Tuesday, November 9, 2010

so, it turns out...

...that I want to write about more than just food. So you can find me over at a new blog called Becoming Gezellig for now. Sure, there'll still be food, and it'll mostly be seasonal, because that's how I roll. (For example: head on over there to see what to do with a glut of late, not-so-great tomatoes.) But I also wanted a space with fewer rules, more photos, more fabric. Hope you'll come along.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

wherever you are, here you go

I'm just going to take a guess here: Either you have distinctly crisp fall weather and a bin full of the last straggling zucchini, or you have bright, warm Indian summer and markets full of winter squash. Call it Cucurbit-Induced Cognitive Dissonance: a condition endemic this time of year.

Well, I have a remedy.


First, turn on your oven. Gather up some squash of whatever variety (I suppose you could even mix summer and winter), cut them into chunks, and roast them with butter. That bit is important, there's just something about the way the flavor of squash marries with butter, trust me. When those squash chunks are nice and soft toss them into a casserole dish along with some pasta and a simple cheese sauce.

The dish is an adaptation of a recipe for macaroni and cheese with butternut squash that has been round and round the Internet several times but I'm pretty sure originated here. My version simply swaps out the winter squash for summer (but of course, you can swap the winter squash back in). And, because I couldn't find my printed recipe when it was time to cook (I recently organized my recipes, and now I can't find any of them), I just worked from memory, and I may have ended up making it a little less...unctuous...than the original.

Which is a good thing, really. Because you're going to have to make this more than once, with all the squash out there of one sort or another.

Cheesy Noodles with Roasted Squash
Adapted from My Madeleine

2.5 lb summer squash (or about 3 lb winter squash, untrimmed)
4 Tbsp butter
salt & pepper

1 lb shaped pasta

2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 C milk
12 oz cheese, grated (a nice sharp cheddar is good but feel free to mix it up and use what you have on hand)
1 Tbsp dijon mustard

Panko or other bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 400 F. Wash and trim the squash (deseed and peel if it's winter squash), and cut it into roughly 1-inch chunks. In each of 2 large baking pans, put 2 Tbsp butter, and put the pans in the oven to melt the butter while the oven is preheating.

When the butter is melted, take the pans out of the oven, put half of the squash in each, add a little salt and pepper, and stir to coat with the melted butter.

Roast for 40 minutes, stirring at the 15- and 30-minute marks.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water until al dente.

And make the cheese sauce: Melt the butter over medium heat, add the flower, and stir with a whisk to make a light roux. Pour in the milk and whisk until smooth and slightly thickened. Add the cheese and stir until melted, then add the mustard and stir until combined.

Combine the pasta, cheese sauce, and roasted squash (the pot you cooked the pasta in is generally good for this) and fold together until everything is evenly distributed. Turn into one of the baking dishes. Sprinkle the bread crumbs on top.

Bake at 400 F for 20 to 30 minutes, until bubbly. Run under the broiler for a minute or two at the end to toast the bread crumbs.

Makes one big pan (so, you know, like 2 servings).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

this weekend

Give me your tired....

your poor...

your huddled masses of green tomatoes....

yearning to turn red.

-Roasting the red ones
-Blanching the kale
-Wishing I'd planted some seeds back in August
-The rains are here
-Saturday afternoon beer?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

summer miracle

In college, my vertebrate physiology professor had a New Yorker cartoon posted on her office door showing a couple of people slumped lazily in armchairs. The caption read: "Tropic of Torpor." (A kind of in-joke about her research--my professor studies hibernation in small mammals. As for me, my only excuse for still remembering that cartoon and finding it hilarious is that I am a huge nerd.)

So. For me: summer = Tropic of Blogger. Or Torpor of Blogger, or something. I don't know why I've been struggling so hard to find the motivation to cook and struggling even more to find the motivation to write about it. But there you go.

As if to prove my point, there's this recipe--when the weather turned hot here in Seattle (finally!), my response was to create a dish based on two of my winter staple recipes. The soba noodles at the base are from this dish of boiled kale, and the stew is based on this recipe from Just Hungry that I can't believe I haven't written about here yet (hmm, I blame torpor), because we really do make it all the time.

A recipe that improbably got me into the kitchen for one brief instant: hence the title of this post, a summer miracle. Even more miraculous? The dish caused Monkey to utter the sentence, "Mama, can I have some more turnip?" I still can't believe it myself.

Summer Vegetable Stew with Tofu and Soba Noodles
Even more food for your summer torpor: this stuff is great eaten cold for lunch the next day.

2 large-ish turnips
A dozen big radishes
1/2 of a small onion
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 package atsu-age (deep-fried tofu cutlet)
2 Tbs. sake (mirin is okay too)
3 Tbs. soy sauce
2 Tbs. dark (grade B) maple syrup
1/4 lb. sugar snap peas

200 g soba noodles
3 tsp kecap manis (or you could use a combination of soy sauce and molasses or maple syrup)
1 1/2 Tbsp rice vinegar
A pinch of ground ginger

Wash and peel the turnips, and cut them into chunks. Wash and trim the radishes, and cut them in half. Slice the onion thinly.

Heat the sesame oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the turnips, radishes, and onion, and stir to coat with the oil.

If you want, you can unwrap the tofu cutlet, place it in a large bowl, heat some water to boiling, and then pour the water over the cutlet. Drain and rinse--this gets some of the oil off of the tofu. But you know what? When I made this it was too hot, and I was too lazy! So I skipped this step, and everything was fine.

Cut up the tofu into chunks and add it to the pan, stirring again to mix everything together. Add the sake, soy sauce, and maple syrup and stir. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer about 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile wash and trim the sugar snap peas. Add them to the stew after about 20 minutes and cook about 10 minutes more. You want them to be tender, but not too mushy.

Also while the stew is cooking, heat some water in a saucepan and cook the soba noodles. Drain and toss them with the kecap manis, rice vinegar, and ginger.

To serve, put a mound of soba noodles on a plate and the stew on top.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Here's a recipe to put on your calendar for a few weeks from now, when local tomatoes are really, truly in season.

Or, then again, it might come in handy now--say, if you have a child whose response to every item sold at the grocery store is "I want that." And if that child also, theoretically of course, has a parent (I'm not saying which one) inclined to indulge her every whim. And if grape tomatoes bought on such a whim turn out, predictably, to be rather tough and flavorless, prompting the child to sensibly decline actually eating them. And if you're therefore wondering what to do with a few handfuls of grape tomatoes starting to shrivel up in your fridge.

Then--THEN--this recipe will be right up your alley.

Whether you make it now or later, it's summer cooking at its finest--a short list of ingredients, steps you can do ahead of time, a quick final assembly, and a result that goes nicely with a cold, fruity wine.

Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes, Fennel, and Italian Sausage

1 bunch baby fennel, or a medium-sized fennel bulb
1 C grape or cherry tomatoes
olive oil
salt and pepper

6 oz dried pasta--penne or rotelle or a similar short, chunky shape
About 3.5 ounces Italian sausage or veggie Italian sausage
olive oil
balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Wash the fennel and chop it into 1/2-inch pieces. Wash the tomatoes. Put in a square baking dish and toss with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put in the oven and roast for about 20 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the tomatoes start to wrinkle and the fennel is tender. You can do this ahead of time--in the morning if a hot afternoon is in the offing, or even a day or two ahead.

When you're ready for dinner, put a large pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When the water boils add the pasta and cook according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a largeish skillet. Slice up the sausage and saute it for a few minutes, until it's nicely browned--turning once halfway through. Deglaze the pan with a little balsamic vinegar. Then add the roasted fennel and tomatoes and heat through.

When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the skillet, tossing everything together. Pour the wine.

Serves 2 or 3

Saturday, May 29, 2010

more bok choy ideas

Here's another idea I came across when I was looking for something different to do with baby bok choy. The original recipe, from Jane Spice, has you pour a coconut milk-red curry sauce over steamed bok choy. I didn't have any red curry paste, so I decided to use curry powder instead. To the bok choy I added a bunch of teeny-tiny carrots (they always look so cute sitting there at the farmers market but I pass them by because I never know what to do with them), to end up with spring vegetables in a kind of gentle Massaman curry sauce. (Now if only we could get some gentle spring weather to go with it, right?)

I also added some leaves from a lemon balm plant that I recently bought, wondering if it would be a good lemongrass substitute for those of us in temperate climes. (Here in Seattle, lemongrass is grown as an annual, so I'm hoping that lemon balm might be a way to keep this flavor handy year-round.) The verdict: I think so, though the best method for getting the flavor into the dish might require a bit more experimenting. Next time I'll try steeping a sprig in the coconut milk from the beginning and then discarding it before serving, to try to get a subtler flavor more evenly throughout the sauce. (For those inclined to similar experiments in their garden: lemon balm is in the mint family, so for the love of all that is holy grow it in a pot.)

I'm sneaking this in under the wire before the end of Meatless Week on The Cookbook Chronicles. Unfortunately--given that event's purpose of reducing your food's carbon footprint--this supper includes one ingredient that's really pretty bad from a greenhouse-gas point of view. Anyone care to guess what it is?

Spring Vegetables in Coconut Curry Sauce

For a heartier dish, add tofu. To tell you the truth, I kind of wish I had!

1 medium shallot
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp vegetable oil
A sprig (about 9-10 leaves) of lemon balm
1 bunch baby carrots
1 C coconut milk
1 tsp kecap manis
1 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp salt
About 1 lb baby bok choy
Cooked jasmine rice

Peel the shallot and slice it thinly crosswise. Peel the garlic.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the shallot and stir for a moment or two. Press the garlic into the pan and stir for a moment more.

Let the shallots and garlic cook for a few minutes while you wash the carrots and trim off the tops. Wash the lemon balm and add it to the pan. Add the carrots to the pan and stir to coat with the oil.

In a small bowl stir together the coconut milk, kecap manis (or a little bit of soy sauce and sugar), curry powder, and salt. Add the sauce to the pan and gently fold it in to the vegetables. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to medium low, and let cook for about 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, wash the bok choy, trim the ends, and separate the leaves. Then--after the carrots and coconut milk have been cooking for 5-7 minutes--add the bok choy to the pan. Fold the leaves into the sauce, then cover and cook for about 5 minutes more. Remove the lemon balm and serve the curry over rice.

Serves 2.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

turnips rise to the challenge

This week, local food writer Lorna Yee of The Cookbook Chronicles is challenging her meat-loving self to go vegetarian for a week, and inviting other food bloggers to join her. A fun and worthy endeavor, but at first I thought I couldn't really participate, since we already cook vegetarian every week. Then I started thinking about how dependent my cooking is on milk and (especially) cheese, and how dairy production is almost as bad as meat from a greenhouse-gas point of view.  (Shorter food system problem: cows fart, a lot.) So I decided I'd challenge myself to add some vegan recipes to the blog this week.

My first dish, a salad of thinly sliced young turnips, comes from Cackalackyfoodie, a brand-new but already awesome food blog penned by a friend of a friend. The writer, Lynn, gives not so much a recipe as a brief description--a digression on her way to turnip gratin--but it was evocative enough to get me intrigued.

I suppose a vegetable salad doesn't sound like much of a stretch for this assignment. I mean, so I made a salad that was vegan--whoopdeedoo, right? But it's relevant in an unexpected way. Introducing her project, Lorna notes, "I’ve always wondered why we don’t hear people wax poetic about vegetables in the same way they do about meat. Why does the mere mention of  bacon cause so many of us to slide off our seats? Are vegetarians in general just simply more restrained in their food-love, or is it something else?"

The answer is: something else. Specifically, I think she just hasn't met the right vegetarian recipes yet. I know I positively swoon for garlicky greens served with poached eggs and toast. And a humble rice and cabbage soup. And unassuming boiled kale.  And that's just for starters. Hey, Lorna, you meat eaters can keep your bacon.

So that's where this salad comes in. Okay, so I wouldn't call it quite swoon-worthy, but it's much closer than you might imagine just from looking at the description of barely-adorned unpopular vegetables below. The truth is, even I was expecting a recipe that I wanted to like more than I would actually like it.  But it's scrumptious--cold, fresh, and crisp, the slight bite of the vegetables balanced by the fruity richness of the olive oil. A reminder of how delicious it can be to challenge yourself. 

Simple Spring Turnip Salad
Adapted from Cackalackyfoodie

This salad is good made an hour or so ahead and chilled, but I like it best the first day it's made.

1 bunch of small Japanese turnips, or a mix of turnips and radishes--about 8 oz. total
1 Tbsp mild, fruity vinegar (I used orange muscat champagne vinegar from Trader Joe's)
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp olive oil
A few sprigs of fresh thyme

Wash and trim the vegetables. Slice them crosswise very thinly using a sharp knife or a mandoline. Arrange them on a serving plate.

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the olive oil. Pour the dressing over the vegetables.

Wash the thyme and pull the leaves off the stems, strewing them over the top of the salad.

Serves 2 or 3.