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.

 

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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.

Roasted Corn, Zucchini, and Black Bean Enchiladas

Corn, Zucchini, and Black Bean Enchiladas - Vegetal Matters

The first time I saw this enchiladas recipe was one of those food revelations where you understand something only previously found processed on a shelf could be easily made (and I haven’t bought enchilada sauce since). It was also a revelation to make them without meat, because with dishes like this I’m really in it for the saucy tortillas and beans, so meat always seemed like an afterthought. They also adapt nicely with seasonal vegetables. I’ve used sweet potatoes, winter squash, and even kale. To feed more this could be served with rice and a salad (but they are plenty a meal on their own). It would add an extra step, but if slight onion crunch bothers you then saute the onions before adding to the mix (or just use the scallions).

Corn, Zucchini, and Black Bean Enchiladas - Vegetal Matters

Enchilada Sauce

Adapted from The Faux Martha

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 jalapeño, stem removed (omit for mild sauce)
  • 1 cup of chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • ½ teaspoon fresh thyme (or ¼ teaspoon dried)
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro (fine to leave the stems on)
  • 4 cups of tomato sauce (from 5 large tomatoes deseeded and pureed, a 28 oz can of whole tomatoes pureed, or just straight sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • ¼ cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Start running a food processor and then drop in the garlic. Keep it going until you don’t hear any more garlic bouncing around, then drop in the jalapeño and run until the bouncing stops again. Add the onion, chili powder, cumin, oregano, thyme, and cilantro to the food processor bowl. Pulse a few times so all items are mixed and chopped. Add in the tomato sauce, sour cream, salt, and pepper, and process for a minute so all ingredients are fully integrated.

Without a food processor, finely mince the garlic, jalapeño, onion, and herbs, and whisk with the rest of the items.

Move the contents into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let the sauce reduce, uncovered for at least 10 minutes ( I usually let it bubble away while I get everything else ready).

Roasted Corn, Zucchini, and Black Bean Enchiladas

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen. Serves 4.

  • 2 ears of corn
  • 5 cups of chopped summer squash and zucchini (mine was from 2 small summer squash and a zucchini totaling 24 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • ½ cup finely chopped onion or scallion
  • 2 cups black beans (or 1 15 oz can)
  • 10 10″ flour tortillas
  • 1 recipe for enchilada sauce (above), or about 5 cups
  • 6 ounces (about 1.5 cups) shredded monteray or pepperjack cheese

For serving

  • Chopped cilantro, scallions, jalapeño, sour cream

Preheat the oven to 425F. Toss the summer squashes with oil, salt, and pepper and spread on a baking sheet. Place the ears of corn (still in their husk) on another baking sheet. Put both in the oven for 20 minutes. The squashes should be a bit charred on the edges when done. Let cool for a few minutes. Turn the oven down to 375F.

In the meantime put the onion and black beans (rinsed first if they were canned) in a large bowl. When you can handle the corn remove the husk and silk (which all comes right off with this method!!) and cut the kernels off the cob. I find this is easiest to do with the fewest lost kernels if you lay the cob flat on a cutting board and cut down each side lengthwise. Add the corn and squashes to the bowl with the beans and onion and toss to combine.

To assemble spoon enough enchilada sauce on the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ pan to coat it. Put another ladle-full of sauce on a plate or pie plate that is bigger than your tortillas and spread to cover. Place a tortilla on the plate in the sauce to coat one side and then flip. If you’re using the sauce above it will be thicker than canned stuff, so I put another spoonful on the top of the tortilla and spread it around. Add a ½ cup of the filling to the middle and roll it up. Place in the 9″ x 13″ dish and repeat with the rest of the tortillas (mine didn’t quite fit so the last 2 went into a loaf pan). Spoon the remainder of the sauce over the enchiladas and evenly coat with a layer of cheese.

Cook in the oven for 20 minutes so that the cheese is nice and melty and the enchiladas are heated through. Serve with chopped cilantro, scallions, jalapeño, and sour cream.

French Pressing

French Press Method - Vegetal MattersEntering into a relationship inevitably leads to the melding of habits. Will and my morning routine’s both started with coffee, but the methods differed. I used my roommate’s coffee maker and made a strong brew every morning. Will made a weaker brew in his French press, with water boiled in a kettle right in his bedroom. Our processes slowly merged as we picked the best practices of each other’s methods. We switched to using a French press exclusively, but brewing with twice the amount of grounds.

Then we added a burr grinder to the process, which does add a few minutes in the morning but makes a huge difference (and is also the main reason we switch off coffee making duties daily). Someday we’ll spring for an automatic one, but this one works well and is very portable (best camping coffee ever).

Earlier this summer we visited Rochester, NY, and one of our must stops was Joe Bean, which Will claimed to be the best coffee shop he’s ever been to, but I think he undersold it a bit. The atmosphere is a cross between a food lab and a bar that you want to hang out in every day, starting in the morning for coffee and through the night for beer or wine. It is not a place you go for a fast cup. You talk to the baristas about what you like, what their current roasts are, and the brewing method that will best bring out your favorite flavors. On our first visit we had a Chemex, which made for an amazingly floral cup (a flavor I didn’t even know coffee could have). On our second visit we went a little wilder, and ordered a siphon, which was so fun to watch them make and equally complex. These were obviously THE people to ask about coffee, and since we couldn’t come back for a third visit I inquired about their French press brewing method. While the man I talked to said it was not his favorite brew method, he said he fills the press to the top, lets the coffee sit for a minute, gives it a big stir, and then puts the top on to finish brewing.

Before this we had been just barely wetting the grounds, letting them sit for a few seconds, and then pouring the rest of the water and letting it brew for four minutes. This little change made for an even bolder cup with the same amount of grounds, and finally solidified my status as the superior coffee maker in the couple (for now at least). It may seem like a minor difference, but the taste difference is surprisingly noticeable. Below is our full brewing method right now. The real aficionados weigh their grounds and water, and measure water temperature, but we’re not at that level yet.  This produces a consistent enough cup for our liking.

French Press for Two (or one very caffeinated person)

Yields 3 standard size mugs of coffee

Set 1 liter of water to boil. Measure out 6 tablespoons of coffee beans into the burr grinder and grind away on coarse. Put the grounds in the French press. After the water boils, let it cool for a minute so it is no longer bubbling. Fill the French press until an inch from the top, and set a timer for 1 minute. At the one minute mark vigorously stir the grounds and water. Place the top on the press and set a timer for 3 minutes. After 3 minutes press the coffee, and serve how you please (in our house: just a splash of milk, no sugar).

Green Scrambled Eggs with Mustard Toast

Green Eggs with Mustard Toast - Vegetal MattersThis breakfast was born out of another Sunday morning toast session at BirchTree. It is the kind of place you want to linger, so I brought a cookbook to flip through. In Bowl + Spoon, Sara has a recipe for barely creamed greens with eggs and mustard breadcrumbs, as well as a popeye protein bowl that involved scrambled egg whites, zucchini, spinach, black beans, and avocado.

Both of these recipes were combined and then adapted to fit my whims and kitchen contents. We left BirchTree with a loaf of bread for toast, and in one of my farmer’s market raids the week before I bought zucchini, kale, and eggs. This takes less than 10 minutes of effort to pull together, but is as healthful, hearty, and seasonal as a breakfast can get. And so good it bears repeating…4 days in a row. The mustard here is just meant to be a slight background brightness, not an overwhelming flavor (like a tiny smear in the best grilled cheese).

Green Scrambled Eggs with Mustard Toast

Small breakfast for 2 or hearty for 1

  • 1 cup of zucchini that has been quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • ½ cup of chopped kale or other hearty green
  • 2 teaspoons of oil or butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of milk (or a splash if you are more like me in the morning)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tablespoons shredded cheddar, or another cheese, or no cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (whole grain is extra fun)
  • 2 pieces bread

Put the bread in the toaster to your liking. Heat a small sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the sliced zucchini, and cook without disturbing for 3 minutes. Stir, and cook another 2 minutes. It should take on slight color, but not really brown.

While the zucchini is cooking crack both eggs in a bowl, add milk, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Add the kale to the zucchini and stir. After a minute it should be just wilted and shiny. Lower the heat to medium low. Add the beaten eggs to the pan and stir. Stir every minute for 2-3 more, until the eggs are scrambled to your liking (I go until they are just cooked through but still very soft. Turn off the heat, add the cheese, and stir to combine.

Spread the mustard on the toast (you can do butter first if it’s a special morning), and serve with the egg scramble.

Collards with Peanut Butter

Collards with Peanut Butter - Vegetal MattersIf you ever want to push yourself out of your cooking comfort zone, try signing up for a CSA (community supported agriculture) share. Yes, they are an up front commitment, but in the ones I’ve participated in, the produce quality and variety has been unparalleled. It can be a confusing concept, mostly because there is no one set way that a farm runs their CSA. The basic parts are that you pay an amount up front, and then receive a quantity of produce weekly based on the size share you choose (a full share often serves a family of four for a week, but again, they vary). Some farms deliver or you pick up a box of produce each week, and you get what you get. Some have a point system, where you get a certain number of points to spend each week and each vegetable or bunch is assigned a value. Plus the CSA model now has branched out far beyond just vegetables. I’ve heard of meat, fish, bread, pie, and even ice cream CSAs.

The up front cost can be significant ( several hundred dollars), but if that isn’t in the cards for you there are other options. I participated in a workshare CSA, where in exchange for my weekly share I worked a full day on the farm. Some also have payment plans or accept SNAP benefits.

No matter what level of choice you have in your CSA, there is a high likelihood that you will end up taking home a vegetable you’ve never cooked with (and how fun!!!!!). Obviously the internet is an endless source of recipes, but I still love having cookbooks around from trusted sources that I can turn to when confronted with a mystery vegetable. Chez Panisse Vegetables, Vegetable Literacy, and How to Cook Everything are all great references.

When I was doing the workshare I brought home some collard greens which I had never eaten, and the only dish I knew of involved a ham hock and a very long cooking time which is not really my weeknight style. I flipped through How to Cook Everything, which had a quick stir fry with collards and tahini, but suggested peanut butter as a substitution. Weird, but SOLD. What resulted was a dead simple dish with a great peanut sauce that coats the greens with a nutty richness. I loved collards at first bite and have made this many times over. I may need a shirt that says “Eat More Collards” to go along with my “Eat More Kale” one….and maybe one for every other vegetable while we’re at it.

Collards with Peanut Butter

Serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side.

If this sounds weird to you, just think of it as a peanut sauce that you make in the pan. Serve atop brown rice or as a side dish. Especially excellent with rice and soy marinated tofu.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ½ cup onion (about a ¼ of a large one)
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ¼ cup vegetable stock or water, plus more if it is dry
  • 1 lb collards, washed, large stems removed, and roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons smooth natural peanut butter (or other nut butter, or tahini), but I’ve use chunky in a pinch too
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoons lime juice

Heat the oil in a large deep skillet or pot with a lid over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened.  Add the garlic and ginger and cook for 2 minutes until it is slightly colored and fragrant. Add the collards, stock/water, peanut butter, salt, and pepper and stir everything up. Cover and cook until they are wilted, about 5 minutes. Uncover, and cook at a low bubble for 5 minutes more. If the pan looks dry add more stock/water, but you want to have a thicker sauce. Finish with the lime juice, stir, and serve.

Purple Cauliflower, Kale and Feta Quesadillas

Purple Cauliflower, Kale and Feta Quesadillas - Vegetal MattersI went to visit a nearby farm stand (Foppema’s, if you happen to live in central MA) this week on a hunt for garlic scapes and green beans. They grow a really impressive array of vegetables and fruits, and I had to do a few laps before deciding what should come home with besides my sought out items. They had a beautiful pile of cauliflower in white, yellow, orange, and then one single, strikingly vibrant purple head. I already had plans for some feta and kale quesadillas for dinner, but as I turned over ideas for my magic cauliflower these charred cauliflower quesadillas came to mind and a hybrid dream was born. (The kale I picked up from a different farm I visited last week for raspberry picking. And did I mention I work on a farm? I may have a problem.) Thus the Vera Bradley of quesadillas in all its purple and green glory was born. I spend so much time anticipating the greatness of summer produce and planning meals, that I sometimes forget how great it is to pick up whatever looks good and see what happens. These quesadillas are seasonal and spontaneous cooking at its finest, and could be easily adapted with whatever must-have farm stand produce or garden bounty end up in your kitchen.

DSC00925 Purple Cauliflower, Kale and Feta Quesadillas - Vegetal Matters

Purple Cauliflower, Kale and Feta Quesadillas

Serves 4

I really cleaned out the cheese drawer with this one and used a mix of Monteray Jack, Mexican blend, and manchego. If I was buying cheese specifically for this, I would just buy a block of Monterey Jack. You could certainly use any color of cauliflower, but purple is pretty darn fun.

  • 8 oz cauliflower (which was half a medium head for me)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, dividing
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeño
  • 4 oz kale, finely chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon chives or scallions
  • ½ a lime, juiced
  • 2.5 oz feta (about ½ a cup)
  • 8 oz shredded melting cheese (about 2 cups)
  • 8 10″ flour tortillas

Separate the cauliflower into large pieces (about 1.5-2″) and coat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt. Heat a cast iron (or other heavy) pan over medium high heat. Add cauliflower and the jalapeno to the pan, and char for about 10 minutes. They should be slightly blackened but not soft. Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly. Then chop the cauliflower into ½” pieces and mince the jalapeño.

In the same pan heat the other tablespoon of olive oil and add the kale. Toss to coat in oil, and cover with a lid. After  minute uncover and toss, and then cover for 1 minute more. The kale should be bright green, shiny all over and just cooked through.

If you are serving these all at once, turn on the oven to 200F and place a baking sheet in these before you start the final assembly.

Toss cauliflower, jalapeño, kale, chives, feta and lime juice in a bowl. Put that same pan back on the heat over medium (no oil necessary) and bring on over your filling, shredded cheese, and tortillas. Place a tortilla in the pan, and allow to head for a minute. Flip it over, sprinkle with an eighth of the cheese, a quarter of the filling, and another eighth of the cheese (so a quarter of the cheese per quesadilla). Place the second tortilla on top, and check the bottom one for char. When it is lightly toasted and the cheese is melting, flip the quesadilla. Cook for another 2 minutes, and then remove from the heat and into the oven if you are keeping them warm.

For serving: I happened to have half a head of red cabbage and some sour cream as well, so I kept the green and purple theme going and went with Smitten Kitchen’s slaw and crema as suggested here. I barely strayed from those recipes, except perhaps with less precise measurements.

 

 

 

Persiana and Turkish White Bean Salad

Turkish White Bean Salad - Vegetal Matters
You know what is better than a giant cookbook collection? A free giant cookbook collection. I usually end up with at least one cookbook borrowed during my weekly library trips. I hadn’t requested any new ones last week (the week before it was Paletas), but I took a quick look at the new non-fiction and Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour practically jumped into my arms. I looked through it during navigation breaks on this weekend’s road trip to upstate New York and planned out a summer’s worth of meals from its pages. Middle Eastern food is the theme, and the book is full of fresh vegetable and herb salads, hearty grains and legumes, warmly spiced meats, and varied mezze. A small sampling of recipes on my list are the Hummus, which incorporates chickpea cooking liquid, Smoked Eggplant Salad (ok, every eggplant recipe), and Tomato Salad with Pomegranate Molasses. The salads entice me most, as they are all simple but with lovely herb and spice combinations that excite me way more than my usual repertoire.

Turkish White Bean Salad - Vegetal Matters

Our last stop before home was the grocery store to grab some cans of white beans, an onion, and a lemon to make this salad. Cooking upon returning from a road trip is not usually an activity I jump to, but this was just a quick assembly and made me feel so much better then relying on someone else for a meal again after a weekend of eating out. I also took the basic concept of Ghayour’s fattoush dressing which is just lemon juice, olive oil, and sumac to make a salad with lettuce from the garden that grew like wild while I was gone. I’ve made many a lemon vinaigrette, but the sumac added a more nuanced sourness and lovely red flecks all over the lettuce (and (I’ve already made it again since). I also made the Eastern-Style Focaccia which took 2 hours start to finish and was full of cumin, coriander, sumac, and thyme, and Pistachio and Feta Dip to go along with it, which was as easy as throwing everything in a food processor (and an excellent use of the disappointingly unsalted pistachios I accidentally bought for road snacks). Persiana hasn’t been in my possession for long, but I already feel this book should be added to the my house library.

Turkish White Bean Salad (Piyaz)

Slightly adapted from Persiana

This salad is delicious leftover, but the Aleppo pepper does tint the dressing red after it sits for a while. If you are serving this to entertain, toss just before serving. Serves 4 as a light dinner or lunch, 6 as sides.

  • 3 cups cooked white beans, rinsed (2 14-oz cans)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion (mine was from half a large onion weighing ½ a lb)
  • 2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper flakes (or 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes)
  • ½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped (about a large handful)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (or juice of 1 lemon)
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • fresh ground black pepper

Mix the beans, onion, Aleppo and parlsey in a large bowl. Put the rest of the ingredients in a smaller bowl and whisk until smooth. If it seems stiff, add a teaspoon of water at a time until the dressing is pour-able but still on the thick side. Pour the dressing onto the bean mixture and toss carefully to coat.

Hash Browns with Kale and Eggs

Hash Browns with Kale and Eggs - Vegetal MattersWithout at all meaning to, I created a signature breakfast. It started out with a latke phase a few months back, but then I realized that not trying to get everything to stick together and just calling them hash browns was far easier (plus, more crispy bits that way). What resulted has become a weekend regular around these parts: crispy, earthy potatoes, barely cooked kale, and a rich egg on top (best cut with hot sauce, if you ask me). The ingredient list is simple, but the potatoes take a bit of time to cook. The kale and eggs come together quickly after they are done. You could try doing things in more than one pan to speed up the process, but I usually make this as a lazy weekend breakfast when time is more plentiful and I can listen to a podcast while putzing around the kitchen (usually Gastropod or Startalk). Use any greens in place of kale, but I think more bitter greens go best with the potatoes.

Hash Browns with Kale and Eggs

Serves 2

  • 1 lb Yukon gold potatoes (or whatever is around)
  • .5 lb onion (about ½ a large one), any color
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (divided), plus extra as needed
  • 2.5 ounces kale (about 3 cups), washed and roughly chopped (any kind is fine)
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Grate the potato and onion on the largest holed side of a box grater or in a food processor. Put both in a towel and wring out as much liquid as you can. Leave them in the towel for a couple minutes, and then wring again. Mix together so the onion is evenly distributed in the potatoes.

Melt the butter with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a big pan (cast iron if you have it) over medium heat. Add the potatoes and onions in a ½” layer (in my 10” cast iron I usually do them in 2 batches, and add a bit more butter and oil to the pan the second time around). Season with salt and pepper. Cook them uncovered for 10-15 minutes, while stirring every 4-5 minutes. The hash browns should be mottled golden to light brown. If they are blackening quickly and still seeming raw in the middle, the pan is too dry (add some more butter, oil, or both).  When all the potatoes and onions are cooked, remove from the pan and cover to keep warm.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, and let it heat for a minute. Add the chopped kale and stir to coat in the oil. Sprinkle with salt and place a lid over the pan, and let the kale cook for 1-2 minutes (stay by the pan!). The kale should look shiny, moist, and very bright green all over. If the kale starts to yellow in spots and is not uniformly bright green, it’s starting to overcook (still very edible, just not the best).

Serve topped with an egg cooked to your preference. I do them over easy, cooking for 3-4 minutes on medium high heat until the whites are mostly set, turning off the heat, flipping, and removing from the pan after another minute. Hot sauce on top encouraged.

Polenta with Roasted Veg and Tomato Sauce

Vegetal Matters - Polenta with Roasted Veg and Tomato SaucePolenta is my new pantry hero and pasta/grain alternative. It’s a multitasking ingredient (I use a medium grind cornmeal that I cook as polenta, bake with, and use as a crispy crust), that makes just as good of a breakfast as it does lunch and dinner (which I can’t say for pasta). I think of this recipe as more of a formula. Make polenta, stir in any cheese that needs to be used up in the fridge (or leave out the cheese and milk for a vegan dinner). Roast whatever vegetables you have around. Top with tomato sauce, or just a little bit more cheese. In the morning reheat leftovers and top with an egg (or the egg could be part of dinner, too).

Polenta with Roasted Veg and Tomato Sauce

Serves 4

  • 1 cup dry polenta
  • 2-3 cups water (divided)
  • ½ cup milk
  • ½ teaspoon salt + some for sprinkling
  • 3 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 lb cabbage (about half a smaller head)
  • ½ lb of broccolini or broccoli (cut into small florets if using broccoli)
  • 2 cups chopped kale (any kind is fine)
  • 2 cups of tomato sauce

Heat the oven to 400F. Cut the cabbage into 1 by 3 inch pieces. Toss the cabbage and broccolini on a baking sheet with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Roast for 15 minutes. Toss the kale in a bowl with a teaspoon more of olive oil. After the 15 minutes, toss the cabbage and broccoli, and add the kale to the pan right on top. Roast for 5 more minutes.

Heat the tomato sauce over medium low heat while the veg and polenta are cooking.

Whisk the polenta with 1 cup of water, the milk and ½ tsp salt. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered. Add 1 cup of water and  stir constantly so it does not stick. Cook for 15 minutes, adding more water 1/4 cup at a time if it seems dry or you like polenta on the soupier side. When soft turn off the heat and add the goat cheese. I don’t even bother crumbling it, just stir it in so the goat cheese is covered, but the top back on, and whisk again to incorporate right before serving.

To serve, spoon a quarter of the polenta into each bowl, top with roasted veg and half a cup of tomato sauce (or more if you’re me). Finish with an extra crumble of goat cheese or some grated parmesan.

Spring Composed Salad with Lemon Caper Dressing

Vegetal Matters - Spring Composed Salad with Lemon Caper DressingThere was snow on the ground when I got up this morning. So, I realize I’m jumping the gun with all these spring ingredients, but it still feels like they are a long way off from the farmer’s market and I can’t wait any longer. This salad looks fussy, but it is far from it. It comes together quickly, and is infinitely adaptable. The dressing is assertive (and certainly not for the caper haters), but deliciously bright. Use whatever vegetables you have around, cooked or raw. Chicken or fish could be added (or omit the egg for a vegan meal). If you have any fancy or flavored salt around, this is a great time to use it. I had some lemon salt I made (so easy!), but a big flake or sea salt would shine here. I love the look and process of eating a composed salad, but you could certainly toss it too. Is that enough options? Get to salad making!

Spring Composed Salad with Lemon Caper Dressing

Salad inspired by Alana Chernila, and dressing adapted from Feed Me Pheobe.

While I tried to be specific, don’t get crazy with exact quantities here. Use what you have and what you like. This would easily double or triple for a crowd (just use multiple platters).

Serves 4

  • 1 lb red skinned potatoes
  • 6 radishes (about ⅓ lb)
  • ½ lb asparagus
  • 2 handfuls cherry or grape tomatoes (¼ lb)
  • 4 eggs
  • ¼ lb snap peas or green beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Whiz the ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, and capers in a food processor or blender, or mince the capers and whisk all ingredients together.

Place the eggs in a small pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 9 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water. When they are cooled a bit, peel and quarter.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut potatoes into 1” pieces. Toss in olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes. While the potatoes are baking, trim the ends off the asparagus, cut the tomatoes in half, cut the radishes in quarters, and look at the pretty snap peas. On a large platter arrange the tomatoes, radishes, snap peas, and hard boiled eggs. Season them all with a little salt and pepper. Fill a small bowl with the dressing and place in the center.

After 20 minutes take the potatoes out of the oven and move them over to one half of the baking sheet. On the other half put the asparagus and toss in the oil that remains on the pan (or add a teaspoon more if needed). Return the pan to the oven for 5 more minutes. When they are all done let them cool slightly, then add to the platter with the rest of the salad. Dip, and enjoy!

Whole Wheat Chocolate Coffee Banana Muffins

Vegetal Matters - Whole Wheat Chocolate Coffee Banana Muffins Does anyone else love to bake with bananas, but hate to eat them plain? I used to always pilfer the sad, decaying bananas my roommates purchased for baked goods, but my current household is usually banana-free and I always forget to buy bananas to let them go bad. Tragically this almost caused me to forget about these muffins, which should be hard because they are most definitely my favorite muffins. They are equally wholesome and delicious, and almost pair better with coffee than chocolate chip cookies (but I haven’t reached the point of accepting those for breakfast quite yet). Or the excellent other half to a smoothie breakfast (which is never filling enough for me).

Whole Wheat Chocolate Coffee Banana Muffins

Adapted from The Vanilla Bean Blog

This makes a lot of muffins. They freeze so well though, with just a quick warming in the microwave before consuming. Yes, they are entirely wheat flour, but light enough that you will never notice. I haven’t experimented with other kinds of flour yet, but it will happen. It may seem like a lot of liquid, but the wheat flour sucks it right up.

20-22 muffins

  • 2 1/4 (9 oz) cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 3/4 cup canola or olive oil
  • 1 cup banana mashed (I usually mash 2 and don’t fret if it’s a bit over or under)
  • 1/4 cup coffee
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 (1.75 oz) cup sugar
  • 5 oz semisweet chocolate chips or chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a muffin tin and a half (or bake in two batches if you only have one muffin tin like me).

Whisk wheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Whisk the oil, milk, mashed banana, coffee, vanilla, maple syrup, sugar, and egg (easiest in a quart measuring cup, or measure and transfer to a bowl). Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir until just combined (don’t overmix!). Fold in the chocolate chips.

Spoon the batter into the muffin tins, filling each cup about three quarters full. Bake for 16-20 minutes, testing with a knife for doneness (it should come out clean, unless you spear a chocolate chip).

 

Dijon Lentils with Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes

Vegetal Matters - Dijon LentilsThis French lentil recipe by Ina Garten was my first introduction to cooking lentils. I’ve made it many times since that first delicious occurrence, but with quite a few changes. I find that the dressing adds enough flavor to the lentils that cooking them with a turnip that is discarded is unnecessary. Her quantity made just enough for 4 small meals, but I always wanted a little more and leftovers. I’ve made the lentils with roasted sausages, which could be in place of or with the cauliflower and potatoes. Some toasted bread with olive oil alongside is also quite nice, as would be a green salad.

Dijon Lentils with Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes

Serves 8 as a side, 6 as a meal.

  • ½ cup olive oil, plus 4 tablespoons, divided
  • 1 lb cauliflower cut into florets
  • 1 lb potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
  • 2 cups green lentils
  • 2 cups carrots (about 4 medium)
  • 2 cups onion or leeks  (1 large onion, or 2 large leeks)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • salt
  • fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425F. Mix the whole grain mustard and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss cauliflower and potatoes in mustard olive oil mixture plus salt and pepper. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes.

Pick over the lentils for debris and rinse. Bring a pot with the lentils generously covered in water to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Heat a large skillet with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the carrots and saute for 5 minutes, until they just start to soften. Add the onion, and saute for another 5 minutes until both are soft. Add the garlic, and saute for a minute or 2 more then turn off the heat.

While the carrot and onion are cooking whisk together the ½ cup of olive oil, Dijon mustard, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. In a large bowl mix the sauteed carrot and onion, Dijon dressing, and lentils. Serve with the roasted cauliflower and potatoes on top, with extra vinegar if needed.

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad

DSC00791 postThis salad was born out of super bowl leftovers. But there had been enough indulgence watching the game, and redemption was needed. Buffalo wings with bleu cheese, carrots and celery is amazing because it is a perfect spicy/creamy/crunchy combo. I don’t want to eat wings all the time though, so this salad is just the fix. Cauliflower is an excellent hot sauce vehicle, and I borrowed the method from Thug Kitchen’s delicious Buffalo Falafel recipe (CRUSH HUNGER BREATHE FIRE. Cracks me up every time.).

Buffalo Cauliflower Salad

Serves 4 as full meal salads, 8 as side salads.

The grocery store was out of red cabbage, but that would have been a nice addition for more color and texture. Green cabbage instead of lettuce could make this more of a slaw. Cucumbers are a good add, and if I had some avocado that probably would have gone in as well. You could easily use 4 tablespoons yogurt and leave out the mayonnaise in the dressing.

Buffalo Cauliflower

  • 1 lb cauliflower, split into florets
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 tablespoon wheat flour
  • ½ cup cayenne hot sauce
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1.5 teaspoons cider vinegar

Salad

  • 8 cups of lettuce, washed and chopped (about 1 head romaine)
  • 2 carrots, shredded
  • ½ cup of red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large celery stalk, halved lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • ½ ounce crumbled bleu cheese (optional)

Dressing

  • ⅓ cup buttermilk
  • 1.5 ounces bleu cheese, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 1-2 tablespoons lemon juice (½ a lemon)
  • Salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

Blend buttermilk, bleu cheese, mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a blender. If you prefer a chunky dressing, whisk everything but the bleu cheese until smooth, then stir it in. Let the dressing sit for at least 30 minutes, longer if possible, to let the flavors mingle (resist adjusting the seasoning until after the rest).

Preheat the oven to 425F. Toss the cauliflower with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, spread on a baking sheet, and roast for 20 minutes.

Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the flour, and cook while whisking continuously for 5 minutes. It should smell nutty, but not boil. Add half of the hot sauce and whisk until smooth. It will be very thick. Add the remaining hot sauce, water, and vinegar, and whisk until smooth again. Turn off the heat.

Assemble the salads with lettuce, carrot, celery, red onion, chickpeas and any other veg you’re adding. When the cauliflower is done, toss it in a bowl with the hot sauce until thoroughly coated. Top each salad with ¼ of the cauliflower, and drizzle with dressing and an extra crumble of bleu cheese, if using. Serve with extra hot sauce for those who like a serious kick.

February Light

February Light - Citrus CocktailI think February is a brighter month than we give her credit for. The days are noticeably longer than they were in January (that 40 minutes makes a big difference).  My town in central Massachusetts got over 40″ of snow in the last couple weeks (and more to come) so the land is under a very thick layer of white. When the skies take a break from snowing and the sun does shine, it reflects blindingly off the snow (especially when you work in a barn surrounded by 8 acres of snow). And then there is the citrus. Beyond storage apples there are slim pickings for local fruit around these parts now, but the citrus is coming in hot. Clementines, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, blood oranges, tangelos in mountainous displays. They are plenty brightening alone, but even more spirited served like this.

February Light - Citrus Cocktail

February Light – Citrus Cocktail

Makes 2 short drinks

I used a combination of grapefruit and clementine, but whatever citrus or combination would work. If you like a really spicy cocktail even more ginger could be added, or leave it out entirely if you are looking for something sweeter. Don’t bother with bottled juice, the taste is vastly inferior.

  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 clementine (yes, there are two pictured above, but I ended up with more juice than I needed)
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • 2 shots vodka
  • 1 shot triple sec
  • Ice

Juice the grapefruit and the clementine. Strain the juice to remove the pulp. Slice the ginger into 2 pieces and place each piece in the bottom of an old fashioned glass. Using a muddler or a wooden spoon, mash the ginger up a bit (but try not to make a ton of tiny pieces). Measure 1 shot of vodka and half a shot of triple sec into each glass.  Finish with 2 shots of the freshly squeezed juice in each glass. Stir to combine and add ice (I love giant cocktail ice cubes, but regular ice, icicles, or whatever else you have will work).

DSC00733

Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls with Green Sauce

Vegetal Matters - Burrito Bowls with Green SauceI don’t repeat dishes often. What I’m cooking constantly changes based on seasons and whims. As always there are a few exceptions, but usually in the form of a dish based on staples that I can easily adapt with whatever veg and other seasonings are available. Burrito bowls have been in the rotation for years now, but I always felt like they could use some kind of binder and shredded cheese never really cut it. These grilled sweet potato bowls inspired me to go the sauce route, and the first time I made this green sauce I felt like I cracked the burrito bowl code. It is the kind of sauce you make a jar of then end up putting it on every meal you have. Try it with tacos, or the scrambled eggs you make to go along with leftover beans.

Sweet Potato Burrito Bowls with Green Sauce

Serves 6. Loosely based on these.

Sweet potatoes are a personal favorite, but you could use any veg you have in addition or instead of them. This could easily become vegan by making a few substitutions in the sauce: use agave instead of honey, silken tofu instead of the yogurt, or leave out the yogurt altogether. You could easily turn these into actual burritos, or serve with smaller tortillas on the side. To the cilantro haters: I’m very sorry, and parsley could be subbed. One more note: jalapeños can greatly vary in spiciness, so taste a little bit if you are worried about adding too much heat.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  • 1.5 lbs of sweet potatoes (this was 2 for me)
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • heaping 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt

Black Beans

  • 3 cups of black beans and their cooking liquid (or 2 15oz cans)
  • 1/2 cup of  red onion (a quarter of  a large one for me, with a bit of the remainder chopped for topping)
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • Salt
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar

Green Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 small jalapeño, or half a large (seeds removed if you don’t want the spice)
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • juice from 1 lime (mine was 3 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (regular or Greek would work)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey

For serving

  • cooked brown rice
  • chopped red onion or scallion
  • hot sauce
  • chopped avocado
  • chopped jalapeño

Preheat the oven to 425F. Scrub the sweet potatoes (no need to peel though), and chop into 1/2 inch pieces. Put the coriander and cumin seeds in a small dry pan and heat on medium. Let them toast for about 5 minutes, until they start to color and you can smell them. Let them cool for a minute and then grind in a mortar and pestle (or a spice grinder if you have one, but not your coffee grinder). Toss the sweet potatoes in oil, ground spices, chili powder, and a pinch of salt. Pop them in the oven and roast for 25 minutes.

Chop the onion and then heat the oil in a small saucepan. Add the onion and saute uncovered for 5 minutes until slightly softened. While it is sauteing mince the garlic clove. After 5 minutes add the garlic clove and saute for 1 minute. Add the beans, cover, and bring to a simmer. Remove the lid, and left simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has thickened. Finish with some salt and the teaspoon of vinegar.

Start the motor of your food processor and drop in the garlic clove. Let it get pulverized, then drop in the jalapeño until it is equally pulverized. Wipe down the sides with a spatula, then add the cilantro. Run until the cilantro is minced, then add the cumin, lime juice, yogurt, olive oil, honey, and a pinch of salt. Run until it is a smooth, green sauce. Alternatively, you can mince the garlic, jalapeño, and cilantro, then whisk together with the rest of the ingredients.

Serve bowls with rice, topped with beans and sweet potato. Let diners add additional toppings and sauce to their liking.

Cheese + Chocolate

Vegetal Matters - Cheese + ChocolatePlease drop everything and plan a fondue party. It is the easiest, most crowd pleasing dinner party that you can possibly throw. No fondue pot? No problem. In fact unless you are going to do this once a week I see no point in letting one take up space in your kitchen.  If you really care that much about having the named piece of equipment, just grab one at a thrift store, use it, and donate it right back afterwards.  Fondue sounds impressive, but it is truly as easy as prepping some dip-able items, melting cheese and chocolate, dunking, and enjoying.

Equipment and set up:

  • 1 small pot for up to 6 people, more than that and go with 2 pots and a doubled recipe
  • 1 fork per person (or grilling skewers if you have them, but maybe not with kids)
  • 1 trivet per pot
  • If you have a small crock pot you could use that instead, but I wouldn’t use one that is too wide because it will likely result in a flat cheese/chocolate brick
  • If you have a small heating pad you could also use that under the pot to keep it warm, but not necessary
  • Don’t use a tablecloth or place mats, melted and cooled cheese and chocolate are 100x easier to wipe off of a table than pick off of cloth

Cheese Fondue

Adapted from Alton Brown – Serves 6

Plan to dip whatever you like to eat that you think would be even more delicious doused in cheese. Some variety of bread, vegetables, and protein. This is what I served recently, but it is infinitely adaptable to your tastes. For 6 people:

  • 1 loaf of really good bread
  • 1.5 lbs of sausage
  • 1.5 lbs roasted red skinned potatoes
  • 1 lb of roasted broccoli with garlic
  • 1 Macintosh apple (stick with tarter varieties)

Alternatively: soft or hard pretzels, chicken (or any leftover meat), cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, carrots, parsnips….just please try the apple. My whole party was skeptical, but that apple was gone by the end. If you want to make your life really, really easy then outsource the dipping items to your guests and just make the cheese.

  • 10 oz melting cheese (I used 4 oz Gruyere and 6 oz Gouda)
  • 4 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 12 oz dry hard cider
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon brandy (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • Freshly ground pepper

(First prep all dipping ingredients, and keep the veg and meats warm in a low oven while you melt the cheese.) Grate both cheeses and mix with corn starch. Put cider, lemon juice, brandy (if using), and salt in a small, heavy saucepan. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a simmer. Add the cheese one handful at a time, stirring until it is fully melted. Then add the next handful in the same manner. Reduce the heat if the mixture begins to bubble. Once all the cheese is melted and coats the back of a spoon, add in the curry powder and pepper. Serve immediately.

Now is the time to clear the plates, let your pot soak, and play a game with your guests. The discussion will inevitably turn to making all meals small items dipped in hot, luscious substances. Then you will further impress them by revealing that dessert will also be fondue, this time chocolate and even easier. The equipment needed is exactly the same, the ingredients fewer, and the process simpler.

Vegetal Matters - Cheese + Chocolate

Chocolate Fondue

Serves 6

  • Some kind of baked good, such as pound cake or peanut butter cookies (nothing too crumbly)
  • Pretzels
  • Nuts
  • Fruit, fresh or dried such as strawberries, raspberries, bananas, oranges/clementines
  • 12 oz chopped chocolate, I used semi-sweet
  • 1 cup of cream (more if you like you fondue runnier, less if you like it thicker)
  • 1/2 teaspoon instant coffee
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Chop any larger fruits or cakes into bit sized pieces (good job to outsource to guests!). Melt all ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan over medium low heat while stirring constantly. Be careful not to let the chocolate burn, if you’re worried you could use a double boiler. Heat for a couple more minutes after the chocolate is fully melted, then serve immediately.

Soups/Salads

20150114_1858011The beginning of the new year brought frigid temperatures in New England, as if winter wanted to prove that she was really, truly here. I get it winter, I’ve embraced your chill as an excuse to make at least a pot of soup a week. But it’s also January, a month of resolutions and eating at least 1 cup of vegetables to make up for every baked good consumed in December. Hearty winter salads though, with cabbage and kale and toasted chickpeas and homemade dressings. December is always a month of extremes, and this steady soup/salad diet is bringing me back to equilibrium.

Soups

Cassoulet with Lots of Vegetables – This is not the traditional French cassoulet, which involves many separate components to be cooked and layered into an earthenware pot for long cooking. It embraces the same flavors and ingredients though, and translates them into a hearty soup that can be put together in 20 minutes, with a cooking time not much longer. As with many Bittman recipes a small amount of meat is used to great effect. I’ve only made it with sausages (the better they are, the better the soup is), but I imagine it would be even more enjoyable with chops or duck as he suggests.

Hot and Sour Soup – My allegiance to Joanne Chang is no secret. I’ll stop worshiping her when she stops putting out amazing, foolproof recipes. There is a lot of vinegar in this, but it is what makes the soup so delightfully sour. This one also comes together real quick, ready to eat in under half an hour. I’ve left out the pork in a pinch, but I like it best when included.

Winter Vegetable Chowder with Mustard, Lemon, and Crispy Cabbage – I’ve been drooling over this soup since Laura posted it last week. Such interesting vegetables and flavor combinations! It did not disappoint, with brightness from the lemon and mustard that we need on chilly days. The cabbage topping was my favorite part, which I can foresee on many a future soup. It’s also vegan, and pairs very well with white wine.

Salads

Roasted Cabbage Wedge Salad – I think savoy cabbage is one of the most beautiful vegetables, and I’ve seen quite a few of them around recently. Plus I love the presentation of this salad, which seems so much more refined than a tangle of greens.

Shredded Kale Salad with Tomatoes, Olives, and Feta – I successfully served this to a friend who had never had kale before (another kale lover! rejoice!). Winter tomatoes are on my list of least favorite things, so instead I use sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil) or roasted red peppers.

Chopped Thai Salad with Sesame Garlic Dressing – Yes, another kale salad. I could devote a whole blog to them if I was so inclined. I love heartier green salads in the winter months because the greens are much more likely to come from closer by, and they pair so well with soups. Peppers are not in their prime right now, and I think a few colors of carrots would be just as nice.

PS – Lacinato kale, or more preferably dinosaur kale, because it makes me picture t-rex’s scaled in kale (someone! make a t-shirt!), is my favorite for raw salads. It’s more tender than other kales, especially when chopped small in a salad.

Mrs. Buerschaper’s Molasses Crinkles

Vegetal Matters - Molasses Crinkle CookiesThere are a lot of cookies and recipes circulating right now. I don’t have quite the obsession with Christmas cookies that the rest of the world seems to this time of year. But if you’re going to twist my arm into making some, they will most likely be my Grandma Buer’s Molasses Crinkles. These cookies are the Buerschaper family’s claim to culinary fame. My dad’s family grew up next door to chef and cookbook author Mollie Katzen, who included my grandmother’s recipe in her book Still Life with Menu and calls it the first dessert she loved that didn’t have chocolate in it.

The smell of molasses always makes me think of my grandmother, and I make them every year not just for nostalgia, but also because they are a truly excellent cookie. The dough is is soft and almost velvety, and comes together quickly with the most basic equipment and technique (mix wet, mix dry, mix together). Then each cookie ball is rolled in sugar, so the baked cookies have a crunchy, cracked exterior. Inside though they are the perfect cookie chewiness and deliciously spiced.

Vegetal Matters - Molasses Crinkle CookiesVegetal Matters - Molasses Crinkle CookiesVegetal Matters - Molasses Crinkle CookiesVegetal Matters - Molasses Crinkle Cookies

Mrs. Buerschaper’s Molasses Crinkles

2-3 dozen cookies. If you roll the dough into 1.5″ balls, yield is 2 dozen 3″ cookies. 1″ balls yield 3 dozen 2″ cookies. I also included weights for dry goods if you’re baking with a scale. I’ve adapted these ever so slightly to my taste by using both white and wheat flour. Use only white if that’s what you have, but I like the added fiber and nice chew of a whole wheat cookie.

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup (3 oz) molasses
  • 1 cup (7 oz) sugar
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup (4.25 oz) white flour
  • 1 cup (4 oz) wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup additional sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 350F and prep 2 cookie sheets. Whisk melted butter, molasses, and 1 cup of sugar. Add in egg and whisk until incorporated. In another bowl sift together all dry ingredients except the last 1/4 cup of sugar. Add mixed dry ingredients to the wet, and stir until combined with no flour pockets. Pour the sugar onto a small plate, then using your hands form the dough into 1-1.5″ balls (see head note for sizes and quantities). Roll each ball in the sugar until it is entirely coated, then place a dozen spaced evenly on each cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until they are cracked and firm. Move to a rack to cool.

Vegetal Matters - Molasses Crinkle Cookies

Cranberry Grilled Cheese

20141201_185806 I need to learn which recipes need multiplying, and which are already plenty. There were 11 people at Thanksgiving, and Will and I were in charge of pie, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes (just cubed and roasted with paprika and chili powder), a cocktail, and cranberry sauce. All dishes were appropriately proportioned except the cranberry sauce, which we doubled and greatly outlasted the turkey leftovers. It’s a good challenge to think of it as more than just a turkey topping, so last night’s dinner was grilled cheese with cranberry sauce.  I used whole grain sourdough, swiped one slice with Dijon mustard (essential in any grilled cheese), a mix of sharp cheddar, mozzarella, and Parmesan (brie would be heavenly), and a thick layer of cranberry sauce. Toasted up in the cast iron, flipped, and finished in the oven for thorough melting. Served alongside a kale salad with a Dijon vinaigrette to make it a real dinner. A few slices of apple or pieces of languishing turkey, bacon, or ham could also liven up the party. We were invited to share another turkey tonight and I offered to bring the sauce, but I’ll be sure to save enough to have these again (they’re worth cooking up a batch of cranberry sauce to make, regardless of proximity to a turkey).