Saturday, November 23, 2013

Another Weeknight Keeper!

Almost every week I am trying out new recipes.  Sometimes 3 or 4 new ones make the menu and sometimes we stick with the o'll standbys.  I love it when I try a new recipe and it becomes an o'll standby.  Bucatini with Cauliflower and Brussels sprouts is one of those for sure.  If you are not in love with Brussels sprouts or cauliflower, this may just be your gateway dish.  Phoebe has been trying a Brussels sprout or two here and there and every time she likes them a little bit more.  She had a whole pile of them when I made this (and I even said it was okay to pick around them if she didn't want to eat them). 
Like I always say, get all your prep done first then cook, things will run much smoother and you will finish much quicker.  Start by peeling off the outer leaves and halving or quartering (if large) your Brussels sprouts and wash them off (these were from our garden-go us!).
Now cut and clean your cauliflower and set aside.
Next chop an onion, some fresh rosemary and thyme and slice some garlic.  You will also need to mince a few anchovies.  No, the anchovies are not pictured because lets face it, they're not very photogenic.  Speaking of anchovies, don't let them scare you off (if my sister is reading this she has completely checked out at the mention of anchovies.  Doesn't matter though because I'll feed them to her when she doesn't see it coming).  I waited to tell Phoebe about the anchovies until she had already made several declarations of approval for this meal.  Its important to know that sometimes things we don't like by themselves can really add to the flavor of a dish.
I will mention again how great fresh herbs are to have on hand.  They really can have a big impact and some, like this rosemary will last quite a while in the fridge.  While prepping all this good stuff get that salted water boiling for your pasta.
In a large deep skillet heat some olive oil.  Then add your veggies along with some salt and pepper and cook over moderately high heat until lightly browned and crisp tender.  Get your pasta in the water when boiling and cook until the package indicates for al dente.
See how nice and brown the sprouts are getting? Oh man, those are good.
Next you add another 1/4 cup of oil (Nelsy was mildly horrified by the amount of oil but it is olive oil and we all know how healthy those Mediterranean's are do we not?  And its not like we're making one serving here so I think we're okay.  Along with the olive oil goes the anchovies, onions, garlic, rosemary and thyme.  Cook stirring until onions have softened and then lower the heat and keep warm.  When I make this next time I will add a little lemon zest at this stage.  Hayden and I both agreed that a little lemon would be a nice touch.
Writing this and looking at these pictures is making me very hungry! Once the pasta is done, reserve a 1/2 cup of cooking water before draining the pasta.  Add the pasta and reserved cooking liquid to the veggies and toss until most of the liquid is absorbed.
You will see in the actual recipe that it calls for toasted breadcrumbs.  We did toast some, and burnt them and didn't eat them.  I thought it was great without them and won't bother with them next time either.  Like I said, I will add a little lemon zest.
And there you have it, one super tasty quick meal for any night of the week.  Check it out at Food & Wine and let me know what you think!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Beets Me

It seems to me that beets are not the most popular vegetable around.  I'm not sure why that is exactly, but I'm sure the reasons vary.  Some may not have been previously exposed to beets (maybe their parents didn't like them), maybe they think they taste like dirt (as a client once said) or maybe they've only had them boiled (in which case I don't really blame them)!  A few years ago I asked Nels about beets, I figured being a farm kid he must have eaten a ton of them (turns out most of my "farm kid" assumptions are wrong).  He said they didn't eat a ton of beats but when they did they were just boiled.  So we opened a can one night, boiled them up and I could then officially say I did not like beets.  Then the o'll CSA came along.  I've written many times about our beloved box of veggies that we pick up every week from Early Morning Farm (which by the way are offering a discount if you sign up by 11/30/13 for next season).  This box contains all kinds of amazing veg and often contains a few beets.  Since I was feeling less than lucky to have all these beets I started looking for other ways (besides boiling) to make them.  Luckily beets hold up really well in the fridge so its okay if you don't get to them right away.  I did remember that many moons ago I tried some pickled beets that my friend Danielle made, so I found a recipe and now keep a jar or two in the fridge to eat on salads.  My current favorite is roasted beets tossed with arugula, pistachios and bleu cheese crumbles.  I made them for Thanksgiving last year and they (spoiler alert) will be on the table again this year.  Its an easy side dish, I think you should try them out.
Get yourself a few beets and scrub the dirt off of them.
Put them in some foil with a little drizzle of olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper.
Make sure you wrap them up nice and tight.  Those suckers are juicy and you don't want all of that on the bottom of your oven (just trust me).  Roast in a 425 oven for about 45 min or until fork tender.
When they're done let them cool enough to handle and rub off the skins.  They should slip right off.

Then just cut them up to what ever size is manageable.
Clean a nice bunch of arugula.  If you're not familiar with arugula, it has a peppery taste to it.  If you're not a fan, try using fresh spinach or kale or what ever leafy greens you like.
Next, grab some pistachios and some crumbly bleu cheese.
Toss it all together while the beets are still warm.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  In case you're wondering, that is feta in the picture, I was out of bleu cheese but this tasted pretty darn good too.  Bleu is better though if you ask me.

With the high number of vitamins and minerals found in beets (potassium, magnesium, iron, vitamins A, B and C, fiber and folic acid to name a few) its worth playing around with them to find a recipe that you like.  I even had one in my smoothie this morning.  I feel like a rock star.
So if you want to live a long active life like these old geezers...OK, I couldn't resist a Halloween picture.  These are a couple of funny kids!
Bon Appetit!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Where Have You Bean All My Life?

One reason I never would have made a good vegetarian over the years (aside from the fact that I love meat) is that my taste for beans just wasn't always there.  Of course this statement makes the assumption that to be a vegetarian one must love beans.  Of course this is not necessarily true, but it couldn't hurt, especially if you wanted to be a healthy vegetarian.  I've been eating black beans for years with my favorite Mexican dishes but slowly have grown very fond of all varieties of white beans (Great Northern, cannellini, small white (?), etc.).  Kidney beans not so much.  They are still too big and beany for me.  I've posted a few good white bean recipes on this blog and today I have another (and one more coming soon.  Wow. I'm like some kind of bean freak or something.).  This one is a perfect warming soup for a chilly fall/winter afternoon.  It's quick and delicious.  Two years ago I'm pretty sure I would have never thought that I would get fired up about a White Bean and Ham Soup but here I am.  Already looking forward to the next batch.  I still think that I will never love a split pea soup, for the record.  This recipe is from my beloved Food & Wine website and I think you should whip some up this weekend.  Or tonight.  It only takes 30 minutes!
To get started preheat your oven to 350.  Then melt a tablespoon of butter in a soup pot.  Shred a couple of carrots, smash a clove of garlic and chop an onion.
Cook it in the pot with a few sprigs of thyme and a little coriander.  I am fully aware that this picture is blurry but can't we just call it an action shot?  Cook for about 3 min or until softened.
Then you add some chicken stock, 3 cans of white beans (drained and rinsed) of your choice, along with one piece of bone in smoked ham (1lb).  Bring to a boil  then lower the heat and cook partially covered for 20 minutes.
While the soup is cooking and smelling fantastic, cube a baguette and toss with olive oil and paprika and a touch of salt.  Spread them on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
They may look the same, but now they are crunchy! 
When the 20 minutes has passed, take the ham out and cut it up, remove the thyme sprigs and hit that soup with the immersion blender if you have one.  This makes it a very simple process.  If you don't have one (put it on your Christmas list) puree it in batches in your blender until smooth.
Add the ham back in, top with croutons and scallions and dig in!  This is really good stuff.  So click the link to the Food & Wine website and enjoy.