Monday, November 22, 2010

Warm roasted salad

Tonight's dinner will make enough for two, or enough for one and lunch the next day (which was obviously my master plan).
My new boss gave me one of his last buttercup squashes on Saturday because I told him I didn't think I had ever had one. My favorite winter squashes had been his Marina di Chioggia, an heirloom dark green, gnarly pumpkin, the delightful delicata, and of course, butternut. But I am so happy that I was given this prized small green winter variety, the buttercup. I was planning on just slicing crosswise and roasting, cut-side down on 400, but I had this idea gnawing at me and I just couldn't ignore it. The idea said: salad, salad, salad...chickpeas, chickpeas, chickpeas...warm, warm, warm. I followed the impulse and ended up with a very tasty roasted buttercup squash chickpea salad with wilted kale and mustard greens.
I ate it without grains, but cooked some oat groats in vegetable stock to bring with the leftovers for lunch tomorrow.
I promise this recipe is simple. And if you end up thinking it's complicated, please please leave a comment and I will address your needs! I want seasonal simple food to be accessible and if it is not, I'm not doing it right! Tell me what you think.

1 buttercup squash (or a small butternut), peeled and cubed into 1" cubes
1 small onion, rough chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 t tumeric
1 t cumin
1 t cinnamon
1 t salt
1 T olive oil
1 1/2 c cooked chickpeas (or from a can)

In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients. Spread evenly on a baking sheet. Bake on 400 for 30 minutes, checking once or twice and stirring ingredients with a spatula.

Chop a large handful of hearty winter greens. I used kale and mustard greens. Place in a skillet on medium high heat with a few tablespoons of water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes, until greens are just wilted.

I apologize that my camera is on Long Island, without me. I know everyone likes pictures but I urge you to try this one even though I have none. It is so. good.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

If you don't think this is beautiful then we can't be friends.

As much as I started to strongly dislike Alice Waters after she made some comment about eating local, healthy food being a matter of priority, ignoring issues that might hinder one from eating in such a way (such as accessibility and socioeconomic status and privilege, just to name a few), the woman is good at what she does.
I happened upon her Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook at the Central branch of the Brooklyn Library and had to take it home with me. The book itself is very pretty, even in its tattered library-used condition. There are illustrations and the layout is quite simple, just like Ms. Waters' food. Recipes are straight forward. Simple. Not completely accessible (she says things like "Flame the pan with the Cognac," and even I, a self-proclaimed seasoned cook, am not sure I entirely know what she means by that), but overall, pretty inspirational.
I started browsing the book in the bath last night, and one recipe stayed with me. I thought about it on and off all day. It was the recipe for new potatoes in parchment paper. Easy. Of course. Who would need a recipe for something like that? But, as Ms. Waters explains in the introduction, we have gotten so far away from simple food, that an easy recipe such as new potatoes baked in parchment paper with a touch of butter and fresh thyme can be read as more exciting than it should be. This isn't to say shame on us but, it is to say that Alice Waters brings simple food back, without shaming readers or eaters. Instead, she entices us.
Tonight, with Chez Panisse on my mind, I roasted new potatoes, radish, and turnip with a pat of butter and a few sprigs of fresh thyme from my windowsill. I cut all of the vegetables into about 1" pieces, dispersed three small pats of butter, and laid the thyme on top. I roasted for 30 minutes on 400. The results? Beautiful. In taste and looks. Mission Accomplished.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Yes, Yes, Yes!

Revere simple foods. Vegetables taste good! NYmag writes about it:


Fall Foods

Last night I had a small gathering for what will likely turn into a seasonal event. I hosted the first Fall Foods dinner. Although it was only last night, I am already looking forward to the Winter Foods dinner, which will be followed by the Spring Foods dinner! The Fall Foods dinner was a potluck that encouraged guests to bring, if possible, only something homemade and/or local. Pretty incredibly, we ended up with a wonderful spread. Everyone brought a dish and/or drink they were proud of, and there was a feeling of communal pride when the table was set with our fabulous looking handicrafts.
We started with a cheese plate, bread from the farmers market, and homemade hummus, along with pumpkin ale and red wine. The main course followed. It consisted of brussel sprout slaw with pancetta dressing, cassoulet, sweet and spicy carrots, beans and greens, salad with beets and goat cheese, cinnamon black rice with butternut squash and goat cheese, and mushroom lasagna (my contribution).
Even though we had eaten so much as the main part of the meal, dessert was phenomenal. One guest brought a gingerbread spice cake with not-too-sweet whipped cream, and another brought her mother's special recipe Linzer Torte. Wow. A feast of feasts. (Can't you see why I'm already looking forward to the next one?)
Last night wasn't just about good food though. It was about spending the night in a cozy apartment, catching up with old friends, reminiscing about college, and meeting and learning about new friends. By the end of the night, we were all stuffed. But I had a few moments of bliss, in which I felt really grateful to be a part of such an evening. A friend who has been living in Boston commented that I was making her miss New York enough to move back. It would be an understatement to say that the night was merely a Success. It was much more than that!
Below is the recipe, almost exactly from Ina Garten, for Mushroom Lasagna (the dish of which we have no leftovers!). I made the bechamel and cooked the mushrooms the night before, which made assembly much faster.
Bechamel Recipe:
Make the bechamel the way Ina tells you to, even though it's not my top secret favorite way to make it. Pour into a container and set aside until it comes to room temp, then refrigerate.

Mushroom Recipe
1 1/2 lb portobello mushrooms, stems discarded, sliced into 1/4" thick strips
1 T olive oil
2 T butter
2 sprigs fresh thyme

In a large skillet, over medium flame, heat olive oil. When oil is hot, add mushrooms. Stir. Add butter and fresh thyme. Cook on medium heat, about 10 minutes, until liquid has been released and mushrooms are just done. Remove from heat and set aside.

Cook 1 package lasagna noodles al dente.
Grate 1 c parmesan cheese.
In the bottom of a large casserole dish, at least 12" long, 8" wide, spread a layer of bechamel. Layer noodles on top. Then layer more sauce, mushrooms, and grated cheese. Repeat twice more, starting with noodles. When done, place final layer of noodles on top, spread bechamel, and top with remaining cheese. Bake at 375 for 45 min covered, 15 min uncovered. Serve.