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Monday, November 30, 2009

triticale and fall vegetable salad with kale chips and squash seeds

in cold weather months i often have to remind myself to eat light. summer is easy-- i can eat a tomato with a dollop of cottage cheese and consider it a reasonable lunch. not so as the dark and rain settles in over puget sound. sometimes, though, it feels good to eat something clean, something to atone for all those cheesy casseroles and cream-based soups that i do so enjoy during fall and winter.

i discovered some fun whole grains at the farmers market the other day. nash's organic produce was selling 1 lb bags of wheat berries, rye berries, and triticale (trit-a-kay-lee), a hybrid of wheat and rye. i figured those raw grains would be a good way to have some light and clean meals that were robust enough to stand up to the 50-degree drizzle outside. plus, at $2 a pound, they were a total bargain.

i've only tried the triticale, and i'm sold. it's nutty, chewy, and has a slightly springy texture in your mouth. it is also a significant protein source, so vegetarians take note!

i made an easy salad using fall veg and topped it with very flavorful condiments of toasted squash seed and kale chips. season each layer well and you've got a seriously tasty, hearty salad. the triticale has to soak overnight, so get started on this one the night before. so good!

triticale and fall vegetable salad
(serves 2)

1 cup triticale
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock, or water
1 carrot, chopped into 1" pieces
1 parsnip, chopped into 1" pieces
2 cups acorn squash, peeled and chopped into 1" cubes, seeds reserved
1/2 bunch kale, + 3-4 more leaves, tough stems and ribs removed, leaves chopped
1/2 cup + 1 Tbps balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp honey
spicy roasted acorn squash seeds (recipe follows)

rinse triticale, cover with water and soak overnight. drain and simmer in water or stock and 1/2 tsp salt for 1 hour. (there is no water-to-grain ratio as there is with rice. just cook it until it's done, and drain.)

heat oven to 350. toss the carrot, parsnip, and 3-4 leaves of chopped kale in olive oil, salt and pepper. roast 20 minutes until carrot and parsnip are cooked through and kale is crispy.

toss acorn squash in olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until soft.

tent roasted vegetables to keep warm.

saute the remainder of the kale in olive oil until it begins to wilt. add 2 Tbps water or stock and 1 Tbps balsamic vinegar. cover to steam 2 minutes then cook uncovered, stirring, until wilted but still vibrant green. season with salt and pepper.

for the dressing, melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the honey and 1/2 cup balsamic. cook over medium heat, stirring, until slightly reduced and syrupy.

to serve, divide kale onto two plates and top with drained triticale. pile the squash, carrot, and parsnip on top. spoon some of the dressing over, then top with the roasted kale chips and toasted squash seeds.

spicy toasted acorn squash seeds

1/2 cup fresh squash seeds
1 tsp melted butter
1//8 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
fresh cracked pepper

clean and wash the seeds. (a method i heard about on the radio works well-- put seeds in a wire mesh strainer with some kosher salt and scrub. the salt acts as an abrasive as well as seasoning. rinse.)

dry seeds well on kitchen towel.

mix seeds with melted butter, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and move to a small roasting pan in a single layer.

cover with foil (as they cook, they pop out of the roasting pan!) and toast at 375 for 12 minutes.

don't skip the seeds and kale chips! they bring a great texture and salty punch to this salad.

the substitution possibilities are endless. rice, barley, quinoa, or other grains for the triticale, root vegetables, winter squashes or gourds for the roasted veg, any leafy green for the kale... roasted onions or shallots would also be welcomed additions.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

spectacular winter minestrone

one january day in college i got it in my head that i wanted to make minestrone. i didn't, however, have a recipe and wasn't sure what to do about that fact. (this was pre-internet-- for me, anyway.) when i arrived home from class that very afternoon i found the apartment complex monthly newsletter hanging on my doorknob. on page 3 was a recipe, presented by a corpulent, cartoon italian chef, for a warm and cozy escape from the january inclemency-- minestrone. sweet!

i headed out to the store immediately with my grocery list of fresh vegetables. carrots, celery, even a whole head of cabbage, for pete's sake-- i was thrilled to get home and make honest-to-god food out of these colorful raw ingredients.

sadly, the recipe was terrible. i wasn't savvy enough to realize it in advance, and was too new to cooking to know how to improve it. (now i know that 11 cups of water, chopped veg, and no seasoning does not a good soup make...) even worse, it was a bad recipe that made an ENORMOUS amount.

still, i've learned when the minestrone itch strikes, it must not be ignored. it can't be ignored. in fact, the universe wants you to have minestrone. i got a craving last weekend and this time i found a fantastic recipe. one thing that makes minestrone such a special soup is that it can always be made with what's in season, and this one, with winter veggies, is phenomenal.

i was able to get almost everything i needed from the stoney plains farm booth at the farmers market, including the cannellini beans. the bacon (the best in the world, as far as i'm concerned) is from skagit river ranch. the tomatoes and chicken stock came from my freezer.

adapted from gourmet, january 2009

4 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
2 small carrots, chopped
2 small ribs celery, chopped with leaves
1/2 bunch kale
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 cups (or 14 oz can) diced or whole tomatoes
3-4 cups homemade chicken stock (or water)
1/2 small cabbage, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 rind from a parmesan wedge, about 2x2"
1 cup dried cannellini beans (or 1 14 oz can)
2 cups cooked ditalini pasta

if using dried beans:
sort beans and throw out non-bean material (rocks, sticks...). rinse, and soak overnight. drain, rinse, and cook in plenty of water, simmering until cooked, anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour. start checking them after 20 minutes to make sure they don't overcook. drain and set aside.

cook bacon, onions, carrots, and celery over medium heat in a heavy-bottom soup pot until bacon is cooked through. it won't be crispy. (i added no fat to this recipe at all-- the bacon was plenty.)

cut the stems off of the kale and chop. chop and reserve leaves. add kale stems to pot with garlic, and season with salt and pepper. cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes or so. (the original recipe calls for a 45 minute cook time here, but i was afraid to burn the garlic.)

push vegetables to one side of the pot and add tomato paste to the cleared area and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. (original recipe calls for a browning or caramelizing of the tomato paste, but i was unsure what that exactly meant, so i just cooked it for 2 minutes.)

stir in tomatoes with their juice and cook another 5 to 10 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

add chicken stock, parmesan rind, chopped kale leaves, and chopped cabbage. cover and simmer until greens are tender, about 40 minutes.

add beans to soup, taste, and season with salt and pepper. simmer about 10 minutes longer.

stir cooked ditalini pasta into each bowl and serve with a loaf of fresh bread.

this soup is a bona fide remedy for a cold and rainy day. it's hearty, incredibly flavorful, and the bacon makes it a true comfort dish.

i made my substitutions and tweaks, but you should definitely read the original recipe. it's the kind that you can make over and over, making your own personal improvements on it, until one day you've got a special family recipe that you'll teach your grandkids. seriously.

Monday, November 23, 2009

acorn squash ravioli with orange-balsamic sauce

christmas '06 was spent with my cousin's family in florida. aunts, uncles, sisters, cousins and kids all descended on her home on florida's gulf coast. it was the first time our family had experienced a destination holiday and for a person of inferior temperamental fortitude the pressure could have caused an ulcer. i mean, hosting christmas is a big deal, right?

just before christmas dinner, my cousin, our hostess, pulled a beautiful bronze turkey out of the oven and moved it to a glass platter which, tragically, had been placed on the stove on a burner that was hot. when she picked up the platter to bring it to the table it shattered, and that gorgeous bird thudded to the floor in a pile of broken glass. she looked at it, stunned, for approximately 3 seconds then called to her daughter, "go get the camera!"

i wish i had her attitude in the kitchen. truly. but most of the time, i do not. where she saw family-christmas history in the making and requested it be documented, i would have walked straight out the door and tossed myself off a bridge.

our friend tristan came to visit recently and wanted to spend one evening making ravioli. he'd brought 4 darling little acorn squash from his garden which we determined would make a sublime ravioli filling. i searched around and decided on
this recipe from, primarily because it featured an orange and balsamic sauce. (i like sauce!)

i started on dinner and began to notice that the process was not going exactly as i'd pictured it. the dough was sticky and squirrelly, there seemed to be entirely too little filling-- it wasn't long before these worries became audible as i started muttering. "the dough isn't right..." "we're going to run out of squash..."

rob, tristan, and our other dinner guest were busily chatting away in the kitchen but would periodically hear my mutterings and interject with a casual and light rebuttal. "mmm, this looks great." "that's plenty of filling-- you know, in restaurants you get 4 giant raviolis with, like, a teaspoon each of filling in them." "nuh-uh, these nuts aren't overtoasted-- they're just right!" i decided the path of least resistance was to take their word for it, and so i soldiered on. tris jumped in to help put the ravs together, then i cooked and served. and you know what? they were right. there was just enough filling, the dough was great, and the nuts were exactly what the dish needed. it was delicious. it was, in fact, so good that i made it again the next week.

so, as a tribute to people everywhere who keep their cool in the kitchen, and to those who help me keep mine, i bring you acorn squash ravioli with orange-balsamic sauce.

acorn squash ravioli with pecans and orange-balsamic sauce
serves 2

for ravioli:

1 batch fresh pasta dough (williams sonoma recipe here)
1/2 acorn squash, halved, seeds removed (or other winter squash)
olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
pinch nutmeg
2 to 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans (or other nut)

for sauce:

juice from 1 orange
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp butter

rub squash with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. bake at 375 degrees, cut-side down, until soft, 45-60 minutes.

cool squash and scoop out flesh. heat olive oil over medium heat in a saute pan and cook garlic just until fragrant, 1 minute or so. add squash to pan and cook, stirring, until the squash dries out a bit, about 10 minutes. remove from heat and stir in parmesan, pecans, nutmeg, and season with salt and pepper. let cool.

roll dough out into sheets (lowest setting on the pasta machine, if using one) and allow to dry out for about 15 minutes. cut the sheets into lengths twice the size of the finished ravioli. as in, for a 3x3" ravioli, cut dough to about 3x6". add 1-2 teaspoons of filling to one end of the dough strip. moisten edges with your finger dipped in water, and fold the dough over the filling, matching up the edges. press with the tines of a fork to seal and make cute little ruffles. (tristan showed me this trick!)

(the fold-over is my latest fill-em-up method because i find it easy, but you should obviously do whatever you want. cookie cutter, ravioli mold, rim of a glass, full sheets...)

place finished raviolis on a sheet of well-floured parchment paper and don't let them touch each other or they will stick together. (lesson learned.)

to make the sauce, combine the orange juice, brown sugar and balsamic and simmer until slightly reduced. remove from heat and stir in butter.

cook the raviolis in small batches (again, get too many in the pot and they will stick together) in a large pot of boiling salted water. they will float to the surface when ready, about 3 to 4 minutes.

serve with the sauce and garnish with fresh sage leaves.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

poached pear and bleu cheese salad with pear vinaigrette

it's funny how much the inventory at the farmers market changes in just a few short fall weeks. heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, and zucchini give way to storage potatoes, variegated maize, and butternut squash. one of the fall stand-outs for me lately has been the pears. they are beautiful and plentiful and i can basically eat my way through the market by happily accepting samples from farmers showcasing the many varieties and flavors offered in the pears they've grown. i never know what i'm going to do with them when i make the purchase, but somehow i can't leave the market these last couple of weeks without an armful.

the first use for a pear was to slice it into a salad. pear on salad is wonderful, but i was certain the idea could be jazzed up a bit. my recipe search turned up one from chef albert breuers for a poached pear and bleu cheese salad with pear vinaigrette. i love poached pear, but had only had it as a dessert. this recipe was a delicious eye-opener.

(i followed the recipe almost exactly, though made a few minor substitutions and changed amounts to make a salad for 2.)

poached pear and bleu cheese salad with pear vinaigrette

for poached pears:

2 pears, any variety, peeled with stem left intact
3/4 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups water
1 Tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp good quality vanilla extract
1 3-inch section lemon peel, yellow part only
1 3-inch section orange peel, orange part only
1 cinnamon stick

add all ingredients to small stockpot and bring to a boil. (may need to add more wine and water if the pears are not covered by the cooking liquid, or, as i did, turn them over a few times during the cooking.) reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes, then remove from heat and cool. reserve poaching liquid for vinaigrette.

for vinaigrette:

1 poached pear
1/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1/8 cup poaching liquid from the pears
salt and pepper to taste

remove stem and seeds from poached pear and puree in blender or food processor. add to bowl with vinegar and poaching liquid and add oil slowly in a stream while whisking to emulsify. taste and season with salt and pepper. (can be refrigerated up to 1 week.)

for salad:

lettuce of your choosing (i used a salad mix of red and green lettuces, chard, arugula)
pear viniagrette (recipe above)
2 ounces crumbled bleu cheese (i prefer oregon rogue river blue)
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
1 poached pear (recipe above)

mix salad greens with vinaigrette, top with 1/2 poached pear, cheese, and toasted pecans.

this salad is flawless. the pear and vinaigrette are just sweet enough, the nuts and cheese balance them perfectly, and it's a smart way to sneak more fruit into your diet by having pureed pear in the dressing. i even saved the leftover poaching liquid and simmered it on the stove for a little while the next day. it made the house smell like pear-vanilla heaven, and if i'd taken it off the stove in time it would have been a perfect syrup over something yummy-- ice cream?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

cauliflower and onion tart

yesterday, i decided i wanted a tart. a cauliflower tart, to be precise. i'd never made one before but felt that the leftover meatball soup in the fridge at least had dinner covered in the event of tart failure. none of the recipes i found were exactly what i had in mind so i took some ideas from different sources and set out on my own. the result was absolutely delicious! the crust was buttery and crispy and the filling was rich but not heavy. exactly what i wanted.

i served with kale sauted with apple and onion. the hint of curry flavor was really nice, though it is easy to get mushy apples so add them late in the cooking time.

our tart was tiny, so these amounts will need to be adjusted for anything larger than a 6" casserole dish!

cauliflower and onion tiny tart for two

1 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp chilled unsalted butter
1 1/2 T ice water (or more)
1/2 T whipping cream

cut butter into 1/2" cubes. add to food processor with flour and salt. using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles coarse meal. add ice water and cream. process just until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoons if dough is dry. gather dough into a ball, flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill 1 hour. can be made 2 days ahead. keep chilled. soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out. (i ended up using half of the dough and am saving the rest for a pear or apple tart later in the week.)

for filling:

1/2 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
4 medium to small garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 small onion, sliced
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 tsp butter
1 tsp whole grain mustard
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/4 cup hard swiss cheese, like gruyere, grated
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/8 cup parmesan cheese, grated
salt and pepper
olive oil

toss cauliflower florets and garlic cloves with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and season with plenty of salt and pepper. roast uncovered at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or so, stirring occasionally until they are soft, golden, and beginning to char. (incidentally, this is my favorite way to eat cauliflower-- it's as good as potato chips...)

meanwhile, heat small pan with a couple of tablespoons olive oil over low to medium heat. add onions and cook, stirring often, for 40 minutes or until they are caramelized. if they start to crisp or burn, turn down the heat. they should be almost gooey when ready. add white wine and butter to pan and cook until reduced. remove from heat.

roll out dough to fit your pie pan or casserole dish. lay it in, repairing any tears by smushing the dough back together, and trim tops. the dough shrinks down, so trim it a half-inch or so higher than you think you'll need. pierce dough with a fork and line with foil. add pie weights (can use a cup of dried rice or beans) and cook 20 minutes at 350 degrees. remove foil and weights and cook 5 minutes longer.

to assemble, brush bottom of cooked pastry with mustard, then fill with cauliflower and top with onions and thyme. mix gruyere and whipping cream and season with salt and pepper. spoon over the vegetables. top with grated parmesan cheese.

bake at 350, uncovered, until golden and bubbly, about 20 minutes.

  • 1 Granny Smith apple
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4-inch wedges
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 lb kale, tough stems and ribs removed and leaves coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup water

Peel, quarter, and core apple, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick wedges.
Heat oil in a 5-quart pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion, stirring occasionally, until golden. Add apple and curry powder and sauté, stirring, until apple is almost tender, about 2 minutes.
Add kale and water and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender and most of liquid is evaporated, about minutes.
Season with salt.

this made a great dinner, and i can easily see it as a part of a fall lunch or brunch spread as well. i can also imagine tons of different vegetable and cheese combinations, depending on the whim of the tart maker. so good!

Friday, November 6, 2009

roasted chicken with fall vegetables

there are 3 key reasons why i like roasting a whole chicken. the first is that it reminds me of what henery hawk sees in foghorn leghorn. the second is that it's an easy one-pan endeavor that will feed a couple of people for a couple of days. third, i get 3-4 quarts of stock from the bones.

on my most recent re-examnation of my diet i gave some extra thought to eating meat. i've always been an omnivore, with some restrictions in place, but after learning more and more about the impact that the meat industry has on the environment and on our health, it turned my stomach one too many times.

but, i like meat. i like chicken. i like steak and bacon. i decided on a compromise-- that i would buy meat from local farms, and, since the local stuff is more expensive, buy less of it. as a result we eat more vegetarian meals which, according to current dietary and environmental analysis, is not a bad thing at all.

but anyway-- back to the chicken...

this organic pastured bird came from stokesberry farms in olympia, washington. it cost around $5/lb, which at 3.44 lbs is not cheap. even so, 20 bucks for dinner for two people for at least two nights is not bad. figure in the 20 bucks worth of stock i get from the bones and the math starts to look pretty good.

i've consulted many different recipes over the years and usually combine aspects of each one to cook a bird. the most recent i found incorporated fresh bay leaves under the skin of the breast so i decided to throw that method into the mix this time.

my understanding about tying up the bird is that it holds the wings and thighs in close to the body so that everything cooks evenly. but i don't really know. sometimes i don't ask questions, i just do what i'm told. (to be clear, this only applies in the kitchen.) i couldn't find string at our local grocery, but the butcher there was kind enough to give me about 20 yards of hers.

roasted chicken with fall vegetables

  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh thyme, plus extra sprigs
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 whole roasting chicken
  • 2 carrots, chopped in 1" thick pieces
  • 2 parsnips, chopped in 1" thick pieces
  • 2 waxy potatoes such as yukon gold, chopped in chunks
  • 1 onion, chopped in chunks
  • 1 1/2 cups mushrooms, left whole or cut in half
  • (other vegetables can be substituted: turnips, celery root, etc.)
  • 8 cloves garlic, left whole

  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup (about) chicken broth
  • 2 teaspoons all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 450°F. Mix first 4 ingredients in bowl. Rinse chicken; pat dry. Separate the skin from the breast meat and insert fresh bay leaves. Place chicken in roasting pan. Rub garlic-thyme oil over. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place lemon, 1 bay leaf, 2 garlic cloves, and a few sprigs of fresh thyme in cavity of chicken. Tie legs with string. (from Tyler's Ultimate roasted chicken recipe: Using 2 3-foot pieces of kitchen twine, tie up the chicken: Tuck the wing tips between the wings and the body. Put the midpoint of the twine under the chicken, bring the ends up and around the wings, and pull them tight against the body. Bring the ends of the twine up underneath the legs, wrap the string around them, pull the legs together, and tie them tightly.)
Roast chicken 20 minutes. Remove from oven and add vegetables to pan, except the mushrooms.
Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Roast chicken until meat thermometer inserted into thickest part of inner thigh registers 180°F, about 1 hour 15 minutes, adding mushrooms to the pan about 20-30 minutes before the end of the cooking time.
Lift chicken and tilt slightly, emptying juices from cavity into saute pan. Tent chicken with aluminum foil to keep warm.
Add wine to pan with juices from chicken and veggies; place over high heat. Bring to boil, stirring frequently. Add enough chicken broth to cup to measure 1 1/2 cups. Whisk flour into broth mixture. Boil broth mixture until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Season pan-juice mixture to taste with salt and pepper. Serve chicken and vegetables, passing pan-juice mixture separately.

i'd never worked with fresh bay before-- SO fragrant! maybe even too fragrant. it was still great-- chicken pretty much tastes like chicken-- but i suspect the bay treatment is best when there aren't a lot of other flavors competing with it. still, an absolutely excellent several meals. the pan gravy can be skipped, but it is delicious and adds a lot to the dish, and it's especially useful when you're having the leftovers. yum!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

butternut squash and apple soup

i've found a new cache of online recipes. it's from pcc natural markets in seattle, "the largest consumer-owned natural food co-operative in the United States." they are dedicated to offering all natural, organic, sustainably produced, and when possible, local products, and when i can't get to the farmers market they are the next best thing. i was poking around on their website recently and came across the recipes section. it's enormous and not entirely friendly to use-- there's no option to search by an ingredient, for example. however, while i don't love the search function, their butternut squash and apple soup recipe has reserved them a spot on my list of go-to sites for finding fun ways to make use of the ubiquitous and impatient pile of produce on our kitchen table.

click here for the recipe--butternut squash and apple soup

i followed the suggestion to roast the squash first, and was a little shy with the coconut milk as i was worried about the flavor going in the direction of piña colada. this soup was absolutely stunning-- beautiful, fragrant, and savory, with a hint of sweetness from the apples and just a touch of tingly spice from the fresh ginger. and, bonus, it's a soup that successfully uses water instead of stock which is good because i'm almost out. we had it with cider-brined pork chops simmered in an apple-mustard cream sauce, and a smashed potato and bacon hash. perfection.

*UPDATE: they were clearly in the process of making changes, because a couple of weeks after this post the PCC markets recipe section had been completely revamped. nice!!