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Posts tagged ‘comfort food’

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!

Cabbage and Potato Gratin

I didn’t actually think this dish was going to be that good or even remotely blog-worthy. I didn’t take photos as I was making it (wish I had but I did capture the finished product) but then when I  ate three servings for dinner and enjoyed it just as much the next day and the next, I figured it should be noted publicly. It obviously made a large quantity, seeing that I was still eating it three days later and that that was a good thing. . . .It’s made with the most ordinary of ingredients and could be varied in umpteen ways.

Creamy Cabbage and Potato (and Pasta) Gratin

This dish came about because I had a huge wedge of green cabbage in the fridge that needed using. I had a handful of potatoes and I had some milk. So I cooked the potatoes in a big pot of boiling water. Then I tossed in a handful of little tubetti pasta to make it appealing to my four-year-old who will eat anything that has pasta in it. But the thrust of this dish is purely cabbage and potatoes and unless you have a similarly  habituated child (or adult in your household) I’d skip the pasta. Then, I tried to estimate when I should add the cabbage so that I could drain the whole pot of potatoes, pasta and cabbage at once and all at the appropriate stage of doneness. That was really the only trick of this dish. Some of my potatoes were beginning to fall apart when the cabbage and pasta were tender and when I drained the whole, pale contents of the pot I began to doubt the wisdom of this process.

The humble ingredients of this, now favorite, comfort food.

However, knowing that I was going to mix said contents with a quick Bechamel sauce I figured I still stood a chance. And I was going to add some grated cheese and top it with a few bread crumbs and then get it all bubbly and crisp in the oven. . .

A side-note about bechamel, or simple cream sauce:  It was one of the first things I mastered as a young cook when I was about  8 I think. All you do is melt some butter, whisk in an equal amount of flour and then after a few minutes add hot milk and a few seasonings and simmer that for a few minutes (or much longer if you’re feeling fancy). It seems like a bit of a throwback and I certainly don’t see recipes with it on any food blogs these days but I think it’s a lifesaver sometimes.

So, give it a try and let me know if it was worth it. And I do really hope you  make this whole dish, or some version of it.

Happy Cooking!

P.S. For those of you in the Portland (OR) region and for those of you interested in or already devoted CSA fans, I am working with 47th Ave. Farm on their Winter Share and will be providing comprehensive recipe packets with each share all season. So if you’ve thought about joining a CSA but were afraid you wouldn’t know what do with all the veggies, fear no more.

Creamy Cabbage and Potato Gratin

You could add lots of chopped parsley or oregano or basil or chives to the dish as you’re assembling it, before baking. You could use other vegetables. I imagine diced winter squash instead of the potatoes would be fabulous and very pretty. Sausage, bacon or any kind of leftover meat would be good. You can vary the cheeses, omit entirely, and so on and so forth!

For Bechamel:

4 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons flour

generous 2 cups of whole milk (2% can work in a pinch)

salt

pepper

bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

1 teaspoon Dijon-style mustard

pinch of ground nutmeg or cloves

fresh minced thyme, parsley, chives, etc. (optional)

Melt butter in a medium-sized saucepan over med/low heat. When melted, whisk in flour. Continue cooking the roux for 2 -3 min, whisking frequently. Meanwhile heat milk until it’s scalding. Whisk hot milk into roux and add several pinches of salt, grind in some pepper, add chili flakes (or omit if you’d like), add mustard and a bay leaf and a grating or two of nutmeg. Stir well and cook over med/low heat for about 10 minutes until thickened and bubbling.  Add some grated cheese (sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Emmentaler, etc. ) and fresh, chopped herbs if you’d like at this point.

For the gratin:

3-5 potatoes (depending on size) and cut into thumb-sized chunks

1/2 medium to large green cabbage (or a whole small one), cored and cut into 1-inch pieces

Handful or two of small pasta (optional)

Salt

Bread crumbs (optional)

Grated cheese (sharp cheddar, Gruyère, Emmentaler, . . .)

Put potatoes in a large pot with lots of water and two teaspoons of kosher salt. Bring to a boil. If you are using some kind of pasta you’ll want to add it to the potatoes just a few minutes after the water comes to a boil so the pasta can cook for 8 or so minutes (depending on the type you choose this will vary. The pasta can be quite all dente when you drain everything though since it will keep cooking in the oven.) When the potatoes (and pasta, if using) are almost tender add the cabbage to the pot. Cover and cook for another few minutes until the cabbage is tender. Drain.

Spread the vegetables in a large baking dish. Pour the béchamel over the top and mix in a bit. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and extra cheese (if you’d like) and bake  at 400 until bubbly and crisp on top (I broil it at the end for a few minutes).


Winter Squash x 4

Marina di Chiogga Squash

A friend gave me this beautiful squash last November. It started out entirely grayish green but over time took on rusty-orange stripes. I finally cut into it last week.

One quarter of it turned into the squash panade I mentioned in last week’s post (recipe below). I roasted the remaining three-quarters all together the next day. I cut the second quarter into chunks and dressed them with lots of parsley, garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil as part of my husband’s lunch. Two days later, I sautéed some onions with a bit of bacon, tossed in a bag of frozen peas and then the diced, third quarter of the roasted squash. I mixed all of this with cooked quinoa and a dressing of olive oil, soy sauce and lemon juice. Sounds a bit odd but was actually quite addictive and good. And finally, tonight, six days later, I used the last quarter to make squash corn cakes inspired by a post by Jim Dixon of Real Good Food on Facebook and added the very last, half-a-cup or so, to a raw kale and arugula salad.

It’s getting toward the end of winter squash season but every one of these dishes filled a need and was happily consumed. Not only did the winter squash keep beautifully for several months in my kitchen, it kept in the fridge, roasted for almost a week with no sign of demise.

The panade is probably my favorite of the bunch and has been a winner in my classes too. It’s one of those things with which I have no restraint, eating far more than is reasonable. . .. So if you still have a squash lying around give it a try. Or saute some kale or other hearty greens and substitute that for the squash in the panade–also delicious.

Gooey, crispy, warm and comforting--the finished panade!

Onion and Winter Squash Panade

–adapted from Stonesoup.com which was inspired by Judy Rodgers and the Zuni Cafe cookbook

This is a brilliant way to use up stale bread, but fresh can be used as well. Just make sure it’s a hearty rustic loaf with a good crumb and crust. I used an aged cheddar as my cheese.

2-3 large yellow onions (2 lbs)

1/2 bunch thyme, leaves picked (can omit in a pinch)

½ a small/medium butternut squash (or other winter squash), peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice for about 3 -4 cups

1/2 medium loaf rustic bread (1/2 lb), torn in to chunks

150g (5oz) cheese (sharp cheddar, gruyere, aged-assiago; parmesan, etc.)

3 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken stock (I use homemade veggie bouillon)

Preheat oven to 400F

Cut onion in half lengthwise. Peel, then slice into half moons about 5mm (1/4in) thick.  Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large frying pan. Cook onion stirring occasionally until soft and golden brown. No need to caramelize. Stir in the thyme.

In a medium heatproof dish layer about a third of the onions. Sprinkle over some of the bread and cheese and squash. Repeat until all the ingredients have been used. You want to be able to see a little of each on the top. Bring stock to a simmer. Pour over the onion dish. Season.

Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover and bake for another 20 – 30 minutes or until the top is golden and crunchy and the stock has been absorbed by the bread. Run under the broiler for a few minutes if it’s not crispy enough.

Much of the flavor in this dish comes from the onions.

Ready for baking.

On a different note, there’s a fun piece about my classes, specifically my Eat Better Series, and one of my students in today’s Oregonian. I’ve scheduled the series again in early April so sign up right away if you’re interested.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Weekday Breakfast and Memories of Summer

We u-picked a lot of berries last summer–strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and marionberries. For the first time, my son was old enough to toddle among the rows, eat berries and amuse himself (for the most part – I did have to cut one trip short because he was “harassing” another little boy). And I took full advantage! We picked 25 lbs of gorgeous and perfectly ripe strawberries one day. I hadn’t really thought through how I was going to process them all and didn’t have time for much. I rinsed them, hulled them and packed them in 1 quart yogurt containers and tossed them in the freezer. I thought I’d make jam or ice cream or sauce when I had more time. Well I did the same with the blueberries and the raspberries. I never made any of those other things except for a few batches of jam. So my generous stash of frozen berries has lasted me this long. I opened my last quart of blueberries and strawberries this morning for one of our favorite breakfasts.

Throughout the late fall and winter I’ve cooked a pot of steel-cut oats (I soak the oats over night which makes cooking them in the morning a quick affair) and topped them with frozen berries and maple syrup. It is perfect in so many ways. The berries thaw and soften in the steaming cereal and cool the oats down to a perfect temperature. The berries literally taste like they were just picked. As corny as it sounds, every bite is a vivid flashback to summer–the smells, the warmth, the dirt and berry juice under your fingernails.. .. it is lovely, warm, and nourishing. And a wonderful way to start the day.

This is also an incredibly inexpensive breakfast. You can’t beat the price and quality of fresh (frozen) u-picked fruit and steel-cut oats in bulk cost next to nothing. And then you can splurge on good maple syrup. All of this to say, if you have the chance to u-pick berries this summer and have a freezer, pick lots and lots and don’t feel badly about not processing them. You will enjoy the fruits of your labor (pun intended!) all winter long. I will remind you of this come June and we’re in the swing of berry season.

Steel Cut Oats with Berries

2 cups steel-cut oats

1/2 tsp of salt

water

Fresh or frozen berries

maple syrup (or brown sugar or honey)

The night before you’re planning on making this, put the oats in a bowl and cover with a couple inches of water. By morning the oats will have absorbed most if not all of it. Transfer the oats to medium-sized saucepan, add the salt and another 2 cups of water, cover, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes. If you forget to soak them you’ll just have to cook them for about 30 -40 minutes with much more water in the morning.

Top with the fruit and maple syrup, stir well and eat!