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:
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).