vegetables

Pasta Romanesco

by Caroline

Of all the new vegetables we’ve met via our CSA — the cardoons, the agretti — I think my favorite might be romanesco broccoli, the fractal vegetable. It’s firmer than standard broccoli but sweeter than cauliflower, and it tasted great the other night in an easy pasta with lemon zest, sliced almonds, and asiago cheese. Here’s the recipe:

12 ounces campanelle or penne pasta
7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 heads roughly chopped Romanesco broccoli (about 1 1/4 lbs. total)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
Zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/4 cup shredded asiago cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tbsp. oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Add Romanesco and 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender-crisp, about 5 minutes. Add 1 tbsp. more oil to pan along with garlic and chile flakes. Cook until garlic is fragrant and light golden and Romanesco is tender, about 5 minutes more.

Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta water, and return to pot. Stir in Romanesco mixture, lemon zest, almonds, cheese, remaining 3 tbsp. oil and 1/4 tsp. salt, and enough pasta water to moisten (about 3/4 cup).

Pumpkin Coconut Milk Curry

by Caroline

My parents are visiting this week (on the California leg of my Dad’s book tour) — and that means I am experimenting with recipes I wouldn’t make for just the four of us.

My parents (unlike my children) are eager and adventurous eaters, and while the food here ultimately matters less to them, I think, than the company (grandchildren!), they’re happy to eat just about whatever Tony or I feels like cooking. They like to cook, but I know it’s a nice break for them to be catered to; they have a great store of homegrown produce in their root cellar and freezer, but I know that what looked like an appealing bounty in August can start to feel a tiresome burden in October. Because everyone, not just the parents of young and picky eaters, gets into food ruts. Whatever breaks you out of a routine — houseguests, the change in seasons, a new recipe — is a blessing. Right now, we’ve got all three working for us, and I’m grateful.

I spotted this curry recipe a couple weeks ago, just before the first pumpkin arrived in our CSA, and have been saving it for my parents, though it’s a mild enough curry that your kids may like it, too (mine tasted it, and then ate rice with plain tofu). I’ve linked to the original and will paste in the recipe as I made it.

1 1/2 quarts peeled pumpkin or other orange-fleshed squash, chopped into 1 1/2″ chunks (from a 3-lb. squash)
About 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 onion, halved and cut into half-moons
1 or 2 red or green serrano chiles, minced (adjust to taste)
1 cinnamon stick
20 fresh curry leaves (the original recipe suggests you can substitue bay leaves but I wouldn’t recommend it; just leave the curry leaves out if you can’t find them)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 can (14.5 oz.) coconut milk
1/2 lb tofu, cut into chunks (not in the original recipe, but added for extra protein)
1 cup salted roasted cashews (I happened only to have peanuts, which were fine; toasted pumpkin seeds would be nice, too)
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice (or, in my case, as much juice as you can squeeze from half a lime)

Preparation

1. Sprinkle pumpkin chunks with 1/2 tsp. salt. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Brown half the pumpkin in oil, turning once, 6 to 8 minutes; reduce heat if pumpkin starts getting dark. Transfer to a bowl and repeat with 1 tbsp. oil and remaining pumpkin. Set all the pumpkin aside in a bowl.

2. Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tbsp. oil in another large frying pan over medium heat. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until deep golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer half to the pumpkin- frying pan and reserve other half in a bowl.

3. Add chiles, cinnamon, and curry leaves to onion in pan. Cook, stirring often, until curry leaves are very fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add turmeric, cumin, and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and cook, stirring, until spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.

4. Return pumpkin to the pan with the onion and spices and add the coconut milk and tofu. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer until pumpkin is tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Stir in lemon or lime juice, and add more salt to taste. Top curry with nuts and reserved onion and serve over rice.

Warm Escarole Salad with Apples and Nuts (Success!)

by Caroline

As Tolstoy didn’t write, easygoing eaters are all the same; every picky eater is picky in his or her own way.

So I was reminded the other night when I unpacked our CSA share and pulled out a bunch of escarole bigger than my head:

“Yum!” said Ben. “What’s that?”

Can we just pause a moment to unpack those two short sentences? To marvel at the uncharacteristic enthusiasm — “Yum!” — which precedes the question? Because this cheerful reaction came from a child who generally approaches the world with a healthy dose of skepticism, and examines each bite he takes as carefully as the local health inspector. He will not tolerate butter or cheese (especially–shudder– if they are melted); frets if I put any kind of cooked dried bean (black, white, navy, garbanzo) on his plate; and rejects tomatoes in all their glorious forms (fresh, sauced, dried). On the other hand, he will eat whole wedges of lemon (rind and all), loves pickled burdock root, any manner of candied peel, and all cooked greens. The more sour and bitter, the better.

So I thought I had a good shot at getting him to eat escarole, especially when the sheet of recipes from our CSA included one for a warm salad of escarole, apples, raisins and toasted nuts. The original has cheese, which sounds delicious to me, but I didn’t have any, and Ben wouldn’t have eaten it that way, anyway. As it turned out, Ben liked it (though he found the escarole a bit chewy; I’ll tear the leaves up smaller next time), and even Eli, who of course is his own brand of picky (he doesn’t like any cooked vegetables), gave it long consideration rather than reject it automatically. So I’m calling this one a success.


Warm Escarole, Apple and Walnut Salad (adapted from a recipe by Jonathan Miller):

1/4 c raisins
1 apple, peeled and cut into wedges
1 head of escarole (my bunch was so big, I used less than half, which turned out to be one pound)
1 lemon
1/4 c chopped walnuts or pecans
2 oz gruyere
butter or olive oil

Cover the raisins with boiling water and let sit while you prepare the rest of the dish.
Zest the lemon and then squeeze out the juice. Keep them separate.
Wash the escarole and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces.

Heat a large skillet with a couple tablespoons of butter or olive oil. Add the apples and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium-low heat until the apples have softened. Put in a large serving bowl with a splash of the lemon juice.

In the same skillet, toast the nuts until they’re dark brown and fragrant. Remove from the pan and set aside (don’t put them in with the apples just yet, or they’ll get soggy).

Now add a bit more olive oil or butter to the pan, the lemon zest, the remaining lemon juice, the escarole and a splash of water; cover the pan and let the escarole cook. As soon as the water begins to steam, uncover the pan and continue to cook, stirring, until the escarole is just wilted. Transfer to the serving bowl with the apples. Drain the raisins and sprinkle both those and the toasted nuts on top. Use a vegetable peeler to shave the gruyere on top and serve.

Click here for other escarole recipes.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

by Caroline


A friend of mine reviews reviews for websites; you read that right: if you write a product review of an item you buy online, chances are she or one of her colleagues will vet your review before it is published, checking for inappropriate language, slander, and other no-no’s. But even acceptable reviews are often riddled with punctuation and grammar errors, and I often think of my friend, waging a lonely, one-woman battle against misplaced modifiers and comma splices. The excerpts she posts on Facebook every day — especially the ones with grammatical errors that introduce unintentionally hilarious meanings (think, “Eats, Shoots and Leaves”) — make my day.

But it’s got me thinking about recipe-writing and reviewing. I use recipe websites all the time, and often use the reviews to guide my choices, but I’m always amazed (and kind of amused) at the reviews that say something like “This cake was terrible!! I cut the sugar by 50%, replaced the butter with pureed prunes, and used wheat germ and ground flax instead of white flour; it was so dry! it wasn’t nearly sweet enough! I won’t ever make this again!!” (Online reviewers always use multiple exclamation points). Yes, well, serves you right, I think.

I adapt recipes, and I do often cut sugar or replace shortening with ground flaxseed meal, but usually not until the second time around. It doesn’t seem right to tinker until I really understand what the recipe’s doing. And when I tinker, I’ll let you know so that you can make your own decisions about the changes.

The chocolate zucchini cake recipe I made this week from Epicurious has a raft of reviews and for some reason this time they really drew me in. As usual, a number of reviewers simply praised the recipe; others (helpfully) explained changes they made and their result; others criticized the recipe after make unsuccessful changes; and then — my favorite — others told off the critics who had made ill-advised substitutions:

“Yep, if you start making substitutions, don’t blame the recipe.”

And even better:
“Did anybody actually make THIS cake???? By the time you make all the substitutions and revisions, it’s not the same cake. Who gives a rat’s behind about what everyone did to alter the cake, just RATE THE DAMN THING! Whooo, now that i got that off my chest, yes, I do feel better. Incidentally, the cake I made using THIS recipe, was fabulous.”

I have to agree. I made this cake and it is good.

Pasta with Arugula, Tomato and Egg

by Caroline

I am trying to get back into a regular yoga routine (a routine abandoned years ago, after two good stints of beneficial prenatal yoga, after Eli proved uninterested in mom + baby yoga) and I’m getting better at getting to class and moving through the poses. But concentrating on my breathing? Concentrating on the poses? That’s not really happening yet. Instead, I have to admit, I spend much of the 90 minutes, especially the final savasana, pondering my next meal.

So it was today. I lay there, eyes closed, bolster over my legs, thinking about the tub of leftover pasta in the fridge, the arugula going wild in the backyard, the juicy tomatoes from the CSA. On the drive home, I remembered we still had some eggs. And so, with a grating of fresh parmesan and a sprinkle of lemon zest salt, a quick lunch was born. Its origins remind me a bit of garbage salad and although its perhaps prettiest at first, like this:

It is most delicious, like that salad, when you take your knife and fork to it and slice everything up in your bowl, letting the arugula wilt and mellow a bit with the heat of the pasta and egg, the runny egg yolk and tomato juice making your sauce, like this:

It made a great lunch, though of course it would make a nice simple dinner, too, with some crusty bread on the side; your salad is already in the bowl.