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!
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?
‘Tis the season for organic purple sweet potatoes! David and I love having roasted sweet potatoes in the fridge, which make for a great post-workout snack and snack in general. And when we can get purple sweet potatoes? Even better! Purple sweet potatoes are wonderful — they are drier and denser than your regular sweet potatoes or yams, have a balanced sweetness and are packed with antioxidants. I like to chop them up in small pieces (about 1/2 in. by 1/4 in), coat them in cinnamon with a sprinkling of cayenne, garlic powder and salt, and roast them with coconut oil. The coconut oil and cinnamon highlight the sweetness of the potatoes, while the garlic powder, cayenne and salt bring out the savory qualities. I eyeball the spices, and roast them at 400F until the potatoes are cooked through. A fork test always works best to make sure the potatoes are cooked. Today, I chopped up 3 large purple sweet potatoes, tossed them in cinnamon, cayenne, garlic powder and some salt, and plopped on about 3 tablespoons of coconut oil.
I find it easier to toss the whole mixture together once the coconut oil melts in the oven after a few minutes. Once in the oven, I mix the potatoes around every so often, making sure that the pieces are coated evenly with the coconut oil, and roast them for about 45 minutes.
Voila! I sprinkle a little bit more salt once the potatoes are out of the oven. The potatoes keep very well in an air-tight tupperware for a week or a bit more. They are great cold, and I eat them after my workouts or when I’m craving something sweet. Roasted sweet potatoes have become our must-always-have foods in our fridge these days, and we LOVE them!
Check out this purple sweet potato beauty right out of the oven!
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
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:
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).
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!
Having been inspired by Jo Robinson’s book, in which we learned that purple vegetables are great for you, I have been compulsively buying purple/red vegetables when they look good at the super market or, even better, at the local farmers’ market on the weekends. Last night, I made a refreshing and summery salad from red cabbage, red kale, red onions, basil and toasted pecans dressed in a lemon tahini dressing. The recipe yields quite a lot of salad, but trust me, you will eat it, it is so light and delicious! The salad will keep for a day or two in an airtight container.
I first learned to make guacamole at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico, where one of the activities was a cooking demonstration. Ever since, guacamole has been a regular party staple in our household. Who doesn’t like guacamole? Fresh and flavorful, guacamole is excellent all year round.
There’s room to play in making guacamole. Normally, I use a habañero pepper (about 1/2, deseeded), but you can also use serrano or jalapeño peppers, depending on your preference. Recently, we like using serrano peppers because they have a good balance of heat and flavor (David calls it “umami”). A few of my friends don’t like cilantro, in which case I’ll swap out cilantro for basil and make what I call “Mediterranean” guacamole. Although traditional guacamole uses yellow onions, sometimes I like to use red onions, which are sweeter. You can use heirloom tomatoes or cherry tomatoes or beefsteak tomatoes, depending of what looks best at the market. I like my guacamole crunchy, so you can definitely play with the ingredient ratios.
Here’s the basic mix as a guideline:
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: