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Archive for the ‘weeknight supper’ Category

I didn’t go into this salad with a good attitude. The first batch of beans I tried cooking for it had their own attitude problems, and they pretty much all burst during cooking, which wasn’t good for this salad or my plans to do something other than scrub a pot that evening. But, as you’ve probably already divined from the fact that it’s appearing here, I ultimately triumphed and it was totally worth it.

white bean and carrot salad

I am pretty sure that this salad would be fabulous even with canned beans, which is why I’ve tagged it for a weeknight supper; I just had a bee up my bonnet after that first batch rebelled on me. The combination of the brown sugar and the tang of the lemon juice gives a surprising depth of flavor, and the caramelized carrots come out wonderfully sweet. I liked this best warm, but it could be served at room temperature or even cold.

White Bean and Carrot Salad
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

Olive oil
4 medium carrots
2 shallots
4 c. cooked white beans (or two 15-oz. cans; I used navy beans, but you could use cannellini or their oddly-named smaller cousins, Great Northern beans)
1 T. dried dill or 3 T. fresh dill
3 T. lemon juice
pinch salt
2 T. brown sugar

Wash or peel the carrots, and then slice them as evenly as you can, aiming for slices about a quarter-inch thick. You can do this quickly by trimming the carrots, lining them up side by side, and chopping across all four at once.

Heat a big skillet or chef’s pan over medium heat with a splash of olive oil in it. (Start with 2 T. if you’re the measuring type.) Add the carrots in a single layer. If your skillet isn’t huge or if you’re doubling the recipe, you may need to do this step in batches. Eventually, the carrots will let off a bit of water, and then start to brown. Stir them every few minutes and cook until most of them are nicely caramelized on at least one side, which will be ten or fifteen minutes.

While they’re cooking, peel the shallots and mince them finely. Combine them with 1/4 c. olive oil, the lemon juice, and the salt. Mix with a fork or whisk to combine.

Add the beans and dill to the skillet with another small splash (about a tablespoon) of olive oil. Cook until the mixture is thoroughly heated, about five minutes, then remove from the heat and pour into your serving bowl.

Sprinkle with the brown sugar and add about half of the dressing and stir to mix. Let it sit for five minutes or so, and then taste. You’ll probably want to add most of the rest of the dressing, possibly along with more salt.

Serves six as a main dish and ten as a side; I liked it reheated in the microwave for lunches. If someone in your family is dubious about beans, you could also serve this over couscous or bulgur for a more mixed texture.

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This is one of those ideas so good that I wish I’d had it myself: risotto with brie. It is lusciously creamy in a way that the hard cheese we usually use for risotto just can’t match. To stand up to that creaminess, this recipe uses bulgur wheat instead of rice, along with tender roasted asparagus and snappy sun-dried tomatoes.

asparagus bulgur risotto

Give this a try even if you don’t especially like the flavor of brie: it’s a relatively small amount and lends more creaminess than flavor. It comes together in about 40 minutes and reheats well in the microwave.

Asparagus Bulgur “Risotto”
Adapted from Serious Eats

4 to 6 c. broth or stock
1 bunch of asparagus (about 1 lb)
1 T. butter
3 T. olive oil
Kosher or sea salt
1 onion
1 1/2 c. bulgur wheat
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes*
3-4 oz. brie
Black pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Snap the bottom of the stems off of the asparagus. Doing this by hand means that it will break where it becomes tender, which is perfect. Throw out or compost the bottoms and chop the tops into roughly two-inch segments.

Put the asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet or in a 9×13 pan, making sure it’s spread in a single layer. Melt the butter and add 1 T. of olive oil. Drizzle over the asparagus and toss to coat, then sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt. Roast for about 15 minutes, stirring once, until the asparagus is tender and starting to brown.

While the asparagus is roasting, mince the onion. Chop the sun-dried tomatoes into tiny pieces — try using kitchen shears if you have them — and set aside. Then remove the rind from the brie and cut it into cubes, and set that aside too.

Heat the rest of the olive oil in a saute or saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about five minutes. It’s a little prettier in the end if you don’t let it brown, but it tastes fine either way.

Then add the bulgur and stir to coat the grains with the oil. Cook for a couple of minutes to slightly toast it. Add one cup of the stock or broth. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it is mostly absorbed. Continue adding stock, half to one cup at a time, for about 15 minutes, or until you’ve used four cups of stock.

Then you need to start tasting. When cooked, the bulgur is more tender than al dente pasta; the texture is almost like brown rice. It could take up to half an hour and six cups of stock for it to get there — among other things, bulgur can be ground coarsely or finely, which changes the cooking time. Trust your tounge!

When the bulgur is done, add the asparagus, the sun-dried tomatoes, and the brie. Stir until the brie is largely melted, then remove from the heat. Season with black pepper, then taste and add more salt as desired.

Serves six.

*If you’re not using oil-packed tomatoes here, rehydrate them in boiling water until soft.

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I first encountered these non-traditional quesadillas at a tapas party, where slices were among the small plates on offer. They’re a brilliant combination — the mild sweet potato filling, sharp cheddar cheese, a crispy tortilla — and I pretty much went straight home and wrote an email to ask for the recipe.

sweet potato quesadillas

I like these as they are for a snack or light meal. If you want to make them more substantial, you can add black beans to the filling. You can also add goat cheese, which makes the filling creamy and rich-tasting, but do so in addition to the cheddar (which plays an important structural role), not instead of. I love leftovers reheated in a toaster oven, but people who aren’t as obsessed as I am with crispness have reportedly enjoyed them reheated in a microwave too.

sweet potato quesadilla filling

For folks with wheat or gluten issues, I did test these with corn tortillas, and it is possible, but a bit tricky. You need to heat the tortillas one batch at a time in the microwave, wrapped in a damp paper towel, and then work quickly to fill them and get them into the pan while they’re still at their most pliable. Some of mine still cracked, but they all held on to their filling. I recommend using small tortillas so you don’t have to try to cut them after cooking.

sweet potato shreds

Incidentally, there’s a lot of conflicting information on what a sweet potato is or isn’t, especially when compared with a yam. In this case, the important part is to get something that’s orange on the inside, not white.

(By the way, I’m trying putting all of the photos up at the top so you have the text of the recipe uninterrupted. Let me know what you think about this in the comments.)

Sweet potato quesadillas
I adapted this from a friend’s version, who in turn adapted it from what I believe to be the original in Moosewood Cooks at Home

1 1/2 lbs. sweet potatoes (one huge potato or two more reasonably-sized ones)
1 small onion
3-6 cloves of garlic (or 1-2 t. jarred crushed garlic)
2 T. canola oil plus extra for the pan
1 t. chili powder*
1/2 t. ground cumin
salt and pepper
8 flour tortillas (I usually use 10-inch ones)
1 to 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese**

Wash and grate the sweet potatoes, then peel and dice the onion. If you’re using fresh garlic, put it through a garlic press or mince. Add the canola oil to a large frying pan and heat over medium. Then add the onion and cook until softened, about five minutes.

Add the cumin and chili powder to the pan and stir for a minute until they’re well mixed in, then add the sweet potatoes. Keep stirring until the potatoes and spices are mixed, then cover the pan and cook for about fifteen minutes, stirring every five minutes. If the potatoes are sticking to the pan, add a bit more oil. After ten minutes, the potatoes should be cooked through; after fifteen, the filling should be easily squishable. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove the filling from the heat and get out a frying pan. Heat it over medium and pour a bit of canola in the bottom. You can either fill the tortillas directly in the pan or fill them on the counter and then stick them in the pan. Either way, you want to smear half of the tortilla with the sweet potato mixture and then top it with a couple of tablespoons of the grated cheese. Cook one or two at a time in the skillet until the tortilla is browned and the cheese is melted, then turn over and brown on the other side before moving them to a wooden cutting board.

Some cutting recommendations: kitchen shears and a pizza wheel both work well for this, but I end up using my chef’s knife most of the time. Cutting into thirds is easier than quarters. Don’t sweat the messiness of the middle pieces; they still taste good.

I like these with salsa on top; I hear they’re also good with sour cream if you like that sort of thing.

*I used the Ancho chili powder from Penzey’s, which is flavorful but not hot. If you prefer heat, go for a hotter blend. Among grocery store brands, Cook’s Illustrated likes the Spice Island blend best. Chili powders vary tremendously, so finding one you like is an experiment that will serve you well in the future.
**I have made this with all kinds of cheeses and like sharp cheddar the best. I can buy grated Cabot “Seriously Sharp” cheddar at my grocery store; you could also grate this amount on a box grater without too much trouble. As usual, I recommend avoiding anything unnaturally orange.

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Even though borscht was the first way I ever ate beets (at a pretty awesome tasting dinner at evoo a few years back), I hadn’t made it until recently. I have no real excuse for this other than having no personal vision of borscht that would allow me to sort through the hundreds of different recipes available and select one. But this winter, that problem was solved for me by necessity: given an overwhelming beet situation, I just picked one on the basis of “having all of the basic ingredients in my kitchen at the time.” Very scientific.

mmm, borscht

The best thing about the soup below is that it is both fast and easy, rare qualities in a soup. It took me a bit over an hour, start to finish, including peeling and chopping the vegetables. You can also serve it pureed (as shown above) or not, depending on your preference. And for something made with vegetables in season at the dead of winter, it is surprisingly light and fresh, more like a vegetable soup than like a stew. Combined with its brilliant hue, it makes for a nice break from the beige diet of late winter.

Borscht
Wildly adapated from the Kitchn

3 T. olive oil
1 large or 2 small onions
5 cloves of garlic or about 2 t. jarred crushed garlic
1 t. dried dill
4 carrots
2 potatoes (about 1 lb; use starchy potatoes if you have them)
1 bunch beets (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. lemon juice (from half a lemon or a jar)
1 T. brown sugar
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper

Peel and dice the onions. Then do the same to the carrots, beets, and potatoes, aiming for half-inch chunks.

borscht veggies

Heat the olive oil in a big stock pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened and translucent, about five minutes. Add the garlic and dill, stir, and cook for another minute or two until fragrant. Then add the carrots, beets, and potatoes. Cook for another five minutes, until the vegetables start to lose their crispness.

Add the salt, lemon juice, sugar, and vinegar, plus four cups of water. Mix well, and turn up the heat so it boils. Then reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until all the vegetables are tender. Start checking for this around 30 minutes, but it could take up to 50 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces.

borscht - cooking

If you want to serve it as a chunky soup, you can go ahead serve it as soon as it is cooked. If you want to puree, you’ll probably need to remove it from the heat and wait for it to stop boiling, then do it in batches in your blender or food processor. (It’s a bit much for an immersion blender, I’m afraid.) If you find the texture too thick after pureeing, you can add more water.

Many people like this with sour cream, although I preferred it plain. Makes about six cups.

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The most brilliant quality of these sweet potato falafel is their taste, of course, but the second most brilliant quality is that they’re the kind of food that seems fancy but is actually really easy to make.

sweet potato falafel.jpg

I also love the savoriness of this dish. Too often sweet potatoes get relegated to glazed preparations, but they play well with these Indian-inspired spices too.

Sweet potato falafel
Adapted from Leon: Ingredients and Recipes by Allegra McEvedy, via 101 Cookbooks

2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs, but don’t be fussy)*
2 t. pressed or crushed garlic
3 t. mild curry powder**
2 t. garam masala***
scant cup chickpea flour (also called “gram flour”)****
salt and pepper
olive oil to grease the tray

Preheat the oven to 425 F. Wash the sweet potatoes thoroughly (I like to use a dish brush with no soap) and pierce the skin several times with a fork or paring knife. Roast the sweet potatoes whole — you can put them directly on the rack — until tender. This will take at least 45 minutes, but could be up to a bit over an hour; bamboo skewers made for kebabs are great for testing to make sure the center is cooked through.

Remove the potatoes from the oven, chop them in half, and let them cool until you can handle them. Turn the oven temperature down to 400 F while you wait. When you can pick them up comfortably, squish the flesh out of the potatoes (I find squeezing them like toothpaste tubes easiest) and into a bowl. The flesh closest to the peel won’t come out, which is fine: it’s usually more fibrous anyway. Alternately, you can scoop them out with a spoon, but be careful: the skin is fragile.

sweet potatoes for falfel.jpg

Add the garlic, curry powder, garam masala, chickpea flour, and salt and pepper to the potatoes and mash until there are no more big chunks of potato. Taste it — if you’re into spicy, you might want to add more curry or garam masala. The mixture should be moist but not very sticky; if it’s too sticky (sweet potato water content can vary a lot), add an extra tablespoon of chickpea flour.

Lightly oil a cookie sheet with olive oil. You can use spoons or a scoop to shape the falafel, just plunk them down in mounds (still completely tasty!), or scoop bits up with your fingers and roll them between your palms to make them more uniform in appearance, as I did here.

sweet potato falafel on sheet.jpg

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the bottom turns golden brown and the top no longer looks wet.

Makes 18-20 falafel, which is enough for three servings as a main dish or four to six as a side; it doubles well!

*There is a lot of confusion in the U.S. about sweet potatoes versus yams. In this case, you want something with orange flesh, no matter what it’s sold as!

**I use the Sweet Curry Powder from Penzeys because I want flavor more than heat. Curry powder is one place where it’s worth not just buying the grocery store version, but also one highly subject to personal taste!

***The best garam masala comes from an Indian grocery store; if you don’t have one in your area, you can buy from one online or — of course — from Amazon.

****This is easy to find at Indian groceries and at some regular grocery stores. Health food stores are another reasonable bet, as it’s sometimes marketed to gluten-free folks (Bob’s Red Mill makes it). Failing all else, again with Amazon.

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Normally I’m opposed to adding anything sweet to orange vegetables. They start off pretty sweet as is, so savory preparations usually seem like the way to go. Also, I somehow managed to grow up sheltered from the travesty that is sweet potato-marshmallow casserole. But I digress.

maple-glazed sweet potatoes.jpg

My point is that this recipe, despite the fact that it involves maple syrup, is not too sweet. The syrup’s taste is nearly undetectable, but the sugar helps the potatoes caramelize to a nice crust. As a bonus, these are cooked at a high temperature, which means they don’t need hours in the oven to cook through.

Maple-glazed sweet potatoes
Adapted from Vegetable Love by Barbara Kafka, via Serious Eats

3 medium sweet potatoes
3 T. melted butter
3 T. maple syrup
Salt

Preheat your oven to 500 F. (That is not a typo.)

Peel the sweet potatoes and chop them in half the long way. Slice again the long way, and then cut any really tall pieces in half (still the long way!) to make shapes like fries. You can cut them in half to make matchsticks if they’re unreasonably long. (You can also use other shapes, of course, but you may need to adjust the cooking time; keeping the size of chunks uniform is the part that’s key here.) If it takes you as long as it took me to do all that chopping, keep the chopped pieces in a bowl of cold water so they don’t turn funky colors.

Melt the butter in the microwave or a saucepan.

Spread the pieces out in a single layer on a baking pan. If you aren’t morally opposed to non-stick cookware, it will make your cleanup a lot easier in this case. I used two 9×13 pans for my potatoes, mostly because I made long sticks. Pour the butter over the potatoes and stir to coat, then stick them in the oven for ten minutes.

After ten minutes, the potatoes should be mostly cooked. Take them out of the oven and carefully pour the maple syrup over them, avoiding opportunities to burn yourself on the pan. (Do as I say, not as I do.) Use a spatula to turn and stir them, distributing the syrup as evenly as reasonably possible.

maple sweet potatoes - baking.jpg

Return them to the oven for another five or seven minutes, until they’re getting a bit crispy and are tender all the way through. (You can check this last with a toothpick.) Transfer to a serving dish and salt to taste.

Makes 2-3 servings; doubles easily

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One of my brilliant friends came up with an idea she calls “the roasted duck test.” The gist of the roasted duck test is to hold up any fancy preparation of an ingredient to a classic, simple, and really delicious one. I find it to be a good check on messing with a good thing.

green beans.jpg

This recipe for green beans would definitely pass whatever the green bean equivalent of the roasted duck test is, though. It only requires a couple of extra steps, and it’s really tasty. I was completely afraid it would taste too much like dill, but it was a baseless fear. The sweetness of the leeks cuts the dill perfectly, and they’re well worth washing the leeks to make.

Dilly Green Beans
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

4 leeks
1/3 c. fresh dill, well chopped
1 lb. green beans
splash of extra-virgin olive oil (a couple of tablespoons)
big pinch of salt (use sea salt if you have it)

First, you need to prepare the leeks. You want to cut off the hairy end as close as you can to where the roots start, and chop off the top where it becomes more green than white. (Don’t worry; precision is not important here.)

Cut the part of the leek that’s left into quarters lengthwise, so you have four long, triangular pieces per leek. Dump these into a bowl of water and swish around, getting as much water between layers as you can manage.

Then pull them out and dice them. (Here’s a good hint: you can wash and chop two bunches at once and then freeze the extra for next time.)

Snap both ends off of the green beans. I usually do this with my fingers; a knife works too, if you don’t mind sacrificing a little bean in the name of efficiency. Rinse them in a colander under running water.

Put a big skillet over medium-high heat (this is a good time for one with a fairly thick bottom if you have it) and add the splash of oil and pinch of salt. Add the leeks and stir to coat. Keep cooking until the leeks start to get golden and crisped at the edges. You’ll want to stir frequently throughout this process to keep them from burning; it’ll take something in the vicinity of ten minutes.

Add the green beans and dill and stir to mix. Throw in a splash of water (two or three tablespoons; a little less if your lid really fits well on your skillet) and cover the pan for a couple of minutes to steam the beans. I like mine cooked for two or three minutes, at which point they’re still very crispy, but if you prefer yours more on the cooked-through side, you may want to leave them for almost twice as long. If your beans are fresh, they’ll turn bright green when they’re just barely cooked, but your mouth is your most reliable doneness gauge in this case. (If you’re making enough for leftovers, either err on the side of undercooking or remove the portion you’re not planning to eat that night a minute or two early. That way they won’t get overcooked when you reheat them.)

When they’re cooked, remove the lid and allow any remaining water to boil off before transferring to a serving dish.

Serves 4-6 as a side

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