Thursday, December 31, 2009

Pumpkin and Roast Pork Empanadas

Yes, it's a meat pie on the veggie blog. But it is half veggie, and if you don't eat pork, I bet it would be good with some sauteed kale instead of the pork. I think I like pies because they are a main dish that can incorporate lots of veggies, and you really don't have to think of a side dish - just a pile of fresh crunchy greens for contrast. I guess I like to not have to come up with more than one fabulous dish per meal. I like to make side dishes too, but then I don't have the energy to think of a main dish to go with it!

I was looking to use up a couple of Sweet Dumpling squashes I had lying around, and yesterday was a big day of roasting, so I cooked them up. They are much like acorn squashes only spotted and not pointed on the bottom. In any recipe that calls for pumpkin, it is safest to use canned pumpkin OR any type of winter squash - acorn, butternut, kabocha, sweet dumpling, delicata, they are all pretty much interchangeable . If you cook up an actual pumpkin, whether it's a big jack o' lantern or a little pie pumpkin, it releases a huge amount of water, and you have to be really careful to press all the liquid out until it is very dry. Winter squashes are grown in the summer, just like summer squashes (like zucchini or pattypan) - they are only called "winter" squashes because they will keep nicely all through the winter at room temperature or below.

This recipe is adapted from The Border Cookbook by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison, a couple of big New Mexico foodies.  An empanada is a little turnover, usually filled with some sort of sweet-savory meat mixture. This is a traditional filling from Espanola, NM.  The Golden Crown Panaderia (Mexican bakery) down the street from our house makes fruit empanadas, fillled with such delights as pineapple, apricot, blueberry, pumpkin, you never know what they'll have!  There is a special dough for the crust, but I just used frozen pie crust - this time I tried Trader Joe's, which comes flat, and it was pretty good.  Be forewarned that this recipe makes 16 pretty good-sized empanadas (enough to feed about six people!)

4 pre-made pie crusts

1 cup raisins
1/2 cup brandy
1 pound pork loin
1 medium onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
2 cups water
2 cups canned pumpkin or baked acorn squash
1/2 cup pecans or pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1 Tbs minced fresh cilantro (optional, but next time I would use more!)
1 tsp red chile (next time I would use more!)
1 tsp ground allspice

1 egg
1 Tbs water

Combine raisins and brandy in a small bowl and set aside to soak.

Place the pork, onion, and squash (cut in half and lay cut side down) in a 9x13 baking dish. Sprinkle the pork and onion with salt, and pour water over. Bake about 60 minutes at 375, until meat is cooked through and tender. Scoop the squash out of its shell and mash it up in a large bowl. Remove the meat (saving the stock) and shred it finely with a fork. I should have taken a picture of Dave doing this, but I forgot - sorry! You just hold the meat with one fork, and then scrape little shreds off with another fork.

Combine the squash, shredded meat, raisins (drained), and all the rest of the filling ingredients. Add stock to make the filling moist but not runny.

To make the turnovers, I cut each pie crust in quarters, put some filling in the middle of each triangle, folded them over into little wedges, then crimped the edges with a fork. At this point, you could freeze some to bake later! You don't have to thaw them, just plan on baking them a little longer. Brush the glaze lightly over the top of each empanada, and bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Balsamic Roasted Oranges, Beets and Red Onions

I am really getting into this roasting thing. What wouldn't taste great roasted?  We got some beautiful beets from Los Poblanos this week, the peppermint-striped Chioggia variety. These particular ones are actually the sweetest I've ever tasted.  We've also been getting some wonderful, juicy, sweet oranges lately too, and I wanted to make a beet and orange salad.  Since I was roasting the broccoli, I thought I would try roasting the oranges and beets too!

So I cut up 4 beets, 2 oranges and half a red onion, and tossed them with about 2 Tbs olive oil, 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbs honey, salt, pepper, and some fresh rosemary and thyme (my herbs are overwintering nicely even in 20-degree temperatures!) I was a little concerned about the oranges burning, so I roasted it all at 375 for about 60 minutes. You may notice I left the skins on the orange pieces, thinking maybe the peel would add flavor, but about halfway through I decided to try one, and it was bitter, so I ended up peeling all the skins off before putting it back in the oven.

It turned out heavenly! Everything takes on a rich sweet flavor, and the onions are all melty-soft... Wow!

Roasted Broccoli

We've been getting an awful lot of broccoli lately in the Los Poblanos box.  I love broccoli when steamed to tender-crunchy perfection (rather than boiled into mushy oblivion!)  There are any number of ways to enjoy steamed broccoli, whether tossed with lemon juice and parmesan, with beef in a spicy stir-fry, or smothered with gooey cheese sauce.... But I wanted to try something new. Hey, how about roasting it?

A quick search of the interweb reveals dozens of recipes for roasted broccoli - some with chile, soy sauce, sesame, or even grill seasoning.  Normally I kind of steer away from roasting things because it takes so long, but this only takes 20 minutes. Yeah, that's long for broccoli, but short for roasting!  I decided to stick to the basics rather than adding a whole bunch of seasonings - the better to taste the vegetables, you know....

Chop up a large head of broccoli into medium florets (you can also peel the stem and slice it up too, it's very sweet.)  If you've just washed the broccoli, dry off the pieces in a clean dishtowel so the olive oil sticks to them better.  Then toss them with a few cloves of garlic (minced) and a liberal amount of olive oil, salt and pepper.  Put it in the oven at 425F for 20 minutes or so, until the edges of each piece are slightly charred.  Cooking it at this high of a temperature is essential because it browns the edges without making the broccoli too squishy.  The flavor is wonderfully concentrated and nutty.  It's so good, I almost ate the whole pan myself! 

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things - Brussels Sprouts and Artichokes

We drove out to California for Christmas, and stayed in Santa Barbara for a few days - it was wonderful, and to top it all off, they had a farmers' market while we were there! Since we were going up to visit Dave's brother and his girlfriend in Morro Bay the next day, I thought it wouldn't hurt to pick up a few things we could cook at their house. Here's a photo of all the delicious bounty I just couldn't resist - look at all the beautiful things that are in season this time of year in California!

I was so excited to find whole stalks of  Brussels sprouts for sale! They are so beautiful on the stalk, and someone told me you can eat the big leaves too. I guess that makes sense, since the sprouts are just little leaves, but I never thought about it before. Yes, look at me, it's ridiculous how excited I get about vegetables.

Brussels sprouts... just another much-maligned vegetable that is incredibly tasty when done right! If your mom boiled them until they were soggy, stinky blobs, I can certainly understand if you don't think you could possibly like them. I humbly submit that perhaps if you give them a try my way, you might be surprised.

So, here it is - my simple method of making Brussels sprouts taste good. Fry the heck out of them! Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, toss in the sprouts and some minced garlic, sprinkle generously with salt, and cook them on medium-high until the sprouts are browned on the outside and tender on the inside. This takes maybe 20 minutes or less. Ok, so maybe anything tastes good fried, but you don't have to resort to frying them in bacon grease (although that's good too) just to make them palatable. When you brown the outside, they take on a warm, nutty flavor all their own. If you like, you can also add bacon, dried cranberrries, parmesan cheese, whatever sounds good. I particularly like a maple and mustard glaze, but they are delicious plain and simple.

Artichokes are such strange and elegant vegetables. If you have never eaten one, you might have no idea what to do with it... Much of it is prickly and tough, and we eat it in the most bizarre way: peeling off each leaf and scraping the tender bottom part off with our teeth! Here is a wonderful step-by-step explanation of how to prepare and eat an artichoke:  Personally, I don't go to the trouble of cutting off the pointy tips or cleaning out the middle before cooking it. I just steam or boil it ~45 minutes and it's ready to eat! In my family, we always just handled the leaves carefully and after eating all the leaves we'd use a spoon to scrape the prickly "choke" off the heart.

My mom always served it with plain mayonnaise for dipping, and though it may sound weird, it is surprisingly fantastic! Until you've eaten it with artichokes, you've probably never appreciated the subtle flavor of mayonnaise. If you think of mayo as just a sandwich spread, you may not have an opinion about brands, but in my artichoke-eating experience, I prefer Hellmanns/Best Foods. Aioli is basically just mayonnaise with a little bit of mustard and garlic and sometimes other delicious things added. Some like to serve lemon butter or fancy dips with artichokes - go crazy, it's all good, but I still think plain mayo is the best.  Bon appetit!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Italian Celery Salad

Another installment on my winter salad kick! It's a wonderful celery, walnut and apple salad with shaved parmesan cheese and a lemon juice dressing. I don't go through celery very fast - I guess it has always just seemed like such a boring vegetable to me, it needs something to dress it up. So whenever I get it from our CSA, I make this salad to use a bunch of of it up! It's so refreshing, tangy, and also rich tasting with the cheese.

This recipe is adapted from the Silver Spoon cookbook (the Italian equivalent of the Joy of Cooking, recently translated into English).
2 tart apples (such as Granny Smith)
most of a bunch of celery
Juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup walnuts
2 oz. Parmesan or other hard cheese, shaved into thin strips
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Slice the celery stalks in 3-inch lengths, then slice each piece lengthwise into thin strips. Core the apples and slice them into matchsticks (so they are kind of the same shape as the celery strips). Toss with the lemon juice, walnuts, shaved cheese and parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fennel and Grapefruit Salad

I don't know why, all of a sudden I am really into salads in the middle of winter! When most people are thinking of warming soups, here I am eating salad.  But 'tis the season for citrus, so... this is one of my all-time favorites (adapted from Modern Moroccan by Ghillie Basan). Fennel is one of my favorite vegetables, with the crisp texture of celery, and a light licorice flavor. This is fantastic with grilled fish!

1 medium fennel bulb
2 red grapefruits
1/2 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds
2-3 green onions
a handful of Kalamata or other tangy black olives
olive oil
salt to taste

Slice the fennel as thin as you can. Cut the peel off the grapefruit, cut in half crosswise, and remove the skin from the segments (or if you're feeling lazy, just chop into wedges). Put whole cumin seeds in a dry pan and roast on medium heat for a couple of minutes until they smell toasty, then grind them in a clean coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. If you don't want to take the time to grind them, just put them in whole. Or you can roast regular ground cumin in the pan, but you have to be really careful - scrape it back and forth often with a spatula so it doesn't burn. Chop up the green onions and pit the olives, add to the salad with olive oil and salt. Delicious!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Fall fruit salad dressing

There's been a bit of interest in how to make the dressing for the salad in the persimmon post. In short, it's about three parts walnut oil, one part balsamic vinegar, and salt (and maybe lemon juice) to taste.

But if you're like us and don't have walnut oil on hand, you can make your own while you make the salad. Details back at the original post, here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Carrot Pie

For a person who hates to make pie crust, I sure seem to make a lot of pies! I guess I just love the warm toastiness of pie in the winter. This is another one adapted from The Winter Vegetarian by Darra Goldstein. I used store-bought pie crust this time, instead of the yeast dough she describes. It is fantastic! A side of fresh greens is the perfect complement to the silky richness of this pie.

My mom hates cooked carrots, but I challenge her to try this!!

1 1/4 pounds carrots, trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 large leek
5 Tbs butter
1 1/4 cups bread crumbs
1 1/2 tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup minced parsley (stems ok)
1-2 tsp dried dill
3 Tbs sour cream

2 premade pie crusts
1 egg yolk
1 tsp cold water

Preheat the oven to 350. Boil the carrots in salted water until just tender, 10 minutes. Chop them very finely (this is important for the texture, so it's nice to have a food processor). Cut the green parts off the leek, and cut it in half lengthwise. Slice it thinly, crosswise. There is usually a lot of dirt inside the leek, so toss all the slices into a colander and rinse them thoroughly.

Melt the butter in a skillet, and cook the leeks, carrots and bread crumbs for 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and add the salt, pepper, parsley, dill and sour cream. Let the filling cool slightly before spreading it over the pie crust.

Lay the top crust over the filling, roll up the edges and crimp with fingers or a fork. Whisk together the egg and water, and brush the crust with it. Bake 25-30 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sweet Potato, Spinach and Leftover Turkey Hash

As some of you may know, my all-time favorite breakfast is corned beef hash. Well, this recipe may actually become a rival! But I love any kind of hash. This is partly because I don't particularly like eggs for their own sake. And in general, I don't really like breakfast food. I would always rather have leftovers from last night's dinner than a stack of pancakes. This sweet potato hash can be made with turkey, sausage (or both), or smoked or baked tofu - whatever sounds good to you!  It is smoky, spicy and sweet, and the spinach adds a freshness that balances out the heaviness of the potatoes and onions.

2-3 Tbs olive oil
2 sweet potatoes (I happened to have white ones)
1 cup chopped leftover turkey OR breakfast sausage (I like sage sausage) OR baked or smoked tofu
1 small-medium red onion
1/2 lb fresh spinach
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground pepper

Slice the onions thinly, and the sweet potatoes into 1/4-1/2" thick half-moons. If using sausage, crumble it into a large skillet on medium heat, and cook until brown. Add the olive oil, onion and sweet potatoes. Stir to coat everything with oil. Cover and let it steam for 5-10 minutes, stirring once or twice. When the potatoes are tender, add the turkey or tofu, garlic, spinach, chipotle powder, salt and pepper. Cook until the spinach is wilted down. Drizzle in the balsamic vinegar and stir well. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cabbage Pie Soup

Photo by Sergio Salvador
This is my favorite cabbage recipe of all time! I know, it sounds weird. If you try it, I guarantee you will be amazed by its deliciousness. Everyone I've served it to has loved it. It's a bit of an indulgence - the crust is full of butter and sour cream, but it's actually the rich flavor of the cabbage that makes it taste so good. If you are so inclined, you can probably experiment with making it lower in fat and it will still be good.

Many people think of cabbage as a bland, boring vegetable. This may be because they've only had it boiled! I do enjoy cabbage in a stew, but that is not the way to bring out cabbage's best flavor. And you can only eat so much coleslaw. Cabbage develops a wonderful nutty flavor when sauteed. Even more amazing is the flavor it takes on when you add a balance of salt, sugar and vinegar.

This recipe is adapted from Darra Goldstein's The Winter Vegetarian.  I remember when I bought this cookbook, a co-worker said "Wow, that sounds boring!"  He couldn't have been more wrong - it is a fascinating book, full of Eastern European recipes, stories about Tolstoy's ascetic vegetarian diet, and about a thousand uses for buckwheat.

Ok, so here we go. This does take a little while to prepare, so don't start it at 6:45pm when you're starving. You can use pre-made pie crust to save time, but the original crust is so much better...

2 cups flour (half whole wheat is good!)
8 Tbs butter
1 cup sour cream
1 beaten egg

1 head of cabbage (green is fine, red is gorgeous!)
4 Tbs butter
2 Tbs vinegar
3 Tbs sugar
2 tsp salt

I just use vegetable bouillion, but if you like to make stock, go for it!

Cut together the flour and butter, with a fork or a food processor, until its texture resembles cornmeal. Then stir in the sour cream until the dough holds together. Divide the dough into two balls, wrap them in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 425. Slice up the cabbage into thin ribbons, or grate in the food processor. I like to cut it rather than grate it. If you grate it, it has a very different texture. Heat the butter on medium high in a large skillet. Toss in the cabbage, and cover with a lid for 5-10 minutes to help it wilt down faster. Add the rest of the ingredients - the salt will cause the cabbage to release some water. Cook on high heat, stirring frequently, until all liquid is absorbed or evaporated, and the cabbage is translucent. How long this takes depends on how finely you cut or grate the cabbage, about 20-30 minutes. I like to cook it down a lot, until it is slightly browned.

Roll out each ball of dough to fit a 9x13 pan. Spread the cabbage over the bottom crust. Cover with the top crust, and roll up the edges of both crusts together. Brush the top with the beaten egg. Bake 20-30 minutes, until the top is golden brown.

Now for the strange part. To serve, put a square of pie in a wide bowl and pour the broth over it. You might be thinking, why make it soup?? The cabbage pie looks pretty good by itself, and won't it get soggy?! Trust me, it really is even better with the broth.