Greens with eggs, garlic yogurt, and chili butter

IMG_20180812_101958068Yogurt finally convinced me it was worthy of my attention in the summer of 2009. Prior to that I hated the gloppy texture and saccharine sweetness of fruit flavored yogurts in tiny cups (or worse, pouches). But that year my mom and I traveled through Greece and Turkey, both cuisines that revere yogurt and think of it as an ingredient more like cream cheese that can be used in savory and sweet applications. But unlike dense and fattier cream cheese, it is light, tangy and refreshing.

My gateway yogurt experience was in Greece. We ate a meal that I’m sure was delightful but is now totally obscured by my memory of dessert. After the meal I was served a schmear of plain Greek yogurt in a stemmed bowl lightly drizzled with honey. It was creamy, cool, and a perfect foil to sweet and herbal honey. Where had THIS yogurt been all my life?

In Istanbul we wandered the streets until we came upon a little cafe with outdoor seating. (Our family rule is any meal that can be eaten outside, should be eaten outside.) When I’m in a place where I’m not familiar with everything on the menu, I like to watch what people around me order. I saw a plate of rice, grilled vegetables, something that looked like grilled meatballs, tomato sauce, and yogurt be delivered to a nearby table, and motioned something to convey “PLEASE FEED ME THAT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE” to the waiter. Turkish kofte is ground lamb or beef that is heavily spiced with cumin and onion, and the warmly flavored meat is incomplete without yogurt or a yogurt sauce.

When we returned home I discovered that my hatred of flavored yogurt had blinded me to a well established US obsession with Greek yogurt, which was widely available. It became a staple in my fridge that earned its keep with its versatility. Flavored yogurt can be breakfast with granola or in a smoothies, but its uses stop there. Plain yogurt serves those purposes even better (especially with fresh fruit), but also can be used in baking, in pancakes, instead of sour cream (when you forget to buy it, or just can’t be bothered to knowing the rest will languish in the fridge), stirred into soups, dolloped on top of dal, or incorporated into a savory sauce.

Which brings me to this dish of sauteed greens, eggs, garlic yogurt, chili butter, and potatoes. Israeli cuisine is another that celebrates the flavor of yogurt, and Yotam Ottolenghi’s cookbooks are some of the first I turn to when I am looking for interesting ways to prepare vegetables. I own Jerusalem, Plenty, and Plenty More, which I flipped through this week for some inspiration. I was mostly looking for ways to use tomatoes and eggplant, but a recipe for baked eggs with yogurt, chile and arugula in Plenty More (page 140) seemed a fitting use for the bunch of greens in my fridge. Instead of arugula, I used a mix of Asian greens from my CSA and kale and collards from my garden.  (Those were from last week’s CSA, but from this week the chard, bok choy, or both would be excellent). I boiled extra potatoes when I made the composed salad earlier this week, so I crisped those up to have with the greens, but a nice piece of toast would be fitting as well. I find eggs very difficult to cook to my preferred done-ness in the oven (set whites and verrrrrrrrry runny yolks), so I did my usual pan-fried over easy eggs here, but prepare them however makes you happiest.

The magic really comes from Ottolenghi’s genius accouterments: grated raw garlic stirred into yogurt, and melted butter with chili flakes. Both quickly come together while everything else is cooking, and provide a creamy tang and a fatty heat that make this dish so much more than greens and eggs. I made it for Sunday breakfast, but this would work for any meal.

Greens with eggs, garlic yogurt, and chili butter

Adapted from Baked eggs with yogurt and chile in Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 4

  • 1 cup sliced onion (from 1 small onion)
  • 1/2 lb of hearty greens, chopped (8 cups total)
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3/4 cup plain (unflavored) Greek yogurt
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo chili flakes (or 1/4 teaspoon regular chili flakes)
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper

For serving

  • 1 lb of cooked potatoes or 4 slices of toast
  • 4 eggs, cooked however you please

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add the greens and stir. Cook for 5 minutes more until greens are completely wilted.

While the onions and greens are cooking, stir the grated garlic into the yogurt along with a pinch of salt. Do not refrigerate while you finish cooking.

In a small saucepan over medium heat melt the butter and chili flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the butter is foamy and turns red from the chili flakes.

Serve greens with eggs and yogurt alongside potatoes or toast, and drizzle everything with the chili butter.

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party

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

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party - Vegetal Matters

The Menu

Timeline

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

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

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party - Vegetal Matters

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hosting an Oktoberfest Party - Vegetal Matters

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

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

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.

 

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.

Dijon Lentils with Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes

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

Dijon Lentils with Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes

Serves 8 as a side, 6 as a meal.

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

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

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

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

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