Tag Archives: potluck dishes

Kale and Sausage Stuffed Delicata

stuffed squash

This was in my CSA newsletter a few weeks ago, and is very worth sharing. I’m sure I’ll make a vegetarian version sometime soon, although the sausage was so, so tasty… Not great timing perhaps, as we just learned (or perhaps were only reminded) that red and processed meats cause cancer. Not a huge surprise. Of course the meat industry says not to discriminate and that meat is an important part of a balanced diet, which although not untrue isn’t a great defense for not cutting down on meat consumption (reading through the double negatives: lobbyists are biased and eat less meat). You can do that after you’ve made this.

I would guess that a pig you could’ve met has less carcinogenic potential than something raised in a factory. At least you can buy organic meat. Old news by now but did you hear about how Bhutan, that tiny Asian country somewhere between India and China, aims to be 100% organic by 2020? Quite a feat, although perhaps less difficult without an entrenched industrial agricultural complex as we have here—even our version of organic has been co-opted. Similar to Maine, Bhutan has small pockets of viable land tucked into mountains and hills, which makes organic and permaculture more cost efficient. Maybe we should start measuring gross domestic happiness too, and we’d get there sooner.

Instead, we live in a country where the idea that diet and the sustainability of the planet are related is too much for us, according to the recent dietary guidelines. Michael Pollan and co have exactly the right idea, we need a national food policy, and as Mark Bittman adds, it would help if we encouraged our political candidates to talk about food. It seems like a no-brainer: food and agriculture in particular has the ability to transcend political boundaries, uniting staunch conservatives and hippie young democrats. I imagine any issue with that much potential voter power to be tantalizing to politicians. But, finding ways for people to work together across party lines is not exactly our current political spirit.

My other great political theory at this point in life is that if we fed everyone delicious food all the time (which is not something that everyone has access to, but that’s a story for another time), they’d be in a more convivial and collaborative spirit. Cooking provides a handy metaphor, by combining various ingredients into something new and more fulfilling than the separate ingredients alone. Here, the sweetness of the squash plays very nicely with the fatty sausage, a little vegetable oomph from the kale, texture from the grain…and salty creaminess is what cheese does best.

I would’ve made this wth rice but ran out, so ended up cooking barley instead, and loved the texture. Use whatever grain suits your fancy, or endures your pantry.

Sausage-stuffed delicata squash
2 or 3 Delicata squash, halved lengthwise 
lb sausage (your choice) 
1 1/2 cups cooked rice, or other grain
A bunch of kale, minced 
One (or more if you like onion) large onion, diced 
Garlic (3 or 4 cloves, minced)
Grated cheddar
Salt, pepper

Cook the rice/grain, if you haven’t already, and chop the onion, garlic, kale.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Wash squash, cut in half lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds and guts. Place faceup in a pan or a rimmed baking sheet and add a little water. Start to bake while you prep the other ingredients.

Heat up a pan over medium-high, and brown then cook sausage through. Remove from pan, leaving the drippings, and chop up as fine as desired, or remove from casing. Add onions and garlic to pan and start to cook until slightly translucent, then add kale. When cooked, mix in rice, sausage, and salt and pepper to taste (make sure to taste. You may have extra filling, I doubt it’ll present a huge challenge).

When squash is soft (easily punctured with fork, 20-30 min), remove from oven and fill with stuffing mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and place back in oven, under the broiler if you want it crispy, until cheese is melted.

Remove, serve, and stuff your face.

Advertisements

Italian Eggplant Salad

eggplant salad

I have been fixated on eggplant of late. It doesn’t help that my roommate is also obsessed, so I’ve been buying it more frequently than I would otherwise. I used to not even like it at all—the texture, mostly—but like many childhood aversions, I am quite over it these days.

Over the moon about it, actually (had to throw in a moon pun after yesterday’s activity). Although not everyone is, since it is one of the less nutritious of the vegetables. I suppose on top of an actual salad (well, I made it on a kale salad, so it’s full of good kale nourishment) makes it a double enemy for those seeking nutrition and fooling themselves by eating mostly water. However, it’s far better than chicken nuggets, or whatever else one might be eating, so I am quite content. Plus, eggplant. Delicious.

This is one version of eggplant salad. You could also prepare it similarly but top with an Asian dressing (say, miso, ginger, and rice vinegar, or fish sauce, garlic, brown sugar, and sesame oil) instead of balsamic, basil, and goat cheese. Something to try for next time (better make it quick, eggplant is on its way out).

How long before we can grow food on Mars, now that we’re almost certain there’s water there? Sooner might be better than later—we are becoming dangerously war-torn here on Earth, to the point where seeds had to be extracted from Norway’s seed vault for the first time, due to the Syrian war (yikes), but, we should probably figure out our own problems before messing with another planet.

Maybe the aliens will befriend us if we feed them eggplant.

Italian Eggplant Salad
2 Italian eggplants
Kale
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Basil, or pesto
Goat cheese, in olive oil if you can swing it (Appleton Creamery is the best)

Cut the eggplant in half, prick vigorously with a fork (don’t stab yourself), and place cut side down on a baking sheet. Broil for 20 or so minutes, until the skin is blistered and the inside is very soft—an entered fork should meet no resistance. Remove and let cool.

Meanwhile, wash and chop up the kale. Drizzle with olive oil, then massage with your hands until it softens, achieving a salad consistency.

Take the peel off the eggplant and discard. Separate out the inside and break it apart into chunks with a fork.

Place the kale on a large platter, and top with eggplant, then basil. Drizzle with balsamic, then crumble goat cheese and olive oil on top. Peppercorns (in my goat cheese) are a good plus too, for aesthetic and flavor piquancy.

I made this for a potluck and was having difficulty not stuffing my face before leaving. Easy to eat an abundance.

eggplant salad

It looks pretty, and I love taking pictures of my food. Just don’t forget to enjoy the company, place, and time of your food as well (a beautiful article, written by a college friend of mine).

Grilled Veggies, Chorizo, and Fiddlehead Lentil Salad

fiddlehead chorizo lentil salad

Grilling, chorizo, and fiddleheads! Doesn’t get too much better than that (unless you add lentils).

Continually looking for more ways to incorporate non-meat proteins into the diets of meat-eaters, I’ve decided that chorizo (much like bacon) is a magic trick. Less meat, after all, does not mean no meat, and a flavored bit of spicy sausage provides an excellent source of protein as well as flavor. Chorizo in particular is a fabulous smoky spicy blend beloved by, well, most (hedging my bets here. There are always those odd ones who don’t like certain foods. So glad I’ve gotten over being a picky eater).

So, why not mix the wonderfully enriching chorizo with our new favorite legume, the lentil? Why not, indeed. Add in a few grilled vegetables of your choice, and maybe a few sautéed ones too, a bit of dressing if you like, and you’ve got yourself a meal (I also recommend some grilled toast on the side). If you don’t have a grill, the additions to this salad can be prepared in the oven or on the stove as well, with only a slight difference in flavor (mostly it’s just fun to grill things). You can add anything to a salad—even random bits of old produce you might ordinarily throw away (reduce food waste!).

Just as easy as a dinner kit, simpler, and evidently easier to source local ingredients.

Fiddleheads are the thing at the moment (well, perhaps their moment is passing by now, it is quite fleeting. Apologies again for the delay). For those of you not from New England (the only place I’ve seen them, anyway), they’re these funny little fern fronds that perhaps taste like a mix between asparagus and a green bean. Most recipes I’ve seen for them recommend lots of butter to counteract their slight astringency (an endorsed suggestion, certainly not limited to fiddleheads).

My new favorite dressing is a variation of Annie’s Woodstock dressing. It’s lovely on green salads, especially with avocado, and good for marinades, grain or legume salads, or as a dipping sauce too. Really what I’m trying to recreate is this fabulous dressing from my hometown, Planet Good Food Store dressing, which is similar to Annie’s except better (at least how I remember it). I haven’t quite got it down yet but I’m working on it—hopefully by the end of the summer. Tangy, flavorful, thick, creamy, but totally vegan (if that matters to you) and so so good. Besides, it’s a beautiful bright orange color.

As usual, I recommend cooking a large pot of lentils at the beginning of the week, and then using them in recipes like this throughout the week. A delicious quick lentil meal (which may warrant its own short post at some point, but I was too hungry to take a picture so I want to tell you about it regardless) for a weeknight when you are rushing home is a lentil taco or tostado—sauté some greens, with onions if you like, or chop up some cabbage or wash some lettuce, and warm up lentils with a good dump of chipotle and a little cumin. Add a little sour cream if you want (although this is not really necessary), and place on top of a tortilla, chips, or toast. Add slices of ripe avocado and a little salsa, if you like (cheese too if you’re feeling it), and you are ready to scarf it down.

Now, on to another no-recipe recipe:

Grilled veggies, chorizo, and fiddlehead lentil salad
Lentils (1 1/2-2 cups cooked)
Chorizo (1/2 lb?)
Veggies! Onions (2), sweet potatoes (1-2 large, or more if smaller), whatever you feel like
Olive oil
Salt
Fiddleheads, spinach, or other greenery
Butter (or more oil)
Dressing of choice 

Tomato-tahini dressing
4-5 Sundried tomatoes, revived in boiled water, and the water
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup canola oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
5 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
2 tablespoons tahini
3-4 cloves garlic

A note on construction: You can add whatever you like to this salad, but here are my suggestions: I like having a little sweetness (sweet potatoes) to balance the smoky chorizo, definitely like having greenery to change the texture, add color and freshness, and onions make everything meld together. That being said, other combos or additions would be lovely too. More suggestions on salad combinations (in a composed salad) from the NYTimes.

Cook lentils if you have not done so already.

Heat up the grill. Bring the chorizo to room temperature. Chop up veggies for the grill (or however else you are preparing them)—I like slicing fat wide onion rings, and had small sweet potatoes so I just cut them in half. Toss veggies with a little oil and salt. Place on grill, with the chorizo, and cover top.

While the veggies and chorizo are cooking, clean and trim the fiddleheads. Sauté in butter (or oil) until tender but still crisp.

Make dressing: add all ingredients to a blender. Taste, adjust, and blend until emulsified.

Assemble: When chorizo is cooked, onions brown, and sweet potatoes soft, remove from the grill and chop up into small chunks. Place everything in a large bowl (only add dressing as needed, you won’t use the whole batch for this—good thing, because you’ll want it for everything else this week) and toss. Serve (can also be served cold if you’d like to make it ahead, although better room temperature or slightly warm).

Good for a crowd, and good leftovers too—make a large batch.

Shepard’s Pie

P1040119

Although it now be spring, according to Google, there still aren’t too many greens available (they are starting!). So, time to use up some pantry staples.

I still have approximately a zillion potatoes, that I really need to use because they are starting to sprout. We’ll get there (hopefully).

I don’t remember if I’ve shared this yet or not, but particularly in regards to sourcing quality meat, apparently my generation is leading the charge at pushing for change.

I had meant to post about this last week, because Saturday was Pi Day (!) but I didn’t get around to it. I hope you celebrated appropriately! I got so excited at 9:26am, it was almost absurd. But hey, the world needs more enthusiasm.

Shepard’s pie is easygoing. A throw-everything-you-happen-to-have in kinda meal that (with a few key ingredients) ends up fantastic. It’s a good way to use random root vegetables that are staring to look a little questionable, and though it’s a meat-and-potatoes dish, I was surprised by the high ratio of vegetables I managed to stuff in, to have it end up tasting super meaty and hearty.

P1040102

This also freezes excellently. I made two (one in an 8×8 pan (which admittedly worked better) and another in a pie dish), and froze the second (let cool, then cover tightly with aluminum foil). Then when you have a potluck and don’t have time to prep a bunch of things, plop it in a cold oven and turn up to 400 or so, leaving it until it’s heated through. Yum yum yum.

My secret ingredient in this particular pie was heavily reduced lamb stock. Shepard’s pie can be made with beef or lamb (lamb is a little more traditional), but I didn’t have lamb and anyway beef is a little cheaper. I did, however, have some lamb bones from a roast a little bit ago, so I boiled those for a long, long while, at first with quite a bit of water and then I let it reduce to perhaps 1/4 of the volume. Ended up with a thick rich lamb juice that paired splendidly with the ground beef. However, if you don’t have that you can use chicken stock, and it will still be tasty.

I will also note that I screwed up the potatoes a bit, and was glad not to be serving them plain. I don’t have a potato masher, and had the bright (heh) idea of using my immersion blender (at first just as a blunt tool, and then I decided to turn it on). Turns out too much beating blows up the swollen starch cells in the potatoes and make them gluey and weird. Fortunately, if you put them on top of something (aka ground meat mixture) and bake it, they still taste pretty good. Other suggestions for rescuing potatoes here.

P1040113

Shepard's pie
Potatoes:
Starchy potatoes
Milk
Butter
Salt and pepper
Egg yolk (optional)

Meat: 
Oil
1-2 onions
2-3 carrots
Other veggies (turnips, celeriac)
3 cloves garlic
1 lb ground beef or lamb (you can also use small chunks, if you prefer)
Salt and pepper
1-2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup or so of lamb stock (reduced) or other stock
A spoonful of tomato paste
Rosemary and thyme
A dash of Worchestershire sauce (optional)
1/2 cup frozen peas (optional)

Scrub the potatoes, and set them to boiling: cover with cold water, salt, then bring to a boil and simmer until soft (warning: if you overcook them, they are more likely to become gummy).

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Chop up whatever veggies you are using. Sauté veggies with oil, starting with the onions (everything but the garlic), until mostly soft, then add the garlic. Add the ground meat, salt, and pepper, and cook until meat is browned, stirring. Toss with a little flour, then add your lamb reduction, or other stock (it helps if this is already heated). Add tomato paste/sauce if you have it, other sauces as you see fit (Worchestershire sauce?), and herbs. If it starts getting dry, add more stock. Mix in frozen peas if you like.

P1040106

By now the potatoes should be done; drain and mash (with skins!) with butter, milk, and and egg yolk if you are feeling particularly luxurious (hopefully with a potato masher. I’m not sure what I’ll use next time as a substitute). Season to taste.

Put the meat, which should have a thick sauce, in a baking dish (I recommend 2 8×8 pans, so you can freeze one, but you could do one large one, or pie dishes if you don’t have other vessels). Spread mashed potatoes on top, and put it in the oven until the juices are bubbly and potatoes are golden on top, 25 minutes or so. Let cool slightly before serving.

Leftovers heat up well in the microwave, although better (of course) in the oven. And like I said, it freezes well.

P1040118

Rutabaga Caponata

P1030985

So I had some deliberation on whether to use this title because caponata doesn’t mean much to most people. In fact I had a hard time remembering the term myself. But, we all need to learn new things, right?

Ordinarily, I now understand, caponata is an eggplant dish. Not having made the original version, I have nothing to compare this with. However, I can tell you that Wikipedia’s description is fairly apt, a sweet and sour vegetable dish that could be used as either a side or main. It’s pretty exciting and has interesting flavors that I would probably never think to put together on my own. Always looking for new rutabaga outlets, I came across this recipe from Saveur and I think it’s a keeper. It should end up sweet but hearty—the flavor of the rutabaga plays nicely with the array of spices.

P1030978

I’ll have to try the eggplant version sometime.

On another note, I broke ANOTHER paring knife. That one in the picture, actually. It’s got a good core but part of the stone piece fell off. I’ll have to find the right adhesive material. I guess maybe I am overusing them, because my larger knife feels a little flimsy and anyway mostly I’m just cooking for me, which doesn’t generally require too much knife power. Except that apparently it does. Ah, well.

Saveur's Rutabaga Caponata
2 rutabagas
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 onion, diced
A couple cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons currants (I didn't have these but they'd be good)
1 tablespoon golden raisins
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts (you keep them around now, right?)
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or a little cayenne if you don't have them)
A small spoonful of honey
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
A dash of nutmeg
A tablespoon of cocoa

Start by roasting the rutabaga. Rutabaga is friendlier than squash to chop quickly, although it does have quite a thick peel that takes a little practice. Anyway, peel (with a knife) and chop into 1/2-inch cubes. Drizzle with oil and bake in a hot oven (around 400ºF) for 30 or so minutes, turning over every once in a while, until soft but not mushy.

P1030983

Chop the rest of the veggies. Heat up oil in the pan and cook the onions first, then when they begin to soften add in garlic, shallots, currants, and raisins. Then add the vinegar, and scrape the pan (deglaze) to collect anything that might have gotten stuck. Add the pine nuts and spices, going easy on the honey and cocoa until you taste it, and adjust as necessary.

I ate it with some water buffalo sausage, because I felt like, but it’s also perfectly acceptable as a main course by itself.

P1030991

In other news, the just 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee released a new report detailing diet suggestions for the American populace. You can read the Executive Summary if you don’t want to get into the whole thing. Basically, though, we need to be eating more vegetables, less red meat, and considerably less sugar. If you are surprised by this, I’m glad you’re here, because you have some indoctrination in store. It’s getting harder in the winter, though. Hence the rutabagas.

If you have great (read: varied) recipes for winter vegetables (turnips, cabbage, carrots, beets, potatoes), send them my way!

Yellow Indian Cabbage

P1030491

So, what else do you with all that cabbage?

I’m going to be totally honest, all wannabe vegetarians/part time vegetarians/omnivores/carnivores should be eating way more Indian food than we are now. This is because a) it’s delicious b) it’s much more sustainable (less meat-centric and all that c) it’s fun and shareable and d) it tastes reeaallly good. Yah.

P1030477

Outside of the quintessential dal, chicken tikka masala, and saag paneer, none of which I have delineated here yet (/some I haven’t even attempted), there are some excellent Indian-style dishes that I actually have never ordered at an Indian restaurant. Like this one. Which has the added benefit of using up some of your endless cabbage (okay, it’s not that endless).

Actually cabbage is pretty amazing. It’s not quite as versatile as, say, eggs. But you can it is raw (shredded in slaw), stuffed, grilled, braised, inside crepesroasted with cheese into a casserole, mixed into soups, what have you. One of my favorite things to do it slice it thinly on top of tacos, sandwiches, or whatever else you happen to be eating (fried tofu? with a little lemon or vinegar? lunch). It takes flavors well, which is what makes it nice for Indian food, with its fantastic array of spices.

I may have mentioned that cabbage is rather prolific this time of year.

Oh! This furthermore gives you an opportunity to use fresh turmeric. Turmeric root looks a lot like ginger, except that it’s bright orange on the inside, and guess what—it grows in Maine (along with all sorts of unexpected crops)! Incroyable, non?

P1030480

This recipe is originally from Girl Cooks World, which is pretty great. It’s super fun once the mustard seeds start popping because they are quite loud and your kitchen begins to sound a little rambunctious.

Yellow Indian Cabbage
1/3 cup oil
1-1/2 teaspoons mustard seeds
5 cloves garlic
1-1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
A knob of fresh turmeric, minced
A medium-sized cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
Salt
Cayenne

Chop everything up and have it all ready to go, because this will go quickly. Heat oil until quite hot over high heat in a large-ish pan (I used my nice big cast iron). Add the mustard seeds and quickly cover the pan, before oil and seeds fly everywhere. At some point the pops will begin to taper off (it’s like making popcorn, you have to be listening), add the garlic and both turmerics. Turn down the heat and stir until slightly soft. Mix in the rest of the ingredients and coat the cabbage with what is now a yellow oil. Cook down the cabbage a bit, again until slightly soft but not mushy (I was about to write, “unless you are inexplicably a fan of mushy cabbage,” but if you are a fan of mushy cabbage you are wrong, and must learn better ways).

Serve with samosas, naan, or something entirely unrelated. It’s delicious either way. If you’re not a vegetarian, you could stir in some (just a little) cooked ground beef and it would be a more complete meal.

By the way, if you haven’t yet seen The Hundred Food Journey, I think you would enjoy it. Indian food, a village in France, a cute French girl and an attractive Indian boy, and Helen Mirren. Yup.

Cumin Bean Salad

This recipe is from the New Basics Cookbook, which is one of the best cookbooks ever. I haven’t ever made something I don’t like from there. Unfortunately I brought my bean salad to a potluck and forgot to take a picture. Travesty! I’ll make my post short due to lack of imagery, and see if I can add one later.

The dressing is excellent and good on green salads and other dishes as well.

Cumin vinaigrette
¼ cup cider vinegar
½ Tbsp Dijon
¾ tsp cumin
½ tsp minced garlic
Salt and pepper
¾ cups olive oil

Bean salad
1 red onion (or normal onion if you don't have a red one)
A few cloves of garlic
2 cups cooked mixed beans (or 1 can black beans and 1 can white beans)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2-3 ears corn, husked and de-corned (yes, raw corn is fine and delicious, if you get the right kind!), or 1 cup frozen corn kernels
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
Other veggies: cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, more peppers...

If you don’t like much onion, heat it in oil in the microwave for a short time before mixing it in with everything else. Stir together the dressing ingredients, then add the onion and beans. Marinate for as long as you want/have time for. Before serving, add the pepper, corn, other veggies, and cilantro and toss together.

This keeps pretty well for a while—I had lots extra and brought for office lunch with a few pieces of good bread. You can also keep adding more veggies as the days roll by to make it more into a normal salad.

Lentil salad with yogurt dressing

P1020773

I’m a little irritated because I wrote this all out  yesterday, and the Interwebs didn’t save it. My fault, I think, but still. (In case you were wondering, no, I don’t usually post the day I make something. Too much work to cook and write about it; besides, I want to have time to reflect on the virtues of the dish before sharing it.)

It also turns out that I am very bad at cooking lentils. They shouldn’t be, and in fact are not, that difficult to cook—lentils, water, heat, time—I think I just got overconfident since I have indeed successfully cooked them many times before. Not enough water and not paying attention = a little crunchy. But, still tasty and definitely edible.

Aside from the apparent challenges of heating legumes on a stove, this salad is pretty straightforward. Lentils, dressing, and whatever veggies you happen to have on hand. Also the dressing is awesome and can/should be used on other dishes as well—grain/pasta salad, straight veggies (especially cucumbers).

Lentil salad with yogurt dressing
Lentils
Veggies: cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes (sungolds are recommended)
Dill
Yogurt (maybe 1/4 cup per cup of lentils?)
Paprika
Cumin
Salt/pepper
Lemon juice (optional)

Cook the lentils according to instructions, or here from the Kitchn. Drain, if necessary, and place in a bowl. They should be relatively cool or at least room temperature, when you add the other ingredients.

Chop veggies—slice small tomatoes in half to make them easier to stab with a fork/pick up with a spoon. Roughly chop the dill, just to get the juices flowing (look at me using dill again!). Add to the lentils along with the yogurt and seasonings and stir. Taste and adjust.

Serve room temperature or cold. This keeps well and is an excellent potluck addition, as well as a good work lunch (bring along a few slices of fresh bread too).