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!
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:
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!
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
I love grilled shishito peppers, and am able to eat great quantities of them in one sitting. Grilled shishito peppers appear to be trending at restaurants these days, which is understandable as they make for great bar snacks. If you come across good looking shishito peppers (I found some at Fresh Direct recently), it’s super easy to make them at home.
Here’s how I grill them:
Duck-fat-fried anything is delicious. Rich, yes. Probably not ideal for your waistline, yes. But occasionally? Fabulous. Often, when I sear duck breasts, I strain out the fat and keep it refrigerated in a glass jar. Recently, I came across organic garnet yams AND organic Japanese sweet potatoes on Fresh Direct. David had wanted to have more sweet potatoes available for snacking purposes, and so I thought this was a good time to try…yams and sweet potatoes cooked in duck fat.
Here’s how I went about cooking the gorgeous yams and sweet potatoes in duck fat:
Preheat the oven to 400F.
Peel the yams and sweet potatoes — I used 2 yams and 3 sweet potatoes. Chop them into pieces, about 1 inch cubes. Finely chop one onion.
In a skillet on medium-high heat, heat about 2 tablespoons of duck fat. Once it melts, stir in the potatoes, making sure to coat them in the fat. Salt and pepper. After a few minutes, add the onions. Stirring frequently, cook the potatoes until the sides begin to sear and turn brown.
Put the skillet in the oven to finish cooking. (Note: I discovered that the Japanese sweet potatoes cook faster than the yams, which I didn’t expect.) Stirring occasionally, cook until the yams are cooked and a fork goes easily through it. You might want put it under broil it for a few minutes to brown the potatoes a little more. Adjust the seasoning if needed.
The result was more like a chunky hash than “fried” potato pieces — which suits us fine. The caramelized onions go nicely with the sweet potatoes. The duck fat definitely adds the flavor, but the potatoes do not come out greasy at all. Savory and sweet at the same time, this yam/sweet potato concoction turned out delicious!
We’ve found gorgeous organic, heirloom mini-tomatoes here in Stockholm — perfect for making my “Mediterranean salsa” even more colorful! This “salsa” is great alongside meats (pork chops, steaks), as a dip (with gluten-free crackers, for instance), or with eggs (fried or scrambled). Very simple to make, and tasty. In a large bowl, mix together: chopped up the tomatoes; a small red onion, minced; finely mince jalapeno pepper (less or more depending on your tolerance for heat); a big handful of basil, chiffonade; and 2 tablespoons or so of capers (depending on how much you like capers). Squeeze in the juice of one lemon. Drizzle some olive oil, and season with salt to taste.
P.S.> No need to use heirloom mini-tomatoes, of course. Any delicious, preferably organic tomatoes would make a great Mediterranean-style salsa!
Roasted parsnips are a new vegetable dish in our home. I’d never cooked parsnips before, but turns out they are quite easy to roast. A little sweeter and nuttier than carrots, parsnips pair very nicely with slow-roasted lamb — and together, they make a great Sunday dinner! My favorite recipe for a slow-roasted lamb is Jamie Oliver’s “Incredible Roasted Shoulder of Lamb” — although the recipe calls for the shoulder, you could also apply the roasting method on a leg, which is what I did.
As for the parsnips, here’s how I cooked them:
Preheat the oven to 400F (or about 200C). Peel the parsnips and cut them into approx. 1/2 inch slices; lay them out in a baking dish. Chop up a red onion (or 2, if you like red onions); peel and halve 6 or so cloves of garlic. Add some sprigs of thyme or rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and mix. Add about 3 tablespoons of water.
Cover tightly with foil, and put in the oven. After about 20 minutes, take off the foil. Toss the parsnips/onions/garlic, and continue to roast for another 20 minutes or so, until tender. I like to keep moving the vegetables, so that they brown evenly. If you want to crisp up the edges, broil for 5 minutes at the end.
The turnips keep for several days and make for a delicious sweet-ish veggie snack!