Friday, November 28, 2008

Ginger Agave Cashews

Every once in a while, I splurge on some seasoned nuts at the farmer's market on 5th Ave & 3rd St. in Brooklyn.  There's a stand that sells all kinds of spiced and sweetened roasted nuts--unfortunately, she imports them from somewhere outside NY. I don't know why she's able to have a stand there, but the nuts are sure good!  I wanted to try to make them on my own.  I tried this recipe, and while the nuts were tasty, it wasn't exactly what I was looking for.  I'll keep trying . . . 

Ginger Agave Cashews

3 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp powdered ginger
1 cup cashews

Heat the agave nectar in a cast iron pan on the stove.  When it begins to bubble just a bit, add the cashews, salt, and ginger and toss until coated and heated through.  Pop the entire pan in the oven at 350, and roast for about 8 minutes, checking once at 4 minutes and stirring to shift cashew positions.  Be careful not to let the nuts burn.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ginger Squash Muffins

Two people, even if they have a few guests over for dinner, cannot eat seven whole butternut squashes in any decent amount of time.  I know how much the people in my office appreciate fresh baked yummies, so I decided to try a butternut squash muffin recipe.  Since I had so much ginger on hand, I decided to spice up a basic recipe.  The consistency was absolutely perfect.  I made mini muffins in a cast-iron tart pan and they were spongy and moist.  The recipe made about 48 mini muffins, and they went fast.

Ginger Squash Muffins

2 medium egg
3 cups of flour
1 1/2 cup of milk
1 cup roasted, cooled, and pureed butternut squash
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons melted butter
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Preheat your oven to 425°F (220°C).

Sift together the flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and powdered ginger. Beat the egg, then stir in the milk, squash, grated ginger, and melted butter.  Stir into the dry ingredients.

Pour into a greased muffin tin, then bake for 25 minutes or until done.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gingered Butternut Squash Relish

With seven butternut squashes staring me down, I had to try to find a pickle-related recipe because this blog is starting to veer from it's mission.  I've never had a squash relish before, and I had a bunch of ginger I haven't been able to use, so I thought I'd try this recipe.  So simple and tasty....but I am looking for suggestions about what to eat it with.  Any readers out there have any ideas?  Pork chops?  Leftover turkey?  In a ground turkey empanada?  In whole wheat burritos?  On a piece of broiled bluefish?

I have to say, I'm proudest of the photo, which I think turned out particularly well.

Ginger Squash Relish

1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon finely grated peeled fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and coarsely shredded (5 cups)
2 medium onions, grated (2/3 cup)

Stir together vinegar, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until sugar and salt are dissolved, then add remaining ingredients and toss well.  Spoon relish into clean glass jars and cover quickly to let set.  The flavors will mix well after about two days.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Cranberry Chutney

I've been making cranberry chutney for several years as a defiant alternative to those wiggly molds of gelatinous cranberry goop that plop out of a can. The first time I made it, I set aside several jars for D's mother and my family, but then forgot them on that fated Thanksgiving day. As a result, we were eating cranberry chutney with pork chops for the rest of the year. I've used recipes with more ingredients, but this time I made it simply. For interesting variations, you can add chopped apple, raisins, figs, jalapeno peppers, and even nuts. You can also substitute honey for the sugar, and up the ginger input.

Cranberry Chutney

2 medium onions, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (12-oz) bag fresh cranberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Saute the onions, garlic, and ginger in a bit of olive oil until they are browning and near carmelized. Add the rest of the ingredients all at once and simmer on medium-low heat until the cranberries have all popped. You should stir the mixture constantly towards the end as it thickens, because it will definitely start to stick to the bottom of the pan. Once all the cranberries have popped, and the mixture reaches a consistency that you're happy with, spoon it while hot into clean glass jars and seal with air-tight lids. Perfect for your Thanksgiving turkey, but awesome with all kinds of turkey and pork chop dishes all year long.

Butternut Squash Soup, Hold the Cream Please!

Everybody wants a recipe for butternut squash soup that does not need cream. This is a good one.

Butternut Squash, Sage & Roasted Garlic Soup

1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
4 cups 1/2-inch cubes peeled seeded butternut squash
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
2 - 4 garlic cloves, roasted
5 to 6 cups of chicken (or vegetable) stock

Start out by roasting some garlic in the oven at about 400F. I love roasted garlic, so I just go ahead and roast a whole damn head of garlic, and then save the rest for another dish (garlic bread?) It roasts in about 20 minutes. While the garlic is roasting, melt butter with oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions, parsley, and sage; sauté until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add squash and coarse salt; sauté until squash softens and onions are golden, about 6 minutes. Add roasted garlic (to taste) by cutting one end of a clove and squeezing out the garlic paste; stir 1 minute. Add 5 cups stock; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until squash is very soft, about 25 minutes. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender, allowing some texture to remain. Return soup to pot. Thin with stock if the soup is too thick for your tastes. Season with pepper and more salt. Serve with roasted pepitas, yogurt or sour cream, and a handful of chopped parsely. I also like to add droplets of sriracha sauce to mine.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Butternut Bonanza

We recently visited friends in Buffalo, New York who belong to a farming cooperative. They pay a yearly fee up front to the farmer, then visit the farm once in the year to do a 6-hour work shift, picking beans, weeding, or whatever, and they get fresh, organic produce every week. Someone in their neighborhood drives to the farm, picks all of the food up, packs it in individual bags, and leaves it on her porch. All my friends have to do is walk a couple of blocks to the neighbor's house, pick up the bag, and go. It's a great deal for everyone. Only thing is, you have to use up whatever's available, and sometimes that means having 7 huge butternut squash in your house for a week.

These friends left for a 10-day cruise while we were there, so they gave us the address and asked if we would pick up and use the produce. Of course we would.

I spent the morning when we returned looking up recipes for butternut squash, and so the next four entries or so here will chronicle what I did with the squash. I made three quarts of butternut squash and sage soup, a few jars of butternut squash and ginger relish, and two dozen butternut squash and walnut muffins. We had friends over for dinner last night, and this is one of the things we made. I found the recipe on Epicurious and realized that if I adapted the recipe a bit, I had all of the ingredients in my fridge except for the phyllo dough, which my friends picked up on the way over. You could probably substitute something for the bacon (seitan, perhaps? Nuts? Seasoned tofu?) to make the dish vegetarian.

Beet Greens, Butternut Squash, and Bacon Pie

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3.5 cups)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 (1/8-inch-thick) slices bacon (the recipe called for pancetta, but I couldn't be bothered)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh sage
1 1/2 pounds beet greens, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped (16 cups. The recipe called for kale, but I had a bunch of beet greens, so I used those)
1/4 cup water
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
8 (17- by 12-inch) phyllo sheets, thawed if frozen
1 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)

Special equipment: a 9-inch round heavy nonstick springform pan

Put oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 425°F.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderately high heat and sauté squash with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring frequently, until browned and just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to skillet and reduce heat to moderate, then cook onion, bacon, garlic, sage, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, stirring frequently, until onion begins to brown and carmelize. Stir in beet greens and water and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until greens are just tender.  Cool, uncovered, to room temperature.

Brush springform pan with some of butter. Unroll phyllo and, working quickly, gently fit 1 sheet into pan with ends overhanging and brush with butter (including overhang). Rotate pan slightly and top with another sheet (sheets should not align) and brush in same manner. Repeat with 5 more sheets, rotating pan each time so sheets cover entire rim.

Gently stir together squash and cheese in a bowl.  Spread half of greens mixture in phyllo shell. and spread half of the squash mixture evenly over the greens. Top with remaining greens, then top with the remaining squash.

Put remaining sheet of phyllo on a work surface and brush with butter. Fold in half crosswise and butter again. Fold again (to quarter) and brush with butter, then lay over center of filling. Bring edges of phyllo up over filling (over quartered sheet of phyllo) to enclose. Brush top with butter and bake until deep golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool pie in pan on a rack 5 minutes. Remove side of pan and transfer to a platter. Cut into wedges (leave bottom of pan under pie)

Serve with a generous dollop of thick yogurt.  The flavor is so rich that you don't need to season the yogurt at all.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ethiopian Beet & Potato Salad

My friend Becca travels all the time. She works for an international human rights organization, and if she's not in Geneva, she's in Jamaica, or Eastern Europe, or Mexico . . . it's hard to plan things with her, but our mutual friend tricked her into a dinner-for-two celebration for her birthday. Little did she know that our friend used a party planning thing on Facebook to get Becca's friends to a surprise birthday party for her. It was a success! She was surprised and the food was great. Our friend made injera, sour flatbread from Ethiopia that is used both as a food and a utensil....stews and meats are scooped up from a communal plate with pieces of injera. It's delicious, and I was hugely impressed with our friend's efforts. You can read more about injera here:

I made a beet and potato salad to go along with the meal. I found the recipe on epicurious, but it originally comes from a great Ethiopian restaurant in Washington, D.C., Meskerem. It's so simple to make, and it's a great accompaniment to spicy stews. You can see it amidst the pots of food above: it's the bright purple dish.

Beet-Potato Salad with Lemon

1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 jalapeño chili, seeded, minced
1 pound red-skinned potatoes
1 pound beets

Combine onion, lemon juice, oil and jalapeño in large bowl. Set aside.

Cook potatoes and beets in separate large saucepans of boiling salted water until just tender, about 30 minutes for potatoes and 45 minutes for beets. Drain. Cool slightly. Peel and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

Add beets and potatoes to lemon mixture and toss to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper. You can serve this dish warm, at room temperature, or even cold.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Red Lentil Tofu Curry

It's fun to have friends who are vegetarians come and visit.  I cook a lot of vegetarian food, but when I have guests, I always try to dig around for something new and interesting.  Someone clued me into this squash-scallop garam masala dish, but since I couldn't make the shellfish, I tried to find another recipe using garam masala. The recipe was really simple, warm and filling after a long day out in the cold.  We shared a bottle of Malbec, which was a great accompaniment.

Red Lentil Tofu Curry

1 medium onion
1 red bell pepper
1 carrot
2 garlic cloves
½ inch piece of ginger
1 cup red lentils
4 tbsp olive oil
4 cups water
1 lb tofu
1 tsp garam masala (Indian spice mixture)*
1 tsp salt
1 pinch cayenne
½ cup chopped cilantro

Thinly slice the onion and mince the garlic. Peel the gingerroot and mince. Rinse the red rinse lentils and drain. In a 2-quart heavy saucepan cook onion and garlic in 1 tablespoon oil over moderate heat until golden. Add gingerroot and cook, stirring for1 minute. Add lentils and water and gently boil, uncovered, until lentils fall apart. This might take about 20 minutes.

While the lentils are boiling, rinse the tofu. Cut tofu into 1/2-inch cubes and gently press between paper towels to remove excess moisture

In a small heavy skillet heat remaining tablespoon oil over moderate heat until hot but not smoking and cook cumin seeds, stirring, until a shade darker, about 1 minute. Add garam masala, salt, and cayenne and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 15 to 30 seconds. Stir hot spice oil into lentils and gently stir in tofu cubes. Let curry stand, covered, 5 minutes to allow flavors to develop.

Heat another tablespoon in an iron skillet and sautee the tofu until golden brown. When cooked, stir the tofu into the red lentil mixture and serve with a large pinch of cilantro with salt on the side.

* You can make it yourself if you have the ingredients, the time, and the energy. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I got mine from Zabar’s…and I didn’t even buy it myself, I sent my friend to buy it for me.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Autumn Birthday Treats

My dear friends Tim and Brownie had birthdays this week, and I decided to surprise them with these cupcakes for their birthday when we met friends for after-work cocktails this Friday. We met at a dark, sultry lounge in the East Village, and had to beg the image-conscious boys at the bar to eat our leftover cupcakes. Transporting the cupcakes from home to work to bar was the most complicated part of the whole endeavor.

Chocolate Cupcakes

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup milk
1 cup yogurt (plain or vanilla)

Preheat oven to 350. Line a muffin pan with paper liners, and then spray or coat with butter. Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cocoa, and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture alternately with the yogurt and the milk, and beat well. Fill the muffin cups 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Frost with a buttercream frosting when cool.

Serve to some of your best friends. And some strangers.

Pumpkin Soup

People in England don't eat nearly as much squash as we do. When my dear friend from London comes over, I seem to always have a new squash dish for him. This time, I made a vegetarian roasted pumpkin soup, which was a warm welcome for him after a day of travel. Our holiday pumpkin, which we didn't carve for Hallowe'en because we were out of town, had been on the table for at least two weeks--and it worked great. I even made a batch of agave-ginger pumpkin seeds to nosh on as well. Here's the pumpkin soup recipe I used:

Pumpkin Soup

2 tablespoon olive oil to saute the vegetables.
2 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 Cloves Garlic
1 2-pound pumpkin peeled, seeded, quartered, roasted, and then chopped up (about 6 cups)
6 cups (or more) vegetable stock

Quarter your pumpkin, spray with olive oil, and season with your favorite spice mixture. I used cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, and paprika. Roast at about 400 until the flesh of the pumpkin is tender. Saute the carrots, celery, onion and garlic about 8 minutes just until it starts to show some browning. Add the chopped-up roasted pumpkin and the stock, and some red pepper flaks and turmeric for color and spice. Simmer until the mixture is quite mushy. Allow the mixture to ccool slightly and then puree in a blender until very smooth. Finish with 1 cup of heavy cream.

Garnish with chopped cilantro, toasted pepitas, a dollop of sour cream (or labne), and some specks of sriracha sauce if you like it spicy.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Post-election detox

If you celebrated as much as I did on election night, or worked as hard as so many to make Obama's victory happen in the past few weeks/months/years, then there has never been a better time for a delicious, healthy, home-cooked meal to nourish your junk-food- and alcohol-sodden body.

We danced and drank and shot off bottle rockets on the streets of Brooklyn when Obama won. Last night, although I was still hung over and exhausted, I pulled together a tempeh stir-fry with quinoa that did me a world of good. I chose the flax tempeh because flax is super good for you:

Tempeh Stir Fry with Quinoa
1 package of flax tempeh
1 medium onion
1 small head of cabbage
2 carrots
2 cloves garlic
salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, paprika, red pepper flakes, tamari, water
olive oil

Carmelize the onion and garlic in a cast-iron pan. Add the tempeh and brown. Add the carrots, cabbage, and spices, along with tamari and some splashes of water to keep it all moist. The tempeh may break up a bit, but unless you're concerned with aesthetics, no need to worry. Prepare the quinoa simply: 1 cup quinoa (rinsed and toasted), 2 cups vegetable broth, sprinke of salt. Cook until there are tiny white tendril surrounding the quinoa. Serve with a fresh green salad and a very big glass of water. And then go to bed early. Don't even think about washing the dishes.

Other ideas for healthy detox foods: raw vegetables, especially celery; hot water with ground flax seeds and lemon juice; food without sauces; baked fish; steamed vegetables; soup with clear broth (wonton, vegetable, miso).

Home cooking in an efficiency condo on the beach

I took a much-needed vacation in Siesta Key, Florida last week. D and I rented a condo right on the beach, and it was lovely. I spent days on the beach watching pelicans dive into the water, spent nights in fun Sarasota restaurants, went to an Obama rally and saw the man speak in person, and visited the Sarasota farmer's market. Our efficiency condo had the worst cooking implements--terrible pots and pans, not a single good knife, not even salt and pepper!--so we ate out much of the time. I just had to have a home-cooked meal after visiting the farmer's market, though. This market really rivaled some of the best I've seen, and it was great to see citrus fruit there. We bought a nice pound of grouper from the fish monger, along with a little bag of herbs; a couple of lemons, a lime, a tomato, an onion, a small bag of red potatoes, a bunch of parsley, and two ears of fresh corn. We baked everything in the little electric oven: the grouper with lemon, onion, and tomato; the halved red potatoes with parsley and olive oil; and the corn in their husks. All we did was squeeze lime over the corn when we shucked it, and then we served it up. You can actually cook a great meal in any kind of kitchen!