Rainbow Chard & Pea Carbonara

Spaghetti carbonara has been eluding me. In the past, things would go wrong: not enough egg to create a silky sauce; too high heat so the pancetta burned; wrong kind of cheese so that the whole dish tasted funky.

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis should know that when I find something to be culinarily challenging, I’ll keep returning to it until I’m satisfied. Plus, who wouldn’t want to master spaghetti carbonara– eggs, cheese, bacon, so delicious not to mention that it’s a super fast meal to throw together when pressed for time.

The other challenge to spaghetti carbonara for me? Trying to find a way to make myself feel a little better about eating it. In this case, I had rainbow chard and shell peas from the CSA. I thought that the bright burst of green vegetables would not only make this a dish as pretty to look at as it is to eat, but that it’d be a great way to punch up the nutritional value of this meal. It turned this pasta dish into a one pot meal since the fresh vegetables mixed in meant that I could skip out on making a side salad… or at least so I convinced myself.

With three eggs, 4 slices of bacon, some garlic that sizzled in the bacon fat, and 6 oz of ground up Parmesan cheese, I achieved the right balance for a silky sauce and the chard and peas brightened up the flavors. Fast, seemingly healthy, filling, yet light– perfecto!

  • 3/4 lb spaghetti, cooked according to package directions, reserving 1 cup of pasta cooking water
  • 4 slices thick cut bacon, diced
  • olive oil
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 6 oz Parmesan cheese, ground in a food processor
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bunch rainbow chard, chopped
  • 1/2 pound shell peas
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Boil water, salt it, and cook pasta according to package directions. While pasta cooks, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until crisp then remove to a paper towel lined plate with a slotted spoon. While bacon cooks, beat eggs in a large mixing bowl and grind cheese in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add cheese to the eggs along with 1 teaspoon salt and 3/4 teaspoon black pepper. Mix until combined. Add garlic to the bacon fat and cook for 30 seconds or until aromatic. Add the rainbow chard and peas and cook until chard is wilted and peas are bright green. When spaghetti is cooked to al dente, drain, reserving 1 cup of pasta water. Quickly toss spaghetti in egg and cheese mixture, tossing to coat each noodle in the sauce. Add pasta water as needed to achieve sauce consistency. Mix in cooked vegetables. Plate and serve immediately, topping with parsley and more cheese as desired.

CSA Count: 4

Rainbow chard, shell peas, garlic, parsley

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Sweet Potato Chicken Chili

I don’t know who declared it to be so or if this is actually a real thing, but according to Food and Wine Magazine on my twitter feed, tomorrow is National Soup Swap Day. Even if it’s not a real thing, it still sounds like a great concept– make some soup and exchange with your friends, family and neighbors. Makes sense to me since winter is soup season, and frankly, don’t we all fall into a soup rut at some point? You know, when you’re tired of making the same old chicken noodle or split pea that is in your repertoire? I know I do.

When I fall into the soup rut, I try to think of a new way to work with ingredients or methods from the soup recipe that bores me. In this case, I make a turkey chili– ground turkey, carrots, celery, kidney beans swimming in a rich and spicy tomato based broth. It’s delicious, but when I was making it at least twice a month, it was boring.

The switch up began when I had some ground chicken in the refrigerator and a leftover large yam. Inspired by an Italian style chicken chili that I saw on t.v., I set to work by cooking the ground chicken with some diced carrots and celery. I then seasoned the mix with oregano, cumin, cinnamon, and fennel seed then sprinkled in some masa harina to help thicken the soup before pouring in some chicken stock, cannellini beans, and the diced yam. Just before serving, I stirred in some rainbow chard.

This chili was so delicious! The cannellini beans were creamy, the greens were a little crisp but gave a bright and fresh flavor throughout the soup, and the yam added color as well as sweetness to balance out the mild spice and garlic of the stewed chicken meat. Make up a pot of this to swap with others, but then again, you may not want to share since it’s really good, but I suppose I shouldn’t condone that.

Note: This makes 6-8 servings. I particularly like serving this with a big wedge of custard filled cornbread.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 2 medium celery stalks, chopped
  • 13.3 oz ground chicken
  • 1/4 cup masa harina (yellow corn flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1.5 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1.5 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 medium yam, diced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard, chopped
  • chopped cilantro for garnish

Heat olive oil in the bottom of a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, jalapeno, and garlic and saute until onion softens, about 5-6 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes or until carrots soften. Move vegetables to one side of the pot, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and crank the heat up to medium high. Add the ground chicken and cook chicken meat through. Once chicken is cooked, mix it into the cooked vegetables.

While waiting for chicken to brown, mix together the spices (salt through ground cinnamon on the list above) in a small bowl. Mix this into the cooked ground chicken and vegetable mixture. Sprinkle the masa harina over the contents in the pot then mix it in. Let this cook for about 1.5 to 2 minutes before adding in the chicken stock, cannellini beans, and yam. Bring chili to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for 30-35 minutes.

Add the chopped rainbow chard and continue cooking for another 5 minutes or until chard is wilted through. Ladle into soup bowls and serve, garnished with chop cilantro if desired.

Delicata Squash Salad

Happy New Year! I don’t know about you but with all the cooking and eating that goes on during the holidays, I tend to suffer from food fatigue. I can’t seem to get excited about talking or thinking about food. But like the bright sun that’s been shining here in Seattle for the last few days after a cold and rainy holiday, I’m back and ready to pick up things with this blog again. Let’s start by talking about this delicata squash salad.

Anyone who knows me personally or reads this blog regularly should know by now that I am not a fan of winter squashes. I like their taste fine enough, I suppose, but it’s just so much trouble trying to cut through their thick skins and painstakingly scrape out the seeds and strings that often, I’m just not sure if it’s worth it in the end. However, if you remind me that roasted squash often involves butter, delicious spices like cinnamon and cardamom, and pairs nicely with a variety of cheeses, well, then you can get me to take on the effort of prepping it.

With a bulk share from the CSA that gave us 6 little delicata squash, I wanted to find a new way to eat them other than making soup. The CSA also gave us a beautiful bunch of rainbow chard and a little head of radicchio. I thought about how warm pieces of roasted squash would contrast nicely with these crisp, slightly bitter greens which would be hearty enough to not wilt and stay crunchy. I roasted the squash, rinsed the greens and made a light dressing with apple juice and cider-like spices to add sweetness and pair with the nutty squash. As if that wasn’t enough, I added some toasted pecans and chunks of tangy blue cheese. With its bright, bold colors, warm and nutty squash mixed with hearty winter greens, this salad would be the perfect meal for anyone giving a good shot at a New Year’s resolution of healthy eating. (Don’t worry– I’m sure there will be something unhealthy posted here in the next few weeks by the time you fall off the wagon.)

Salad

  • 2 small delicata squash, halved, seeded, and cut cross wise into 1/2 inch thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, mixed with 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small head radicchio, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans
  • blue cheese to taste

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons apple juice
  • 5 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Toss the squash slices in the melted butter and olive oil mix. Sprinkle with about 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper along with the cinnamon, cardamom, and ground cloves. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned, flipping the pieces over after half the cooking time has elapsed. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.

While squash cooks, wash and spin dry the chard, radicchio, and spinach leaves. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, adjusting seasoning to taste. Plate the mixed greens and add a few slices of still warm, roasted squash to each plate before drizzling with dressing and topping with pecans and cheese. Makes 4 side salads or 2 entrée salads.

CSA Count: 3

Delicata squash, rainbow chard, radicchio

Eggplant, Chard, & Pistachio Stir Fry

I shall write out on a chalkboard this sentence at least 300 times: I will never doubt my CSA again.

Only 2 weeks into this year’s CSA delivery season, and we got an email apologizing that due to the cold, damp spring, there would be no week 3 delivery with promises to make up for it later on in future deliveries. The rather small amount of vegetables we’d received in the first 2 weeks made me nervous that this would be one of those loss rather than gain years that you risk when buying a CSA share, but oh have I been proven wrong. These last two weeks have seen the height and variety of previous years’ peak, late summer share boxes. I’ve had produce drawers overflowing with veggies and have been struggling to not waste a single thing.

In particular, we’ve been hard hit with peas, as usual. I love fresh shell peas and the sweet crunch of sugar snaps, but the pounds of snow peas fill me with anxiety. I just don’t know what to do with them other than put them in stir fries or chop them and eat them raw in salads. Any new ideas– you are totally welcome to leave them in the comments.

So the challenge for me is to keep the stir fries and salads interesting. In this case, I was inspired by one of my favorite food blogger’s twitter feed. She’d post what else she ate during the week, how she’d use leftover ingredients from things she had posted about. A semi-frequent tweeted dinner idea was a stir fry but with ingredients I normally don’t see in stir fries, things like swiss chard and sweet potatoes. With a bunch of bright and beautiful rainbow chard (and still working our way through 2.75 lbs of snow peas) from the CSA and tofu bought on sale, I knew that a stir fry would be on the dinner menu. This one would mix some traditional ingredients (snow peas, tofu, ginger, eggplant) with nontraditional ones (rainbow chard, pistachios, and dill.)

I marinated the tofu in a mix of soy sauce, sesame oil, curry powder, coriander, and cinnamon then baked the pieces until they were crispy on the edges. I loved how the curry and cinnamon paired with the nutty crunch of pistachios and brought out that sweet green flavor of the chard. Plus, this stir fry, with its mix of purple, green, yellow, and pink colors was so beautiful to look at. A summery feast for the eyes and for the otherwise stir-fry-weary palate.

  • 16 oz firm tofu, pressed between two plates weighted down to squeeze out excess water and sliced into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup low sodium tamari soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil, plus more for stir fry
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for stir fry
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced and divided (yields about 2 teaspoons)
  • cooking spray
  • 1/2 lb snow pea pods, trimmed
  • 1 small eggplant, chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard, stems and leaves chopped
  • 5 small green onions, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1/3 cup shelled pistachios, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon each of the following: mint leaves, dill, basil, and cilantro, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • steamed rice or noodles

In a baking dish, mix together soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon canola oil, curry, cinnamon, ground coriander, maple syrup, and 1 minced garlic clove. Add the tofu pieces and let marinate for at least 20 minutes, flipping the pieces over halfway through marinating time to ensure both sides are coated.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly spray with cooking spray. Reserving the marinade, spread the tofu over the baking sheet and bake for a total of 30-35 minutes, flipping pieces over halfway through cooking time. Remove from oven and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Heat 1/4 cup of canola oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. When oil is rippling, add the eggplant, stirring immediately to ensure that each piece gets coated with oil. Cook until eggplant is shiny and brown on flesh side, about 7-8 minutes. Turn heat to medium and add remaining garlic, ginger, green onions, and another teaspoon or 2 of sesame oil. Cook for another 30 seconds before adding the rainbow chard and snow pea pods. Cook until chard leaves wilt and pea pods turn bright green, about 3-4 minutes. Add the tofu and the reserved marinade, stirring to ensure that all the vegetables get coated with the marinade. Reserving about 1 tablespoon each of the chopped pistachios and the mixed herbs, stir in the rest of the pistachios and herbs. Spoon stir fry on top of steamed rice or cooked noodles then sprinkle plated stir fry with reserved nuts and herbs.

CSA Count: 5

Rainbow chard, snow pea pods, green onions, dill, basil

Garden Count: 1

Mint

Spicy Pepperoni Greens

While I’m on the subject of lazy Sundays, the following is how we typically spend a Sunday here in Seattle. We usually get up around 7:30-8:00 a.m. (years of early risings for speech team have unfortunately trained us both to never sleep in much later than that) and have breakfast. Breakfast is followed by my futzing around in my pajamas while John tools around on the computer yet urging me to get dressed and get my stuff together. I eventually do, and then we take a quick trip across the bridge to West Seattle to go to our gym. Then gym is usually followed by lunch (often the pho place where you also get delicious free cream puffs) and a walk around the California/Alaska Ave. junction. The stroll up and down a couple blocks is usually peppered by a quick browse in an antique store, my begging to stop and get a cupcake or to adopt a cat when the Humane Society’s truck is out that day (cats and cupcakes have equal weight in necessity for me), but quite usually, we stroll around the farmer’s market. We frequently browse, but rarely buy, unless something like this catches my eye:

On a bitterly cold, but gloriously sunny Sunday, I saw this tall bag of mixed dark greens at one stand.I could identify leaves of fresh spinach mixed with hearty pieces of curly kale and leaves of colorfully veined chard. It was just too beautiful to resist buying. I knew that I wanted to saute these with tons of garlic and red pepper and would be perfectly happy if that was the extent of this side dish.

When I started cooking these greens, I caramelized an onion and added little rounds of a Serrano pepper that I found in the fridge. My trip to the fridge also brought some long forgotten pepperoni to my attention. I thought about how one of the things I love most about pepperoni pizza is how the pepperoni crisps up while baking on top of the oven. Crispy strips of pepperoni would add some beautiful texture, a little more heat, and a punch of bright color to my greens. So I sliced up the pepperoni into 1/2 inch wide strips and cooked them in a small skillet like bacon and got this:

So with onions and crispy pepperoni strips reserved on the side, I got down to cooking the greens themselves. I gave them a quick sear in hot olive oil with plenty of garlic and red pepper as originally intended then added a splash of chicken stock and popped the lid on the pan to let them wilt down. I then folded in the onions and plated them before sprinkling the pepperoni strips on top in order to help them retain their crispness. These were so delicious– slightly bitter but balanced with sweetness from the onion. A little heat from the Serrano pepper and red pepper flakes, and best of all– slightly chewy, crispy slivers of pepperoni that mirrored the garlic and spice in the greens. I don’t see how you wouldn’t be able to get the greatest vegetable hater in the world to eat this!

  • 1 small sweet onion, cut into thin slivers
  • 1 Serrano pepper, de-seeded and ribs removed if you’re afraid of the heat, sliced into thin rounds
  • olive oil
  • 2 oz pepperoni, stack them then slice them into 1/2 wide strips
  • 2 lbs mixed dark greens, spinach, chard, and kale.
  • 2 medium cloves of garlic, minced (about 1.5 tsps)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock
  • salt and pepper

In a small skillet, heat about 2 tsps olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and Serrano pepper, and turn the heat down to medium low. Stir every now and then, cooking until onion is brown and shiny– about 30 to 40 minutes.

In the meantime, heat about 1 tsp olive oil in another small skillet over medium heat. Add the pepperoni so it lies in a single layer on the bottom of the pan. Don’t disturb them, giving them time to crisp up. Flip them around every now and then to avoid burning and to ensure both sides are crisped. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

In a large skillet, heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and let them sizzle for about 30 seconds, being sure to stir them around to keep the garlic from burning. Add the greens and saute for 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and put a tight-fitting lid on the pan before turning the heat down to medium. Let this cook down for about 5-7 minutes before stirring in the onions and Serrano pepper. Plate, piling the greens up high before scattering the pepperoni on top.

Autumn Hash

You know how on the series finale of a television show, you’ll get what seems like a parade of all your favorite characters, past and present, all somehow miraculously reunited for one last hurrah? That’s how the CSA felt in the last week of delivery. Stars of CSA boxes past resurfaced and much like those series finales, I applauded the return of favorites and rolled my eyes in annoyance at others. We saw squash, rutabaga, chard, etc. That share box was bursting at the seams!

For this dish, I pulled together the squash and the chard. By adding an apple, I felt like I hit the jackpot in seasonal ingredients and rejoiced in the sunny colors of this dish, given the pelting rain, winds, and cold temps outside at the time.

What made this so seasonal was combining a delicata squash with chunks of honeycrisp apple. The honeycrisp apple is the relatively new favorite apple in my household: it’s crisp (duh– says so in the name), slightly floral and a hint citrusy in taste. I think they’ve been a Pacific Northwest secret, but lately, I’ve seen a handful of recipes from national sources refer to them so they might be available near you if you don’t follow the eat local thing. But note, I don’t  see them around here except for when they’re in season– late summer through mid-fall, so keep that in mind when hunting for that perfect apple later this year.

Anyway, as this came together, the squash was soft and buttery while the apple retained its firmness and faintly sweet taste. I combined this with pork and apple sausage that seemed to have a hint of spice from something… maybe nutmeg(?) and piled this up on top of nutty wild rice that was filled with flavor from rich chicken stock. I bet this would also make for a great breakfast, swapping out the rice for a couple of eggs cooked any way you like them.

  • 1 medium delicata squash
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1.5 cups wild rice
  • 1 medium honeycrisp apple
  • 1 medium shallot, sliced
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme
  • 1 package apple and pork sausage
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard, roughly chopped.
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and clean out the seeds and stringy bits. Lightly brush the cut side with olive oil and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Set cut side down on a foil lined baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven and let cool to the touch.

Heat about 1 tsp olive oil in the bottom of a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Add the wild rice and toss around in the oil to coat the grains. Let it toast for a couple of minutes then add the stock. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 40 minutes or until the stock is absorbed.

Coat the bottom of a small skillet with enough oil to just cover the bottom. Sit the sausages on top of the oil and add just enough water to cover the bottom of the skillet. Cover the pan and cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes then remove the lid. Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook, uncovered until the water evaporates, turning the sausages every now and then to ensure even browning. Cut into bite sized pieces.

Peel and core the apple, then cut it into 1/2 inch dice. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the apple and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the pieces begin to soften. Add the squash, garlic and thyme and cook until heated through. Be careful when stirring so as not to mash up the squash. Lastly, fold in the sausage pieces and the chard, sautéing until the chard is wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, plate wild rice and pile the hash on top– simple enough.

CSA Count: 4

Shallot, garlic, delicata squash, rainbow chard

White Bean Soup

Lately, John and I have been on a gastropub kick. It’s just such an ideal restaurant genre for me: creative cocktails, paired with gourmet ingredients in a variety of perfect little tasting size bites. It’s made us more adventurous eaters as we’ve sampled new ingredients, creative flavor combinations, and even dabbled a little into the world of molecular gastronomy.

I made this soup, inspired after a visit to one nearby restaurant. We ate these delicious toasted crostini with a super-smooth white bean puree topped with crispy pieces of kale and white truffle oil. I wanted to recapture some of those flavors but in a way that I could make a substantial meal, so soup came to mind.

It was flavors, mind you, not textures that I wanted to capture. My other thought on this soup was to imitate a relatively fast and super easy black bean soup that I make from time to time where you puree about 2/3 of the cooked black beans and other vegetables in the soup base but leave 1/3 of the beans whole so as to have some complexity to the soup texture. So long story short, I prepped this soup in the same way that I make my black bean soup then finished each individually served bowl with a drizzle of truffle oil.

This was so delicious and comforting. Warm and creamy thanks to the pureed beans without any cream, there was sweetness from the carrots and fennel and a little bit of bitter from the Swiss chard greens. The drizzle of truffle oil gave an earthly, slightly pungent kick. I think this would be even better with some thin slices of baguette made into crispy, garlicky croutons for a good textural contrast.

  • 3 14.5oz cans of cannellini beans, drained
  • 32 oz vegetable stock plus 2 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 3 medium carrots, chopped
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 bunch rainbow chard, chopped
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • white truffle oil

In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and fennel and saute until onion is translucent. Add the garlic and carrots and cook for another 5 minutes until carrots are softened. Add the drained white beans and leaves from the rosemary. Add the stock and the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat so the soup simmers and continue simmering for 20 minutes.

Remove 2 cups of the soup to a blender and holding the lid down with a towel, puree until smooth. Pour the contents of the blender into a bowl and repeat the process with another 2 cups of the soup. Add all pureed soup back into the soup pot and add the rainbow chard, cooking until the chard is wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle soup into bowls and drizzle each bowl with the truffle oil. Pretending you’re in a fancy pants restaurant is optional.

CSA Count: 5

Carrots, garlic, rosemary, fennel, rainbow chard