Thursday, May 7, 2015

Parsley and pepita pesto

Sometimes, for example after a long and cold winter when it's finally spring, I go to the grocery store and I just buy everything that's green without making a plan. That's how I ended up this week with a huge bunch of beautiful parsley, the first local spinach, and raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds). Who knows. It's been a long and very busy month for me, and I was just really feeling like a big pot of spaghetti would do the trick. I've definitely extolled the virtues of obscene quantities of spaghetti on this blog before. So, parsley-pepita pesto was born! And it is delicious! Turns out you don't just have to make pesto out of basil and pine nuts, actually it can be cheaper and just as tasty to throw other weird stuff in there. Sorry to include another recipe that requires a food processor, my next post will be entirely food processor free!

Parsley and pepita pesto:

2 C flat-leaf parsley leaves and thin stems (this was the amount in one bunch for me)
1/2 C raw hulled pepitas, unsalted (they look like little green teardrops, not with the hard white outer shell)
1/4 C grated pecorino or parmesan cheese
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt or to taste (watch this depending on how salty the cheese is or if you're using salted pepitas)
1 tsp rice vinegar (I know that seems weird, but you barely taste it at all! You could also use cider vinegar or lemon juice)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp pasta water from the cooking pasta, or just warm tap water

Combine parsley, pepitas, garlic, cheese and vinegar in the bowl of your food processor and run the machine until a relatively-even consistency paste forms (you might have to scrape down the sides of the bowl). Taste for salt content, and add all or some of the salt, and run machine again until blended. If your machine has an opening at the top where you can pour things in while the machine is running (mine does), add the olive oil one tablespoon at a time with the machine running. If not, add one tablespoon at a time until combined, then do the same with the water. That's it!

I cooked one pound of spaghetti, and added 4 C of thoroughly washed and chopped spinach to the cooking water with one minute of cooking time remaining on the pasta. Then I drained the pasta and spinach, and added it back to the pasta pot while still hot to toss with all of the pesto. Taste for salt and pepper, garnish with a little more cheese, parsley or olive oil, and eat copious amounts!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Mashed potatoes and rutabaga, lentils with roasted mushrooms, cabbage salad

"Neeps and tatties" is the hilarious Scottish name for this mashed potato and rutabaga dish, I discovered when googling what to cook with a rutabaga. How could you read about something like that and not cook it immediately? Coupled with the fact that my cooking pal on this post, Jess, is a mashed potato connoisseur, it seemed like a great choice. We're currently at that weird part of Spring here in Philly where it's in the mid forties at night, thus cold enough to still eat some of our favorite comfort foods before full summer sweatiness of 100% humidity means that all recipes will be chosen purely based on how long any kind of heating element needs to be on to make them (i.e. preferably, 0).

Here's Jess artfully showing off what a rutabaga looks like. Should this blog become only about cooking with pals? Sure seems like it! Thanks 2 Jess for cooking with me and bringing really yummy mango sorbet for dessert, perfect pal hang! PS if this cabbage salad seems gross to you, honestly get out because this is only the beginning of raw cabbage salad season. So I guess just, prepare for it's delicious! One of us had 3 helpings ^_^

Neeps and tatties:

Enough potatoes (preferably yellow) to fill 5 C of ~ 1 inch cubes
Enough rutabaga to fill 4 C of ~ 1 inch cubes (see above picture for how much we used, I'd say around 2 lbs of each vegetable)
1.5 C full fat buttermilk, or whatever dairy thing you prefer. You could mix a little yogurt into whole milk, or just use whole milk. But we really liked the tangy flavor from the buttermilk
3 tbsp of unsalted butter, or more or less to taste
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper

Bring your largest possible pot about 2/3 of the way full of water to boil. We elected not to peel the potatoes but of course you can, and you should certainly wash and peel the rutabaga. Dice both potatoes and rutabagas into 1 inch cubes, but keep them separate because they have different cooking times. When the water comes to a boil, add a generous amount of salt and carefully add in all of the rutabaga. Boil, covered, for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, add the potatoes and boil for another 15 to 20 minutes, until both the rutabaga and the potatoes can be very easily pierced with a fork. Drain the pot and let drain in the sink / continue to heat and fluff for a good five minutes. Meanwhile, measure out the buttermilk and get the butter ready. Now, this is important -- transfer the neeps and tatties a.k.a potatoes and rutabaga back to the pot you cooked them in, or a serving bowl, and add the buttermilk first without adding any butter. This is apparently what keeps the potatoes fluffy and prevents butter from pooling up. Mash with a masher or a fork until all the milk is incorporated, then add the butter and continue to mash and stir until it's all melted in. Then add the salt and pepper, and you're done! Easy!

Lentils with roasted mushrooms

This dish is a really easy one to throw together, and I love serving it with the mashed potatoes because it's very savory and almost meaty tasting. You could use any kind of lentil here and any kind of mushroom, you'll just be cooking both separately and throwing them together with some butter, garlic, herbs and mustard so truly nothing can go wrong.

1 lb cremini mushrooms, or your preferred type or a mix
1 C dried lentils, we used the small brown kind
1 clove garlic, diced finely
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp creamy Dijon mustard
handful of fresh parsley
olive oil

Set out a small sauce pan with lentils and 4 C water. Bring to a boil and continue cooking on medium to low heat, covered, for around 20 minutes or until the lentils are fully cooked but not falling apart.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees (you see what I mean about this being an early Spring, not a late Spring or Summer recipe). Wipe mushrooms clean with a damp paper towel and separate stems and caps. Cut mushrooms into slices and dice caps finely, and place in a baking dish that will comfortably hold them all. You'll want it to be something pretty sturdy with some depth (so, not a cookie sheet), because the mushrooms will release a lot of liquid in the oven. Toss mushrooms with around a tablespoon of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes or until you see lots of liquid in the bottom of the dish and the mushrooms have shrunken in size significantly.

As lentils and mushrooms are finished (hopefully you can time it so they're done at around the same time) add them to a large serving bowl and toss with the butter, mustard, herbs, diced garlic, salt and pepper. All done! Make sure when you add the mushrooms to really pour in all of that liquid that the mushrooms release because the lentils will soak it all up, and it makes the whole thing taste amazing.

Red cabbage slaw

This is really my go-to salad choice, always. I think I have probably extolled the virtues of slaw elsewhere on this blog or / every day to you in person if you are my friend but this salad is honestly everything I look for. There's a vinegary bite that's well balanced between sweet and salty, cabbage always stays crunchy, and shallots are delicious. This simple slaw is a good balance to rich neeps and tatties (no, I won't stop saying it). One note, you might prefer more or less dressing here depending on preference or how large your cabbage is (ours was pretty small), so just double or half as desired -- or if you prefer a creamy dressing for a coleslaw type of effect, you could add a tablespoon of plain yogurt in to the mix here too. I like to use red cabbage because it's prettier and usually comes in smaller head sizes, but any kind of cabbage would taste good here.

1/2 red cabbage
1 small shallot
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Slice cabbage in half and remove tough core -- I do two diagonal cuts and sort of remove it as a triangle wedge from the bottom, but it's also easy to cut the cabbage into quarters and cut out the core on a bias. Slice cabbage into smallest shreds you possibly can. I guess some people use a food processor or a mandolin slicer but I've never found that necessary, just a steady hand to cut sort of ribbons from one quarter at a time. Mix all dressing ingredients together separately, then pour over cabbage slices, toss, taste for salt and pepper and enjoy! You might want to let it sit for just a minute before serving so that the cabbage can soften just slightly in the dressing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Vegetarian lasagna for pals

The recipe that I'm about to post will seem like it's not for the faint of heart; there are many, many steps. But each step is simple and can be accomplished with a variety of homemade and store bought ingredients. Maybe you're more adventurous than I am and you have pasta-making skills and want to roll your own lasagna noodles, or maybe you're more pressed for time than I was and you use jarred marinara sauce and frozen spinach. Ultimately, I suppose that somebody would be able to tell the difference in a side by side comparison of lasagnas -- but nobody's going to do that, and everybody is going to be so, so thrilled that you made them a lasagna that they won't say a word. I put this lasagna together with love for my pals Andrew and Rachel who just welcomed a lil tiny baby into their house, and I can imagine that activities like cooking are eons away from their minds. So maybe you have a friend going through a stressful and busy time, or maybe you just love your friends so much that you gift them giant hulking trays of pasta and cheese. Either way, this recipe is special and the end result is tasty, small in dimensions but stacked tall so it'll be easy for your pal to stick in their fridge, easily reheated and freezes extremely well. I have some suggestions at the bottom of the recipe for how to gift this lasagna and step by step pics for how to assemble. Of course you can make this lasagna for yourself as well, and actually you could double the recipe without all that much extra effort and assemble two at once, one for you and one for your pal!

This is one of those recipes where having all of your ingredients in front of you before you begin is essential, and you don't want to start assembling the lasagna before everything is ready and laid all out for you, just to help you stay organized. I've laid out a plan for making homemade marinara sauce, using the kinds of noodles that require parboiling, and using fresh spinach and mushrooms. If you follow what I laid out here, you should really only end up with a half dozen dirty dishes--! I know you don't believe me, but it's true. This was essential in my planning, which other folks without a dishwashing partner surely understand.

My general plan:
1. start marinara sauce and set it to simmer (sauce pan)
2. cook spinach (your very largest pasta pot and a strainer)
3. cook mushrooms (use the spinach pot)
4. boil water for noodles (use the spinach/mushroom pot)
5. put together ricotta mixture (large mixing bowl)
6. grate the pecorino cheese (small mixing bowl)
7. boil noodles and drain (spinach/mushroom pot and a strainer)
8. assemble lasagna (lasagna pan, I used a disposable aluminum one because this was a gift)

See!? Not so bad. OK, here it goes:

Marinara sauce:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion
2 garlic cloves
1 or 2 carrots, enough for ~ 1 C when grated
1/4 C red or white wine (optional)
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes (I used the kind with basil in them already)
handful of chopped fresh parsley and oregano (optional)
1 C whole milk (optional but really nice in the lasagna)
salt and pepper to taste

Dice onions fine, mince garlic cloves and grate the carrot on a small or medium setting on your box grater (or alternatively, dice fine). Add olive oil to your sauce pan and heat on medium heat. When the oil's hot, add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook stirring occasionally until translucent, about four minutes. Add the carrots and garlic and cook for another minute. Add the wine, stir and let it evaporate for a minute, then add the tomatoes. Bring to a boil (but keep an eye on it because the mix will be somewhat thick and you don't want sauce everywhere as it's bubbling), then lower to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat and add salt and pepper to taste (for the lasagna, err on the side of less salt because there will be a lot of other, seasoned components in the dish), and stir in the milk and herbs, and set aside somewhere out of the way.


18 oz of fresh spinach (volume isn't super important here; I would avoid baby spinach because I think it's stringy when cooked up, I used bags of spinach from the grocery store which came in 9 oz quantities. Shoot for a pound of spinach, and a little more or less doesn't change things much. This was a very high spinach to ricotta ratio at the end)

Rinse spinach thoroughly in a strainer. No need to get all the water off, it will help steam the spinach faster. Turn heat to medium under your big pasta pot and add all the spinach, stirring / being patient as it all gradually wilts down. Cook until just wilted and bright green, and drain spinach back into the strainer and immediately run cold water over it. This should make it cool enough to handle, and you'll want to squeeze as much water out of the spinach as you can. Set spinach aside.


1/2 lb any kind of mushrooms, I used cremini 
Small amount of chopped parsley and/or oregano (optional)

Wipe out spinach pot but don't go crazy with washing it. Add a small splash of oil and season with a pinch of salt, and cook mushrooms on medium heat until they release some liquid and get color on them, about 5 or 6 minutes. Turn off heat and pour mushrooms into a glass bowl, toss with a little chopped parsley and oregano if you're using it elsewhere.

Lasagna noodles:

Your package of noodles will give you the most accurate instructions on how to prepare them. Mine had to boil for 4 minutes, then drain. Yours might be the no boil kind, which you often soak in a little bit of milk ahead of time. Just follow whatever instructions you need to get the noodles ready to assemble the lasagna. If you're rolling homemade noodles -- you're on your own, because I've never done that before! I used 9 noodles in total from my 12 oz box, which was around half the noodles in the box.

Assemble the lasagna:

All of the components prepared above PLUS:

Ricotta filling: 

1 C full fat ricotta
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 C fresh parsley, chopped coarsely
2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped coarsely

and, 1 C grated parmesan or pecorino cheese (keep separate from filling)

Mix all of the above ingredients together in a large mixing bowl and set aside for a minute. Take your cooked spinach and squeeze in a kitchen towel or against the edges of the strainer (or I just used my hands) and try to get as much water out of the spinach as you possibly can. This will help keep the lasagna from getting too watery. Then mix the spinach in thoroughly with the ricotta and set aside. Gather all of your lasagna components around you, including the baking dish. I used a deep square pan from the grocery store, which came with its own lid making this all even easier when it came time to carry the lasagna to my pals.

Coat the inside of the pan with a little bit of olive oil. Spoon about 1/4 C of the marinara into the bottom. Next layer lasagna noodles, overlapping one another slightly, to line the bottom of the pan. Then take 1/2 C of the ricotta mixture and 1/4 C of the marinara and dollop across the surface of the noodles, as evenly as you can. Sprinkle with 1/4 C of grated cheese. Cover this layer with another layer of noodles and repeat, this time adding the mushrooms with the ricotta, until you've filled your pan to the top (the lasagna will sink a little as it cooks, so it's ok to fill it up pretty full). These suggestions got me a generously filled, 3 layer lasagna, but if you're using a bigger pan, you might want to adjust the filling amounts and do just two layers.

Bake the lasgana on top of a cookie sheet at 350 degrees, covered with aluminum foil for 40 minutes and uncovered for about 15 minutes or until the cheese has melted on the top and the whole thing is really bubbling.

To prepare this as a gift for someone like I did, you have some options! You can gift it unbaked, cooked, and frozen either unbaked or cooked, all depending on what your friends would prefer. If you freeze it, make sure to either defrost the lasgana in the fridge for several hours before baking, or plan on double the baking time (warming up an already baked lasagna should take about 30 minutes at 350, and probably an hour if its frozen). To gift it unbaked, ask your friends to bake it within a day and store it in the fridge until they do, or freeze.

Wow! Congrats to you for making your way through my lasagna novel. Basically, the point being that there's not actually a lot of technique or difficulty to putting one of these together, it just takes some time.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Grilled mushroom and beet sandwich

Cooking dinner with a pal is one of my most favorite ways to spend an evening -- sharing stories and gossip and silly jokes with the conversation seemingly always heading toward dinner-inappropriate topics, and dinner time getting pushed back later and later because of all the gabbing (hence the discrepancy in the amount of natural light in the above two pictures, haha!). I was so glad that Talia wanted to brighten my Wednesday and cook with me, contributing some pretty beets and peeling a million carrots and chopping mushrooms and eating her sandwich open-faced so I could show you guys what it looks like on the inside while cooking at the bottom of the post! Talia and I like to cook together when we hang out, and she eats a mostly vegan diet ("mostly" here meaning, with the exception of cakes and sweets ;)) so I always have a good time making and thinking through predominantly animal product free recipes.

This meal was inspired by Wednesday being CSA day and also by beet neglect. Talia said that the beets she had would be best roasted because they'd started to go a little soft, as beets and carrots tend to do, so I ditched a plan I'd initially had for a raw salad (soon!) and decided to make a sandwich. It's like a grilled cheese but with no cheese (although a goat cheese would go really well here!). But the mushrooms are fairly rich and between that and grilling the sandwich we didn't miss the cheese at all, and the whole thing held together really nicely. 

This sautéed mushroom recipe is one of those recipes I have that I follow to a T every time, and every time it comes out perfect. I made it on a whim as a solution to my own mushroom neglect a few years ago out of Mark Bittman's great cookbook How to Cook Everything Vegetarian and have made it innumerable times since then. I'll often double it because cremini mushrooms are cheap through my CSA and eat leftovers on toast, so I thought it would make a great sandwich filling. I had an inkling that the beets would go well texturally and round out a sandwich with a sweet component but I wasn't expecting the end result to be so tasty! Meat eaters among you are no doubt rolling your eyes but it's salty, savory, sweet and crunchy all at once, which are hallmarks of an excellent sandwich for me. The salad is a simple one of raw carrots much like last week, with dressing recipe below. You could easily make this vegan by replacing the butter in the mushroom recipe with more oil (so 1/4 C olive oil total).

Roasted beets:

Any amount of beets, probably one medium sized beet gives you enough slices for two sandwiches
Splash of vegetable oil or cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rub or spray a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to wrap all the way around your beet(s) to create a packet with oil. Wrap up the beet completely in the foil, or bundle several beets together. Roast on a cookie sheet (the beets might lose a bit of liquid and bubble over so you'll want that sheet underneath them) until you can easily pierce the beet with a fork, this took us about 50 minutes. We jumped ahead here and started the mushrooms and salad prep. When the beets are cooked to your liking, carefully place them in a strainer and immediately run under very cold water, or you can shock them in an ice bath. Slice tops and bottoms off the beets and do your best to peel off the skin once they're cool enough to handle (the water should help cool them and loosen the skin). Slice into about half inch thin disks, or quarter moons if the beet(s) are very large. Set slices aside. 

Sautéed mushrooms, adapted only slightly from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman:

1 lb cremini mushrooms, or any mix of mushrooms
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste 
A few cracks of fresh ground black pepper or about 1/4 tsp
1/4 cup white wine (can be omitted or replaced with red wine)
3 garlic cloves
Handful of Italian parsley leaves, from about a quarter of a bunch 

Wipe mushrooms with a barely damp paper towel, gently removing dirt clumps and brushing away any other debris. Separate caps and stems when possible. Slice mushrooms into longest possible thin slices and chop stems finely. Heat oil and butter in a pan large enough to hold all your mushrooms on medium heat. (Keep in mind it'll be easiest to use this pan to grill the sandwiches later). When the butter is just melted add mushrooms and salt and pepper and cook stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Add garlic and wine and cook stirring more frequently for another 5 minutes or until no liquid is left in the pan. Throw in parley, stir off of the heat and empty mushrooms into a heat proof bowl and set aside (but keep the pan on the stove to finish the sandwiches). 

Assembling sandwiches:

Bread slices 
A little bit of butter
Your favorite mustard, we used creamy Dijon 

Stack the bread slices the way that the sandwich will be put together and butter the outsides of both slices (this might not be necessary if there's still a lot of oil and butter left in your mushroom pan and the pan is nonstick). Turn the slices out onto a plate or cutting board so that you're looking at what will be the inside of the sandwich and scoop some sautéed mushrooms on. We used 2 tbsp per sandwich, approximately. Then top with as many slices of beets as you'd like / will fit on the sandwich. Spread a generous amount of mustard on the empty slice of bread. Put the sandwich together and heat the same pan you used for mushroom sautéing on medium high heat. Carefully place the sandwich and cook for about five minutes or until crispy and golden brown, then flip with a spatula and do the other side. We had enough mushrooms to make two heaping sandwiches with leftovers to make one more!

We served this with another carrot ribbon salad like last week's, made from two large carrots, and a dressing of: 

The juice of one lemon 
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp creamy Dijon mustard
Small handful of Italian parsley 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Tempeh tacos and carrot radish salad

I'm back! I decided to resurrect my blog. Instead of keeping up with the idea of weekly CSA recipes, I decided to make this just generally about the vegetarian meals that I cook for myself to eat throughout the week. I still prioritize cooking with local produce and food without preservatives and additives whenever I can, and I still can't say enough positive things about my CSA, Phillyfoodworks. So watch this space again for hopefully weeklyish vegetarian recipes! 

So today I'm sharing a taco filling recipe that's super easy to make and can also be repurposed as leftovers for nachos or quesadillas or wraps or sandwiches or whatever. The tempeh that I use I buy in bulk from the co-op and is made of non-GMO soy. I love it, but if tempeh isn't your thing just replace with black beans or very firm tofu. Depending on what kinds of soy sauce, tortillas, tempeh and toppings you use, these tacos can very easily be gluten free and/or vegan. 

The salad is really inspired by the physical beauty of the produce I got in my CSA this week, particularly the rainbow carrots. I thought a really simple salad would be the best way to eat them, and plus a slaw type of salad is my favorite because it keeps well in the fridge for a few days, so it's easy to pack in a Tupperware and get a serving of veggies in at lunch at work. 

Oh one last thing -- the radish I used for this salad is *absurd* (see above) and is longer than my arm and is apparently called a "green meat radish" which I find to be a very gross name. I've also seen it in H-Mart as "Korean radish." You could really use any kind of radish here but I think a daikon radish is the most similar. If you're using smaller globe or breakfast radishes, use an entire bunch. 

Tempeh taco filling:
16 oz tempeh or about 3 C crumbled 
1 small yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1 jalapeño 
1 can no salt added fire roasted diced tomatoes, or whatever canned tomatoes you have on hand
3 tbsp chili powder (no salt added, if possible)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
1/4 c cider vinegar
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tsp kosher salt, or table salt

4 large carrots 
1/2 green meat radish (sometimes Korean radish) or daikon radish or whole bunch of globe or breakfast size radishes 

1/4 c rice vinegar 
1/4 c cider vinegar 
1/4 c olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 shallot

Prepare Tempeh:
Crumble tempeh into a large bowl. I find that it's easiest to do this by hand but you could also mash and break up the brick of tempeh with a fork. Dice onion, garlic and jalapeño finely, adding them to the bowl of tempeh as you go.  Add all other taco filling ingredients directly in to the bowl and stir very well. The mixture should be only slightly wet (see the bottom of the post for a picture). Set aside for at least a few minutes for the tempeh to marinate and absorb the flavors. (I paused here and made the salad, then came back to cook the tempeh). 

Cook tempeh
Heat 3 tbsp oil in a wide skillet -- you can use less oil if you're using a nonstick pan. With heat on medium low, heat oil for a few seconds and add tempeh mixture, cook for 15 minutes stirring occasionally then bump the heat up to medium and cook for 2 minutes without stirring very much. The goal is really more to steam the tempeh for that first 15 minutes and then quickly get a little color on it. 

Make salad:
Dice shallot fine and whisk together with all dressing ingredients in a small bowl or cup. Set aside. 

Using a box grater or a vegetable peeler, either grate or peel all carrots and radish into ribbons. Toss in large bowl with dressing. It might be just slightly too much dressing, but I never mind that much with a slaw because it'll just fall to the bottom, it won't make the salad soggy. 

Assemble tacos:
Heat tortillas on a medium hot skillet or frying pan that's been rubbed or sprayed with a tiny bit of oil (not necessary if you have a nonstick pan). They just need about 8 seconds on each side. Fill each taco with a spoonful of tempeh mix and top with scallions, cilantro, cheddar or queso fresco, diced jalapeños, hot sauce, avocados, whatever your favorite toppings are! 

This makes enough for a dozen or so generously filled tacos and keeps well for a few days in the fridge. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Week 8 - two marinated salads

Well, I once again missed the deadline to order produce from the CSA this week. But I took this opportunity to shop at the farmer's market near my workplace, where a neighborhood farm was selling the most adorable and perfectly-round cherry tomatoes that I couldn't ignore. The kale at the co-op also looked great and cheap (and, ok, the reason I really went there was to buy mozzarella cheese). I've never gotten on the raw kale salad bandwagon, even though I'm a huge fan of eating vegetables raw when all of your human nature and inclination would tell you to cook them (raw beet salad? yes! cabbage in everything? yes! shaved asparagus? (isn't there a better way to refer to this? but) yes!)

So this marinated kale salad is for those of you out there who are all like:

whenever somebody mentions raw kale salad.

I'm excited about both recipes because there's no massaging of kale involved (no, I don't want to rub my fingers all over the food I'm about to eat or possibly serve to others, thank you) and both use marinating to improve the flavor. This also solves a few issues I sometimes have with salad, which is that it generally can't be made in advance and stored, and that even on days when I'm being good and craving a salad, the prospect of washing, spinning, chopping, etc. seems daunting. But now! Just reach in to the fridge and scoop out two tasty helpings of salad, pack them up for work, and enjoy!

Marinated tomato, basil, mozzarella and chickpea salad:

This is a take on the caprese salad, but the ratio is very heavily skewed toward chickpeas for some more protein and to make this into a more substantial, meal-type salad. If you double the amount of tomatoes and mozzarella or halve the amount of chickpeas, that would bring everything back into balance. (If you're doubling tomatoes and cheese, though, double the amount of dressing as well). Of course you can eat this salad without marinating it, but it's seriously a 100% improvement if you wait.

-1 pint of cherry or grape tomatoes, or about 2 C of chopped/mixed other kinds of tomatoes
-1 small shallot
-4 oz fresh mozzarella (watch this carefully, in my experience fresh mozz often comes in 8 oz portions. Not that too much cheese would be that big of a problem...)
-1 25 oz can of chickpea, or ~2.5 C
-handful of basil leaves (enough to fill 1/4 C sliced)
-1/2 tsp coarse salt
-1/4 C olive oil
-2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
-black pepper to taste 

Rinse and slice tomatoes into halves or quarters, depending on their size, so that they're bite sized. Try to slice along the core of the tomato (down the middle), so that all the "guts" stay in place. Peel and slice shallot in half, and then into very thin half-moon slices. Slice cheese into cubes, roughly the same size as your tomatoes. Chop basil leaves into thin ribbons -- the easiest way to do this is to stack the leaves, roll them up on the long side into a thick roll, and slice perpendicularly with a sharp knife. Open the chickpeas and drain and rinse very thoroughly. Add everything to a large bowl or Tupperware where you'll be marinating the salad. Combine remaining ingredients in another bowl and whisk to emulsify/combine. Taste to see if the salt and acidity is right. Err on the side of more oily and more salty. Pour dressing over the tomato mixture in the bowl, stir gently to combine and cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours, keeps for several days. Bring back to near room temperature before eating, because sometimes the olive oil can solidify in the fridge a bit.

Marinated kale salad:

This is more a technique idea than a singular recipe. You can easily do this with whatever dressing combo you like. I will say that if you want any add ins that would get mushy or weird if stored in the salad (croutons, nuts, seeds, cheese etc) you should not include those in the marinade and just top the salad as you serve it. Fresh or dried fruit or cooked beans should be fine though.

-1 bunch kale, any type
-about 1/2 C of your favorite dressing. I use my Dijon vinaigrette from this post

Chop kale into ribbons as thin as you can get them, removing the leaves from the stems if the stems are tough. Rinse and drain well. Pour dressing into the bottom of a Tupperware or bowl or large mason type jar with tight-fitting lid (make sure the container is large enough for all of your kale). Add kale to the Tupperware and seal. Turn upside down so that the dressing collects on the lid, then turn right-side up. Shake the Tupperware a bit so that the dressing gets distributed evenly. Refrigerate for at least a few hours, keeps well for a few days. It's a good idea to remove the Tupperware and shake or stir every once in a while so it marinates evenly.

Once again, stir and bring this to room temperature before serving because olive oil may separate or solidify a bit in the fridge.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Week 7 - escarole and chickpeas

Sometimes you just need spaghetti. There's something about it, it's so comforting and delicious and filling and somehow exactly the right shape. But I also have this food guilt complex where I would never, despite my love for spaghetti, sit down to a whole bowl of it without any supplemental vegetables, and yet I really prefer pasta dishes to be as plain/with as few ingredients as possible. Hence the "side veg" I've written up here. As a vegetarian, many of my meals are actually comprised of a few different "side veg" dishes that compliment each other. Rather than one stand-out protein I'll aim for a few different dishes with smaller amounts of complementary proteins.

I served this alongside a spaghetti with a quick sauce of garlic sauteed in olive oil and butter with a small splash of white wine thrown in, plenty of salt and pepper. Nothing is more satisfying to me than a big ol' fork-full of spaghetti, picturing, as I eat, the lustrous flowing spaghetti tsunami of Strega Nona: 

Hem. But I really do love escarole and chickpeas cooked this way. In my mind, it's essential to cook chickpeas from dried for this dish, because you use their cooking liquid (which, Mark Bittman taught me, tastes *incredible*) to add flavor and body to the greens. You could easily serve this on top of the spaghetti or another pasta or grain if you're not a weirdo like me, or it's delicious eaten as a main dish on its own. It's also tasty cold, in my opinion, if you're not in a hot foods mood because, oh, it's the middle of summer in Philadelphia.

Escarole with chickpeas:

-1 medium bunch of escarole, mine was ~1 lb
-1 C dried chickpeas, picked over for stones or broken beans and rinsed quickly in cold water
-2 cloves of garlic
-parmesan rind if you have one handy
-1 lemon
-salt and pepper to taste
-generous glug of olive oil
-parmesan or pecorino romano cheese as garnish

Place chickpeas in your largest pot, and fill to around 3/4 of the way full with water. Add parmesan rind if you're using it and one of the garlic cloves, peeled but left whole. Bring the chickpeas to a boil, and leave to boil for a full two minutes. Stir, cover the pot, lower the heat to "low" or whatever heat setting leaves you with constant, mild bubbling, and cook until the chickpeas are soft enough to bite in to but still firm, probably around 40 minutes but it can really depend on the age of your beans. At this point, when they're just beginning to soften, add a palm-full of salt to the pot, stir, and cover again. Chances are, that was the halfway-point in cooking the beans, so it will probably be another 30 - 40 minutes before they're ready.

In the meantime, remove the core or end to your escarole bunch (this step is very important to properly rinse the escarole of dirt or sand) and slice into approximately 1 inch strips. I do this by holding the butt end and cutting the whole bunch in half, then turning the newly-flat side down on the cutting board and slicing perpendicular at 1 inch intervals. Rinse well with cold running water and leave to drain in a colander in the sink. Mince the remaining garlic clove and set aside. Juice the lemon and set that aside as well in a small bowl. This is usually the point at which I start cooking the pasta I'm going to serve with.

Taste the chickpeas after the 30 or 40 minutes have gone by since you added salt. If they're ready and at the texture that you like, slowly and carefully add in your escarole. It will seem like it won't all fit at first, but by that miraculous property of cooking greens they'll shrink down in volume by like 2/3 or something. Cook greens until tender, about 2 minutes. Reserve a small amount of cooking liquid, you'll only use a tablespoon, and then drain the greens and chickpeas together. Add a generous amount of olive oil to the same pot back on the stove on low heat, and cook the garlic you set aside before until fragrant. Add the 1 TBSP of reserved cooking liquid, a generous amount of salt and pepper, and cook stirring frequently until the volume has reduced some. Add the chickpeas and greens back to the pot and stir until the greens and beans are evenly coated. Top with lemon juice (although, this will discolor the greens slightly and make them look brown-ish as they look in my picture at the top of this post. If that bothers you, save the lemon juice until you're ready to serve the dish) and sprinkle with cheese to serve.