Sunday, October 30, 2011

Acorn squash stuffed with quinoa and chunky pesto

I call it "chunky pesto" because I tried to make a small batch of it in my large food processor--it didn't quite incorporate all the way. So I mixed a little of it in with the quinoa. Regular pesto would work just fine.

1 acorn squash, roasted
1 cup cooked quinoa, mixed with 1/4 cup pesto
1/2 red pepper, diced
Salt and pepper to taste

That's it! Mix the quinoa with the pesto and red pepper, and mound on top of the roasted squash. There. Done.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Sweet potato and red pepper lasagna

This is a standard lasagna, but with homemade tomato sauce and layers of sweet potato and red pepper between the noodles. It's really delicious--my one quibble is that some of the sweet potato slices didn't cook all the way through. Next time I may roast them first, then mix them in with the cheese mixture.

No-boil lasagna noodles (2 boxes)
Homemade tomato sauce (or, okay, regular tomato sauce would work too)
1 container of ricotta, mixed with 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, and 3 tablespoons Italian seasoning
1 container fresh mozzarella, sliced
Several handfuls of freshly grated parmesan
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced
1 big red pepper, sliced

(Some thawed frozen spinach, with the water squeezed out, would make a fine addition to this lasagna.)

Once you've assembled all the ingredients, layer them: a scoop of sauce on the bottom, noodles, ricotta, sweet potatoes, peppers (then spinach if you're using it), mozzarella, parm, more sauce, repeat until you run out of something, or room in the pan.

Bake at 350 for one hour. Let sit for 15 minutes or so before slicing.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Thai red curry-butternut squash soup

I don't usually make pureed soups, they seem somehow insubstantial compared to a hearty stew, but this riff on butternut squash soup is AMAZING. Definitely thick enough to be filling, but super-flavorful and easy to throw together. It's not spicy--there's just enough curry paste to make things interesting.

1 really big butternut squash, roasted, peeled and chopped
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (or to taste)
2 cans coconut milk
Seasonings to taste: I used salt, turmeric, a little cayenne pepper
Cilantro to garnish

Saute the onion in the olive oil in a large pan until soft. Add the curry paste, and stir until it begins to break down. Add the coconut milk, and stir until everything is incorporated. Add the butternut squash, and let cook until the squash is heated through. Season to taste. Let cool slightly, then puree in batches in your food processor.

If the resulting puree is too thick, you can add a little vegetable broth and put it back on the stove, but I liked the thickness. And did I mention this tasted amazing? I love the combination of butternut squash, red curry, and coconut milk.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New food processor!

Something always gets broken during moving. Despite the best efforts of the movers, I lost 1) the top to a sangria pitcher (the bottom got repurposed as a vase) and 2) my food processor.

The old food processor, a KitchenAid 12-cup, was a real workhorse. I'd had it for at least three years (possibly four), and man, I put that thing through its paces. I liked it so much I got my mom and sister each one. It worked perfectly right up to the day of the move--but when I unpacked it and turned it on, nothing happened. There was no visible damage to anything, but it just didn't work anymore.

So I upgraded.

To the KitchenAid 13-cup food processor.

(Hey, it was only $25 more.)

And wow, that thing It's ginormous, it has an external adjustable slicing blade, and the feeder tube is adjustable too--you can fit a whole apple in there at once. I grated cheese, sliced some veggies, and made a batch of pesto to see how it works. One caveat--it comes with two work bowls and sets of tools, one bigger, one smaller. If you're making a small batch of something (like, say, pesto), you definitely want to use the smaller bowl--the large chopping gadget doesn't even reach all the way down to the bottom of the large bowl. Which is great for large batches of things, but not for small batches.

Also it sounds like a jet engine taking off when you get it fired up.

Regardless, it's amazing. It's not often I have a brand-spanking-new appliance in my kitchen. I'm hoping to get at least four years of solid, almost-every-day performance out of this one, too.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Roasted beet and peach salad with pistachios

Otherwise known as: Greatest Salad Evah!

(Ignore the pecans in the picture. Imagine pistachios in their place.)

Green lettuce
1-2 roasted beets, sliced thinly
1 big peach, peeled and sliced
Goat cheese
Shelled, salted pistachios

For the dressing, I used olive oil and my mother's blackberry vinaigrette.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Creamed collard greens

Think creamed spinach, only with collard greens.

With a crispy bread crumb-parmesan crust.

This is a great way to use a couple of heads of collard greens, and gives a wonderful unexpected spin to creamed spinach. It would be a lovely dish for Thanksgiving. I had it with a couple of andouille sausages on the side, and thought it was a very tasty dinner.

Here's the recipe.  Note: I only used two heads of collards, probably less than half of the amount they call for in the recipe, and cut down the other amounts roughly equally, and it still came out yummy.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Kale chips with lime zest and chili powder

I've written about kale chips before, I know, but this version is really superior. Regular kale chips, but with the zest of one lime and a tablespoon or so of chili powder sprinkled on after they come out of the oven. (Plus salt to taste.)

I hate to say it, but they taste like those tortilla chips with lime added. Only, you know, healthy.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Beet quesadillas

Sounds gross, but these are really delicious.

It's just sliced roasted beets, caramelized onions, pepper jack cheese, and some greenery on corn (or wheat) tortillas. I used baby beet greens and sorrel for the greenery, but you could use almost anything. Or nothing--I made some without greenery, too. Although I will admit the ones with greens were better.

And oddly, they were even better reheated, which is usually not the case with quesadillas.

1 big beet, roasted, peeled and sliced
1/2 onion, sliced and caramelized
shredded pepper jack cheese
beet greens or other greens

In a skillet, warm some oil (olive oil is fine) and lay down a tortilla. Top with onion, sliced beets, cheese, and greens. Top with another tortilla. When the cheese melts, flip it over, and cook until both sides are browned. Repeat.

If you're using wheat tortillas, you can just fold it in half instead of using two per quesadilla.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Yellowjacket

I've decided I like green Chartreuse better than the yellow.

So in an effort to use up the bottle of yellow we have, I've been experiementing with using it in cocktails.

Here's one I like: equal parts gin, yellow Chartreuse, and fresh lime juice, shaken and served over ice, with just a splash of Cointreau at the end to round it out. I'm calling it The Yellowjacket.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Beet and yogurt salad

4 roasted, peeled and sliced beets
3 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 1/3 cups greek or plain yogurt
1 tablespoon chopped pistachios

Whisk the oil with the lemon juice and garlic. Add parsley, salt and pepper, and the oil to the beets. Mix the beets gently with the yogurt, or just pile it on, and top with the pistachios.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lavender-honey ice cream

So, the other night I was watching It's Complicated with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin. Don't judge me, it had Steve Martin in it.

Anyway, there's one scene where she mentions lavender ice cream, and I thought, "Ooooooooh!"

So I made some lavender-honey ice cream.

It's not nearly as floral as you think it would be--it's really good, although I'm not sure you could eat a whole lot in one sitting. This is definitely a few-spoonfuls-at-a-time ice cream.

From David Lebovitz:

1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup dried lavender flowers
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 egg yolks

Heat the honey and 2 tablespoons of lavendar gently. Once warm, remove from the heat and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.

Warm the milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. Pour the lavender honey through the strainer (to strain out the lavender), then discard the lavender and put the strainer back on the bowl.

Whisk together the egg yolks, and slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg, whisking constantly. Scrape the whole thing back into the saucepan, and stir constantly over medium heat until the mixture thickens and coats the spoon/spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer, and stir into the cream. Add the remaining lavender, and chill overnight in the fridge.

Discard the lavender, and make in your ice cream maker.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Autumn Passion

My first experiment with the Concord-grape infused vodka I made. To make Concord-grape infused vodka, drop a large bunch of grapes into a Mason jar. Fill with vodka, and screw the top on. Let sit for about a week, until the vodka is pleasingly purple, and remove the grapes.

For the lavendar syrup, below, it's just simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water, stirred over medium heat until the sugar dissolves) with a cheesecloth packed of dried lavendar added to it while it cooled, to infuse it with lavendar flavor.

2 oz Concord grape-infused vodka
1/2 oz lavendar syrup
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice

And isn't it a fun fuschia color?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

New home update

I was going to post a recipe for lavendar-honey ice cream, but I'm feeling sluggish this morning. So I'll leave that for tomorrow, and instead let you in on what's happening around here.

As you may know, my husband and I recently relocated to a big, twisty Victorian home. For the first time in my life, I'm in a place with a) high ceilings, b) big windows, c) lots of rooms. And room, in general. I suddenly have an extra room to fill with furniture--and that's after we purchased a new sofa, for a total of three sofas.

All that room space means lots of wall space to cover, too. The previous owners had a love for bright color; one room is painted hot pink, one is a kind of bluey lime green, the office is silver with broad purple stripes, the entryway is fire-engine red. (It looks better than it sounds.) But that also means that the holes they left in the walls, from pictures, curtain hardware, etc., can't really be spackled over, since those particular batches of paint are long gone. And that means I have a lot of holes to cover over.

So I'm spending my days figuring out what I can hang, for a minimum of money. I've printed some of the travel photos I've taken over the years, and pulled out some old posters. (Cheap poster frames are tacky, I admit, but I don't have the energy or the money for a custom framing job right now.)

I'll also be furnishing that empty room on the cheap. I've already gotten a rocking chair on craigslist ($35), and we'll need another coffee table and another nightstand. I've repurposed some other furniture into a entertainment center; it's not quite the right color, but I hope some spraypaint will take care of that.

So if any of you have any old furniture, or pictures, you're looking to get rid of, let me know.

(This is why I haven't been cooking much lately.)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Winter vegetable soup

This was another one of those throw-a-bunch-of-random-stuff-together-with-broth soups, but hey, it's still delicious.

As we continue to unpack and settle in, the CSA deliveries are still trickling in. Unfortunately, it's the time of year where they're mostly potatoes and greens. I have so much other stuff to deal with right now (finding and hanging curtains, re-registering the cars in a new state, repainting the hallway, and, you know, finding a job) that I don't have the time to do inspirational things with collard greens.

Besides, soup is simple. And comforting.

Here's what I threw in, in order:

an onion, diced
a green pepper and two red peppers, diced
several potatoes (some fingerlings, some Yukon Gold, some unidentified), cubed
three...well, they were either turnips or rutabagas, not sure which; I peeled and diced them
a head of collard greens, sliced
vegetable broth to float everything

I cooked that down until the potatoes were tender, flavored with salt, and shoved the whole batch into the fridge.

Exciting, no?

Now I have to figure out what to do with all the beets.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Seared tuna steak

Seafood at home, of any sort, is a rare treat for me. I don't usually purchase a lot, because in order to get fresh, good seafood, you have to pay for it, and the freshest, best stuff is the most expensive. Tuna especially--also because tuna is rapidly on its way to becoming endangered, and I feel a little guilty about eating it. So take comfort; I got this tuna only because there was a really excellent sale, and it had been months (possibly years) since the last time I'd consumed fresh tuna.

So, with that in mind, I seared the tuna steaks on my indoor grill. No trick to it--fresh tuna, hot grill, seared only long enough to brown both sides. The inside stayed wonderfully raw. I then sliced it, drizzled some good salt over it, and ate it.

That's the beauty of fresh seafood--if it's high-quality enough to eat raw, then save yourself the cooking and just eat it raw! If it's not high-quality enough to eat raw, then why are you eating it in the first place?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Baked brie

I can't believe I've never done this before.

All you need is a round of brie, and a sheet of puff pastry.

That's it.

(Well, let the puff pastry thaw first.)

Just wrap the thawed puff pastry sheet around the brie, tuck the edges under, and bake at 400 for 15-20 minutes until the pastry is puffy and browned. Let it sit for another 15-20 minutes before cutting into it.

So easy, and it looks so fancy.

I served it with--what else?--green tomato jam. Another killer combo.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Grilled pork loin with green tomato jam

My new kitchen comes with a built-in indoor grill. How awesome is that?

The problem is that a) my grilling skills are rusty, and b) it eliminates two burners on the stove.

Oh well.

I decided to give the indoor grill an inaugural run with grilled pork tenderloin. It worked great--the pork came out a little dry, but it was cooked all the way through and the house didn't burn down, so I consider the grill test run a smashing success.

Because it was a test, I didn't do anything to the pork--no marinades or anything. I just turned on the grill, slapped the tenderloins on, and turned them periodically until the internal temperature hit 150. To offset the dryness when it was done, I served it with green tomato jam, which was a killer combination. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Green tomato jam

The best thing you can do with green tomatoes is, of course, fried green tomatoes. You can also let them ripen slowly--it may take weeks, and the ripe tomatoes won't be great (but they'll still be better than store-bought).

OR, you can make green tomato jam.

I had a lot of small green cherry tomatoes, which were perfect for this. I made a big batch, and it's surprisingly sweet and jammy. I've experimented with it on grilled pork loin and baked brie (recipes to come) and plain ol' breakfast toast, and it was equally versatile.

Don't worry, you don't need any fancy equipment for this. You don't even need jars--you could put the finished product in Tupperware.

3 lbs green tomatoes, diced finely
3 cups water
2 lbs apples, peeled and sliced
1 1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 3/4 cup sugar

Add the water to the tomatoes in a large saucepan, and cook 5 minutes. Add the apples with the ginger and cloves, cook until soft. Add the sugar, stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Once it is dissolved (not before), turn the heat up and bring the whole thing to a boil. Let it boil until it reaches the consistency of jam. Let cool, pop in a Mason jar, stick in the fridge. Yum!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Spaghetti with spaghetti squash, dandelion greens, and fresh tomato sauce

Yesterday after work, instead of unpacking, I decided to christen my kitchen.

I also had a bunch of food that needed to be turned into something, pronto, before it went bad--about two weeks' worth of CSA vegetables, nine metric tons of tomatoes (both red and green), and a few gallons of vegetable scrap that needed to become vegetable broth.

To use up the ripe tomatoes, I made a huge batch of salsa, another of tabbouleh, and some sauce that I froze. To use up the green tomatoes, I made fried green tomatoes and a batch of green tomato jam (look for that recipe soon!). Of course, the veg scrap became broth (frozen for later use in soups).

CSA veggies used: cilantro, onion, peppers, and other assorted herbs. Plus dandelion greens and spaghetti squash.

Spaghetti squash, if you're not familiar with it, can be a great substitute for regular spaghetti. When roasted, you can take a fork to the inside of the squash and pull--the resulting squash strings look just like spaghetti (hence the name). I wanted to use up both this squash and the dandelion greens, so I cooked a small amount of regular spaghetti, to beef up the dish a little, and mixed it all with some homemade tomato sauce.

A great quick, filling, vegetarian dish that had the added bonus of using up three things in my fridge. Win!

Of course, you can leave the regular pasta out for a vegan/gluten-free option.

I still have a bunch of green tomatoes left, though. I'm thinking green tomato pie soon.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Moving once is like dying twice the Germans say.

Well, we're officially moved in. Note that "moved in" is not the same as "fully unpacked." This move was pretty easy, comparatively speaking--my husband's company relocated us, so we didn't actually have to pay for it, or pack anything, or load anything, or unload anything.

But there's still all the unpacking, plus all the accompanying paperwork--you know, re-registering the cars, getting a new bank account (Bank of America royally screwed me, but that's another post), changing our address on all our accounts, getting new cable/internet, etc. We also moved into a twisty Victorian house, so our massive entertainment center wouldn't even make it in the front door. That had to be abandoned to the basement, and we'll be going to Ikea in search of modular furniture in the near future.

So, sorry for the absence of new posts this week. I've been eating out of Tupperware all week (I cooked big batches of soup in anticipation of that), and between work and unpacking, I haven't cooked a thing. I hope to have something for you tomorrow!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Moving hiatus

Hi everyone! I'm taking a few days off because a) we're moving, and b) because of that, I won't be cooking anything more complicated than reheating spaghetti for the next few days.

But stay tuned, because I have some Concord-grape infused vodka that's just waiting to be turned into cocktails, several dozen pounds (literally) of green tomatoes that will need to be turned into something, and a pear tree in my new backyard. Exciting new recipes to come!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Gardening update: no more garden

Well, that's it, folks. The Great Gardening Experiment of 2011 is officially over.

We move out of our house, beginning on Monday, so this weekend I'll be ripping out the last of the tomato and pepper plants. Everything else has already been harvested and ripped out, and I've been removing tomato plants as they die/stop producing. It's a shame, I think I could get a few more weeks out of the pepper plants if it doesn't get too cold, but oh well.

Here's my verdict: tomatoes were the clear winner. I harvested bushels, all different kinds, all exceedingly delicious. Herbs were the runner-up. Out of everything else, here's what I got:

Corn: 2 spindly ears, maybe the size of a finger. I don't think they got enough sun.
Squash: Several zucchini, 3 baby-sized butternut squash. They were doing well until Hurricane Irene, but all the water killed them off.
Green beans: A few handfuls' worth, nothing of note, and they never got very big. Not sure what happened there.
Kale: Lots of baby kale in the beginning; the groundhog ate it down to the ground in August and I pulled it up at that point.
Cauliflower and carrots: Lost to the rabbits.
Cucumbers: Several baby ones. Ditto Hurricane Irene (see squash, above).
Peppers: Coming along very nicely. None of the bell peppers got very big, but perhaps that's just because I've been impatient and have been picking them as soon as they get bigger than a golf ball.

Lessons for next year: Well, next year we'll be in a city apartment with no yard (okay, there is a yard, but it's a bricked-in patio), so it'll be all about the container gardening again. But I will expand the container garden to include tomatoes, more peppers, and more types of greenery. I'll also keep some of the herbs inside this fall, to try and keep the basil and such alive as long as possible.