Friday, June 19, 2009

Pasta with Spiced Onion-Nut-Cream Sauce

What is a gal to do when she is overrun with CSA greens? Well, I had thought that a variation of saag paneer would be nice (notwithstanding the fact that I don't eat paneer). However, none of the recipes I had looked that great and my plea on Facebook went unanswered. Using a bit of lateral thinking, I decided to adapt a favorite recipe that I got from a friend years ago from the Back to Square One cookbook by Joyce Goldstein. I thought of it because saag paneer mixes spinach and cream. This recipe (originally called, I think, Circassian Chicken Fettucine with Spiced Onions and Nuts) uses cream, so I figured, what the hell, I'll see if I can add a ton of pre-steamed and finely ground greens to it and have it be tasty.

Of course, adding the greens is not the only adaptation I've made. First off, I'm not using fettucine. I think it's delicious with fresh fettucine and I recommend others try it if it sounds good. However, long noodles are really tough for Elspeth to eat, so I opted for our standby of whole wheat penne. In addition, I decided not to use chicken breasts. Again, the recipe is quite tasty this way, but we've discovered that Elspeth isn't particularly fond of chicken. (To adapt my version back to the chicken version, you'll want to pan sear your chicken breasts, remove them from the pan, make the sauce and then re-add). It's also easier to use fake meat--Quorn tenders to be precise. If you're squeamish about fake meat and have no interest in chicken, my guess is that the dish would also be fine without a central protein.

It turns out that Elspeth was less fond of this dish than I expected, largely, I think, due to the nuts. I think the texture threw her off. When I make it again, I think I'll whiz the nuts and the cream in the blender to make a very smooth nutty cream.

2 TBSP olive oil
2 c. diced onion
1/4 tsp ground cayenne (optional or to taste)
2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 c toasted walnuts
1/2 c toasted almonds
1 1/2 c cream
1 1/2 c chicken or veggie stock
1 bunch greens, finely chopped and steamed
1 package Quorn tenders (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Prepare whatever pasta you're using according to the directions; if you're using dried pasta, you can make the sauce in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta
  2. If you want a really smooth sauce, combine the nuts, cream and stock in the blender and process until it's a nice consistency. Set aside
  3. Place olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent
  4. Stir in the coriander and cayenne and cook another 3 minutes
  5. Add the nut/stock/cream mixture and cook for a few minutes
  6. Now add the previously steamed greens and the package of Quorn
  7. Continue cooked until the Quorn is all the way cooked and the sauce has reduced and thickened
  8. Serve over pasta

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Potato Heaven

I mentioned this one last night over cocktails with some moms from preschool and was requested to post it. Patricia Wells has a recipe in her Bistro cookbook that I think is called Lyonnaise Potatoes or Galette Lyonnaise but that we call Potato Heaven. Not revolutionary but awfully tasty. I need to make it again, soon. In my lean and hungry days post-college, I think when I made this it became my entire meal. These days, I'd be more apt to use it as a side dish. It also occurred to me as I was falling asleep last night that it could make a super-tasty topping for Shepherd's Pie.

2 lb. baking potatoes
2 medium onions, cut in half and then sliced into half moons
6 TBSP unsalted butter
Lots of freshly-grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly-ground pepper to taste

  1. Boil your potatoes as if you're going to mash them and set aside
  2. Cook sliced onions in 2 TBSP (1 ounce) melted butter until soft but not brown
  3. Grate in tons of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper
  4. Gently smash your potatoes (you don't want them to be too smooth) and add to onions
  5. Add 2 TBSP more butter; always grate in more nutmeg at this point, too
  6. Put in a baking dish (9x13 glass one is great, or a large oval ceramic dish) and dot the top with yet again 2 TBSP butter
  7. Put under the broiler until butter is melted and top is lightly browned

Southwest Quinoa Salad or Soup

This is a great hot weather recipe that we learned at our Organically Grown Babies class at the local co-op. It's very adaptable to any changes you want to make in the type or nature of the veggies. For example, Elspeth loves peppers, but only when they're cooked. So instead of adding raw red pepper, I added a roasted one. The original recipe calls for jicama, which we don't love and never have around, so last summer when we were overrun with CSA radishes, I substituted those. (They do turn bitter after a day, so you'll want to add a fresh batch at each meal). Another of Elspeth's favorite veggies is corn, so I cooked from organic frozen corn kernels and threw those in. The possible combinations are legion. (A side note here. This is how far overboard I go sometimes in my locavore and parenting perfectionism: we're considering getting an Oxo implement that takes corn off a cob. This made me think that I was now obligated to cook and strip enough corn kernels to keep Elspeth in local corn for an entire year. Evan talked me down from that ledge by looking at me as if I were completely insane, which I was, for a moment).

Well, as it turned out, Elspeth just wasn't fond of the texture of the room temperature cooked quinoa. I know she likes quinoa, so I searched my brain for alternatives. I was quite proud of myself for coming up with the idea of turning it into soup! I took some of the quinoa, black beans, carrots, and roasted red pepper and warmed them in some chicken stock. I pureed this blend until smooth. To add texture, I then added some additional beans whole and some frozen corn and let it cook in the soup. I am pleased to say that Elspeth seemed to like it quite a bit, though she also demanded that I add cooked peas, mainly because she adores peas and prefers to eat them with every meal.

I adapted the technique of this recipe further by keeping everything separate until eating time. This allows all eaters to choose exactly the ingredients and proportions to put in their bowls. It also makes the salad taste nicer if you're going to have leftovers. I dressed the quinoa, the beans and the roasted pepper/ corn, so each had some of the lime flavor.

1 1/2 c. uncooked quinoa, well rinsed
2 c. water
pinch of salt

1 1/2 c. cooked black beans
1 red bell pepper, roasted or raw, in bite-sized pieces
1/4 c. chopped cilantro or parsley (optional)
1 c. chopped jicama or radishes (optional)
2 c. chopped carrots (I steamed some lightly for Elspeth's portion and used these cooked carrots in the soup version)
1 c. cooked corn kernels

1/4 c. canola oil
2-4 TBSP freshly-squeezed lime juice
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional)
Pinch salt

1/2 c. toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 avocado, in chunks

  1. Place the rinsed quinoa in a large saucepan, cover with the water and add a pinch of salt
  2. Cover the pot, bring to a boil over medium heat and then reduce heat to a simmer
  3. Cook approximately 20 minutes or until all the water is absorbed and there are holes in the grain (do not stir)
  4. Remove quinoa from heat and set aside to cool slightly
  5. Whisk up the dressing
  6. When the quinoa is no longer steaming, mix half of the dressing into it
  7. In a separate bowl, coat the black beans with about 3/4 of the remaining dressing
  8. Finally, coat the remaining vegetables with the rest of the dressing (you can mix or keep separate these veggies at your discretion, but as I mentioned, if using radish, it should be kept separate and chopped up fresh at each meal)
  9. Give each eater a bowl and assemble as desired, using pepitas and avocado for garnish