Fall Slaw with Lemon Tahini Dressing

IMG_7008 (3)At first I fear the change of seasons. Did I fit in everything I wanted to in the past season> The answer is always no. But sure enough I come to appreciate the change of pace and all the joy a new season brings with it. Autumn is a time to slow down, bake, and drink tea, while still enjoying some warm days and abundant produce. It is the perfect time to make those crossover recipes with summer ingredients and fall flavors.

My full Potter Hill share this week was Tokyo Bekanna, kale, chard, salad turnips, tomatoes, eggplant, lettuce, peppers, onions, and zucchini. I used the chard and white onions in an autumnal soup with mushrooms and quinoa. The salad turnips and lettuce went into a simple salad paired with crispy avocado tacos. The tomatoes, peppers, and red onion were the base of an epic panzanella from Six Seasons (the tomato was my edit).  Panzanella is not usually my favorite dish, but this one had me rethinking my opinion. I finally got around to baking with zucchini (better October than never!!) and made chocolate zucchini muffins from Good and Cheap (page 21). Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup is perfect for this time of year.

Fall Slaw with Lemon Tahini Dressing

Adapted from The First Mess

This is a great base for veggie burgers. I made the sweet potato quinoa patties from the inspiration recipe alongside. These quinoa cauliflower patties and these chickpea cauliflower burgers are also great options. Tokyo Bekanna is a light cabbage that adds great crunch to this slaw without being as fibrous as a normal cabbage. You could use cabbage, chard, or more kale in its place.

  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and shredded (about 3 cups)
  • 1 bunch Tokyo Bekanna, shredded (about 3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup chopped dill
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Put the tahini, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, Dijon, honey, salt, and water in a blender or food processor and blend to combine. Taste and adjust to your preferences. It should be very lemony, as it will mellow on the greens. In a large bowl combine kale, Tokyo Bekanna, dill, and parsley. Top with dressing and massage into the greens. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

 

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.

 

Kale and Beet Salad with Pickled Onions, Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Goat Cheese

IMG_20180705_132657179Admittedly, I have done very little cooking in the last week. This heat has inspired a diet of fresh fruit, salads, sandwiches, and frozen desserts. I’ve made eggs for breakfast, but once the sun really comes up I can’t be bothered to heat up the kitchen any more. Refusing to cook can be inspiration all its own, and salads do not have to be boring.

This week my Potter Hill CSA share was kale, perpetual spinach, salad turnips, baby beets, zucchini, summer squash, fresh onions, bok choy, basil, and parsley. If I can find a grill to make use of, this zucchini with pesto and beans is high on my list to make. If you could be bothered to roast sweet potatoes, these wraps are an excellent vegetarian main (and if you can’t be bothered, grated carrots or beets would be a fine substitute). My favorite everyday use for greens is to saute them to have with eggs and toast in the morning with a few dashes of hot sauce.

The revelation in this salad is there is no reason to cook your beets. Yes, when you roast them their sweet, earthiness is concentrated, but that is not always what I want from a beet. In fact I was anti-beet until I ate them raw and was able to appreciate their mildly sweet crunch. Young beets are especially great this way, and are an excellent addition to salads, wraps, and sandwiches.

 Kale and Beet Salad with Pickled Onions, Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Goat Cheese

These pickled onions are a great addition to sandwiches or potato salad (as in their inspiration recipe). I had a great intention to add nuts, but then forgot to do so while I was making it. Toasted pecans or almonds would be my pick. With baby beets I just wash them thoroughly and trim any stringy bits off the bottom, but don’t feel the need to peel them.

Dressing inspired by Sprouted Kitchen, pickled onions inspired by Smitten Kitchen.

Serves 4 as side salads, or 2 as mains.

  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 large fresh onion bulb, minced (about 1/2 a cup)
  • 2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
  • 3 small beets, greens removed and reserved
  • 3 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

Measure white wine vinegar, water, salt, and sugar in a small jar (1/2 pint works great). Shake to dissolve the salt and sugar, then add the minced onion and let sit while you prepare everything else.

In a second jar (or the bottom of a large bowl, if you are going to mix and serve everything at once) combine balsamic vinegar, olive oil, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper. Shake or whisk to combine.

Trim any stringy ends off the bottom of the beets, and then grate them on the largest holes of a box grater (or, you could cut them into matchsticks by hand or on a mandolin).

Assemble the salad by massaging the majority of the dressing into the kale with your hands (reserve a few tablespoons of dressing to drizzle on top) until the leaves are thoroughly coated and shiny. Top kale with grated beets, crumbled goat cheese, about 1/2 the pickled onions (see head note for other uses), and a final drizzle of dressing.

 

 

Broccoli Stem and Kale Salad with Lemon Miso Dressing

kale and broccoli stem saladLast week, Will and I were on our way back from visiting friends in Philly. Last time we visited we spent the entire weekend eating excellent food, and this trip was equally delicious. We had incredible Lebanese food at Suraya (the fatteh with eggplant, chickpeas, and tehina yogurt was divine), hummus at Dizengoff, falafel, shwarma spice fries, and a Turkish coffee tahina shake at Goldie, ice cream at Weckerly’s twice, the best pour over I’ve ever had at Menagerie, a giant wedge salad at North Third, incredibly varied beer and great food at Tired Hands, and a cheesesteak on our way out at Dalessandro’s.
(Thanks again for having us Jesse and Brian – we’ll be back!!!)

But anyways, back to that journey home. We started off a little late, and hit rush hour traffic in Connecticut. We decided to stop and have dinner, and Will picked out Stanziato’s. It was surprisingly busy on a Monday night (a good sign), had an excellent beer list, and a creative take on Italian food that didn’t shy away from ingredients from other cultures. The pizzas were good, but the salad is what left the real impression. The only vegetable it contained was very thinly sliced broccoli stems that were coated in a lemon miso dressing and almost matched in volume by the toppings, which were parmesan cheese, toasted pine nuts, and capers. It was a delightful umami bomb and variety of textures that turned a normally trashed part of the vegetable into something you might buy on purpose.

I’ve been thinking about that salad since, and while I loved the flavor profile it seemed unbalanced. Afterwards I felt like I ate a bunch of salty cheese and nuts (which, I had) instead of a refreshing bowl of vegetables. The great joy of cooking at home is I can take what I loved about that salad and right the other wrongs. What results is definitely a salad, with a piquant dressing, buttery pine nuts, and a dusting of salty cheese. It feels like the best possible way to eat your vegetables.

Broccoli Stem and Kale Salad with Lemon Miso Dressing

Serve 4

This can easily become vegan by leaving out the parm, but in that case I would urge you to take the extra step of making Laura’s pine nut parm for salad perfection. I made roasted broccoli to go with dinner earlier in the week and saved the stems for this salad.

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (I used 1 smaller lemon)
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon white miso paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 small bunch of kale, de-stemmed (mine was 4.5 ounces)
  • 3 small broccoli stems (or 2 medium or 1 large, mine totaled 8.5 ounces)
  • 1 stalk (2 ounces) celery
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and chopped

In a large bowl whisk the lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, miso, mustard, and the pinch of salt until combined.

Chop the kale, and very thinly slice the broccoli stems and celery (I used a mandoline, but careful knife work will also do the job). If you are working with a single large broccoli stem, you may want to peel it first. Test it by trying a slice to see how tough the outer bits are.

Add the kale, broccoli stems, and celery to the bowl and toss with your hands to combine. Work the dressing into the kale leaves so they are totally coated and shiny. Let the salad sit for a few minutes if you have time, so the dressing can soften the kale a bit (at least 10 minutes would be great). When you’re ready to serve top with the parmesan, pine nuts, and capers, and toss once more to combine.

The pine nuts will soften a bit as the salad sits, but its still great the next day.

*I did forget to add in the capers when I took this photo, but I put them in before we ate and they are definitely vital.

Last Week I Cooked….No Recipe Experiment

Meals this week were an experiment. Usually I spend time on Sunday planning out meals for the week. I flip through the cookbooks that are speaking to me at the moment, scroll through my extensive Pinterest boards, or search for recipes to make with the vegetables of the season. I almost always have a plan, and also follow recipes to learn new techniques and dishes. At breakfast and the rare times I cook for lunch I rely on my intuition and whatever is around far more, but dinner is usually when I have more time to play around in the kitchen. May though, is easily the busiest month at work and last weekend there was no way I was fitting in an hour of meal planning. So instead was born a new challenge: what could I cook without a recipe? I didn’t even allow myself to look up proportions/portion sizes for cooking polenta. All had to be based on my own cooking senses. And guess what? We ate dinner (and leftovers for lunch) every night this week. My carbonara turned out a bit too eggy, but I can make a mean salad and dressing with my eyes closed. Not following recipes made for far simpler meals, which certainly reduced my stress level. I will always love the thrill of learning something new from someone else’s instruction, but it’s good to remember I can feed my people without outside assistance.

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersPolenta with Spanish chorizo, kale, and a fried egg. I can’t really take credit for how good this was, because I was working with the best sausage in the world. I cooked up 2 cups of polenta with half milk/half water (very low heat, lots of stirring). I diced the sausage and cooked it through, then added a mountain of kale to the pan and tossed it so it was thoroughly coated in sausage fat. Covered the pan so it would all wilt down, and then fried eggs over easy to put on top. I would eat this for breakfast, lunch, or dinner any day of the week.

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersAsparagus carbonara. I cooked up a full pound of bacon cut into lardons but reserved half for tomorrow night’s dinner. While the bacon was cooking I boiled the pasta. I cut a bunch of asparagus into angled pieces the same size as my penne and then cooked them in some bacon fat. Four eggs were whisked (but I should have done 3) with about half a cup of sour cream (because I forgot to buy heavy cream…), some grated parm, and a pinch of salt. When the pasta was done I reserved about 1/4 of a cup of cooking water, then tossed the pasta, bacon, asparagus, egg mixture, and reserved water in the same pan off the heat. Served with lots of cracked black pepper and red pepper flakes.

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersBig ranch BLT salads. These started with a head of romaine and some cabbage leftover from last week’s lo mein (have you made that lo mein yet? I’m gearing up to make it again). Then on went diced cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes, sprouts (unearthed in the crisper drawer, leftover from veg sandwiches a couple weeks ago). I defrosted some chickpeas from the freezer, dried them, then tossed them in some bacon fat, smoked paprika, and salt. They went into a hot cast iron pan and toasted for about 10 minutes. The ranch was made from buttermilk, a bit of sour cream and mayo, lemon juice, salt, pepper, Dijon mustard, and chopped chives. All that plus a bit extra bacon from yesterday made for a stellar salad.

Last Week I Cooked - Vegetal MattersYogurt chicken skewers, asparagus, potato salad, salad with beets and daikon, and lemon yogurt dressing. I marinated cut up chicken breasts in lemon juice, Greek yogurt, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper (basically what I could remember from Dinner: A Love Story) for a couple hours. The asparagus was super basic and just broiled with oil, salt, and pepper. The potato salad was dressed with mayo, Dijon, champagne vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and dried dill, plus a couple hard-boiled eggs. The dressing was almost identical to the marinade, but minus the garlic plus some honey. I broiled the beets in slices before chopping them, and soaked the chopped daikon in some ice water and drained before topping the salad. As a little experiment I chopped up some of the beet stems and quick pickled them with 1:1 champagne vinegar:water, salt, and honey.

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto - Vegetal MattersIt’s a good thing my sausage order didn’t come in this week. I planned on making this orecchiette with sausage and pesto, or maybe my eternal favorite, orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe. Without good sausage, neither seemed appealing, so instead I turned to the half a cauliflower in the fridge. Pesto still seemed like a good idea, but I used the perfectly serviceable greens already in the house (kale and parsley) in place of basil.

What resulted was the fastest dinner I’ve made all week (exactly 45 minutes). Pasta with nicely charred cauliflower and pesto that hits all the right notes of salt, grassy herbs, and richness from the pine nuts and olive oil. I keep pine nuts in my freezer for when pesto cravings strike (and to make this salad topping – so good!), and throw them straight from there into the food processor.

Pasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto - Vegetal MattersPasta with roasted cauliflower and kale pesto

Serves 6. Inspired by Two Red Bowls, pesto recipe adapted from The Art of Simple Food.

  • ½ a large cauliflower, or 1 whole smaller one (I used half a giant one, that clocked in at 26 oz worth after the stem was removed)
  • 1 lb pasta (I used orecchiette, because it was either that or lasagna noodles from the pantry. Another short pasta like penne, zitti, or fusilli would be great.)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1 tablespoon parsley (or more if you want)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • ¼ grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon (divided)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Cut the cauliflower into small florets about the size of your pasta. Toss in 1 tablespoon olive oil with a pinch of salt and pepper, and spread out on 2 baking sheets. This may seem like one extra pan to clean (and it is), but it is needed for truly crisped and not just steamed cauliflower. Roast the cauliflower for 10 minutes, and then toss it. If your pieces are very small check again after 5 minutes. Mine were about an inch long and done after 10 more minutes.

When you put the cauliflower in the over, put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

While your water is coming up to temp, make your pesto. Using a food processor start the blade running and drop in the garlic. When you stop hearing it bounce around it will be fully chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then add the salt, kale, parsley, pine nuts, and parmesan cheese. Pulse until they are uniformly combined, then run the machine and stream in the olive oil. Taste and adjust if needed.

When your water boils add the pasta and cook according to the directions for your particular shape (or, set the timer for 7 minutes and taste every minute after for done-ness). Before draining the pasta reserve a small cup-full of the water. Drain, then return the pasta to the pot. Add in the roasted cauliflower, pesto, and two tablespoons of the cooking water. Stir to combine, and if it seems a little dry add another tablespoon of water.

Serve with a bit of extra parm grated on top and a sprinkle of parsley.

Last Week I Cooked…

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersMiso sweet potato and broccoli bowl. This is another recipe I rarely deviate from. The tangy miso sauce expertly balances the sweet potato. If I don’t have fancy rice I just use brown and little is lost. A redemptive weeknight meal that fills and pleases.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersLeftover chicken fra diavolo with beans and kale. The beans and kale I made in the style of this favorite recipe but without the anchovies (I thought they would be a bit much with the spicy chicken). The beans and kale appeared as breakfast later on in the week topped with a fried egg.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersBaked falafel with beet dip and pita bread. Admittedly this was a bit ambitious for a weeknight, but buying pita would make for a much simpler meal. I liked the falafel, but I’m not enough to settle on them as my go to recipe. My favorite falafel ever from Sofra is served with beet tzitziki, so that inspired pairing them with this beet dip (next time I’d do more yogurt and less beets to make it even more like Sofra’s version). This was my first time making pita and it was SO FUN. Watching them puff up into little pockets was incredibly satisfying. As you cook the pockets individually they do take a bit longer, but the process itself was very easy. My one misstep was for a few of the pita I rolled them out too thin and then balled them up and re-rolled them, and those did not puff into pockets like the others.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersMexican tortilla casserole. This recipe gets high marks for return on minimal effort, and it feeds a crowd. I subbed kale for the spinach because it was already on hand and added in the last of the leftover chicken fra diavolo (shredded). Flour tortillas instead of corn were my only other change. This is a great basic recipe to substitute whatever veg and beans you have around.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersPizza with sauteed kale, pepperoni, and garlic oil. I’ve been using the dough recipe from Lady and Pups for all my pizza making recently and is the best dough I’ve made. I don’t always have bread flour and regular still makes an awesome dough (maybe even with a little wheat flour snuck in as well). Drained chopped tomatoes, thinly sliced stick pepperoni, lightly sauteed kale, mozzarella cheese, and finished with garlic oil (just like in the Lady and Pups recipe above, but without the capers) make for a richly flavored pizza. I love a bit of kale (which gets nice and crisp) to balance out the pepperoni (but that probably surprises no one).

Roasted cauliflower and garlic dip. I made this to take to a brewery (many let you bring food in if they don’t serve any) along with the rest of the beet dip, carrots, and chickpea crackers. I left out the pepitas and nutmeg and forgot the parsley and it was a big hit.

Chickpea crackers.  These were the easiest crackers I’ve ever made (and they’re gluten free if that’s your thing). There is no rolling, just spreading the batter on a baking mat. They were heavily spiced, so next time I think I’ll hold back on the cayenne and cumin.

Since I ran out of bread to make scrambled eggs with kale and whipped feta on toast I had to revert to the old standby, hash browns, kale and a fried egg. Breakfast was saved.

Not something I cooked – I’ve enjoyed my share of small plates with pretentious names and ingredients. But sometimes it can go too far, and this hipster bar menu generator does everything right. I love the balance of ridiculously namesd dishes and single items (oyster – $14).

Kale salad with apples, dried cranberries, and pecans

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

Kale salad with apples, dried cranberries, and pecans

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

Dressing

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

Salad

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

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

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.

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.

Last week I cooked…

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters I spent minimal time out in the world today, and still saw Oktoberfest beer and Halloween decorations for sale. COOL YOUR JETS retail, it is still August, which means we aren’t done with tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers, humidity, weddings, dining outside, or beach days yet.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Eggplant Pasta. I admittedly set myself up for disaster with this one. I didn’t peel the eggplant so those pieces were more bitter, and I didn’t use a mandolin to slice it. The strips need to be incredibly thin for this dish to work with such a short cooking time. I cooked it for way longer than 10 seconds, but they still weren’t pasta texture. So know, this dish needs some skill and equipment to execute properly (and even then, I’m still skeptical of the short cooking time). I’m curious what this is like when executed properly, but next time I’ll just make Alton’s eggplant parm, which is one of my favorite foods.

Green Bean and Cherry Tomato Salad (pictured above). Paired with the eggplant noodles, and as much as the eggplant didn’t work, this dish did and it was entirely unplanned. I’ve been slowly reading through The Art of Simple Food to soak up its wisdom, and turned to the salad chapter for inspiration. I wouldn’t have put green beans and cherry tomatoes together, but as usual Alice was right. Easy red wine vinegar and shallot vinaigrette, and enough of a departure from my usual tomato salad. This one will forever be in my late summer rotation.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Chard and feta quesadillas. A dinner disappointment is necessarily followed by a sure success. I cooked down a lot of chard (probably 8 large leaves, stems removed and chopped), and then cooled it a bit and squeezed out excess liquid. Flour tortillas filled with mild cheddar, feta, and the chard made for a fail-safe delicious meal paired with a tomato and cucumber salad.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Skillet greens & beans with anchovy breadcrumbs. I would have eaten the entire pot of this if possible. This is a dish that is a flash to put together and everything I want in a meal. Filling beans, vegetal greens, and anchovy umami. I even burned the croutons for this (by bread wasn’t at crumb level) and it was still amazing. Last time I made it with dried beans that I cooked, which did hold their integrity much better, but I still liked that the canned beans I used this time broke down more to mix with the dressing. I used mature red Russian kale chopped, and cannellini beans, but will continue adapting it with what I have around for future versions. Even if you don’t think anchovies are your thing, give them a chance. They shine here.

This was a busy and earlier week at work, so my breakfasts were mostly fruit and granola eaten during morning meetings. But I made up for it this weekend with a perennial favorite (made with chard this go around), and then skillet potatoes with a goat cheese, zucchini, and cherry tomato omelette.

Besides a tiny batch of strawberry thyme honey jam, I haven’t done any canning this summer. But that all changed this week, because determined to make up for lost time I made tomato jam two nights in a row, followed by a double batch of dilly beans (I used the recipe from the book, which uses white vinegar, cayenne pepper and no peppercorns, but I may add those in next time). Still on my list: ketchup, roasted corn salsa, peach salsa and lots of tomatoes.

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.

Last week I cooked…

Last week I cooked - Vegetal MattersTakeout-style sesame noodles with cucumber. I saw this posted on Tuesday, didn’t have a firm plan for dinner that night, and had all the ingredients for this in the pantry, plus cucumbers in the garden and it was the greatest. I’ve had trouble cooking rice noodles, but I watched these like a hawk and then drizzled them with sesame oil as instructed, and they didn’t turn out gummy or all stick together (hallelujah!). I always love a nutty, creamy, slightly sour sauce like this (which tastes strong on its own but mellows nicely with the noodles). After running around all day I knew I would need a more substantial meal, so I roasted some tofu a la Thug Kitchen (page 77 of the cookbook….that’s how often I use this method). Because of the tofu addition I served the noodles still warm and they were everything I hoped for.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Braised cabbage with fried potatoes, feta, and dill (from Vegetable Literacy). Very fancy feeling. The creamy fried potatoes were nicely balanced with wilted buttery cabbage, salty feta and herbal dill (which I don’t cook with enough).  This would have made an excellent course at an Irish mid-summer farm dinner. Unfortunately I made just this for dinner, and Madison’s serves 4 definitely meant as a side not a meal.

Corn bread salad. I have to admit this did not turn out, but it was entirely my fault as I let the cornbread go south (I thought toasting it up again would save it…I was wrong). Even if I had done everything according to recipe, it probably would not be my favorite dish. I already don’t like croutons in salad, and then getting them all soggy just makes everything that much worse. But I tried it, and I think most people without soggy crouton aversions would like this, so have at it.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Zucchini ricotta fritters. I’ve been on the hunt for the best zucchini fritters for a while now…and these still aren’t quite them. The ricotta made them super moist, but to the point of being hard to cook through. They stayed together really nicely, browned quickly, and then sat in the oven for a bit and still were super soft in the middle. Most zest and more salt next time, higher heat, and longer in the oven.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Potatoes with kale and a fried egg. This remains one of my absolute favorite breakfasts. This time I cooked the potatoes cubed in the cast iron, and added some diced onion halfway through cooking. The potatoes aren’t quite as decadent that way, but they do cook faster.

Last week I cooked - Vegetal Matters

Toast with ricotta, honey, and peaches. My favorite breakfast, lunch, and coffee spot in Worcester is also a bakery, and most of their breakfast menu is just their incredible breads toasted with various spreads (like country bread with homemade raspberry jam, and olive and herb bread with whipped feta and olive oil). After eating there Sunday I wanted nothing but toast for breakfast all week, and did different renditions of ricotta with jam or honey and fruit.

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

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.