Autumn Hash

Now that the chilly, misty mornings that are par for the course for Seattle fall are here, I welcome them for the opportunity for some serious cooking therapy. Today was one of those days, much needed after three weeks of work and family crises. So when my husband took our girls out for a walk, I opted to stay at home, crank up my iTunes library, and exercise my long-ignored creative cooking muscles. In other words, I dived in with very little plan, figuring something will work itself out in the end.

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With tons of potatoes from our CSA, I knew I wanted to make a hash. On my dinner rotation is a hash of crispy potatoes under a mixture of chicken, pesto, mushrooms, and spinach or roasted broccoli, topped with melted cheese.  I automatically took a container of pesto out of my freezer to thaw, but not having many of the other ingredients on hand, I opted to swap the chicken for some apple sage vegan sausage, and took out some kale to add some kind of green vegetable to the mix. While looking in the fridge, I decided to take out some shredded parsnips, leftover from the spiced parsnip babycakes that I was making for a preschool Halloween party because I couldn’t think of what else I would use those for this week.

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I started cooking the potatoes in one pan and the crumbled sausage in the other, but something just didn’t feel right. I needed to edit down my ingredients. I decided to hone in on the sausage and the parsnips because both could have a sweet and savory element that could play off of each other. And after that, things started to click into place. I put away the pesto, figuring that the sage in the sausage would either be overpowered or at the least, get nothing from the basil in the pesto. The kale seemed like one vegetable too many, but that hash could use some more aromatics in the form of leeks and fennel, both sitting in my fridge with no particular plans to use this week. And since the sausage had apple and sage in it, why not add some cheddar to the Monterey jack cheese I was planning for the top of the hash since cheddar is such a natural playmate for those flavors.

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This hash had a great mix of textures: crispy, salty potatoes, parsnip ribbons that were still slightly crisp, gooey melted cheese. There was a hint of sweetness from the parsnips and the apple in the sausage but it was balanced by the boldness of the sage. The adults in our household devoured it– believe me, it’s even better with a drizzle of Sriracha. The kids? Well, not so much: our preschooler ate half of it with minimal prodding, but our 6-year-old barely ate a forkful at lunch and was not pleased when her plate was returned to her as a snack later that afternoon. I know that I said that I would post about what was generally liked by both our kids and my husband and me, but I don’t care– that 45 minutes was the first time in weeks that I felt like myself again and I want to remember that feeling and carry it with me to give me strength when needed.

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Autumn Hash

Ingredients

1.5 lbs potatoes (red skin or Yukon golds)

Olive oil

Canola oil

Apple sage sausage (I used vegan Field Roast, but I bet chicken-apple sausage would be tasty too.)

Half a medium yellow onion, diced

1/2 medium leek, trimmed of dark green and root ends, thinly sliced, and placed in a bowl of water to clean off dirt.

1/4 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced crosswise

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup shredded parsnip (about 1 medium parsnip)

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

salt and pepper

1 cup mix of shredded cheddar and Monterey jack cheese

1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped

Put potatoes in the bottom of a big pot and cover with cold water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Remove the lid and continue boiling for 8-10 minutes, depending on the size of your potatoes. Drain and let cool until you can touch them. Dice potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cover the bottom of a 12 inch skillet with olive oil and heat over medium high until oil is shiny and slick. Add the potatoes and spread them out so they’re in a single layer. Let cook undisturbed for 10 minutes then flip them over with a spatula. Potatoes should be golden brown on one side. Continue cooking undisturbed for another 5-7 minutes, adjusting heat if necessary to keep potatoes from burning. Stir around again, then season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are crispy golden on most sides but still tender in the middle.

Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of canola oil in another large skillet over medium heat. Crumble sausage and cook until browned. Add diced onion and garlic and cook until onion softens, about 5-7 minutes. Scoop up the sliced leeks so that you leave any dirt behind in the bowl of water and add the leeks and fennel to the sausage and onion mixture. Continue to cook until fennel is softened, another 5-7 minutes. Add the shredded parsnip and mix in, seasoning with salt, pepper, and thyme leaves. Cook for just 3-4 minutes or until parsnip has wilted slightly but is still crisp tender.

Add the sausage mixture to the potatoes and mix until combined. Top with shredded cheese then bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until cheese has melted. Sprinkle with parsley and serve right away. Who am I to judge if you want to add a fried egg with a runny yolk on top of each serving?

Makes 6 servings

CSA Count: 4 (potatoes, parsnip, fennel, leek)

Kid rating (out of 2 empty plates): 1/2 (1.5 if you count the cleaned plate after what was essentially 7 hours of not eating and bribed with a cracker)

Note for the working parent: You can boil the potatoes the night before, cool them, then store in the refrigerator overnight. Dice up the cold potatoes and proceed with directions as written for a dinner that should come together in roughly 30-40 minutes.

 

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Tamari Braised Kale

Kale. It’s a vegetable that frequently induces this kind of reaction. But I for one love it.

A favorite neighborhood restaurant helped show me the light. A standard side dish for them is a delicious pile of kale braised in tamari soy sauce. It’s hearty and strikes a balance between saltiness, sweetness, and the bitterness of the greens. It also packs a wallop of a umami punch, probably thanks to that dark, rich soy sauce. Before our daughter was born, my husband and I ate there practically weekly but in the first few months of new, homebound parenthood, I had to figure out how to make that kale at home. Here’s my best effort– not exactly the same in taste, but I love this just the same. I like to serve this on the side of homemade mac n’ cheese just like they do at the restaurant (only there’s is an amazing vegan version!) since it’s not only delicious and helps cut through the creaminess of the cheese, but it also deceives me into thinking that mac n’ cheese is a nutritious meal.

  • 1 large bunch of kale (curly, lacinato, black your choice)
  • 1 small red or sweet onion or 1 large shallot if you prefer
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon tamari soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

Remove kale leaves from stems then discard stems. Roughly chop the leaves and rinse in a colander. Do not shake dry– you want the water to still cling to the leaves.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Thinly slice the onion then add to the skillet. Saute until softened. Turn the heat up to medium high then add the kale leaves. Sprinkle with brown sugar, tamari, and black pepper and cook until wilted, stirring occasionally. Continue to cook until liquid has evaporated and lightly coats the kale leaves. Serve immediately.

Serves 2

Roasted Yams and Pears in Rosemary Walnut Honey

I am a slacker. Okay, for those of you who know me personally, that’s not news, but really– I’ve been feeling my slacker title particularly hard during the holidays. For example, it’s now officially too late to talk about the holidays as anything but dead and gone and I’m getting around to writing this post now. The reason? My amazing co-workers generously doled out handmade gifts– I received homemade soaps, a personalized covered notebook, amazing dark chocolate bark with sea salt and marcona almonds, and a jar of delicious rosemary honey. What did I give in return? Nothing. Yeah, I know I have this lovely excuse, but I still feel guilty.

But I made the most of those lovely gifts. That jar of honey? I used some of it to make a side dish for our Christmas dinner. Inspired by another co-worker’s contribution to our pre-holiday pot luck, I used the honey to help sweeten and add spice to a dish of roasted pears and yams. The honey had stems of rosemary, a couple of small red chili peppers, and golden nuggets of walnut, so I thought that since all those flavors marry well with yams and pears, maybe this might add something special to the dish rather than using regular clover honey.

And you know what? It was perfect. Those spices made the yams taste slightly earthy, enough of a contrast so that it helped round out the sweetness of the pears. There was also a pleasing variety of textures: slightly crisped skinned yams with soft but not mushy pears and the crunch of walnuts. This was a side dish that you just couldn’t help smiling after taking a bite. I may be a slacker and late to say this, but I am so very thankful for all the wonderful things that happened in 2011– a beautiful baby, a job that I love, and thoughtful co-workers.

Note: Be sure to buy under-ripe pears. I used Anjou pears here. And since not everyone can be lucky enough to receive a jar of honey steeped with rosemary, chili and walnuts, I’ve adjusted the ingredient list below accordingly.

  • 3 small yams, peeled and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 firm pears, cored and chopped into 1 inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed from stems and roughly chopped (yield about 1.5 tablespoons)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed and roughly chopped (yield about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all the ingredients except walnuts in a large bowl and toss together. Spread out on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until yam pieces are tender. Tumble the roasted mix into a large serving bowl or onto a platter and sprinkle with walnuts and any additional fresh rosemary and thyme if you wish. Serve immediately.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Roasted Autumn Vegetables with Crispy Kale

It’s ridiculous how quickly time has gotten away from me. When I last posted on this blog, we were in the height of our CSA season. Each week, we took home a ridiculous abundance of fruits and vegetables. And even though one might speculate from my blog inactivity that all that produce went to waste, I actually have been cooking at least 5 nights a week; I just haven’t had time to document it here. Oh there are pictures alright as I still took those. It’s just that now that fall is here, and we’re practically at winter’s door, it seems a little silly to post summery ideas like my watermelon jalapeno agua fresca or a poached salmon topped with fresh corn and sungold tomatoes. Guess I’ll just have to keep those in mind for next summer. In the meantime, I’d rather talk about this hearty side dish.

The last few weeks of our CSA season usually means we are up to our eyeballs in various winter squashes. This season was no exception– at least 6-8 delicata squash, one red kuri squash, one sugar pumpkin, and a ginormous butternut squash that makes me tired just looking at it. I just… I just can’t deal with that at the moment.

Delicata squash has been my favorite of the squashes that our farm grows. It’s easy to cut and clean up, not to mention the skin is thin enough that you can just roast and eat it or peeling isn’t a huge difficulty. I chopped up a couple of medium, seeded delicata squash and spread them out on a baking sheet with potatoes, parsnips and leeks from our CSA. I then added some chanterelle mushrooms that I picked up for relatively cheap at the local grocery store. A good drizzle of olive oil, a half palmful of salt and some pepper then a quick mix, and my vegetables were ready to go in the oven for roasting. I decided no other spices or herbs were necessary, just the simple flavors of the vegetables, all nutty and crisp at the edges from the oven’s heat.

But as tasty as those vegetables would be, they could use a boost both in color and in texture contrasts. Seeing a bunch of red kale in the fridge, I decided to chop up the leaves, toss them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and a pinch of cayenne then sprinkled them on top of the vegetables to bake for the last 15-20 minutes of roasting. The kale crisped up, adding some crackly crunch to the vegetables. I loved how all these flavors melded together– subtly sweet squash, woodsy mushrooms, creamy potatoes, and slightly bitter but crispy greens. I piled them next to some pan-fried, pecan coated chicken and ended up serving such a warm and satisfying meal on the first cold, rainy night of the fall. Summer may have flown by, but cozy meals are just one reason why fall is my favorite season.

  • 2 medium delicata squash, seeded and cut into 1.5-2 inch pieces
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, cut into 1.5-2 inch pieces
  • 3 medium parsnips, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 pound chanterelle mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 large leek
  • 1 small bunch of red kale
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • pinch of cayenne

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. On a baking sheet lined with foil, add chopped squash, potatoes, chanterelles, and parsnips. Cut the dark green part off of the leek and discard. Split the white/light green part of the leek in half lengthwise then thinly slice crosswise. Add sliced leek to a medium bowl of water and stir around. Use a strainer to remove the leeks from the water and add to the other vegetables. Drizzle with about 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper and mix until all the vegetables are evenly coated. Roast for 20-25 min. While vegetables roast, remove kale leaves from stems and discard stems. Chop the leaves then toss with about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Mix together then sprinkle on top of roasting vegetables. Return to the oven and roast for another 15-20 minutes or until kale is crisp and vegetables are tender and browned at edges. Serve while warm. Makes 4-6 side servings.

CSA Count: 5

Delicata squash, russet potatoes, parsnips, leeks, red kale

Snow Pea & Radish Salad

I bet that this post won’t get many hits. Snow peas? Radishes? Sounds boring right?

But in this salad’s defense, I’ll say that I was surprisingly pleased. For one thing, this salad is so refreshing on a hot day: chilled in the fridge, the snap peas and radishes stay crisp and are full of cool, hydrating water.  The lemony dressing and grassy dill are bright in flavors, pairing nicely with tangy, creamy blue cheese.

Then there are the colors: vibrant magenta and purple from the Easter egg radishes pop against that deep jade green of the snow peas. It’s a feast for the eyes, making this salad look and taste more exciting than what you’d expect from just hearing the ingredients. During these hot, late summer days, try a scoop of this salad next to food fresh off your grill. You’ll be pleasantly surprised too.

Note: Snow peas have to be trimmed of the tough fiber that holds the pod together, unless you want to see your fellow diners spitting out chunks of the pod. Simply twist the flowering end of the pod and peel down. If there’s no flower end, peel along the side where you can see the peas are attached inside the pod.

  • 3/4 lb snow peas, ends trimmed and fiber removed
  • 2 large Easter egg radishes, ends trimmed and sliced into match sticks
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon each fresh chopped chives and dill
  • blue cheese crumbles to taste

In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and honey. Add in the snow peas and radish match sticks and toss to coat. Mix in chives and dill then plate. Add blue cheese crumbles to taste.

CSA Count: 4

Snow peas, Easter egg radishes, chives, dill

Five Spice Turnips

Turnips! (Just trying to psyche myself up here.) Er… Yum! Turnips! (Uh yeah, no. Let’s try again.) Woo-hoo!!! Turnips!

Really, does anyone get excited about turnips? When I saw these on the CSA packing list, fear struck– as much as I may love the CSA for introducing me to new produce and chances to experiment with cooking them, turnips just sound so unappealing. I searched around for ideas on how to cook turnips and came up with the usual ideas, that is, roast them or mash them. Meh. Then I went back to our CSA’s website to see what they might have to offer as far as recipe ideas and found a suggestion from Nigel Slater: saute the turnips in butter, add sherry, and fresh dill. Well, okay then. I could buy it that anything cooked in butter and booze has got to taste pretty darn good.

So I used that as a jumping off point. Why not add a third delicious “B”: bacon. I diced some bacon, cooked it in the pan until crisp, then removed most of the rendered fat from the pan. I then added some butter, and to add yet another “B” to this recipe, I browned the butter first. That way those peppery, earthy turnips would be coated in toasty, nutty, and sweet butter. Instead of sherry, I added a splash of Marsala wine along with a sprinkle of Chinese five spice powder. Sauteing alongside the turnips were some thin slices of sweet onion, chopped garlic scapes, the turnip greens and some rapini. I let the whole mix simmer until the turnip slices were firm yet translucent, before sprinkling back on the crispy bacon. John and I hesitantly took a bite– holy crap! These turnips were delicious! The five spice added a whiff of something exotic, pulling out the sweet yet spicy flavors of the Italian wine. The mustardy turnip greens and bitter rapini counter-balanced that sweetness and the bacon gave an underlying note of smoke not to mention a much needed contrast in texture to the softened vegetables. So let’s try that turnip psyche-up again, this time knowing that browned butter, bacon, and booze is involved: HURRAY!!!!! TURNIPS!!!!

  • 3 strips hickory smoked bacon, diced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch Tokyo Cross turnips, tops removed and chopped, turnips halved lengthwise, then sliced into 1/4 inch thick half moons
  • 3 garlic scapes, chopped
  • 1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced into half moons
  • 2 tablespoons dry Marsala wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
  • 1 bunch rapini, chopped

Add diced bacon to a medium-sized skillet and cook over medium heat until crisp, about 10-12 minutes. Remove bacon pieces to paper towel lined plate and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered fat. Add the butter and cook until browned, stirring often (foam will subside, and butter will turn nutty brown color and smell heavenly), about 5-6 minutes. Add the turnips, garlic scapes, and sweet onion. Cook until onion is soft, about 5 minutes then add the wine, brown sugar, five spice powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Continue cooking until turnips are shiny yet still firm and slightly brown around the edgest, about 18-20 minutes. Add the reserved, chopped turnip greens and chopped rapini, continuing to cook until greens have wilted, about another 5-7 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle on bacon and serve immediately.

CSA Count: 4

Tokyo Cross turnips (greens included), garlic scapes, sweet onion, rapini

Sweet & Spicy Beet Salad

John and I have been eating a ton of salads with dinner lately. It’s in part due to an abundance of salad greens from our CSA, also in part due to visiting family bringing prepared salads, and also due to its being a fast way to get a vegetable in with our pre-prepared meals before one of us has to dash off to feed or comfort a newborn baby. This has meant that the vegetables that need to be cooked, beets and turnips, from the last two weeks’ shares have been neglected. Given the choice between a beet and a turnip, I opted for the beets.

I know that this blog is chocked full of beets, to the point of them having their own search category. So this salad isn’t really anything new as far as experimenting with ideas is concerned, but I thought it was worth writing about for the reason that this salad was both delicious and easy enough to make while exhausted from newborn-induced sleep deprivation.

I sliced my beets and started to roast them my usual way: foil wrapped, dressed simply with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme sprigs. Then I thought, why not add other spices to the beets to see if it makes the flavors more complex. These beets then got sprinkled with chili powder, curry powder, and cinnamon. Into the oven they went while I nursed the baby. The baby went back to sleep by the time the beets were done, giving me a chance to rummage through the dregs of salad greens left in our refrigerator. We had some red oak leaf lettuce, but sadly, the arugula that I had hoped to use for some peppery flavor was wilted and half rotten. No problem– I just tore up the beet green leaves themselves to supplement the lettuce. A quick dressing was thrown together, using balsamic vinegar, olive oil, then for sweetness and added viscosity, I decided to use some maple syrup instead of the honey I normally would use. To play off the spices from the beets, I added some cinnamon and fennel seeds before pouring in the juices from my roasting foil packet. The greens and beets got tossed with the dressing then plated before getting topped with crumbled Danish bleu cheese. Sweet, complexly spiced, juicy, crisp and refreshing. Enough to wake us up until the next round of baby feeding/fussing.

  • 1 bunch red ace beets
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: chili powder, yellow curry powder, and cinnamon
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 small head red oak leaf lettuce
  • bleu cheese to taste

Dressing

  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
  • pinch ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • juices from roasted beets
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Trim beet tops and root ends from beets. Reserve the beet greens. Split each beet in half lengthwise then lay out on a piece of foil, about 1 foot long. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper along with the cinnamon, curry, and chili powder. Lay the thyme sprigs on top then fold up foil into a tight packet. Bake for 30-45 minutes or until beets are tender, when you can pierce them with a knife. Carefully unwrap the foil packet to avoid being scalded by the steam, and let cool while you wash and spin the salad greens and make the dressing.

Strip the beet green leaves from any tough stems and tear to bite size pieces. You can leave any beet leaves that are on a more tender stem in tact. Add these to torn lettuce in a salad spinner, wash and spin dry. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients then add the salad greens and toss to coat. When beets are cool enough to touch, peel away the beet skins then cut each beet half into thirds lengthwise. Plate salad greens with beets then crumble bleu cheese to taste.

Serves: 2-4

CSA Count: 2

Beets (beets and their greens), red oak lettuce