Lo mein-style noodles with greens

The alternative title for this post was “Personal Preferences Noodles.” My favorite grocery store in Worcester is the aptly described Asian Supermarket, is one of two in a very small chain of grocery stores, similar to H MART. As with any grocery store that imports a lot of food, sometimes the English translations are questionable and downright hilarious.

The instructions on my favorite noodles, which I used for this recipe, are as follows:

  1. Use the right amount of water to boil, and the surface into the boil water then use chopsticks for 5-7 minutes.
  2. To pick up the noodles, remove the water and you can add to personal preferences sauce, then you can eat the noodles.

Followed by the instructions are the “Features:”

  1. This product is made using a traditional method.
  2. The noodle is springy and unique taste.
  3. Boils the cooking liquor not to be muddy.

What is the “right” amount of water? What am I doing with my chopsticks?? Does Moses come to help remove the boiling water from the pot??? The only thing I follow is adding “personal preferences sauce,” which in this case is a very simple combination of sesame oil, soy sauce, and Shaoxing wine, plus lots of chili oil at the end.

This is what I always wish would appear when I order takeout lo mein – noodles with just a ton of greens. If you wanted to up the amount of greens the noodles could definitely handle it – a few weeks ago I put literally all of the greens from my week’s CSA into a version of this dish.

My full share this week was zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, kale, lettuce, broccoli, rainbow tatsoi, basil, parsley, and scallions. I used the lettuce, cukes, tomatoes, grated carrots (from a previous week) and some scallions in a riff on buffalo cauliflower salad. This smashed cucumber salad is one of my favorite ways to enjoy summer and get out and lingering frustrations. Summer squash and herbs are perfect for this gratin with salsa verde.

Lo mein-style noodles with greens

Serves 4

Adapted from Serious Eats

  • 12 ounces chopped greens, such as tatsoi, bok choy, kale, or chard (about 2 large bunches)
  • 24 ounces of sliced cabbage (about 1/2 a small one)
  • 12 ounces Chinese wheat noodles (spaghetti will do in a pinch)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (plus more if needed)
  • 1 14-ounce container firm tofu, drained
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil, plus more for drizzling on the noodles
  • 4 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (or dry cooking sherry)
  • 2 ounces chopped scallions (from 3 giant CSA ones) – about 1 heaping cup
  • 1 tablespoon spoon minced garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • For serving: chopped basil, additional soy sauce, and chili oil

Combine the sesame oil, soy sauce, shaoxing wine.

Bring a large pot filled halfway with water to a boil. Boil the noodles according to the package directions (…or not!!!) until cooked. Drain, drizzle with sesame oil, and toss to coat.

In a large wok or pan heat 1/2 tablespoon of vegetable oil over medium high heat until it starts to smoke. Add in a big handful of the cabbage, and toss for 2-3 minutes, until wilted and starting to char, but not soft all the way through. Remove cabbage from the wok into a bowl, add another tablespoon of oil, and repeat with another large handful of cabbage. Do this with all the cabbage and greens.

Finally, cook the tofu in the same way – splitting into batches and allowing it to brown slightly. Add into the bowl with the greens.

After all the greens and tofu have been cooked, return the pan to the heat. If no residual oil remains, add a tiny bit. Add in the sliced scallions and cook for 1 minute to char, then add in the noodles and toss to reheat. Add the sesame oil/soy sauce/shaoxing wine mixture, garlic, white pepper, and all of the greens back to the pan and toss to coat and combine.

Finish with basil. Serve with additional soy sauce and chili oil.

Chipotle Ranch Salads

My full Potter Hill share this week is two heads of lettuce, perpetual spinach, chard, kale, fresh onions, scallions, carrots, parsley, dill, and summer squash (what a bounty!!!). Since making 6 servings of the salad below only used up 1 giant head of lettuce, more salad is still in my future!! I’m planning to make chicken caesar wraps with this dressing, but this barbecue chicken salad with peaches is another excellent option. On Monday I went the classic easy dinner route, and make quesadillas with some sauteed chard, leftover grilled zucchini, and leftover grilled chicken and steak. I used the kale, perpetual spinach, and onion tops to make beans and greens, a perennial favorite (funnily enough I joked in that post about no one being able to leave the house without a salad that week…a familiar feeling). You can never go wrong with onion dip, but know that making your own will change you forever.

Now that we’re in the heart of zucchini season, here are a bunch of favorites: zucchini carbonara, zucchini herb salad, zucchini and corn enchiladas, summer quinoa salad, and pasta with zucchini, feta, and fried lemon (NYT). Whenever in doubt, cut long thick slices, coat them with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and throw them on the grill with whatever else you are grilling. Finish with some lemon juice and a shower of herbs, or maybe even some pesto.

Chipotle Ranch Salads

Serves 6

This kind of salad works with whatever you’ve got. Leftover cooked meats and vegetables, or any other raw veg are great toppings. Mix it up!!

Dressing

  • ¼ cup plain yogurt or mayo (I used 2 tablespoons of each)
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon liquid from chipotles en adobo
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh dill (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground pepper

Salad

  • 1 head of lettuce, chopped
  • 1 summer squash, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage (1/4 of a large head)
  • 2 15-ounce cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup crumbled cotija or feta cheese (not pictured, because I forgot in this photo)
  • 1 small fresh onion, diced (pickled would be even better)
  • 2 cups crumbed tortilla chips

Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine. Ideally you will do this before you prep the rest of the salad ingredients so it has time to mingle (at least 30 min). Refrigerate until ready to serve. Taste after it has time to rest and adjust the seasoning (but remember that you want the flavor to be strong because it will be diluted by the salad).

On a large platter (or on separate plates) build your salads with lettuce, cabbage, summer squash, beans, cotija, onions, and tortilla chips. Serve with dressing.

Cheesy Butternut Polenta with Roasted Broccoli and Cabbage

IMG_20191015_192615364 (3)This dish has serious mac and cheese vibes, but with a bit of a makeover. Roasted brassicas (including broccoli, cabbage, broccolini, broccoli rabe, Brussels sprouts), really shine here, because their slight bitterness is a great counterpoint to the cheesy and slightly sweet polenta. I used broccoli and cabbage because I had both, but you could double up on broccoli or mix it up with different brassicas. It is a great vegetarian main on its own, but could be bulked up with a fried egg, beans, roasted chicken, or sausage.

My entire Potter Hill CSA share this week was broccoli, leeks, salad mix, pea tendrils, perpetual spinach, potatoes, onions, acorn squash, and butternut squash. I used the pea tendrils and perpetual spinach to make these rice bowls from a few weeks ago. Leeks and potatoes went on this pizza, where I subbed sauteed leeks for the onion and used savory from a few weeks ago instead of the rosemary.  Your squash could also be used for my absolute favorite butternut soup with coconut milk. Either (or both) squash would be excellent in this bright fall salad.

Cheesy Butternut Polenta with Roasted Broccoli and Cabbage

Adapted from Dinner.

Serves 4.

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 12 ounces peeled and seeded butternut squash, grated (3 cups)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 lb broccoli (1 large head or 3-4 small heads)
  • 12 ounces cabbage (about 1/4 head)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Fresh ricotta, for serving

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Melt the butter in the bottom of a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add in the grated butternut squash, and saute for 5-8 minutes, until it starts to brown. Remove butternut squash from the pot, and add in water, milk, and 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, and whisk in polenta and butternut squash. Stir regularly while keeping at a low bubble for 30-40 minutes. The polenta should be completely soft, with no hard grainy bits or raw corn taste.

Chop the broccoli crown, stem, and leaves (if attached) into 1/2 inch pieces (peel the stem first if the outside is tough). Toss on a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Chop the cabbage into 1/2″ pieces, and toss on a second baking sheet with the remaining tablespoon oil and a 1/2 teaspoon salt. It’s ok if some layers of the cabbage stick together while others separate. This will make for a nice mix of soft and crispy bits. Roast for 25-30 minutes or until browned at the edges, tossing vegetables and rotating pans halfway through.

When the polenta is cooked add the parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning, and add salt and pepper. Serve polenta with roasted vegetables on top and a dollop of ricotta.

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party - Vegetal MattersAfter the usual reluctance I’ve started to accept fall. It’s not a season I dislike, but letting go of summer is always hard (have I mentioned I like eggplant and tomatoes?). But I also want to embrace the here and now, so we decided to throw an Oktoberfest party (and there is nary a nightshade on this menu). Besides sending out an invite, collecting firewood, and making mustard, the prep happened the day of. All the food was made beforehand and put out so guests could eat as they arrived and sampled beer.

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party - Vegetal Matters

The Menu

Timeline

The only thing I made before the day of was the mustard which I started on Tuesday (soaking the seeds) and then finished Wednesday.

The party started at 7, so I shopped in the morning and got home around noon. First order of business was the apple cake, which needs 90 minutes in the oven. Then I made the potato salad, followed by the pretzel dough so it could rise. I puttered around setting some things up, sliced cabbage for the slaw, then rolled out the pretzels, boiled the water and preheated the oven. The pretzels were then boiled, painted with egg, and salted. Once the pretzels were in the oven, I put the sausage in baking sheets and punctured holes for the fat to drain out. After the pretzels came out of the oven I turned it up a bit and put the brats in to cook for about 30 minutes (remove them when they are a little brown on top). While the sausages cooked I made the hot slaw. I just set out all the food so people could graze, but this could be a sit down dinner as well.

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party - Vegetal Matters

Notes

The flavor of the German potato salad was great. I overcooked my potatoes a bit so they were not the cleanest chunks, but the party did not seem affected by it.

I doubled the pretzel recipe and made half-sized pretzels, so I had 32 total. I was expecting about 15 people, and wanted everyone to be able to have 2 (there ended up being a few leftover, maybe 10). The dough rose just as it was supposed to, and was super easy to work with while rolling them out. I didn’t have pretzel salt (because I didn’t buy any….) and just used coarse salt which was a little intense.

This is seriously spicy mustard. I halved it because 5 cups of mustard seemed like a whole lot and it was a smart move. I am a spicy mustard lover, and just a tiny dollop of this is fine for me.

The brats were pretty hands off as I just stuck them in the oven. If I had a grill I may have used that, but the oven was already on and I needed to be in the kitchen so roasting was plenty easy. A chicken and apple sausage would be a good option if you don’t want all pork. I also read up on traditional Oktoberfest foods and considered roasting a chicken as well, but I’m glad I didn’t because that would have been so much meat. Good alternative for next time.

I wavered about putting the bacon in this but eventually decided to go with it (not my most vegetal of meals…). Caraway is a spice I disliked violently upon my first taste, but recently I’ve tried to be more accepting of. I used just a tiny pinch and felt very open and accomplished. In the end I thought this was very appropriate, and I really liked it paired with the potato salad, brats, and a little extra mustard.

This apple cake is so moist and great for a crowd. I have never bothered peeling the apples, used apple cider instead of orange juice and substituted just a bit of the white flour for wheat. It is a heavy cake, and took more like 105 minutes to bake for me.

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party - Vegetal Matters

I left the beer selection up to Will who picked a variety of German and American made märzens. German breweries we were able to find were Ayinger, Erdinger, and Weinstephaner, and then American Oktoberfests came from Sierra Nevada and Switchback. Guests brought lots of other options like Sam Adams, Blue Moon, Brooklyn Brewery and a few we already had. And one person brought a bottle of champagne that we didn’t see until everyone left…off theme, but always acceptable. We set out tasting  glasses and left bottles open on the counter so someone could just sample a beer or take a whole one. If I hosted this as a dinner party I might make it a more formal tasting with rating sheets and everything, but I liked this system with more people.

It was really fun to host a party outside of the times I feel like everyone is having something (don’t expect a Halloween or Christmas party here) with a good theme. I can see this becoming an annual occurrence. Excluding the year that I make it out to Munich, of course.

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.

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.