Dinner of collards, acorn squash and farro

When your CSA gives you collards and acorn squash, here is a nice way to combine them and call it dinner in very early fall (resistant to summer ending!)

Truth be told I was not pleased to see acorn squash in my CSA bag because I am not a fan. The traditional way it has arrived on my plate has been cut in half and roasted with perhaps a knob of butter and some brown sugar. Boring and regrettable texture. Turns out slicing and roasting makes them palatable. Are they crave-worthy? Hardly! But if you want a nutritious orange vegetable, it’s a fine contender, especially when there is honey (maybe try maple syrup?) and salt. And other ingredients.

Ingredients:

Acorn squash

Collards

Farro

Onion

Garlic

Optional: sage and/or njuda or sausage (to add to collards), 

pepitas, feta

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Get the collards going — fill sink/bowl, shred and swish and let sit to drain any soil

If you want to use vegetable stock to braise the collards, get it out now if frozen to defrost the container in a bowl of water, and then dump frozen stock into pan to thaw/heat.

1. Collard greens, one bunch — soaked/rinsed and torn or cut into ribbons (rolling leaves after cutting in half and slicing)

2. Farro — 1 c rinsed with 3 c water, bay leaf and pinch of salt. Bring to boil covered, then simmer covered for 30 mins. Drain. This can sit and wait for the other components.

3. Acorn squash — ends cut, then cut in half lengthwise, then into slices and de-seeded

Collards:

onion, 1/2— cut into half moons

Garlic, 2 cloves, sliced thin

Heat large-ish sauté pan that has a lid, add olive oil, and when hot add onion and salt and crushed red pepper flakes. Cook several minutes until softened, and then add garlic and cook for a minute or so. 

Add collards, S&P and some stock. Cover and cook for several minutes. Then stir around and perhaps add more stock. Cook for around 20 minutes until softened. A splash of apple cider vinegar or perhaps lemon juice is a good idea to brighten.

Squash: 

Mix in bowl: Honey, olive oil, S&P — mix about 1 T honey with 2 T olive oil. Stir with whisk to combine. Put in sliced squash and spread mixture onto slices.

Take out baking pan and smear on some olive oil thinly. Drop on squash slices. 

Bake about 20 mins, flipping mid-way approx, until tender. 

Assemble in bowl:

Farro

Squash slices

Collards

Feta 

Pepitas would be nice

sources: 

Skillet collards and squash

Collard greens with farro

Honey-roasted acorn squash

Fish and cabbage on an early September eve

I procured a beautiful piece of cod at my food coop, and then picked up Napa cabbage as part of my CSA share the same day. I wanted the flavors of both to merge. So I went in a Thai-ish direction with lemongrass, lime and ginger.

Compound butter for fish:

butter, softened to room temp

Grated lime zest

Lemongrass

ginger, grated

Lime juice

Izak — sweet pepper flakes and cumin

Cabbage:

ginger, grated

Garlic, grated

Sweet chili sauce, optional

Fish sauce

Sweet red pepper, cut in julienne

Hot pepper, finely minced

Napa cabbage, rinsed and cut into thick slices or shredded

Directions:

Heat sauté pan and add peanut oil. 

Add sweet peppers and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally for a few minutes. Next add hot pepper, then garlic and ginger and stir for one minute. 

Add cabbage, salt, stir and add chili sauce and fish sauce, a good splash of water, stir and cover to cook for a couple minutes. Uncover and stir and cook for a few minutes more until just softened. 

To cook fish:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees or slightly higher. When ready to cook, put baking pan in oven with a knob of butter and let heat up a few minutes.

Add fish, season with S&P, top with a knob of compound butter, and cook about 10 minutes, or until cooked through. It’s a nice idea to remove fish periodically and baste fish with melted butter in pan with a spoon.

Serve with wilted cabbage and rice.  Muy bueno!

Fried eggplant

I love eggplant. Except for one recent unfortunate encounter in a new Instant Pot, I would declare I have never had an eggplant dish I did not enjoy. High end restaurant, Sysco-level, I’m always happy if cooked eggplant appears before me. (But I will not purchase supermarket eggplant which is always old and you can feel how mushy it is; you want a very firm flesh eggplant.)

My mother used to fry slices which I liked very much as a child. Flour, egg, breadcrumbs I think was the drill. I have been roasting it for years with a parsley pesto and then topping with mozzarella and parmesan, like a white pizza, which I also adore. I wanted fried eggplant so I tried Sam Sifton’s technique. It scratched the itch, though fair warning: an oil bomb. 

I made a summer sandwich with fried eggplant, tomato, mozzarella and hot pickled peppers with basil mayo on a baguette. Not bad and I’d do it again.85515759-2E48-494B-A8FB-334EA5D3A091

I sliced leftover fried eggplant into strips and added to a pasta and tomato sauce with mozzarella and parmesan as a distant cousin to Pasta a la Norma. 055A22D2-44CF-408E-A424-3C638E819638

Here’s what I did. It is pretty much what Sam Sifton did for his “best fried-eggplant sandwich.”

Get out a baking pan and put a wire rack on top. 

Get out a large sauté pan.

Mix together 3 eggs and grated parmesan cheese, ~2 T

Slice eggplant lengthwise into 3/16”, which you will note is less than 1/4”. I say 1/4” is fine. You can use a mandoline, though mine is not that large and I just used a knife. Peeling the eggplant is a good idea. Though I didn’t, I think the flavor would be improved because fried eggplant skin is bitter. (If you’re not using fresh, fresh eggplant, you may be wanting to salt it first. To do do, sprinkle both sides of slices with salt, place on rack and let stand for 10-15 minutes. Wipe off eggplant slices with paper towel and put on a plate.

Heat sauté pan and when hot, add 1 c olive oil. (I might try using some veg oil)

Fry eggplant slices quickly for about 30-40 seconds per side under just tender, and transfer to the rack. You will want to let them and the pan cool for a couple minutes.

Heat pan over medium high heat until oil is hot. (You may need to add more!)

Then dip eggplant slices in egg mixture and fry until golden and puffy to cook through, about 2-4 mites. Put on rack to drain. Salt. 

You can cook the eggplant slices in advance and let them sit at room temp for a couple hours. They can be stored in refrigerator for a few days, though if you are going to put into a sandwich, you will want to bring up to room temp. 

Another technique is to roast or broil eggplant slices in oven with olive oil. Less oily. And then you can make eggplant parmesan. 

Another idea is to make an eggplant marinara sandwich: layer cooked eggplant in a pan with tomato sauce and cheese and heat in oven until cheese melts, and then put into sliced ciabatta.

 

Dal

I like lentils. A lot. I love Indian food. I have progressed beyond the brown lentils of college era, upscaling to Puy lentils which remain firm and not mushy and to my taste are a step up. Then there is dal, which goes beyond mushy to melty. (Although channa dal is made with chick peas that stay firm.) Dal is a vast culinary landscape and varied in Indian cuisine that now I am eager to explore. Basically you cook lentils for a while until very soft, and then add tempering spices — spices awakened in hot ghee, which you then stir into the cooked dal. 

I bought Toor Dal — yellow lentils or pigeon peas — at my food coop and had them on hand for a while and yesterday I plunged in. Here’s how I went about it, and will happily do again:

Ingredients:

dal, 1 c
tomatoes, 2, chopped

Turmeric, 1/4 t dried, or more fresh, minced

Salt, 1/2 t

Tomatoes, 2, chopped [I used tomato water produced and drained off from roasting tomatoes]

peanuts, 1/4 c raw

For tempering:

Ghee, or combination of butter and peanut oil, 2+T

Brown or black mustard seeds, 1/2 t

Cumin seeds, 1/4 t

Hot chile, stemmed and slit lengthwise

Garlic, 3 cloves, sliced thin

Lemon juice

Directions:

Measure out 1 c. dal. Put in large bowl and add lots of water. Let soak for one hour. Lentils will fluff up a bit. 

Strain lentils and rinse well. Put into soup pot. Add 5 c water, tomatoes, turmeric, & salt.

Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium/low and simmer covered until very ender, 25-30 mins. 

Stir in peanuts. Keep cooking if dal is not very tender, up to 30 mins more. 

In small saucepan over medium heat, warm the ghee. Add mustard and cumin and mix in. Then add chile and garlic and cook two minutes, stirring until garlic turns light golden, or two minutes is up. Stir into dal.

When ready to serve, add lemon juice. Cilantro is a good idea if you have it.

I served it over leftover basmati rice. And I’d be happy to do that again.

Alternative tempering ingredients:

Curry leaves, 1 sprig

Cinnamon stick, 1

Red dried chiles, such as chile de árbol, 3

Black mustard seeds, 1/4 t

More on dal. And even more on dal.

Inspiration: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1020907-toor-dal-split-yellow-pigeon-peas

Fragrant Creamy Lentils with Garlic (Dal), San Francisco Chronicle Cookbook (p 95).

Yes, you too can make GRANOLA!

My muesli supply was depleted earlier this week and not wanting to make the long trek to my food coop, I needed something beyond fruit to put in my morning yogurt. Decided it was high time to turn to granola. I’m not a big fan generally, and would not choose to order it out. 

Luckily — and now happily! — I came upon consummate baker Irvin Lin’s granola recipe which is actually a framework in which to structure your granola-prep based on what you like and what you have on hand. At least that’s the way it worked for me, happily, this a.m. If I had it on hand, I would happily have included dried apricots and coconut — and some coconut oil — but there’s next time.

I also came upon this definition of granola attributed to the Urban Dictionary, which was amusing: 

“An adjective used to describe people who are environmentally aware (flower child, tree-hugger), open-minded, left-winged, socially aware and active, gay friendly, anti-oppressive/discriminatory (racial, sexual, gender, class, age, etc.) with an organic and natural emphasis on living, who might refrain from consuming or using anything containing animals and animal by-products (for health and/or environmental reasons), as well as limit consumption of what he or she does consume, as granola people are usually concerned about wasting resources. Usually buy only fair-trade goods and refrain from buying from large corporations, as most exploit the environment as well as their workers, which goes against granola core values. The choice of not removing body hair (see ‘amazon’) and drug use are not characteristics that define granola people, and people, regardless of granola status, may or may not partake in said activities. This definition is sometimes confused with hippie.” 

Ingredients:

oats, 3 c (350g)  (options: rolled rye, rolled barley)

Nuts, 2 c (125g) — slivered almonds and walnut pieces are good (options include pistachios)

Seeds, 1-1/3 c (200 g) — pepitas. I used less than this quantity and added flax seed meal later with the currants (options: sunflower seeds, chia seeds)

cinnamon, 1 t

Cardamom, 3/4 t

Nutmeg, grated, ~1/2 t or less.   (optional addition: ground ginger, 1 t)

Sea salt, 1 t

Sweetener:

Combine in small pot: 

Maple syrup, 1/4 c — suggest Grade B, dark not amber — for more flavor

Dark brown sugar, 1/4 c. (options: coconut palm sugar; or eliminate and double maple syrup)

Olive oil, 1/3 c (option: melted coconut oil)

vanilla, 2 t

 

Egg whites, 2

Dried fruit for later addition:

Currants, 1-1/2 c (option: dried apricots, coconut, and/or dried cherries as part of a mixture)

Also flax meal to add in later — 1/3 c approx

Directions:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Take out large rimmed baking sheet.

In large bowl, mix together oats and other dry ingredients up through salt.

In small pot combine the maple syrup, sugar, oil and vanilla. Heat over medium heat and stir until brown sugar dissolves. 

Pour sweetener on top of dry ingredients and mix. 

Add in egg whites and mix. 

Dump contents of bowl onto baking sheet and spread out. 

Bake for 20 minutes.
Dump dried fruit — and flax seed meal if using — onto middle of baking sheet, and scrape in pan contents over top to mix. Spread out again and pat down.

Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool to room temp. (If you do not let cool, the granola won’t clump, which is what you want to have happen, particularly for later.)

Store at room temp in covered container. 

Note: this is a close cousin to the crisp topping on fruit crisp, which is delicious served with ice cream melting onto the crisp. So if you like, feel free to use this as dessert with ice cream and perhaps some berries.

Roasted Ratatouille, or how to make a dent in your August vegetable bounty

In August when your CSA share is overflowing with late summer produce, the perfect solution is to throw it all in a pan and roast in the oven. It’s passive and easy and uber-delicious. Here’s how:

Cut up:

Eggplant

Onions — preferably fresh onions — sweet and juicy

Peppers — mostly sweet, cut hot peppers more finely

Tomatoes — cut up and push out seeds to leave only the meaty part

Garlic cloves

Pile up in a large roasting pan. Drizzle on olive oil; salt in layers as you go. 4E50A176-480E-4057-A2DB-210C8CAEED4E

Roast at 400 degrees. 

First for about 40 minutes.A77C50FF-0F15-4ADD-9455-79487954C186

Then stir and put back for another 30 minutes. Toss in sprigs of fresh thyme or marjoram.

Then again and another 30 minutes until reduced and somewhat jammy. 

This is uber-delicious! A vegetable powerhouse okay with, ok, a fair amount of (delicious!) olive oil.

Serve over pasta with basil chiffonade and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve over farro cold. Pile up on good bread toasted, perhaps grating garlic clove onto bread and drizzling olive oil before piling on ratatouille. 

Thanks Ali!
E5D58AE6-C05F-4FEC-A945-BBEF482F7AD8578FAD25-24B5-43B0-BEC8-C8451D23BFF7Last photo is reheated ratatouille (in a pot with a splash of water) sitting atop toasted bread that was scraped with a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil. A dusting of pecorino would not be amiss. B1E497E7-E497-49C7-BB78-B75B3E68572E

Impromptu vegetable stir-fry

Under the banner of cooking dinner does not have to be a big deal, let’s say you have some rice already cooked from an earlier day, and some vegetables and you are hungry for dinner and don’t want a big production. Devote a half hour of pleasant, non-stress vegetable and sauce prep and you can eat well. Only sweet and hot peppers, green beans and celery. Cabbage would have done fine instead of green beans. Here’s how I did it in August:

Sauce:

Soy sauce

Mirin (or sugar)

Toasted sesame oil

Sambal Oleek, or other hot chile sauce

Tofu, pressed, and then cut into cubes

Sweet red peppers, cut into large-ish pieces, larger than medium dice

Hot peppers, minced

Garlic cloves, grated

Ginger, grated

Green beans, washed, cut tips and tails, and cut in half

Celery, sliced, perhaps on a slight diagonal — adds crunch and vegetable bulk

Rice

Directions:

Heat large sauté pan or wok. Add peanut oil and perhaps also sesame oil (untoasted only) and when hot, add tofu cubes. Let sit for 30 seconds or so to brown. Scrape up with spatula and turn, letting sit again but this time a little less time. Scrape up with spatula again, and repeat until tofu is slightly browned — for me, golden and then it all started sticking, so I declared it done. Remove to a plate. 

Add oil and when hot, add: green beans, then peppers and celery. Drizzle on sauce and stir around. (You’re stir-frying!) Last add ginger and garlic and stir around, then add rice and tofu and stir fry it up with some more sauce. 

Perhaps you would like to top with sesame seeds and/or chiffonade basil.  A delicious bowl of protein and fresh vegetable.

Here’s a prior stir fry for winter.

Corn soup

When your CSA is delivering sweet corn weekly and you’re thinking you may not be able to cook it up fast enough, in addition to freezing off the cob — which I have not yet tried — there is soup! Not inclined toward a heavy milk-and-potato heavy chowder in late August, I stumbled happily upon Deborah Madison’s Sweet Corn Soup recipe from her excellent tome, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I heartily recommend. 

Madison’s techniques here are interesting yet easy. First, instead of sautéing onions in the usual manner, you sweat them in a fair amount of water to pre-cook them along with grated potato, which adds body to the soup without dairy. She has you purée the finished soup for three minutes(!) in stages, and then pass through strainer to remove non-digestible corn shards. Puréeing the soup with corn, onions and potatoes thickens into a silky, flavorful soup that is a delight to eat. Croutons would go nicely. Chiffonade of basil on top of finished soup along with a knob of compound butter is a terrific flavor enhancer. A pleasure to eat. Here’s to summer corn!

Here’s how I went about it:

Day One: Cut corn from cobs. Make a vegetable stock. I suggest keeping it simple and plain. Use corn cobs, broken in half. It would be good to think ahead and store some corn cobs in the freezer. 

Day Two: Make the soup.

Ingredients:

corn, four ears, cut from cob

Butter, 1 T (or corn oil to make vegan)

onion, 1 small, sliced thinly — fresh red onion is good

Potato, peeled and grated, 1— to to make 1/2 c.

stock, 4-1/2 c

Herbs and/or compound butter — basil, parsley, dill

Directions:

Slice onion and peel and grate potato.

In a soup pot, melt butter, and add onions and potatoes and 1 c water. Cover and cook gently 10 minutes, until onions are soft. 

Add corn, 1 t salt, and the stock. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes. B075F4D1-3944-4A7B-954E-70E0C18369DF

Let cool briefly — or use quart measuring cup to remove some. Pull out blender and fine mesh strainer. 

Purée soup in blender for 3 minutes. Pour through strainer into a large bowl or a clean pot. 

Heat gently and serve sprinkled with herbs — basil chiffonade — and perhaps with a knob of compound butter. 

Variations:

Cut up fresh tomatoes and basil. Put mozzarella cubes in bottom of soup bowl, and top with tomato and basil. 

Purée chipotle chile and mix with sour cream

Crème fraiche and chives

Soft-boiled eggs, Indonesian style

Some dishes are definitely sum-is-greater-than-the-parts. That’s the situation with these soft-boiled eggs served in a bowl with soy sauce and minced hot peppers. Amazingly delicious. And as a bonus: low fat. That means you can put as much butter on your toast as you like to eat with these eggs. Credit to James Oseland, former editor of Saveur magazine, who wrote a delightful Indonesian cookbook, Cradle of Flavor.

Soft boil eggs. Boil water in pot, reduce heat to vigorous simmer, lower in eggs (with a spoon is good), preferably warmed up to room temp. Then cook 4-1/2 minutes or so.

Cut up red and/or green fresh hot peppers.

Put eggs in bowl: Get eggs out of shell in your manner of choice. I hold hot egg in a towel, tap around pointy end with knife, and remove that shell, being careful to peel off jagged unattached pieces, which I do not want to see end up in my egg bowl, and scoop out insides with a teaspoon.

Sprinkle on top peppers and drizzle soy sauce.

Excellent with toast. Some recommend “soldiers.”

Wild mushroom fricassee 

I believe in ingredient-driven cooking. Especially in summer with abundant produce. If you can get to a cooking level of competence where you can select ingredients from what is available fresh and locally and cook from there, I think the food you prepare will be better and cooking will be more inspired and less of a rigid chore.

However, sometimes dinner time comes around and I haven’t figured out the whole. I picked up some silver(?) boletus from a mushroom seller at the Wednesday farmers market in Hudson that had been foraged. They looked really good. Had no ideas. I looked around cookbooks. Surely I did not want their flavor lost in tomato sauce. Perhaps a white pizza? Then I came upon Peter Berley’s wild mushroom fricassee recipe, from his excellent cookbook Fresh Food Fast, in which he guides us to roast them. That’s a good idea to enhance the flavor. 

So here’s what I did:

Ingredients:

White rice or barley, cooked

Wild mushrooms

onion, 1

pancetta, optional

shallot, 1

Garlic, 2 cloves, minced

Parsley 

Flour 

Directions:
Put up white basmati rice in the rice cooker. Or else cook barley, farro or pasta.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. (450 is do-able if perhaps you have a cleaner oven than moi).

Put baking sheet in oven to heat up. 

Cut up mushrooms into 1” pieces or less. Put in small bowl and douse with olive oil, S&P. 

Dump onto pan and roast 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.

Meanwhile:

Sauté with butter and olive oil:

1 onion, sliced and cut in quarters, preferably sweet and fresh

Shallot

Pancetta, optional

Greens, optional — something light like chard

thyme, optional, if it’s around

When mushrooms are cooked, dump them into pan, add garlic and cook one minute.

Add <1 T flour, stir and cook until brown, then add some water or stock, and cook, stirring at least two minutes. 

Plate with rice, then fricassee, then parsley on top. Pretty darn good!

Options:

Dried mushrooms, soaked in boiling water for 20-30 minutes

Greens such as chard, added in sauté after pancetta