squash & sweet potato tagine

Fall veggies – I could eat them all year long. Sometimes I think if everything contained butternut squash, the world would be a better place (the fact that trying to chop a butternut squash almost cost me a finger once doesn’t deter me). It just tastes like hearty sweet nutritious comforting perfection to me. So when we got butternut squash, acorn squash, and sweet potatoes in our CSA bag this week, I was really excited to get cooking! I came across this recipe for a vegetable tagine, which didn’t include acorn squash but I figured I could throw it in anyway. I also didn’t have a tagine, which is sort of a traditional Moroccan clay pot, or a dutch oven or terra cotta substitute, but I do have a beautiful Le Creuset french blue stoneware baking dish that my dad and stepmom got me for my birthday and I don’t get to use nearly enough. So I prepped the first part of the recipe in a pan and transferred it to the Le Creuset for the baking part, which seemed to work out just fine!

If you also don’t have a tagine, or something similar that can go from stovetop to oven, do this: Preheat the oven to 375. In a pan, saute one chopped onion in 2 tbsp olive oil until it turns golden. Then add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tsp ground ginger, 1/8 tsp crushed saffron threads, and a pinch of cayenne pepper, and cook for another minutes. Then transfer this to your baking dish with 1 butternut squash, 2 sweet potatoes, and 1 acorn squash (chopped into cubes) or any ratio of these veggies you want (I personally would have gone with more butternut and less sweet potato if I did it again). You could also add carrots. Slowly stir in 2 cups of hot vegetable stock, top with a 1/2 cup of raisins, and drizzle with 1 tbsp of agave (or honey). Stick a cinnamon stick in the middle, cover and bake for an hour. Remove the cinnamon stick, sprinkle with cilantro leaves, serve on its own, with bread for dipping, or over brown rice or cous cous. Now I have to admit (and I LOVE cilantro), I was skeptical of how the cilantro would taste with this… but it was great! Such a nice flavor contrast. Definitely don’t skip it (if you tolerate cilantro). We ate it as a main course over brown rice (Lundberg, my favorite) with sauteed snap beans. Delish…

Squash and sweet potato tagine right out of the oven

Tagine with brown rice and snap beans

 

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spicy cilantro pesto

It’s Tuesday, which means that any CSA veggies that we actually still have from the previous Wednesday night’s pick up are on their last legs… or have morphed into an unrecognizable brown mush. We had what used to be a beautiful bunch of cilantro and, while seriously sad and wilted, wasn’t in the mush stage yet and I thought it might still be useable. I started looking for ideas for using cilantro in bulk quantities, since I wanted to use the whole bunch all at once instead of throwing most of it away tomorrow. I was actually kind of surprised to find a number of variations of cilantro pesto, given that pesto is more of an Italian thing and cilantro is more of a Mexican/Latin American/Asian thing.

Just a note on cilantro: I love it, but some people hate it. Apparently even Julia Child was one of these cilantro-haters. I used to make fun of those people, until I found out that it’s actually a genetic trait that makes cilantro taste like soap to certain people. Now I just pity them.
If you’re not part of the group with the mutated OR6A2 receptor, you might enjoy what’s about to follow…

spicy cilantro pesto

There were recipes for cilantro pesto that were pretty much strictly the Italian version (parmesan, garlic, pine nuts, oil) but substituted cilantro for basil or parsley. There were recipes that went full-on Mexican/Latin American, using ingredients like lime juice, serrano peppers, and cotija cheese. Almonds, red onions, white wine vinegar, walnuts, sesame oil, lemon, coriander seeds, arugula, and smoked paprika all made appearances in other recipes. I ended up reading everything and then making up my own.

bruschetta

Here’s what I came up with (based mainly on what else I had on hand): Pulse the following together in a food processor (these are all guess-timates of amount, since I usually eyeball everything): 1 large bunch of sad wilted cilantro (feel free to use fresh, perky cilantro), 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/2 tbsp lime juice, 1/2 tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 3 large cloves of garlic, 1/3 cup grated parmesan, salt & pepper to taste, and two large dashes of cayenne pepper. It came out really fresh and spicy, with a unique flavor that’s a nice change from basil or parsley pesto.

grilled shrimp with cilantro pesto

I grilled slices of French baguette and made bruschetta with the spicy cilantro pesto, heirloom tomatoes, and a sprinkle of parmesan. We made it an all-pesto dinner night and used it as a dipping sauce for grilled shrimp too! Oh if only there were a pesto dessert idea, I would be eating that now…


potato-kohlrabi puree

I should be ashamed of my non-blogging. Not a single post since May 29th – and that one wasn’t even food related! I have a new awesome kitchen, a weekly pick-up of fresh veggies from Sang Lee Farms, and no posts to show for it. I can’t even blame my busy schedule since I’m not at work or in classes (although I am putting in almost-full-time hours at a pediatric obesity clinic in a hospital for my fieldwork). So enough of my lack of excuses, and onto my kohlrabi obsession…

Every time I’ve walked through the farmer’s market for about the past year and seen kohlrabi, I’ve been intrigued. If you’ve never seen it, kohlrabi is a bizarre looking creature. It’s as if cabbage, Brussels sprouts, a radish, and a potato all mated with Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors. Technically, kohlrabi is a wild cabbage and can be prepared in a few different ways. The first time it arrived in our mystery bag of CSA farm veggies, I was really excited to experiment. I peeled it (and we ate a few slices raw, which kind of tasted like sweet radish), tossed the slices in spelt flour and spices, and sauteed them in a pan with a spritz of olive oil to make kohlrabi fries. The second time, I did the same thing but an oven roasted version instead of fried. I also stir-fried the green leaves and stems with some garlic and sesame oil, and they took a while to get tender but had a great flavor. These were super delicious side dishes, but the third time kohlrabi came around this summer, I decided to mix it up, especially since we had potatoes and onions in the bag too.

Kohlrabi can really be substituted for potatoes in most recipes, but a combination of potatoes and kohlrabi is a popular mix if you google search some recipes. For my recipe, I combined a few ideas I found and ended up with this:

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Potato-Kohlrabi Puree

Trim the stems and leaves off a kohlrabi bulb, and peel off the tough outer layer. Wash 1-2 cups of potatoes (peel on or off is up to you – I did peel on) and dice both into about one inch cubes. Bring a saucepan of lightly salted water to a boil, and add the potato and kohlrabi cubes. Reduce the heat and simmer until tender (test with a fork) for about 15 minutes. While the potatoes and kohlrabi are cooking, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and cook 3/4 of a cup of diced onion until it’s soft. Drain the potatoes and kohlrabi and either add the onion to the saucepan if you’re using a hand blender or put all three in a food processor. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1/4 cup of low fat milk, and salt and pepper to taste, and pulse until you get to your desired smoothness (I like mine fairly chunky). If you’re feeling fancy, serve with a little drizzle of olive oil over the top. I think I like the taste even better than regular mashed potatoes!

Anyone out there have any other great kohlrabi suggestions? It’s become one of my new summer favorites and hopefully there’s more coming my way…


summery salsa in fall

It’s a rare event these days, three quarters of the way through the semester, when I have time to cook a meal, let alone photograph it or write about it. Do I have time tonight? No. But after 5 1/2 hours of work, 2 1/2 hours of food service & management, 3 hours of biostatistics, and 3 cumulative hours of subway riding, you couldn’t pay me to do anything “productive” right now!

Habañero salsa, rough chop and blended

I’d rather think about vegetables. Recently we were lucky enough to inherit, once again, our friends’ share of CSA farm veggies for the week. A slew of beautiful root vegetables – turnips, sweet potatoes, multicolored carrots, onions and leeks, with rosemary and garlic – made of a delicious roasted/slightly charred pile of fall heartiness one night, and the habañeros and cilantro turned into salsa… two ways. I found some recipes for habañero salsa and ended up combining a few. I took five or six tomatillos, husked and chopped them, and added one habañero (they’re strong!), a bunch of cilantro, two cloves of garlic, a white onion, fresh squeezed lime and orange juice, orange zest, and salt to taste. We ate the chunky roughly chopped version on top of grilled fish with avocado, and then blended the leftover salsa to a smoother consistency which is good with blue corn chips and will probably be great with some version of huevos rancheros for brunch one day. I’ve actually been putting it on top of almost everything. Who says salsa is for summer?