Tag Archives: recipe

Umami Bomb Kale Pesto – Vegan to Boot!

Oh look! It’s me! It’s only been like 2 years since I posted here. If you missed me, please note that you can always find me writing about the body over here. I also wrote one personal thing here (I needed a home for a story about lady health, and neither this nor my massage blog were the place). There might be more to come on the Working Draft blog. Time will tell. But I’m really not here to send you off to other blogs. I am here to tell you about some pesto I made the other day, because it was a serious umami bomb — compelling and tasty, quick and easy to make, and healthy enough that the addictive nature of this sauce will not destroy you.

I am using the word pesto pretty loosely. It’s a paste, a pesto texture, but it’s not my momma’s homegrown basil sauce. When it comes to that, I am a purist: basil, pine nuts, garlic, oil. Add some cheese later. No aldulterating with other herbs, no messing with the nuts, no weird ingredients. This here is a kale pesto, hearty and bold, and pretty much anything goes.

I’ve made kale pesto before. Again, it’s not your grandmother’s pesto, but it’s super easy and super fast. I had some organic red kale on hand the other day and wanted to whip one up, but found that I had no suitable cheese to add to the mix. The horror! I added some lemon zest and juice, because I pretty much always do that to brighten up greens. I tossed in some nutritional yeast for that warm, savory, umami roundness. And then I noticed a jar of capers that I’d bought and never put away, shining up at me from the kitchen island, begging to be added to the sauce. Turns out, the combination of the nutritional yeast and the briney capers is basically magic, transforming my humble muddied greens pesto into an addictive sauce far greater than the sum of its parts. I didn’t even miss the cheese (though I did mix some leftover pesto with labneh and a crumble of feta a few days later, and it was exceedingly creamy and downright dreamy).

Did I mention that it is really, really quick and easy? It only took me about 25 minutes to make dinner, which means that you can probably do it in 15. I am slow in the kitchen. It’s as easy as…

1) Blanch the kale. Some people will tell you to remove the stems, or separate and cook them longer. Balderdash! The whole point of making pesto out of hearty greens is that you crush them, stems and all, and don’t have to bust out a paring knife.

Blanching Kale

2.) Throw everything in the food processor and whir it around. I like to do the garlic first, then all other solids, and add a glug of olive oil at the end. You can’t go wrong, really.

Blend in Food Processor

3.) Eat it. Here it is over some whole wheat noodles. It’s not the most vibrant color around, so I put it in a pretty bowl. I would have liked some cannellini beans in with the pasta, but the cupboards were a little on the bare side.

Serve in pretty green bowl to compensate for muddy color.

Recipe: Umami Bomb Kale Pesto

What Goes In:

  • 1 bunch kale, preferably organic or bought from a trusty farmer, because kale sometimes pops up on Dirty Dozen lists these days
  • 1/2 cup walnuts (this is a hearty sauce — no need for delicate and pricey pine nuts, though they would certainly work)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • zest and juice of 1/2 to 1 whole lemon
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 4 Tbsp capers + 1 Tbsp brine
  • Dash of soy sauce
  • Good glug of olive oil — however much your conscience allowsor around 1/4 cup

How to Do it:

  • Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Blanch kale for about 2 minutes. If serving over pasta, simply scoop the kale out with tongs and use the same water for your pasta. It will be a little purple if you’re using red kale, and maybe a little green if using regular greens, but whatevs.
  • Drain in colander and squeeze out excess water. You really don’t need to get an ice water bath involved.
  • Grind garlic in food processor, scrape down sides, and add walnuts, lemon zest and juice, nutritional yeast, and capers. Pulse a few times, then add kale.
  • With food processor running, pour olive oil through feed tube until sauce becomes fairly uniform. You may need to scrape down the sides a little. All good.
  • Taste, adjust anything that needs adjusted, serve with fresh cracked pepper.

That’s it. It’s super easy, good on toast with some hummus or labneh if you happen to have wandered into the East Village cheese shop for the first time in years and found a tub of it waiting for you there, or tossed with noodles and a dash of their cooking water, or pretty much anywhere else you desire. Make it, eat it, love it. Yes.

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Little Gifts: Bourbon-Chipotle Caramel Corn

Sometimes, when it is the holiday season and you have pulled yourself out of bed in the wee hours to watch the earth shift in front of the moon on the solstice for the first time in 372 years, when you’ve stood on your stoop at 3 in the morning with the wind howling and the streets empty and otherwise quiet around you, face to face with the amber moon, when you’ve returned to bed and slept snugly only to rise for weekday brunch, a luxury in and of itself, made even better by lingering for hours around a small table with friends who were barely in your life a mere year ago, when it is the solstice and the sun seems to shine extra brightly to make up for it being the very shortest day, when all these things are part of your winter, sometimes it is nice to bring a little gifty to that weekday brunch to celebrate the season.

While your circumstances may be slightly different, I wish you many reasons for celebration this winter, opportunities that call for something small and homemade to share with others. There is a chance that you simply do not feel like making cookies, but want to whip up  a little something to give away. That’s the boat I was in last night. I had made some caramel corn a couple of weeks back, and, while it was very tasty and swiftly consumed and likened to crack in its addictiveness, a little voice in my head refused to shut up about making caramel corn again, but next time adding a little chipotle. I decided to give it a whirl. Once I got cooking, I realized I was a little short on corn syrup, and I decided that bourbon would be a great way to compensate. Don’t question my logic, people — the addition of whiskey yielded very decadent results, and you will want to eat it up.

Recipe: Bourbon-Chipotle Caramel Corn

What Goes In:

  • 1 cup unpopped popcorn
  • nuts (optional)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 2-3 chipotle peppers in adobo
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup bourbon
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

How To Do It:

  • Pre-heat oven to 250°F and line your biggest baking sheet with parchment.
  • Pop your popcorn however you like and pile it on the pan (I popped mine on the stove in two batches). Add nuts if you like — I used about a half cup of sliced almonds and half cup of peanuts.
  • Melt brown sugar, corn syrup, and bourbon together in a large sauce pan, larger than you think you need, because this stuff is both sticky and bubbly. Let it bubble away on medium heat for five minutes or so.
  • Combine butter and chipotles in a food processor until smooth. Or just blend up your chipotles. I really only combined them because my food processor is too big to fully blend up a couple of small peppers on their own.
  • Add chipotle butter and salt to your bubbly caramel mix. Stir well and cook together for another few minutes (clearly, this is a very scientific process).
  • Turn off heat. Add your baking soda. Stir rapidly. It will foam up a bunch and get lighter in color and thick. Stir in vanilla, too, and quickly pour over popcorn. Stir the sauce into popcorn as well as you can. I like to use a silicone spatula for this — it is good for the stickies.
  • Bake for about an hour, stirring every 15 to 20 minutes to ensure even distribution of caramel and to prevent popcorn from burning.
  • Remove from oven and let cool completely. I left mine out overnight.

The caramel might still be a little on the soft side when you take it out of the oven, but it will crisp up as it cools. Once cool, tumble it into cellophane bags and add adorable gift tags (mine, shown here, are courtesy of the ridiculously sweet Eat, Drink, Chic). Embellish with ribbons, tulle, love letters, whatever your heart desires, and share.

Happy Holidays, and Happy Gifting!

How to Celebrate a Sunday Birthday

Thursday: Wear a fascinator to work and tell everyone that your birthday is coming. Feel childish in your excitement. Run with it.

Friday: Reflection, Kirtan, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout.

Saturday: Clean your apartment. Bask in the open space of your bedroom where, mere days ago, summer’s window AC units had been stacked, staring you down with their large-scale clutter. Go to the market. Cook food. Have people over, make punch, laugh a lot, adore whatever family and friends are around you. Soak in the celebration even if you have a little tummy ache.

It was a mellow party, a nice party, and it ended early enough for Shawn and me to do some cleaning so we weren’t faced with a mess this morning, music still playing, early enough to slow dance in the living room in a pretty dress and sock monkey slippers and new birthday earrings in the wee hours of the real birthday day, when the guests had all left or gone to sleep. What could be better than that?

Sunday: Birthday! Wake up to your little sister and her adorable boyfriend cooking eggs in your kitchen. Feel your heart swell even as you decide to keep your eyes closed a little longer, listening to the clatter of pans and coffee mugs in the next room. Talk on the phone more than usual. Open presents. Post a recipe from your birthday party that was requested last year, made this year, too, requested again.

Squash Lasagna

What Goes In:

  • 4 pounds or so winter squash (a couple medium butternuts or comparable amount other squash)
  • 6 Tbsp. butter (yep, lots of butter)
  • small handful sage, chopped
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • freshly grated nutmeg, salt, pepper
  • 8 oz. or so gruyère, grated
  • 1 box oven-ready lasagna noodles

How to Do It:

  • Prepare squash: Cut in half, scoop out seeds, roast until soft, then scoop flesh into a big bowl.
  • Brown 2 Tbsp. butter in a pan. When the butter turns light brown and smells nutty, remove from heat, toss in sage, and mash into squash with some salt and pepper.
  • Make bechamel: melt remaining 4 Tbsp. butter, whisk in flour, slowly add milk, stirring lots to avoid lumps. Add some salt and pepper and a little nutmeg. Stir and cook until it’s thick.
  • Assemble lasagna: Put a cup of bechamel in the bottom of a pan. Layer uncooked lasagna noodles, bechamel, cheese, and squash. I had 4 layers, ending with bechamel only, with some leftover cheese.
  • Cover with foil, bake for half an hour or so at 35o. Remove foil, sprinkle on the rest of the cheese, cook until cheese is melted and browning just a little. Probably around 15 minutes.

If you are, say, making kale chips and decide to crank the heat to 400 instead of 350, you will most likely end up with a burned, crispy layer at the bottom of the pan. Some of your friends will claim that that’s the best part. Others will push it to the side but still ask for the recipe. Having done this two years in a row, I recommend just remembering to keep the heat on the lower side.

Enjoy your lasagna, friends! I am off to enjoy a walk on a gray day, tasty dinner cooked by a professional, and yet more good cheer.

Putting up with the CSA

I woke up this morning to the pounding rain outside open windows, a truly enthusiastic downpour. A perfect day, my groggy self thought, to stay indoors and catch up on some things around the house (why, after these weeks and months of not working full-time, there are still so many things to catch up on is anyone’s guess). As my recent blogging lapse may imply, things have gotten away from me a bit in the kitchen lately. I have noticed, these last few weeks, that our refrigerator is always packed with vegetables, even when it is Tuesday afternoon and our new CSA delivery is slated to arrive in mere hours. On this rainy Monday, I decided to break that pattern, to clear out some space in the veggie drawers for our new stuff tomorrow. It was time to put some veggies up for even drabber days.

I spent the morning washing greens, chopping the stems of Chinese broccoli, separating beets from their leafy tops, steaming those tops with the Chinese broccoli and some u-choy, packing delightfully dark and tasty steamed greens into freezer bags.

Then I broke out some more CSA goodies, chopped a few rough stems, and cleaned out the salad spinner to transform this:

into this:

It feels good not just to have some space in the fridge, but to have shiny new packages in my freezer, sturdy vegetables and fantastically vivid green sauce for winter months. The frozen greens will go into frittatas, turnovers, noodles, wherever fresh greens normally go. The arugula-dill pesto, bright and fresh with a slight bitter bite, would be tasty in gratins, on pasta, or slathered on fish. Mashed into cream cheese, it would make a lovely little tea sandwich. Instead of a fridge packed with veggies that I fear I will not eat in time, I have a freezer brimming with possibilities.

Arugula-Dill Pesto Recipe

What Goes In:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 large bunch arugula
  • 1 large bunch dill
  • 1 handful (probably around 1/4 cup) toasted pine nuts
  • zest and juice of 1 small lemon
  • a good glug of olive oil (again, probably about 1/4 cup)
  • salt and pepper

How to Do it:

  • Give garlic a head start by rough chopping in your food processor
  • Add greens, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice. Pulse. Pulse.
  • With the food processor running, add olive oil until nice and thick.

That’s it! Super easy! Get to it! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some adorable patty pan squashes to steam and scoop and stuff.

Fried Squash Blossoms

I mentioned in a recent post that squash blossoms were the first thing I had ever fried, and that they were wonderful. I was delighted to receive squash blossoms from our CSA two weeks in a row and even more delighted to finally eat them this evening.

The batter provides a light crunch to these babies, and the delicate texture of the blossoms screams of early summer. Better yet, they take mere minutes to prepare.

Recipe: Fried Squash Blossoms

Ingredients:

  • Squash blossoms (I had 10, but I’ve made as few as four at a time)
  • White flour (1 cup or so)
  • club soda (1 cup or so, again)
  • vegetable oil (I mixed canola with olive oil)
  • salt + pepper

How to do it:

OK, for the sake of full disclosure, I admit that I stuffed my blossoms to make them extra delicious. I had some leftover tofu-pesto alfredo in the fridge (recipe to appear here one of these days), which I mushed up with some goat cheese and spooned into the center of the blossoms.  I have previously filled these guys with goat cheese and basil or ricotta with a little bit of pesto. It’s hard to go wrong with creamy cheese and fresh herbs. If you’d like to fill your blossoms, peel the petals back carefully and spoon the filling in. For smaller blossoms where a spoon would not do, I put my filling in a sandwich bag and cut the corner off so that I could pipe it into the little flowers.

Now back to the frying steps…

  1. Whisk flour lightly in a bowl to break up any lumps (not worth sifting, really). I added a little bit of chickpea flour tonight, but I don’t think it added much.
  2. Whisk in club soda until the batter is relatively thin, maybe like heavy cream that’s been beaten for a minute or so, just before it’s whipped.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste. I used a very light sprinkle of cayenne pepper and a relatively hefty pinch of kosher salt.
  4. Heat 1/2 inch or so of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Heat it up until a drop of water sizzles and pops when dropped into the pan.
  5. Quickly dunk each blossom into batter and drop it in the pan. Fry for a minute or two on one side, then flip over (unless you want to get into deep frying, for which I have no advice)
  6. Remove from pan and drain on doubled up paper towels to remove excess oil. I flipped mine over to get both sides.
  7. Most important! Eat while hot! Enjoy!

Return of Rhubarb = My Favorite Beverage, Round 2

Rhubarb is more striking-looking with its leaves, but don't eat them. They are poisonous.

Since getting engaged a few months back, I’ve talked several times about making gallons of rhubarb liqueur for my wedding next year. As we have not set a date, I reasoned, I’d better make it now in case we run into crunch time next spring. I think some people might have thought I was joking, but, if there’s one thing I’m serious about, it’s gin. If there’s another, I suppose it’s local produce. And so I am here to restate my commitment to the rhubarb booze, to making as much of it as possible for signature cocktails for Shawn’s and my special day. Now to find a date and a venue that will allow said cocktails…minor details…

I am also here to provide better photos than I did in my last post on this topic.

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, How to Make Rhubarb Liqueur:

Step 1: Chop Rhubarb, however much you have on hand, and put it in a great, big jar. Here we see four large stalks of rhubarb, courtesy of our CSA. That is a gallon jar.

Step 2: Add a little sugar and the zest of one lemon. Give it a shake. It will look shimmery and juicy all at once. You will be pleased.

Step 3: Add gin. The first time I made this, I used vodka, noting that gin would probably be tasty. I then made another batch with gin and confirmed that this yielded a vastly superior beverage. Here I have used a handle (that’s a legitimate unit of measurement, right?) of meh-quality gin. It’s not really worth it to use the good stuff. It will all mellow out in the end.

Steps 4-5: Not pictured. Step 4 is straining. Through a coffee filter is best, but a fine sieve will do if you are feeling impatient (the coffee filter straining takes, approximately, forever). Step 5 is adding simple syrup to taste and pouring it all into a bottle.

Here we see my second batch of the season sitting next to batch #1, strained and bottled earlier this week.

Last year, the first batch of the season was a pale pink due to the pale green stalks of rhubarb that were available early in the season. The second batch looked more like Hawaiian Punch™ due to brighter, rosier stalks. Re-visiting my second batch of liqueur after a mere one day of infusion reveals that this is going to be the case again. Look at the color on this stuff!

OK, so maybe they don’t look that different now, but trust me: the color will deepen in the next week or two. I will give the jar a good shake every couple of days, then strain it, add simple syrup, and let my liqueur join its paler friend waiting for next year. That is, if I can resist the temptation to serve this up at every cocktail party between now and then. It’s spring in a cup, people! Irresistible!

Cornbread Stuffing

As mentioned in the previous post, stuffing is a big part of the reason we do faux Thanksgiving. Shawn loves it. Turns out I love it, too. As a vegetarian, I was not raised on stuffing — there just weren’t many opportunities to include it in our meals, and I never missed it. When it came time to host our own Thanksgiving a few years ago, Shawn shyly asked if we could have some. I said that of course we could, and then realized that I didn’t even know what was in stuffing. Bread for sure, some veggies, some broth. But how much bread, and were there eggs in it? Was it like a big, flat strata? I turned to the internet for guidance.

Various online forums informed me that some people use eggs, others do not. Some people add sausage, some just veggies. Some people use stale bread, others use toast. Basically, I learned that anything goes. I decided not to use eggs, because I wanted to make something more dense than fluffy. The basic rules for stuffing that I discerned were these:

  1. Use dry bread — either stale or toasted — so that it can better absorb surrounding flavors
  2. Make sure you have tasty flavors for said dry bread to absorb
  3. Use enough broth to bind it together

Very, very basic, right? Shawn loves sage, and I loved the idea of cornbread stuffing, so I used those ingredients as a starting point. I wanted more structure to the stuffing than cornbread alone would provide, so I decided to use white bread as the base with cornbread to complement. I added some other Thanksgiving-appropriate ingredients, and I came up with the best stuffing I have ever had. A small feat, really, as I had never actually had good stuffing, but it was delicious, and it has been popular with everyone who’s had it, the first thing in the faux Thanksgiving spread to vanish. Make some for your next feast, and let me know how it holds up to other recipes.

Leek and Cornbread Stuffing Recipe

What Goes In:

  • 1 loaf unsliced white bread (I’ve used both baguette and Italian, and I’ve added a little wheat bread on occasion — just make sure it’s real bread with a solid crust, as opposed to smushy packaged sandwich bread)
  • 2 big chunks of cornbread — enough to make about 3 cups when crumbled (I bought mine for the sake of simplicity)
  • Fresh sage
  • 4 Tbsp butter
  • 3 small or 2 large leeks, quartered lengthwise and chopped into 1/2 inch or so pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 2-3 big handfuls of pecans, toasted and chopped
  • 2-3 big handfuls dried cranberries
  • veggie broth — 4 cups or so? Depends on your bread
  • salt ‘n pepper

What to Do:

  1. A day or two before stuffing time, cut your bread into 1 inch cubes. Crumble cornbread. Toss it all in a bowl with some sage and let it sit, exposed to the air, for a day or two. The sage flavor will seep into the bread, and the bread will dry out enough for your stuffing.
  2. Sauté leeks in 3 Tbsp. butter until soft. Add garlic and celery and cook for a minute more — you still want some crunch in the celery.
  3. Add leeks to bread cubes. In the same pan that you used for leeks, melt remaining Tbsp. of butter and add lots of chopped sage. Get a little sizzle going while you toast your pecans.
  4. Swirl toasted pecans in the butter for a quick moment, and then add it all to the bread and leeks.
  5. Toss in some dried cranberries, enough to get a pleasing mix of colors.
  6. Add enough broth to make it sticky. Most of your crumbled cornbread will melt into kind of a sauce for the other cubes. Keep adding broth until everything is moist.
  7. Press into a 9×13 cake pan, or whatever you have that is comparable, cover with foil, and bake at 375° for half an hour or so. Realistically, if you’re doing Thanksgiving, you may need to have to oven on a different temperature for another recipe. This stuffing is very versatile — just check it earlier if the temperature is higher, and let it go a little longer if the temperature is lower. Take the foil off when the stuffing seems set in the middle, and let it cook another 10 minutes or so to crisp up.

Here’s my stuffing, all mixed up, before baking:

There are no “after” photos as the afternoon light turned into evening light, and people showed up, and eating started. But it was not bad to look at, and it was pretty good to eat.