Orange and Fennel Israeli Couscous

This makes a nice light weeknight vegetarian meal for two. If you have someone who is sensitive to texture in the house like I do, make sure to slice the fennel into manageable slices before caramelizing. The original recipe called for serving the fennel in wedges and this elicited the ick face from my DH. The original recipe also called for kalamata olives, which would be great, but that’s another DH no-no, so I omitted them. Capers would make a nice substitute for the similarly olive-challenged.

Orange and Fennel Israeli Couscous

Adapted from The Kitchn’s Couscous with Chickpeas, Fennel and Citrus 

1 large bulb fennel

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. ground coriander

1 can low sodium chickpeas, drained

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Zest and juice of 1 orange

1 big pinch citrus salt (if you have it)

1 big pinch regular kosher salt

1 cup Israeli couscous

Zest the lemon and orange. Set aside. Juice the zested orange into a measuring cup and add water until you have 1 1/2 cups of liquid.

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 1 Tbsp. olive oil up to temperature. Add the couscous and stir to coat. Let the couscous toast 2 minutes or until it starts to brown just a hair and get the slightest bit nutty. Add the zests, 1 big pinch kosher salt and liquid. Bring to a boil and drop the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer until the couscous is softened, about 15-20 mins.

Meanwhile, prepare your additions. Trim the fennel and slice, reserving fronds for garnish. Heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook until deeply caramelized (but not burnt), stirring occasionally to avoid burning, 8 minutes or so. Add coriander, chickpeas and stir to combine. Sautee until chickpeas start to toast. If they get too dry, add a splash of water. In the last minute or so, add the lemon juice and stir.

To serve, combine all components and toss. Finish off with a big pinch or two of citrus salt and a sprinkle of chopped fennel fronds.

Serves 2 for dinner.

Pasta with Broccoli, Pistachio Pesto & Lemon

20120325-083836.jpg

Pasta with Broccoli, Pistachio Pesto & Lemon

Adapted from Pasta with Pistachios Meyer Lemon & Broccoli from the Tasting Table newsletter

1 cup shelled pistachios
1 Tbsp. kosher salt plus
½ pound whole wheat elbow macaroni
2 cups broccoli, chopped
2 garlic cloves
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Juice of ½ an orange
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 cup flat-leaf parsley
½ cup mint
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
½ cup finely grated Pecorino Romano (omit for vegan)
2 Tbsp. finely chopped chives

Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the shelled pistachios until really fragrant and just starting to brown, about 5 – 6 minutes. Watch your nuts carefully; they can go from pleasantly golden-ish to a hot mess in seconds. Set aside to cool, then whiz in a food processor until they resemble a coarse meal.

While you’re babysitting the pistachios, bring a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. Chop your broccoli while you are waiting for the water to boil and set aside. Once the water is at a boil, add a handful of salt and the pasta and boil until the pasta is almost al dente, about 7 minutes. In the last 2 minutes of cooking, add the broccoli. You want tender but not overdone. Drain the whole shebang, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid for the sauce. If you aren’t ready to add the pasta back to the pot for saucing at this point, run it under cold water to stop the cooking process.

While you are cooking the pasta/broccoli, add the garlic, lemon zest, red pepper flakes and kosher salt to the food processor and grind into a fine crumb. Add the parsley and mint and pulse to process down. With the motor running, slowly drizzle in the olive and sesame oils. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add the reserved pasta water. Bring the watery pesto to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the pasta/broccoli. Stir in the lemon juice and cheese and let sit for 5 minutes to give the lemon a chance to work its magic. Top with the chives and serve.

Serves 2 for dinner + 1 for lunch.

Coconut Curry with Naan

I never promised it was pretty. This pic was taken right before plunging into after-dinner snack bowl full #2.

A nice light Thai-style coconut green curry that’s perfect over noodles or simply scooped up by naan bread. Mixed with a little Greek yogurt, I could see this becoming a go-to dip.

Coconut Curry with Naan
Based on Purple Sprouting Broccoli with Rice Noodles from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Curry paste
1 inch piece of ginger, peeped and roughly chopped
2 green chiles, seeded and roughly chopped
2 lemongrass stalks, outer layer and tough ends removed and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 small shallot, roughly chopped
1 tsp. ground cumin
zest and juice of 2 limes
2 Tbsp canola oil

Sauce
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp sugar
Big pinch salt
Zest and juice of 2 limes
1 can (15 oz) light coconut milk

To make the curry paste: Combine all the ingredients in a small spice grinder, food processor or mortar & pestle. Grind/blend to a paste. If your mixture is too dry and isn’t paste-ing, add a little more lime juice or oil and move things around in the bowl. Your paste won’t be smooth, but it will come together and the lemongrass fibers will break up. It’s not the prettiest thing in town, but it gets the job done.

To make the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, heat the oil until it begins to sputter. Add the onion and sautee, stirring to avoid burning, 3 minutes or until softened, translucent and beginning to brown around the edges. Add curry paste and continue to sautee, stirring frequently, 3 minutes more. At this point, everything should be looking rather toasty in the pan and the smell should be incredible. Add salt, sugar, lime zest and coconut milk. Stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Bring up to a boil, knock the heat back to a simmer and let go 7 minutes.

At this point you have a very lovely coconut green curry sauce. You can serve this over rice noodles and broccolini like the original recipe calls for (which is great), or you can spoon some leftover curry sauce into a small bowl and scoop it up with naan bread. This makes an addicting after-dinner (or any time) snack. So addicting I managed to eat 2 small bowls worth right after dinner and i wish I had more.

I would imagine this sauce would keep in the fridge for a few days, but since I decided playing garbage disposal by myself last night was a good idea, we have no leftovers. Which is a total shame, I would eat this again today and in mass quantities.

Note: This is a very, very mild curry. Not hot in the slightest. If you want more heat, I would suggest leaving the seeds in the chiles or adding a bit of heat at the end.

Serves 2 if I’m one of the 2, 4 if I’m not. Really, there is enough curry to happily sauce a family of four’s dinner.

Carrot Pesto Risotto

I got carrots with their tops in this week’s CSA and needed something to do with the greens other than halfheartedly toss a handful in a dish for garnish. Enter pesto. Pesto is one of those great little things to have in your bag of tricks to pull out on a rainy day, or a great way to use up an ingredient you have zero idea what to do with. This pesto doesn’t give you the flavor wallop a traditional basil pesto does, but it’s not half bad. And it’s frugal. Frugal, I tell you. Next time I might add some garlic to the mix to liven things up a bit. I tried a bit of cheese, but it really didn’t make any difference.

Carrot Pesto Risotto

For the pesto

1 bunch carrot greens, hacked into manageable chunks
2 tsp. lime juice + more to taste
1-2 dried chills, sliced or torn into pieces
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
Salt

Blanch the carrot greens in a big pot of salted water for about a minute, or until they are bright green and kind of wilty. Drain and add to the bowl of a large food processor.

With the motor on, add 2 tsp. lime juice, 2 huge pinches salt, chilis and olive oil. Taste. If it needs more brightness, add some more lime juice. If it’s a little dry, add a couple Tablespoons of water.

For the carrot risotto

1 bunch carrots (about 2 1/2 cups), roughly chopped into 3/4 inch segments
Olive oil
1 c. arborio rice
1/2 c. white wine
4 c. stock (I used 2 c. vegetable and 2 c. lobster stock made with my best friend Better Than Bouillon – use all vegetable if making vegetarian or vegan)

Toss the carrots with a glug of olive oil and a generous pinch salt and spread on a baking sheet. Roast in a 450 degree oven about 35 minutes or until browned at the edges and soft.

While you’re waiting for the carrots to brown, make the risotto.

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, sautee the rice 2 mins. in 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Add the white wine, reduce heat to medium and cook 1-2 mins. or until the liquid is mostly absorbed. Add stock by the half cup, stir, and simmer until the rice is al dente and won’t take more liquid.

Serves 2 for dinner.

Roasted Sesame Radish Soba with Kale

This dish started with the question, what can I do with these CSA radishes other than serve them raw or pickled? I’d made simple roast English breakfast radishes before, and knew they turned sweet with heat. I’m happy to report that this dish turned out great – the radishes were sweet, almost turnip-y and the greens worked well with the sauce and carrot. All in all a satisfying, healthy weeknight dish.

Apparently the dish was so good I forgot to take a picture of it. These are watermelon radishes.

Roasted Sesame Radish Soba with Kale

3 watermelon radishes
1 bunch kale
2 small carrots
1 c. vegetable stock
1/2 palm sesame seeds
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. soy
1 Tbsp. mirin
1 tsp. chili garlic sauce
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 servings soba

Preheat the oven to 425 F. While your oven is preheating, chop the radishes into roughly 1 inch chunks. De-stem the kale and slice it into ribbons. Slice the carrots into thin rounds.

Put the radishes into the oven on a cookie sheet. Bake 25-30 mins. or until they reach your desired softness. I left mine a little al dente, and they tasted just fine.

While your radishes are cooking, add the vegetable stock and kale to a large pan and cook approximately 10 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the kale is soft. Add the carrot halfway through the cooking time (this will give you crisp carrots – for softer carrots, add at the beginning with the kale).

While all this is working, toast your sesame seeds in a dry pan over high heat until they just begin to brown and smell nutty. Set aside and make your radish dressing.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine 1 Tbsp. honey with 1 Tbsp. soy. When the radishes are done, pull the sheet from the oven and pour the radish sauce over. Add the shallots, toss to combine, and put back in the oven for 3-5 minutes. Watch carefully so the mixture does not burn.

Cook the soba according to package directions, about 3 minutes, and drain.

When the radishes are done, add the sesame seeds and toss to coat.

Add the noodles to the pan with the kale and carrots, along with the miring, 1 tsp. honey, 1 tsp. soy, and chili garlic sauce. Toss to combine.

Serve topped with the roasted sesame radishes.

Serves 2

Kohlrabi & Apple Slaw Noodles

Kohlrabi & Apple Slaw Noodles
I’m cautiously optimistic that this single dish will pull me out of my cooking rut. This was great, though next time I may double the sauce amount. It came out on the dry side for my taste so I finished with an additional drizzle of sesame oil. A nice touch, but the sweet/sour/bright sauce would have been even better.

1 Kohlrabi bulb, julienned
Kohlrabi greens, ribboned
2 small carrots, julienned
1 Fuji apple, julienned
2 cloves garlic, slivered
8 oz. fettuccini-width rice noodles
1 Tbsp. sesame oil

For the sauce

4 tsp. honey
2 tsp. sesame oil
2 dried chili peppers, de-seeded & minced
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. water
2 tsp. pomegranate molasses
2 tsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. ponzu

Set a large pot of water on to boil for the noodles. Boil noodles 6 minutes (or the lowest cook time listed on the noodle package – you want al dente). Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking.

While you’re waiting for the noodles to cook, make the sauce. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk. Adjust seasoning to taste. You want it to taste great on its own.

Add the sesame oil to your your largest pan over high heat. When the noodles go into the boiling water, toss the kohlrabi bulb and garlic into the pan. Cook, stirring, until the noodles are done.

When the noodles are done, add them to the pan. Keep everything moving so the noodles don’t stick all over the place. Add the kohlrabi greens and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add the sauce, carrots and apples. Stir fry an additional 2 minutes to combine everything well.

Serves 4

Roasty Toasty Winter Bisque

Creamy Liquid Nutrition

Roasty Toasty Winter Bisque

Did you know that you can peel pumpkin, butternut squash or any other thin-skinned winter squash with a speed peeler? Well, I didn’t until I saw one of the pumpkin pros on Food Network’s Halloween Wars do it, and man, does it make a difference. You see, I used to use a Chinese-style meat cleaver to break into my squash, and rather than dirty up a perfectly good knife to use as a peeler, I would use said cleaver to peel my squash. Now, over the years I’ve gotten pretty dexterous with that cleaver, but using a speed peel wastes way less of the tender flesh, and may even be a bit easier. Maybe. It freaks onlookers out less, too, which may or may not be a good thing, depending upon your proclivities.

You know what’s great about winter soups? They’re healthy as shit. You’re basically eating liquid vegetables here, and the dairy? I can totally handle 2/3 c. + a little fat spread out among 4 servings if it comes with an entire day’s worth of vegetables. 4 4 3 2, bitchez! (yes I’m aware there’s now some plate thingie instead of 4 4 3 2, but lessons with songs die hard)

If you don’t want to spring for a whole container of creme fraiche, Greek yogurt might make a good substitute here. Or cream cheese. Anything creamy in the dairy family would do, even sour cream. You’re going for a little zing, a little cream, a little thick. Go on, play with your food. You know you want to.

Roasty Toasty Winter Bisque

Adapted from Roasted Pumpkin Bisque from Whole Foods

5 lb. winter squash – I used a sugar pie pumpkin and butternut squash
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 Tbsp. thyme, chopped
3 Tbsp. olive oil
6 c. chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 c. white wine (whatever you have on hand that’s drinkable)
1 tsp. ground cardamom
Juice of half a lemon
Roasted squash seeds (see recipe below)
2/3 c. creme fraiche (optional)

Preheat your oven to 425 F. Toss the squash, onions, thyme & oil and spread onto baking sheets in a single layer. Salt & pepper to season, and roast 30 mins. or until tender and just starting to brown around the edges (you may want to stir once or twice to prevent burning and feel useful – if that’s you, knock yourself out. I didn’t and mine was just fine). Once the squash is done to your liking, remove from the oven.

This would be a great time to add those squash seeds to the (now vacant) oven.

Transfer squash + friends to a large pot. Add the broth, wine & cardamom and simmer 10 minutes. Blend with an immersion blender** (or however you blend soup – in batches in a blender, whatever) until smooth. Add the lemon, stir and taste. Does it need salt or pepper? Add it now. Bring your soup back up to a simmer and kill the heat. Remove from the burner and whisk in the creme fraiche. Serve with crusty bread or a nice peppery arugula salad.

Serves 4 for dinner, or 2 for dinner with 2 big lunch portions.

Roasted Squash Seeds

Take the seeds from your peeled squash from the above recipe. Clean and place in a small bowl.

Add 1 tsp. each cumin, chipotle powder, cinnamon and brown sugar. Toss with a splash of olive oil and a big pinch of salt.

Spread out on a baking sheet and bake ~5 mins. or until browned but not burnt. Be careful here. Ideally, the oven would be at 350 to bake squash seeds, but I like to live on the edge. Just babysit your seeds and they will be fine. A little blackened on the edges is tasty, too, just make sure they’re done enough (read: dry and browned) or the texture will be off.

**A note on immersion blenders: If you make soup more than once a year and/or enjoy the occasional smoothie, buy one already. You can get them on sale for under $25 almost any month of the year if you look, and they are worth it. They hardly take up any space, and if you will use it more than once a year, it is a great investment. This is a tool I broke down and finally bought this year. I thought for years that they were a: too expensive, b: too much of a unitasker and c: something I could totally live without – people lived without them for thousands of years, after all. *Horn Sound* Wrong (except for the thousands of years bit).

For the kitchen accident prone like me, this method of soup blending has become invaluable. There is zero chance of spilling mass amounts of hot liquid on yourself or for dinner to come crashing to the ground because you lack the arm strength to pour soup from a huge pot safely. Also, splatters with the immersion blender are waaaaayyy smaller than splatters with a bar blender. Just sayin’. Having one of those puppies blow up in your face because you put the soup in while it was too hot and the steam got over zealous isn’t the most fun you can have on a weeknight. Nor is leaking soup out of the bottom of your food processor.

Isn’t $25 worth peace of mind? For me it has become so. I love my stick blender. And as an added bonus, it feels “chef-y” too. So there’s that.

The ‘I Need Healthy In My Life’ Grain Salad

This light & cleansing dish will set you back on track

The ‘I Need Healthy In My Life’ Grain Salad

This is a great good-for-what-ails-you one bowl dinner, perfect to get yourself back on track after a weekend of decadence.

Adapted from Radish and Pecan Grain Salad from Food 52

2c. mixed cooked farro, pearl barley and brown rice
1c. arugula
1c. parsley
1/2 c. fresh tarragon
1/2 lb. pecans, toasted and chopped
1/4 c. walnut oil
1/4 c. tarragon vinegar
1 c. radishes, sliced wafer thin
1/4 c. shallot, minced
1/4 c. olive oil

Set a large pot of salted water on to boil while you prepare the salad.

While the water is coming up to a boil or while the grains are cooking, mince the parsley, tarragon and shallot. Slice your radishes wafer thin.

When the water has come up to a boil, add the farro, pearl barley and brown rice. Cook until tender, 30 – 45 mins. If you’re worried about everything not cooking at the same time, cook big batches of each separately and freeze the leftovers in zipper bags for a quick weeknight meal base.

When the grains are done to your liking, drain into a colander and set aside to cool.

While the grains are cooling a bit, place your pecans into a dry pan over medium-high heat. Toast until fragrant and beginning to color. Remove from the heat and chop.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl of grains, toss, season to taste with salt & pepper and serve.

Serves 2 for dinner with enough leftover for lunch.

Fiesta Quinoa

Informed by a vague Mexican vibe, this lively (and healthy!) salad packs a nice kick

I didn’t tinker much with this recipe. The fresh healthy combo of Mexican-ish ingredients looked intriguing and I thought this dish would be just the thing to cure our recent string of ‘no taste dinners’ (at least so says my DH. I’ve been tinkering on my own for awhile and have been kind of stuck in an olive oil/garlic/parsley/Parmesan rut).

I did however, significantly up the spice quotient in my version of the recipe. The original called for timid half teaspoons; as we all know, I just can’t live with half a teaspoon. I estimate I actually used a little over a teaspoon of each spice in my final version. I went with the more reasonable doubling of the original spice for clarity purposes here.

A note on chipotle powder: Don’t be scared. This isn’t cayenne. Chipotle powder is mildly spicy and has a nice deep smokiness that works really well here. Sure you’re getting smokiness from the cumin, but the smokiness you get from chipotle powder is a little different and totally worth checking out if you have not already.

Fiesta Quinoa
Adapted from Spicy Black Bean and Quinoa Salad by lastnightsdinner on Food 52

1/2 c. quinoa
1 c. water
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. chipotle powder
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 scallions, sliced thin
2 roasted red peppers, chopped
1 15oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt

In a small pot, bring the quinoa and water to a boil. Cover and drop the heat to simmer. Simmer about 15 minutes, or until the quinoa coils release and the water has been absorbed.

While the quinoa is working, make the dressing. Whisk the lime juice, lime zest, big pinch salt, chili powder, chipotle powder and cumin. Stream in the olive oil and beat until a nice dressing forms.

Combine the cooked quinoa, beans, red peppers, scallions and cilantro in a large bowl. Add the dressing and toss well to incorporate.

Serves 2 for dinner with enough left over for lunch.

Garlicky Lentils – The Perfect Foil For Pork

Don’t worry about the amount of garlic in this dish. My DH saw that it called for a whopping 12 cloves of garlic and was immediately concerned that I would be up for days with heart burn. Not so. cooking the garlic until crisp gives it a deep nuttiness and takes the burn right out. Yum. This dish makes the perfect foil for pork. We served alongside this month’s Charcuteapalooza challenge, pork terrine.

The perfect fall foil for pork – garlicky, nutty and just bright enough to cut through fat from the mustard and apple

Garlicky Lentils

Adapted from Salata Adas from Saveur Magazine

1 cup green lentils
6 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
12 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. minced parsley
1 Tbsp. minced mint
1/2 Granny Smith apple, minced
Salt & pepper

In a medium pan over high heat, bring the lentils and 3 cups water up to a boil. Reduce heat to medium- low and simmer until lentils are tender (about 35 minutes). Set aside, draining if lots of excess water.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until nicely browned and crisp but not burned, about 7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the remaining oil, lemon juice, cumin, allspice and mustard. Pour this mixture over the lentils. Add the parsley, mint and apple and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.

This dish makes enough for two hearty side dishes and lunch the next day.