Last week I cooked…

Last week I cooked... - Vegetal MattersI didn’t plan any dinners for this week and I didn’t go grocery shopping. But yes, amazingly, we still ate. Because of the long weekend my shopping trip happened later last week and I had squash to make soup on Sunday night, plus a bunches of kale and celery in the fridge. Normally I would not think these would make a week of meals, but as a personal challenge to waste less and be more creative with my cooking I set off for the week, no plan in hand.

Winter squash soup with curry and coconut milk. I’ve gushed about this soup before, and it really is magical. The coconut milk makes for a velvety texture far superior to the normal graininess in squash soup. Warm curry spices, hot sauce, and the finishing sour notes of fish sauce and

Last week I cooked... - Vegetal MattersCarbonara with kale and bacon. I think I am ready to declare carbonara my favorite pasta dish. Though the sauce is rich and creamy, it is not overwhelming. Bacon provides a bit of fat and saltiness, and a strategically added vegetable make for a full meal. I mostly followed the zucchini carbonara recipe, but in place of the summer squash used 5 big leaves of curly kale that was thinly sliced, added to the pan with the bacon fat, tossed, covered, and cooked for 4-5 minutes until bright green.

Last week I cooked... - Vegetal MattersSichuanese chopped celery with chicken. This may be the only recipe in my repertoire that I would go out of my way to buy celery for. In fact I think this recipe is celery’s highest calling. In my challenge to not grocery shop this week I substituted the beef for two chicken thighs from the freezer which I cut up into ½ inch pieces and cooked in the wok before proceeding with the rest of the recipe. The ingredient list is short but a bit specialized. If you can get to an Asian or Chinese grocery store the chili bean paste and chinkiang vinegar are absolutely worth having in your pantry if you like Chinese cuisine. They make for a dish that comes together very quickly with a surprisingly complex sauce that is spicy and a tiny bit sour. That paired with the meat, crunchy celery and rice make for a dish far beyond standard takeout. I’ve made this with the beef as called for, but I’d also try this with turkey, pork, or tofu and I bet the result would be just as good at sending down the rice.

Butternut squash ravioli with brown butter balsamic sauce and fried sage (pictured at top). I had a vision of this ravioli. I couldn’t find a recipe that matched exactly what I wanted so I pieced one together from a few. I think my pasta making needs a bit of work as it wasn’t as soft as other fresh pasta I’ve had (I also don’t have a pasta maker, so I rolled the sheets out by hand which was not ideal). The filling was a mix of roasted butternut and marscapone, but next time I want to use goat cheese for a little more tang to balance the sweetness of the squash. I used this recipe for the sauce (but I think I would have preferred 1:1 butter:balsamic) and followed basic instructions for fried sage. It’s a work in progress.

Polenta with sauteed kale and an egg. The morning after I had this for breakfast I saw the NYT Food section posted almost the same recipe (except I used some marscapone and feta in my polenta). Melissa Clark, did you bug my kitchen? This is an excellent option for breakfast when you forget to buy bread. I made a bigger batch of polenta and then reheated it for breakfast the next couple days. About a cup of kale sauteed makes for a nice vegetal addition, but most anything else would work too (tomato sauce? sauteed mushrooms?). And as the NYT suggested, this would also make an easy dinner.

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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.

 

 

Last week I cooked…

Turkey Burgers - Vegetal MattersMeals in my kitchen are not always some original, blog-able dish. Sometimes I make the same thing on repeat (often for breakfast), or follow someone else’s recipe to make a satisfying meal. But a lot of the time I’m trying something new, or adapting recipes a bit to fit my ingredients and desires. This will be a regular posting about what I’ve made recently to track my food obsessions and inspire more variety on your table (and mine too! please share!).

Lemon Pepper Yogurt Chicken – Amazing, easily adaptable marinade.

Quinoa salad with grilled lemons and asparagus, pistachios, mint, and parsley (inspired by the Quinoa Salad with Toasted Pistachios, Preserved Lemons and Zucchinis from Persiana).

Turkish White Bean Salad – Easy summer meal assembly.

Lettuce and snap peas tossed with lemon juice, olive oil, and sumac.

Spring Asparagus Pancetta Hash topped with goat cheese and a fried egg! For dinner!

Tofu lettuce wraps with ginger carrot pickles, cucumber, cilantro, scallions and peanut sauce. Loosely adapted from this recipe, but I had some of this Thug Kitchen peanut sauce leftover in the fridge so I just added some hoisin to it instead of making up a new batch. I thought it was a little thin as a dipping sauce when I originally made it, but it was great on tofu bowls with rice and snap peas.

Apple Chipotle Turkey Burgers from The Sprouted Kitchen (an old favorite), with grilled sweet potato fries and salad with strawberries and balsamic dressing.

Breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs, black beans, cilantro, scallions, and wicked hot green salsa every morning.

PS – Exciting development this week…my first tomato is almost ripe!!!! It’s a sungold cherry, that I picked and then immediately consumed.

Sungold Cherry Tomato - Vegetal Matters