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!

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).

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.

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

Baked tofu with shiitakes and bok choy

I used to buy (expensive!) baked tofu because I like the flavor contribution seasoned tofu adds to a dish. Once I tried mixing up a sauce and sliced and baked myself, I realized how easy (and inexpensive!) it is. If you want to skip a step, you need not make two different sauces for tofu and rest of dish — combine into one.

Prepare ahead:

Put up rice to cook. Basmati is nice. Or plan way ahead and put up brown rice.

Press tofu

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Put up pot of water to boil bok choy

Tofu: Put parchment on a baking sheet.

Make glaze for tofu:

3 T stock

2 T mirin

Heat to boil for 20 seconds. Turn heat down to low, and stir in: 1 rounded T miso, and 1/2 t sugar. 

Remove from heat and 

Stir in: <1 t sesame oil.

Divide in half.

For tofu, mix into half the glaze: 1 t sesame oil, spicy Ssam sauce (or Thai Chile sauce plus cayenne), 1 T peanut oil and 1 t soy sauce. 

Slice tofu, dip both sides in glaze and put onto baking sheet. Bake for 15+ minutes. Maybe edges will start to crisp or darken. Remove and let cook on baking sheet.

For bok choy and shiitakes:

Cut stem off bok choy; cut in half width-wise, separating stems from leaves. Slice stems, cut leaves into large slices. Put into sinkful of water to swish and let soil fall off. Drain.

When water boils, add stems, and then 30 seconds later, add leaves and boil for another minute. Drain and run cold water over bok choy to stop cooking. Leave in colander to drain. 

(4) Cut off stems from shiitakes and slice tops. Mince a couple garlic cloves. Grate some ginger. 

Heat pan and add 1 T peanut oil. Add shiitakes, and let sit for 30 seconds. Then stir with salt and cook 2 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, and cook 2 more minutes, stirring. Add Kirin and deglaze. Add in bok choy, toss and heat with miso glaze. 

Serve:

Tofu

Shiitakes & bok choy with glaze

Rice

Delicious!

 

Sources:

Baked miso-glazed tofu with wild mushrooms

And Glazed Shiitakes with Bok Choy by David Tanis

 

Nicoise-ish Salad with farro

When you want a substantial dinner salad in August, Nicoise is the way to go. Feeling like farro rather than lettuce, I put this together. I boiled eggs and green beans in the morning and made dressing. Anchovies in the dressing makes for less bracing eating. 

Vinaigrette:

Shallot, small, diced and macerated in red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar for 10-15 mins

Garlic, 2 cloves, grated

Mustard

Anchovies, minced

Lemon juice and perhaps some zest as well

S&P

Olive oil

Components:

Cook ahead:

Farro

Hard boiled egg

Par-boiled green beans

new potatoes, boiled I salted water, peeled after boiling, and sliced — let them sit in some dressing ahead of time

Tomatoes, cubed or cut however you want; cherry tomatoes are also fine in addition

Tuna — Ortiz jarred in oil is very good

Oil-cured or nicoise olives pitted

Optional:

Red peppers, julienned, or even green if they’re not bitter

Capers, rinsed

Basil, chiffonade or perhaps some parsley on top of salad

Swiss chard, fresh onions, pasta and lots more in a summer bowl

Chard is a handy vegetable because it grows continuously throughout the growing season so when it is too hot for spinach and kale is not around, here are some leafy greens to cook and eat. Best when very, fresh, like from your CSA. I never buy it in the supermarket — I avoid like off-season tomatoes and zucchini. I tried the Sundays at Moosewood ziti and chard recipe but was underwhelmed and I lowered my regard for chard. But then I thought about it, and realized it needs some flavor accompaniments — a bass note and some high notes, which I did with ndjuda (which makes everything it touches better!) and lemon juice, and threw in some nuts for texture contrast.

Here is what I made on a mid-summer eve in late July, when there was chard, fresh red onions and smaller onions/scallions, and some early season eh tomatoes. I will do this again. Mangia!

Ingredients:

Fresh red onions & scallions — maybe 1 onion and greens and 2 scallions?. Sliced.

Chard — 1 bunch, rinsed and torn leaves, stems cut into smallish-pieces (if you want stems which I rarely do)

Garlic — several cloves, minced

Hot pepper flakes

A few small tomatoes if available, cut

nduja or perhaps anchovies (for a bass note), about 1 oz nduja or 3 anchoves

Lemon juice — about 3 T

Roasted garlic oil, if available — from this recipe.

Parmesan

Penne

Pine nuts or walnuts, preferably toasted, or not

Directions:

Wash and lightly drain chard. If you like, cut up stalks to use also. 

Sauté onions in olive oil in a large sauté pan (that has a lid) for a few minutes with salt and add half scallions, especially white parts. Add hot pepper flakes and kosher salt. Then add nduja or anchovies and cook for a couple minutes, mashing and smashing, then add garlic, cook for a minute. Stir in chard, sprinkle on salt, add a bit of water, stir around and cover and cook for about 5 minutes. 

You can let this sit while you cook pasta — penne or perhaps ziti.

In between stirring pasta, add some cut up tomatoes and stir into chard mixture to cook and break down for a few minutes. Toss in remaining scallions.

Grate cheese, and squeeze lemon. Add a few T of lemon juice to chard mixture. 

When pasta is just al dente, drain and add to chard mixture in sauté pan, and stir to combine. 

Serve:

Pasta mixture

Drizzle olive oil, preferably the roasted garlic oil(!)

Parmesan

Nuts

Yum!

Farro salad with zucchini and onions

In July the zucchini and summer squash is starting to come in full-bore and you’re going to want to figure out uses. It’s fairly flavorless in my view and unexciting. One option would be to make fritters because everything fried this way is good. Another would be to grill or roast some zucchini slathered in a modified pesto of basil, garlic and oil. In July there is: basil, fresh onions, zucchini, parsley and beets. Put them together with farro for a satisfying salad, as follows.

Ingredients/Parts of the whole:

Farro

Lemon, shallot, mustard vinaigrette and maybe some garlic too.

Roasted zucchini and fresh onions

Basil, garlic, oil topping — whizzed in mini chopper

Toasted walnuts

Roasted beets

Feta

Oil-cured black olives

Parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. Beets. Roast beets. 400° in foil for 1 hour. Place packets on oven rack and baking pan underneath to catch drips.. Check with knife (through file) that they are tender. Open packets carefully to not get burned on steam. Peel when cool.
  2. Farro. Rinse 1 c farro and place in medium saucepan with salt, bay leaf and 3 c water. Bring to boil and cook at simmer for 30 mins. Drain. Spread out on baking sheet to cool.
  3. Soak zucchini in water 1/2 hour — to remove grit from laying on top of soil.
  4. Toast walnuts on sheet pan in oven for 6 mins. (Longer if lower temp.)
  5. Mix in mini-food processor: basil, garlic, oil, S&P.
  6. When beets are done, turn up oven temp to 435°. Slice zucchini lengthwise, and lay on oiled sheet pan. Cut onions in half or into thick slices. Layer on basil mixture. Roast for 20 minutes, checking after 15 to see that they are not burning underneath; move in pan if need be. Roast for another 5 mins or so; maybe more for the onions. 
  7. Shred feta. Smack olives with knife and remove pits. Place walnuts in parchment paper, and roll rolling pin over them to crush somewhat. 

Assemble in large-ish bowl:

Farro, sprinkled with parsley

Zucchini and onions on one side of bowl. Beets on another, olives have another spot. 

Sprinkle all with feta and walnuts, and spoon vinaigrette over all. Not too much — there’s lots of oil in the zucchini and onions. 

Chicken and rice casserole

A simple chicken, rice and carrot casserole tastes like home and is super comforting. This is a step up flavor wise. Still harmonious, more of a chord than the three notes of the plain chicken and rice. And not much more involved. I cooked this on stove. You could also bake in an oven, if you needed the room on the stovetop. One way it’s Indian; substitute saffron and peas and it skews paella. All delicious in a homey way.

Ingredients:

3-5 chicken thighs

1 onion, sliced

shallot, minced

Jalapeno or other hot pepper, minced

Ginger, minced

turmeric, minced; or use dried

Izak (dried sweet pepper, cumin and garlic mixture)

cumin, 1 t

Garlic, 2 cloves, minced

White basmati rice, 1-1/2 c

Vegetable or chicken stock, 2-1/4c+

Carrots, sliced

Directions:

Season chicken with S&P. Heat dutch oven, add ghee or oil and brown chicken for 10 mins, turning a couple times to brown evenly. Remove to plate. Spoon off the excess fat from the pan.

Add onions and salt and cook 10 mins, stirring occasionally. Before 10 mins is up, add (1) jalapeño, shallot, then (2) add dry spices, and stir, then (3) ginger, turmeric and garlic, and stir and cook for 1 minute. 

Add in rice, stir to toast a bit. Then add in stock, carrots, and tuck in chicken thighs. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for 1/2 hour.

Variations: If you are pressed for time, use one of the basic recipes from Mark Bittman under “other references,” below, adding saffron and peas — a la paella(!)

Sources:

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1021080-one-pot-chicken-and-rice-with-ginger-and-cumin

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018299-weeknight-fancy-chicken-and-rice

Other references:

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/9118-easy-chicken-with-rice

Plain with peas and saffron: https://food52.com/recipes/22615-chicken-and-rice