Roasted Romanesco

October 12, 2011 § 2 Comments

I love funky-looking things. Especially vegetables. Remember my experiment with growing kohlrabi?

Romanesco is a a funky-looking thing. And when I had a choice between broccoli and romanesco, I jumped on it.

It’s a bit like broccoli, taste-wise. Look-wise, though, it would be what Escher would paint/draw if he took the vegetable route with his art.

romanesco

Am I right or what?

Now, the thing about romanesco is that a good portion of it is stem. If you cut off the stem portion and leave just the florets, you’ll be left with not so much. Eat the stem, people. It’s tasty.

What to do with romanesco? Well, when I see the Brassica genus, I think roasting. And that’s exactly what I did.

Roasted Romanesco

  • 1 head romanesco, separated into individual stem-florets or clumps of smaller florets.
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • salt and pepper

-Heat oven to 425F.

-If any of your romanesco sections look particularly large, feel free to cut them in half. Place romanesco sections in a big bowl. Douse with the olive oil. Sprinkle two or three large pinches of kosher salt on top (depending on the romanesco’s size) and give it a couple turns from a pepper grinder. Toss.

-Spread romanesco onto a rimmed baking sheet and pop in the oven for about 23-25 minutes or until they develop a nice brown char and a fork can just be inserted.

Finally, a new item to share space with broccoli and cauliflower in the winter months.

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Fall’s First Frost Predicted: How to Prepare

October 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

I listen to the local news as part of my morning ritual. But, most days I head online if I want to learn about the weather, even though sassy JC Monahan just gave me the five-day forecast five minutes ago.

My memory is a sieve when it comes to the weather. Except … when frost is predicted. It’s been a whole five hours since I heard this morning’s news, and I can still remember JC predicted frost will be in the air for Worcester County and western Massachusetts this evening. Thanks to being a “heat island” with all our brick and pavement, Boston proper will make it only down into the low 40s.

Whew.

I eased up on my fall-harvest plantings this year, but I still do have a few summer stragglers hanging on. Of what’s left, this is what will and won’t like temperatures in the low 40s:

early October zucchini

itty bitty zucchini

Zucchini/squash: Not a good year for them and they are not beefy enough to deal with temps too much colder than the low 50s. Hey, I had zucchini up until November last year. Maybe a quick one-night of 40s will be fine.

early October tomatoes

Oh, so sad.

Tomatoes: I have just two plants left and neither look great. It’s just cruel of me to keep them hangin’ on. Absolutely cruel, like pulling wings off flies. But I do it to see how far they can go.

early October carrots

Carrots - they'll be just fine.

Carrots: They’ll be just fine for a long time yet, thanks to that insulating layer of soil.

last of the season's basil

There it is - the rest of the season's basil.

Basil: Aaaaccckkk!!!!! I better go harvest that asap. It definitely won’t survive. It doesn’t even like my fridge set much below 45.

Snail-along

ick.

ps – this little guy is why it’s important to inspect your harvest before you bring it in your home – we had a few snails crawling on the walls in our fridge one morning …

early October leeks

Leeks: I have a good batch of leeks going this year. VERY excited about them. They’ll hang on for a good long time yet. I won’t have to worry about them until November or so. At that time I will try to mount them with as much soil as possible. I could be lucky enough to harvest leeks in January if I work it right.

early October jalepenos

We have jalepenos??

Jalepenos: We have jalepenos??

early October broccoli

Broccoli: It’s lovin’ this time of year.

early October chard

Chard: Back in mid August I pulled up all of my chard. Or so I thought. On a few of the smaller plants I pulled the biggest leaves off, leaving the small runts behind. A Well, wouldn’t you know but I have a batch of chard ready to go.

early October beets

The beets are so excited, they are pushing themselves outta the ground.

Beets: Happy as clams in this weather. And I have a lot of them. I’ll be harvesting them two by two for the rest of the month. I still have a whole jar of pickled beets in the fridge—maybe I need to make another.

If your ears have perked up with the sounding of the “frost predicted tonight” alarm, in all likelihood you’ll have a light frost, one that will damage only the most sensitive summer veggies in your garden. If you’re so inclined, try these techniques to help them survive a little bit longer:

-While the sun is still out, break out that old set of sheets you never use anymore and cover the most sensitive plants. The sheets will act light a light coat and keep the temps slightly elevated underneath as the soil gives off heat. Remove those covers the next day—it could really heat up under there. Plus, your neighbors will start talking about you.

Don’t have extra sheets or plant covers?

-As evening sets in, turn a hose on and water down the summer-loving veggies—the leaves, stems, fruit, etc.—and also the soil around the plants. The water around the foliage will freeze first or give up its heat first (it’s physics). Same with the moist soil.

Maybe with the temperatures climbing in the 80s starting tomorrow, I’ll be lucky enough to have some homegrown zucchini for next week’s Homegrown Food Challenge.

 

The Ever-Versatile Roasted Vegetables

May 11, 2011 § 7 Comments

I don’t share Dainty with my real-world colleagues as a rule. Not sure most would approve of Dainty’s exploits. But my super-awesome colleague Chris T.—the designer of the Dainty Dot logo up at the top of the page—is definitely Dainty worthy.

So when Chris T. told me yesterday that I use a lot of—too many?—ingredients, I considered it. Do I really? Salt, pepper, oils and vinegars not withstanding, I’m mentally going over my recipes and counting up. The Steel-Cut Oatmeal I’m currently eating definitely doesn’t have that many ingredients—oats, raisins, slivered almonds, maple syrup. Okay, yeah, that’s a lot for a simple breakfast. Plus, it takes 20-plus minutes to prepare. But at least you can shower while it’s cooking—that’s something.

Chris T., to show that Dainty can prepare a flavorful dish with simple ingredients and instructions, I humbly present this for your consideration: Roasted Vegetables.

It doesn’t matter what it is—beets, leeks, broccoli, and old tennis shoe—you add EVOO, salt and pepper, put it on a baking sheet or cast-iron pan in a 42F oven and you’re going to end up with something tasty. You can skip the oil maybe, but why? If anything, it helps prevent the veggie from sticking to pan. The salt and pepper add flavor, yes, but the salt also helps to draw out the vegetable’s own juices. The high heat caramelizes those juices, so you end up with a tasty savory sweetness. Want to get your children in the habit of eating veggies? Don’t serve them bland boiled bleck—lightly roast some carrots or cauliflower and let them have at it. I don’t have children and I’ve never tested this theory so it might be bunk, but you never know. Give it a try.

Roasting vegetables is my go-to method when it seems there is absolutely nothing left to cook with in the house. There’s always something—a sweet potato, an onion or leek, a pepper, something—laying around that, with a little high heat, salt, pepper and EVOO, can be incorporated into a meal. If anything, they can be tossed with penne for a simple pasta supper.

Do you need instructions? Really? Okay, here they are.

Roasted Vegetables

-Firm vegetables work best. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, winter squashes, onions, leeks work really well. Summer squashes such as yellow and zucchini, are good, too. Tomatoes … I typically use cherry tomatoes and put them in a medium-sized cast iron. They’ll burst, beware. But the flavor is phenomenal. Be forewarned—the acid will mess up your cast iron’s patina a bit. Clean immediately.

-Set your oven to 425F. I never rely on the temp gauge—your 425 may be hotter than my 425. So keep an eye on the veggies the first time you roast them to get a good idea of how your oven works.

-Veggie prep: The secret is to cut the veggies into uniform pieces for even cooking. All the sweet potatoes should be about the same size. Easily enough to do. When chopping the onion, leave them in relatively big chunks. No dicing. Broccoli and cauliflower can be kinda tricky to get into even sizes. But if some get more crispy than others, hey, that’s ok—it’s all tasty.

-Put your veg in a medium to big bowl, depending on how much you have. Add olive oil—I tip the bottle down and go once around the bowl for a small amount of veg, two to three times for more veg. Add one to two large pinches of kosher salt and several turns of a pepper mill. Toss to coat. Your hands are fine, or a wooden spoon or tongs work too. I prefer hands. Spread out evenly into a single layer in a cast-iron pan or rimmed baking sheet. Single layer! You want each veg to get in contact with the hot metal. Put in the oven and close ‘er up.

Note: What’s a large pinch? It’s a pinch that uses your thumb and your index, middle and ring fingers. It’s one finger away from a small grab. Go ahead, try it.

-Roasting time: Well, now, that all depends on what you’re roasting. Broccoli—2o minutes. Cauliflower—20-25 minutes. Beets, same thing. Sweet potatoes—up to 40 minutes. Butternut squash—35-40 minutes. Onions, leeks—15 maybe? Same with summer squashes. Asparagus, maybe 10 minutes. The softer the vegetable, the less time it takes. For softies, I check them at 12 minutes and then gauge from there. The harder the veg—like sweet potatoes—the longer it takes. For broccoli and cauliflower, I check them at 10 and give them a shaky toss. If you’re roasting a two or more different veggies—like broccoli and onions—on the same pan, I separate them so it’s easier to remove one if it’s done ahead of the other.

-When’s it done? When they turn a nice golden color, especially around the edges. Broccoli’s florets will begin to get a bit dark. That’s ok. Are the stem parts firm yet edible? You don’t want them to be floppy, but you want to be able to chew them without an awful crunch as if they are raw. Squashes—you should be able to stick a toothpick or fork into it easily but it shouldn’t be mush. Get the idea?

This weekend we made a simple pasta meal with roasted broccoli and onions and sun-dried tomatoes. We took a small handful

Roasted broccoli and onions with sun-dried tomatoes over pasta

of the tomatoes and put them in a bowl of maybe 1.5 cups of boiling water. Let them sit there while the broccoli and onions roasted and the pasta water boiled. Just before the roasting was done, we took out the tomatoes and gave them a rough chop, then threw them in with the drained pasta, a 1/2 cup of reserved pasta water and the roasted veggies. We served with a bit of Parmesan cheese. Delicious. Want some meat with that, you meat-eaters? We’ve had similar dishes where we’ve added a link or two of Al Fresco chicken apple sausage cut into bite-sized pieces.

Pasta, quinoa, bulgar, rice … whatever you have, as long as you have a veggie or two around and know how to roast it, you’ve got yourself a meal. And one with not that many ingredients.

Potato Kale Soup

April 11, 2011 § 3 Comments

Dainty’s been back from California a week, but still hasn’t gotten in the groove. Catching up on work, volunteer meetings, dinners out, etc, have given me zero fodder for posting. And you’d think with a weekend just behind me, I’d have plenty to write about. I think  maybe I made a batch of steel-cut oatmeal for breakfast—that’s about it. And a loaf of bread, but it was a workhorse kinda loaf—nothing spectacular.

I spent the weekend working on a homey project—painting the window well in the bedroom. Sure, I saved several hundreds of dollars doing it myself, but I sacrificed several million brain cells in the process (just say no to paint fumes). It’s a project that’s been on my list for about a year and I’m glad I got it done. And while I was scraping and painting, Jennifer was making a big batch of vegan soup to weekday lunches. And this is a good one.

Potato Kale Soup

  • 1 tbs evoo
  • 2 cups onions, chopped
  • 2 leeks, washed and sliced thinly (chuck the dark green parts)
  • 6 cups water
  • 4 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 2 tbs parsley, minced
  • 3 carrots – whole
  • 3 ribs celery – whole
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 lb. kale, washed, torn and ribs removed

-Heat oil in large soup pot over medium heat. Saute onions and leeks until soft—abou 10-15 minutes.

-Add potatoes, parsley, whole carrots and leeks, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Boil, cover and simmer over medium low for 45 minutes.

-While that is simmering, cook kale in 2 cups boiling water in a skillet. Cover tightly and cook for 4-5 minutes until tender. Drain and set aside.

-After 45 minutes, remove carrot, celery and bay leaves from soup. Reserve the celery and carrots but chuck the bay leaves. Puree half the soup in a blender. OR, an immersion blender is awesome for this—just whirr up (who says that? Jamie Oliver?) half of it right in the pot. Stir in cooked kale. Chop up the carrots and celery and return to the pot. Heat the soup through again. Salt and pepper it if you need to.

Tada! A vegan alternative for lunch. Sounds like this could use some bread. I think I’ll do that right now.

Cauliflower Masala

March 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

It’s not that I don’t like Middle Eastern/East Asian spices. I love them. I just don’t know how to use them.

For me, adding a shake of tumeric or fenugreek isn’t like reaching for the thyme or oregano. There’s a feeling for proportion with these spices with which I am not yet familiar.

Cooking is about trying new things. So, I tried something new last night. Cauliflower Masala.

A few months ago when I was testing out names for blogs I thought would be appropriate for me, I typed in www.growcookeat.com into my little url space and – what do you know – someone already had that blog. A chef/urban gardener/consultant, Julia Shanks had already taken the perfect name. Turns out she’s in the Boston area, too. Julia, if you read this, we should meet up and talk about getting a jump on the gardening season.

Cruising around her site, I found a recipe I just had to put in my “to cook later” files. I love cauliflower (my mother was be aghast to hear that), and it’s about time I try my hand with Middle Eastern spices. The recipe seemed ultra-accessible, so why not?

Again, I made a few changes to the recipe due to only having a 1/2 head of cauliflower – hers calls for a whole head, no potato, one tomato and a whole onion. I kept the spice proportion the same.

Ingredients

Cauliflower Masala

Cauliflower Masala

  • 1/2 head cauliflower, separated
    2 potatoes, on the smaller side, cut into 3/4-in. chunks
    1+ 1 tbs. olive oil
    1/2 onion, chopped or diced
    minced fresh ginger, about the size of your thumb to your first knuckle
    1clove garlic, finely chopped
    ½ tsp. brown mustard seed
    ½ tsp. cumin
    pinch fenugreek
    ½ tsp. turmeric
    2 tomatoes, chopped – try to keep the juices if you can
    1 fresh green chili, sliced
    Salt to taste

-Toss cauliflower and potato with the olive oil and add a pinch of salt/twist of fresh pepper. Put on a baking sheet and roast in a 425F oven for 20 minutes.

-Meanwhile, saute onion, garlic and ginger in another 1 tbs. olive oil on med-low heat. Let it cook down until the onions are transparent – 5 minutes or so.

-While that is happening, rough chop the tomatoes. Instead of slicing, I minced the chili because I’m a wuss. But, I did mix the tomatoes and chili with a pinch of kosher salt and let them sit together until needed, letting the flavors meld together.

-When onions, garlic and ginger are nicely sauteed, add the spices, stir, and let them sit on low for a minute. Add the tomatoes and chili. Cover and let sit until cauliflower is done – no more than a couple of minutes.

-Time the cauliflower to come out just as the tomatoes go into the onions. Add the roasted veggies and mix the flavors together. Season with salt.

Oh my lord, it worked. The flavors were amazing. So simple and so QUICK. I’d serve it on top or alongside of cous cous or rice, but last night we had it on its own.

A note about proportions – I used half a cauliflower because that’s what we had and added in an extra tomato and the potatoes to make up for some of the bulk. Even with a whole head I would add in two tomatoes. The potatoes were good in it, too. The recipe is definitely a keeper. Thanks, Julia.

P.S. Yes, my food photography sucks. It’s just my camera phone. But I’m in the process of researching cameras. Any suggestions?

Bulgur with Tomatoes and Kale

February 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

Sometimes dinner is just a bowl of gussied-up bulgur. Not that bulgur is meaningless or anything. Not in the least. It’s a whole grain, high in fiber, packed with good nutrition—it’s awesome just for that. Throw in its great taste and texture, it’s a real winner.

But when I say “sometimes dinner is just a bowl of gussied-up bulgur,” I mean some days you just don’t want to put a lot of effort into the evening meal. Aside from pulling a box of frozen somethin’ out of the freezer, fancified bulgur is an easy solution.

Two weekends ago at the Somerville Winter Farmers Market, one of the vendors—she sells Middle Eastern prepared foods—shared a quick-and-easy bulgur recipe with Jennifer and I. Having just come home from a long weekend in Vermont, we decided to take mealtime easy and whip up the bulgur. Jennifer prepped the dish, I stood by and watched. Full credit goes to my favorite chef.

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 TBS evoo
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 small bunch kale, washed and roughly torn
  • 1 cup bulgur
  • feta cheese

-Chop onion. In a medium pot, saute onion in olive oil over medium until somewhat translucent. Add tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Heat until bubbling, then turn down to a simmer. Let simmer gently while you prep the kale.

-Add kale to tomato onion mixture, and try to combine with tomatoes, but don’t try too hard. Cover. Let simmer away for 15 minutes.

-After 15 minutes, kale should be mostly cooked. Stir in a cup of bulgur. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. The bulgur should soften and expand during that time.

-Dish up in bowls as a light meal or spoon alongside an entree. Top with a sprinkling of feta cheese if you wish (and I wish).

 

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

February 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’m taking this time while getting an oil change to tell you about this AMAZING soup. This soup is so friggin’ easy and so friggin’ good, you’re gonna scream with the pain of realizing how dumb you’ve been for not making it before. That’s exactly what we did. Actually, we slapped ourselves.

Before I move on, I’m gonna give credit where credit is due. What’s that Mexican show on the Food Network? Mexican Made Easy or something? With the cute bubbly Mexican gal. She cooked up something similar one Saturday morning. In her case, it had a chipotle cream somethin’ somethin’ added at the end. Not needed, especially if you’re hoping to limit unnecessary calories.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-large butternut squash (2-3 lbs)
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • 2 medium-large carrots
  • 1 large stalk celery
  • 1 small-medium sweet onion
  • 4+ cups vegetable or chicken stock

-Heat oven to 400F.

-Cut squash in half lengthwise. Leave seeds and such in for now. Sprinkle a bit of olive oil over each half and rub in. Season each half with a pinch of kosher salt and a twist of fresh cracked pepper. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until knife inserts into squash easily. Remove from oven. Let sit until it’s cool enough to handle.

roasted butternut squash

Roasted butternut squash - roasted goodness

-Meanwhile, chop onion, carrot and celery into 1/2-inch pieces. In a 4-quart pot, season vegetables and saute in about 1 tbs olive oil until they start to loosen up a bit – 5 minutes or so.

-When squash is cool enough to handle, scrape the squash from the skin and add to the vegetables. Add enough veggie stock or chicken stock to cover everything. It usually takes about 4-5 cups. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes.

All the goodness cooks together.

-When time’s up, get our your trusty immersion blender and whir away until it ‘s nice and smooth.

Taste that? Good, uh? It’s sweet and savory. Rich and deep. And all that flavor from just those few ingredients. Yup, you and we have been missing out on some serious goodness. Don’t worry, we all feel really stupid about now.

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