Friday, October 30, 2009

delicata squash stuffed with kale and white beans

I don't know what it is about this week, but I'm feeling unusually uninspired. After fifteen minutes of staring at the produce in my fridge, and seconds before just resigning and ordering takeout, I took to Tastespotting, my go-to for these what-to-do moments. (I highly recommend it, for both dinner inspiration and a slow hour at work.) A quick search for kale did not disappoint, as I unearthed a recipe for delicata squash, roasted and stuffed with winter greens and white beans. It was perfect: I had all the ingredients on-hand; it was hearty (and enticingly-photographed), and perhaps most important at this particular moment, it was quick.

Because of its shape, delicata squash is really well-suited for stuffing. You wind up with these perfect little boats which stand up remarkably well to all sorts of fillings. While I stuck with the two ingredient combo, if you're up to it, you could add in chopped walnuts or dried cranberries for texture, and you could top it off with some toasted bread crumbs.

This recipe was adapted from this one over at Cook Local. It will feed two people (1/2 squash each) but easily doubles/triples for a family or crowd.

delicata squash stuffed with white beans and kale
1 medium delicata squash, halved and scooped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bunch kale, chopped
1 can white beans (I used navy beans)
1 tbs sage (minced fresh or dried)
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush insides of squash with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place face-down in a baking dish, and bake until just tender, about fifteen minutes. (The squash should be easily pierced by a fork, but not so well-done that it's falling out of the skin.)

While the squash is baking, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic and saute for a minute or two. Add the kale and stir well. Saute over medium-high heat until the kale has wilted (about 3 or 4 mintues). Reduce the heat and add the beans and sage. Stir well, and cook together for another few minutes while the flavors incorporate. Season with salt and pepper. (Stir in any additions at this point.)

When the kale is done, remove the squash from the oven, flip it over, and fill each half with the kale/white bean mixture. Top with bread crumbs, if using. Lightly brush with a little bit of oil, and bake altogether for another five minutes. Serve!

*Unlike butternut squashes and pumpkins, the skin of the delicata is very thin, and completely edible.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

roasted brussels sprouts

This is the season of my discovering love for formerly-eschewed vegetables, and following my successful reconciliation with beets, for the first time ever, I bought brussels sprouts. They were the first of the season, and I only picked up a few; I was skeptical, as the smell of the boiling brussels from my childhood is still etched in my olfactory memory. My dad was the lone brussels eater in my house, and you couldn't get me, or my sisters, far enough away from them.

I honestly had no intention of ever cooking with these tiny cabbages... until a few weeks ago. I was having lunch with a co-worker who had brought in the ones she had made for dinner the night before. They were small and halved, browned at the edges and flecked with fennel and pepper. And they smelled incredible. Was it possible? I was persuaded.

The first night, I roasted my first brussels with olive oil, salt, pepper and shallots until they were tender and caramelized. They were so good. I haven't looked back since.

image via Country Living

This week, I bought them on the stalk. Did you know that this is how they grow? I had no idea!

To roast them, preheat to 350 degrees. Toss your brussels with olive oil, salt and pepper and cook until browned. I like them with shallots, but you could toss in garlic, fennel, or any type of onion. If you're able, try them on the grill! Finish with a little lemon juice, and serve alongside any main course.

Have a more creative preparation? Submit it to Food52. Their weekly recipe competition features brussels sprouts this week, and, if you win, you'll be included (and given full credit for your delicious idea) in their forthcoming cookbook.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

roasted romanesco

On Sunday night, as we were shaking off the lingering effects of week-long colds, G. and I gave in to our evening cravings for warm drinks and pizza. Around the corner from our apartment is a place called Roberta's. I remember when it first opened a few years ago with a cement facade and barely-visible windows, rumors whispered through the neighborhood... is there really pizza in there? Beyond the cinder blocks, you'll find the warmest, darkest, coziest pizza joint south of Vermont. Formerly an old garage, the space has been renovated with lots of salvaged wood, and decorated with low-lights, wood-burning fireplaces and family-style tables. Roberta's is a rustic retreat, absent of irony and kitsch, nestled in one of Brooklyn's most industrial neighborhoods.

While waiting for a table, we stepped outside to the garden and heated tent, where we ordered Gluhwein (unappetizingly pronounced: glue wine), a German mulled wine, spiced with cinnamon sticks, vanilla pods, cloves, citrus and sugar. The drink is popular in Germany's many open-air Christmas markets. We talked to the bartender about the new roof gardens, built as a series of greenhouses above the restaurant, bringing new meaning to the term local on Brooklyn restaurant menus.

The pizzas, made in a wood-fired oven, have thin, charred crusts which can be finished with any of the menu's inspired toppings: potato, capers, egg. We ordered the Rosso (tomato, oregano, garlic) with onion and mushroom. The whole thing was pitch-perfect: a well-fired crust and onions which maintained their crunch, while the tomato held its own, not to be upstaged by the garlic and oregano.

Also on the menu, though not on our table, was romanesco (with pistachio butter, parsley and guanciale), which inspired me to chop and roast the one I'd picked up on Saturday. This preparation is very straightforward: olive oil, salt, pepper, a little dried chili. The result is delicious. The romanesco's flavor is similar to broccoli and cauliflower, but doesn't taste exactly like one or the other. There's something brighter about its taste. If you ever see this bizarre-looking vegetable at your local market (or restaurant menu), give it a shot. I'll definitely be trying it again.

roasted romanesco
1 head romanesco, stalks removed and florets separated
1 small dried chili pepper, diced
olive oil to coat

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss romanesco with chili, salt, pepper and olive oil, and roast until browned (about 30 minutes), stirring once. Serve as a side, or with any grain.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

shopping list

Union Square Green Market
1 head kale
1 pint shallots
1 leek
1 bunch beets
1 bunch carrots
1 head romanesco
1 yellow onion
3 gala apples
1 honey crisp apple
2 asian pears
1 loaf french sourdough
5 lbs potatoes
2 heads garlic
1 1/2 gallon apple cider

ideas for the week: potato, kale and leek soup; roasted romanesco with wild rice

Friday, October 16, 2009

roasted butternut squash with chili and lime

It is cold in New York City. Yesterday, we could see snow from our 10th floor office. Even if it melted before it hit the ground, yesterday it was cold enough to snow! With temperatures in the low 40s for days, I've been drinking lots of hot cider, pulling flannel blankets onto the bed, and putting the oven to good use. This time of year, when the sky is grey and the sweaters come out, one of my favorite things to cook and eat are roasted vegetables. The way that squashes and brussels and romanesco and onions caramelize in the oven is, to me, quintessentially autumn.

Last night, I chose butternut squash. I wanted something with a kick to balance out the sweetness, so I whisked up a glaze of chili pepper and lime. The spice is present, but subtle, not overpowering the traditional honeyed notes of the squash, and the sweet browned edges of each bite round out the mild acidity of the lime.

A note on preparation: there is probably an easier way to cut apart the squash than the way I went about it last night. Wanting to roast in cubes, I sawed the whole thing into slices, then cut off the skin, then chopped it into bite-sized chunks. It was tough, even with sharp knives. It would have been simpler had I roasted the squash briefly before cutting it apart, but I was impatient. Proceed however you see fit.

roasted butternut squash with chili lime glaze
1 medium butternut squash, cubed
1/4 c olive oil
juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 dried chili, minced
very small pinch of hot curry powder

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together olive oil, lime juice and chili. Toss, with squash, in a baking dish until well-coated. Sprinkle with cayenne and curry and toss again. Top with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, or until tender. Adjust seasonings, and finish with a small drizzle of maple syrup. Serve with wild rice, toasted quinoa, or any protein.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

don't perish

Artists Joseph Montgomery and Jesse Willenbring have curated Don't Perish, a food + art project at Leo Koenig this month. The proposition of the exhibition is simple: "In order to understand the work, get to know it, we invite our friends and strangers to look at the work with us over a meal."

Twice a week for the month of October, the artists will host a potluck dinner open to anyone who shows up at the door with a dish. (There is also a makeshift pantry collecting non-perishables for the NYC Food Bank.) The meal is eaten family-style, while visitors sit and share and talk about the work on the walls.

image via Leo Koenig Inc. Projekte

I'll be attending the final dinner, this Saturday evening. Between now and then, I'll have to brainstorm gallery potluck appropriate foods... If you're in the area, you should come, too. More thoughts (and pictures, hopefully) to follow.

roasted beets and carrots with smashed potatoes

Yesterday, we welcomed an exciting (and much-anticipated) addition to our little kitchen: an island! We'd ordered a kitchen table and island about six weeks ago, and by now, had given up any hope that they would actually arrive. These pieces (which are completely gorgeous) have more than quadrupled the cooking/prep space. I am more giddy than you can imagine.

I am embarrassed to admit that I did not christen them properly with an elegant and elaborate meal.

Ogunquit, Maine

G. and I had been out of town for the holiday weekend and there the fridge and pantry were practically empty upon our return. I found three small beets, three carrots, a cippollini, and a few pounds of new and fingerling potatoes. This turned out to be a very fall-feeling dinner (complete with a carved pumpkin centerpiece!) and came together quite well despite scant ingredients. (I feel obligated to note that I am a recent beet-convert. I remember a few months ago when the Times was raving about beets... beet soup! roasted beets! beet salad! pickled beets! beets beets beets! It took me until this past summer to finally give up the ghost of beets-in-a-can and see what these roots were really all about. Turns out, they're all about being delicious. If you, like me, have been scared off because of early pickled beet experiences, it's time to move on. It's worth it!)

roasted beets and carrots
3 small - medium beets, peeled and quartered*
3+ medium carrots, peeled, cut into large chunks
1 tsp fresh rosemary, diced
olive oil

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss beets and carrots with olive oil in a small baking dish. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper and rosemary. Roast for 30 minutes, or until tender, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Adjust salt and pepper when you serve, to taste, and finish with a squeeze of lemon if you like.

smashed potatoes
about 15 small, new/fingerling potatoes, scrubbed well
2 bay leaf
1 small cippollini (or shallot), sliced into half-moons
1/4 c (or less) soy milk
olive oil

Boil potatoes with the bay leaves for 30 minutes, or until tender. Reserve about 1/4 c of the water, remove bay leaves, drain the potatoes, and set aside. In a medium saucepan, saute the onion until golden and crispy. Add potatoes and smash with a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add soy milk and the reserved water gradually until you reach your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste, top with paprika and serve.

*If you wash your hands immediately, or even peel the beets under cold running water, you'll have less trouble with stains on your skin and nails. Still be very careful to avoid contact with fabrics, though.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

weekend festivals

This past weekend celebrated two of my favorite things in New York City, in festival form: chile peppers and pickles.

On Saturday, rainy and dreary as it was, the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens hosted their annual Chile Pepper Fiesta. We spent most of our time in the chile + chocolate tents, tasting from artisanal chocolatiers like Taza (incredible, authentically stone-ground chocolates) and Fine & Raw (raw, unprocessed, totally vegan, totally delicious). There were many other craft chocolatiers, but these were really the stand-outs in my mind. We left with the two-piece bon bons from Fine & Raw, a pint of horseradish pickles from Horman's Best Pickles and a
bag of yellow split pea fritters, kind of like Indian-spiced hush puppies. I cannot, for the life of me, remember the name of the vendor!

chili/chocolate bon-bons from Fine & Raw

Sunday brought the International Pickle Festival to a Lower East Side parking lot. The rain had the benefit of scaring off a lot of visitors from the Botanical Gardens. Sunday was beautiful. And completely packed. People were waiting in lines twenty deep for samples. My patience was tested, and ultimately, we didn't last long. I did manage to get my hands on some of Rick's Picks Smokra. SO GOOD. I also managed a peanut butter + pickle sandwich (better than expected) and some really amazing, barely pickled beets. Unfortunately, the afternoon was such a blur, I haven't retained any of the names of the different picklers. Such is life.

These festivals were sandwiched in between openings and performances, Free Fridays at MoMA, and a trip to the farmer's market; come Sunday night, I felt so literally dizzy and reasonably exhausted, that I just wanted to curl up on the couch with a cup of something warm and cozy. So I started a batch of chili.

Every time I make this, it's a little different, but the core ingredients are the same. Feel free to add any other vegetables and bean varieties. Black and kidney beans are traditional, but you could use any type you like. This also freezes really well, and tastes great the next day.

Two Bean Chili with Corn
1 clove garlic
1 medium onion, diced
3 medium carrots, diced
3-4 stalks celery, diced
4 - 10 chile peppers, diced (I always use a variety, whatever I've happened to pick up. Choose what you like and adjust for your heat tolerance accordingly.)
1 green bell pepper, diced
kernels from 3 ears corn
1 16 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 16 oz can kidney beans
1 8 oz can black beans
1 can/bottle beer (preferably lager)
3 tbs chili powder
1 - 2 tsp cayenne
1 tbs cumin
1 tbs black pepper
1 tsp hungarian paprika (sweet or smoked)
salt to taste
scallions to garnish

Saute onion, carrot, celery and garlic in olive oil in the bottom of a very large pot. Cook until onions are translucent and fragrant. Add chile and green peppers, saute for another few minutes. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and stir well. Bring to a boil. Stir in both beans and the corn. Bring to a boil again. Add the chili powder, cayenne, cumin, pepper, and paprika and stir well. Reduce to simmer and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Stir again, and add the beer.* Allow the whole thing to cook for at least a half hour, preferably an hour. The longer the chili cooks, the more the flavors will develop and the heat of the chilies will change. Adjust the seasonings as needed. Salt to taste. Top with chopped scallions and serve in a large mug.

*I've never used beer in chili prior to this week. I'd seen it used in a number of recipes, and had some in the fridge so figured I'd give it a shot. This batch of chili was really, really good, but I can't say for sure what role the beer played. That in mind, feel free to leave it out, and add water to reach your desired consistency.