Sunday, February 20, 2011

Butternut Baby Belly Laugh - Funny Veggie Video!

Veggie Questers! I've missed you! I'm finally back from the abyss of overbusy-ness and food poisoning. (No, I don't think it was from veggies, thank goodness.)

Anyhow, I've got so much to share with youincluding a crazy new way to prepare avocados that I'll be posting soon. But since I'm easing back into blogging after my time away, I think I'll start with something simple, like a funny veggie video of my nephew Will meeting a butternut squash face-to-face. You wouldn't think ogling a squash would be entertaining, but he found it hilarious. (I think you will too.) Thanks to my sis-in-law for the clip!

Now if only we could all be so enthused about our veggies...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Midweek Dash: Easy Sautéed Carrots with Onions and Rosemary

I found the silver lining in my most recent epic cooking fail: it is possible to like cooked carrots.

Normally I find cooked carrots revolting. I can manage them raw (slathered with hummus), but boiling, steaming or otherwise smushifying them into sickeningly sweetish, squishy bits trips my gag reflex every time. And don't even get me started on glazing them with something sweet (like orange juice, horrors!); as far as I'm concerned, it renders them completely inedible.

Then an utterly failed recipe changed my mind. (At least a little bit.)

Here's what happened: a few weeks back I attempted to make the "Pappardelle with Beef and Mushroom Ragu" recipe in last month's Real Simple magazine. Only I took this perfectly good recipe and substituted reconstituted textured vegetable protein (don't ask) for beef chuck in a pitiable bid to make the recipe vegetarian. I thought the mushrooms in the ragu might somehow make up for the general lack of beefiness.

WRONG. All sorts of wrong. My husband and I choked down the results, but just barely. (I hate to waste.)

What went right, though, was the second step of the recipe, which called for sauteeing chopped carrots with onions, garlic, and rosemary before adding them to a tomato sauce. (I wasn't concerned about having cooked carrots in the recipe because I was pretty sure the tomatoes and long cooking time of the sauce would cover their flavor and texture.) As I followed the carrot-cooking directions, though, I was shocked to find a heavenly, savory odor wafting up from the sizzling pan. So I pinched just a few carrots from the pan before they were done, more in the interest of science than anything.

Holy cow, were they good.

Needless to say, the recipe went downhill about the time I added the faux beef a few steps later. But even though I won't be making the meat-free version of this ragu recipe again anytime soon, I will be holding on to the carrot-sauteeing part, because the cooked-carrot results are so darned good. (Hell hath frozen over.) Indeed, I've made said carrots four times since that fateful recipe attempt, playing with proportions and ingredients to get the flavors just right.

Easy Sautéed Carrots with Onions and Rosemary

You probably have all the ingredients for this recipe at home right now, especially since you can use dried rosemary in place of fresh in a pinch. The only trick is to julienne the onion, which sounds really intimidating, but isn't. Check out the step-by-step instructions at How to Julienne an Onion. (Would that I had chef Jacob's knife skills!) Be sure to use a sharp, non-serrated knife.

Onion, partly cut into julienne

The resulting thin strips of onion cook evenly and quickly. If learning to julienne is too much trouble for a weeknight, though, just cut the onion in half lengthwise and slice it into thin (") rings. (Well, half-rings.) The onions won't cook quite as evenly, but hey, we're home cooks here.

Adapted from the second step only of Kay Chun's recipe, "Pappardelle with Beef and Mushroom Ragu".

Prep time: 15 minutes                   Serves: 3

2 tsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, julienned or cut into half-rings " wide
3 medium carrots, cut into chubby matchsticks
3 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
¾ tsp chopped fresh rosemary (or ¼ tsp crushed dried rosemary)
scant ¼ tsp salt
3-4 grinds of fresh black pepper

Heat olive oil in a large skillet or saute pan on medium-high heat until shimmery. Wiggle the pan a bit so that oil coats the entire bottom. 

Add the onions, carrots, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onions are slightly translucent but still opaque enough to hold their shape, and carrots are "al dente." (Not crisp, but still firm to the bite!)

Serve garnished with sprigs of fresh rosemary if you have them. 

Variations: I haven't given these a whirl yet, but I'd love to once I eat the four batches of carrots I've got socked away in my freezer. Better yet, why don't you be the guinea pig and report back? Super! 

Instead of rosemary, try
  • sage (¾ tsp chopped fresh or ¼ tsp crushed dried), or
  • a pinch of nutmeg, or
  • 1 tsp lemon zest, 2 tsp fresh parsley (add both in the last minute of cooking), and then season to taste with lemon juice

Friday, February 4, 2011

Southern-Style Massaged Kale Salad Recipe

Everyone likes a good rubdown, and kale is no exception. (Seriously.)

Massaging kale leaves with olive oil renders them tender, slightly chewy, and even a little nutty-tasting. (If you pinch a piece of rubbed kale before it goes into the salad, you'll see what I'm talking about.) There are a few tricks to this technique, though:
  1. Use crisp, tender kale. (If it's floppy or exudes even the slightest whiff of aged cabbage, pass it up).
  2. Make it during the winter when kale is sweetest.
  3. Just use enough olive oil to soften the kale (you'll know when you're there because the bluish bloom on the leaves will disappear).
Violate these maxims at your own (epicurean) peril!

Southern-Style Massaged Kale Salad

I'd like to say I came up with this salad all by myself in an epiphany of vegetablicious glory, but instead I was inspired by some great websites and a book. (Synthesizing is its own skill; this is what I tell myself.) I got the kale-massaging idea from Alanna Kellogg's "Quick 'Massaged' Kale Salad" recipe on her blog, A Veggie Venture. I tacked on an apple cider vinaigrette, taking off from White House Executive Chef Cristeta Comerford's apple cider vinaigrette recipe. (Yes, the White House.) Only I changed some proportions, nixed the shallot, and swapped maple syrup for honey. Finally, I got the egg-onion-pickled beet topping combo from Susan Hermann Loomis' "Arkansas Kale and Bacon Salad" recipe in her Farmhouse Cookbook, as described in Elizabeth Schneider's go-to guide, Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini.

Did I do my homework or what?

Prep time: 20 minutes          Serves: 2 as an entree, 4 as a side salad 

1 small bunch kale (a little more than half a pound; no need to be precise)
1 Tbsp olive oil for massaging, plus 5 tsp for vinaigrette
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp maple syrup, plus more for drizzling
a pinch of salt (to taste)
a few good grinds of fresh black pepper
2 hard-cooked eggs, sliced or chopped
¼ cup chopped or thinly sliced sweet onion
¼ cup diced pickled beets (optional; sweet pickled beets are best)

Wash your hands really well. Heck, scrub up like a surgeon. (Don't worry, your skin will be baby soft after rubbing in all that olive oil.)

Wash kale and pat dry. Strip the leaves from the stems (as demonstrated in my sauteed kale post), but don't rip them up yet! (If you do, rubbing in the olive oil will take ages.)

Pour 1 Tbsp olive oil into a little bowl, dip your fingers in it (you can even rub it on your palms) and massage it into the kale leaves. You'll know you're done when the leaves soften slightly and their bluish "bloom" fades. (If you have kids, recruit them for this step—after scrubbing their hands down, too. Fun textures, parent-sanctioned mess; what could be better?)

Tear the massaged leaves into bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. (You should end up with around 8 cups of lightly packed, oiled leaves.)

Combine 5 tsp of olive oil with the apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, 1 tsp maple syrup, salt, and pepper in an old jam jar. Screw the lid on and shake to blend. (Or use a fork to blend in a small bowl.)

Pour the vinaigrette over the kale and toss to coat.

Divide into 2-4 salads and top with eggs, onions, and pickled beets. (I know, I usually can't stand beets either, but they they add cool color and texture to this salad.) Sprinkle with more freshly ground black pepper if you like.

Drizzle lightly with maple syrup. (It gives the salad a brunchy flavor and nicely complements the nutty, savory kale. It doesn't show in the pictures because I didn't figure out how crazy tasty the extra drizzle was until after I'd started eating, when I added it on a whim and discovered it was the perfect finishing touch.)

I made this salad for my hubby and myself this past weekend, and we devoured it. Butmore importantlywhat do you think? Anyone going to go out on a limb and try this?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Sauteed Kale with Onions and Garlic

This sauteed kale recipe may be basic, but it's no less tasty for it. What's more, kale holds its frilly texture even as it softens during the quick saute and simmer, so it provides a tasty textural counterpoint to heavy winter entrees.

Before you start, though, be sure to wash kale thoroughly and remove the tough center stem from each leaf. You can do that last part the hard way, by folding each leaf in half and carefully excising the stem, or you can do it the easy, "rustic" way:

My first video on Veggie Quest! A shout-out to my hubby for his highly advanced filmography skills.

Also, once I take the stems out, I generally end up with about half as much kale (by weight) as I've bought. So 1 pound bunched kale = ½ pound de-stemmed kale (give or take).

As a side note, if one was to eat bacon, I can vouch from my bacon-eating days that chucking some crumbled bacon into this recipe just before adding the kale makes this dish extra delicious.

Just sayin'.

Sauteed Kale with Garlic and Onions

Prep time: 20 minutes            

Serves: 2

1 pound kale (1-2 bunches, depending on where you shop; or half a 16-oz bag of pre-trimmed, pre-washed kale.)
1 Tbsp olive oil cooking spray (I use olive oil in a Misto)
½ medium onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed or minced
1 cup vegetable broth or stock (salt-free homemade or low-sodium)
pinch of salt

Wash kale, remove stems, and rip leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Heat oil over medium-high heat (around level 6 or 7). Coat a stockpot with cooking spray and place over medium-high heat.

Add onion and garlic to oil; cook 30 seconds or so, until fragrant. Add kale and cook another 30 seconds, stirring frequently to coat leaves with oil and wilt them slightly.

Add stock, cover, and cook 7-8 minutes more, stirring occasionally.

Note: As of 8-6-13, this recipe was updated to reduce the fat content. To your health!