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Category Archives: Vegetables and Sides

Spring has finally Sprung…today in my kitchen



Can I complain for one hot second? I’ll take a rain check on a verbal/written reply and take the silence as a ‘yes.’ I am fed up with winter. It rained for my sister’s entire outdoor graduation. Sideways rain, and I don’t think you can get more insulting than that. It rained for my graduation too, but I was happy as a clam to be inside a Track & Field stadium (addendum: I would not have found myself quite so content had it been a sunny-side-up day). I am angry at the weather. Angry to be on the East Coast, although, given the recent (and not-so-recent) rash of natural disasters and other not-so-natural disastrous events, I suppose I should feel at least a modicum of gratitude to be right where I am.  But I am not grateful for my location so much as the produce that it produces. Today, it a little market near my train stop I found all three of the above-pictured vegetables. I hadn’t a clue what to do with them, but daydreamed all the way home on the train, and by the time I arrived, I had the scaffolding of a couple of ideas in my head. I rushed home. I dirtied a lot of a pots and pans. I sweated in my kitchen for the first time in many moons. I requested fancy cocktails from my fiance for our guests. He provided them. (they were delicious) I had a mini-meltdown over 2 poorly poached eggs. Then I got the hang of it.

I took one singular picture…it doesn’t do the final dish justice…but if you want to try any/all of the mishmash medley of vegetarian sensations that I created, the lackadaisical recipes are as follows:

Creamy Polenta

6 cups of water with a dash of salt to speed the boiling process

2 cups dry polenta

½ cup cream

2 tbsp butter

¼ cup grated romano/pecorino/other fancy cheese

Salt & Pepper to taste

Bring the water to a rollicking boil before mixing in the 2 dry cupfuls of polenta. Lower heat and let bubble and brew at a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Stir in cream and butter, stir well and bring to a simmer again. Lastly, mix in cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste before serving. Best served hot. Makes 6 servings or more…

Mizuna Greens

A Japanese green, these tender young’uns have been descried as “piquant, mild peppery flavor…slightly spicy, but less so than arugula.” I tossed them lightly with sesame vinaigrette, toasted sesame seeds and finely grated pecorino.

Caramelized Rutabega

1 large rutabaga (cut into ½-inch cubes)
¼ cup butter
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1/8 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Freshly ground pepper

Cut the ‘bega into small cubes. Boil in salted water until tender-crisp (about 10 minutes). Drain well. Melt butter in pot, add the rutabega, sprinkle brown sugar and mix gently until caramel appears, just a few short minutes. Add pumpkin pie spice and pepper.

Crispy Pan-friend Spring Onions

4-6 young spring onions

3 tbsp butter

salt, pepper, lemon

With a mandolin, slice the onions into rounds. Melt butter in a skillet and turn up the heat. Add onions and flash-fry for 1 minute on each side. Season the onions with salt, pepper and lemon. Drain any excess butter (can be used with the polenta for an additional seasoning flavor).

Poached Eggs

Tips:

  1. Do NOT boil the water. Do not let it simmer. Get the water “excited” with bubbles just barely appearing at the bottom. It is poachable now.
  2. Pour in a splash of vinegar
  3. Prep your eggs in ramekins, do not crack directly into the whirlpool you create.
  4. Make a whirlpool in the water with a spatula in your dominant hand, hold the ramekin containing the egg in the other hand, and gently dump it in the center of the whirlpool at the same moment that you remove the spatula
  5. Do not touch your egg as it swirls and gels. Close your eyes if you have to! Do not touch the egg. Trust it.
  6. Let it cook for at least 90 seconds before nudging it gently with the spatula to make sure it is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. If it is ready, gently scoop it out with a slotted spoon and put in a warm bath of water to await serving time.

I discussed egg poaching in a previous entry and recommended Smitten Kitchen for an excellent tutorial. I still  stand by this method, despite my initial failed attempts. Check it out for detailed instructions and pictures.

Happy happy spring!

 

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Tempting Tidbits: A Finger Feast

This past weekend’s dinner party was… dare I say, “Wow?” I had many of fabulous sous chefs helping in the kitchen and some seriously expert meal planning assistance from my rockin’ Sister Chef. I have to say though, I am still quite proud of how it all came together. So proud that I feel a little cocky rooster boasting coming on…ahhh, it’s too big to restrain, I can’t quash it…it…oh no, it’s a photo explosion. Sorry, I tried to hold back. I failed. Here it is.

 

For the early bird: Rosemary Twice-Baked Bar Nuts
the bartender’s station. mojitos anyone?

 

snacks

snack station

All the fixins for Vietnamese Fresh Rolls
Asian Sesame Cabbage Coleslaw
Momofuku-inspired deviled eggs
The essential last (or first) course: dessert
Starring: these lovlies, peppermint patties

 

After that delicious food trip down Photo Lane, I truly don’t know what recipe to share first! I loved all the new ones that I tried, and literally the only kitchen snafu that occurred was slight burnage of kale chips. They were still deemed edible by the judges, however. One thing not pictured that I was really excited about (as were the guests, apparently, since not a single crumb remained post-party) were the Sweet Potato & Celery Root Croquettes. I found the recipe for a similar purée on the NY Times website, and found myself intrigued. Yet, as my sister astutely pointed out, puree is awfully hard to eat as a finger food. She brainstormed up croquettes, and after a little trial and error, a fabulous frying team, and a breadcrumb trail to pave the way, an incredible (if not incredibly photogenic) platter of croquettes materialized:

 

sous chefs protecting one another from oil spatterings

Ugly ducklings

So, even though they were slightly ugly and more than slightly fried, I have to trust my audience, and my boyfriend and rank them as the #1 bestseller. (Plus, you can reserve half of the puree to be eaten as a leftover – a fantastically healthy post-food coma snack!) Here’s the recipe. Since I made up the croquette version on the fly, I don’t have exact measurements. Experiment to the consistency that you like, then mold to your desired size and shape: patty, croquette stick, or melon ball.

Celery Root, Sweet Potato and Apple Puree

1 lb Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into large pieces (I used half and half Yukon gold and sweet potato)

2 large celery roots, about 2 pounds, peeled and cut into large pieces

1 large or 2 small tart apples, such as a Granny Smith, peeled, cored and quartered

1/2 cup, approximately, warm milk or broth from the celery root

2 tablespoons butter or walnut oil (or a combination)

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Place the potatoes in one saucepan and the celery root and apples in another. Add salt to taste to each, about 1/2 teaspoon. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Drain the potatoes, and return to the pot. Cover tightly, and allow to sit for five minutes to steam and dry out. Drain the celery root and apples through a strainer set over a bowl. Purée all of the produce using a food mill or a potato ricer. Stir together, and whisk in the milk or the broth until the mixture is fluffy. Add the butter or walnut oil to the hot purée, stir until the butter melts, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

3. If you are dying for croquettes, let the puree cool first. Then mix in 2 eggs, 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese, and a rounded cupful of plain bread crumbs. Add more breadcrumbs as needed to reach desired molding consistency. You can also dredge the croquettes in bread crumbs for a more delectable exterior. Lastly, cook the croquettes in a deep skillet on medium high until browned on both sides. The best thing about these babies is that they taste just as good served at room temperature as they do hot (if they last that long).

 

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2011 in Snacks, Vegetables and Sides

 

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A Recipe Written by Mua

I know it’s really spelled “moi” but I prefer “mua.” It just looks more right, don’t you think? And it sounds like a cross between “me” and a kissy sound. Love it.

This is my first recipe! I am still tweaking it, but I think the first version came out pretty well. I guess I didn’t totally write it because I looked at a lot of different recipes for inspiration, but the end product is pretty much me, or a Thai version of me. We ate this soup with a sesame encrusted red snapper topped with a lime-rhubarb sauce. That was really the main event…and Matt totally aced it. But today, my soup was the main event for my lunch, so they both got a starring role in the end. Here it is. And, enjoy!

added arugula just because i grew it 🙂

Thai Curry Carrot Soup

  • 4 organic carrots, peeled if necessary, and chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped (ok to use the leaves)
  • 2 medium-sized apples, cored and chopped (I used the peel)
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Some kind of curry paste (I used yellow + a dash of cumin and coriander)
  • Chicken stock  (low-sodium worked well for me)
  • 1 can coconut milk (I used reduced fat and it was still delish)
  • 2 limes (for soup and garnish)

Note: It really helps to have a mandolin with this recipe! It cut my preparation time in half as I sliced and diced my way through the vegetables (and luckily not a single finger) in no time at all.

Sauté the chopped onions in a little olive oil on medium heat while chopping the rest. Add all the veggies, including the garlic and a teaspoon of your curry paste, plus any spices you choose to supplement with. (I also liked adding some Sriracha for the spicy factor but that’s completely optional.) Stir all the veggies+apple over medium low heat for a few minutes. Add enough chicken stock to cover the vegetables, just barely. Cover your soup with a lid and let simmer for approximately 45 minutes, or until all the vegetables have softened substantially.

Blend soup in a food processor. Taste test product and add salt if you wish, and coconut milk to taste, keeping soup warm over low heat.

Serving: Squeeze lime over each bowl of soup and serve with an additional wedge. Without lime, the soup is pretty sweet, and the lime cuts this sweetness. Dip your spoon and enjoy!

Matt says that the red snapper makes this a $50 meal in a restaurant. My soup adds about $2 to the total

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2010 in Soups, Vegetables and Sides

 

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Vegetablemania

(semi)local produce delivered to my door!

I love home delivery! It’s not quite a CSA (we’ll get one of those when we move to the East Coast in less than a month) but it is produce, delivered to my door, and as local-as-you-like-it! This is only our second delivery, but I am already completely enamored with the spudliness of our produce. And as with the first time, as soon as it came, I went into a veritable vegetable frenzy. What to do with all these veggies? What’s that I sense? Is it the kale turning bitter already? Maybe I should use it today! How can I possibly combine all these carrots-apples-limes-shallots into one healthful and delicious dish? How about a hodgepodge soup? I did them both. But first for the most miraculous discovery…

KALE CHIPS

Yes, kale chips. Healthy and no way – delicious too. I can hardly believe it. In the past, I have felt a wee bit intimidated by kale. The bitterness, the toughness of the stems, how it quickly wilts from its oh-so-becoming curliness into, well, wilted kale…Until Today, I was: not so impressed.

I remembered reading about kale chips on a blog somewhere, but amongst all my blogs, it was a lost cause to search for the exact kale chip recipe. So I googled. And lo and behold, there is not just one recipe for kale chips, there are many! And should I really even dare to call it a recipe? That may sound a little imposing. This is so gosh darn simple, I nailed it the first time reading it. But here it is, printed for posterity in my blog:

Crispy Kale Chips

Poor discarded cores...

  • 1 bunch of kale (a lot, it shrinks)
  • Olive oil
  • Ground sea salt

Preheat oven to 300. Trim the kale leaves by first cutting out the tough center core and then chopping each side into a few more bite-sized pieces. Toss the leaves in a big bowl and drizzle olive oil over them. Add a little, mix. Add a little more, mix until satisfied. You don’t want to  overdo the oil. Sprinkle salt over the oiled leaves and toss lightly. Spread the kale-chips-to-be in a single layer on a baking sheet. No need to oil, your kale babes already have that going for them. Toss in the oven for roughly 20 minutes, check for crispiness! But please don’t let them burn…

my tossing strategy

a REAL healthy snack

A little bird told me that if you make these, then crunch them up into little kale crisp crumbs, they are GREAT sprinkled over popcorn. Go light on the oil so that they don’t stick together if you attempt this. It’s definitely on my list of things to do now!

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2010 in Snacks, Vegetables and Sides

 

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Potato Posers: A Disguise for Cauliflower

I felt like my story of saying goodbye to my residents was anathema to mashed cauliflower. That’s why this recipe is posted separately, even though I find myself writing it mere seconds after my last post. But, to me the distinction is clear: No mixing potatoes and people. Or rather, cauliflower posing as a potato. 🙂

In our kitchen, a bottle of delicious hot chili-infused balsamic vinegar has been sitting on the counter for months. Eons, in kitchen time. We use it sparingly, or not at all; boyfriend and I still haven’t completely grasped the concept of eating the fancier perishable items that we buy in a timely manner, and too often they rot before we do. In an attempt to temper this trend, I seized the moment to use our Pike Place Market Sotto Voce vinegar in a reduction. Yum. Reduced from a cup or more to a few valuable tablespoons….oh, what to pair it with?

This:

a poser that tastes better than the original

Mashed Cauliflower with a Balsamic Reduction

Discovered in Food del Mundo

(Note: I followed this recipe to a T, but it actually turned out a little too rich for my taste…I’m writing the recipe ingredients as I found them, but my substitutions for next time are in parentheses, if you would care for a lighter version.)

One head cauliflower, chopped

– ½ cup sour cream (LIGHT! Or fat free)

– ½ cup fresh grated parmesan cheese

– ¼ cup butter (I would halve this next time)

– 2-4 oz cream cheese (optional: I did not incorporate it)

– Salt to taste (Taste first, the Parmesan may add enough saltiness)

Simply steam the cauliflower until the tines of a fork can penetrate easily. Drain. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and puree with a food processor/blender or the old fashioned way–a handheld potato masher. The potato masher will give you a slightly more textured final product.

Reduction

I found an excellent commentary on balsamic reductions which I distilled down to this:

Place vinegar in saucepan. Turn on medium heat. Reduce until slightly thickened. Be patient: it takes time to make a perfect reduction. Do not add sugar. Do not add thickener. Only add your spoon every once in awhile to give it a swirl and ensure the bottom does not burn. Keep in mind that it will thicken further as it cools. After you plate your mashed cauliflower, drizzle 1-2 teaspoons over each serving.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2010 in Vegetables and Sides

 

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Featuring the Vegetables Themselves

A glorious encounter with vegetables.

Oddly enough, my house has still not replenished itself with food. Strange. Solution: I went to my mom’s. This is a good solution because food in my parents’ kitchen is plentiful, organic and delicious, (ahem) and free. It never runs out. A river of good and plenty. It’s really quite magical.

The other day at work, I noticed an issue of Bon Appetit sitting in the break room among all the other trashy magazine. I immediately snagged it. I only had ten minutes of break remaining, but I managed to find two intriguing recipes that made my mouth water, so I tore them out. I figured it was a break room magazine, belonging to the collective “us,” so I didn’t feel bad about stealing the recipes. Unfortunately, on my next break, the magazine was gone, and I felt immediately guilty about ripping out a couple of pages. To the mysterious owner of the Bon Appetit magazine, wherever you are, I am sorry! I owe you roasted cumin carrots and marinated green bean salad whenever you would like to come over for dinner.

Recipes:

Carmelized Cumin Roasted Carrots

6 servings (I cut the recipe in half)

Calories 94 Fat 5 g Fiber 4 g

– Nonstick vegetable oil spray

– 12 medium to large carrots, peeled and cut on diagonal into 1/4 inch thick pieces (I used a mandolin)

– 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

– 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds (I used ground cumin seed)

– 2 tsp coarse kosher salt.

Preheat oven to 400. Spray rimmed baking tray with nonstick spray. Combine carrots and all ingredients in a large bowl and toss to coat. Spread in a thin layer on prepared baking sheet. Roast until tender and lightly carmelized, turning carrots once. Depending on the thickness of your carrot slices, they will cook completely in 20-40 minutes. Mine were done in 20.


Marinated Green Bean & Onion Salad

Make a quick white wine vinegarette; mix in a pressed garlic clove. Marinate paper-thin slices of red onion (again, the mandolin works magic on this) in the dressing while you steam some green beans until they are crisp-tender. Toss beans with red onions and dressing.

*I nuked the red onion and dressing mixture in the microwave for just over 30 seconds. I personally don’t love the bite of red onions, and this extra step really helped to calm the flavor.

A white wine vinegarette recipe:

  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard (I ❤ dijon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Talk about amazing leftovers. We mixed the sweet carrots with the tangy green beans in with a mix of greens and other goodies. It will make an amazing lunch for tomorrow. Or a late night snack…


 
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Posted by on March 11, 2010 in Vegetables and Sides

 

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Crispy Broccoli Delight

I will be leaving soon from working at my Assisted Living home. It has only been 6 months but it feels like ages in terms of what I have learned about myself and about caring for others. It feels wonderful that I will be leaving here for something that will permit me to build on the skills that I barely touched upon by working in assisted living, but I am actually quite sad that I will never be working with people in quite the same way again. Insofar as I can surmise about the role of nurse practitioner, I will be able to develop relationships, but never again with the depth that I have now, where my residents kiss me on the cheek and tell me how much they love me before they fall asleep. I will not have the luxury of spending hours upon hours caring for my new patients, instead our encounters will be condensed into 15-minute snippets in sterile examination rooms. Sometimes I think it would be better if exam rooms looked more like my mom’s therapy office – cozy and inviting, with couches and carpet, replete with comforting pastel watercolors on the walls.  Wouldn’t that make you more open to sharing intimate details of your life with a perfect stranger? But beginning nursing school, I am sure I will learn the tricks of the trade to help someone grow comfortable with me very quickly.

Focusing on the present, I have approximately 2 weeks left working with my residents. I will cherish these days, and my goal is to write about every single one of them, so that I accumulate as many memories to cherish as possible. I feel like I am hoarding acorns, squirreling them away for a time that I can yet only imagine: I am sitting in front of my textbooks, far removed from people, and feeling slightly despondent. Then, maybe, I can just pull up these memories, and recall why I am doing all the studying and testing and rote memorization. It is for a much greater good. And it is one that I still get to experience, firsthand, every day I go to work, for the next two weeks.

For the meantime, a recipe for thought:

The Best Broccoli of Your Life

found in: The Amateur Gourmet

Broccoli is my favorite cooked veggie. Hands-down. It absorbs sauces in stir-fries, picks up the main flavor in any dish, and gets delightfully juicy. Broccoli is not ashamed to be less than flamboyantly bold in flavor and it never minds taking a supporting actor’s role to the main dish. Yet this recipe celebrates broccoli for being just broccoli. It has the starring role, and it gets fabulous reviews by me. Perfect in texture, crispiness and flavor…you’ll never want to eat another vegetable for a side dish. My singular mistake in making this was not doubling the recipe. I could have devoured the end product entirely on my own, but I managed to save a few pieces for my lovely boyfriend.

And it is so simple:

Preheat the oven to 425.

Take 4 to 5 pounds of broccoli (I just got two large bunches), cut into florets (but relatively big ones.) Here’s the key that she doesn’t mention in the recipe: dry them THOROUGHLY. That is, if you wash them. (which I’ll admit, I did not).

Now, it’s easy. Put the broccoli on a cookie sheet.

Toss with roughly 5 T olive oil, 1 ½ tsp kosher salt and 1 ½ tsp freshly ground pepper. (I eyeballed the measurements, and also threw in some red chili flakes.) Now add 4 garlic cloves that are peeled and sliced and toss them in too.

Roast in the oven 20 to 25 minutes, until “crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.”

When it’s done, take it out of the oven:

–        Zest a lemon over the broccoli, squeeze the lemon juice over the broccoli

–        Add 1.5 Tbs more olive oil,

–        3 Tbs toasted pine nuts (I left those out),

–        1/3 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese

–        Original recipe also has you add 2 Tbs julienned fresh basil, but I left that out too.

Go gaga over broccoli.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2010 in Vegetables and Sides

 

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