Thursday, September 27, 2012

Sukha Aloo (Indian-spiced potatoes)


I don't think I can eat a russet potato again. Farm fresh new potatoes are unbelievable. Everything tastes infinitely better when made with a tiny new potato - from aloo gobi, romanesco potatoes, and saag aloo.

I've raved about Indian-spiced potatoes, or sukha aloo, in the past, with amchur a dried mango powder, and have a new recipe that is even more delicious. Sukha aloo with potatoes crusted in mustard seeds, coriander seeds, and sesame seeds and seasoned with turmeric, red cayenne pepper, and lemon juice.

Serve hot with plain yogurt or roti. Or better yet, serve for brunch in lieu of home fries.

You might also like a variation on this recipe include dried mango powder (amchur):

Channa Dal with Zucchini


Typically this bengal gram, channa dal, is made with an Indian variety of squash known as opal. In this version, I make it with a more readily available green squash, zucchini. For the past few months our crisper was full of zucchini and we wanted light, barely cooked summer meals. But now, with autumn in the air, a bowl of dal with some late summer zucchini sounds just about right.

What I love the most about channa dal is how creamy it gets during the cooking process and the delicately spiced flavors, onion, garlic, ginger and Indian spices. This creaminess makes it completely different from the typical toor dal you will find on menus at most Indian restaurants.

Other dal recipes you might enjoy:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tomato, Summer Squash, Cannellini bean Ragout


Wonderful produce beckons all throughout the summer, from beautiful heirloom tomatoes, sweet corn, summer squashes, and eggplant. As late summer approaches, I find myself doing everything I can to savor the last of the season.  At times, I end up with armfuls of produce and sometimes make a little extra sauce or soup to freeze for coming months when summer produce becomes a distant memory. I already have stacks of roasted tomatoes in the freezer ready to make my favorite roasted tomato soup in the coming months.

Although not ideal for freezing, this beautiful summer tomato, squash, and bean ragout perfectly marries the flavors of summer. It requires very little effort and comes alive with the addition of fresh herbs. Peak season tomatoes and summer squash mingle with flavorful, creamy cannellini beans, chiles, and aromas of fresh thyme, oregano, and basil.

I served this as a side dish to a Swiss chard, summer squash, and mushroom lasagna. For a hearty vegetarian main, serve over grains, pasta, or polenta.

Other summer squash and tomato favorites:

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beet Greens with Barley


I am always encouraging you to use the beautiful green tops of your beets. They are healthy, fresh and can be treated similar to Swiss chard or kale or spinach. When I acquire a beautiful bunch of beets with healthy tops, I immediately cut off the tops and use them for dinner that very night or the next. The reason for this seemingly impatient act, is that beet greens go bad very quickly but can be prepared very fast. Beets, however, take between 1.5 to 2 hours to roast, which can be challenging on a weeknight. 

This dish using beet greens and barley is new to me for two reasons. First, I wanted to use the beet stems as well as the leafy greens. The stems are tough, much tougher than Swiss chard stems, but if you blanch in salted boiling water for a few minutes, beet stems are just perfect. Second, most often, barely is used in a soup but this time I wanted to use barley in a "dry" dish and bring out the nuttiness of the barley by cooking it at a high temperature. Simply cook 1 part barley in 3 times as much salted boiling water, drain, and use. You can use whichever grain you like in this dish, like farro, quinoa, or bulgur. When sauteeing the beet greens, stems, and cooked barley, increase the temperature to high to rid of excess liquid.  The barley should start to stick to the bottom of the pan, use a heavy spatula to scrape and toss.

You'll notice that I added caraway seeds to the onions in this dish; caraway seeds perfectly compliment beets, so why not beet greens and stems? Trust me, caraway seeds add a depth and complexity to the dish that you don't want to miss.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Baby beets in herb dressing


There is something earthy and wonderful about baby beets. Roasted beets with goat cheese and roasted beets with feta and dijon have been some our favorite preparations. This beet salad with an herb dressing is incredibly refreshing and bright in a way that transforms you to some place in the Mediterranean.

Salt roast baby beets with garlic, arrange on a serving platter with shallot rings. Drizzle with a garlic, lemon, walnut oil dressing with fresh parsley and oregano. If you wish, you add some crumbled feta, but it is perfectly delicious without!

Other beet recipes you might like include:
If you are looking for ideas to use up your beet greens, try the following:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

CSA Meal Planning: End of Summer


By the end of summer, many of us reach a point of exhaustion with summer produce, like peppers and squash. This week I've come up with some new exciting recipes to help alleviate some of the fatigue associated with the last of summer produce.

My CSA box this week contains:
Yellow beans
Yellow bell pepper
Green bell pepper
Sweet gypsy peppers
Shisito peppers
Rainbow chard
Red cabbage
Bulb garlic
Red onion

Given the heaps of peppers, I'm excited to try a roasted yellow bell pepper (and yellow gypsy pepper) soup with red onion, garlic, thyme, and broth. I have some chipotles en adobo sauce from last week's chipotle sauce for taco night, so I will make a little sauce to drizzle into the soup for an added kick. Whenever I open a can, I keep the rest of the chiles and sauce in the freezer for use in a pinch. For some protein, I'll make a southwestern style quinoa and save some of the plain cooked quinoa for the next night.

For the red gypsy peppers, I recommend stuffing with cumin-scented bulgur, mint, and feta and roasting until tender. Save some left over bulgur and toss with fresh garden herbs, walnut oil, lemon, and walnuts for a refreshing salad. Continuing with a Mediterranean theme, serve with Turkish green beans in olive oil, but use the yellow wax beans in place of green beans.

I haven't posted recipes for my two red cabbage "slaws" yet, but they are my new go to recipes for preparing red cabbage in a raw form! The first is a Thai style red cabbage slaw topped with ground peanuts, cilantro, and scallions. The second is a red cabbage and carrot slaw with a refreshing lemon, sherry vinegar, and Dijon vinaigrette. Both are wonderful and miles away from typical mayo-drenched slaw. Eat for lunch the next day, just be sure to keep the dressing and nuts separate and toss just before eating.

Speaking of raw, I love making zucchini ribbons- simple take a vegetable peeler and shave zucchini into long ribbons. The result is reminscent of wide pasta ribbons, but much healthier. Toss with a fresh garden pesto and you will kick yourself for not trying this before!

This week's lentil and chard soup is a lovely welcome to the first days of autumn; season with toasted cumin seeds, toasted coriander seeds, toasted fennel seeds lemon, and serve with feta. Hands-down the best brown lentil soup I've ever had.

You probably know that my favorite thing to do with broccoli is to roast broccoli with garlic and toss with lemon, lemon zest, and a dusting of parmesan. To make this a complete dinner, serve over polenta and top with a poached egg. Save some of the leftover polenta, toss with diced jalapenos, sauteed red onion, and cheddar cheese and stuff remaining red gypsy peppers.

This week's braised fennel, carrot, and cannellini beans make a wonderful hearty one dish dinner. Perfect for a no-fuss weeknight dinner at the cusp of autumn.

My Indian dinner will be Indian-spiced beans topped with shredded coconut and chana dal with zucchini, served with roti and yogurt.

Our CSA Menu Plan for the week:
Day 1: Roasted yellow and gypsy pepper soup topped with chipotle cream
Quinoa with black beans, green bell pepper, red onion, cilantro, and lime

Day 2: Thai-style red cabbage slaw... shredded red cabbage, carrot, green chili, ginger, garlic, scallions, lime, sesame oil, soy sauce, cilantro, ground peanuts
Quinoa with shaved fennel, parsley, lemon, and fennel fronds

Day 3: Zucchini ribbons with garden pesto... basil, parsley, garlic, and pine nuts
shisito peppers with coarse salt

Day 4: Braised fennel, carrot, red onion, cannellini beans with crusty bread

Days 5: Rainbow chard lentil soup... lentils, Swiss chard, carrots, toasted cumin seed, toasted coriander seeds, toasted fennel seeds, garlic, onion, cilantro garnished with lemon, feta, olive oil
Pickled yellow wax beans

Day 6: Lemon roasted broccoli over polenta topped with poached egg and dusted with parmesan

Day 7: Red cabbage slaw with carrot... shredded red cabbage, carrot, parsley, fennel fronds or dill, lemon, sherry vinegar, Dijon
Bulgur with fresh garden herbs and walnuts... scallions, mint, parsley or cilantro, lemon, walnut oil, walnuts
Roasted red gypsy peppers stuffed with polenta, jalapenos, cheddar

Day 8: Roasted red gypsy peppers stuffed with cumin-scented bulgur, feta, mint, fennel fronds or dill, pine nuts

Day 9: Indian-spiced wax beans with roti and yogurt
Chana dal with zucchini

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Carrot Cake


When I was a little girl, I always asked for carrot cake on my birthday, that is until I discovered chocolate chip cookie cakes. I loved the sweetness and the subtle spice of carrot cake. Yes, I thought about such things even as a young child.

Last month, a summer intern brought a delicious and gorgeous carrot cake to the office, and it was the best carrot cake I've ever had. He was kind enough to share the recipe with me before leaving.

With a huge bunch of beautiful carrots straight from the farm, I set out to make the double layered carrot cake. I can't remember the last time I made a dessert, maybe it was a orange-scented rhubarb crumble earlier this Spring or maybe mini flourless chocolate cake for a special birthday last year?

When I read through the recipe, I was a bit hesitant to use so much sugar, oil, and butter, but I took a depth breath assured myself that we eat healthily every other day. The delicious carrot cake is unbelievably moist, with a perfect balance of sweetness, spice, and tartness. The frosting has an incredible lemony brightness that offers the perfect contrast to the sweetness.

I added chopped walnuts to the frosting, but you can leave these out if you prefer. This carrot cake will keep moist for several days if kept covered and is perfect for parties. Thank you, JA, for the delicious recipe and all the wonderful foodie conversations!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Chick pea and carrot salad with tahini


I rarely eat the same thing over and over again. Shockingly, I am not a fan of leftovers. But ever so rarely I come across something that I cannot stop eating and keep making over and over again. This chick pea and carrot salad with tahini has achieved such status around the Plate and Pour kitchen. I first made this dish in the spring, as you can probably tell from the gorgeous rainbow carrots below, and have been enjoying from spring to the end of summer!

At the start of spring, I just love the vibrant colors of beautiful rainbow carrots with deep purple, golden yellow, pearl white, and bright orange hues.

Chick peas and carrot coins are tossed with creamy tahini and lemon dressing and seasoned with smoked paprika, cumin, and red cayenne pepper. It is the perfect lunch or picnic dish. 

I really love combining smoked paprika, cumin, and red cayenne pepper, and one of my favorites uses is in this quinoa with roasted summer squash and chick peas dish. I especially love the depth it brings to vegetarian dishes.

Other delicious carrot recipes you might like include:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Quinoa and Chard Cakes with Tomato Ragu and Smoked Mozzarella


You probably think that I am obsessed with quinoa. I've had friends tell me how they think quinoa is bitter or too mushy, and I offer a few pointers on the best way to cook quinoa and they come back full converts. Generally I use quinoa in the form of salads, but for a very special dinner I wanted to make something more fabulous.

When I had quinoa cakes in the past I found them to be so bland, but these are packed with incredibly delicious flavor. And the smokey mozzarella tomato ragu is unbelievably amazing. In these quinoa cakes, quinoa is mixed with Swiss chard (both leaves and stems!) and parmesan and fragrantly seasoned with garlic, ground cumin, and crushed red pepper. 

I love that the Swiss chard stems and leaves are both used in these quinoa cakes, what a wonderful way to use all parts of the chard! 

Combine quinoa with Swiss chard, parmesan, and egg to create a patty. Pan fry in olive oil and canola oil until crisp and golden brown. You can serve them topped with a delicate, refreshing garlic scented yogurt or a savory, flavor rich tomato ragu with smoked mozzarella. 

Other delicious Swiss chard recipes you might like include:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Raw Fresh Tomato Basil Sauce for Pasta


There is something wonderfully appealing about a no cook, or raw, fresh tomato sauce for pasta. The approach is very pure, emphasizing good, simple, and fresh ingredients. I urge you to only use exceptional, peak-season tomatoes in this dish, otherwise it will lack flavor.

Sometimes raw sauces can be a little runny. Below are a couple tips that can help reduce the runniness and set the sauce flavors:
  1. Use kosher salt so that the tomatoes don't break down. 
  2. Cook the pasta a few minutes shy of al dente. Drain. In the same pot, add some of the extra juice from the tomato sauce and set it over medium-low heat. Add pasta, and toss until juices are absorbed. This will do two things: 1) keep your sauce from being too runny and 2) infuse the flavor of the sauce into the pasta. 
And if you don't like to eat raw garlic, lightly crush each clove and leave in tomato sauce to infuse the flavor. Simply fish out the garlic clove before tossing with pasta.

Other delicious tomato dishes you might like include:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eggplant caponata with gypsy peppers


I've raved and raved about the modernized eggplant caponata at Beretta before and even shared my interpretation of their dish. Compared to traditional Sicilian eggplant caponata, the one at Beretta is made with cooked vegetables that still have a bite and other ingredients, like tomatoes, scallions, and parsley, that are left in a raw form.

Traditional eggplant caponata is cooked for a longer period so that the vegetables and other ingredients are softer but still more or less intact. Last month, we had a beautiful dinner at the beloved A16 and shared roasted eggplant with gypsy peppers agrodolce with a killer funghi pizza. Although it was not eggplant caponata per se, the dish at A16 reminded me of a traditional eggplant caponata and took me back to many, many wonderful meals shared at an old Chicago favorite, Quartinos.

You can imagine my delight when I found Japanese eggplant and gypsy peppers in my CSA box the following week! I was on a mission to create variation of eggplant caponata inspired by the flavors at A16.

Eggplant caponata is savory, sour, and particularly good the next day, serve at room temperature.  Eat with lavash or any bread (it makes a wonderful bruschetta topping), or add it on top of your favorite pizza, like we did at A16. Wonderfully delicious!

Other eggplant recipes you might enjoy include:

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CSA Meal Planning: Late Summer Continues


Peppers, peppers, peppers! Pale yellow-green gypsy peppers make their first appearance at the start of summer and by the end of summer, bright red and orange gypsy peppers appear all over SF.  Green bell peppers, shishito peppers, and padron peppers are overflowing by summer's end.

This week, my CSA box contains:

Rainbow Swiss chard
Sweet potatoes
Heirloom tomatoes
Green bell peppers
Shisito peppers
Sweet gypsy peppers
Beets with green tops

Our CSA Menu Plan for the week:
Day 1: Beet greens (and stems) sauteed with caraway seeds and tossed with barley and parmesan

Day 2: Quinoa with lightly sauteed gypsy peppers and green bell pepper and lemon
Spicy sweet potato fries

Days 3 & 4: Broccoli soup with broiled cheddar

Day 5: Roasted eggplant, gypsy peppers, carrots, red onion with chick peas and whole wheat orzo, lemon, parsley
Fried shisito peppers with coarse salt

Day 6: Cumin-scented sweet potato and black bean tacos with chipotle adobo sauce and avocado-lime mash

Days 7 & 8: Indian spiced cauliflower and peas (gobi mutter) with roti and yogurt
Three dal
Sprouted moong bean salad with tomato, jicama, green bell pepper, cilantro, and lemon

Day 9: Chick peas and carrots with tahini dressing infused with cumin, smoked paprika, garlic, and lemon
Fried green tomato topped with chipotle adobo sauce

Day 10: Turkish beets in an herb dressing
Quinoa Swiss chard cakes over smoked mozzarella tomato ragu
I love using all parts of the beet, but beet greens go bad much quicker than beets so often I use the beet greens right away and keep the beets for later use. This time I want to use the beet stems as well as the leafy greens. The stems are tough, much tougher than Swiss chard stems, but if you blanch in salted boiling water for a few minutes, beet stems are just perfect.

For the quinoa with peppers dish, I think a mixed pepper medley will balance the sweetness of the gypsy peppers and the astringency of green bell peppers.

If you have a large head of broccoli with good, healthy stalks, then this broccoli soup is a  must. I've made the soup with broccoli and leeks before, but this time I will sub in a yellow onion for the leeks. I love topping the soup with cheddar and broiling it for a few minutes. It elevates an already deliciously satisfying soup to another level of comfort.

For the tacos, the chipotle adobo sauce does wonders with cumin-scented roasted sweet potato and onions with black beans. Line a tortilla with mashed avocado with lime and salt, top with sweet potatoes and black beans, drizzle with homemade chipotle adobo sauce. Top with queso fresco, or if you can't find any, crumble feta over the tacos. You can also saute Swiss chard with onions, garlic, crushed red pepper and add on top of the sweet potato and black bean layer. If I add the layer of Swiss chard, then I often skip the cheese at it becomes necessary given the already delicious flavor combinations and textures.

We love roasted eggplant around the Plate and Pour kitchen, and this roasted eggplant and pepper orzo dish will be a new experiment for me, with tons of delicious roasted veggies .

For an Indian dinner, I will be sprouting some moong and making cauliflower with peas (or maybe cauliflower with potatoes, or aloo gobi)

The chick pea and carrot with tahini dressing has become a favorite go-to lunch dish for me since the Spring. If you are like me, I think you will quickly incorporate it into your meal planning. I only have one green tomato, but I just have to make (vegan) pan-fried green tomatoes!

For a bit more special and time consuming meal, the menu for day 10 shows beautiful beets in a refreshing herb dressing and a heavenly, savory vegetarian main dish unlike any other.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Garlicky Cucumber Soup with Cumin


Several summers ago I had an incredible chilled cucumber soup with tons of garlic, cumin, and a touch of coriander at Mindy's Hot Chocolate in Chicago. It was creamy and induced a bowl-licking frenzy. I jotted down some tasting notes and promised myself that I would make this at home. Although a refreshing soup like this would have been perfect in the sweltering heat of a Chicago summer day, I never got around to making the soup. Summer in Chicago was just too wonderful to be inside; instead, I found myself exploring Chicago's fabulous dining scene.

Fast forward three years; I found myself in San Francisco, where it never gets really hot, craving a something refreshing with cucumbers. I don't usually go for cold soups, for me soup typically invokes a steamy bowl of comfort on a late fall or winter day, but I immediately was taken back to the cumin-scented cucumber soup at Mindy's Hot Chocolate.

I prefer to make this soup with great local cucumbers from my CSA box- so the cucumbers are at their best- and organic full fat yogurt. Cucumber, yogurt, garlic, fresh lemon juice, and salt are blended together until smooth and almost frothy. Then fresh mint and basil are blended in and the soup is finished with generous heap of cumin. The result is an incredibly soothing, cool, and refreshing soup that tastes even better the next day.

All of the ingredients are fresh and the flavors just shine through beautifully. I almost want to drink a glass of it rather than eat it from a bowl!

Other cucumber recipes you may enjoy:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Spicy Sweet Potatoes Fries (you won't believe it's baked)

These days, if sweet potatoes appear in my CSA box, I don't even think twice about what to make with them because, according to my other half, the best dish I could possibly make with 2lbs of sweet potatoes is spicy sweet potato fries, over and over again. Whenever I make a batch of these spicy sweet potato fries, I'm lucky if there are any left for me by the time I sit down for dinner!

These sweet potato fries are baked and taste so unbelievably good that you will start to question their healthiness. Usually I shy away from sweet potato fries, as I find them generally lacking in flavor and a bit too sweet for my taste, but these fries are mouth-watering-ly delicious. The layering of spices really offsets the natural sweetness of the sweet potatoes.

I make the fries on the spicer side and to offset the heat, I like to serve the fries with a refreshing yogurt mint lime dipping sauce. You can adjust the seasonings to your taste and preferred level of spice!

Other sweet potato recipes you might enjoy include:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

CSA Meal Planning: Summer's bounty


Many of you know that we are members of a wonderful CSA, Farm Fresh To You. Every two weeks I get a huge delivery of beautiful peak-season veggies. And each and every time, it feels like Christmas morning when I open my box to discover the gems hidden inside. With great care, I plan out my menu based on the contents of my CSA box; often times I turn to old favorites that have been eagerly waiting for the perfect vegetable to reappear in season. However, I strive to create a new dish with every CSA delivery.

Recently, my CSA box was full of such wonderful summer produce:

Heirloom and roma tomatoes
Summer squash (yellow and patty pan)
Sweet potatoes
Japanese eggplant
Rainbow Chard
Purple Kale
Gypsy sweet peppers
Shisito pepper
Lemon cucumber

Our CSA Menu Plan for the week:

Days 1: eggplant caponata with gyspy peppers
summer squash soup with mint, parsley pistou

Day 2: fried shisito peppers with coarse salt
radishes with herb lemon garlic butter and sea salt on whole wheat bread
summer squash soup with mint, parsley pistou

Day 3: lunch: whole wheat spaghetti with no cook fresh tomato sauce, lemon, garlic, basil
dinner: purple kale chips with sea salt, cumin, and red cayenne pepper
heirloom tomato, onion, olive, goat cheese, parm tart (variation with whole wheat black pepper parmesan crust)

Days 4, 5 (dinner): lunch: heirloom tomato, cucumber, gypsy pepper panzanella (variation with red wine vinegar, olive oil, and garlic dressing)
dinner: roma tomato, summer squash, cannellini bean ragout with fresh oregano, thyme, basil
swiss chard, summer squash, mushroom lasagna with bechamel sauce
carrot cake

Day 6: no fry eggplant parmigiana
parmesan roasted broccoli with lemon

Days 7: cumin-scented cucumber yogurt soup with mint, basil, and garlic topped with radish
spicy sweet potato fries (baked) with yogurt mint dipping sauce

The eggplant caponata keeps well for up to 5 days, just bring to room temperature before serving.

The gorgeous summer squash soup serves 6, so we will eat it over a few days. Alternatively you can set aside some of it to freeze.

For the heirloom tomato, onion, olive, and goat cheese tart, I plan to make 6 mini tarts so that I can save a few to take for lunch during the week. If you haven't tried it yet, the whole wheat crust with black pepper, parmesan, and thyme salt  is heavenly.

For our big Sunday night dinner with family and friends, we will have the tomato, squash, and bean ragout and Swiss chard, squash, mushroom lasagna. You can prepare the bechamel sauce and the vegetables in advance, and it only takes a few minutes to arrange the layers. You can have the dish baking in the oven when everyone arrives for dinner. Be sure to let the lasagna rest for 15 minutes before serving.

As you can see by the links, many of these are old favorites with slight variations; however, several are new ideas that I will experiment with over the next two weeks. I'm sure you are eager to hear how they turn out, so I will keep you posted!
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