Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Red Cabbage Stir-Fry with Coconut

Cabbage isn't something that I buy very often, but when it shows up in my CSA box, I'm more than happy to cook it and eat it. My first thoughts are usually of slaws and slow cooked dishes with sausage, but I'm always looking to try something something new and different.  Cabbage, particularly Napa, frequently makes its way into Asian dishes (or Americanized renditions of them) often, but this one is decidedly different than Moo Shu Pork or Chinese Chicken Salad. I've never thought of cabbage as part of Indian cuisine, but the suite of Indian flavors complement the cabbage wonderfully. The richness of the coconut tempers the spice of the chile, with the quintessentially Indian combination of mustard, cumin, curry leaves, turmeric, and garlic blooming into an irresistible aroma. Although it may sound a bit too out-of-the-ordinary on paper, this leap of faith will reward your taste buds handsomely and provide a bit burst of warmer climes in the depths of winter.

Red Cabbage Stir-Fry with Coconut
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 4

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
10 fresh curry leaves or 2 bay leaves
One 2-pound red cabbage, cored and coarsely chopped (8 cups)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 cup water
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup finely shredded dried coconut (1 1/2 ounces)

1. In a large, deep skillet, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds and cook over moderate heat just until they begin to pop, about 30 seconds. Add the cumin and curry leaves and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cabbage and turmeric and season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the cabbage is crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the water and cook until the water is evaporated and the cabbage is tender, 5 to 6 minutes longer. Discard the bay leaves, if using.

2. Meanwhile, in a mini food processor, add the garlic, chile, coconut and remaining 1/4 cup of water and pulse to a paste.

3. Scrape the paste into the skillet and toss to coat the red cabbage. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Season with salt and serve.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Spicy Cauliflower and Bok Choy Stir-Fry with Coconut

The first time I cooked bok choy was two years ago, after picking up my first CSA share from Crossroads Community Farm (then Primrose Community Farm). I'm now in my third year as a member and still looking forward to that fresh and crunchy green. When I have it, I'll often use it in my ever-evolving fried rice recipe or simply stir-fry it in sesame oil and finish it with a bit of Sriracha, but I also love incorporating it into more elaborate recipes like this one. Though not through any particular effort on my part, coconut has been making into all manner of my recipes lately (including a coffee stout that is currently fermenting). The first non-baked-good recipe I can remember trying and loving is Baked Curried Rice with Apples and Coconut, but it was Crispy Kale-and-Tofu Salad with Coconut that really made me fall in love with coconut in savory dishes. Just a little bit of toasted coconut gives this dish a lot of richness, and it is nicely balanced by the freshness of the bok choy and herbs, spiciness of the chili sauce, and sweetness of the agave. Fish sauce sneaks in some umami without adding a fishy flavor and the shrimp/chicken/tofu turns this into a filling main that needs only a bed of rice or noodles to become a complete meal.

Spicy Cauliflower and Bok Choy Stir-Fry with Coconut

adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 2

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/4 large head cauliflower, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 large head bok choy, trimmed and sliced into 1-inch strips (about 8 ounces)
1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined or boneless, skinless chicken breast or tofu, cut into bite-size pieces
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon sambal oelek or other Asian chili sauce, or to taste
1 tablespoon agave syrup or honey
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves or cilantro, plus more for garnish
3 tablespoons unsweetened flaked coconut, toasted
Rice or noodles, for serving (optional)

1. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add cauliflower, and reduce heat to medium. Cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Add bok choy, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a plate, and loosely tent with foil.

2. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, (or chicken or tofu) and cook until they begin to turn opaque, about 2 minutes. Flip shrimp and, using a wooden spoon, push them to one side, and add remaining 1/2 teaspoon oil to exposed area. Add garlic, and cook, stirring, until very fragrant but not brown, about 1 minute.

3. Toss garlic with shrimp. Stir in sambal oelek, agave syrup, and fish sauce. Add vegetables, and cook until heated through, about 30 seconds. Add basil, and serve immediately over rice or noodles (if desired). Top with coconut flakes and more basil.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Cranberries, Blue Cheese, and Walnuts

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is tomorrow. I began my Thanksgiving celebration a little early, cooking up a small traditional feast this past Sunday that was happily devoured while watching the Packers squeak by the Lions. While Thanksgiving leftovers might even be better than the  main event, whether eaten as is or repurposed into other meals, there's only so much heavy food my system can take before I just start to feel unbearably sluggish. When I know I've hit my indulgence limit, I turn to meals like this. If your Thanksgiving feast leaves you with any leftover roasted squash, it would be perfect here, but it's well worth the effort to roast cubes of squash specifically for this recipe. Sweet, caramelized butternut squash and tart cranberries are the very soul of fall harvest flavor, contrasting perfectly pungent blue cheese and rich, toasty walnuts. Although hearty and filling just as is, leftover Thanksgiving turkey would certainly be welcome, substituting for part or all of the butternut squash. Although I think of this as a light lunch, it is also beautiful and elegant enough to serve at a holiday celebration, particularly if you'll have vegetarian guests that can get short shrift as everyone admires the majesty of the turkey. No matter the occasion, this is a flavorful and beautiful dish full of the spirit of the season.

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Cranberries, Blue Cheese, and Walnuts
serves 1

4 ounces butternut squash, cut into small cubes
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces baby spinach or other mixed greens, rinsed and dried
1/2 ounce thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons chopped toasted walnuts
1 ounce crumbled blue cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss butternut squash cubes with olive oil to coat and season with salt and pepper. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and roast under cubes are tender and  nicely browned, about 15 to 20 minutes, depending on the size of the cubes. Let cool slightly, or to room temperature, if desired.

2. Spread greens evenly on a large plate and top with red onion, squash cubes, cranberries, walnuts, and blue cheese. Top with dressing of choice and enjoy!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sweet Potato Poutine with Bacon and Caramelized Onions

Last weekend seemed a little incomplete without a Packer game and its requisite Packer snack. This Sunday I'll be watching the game with some family and a Thanksgiving spread I'm preparing, but if you're watching the game sans feast, I can think of nothing better to recommend that this over-the-top poutine. If I'm given the option between potatoes and sweet potatoes, sweet potatoes win out virtually every time. And although they're not the traditional choice for poutine, they bring all the crispiness of regular fries, but with an added sweetness and depth of flavor that plays perfectly off of the salty cheese curds and smoky bacon. If that isn't already enough, caramelized onions add an extra layer of flavor that infuses eat bite with pure savoriness. The crispy fry and bacon bookends perfectly contain the squeaky, spongy curds and tender caramelized onions for a delightful variety of textures in each bite. An unabashedly decadent dish, this is a soul-satisfying treat nobody can resist and the perfect companion to an afternoon of football.

Sweet Potato Poutine with Bacon and Caramelized Onions
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 sweet potato fries
4 slices bacon (about 3 ounces)
1 small onion, sliced
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 1 to 2 tablespoons bacon grease in the pan. Once bacon is cool, crumble into small pieces. Add onions to hot bacon grease and cook over medium-low heat until onions are soft and caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes.

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Indian-Spiced Cauliflower and Peas with Whole Wheat Pasta

Although it's a bit of fad, I really like Meatless Mondays. Like reusable bags and all manner of going green, this trend is one I hope to see continue. Chances are I've indulged a bit too much over the weekend and on Monday I need to get back to good habits with whole grains and plenty of vegetables. It's not to say that I don't enjoy dishes like that any other day of the week, but it is psychologically important to me to get the week off on the right foot. Chances also are that on Mondays I don't have a ton of motivation or time, and that's where easy, healthy pasta dishes become indispensable. This recipe became part of my menu during my last cauliflower kick before my CSA destined me to a winter of squash and root vegetables. I love all manner of ethnic food, but I find the spices used in Indian cooking particularly complementary to cauliflower, evidenced by the fact it shows up so often in that cuisine. Cauliflower isn't quite a blank canvas, but it does readily soak up all the fragrant spices that Indian cuisine has to offer. The heartiness of the cauliflower is balanced by fresh peas and acidic tomatoes, which blend nicely on a bed of nutty whole wheat pasta. Bursting with flavors of warmer climes, but satisfying enough for a cool fall day, this meal is an ideal transition between the seasons.

Indian-Spiced Cauliflower and Peas with Whole Wheat Pasta
adapted from Food and Wine
serves 4

2 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, cut into thin slices
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups canned crushed tomatoes (one 16-ounce can)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen petit peas
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 pound small whole wheat pasta (penne, rotini, fusili, orecchiette, etc.)

1. In a large frying pan, heat the oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook until starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, cumin, and coriander and cook until fragrant, 2 minutes longer.

2. Add the cauliflower to the onion mixture; stir to coat. Add the water, bring to a simmer, cover, and steam for 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and salt. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add the peas and cilantro and cook until the cauliflower is tender and the peas are hot, about 2 minutes longer.
3. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the orecchiette until just done, about 15 minutes. Drain and toss with the sauce.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pumpkin Lasagna

Until recently, I didn't think of pumpkin as a likely companion for cheese, but I've come really to appreciate it's ability to pair wonderfully with all different types as of late. I know few people who can turn down a pumpkin bar with cream cheese frosting, and it really holds it's own against strong cheeses like chevre or Parmesan. In this lasagna it pairs up with a classic trio - ricotta, mozzarella, and Parmesan - blending seamlessly with all the richness and creaminess of those cheeses. Joining all the sweetness and richness are earthy shiitake mushrooms, which give the lasagna enough savoriness and heartiness to make the absence of meat a mere afterthought. Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, and although this holiday lauds a perfectly roasted turkey, there's no reason that vegetarians shouldn't have a delicious main as well. Lasagna is an automatic crowd pleaser, and vegetarians and carnivores will happily dig into this classic with a harvest-y bent. Whether a vegetarian Thanksgiving centerpiece or simply a weeknight dinner, this meal speaks to the soul of the season.

Pumpkin Lasagna
adapted from Taste of Home
serves 4 to 6

1/2 pound sliced shiitake mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 can (15 ounces) solid-pack pumpkin
1/2 cup half-and-half or whole milk
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
Dash pepper
9 oven- ready whole wheat lasagna noodles
1 cup reduced-fat ricotta cheese
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese

1. In a small skillet, saute the mushrooms, onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt in oil until tender; set aside. In a small bowl, combine the pumpkin, cream, sage, pepper and remaining salt.

2. Spread 1/2 cup pumpkin sauce in an 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with three noodles (noodles will overlap slightly). Spread 1/2 cup pumpkin sauce to edges of noodles. Top with half of mushroom mixture, 1/2 cup ricotta, 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers. Top with remaining noodles and sauce.

3. Cover and bake at 375° for 45 minutes. Uncover; sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until cheese is melted. Let stand for 10 minutes before cutting.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas, and Raisins over Brown Rice

Today I will be picking up the first box of my winter CSA. While it will be overflowing with vegetables I love, sadly cauliflower will not be making an appearance. So before all my cauliflower cookery is just a distant memory, I've got a few fantastic cauliflower recipes to share. Chickpeas and raisins are common companions to cauliflower in Indian cooking, no it should be no surprise that they work so well together here. Garam masala, many of its iterations, has the perfect blend of smokiness, sweetness, and spice to harmoniously blend the flavors of the caramelized cauliflower, hearty chickpeas, sweet raisins, and nutty brown rice. Acidic accents of ginger, lemon, and cilantro brighten and lighten, creating the perfect blend of freshness and heartiness for a late fall meal. Full of Indian flavors, yet using the best of local produce, this is an expertly crafted mix of local ingredients and international flavor.

Roasted Cauliflower, Chickpeas, and Raisins over Brown Rice
adapted from The Fresh and Green Table by Susie Middleton
serves 4

1 pound cauliflower florets, each about 1 1/2 inches long, with one flat side
1 cup brown rice
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup chopped white or yellow onion
Kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
1 large clove garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons chopped fresh ginger
1/3 cup dark raisins
3/4 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
1/4 cup chopped toasted almonds
4 lemon wedges, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a large, heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment or aluminum foil. In a medium mixing bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of the canola oil and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Spread the florets, cut-side down, in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast until tender and well browned on the bottoms, 20 to 22 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cook the rice according to package directions or in a rice cooker. When done, set aside and keep warm.

3. Combine 1 tablespoon of the canola oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter in a 2- or 2 1/2-quart nonstick saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garam masala, and a good pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until softened, and some onions are beginning to brown and crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes.

5. Add garlic and ginger, and cook, stirring, until softened and fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the raisins, chickpeas, and cooked rice, stirring until heated through. Remove from heat.

6. Add the cooked rice mixture and cauliflower to a large mixing bowl and stir well but gently. Add the lemon juice, cilantro, and almonds and stir again. Taste and season with additional salt if necessary. Serve right away, garnished with lemon wedges (if desired).

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Baked Pumpkin Penne with Kale

Sick of pumpkin yet? I'm definitely not. And for all the other pumpkin devotees out there, I offer up another savory pumpkin pasta dish. In Whole Wheat Rotini with Pumpkin Alfredo and Walnuts, pumpkin pairs splendidly with nuts and Parmesan cheese, but this dish gets an extra boost from a bit more of each of those ingredients in the form of pesto. Just a scant couple of tablespoons adds a whole new dimension to the dish, the savoriness and herbaceousness of the pesto really making the sweet pumpkin flavor pop. When it comes to preparing kale, roasting is most certainly my go-to method, but blanching the kale in the pasta water enriches the flavor of both the pasta itself and the sauce, which uses reserved pasta cooking water, and hopefully recovers at least a bit of vitamins and minerals lost in the blanching process. Other hearty greens could be used in place of the kale, or even spinach, though the cooking time should be reduced for the more tender greens. Other winter squash puree could also be used in place of the pumpkin, with butternut being the most obvious substitution. A perfect balance of sweet and savory elements, this is dish is a more-than-fitting tribute to fall's favorite gourd.

Baked Pumpkin Penne with Kale
adapted from Martha Stewart
serves 4

Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 ounces whole wheat penne, cooked and drained
4 ounces kale (preferably lacinato), thick stems removed and leaves chopped into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 15-ounce can pumpkin puree, or homemade pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons prepared pesto
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Cook pasta to al dente according to package directions in well-salted water, adding kale during the last 3-4 minutes of cooking time. Drain kale and pasta mixture, reserving at least 1 cup pasta cooking water.

2. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin and pesto and season with salt and pepper.

3. Add warm pasta-kale mixture to the pumpkin-pesto mixture, tossing thoroughly and adding enough pasta cooking water so that the sauce thoroughly coats the pasta and there is enough sauce to cover all the noodles during baking. Transfer to a 9-by-9-inch baking dish and top with almonds and Parmesan. Bake until top is golden, about 30 minutes.