Last Week I Cooked…

20170214_192056Sticky rice with Chinese sausage. There is a Vietnamese grocery store with other Asian ingredients not too far from my house. When I was shopping for something completely different I came across some of this sausage, and decided to buy it and later figure out something to do with it. I then ended up buying sticky rice to make this recipe….but didn’t read how to cook it until it was time to do so. An overnight soak followed by a steam?! Nevermind. I made what is probably an unacceptable substitute (brown rice), but it got dinner on the table that day. Never having eaten this kind of sausage before or had this dish, I wasn’t quite sure how to judge it. The sausage was definitely sweet for my tastes. I made some stir-fried greens with chili oil on the side, but I ended up stirring everything together for the leftovers and found the spice and slightly bitter greens nicely balanced out the sweet sausage.

Mama Chang’s Hot and Sour Soup. I made this a couple weeks ago, when it was soup weather. This recipe comes together so quickly but is exploding with flavor. I accidentally bought silken tofu, which the recipe specifically says not to use. Instead of adding in the tofu and then whisking in the scrambled egg, I added the egg and then stirred in the tofu and everything turned out fine.

Ultimate spaghetti and meatbrawls with serious Sunday gravy (from In My Kitchen). This isn’t how I grew up eating meatballs. The sauce is prepared more like a bolognese, but leaving out the meat (because it is in the meatballs) which makes for a more broth-y sauce. The recipe called for an hour of reduction, but I probably would have given it at least two if I was willing to push dinner off that late. After reducing it further after dinner, then eating it again as leftovers I was sold on the broth/sauce. It turned into a complex sauce full of umami from the tomato and parmesan. Definitely worth making, but just give yourself some time. This would also be especially amazing with fresh pasta if you have the time.

20170221_192722Ground pork and mushroom tacos with baked Spanish rice (from The Thug Kitchen Cookbook). I had some leftover mushrooms from the previous week’s hot and sour soup, plus ground pork leftover from the meatballs. I sauteed the pork to render the fat and break it up, and removed it from the pan when it was browned through. Then I cooked the minced mushrooms in a couple batches. When they were browned I added in some chopped chipotle en adobo, a few minced garlic cloves, cumin, salt, and the pork back to the pan. It made for a spicy and meaty taco filling rounded out nicely with some lime crema and cilantro. The rice was from Thug Kitchen, and was an easy baked dish. I’ve made similar versions before, but this one was especially good because it was made with brown rice and had just the right amount of liquid to cook the rice but not end up soggy.

Smokey black-eyed peas with roasted sweet potatoes and collards (from The Thug Kitchen Cookbook). I need to learn that recipes which call for a whole sweet potato per person are just crazy. I made six servings of this and 4 potatoes would have been plenty. The real star here are the beans, which are cooked with chipotle en adobo, allspice, nutmeg, paprika, and garlic. It makes for an awesome stew to balance out the sweet potatoes.

Green chile baked flautas (from The Thug Kitchen Cookbook). These check off all the right boxes for a tiring work week: fast, easy, healthy. You make a mashed bean filling with sauteed onion, a few spices, and corn (though I subbed sauteed kale), put it in a tortilla, roll it up, and bake it. After having made these a couple times now I think the filling would be better in a different format, because the tortillas don’t get super crisp or add much to the dish like this.

New old-fashioned coffee cake (from Flour). I make this coffee cake about once every five years. It is dense, buttery, and just delightful.

Maple oat scones (from Flour). I’ve made these before and loved them, but this time they turned out a bit dry. Did I not incorporate the butter enough at the beginning? Bake them for too long? Make them too small? They have great flavor and are not overly sweet so I will definitely try them out again.

Lemon cremes with oat-thyme crumble (from The Sprouted Kitchen). I had some leftover silken tofu from the hot and sour soup and had always wanted to try this recipe. The creme comes together about as fast as it takes you to put everything in the food processor and whiz it. The crumble was a simple combo of oats, nuts, coconut oil, and sugar, that I would make again and again just as a granola. For a dessert that came together in about 3 minutes and then just needed to be served, it was quite pleasing.

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Last Week I Cooked….

img954211Winter vegetable chowder with crispy cabbage. There are so many things about this soup I love. It is simultaneously filling, but not heavy, and bright from the lemon and mustard. It has roasted cabbage on top which makes for a surprising topping. Blending part of the soup makes for a thick base without adding anything additional. If you were looking for the winter soup to break you out of a rut, this is it.

Sauteed kale with bacon, white beans, and mushrooms over farro. This started out as a dish over polenta, but poor shopping made me reconfigure. I sauteed the 3 chopped slices of bacon, took it out of the pan once crisp, then sauteed the mushrooms. I added them to the bowl with the bacon, then sauteed the kale. When the kale was wilted, I added the bacon and mushrooms back in along with a couple cans of drained and rinsed cannellini beans. That went on top of farro, and was finished with a grating of parmesan cheese. It was quick and satisfying.

Citrus Brussels sprouts slaw with rice paper bacon bits and almond parm.  I didn’t go into this recipe expecting to never need bacon or parm again (and things haven’t changed). What I did end up with was a really interesting salad with a nice citrus dressing and crunchy, flavorful toppings. Absolutely worth a try when you need more plants in your life. I made it into a meal by adding some shredded cabbage, roasted cauliflower, and cooked farro.

Chicken Marsala over barley and celery root salad with apple and horseradish (pictured at top, photo by Jesse). I had such a craving for chicken marsala (which was indeed good), but ended up being so much more into this salad. I used 2 celery roots and a quarter cabbage, left out the caraway, and used dill instead of the tarragon. If you can rope your dinner guest into chopping all the vegetables for you, it is a breeze to throw together! (Thanks Jesse!!!)

Parsnip latkes. The latkes themselves are pretty good, but the sauce that goes with these is the real star. It is bright and herby and just what I needed to use up some sour cream and dill in the fridge.

 

 

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.

 

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.

February Light

February Light - Citrus CocktailI think February is a brighter month than we give her credit for. The days are noticeably longer than they were in January (that 40 minutes makes a big difference).  My town in central Massachusetts got over 40″ of snow in the last couple weeks (and more to come) so the land is under a very thick layer of white. When the skies take a break from snowing and the sun does shine, it reflects blindingly off the snow (especially when you work in a barn surrounded by 8 acres of snow). And then there is the citrus. Beyond storage apples there are slim pickings for local fruit around these parts now, but the citrus is coming in hot. Clementines, oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, blood oranges, tangelos in mountainous displays. They are plenty brightening alone, but even more spirited served like this.

February Light - Citrus Cocktail

February Light – Citrus Cocktail

Makes 2 short drinks

I used a combination of grapefruit and clementine, but whatever citrus or combination would work. If you like a really spicy cocktail even more ginger could be added, or leave it out entirely if you are looking for something sweeter. Don’t bother with bottled juice, the taste is vastly inferior.

  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 clementine (yes, there are two pictured above, but I ended up with more juice than I needed)
  • 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled
  • 2 shots vodka
  • 1 shot triple sec
  • Ice

Juice the grapefruit and the clementine. Strain the juice to remove the pulp. Slice the ginger into 2 pieces and place each piece in the bottom of an old fashioned glass. Using a muddler or a wooden spoon, mash the ginger up a bit (but try not to make a ton of tiny pieces). Measure 1 shot of vodka and half a shot of triple sec into each glass.  Finish with 2 shots of the freshly squeezed juice in each glass. Stir to combine and add ice (I love giant cocktail ice cubes, but regular ice, icicles, or whatever else you have will work).

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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.