Saturday, November 23, 2013

Stack Salad with Lentils, Artichokes, and Leeks

I am in love with this salad, which is fast, easy, and delicious. The recipe is based on one that I had for lunch one day at the bar at the restaurant called Community in New York City when I was finishing up my dissertation and hiding away at the Butler Library at Columbia. Could eat it once a week! Enjoy!

Ingredients

Butter Lettuce, or other durable green with large leaves
3 tbl olive oil
3-4 large leeks
1 cup lentils (green or black)
1 can/jar artichoke hearts
1 cup creme fraiche
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp fleur de sel

Directions
1. Boil 2 cups of water. Once boiling, add lentils, and cook for 20-30 minutes until softened but not mushy.
2. While the lentils are cooking, slice off the green tops and roots of your leeks and discard (so far I have not been able to find an option for the tough tops of leeks). Chop the leeks lengthwise and then into half moon slices about 1/4" thick. Place these in a bowl of water to release any dirt between their layers.
3. Heat a frying pan and add olive oil and leeks. Cook until caramelized.
4. Add artichoke hearts, cooked lentils, and salt to the leeks.
5. Wash butter lettuce and separate individual leaves.
6. Whip creme fraiche with cumin.
7. Lay butter lettuce and add layer a spoonful of lentil-artichoke-leeks mixture topped with creme fraiche dressing. Add another slice of lettuce and additional layer of vegetables and dressing. Enjoy as is, or with a few shrimp on top.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Auburn Orange Soup (Ginger-Carrot-Squash Soup)

My roasted squash from my last post was delicious with salad and quinoa, but I had a ton of it leftover, and some of it was quite soft so didn't hold up well alongside my roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, and yams. So, the next night, I decided to make an autumn-lover's soup, which happens to be bright orange (War Eagle, indeed!). This beautiful soup was sweet and delicious, and held up well for a week's worth of lunches!

Ginger-Carrot-Squash Soup

Ingredients
3-5 cups of water, boiled separately
3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves (smushed and sliced)
2 tablespoons of fresh ginger; sliced thin
1 tablespoon herbs de provence
1 large onion, diced
Splash of white wine
5-7 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 cups roasted squash (or if you don't already have roasted and have chopped, uncooked squash, you can just add it in the pan at the same time as the carrots)
1/2 cup chopped kohlrabi (if you happen to have some around; otherwise a turnip will do, or nothing at all!)
1 vegetable bouillon cube

Preparations
1. Boil water in a separate pot or tea kettle.
2. While the water is heating, heat a large saucepan, and add olive oil.
3. Once the oil is heated, add garlic, ginger, onion, and herbs de provence and saute for 1-2 minutes. Add white wine and cook until onions are softened.
4. Add the carrots, kohlrabi, if using, and, if uncooked, the squash (if you've already roasted your squash, just mix it in at the end to heat it through).
5. After 3-5 minutes, add boiling water and vegetable bouillon cube (if desired; this time, I forgot to add it, and the soup was still packed with flavor!).
6. Cover, and cook for 30-40 minutes until vegetables are soft enough to puree. Add the squash just for the last few minutes to heat through if it's already pre-cooked.
7. If you have an immersion blender (I'm a little obsessed with mine), blend the soup in the pot. If you have a food processor, let the soup cool for at least 15-20 minutes before ladel-ing it into the plastic bowl (I cracked a food processor bowl once by being too quick about this!) to puree. If you don't have either of this cooking implements, feel free to just eat the soup with the vegetables still solid, or crush the vegetables with a wooden spoon.

It may be true that this soup looks a bit like baby food, but it is bright, cheerful, and delicious! The ginger also gives it a nice little something extra!

Seamus trying to get into
my celery salt... maybe it
smells like catnip?!




Sunday, November 17, 2013

Resuscitating my cooking blog / Roasting Winter Squash

After about a year and four months hiatus (in which I completed my dissertation, traveled to Australia once and France twice, moved to Washington, D.C. for six months, and then moved to the South to start a new job as an Assistant Professor of Art History!), I've decided to resuscitate my cooking blog. I've still loved cooking and eating during that time, but my life seemed too hectic to find the time to write about it, though I took food pictures many times with the intention of posting them. After all of these changes, and settling into a wonderful, welcoming new place, I find I'd love to return to writing about my food experiences.

my new kitchen!
There have been a few changes in the way I think about cooking since last time I was posting... I was already invested in CSAs in NYC, and one of the first things I did after moving to Alabama was to join a CSA at a local farm here with some new friends here. But I've become even more concerned with eating locally, and, as influenced by the wonderful book by Tamar Adler, The Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, which was recommended to me by my friend Eleanor. One of Adler's arguments is that with some foresight, one meal can become many meals, and cooking one thing can be folded into many different meals. After reading this book, I find myself saving every cooking broth possible, and have tons of little jars in my cupboards, refrigerator, and freezer of things that I intend to use in a future meal. I've always loved my soups, but now I think they get better and better!

my new pantry!
I also have a new relationship with cooking spaces, after my kitchen space and storage space has grown exponentially since my New York City and my D.C. apartments. Now I have counter space to leave my kitchen aid mixer out (instead of tucking it on the floor under my desk in NYC!) and can spread out my preparations, which has made for a greater ease of orchestrating meals. Also, now I have enough pantry space to follow my friend Chelsi's strategy of having giant tubs of flour and sugars ready to go when the baking urge strikes.

There have been a myriad of wonderful changes in my life since I moved south, and hosting gatherings at my new place has been a fantastic way for me to get to know my new colleagues and to make super new friends. All this to say... it's time to get back to writing about food! There aren't really portions in this recipe, since all the amounts depends on how much vegetable you are cooking (and perhaps this is another change in my cooking... less concern with measurements if I can avoid it!)!

Salad with Roasted Winter Squash and Vegetables with Quinoa

I've received a bunch of squashes in my CSA this fall, and I discovered the hard way when I tried to peel one to steam a bit and add to a risotto that the skins were too thick to peel (I actually broke my peeler trying!). Thankfully, my vegetable cookbook of preference, Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which was recommended to me ages ago by my friend Sarah, informed me that I could roast the squash and then peel the now loose skin from the flesh. So I cut my squashes in half with a thick knife, brushed the flesh with a picante Peruvian Picual olive oil that my friend Hayley sent me to try, and placed these flesh-side down on a baking sheet. After a taste testing with friends that compared the Peruvian Picual with a more mild Chilean oil, I discovered that the Peruvian Picual had so much flavor that it almost overran the flavors of vegetables in a salad, but that in cooking, roasting, and marinating, it left food with an incredible rich flavor and texture.

Seamus likes the Peruvian Picual!
I roasted the squash halves at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes, and while these were roasting, I peeled some yams and sweet potatoes from my CSA along with grocery store carrots, and chopped them into large chunks, which I doused with Peruvian Picual, fleur de sel, and herbs de provence. While these were roasting for about 45 minutes, I made a cup of quinoa on the stove (1 cup quinoa in 2 cups of water, bring to a boil, then cook for about 10-15 minutes until the water has been absorbed and the germ of the quinoa becomes visible). I removed the squash flesh from the skins and chopped this into bite sized, and saved the liquid from the pan for future use.

saving squash liquid
With these parts - roasted squash, roasted yams/carrots/sweet potatoes, and quinoa, I had many meal options that I've been working through over the succeeding days. The first was to combine all three in equal amounts with a salad blend of spinach and spring mix (though I need to learn to stop buying the salads on sale at the Earthfare as they go bad almost immediately, unlike the long-lasting butter lettuce that I've been getting from my CSA). This made for a great lunch all week!

More to come!