Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's Cold Baby... Bake Me Somethin' Good and Warm

This morning had a gorgeous sunrise - a good while AFTER I was up.
And when we walked to school, we could see our breath.
(This is going to be one of these silly conversational posts - here's just the recipe for Roasted Root Veggies.)

Are We being spoken of?

And I am loosing patience with the cat as he lingers at the door deciding, "how long do I sit here before she closes the door in my face."

Ok, I don't actually know what my cat is thinking, but I am more impatient when my toes are getting cold while he's doing it, and I swear he's taking longer about it.

All of this means Fall is here.
And I want something warm, cozy and full of flavor.
And we got one of the last CSA bags of the season full of roots of all sorts.

carrots, beets, parsnips, potatoes & onions
and some kale & sage - yes I know, those are leaves.
Roots!  Isn't that a bunch of stuff that grows underground?
Like, in the dirt?

"Mom, your build up to introduce beets isn't fooling anyone.  You are going to try to convince people to eat beets."

"Well, kale and parsnips too." "Hey, I don't know how to type that noise."  "Or that one."

"And mom, you know cooking carrots ruins them.  Ruins them!"

"Not always."

"Does so."

"Look - you're going to have to take a..."

"I know I know, a no thank you bite.  kkKkKKkkkkkKKk."

Anyway, I'm starting with a pile of vegetables.  And I'm not even going to pretend, all that rinsing and peeling and chopping, along with the other prep happens in a flash.  It doesn't.  It will take time, and make a pile of peelings.

Cooked root veggies freeze GREAT!  Especially par-cooked.  Why do you think the freezer isle at the grocery store has an entire "potatoes" section.

So I am taking on this pile once to make lots of...

"Boring!  Yes, very good cook once, eat lots.  Get it."

"Aren't you impatient."


Alrighty Then.  The root veggies get turned into chunks, the beets thinner, 'cuz they are the toughest.
Salt and oil on a sheet pan at 425˚F.

"See always with the 425˚F.  What's wrong with 350?"

"Better for baking.  I like the hint of a crispy edge on my parsnip."

For 20 minutes.

"How are you going to work in the bacon drippings?  You know most people just throw away their dirty used grease."

"Hey, that grease hasn't been used.  The bacon had too much, the stuff in the dish in my fridge is what it couldn't use.  And it's not dirty, just seasoned.  And I'm going to use it with the sage and kale.  And chicken stock.  So there."

When you get everything par cooked - Tupperware!

"Isn't that just a brand name, that you happen to not be using?"

"It works if everyone knows what I'm talking about."

"Until the Tupperware police come and get you."

Anyway... do this:

 3 servings.  1 for now, 2 for the freezer.

To finish all of them, all parts - the root veg, the kale, the herbs.  Stir in a little vinegar and bake at 425˚F until super tasty.

Truffle salt may be good here too for finishing it off.

"It's not optional.  That thing you did with the frozen ones with the rice vinegar and soy sauce wasn't as good.  Truffle salt all the way.  OK.  The carrots weren't ruined.  I still like them raw better though."

Fall Roasted Root Veggies

Just want to bake some steal-out-of-the-pan good root veggies with out all the drama?
This is very definitely a use what you have kinda recipe.

The two secrets - 1) removing water from root veggies creates more intense flavors,
2) cooking at a higher heat breaks down the natural starches and sugars to make yummy brown flavors (OK, it caramelizes them.  I hate how that word has been overexposed and overused of late.)

Here ya' go.

Roasted Root Veg

cutting board
vegetable peeler
baking sheet
sauté pan w/ a lid
(snap top container - for freezing extra servings)

12 - 15 root vegetables (include starchy, sweet & earthy if you can)
Choose From

a drizzle of salt
2 tsp oil

small handful sage
(& I had parsley too - so a big one of parsley)
2 tsp bacon drippings (or oil, or butter)
1/4 - 1/2 C chicken stock/water

1 lb (+/-) hearty leafy dark greens
Choose From
-beet greens
-mustard greens are good too if you like that kick.
(stay away from the cabbage-y stuff for this.)

balsamic vinegar - 1 Tbs per baking pan.
truffle salt - to taste (sprinkle, stir, taste, repeat until perfect)

All the root veg.  Rinse them off so they are not muddy.
Cut off the fuzzy roots (let your parsnips stay pointy!) and any other parts you wouldn't want to eat.
Peel off the tough outer skin with your vegetable peeler.
Cut up the veg into bite size pieces, and make the beets thinner, since they are tougher and need more cooking.  The onion pieces can be a bit larger.

Place these on your baking sheets
(I had 2 pans worth!)
Spread them out so they are not stacked.

Sprinkle a bit of oil and salt on your veg, and toss thoroughly (clean hands works great).

Kale, collards and mustard all have a stem
like a stick.  Not yummy.  Pull it out.
Rinse your leaves and herbs well.
Tear the big heavy stems out of your greens (you can just chop up chard, stems and all).  Tear or chop the leaves into pieces hand size or smaller.

The herbs need to be chopped fine.

Heat your oven to 425˚F
Pop the veg in for 20 minutes.

While the veg are roasting, heat up your sauté pan with the fat in it.  Toss in a piece of sage, when the pan is warming up over medium high heat.  When it sizzles, stir in the rest of the herbs until they are fragrant.  Toss in the leaves, and get them coated in the fat and herbs.  Stir for a minute or so.
Add the stock, clap on the lid, lower the heat to medium and cook for about 8 minutes.  The leaves need to be limp, but not necessarily cooked to done.

Pull the par-cooked veg out of the oven at the end of 20 minutes and lower the heat to 375˚F.

Combine all the veg.  If you have made a "whole bunch" this is where you cool and freeze servings for later.  See below for the "from frozen" directions.

Toss the veg on the pan with vinegar, and a pinch of the truffle salt.
Back into the oven for 15 more minutes.

Check the veg.  Are they tender?  A tiny bit of browning?  When they get there, pull them out and toss them together in a bowl.  Taste for vinegar and salt.
The sweet of the carrots and/or beets and/or parsnips should be met with a little sour from the vinegar.  And taste for salt - and mysteriousness of the earthy truffle.  Add a little more of either if it is needed.

And suddenly what may have been a bad idea in the frozen section becomes something that gets stolen out of the pan before it gets to the table.

***From Frozen***

Heat your oven to 375˚F
Spread the veg (roots & leaves) out on your pan.
Toss with the Tbs of vinegar and a sprinkle of the truffle salt.
Roast for at least 25 minutes.  Again, check for the browning, and intensified flavor.  When you get there, finish the same way.
Not instant, but darn fast.  And darn good.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

An Easier to Follow Calzone Recipe

I don't know what got into me when I put together that last recipe.  But if you found it a little hard to follow... here's the sane version:

Pumpkin-Ground Beef Calzones


Large Bowl
Cutting Board
Sauté Pan
Square baking pan
Counter Space - for dealing with dough
Small Bowl
Cookie Sheet (or Pizza Stone if yer fancy)
Measuring spoons - if you don't feel good guessing spice amounts.


Calzones -
Pizza dough (make or buy)
Small "pie" pumpkin - the kind for eaten' not for looking' at.
1 lb ground beef (I'm betting lamb, pork or a combo are all good too - even turkey)
1 med. onion - purple if you can
Chili Powder (start w/ 2 tsp)
Smoked Paprika (start w/ 1 tsp)
Garlic Powder (start w/ 1 tsp)
Salt & Pepper (start w/ 1/4 tsp each)

Dipping Sauce -
Really ripe tomatoes
the spices you used in the calzones
- or -
Super basic tomato/marinara sauce with some chipotle salsa stirred in
-or - some variation to make a smoky, spicy tomato based dipping sauce.

Greens on the Side -
Dark green greens (whatcha' got - just know 1 lb = 1 Cup cooked)
A few cloves of garlic
2 tsp bacon fat or oil
Salt & Pepper
1/4 - 1/2 C water or stock
Splash of vinegar

Preheat oven to 375˚F.
With the large knife, cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out all the insides.  (See previous recipe for info on proper transformation of the pumpkin guts)
Place the pumpkin halves open side down in your baking pan with a small puddle of water (no higher than 1/4 in. (1/2 cm)).  Bake for 30 min, or until the flesh is fork tender, and the edges are browning a bit.  When this is done, set it aside to cool.
(This can also be done ahead, and refrigerated at this point for tomorrow)

Slice you onion into pieces thinner than your pinky.
Get all your spices out.
Wash and roughly chop your dark greens (Spinach, chard, beet greens, kale...)
Slice your garlic as thin as you possibly can, or mince it fine.
When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, scoop the flesh off the pumpkin's skin, and mash it up roughly - so it is broken up.  (Don't worry if the flesh is a little under cooked, you will be cooking it the rest of the way as you continue.)


Heat a saute pan, cook down a sliced onion (purple if you got 'em) and some sage in a little bacon fat (or oil) over med-low heat, until the onions are soft.  Brown the pound of ground beef.
Stir in the spices - in the starting amounts.  THen taste and add more of what you think it needs.  Mine needed more garlic, smoked paprika and salt.
Then stir in the pumpkin pulp you scooped off the skin after it cooled enough to handle.
Mash it up and stir it into the seasoned ground beef and purple onions.  Taste and adjust the seasonings until it makes you want to eat it all up right there.  Restrain Yourself.  
(Fillilng can be cooled and frozen at this point - so make double, and save some for later)

Get a clean expanse of counter very floury.  Divide up the dough into 6 pieces.  Make them into small circles.  Put A few tablespoons of the pumpkin-beef filling into the center.  Fold the circle onto itself, seal the edge by pressing down emphatically.  Fork tines help.  Repeat with other dough circles.

When your calzones are all closed up, poke them a few times to let air escape.  Place on a cookie sheet (or appropriate alternative) in the 375˚F oven for about 30 min., or until dough is in a GBD state (Golden Brown & Delicious).

The dipping sauce is only a matter of mixing the ingredients together to get a smoky, tomatoey dipping sauce.

For the greens, while the calzones are baking, start the sliced garlic in the bacon grease over med low heat - to slowly melt it.  When it gets floppy and mild, turn up the heat, add the greens to wilt them.  Add the liquid, and cover while the greens simmer until they are tender.  Take the top off, reduce the liquid, add salt pepper and a splash of vinegar to make them extra tasty.

Serve everything... and as the phoneticists say - "WA LAA!"

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pumpkin-Ground Beef Calzones

Or maybe they are Empanadas?  Nope, not fried, so Calzones.
  (If you are just looking for this recipe... go here ---> Pumpkin-Ground Beef Calzones)
Oh dear... they're not pretty,
but they were so good we ate them all
before we could figure out a pretty picture

The challenge at my house has always been a ban on fruit with meat.  So the usually spicy sweet route for pumpkin as an accompaniment to meat was OUT.  Banned.  Disapproved of.

But I love pumpkin, and the creaminess it brings is reminiscent of the best of gravy, so I wasn't willing to give up on pumpkin.  I just needed to make it Not Sweet, also known as Savory.

Fortunately for all the palates concerned, Smoky as a flavor option has come a long way since the days of "Liquid Smoke" and "Gravy Browning."  For the purposes of this recipe, smoked paprika and chipotle peppers (which are ripened, smoked jalepeños) do the trick.

And the beet greens with masses of sautéed garlic was the best bonus.

Step 1 - roast the pumpkin.  A pool of water at the bottom of the pan, as you set it at 375˚F for 30 - 40 min will make it soften right up.  Be sure to use a cute little pie pumpkin.  They have the best taste.  "Big Carvin' Pumpkins" are watery and not for food.

Pull it out when the skin and the edges are starting to brown, and the flesh is fork tender.

Step 2.  Don't toss the pumpkin guts.

Step 3.  Why - because you can make roasted pumpkin seeds!  YAYAYAYAYYAYAY!!!!
(At the same time you are baking the pumpkin)

Normal Person 1: "But I hate getting all those orange ecchchy stings all over my fingers!"

Kitchen Geek: "Me too, but I figured out this cool way to get rid of that problem."

NP1: "You spent time on this?"

KG: "Well, I just like fresh roasted pumpkin seeds that much."

NP2: " What are you two talking about?"

KG: "Well, all you need to do, is put the pumpkin guts..."

NP1: "Why do you keep saying pumpkin guts?"

KG:  "Remember Sally from the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin Special?"

NP2: "Oh right, when she freaks out from opening up the top of her pumpkin and scooping out the..."

KG:  "Right, so anyway, put the pumpkin guts into a big bowl of water.  If you squeeze the pointy end of the seeds they pop away from the orange stringy things and just float on the water.  Then you can scoop them out."   

Step 4:  Toss them on a cookie sheet/ half sheet pan with a silpat, 
(NP1: "You ARE a Kitchen Geek.")
with a little salt, and just enough oil to coat them lightly.  Bake at 375˚F until lightly browned and crunchy (25 - 40 min... depending).  And as far as I'm concerned that's the point of Halloween.
(NP2: "Total Geek.")

KG:  "HEY! Who ate all but a handful of the roasted pumpkin seeds?  Huh!?" 

Anyway, Step 5:

Heat a saute pan, cook down a sliced onion (purple if you got 'em) and some sage in a little bacon fat (or oil) over med-low heat, until the onions are soft.  Brown a pound of ground beef, and 
Add Chili powder (Start w/ 2 tsp)
Smoked Paprika (Start w/ 1 tsp)
Garlic Powder (Start w/ 1 tsp)
Salt & Pepper (start w/ 1/4 tsp)
until it tastes almost right. 

Then stir in the pumpkin pulp you scooped off the skin after it cooled enough to handle.

Mash it up and stir it into the seasoned ground beef and purple onions.  Taste and adjust the seasonings until it makes you want to eat it all up right there.

Step 6:  Restrain Yourself.

Get that bag of pizza dough from Trader Joe's you bought earlier today.

NP1: "Wait, so you bought a pie pumpkin, a pound of ground beef and pizza dough at Trader Joe's today?"

KG: "Well, I didn't have much a choice did I?"

NP2: "Next you are going to tell us you were stopped in your tracks by these items."

KG: "Well, it was all the pumpkins that did it.  I see the other 2 things all the time."

NP1 & NP2:  "You are just not normal."

KG: "Do you want dinner?"

OK, anyway.  Get a clean expanse of counter very floury.  Divide up the dough into 6 pieces.  Make them into small circles.  Put A few tablespoons of the pumpkin-beef filling into the center.  Fold the circle onto itself, seal the edge by pressing down emphatically.  Fork tines help.  Repeat with other dough circles.

Stab a few times to let air escape.  Place on a cookie sheet (or appropriate alternative) in the 375˚F oven for about 30 min. That is until dough is in a GBD state (Golden Brown & Delicious).

While the Calzones are cooking...

Step 7:  Vegetables
Wash & tear some green stuff.  I had beet greens.  Chard, spinach & tender kale are all good here too

Saute with large amounts of well chopped or thinly sliced garlic.  Add broth or water and let simmer until all is tender and mild.  Don't forget the salt.

And then make a dipping sauce.  Basically take a nice plain Marinara or similar, and stir in some chopped chipotles in adobo... or chipotle salsa.

Monday, October 3, 2011

It's Fall - Break out the Truffle Salt!

The fall veggies are here, the roots are making their appearance, and that precious store of truffle salt has made it's first appearance.

A splurge - YES!*  But a little goes a long way, and if tightly capped in a glass jar, it keeps longer than just about any other luxury item I've ever indulged in.  (Yes, yes, I realize, it is most likely past it's "best by" date that was printed on the package - but it is dried fungus and salt.  Something barely perishable hanging out in a preservative.)

Armed with beets and leeks, chard, parsley and garlic, I was determined to break the beets stalemate.  I admit I wanted no truck with beets until I started cooking them myself.  Large chunks of squishy, weirdly sweet, dirt tasting crimson just scared me.  But like so many other things, I tasted beets treated differently - saw their potential, and have been attempting yummy beets ever since.  I've been repeatedly happy with the results.  Not so much the rest of my family.

Last night's beets entirely disappeared.

Sour, Leeky & a little Sweet 

Roasted Beets Salad over Garlicky Greens

Flat Shallow Pan - with plenty of room for baking beets
Small Baking Dish - the leeks should fit across the bottom tightly
Sharp Knife
Cutting Board
Salad Bowl & Serving Spoons
Fork or Whisk
Saute Pan

Leeks - 1 big or 2 smaller
Butter - 1 Tbs
Salt - 1/2 tsp
Parsley - small handful
Beets - around 8 small or 4 large
Vinegar (white balsamic or cider - suggested) - start with 4 Tbs, divided
Hearty Greens (Chard, Beet Greens, Spinach, Kale or the like) - around 1 lb
Garlic - 3 cloves
Oil - 2 tsp (If you keep bacon drippings in your fridge, they are excellent here)
Truffle Salt*  & Pepper - to taste

Preheat the oven to 425˚F
For the beets; Cut off and discard the pointy root end and almost all of the green tops.  Scrub the beets, and put them on the shallow pan.  If you are using large beets, go ahead and slice them in half, and place them cut side up on the pan.
For the leeks; Cut off and discard the dark green tops and the hairy roots.  Slice the light green and white part in half lengthwise so you can rinse any sand out from between the layers.  Lay the leeks in your small baking dish.  Feel free to cut them to a size that will fit in the pan.
Cut the butter into a few pieces, place them over the leeks.  Sprinkle with about 1/2 tsp of salt.  Add water up to about 2/3 the height of the leeks.

Place both pans in the oven for about 45 minutes.  At about 20 minutes turn the beets and rotate the leeks so they are all submerged in the liquid.  When time is up, lower the temp to 325˚F.

Check the beets - if a knife slides in easily, they are ready.  If they need a little more time they can keep roasting for about 10 more minutes at the lower temperature while the leeks braise.
The leeks will need another 20 minutes at low heat to reduce the liquid and soften them further.  Again make sure the soften leeks are mostly submerged.  After 20 minutes - taste.  You should expect a buttery, melty, delicious nibble.  If there is any crunch or toughness left, give the leeks a little more time.

You can bake these a day or so ahead and refrigerate them for later.  If you are braising a big batch of leeks, you can save leftovers for this recipe.
Or you can get the beets and leeks going, then cook the rest of dinner.

Wash and pat/spin dry your greens, tear leaves off any tough stems, stack the leaves and cut into approx. 1" (2 finger) wide ribbons.
Smash your garlic cloves, peel off the papery skin and cut off the woody bit at the base.  Slice as thin as you can.

Get out the salad bowl.  Coarsely chop the leeks and parsley.  Add the cooking liquid from the leeks and stir/whisk together.  Start by adding 3 Tbs vinegar.

Sort of a thick mess, but you need big flavors to
take on the deep taste of the beets
Slice your beets into half moons about 1/4' thick (slimmer than your pinky).

Cut the chioggia beets first, saved the drippy pink menaces for last.

Toss the beets with the leek/parsley mixture.  Sprinkle on about 1/4 tsp of the Truffle Salt.  Toss again and taste.  It may need more vinegar or Truffle Salt.  Add very carefully to get the taste that makes you say, "Oh!  I didn't know beets could taste like this."  Let that sit while you...

Heat your sauté pan with the 2 tsp of oil over medium low heat.  Add the thinly sliced garlic and a sprinkle of salt, and let your garlic cook down for 8 - 12 minutes, until it is soft and translucent.  Turn up the heat to high.  Add the greens, and sauté until wilted.  Turn the heat back down to medium, and add 1/4 - 1/2 water (or stock if you have some to use up).  Cover up, and cook until tender, 6 - 10 minutes.  Add a Tbs of vinegar.  Taste, and add any salt and pepper if it needs it.

Place a spoonful of the garlicky greens on a plate, and then a large spoonful of the beet salad on top.  This works if both the beets and green are hot - and makes for an even bigger surprise if you have a cold salad on top of the hot greens.

We had this with some smashed red potatoes and some Delicious grilled steaks (nicely marbled rib-eyes, thank you Alec & Double D).  And guess what we are having for leftovers tonight....

Note:  I used the juice that drained off the cooling rib eye as part of the liquids in my greens for extra richness.

*Places to find Truffle salt - your grocery store is a stop-gap, a European Foods store, or even an overpriced specialty kitchen store (Sur La Table, Williams Sonoma or the like).  If you'd like to be overwhelmed by your choices online, check out Amazon.

Quick Smashed Potatoes

Roasted potatoes are all well and good, but some foods require mashed potatoes.  Somedays we just don't have the need or patience for the perfect creaminess of traditional mashed potatoes, so smashed potatoes - are a quick satisfying version.

The very best news is that smashed potatoes, like all other vegetable recipes are incredibly versatile as long as you do the 1 important thing.  In this recipe it is cutting the potatoes into roughly even size chunks, and cooking them long enough, but not too long.  After that, you pretty much can't go wrong as long as you taste as you go.

Quick Smashed Potatoes

Sharp knife
Cutting board
Large pot (8qt./8L range)
Potato masher/2 large forks
Large stirring spoon

1 large/2 small potatoes per person ("floury"* if you have a choice, but what you have is fine)
milk (any sort - dairy, rice, soy or broth)
plain yogurt/sour cream/ any other cultured dairy creamy thing
Salt & Pepper to taste - or other spices

Give your potatoes a good scrub and rinse. (Or peel them if you feel like it).
Cut them into any roughly similar small  pieces (no bigger than 2" cubes).

Put them in your large pot, cover with water by about 3 inches, cover and place over high heat.

When they start to boil, add 2 tsp of salt (more if you have potatoes for more than 3 - 4 people), let them boil for about 15 minutes. Take out one chunk, and put it on a plate.  Attempt to squish it with the back of a fork.  If it is still crunchy, try again in 5 minutes.  If it squishes, but still seems firm, taste it, and see if it is too crunchy - give it 2 -3 minutes more.  Try again.
When it mashes nicely, turn off the heat, pour your potatoes into the colander, drain quickly, and put back in the pot.
Smash your potatoes briefly with your masher/2 large forks.
Start by adding 1/4 C milk and 1/4 C yogurt (or a short 1/2 C of just liquid), a tsp of salt and a good sprinkling of pepper.
Stir in these ingredients.  Taste for seasoning and texture.
Slowly add in liquids/creaminess/spices and taste as you go to get a flavor you love.

Serve nice and hot!

Note:  Cheddar cheese & chipotle sauce/salsa makes a nice combo,
as do parmesan cheese with fresh basil & oregano.
Try tossing a few peeled whole garlic cloves in to boil with the potatoes, and stir parsley in to the potatoes before serving.
Dill and havarti cheese makes it an excellent pairing with smoked meats.