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Simple Veg: Sautéed Baby Eggplants, Mushrooms + Onions w/Chili, Capers, Aged Balsamic + Basil

21 Aug

  
Yesterday I came home from three days in Chicago. It was a quick trip with mostly late nights, random eats and a lot of drinks, so when I finally made it home after my several-times delayed flight, all I wanted for dinner was something simple. In the fridge I had baby eggplants and mushrooms that needed to be used, so in a pan with olive oil I sautéed diced onions, minced jalapeño chili, mushrooms (portabella, sliced, and beech, broken up in pieces), baby eggplants (cut in about 1 in pieces), seasoned with salt; once the vegetables were cooked, I deglazed the pan with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar and threw in about a tablespoon of capers. I added some chopped basil for freshness and color, and, voilá! Dinner for one (with enough for leftovers) was served. 

Sometimes a hearty umami-ful veg dinner really hits the spot!

  

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Summer Vegetable Bounty: Italian-style Tomato Salad & Roasted Rainbow Carrots

16 Aug

  
Heirloom vegetables are so gorgeous and delicious, especially in the summer. Our dinner last night was wild coho salmon. For vegetable accompaniments I made what I like to call Italian-style tomato salsa/salad and roasted rainbow carrots.

The tomatoes I chopped up and mixed with finely chopped red onions, minced jalapeño pepper, chiffonade basil and capers, seasoned with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar. The jalapeño gives the salad a nice kick, while the aged balsamic brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes. The capers add a salty, briny quality. We love this salad to go with a variety of proteins as a topping, or just to eat with corn chips, much like a salsa.

  

As for the carrots, I scrubbed them clean and cut them them into about 1/4 inch thickness, skin on, taking off just the ends. Laying the carrots onto roasting pans — making sure not to over crowd them — I gave them a few good glugs of olive oil, about two table spoons per pan, and mixed thoroughly so all carrot pieces were coated with oil. I added a few slices of lemon. Normally I would add whole cloves of garlic, skin on, but sadly I was out of garlic — so I sprinkled some garlic powder over the carrots instead. I roasted the carrots in 400F oven, occasionally mixing them around in the pan, until cooked, about 50 minutes. I wanted to “char” the carrots a bit, so at the very end I set the oven to medium broil for about 5 minutes to crisp up the edges. Once out of the oven I seasoned the carrots with salt and pepper, and threw in some finely chopped basil. I think the lemon works very well with the carrots, as it adds a brightness that complements the natural earthy sweetness of carrots.

  

  
So simple and yet so flavorful! Summer vegetables are so wonderful.

What seasonal vegetable are you cooking these days?

Roasted Butternut Squash w/Spicy Onions

13 Oct

Well THAT was a long hiatus! It’s been a hectic summer, but now I’m back for the holiday season and will post more regularly, so do check back in!

A couple of weekends ago, we invited David’s colleague over for dinner. I had come across a roasted butternut squash recipe on the Bon Appétit website that I wanted to try, so I thought the dinner party would be a good occasion. Squash and pumpkin are deeply associated with autumn foods, and for good reason – they’re in season and are delicious!  They’re the perfect comfort vegetables as the temperature dips — they take on spices well, and have a lovely natural sweetness to them.  We love butternut squash, but usually, we end up making soup with it instead of roasting it. For the dinner, I was going to make Cornish hens, so I was looking for a “starch” side dish that wasn’t too heavy. This recipe looked good, and I also liked that it could be made ahead because the dish is served at room temperature. I am a big believer that, when hosting a dinner party, the more dishes that could be made ahead, the better; that way, I can mingle and be more social while the hot components of the dinner are finishing up.

The result? David has declared that butternut squash roasted and tossed together with spicy onions is now his favorite way to eat butternut squash! What really makes the dish is the spicy onions with lime zest, chili, and hint of honey. This spicy onion concoction really brightens the sweetness of the squash. Also, the textures are wonderful: the tenderness of the squash, the crunch of the hazelnuts, the softness of the tangy goat cheese, the aromatic freshness of mint and parsley. I made a few tweaks on the original recipe: I used fresh serrano chili instead of crushed red pepper, because we have chili still growing in our garden; I also used thyme instead of marjoram, because I have thyme in the garden but no marjoram. I had never blanched hazelnuts, but Googled it and found an easy method on eHow (here’s the LINK).  I found that the squash took longer to cook than was outlined in the original recipe, but it could be that I didn’t slice the squash quite to size.  It’s best to do a fork check — if it goes through the squash easily, then they’re ready!  (Full disclosure: As can be seen in the photo, I forgot to “coarsely” chop the hazelnuts — which would be better — but it still worked out fine.) Continue reading

Roasted Acorn Squash w/Cinnamon+Serrano Chili

14 Dec

acorn  squash

Recently, I have come to the conclusion that my favorite squash/pumpkin to roast is the acorn squash.  I had never cooked an acorn squash before this fall; it happened as one of my “impulse” vegetable purchases one day when David was away and I was cooking for myself, and the acorn squash looked appealing and it also wasn’t too big.  I went home, sliced up the squash, tossed the slices in olive oil, seasoned them and roasted them… and they were SO GOOD.  What I love about roasted acorn squash is that the squash has a lovely, natural sweetness to it, and when roasted, it has an almost creamy texture that is still light, an almost custard mouth-feel without any density or heaviness.  Adding a sprinkling of cinnamon brings out the sweetness of the squash, while the chili slices give them a fiery kick.  The squash is great cold, too, and makes for a delicious veggie leftover “snack.”

I like to get organic acorn squash, because I keep the skin on, which I think is delicious roasted.  And here’s how I roast them:

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Oven-roasted Eggplants w/Garlic+Chili

8 Dec

eggplant

One of my favorite vegetable is an eggplant.  Sometimes, when I feel like having a simple vegetarian dinner and taking a break from protein, eggplant is a great option, because they are so satisfying.  Recently, my go-to way to cook eggplants is by roasting them in the oven with garlic and chili.  Roasted in large slices, the eggplants are almost like vegetarian “steaks” packed full of flavor.  I love how the garlic slices are crispy, while the heat from the chili adds a nice kick to the creaminess of the eggplants.  I can eat so much of these eggplants, I don’t miss having my usual protein main (although David still needs to have a main protein component, of course).

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Eggplant+Radicchio Shiitake “Stir-fry”

25 Aug

Image

Continuing with our infusing more “purple” vegetables in our lives, I decided to pick up a radicchio to use in the vegetable accompaniment for dinner.  I already had a couple of organic Chinese eggplants, red onions and purple garlic from the farmers’ market, as well as shiitake mushrooms, in the fridge, so I decided to put them all together in a “stir-fry.”   Chinese eggplants have a much thinner skin than normal eggplants, so they are great for stir-frying because they will cook through more easily.  Radicchio adds a nice bitterness to all the “umami” from the mushrooms, onions and eggplant.  I added some basil from our garden at the end, which gave the vegetables a nice aromatic lift and freshness.  The result was a kind of light, tomato-less ratatouille, and we had it as an accompaniment to a simply grilled coho salmon — delicious!

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Simple Veg: Roasted Radishes

26 Jan

roast radishes - bunches

Radishes are not something we normally buy or eat.  I tend to think of them as a slightly bitter “garnish-y” type of vegetable, eaten raw, not particularly exciting.  But I recently came across a picture of roasted radishes on a food-related website, and it piqued my interest — I’d never thought of roasting radishes before!  I am a big fan of roasted vegetables of all variety.  And so with haste I picked up 2 bunches of radishes and tried roasting them.  The result?  I LOVED them.   Who knew radishes would turn deliciously juicy and  sweet when roasted?   I think roasted radishes will make more appearances at our dinner table from now on.  I kept the leaves and added them near the end, which cook up nice and crispy to provide some texture to the radishes.  All in all, I am impressed with this new, simple way of eating radishes.

Here’s how I roasted the radishes:

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Crispy Bacon Brussels Sprouts

13 Jan

brussels sprouts - cut in halves

Brussels sprouts and bacon pair perfectly together, and we love them roasted to crispy perfection in the oven!  My favorite bacon to use for this dish is the Whole Food’s brand of uncured applewood smoked bacon — it is thick cut with a good meat to fat ratio, and has a slight but not overwhelming smoke quality to it.

brussels sprouts - bacon

The key to roasting Brussels sprouts is to get the crispy exterior without overcooking the sprouts on the inside — mushy Brussels sprouts are no fun.  Here’s how to roast your Brussels sprouts to crispy bacon-y perfection (caution: you will be hooked!):

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Sauteed Enoki Mushrooms w/Spinach

9 Dec

enoki spinach - serve

Seven years go, David and I lived for a couple years in the Upper Eastside.  A time long before our gluten-free days, our favorite neighborhood place for Chinese food delivery was Café Evergreen (which, it seems, has now closed).  One dish in particular remains in my mind, mostly because it was so simple yet surprisingly satisfying: sauteed enoki mushrooms with spinach.  I recently had 2 bunches of enoki mushrooms and spinach sitting in my fridge that I needed to use, so I decided to make my own interpretation of the Café Evergreen dish.  This veggie dish is very simple, quick, and delicious.  The enoki mushrooms almost feel like “noodles.”  I didn’t have any fresh ginger on hand, so I used ground ginger, which worked fine — but next time, I’ll probably use fresh grated ginger instead. Continue reading

Sauteed Black Tuscan Kale w/Red Onions+Garlic

8 Dec

kale - tuscan kale

‘Tis the season for winter greens!  I recently found on sale these these little bunches of black Tuscan kale, locally produced by Satur Farms.  They are smaller than your more typical kale, and have a bumpy, crinkly surface.  In the past, David hasn’t been the biggest fan of kale — he finds kale bitter and its stems too tough.  I thought I’d give the black Tuscan kale a try anyway, mostly because they looked pretty.  Surprisingly, David LOVED the black Tucan kale and couldn’t get enough of it!  The black Tuscan kale has an earthier, almost sweeter flavor than the large type of kale, and the texture is lovely — the leaves are soft but not mushy .  After blanching the kale, I cooked the leaves very simply with sauteed red onions and garlic — a perfect pairing with a pork chop.

Here’s how: Continue reading