September 21, 2009

Apple Ginger Oat Crisp

My favorite desserts are rustic, not-too-sweet, can be thrown together in minutes, and feature in-season fruit -- and of course are even better served warm with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. A fruit crisp is a perfect example.

I usually prefer to use butter in baking, because it can be beneficial in the digestion of flour. However, a vegan variation of this crisp can be easily achieved: just substitute coconut oil for the butter (not the extra-virgin variety, though - it imparts a coconut flavor that wouldn't go with the apples). For the topping, the coconut oil can be measured, chilled until it turns solid, then cut into bits and incorporated into the oat mixture.

Apple Ginger Oat Crisp

For topping:
1 cup rolled oats
2 Tbsp whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp fine-grained sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
3 Tbsp maple syrup (I like Grade B)
3 Tbsp cold, unsalted butter (or coconut oil), diced

For apples:
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp maple syrup
3 Tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
Buttered or oiled 8x8 inch baking dish or pie pan
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Combine oats, flour, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and maple syrup in a bowl. Using a knife or pastry cutter, cut in the cold butter until a pebbly texture is achieved. Refrigerate mixture while sauteing apples.
  • Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add apples and saute for 5-8 minutes, until tender (but not falling apart) and starting to lightly brown. Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon, maple syrup, and chopped ginger.
  • Transfer apple mixture to a baking dish and spread oat mixture evenly over the top.
  • Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until topping is crisp and lightly browned. Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

September 20, 2009

Orzo with Roasted Buttercup Squash and Broccoli Rabe

Fall is almost here, and I want comfort food. This dish takes advantage of the beautiful fall/winter squash showing up at farmers' markets these days, and makes a nice light dinner with a salad (we had heirloom tomatoes with parsley and XVOO). It would also be a great side dish. Any firm-fleshed squash will work: buttercup, butternut, acorn, delicata, etc. For the green component, kale, spinach, or Swiss chard could be substituted for the broccoli rabe.

1 2-pound winter squash
1 bunch broccoli rabe, chopped into bite-size pieces (about 6 cups)
extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1-1/2 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
3-1/2 cups broth (vegetable or chicken)
1 cup orzo pasta
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano
Sea salt
Black pepper
  • Preheat oven too 400 degrees F.
  • Cut squash in half lengthwise and remove seeds and pulp (save the seeds for roasting). Cut squash into wedges leaving skin on (if buttercup, acorn, or other thick-skinned varieties), or peel and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (if using butternut or delicata). Toss the squash with 2 Tbsp XVOO, pinch of sea salt, and pinch of pepper in a bowl and transfer to a baking dish. Roast at 400 F for about 25 minutes, until tender and golden brown. If squash was roasted with skin on, remove skin with a paring knife and cut into 1/2-inch chunks.
  • Heat 2 Tbsp XVOO in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add broccoli rabe and a pinch of salt, and saute for about 5 minutes. Cover and cook an additional 5 minutes until broccoli rabe is tender.
  • Saute onion with a pinch of salt in 1 Tbsp XVOO for 5 minutes. Add minced rosemary and saute for another minute.
  • Bring chicken broth to a boil in a pot, add orzo and cook for 8 to 9 minutes (al dente).
  • Add squash, broccoli rabe, onion and rosemary mixture, toasted pine nuts, and grated parmigiano to pot with orzo. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Serve as is, or transfer to a baking dish, top with a bit more parmigiano, and broil for 5 minutes until top is golden.

September 18, 2009

Pasta Bolognese

Sometimes you feel like greens and beans, and sometimes you feel like spaghetti with meaty Bolognese sauce. Or, at least I do. These days, it's 100% grass-fed beef going into the sauce. Way healthier than grain (corn) fed beef - both for the cows and for us. Pastured meat has a much higher content of omega-3 fatty acids and also of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a naturally occurring family of fatty acids that have antiinflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties. The sauce is even better the next day, after all the flavors have had a chance to mingle and meld overnight in the fridge.

Grass-Fed Beef Bolognese
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup) 
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 carrot, chopped (about 1/2 cup) 
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup) 
  • 1 pound ground grass-fed beef (I used 85% lean) 
  • 1 cup hearty red wine (eg, Cabernet) 
  • 1 tsp dried oregano 
  • 1 tsp dried basil 
  • 1 tsp dried thyme 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes 
  • 1 25-ounce can whole plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano) 
  • sea salt 
  • black pepper 
  •  1 pound spaghetti, boiled in plenty of salted water until al dente 
  • For garnish (optional): chopped fresh parsley, freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano
Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed, nonreactive sauce pan or pot (eg, enameled cast iron or stainless steel). Add onion and a pinch of salt, and saute for 5-8 minutes until softened. Add garlic, carrot, and celery to pot, and cook over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes until vegetables are beginning to brown.

Add ground beef, pinches of salt and pepper, and saute until nicely browned. If there is too much fat in the pot, pour off some of it (in our case the meat was quite lean so this wasn't necessary).

Add wine and herbs. Simmer until wine has reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes with their liquid and red pepper flakes. Break apart tomatoes with a spoon. Simmer sauce for 30-60 minutes, covered. If the sauce is looking a little thinner than you'd like it, leave the lid off for the final 10 to 15 minutes of cooking to allow excess liquid to evaporate. 

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Toss a couple of ladlefuls of sauce with the cooked pasta, then top each serving with additional sauce, chopped parsley, and/or grated parmigiano.

September 14, 2009

Garlicky Pinto Beans and Kale

Beans and dark leafy greens make a simple, hearty, and nutrient-packed side dish or meal -- great served with steamed brown rice, quinoa, or bulgur. Depending on how pungent you'd like the garlic flavor, either add it at the same time as the red pepper flakes (it will cook and become more mellow) or at the end (more pungent).
Extra virgin olive oil (2-3 Tbsp)
Hot pepper flakes (about 1/2 tsp)
1 to 1-1/2 pounds kale, cut into bite-size pieces
1-1/2 cups cooked pinto beans*
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Sea salt
Black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  • Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a medium-sized pot. Stir in red pepper flakes and allow to infuse for about 1 minute.
  • Add kale and a pinch of salt. Stir until kale wilts.
  • Add beans to the pot and stir to combine. Cover and allow to cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  • Turn off heat and stir in garlic and lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Sprinkle each serving with a bit of parmesan and drizzle with olive oil.
*Soak beans in cold water for 6-12 hours. Rinse, place in a pot, and cover with plenty of fresh cold water. Add about a 1-inch piece of dried kombu (kelp), cover, bring to a boil, and add a big pinch of salt. Simmer covered for 1 to 1-1/2 hours until beans are tender.

September 11, 2009

And the winner is...

Huge THANKS to everyone who voted in the Vegetarian Times Chefs' Challenge this summer. My recipe for Sicilian Style Roasted Vegetables with Balsamic Syrup won in the side dish category and will be featured in the January 2010 issue of the magazine!

September 7, 2009

Tomatillo and Tomato Salad with Serrano + Lime

Tomatillos resemble little green tomatoes that have been wrapped in a thin papery husk. They are related to the gooseberry and, like tomatoes, are part of the nightshade family. However they have a fruity and subtly sweet and sour flavor.

Tomatillos are often used in salsa verde, a sauce that also includes green chilis, lime, and cilantro, and is used widely in Mexican and Southwestern cooking. Salsa verde had been my only experience with the tomatillo until yesterday, when, pondering what to do with the tomatillos I'd brought home from the farmers' market, I decided to build a salad around them with heirloom tomatoes, serrano chili, fresh herbs, and lime juice, to accompany a lime-marinated, grass-fed skirt steak. It was a delicious combination.

I used basil and parsley in the salad because those were the herbs I had on hand, but cilantro would also be great. With the pale green tomatillos, orange and yellow tomatoes, and deep green herbs, this salad is as beautiful as it is delicious.

Tomatillo and Tomato Salad with Serrano + Lime
Serves 2-4

5-6 tomatillos
2 ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh basil leaves
2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 serrano chili, with stem, seeds, and pith removed, minced
Juice of 1 lime (about 2 Tbsp)
3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
  • Remove papery husks from the tomatillos and rinse well under warm water to remove the sticky substance on their skins. 
  • Slice tomatillos thinly and transfer to a bowl with the chopped tomatoes. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt, toss to combine, and allow to sit for about 10 minutes (this draws water out of the fruits and brings out their sweetness).
  • Stir in red onion, herbs, serrano chili, lime juice, and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.