounds mixed summer squash like zucchini, yellow summer squash, and pattypan
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • ½ pound of bacon
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper

Fill a large pot with water and set to boil. Whisk the cream with the 2 eggs and shredded parmesan, season with salt and pepper, and set aside. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs.

Slice the bacon into ¼ pieces and put in a very large pan over medium heat. While the bacon starts to render chop the squash into quarters lengthwise and then into ¼ slices. When the bacon is almost to your crispness liking, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon (it will keep cooking a bit more). Drain all but a tablespoon of fat from the pan, reserving the rest in a bowl separate from the bacon. Turn the heat up to medium-high, and add enough sliced zucchini to cover the bottom of the pan, but don’t crowd them. Season with salt and pepper and allow the squash to cook for about 7 minutes total, allowing them to start browning. When that batch is done remove the squash from the pan into a bowl, return the pan to the heat, add another tablespoon of bacon fat, squash to fill the pan, salt, and pepper, and cook until they start to brown. Repeat until all the squash is cooked.

When the pasta water boils, salt it liberally and then add the pasta. I start checking for doneness around 7 minutes by tasting for al dente. Reserve a ladle-full of the pasta cooking water and then drain.

When the last batch of squash is finished, turn off the heat and add the rest of the cooked squash back to the pan along with the bacon and thyme leaves.  Add the pasta to the pan as well and stir everything to combine. Add about a ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and your egg-cream-cheese mixture to the pan. Toss everything to coat in the sauce. It is really important to do this off the heat once the squash has cooked for a minute, so you don’t end up with scrambled egg sauce (though it’s really not the end of the world if you do, just not the prettiest sauce). If you like the sauce a little looser, add more of the reserved pasta water. Taste and add more salt and pepper if you like.

 

Whole Wheat Raspberry Yogurt Pancakes

Whole Wheat Raspberry Yogurt Pancakes - Vegetal MattersThis is the basic pancake recipe I play off of all the time. The original recipe called for sour cream instead of yogurt, but that makes for a very thick pancake and I find I have extra yogurt in the fridge to use up far more often than sour cream. I also made the switch to 100% wheat flour, which doesn’t affect the tenderness at all (and makes me feel just slightly better about eating pancakes for breakfast on a weekday). As mentioned in the head note I’ve tried many fruits throughout the seasons, but last week after a spontaneous raspberry picking adventure I dotted the pancakes with them and was so pleased with the result. The raspberries cook very quickly, and become tiny pockets of intense, jammy, fruitiness. I will admit a slight bias as raspberries are one of my favorite fruits, but these pancakes are quick to put together and an adaptable staple for the whole year.

Whole Wheat Raspberry Yogurt Pancakes - Vegetal Matters

Whole Wheat Raspberry Yogurt Pancakes

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Serves 2.

The recipe this is adapted from uses a very thinly sliced peach, and many other fruits can be used. Blueberries, cut up strawberries, and grated apple have been used with great success. The pancakes can be doubled or tripled. If you do that, set your oven to 200F and pop the finished pancakes on a baking sheet as you cook them to keep warm while you cook the rest.

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup plain full-fat yogurt
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons (25 grams) sugar
  • ¾ cup (93 grams) whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Butter for the pan
  • 1 cup of raspberries
  • Maple syrup and additional raspberries for serving

Whisk the egg, yogurt, vanilla and sugar together in a large bowl. In a different bowl whisk the whole wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just combined. Heat a skillet to medium heat and melt some butter. Dollop the batter to make 3″-4″ blobs in the skillet (make sure to space them apart because they will expand). Dot the top of each pancake with raspberries (I try to ensure I will get one in every bite). Cook for about 4 minutes, until the edges start to solidify (check with your spatula) and a a few bubbles start to come through the top (this is a thick batter, so there won’t be a ton of bubbles). Flip and finish cooking for another 4 minutes, until the bottom is golden.