Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Spigarello (Heirloom Broccoli Rabe) Pizza


Our absolute favorite pizzeria in San Francisco has to be Pizzeria Delfina. And our absolutely favorite white pizza at Delfina is the broccoli rabe pizza- fresh mozzarella and parmesan topped with broccoli rabe sauted with garlic and red chili flakes and oil cured black olives. There is something wonderful about the combination of bitter, intense broccoli rabe and salty oil cured olives.

The best thing about powerfully flavorful broccoli rabe is that it is also intensely packed with sulforophanes and indoles, Vitamin K, A and C, folate, potassium, fiber and calcium.

I recently got a bunch of spigarello, a type of heirloom broccoli rabe, in my CSA box. Spigarello has a deep blue green color, similar to Tuscan kale, and far less bitter than broccoli rabe, almost sweet in flavor. It is considered the "granddaddy" of broccoli rabe and is a California favorite obsession. Seriously, ramps step aside, there is spigarello fever in this part of the country.

I prepared the spigarello in a similar manner as broccoli rabe: tough stems removed, quickly blanched the leaves for 2 minutes in boiling water, drained the leaves in a colander and sauteed it in olive oil with shallot, garlic and crushed red pepper for about 5 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper.

I used about half of the sauteed spigarello for our version of a broccoli rabe pizza and tossed the rest with cannellini beans for a quick (and healthy) lunch.

For the pizza, we turned to our favorite pizza dough recipe, stretched it into a 12" round, and parcooked it in a hot cast iron pan. We mixed fresh mozzarella, parmesan, salt and pepper in a small bowl, sprinkled the parcooked crust with the cheese mixture, topped with sauteed broccoli rabe and split oil cured olives and placed it under the broiler for about 5 minutes. 

It was absolutely amazing and tasted very similar to Delfina's- minus the bitterness of typical broccoli rabe. Although we do love Mario Batali's pizza dough recipe, next time we are going to try Delfina's pizza dough recipe.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Roasted delicata squash with Ginger and Thyme


Hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. One of my favorite things about the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the multitude of winter squash at the farmer's market. Winter squash often shows up on the table as a side dish, but it shines as a vegetarian main dish too. No, I'm not talking about stuffed squash as a main.

Over Thanksgiving I made a wonderful winter squash main dish- butternut squash and caramelized onion galette with sage and goat cheese- and prior to that a beautiful pumpkin ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce. Both are savory and satisfying vegetarian main dishes showcasing winter squash.

Another type of winter squash is delicata squash, one of the easiest winter squashes to work with for two reasons. First of all, unlike other winter squash, halving the squash doesn't require a tremendous amount of arm strength. Secondly, the skin is relatively tender once you cook the delicata squash and does not need to be peeled off. And it holds its shape when cooked. Like other winter squash, delicata squash is a good source of potassium, fiber and Vitamin C and B, but is not as rich in beta carotene as other winter squashes.

OK, that was more than two reasons, but it sounds like a win-win situation to me! Delicata squash is a milder flavor than other winter squash, like butternut or kabocha squash. I drizzled the roasted squash with ginger, garlic and thyme sauteed in olive oil.  Oh my, did we devoured the side dish!

Simply halve the delicata squash and scoop out the seeds. Slice into 1/2" half moon pieces. Using your hands, toss the slices with olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.

Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, until caramelized but not browned. I tossed the slices with fresh ginger, garlic, fresh thyme, crushed red pepper and a couple squeezes of fresh lemon juice. You could add toasted pepitas or almonds for a nice crunch.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Meatless Thanksgiving Dinner :: Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette


As the daughter of two Indian immigrants, I didn't grow up having traditional Thanksgiving dinner when I was a child; my vegetarian family spent the day eating our favorite Indian or Tex-Mex foods and watching (and sometimes playing) football. After all, we did live in Texas. 

After a series of unexpected events, I am hosting Thanksgiving dinner at my place at the last minute. I am faced with the challenge of preparing a meatless Thanksgiving dinner that will be savory and satisfying for both non-vegetarians and vegetarians.

Thankfully, my Farm Fresh to You box saved me with its beautiful butternut squash, tons of leeks, king trumpet mushrooms, head of red cabbage, carrots, sweet potatoes, a bouquet of sage, thyme and rosemary and onions. My first thought was to make a butternut squash and caramelized onion galette with sage, fontina and goat cheese (see recipe at end of post). And a wild mushroom tart with gruyere, rosemary and thyme.

Mostly inspired by the contents of my CSA box, my Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner menu is below along with my wine pairings for Thanksgiving dinner. (I just might stick to wine and cheese all night!)

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner Menu 

cheese platter ::  purple haze, truffle tremor, midnight moon, sartori, black eyed susan, pepato by bellweather farms, blue st agur
accompaniments :: olives, honey crisp apples, raw honey, walnuts, cracked peppercorn flatbread
leek ragu on crostini
sweet potatoes with brown sugar, nutmeg and butter 

pecan pie with vanilla bean ice cream
pumpkin pie with fresh whipped cream

Wine Suggestions for Thanksgiving Dinner

Rochioli Russian River Valley Estate Chardonnay 2009
Peay Scallop Shelf Pinot Noir 2009
Williams Selyem Hirsch Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009

Cain Concept Napa Valley Red Wine (Cabernet Sauvignon) 2007
Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Red (Cabernet Sauvignon) 2007
Caymus Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Far Niente Dolce 2005

Other Vegetarian Thanksgiving Dinner Suggestions
I imagine that many of you are searching for vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner recipes, so in addition to my dinner menu, I am sharing some of my favorite vegetarian and vegan dishes that are fit for Thanksgiving and the holidays. 

Start with this perfect holiday salad, arugula with persimmon, pomegranate and pistachios, that is sure to please your guests, vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Or for some added color, try golden beets with feta or red beets with goat cheese and pistachios.

Leek ragu on crostini and spicy chick pea bruschetta make wonderful appetizers and are always a big hit at my dinner parties, as are baked ricotta with herbs and feta with salsa verde and cannellini beans on crostini.

Next offer a warm bowl of curry-and-cumin-scented carrot soup, a butternut squash soup or a celery potato soup.

Vegetarians have no shortage of side dishes, so finding a satisfying, tasty main dish is often the biggest challenge.  For a non-Turkey Thanksgiving main, I wanted a dish that would capture the autumnal feel of Thanksgiving, something with pumpkin or butternut squash.  Nothing screams autumn more than pumpkin ravioli with crispy sage in a brown butter sauce. Except for maybe butternut squash and caramelized onion galette with goat cheese and sage.

If you want to avoid winter squash, try this wonderfully delicious and filling cauliflower gratin or my favorite eggplant parmesan (if you can find a decent eggplant this time of year). Or a wonderful artichoke and fennel ravioli with a tomato fennel sauce.

As a host I would love to serve a perfect risotto, like this wild mushroom and leek risotto, but I am far too weary about timing it perfectly for when guest arrive, especially since there will be lots of small kids running around. Instead I recommend dishes that can be prepared in advance and do not require a lot of "active" time. This absolutely delicious wild mushroom tart with gruyere, rosemary and thyme will satisfy any cravings for earthy mushrooms.

What about a creamy, deliciously gooey mac and cheese that, as an added bonus, reheats incredibly well and is perfect for a crowd? Sound too good to be true? I beg you to try Martha's macaroni and cheese with gruyere and sharp cheddar. I made Martha's mac and cheese back in May for a friend's wedding in Tahoe for 60+ people. Huge success. Do yourself a favor and make Martha's mac and cheese this Thanksgiving. And if you somehow manage to have leftovers, you will thank me.

Of course roasted Brussels sprouts with Maldon, roasted carrots or maybe this Moroccan spiced carrot salad and sweet potatoes (sadly, probably slathered with brown sugar and butter), must make an appearance. And maybe roasted radishes with vegetarian bagna cauda and roasted cauliflower with capers, pine nuts and parsley. For a quick winter squash side, try this quick and easy ginger and thyme roasted delicata squash.

What vegetarian dishes do you have on your Thanksgiving menu? Ya'll have a happy Thanksgiving! :-)

Curried Zucchini Soup


If you were to close your eyes and smell it, you would think that you are eating Indian food.

Shhh... it's really curry and red cayenne pepper infused creamy zucchini soup.

I don't usually use Indian spices in non-Indian dishes, but exceptions like curry powder and cumin dusted carrot soup, cumin-and-smoked-paprika-scented quinoa with zucchini and chick peas, and ginger and green chili sweet potatoes have been quite successful.

I am sure that you are thinking, "Really? Zucchini in November?" I know, I know. I was just as surprised you when it showed up in my last CSA delivery. While other parts of the country have already had their first snow, it seems that temperatures around here are still fairly warm. Gotta love California.

Onions and garlic are slightly sweated, then bay leaf, zucchini and a couple potatoes are simmered in vegetable broth. The soup is infused with curry powder and red cayenne pepper, then pureed and finished with milk or, for a richer soup, heavy cream.

For an exceptionally creamy soup, you can start with a roux of butter and flour but adding a couple potatoes makes the dish gluten free and almost as creamy. I served the curried zucchini soup with crispy papadum (popped in the microwave for 30 seconds instead of fried).

We spent a lazy Sunday outside in the sun, sipping tea and snacking on edamame hummus and haloumi at Samovar, a tea lounge overlooking a garden hidden in the middle of the city. As the sun began to set, it quickly became chilly and more like November. As we rushed home we were warmed just thinking about the hot bowls of soup waiting for us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Braised collard greens with cannellini beans


I have never appreciated collard greens. It is probably because in Texas, where I grew up, collard greens were always cooked for hours with ham hocks!

It is a shame that I overlooked collard greens for all these years because it turns out that they are very high in vitamins A and C, manganese, folate, dietary fiber and calcium, and a good source of potassium, vitamin B2 and B6. As seems to be the trend at Plate and Pour, my CSA box makes me love all sorts of veggies, even ones I disregarded in the past, like bok choy and, you guessed it, collard greens. Thank you, Farm Fresh to You, for helping us eat healthy, seasonal and local!

I am also constantly trying to add protein to our vegetarian meals so I braised the collard greens and then tossed in cooked cannellini beans. Any bean would work well with collard greens, including traditional black eyed peas or nontraditional black eyed peas with an Indian twist.

I approached braising collard greens similar to kale and broccoli rabe: quickly blanched the greens in boiling water and then simmered with onions, garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and olive oil until tender. Collard greens do require a longer cooking time, between 45 minutes to 1 hour, and the flavor changes from bitter to slightly sweet over the cooking process.

We ate the braised greens and beans as a side dish but our favorite way to enjoy them was in an impromptu taco! We layered the braised greens and beans in corn tortillas and topped with salsa for a quick and healthy taco night! Healthy and delicious!
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