Thursday, March 26, 2009

Food is beautiful

Sometimes the image is a good as the taste. And the taste of this was great. Beet and carrot salad. Gushed over before, but repeated often.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Savory Breakfast, redux

I learned it from Tea and Food ( you really have TWENTY ONE posts about savory breakfasts?!), and Bittman made it popular. And it's still yummy, and I haven't grown tired of my morning oats and protein. Usually cheese, but sometimes egg...which is way more attractive. And sometimes some other grains, but not often enough. I had some leftover bulghur the other day that worked well.

Some pics, just because.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I almost didn't cook tonight

The beet greens wilting in the fridge were weighing on my conscience, and I knew I had to do something soon. But I had just driven back and forth to Hartford (two hours each way) for a one hour meeting and I was worn out and a little stressed from work. I did the quick change out of business armor and into my comfies, when I thought that a walk would do me good. But even the thought of a walk was overwhelming. Meditate. Why not meditate? I'd learned how from the book "The Relaxation Response" that had been written up somewhere or other recently, and found that it worked pretty well at reviving me -- even better than a nap. And it did! Fifteen minutes, eyes closed, saying "one" every time I exhaled, another five minutes to come back to the world, and I was raring to go. A fifteen minute walk livened me up even further, and I was eager to get going.

It became the evening to take care of the guilt. There was a butternut squash sitting on my counter since CHRISTMAS. And it's almost the end of March! It was time. I've always been reticent about using squash, because I think it's too much work to split open, peel and seed. Not so. At least with a good sharp knife. My new chef's knife went through almost as easy as butter. And the seeds came out in a snap, and my peeler made short work of the outer peel. Butternut squash is my squash of choice because of the smooth skin that lets you take nice long strokes with the peeler. Those acorn squash with their ridges are just impossible. So I got half the squash cut nicely into cubes, and then into a few splashes of olive oil in my new All-Clad 12 inch skillet.

The knife and skillet were new acquisitions, courtesy of the advice of Cooks Illustrated. It was hard to resist their gushing over these two. But I digress -- I think a separate post on the new equipment is in order. Soon.

The trick I learned this weekend with cooking potatoes I applied to the squash. The trick came from this FABULOUS recipe from Heidi's 101 Cookbooks, what she called a Lentil Almond Stirfry -- but I think I'd call a Lentil Brussels Sprouts Stir Fry, with almonds and dates. Either way...I made it pretty much the way she suggested (perhaps a few more brussels sprouts), and it was a big hit. Click on the link, and you'll see her recipe and her pictures -- because I neglected to take any. And I managed to avoid increasing the quantity of dates (only TWO!), and that was the right choice. The little sweetness surprises every once in a while was perfect.

The trick, though, is to cook these winter veggies in their own steam with a few splashes of olive oil. I had read another recipe somewhere that suggested adding some water for a braise, then when the veggies were getting close to tender, crank up the heat, and they brown nicely in the oil (which doesn't evaporate). Cool. Very cool. And it worked perfectly for these squash.

So...cubed squash, into a few splashes of oil heated on low-medium heat, creating just a hint of a sizzle, then about a half cup of water and cover, and turn low. Meanwhile, I sliced up a half onion, and just dumped those in with the squash.

While that was all going on, I prepped the beet greens. Just sliced the leafy part into thin ribbons (half-inch wide maybe), and when I got to the tougher stems, I cut those up into smaller pieces and kept them separate.

Once the squash were tender, and the onions fragrant (15 minutes or so), I cranked up the heat to get rid of the water...maybe five minutes, then another five minutes still on high to get some browning on the bottom of the squash. While the squash were browning, I plopped the beet green stems on top, to get those cooking a bit. I left the whole thing undisturbed to get the browning to work (that new skillet is great for browning!) In the picture below, you can see that I wasn't too careful about keeping bits of leaves from the tough stems -- no matter -- those beet greens can take it.

Oh...and I added a tablespoon or so of pancetta, for a nice umami-flavor.
Once everything was a few minutes from wanting to be done, I topped it all with the leafy part of the beet greens, and folded it all together.
The beet greens cooked down pretty quickly -- no cover needed. Maybe five minutes more, in a nice steamy, aroma filled pastiche.
This needed nothing more than a little salt and pepper. It was sweet, a little salty and very tasty. I could see all sorts of additions you could make -- some red pepper flakes or serrano chile for some heat. Pimenton for smokiness. Some herbs. But really -- it was very clean and tasty just as it was. And that deep orange, deep green and red pallate really works for me.

And I still have half of the squash in the freezer (cut into chunks) ready for the next experiment.