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.

A Vegetable Filled Tortilla Casserole

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I always struggle with the change of seasons. I feel like I’ve just gotten into my groove in the last season when the new one is upon us. But what about all the eggplant and tomatoes I still need to eat?! The warm nights when I sit on my porch and watch the sunset while the kids across the street debate who should be “It”? Reading for hours on the beach, but stopping to walk out as far as possible at low tide and eating lobster rolls? But, I do truly love each and every season. I suppose I can embrace sleeping better during cooler nights, welcoming the added heat roasting and simmering brings into the kitchen, and the wonder that is fall squash (but get the f*$# away from me with your pumpkin spice lattes and cinnamon-sugar rimmed beers) .

This is really a great point in the season, because there are some summer vegetables hanging on while the fall vegetables start to trickle in. This is the point when you actually want to turn on the oven and make roasted tomato and eggplant soup, the idea of which seemed like a hilarious joke at points this summer. Or you can embrace the fall vegetables entirely, and make this easily adaptable tortilla casserole with kale and butternut squash.

This week my share was onions, yellow potatoes, lacinato kale, salad turnips, French radishes, spicy lettuce mix, mint, parsley, eggplant, jalapeños, and butternut squash. I cooked up some Short Creek tsuga sausage, then removed it from the pan and cooked diced radishes and turnips followed by their greens in the delightful drippings, and then served the whole lot over polenta with pecorino (then we ate the leftovers for breakfast with an egg on top and HOT DAMN). The lettuce went into some end-of-season BLTs. Eggplant and cherry tomatoes (from last week) went into a simple roasted dish with haloumi from Smitten Kitchen Every Day Potatoes, parsley, and a leek leftover from last week went into this sheet pan harissa chicken which may be the absolute highest calling for Paul’s potatoes. If you didn’t get around to it last week, you could pickle some onions and jalapeños to top this casserole (or tacos, burritos, chilaquiles, etc).

I used butternut and kale from my share as the main vegetables for this casserole, but it is easily adaptable. You could use corn and spinach as called for in the original recipe, zucchini, eggplant, sweet potatoes, peppers, or whatever else pleases you.

Vegetable Tortilla Casserole

Adapted from Jennifer Farley via Cup of Jo

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 medium onion (mine was ~1 cup when chopped)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 cups crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, or salsa (maybe dial back the spices if you’re using salsa)
  • 3 1/2 cups black or pinto beans (or a mix), rinsed and drained (2 15-ounce cans, or 1 double can)
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 small butternut squash
  • kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 8 large corn tortillas, or 14 small taco tortillas
  • 2 cups Monterey Jack, cheddar cheese or both
  • Accouterments: chopped fresh cilantro, chopped fresh jalapeño, sour cream or plain yogurt, salsa, pickled jalapeño, pickled onion

Preheat your oven to 400F. Peel, deseed, and chop your butternut into 1″ pieces. Toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast for 20 minutes, toss, and roast for another 10 minutes. You should easily be able to pierce the butternut with a fork.

Dice your onion, mince the garlic clove, and thinly slice the kale. Heat a large skillet over medium heat with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion, and cook until it is translucent. Add in the garlic and cook for about 1 minute more, until it is fragrant. Add the spices and stir so the onion and garlic and coated in them, and then add the kale. Toss until the kale is wilted, then add the beans and crushed tomatoes. Stir to combine and simmer for 5 minutes so the flavors can combine. If it looks a little dry, add 1/4 cup of water.

Make your casserole by greasing a 9″x13″ dish (I used 1 teaspoon olive oil). Add a spoonful each of the tomato mixture and roasted butternut squash so the bottom of the pan is mostly covered. Add a layer or tortillas (I cut some in half to evenly fill the dish), then top with more of the tomato mixture (about 1/4), a large spoonful of the roasted butternut, and a sprinkle of cheese. Repeat with the remaining ingredients, finishing with a the tomato mixture, butternut, and cheese.

Bake for 20 minutes, until the cheese is melted. Serve with a variety of accouterments for topping.

 

Turmeric noodle salad with crunchy veg

noodle salad

I’ve written before about my annoyance with seasonal creep. We always seem to move to the next season before the current one is over. I love flannel, apples, and warm beverages as much as any born and bred New Englander, but I can wait to embrace them. Even though the school year has started it is still technically summer, and I’m happy to keep eating cold and crunchy things while I can. This salad is a quick dressing, julienned vegetables, and noodles you don’t even need to cook on the stove. Great for the hottest summer days, or those transitional nights when we’re still holding on to later daylight.

My Potter Hill CSA share this week was 1 bunch salad turnips, 1 bunch radishes, spicy lettuce mix, pea shoots, parsley, arugula, 2 lbs potatoes, onions, and cherry tomatoes. Earlier this week I made a light summer lasagna with roasted zucchini, cherry tomatoes, onions and arugula. The potatoes and remaining arugula, along with the spicy lettuce and pea shoots went into potatoes anna and salad, which so delightfully flavorful for so few ingredients, but definitely let it cool a bit before cutting if you want clean slices. Before I decided on this noodle salad I contemplated making this roasted vegetable bowl using potatoes, radishes, turnips, carrots, onions, and the parsley. It would still be an excellent option if the weather cools off again next week.

Turmeric noodle salad with crunchy veg

Serves 4

Adapted from Molly Wizenberg and Heidi Swanson. All sorts of vegetables would be great here. As Molly did in her original recipe, you could add cucumber or cabbage, or some kind of protein. I love Heidi’s idea of adding turmeric to noodles so they become vibrantly yellow, but you could omit the turmeric if you don’t have any.

Dressing

  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 teaspoons chili garlic sauce (or, 1 garlic clove grated and 1 teaspoon sriracha)

Salad

  • 1 bunch of salad turnips (4 turnips made 2 cups of shredded)
  • 1 bunch radishes (7 small radishes made 1 cup shredded)
  • 1 large carrot (1 cup shredded)
  • 2 scallions, sliced (mine were huge, so about 1 cup total)
  • 1/2 cup chopped herbs, such as cilantro or basil (Thai, regular, or lemon)
  • 8 ounces of rice noodles
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • Optional: 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes (raw or roasted)
  • Optional: minced jalapenos

Combine all dressing ingredients in a jar and shake to combine.

Shred or julienne turnips, radishes, and carrots. Slice scallions and chop herbs. Place noodles, turmeric, and salt in a large bowl and cover with boiling water (the noodles should be totally submerged). Stir to distribute the turmeric and insure the noodles don’t stick together. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes and then drain (definitely check after 5 minutes, because thinner noodles will be done at that point). Roughly chop the peanuts.

Toss drained noodles, shredded vegetables (including the tomatoes if you’re using them) , scallions, and dressing in a large bowl. Top with chopped herbs and peanuts. Serve with extra chili garlic sauce and jalapenos.

Big Salads with tzatziki and marinated lentils

IMG_6419 (2)Most often when we get lettuce in our CSA I just make some version of this giant salad. Lentils are always a good quick legume to cook when I get home from work if I don’t have another precooked or in cans. Canned tuna is great, as if leftover roasted chicken. Farro or quinoa are nice additions. I usually go with a vinaigrette for dressing, but the tzatziki here adds enough moisture that I don’t think you’ll miss regular dressing. If your household likes tzatziki as much as mine, you may want to double the recipe to have on hand as a snack with cucumber slices or pita chips. I didn’t have any pita when I made this salad, but that would also be a great addition (or stick the whole thing in a sandwich/wrap!).

My full share this week was lettuce, chard, salad turnips, purple potatoes, lemon basil, regular basil, 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, 1 pound of large tomatoes, carrots, and jalapenos. I’m eating potatoes and chard like this again because its so good (have you made it yet?!).  I’ve somehow made it this far into the season without making salsa, so that will be remedied this week. The turnips and their greens are going to go into a cold spicy noodle situation inspired by this and this (but using the chili crisp I already have in the fridge). Speaking of chili crisp, the reason I made it in the first place was to make these Vietnamese-style chicken meatballs which were SO GOOD and would be an excellent use of your lettuce, carrots, turnips, and jalapenos this week.

Big Salads with Tzatziki and Marinated Lentils

Inspired by Ina and Sprouted Kitchen

Serves 6

I know cucumber sizes can vary widely, but I used smaller cukes that you would get at a farmer’s market and when grated (before squeezing) it was 2 cups of shredded cucumber. I used lentils because I had some and they are quick cooking, but white beans or chickpeas would be great too. I find the tzatziki to be enough of a dressing, but if you need some more zing toss the lettuce with a drizzle of olive oil and some lemon juice before assembling the rest of the salad.

Tzatziki:

  • 2 small or 1 large cucumber (see note)
  • 2 cups plain (unflavored) Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 chopped dill (and extra for garnish if you like)
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Salad:

  • 1 cup French green lentils (sometimes sold as Le Puy)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small cucumber, chopped
  • 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 head of lettuce, chopped

Bring a small pot of water to a boil and add the lentils. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until tender and then drain.

To make the tzatziki: Grate the cucumber on the large holes of a box grater and set in a fine mesh strainer over a bowl to drain (don’t throw out the liquid!!!). While the cucumber is draining combine the yogurt, dill, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper in a bowl. Take small handfuls of the grated cucumber and squeeze out as much liquid as you can, adding the dry cucumber to the bowl with the yogurt mixture as you go. When all of the cucumber has been strained stir to completely integrate it with the yogurt. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

After the lentils have drained toss them in a bowl with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Stir to combine. Build your salads with lettuce, lentils, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, feta, an artful blob of tzatziki, and a sprinkle of dill.

Herby couscous salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and pea shoots

IMG_6346 (2)The majority of August was a relief from the intense heat of July. That heat and humidity are back in full force this week, and I did my best to come up with a dinner that used as little cooking as possible. This is a quick couscous salad with lots of fresh herbs, chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and pea shoots. It is a meal in itself, but would be an excellent picnic side or bed for some juicy grilled chicken or sausage.

I happened to have couscous in my pantry (plus it is so quick cooking), but this would also be great with other small pastas like Israeli couscous or orzo, or with another grain like quinoa. In an effort to minimize my heat in the kitchen, I didn’t use any cooked vegetables but roasted or grilled vegetables would be delicious too. I riffed off this parsley sauce, but used scallions as well and upped the quantity.

All of the vegetables and herbs in this salad are from my Potter Hill CSA share this week except the cucumber, which I bought separated from Paul. The rest of the share this week was a baby head of romaine lettuce, celery, 2 lbs of large tomatoes, microgreens, carrots, kale, and mint.

Lettuce and tomatoes went into an epic BLT with Short Creek bacon (order some this week!!!!). I’ve also been eating tomatoes my absolute favorite way: on top of toast slathered with mayo, with salt and pepper.  If you haven’t made these greens with yogurt yet then that is your kale plan (if you have made this…it is still your plan). This marinated celery salad looks like a great use for the giant head, plus some cherry tomatoes and scallions (it’s marinating in the fridge right now for dinner tomorrow!). I don’t have a plan for the carrots this week, but with the greens snipped off they will last in the fridge until inspiration (or hunger) strikes.

Herby couscous salad with cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and pea shoots

Serves 6 as a meal, or 10-12 as a side

Couscous

  • 3 cups couscous
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Herb sauce

  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 ½ cups parsley leaves
  • 1 ½ cups chopped scallions
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice (from about 1 ½ lemons)
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper

Salad

  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 1 small cucumber (mine was 1 1/2 cups chopped)
  • 1 large handful pea shoots and/or microgreens (about 1 cup chopped)
  • 3.5 cups cooked chickpeas (2 15.5 oz cans, drained and rinsed)

Bring the 3 cups of water to a boil. Add in the couscous, olive oil, and salt. Cover, remove from the heat, and let sit for 10 minutes.

Turn on a food processor with the S blade in and drop the garlic cloves through the opening at the top. When the garlic cloves stop bouncing around they are fully minced. Turn the food processor off and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Add the salt, a few grinds of pepper, parsley leaves, chopped scallions, and lemon juice. Turn the food processor on to chop them, then drizzle in the olive oil so a sauce forms. Alternatively, very finely mince the garlic, parsley, and scallions, then stir in the salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil.

Quarter the cherry tomatoes, chop the cucumber, and chop the pea shoots or microgreens. Fluff the couscous with a fork and put it in a large bowl. Add the chickpeas and herb sauce and stir to combine. Add in the cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and pea shoots. Stir until they are evenly distributed.

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.

Last Week I Cooked…

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersNow Will no longer asks what is for dinner, but instead asks what version of eggplant and tomatoes we are going to eat. The season for my favorite vegetables is almost over, but the list of recipes to try them in is never ending.

Spicy fried chicken sandwich. Last weekend was full of vegetables, and I started the week with a craving for fried chicken. I only brined the chicken for about an hour after work, and it was still plenty flavorful. The lettuce was replaced with cabbage, and I used a lot less oil to fry them. I had no trouble with sticking, but they did take longer to be fully cooked through.

Peach and tomato salad. I wanted this to be a sweet counterpoint to the spicy chicken sandwiches so I left out the chili flakes. Under any other circumstances keep them in though, because the bit of spice in this salad may be my favorite part.

Eggplant parmesan pizza with crispy capers (pictured above). There is no question that this was the best thing I made this week. I did the 9 hour version of the dough and left it on the counter for the day. I returned from work almost two hours later than normal cursing myself for planning pizza, but it came together quickly and was worth every step. Admittedly I didn’t make my own tomato sauce so that sped up the process. Eggplant pizza on its own may not seem that exciting, but the crisp capers add a briney saltiness and the garlic oil at the end takes it over the top.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersSummer tomato lentils. As a huge surprise to everyone I added some eggplant to this dish. I roasted chopped regular sized tomatoes and eggplant with some za’atar and added them to the cooked lentils and dressing. All was served over some kale tossed in the same dressing and left to sit for a bit.

Pasta with eggplant and tomato. Inviting over dinner guests without an actual dinner plan and not going grocery shopping made for an excellent opportunity to try a simple recipe that had been on my list all summer. It’s hard to go wrong with fried eggplant, fresh tomato sauce and basil. I used parmigiano reggiano instead of the salted ricotta and was very happy.

Tuscan kale. I want to make this recipe exactly as written, but this time around just used it as inspiration. I sauteed half an onion, then added a lot of kale to the pan with 3 cloves of minced garlic, and covered the pan. After a few minutes I stirred everything up and replaced the cover, then salted before serving.

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.