Archive | Vegetables RSS for this section

Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

stuffed mushrooms

I looked up at the building I work in today–a gray, gothic monolith of stone, covered in gnarled leafless vines–and I thought, if ever a monster were to choose his home, he’d choose a building like this. On a day like this. Early winter monotone and windy. Dead leaves still clinging to some trees, but mostly empty branches. Few people walking, with the collars upturned on their dark overcoats.

Maybe the holidays come at this time every year so that we’re too busy to notice things changing. Grass dying, streets becoming quieter. We drink a lot of egg nog and let twinkly lights mesmerize us, then we come out on the other side to a quiet, wintry world. Especially for me–I get to go home for a week in LA, then I’ll come back to a transformed Chicago. Frozen tundra.

I like the holidays, despite the dizzying busyness of them. We’ve had one snowy morning so far, and all the lights are up on the houses. I’ve decorated cookies. I’ve shopped for presents and stocking stuffers. I’ve bought my ticket home. I have a promise of egg nog on Saturday (thanks, Joel). I’m adequately entrenched in this holiday business, and I can’t wait for my trip home. I’m even looking forward to the frozen tundra afterward. This has been an incredibly busy and rich and wonderful year, but I’m looking forward to the quieter season.

Until then, it’s that time of year when you need something to bring to holiday parties. Kasia asked me the other day what she should bring to one, and I immediately thought of these mushrooms, which are tasty, easy, and crowd pleasy. She did, and they were a hit.

Truly, you can stuff anything in a mushroom and get away with it, but this combination plays to mushrooms’ strengths. Goat cheese, thyme, mushroom stems, bread crumbs, parmesan. The tanginess of the goat cheese makes these feel lighter than some other iterations of stuffed mushrooms. You could add crab or sausage to this mix, but I think those flavors would overpower the earthiness here. And nothing complements mushrooms more than thyme.

mushrooms

For a big party, you might want to double the recipe.

stuffing mushrooms

Goat Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms

1 lb. button or crimini mushrooms, cleaned
1 large clove of garlic
a few sprigs of thyme, destemmed
about a 1/2 c. goat cheese
bread crumbs
parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375.

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and set aside. Roast the mushroom caps for 10 minutes on a cookie sheet. Drain any water that may have collected in the well of the caps.

(You can use a food processor or chop and mix all by hand for the next steps.) Meanwhile, drop the garlic into a food processor to chop. Add the mushroom stems, the thyme, and process. Then the goat cheese, about 2 tbsp. bread crumbs, and salt and pepper. Process until you have a paste.

Fill the mushroom caps with the paste. Top with a sprinkle of breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese on each one. Put back in the oven for about 10 or 15 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Any extra is really good as a pate on a baguette!!

Guest Blogger: Matt’s Wild Rice, Kabocha, and Vegetable Pilaf

My good friend Matt has been self-publishing a vegetarian/vegan cookbook with his wife, Rachel, every year for Christmas for the last ten years. Needless to say, he is a veritable treasure trove of amazing recipes. Thankfully, all my prodding and pleading has finally led to a guest post! Here he channels the idea of fall (I say “idea” because, you know, he lives in Oakland) into a gorgeous medley of deliciousness.

When not cooking, Matt's being a great dad to Oslo (who's now a wee bit older than in this pic, but just as cute!)

Kate and I have had a long running discussion of just what the order the seasons take out here in Northern California. After much debate, we’ve settled on “Spring, Winter, Indian Summer, Fall.” Given that it was 84 degrees here in the Bay Area last weekend, but just 70 by Tuesday, it feels like Indian Summer is on its way out, and Fall (which runs from November to March), is picking up speed.That means that we’re just starting to get a hint of our fall veggies in our CSA box, and fall means squashes! 

wild rice pilafSquashes are a fun vegetable because they’re so flexible; depending on our mood and the weather, we will use the many kinds of squashes we get to make soups, pupusas, curries or many other kinds of dishes. But sometimes, when you’re first getting reacquainted with your seasonal foods, it’s nice to just keep it simple.

This recipe relies on a roasted kabocha squash, with just a bit of allspice to bring out the earthiness, plus the always-needed salt and pepper. The rice pilaf, we threw together with whatever vegetables we had on hand, and we were lucky enough to get fresh-picked cranberry beans in our box last week as well, which gave the meal more heft.

Wild Rice, Kabocha, and Vegetable Pilaf

1 c. wild rice or wild rice mix
3 c. broth
1 clove garlic, peeled but whole
1 large or two small kabocha squash, seeded and sliced or cubed
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced
1 dozen crimini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 c. peas, frozen or fresh
2 c. cooked white beans (we used cranberry beans, but cannelini or great northern beans would work well too)
1 teaspoon rosemary
1 tsp. thyme
1 tsp. sage
Allspice
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil or butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a rice cooker or saucepan, combine the rice, broth and whole garlic clove. Cook until the rice is done.

Once the squash is sliced or cubed, lay flat on a lightly oiled baking sheet, sprinkle with salt, pepper and allspice. Bake for 20-30 minutes, turning over or stirring once, until easily pierced with a fork.

While the squash cooks, sauté the onions, garlic and carrots in 1-2 tablespoons of butter or oil, until the onion is translucent. Add the rosemary, thyme and sage and cook for one minute more, while stirring. Add the mushrooms, peas and beans, stir for one minute, then cover and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are cooked. You may want to add a little bit of water or broth to prevent sticking.

Serve immediately, either after combining the rice and vegetables in the skillet, or separately.

Greek Cucumber Salad Sandwich

The theme of my summer has been eating outdoors, thanks to this highly useful and necessary purchase I made in July:
This pimped-out cooler makes picnicking a snap, and very quickly became the MVP of the season. My summer, which officially came to a close last week (boo), was filled with a bounty of delicious, simple meals that were packed into the cooler and then unpacked at one of Chicago’s lovely outdoor spaces. I have the good fortune of living a block from Humboldt Park, which is a 207-acre greenspace filled with ponds, baseball fields, gardens, and a weekly impromptu classic-car parade. Pimped-out cooler made it super easy to transform a weeknight dinner into an outdoor excursion, complete with entertainment (baseball and soccer games seem to happen every night of the summer).
picnic at humboldt park
Luckily my partner-in-outdoor-eating agrees that there’s no reason to eat indoors if the weather allows. One day, I came home from work to a packed cooler and a Brandon with a plan. You may know that there’s no quicker way to my heart than to cook for me, but cooking for me AND taking it outdoors is a sure win. So he earned some big points with this delicious picnic, comprised of tangy Greek cucumber salad sandwiches and a crisp white wine.
greek cucumber salad sandwiches
The weather was perfect, with a blue sky and gentle clouds. The sun set behind the baseball field as the kids finished their game.
Maybe it’s cruel to post this summery recipe on a day like today, with gray, cold rain, and no end in sight. But I’m not ready to put pimped-out cooler away for the year yet; consider this an incantation asking the weather to let me squeeze in just a few more picnics. If you get the chance, make these sandwiches and eat them outdoors. They’ll transport  you back to a lazy August afternoon, make you forget about the rain.
Greek Cucumber Salad Sandwich
Adapted from Epicurious.com 

2 1/2 pounds Japanese, Persian, or English hothouse cucumbers
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup labneh (Lebanese yogurt cheese) or Greek-style yogurt
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons salt-packed capers, rinsed well, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon (or more) fresh lemon juice
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 9×7 inch loaves focaccia, halved horizontally, or 8 ciabatta rolls
Extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. If using English cucumbers, split lengthwise and remove seeds (leave other varieties whole). Arrange cucumbers on a parchment paper–lined baking sheet, cut side down. Brush with melted butter. Roast cucumbers until crisp-tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate; chill until cold.

Cut Japanese or Persian cucumbers lengthwise in half. Cut hothouse cucumber halves lengthwise in half. Slice crosswise into 1/4 inch-thick pieces. Whisk Greek yogurt and next 5 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in sliced cucumbers and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Season filling to taste with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.

Brush cut sides of focaccia or rolls with olive oil; place on a baking sheet and toast in a 400° oven until just crispy and lightly browned, 3-5 minutes. Divide filling among focaccia bottoms, cover with tops, and cut each into 4 sandwiches (or divide filling among rolls).

picnic sandwich

Green Bean-Pomegranate Panzanella

Chicago is deep into an epic heat wave, so I’m guessing none of you wants to turn on your oven. I haven’t wanted to either, which is why, I suppose, I have a whole stable of salads and slaws to post here. Are you sick of them yet?

I’ll start with this updated green bean panzanella that I made for a beach trip last week to the Indiana Dunes. Kasia came to visit me, and, being the Bay Area softy (sorry, tootsie pop!!) that she is, the heat was hard for her to bear. What choice did I have but to pack a cooler and whisk her away to the water? Brandon joined us, we piled in the car, and crossed state lines.

The Indiana Dunes are a beautiful stretch of sandy beach nestled amongst dunes and hiking trails on Lake Michigan. After growing up near the Pacific, the experience of swimming in a large, saltless body of water is still surreal to me. It looks as endless as an ocean, so I keep expecting the back and forth pull of waves. It’s strange to have nothing to fight against. And it’s most especially strange that it is quiet. The noise of the water is the most defining characteristic of being on a California beach. When Jen asked me the other day to choose a body of water that described me (she was giving me some sort of personality test), I chose the Pacific. But, the endless placid lake has grown on me, and I was supremely happy to be there on a beautiful, sunny day.

Of course, it wasn’t entirely placid when we were there–hundreds were splashing around in it. Hoards of people had flocked to the shoreline, with radios and umbrellas and picnics of their own. As I lay in the sun, I let the voices ripple over me, catching a few stray words here and there, but mostly just torrents of human noise. Not quite the ocean, but still, it was soothing. Full tummies, good company: we had a marvelous day.

Green Bean Pomegranate Salad

1 lb. green beans or haricot verts, rinsed and ends snapped off
2 medium beets, roasted and peeled
1 pomegranate worth of seeds
5 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1 day-old baguette, sliced

Vinaigrette
approx. 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 and roast beets, skin on, for 1/2 an hour  until they are soft and cooked through. Let them cool and then remove the skins (or cheat and buy the pre-boiled beets from Trader Joe’s, which is what I did here). Chop them into 1/2-inch-sized chunks and add them to a large bowl.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet on high and warm grapeseed oil until it is hot (grapeseed oil has a higher smoke point and is better for cooking over high heat than olive oil). Toast the bread slices. Add to the large bowl with the beets.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and prepare an ice bath in a separate bowl. Parboil the green beans for a minute or two, then, with a slotted spoon, move them immediately to the ice bath. Let them cool down, then drain. Add to the large bowl with the beets and bread.

Halve the pomegranate and squeeze out the seeds into the bowl. Crumble the goat cheese.

To make the vinaigrette: start with vinegar, mustard, garlic, and salt & pepper in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in until the liquids emulsify. Mustard contains pectin and, when you add it to a vinaigrette, you get a lovely, creamy emulsification. You can continue adding olive oil until you reach your desired consistency.

Toss the salad with the vinaigrette and set aside in your fridge or cooler. By the time you get to the beach, the bread will have absorbed all the flavor from the vinaigrette and the whole thing will be divine.

Beet Slaw

I thought the weather and I had come to a tacit understanding: I toughen up, make it through the gunk of winter; it gives me a few months of summer during which I can live relatively unmolested by it. But after a freak hailstorm that caused EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS worth of damage to my car last week, all bets are off. You hear me, weather? I don’t think you’re so cool anymore! I’m gonna complain my eyes out if I feel like it.

It happens to be a nice day today, so I’ll spare you any further grumbling. The humidity is low, the sun is high. I’m in an office, but dreaming of sponging up some sunshine soon. Here’s a recipe that’s perfect for a picnic, and’ll get you out of the kitchen quickly. Tristan showed me this a few months ago. You can eat the slaw on its own, in a salad, over brown rice, or stuffed in sandwiches. It’s tangy, sweet, fantastic. Beets are in the same family as spinach, chard, and quinoa, and are jam-packed with phytonutrients–their health benefits are matched only by their deliciousness.

Beet Slaw

3 small beets (or equivalent), peeled and shredded
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 tbsp. dijon mustard
2 tbsp. orange-champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar with a little orange juice)
salt and pepper
olive oil

In a bowl, whisk the garlic, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper together. Drizzle in the olive oil until all the liquids emulsify. Pour over the shredded beets. Will keep for about a week in the fridge.

Green Garlic and Cherry Tomato Focaccia

I realized the other day when talking to an old friend that I essentially have a philosophy on life: Try new things and eat vegetables. That’s it folks. If I had to sum up all the wisdom I’ve learned in my 29plus years on this planet, it would be that. Be adventurous, and find pleasure in the things that are good for you.

Yesterday, I spent a really lovely day with sunshine and good friends and a grill. We then spent some time at the Andersonville street fair, crammed full with people and craft booths and food. Pleasure, I think, is good for you. It’s a vegetable. It makes you feel attached to the world, participating in it. Friends are good for you.

Focaccia is good for you, especially if you top it with vegetables.

I made this the other day when it was thunderstorming and ridiculous outside.

I took out my aggression on the dough.

With the help of this book I picked up at Myopic:

After hand-kneading and triple rising, I got here:

Focaccia
adapted from the Good Housekeeping Baking Cookbook

1 1/2 c. warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
2 1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
3 3/4 c. bread flour
5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp. table salt
1 tsp. kosher or course sea salt

Toppings:
1 package of cherry tomatoes, rinsed and halved
1 head of green garlic, rinsed, peeled, and diced
3 to 4 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
1/2 c. parmesan
salt and pepper

In a large bowl, combine 1/2 c. warm water, yeast, and sugar; stir to dissolve. Let stand 5 minutes, or until foamy. Add remaining 1 c. warm water,  flour, 2 tbsp. oil, and table salt; stir to combine.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7 minutes, or until smooth and elastic (dough will be soft; do not add more flour). Shape dough into ball; place in greased large bowl, turning dough over to coat. Cover bowl and let stand in warm place (80 to 85 degrees) until doubled, about 1 hour.

Make the toppings: Over medium heat in a pan, saute the green garlic (with a bit of salt and pepper) until soft. Set aside to cool.

Lightly oil a cookie sheet with a lip (not one that talks back; I mean one that has about an inch-long border around all sides). Punchdown dough and pat into prepared pan. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. With fingertips, make deep indentations, i inch apart, over entire surface of dough, almost to bottom of pan. Drizzle with remaining 3 tbsp. oil; sprinkle with kosher salt. Cover looselty and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450.

Sprinkle the garlic evenly over the dough. Spread the tomato halves over the dough. Sprinkle the thyme, then salt and pepper. Grate the cheese and sprinkle over everything.

Bake focaccia on lowest rack about 18 minutes, or until bottom is crusty and top is lightly browned. Transfer to wire rack to cool.

Then here.

 

Pea Soup Soto’s

One of my favorite things to do is to drive along the coast of California. I went to college in Santa Cruz, and I used to make the drive back and forth to LA all the time. Those trips in my little Ford Escort were most certainly where I cemented my love of road trips. I get how long drives might be tedious to some, but I adore the in-between space it affords: open road, open time ahead of you, tunes, a view. Somewhere along the way, I discovered Pea Soup Andersen’s–a small roadside diner specializing in pea soup. The diner looks like the Tiki Room at Disneyland gone Swedish (cuckoo clocks instead of singing birds). And the soup, for all the hype, is truly fantastic.

The best eateries in the world are roadside diners. To get people to turn off the highway and get out of their cars, roadside restaurants know they have to be pretty special. The Madonna Inn, for instance, is just up the road from Pea Soup Andersen’s, and does nothing less than a pink-and-brass mambo all over your senses–pink sugar, waterfalls in the men’s bathroom, amazing pancakes. Can any place match the roadside genre in themes, decor, and comfort food? When there’s nothing but the lonely road ahead of you, you want something that sticks to your guts, both in food and funky kitsch.

This is a soup that you want with you on the open road. There are a million ways to approach it, but here’s a rustic, hearty one. Vegemetarians can easily skip the bacon and cook the veggies in olive oil instead.

Pea Soup

1 c. dried green peas
3 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1/2 yellow onion, peeled and diced
1/2 lb. of thick-cut bacon, roughly chopped
3 bay leaves
6 sprigs of thyme
1 c. white wine
2 russet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
16 oz. stock
2 c. water

In a sieve, rinse the peas and set aside.

In a large pot over medium heat, cook the bacon until the fat renders, but don’t let it get too crisp. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside.

Add the garlic, onions, and carrots to the bacon fat, and sprinkle salt and pepper over them. Let them cook until they soften, about 5 minutes. Cover the veggies in the wine and let it reduce for a few minutes. Throw in the bay leaves and the thyme.

Add the peas and potatoes and coat them in the veggies and oil. Cover in stock and water and turn the heat to medium-high. Let it come to a boil and continue to boil for awhile, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to medium and cook until peas and potatoes are cooked through. Add the bacon back in. Add salt to taste. With a potato masher, smoosh everything to desired consistency (smooshy).