Monday, September 29, 2008

A true harvest dinner, featuring pan-roasted butternut squash

This is an amazing time of year.

Last night for dinner I roasted a chicken, and served it with mashed potatoes (my family would RIOT if it wasn't -- I toyed with making roasted potatoes with onions and carrots but couldn't face the mutiny that would result) and pan-roasted butternut squash. The chicken was not exactly local -- it's from a farm near my sister and her husband, who live outside of Syracuse, NY -- but even if it was from 300+ miles away, at least it was sustainably raised by people they know are responsible farmers. The potatoes were from Drumlin, the squash from Honeypot Hill.

But since it's September, and not the middle of winter, I could also serve this meal with yet another fabulous summer-style salad, with lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers from Drumlin. It was a fun, season-spanning meal.

Pan-roasted butternut squash

1 large squash, peeled and cut up into rough chunks
2-3 T canola oil
a few pinches of salt
1 T butter
2 T maple syrup

Heat oil in a heavy pan (I used enameled cast iron) till quite hot. Add squash then turn the heat down to medium or medium-hot. Add a few pinches of salt. Now leave it alone for awhile (maybe checking to be sure it's not burning in case your stove or your pot are wildly different from mine) -- maybe 20 minutes. As with caramelizing onions, the idea is to let it get brown so the flavor develops.

(I neglected this a lot because I was doing lots of work work (as opposed to, you know, kitchen work, which rarely feels like work), so I just came back and checked on this every so often until it had browned parts all over. At some point I turned down the heat some. That part of the process probably took an hour or more.)

When it's as brown as you have time for, add a little water and a lid and let it steam till it's really tender. Mash, add butter and maple syrup, and then serve or keep warm till it's time.

This is the first time I've added sweetener to squash in years, but it seemed just right.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cabbage, onions and potatoes

There's a recipe in Moosewood Restaurant's New Classics that I return to every fall and winter, occasionally multiple times per extended fall/winter season. It's incredibly humble, and incredibly good -- cabbage, onions, paprika, noodles. As I've said before (and no doubt will continue to say OVER and OVER because I'm subtle that way), I get tired of pasta. I decided to make this dish yesterday, but I served it with pan-fried potatoes instead of noodles, and it was awesome.

3 onions, sliced

1 head cabbage (I used some kind from the farm that I'm not sure exactly WHAT it was -- crinkly/curly like savoy cabbage, but elongated like napa cabbage rather than round), sliced into ribbons

1 Tablespoon paprika

salt to taste

2 T canola oil plus 1 T of butter for the onions and cabbage, plus an additional couple of T canola oil for the potatoes

4-6 large potatoes (if your family is complete potato hounds like mine)

Heat the oil and butter over medium high heat and add the onions and a few pinches of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, but not so often that they don't brown, for 20 minutes or so. Then add the cabbage and maybe a little more salt and continue cooking and stirring occasionally for another 10 minutes. Then turn the heat down and cover the pan and let it just cook along in there for as long as you have. Much neglect is possible at this point -- I was outside with my kids for about 45 minutes. But the longer you have to cook them, the softer and browner and more caramelized and delectable this gets! When it's cooked down, uncover and raise the heat to cook off any accumulated liquid, then add the paprika and cook another 10 minutes or so.

For the potatoes -- I scrubbed and cubed the potatoes, boiled them for about 10 minutes (actually, longer because I forgot about them when I was outside) -- and then put them in a hot pan with oil to brown.

If one were feeling particularly decadent, one might serve sour cream with this, although I didn't this time.

Leftovers were amazing about 11 o'clock this morning with an egg and some toast alongside.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Lentil soup, or, the approaching equinox

This will be the first in a long line of lentil soup posts. The weather has changed, and lentil soup was definitely in order yesterday! I will probably be making some variation on this soup every week for the next 6 months or more. Once upon a time I ate a lot of canned soup, because it's so easy and nourishing, but it really can't hold a candle to homemade.

This is a particularly wonderful time of year for this soup because there are still fresh tomatoes around. In a few weeks, and until next year, I will of course wind up using canned tomatoes, or none at all. The ingredients and the proportions can take all kinds of mixing up and the results are still just what you need.

2 leeks, halved and sliced thinly
1/2 an onion rescued from becoming compost in the fridge
1 fat garlic clove
3 sprigs parsley
1 or 2 big sprigs of thyme
2-3 T. olive oil
4 carrots, halved and sliced into half-circles
4 smallish potatoes, in 1/2 inch dice
1 cup French lentils
4 large plum tomatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 a bunch of broccoli raab, stemmed and chopped
salt, pepper
more olive oil to drizzle over the top

Cook lentils in four cups of water and a half-teaspoon of salt.

Saute the onions in the oil with 1/2 tsp of salt for 5 or 10 minutes, then add the leeks and the herbs and a little water and cover, allowing them to "braise" a little. After another 10 minutes, raise the heat to medium high and add the carrots and potatoes. Stir often, but allow to caramelize a bit. Crush or chop the garlic and add it. Stir for another minute, and then dump in the cooked lentils. Add a little more salt, and then bring to a boil. I also added more water at this point because I wanted a big pot of soup. After it comes to a boil, turn it down to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots and potatoes are nearly tender. Add the tomatoes and continue to simmer.

Meanwhile drop the broccoli raab into a pot of boiling water for 3 minutes. Drain and add to the soup. Fish out the herb sprigs before serving.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle olive oil over the top of each bowl.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

shallot vinaigrette (for Nicole)

Basic Shallot Vinaigrette

chop up a shallot pretty finely
add it to 2-3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar in a jar.

Let those sit for 10-15 minutes.

Add 6 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. A little Dijon mustard can also be good.

Shake vigorously to emulsify.

That's it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


From Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice, more or less . . . I used the poolish starter version rather than the retard-in-the-fridge version, because to me it's easier. Trying to find room for a whole tray in my fridge, and trying to cover it adequately, is way more stressful than just making the darn starter the night before. And I sort of play fast and loose with the rising and shaping instructions -- I just let the final dough rise, then dump it onto the oiled and parchment-ed pan.

I use way less oil than he calls for.

The basil is from Drumlin. It was delicious!

Friday, September 12, 2008

"veggie burgers"

I put the title in quotes because I make a wide array of things that I market to my kids under the name of "veggie burgers." The only consistencies among them are a legume, a grain, some salt, and an allium or two. (Occasionally a chopped-fine green that I manage to sneak in.) They're a standard menu item in our house, but I haven't been making them much lately. They're more of a winter thing, and I am sure I'll put many of their manifestations up here eventually.

(Actually, that first picture I took, of the stuff in the pan before I pureed it, because I thought it looked delicious as is -- it was, actually -- but I wasn't sure my kids would eat it that way.)

1 onion, chopped
about 4 oz. mushrooms
some sauteed leeks
a couple of small bunches of tat soi, chopped
1/2 lb light red kidney beans, cooked
1/2 cup bulghur, soaked in 1 cup boiling water and then thoroughly drained
about 1/2 cup panko

I sauteed the onion and mushroom over medium high heat till browned and caramelized, then tossed in the tat soi. I took it off the heat and then combined it all except the panko and pulsed it in the processor, and then added in the panko to get it to cohere a bit better.

They shape better if the mixture is thoroughly chilled, but this is a step I often don't have time for, so I take what I can get! 20 minutes is better than none.

Oh, and I had my usual tough-skin issue with the beans. Bummer. They're not old, either. Maybe I should make more of an effort to soak them longer? But I think I'm just going to go with that salt-water soak thing. It may not be traditional (but I am just sure that somewhere on earth there's a culture that soaks/soaked their beans in seawater!!) but it does yield tender beans.

vegan eggplant and tomato gratin

I made this from Vegetarian Suppers from Deborah Madison's Kitchen, only I put lots of soft breadcrumbs liberally laced with olive oil on top. Quite yummy, though I have to say that I think a touch of cheese would make it better. But I had no suitable cheese in the house -- no fontina, no mozzarella. I couldn't imagine using cheddar or aged gouda, and I didn't think romano was quite right.
It was even better the next day, warmed up and spread over pasta.

leek gallette

I cobbled this together from several sources, including this month's Bon Appetit, which is a really good issue. (Side note, I got a free subscription to BA for placing an order from Amazon last Christmas. It started in April, and I have not been impressed, on the whole. I mean, it's fine, but it's not really my speed. This month, however, I feel like I hit the jackpot.) There's an article on leek tarts by Molly of Orangette (which I've read for years), and that helped serve as my inspiration for this creation tonight.

With leeks, my default is to make potato leek soup, which I could eat eternally, but it is good once in awhile to actually try something new.

So I made the "leek confit," which is essentially sauteed/braised leeks with butter, salt and pepper. Quite lovely on its own, but she suggested putting it into a tart shell with egg and cheese and suchlike. . . well, one of the (few) pieces of kitchen equipment I lack is a tart pan (when I told Jon this, his response was, "my god, how can you LIVE this way?!")

I've often read of galettes in Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, but I decided that today, it was time to give it a try! I made a very simple dough: 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour, 1/4 tsp. salt, 1 tsp sugar, 6 tablespoons butter cut into small pieces, and a couple of tablespoons of ice water. I didn't even drag out the processor but combined the dry ingredients and the butter with my fingers, and then tossed in enough water to make it come together. I flattened it out, wrapped in plastic and stuck it in the fridge for an hour or so.

For the leeks, I started out with 3 large-ish leeks, and sauteed them in 3 tablespoons of butter and a couple of pinches of salt, then added a couple tablespoons of water and covered them and let them stew, occasionally stirring, for about an hour. I did wind up thinking that it looked like too much for my little gallette shell, so I scooped some of the cooked leeks aside for another use. I spread them on the pastry and then topped it with thin slices of aged gouda that I get at the Waltham Farmers' Market.

The assembly of the gallette was really easy. The dough is allowed to be rustic, and "pleating" the dough as I folded it over was a piece of cake.

I baked it 30 minutes at 400, and I had to restrain myself from eating more than 2 pieces. Hopefully it will be good for breakfast tomorrow morning . . .

Friday, September 5, 2008

salad with quinoa

What inspired me to add quinoa to a green salad?

Mostly it was desperation. I didn't want to accompany my salad with a grilled cheese or cheese toast, or even the refried-beans-and-cheddar quesadillas my kids were eating -- sometimes (as I think I've written about before) I just get burnt out on wheat. (Once upon a time, I ate pasta like 3 times a week. Now I just don't think I could. It just doesn't appeal that much. I think it's because we eat so much bread.) I also didn't feel like opening a can of beans to dump into my salad. I love legumes in salad, as has been well-documented, but I get sick of canned beans. That's one of the reasons I cook lentils and dress them . . . 'cause they're fast.

(This urge translated into my soaking some chickpeas last night, but fat lot of good that did me right then --)

So my needs were protein, no wheat, and no beans. Where did that leave me? Cheese, of course! But we were out of feta, and I haven't bought or made fresh mozzarella in ages, which also would have been nice . . . so, no cheese. Or eggs. But I've never been crazy about hardboiled eggs in a green salad. Deviled eggs, or egg salad, fine, but in a green salad? Meh.

Grain! I was thinking tabbouleh, or a loose, late summer in Massachusetts interpretation thereof, but then I was again back at wheat, not to mention the relatively long cooking/soaking time that coarse bulghur requires. And the desire for protein kept kicking in. So what grain has a lot of protein . . . quinoa. So there it was. I cook it the way one cooks pasta, not the soak-absorption method of cooking rice, oats, etc. -- and my timer doiesn't work so well if I set the time and then forget to click the "start" button, so it was a little on the mushy side, but I quickly tossed it with olive oil and a few minced scallions, let it cool to room temp, and then added it to my salad, which was only nominally a "green" salad -- mostly it was along the lines of the farmer's chop suey I wrote about before with a few torn lettuce leaves.

I quite liked it -- and Annie ate some, too.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

summer squash fritters

I got this recipe from my friend Rachel, and they are SERIOUSLY some kind of good. Delicately crisp on the outside, just barely custardy/creamy on the inside -- just, yum. Try them!!

(I don't want to admit how much of this recipe I actually consumed all by myself.)

I bet some finely chopped greens -- maybe spinach, or chard -- would be lovely in here, too, as well as maybe some parsley. But I wouldn't muck with them too much, because their flavor is pretty nearly perfect as is.

2 eggs beaten
2 cups of grated squash
1/4 cup flour
1T melted butter
2 chopped scallions
2 T parmesean
(chopped jalapeno if you want)

oil for frying

(I bet this would be good baked in a casserole with a light topping of breadcrumbs and more grated cheese, too.)

More freezing and canning

Although I didn't take pictures, I wanted to record that I made a large batch of potato leek soup (as the broth, I used some cannellini broth I had in the freezer) and froze it in four containers. It hasn't been soup weather lately, really, but it's my favorite thing to do with a plethora of leeks.

I also froze 2 more quarts of green beans -- I think that's 6 quarts I have in there, now!

I also experimented. I had five eggplant. Two I peeled and sliced and breaded and fried and ate happily.

The other three, I baked, scooped, mashed, and froze. I'm envisioning stirring the puree into a vegetable/lentil curry, maybe, or else spreading some into a lasagne? Or even trying to make baba ganoush with it? I froze it into four small containers.

Finally, I canned 5 pints of crushed tomatoes from the farm pick-up yesterday. I estimate we got about 10 lbs of tomatoes; I think I canned around 6 lbs, or maybe a little more. I just peeled and crushed -- seeds and all.

Lentil/salad sandwiches

I wanted to call this post "Vegetarian Salad Sandwiches" but it sounded too much like "vegetarian-salad sandwiches" -- you know, made with real vegetarians!

So I didn't.

For Arij's birthday we had one of his favorites: hamburgers. I made rolls, as I usually do. (I use a recipe from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, which is a great recipe but way too sweet. If I cut the sugar way back, they're just the way we like them.) They're fun and easy and very satisfying. But the problem is they do not keep at all. Seriously, mere hours later, they're just not as good anymore. I have finally hit on a solution -- one that I personally like even better than the original incarnation.

There's more backstory here.

Several years ago I decided not to use nonstick pans anymore. I have a couple, and I use them for exactly one thing: crepes, which I make about twice a year in a good year. I basically switched over to well-seasoned cast iron pans, and by and large, they rock. They retain heat, they put iron in your food, and the more you use them, the easier they are to use and clean. They're the best!

One of the things I missed, though, was a griddle. I had an All-Clad square griddle that I loved, but it had nonstick coating. It was perfect for pancakes, for grilled cheese . . . and it conducts heat like a dream (okay, I confess, I still pull it out and use it once in awhile.) So I took the logical step of buying a cast-iron griddle. I selected the two-burner model, imagining that many more pancakes or grilled cheese sandwiches. It's even reversible: it has a grill-pan on the other side! I bought it maybe 3 years ago, and it was I think one of the last things Lodge sold without the factory-installed pre-seasoning. So we set about seasoning it. Things stuck to it horribly, and it had hot spots and cool spots so pancakes would be burnt and raw and stuck to it. It drove me nuts.

Finally I decided to just use it every single day. That's right: one fried egg for breakfast? Out it came. A couple of grilled cheese sandwiches? Check. Some bacon? Bring it on. Well, it helped with the seasoning, but I still have trouble with the hot/cool spots. The best solution we've found is to blast the heat so it's really well pre-heated, then put the food on and immediately turn the heat down. Fiddly, but that's the price I pay for refusing to embrace better living through non-stick cookware.

Anyway, there's a point here somewhere. I had never used the grill side before last night. I split and buttered several leftover hamburger rolls, and then put those suckers on the grill/griddle, pressing them a little with a spatula to make sure they toasted. They looked and tasted amazing.

I made a lentil salad with just warm lentils, feta and dressing made from Penzey's "Greek Seasoning." With green salad, crammed on that toasted roll, it was a very satisfying dinner.