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Indian Fried Rice with Roast Cauliflower and Chickpeas

You can pull together a quick meal if you have brown rice (precooked and frozen), and the cauliflower already roasted. If you haven’t yet tried roasting cauliflower, what are you waiting for?

For this dish, take half a head of cauliflower, broken into smaller pieces, toss it with olive oil, salt, pepper and about 1 tsp tumeric, and then roast it on a baking sheet (or a casserole dish could work as well) at 375 or so for 20 minutes or until toasty brown. You can do this days before you make the fried rice dish and just keep the cauliflower in the fridge until some weeknight when you need dinner quickly. If you can keep from snacking on it until then.

Cook the brown rice as per your favorite method. I like Alton Brown’s Baked Brown Rice method but regular boiling is fine too. You can definitely do this ahead of time, and then pack and freeze the rice in handy portions for easy use later.

Now, once you have your rice and cauliflower prepped, you can pull together this dish very quickly. Which I did like so:

In a hot pan (a big one), melt some ghee (clarified butter; but if you can’t get that you could use coconut oil or some other, neutral oil), add a few fennel seeds and cumin seeds, let them roast for about 30 second, then add the (defrosted) rice, and stir well. Add the cooked cauliflower, and a big can of chickpeas (drained of course), and stir until heated through. Add in something green, like dandelion greens (yum) or maybe chard or spinach. Salt to taste. Serve with yogurt, or maybe some cheese, and naan or some other flat bread, if you have it.

No-Bake Summer Squash Gratin (Sort of)

I meant to post this in August, but since some of us are still experiencing summer heat in September, and the markets still have summer squash (so. much. zucchini!), it seems fitting even now. I’m certainly happy not to be turning my oven on yet.

Squash Gratin For One:

  • 2 small to medium zucchini and/or summer squash
  • small onion or scallion
  • cheddar, grated, about 1/4 cup or more (I say more)
  • basil or thyme or parsley (fresh not dried)
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed a bit
  • breadcrumbs, about 1/4 cup (I based on the amount of squash, so use your judgment)
  • Splash of white wine or dry vermouth (the white one)
  • butter and olive oil

What to do:

Grate one of the squash and dice the other one. Or grate them both, if you prefer. I liked the difference in shape and texture but it is not mandatory. Just a bit of fun. Thinly slice the onion/scallion. Continue reading

Simple Summer Salad

Hot weather often leaves me reluctant to do any cooking, stove or no. So a steady fallback is the cucumber. Cucumber salad has so many possible variations , and this one is substantial enough to make a good lunch or dinner.

Cool cucumber salad with chickpeas:

  • One or two medium English cucumbers (European style has thinner skin and fewer seeds), or slicing cucumbers
  • 15 oz or larger can of chickpeas
  • sprigs of fresh parsley (optional) or perhaps mint or chives
  • white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar, or a bit of both
  • mirin
  • walnut oil
  • salt

Peel the cucumber – I like to leave a few thin stripes for visual appeal. Cut cucumber into chunks (this is to match the chickpeas in size, approx). So, I cut it in half, then halve that, then half again and then slice into half-inch slices.

Rinse chickpeas and toss with cucumber slices in a bowl. Add chopped herbs.

Mix the dressing. I like a bit more vinegar, but use the  oil-to-vinegar ratio you prefer. I mixed white wine and rice wines vinegars here and added a splash of mirin, plus salt and a little bit of Spanish smoked pepper. Overall I had about 1/4 cup dressing or so. If you have more cucumbers and chickpeas, make more dressing as needed. Toss dressing and veggies, let stand in fridge for 10 minutes or so. Serve with a good crusty bread or a cheese tortilla aka quesadilla (fresh from the skillet).

Quick Spring Lunch: Fusilli with Scallions, Peas, and Goat Cheese

Actually, the title says it all. This makes a quick lunch, especially if you have the pasta already cooked. This is barely a recipe, and I didn’t really measure anything, so use your judgment as to the ratio of pasta to scallions, peas, and cheese.

What’s in it:

  • 8 – 12 oz pasta (fusilli), cooked (how much really depends on how hungry you are)
  • 2 – 4 scallions, chopped
  • 1 cup peas (cooked along with the pasta)
  • chopped chives – about 1 Tbs (optional)
  • fresh goat cheese (at least 1/4 cup, more if you love goat cheese)

Brown scallions in butter and olive oil over medium high, let things get a bit crispy. Add in the cooked fusilli and peas. Stir. If you have them, add some fresh chives too. Serve in a deep plate (pasta bowl), topped with crumbles of fresh goat cheese. Toss a bit so the cheese can meld with the warm pasta. Bask in the Spring feeling (though you could make this dish all through summer and fall, it feels spring-like, and scallions are great in spring).

Classic Broccolini Pasta

This is makes a good dish for the transition from winter to spring.

What you need: a bunch of broccolini (or a stalk or two of broccoli), one or two garlic cloves, some olive and walnut oil, a bit of dry vermouth or white wine (or water), red pepper flakes, and spaghetti.

Method:
Cut the thicker stems of the broccolini into small pieces and boil them along with the pasta. Chop the rest of the broccolini into bite-size pieces. While the pasta cooks, saute the broccolini pieces in about 1 -2 Tbs of olive and/or walnut oil over medium heat.

After 5 minutes or so, add minced garlic, then add a good splash of vermouth, cover the pan and turn the heat down a bit; let things steam. Add red pepper flakes towards the end of cooking, along with a pat of butter to finish (optional). Also optional: adding some chopped walnut or almonds.

Finally, add the drained pasta and stems to the pan, along with a splash of pasta water, stir to combine evenly. Salt and pepper to taste; serve with Pecorino or Spanish cheese or Parmesan.

Quick Hit: Golden Kohlrabi Carrot Fritters

If your winter market is giving you nothing but odd roots and bulbous members of the cabbage family, you might be looking for ideas on what to do with these strange vegetables. Well, here is a seriously great way to work kohlrabi into your menu.

In good German tradition, I’ve steamed and braised kohlrabi, which yields delicious results but gets a bit bland and predictable after many iterations. So, I was looking for a new way to use two aging bulbs. Enter Smitten Kitchen and her cheerleading for FRITTERS and the solution to all your dinner travails. Seriously, fritters are great.

TheKitchn (my go-to site for basic recipes) provided a link to this kohlrabi carrot fritter recipe at http://www.acouplecooks.com/2013/01/kohrabi-fritters-with-avocado/ – I wasn’t going to get fancy with avocado but I did have some leftover Chinese takeout rice on hand. Lo, golden kohlrabi carrot fritters.

I used two eggs, instead of one, plus a bit of flour and what amounted to about 1/4 cup or so of the cold white rice (mixed into the shredded kohlrabi and carrots along with the eggs and flour) to make the fritters, and served them with sambal-oelek mayo. Highly recommended.

 

Quick Hit: Fusilli and Peas (Secret Sauce)

Aka, how to make a quick, velvety pea sauce.

This is very easy, and I didn’t really measure anything. Take some frozen peas (about 1 cup), and gently heat them in a pan with a little pat of butter and a tablespoon or two of water, or chicken or veggie broth. Once the peas are defrosted, blend them with some crumbled feta. I used my stick/immersion blender but you could do this in a food processor too. Taste as you go so you get the right balance of sweet and salty – I think I used about 1/4 cup feta or less. I also added some sriracha to taste.

Use this sauce on fusilli or other ridged pasta (rigatoni or cavatappi perhaps). You can liven it up the next day for lunch by adding a few Sungold tomatoes (the little sweet orange ones), halved or whole, to the pan when you reheat the pasta and pea sauce.

Summer Pesto Salad

This makes a nice dinner but also a good cold salad to take to potlucks, BBQs, and picnics.

For the pesto sauce:

  • A bunch of “cooking greens” – assorted leaves of kale, chard, etc.
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves (broken down into smaller pieces)
  • the green parts of 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup (about) grated Parmesan or Gran Padano
  • olive oil (good kind for salads, not for cooking)

Cut or tear the green leafy part off the stems (de-rib), and then into smaller pieces. Steam (or sauté quickly, if you prefer) the greens for about 5 minutes, until sightly limp. Chop up walnuts and garlic. Add greens, garlic, nuts, and scallions into food processor. Blend while adding olive oil until the mixture becomes smooth. Add in the grated cheese (unless using the pesto later), and mix together. Continue reading

Sunny Summer Pasta (Corn and Sungold Tomatoes)

Since the farm stands are still overflowing with lush summer produce, here is a meal that you can put together fairly quickly and that rewards you with the look and taste of full summer.

What you need:

  • about 6 – 8 oz (1/2 box/bag) Rigatoni, Penne, or similar pasta,
  • about 1/2 to 1 pint Sungold tomatoes (the small orange ones, sweet), halved,
  • 3 ears of sweet corn,
  • 1/4 cup ricotta (or maybe some fresh mozzarella),
  • some springs of fresh herbs like parsley, dill, or herb fennel aka sweet fennel (look that one up, it’s interesting);

This makes enough for 3-4 servings (next day lunch!).

What to do:
Cook the pasta, and once it’s done, be sure to save some of the pasta water; about 1/2 a cup or so. While the pasta is cooking, strip the kernels off the corn cobs. Then sauté the corn in some butter with the herbs (I used herb fennel here) for a few minutes – you want to start this only when the pasta is done, or almost so, so that you’ll have the pasta water on hand when you need it.

Now add about 1/4 cup pasta water (enough to cover) and some white wine or dry vermouth (optional) to the corn, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the kernels are tender. Add the pasta, stir everything together, and add chopped parsley (if using). Stir in 1/4 cup or so of ricotta, and the tomatoes. Turn off the heat and let everything warm through for a bit. Salt and pepper to taste. Heap on a plate and eat on a balcony or patio, if possible. Or just open the window a bit, unless it’s one of those hot humid days. In that case, enjoy your fan or AC and bask in the plateful of summer from your cooking efforts.

Gold Zucchini Pasta

Here’s something to do with the zucchini/golden summer squash that should be piling up by now. You can throw  this together quickly – either a dish for two people or one person who likes leftovers (hello, lunch).

What you need:
1 medium golden zucchini, or it can be a regular green one too, shredded (by hand on your cheese grater or in a food processor if you have it)
About 1 cup dry fusili pasta (estimate)
About 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary (fresh)
1/2 cup or so of panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Manchego (more if you like)
1 Tbs olive oil

What to do: (Note: I did not measure when I made this, so this is all speculation based on memory.) Continue reading