Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving palooza

On days like this, when you have deadlines but all you want to do is take a break, relax and spend endless time cooking an elaborate lavish pumpkin pie or infuse the house with the aroma of a perfectly roasted turkey, it is harder to stick to work. When the calls for sales and endless coupon emails start ending up in your inbox already well before Thanksgiving and both Thanksgiving and Christmas seemed to be lumped into one big holiday season, it is difficult to not be scooped up in the holiday cheer. But then, why not? The bright lights of candles, silvery china and big shiny Christmas trees light up the world when nature is at its darkest. But, it is still back to work, a few more days.

happy thanksgiving break!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Farro Risotto with Red Kuri Squash and Lemon

This a flavorful variation on the butternut squash lemon risotto I cooked the other day. Instead of arborio rice, I used farro. Farro is a similar to wheatberries. Instead of butternut squash I used unpeeled red kuri squash, which has a firm orange colored flesh and rich flavor. “Farrotto” is similarly prepared as risotto but has a more nutty flavor.
Farro Risotto with Red Kuri Squash and Lemon (makes 2 serving)
  • 1/2 pound peeled red kuri squash, deseeded
  • about 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1/2 white onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, microplaned
  • 1/2 cup farro
  • 1 Tb dried or fresh lemon thyme
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • finely grated zest of 1 organic lemon
  • freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 lemon
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • goat cheese crumbles
Cut the red kuri squash into small dice (1/3 of an inch). 

In a small pot, bring the vegetable stock to a simmer. Heat the olive oil in larger pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute it, stirring them occasionally, until they are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook it until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the farro, red kuri squash, and lemon thyme. Stir  for about 3 to 4 minutes. Pour the wine into the pan and let it cook off for about 2 minutes. Add about a 1/2 cup of stock and cook, stirring it constantly and making sure to scrape around the sides, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Continue adding stock, a 1/2 cup at a time, and stirring almost constantly, until the farro grains are tender with a bit of bite, about 30 minutes. Stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and black pepper. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if needed. Stir in some Parmesan cheese before serving.

red_kuri farrotto

Treasures from the last summer farmers market

We were lucky this year, the weather was mild up until a few days ago but now it is how it normally is nearing Thanksgiving: a chilly cold making everyone bundle up at the farmers market. Last opportunity to stock up on the essentials: sheep’s milk feta, beautiful lacinato kale, kuri squash, macoun apples and celeriac.

Lucky for us, the first winter farmers market is in 3 weeks….


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lemon Butternut Squash Risotto

The other day I made this wonderfully flavorful and light risotto, very seasonable with butternut squash but lightened up with lemon zest and juice (find recipe here). Today’s lunch was spring lettuce, waterkress with balsamic vinaigrette, a quarter of a small baked butternut squash, lemon risotto and a sprinkle of dried cranberries, goat cheese and lemon thyme.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Roasted Red Kuri Squash

My stash of winter squash decorating my long dining room table was overflowing so it was time for a delicious, yet simple lunch: roasted red kuri squash, simply dressed with salt, pepper, Trader Joes crumbled goat cheese and fresh lemon thyme.

To roast red kuri squash, preheat the oven at 400F. Cut the kuri squash in half with a serrated bread knife. Spoon out the pumpkin seeds, and sprinkle salt, pepper and olive oil over the squash halves. Roast the squash for about 30min. Serve with goat cheese, more fresh crushed black pepper and herbs.

roasted red kuri

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetables? Sounds somehow….. devilish?! Oh, wait, that was lucifer…. crucifix is a cross. Anyway, the name relates to the shape of the vegetable flowers (cross-like) and not to any health endangerments, despite the name. On the contrary, according to a recent SHAPE article they are actually really helpful for shedding the last 5 pounds. And, for once, I could not agree more, from my own experience.  You have seen a lot of brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli and bok choy on this blog.

Shape article excerpt: “When you're actively trying to lose fat, focus on the type of carbohydrates you're eating—aim for more green, fibrous carbohydrates such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, asparagus, bok choy, and collard greens. These are all cruciferous vegetables and are in the running for the healthiest foods in the world.
It's important to remember that hormones play a big role in weight loss, especially the last 5 or so pounds that are so hard to lose. Cruciferous vegetables like those mentioned above contain two compounds—indole-3-carbinol and Calcium D-glucarate—that may help optimize estrogen levels, giving you an edge in revealing your abs faster. In addition to these two powerhouses, cruciferous vegetables are low calorie, high fiber, and have a low energy density. This means that you can eat a large quantity of vegetables and feel full and satisfied without consuming a lot of calories--another key for peeling away that final layer of abdominal fat.”


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Vegan Kale and Frozen Grapes Smoothie

It was time for a smoothie again. Lots of kale, as usual, almond milk, a piece of frozen banana, but there were those gorgeous frozen grapes in the freezer, and so, why not? Surprisingly delicious!

Kale and Frozen Grapes Smoothie (1 serving)
  • 2 handfuls of raw kale (stems, leaves, everything)
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/4 of frozen banana
  • about 10 frozen grapes
  • 1 scoop of Vega protein powder, Berry flavor
  • liquid stevia, to taste
All in the blender (best: vitamix) and done!
grape kale smoothie

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Insanely good Turkey Gravy

Not too many more weeks before Thanksgiving, and inspiring recipes are abundant. This one deserves clipping: it is involved but  will be really worth it.

Gourmet 2005

Insanely-Involved-But-Totally-Worth-It Gravy (origin)

  • Turkey neck and giblets from your bird
  • 3 additional turkey necks
  • 2 whole chickens (or 8 leg quarters)
  • Aromatics like carrot, onion, leek, etc., to taste (optional)
  • Kombu and/or dried shitake mushroom, to taste (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon flour, or as needed
  1. A couple of days in advance, make stock using the turkey neck, extra necks and whole chickens. Start by preheating the oven to 425°F. Roughly remove all of the skin and cut off the breast meat. It’s okay to do a quick and shoddy job of both—you're just making gravy.
  2. Salt the breasts liberally and refrigerate for later. Separate the chickens into their parts and cut the necks into 3-inch segments. Place everything in a large roasting pan along with the giblets and skin off to one side.
  3. Roast for 45 minutes or until a little past golden brown. Deglaze the roasting pan, fastidiously scraping all browned bits with a wooden spatula and add the precious liquid to a stock pot along with all the bones, meat and vegetables (if you’re using them) and enough water to cover. Bundle the skins in a cheesecloth and add to the pot. (Feel free to add dried shitake or kombu to the pot if you want extra umami.)
  4. Heat your stock on high until it reaches a simmer, then turn down to low and allow to just barely simmer for about 3 hours.
  5. Strain the stock carefully into a pot with a heavy bottom and a tight fitting lid—this is your gravy pot. Discard the remaining solids, but reserve your bundle of skin, placing in back in the gravy pot as well. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. The next day, skim off the fat that has congealed on top of your stock and reserve it to make a roux a bit later on. Reduce the remaining stock to the approximate desired quantity of gravy (probably down to 3 quarts, 2 for pouring and 1 for stuffing). Once the stock has come to a boil, add your chicken breasts, turn off heat and allow breasts to poach for 10 minutes. Remove the breasts and wrap them tightly in saran wrap. Resume reduction of stock—the chicken can be used later or as a backup in case you run out of turkey.
  7. Presumably, your turkey is in the gentle roasting process by now. Interrupt your turkey roasting just long enough to obtain the drippings, ideally in something sturdy like a tempered glass measuring cup. Put the drippings in the freezer to separate; you want to keep the fat and trash the water. Fastidiously deglaze the roasting pan, adding the contents to your gravy pot.
  8. Remove the skin bundle and blend with as much stock as needed to get the blender going, probably about a cup. Reserve the resulting skin puree.
  9. In a nonstick pan, warm about 2 ounces of turkey fat (or the skimmed chicken fat) with turkey drippings and once the fat is hot, add 1 tablespoon of flour per ounce of fat. Stir over low heat until golden brown then remove from heat.
  10. Adjust the gravy to your desired consistency using a combination of turkey fat roux and skin puree. The roux will thicken but may take a moment to materialize. The skin will add unctuousness.
  11. If desired, you can puree the giblets into the gravy, or reserve to add to your stuffing. Adjust gravy to desired flavor with salt, pepper and any other accent, like a splash of vermouth.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Sunny November

After last week sneak peek of winter we are fortunately back to sunny, warm weather that everyone enjoys. This includes Tigger, the neighbors’ cat, who enjoyed a sunbath in the kale bed. BTW, Tigger says, tell your mommies that pigs might fly but cats don’t. 

We are both sad that Jack the Cat passed away.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hearty Vegan Chili

 This is my new favorite vegan chili due to its heartiness, being full of flavors and depth, thanks to the pureed dried chilies that are added to the base ingredients: kidney beans, corn, red bell pepper and, quite seasonally, diced butternut squash. For a non-vegan version add some ground turkey. Delicious!
  • 2 dried New Mexico chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut or torn into pieces
  • 1 large dried ancho chile, stemmed, seeded and cut or torn into pieces
  • 1/2 TB extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 TB chili powder
  • 1 ts taco seasoning (I use Old El Paseo taco seasoning}
  • 1 small can of no salt-added tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh corn
  • 1/2 cup small diced butternut squash
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, and diced
  • 1 hot chili pepper
  • 1 Tb organic brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso coffee
  • One 15 to 16-ounce can dark kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • Garnishes, such as vegan sour cream, or goat cheese crumbles and chopped cilantro
Bring the New Mexico chiles and ancho chiles to a simmer in 1 cup water in a medium saucepan. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the chiles are just tender, ca. 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender, and add the hot chili. Holding the top on firmly with a dish towel, blend until the chile puree is smooth.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and red onions to the pot. Saute until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Mix in the cumin, oregano, chili powder and taco seasoning. Add the tomato sauce, corn, kidney beans, butternut squash and red  bell  pepper. Also, add the chile puree from the blender, brown sugar, and espresso; stir to blend all ingredients. Bring to a simmer and cover. Simmer for about 30 min.
Season the chili with salt and pepper to taste (if necessary). Serve with sour cream, chopped cilantro and tortilla chips.