Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Oven-Roasted Quinoa with Spiced Apples, Carrots and Red Onions

Although I eat them all-year long, apples still seem really harvest-y to me. This summer's drought has really taken a toll on the Wisconsin apple crop, particularly here in Southern Wisconsin, so I'm really treasuring each one I get my hands on this year. I recently added Tasting Table to my food-related newsletters, and although they provide me with many opportunities for culinary creativity and inspiration each day, this one was simple and special enough for me to bookmark it and make it in short order. In my experience, roasting makes so many things better, from fruits and vegetables to grains and spices, all of which get that treatment in this recipe. Red onion, although mellowed and sweetened by the roasting process, retains enough of its sharpness to provide a nice contrast to the caramelized carrots and apples, with lemon and parsley adding acidity and freshness. Cardamom and coriander provide a nice balance of sweet and savory spices that become intensely aromatic during their time in the oven. This is the perfect dish to bring to any fall gathering, satisfying nearly any dietary restriction, be it gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, vegetarian, or vegan, without sacrificing anything in terms of flavor. Treat those apples right and give this recipe a try! With mere minutes of effort you'll have a beautiful fall dish everyone can enjoy.

Oven-Roasted Quinoa with Spiced Apples, Carrots and Red Onions
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
serves 4

½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 medium carrots--peeled, halved lengthwise and sliced on a bias into 1-inch pieces
1 medium apple--halved, cored and sliced into 1-inch cubes
1 medium red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
Zest of ½ lemon plus 2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 425°. In a small bowl, stir together cardamom, coriander, pepper and ¾ teaspoon salt. In a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, add the carrots, apple, red onion and olive oil. Add the spice mixture and stir to combine.

2. In an 8- or 9-inch baking dish, add the rinsed quinoa and spread into an even layer. Place the quinoa and vegetables in the oven. Toast the quinoa until fragrant and golden, about 8 minutes, then pour 2 cups water over the quinoa and loosely cover the pan with a sheet of aluminum foil. Cook the quinoa until it uncoils and looks fluffy, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the quinoa from the oven, fluff with a fork, re-cover with foil and set aside.

3. Meanwhile, continue to roast the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to blacken around the edges and the carrots are tender, about 30 minutes total.

4. Transfer the quinoa to a serving dish. Stir in the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, the lemon zest and lemon juice, then the parsley. Serve alongside the roasted vegetables.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Breakfast Poutine

I'm still on my poutine kick for Packer snacks. An over-the-top, decadent food that I'll eagerly try any time I see it on a menu, since I first made it myself at home I can't stop tinkering with the recipe. So far I've shared a classic poutine recipe and Reuben variation, but if you want to indulge in poutine for breakfast or brunch, this is really the recipe for you. We all know the cliche that bacon makes everything better, and quite often the same case can be made for a fried egg, its addition taking this poutine even further into the indulgent category. This is an unabashedly decadent meal - crisp and smoky bacon, salty and squeaky cheese curds, starchy and hearty potatoes, rich and runny egg, all happily co-mingling until a silky blanket of gravy. To complete your brunch or football-watching experience, pair this with a breakfast stout, hard cider, or other boozy brunch beverage your of choice (although I don't think mimosas quite work with this heavy-duty dish) and enjoy some quality time with friends or family. Go Pack Go!

Breakfast Poutine
gravy recipe adapted from The Food Network
serves 2

1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
12 ounces frozen french fries
4 slices bacon (about 3 ounces)
2 large eggs
4 ounces fresh cheese curds, at room temperature or slightly warm

1. Make the gravy: Heat canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and beef stock, ketchup, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and make a roux, stirring until slightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk the stock mixture into the roux and simmer until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Season the gravy with salt and pepper and keep warm.

3. While the gravy is simmering bake the fries according to package directions. Shortly before the fries are ready to come out of the oven, strain the gravy.

4. Meanwhile, cook bacon in a pan over medium heat until crisp. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels, leaving about 1 tablespoon of bacon grease in the pan. When cool, crumble into medium pieces.

5. Crack the eggs into the hot pan containing the bacon grease, frying until whites are set and yolk is warm, but runny, flipping halfway through, or to desired level of doneness.  (If you're unsure as to how to cook over-easy eggs, check out Alton Brown's expert instructions here).

6. Split french fries between two plates, topping each with half of the cheese curds and bacon, and one egg. Pour the hot gravy over the top and serve promptly.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Smoky Charred Cauliflower and Potato Soup with Kale

Although today's 70-plus degree temperatures may make you think otherwise, we are fully entrenched in fall. Fall is my favorite season, in part because of the many cozy food traditions I eagerly anticipate and embrace every year. While I eat salads nearly constantly in the summer, I eat soups all fall. It could be because both of these dishes are ways to pack tons of veggies into your diet or that they easily embrace the season's best produce, but they are absolutely indispensable to my diet. Like so many recipes I find, I came across this while trying to figure out how best to utilize an overly enthusiastic farmers' market haul. I was hardly able to believe my luck when I found a recipe containing the three veggies I was trying to use up - potatoes, cauliflower, and kale - with the added bonus of using some of the can of chipotle chiles I opened for Smoky Chipotle Black Bean Chili. Chipotle chiles in adobo are another really high-mileage ingredient - just a couple chiles give the soup a nice smokiness with just a nice level of heat (disclaimer : if you like it spicy, you can definitely add more chipotles or adobo sauce, but proceed with caution). The pureed cauliflower mixture gives the soup silkiness, contrasted nicely by rustic, hearty chunks of potato and tender kale. This soup can be a meal in itself, but a side salad and nice chunk of bread with butter certainly would be welcome for those with heartier appetites.

Smoky Charred Cauliflower and Potato Soup with Kale
from Serious Eats
makes about 3 quarts, serving 6

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 small head cauliflower, cut into 1-inch florets (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 medium onion, finely sliced (about 1 cup)
3 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane grater
2 chipotle chiles packed in adobo sauce, chopped fine, with 1 tablespoon sauce from can
2 quarts water
2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2-inch chunks
1/2 pound kale leaves, thick stems removed, leaves roughly chopped
2 bay leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or large saucepan over high heat until shimmering. Add cauliflower and cook, stirring occasionally until well browned and lightly charred on all sides, about 10 minutes total, reducing heat as necessary if smoking cauliflower starts to burn or oil smokes too heavily.

2. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add onions and cook, stirring frequently, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and chipotles and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add half of water and bring to a boil. Simmer until cauliflower is completely tender, about 5 minutes.

3. Using a hand blender or standing blender, puree cauliflower/onion/chipotle mixture until smooth. Return to pot. Add remaining water, potatoes, kale, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce to a simmer, and cook until potato is easily smashed and incorporated into broth, about 30 minutes.

4. Remove bay leaves and mash potatoes with a large spoon or potato masher. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, drizzling with extra-virgin olive oil.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Whole Wheat Rotini with Pumpkin Alfredo and Walnuts

As I do every fall, I've been devouring every manner of pumpkin food I can get my hands on. It's been mostly sweet applications - muffins, scones, and the like - but pumpkin most certainly can be used beyond baked goods. Pumpkin has a perfect amount of sweetness for savory applications and pairs really well with assertively-flavored cheeses, like the Parmesan and goat cheese I used in this pasta recipe. The silky texture of pumpkin puree provides an excellent base for a sauce, providing full and rich flavor without overwhelming the other ingredients the accompany it. Nutty whole wheat pasta harmonizes perfectly with pumpkin, with a topping of rich and crunchy walnuts and sprinkling of fresh parsley rounding out the dish. If you're looking to move pumpkin into the savory realm, ease your way in with this simple and delicious meal. Full of flavor, but quick to prepare, it's the perfect salute to this glorious fall vegetable. And if you love it as much as I do, stay tuned - my next pumpkin pasta recipe is just waiting to be published.

Whole Wheat Rotini with Pumpkin Alfredo and Walnuts
adapted from Food Network
serves 4

Kosher salt
12 ounces whole wheat rotini, penne, or other pasta of choice
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup canned pure pumpkin
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 chopped toasted walnuts, for topping
1 ounce fresh goat cheese, crumbled
Chopped fresh parsley, for topping

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook as the label directs. Reserve 1/2 cup cooking water, then drain the pasta.

2. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until slightly soft, about 2 minutes. Add the pumpkin and nutmeg and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in the milk and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to medium low; simmer, stirring, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the cheese and cook until thick, about 1 more minute. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Add the pasta to the skillet and toss with the sauce, adding some of the reserved cooking water to loosen, if needed. Divide among bowls and top with walnuts, goat cheese, and parsley.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Caramelized Cauliflower with Bacon and Spinach

In my humble opinion, few vegetables take on caramelization as beautifully as cauliflower. I could eat Dijon-Roasted Cauliflower by the pound, and it was hard to tear myself away from one of my all-time favorite recipes to try something new with the many heads of cauliflower I've bought at the farmers' market this fall. Although it's become a cliche, bacon really does make things better. Vegetarians, vegans, and those adhering to a strict kosher diet aside, I don't know many people who don't love that smoky, salty, savory perfection. Bacon is a really high-mileage food - just a little bit gives a dish a lot of flavor and meatiness. I'm a meat lover, but not a huge meat consumer for environmental, moral, and health reasons, so when I do incorporate meat into my diet, I like to make the most out of my indulgence. The smoky bacon extravagance is balanced by fresh dill and spinach and bright lemon juice, creating a well-rounded dish that could almost be a meal in itself (and if you throw in a can of white beans or chickpeas, it most certainly can be). A balance of luxury and nutrition, this dish celebrates is a perfect way to celebrate one of the best vegetables fall has to offer.

Caramelized Cauliflower with Bacon and Spinach
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 4

2 ounces thick-cut bacon, sliced into small pieces
1 small cauliflower (1 1/4 pounds), cored and cut into small florets
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped dill
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 ounces baby spinach

1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook over moderate heat until the fat has been rendered and bacon is crisp. Remove bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

2. Stir in the cauliflower, onion, dill and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Cover, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower is tender and browned, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the spinach, stirring constantly until the spinach is just beginning to wilt.

2. In a large bowl, mix the lemon juice with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cauliflower mixture, toss and serve, garnished with the bacon bits.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Reuben Poutine

Although I can't say I've been too pleased with some of Packer games so far, my snacks have been right on. I started off the season with Classic Poutine, and since then have come up with a few of my own variations, the first of which I'm sharing with you now. Adapting the Reuben to new dishes is kind of a theme with me (see Reuben Dip or Reuben Pizza), so it only seemed natural to make Reuben poutine. Classic poutine is a pure expression of savoriness, and while this poutine variation gains an extra salty, savory component (corned beef), the sour bite of the sauerkraut provides the perfect surprising contrast that allows each ingredient to pop. Although rye bread is swapped out for crispy fries and gravy replaces Thousand Island/Russian dressing, the spirit of the Reuben remains intact in this new spin on a classic. Perfectly paired with a porter or stout, this takes football snacking to a whole new level, satisfying even the heartiest of appetites.

Reuben Poutine
gravy adapted from The Food Network
serves 2

1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 tablespoon finely minced garlic
1 cup chicken stock
1 cup beef stock
1 tablespoon ketchup
1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
12 ounces frozen french fries
1/4 cup sauerkraut, drained and at room temperature or slightly warm
4 ounces shredded corned beef, at room temperature or slightly warm
4 ounces fresh cheese curds, at room temperature or slightly warm

1. Make the gravy: Heat canola oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken and beef stock, ketchup, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce and bring to a boil.

2. Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the flour and make a roux, stirring until slightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Whisk the stock mixture into the roux and simmer until reduced by half, about 20 minutes. Season the gravy with salt and pepper and keep warm.

3. Meanwhile, bake the fries according to package directions. Shortly before the fries are ready to come out of the oven, strain the gravy.

4. Divide the fries evenly between two shallow dishes, layering half of the sauerkraut, corned beef, and cheese curds on top of each pile of fries. Pour half the hot gravy over each and serve warm.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Smoky Chipotle Black Bean Chili

Fall is chili weather. I've made traditional Better Homes and Gardens chili more times than I can count, each time bringing up fond memories of cooking up a batch in a big cast iron pot with my dad as a kid. Much like getting the wishbone is good luck with the Thanksgiving turkey, in my kid brain getting the bay leaf in your bowl of chili was good luck (so as long as you didn't find it by taking a big bite). Although I hope to develop my own signature, but still largely traditional, chili recipe at some point in my life, my recent experimentation in that department has been largely with bean-based chilies. Some may argue that they're not chili at all, but I find bowls of Pinto Bean and Sweet Potato Chili or Quick Three Bean Chili just as hearty and satisfying as any with beef. But of all the bean chilies I've had and made, this has to be my favorite. As in all Susie Middleton recipes, she builds a complex palate with a deft use of spices, each taste keeping you guessing about what you're enjoying in each bite. This chili has a complex heat from ancho and chipotle chilies with a layered smoky flavor, joined a by melange of sweet and savory spices that coexist in perfect harmony. Red wine allows the spices to bloom and intense tomato paste creates savoriness and umami without meat for a balanced and satisfying dish. Hearty, healthy, and packed with flavor this is the perfect way to fortify yourself for the winter to come.

Smoky Chipotle Black Bean Chili
adapted from The Fresh and Green Table by Susie Middleton
serves 6

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon ground ancho chile
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon Mexican oregano
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon ground (dried) chipotle chili
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Kosher salt
1/4 cup dry red wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro stems and leaves, plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus additional for garnish
2 teaspoons finely chopped canned chipotle in adobo, plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce from the can
1 1/2 cups (one 14.5-ounce can) fire-roasted crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large or two medium onions, cut into 3/4-inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed
Three 15.5-ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
Brown rice, for serving
Salsa, for serving (optional)
Sour cream, goat cheese, or queso fresco, for serving (optional)
Toasted pepitas, for serving (optional)
6 lime wedges (optional)

1. In a small bowl, combine the ground ancho chile, coriander, cumin, oregano, paprika, brown sugar, cocoa, ground chipotle, cinnamon, cloves, and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

2. In a liquid measure, whisk together the red wine, tomato paste, finely chopped cilantro stems and leaves, the chopped chipotle, and the adobo. Set aside.

3. In another liquid measure or bowl, combine the crushed tomatoes with 3 cups water and stir well.

4. In a large Dutch oven, heat the butter and olive oil over medium heat. When the butter has melted, add the onion, bell pepper, 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to medium-high, and continue cooking until the onion is lightly browned, another 7 to 8 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and jalapeno, and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant, about 1 minutes.

5. Add the dried spice mixture and cook, stirring and scraping until well incorporated, 20 to 30 seconds. Add the tomato paste mixture and cook, stirring and scraping it against the sides of the pan, for 1 to 2 minutes.

6. Add the crushed tomato mixture and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan, until well combined. Bring the mixture to a gently simmer, and cook, loosely covered, stirring occasionally and continuing to scrape the bottom of the pan, for 20 minutes. Keep and eye on the heat and reduce it, if necessary, to maintain a gently simmer.

7. Uncover the pot and add the drained beans. Raise the heat to medium-high and return the chili to a simmer and then reduce the heat to medium-low and maintain a gentle simmer. Stir thoroughly and cook, partially covered, for 10 minutes.

8.  Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro. The chili will stay warm, covered, off the heat for half an house.

9. To serve, spoon 1 cup rice into each of six deep bowl and ladle about 1 cup chili over the rice. Top with your choice of salsa, sour cream, cilantro, pepitas, and lime wedges.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Broccoli, Bacon, and Blue Cheese Salad

I really stepped it up with my lunch salad this weekend. Typically, at least one meal on both Saturday and Sunday is a main course salad for me, consisting of fresh or dried fruit, nuts, and cheese. I mix it up a lot, depending on what I happen to have around and strikes my fancy, and I never tire of it. This weekend I happen to have some leftover roasted broccoli, which conjured up memories of one of my signature dishes as a child, Broccoli Bacon Salad. I was no kid gourmand, but I could always be counted on to make Broccoli Bacon Salad or Parmesan Potato Pie for a holiday or family gathering. The broccoli in that dish was not roasted, but it started me thinking about how much I love the combination of broccoli, raisins, sunflower seeds, and bacon in that salad. With that recipe safely hidden away in a cookbook at my parents' house, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to adapt those ingredients to a main course salad. And sure enough, that combination still makes my taste buds dance with delight, even better dressed up with a bit of red onion and blue cheese. There's no doubt that there's a lot going on in this salad-smokiness from the roasted broccoli and bacon, sweetness from the raisins, saltiness from the bacon and sunflower seeds, sharpness from the red onion, and a pungent punch from the blue cheese-but it all manages to blend together in perfect harmony. No lightweight in heartiness or flavor, this salad is perfect fuel for raking the yard, picking apples, carving pumpkins, or any other favorite fall pastime.

Broccoli, Bacon, and Blue Cheese Salad
serves 1

2 ounces mixed greens, rinsed and dried
4 ounces broccoli, roasted in olive oil, salt, and pepper until browned and tender
2 slices bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
1/2 ounce thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1 ounce blue cheese, crumbled
Salad dressing, for serving

1. Spread mixed greens evenly on a large plate, distributing remaining ingredients evenly over the top. Dress with salad dressing of choice, and enjoy!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Roasted Pepper Salad

Like zucchini just a short time ago, bell peppers are everywhere at the farmers' market and at rock-bottom prices to boot. While I really like bell peppers, I usually think of them as accoutrements to dishes instead of the star. I'll heap roasted peppers on sandwiches, pizzas, or quesadillas and stuff frittatas and omelets to capacity, but I'm ashamed that I've never made a dish that really focused on the peppers before. One could argue that stuffed peppers, which I've made countless times, are pepper-centric, but really, it's all about the stuffing. I've always preferred my peppers roasted and that task has become much simpler and quicker now that I have gas stove, making roasted pepper salad an obvious way to use up my pepper surplus. Roasting the peppers intensify their sweetness, that simple flavor played up beautifully by a balanced dressing and fresh herbs here. I was surprised by how much I liked this simple salad, which turned out to be much more than just a decent way to use up some peppers lingering in the fridge, and provides an excellent template for further experimentation with other vinegars and herbs. The perfect contrast between the fresh flavors of summer and roasted heartiness of fall, try this if you're at a loss as to what to do with your early fall pepper surplus.

Roasted Pepper Salad 
from Gourmet, via Epicurious
serves 4 to 6

2 lb mixed bell peppers, tender-roasted and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch- wide strips
3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons capers in brine, rinsed and drained
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1. Toss together all ingredients and let stand, covered, 1 hour for flavors to develop.