Sunday, November 22, 2009

Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup

Purchases from the market this week: butternut squash, sweet potatoes, shallots, a huge bunch of sage, several sprigs of rosemary, and a bag of broccoli florets.

I thumbed through my binder of collected recipes and found, sitting right near the top, a loose piece of paper from the farmer's market with this soup recipe. Given the big old bag of dry white beans sitting in my legume drawer just waiting to be cooked, it was a perfect fit.

Butternut Squash and White Bean Soup

1 1/2 cups chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups low-salt chicken broth (I used veggie broth from boullion cubes)
2 1/2 lbs of beans (I guesstimated here using beans I'd made in the slow cooker - I put in about 6 cups all together)
1 cup diced tomatoes (I used some crushed tomatoes I had leftover)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Saute chopped onion and garlic in olive oil until golden, about 10 minutes.

Add broth; bring to boil. Stir in butternut squash, 1 lb beans with liquid, tomatoes, and fresh rosemary.

Puree (or mash) remaining beans with liquid in processor until smooth. Add to soup. Cover and simmer until butternut squash is tender and flavors blend, about 15 minutes.

Season soup with salt and pepper.

Really good soup. Fresh herbs make all the difference.

Morning Glory Muffins

I've had muffins on the mind over the last week or so. I finally decided to give in to the craving and got one very disappointing, stale muffin Dunkin' Donuts (remember never to do that again). The next day, craving still in high gear, I had a mediocre pumpkin muffin from a deli near my office. Finally, I had a pretty satisfying morning glory muffin from Connecticut Muffins in Park Slope this past Saturday morning while on my way to the market. This ultimate purchase inspired me to make some of my own.

I found this recipe just from Googling it, but it's most definitely a winner. There's absolutely tons of fruit and veggie action in this muffin, even more than the standard carrot and raisin combo I expect in a morning glory muffin, and it bakes up beautifully.

The Original Morning Glory Muffins from Earthbound Farm

1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
3/4 cup raisins
1 large apple, peeled and grated
1 cup (8 oz) crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups grated carrots
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts (I used pecans)
3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Sift or whisk together the sugar, flour, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl.

Add the coconut, raisins, apple, pineapple, carrots, and nuts, and stir to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the oil and vanilla. Pour into the bowl with the dry ingredients and blend well.

Spoon the batter into muffin tins lined with muffin cups, filling each to the brim. Bake for 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool muffins in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling.

I brought a batch to my grandma when I visited her this afternoon, and she gave them a big thumbs up too. And we all know that when it comes to baked goods, Grandma's tend to know best.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding. Possibly the best thing ever.

This dish is, quite possibly, the best thing ever. Or maybe it's the best thing I've ever made. Either way, it's damn good.

I saw the recipe for this butternut squash and cheddar bread pudding in the Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appetit magazine. The accompanying article (written by Orangette's Molly Wizenberg) describes how the dish can replace the turkey at a vegetarian Thanksgiving. Count me in! Still too early for a true Thanksgiving meal, I made this delightful main course for a dinner party held at my apartment last weekend. It has quite a few steps (seeing as the dish itself is composed of four layered parts) and though a bit time consuming, nothing was particularly difficult about it. Plus, whisking seven (7!) eggs in a big metal bowl really made me feel like a chef!

Butternut Squash and Cheddar Bread Pudding from Bon Appetit, November 2009

pounds peeled seeded butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 6 cups)
tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 1/2
teaspoons coarse kosher salt plus additional for sprinkling
7 large eggs
2 1/4 cups half and half (I used whole milk here.)
6 tablespoons dry white wine
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 day-old baguette (do not remove crust), torn into 1-inch pieces (about 10 cups)
1 cup chopped shallots (about 4 large)
2 bunches Tuscan kale (about 1 pound), ribs removed, kale coarsely chopped
8 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, coarsely grated

Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss squash with 1 tablespoon oil on rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle with coarse salt; bake until squash is tender, turning with spatula occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes.

Whisk eggs in large bowl. Add half and half, wine, mustard, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt; whisk to blend. Add baguette pieces; fold gently into egg mixture. Let soak 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sauté until soft, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add kale; cover and cook 2 minutes. Uncover and stir until kale is wilted but still bright green, about 5 minutes (kale will be a bit crunchy).

Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Generously butter 13x9x2-inch baking dish. Using slotted spoon, transfer half of bread from egg mixture to prepared baking dish, arranging to cover most of dish. Spoon half of kale over bread. Spoon half of squash over bread and kale; sprinkle with half of cheese. Repeat with remaining bread, kale, squash, and cheese. Pour remaining egg mixture over bread pudding.

Cover bread pudding with foil. Bake 20 minutes. Remove foil; bake uncovered until custard is set and bread feels springy to touch, about 20 minutes longer.

Preheat broiler; broil pudding until cheese browns slightly, about 2 minutes. Cool 5 minutes and serve.

This dish is beautiful and extraordinarily good. All the elements just melt into each other.

It tastes soft but also crisp, full of veggies and still completely substantive. Undoubtedly better than most Thanksgiving turkeys I've had.

And look how nicely it fit in with the rest of our dinner party fare!

Despite the time involved in making this dish, I'm already planning several upcoming occasions worthy of making it again.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Catching Up: Granola Bars, Fig Cookies, and Acorn Squash

While I slacked off on updating this blog over the last few weeks, I must admit that my intentions were good. So good, in fact, that I have plenty of photo documentation of my food projects of late that I'd like to share. Check out a quick run-through of recipes and photos from October thus far:

Granola Bars from The Kitchn

Fruit and Nut Bars
Makes 8 bars

1/2 cup whole nuts - almonds, peanuts, walnuts, etc.
1/2 cup dried fruit, coarsely chopped - cranberries, cherries, figs, etc.
1 cup high-fiber cereal (like Kashi GoLean)
1 cup puffed rice cereal
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons wheat bran (Didn't have this so I used a bit of wheat flour instead)
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 350-degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare an 8x8-inch pan with oil or non-stick cooking spray.

Arrange the nuts on a sheet pan and toast for 10 minutes or until fragrant. Allow them to cool and then give them a rough chop. Combine the chopped nuts, dried fruit, and cereals in a heat-proof bowl. Use your fingers to separate the fruit if it clumps together.

Reduce oven temperature to 300-degrees Fahrenheit.

Combine butter, brown sugar, and honey in a medium sauce pan and stir to moisten the brown sugar. Set over medium heat and bring to a boil, swirling the pan once or twice to make sure all the ingredients combine. As soon as the sugar mixture comes to a full boil and the sugar is completely dissolved, remove from heat. This should take about 5 minutes.

Off the heat, stir in the vanilla, wheat bran, and salt. Be careful because the sugar will bubble up. Immediately pour sugar syrup over the cereal mixture and use a heat-proof spatula to stir everything together. Make sure the nuts, fruits, and cereals are evenly coated. Pour the cereal mixture into the pan and use the spatula or wet fingers to press the mixture into the pan as firmly as possible.

Bake 20 minutes for chewy bars or up to 30 minutes for crispier bars. Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan. Turn out onto a cutting board and use a sharp knife to divide into 8 bars.

Fig Cookies
(Makes about 4 dozen)

1 cup chopped figs (about 1/2 lb)
1/3 cup water
1 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cook figs with water, stirring frequently, until thickened (about 5 minutes). Set aside to cool.

Beat butter with sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Blend well. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Mix into the creamed mixture. Stir in the cooled figs. Drop by teaspoons onto lightly greased cookie sheets.

Bake 375 degrees F. for 10 to 12 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove cookies and cool on wire racks.

Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinagrette from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 4 servings.

2 (1 1/2 – to 1 3/4-lb) acorn squash
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste
1 to 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh hot red chile, including seeds
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450°F. Halve squash lengthwise, then cut off and discard stem ends. Scoop out seeds and cut squash lengthwise into 3/4-inch-wide wedges. Toss squash with black pepper, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 2 tablespoons oil in a bowl, then arrange, cut sides down, in 2 large shallow baking pans. Roast squash, switching position of pans halfway through roasting, until squash is tender and undersides of wedges are golden brown, 25 to 35 minutes.

While squash roasts, mince garlic and mash to a paste with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Transfer paste to a small bowl and whisk in lime juice, chile (to taste), cilantro, and remaining 1/4 cup oil until combined.

Transfer squash, browned sides up, to a platter and drizzle with vinaigrette.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Roasted sungolds and apple kugel

Note: Oh man, I am a slacker. I meant to post this weeks ago. Apologies. Please enjoy now!

From the week of September 28th:

Plenty of cooking adventures to report for the past week. But first! Saturday goodies from the market: a pint of sungolds, one of the last of the season; two gala apples (good for lunches) and four golden delicious apples (for the kugel); broccoli; a yellow bell pepper; and my first winter squash of the season, a hardy small butternut. Did you know that the less green lines at the top of the squash, the sweeter it'll be? I think I learned that from the Brinkleys, at the Carrboro Farmer's Market.

I love roasting tomatoes - it brings out their flavor without having to do much to them - and at the end of tomato season, it's a good way to make sure that slightly sub-par tomatoes still taste great. I used a Smitten Kitchen recipe to roast these sungolds. Usually I roast tomatoes at a slightly higher temp for a much shorter period of time, but I wanted to see what would happen with her truly slow roast method.

Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Cherry, grape or small Roma tomatoes
Whole gloves of garlic, unpeeled
Olive oil
Herbs such as thyme or rosemary (optional)

Preheat oven to 225°F. Halve each cherry or grape tomato crosswise, or Roma tomato lengthwise and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet along with the cloves of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil, just enough to make the tomatoes glisten. Sprinkle herbs on, if you are using them, and salt and pepper, though go easily on these because the finished product will be so flavorful you’ll need very little to help it along.

Bake the tomatoes in the oven for about three hours. You want the tomatoes to be shriveled and dry, but with a little juice left inside–this could take more or less time depending on the size of your tomatoes.

I didn't realize we had no garlic until I'd already started cutting tomatoes, so I just decided to go with it. I sprinkled some dried thyme on top. They came out great! I'll definitely pop them onto sandwiches, in with pasta, and on top of salads over the next week or two.

Now that we're mostly finished setting up the new apartment, Katey and Anna and I hosted a small brunch potluck this weekend to celebrate. I get daily emails from with recipes, and one of this week's was for a Caramelized Apple Kugel. I love my grandma's kugels - thick, creamy, cheesy, dessert that you can pretend is a side dish or breakfast - and figured this would be worth a try.

Vegetarian Times Noodle Kugel with Caramelized Apples and Raisins

  • 6 oz. wide egg noodles
  • 2 cups low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 cup low-fat plain yogurt
  • 2 eggs plus 2 egg whites
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup raisins (I left these out)
  • 4 Golden Delicious apples, peeled and cored (1 1/2 lb.)
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 9- x 13-inch baking dish with cooking spray.

Cook egg noodles in large pot of boiling salted water 4 to 5 minutes, or until tender. Drain.

Whisk together cottage cheese, yogurt, eggs, egg whites, cinnamon, and salt in bowl. Fold in egg noodles and raisins.

Quarter each apple. Slice each quarter into thirds. Set aside.

Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apples, sprinkle with sugar, and cook 4 minutes without stirring. Gently flip apples and cook 4 minutes more, or until softened and golden on both sides, turning once or twice. Carefully transfer apples to noodle mixture.

Spoon noodle mixture into prepared baking dish and sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake 40 minutes, or until breadcrumbs are golden brown. Cool 15 minutes before slicing. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Sadly, this recipe came out quite a bit dryer and looser than I was hoping. My memories of kugel involve thick, creamy squares of moist goodness. This was more falling apart noodlieness with fruit and spices mixed in. Next time I'll find a recipe heavier on the cheese. What could be wrong with that plan?

I promise more regular updates from now on! In addition, my apartment is hosting quite a few food-related events this weekend, and surely there will be more to come. I'll do my best to keep you fully posted.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Coconut Barley Pilaf with Corn, Chicken, and Cashews

Apologies, dear readers, for my absence. Consider this my triumphant return.

And we begin again with one of this week's featured recipes from the New York Times, prefaced by an adorable and appealing article about this homemade takeout-style dish to cuddle up with on the couch. Living in New York, resisting takeout can be difficult, as walking home from the subway requires peeking through the windows of all the local restaurants, watching folks consume delicious-looking food with smells wafting towards the street. But it's expensive, for one, and often feels so extravagant when I could just go home and make something simple and good. This dish is a great compromise.

Now before you get all hyped up that I'm leaving my mostly vegetarian roots, fear not! I've substituted the chicken in this recipe for one of the single best ingredients of all time: Delight Soy Nuggets. Imported from Taiwan directly to North Carolina, they're impossible to get in New York. I was lucky enough to have mine specially delivered to me. They're so good, so juicy, so much like real meat, and so incredibly addictive, that they've come to be known in my circle as "soy crack." Once you start, you'll be hooked for life. In a good way.

Coconut Barley Pilaf with Corn, Chicken, and Cashews

1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast (about 10 ounces), rinsed and patted dry
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup salted roasted cashews, roughly chopped
1/2 medium onion, diced small (about 1 cup)
1 jalapeño pepper, diced
2 cups pearled barley
1 can (15-ounce) coconut milk
2 ears corn, kernels sliced off the cob (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, cilantro or parsley (I used cilantro)

Cut chicken into 1-inch chunks; season with salt and pepper.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until light golden and almost cooked through, about 4 minutes. Stir in cashews and cook 1 minute more. Transfer mixture to a plate.

Add remaining tablespoon oil to pot. Stir in onions and jalapeño and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until onions are slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in barley and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook 1 minute more.

Add enough water to coconut milk to yield 2 cups liquid and add to pot. Bring liquid to a simmer, then cook, covered, over low heat until the barley is almost tender, about 40 minutes.

Stir in corn. If mixture looks dry, stir in 1 1/4 cups more water; cover and cook until barley and corn are tender, 10 to 15 minutes more. Return chicken mixture to pot and stir well. Fold in herbs and more salt to taste.

This dish is really, really good. The grain is hearty, the flavors are really full, the coconut milk and corn combo makes it a touch sweet. It reheats really well and doesn't take too long or much effort. The soy crack, of course, is fab. Definitely will be making this one again.