creamy polenta with radish tops, rainbow chard, cannellini beans, poached egg, & parmesan

Sometimes I impulse buy chocolate. Sometimes I impulse buy rainbow chard. Today was a chard day! It just called to me as I walked past it on my way to get eggs.

When I got home, I realized I didn’t have much of a dinner plan. I had a bunch of radish tops left over from last night’s salad, so I wanted to add the greens to the chard. I think swiss/rainbow chard goes well with either Asian or Italian flavors, but we’d been on a 4-day long Asian style dinner kick thanks to this ridiculously good salad dressing from the farmer’s market (Momo dressing – try it if you ever see it. Sooooo goooooood). So Italian is was! I then discovered half a bag of polenta my sister gave me at some point, and an idea came together.

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For the polenta, bring about 6 cups of water to a boil, then salt it and add 1 1/2 cups of polenta, stirring slowly. Turn the heat down to a simmer and stir frequently for about 15 minutes until thick. Add a couple tablespoons of butter and salt to taste. I also added a touch of a bouillon cube for more flavor at the end. You could also buy pre-cooked polenta and either heat it up or slice it into circles and pan-fry it.

For the veggies, sauté a chopped red onion for about 5 minutes, then add two cloves of minced garlic and the chopped up stems of the chard. Once the stems were tender, add the leafy parts of the chard and radish greens (optional) and season with salt and a little vegetable bouillon (also optional). Finally add the cannellini beans at the end just to heat them.

While everything was cooking, I asked my husband if he thought a poached egg on top would go well. He looked at me like I’d asked whether air conditioning might be a good idea on a 105 degree day. We have these cool little silicone egg cups called Poachpods for this purpose (because I suck at poaching without them). I highly recommend them – they’re worth the $10.

So, to put everything together, start with a layer of polenta on the plate, then a big scoop of the radish tops/chard/cannellini beans. Scoop out a little hole in the center, and drop in your poached egg. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, a little extra salt & pepper or red pepper flakes if you want, pop that yolk, and enjoy!

Note: this meal did end up having more of a winter feel to it (i.e. we had to turn on all the fans in the room halfway through because we were overheating), but I’m always cold, so no complaints here!

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copycat squash vindaloo with cool ranch raita

Last weekend my husband and I had a stay-local date night at one of our favorite spots in the neighborhood, Thistle Hill Tavern. Some of their menu items change seasonally, and there was a new side dish that I knew I had to try the second I read it: squash vindaloo with cool ranch raita! It was every bit as good — or better — than it sounded. It arrived in a clay hotpot, this glorious piping hot bowl of Indian-spiced squash and a cool yogurt sauce with a kick to it. The server even brought us some thick slices of toasted bread to swipe up every last morsel from the bowl. I’m a copycat when it comes to my favorite restaurants, and I’ve stolen (attempted to recreate at home) some side dishes from their menu before, like their buffalo cauliflower with gorgonzola, so after one bite I said I wanted to try to make this one. So here goes!

IMG_6230Dice 2 medium sized yellow onions and sauté them until translucent in 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp coconut oil in a large heavy pot. While the onion is cooking, mix your spices together in a small bowl: 1 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp coriander, 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground cloves. Add the spices and 1 large minced garlic clove to the onions and cook about 1 minute. next add a 28 oz can of diced tomatoes with the liquid (my go to brand is San Marzano), and about 4 cups of cubed butternut squash. I was lazy with the squash today and bought pre-cubed squash at Whole Foods because it’s such a pain to chop. They didn’t have pre-cut acorn squash though, so I bought a whole one, poked some holes in it, microwaved it until it was soft enough to cut (about 6 mins), de-seeded it, and scooped the squash out. Finally, add the acorn squash, 1 tbsp tomato paste, 1 tbsp red wine vinegar, 1/2 tsp minced ginger, 1/2 cup water or broth, and 1 tbsp coconut sugar (you could use brown sugar instead) to the pot, cover it, and let simmer until the squash is soft, about 30-40 mins. At the very end, add salt to taste, about 1/2 tsp.

While your squash is cooking, make your yogurt sauce. I used about 4 oz plain greek yogurt and mixed in 1 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped dill, 1 tsp of a dill/onion/lemon/garlic/pepper seasoning mix called “it’s a dilly” (you could just use onion powder and some pepper), 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp paprika, and 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon juice.

Assemble your bowl of squash vindaloo with yogurt on top and a little dill or parsley garnish, served with a warm toasty slice of bread or naan, or on top of rice. The verdict? It’s no Thistle Hill, but it was really delicious. And a complete hearty vegetarian meal (vegan if you skip the yogurt) for cool fall nights, packed with flavor (and vitamin A)!

 


brunch frittata (& how to care for your cast iron skillet)

A cast iron skillet was one of the only tangible items we put on our wedding registry. I can’t believe I didn’t have one before — it’s one of those kitchen “must haves” — and although I did have a ridged grilling cast iron pan, I didn’t have a flat bottomed cast iron skillet, which is perfect for frittatas, among other things!  So now that we have one (thanks Ben & Evan!) it was time to celebrate not having to study this weekend with a leisurely homemade brunch.

photo 1Frittatas are great because you can really throw in anything you want. If you ever have a bunch of veggies in the fridge that are looking a little sad, a frittata is a good way to use them up! Today I went with mushrooms, spinach, and ricotta. Onions or shallots of course, are always key as a first ingredient. Start with a generous few “glugs” of olive oil (especially if your cast iron skillet is new; it will need more fat to prevent sticking). Add diced onions or shallots, and let them cook until translucent or beginning to caramelize. It’s important to really get your onions browned before adding the other veggies if you’re using mushrooms because the mushrooms will start to release a lot of liquid as they cook and then you’ll just have steamed onions.

While the mushrooms are cooking, whisk eggs in a bowl (use 4-6 unless you have a very large pan; I used 5 today. I was worried 6 wouldn’t fit in the pan with all those veggies, but I probably could’ve managed it), and add some salt and pepper and some fresh or dried herbs like some oregano or basil, depending on the flavors of your veggies. Once the mushrooms are well cooked (they will cook down a lot), add your spinach or other greens and cook until wilted. photo 2

Then pour the beaten eggs into the skillet and push them around a little with the spatula, tilting the pan to get them evenly distributed. Next add dollops of ricotta cheese throughout, and finish with some grated parmesan on top before moving the whole skillet to a 400 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Remember when taking it out that the handle of the skillet is also cast iron – it will be hot!

photo 2 (1)Serve warm on top of more greens or salad, add extra grated parmesan if you want, and enjoy! I also  like to add some dried red pepper flakes for a little kick. The saltiness of the parmesan with the heat of the pepper flakes and the sweetness of the onions, mushrooms, and ricotta is perfect.

TIP- Keep your skillet seasoned: You don’t need to wash it with soap; just scrub any stuck food off with hot water and a brush/scrubber as soon as possible after cooking, dry it immediately, and spray some vegetable oil on it while still warm. This will “season” your skillet, protecting it from moisture so that it will last longer, and your food will taste better and better. Avoid cooking with acidic foods (like tomatoes) until you’ve cooked with and oil-coated your skillet quite a few times. I’ve heard that a cast iron skillet can last 100 years if treated correctly!

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root vegetable latkes with homemade applesauce

While I’ve never – to my memory – celebrated Hanukkah (although my stepmother owns a menorah which I can remember being lit occasionally and I think I got a hat once as a present), this year I decided to use the holiday as an excuse to try my hand at making latkes. Now of course, because it’s me, I attempted to health-ify them just a little (only in that they’re not completely submerged in oil and deep fried) and make them nontraditional by using a variety of root veggies instead of just potatoes. Root vegetables can be fairly interchangeable in my experience, and adding parsnips, sweet potatoes, and leeks to your latkes bumps up the fiber and Vitamin A content. And the flavor is so much more interesting and complex! I read a few recipes, just trying to get a sense of proportions, and then did this:

Take 1 small baking potato, 1 small sweet potato, and 1 parsnip, peel them, and shred them using a cheese grater. Add 1 tsp of salt to the mix and let it sit for 20 minutes, squeezing out as much moisture as possible afterwards – the regular potato will have the most moisture. Then add to the mixture 1 small grated yellow onion and 1 very finely chopped leek (stopping at the dark green part). Stir in some freshly ground pepper, about 1/3 cup whole wheat flour and about 1/3 cup egg whites. Form into patties – if they fall apart (which mine did at first – a LOT), you need to adjust the amount of egg white and flour until they’re sticky. Generously coat the bottom of a pan with some vegetable oil with a high smoke point (I use safflower or sunflower oil) and heat the oil until very hot. Drop the patties in and cook about 2-3 minutes on each side, then transferring to a baking sheet. You’ll have to do this in stages; just make sure the new oil gets hot enough before adding each round of latkes, otherwise they’ll just soak up the oil and not brown. Once all the latkes are browned, bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes until cooked through. Serve with sour cream (or Greek yogurt, like these) and applesauce. Homemade applesauce is super easy by the way – just peel a few apples, chop them up into very small pieces, and heat on the stove with a touch of water and cinnamon until the consistency is saucy. You can also use an immersion blender if you like smooth applesauce.

Root vegetable latkes with homemade applesauce and Greek yogurt

Root vegetable latkes with homemade applesauce and Greek yogurt

Happy Hanukkah!


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