December 12, 2012 § 1 Comment
Working from home is pretty awesome. Not because I can wear the same pants two days in a row (okay, three), or because I get to wear slippers all day. Or because I fill my agenda with kitten play time (yeah, that’s pretty awesome). Having a home office rocks because it lets me get creative with lunch.
-Salads piled high with pickled beets, bulgar, homemade awesome croutons and whatever else I have on hand.
-Lasagna filled with chard-nutmeg ricotta.
-Pizza topped with shrimp and salad.
My latest lunch: Sandwiches stuffed with sweet potatoes. Most definitely NOT my invention, of course. I’ve had the delicious honor of having sweet potato sandwiches from Ula Cafe in Jamaica Plain. Delicious. Really delicious, with sprouts, avocado, tahini spread, red onions … Yum. So, this sweet potato sammie has its roots there. But it also gets some big flavor input from the Henry’s Dinner pizza I had several months ago at Veggie Planet in Cambridge. That flavor profile would be the addition of rosemary, sage and goat cheese.
And for no other reason than to clean out the fridge, I threw in a section of Granny Smith apple. Sweet. And tart. Genius pairing, if I do say so myself.
Here’s how the sandwich-work and actual work-work happen, all at the same time:
1. Organize, outline and begin my weekly e-newsletter, all the while thinking about that on-the-edge sweet potato lurking in the fridge drawer.
2. While making my mid-morning tea, pre-heat the oven to 425F and have at that sweet potato, saving what’s left of it, and cutting it into small cubes. Catch that quarter of a Granny Smith sitting on top of the carton of eggs. Rescue what I can of that and cube that, too. Throw it all in a cast iron pan and toss it with, olive oil, two sage leaves, minced, and about a 1/3 a sprig of rosemary, minced, and add salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast it for … I dunno … 15-20 minutes? Long enough for me to finish writing the second section in my enewsletter, and long enough for the cubed potatoes to be roasted through but still firm.
3. Remove from oven and toss. Let cool for about a half hour. Write the third section of the enewsletter.
4. All that’s left is sandwich assembly: Slice two thick pieces of sourdough. One one, spread some goat cheese and top with some baby salad greens that are lightly dressed with whatever vinaigrette you have lying around (in my case I have a Greek dressing, but whatever). Oh, and some thinly sliced red onions. On the other side, pile high the sweet potato mixture. Holding a chef’s knife tightly over the salad, flip that side on top of the sweet potatoes and gently pull the knife through.
5. Eat in about 53 seconds because it’s that delicious. Head back to the computer, fully nourished and ready to finish the newsletter’s fourth section. The writing will be even better with that in my stomach. I love my job.
Tomorrow’s version will have sliced sweet potatoes and sliced avocados. And I’ll lightly toast the bread. Yum.
May 7, 2012 § 1 Comment
The following is a paraphrased and nearly completely inaccurate account of a recent text conversation.
Text from Nan: J’s sick, can’t use tix to tonight’s show at Club Passim. Can you use them?
Text from Dainty: Uh … wha? Tonite? Sure! Who’s playing, where’s it?
Nan: Meg Hutchison. She’s great. H Sq.
Dainty: We’re in! Coming after Baptiste yoga, could eat a cow. Do they have food?
Nan: Veggie Planet serves their food. Order Henry’s Dinner. On a pizza. Trust me.
Jennifer and I do indeed trust Nan—she’s a lawyer, after all, and we love her. We go to Club Passim, ravenous, and after a cursory glance at the menu, immediately ordered the Henry’s Dinner, pizza version. Something about sweet potato, goat cheese, asiago, rosemary and sage—oh, don’t forget the caramelized onions—all atop a whole wheat pizza.
First thought: Um … yeah. It’s really good. Things that should come together as a side dish at Turkey Time turns out to be a great topping for a pizza.
Second thought: I could totally make that.
And I did Here’s my version.
- 2 pizza doughs from the Biga-Based Pizza Dough recipe (which makes a total of four)
- 1 large sweet potato
- 1 sweet onion
- olive oil
- balsamic vinegar
- fresh rosemary and sage, ground in a spice mill together, about 2 tbs each
- a log of goat cheese
- asiago cheese (we used parmesan)
- salt and pepper go without saying …
-We had a gigantic sweet potato, so we spiked it with a few holes and popped it into a 425F oven for nearly an hour. After 45 min you want to keep poking a fork in it to see if it’s done all the way through. When done, let it cool enough to handle. The skin will just peel right off with your hands. Slice it into 1/4-1/2 inch think rounds.
-While the potato is cooking, slice up that sweet onion. Add about 2 tbs olive oil to your trusty large skillet, set on medium high, and toss the onion in there. Add maybe 2 tbs balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt. Toss often. After a bit you’ll want to turn the heat down low and let it saute low and slow. Half hour, maybe. Give the onions a taste halfway through – you might want to add more balsamic to your liking. When they’re done, let them cool, too.
-Heat the oven to 480F. Got a pizza stone? You need one, seriously.
-When you’re ready, flour your counter and roll out that pizza dough – thin but not super super thin. Sprinkle a pizza peel with fine corn meal and lay that dough on there.
-Next, brush the dough surface with some olive oil. Now you can arrange your ingredients however you want. I put the caramelized onions on the bottom. Next I layer with sweet potato – I broke my potato slices into chunks and spread them out a bit. Same with the goat cheese – I just broke chunks off the log and applied liberally. Next, a generous dusting of the rosemary-sage mixture, followed by Parmesan cheese. Salt and pepper on top.
-Slide the pizza onto the stone. 6-7 minutes is all you need. You should have enough ingredients for two pizzas, so while the first one is cooking, get the second one all set to go.
-Wait 3 minutes before cutting into it. You gotta let that thing set up.
Jennifer just took the leftovers for lunch and popped it into the break room toaster oven. A colleague asked, “Hey, is that the Henry’s Dinner pizza from Veggie Planet?” Looks like I got it right.
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.
-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
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.