2.22.2009

Roast Kohlrabi with Romesco Sauce

roasted kohlrabi with romesco sauce
Romesco sauce is a wonderful accompaniment to a lot of foods. While I didn't have any nyora (traditional dried red peppers) to make a strict Romesco, substituting red bell pepper with some smoked paprika will work in a pinch. To the red pepper all you need are some almonds, garlic, olive oil, and salt. A very simple sauce, for a very simple vegetable: kohlrabi.


2 kohlrabi, bulbs only
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ cup almonds, chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
fresh chopped parsley, for garnish
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 450°F.  Peel and chop kohlrabi into one inch chunks.  Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in an oven proof pan on the stove. When the oil is shimmering, add kohlrabi. Toss carefully to coat the kohlrabi in the oil and put into oven. Roast for about 25-30 minutes. Check frequently to make sure the kohlrabi isn't burning and stir to allow for even browning.

Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp olive oil on the stove over medium-low heat. Add smoked paprika and garlic and gently cook for a few minutes. Add red bell pepper and almonds and cook until the bell pepper is just done. Remove from heat and place in a food processor. To the mixture add red wine vinegar. Carefully process the mixture until just smooth. Some chunks are okay, but nothing too big. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve with kohlrabi garnished with parsley.

2.18.2009

Radicchio, Sage, and Taleggio Crostini

radicchio, sage, and taleggio crostini

One of my favorite parts about serving food to important people in my life is the anticipation. And I don't necessarily mean their anticipation. I am talking about my anticipation. It sounds weird, I know, but that moment right when you start to serve the food might be on of my favorite parts of a lengthy sit down dinner. All the work is now pretty much done (minus a few last minute details during plating) and you can finally start to enjoy the evening. Everyone has arrived. Coats are tossed onto a rocking chair in the living room and all the settings on the table now have a human counterpart. Someone has prudently opened a bottle of wine. A quick toast to good friends, and then the food begins.....


My second favorite moment? The first bite, of course.


In the spirit of that first bite, I thought I would offer a very simple starter. (I haven't posted one of these in a while.) Crostini would also work well simply as finger food if you make them small enough. But since at this point no one is standing around mingling, I like to slice long, narrow segments of baguettes. These normally take only two or three bites. 


radicchio, sage, and taleggio, crostini

12 thins slices of baguette, cut on the bias
3 shallots, minced
1 small head of radicchio, leaves cut chiffonade
12 leaves of fresh sage, chopped
⅓ lb. of taleggio cheese, at room temperature
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


Begin by spreading a small amount of taleggio onto each slice of baguette. In a toaster oven, lightly toast for a few minutes until cheese is nice and melted. (This can also be done in a regular oven at 350°F for a few minutes.)

In a saucepan, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add shallot and a pinch of salt. Gently saute until translucent. Add sage, radicchio, and a little black pepper. Stir and cook until radicchio is just beginning to wilt. Quickly remove from pan onto a plate.

Top toasted and cheesy baguette with radicchio and serve.


radicchio, sage, and taleggio, crostini

2.15.2009

Broccoli Pesto with Cannellini Beans

broccoli pesto with cannellini beans
Since I live very close to a farmer's market, a local food market, and a massive supermarket, I usually don't have to bring a wheel barrow when I do my food shopping. Instead of doing my shopping for a few weeks, I find it easier to go once or twice a week. This method allows great freedom in what I cook because I don't have to plan far ahead. Besides, the odds that I will want to eat a meal I plan on making two weeks down the road are pretty slim. I'm more of a "that-should-taste-good-I-think-I'll-make-that-tonight" kinda guy. So I can make a quick run to the store or farmer's market and grab what I need.

But sometimes you just don't feel like running around to two different food stores. Sometimes you just want to make something and eat it for a week (lasagna: I''m looking in your direction). When this urge arises, I tend to make something that I can use for a variety of meals and that is simple to make.

Enter broccoli pesto. This delicious sauce is not only really good for you, but also works to keep you satisfied every night of the week. Tonight, I topped some cannellini beans with a bit of crushed red pepper and smothered it in this broccoli pesto, an extra splash of olive oil, and a touch of parsley. This pesto would also work great on pasta, roasted vegetables, a nice piece of fish, white pizza, etc. With so many choices, you'll be happily reaching for this pesto for days!


3 small heads of broccoli, seperated into florets
3 cloves garlic
8 whole hazelnuts
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 oz. parmigiano reggiano cheese
2 cups water
juice of one lemon
parsley, for garnish
salt and pepper to taste


In a large saucepan, bring water to a boil with a healthy pinch of salt. Add broccoli florets and cook until just done. This should only take a few minutes.  Meanwhile, in a food processor: add hazelnuts, garlic, parmigiano reggiano, and half of the olive oil. Process to a smooth paste and scrape into a large bowl.

When the broccoli is done, drain in a colander. Make sure to reserve a cup of the water. Process the broccoli in the food processor, in batches if you need to. Add some of the olive oil in each batch. Combine broccoli with the garlic, hazelnut, and cheese puree.  Stir to combine. Add juice of the lemon. At this time, you may add up to a cup of the water the broccoli was cooked in to thin out the pesto. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


broccoli pesto with cannellini beans
I served this with some cannellini beans that I briefly cooked in olive oil with a little crushed red pepper. Such a good combination. I also will add, that I have Karen at Off the Meat Hook to thank for this. It was something I was thinking about making, and stumbling across her version of the pesto helped me bring mine into to focus.

2.14.2009

Wine Braised Leeks with Mushrooms, Polenta, and Gorgonzola

wine braised leeks with mushrooms, polenta, and gorgonzola

This past week has been remarkably warm here in Baltimore. With a few days seeing the mercury hovering in the 60's, it is easy to forget that we are still in the middle of February. I would normally say to enjoy it while you can because I wouldn't be surprised if Old Man Winter still has a few tricks up his icy sleeves, but it was just too nice outside for that kind of talk. So I decided to combine winter and spring flavors into one small meal. Springy leeks are braised in red wine and combined with mushrooms, creamy polenta, and a bit of tangy gorgonzola. This is based off of a braised leek recipe I used to make but cannot locate right now. 



2 leeks, trimmed of their greens
2 large mushrooms, sliced, no stems
1 ½ cups red wine
1 tsp fresh marjoram
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups water
½ cup corn meal
gorgonzola, for garnish
salt and pepper to taste


Over medium heat, heat oil in a large sauce pan. As the oil is heating, trim the leeks into a log shape. Slice in half lengthwise and briefly rinse under running water to remove any dirt that may be trapped between the layers.

To the oil, add the mushrooms and cook until done. Remove from pan and lightly season with salt.  In the same sauce pan, place the leeks cut side down in the remaining oil. Gently saute until the leeks start to get nice and golden brown. Add the marjoram, wine, and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low and cover. Gently cook until leeks are cooked through and wine has reduced to a few tablespoons.

Meanwhile, in another pot, bring the water up to a boil. Add butter and a healthy pinch of salt. When the water is at a full boil, quickly whisk in corn meal. Reduce heat and cook until the cornmeal has absorbed all the liquid, stirring occasionally. 

Assemble by plating the polenta and then the mushrooms. Spoon the reduction over the mushrooms and top with a few leeks. Garnish with gorgonzola and black pepper.



wine braised leeks with mushrooms, polenta, and gorgonzola

2.06.2009

Brussells Sprouts and Green Onion Galette with Walnut Mustard

brussells sprouts and green onion galette with walnut mustard

You don't see very much baking on this blog. That's not because don't like baking. In college I spent a good four month period where I baked my own bread once a week. Of course, I would have to make three loaves at a time (two for me for sandwiches and such, and one for my roommates to eat). But the main reason I don't bake these days is a pretty lame excuse: my oven.

Normally, ovens cycle themselves on and off to regulate temperature. Mine tends to be on the lazy side a bit. I tend to observe that my oven runs a little high and then cycles itself off for a long time. This doesn't seem to be a big deal for roasting or braising, but it does effect things like trying to bake bread when you want to maintain a certain temperature to allow for a fuller rise. But regardless, I still wanted to bake something. And with a little puff pastry on my side, all I needed for a great galette were some healthy and seasonal toppings.


brussells sprouts and green onion galette with walnut mustard

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
1 dozen brussells sprouts, cut in half lengthwise
1 bunch green onion, cut into two inch pieces
3 tbsp whole grain mustard
¼ cup walnuts, chopped
3 ½ tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp parmesan cheese, finely shredded
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400°F. In a large skillet, heat 3 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. When oil is good and hot, but not smoking, add brussells sprouts cut side down. Cook until the cut side is starting to brown. We are looking for a rich golden color. Like so:


When they all look as dashing as the one above, flip them over to brown the other side. Reduce heat a little as to not burn the outside leaves too much. Cook until just tender. Remove from heat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To prepare your puff pastry, gently unfold pastry onto parchment paper on a baking sheet. The pastry should be thawed, but still cold. I like to give mine a brief once over with my rolling pin to compress the layers just a little bit. I want this galette to have a slightly thinner crust.

With the back of a spoon or a spatula, evenly spread the mustard all over, leaving the last ¼ inch still exposed. Sprinkle with walnuts, brussells sprouts, green onion, and parmesan cheese. Brush the exposed pastry edge with the remaining ½ tbsp of olive oil to aid in browning. (You could also do an egg wash. Which is even better. Why didn't I? Simple: I was out of eggs. Sue me.  No. You probably shouldn't.) It should all look like this:


brussells sprouts and green onion galette with walnut mustard

Bake for around 15 minutes until the crust is cooked through and nice and golden. Also, a note about brussells sprouts for you sprout haters: stop the hate. I realize these little guys get a bad rap. But hey, if you like coleslaw, you should like brussells sprouts. There are just tiny cabbages. Nothing wrong with that. If you are still on the fence, you could up the flavor with some goat cheese or even that one ingredient that does make everything better: bacon.


brussells sprouts and green onion galette with walnut mustard

2.02.2009

Vegetarian Tomato-less Chili

vegetarian tomato-less chili
Before I start getting angry hate mail from Texans calling for me to jump off a bridge, let's get something straight: I know this might not actually be chili.  Most (i.e.- all) people from Texas pretty much agree that this is chili:

Chilies + Spices (oregano, cumin, garlic) + Meat (beef) + Tomatoes = Chili

You will notice that there are no beans. While I am not about to find out, I imagine serving chili with beans to a Texan is akin to slapping a lion across the face just to see how it will react. But who cares? I live in Maryland. I put beans in my chili. I'm all for the 'when in Rome' attitude if I was sitting in a restaurant in Houston. In that case, I would happily forgo expectations of having a single bean in my chili. Until then, I'm gonna make it how I want to. And this time, I decided to challenge myself to leave out that other chili staple: the tomato.


2 yellow summer squash, chopped
2 acorn squash, sliced in half lengthwise and seeded
1 large onion, chopped
1 cubanelle pepper, chopped
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1 small eggplant, sliced in half lengthwise
1 small can green chilies
15 oz. black beans, cooked
15 oz. hominy, cooked
3 cloves of garlic
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp cumin, freshly ground
2 tbsp smoked paprika
3/4 tbsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp oregano
1/4 cup cilantro, washed and minced
salt and pepper to taste

Garnish:

sour cream
1 cup water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 jalapeno, finely diced


Preheat oven to 375°F.

Coat the cut sides of the acorn squash and eggplant with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast squash until it is cooked through. Roast eggplant until it is practically collapsing on itself. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

In a large pot, heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over a medium flame with the cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Add onion, cubanelle pepper, orange bell pepper, yellow squash, oregano, and garlic. Cook until tender, without burning the garlic.

In a large bowl, scoop out eggplant from it's skin and mash with a fork until it is a smooth paste. Do the same with one of the acorn squash. Stir in green chilies, black beans, hominy, and cilantro and add to the pot.  Add 1 cup of water and simmer for 15 minutes.

Peel the remaining acorn squash and cut into 1" to 1.5" cubes. Gently fold cubes into the pot, trying not to break them up. Add some hot sauce if you like as well. Taste for salt and pepper. 


Garnish:

I like this simple garnish on my chili. It is a slightly lazier version of the garnish on enchiladas de plaza from Diana Kennedy, the best thing to happen to Mexican cuisine since chocolate.

In a small sauce pan, bring water and apple cider vinegar to a boil. Add finely diced jalapeno (as well as radish, carrot or even potato if you would like), cover, and turn off the heat. Remove from the water after five minutes and you will have the perfect little jalapeno pickle to put atop some rich sour cream.  Serve hot.