Recipe Backlog Part 2 – Veggies Galore

photo of cooked vegetables
An Explosion of Freshness

This is a simple plate of vegetables – most from our farm share: spring onions, steamed potatoes, steamed collards, and roasted kabocha squash (the squash is from a local Asian grocery). When vegetables are fresh, they need little to no embellishment. All that you see here was prepared simply and barely seasoned (the lighting is also poor – in “real life” the vegetables are brighter).

photo of collards on the stove
Collards

Clean the collards in several rinses of water. Chop and steam lightly (they should retain their bright green color). Finish by “stir-frying” with olive oil and sea salt.

photo stream of kabocha squash
Kabocha

Kabocha is an Asian squash whose creamy texture and rich flavor is often compared to chestnuts. The skin is edible, although I like to peel it randomly to create pretty patterns (the skin can get a little hard during roasting; it softens if you steam it). Simply roast kabocha as you would butternut squash.

photo of spring onions
Spring Onions

These look like big scallions! Simply wash and remove any wilting or brown outer layers. I roasted these with the squash, but they are equally or perhaps more delicious when grilled.

Related Links

Lemongrass and Ginger Scented Butternut Squash Soup

About a month ago a friend of mine posted a link to a YouTube video called “Happy Asian Thanksgiving.” Like the guys in the video, I also joke about Asian or Japanese versions of holidays. Our 4th of July BBQs featured hamburgers and chicken teriyaki skewers grilled on a hibachi and served with rice (no buns) and cucumber salad. And I can’t imagine a proper Thanksgiving without sesame green beans and a healthy serving of rice to soak up the gravy. Not surprisingly, our Christmas dinners have always featured my Mother’s twists on American standbys. But as we kids have grown up, our celebrations have become simpler. Lately we’ve been gathering on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day, and a sushi platter has taken center stage.

This year my Mom decided to make inarizushi stuffed with gingered rice, which is one of my favorites. We also decided on steamed asparagus and a simple salad. I wanted to contribute something homemade and seasonal–but with flavors that would complement the rest of the meal. I quickly imagined a butternut squash soup, pale and sweet with coconut milk, but brightened with hints of ginger, lemongrass, and red chile.

bowl of soup
Enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 1 butternut squash
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass
  • 1 slice of ginger, about the size of 3 quarters stacked
  • 2 cups water or vegetable broth (I used a cube of unsalted vegetable stock)
  • 1/2-3/4 cups coconut milk
  • red chile flakes and salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. While it is heating slice the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and place in a baking pan with the shallot. Bake for 25-46 minutes, testing the squash after 25 minutes. While the squash is baking, cut a slice of ginger. Slice the ends off of the lemongrass and bruise the stalk (smash it with the flat side of a knife, cut a few slashes in it). Set these aside.

photo of lemongrass, ginger, and shallot
Simple Seasonings
Baked Squash and Shallot
Baked Squash and Shallot

Scoop the baked squash into a dutch oven or stock pot. Peel the shallot and place it in the pot as well. Add 2 cups broth or water, the ginger and the lemon grass,  and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20-30 minutes. When everything is soft and smelling fragrant, remove the lemongrass and ginger (keep it in the soup for a stronger ginger flavor). Puree the soup–shallots and all–until smooth. I let this cool, packed it up, and finished just before serving.

photo of soup pot
Ready for Pureeing

Finish the soup by adding coconut milk to desired consistency (I used about 2/3 cup). Add salt to taste and red chile flakes for a bit of heat (I used about 1/8th of a teaspoon).

photo of coup with coconut milk
Stir In Coconut Milk

This soup was delicious and warming. Next time, however, I plan to use a kabocha squash and finish it with fine shreds of kaffir lime leaves.

Giving Back

photo of baked carnival squash
Roasted Maple Vanilla Carnival Squash

As I mentioned in my previous two posts, I started an Indigogo campaign for my birthday. Because today is #GivingTuesday, I thought it was only right for me to give something in return for asking readers to donate to my cause. So here is a quick recipe to make your winter a little warmer:

Maple Vanilla-Glazed Carnival Squash (2 whole carnival, delicata, or small acorn squashes)

  • preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • wash your squashes, slice them in half, and remove seeds
  • slice the squash halves into uniform slices (I cut them into sixths)
  • remember: the thinner the slices, the more quickly they will cook – and the more glaze per slice
  • place the slices on a lightly greased or parchment-covered baking sheet (I used a pizza pan)
  • loosely cover the pan with foil, place in the oven, and bake for about 20 min
  • while squash are baking, mix maple syrup and vanilla in a small bowl
  • NOTE: I used about a tablespoon of maple syrup and 1/2 tsp of Dominican vanilla extract. This will seem like an extreme amount of vanilla; it is. But this was the total glaze I used for all the squash. If you want a sweeter dish but don’t want an overwhelming vanilla flavor, try 1/4 cup of maple syrup with 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • check the squash after 20 min. If they are soft and starting to brown, remove them from the oven. Turn them so that the center (hollow) is face up. Lightly brush with syrup (or pour it on). I also put a tiny dab of butter in the center of each
  • return to the oven for 5-15 minutes until the squash golden and the glaze is sizzling

As always, thank you for visiting my blog. Please take a minute to read about my campaign. If you are inspired, please consider donating. Every dollar counts, and today Indiegogo is kicking in $1 for every $20 that I collect midnight to midnight PST. And please pass along this campaign to any animal-lovers you know:

elephant giving flowers
Click for the Link

Thank you!!!

Stone Soup 2: Red Lentil Soup Plus More Roasted Vegetables

photo of red lentil soup
Mmm, soup

Sunday was bitingly cold. Although we had enjoyed an unseasonably mild fall, yesterday brought a rude reminder of winter’s imminent arrival. I took stock of what we had lying around the kitchen and thought about what I could make with those ingredients (to avoid having to bike to the nearest grocery store and freezing my face and hands).

Photo of soup ingredients
Hmm, what can I make with this?

A quick survey revealed the makings of Turkish red lentil soup. The prospect of dipping into mercimek çorbası made me particularly happy because a dear friend has been on my mind a lot lately. She has been living in Istanbul for the past few years, but the lentils in my cupboard reminded me of how her eyes lit up when we discovered an authentic bowl from a local restaurant when she was back in Philly.

chopped carrots, celery, scallions, and garlic
mirepoix, improvised

For basic guidelines, I used a recipe from the Whole Foods website: Whole Foods Market Turkish Red Lentil Soup. Here is my improvised list of ingredients–Janielle, I hope you approve:

  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk of celery, diced
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/8 tsp marash pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cube no-salt vegetable broth (makes 2 cups)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • salt to taste

I heated the olive oil over medium heat in my favorite Le Creuset dutch oven. Once the oil started to shimmer I threw in the cumin, paprika, and marash pepper. After a few stirs (the spices become fragrant almost immediately) I added the “mirepoix” (vegetables). I stirred that a bit, dropped the heat to low, and covered the pot. After the vegetables softened (really only a few minutes), I added the remaining ingredients except the tomato paste and salt. Le Creuset recommends not cooking on high heat, since cast iron is such an excellent conductor. I cranked the heat to medium high, put on the lid, and let the soup come to a boil. As soon as the soup started to boil I stirred in the tomato paste, dropped the heat to low, and let it simmer for about 20 min.

At this point I turned off the heat because my boyfriend and I were due to meet a friend at a local watering hole. The great thing about soup is that you can just let it sit–it’s only going to get better as the flavors develop.

Fast forward a few hours (and glasses of wine), and I’m back home and somewhat peckish despite snacking on roasted broccolini, gravlax, and spiced peanuts (Philadelphia boasts some truly wonderful gastropubs). I spy a third of a head of cauliflower, a small bagful of brussel sprouts, and–daring me to make something of them–a bag of bright red radishes leftover from an old farm share.

Thirty minutes later I am nibbling on mixed roasted vegetables and looking forward to easy dinners over the next few days:

  • brussel sprouts–quartered, tossed with sliced shallots, about a tablespoon each of sesame oil and soy sauce, then lightly glazed with about a teaspoon of honey
  • cauliflower–cut into florets, tossed with quartered kalamata olives, a tablespoon of olive oil, a sprinkling of marash pepper, and sea salt
  • radishes–quartered, tossed with a teaspoon of olive oil and a sprinkling of thyme and sea salt

photo of roasted vegetables

Coming soon: a recent hip sequence that had participants sighing, and how I am turning my birthday into an opportunity for giving. Meanwhile, safe travels and happy holidays to all!

Full Flavor Fall in Forty Minutes

Because I have such a busy schedule, all too often I end up grabbing a quick bite on the go in lieu of cooking. Lately I’ve been obsessed with AGNO Grill’s black rice bowl with grilled veggies, topped with roasted cauliflower, carrots, and pickled beets–all smothered with lemon tahini and a touch of harissa. AGNO Grill is one of my favorite restaurants–partly because its menu is organized around a brilliant made-to-order concept, partly because everything they make is both delicious and healthy. First you choose a base (such as a salad or gluten-free wrap), then a protein (falafel, baked tuna, etc.), 3 toppings (like broccolini salad or kalamata olives), and 2 sauces. The enthusiastic folks behind the counter put everything together, and within minutes you’re sighing and planning your next visit (click on the image for a link to their full menu if you don’t believe me):

Front of restaurant, with lemonade stand
Fresh basil lemonade!

While I love the convenience of grabbing a meal on the go, I’ve also been dreaming about copying AGNO’s basic concept at home by using vegetables from our CSA shares. Although I can’t reproduce all their sauce options, emulating their mix-and-match menu on a Sunday could set us up for days worth of delicious options.

This week’s share included 1/2 a head of green cabbage, sweet potatoes, kale, a small bag of arugula, carrots, a turnip, and four beautiful apples. I also had a butternut squash from the last share, a shallot or two, plus some scallions and cilantro (which I keep on hand for noodle bowls).

I envisioned a warm salad plate with crispy chewy kale chips, cumin scented carrots, and cubes of roasted butternut squash all on a bed of quinoa. So late this afternoon I began peeling and dicing.

cut vegetables
Prepped and Ready

For the carrots, I turned to Mark Bittman’s Roasted Carrots with Cumin. I went basic with the kale and only used olive oil and sea salt. I perked up the quinoa by adding a minced scallion to the pot while it was steaming (you could also stir it in at the end for a little more bite). And, to match the depth of the carrots, I livened up the squash with shallots and balsamic vinegar (1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cubed, tossed with 1 sliced shallot and about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar).

The vegetables after cooking
Oven Roasted Goodness

Unfortunately, every web page I consulted recommended different temperatures for each vegetable. As usual, I decided to ignore what I found online and wing it. Because winging it demands keeping a close watch, I kept my eye on the clock:

  • 7:48–the squash goes in a baking dish and into a 350 degree oven
  • Toss the carrots with olive oil and cumin, sprinkled on a bit of salt, place them on a metal pizza plate, and wash prep dishes
  • 7:53–put the carrots in the oven and crank the heat to 400 degrees
  • Decide to take a quick shower (I had just gotten back from the gym)
  • 8:06–clock back into the kitchen with clean but wet hair–time to give the veggies a quick stir and start the kale
  • Rub about a tablespoon of olive oil on the kale, sprinkle with salt, and spread it out on a cookie sheet
  • Rinse the quinoa and get it simmering (low heat) on the stove
  • 8:15–drop the oven temperature back to 350, removed the carrots, move the squash to the broiler, and put the kale in the oven
  • Clean up the remaining prep dishes and dry my hair
  • 8:25–turn everything off, garnish the squash with some parsley while the quinoa finishes steaming, and start plating
  • Dinner ready around 8:30–hopefully, I did AGNO proud

The complete dinner plate