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cold weather coping, with Vegetable Shepherds Pie

December 31st, 2013 | Comments Off

There’s no shortage of weather folklore to be found, in which the rhythm of the seasons can be a harbinger for predicting coming temperatures. This one seemed particularly fitting to our current weather in Minnesota.

When leaves fall early, Fall and Winter will be mild;
When leaves fall late, Winter will be severe.

Our whole theater of seasons in Minnesota was far, far behind the norm this year, with snow falling on May 1st, the growing season extended to near the end of October, and Autumn leaves peaking weeks behind schedule. Is it all an indication that our Winter will continue to be caught in a deep freeze? Stick around.

Decembers as of late have been all across the board for weather; we’ve had monster blizzards (December ’10) that dumped nearly 2-1/2 feet of snow on us, and Christmas weeks that have had nothing but hard rain (December ’12).

This December, it’s been the season of sub-zero temperatures.

It’s a languid post-Christmas week (languid for me as I took 9 days off after Christmas), and we’re already experiencing a second round of deep cold and unpleasant wind chills, of complaining and groaning over why one lives in such a place, running through Instagram photos of island vacations past, to dream of warm sand and sunshine and forget that exposed skin could acquire frostbite in just 10 minutes exposure outside. We bake to ward off the chill, simmer kettles of soup or slowly braise a comforting pot, cuddle under blankets, binge-watch Netflix and Hulu or movie catalogs, or just plain deal with it when the temperatures plummet and the wind bites with gnashing teeth at our skin. But one thing remains; we’re all in this together.

Cold weather isn’t much of an issue with me. I’ll add another layer, pull out the thick, warm wool mittens, tug on some leg warmers and keep my head down from the wind. Inside, I slip on wooly hand warmers, sheepskin slippers and invite the cats for a snuggle. Cranking up the oven helps too, as adding warm, cozy foods to the menu is the best way to keep warm from the inside.

This Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie was created as a vegetarian entree I was designated to bring for a Christmas gathering with my in-laws. I wanted something that would be universally accepted across the board by all the various dietary needs of our extended family; the Primal eaters, the wheat-free, the dairy-free and the meatless. It covers all those bases with it’s lush pile of heavenly roasted vegetables bathed in a balsamic glaze and a simple shower of salt and pepper. I chose not to use a binder to hold it all together, and instead of rich, buttery potatoes coating the top, I used roasted sweet potatoes, spun to a silken mass with a hand-mixer, touched only with good seasonings. The result was remarkable in flavor, eye-catching in presentation. I was thankful that it was so well-received, and grateful to have still a large portion to bring home and consume, post Christmas, as the deep cold set in.

Don’t be put off by the long recipe; you roast most of the vegetables, which can be accomplished while the sweet potatoes and beets do their thing in a hot oven. You’ll spend some time prepping those veggies, but putting it all together happens quickly. You can make the recipe in two 8×8 pans, saving one in the freezer for another time. Another elegant presentation would be to portion out ramekins for individual servings, an ultimate dinner party delight. The recipe makes plenty of filling to do with as your creativity leads you.

Best of all, when the temperatures drop and your belly growls it’s hunger at you, this feeds you with warmth, good health and well-being. For the upcoming winter, you’ll love having this in your repertoire.

Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie

3 Parsnips, peeled, cut to 1/2” chunks
4 medium carrots, peeled, cut to 1/2” chunks
2 stalks celery, cut to 1/2” pieces
2 8-oz pkgs whole baby portabella mushrooms, quartered
1 medium onion, halved, sliced thin
4 cloves garlic, peeled and rough chopped
3 cups Brussels Sprouts, trimmed and halved
4 small to medium gold beets (from one bunch) scrubbed, greens removed if needed
5 medium sweet potatoes, scrubbed well
1/3 c. mixed fresh herbs, minced (oregano, parsley and thyme are delicious)
olive oil
salt and pepper
balsamic vinegar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. You will be roasting all of the vegetables except for the celery, onion, mushroom and garlic. They will all take different amounts of time to finish, so start with the ones that will take the longest: poke the sweet potatoes a few times with a sharp knife and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Wrap beets well in foil. Place both in hot oven and roast until tender. A fork should slip easily in to the beets when they are done. Set aside to cool.

In a bowl, toss parsnips with a bit of olive oil and salt and scrape onto one side of a baking sheet. Repeat with carrots, and place on the other side of the baking sheet. Roast in hot oven until just tender. Place back in bowl and set aside. Repeat with Brussels sprouts, roasting until just tender. Scrape from pan in to bowl with parsnips and carrots.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter. When bubbling, add mushrooms, and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until they release their liquid. Add onion and celery and continue to cook, stirring often, until they soften, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat slightly, and cook for about 10 minutes, allowing the mushrooms to brown in spots and become very fragrant. Stir in garlic and sauté for about a minute, then add about 1/3 cup of balsamic vinegar. Scrape up any browned bits in the skillet, and simmer until the vinegar is absorbed. Add in the parsnips, carrots, and brussels sprouts and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Stir to combine and allow to simmer over low heat for a few minutes. Turn off the heat. Peel the beets, chop in to bite sized pieces and stir in to vegetable mix with the fresh herbs. Scrape entire pan in to a 9×13 baking dish.

Peel sweet potatoes and place in a bowl. Mash with a fork, or potato masher until smooth and creamy, season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly over vegetables. Place back in the oven for 15-20 minutes to heat through.

roasted orange marmalade for late winter

March 7th, 2013 | 9 Comments »

Late Winter brings it’s own melancholy, with a longing anticipation of Spring as the weary trudge over a landscape white as the eye can see.

Come in to my kitchen…

honey-soy glazed vegetables with crispy mushrooms

May 5th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

Saturday mornings are my sacred time. I rise early, with eager cats who think that the moment the birds start singing is ripe for raising their own voices, stirring the humans awake. I try to ignore Eli’s little ‘meeps’ while he negotiates the bed as light barely filters through the blind, but I can’t ignore his 16-lb frame when he steps on my head. It’s fine when all this happens around 7am in January. In May, at the prime hour of 5am, it’s a different story. But it’s his job and we respect that. Thank goodness for coffee.

And Saturday is my time. Mike rises six days a week with those critters (God bless that man) but on Saturday, he sleeps like a teenager, often until the unlikely hour of 9 or 10. It’s good for him, and those quiet moments of early sunrise, with coffee and a purring cat, are moments that are good for me. The patio door is open (though not in January) the birds sing-song chorus is cheerful, the coffee is super strong just as I like it and I have oceans of time to scan my blog reader, catch up on email or even a show on Hulu if I want. I’m often selfish with time; I like some that’s all mine, that I don’t need to share with anyone. I like being introspective, quiet and alone sometimes and these Saturday mornings are perfect for that.

I almost didn’t want to post this recipe. It was an utter ‘Hail Mary’ moment, a substitution of this for that, swapping one method for another and done in a haste that I’m almost embarrassed about. I had a small bag of fresh shiitake mushrooms, a plan and a time frame and every bit of it slipped away in the chaotic way that life takes charge and suddenly I was faced with a ‘Now or never’ option before the mushrooms became a slippery mass in their bag, and I punted blind.

The first bite to my mouth was almost interrupted by my heart pounding so badly that it nearly cut off my ability to swallow. I set some pretty high standards for myself, and no one is really holding that yardstick up to me, but me. I think I know what I’m doing; I think I can look at a recipe and recreate it in my head to be more about what I like to eat. And almost all of the time, when I head blind in to a dish, swapped out of someone else’s work, I do really well with it. It’s when I don’t trust my gut instincts and follow a recipe step by step, with all the ingredients in line like regimented soldiers that I trip up over my own indecision and end up tossing the whole thing on the compost heap.

Why do we sell ourselves short? We all do it, for one area of our lives or another. We can talk ourselves out of anything, refute the praise sent our way, shake our heads and frown at a compliment, and in our heads we make it seem so completely right, as in ‘Everyone does it and I’m not that great’. But here’s the thing: we ARE that great. We deserve those compliments and when they come, when praise rains down we shouldn’t turn from it, we should bask in it. It doesn’t mean we’re egotistical. It means something much more than that.

At my age I should think I know who I am, what I am capable of, what I enjoy eating and what I really don’t like any longer, and I SHOULD be able to rearrange a recipe without hand-wringing and self-doubt. I’m good at my craft; God gave me a gift and a skill set, and every time I stop my forward momentum and start scratching at my chin, all wrapped up in anxiety as I second guess myself, I’m portraying to Him that I don’t trust Him one bit.

Ephesians 2:10
“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”

{{I’m not here to ask, or even expect that you share my beliefs, and if you don’t,
please respect our differences as I kindly ask that you keep that to yourself}}

This very act of disavowing God’s gifts to us was discussed in a sermon in my church several months back and it sank in to my heart like a stone and settled there, and now, with conviction, every time I raise my own voice against myself, I hear His coming back to me. This is my gift, and this is HIS gift to me and I trust in Him with all my heart. It goes without saying that He is not one to retract a gift due to some misaligned belief. “Oh whoops, sorry. Those skills were meant for someone ELSE. NOT you!” He just doesn’t work in that manner. I can trust in my gifts as I trust in Him. And whether you believe or not, your specific type of faith is irrelevant. We all have amazing gifts that we can be proud of, that we can own 100% regardless of where we feel they come from. Acknowledging them is a truth that we should never deny ourselves. We don’t need belief in God for that to happen; just faith in ourselves.

And with this recipe, in my rushed state to prepare this, without a whole great plan of exactly HOW it was going to be done, like I said, I punted blind and should have just told that quickened heartbeat to ‘Shush!’ as I raised my fork. I know that I’m good enough at my craft to make this dish amazing.

Because the end result was delicious, and it was exactly like I expected it to be. And those crispy Shiitake mushrooms? What an amazing taste and crunch. I should prepare them that way just as a snack, drenched and dredged and seared to a golden crackle. I had to shoot the photos, taste the finished product and just as quickly as all that was completed, pack it away and race out the door to one of those life moments that you simply can’t miss. So I need to make this again, with time to savor and enjoy the process, the gift and the fruits of the Earth and rejoice in what I’ve been given.

Do you ever find that you second guess yourself, or you dismiss praise, or shake off a compliment??
What do you feel are your own unique gifts?? 
 
 

Honey-Soy Glazed Vegetables
with Crispy Mushrooms

1/2 lb Shiitake mushrooms, stems removed
1 bunch Gold Beets, with greens; trimmed, peeled and cut to bite size pieces. Greens rinsed and set aside
1 small head Cauliflower, washed and cut to bite size pieces
1 bunch Radishes, trimmed and halved
1/4 c. honey
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 T. molasses
2 T. water
1 package Asian Rice Crackers, pulverized (I placed these in a large plastic bag and whacked at them with a rolling pin)

Heat your oven to 400°. Whisk the honey, soy sauce and lemon juice together and set aside. In a separate small bowl, whisk the molasses and water together and set that aside as well.

Toss beets with oil of choice, salt and pepper to taste and place on a large baking sheet. Separately, prepare cauliflower and radishes in the same manner but place on a separate sheet as they will cook at a different rate than the beets. Place both sheet pans in the oven and roast until beginning to become tender when pierced with a fork. Remove the pans from the oven and drizzle the honey-soy mixture evenly between the two pans. Stir the vegetables to coat, place back in the oven and continue to roast, stirring often, until the sauce caramelizes and the vegetables become very tender. This timing will depend on your oven and the size to which you cut the vegetables. Be sure to watch them rather carefully, as the honey in the sauce can scorch.

When veggies are done to your liking, place them in a large bowl and sprinkle about 1/4 cup of the pulverized rice crackers over them, tossing lightly to coat.

Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron if you’ve got it) with about 1/4″ of an oil that will withstand a high dose of heat, like coconut or grapeseed. Toss the shiitake mushroom caps in the molasses mixture, then coat them with the crushed rice crackers. Carefully place them, cap down in the heated oil and fry until crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain them on paper towels until cool enough to handle, then slice them in to strips.

Spoon the glazed vegetables on to plates, then top with the sliced mushrooms. Sprinkle the dish with any remaining crushed rice crackers and serve. This tasted divine served just slightly above room temperature.

KATE’S NOTES:
In my haste and scattered-ness over this recipe, I completely forgot to add the greens to the dish. They can be sauteed until tender in the skillet, just before you sear the shiitake mushrooms. I will definitely make that addition next time this dish comes through my kitchen.

red rice pulao with roasted vegetables

March 31st, 2012 | 3 Comments »

When I was 15 or 16, my Mom broke her left elbow roller skating. Outside of the fact that my MOM -gasp!- was roller skating (and apparently getting rather cocky about it) she happened to be left-handed, and in breaking her elbow, this rendered her incapable of doing much of anything. She lamented one day, as I helped her in the kitchen, “I wish I had learned to use my right arm more.” and somehow this struck a chord with me, as did her inability to manage even the most mundane of daily tasks.

It’s been in the back of my mind since then to train my hands to work equally. Although my left handed writing looks like an overly caffeinated six year old, and my knife skills in my left hand are nothing compared to my right, I can whisk, scoop, stir, twist, grind, mix and pour from either right or left. I can reach and function and do just about anything needed during the course of my day without having to switch gears, hands or mindset.

There is always more that your body can do, when allowed. If you’ve learned how to type on a standard keyboard, then you can teach your non-dominant hand to do any number of things. Even though one side of our brain dominates, and we develop a set of skills with that dominant hand, there is far more that one is capable of if you’re willing to put your mind to it.

That goes for recipe usage too. Recipes are not cut in stone; they should serve as a guideline, a base from which we can expand exponentially in many different directions. I love recipes because someone else has already done most of the work for me, but I am free to remove this and substitute that, increase this or decrease that or look at how it comes out in one form and think “I know this can be better.” and then trust that my skills can take me there. These skills have been especially useful in the re-development of this incredible Red Rice Pulao.

The origin of this recipe comes from Robin Asbells New Whole Grains Cookbook, which, in a soft yet grand way simply changed my life in 2008. Long before the intense embrace by food lovers of all things whole grain, I’d run through a bookful of recipes using quinoa, millet, bulgur and various rices, finding great things to love about these simple staples. Grains are one of the easiest foods to work with in any kitchen, and require no special treatment. Particularly fond of the vibrant rices available, this Red Rice Pulao made for an chewy and delicious experience, and like many wonderful recipes on this blog, I simply posted it once and never went back. What a mistake.

Because that means no one’s ever going to see it, as really, does anyone look in to the archives of a food blog? Rarely. And I loved the recipe when followed to a ‘T’. As I thought about it again, with more capability to be flexible in my cooking, I decided a second go of this dish was in order and am I ever glad I stepped up and made a few changes because this 2.0 version is light years better than the original. No offense to Robin, but the very task of cooking is to learn to feed oneself in the manner that makes you happiest. No cookbook author outside of us knows what makes us happy; only we do, and we owe it to ourselves to learn just enough kitchen skills to take the humblest of foods, such as rice and vegetables, and make them extraordinary. Let the recipe author be your guide, but let your imagination, your tastes and your skills drive you to cook with instinct instead of blind faith.

Task-wise, this has a few moments of chopping and prep, but largely you are passing a great deal of idle time as rice simmers, and vegetables roast, while heady fragrances take over your home. This isn’t high-tech stuff here; with the heat of an oven and the magic alchemy of boiling water with rice, you can make an exceptional dish that tastes far more grand than it’s humble beginnings. If you’re unfamiliar with red rice, it’s an intensely chewy rice, often found labeled as Himalayan Red Rice, or Wehani. Properly cooked, it takes up to an hour, all hands off. Finished, it’s a really hearty and satisfying grain, deeper in flavor than brown rice, not as earthy as wild rice. This dish is easily a main course, or can be eaten as a side with any number of proteins. I can vouch that it’s especially good with grilled pork tenderloin.

Here’s where you get to decide what you do with this recipe, because if you want, outside of making the rice you can experiment wildly, with everything else. Instead of carrots and cauliflower, add whatever vegetables you have on hand, or swap almonds, walnuts, pecans or peanuts for the pistachios. This is your base, and when you read through it, your tastes will direct you, just as they should. Trust those instincts. And enjoy.

Red Rice Pulao with Roasted Vegetables

1 T. oil of choice
1 T. chopped ginger
1 T. brown mustard seeds
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 t. chili powder
1 t. ground turmeric
1 c. red rice or brown basmati rice
2 c. water
1 T. brown sugar
1 t. salt
2 T. lemon juice
1 head of cauliflower, cut to bite sized pieces
2 medium carrots, sliced
1/2 c. shelled pistachios or toasted slivered almonds

In a 2-qt saucepan, heat oil briefly and add ginger, mustard seed and shallot. Cook for a few minutes, until the ginger is fragrant and the seeds are popping slightly, then add chili powder and turmeric. Stir it up well and cook for a few seconds until the smell is amazing. Add rice, water, brown sugar and salt, stir it up good to combine it all and bring to a boil. Cover tightly, reduce heat to low. The amount of time needed to cook the rice will depend on what rice you use. Test the grains after the time specified on the package, and adjust to your personal taste. Allow to cool slightly. If you are using a true red rice, be patient with it. The time required for me to make mine was slightly over an hour. And every minute was well worth it.

While the rice cooks, heat the oven to 400°, and toss the vegetables with a bit of oil and salt. Since these two cook differently, I put the cauliflower on one pan, the carrots on another and roast until each are tender, shaking the pan often, and stirring to insure even browning. They can hang out in their finished state, until the rice is done.

If you love a good deep flavor for pistachios, take a few minutes and toast them in a skillet over medium heat. It’s well worth it, and that rice gives you plenty of time.

When the rice is done and cooled, dump it all in a large bowl and add the roasted vegetables. Toss together gently and add a few tablespoons of those nicely toasted pistachios. Toss a bit more, taste and add salt and pepper if you wish, then serve it, topped with more pistachios. This dish is good whether served cold, hot or at room temperature. You can garnish it with chopped scallions too, for a bit more flavor.

melancholy, and sweet potato hummus

March 13th, 2012 | 7 Comments »

There’s something going around in my life lately, that’s been apparent in this space. And that’s nothing. Nothing at all. I’ve had some posts here and there (five total in February, which is not much at all) and yet they’ve all felt like I’ve dragged them kicking and screaming from my brain. Nothing has landed in me, a late winter melancholia, a heavy weight that’s latched itself around my neck, like I’m just hauling around with no real purpose. My dear friend Angharad, who writes in this lovely space, put it so succinctly in this post that I feel like she reached right inside me, flipping on a light and said, in her delightful lilting English accent “Oh, there you are, you beastly thoughts. Get OUT of there!”

And it’s just this time of year, this wrinkle between the winter that never really was and a Spring that is still so so far away. Without snow coverage on the landscape, it’s been this flat and dull brown for the last six months and it makes my eyes, and my heart ache to look at it. The lack of color punches me in the ribs and knocks the wind out of me, because there is just nothing there, and it’s this nothing that’s dropped like a stone in to my life. I missed my snow, the squeak of my boots, the crystalline cold that penetrates you and takes your breath away, and I missed my cross country skis. And in this space that is neither one season or the other, I’m bored with the foods and the tastes and the textures of a Winter that never came. I’ve been repeating recipes, sticking with simple meals and just coasting. Coasting through the nothing, and waiting, patient, and with eyes on the sky for the breath of Spring to come and lift this nothing away.

And in the meantime, I’m eating sweet potato hummus, coveting every bite because it’s this incredible thing I’ve found and although there are people out there talking about it, it still feels like a secret that maybe you want to keep, but you know it’s worth spreading around. Because, as hummus goes, this one is the bees knees to this hummus loving girl. While I could sit down with a full food processor bowl of freshly made hummus and scoop to my heart’s content, the addition of a soft and fragrant roasted sweet potato turns this humble condiment into something really kind of extraordinary, like that first real Spring day when you wake up and remember that there really is a definitive end to Winter.

And there’s really nothing to it, this Sweet Potato Hummus. One nice sized sweet potato, roasted almost to a point of collapse until it’s juicy and delectably sweet gets mixed in to any standard Hummus recipe, whizzed together in your food processor or high-speed blender and then, best of all, eaten in any manner you would consume this easy snack. Roasting the sweet potato gives it such an incredibly deep flavor, especially if you use the dark orange skinned variety like Red Jewel or Garnet (the ones most people refer to as Yams, even though they aren’t true Yams at all). The darker orange flesh contains more moisture, as well as a higher level of antioxidants. Eat your colors, remember? Sweet potatoes are just brimming with vitamins and minerals, are very low on the Glycemic Index and contain a high level of anti-inflammatory properties. Add in a good source of fiber, without saturated fat or cholesterol and this nutritional workhorse has far more going for it than just good taste or a pretty face. Maybe the consumption of this, chock full of good ingredients, might be the crane that lifts me from this nothing I’ve been experiencing, in to the something that I’m craving, mind and heart, right now.

Another good thing? You can bake off an entire sheet pan of sweet potatoes, slip them from their skins when they’re cool and freeze them in plastic bags to have on hand for any manner of baking or cooking. I’ve had sweet potatoes in the freezer for more than six months (due to getting buried) and the texture hasn’t shown much change at all, other than maybe a bit more watery.

But back to that Hummus. Or better yet, I’ll stop my endless blathering so you can skip in to your own kitchen and make this for yourself. Because there’s some left in my fridge, and I’m off to cut up a few carrots, dip a few crackers and work on stoking my creation fire that I know is still in my brain. Eventually this nothing will lift; it does every year. I hope the grocer has enough sweet potatoes in stock.

 

Easy Sweet Potato Hummus

1 15-oz can chickpeas, rinsed
1/3 c. tahini
1/4 c. fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 T. olive oil
1-2 t. kosher salt
1 medium roasted sweet potato, cooled and skinned
1/4 c. water (or more, depending on how creamy you like your hummus)

In the work bowl of a food processor, or in a high speed blender, add all the ingredients and process, adding water if necessary, until the consistency you like. Serve immediately, or chill overnight.

 

 

Elsewhere on the blog, regarding Sweet Potatoes:

Sweet Potato Biscuits

Oatmeal Sweet Potato Muffins

Whole Wheat Muffins with Squash and Quinoa

Curried Sweet Potato and Corn Risotto

roasted beets with skordalia (pantzaria me skordalia)

January 31st, 2012 | 4 Comments »

Previously in this space, we talked about mushrooms. Specifically, we talked about my quick and decisive learning curve that led me to an all-out lustrous affair with fungus.

Today, it’s all about Beets.

Beets and I had a torrid love affair back in 2009; it was then that I discovered the merits of this earthy root vegetable, one that turns tender and appealing from a long stretch in a hot oven; that it’s earthiness and deep, dark flavor isn’t so overpowering when paired with any number of other ingredients, and most specifically, that the nutrients in this little orb are well worth an incorporation to one’s regular eating. The greens also made their way in to my heart, one of the first to do so, and I believe they were responsible for me learning to love all things dark green and leafy.

Beets have a spectacular nutrient profile, primarily being a superb source of anti-oxidants, with anti-inflammatory and detoxification properties as well. Beets are in the same Chenopod family as spinach, chard and, surprisingly, quinoa. And while they contain an incredible amount of anti-oxidants, it’s the specific ones in beets- lutein and zeaxanthin- that make these vegetables stand out with their nutritional defense for your well-being. Lutein is especially beneficial for eye health, and the anti-oxidant mix in Beets is highly supportive of the nervous system. The anti-inflammatory properties of Beets also support heart health, and can help balance inflammation brought on by Type-2 Diabetes.

But even with all that, many people can’t get past the taste of Beets. They are dark and earthy, and quite honestly, I struggled with them at first, but I discovered that the lovely gold Beets are far less heavy tasting than their red cousins. Once I was able to enjoy the gold, I tried several recipes with the red and found a lot to enjoy about them as well.

Then, along came this recipe, pairing mellow and tender roasted beets with garlic studded mashed potato in a classic Skordalia. One bite and I was in love. With Beets. Again. Oh the glory…..

Served warm, with toasted pita bread on the side, this simple, non-fussy dish was rich with flavor and texture. The soft, fragrant potato mix, studded with garlic and thickened with a swirl of a soft, fruited olive oil lends a beautiful contrast to the hearty and tender roasted beets. I would have never imagined that the two of these foods together, both so simple and humble, would be so perfect.

Roasted Beets with Skordalia

4 medium red beets (about 1 1/2 lbs.) trimmed and cleaned
10 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄4 cup finely ground toasted walnuts
1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
6 cloves garlic, smashed and minced into a paste (I sauteed the garlic in some of the olive oil before adding it to the potato for a more mellow garlic flavor)
2 medium russet potatoes, 
peeled and cut into 1″ squares and boiled until tender

Heat oven to 425°. Put beets in an 8″ x 8″ baking dish and drizzle with 2 tbsp. oil. Season with salt and pepper and pour in 1 cup water. Cover pan tightly with foil and crimp edges to form a seal. Bake beets until a knife inserted into beet slides easily into the center, about 1 hour. Transfer pan to a rack, carefully uncover, and let cool for 30 minutes. Peel beets and cut into 1″–2″ pieces; set aside.

Put walnuts, vinegar, garlic, and potatoes into a medium bowl and mash potatoes until smooth. Vigorously stir in remaining oil and season with salt and pepper. Transfer beets to plates and serve with some of the skordalia spread on the side.
Recipe posted in it’s entirety from the original source in Saveur magazine, issue #131.

eggplant & chickpea curry

October 1st, 2011 | 4 Comments »

Truth:

I could be accused of purchasing eggplant simply to make this dish. Not that this is a bad thing.

Truth:

I have a wooden spoon permanently stained from turmeric.

Truth:

I may have, just a wee bit, tried to hide the remains of this dish in the back of the fridge where my husband can’t find it.

Admission:

I love curry.

The first time I ever tried any kind of curry flavored dish was in college when a roommate and I shared an amazing meal at an Ethiopian restaurant. She warned me that I would sweat curry the next day and she wasn’t kidding; the warmth that exuded from my skin was unreal. It was heady, and deep with the memory of the fragrant meal we’d consumed the night before and I would lift my arm to my nose repeatedly over the course of my morning to remind myself of the flavors. It’s no surprise that any type of curry dish, whether red or green or yellow, is at the top of my list in terms of my favorite taste. With or without coconut milk, whether searing hot with a heat that makes my heart beat just a bit faster and sweat bead at my eyebrows, or a mild gentle tease that touches my tongue, curry flavored dishes are tops.

Eggplant. Chickpeas. Red onions. Fresh curry powder whisked with a splash of oil and just a bit of dark brown sugar to aid in caramelization. A hot oven. And 30 minutes. That’s it. From that point, all you need is a fork.

Your house will smell truly amazing, and I’m telling you, it will be darn right difficult to resist eating the roasted curried chickpeas right off the baking sheet when it’s all done. They become dense and crispy, especially if you take a few moments after you’ve drained them to spread them out and pat them dry with a paper towel, and I’m sure you’ve heard by now that roasted chickpeas make a perfectly addicting snack? I’ve experimented with them already, and have, more than once, gazed at the enormous #10 foodservice size cans of them in consideration of purchasing. Crazy? Maybe. But once you try this, you may understand why that’s not so dumb a thought.

But this dish? It’s a ‘Wow’ factor of 10. And an ‘Easy’ on the preparation scale. You’ll spend 10 minutes cutting and prepping, then you’ll pace for the 30 minutes it sits in your oven. Give the baking sheet a shake halfway through and that’s about it. The eggplant cooks to a creamy dream, onions settle in soft and caramelized and those chickpeas…… oh those chickpeas. Hold me back.

Good thing I’ve got that permanent turmeric-stained spoon. I’m going to need it.

 

Eggplant and Chickpea Curry

1 medium eggplant, diced
1 large red onion, chopped
1 medium red pepper, cored and seeded, chopped
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (spread them and pat dry for extra crispness)
1/4 c. olive oil
2 t. good quality curry powder
1 t. dark brown sugar (sub molasses, muscavado or honey too, can use light brown sugar as well)

Preheat your oven to 400°

Whisk together the curry powder, sugar and oil in a small bowl. Combine the eggplant, onion, pepper and chickpeas, then pour the curry oil over and carefully toss together to combine. The eggplant will soak up the oil but don’t add anymore. Eggplant is a sponge; too much oil and it will be too soggy.

Spread the mixture on a baking sheet and bake, shaking the pan once or twice about halfway through, for 30 minutes. This dish can be consumed immediately, but takes on deeper flavor if allowed to sit overnight in the refrigerator.

Serve with naan or pita bread, over brown rice or on crisply toasted baguette slices.

KATE’S NOTES: For additional amazing flavor, add two large tomatoes that have been roasted as well, but don’t place them with the eggplant. They take far less time. For a good method, check this recipe.

 

Original recipe from Food & Wine, here with modifications

 

 

impatience

May 25th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

No, not Impatiens, like the potted flower on everyone’s doorstep. This is true impatience, the feeling brought on by delayed spring time, blooms that just don’t occur, endless gray skies and parades of devastating storms and the fleeting thought that I can’t recall what my warm weather clothes are like anymore. It’s almost Memorial Day. We briefly met 70 degrees this Spring, only to quickly plunge back to the 60′s, the 50′s and a few shivering days where 40′s were all the atmosphere could muster. Who’s hogging all the 80-degree days? Minnesota needs you to share. Now.

Despite the cool weather, the lettuce and radish seeds I planted are flourishing and I’m dreaming of amazing salads. The annuals in the garden are coming along nicely, albeit several weeks behind schedule. And with the drenching rains and lack of sun, the emerald greens around us are amazing. Simply amazing. While Spring hasn’t exactly been the most glorious in terms of the temperatures and sunshine, it’s still showing me it’s fragrance and the visions that we wait all Winter to appreciate.

I missed the very brief window of opportunity to love up the crabapple tree in our front yard, as it hit full bloom on a Thursday, only to be wiped clean of it’s lush petals through a series of weekend storms that unleashed torrents of rain on us, and some terrifying sky.

And a subsequent walk through the neighborhood revealed glorious pink petal carpets from the stripped crabapple blooms.

In my garden, the Creeping Phlox filled out it’s little garden bed beautifully.

The Adjuga along the front garden path burst into a rich and full display, basking in a rare sunny day while hiding among the new Hosta blooms and the fallen pink petals.

Adjuga is a wonderful ground cover, and it grows on a flagstone path right along the front of our house. It’s mostly for shade, but can handle a little sun and it forms a nice thick carpet. In the Spring, it sends up flower stalks about 6 inches high that have these tiny little blue flowers on them. It’s one of the most favorite, carefree and reliable plants in my yard.

What else has May brought?

Oh yeah. An adorable cat of course, with nary a care in the world it seems.

A gorgeous new stove!!!

I’m still in awe over this acquisition. One of my food blogging cohorts is remodeling her kitchen and through a few Twitter exchanges, she offered to sell me her old stove for $100 and a case of beer for the guy who drove it from NE Minneapolis out to the far Northern suburbs for us. The door hinges were broken and it needed a power cleaning, but for $150 in parts and a bit of elbow grease, we landed a stove that retails for $2,200.00. I kid you not. It’s like going from driving a Yugo to being handed a Ferrari with a full tank of gas. We seriously lucked out and we’ve taken to calling it our ‘Grown Up’ stove, something a serious food lover should have in her kitchen.

There were a few lovely nights on beautiful restaurant patios with my beautiful laughing food-loving friends that only solidifies how much I am falling in love with them…..


This is #GirlsBigNight, hanging outside Cooper West End with (L–>R) Dania, (me) Jen and Virginia. Yes, we posed that way on purpose.

 


Enjoying the tree-shaded patio at Heidi’s 2.0 in Minneapolis with the #MNFoodBloggers, Shaina and I after a few amazing cocktails. Everyone really, was as happy as we look. It was just one of those all around perfect nights.

On a rare nice night following a hectic afternoon of rain and thunder, it’s nice to find the calm after the storm.

And then???

Roasted Chickpeas. Because this is a food blog, after all. For the most part anyway.

I’m super late to the whole ‘roast a can of chickpeas for the ultimate snack’ craze. Seriously late. And I’m ok with that. I don’t jump on too many bandwagons as I always seem to miss, fall flat on my face and then have to slink away in silence, tail between my legs. I like to watch these things go by, silently waiting to see if it endures, if it sticks around long enough to not be called a fad, a trend or the next big thing. These little golden nuggets of crunchy-ness are a perfect snack for the improved eating plan going on around here. I think I could even get my Teen to try a few handfuls. They’re like Corn Nuts, but less processed, less packaged without all the strange things. I feel that these will make a regular appearance in my kitchen for a long time to come.

 

Roasted Chickpeas

Preheat the oven to 400°. Drain two 15-oz cans of chickpeas and rinse well. Shake off excess water and pour chickpeas on a baking sheet lined with paper towel. Use another paper towel to blot chickpeas dry, then slip the off the bottom towel. You want them to be absolutely bone dry before roasting them. At this point, if the chickpea skins bug you in the same obsessive way they bug me, you can remove them. If not, then slip the pan in the oven and let roast for about 10 minutes. Shake the pan to loosen the chickpeas, then continue to bake, shaking the pan on occasion, until they are browned and crisp, with a rich nutty scent. Be careful not to allow them to burn. Depending on your oven, this should take 30-40 minutes. Watch them carefully.

Take them out of the oven and toss them with a little oil and any kind of seasoning you like. For this batch, I used a small amount of olive oil, the juice of half a lime and about 2-3 teaspoons each of chili powder and cumin, plus some sea salt. Toss to coat and serve warm or at room temperature.

For more flavoring options, see this post.

http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/tips-techniques/15-more-ways-to-flavor-roasted-chikpeas-106112

roasted vegetable pasta

November 18th, 2010 | 5 Comments »

There’s a lot of cowboy in me. Not the horse-ridin’ spur-wearin’ giddy-up-ing cowboy, but the kind that understands ‘Cowboy Cooking’ as a necessary culinary term.

Most people these days better understand the term ‘Iron Chef’ though, thanks to the ubiquitous presence of the Food Network. Cowboy cooking, or Iron Chef-ing is where you take a whole bunch of ingredients and come up with a dish that is nothing short of fantastic. It’s a skill that has served me well in my kitchen.

This roasted vegetable pasta dish was a stellar example of that. It’s from last winter and was a repeated entree in our kitchen for the remainder of the season.  All you do is roast up a pan of your favorite vegetables until they are fragrant and soft, then process them in a food processor to a chunky sauce. Mix them with a hefty pasta shape, add some grated parmesan and grab your fork. It works equally well to just toss them with pasta as is after roasting.

The sauce is versatile enough to also be used as an appetizer, topping crostini or another sturdy base.

And uh yeah….. ew; this photo is NOT my favorite, yet it’s what I get trying to photograph food in Minnesota during the month of February. Ugh. Sorry.

It really tastes FAR better than this looks. I promise! Yee haw!! Let’s get cookin’!

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

1 medium eggplant, cubed
1 medium yellow onion, cut into eighths
1 red pepper, seeded cored and cut into large chunks
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
4-6 cloves garlic, rough chopped into large pieces
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 # rigatoni
Fresh parmesan cheese
Chopped kalamata olives

Place vegetables into a large bowl. Pour about 1/8 c. of olive oil over them, salt and pepper and maybe some dried seasoning of your choice. Toss to coat. Place on cookie sheets and roast in a 400-degree oven for 25-35 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and fragrant. Gently stir once during the cooking.

Cook pasta to al dente. Drain, reserving about 2 cups of pasta water and keep pasta warm. Place roasted vegetables in food processor and add a cup of reserved pasta water and 1/8 c. olive oil. Process until mixture is chunky, scrape down sides and process to desired consistency. If mix is too thick, add some more pasta water. You want it to be spreadable but not drippy, thick but not gloppy.

Toss vegetable mix with warm pasta. You may not need it all so scoop accordingly. Toss to coat pasta, add in kalamata olives (if desired) and parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.

And remember when I recently talked about that yummy Panko Crumb topping? Hello, and giddyup …..it works perfect here.

roasting, with apricots

May 25th, 2010 | 7 Comments »

Does the weather ever slide subtly from one season to another? Because here in Minnesota, we jumped cannon-ball style from lovely Spring into all out Summer. Humidity levels rose, thickening the air and the thermometer leapt from something manageable, like the 60′s or 70′s, to a sticky number that begins with 9, and that which we rarely see before July around these parts.

And what did I do to manage this early season heat wave? I turned on the oven. Apparently, recipe inspiration can make me a little insane. But first, how about a glimpse into what the garden decided to do lately?

This White Hybrid Columbine is so lovely- see the lavender undertones? It’s stunning, but only about 4″ high. I had to lay on the ground to get this shot.


The heat wave opened the first of the California Poppies.


The Lupine are tall and graceful.

And there was plenty of other colorful happenings in the garden this week.

But I know, I know.

You just want the food, don’t you? I know that’s why you come here. I promise, this won’t disappoint.

Yes, those are apricots. I roasted them on the hottest day of the year. It was probably in the mid 90′s outside when I turned the oven dial to 425° and prepared a small sack of apricots, nestling them in brown sugar and cardamom (again? you ask, well…. yes. Insane goes many ways, my friends) before drizzling them with honey and a splash of water. Butter dots too. What good is roasted fruit without a nice buttery sheen?

I pretty much left tire tracks on our driveway after spotting this recipe in the current issue of Bon Appetit. Roasted Apricots? I sure do love those most fickle of tiny stone fruits- one day so firm and tart, the next moving to a softness and sweet ripe juicy flavor that you could blink and miss it if you’re not careful. And yes, the grocer stocked fresh ones, many yielding to gentle pressure like they should, smelling of golden sunshine. I’ve loved apricots since I was a very young child, and recall with fondness when my own boy was but a wee one and we lived behind a natural foods store. Almost daily we would shop, it was so convenient then to bring home only what we needed and he loved the velvety softness of those tiny fruits that fit so well into his palm. I would purchase them carefully, knowing he would eat them like crazy and they needed to be perfectly ripe. By the time we walked out the door of that store, around the back and across the parking lot of our building, he would be slurping the last of the juice from his hand, the pit clenched between his fingers and eagerly looking to me to hand him another one. Yes, apricots are favorites. For both of us and for so long. I knew too, that roasting them in this manner probably wouldn’t thrill my now 16 year old young man, but for me, these days the recipes I make don’t have to thrill everyone. Especially this. If it doesn’t make the guys jump for joy, that’s OK. These apricots, they were mine.

I imagine this recipe would work equally well with any stone fruit. Simply place the pitted fruit on a bed of brown sugar and cardamom (which, again- like the Rhubarb Crisp previously swooned over, you could leave out and never miss) drizzle the top with a little honey and pour a small amount of water over it all. Bake it at 425°, occasionally basting the fruit with the juices that form, until they are soft, fragrant and irresistible. Hold off the urge to eat them by the spoonful until they glaze has cooled. People, it’s searingly hot. My poor lip. But soft, tender, sweet and amazing in flavor is the result. You could do worse for yourself you know, on a stifling hot and sticky day, stuck inside under artificially cooled conditions to turn on your oven for 20 minutes and be rewarded like this. Summer? Bring it on.

Roasted Apricots with Cardamom Brown Sugar Glaze
From Bon Appetit, June 2010

  • 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 6 large or 12 small apricots (about 1 1/2 pounds), halved, pitted
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons honey, divided
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
  • 1 8-ounce container crème fraîche or sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix brown sugar and cardamom in 11x7x2-inch glass baking dish. Add apricots. Pour 1/4 cup water and 2 tablespoons honey over fruit; dot with butter. Roast until apricots are tender, occasionally basting with syrup in dish, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Whisk crème fraîche, remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons honey, and vanilla in small bowl. Serve with warm apricots.

KATE’S NOTES:
When buying stone fruit to roast, they should be slightly under-ripe or they’ll become too mushy when you cook them. I found that the 12-15 minute window in the recipe was not nearly enough to make them tender. They cooked for maybe 20 minutes before I felt that the fruit was the soft texture I wanted.

Should there be a “Next time” when I make this, which I am certain there will be, I would probably stir the brown sugar, cardamom and water together. Once the fruit cooled, there were sugar crystals on the bottom of the baking dish from where the brown sugar did not dissolve. I also used whole cardamom seed and ground it down, but not enough. If cardamom is not finely ground, the remaining seed can be bitter. If you grind your own seeds, make sure it’s very fine. I ended up straining some of them out afterwards. And yes, by all means leave it out and you’ll never know.

My topping for it was mascarpone cheese sweetened with honey. I know. This truly does make me believe I am insane. But it was, sorry to reiterate, insanely good. Try the roasted apricots on yogurt, over ice cream, on top of shortcakes (if your strawberries run out) or alone as a simple treat.