10 April 2011

roasted butternut squash & goat cheese tart

The sun is shining, and there are daffodils -- daffodils! -- blooming outside the window. With as much snow as we've weathered here in New England this winter, I'm amazed, grateful, and so blissfully glad to see those daffodils.

And so, Winter, I bid you adieu. Or rather, à la prochaine.

Next week, I won't want to hear about squashes or stews. And I'll stop dreaming of rich, cheesy casseroles (actually, that's unlikely). So here's one last hurrah.

Roasted Butternut Squash & Cheese Tart

Pâte Brisée shell, par-baked
½ medium butternut squash
2 Tb. olive oil
4 shallots, chopped
¼ c. coconut milk
1 egg
¼ tsp. salt
¼ c. grated parmesan
½ c. roasted, finely chopped cashews
1/4 c. crumbled goat cheese

Remove seeds, etc. from butternut squash half and coat with thin layer of olive oil. Place cut side down in aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30-35 minutes (until very tender). Meanwhile, sautee shallots. Let squash cool, and spoon roasted squash flesh into large bowl. Add sautéed shallots, coconut milk, egg, salt, and cheese. Whisk until combined. Pour into tart shell and bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes, or until set.

06 April 2011

toasted sunflower seeds

A cast iron skillet plus a cup of sunflower seeds plus medium heat for three minutes or so.

Crunchy, golden morsels with an aroma strangely -- tantalizingly -- like fast food French fries. 

I'm tossing them on everything...roasted carrots and quinoa, soba noodles with wilted spinach and goat cheese, Greek yogurt with a glug of maple syrup. 

04 April 2011

the power of pie crust

I used to have this image of the kind of person who made her own pie crusts. And I wanted to be her.

Ms. Homemade Crust used her free time wisely, not only dreaming about baking her own bread or canning her own jam but actually doing it, too. Where did she find the time? The energy?

I hardly know what possessed me that day last November, but I had an entire afternoon looming ahead of me with nothing but a dissertation chapter to write. Naturally, I needed to find something else to do, so I chopped up some butter, slid a bowl of water into the freezer and ransacked my cabinets for something that might substitute for a rolling pin. I emerged with a Thermos. You work with what you have, people.

I pressed the dough into the stone-white pie dish, a wedding gift from our friends Andrea and Colin. I did my best to remove the evidence of my Thermos rolling pin, although the crust still looked like a racetrack for mice.

How I cook is how I conduct my life. I'm always trying to do it better, mostly dissatisfied with whatever I achieve. But then there's this other side of me, a kinder side, who has been there all along but has had to speak more loudly out of necessity these past few months. It's the side that says: "Eh, who cares if it's a little lopsided. Just call it rustic." The side that forgives others easily, instantaneously and urges me to forgive myself with the same unconditional abandon. The side that knows I have what it takes, always.

Four hundred degrees. Nine minutes. My cockeyed crust turned golden just the same, and when I slid it onto the cooling rack, still steaming and sweet-smelling, I had to say it out loud:

"Dude, you just made a pie crust."

Pâte Brisée

Makes dough for two tarts

2 1/2  c. white whole-wheat flour
1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. sugar

2 stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces

1/2 c. ice water

Martha Stewart's recipe has been fail-proof for me. Delicious, buttery, flakey -- just right, every time. Also, it is really, really easy. Who knew?

24 March 2011

medjool dates & almond butter

Like many people, I'm trying to eat less processed food these days. But that means that now, when I need a bit of a snack, I'm at a loss. Usually, I'd grab the box of Triscuits or a piece of toast (wow, I'm pretty exciting!), but an hour later I'd be back in the pantry.

I love Medjool dates, especially chopped in my hot rice cereal in the morning. Today I split a date and filled it with almond butter. Sweet, rich, and so satisfying. It's embarrassingly easy, but then, isn't that the point of snack?

21 March 2011

curried pink lentils, spinach, & tofu

Does anything sound fancier than lentils, spinach, and tofu? I suppose I could call them "des lentilles et des épinards" but even in French, tofu is still tofu. Fancy it's not, but filling it is.

It doesn't get any better than Thai cuisine for me, but Indian is a close, close second. I'm always like, "You know, I should really learn to cook Indian food." Then I look at the fifty+ ingredients and rummage through the desk for the take-out menus. But I'm determined, and so I give to you: curried lentils. And I know that grabbing for the curry powder hardly counts as delving earnestly into Indian cuisine, but it's a start. Bear with me, Madhur Jaffrey.

Curried Pink Lentils, Spinach, & Tofu

1 cup pink lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
Pinch of sea salt
2 handfuls of baby spinach
pinch nutmeg
block of extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into triangles

Boil 2 cups water in medium pot. Add lentils, curry powder and turmeric. Lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt. Meanwhile, sauté tofu triangles in butter with a pinch of nutmeg. When tofu is done, add spinach and cook until just wilted.

20 March 2011

butternut squash potstickers

This is one of those recipes that I wouldn't even think about attempting if I found it on a blog. First, there are too many ingredients. Second, the potstickers seem time-consuming enough, and then there's also a sauce? Non, merci.

Luckily enough, I didn't read this anywhere but concocted it on the fly. Roasted butternut squash is as good as dessert, quite honestly, and the only thing I could think of to improve upon that awesomeness was coconut milk. Oh, and cheese. I clearly should have added bacon, but there's always next time.

Butternut Squash Potstickers

½ medium butternut squash
¼ c. coconut milk

2 shallots, minced and sautéed
3 Tb. grated parmesan or asiago
handful of roasted, salted cashews, finely chopped

wanton wrappers

Brush the squash with olive oil and place cut side down on an aluminum-foil covered pan. Roast at 400 degrees until tender (30-35 minutes). Meanwhile, sautee the shallots until lightly browned (5 minutes). When the squash has cooled, place it in a large bowl; peel off and discard the skin. Add coconut milk, shallots, cheese, and cashews and mix until well combined.

Assembling the potstickers:

Make sure to keep the wonton wrappers – even those you’ve already added the filling to -- covered with a damp cloth because they dry out easily. You’ll also want to have a small bowl of water at the ready. Wet the edges of the wrapper, and then put a Tb. of the filling in the center of the wrapper. Seal the edges and smush them together (I’m not great at this part, but there are some tutorials online). It doesn’t really matter, though: wonky-looking potstickers taste just as good.

1 can coconut milk, minus ¼ c. used in filling
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

1 Tb. maple syrup

½ c. water

Combine ingredients in saucier and simmer for about 20 minutes to reduce.

Once potstickers are assembled, heat 1 Tb. (organic, expeller-pressed) coconut oil in a large pan and cook for about 3 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second.

[Pairs really well with kale, sautéed with 1 tsp. nutmeg, salt, and pepper.]

18 March 2011

nut butter sauce

I've been in a yummy rut for the past few months. Roasted vegetables, some kind of grain, some kind of protein and a nut butter sauce. Sometimes I decide to do a variation on the sauce, but it always veers back toward the delicious original.

We just ran out of maple syrup (I'm trying not to think about the ramifications), so I used honey instead. Here's hoping the local honey will keep spring allergies at bay. The pollen last fall and the mold this winter just about did me in. I don't know when I started to sound like an old person, but it might explain why I received an AARP membership packet last month.

The beauty of this sauce is that it complements nearly all veggies, types of protein and varieties of grain. Today I roasted olive-oil-coated broccoli for twenty minutes at 375 degrees, scrambled up some eggs with a little turmeric, and boiled some soba noodles.  Noodles, then eggs, then broccoli in a bowl, all slathered in sauce.

Nut Butter Sauce

3/4 cup nut butter 
[cashew, sunflower seed, almond, or peanut butter]
1/4 cup brown rice vinegar

1 tsp. maple syrup or honey
2-3 shakes of garlic powder
drizzle of toasted sesame oil

big pinch salt
big pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 cup hot water

17 March 2011

mexican chocolate cake

I think this cake was the very first that I ever baked for Stefan. I had a paper due the next day, which meant it was the perfect time to bake. A chance to de-stress, an opportunity to procrastinate. The back of the Hershey's cocoa box read: "Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake," and I said, yes, please. Never content to leave well enough alone -- even when it's "perfect" -- I added some cinnamon and cayenne pepper. It's a cake with a kick.

[Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake]

For the Mexican Chocolate variation, add 1 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. ground cayenne to cake batter.

Things I Discovered:
1. It's probably better to let the cake cool before trying to remove it from the pan, unless you don't want your cake cake-shaped.
2. It's probably better to let the cake cool before trying to frost it, unless you like cleaning frosting off the floor.