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

Summer Squash Gratin

First off: apologies about these pictures. As fall fell, so did my natural light and I can’t seem to find the right balance in my kitchen lighting to achieve good light for my pictures. So these are dark and grainy and do not do this dish much justice. But this turned out to be quite delicious and will probably be a keeper next summer when we’re once again overwhelmed with squash, sungold tomatoes, and basil!

So first, a picture of the repeat offenders:

squashandtomatoesThis was probably about half of the 2 lbs of summer squash we got that week and a basket of sungold tomatoes. If you haven’t had sungolds, they’re sweet, juicy, and I love how their light orange color pops in any dish you add them too. That said, as with all the vegetables that get repeated in large quantities in a CSA, I get into a bit of a rut trying to use them up each week.

Not pictured is our bulk share of fresh basil. We received a giant bag of basil leaves and spent a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon making and freezing pesto. I forget how much basil is given in the bulk share, but let’s just say that I had about 5 pints of pesto sauce stored in various half pint-sized containers in my freezer and I am once again grateful for my favorite kitchen appliance: my food processor!

cookedsquashI decided to make a gratin of sorts, thinking that the yellow and green colors of the squash, those sweet and bright tomatoes, and dabs of spicy pesto would make a sunny accompaniment to a steak dinner in lieu of scalloped potatoes. This was an absolute success, or at least I take it as such since John, tired of squash in the many variations we had this summer said that I had really “polished a turd.” The squash remained firm in bite, contrasting with the burst in juiciness from the tomatoes. The sweetness was rounded by the savory garlic and onions and there was a satisfying pull of gooey cheese yet crispness from the bread crumb topping. I think this would make a really great dish to bring to a summer barbeque or pot luck– too bad these pictures are too dim to show off its summery glory!

squashgratin

  • 1.5 lb summer squash, cut on the diagonal into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 3/4 pint sungold tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 3 tbsp freshly grated parmigiano reggiano
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • butter flavored cooking spray
  • 1 pint whole milk
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 oz pesto*

In a small saucepan, make a bechamel sauce by melting the butter over medium low heat then whisking in the flour, whisking for about 1-2 minutes to cook out the raw flour taste. Whisk in the milk and turn the heat up to medium high, whisking constantly for about 6 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste and the pinch of nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until softened, trying not to brown them. Add the squash and garlic and continue to cook for about 5 minutes– you don’t want to overcook them here as they will continue to cook when you bake them so you don’t want a mushy mess. Add the tomatoes and a little salt and pepper. Mix in the bechamel sauce.

Add about half of the vegetable mixture to the bottom of a large baking dish. Dollop about half of the pesto here and there and sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella. Repeat with the other half of the vegetable mixture, pesto, and mozzarella. Sprinkle the parmigiano reggiano evenly and top with an even layer of panko crumbs. Lightly spray the crumbs with cooking spray so they brown in the oven.

Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the breadcrumbs browned evenly.

CSA Count: 5

Summer squash, sungold tomatoes, onion, fresh garlic, fresh basil

*If you want to make your own pesto, I blitzed together about 2 cups of fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts, 1 garlic clove and 3/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil in a food processor until smooth. I then folded in about 3/4 cup of grated parmesan and a little salt and pepper.