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Posts from the ‘Main Dishes’ Category

Late Summer Perfection

The beautiful beginnings.

The first day, prepared according to  Deborah Madison’s simple recipe in Vegetable Literacy, it was delicious. The second day (breakfast) it was even better with a fried egg, and the third day it turned into a most memorable pasta sauce. This most versatile and rewarding dish is Deborah’s sweet pepper and onion tian. My only other reference for a tian had been Julia Child’s zucchini and rice tian which is delicious but bears  little resemblance to this late summer pleasure.

Here you gently roast torpedo onions (or plain red onions or any onions you have for that matter) with sprigs of thyme, sweet peppers, garlic and a few tomatoes–for 90 minutes. Then you reduce the liquid that accumulates in the baking dish with a touch of vinegar on the stove top and then toss the perfectly tender vegetables with the reduction. It’s the kind of thing I could, and did, eat three times a day, for days, albeit in various incarnations.

It’s the slow, extended cooking time that brings out the flavors and textures of the vegetables that my often quick, thrown-together, summer dishes lack. It begs to be eaten slowly and relished–something I actually don’t do often enough.

I’m sure I’ll play with this technique with other vegetables but frankly there’s something to be said for making this just as Deborah suggests. You need the liquid from the tomatoes and the peppers and onions keep their shape while the tomatoes melt. The vinegar is the perfect counterpoint and complement to the sweetness of everything else. So, make it! And make plenty!

After 90 minutes in the oven.

 

Sweet Pepper and Onion Tian
–slightly adapted from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison

Oh my goodness this is good. All you need is some time. The preparation is dead simple but it takes 90 minutes to bake. It’s just as good or better the next day so you could make it one night while you’re making something else for dinner and then have it the next day.

3-4 small-ish torpedo onions or red onions or any onions you have
3 sweet red peppers
2 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil
5 to 6 thyme branches or several pinches of dried
6 small garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine, sherry or balsamic vinegar (or to taste)

Preheat the oven to  350 F.

Quarter the onions, leaving the base intact, and peel them. Halve the peppers both crosswise and lengthwise, remove the seeds and veins, and cut them into pieces roughly 1/2 inch wide. Remove the core from the tomatoes and cut them into sixths.

Brush a bit of olive oil over the bottom of a gratin dish, scatter the thyme over it, and add the vegetables, including the garlic and arrange in the dish. Drizzle the remaining oil over the vegetables, being sure to coat the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper.

Cover the tian and bake for 1 1/2 hours. The vegetables should be very soft, the tomatoes melting into a jam. Remove it from the oven and carefully pour the liquid that has collected into a small saucepan. Add a teaspoon of vinegar, bring the liquid to a boil, and reduce until it is thick and syrupy. Taste for vinegar and salt; then pour this syrup over the vegetables.

Deborah suggests serving this with slices of grilled polenta or piled on top of grilled bread that has been spread first with a layer of garlic mayonnaise.  See above post for further ways to use, i.e. with a fried egg or blended into a smooth pasta sauce, etc.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

For breakfast with an egg.

For dinner with pasta and basil.

For dinner with pasta and basil.

Very Green Risotto

Spinach, pea shoots, green garlic, onion and a little bacon and a little rice

Spinach, green garlic, pea shoots, onion, a little bacon and a little rice

The farmers markets are overflowing with greenery, and new springy greenery like pea shoots, fava tops, spinach, . . . . I love kale and collards and rarely tire of them but these new tender leaves and shoots just taste like spring. We packed home many bunches of these beauties this weekend.

I always make risotto with spinach. It’s a standby but this time I thought I’d invert the ratio of rice to greens. I used 1 pound of spinach (which is a lot of spinach) and one large bunch of pea shoots in addition to three large green garlic stalks and 1 scant cup of rice. Much like this recipe which calls for copious amounts of mustard greens to a small amount of bulgur, the technique melted all those greens into a perfect bowl of creamy goodness. And my son happily ate a big serving after at first having turned his nose up at the un-risotto-like looking risotto!

I can imagine adapting this idea to different greens–fava tops, chard, whole bunches of parsley or cilantro, etc. I’d love to hear reports if you try this or any other versions.

And because I couldn’t help myself and because I didn’t have time to make anything else I topped our bowls of risotto with a fried egg to make a complete meal. As you know, most things are suited to being topped in such a way in my mind.

Spinach and pea shoots

Spinach and pea shoots

Green garlic, onions and bacon beginning to sizzle.

Green garlic, onions and bacon beginning to sizzle.

And as per usual, I used my homemade veggie bouillon instead of chicken or vegetable stock, adding another layer of green.  Speaking of veggie bouillon I have finally started making it to sell, so if you find yourself wishing you always had it on hand but never get around to making it (and you live in Portland) please get in touch.

Very green risotto

Very green risotto

Very Green Risotto

I love the ratio of greens to rice in this dish. It is light, fresh and lovely and you can substitute with other greens (see above). It really doesn’t take that much time and is so worth the bit of effort of stirring and adding broth occasionally for 20 minutes.

If you’re using pea shoots, taste the stems and tendrils raw. They should be tender and delicious raw as well. If you find tough fibrous parts, trim those off. And chop the spinach and pea shoots quite finely, like into 1-2-inch pieces. The greens blend with the rice more easily when the pieces aren’t too big.

1 large bunch spinach (thoroughly washed), chopped
1 bunch pea shoots, well washed and chopped
6-7 cups vegetable or chicken stock or homemade bouillon (see above)
3 or more stalks green garlic, trimmed and finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 ounces bacon, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (or more olive oil but green garlic particularly likes to be sautéed in butter)
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine (optional)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a saucepan bring 7 cups water with about 10 teaspoons of homemade veggie bouillon to a boil and keep at a bare simmer. Be sure to taste the broth to make sure it’s well-seasoned but not too salty. (or use a chicken or vegetable stock of your choice).

In a large sauté pan cook onion, green garlic and bacon in 1 tablespoon each butter and olive oil (or just olive oil) over medium heat, stirring, until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Stir in rice, stirring until each grain is coated with oil and cook for 2 minutes. Add wine (if using) and cook, over moderately high heat, stirring, until wine is absorbed. Add about 3/4 cup simmering broth and cook over moderately high heat, stirring frequently, until broth is absorbed.

Since we’re using so many greens it’s helpful to add the greens in increments. I think the spinach is good cooked a bit longer but the pea shoots are best added at the end so start with handfuls of spinach about half way through the cooking process (you can judge this by seeing how much broth you have left over). Continue adding broth, about 3/4 cup at a time, cooking, stirring and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until about half of broth has been added. Continue adding broth in the same manner until rice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, about 18 minutes. A few minutes before the rice is tender stir in the pea shoots and a cup of broth. Cook for a minute until shoots are just wilted. Salt and pepper to taste. Add butter and parmesan, nutmeg and a little more broth is it looks a bit dry, mix well and remove pan from heat. Let rest for 7-10 minutes, covered, before serving.

Spinach risotto is light, fresh and lovely. It’s one of my favorite risottos. It really doesn’t take that much time and is so worth the bit of effort of stirring and adding broth occasionally for 20 minutes.

And with the egg!

And with the egg!

Barley Lentil Soup with Green Garlic & Parsley

Barley Lentil Soup

This is a season-straddling soup. A soup into which I stirred a generous heap of fresh parsley and finely minced green garlic just before serving. And it felt springy and bright despite being a robust soup at heart. I love this time of year when the garden starts producing green sprouts of various kinds that quickly invigorate the more wintry items in my pantry. Green garlic is in all the farmers markets here this time of year and is one of the great delights of early spring. You can use almost the whole plant and it is tender and much sweeter and mellower than the mature clove. I put it in most anything this time of year, especially with eggs or stirred into Greek yogurt for a topping or on a sandwich.

I’ve heard mention of barley a lot recently and was inspired to cook up this combination by the wonderful Camas Country Mill folks who package their own lentils and barley with a spice mix and supply their local food bank with these super nourishing one-dish meal packets.

I did not have Camas Country’s lentils and barley but had French green lentils and hulless barley from the bulk aisle at a local grocery store. I was afraid the barley, even though a hulless variety, would take longer to cook than the lentils. So I cooked a big pot of it in a plenty of salty water for about 20 minutes. It was actually almost tender by then and I forgot about it off the heat for a  few hours. It softened further but still withstood the 20 minutes in the pot with the lentils later on and turned out perfectly tender. Now I have plenty on hand for a “risotto” or other soup or salad but suggest you just start the barley 10 minutes before the lentils if you don’t have it on hand pre-cooked or pearled.

Lentil Barley Soup with Green Garlic & Parsley

If you have precooked barley (see above) you can add it at the same time you add the lentils. If you have pearled barley you can add it at the same time as well. If you have hulless barley, add it and the broth after you’ve cooked the aromatics for a while and then bring that to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes and then add the lentils.

1 cup French green lentils or other small lentils that keep their shape
2 cups cooked barley (see above) or 3/4 – 1 cup draw/raw (hulless or pearled)
2-3 carrots, well scrubbed and diced
1 onion, diced
2 slices bacon, diced (optional)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon (or more to taste) red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon thyme
5-6 cups water or veggie broth or stock (if you’re using precooked barley you’ll need just under 5 cups)
good olive oil for drizzling
salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 cups of finely chopped parsley
3 thin green garlic stalks, trimmed of just the root end and any ratty greens, finely minced

Heat a good splash of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot, thyme, red pepper flakes and bay leaves and bacon and sauté, stirring frequently for about 7-8 minutes or until everything has softened and is just beginning to brown. Add the lentils, broth or water and barley (see  headnote) and a 3/4 teaspoon of salt if your broth is not salty. Bring to a bowl and then turn down to a simmer and cook for about 20 -25 minutes. At this point the lentils should be tender but not yet falling apart. Stir in the parsley and green garlic, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper and cook for just another minute or two. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil.

Happy cooking, happy spring, happy Easter!

 

Squash Rice Fritters + Cilantro Yogurt Sauce

Previously frozen brown rice thawed and mixed with roasted squash and seasonings  make for a delicious fritter.

Previously frozen brown rice thawed and mixed with roasted squash and seasonings makes for a delicious fritter.

Mid last week I had one section of that beautiful, giant squash leftover. I had unearthed a bag of cooked, frozen rice–rice that I had almost dumped on the compost because I inadvertently left the burner on when I went to pick up my son and found very, very soft though not burned, short-grain brown rice upon my eventual return. In the back of my mind lurked a comment my mother had made about rice patties held together with mashed squash.

Finally, I probably shouldn’t have been cooking at all, let alone cutting lumpy, hard, winter squash into wedges, as I had cut my finger rather badly two days earlier cutting onions.  So I was clumsily operating one-handed, however, the resulting fritters with their cool, tangy sauce (that allowed the sad cilantro in the crisper to go out with a bang), were good, really good. I even invited neighbors over last-minute to share the fritter bounty.

Some minced green onion, ground cumin, a bit of grated sharp cheddar and an egg were all I added and then I pan-fried them in just a little olive oil until deeply golden brown on both sides. I took my time–the cut has slowed me down just a bit–and let them cook about 7 minutes on either side which I think was the key to them sticking together and developing such a good crust.

The variations on this basic idea are once again manifold. I can image most any fresh herb, in great quantity or other spices, other grains or even other mashed vegetables as long as they’re not too watery. I’m sure sweet potatoes would be good or carrots, etc.

Patties in the making

Patties in the making

Cilantro yogurt sauce--simple toss a half bunch or so of cilantro in a food processor with some Greek yogurt, a clove or garlic, a little lemon juice and some salt and you have the perfect topping/sauce for most anything.

Cilantro yogurt sauce–simply toss a half bunch or so of cilantro (stems and all) in a food processor with some Greek yogurt, a clove or garlic, a little lemon juice and some salt and you have the perfect topping/sauce for most anything.

Squash Rice Fritters

I loved the combination of these fritters and my all-purpose cilantro yogurt sauce. I adapted it a bit to keep it thicker, more like a topping than a sauce. I omitted the olive oil and just used Greek yogurt (whole milk if you can), half a bunch of cilantro (stems and all), clove of garlic, lemon juice, and salt to taste.

I actually think my overcooked rice (see above) served me very well texture-wise, though I’m sure it will work with properly cooked rice too! And quantities, as per usual, are just suggestions.

Serves 4 (more or less)

2 1/2 – 3 cups cooked rice
2 cups cooked, mashed winter squash
1 large egg
2 scallions, finely chopped (greens and all) or a shallot or chunk of onion
1/2 cup (or more) grated sharp cheddar or cheese of your choice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste (at least 1 teaspoon of salt)
Olive oil for pan-frying

Mix all of the ingredients together thoroughly. Shape them into patties with your hands. I wouldn’t make them too small since they won’t stick together as well. You can see my size in the photo above.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat. Place as many patties in the skillet as you can without crowding. Fry for at least 5 minutes per side to develop a good crisp crust but be careful not to burn. You’ll likely  need to turn your burner down to medium. Repeat on the other side. Serve with a generous dollop of cilantro yogurt sauce.

Happy Cooking!

P.S. I’ve posted two new classes: Strong Food: Fun, Simple, Veggie-centric Dishes for the Whole Family and Using Your Prepared Pantry: What do with Frozen Rice, Beans and other Goodies in your Freezer the latter in part inspired by the above impromptu recipe. Would love to have you join me.

Winter Squash, Chickpeas, Lemongrass & Coconut Milk

Marina di Chioggia Squash

Marina di Chioggia Squash

I’m not at all tired of the months of sun and warmth captured in a deep orange winter squash enjoyed in the last throes of winter. A friend gave me a gorgeous Marina di Chioggia squash last fall and we’ve been enjoying it all week in a variety of forms. It started with gingery squash muffins baked with a big dollop of apricot jam on top and it has continued with this warming but bright Indian-flavored dish.

This dish is only slightly adapted from the inimitable Nigel Slater who in the headnote describes ground turmeric as having a “dusty, old as time itself” taste which is such an apt description for this spice. The lemon grass and ginger balance the turmeric in a dish that is both light and fresh and creamy and deeply satisfying. I had it for breakfast this morning, without rice and with lots of lime juice. I have tended towards savory breakfasts for the past year and this may have been the best one yet!

Happy Cooking!

P.S. There are sill spots available in the Winter/Spring Cooking Class at Luscher Farm on March 16th. We’d love to have you!

Chickpeas, squash, lemon grass and coconut milk--a pretty winning combination when slowly cooked with cardamom and turmeric.

Chickpeas, squash, lemon grass and coconut milk–a pretty winning combination when slowly cooked with cardamom and turmeric.

Chickpeas with Winter Squash, Lemongrass & Coconut Milk
–slightly adapted from Tender by Nigel Slater

If you don’t have whole cardamom pods you can use 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom and add it when you add the ground coriander and turmeric. Whole green cardamom pods are a good thing to have in your spice drawer since they stay fresher much longer than the pre-ground spices.

1 1/2 cups dried chickpeas soaked for six or more hours, drained
2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons peanut, coconut or olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled
3 large stalks of lemongrass, root end trimmed and several tough outer layers removed, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
6 green cardamom pods, crushed (or ground cardamom–see headnote)
2 Serrano chilies, finely chopped and seeds removed (or keep seeds if you want it spicier)
1 lb peeled and seeded winter squash (about 4 1/2 cups of bite-sized pieces)
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or chickpea cooking liquid seasoned with 2 teaspoons of homemade veggie bouillon base
1 1/2 cups coconut milk (full fat if at all possible)
1 tablespoon brown or yellow mustard seeds
1 cup chopped cilantro

To serve

Cooked basmati rice
Lime wedges

Drain the chickpeas and bring them to the boil in deep, unsalted water. Let them simmer for 40 to 50 minutes till tender.

Pour the oil into a deep pot and add the onions, letting them cook over a moderate heat till soft and translucent. Meanwhile make a rough paste of the garlic ginger and lemongrass in a food processor. The lemongrass won’t break down all the way and will still seem very fibrous but process for quite a while. The fibers will soften in the stew and practically disappear. Stir the paste into the softened onion and continue to cook. Add the ground coriander and turmeric, then add the crushed cardamom pods.

Add them, together with the fresh chillies, seeded and finely chopped. Keep the heat fairly low and don’t allow to brown (though nothing dreadful will happen if you do).

Add the squash to the pan, along with cooked chickpeas and the stock or chickpea cooking liquid. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and continue to cook at a gentle simmer till the squash is tender, about 25 minutes. Stop as soon as the flesh is yielding to the point of a knife – you don’t want it to collapse.

Stir in the coconut milk and continue to simmer. Put a splash of oil into a pan and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they start to pop add them to the pot, together with the chopped cilantro. Serve with the rice and the limes wedges.

Why Not? Add a Spoonful . . .

Brothy Pinto Beans with Harissa and Parsley

Brothy Pinto Beans with Harissa and Parsley

of Harissa to my plain bowl of brothy beans for lunch? Why not do the same a few days later with chickpeas and top them with garlicky sautéed mustard greens and feta? This was such a success that I taught it in a recent class and I’ve noted the recipe below. I use this wonderful smoky, spicy paste in this greens and bulgur dish and have been reaching for it this winter to enliven eggs, bowls of rice and now beans. There are lots of recipes online to make your own Harissa and my favorite store-bought brand is Mustapha’s.

Why not? has become my new teaching refrain as well.  It of course goes hand in hand with the cook-with-what-you-have approach of substituting and adapting on the fly and is a catchy enough reminder to not be bound word for word to recipes and thus make cooking more fun, less stressful and more satisfying.

A spice paste often from Morocco of chilies, cumin, garlic and oil.

A spice paste often from Morocco of chilies, garlic, lemon and oil.

I’ve had a couple of successes with the why not? approach lately. I added lots of sliced, raw leeks instead of a little onion to a gratin of root vegetables. Not sure why I’d never done that but it gave the gratin a lush, silky sweetness. I filled burritos with pinto beans and sautéed chard and roasted tomatoes. I made the Cauliflower Pasta Risotto that I wrote about here with Brussels Sprouts and bacon. And last night I thinned down heavy whipping cream with milk since the cream was so thick I thought it might not whip into a nice light topping for my son’s birthday chocolate pie. It worked beautifully! Sometimes the why not? approach is less successful as in the time I added some homemade vanilla extract (vodka plus vanilla beans) from a very fresh batch of extract to heavy cream that I whipped for some dessert and the cream tasted sour from the vodka that had not yet really been infused by the vanilla beans.

Have you had moments like these? Successful or less so? I’d love to hear about them.

Chickpea Soup with Sautéed Mustard Greens and Harissa

This is something I’ve been eating this winter for lunch with a variety of toppings or additions. It came about one day when all I had ready to eat was cooked chickpeas in their broth, a jar of Harissa in the fridge (and a few other things but they were not suitable for lunch). I heated up the chickpeas, added a little Harissa and a good drizzle of olive oil and lunch was had, with a piece of bread, I think. It was warm and nourishing and lovely. I like the addition of quickly sautéed mustard greens (or any leafy greens) and a little feta. This is just a basic template and another quick, cheap, delicious way to use those glorious chickpeas or any kind of bean you have around already cooked.

Serves 2

3 cups cooked chickpeas (or other beans of your choice)
2 – 2 ½ cups chickpea cooking liquid
½ – 1 teaspoon Harissa (depending on what spice level you like and your brand of Harissa)
About 4 cups washed mustard greens, cut into ribbons
1 clove garlic, minced (optional)
Olive oil
Crumbled feta for serving
Salt and Pepper

Heat the chickpeas and their liquid in a saucepan. Sauté the mustard greens with the garlic in a bit of olive oil until just wilted and lightly salt. This should only take about 3-5 minutes.

When ready to serve, stir the Harissa into the chickpeas and portion the soup into bowls. Top with the mustard greens and a bit of feta. Drizzle on a little more good olive oil and grind of pepper and enjoy!

Chickpeas and Harissa topped with mustard greens and feta

Chickpeas and Harissa topped with mustard greens and feta (photo courtesy of Mark Timby)

Potatoes and Kale Baked with Tomatoes and Bacon

Kale and potatoes baked with roasted tomatoes and bacon and a little cream.

Kale and potatoes baked with roasted tomatoes and bacon and a little cream.

One-dish meals that take oven-time but not much else are a godsend. When these one-dish  meals use the produce in the Winter CSA share for which I write recipes and are gobbled up by the husband and kid and snacked on at room temperature at 10pm by the husband walking by the stove. . . Well, that’s an extra good thing. And if you have roasted frozen tomatoes on hand from last fall’s harvest this is a great way to employ them. If you don’t you can use drained diced canned (preferably fire-roasted) tomatoes. I keep nice, smoky bacon (Nueske’s available at Pastaworks) in the freezer as well for dishes just like these so there is no need for last-minute runs to the store. And to make it vegetarian I would substitute a teaspoon or so of smoked paprika, Pimenton, for the bacon.

This dish was loosely inspired by friend and  local author Diane Morgan’s delicious new book Roots though I employ a whole bunch of kale instead of 2 tablespoons parsley and a variety of other changes in this adaptation. And as with last week’s post in which I imagined the many possible variations of the Cauliflower Pasta “Risotto” (several of which I’ve tried with great success), this dish begs for adaptations. Any hearty green, leafy vegetable would be good. Sweet potatoes or parsnips or celery root or rutabaga could take the place of the spuds. You could use chicken stock or vegetable broth instead of the cream, and so and so forth in cook-with-what-you-have fashion.

The ingredients all simply get tossed together in a bowl. Then you drizzle over the cream and then bake for an hour.

The ingredients all simply get tossed together in a bowl. Then drizzle over the cream and bake for an hour.

Potatoes and Kale Baked with Tomatoes and Bacon

It is inspired by a recipe from Roots (by Diane Morgan) but is substantially different. It’s definitely a new favorite dish in our household. It takes a while to bake but otherwise it’s very quick to pull together. And please see my suggested variations above if you don’t have these exact ingredients on hand.

This makes quite a bit but it makes a great main dish and is excellent the next day so it’s seems worth making the whole amount but by all means reduce the quantities if you like.

Serves 4-6

About 5-6 medium to large waxy potatoes (yukon gold, red, fingerlings –use more if you’re using fingerlings), scrubbed and cut into bit-sized chunks
1 bunch kale, well washed and stems trimmed if they seem tough and then all of it chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices bacon, diced
1 ½ – 2 cups chopped, drained canned tomatoes or chopped roasted tomatoes you may have frozen (what I used)
1 ½  – 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
½ cup whipping cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients except the cream. Toss everything together well and transfer to a 8 x 13 or other large-ish baking dish. Pour the cream over everything. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and stir everything well—this is important to get the kale mixed in well and re-coated with liquid since it may still be a bit chewy. Return to oven, covered and bake another 20 – 30 minutes. If there is quite a bit of liquid in the pan you can remove the foil and bake uncovered to reduce it a bit.

When everything is tender remove from the oven and add the pepper and taste for salt. Serve immediately.

Cauliflower Pasta “Risotto”

The cauliflower at the Portland Farmers Market this winter has been so sweet and beautiful.

The cauliflower at the Portland Farmers Market and Hillsdale Farmers Market this winter have been so sweet and beautiful.

My father always told me not to over promise or over sell or just not be so darn hyperbolic, but I just can’t help myself. My son and husband and I all ate two plates of this last night with such glee that I must write about it today and post poorly lit photos because that’s all I have and I don’t have time to remake the dish in day-light. And there are NO leftovers.

The technique/recipe is inspired by a dish called Dressy Pasta Risotto from Dorie Greenspan’s wonderful book Around My French Table. My addition of a head of cauliflower and liberal grating of fresh nutmeg and the omission of much of the butter and all of the mascarpone has got me thinking about all sorts of other versions. I’m going to try Brussels sprouts and bacon maybe or kale and garlic or winter squash and sage. . .  The possibilities are vast and exciting.

I used tubetti pasta, a favorite shape I use in this chickpea dish and generally have on hand to add to soup–a surefire way to get my son to eat anything even if they’re just a few of them on the plate.

Serve this dish with a salad of arugula and/or chicories or other winter salad green to add some color and contrasting flavors to the plate. My idea of a perfect winter meal.

The ingredients for this dish are shockingly pale compared to my usual rainbow of colors but don't let that put you off.

The ingredients for this dish are shockingly pale compared to my usual rainbow of colors but don’t let that put you off.

Cauliflower Pasta “Risotto”
–adapted from Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan

Serves 3-4

As Dorie notes, “this is risotto” the way that finely sliced apples are carpaccio, which means not at all. . .” but the technique is just enough reminiscent of risotto that I appreciate the reference and continue to use it.

1 small head cauliflower, washed, trimmed and cut into very small pieces (see photo)
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil or 1 tbs butter and 1 tbs olive oil
1 1/3 cup tubetti (or ditalini or other small pasta)
4 cups flavorful vegetable broth (homemade veggie bouillon) or chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or other hard, grating cheese (Asiago Stella is a good, cheaper alternative)
Salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
Generous grating (about 1/4 teaspoon) fresh nutmeg

The fastest way to prepare the cauliflower is to slice the head into 1/2- 3/4-inch slabs, top to bottom, and then proceed to cube those. Some pieces will crumble off but that’s just fine. Use as much of the heart/stem as you can if it doesn’t seem to0 tough.

Heat the olive oil, or oil and butter, in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and a few pinches of salt and cook for  7 to 8 minutes until soft and turning golden, stirring often. You  may need to reduce the heat a bit. Now add the broth or stock and bring to a boil. Add the pasta, stirring well and then simmer for about 10 minutes uncovered. Now add the cauliflower, stir well to incorporate and then cover and cook for another 7 or 8 minutes until the cauliflower is tender. At this point add the cream and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Cook uncovered for about 3 minutes until it thickens slightly.

Stir in the parmesan and the nutmeg and adjust salt and pepper to taste. The cauliflower should be soft but not falling apart. It should not be al dente for this dish. Serve immediately.

Cauliflower Pasta "Risotto"

Cauliflower Pasta “Risotto”

Tomato-Braised Collards and Beans

This makes a lot which is a good thing since it's even better the next day.

Tomato-Braised Collards with Beans

All the talk of bean and lentil-eating traditions around the New Year suits me perfectly. They are thought to bring prosperity and health. I’ll happily discuss and cook those darlings any day so all the recent posts and meals cooked by friends that contained black-eyed or yellow-eyed peas and lentils have been a treat. A New Year’s day party at Cathy Whims’s of the fabulous Nostrana featured said yellow-eyed peas (from Rancho Gordo) and were a creamy, tender revelation served with garlicky collards and rice stewed in a rich tomato sauce, all inspired by my friend Bryant Terry’s wonderful book The Inspired Vegan. So last week I made my own variation of his Butter Bean and Tomato-Drenched Collards with Parsley.

Any dish where I can toss in previously cooked (and often frozen) beans to make a meal that tastes like it’s been simmered for hours that very day, in little time makes me happy and a bit smug, I’ll admit. I used Ayers Creek Zolfino beans that I had previously cooked and let those stew with the collards and tomato sauce. I think most any bean would be good in this preparation so don’t sweat the details and use what you have.

We ate this for several days and it just kept getting better. On the third day I had it for lunch over buttery Mashed Potatoes and Rutabagas inspired by another favorite new cookbook, Roots by Diane Morgan. That combination might have to be repeated.

This is not only delicious but very economical, rounded out with good bread or a favorite grain or a couple of fried eggs, and can keep you sated for days.

Finally, I have one spot left in my upcoming cooking class Winter Vegetables & Pantry Staples so sign up right away if you’re interested.

Happy New Year and Happy Cooking!

Tomato-Braised Collards with Beans

This makes a lot which is a good thing since it’s even better the next day.

Tomato-Braised Collards with Beans
–adapted from The Inspired Vegan by Bryant Terry

Bryant uses sun-dried tomatoes that he rehydrates and blends with the soaking liquid, vinegar, lemon juice and tomato paste. I’ve had good results cooking down regular canned tomatoes with the vinegar and lemon juice so, use what you have to create a nice rich tomato sauce in which you cook the collards. And if you by chance oven-roasted frozen tomatoes from last fall, they are perfect for this dish.

Bryant adds home-cooked butter (lima) beans and broth to the tomato-y greens for the last half hour of cooking. You can do the same, use different beans or omit the broth and serve the greens over rice or quinoa or another grain of your choosing or mashed potatoes and rutabagas! I used Zolfino beans from Ayers Creek Farm.

2 bunches collards, leaves and stems, well washed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chile, sliced thinly (optional) use ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes if you don’t have a chile
Salt
1 generous cup dried tomatoes (see headnote)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3-4 cups cooked white beans (see headnote) (lima/butter, cannellini, navy, or even pinto would all be good)
5 cups vegetable or chicken stock
¼ cup chopped, fresh parsley (optional but very good)

Put the dried tomatoes in a small bowl and cover with boiling water. Let soak for 20 minutes. Drain and reserve liquid.

Thinly slice the collard stems and set aside. Cut the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Toss in the collard stems and cook for 2 minutes. Add the leaves and cook for 2 more minutes. Drain well.

Put the soaked tomatoes, tomato paste, lemon juice vinegar and 1 cup of soaking liquid in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.

In a large pot heat the olive oil and add the onion and sauté for a few minutes. Add the garlic and Serrano and sauté for another 3-5 minutes until just beginning to brown. Add the tomato mixture and cook for 20 minutes until it begins to thicken, stirring frequently.

Add the reserved collard leaves and stems, the broth and the beans and simmer on low heat, partially covered for 30 minutes. Stir in the parsley, adjust seasoning and serve.

This is even better the next day!

New Favorite One-pot Meal (+ an Egg)

Lots of chopped greens, onions, garlic, harissa and a bit of bulgur turn into a heavenly pot of goodness after an hour of gentle steaming. 

A friend of mine raved about this dish at a dinner party the other night. It took me a week to finally make it and then I made it twice in a row–the second time to take to another dinner party where it was happily devoured. It’s a humble, somewhat subtle dish that is perfectly suited to any climate that has an abundance of hearty greens (chard, kale, mustards, etc. ). And I can’t wait to play around with other spices and toppings. But for now here is more or less the way it was conveyed to me and I believe it originated with Paula Wolfert, so no wonder it’s a keeper. Please report back and tell me how it works for you and if you adapt it.

After its hour-long steam it’s ready for lemon, a fried (or poached) egg, more harissa and Greek yogurt.

Moroccan Bulgur with Greens
–inspired by Paula Wolfert 

This takes time to cook but putting it together is quick and just involves a bunch of chopping. It is delicious with a fried or poached egg and extra harissa and some Greek yogurt. And if you like lamb, it’s a perfect accompaniment to lamb in any form. Harissa is a Tunisia hot chili sauce whose main ingredients are piri piri (type of chili pepper), Serrano peppers and other hot chili peppers and garlic, coriander, red chili powder, and caraway as well as some vegetable or olive oil. It is most closely associated with Tunisia, Libya and Algeria but recently also making inroads into Morocco according to Moroccan food expert Paula Wolfert. I particularly like the brand Mustafa’s Moroccan Harissa which is very flavorful and not too crazy spicy.

1 large onion, finely diced
1 leek, carefully washes, sliced in half lengthwise and then finely chopped (or more onion if you don’t have any leeks)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch de-stemmed and chopped chard
1 cup bulgur
3 tablespoons. olive oil
2-3 teaspoons (or more to taste) harissa (see headnote) I used 4-5 teaspoons but with other brands that might be too much.
Black pepper, freshly ground
Sea or kosher salt (at least 1 teaspoon)
Lemon juice
More harissa and Greek yogurt for serving

Add everything but the lemon juice to a deep heavy, lidded pot. (Le Creuset is great). Mix it all together with a spoon or your hands. Add 1/2 cup water and mix thoroughly again.

Take several paper towels and lay them over the bulgur mixture, tucking them gently into the sides. Cover the pot and cook over very low heat for about an hour or so. Resist the urge to remove the lid since the steam generated is a critical factor. I typically start with high heat to get things going, then, when I sense the presence of steam and can start to smell the dish, reduce it significantly.

When it is finished, remove the paper towels, taste and, if necessary, continue to cook with the paper towels intact again.

Squeeze a lemon over the finished bulgur and top with more harissa and Greek yogurt or a poached or fried egg.

It makes me hungry just writing this caption. The lemon juice is important to brighten everything up a bit but if you don’t have a lemon extra harissa will probably do.